Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a Joy of Jersey post. This week I headed down for my regular visit with mom a bit off schedule as we hosted a large dinner at the hall on Friday. We have Election Day off and, as Kim and I had discharged our civic duty over the weekend, I headed down to her on Tuesday afternoon.
It was my last shot at seeing some beautiful changing leaves as I made my daily morning run. I was running shorter distances last year, and I realized I had also missed much of the changing leaves as mom was in the hospital this time last year. (A post about that time can be found here.) That was about the time I changed to a regular schedule of being in Jersey, generally every other week for several days. Anyway, the foliage did not disappoint and I had pretty runs each of the days I was there.
A good friend, fellow Jersey-ite of my youth, was also going to be visiting while I was there this week. In honor of and in advance of Randy’s visit, I turned my first run to the south to and through the small downtown area nearby called Red Bank. A lovely small commercial area, it was where we kids went to feel grown up. It wasn’t really where we went to get into trouble – there is a beach town in the other direction called Sea Bright which was full of bars which was designated for that (posts about that town can be found here and here), Red Bank, on the other hand, is where you shopped and ate out.
The bones of Red Bank have remained the same while the denizens have come and gone. Jack’s Record Shop lived on the opposite side of the street in my youth and had a head shop in back – in the days before I knew what that was. It now occupies a spot near where a huge hardware store called Prown’s was. I can still smell the specific dust and fertilizer odor of that store. (They are still in business, but have moved to another location. In fact, they just installed a new backdoor for our garage at Mom’s.) The Woolworth’s is gone as is the Newberry’s, and the Steinbach’s department store, but there is still a coffee shop on the edge of town which is either the most recent incarnation of one of my youth, or a newer version. (It sported wax fruit in the window and my mother used to say, Never eat in a place with wax fruit in the window. It was a good point, but I have frequently eaten in such establishments and lived to tell the tale.)
There was a large photography shop called Dorn’s which lasted into my adulthood, but eventually fell prey to digital photography. I did find this new photo store below which is good news if I eventually start making early process photos again at mom’s. I wrote recently about another family business in time gone-by called Kislan’s – it took care of all of our athletic needs, which were admittedly less diverse in those days. (That post is here if you are interested in the full NJ roundup.) Randy and I spent many hours of our youth, together and separately, in the town of Red Bank. Whether it was pancakes at the diner in the middle of the night, running errands or wandering the small shops on the side streets.
Wednesday and Thursday passed in a blur of work this week, cramming five days of work into three. I staked out time to spend with mom over morning coffee, lunch and tried to end the work day at a reasonable time. Randy showed up in the evening on Thursday and mom got a kick out of seeing him for the first time in decades. Despite sporting a mask for her benefit, mom declared him unchanged.
Along with our friend Suzanne, we had dinner at a restaurant which probably deserves its own post, Tavolo Pronto. This epic establishment is, in my opinion, one of the best things to hit Monmouth County in years. Their sandwiches have carried my through long dark days spent in the hospital and hospice with dad, and now it is my favorite lunch spot during my stints there. Their singular fare will stay linked in my mind with these years of my life, the adult years spent visiting Jersey, and it has comforted me during some bleak times.
Friday, Veteran’s Day, was another day off and a plan was cooked up to have breakfast at Edie’s, another local eatery that morning. Suzanne and I are early risers, but Randy hoped to sleep in a bit. This meant I could get a run in, have a coffee with mom and head over for a rare treat. Edie’s was my dad’s territory and favorite breakfast locale. He adopted it late in life and somehow he and I never ate there. The plan was set! Tomorrow, in the second part of this Jersey tribute, I will take you to that surprisingly historic spot which also has great personal significance.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I’m realizing that one of the signs of being back in the office and our hall more often is my aching back. Immediately preceding lockdown in March of ’20 I was routinely seeing an acupuncturist to relieve the lower back pain which was climbing down my leg and I was attributing to long hours in concert hall seats, airplanes and office chairs.
Over time at home, with a lousy “temporary” office, the back pain grew worse until I finally analyzed my computer set up and chair, added an external keyboard and a lift to the monitor as well as a carefully chosen chair, which I purchased after much reading and consideration. In addition, instead of my weight lifting regime as my only exercise, I began running and that made a dramatic difference too.
My father’s back pain was a part of family life so I am no stranger to the concept. Dad was about 6’4″ and his career as a news cameraman meant he spent hours with heavy equipment on his shoulder (one ending up considerably lower than the other later in life) and straining his back. In addition, he drove for hours on end for domestic stories, and of course airplane travel when they went that route wasn’t much kinder. As a result my father’s mercurial back would go out reaching for a salt shaker at dinner or even sneezing, leaving him in bed or on one dreadful occasion, on the bedroom floor.
There was the summer he was on the rigging of a tall ship in Newport for work (perhaps in 1976 as part of the Bicentennial) when his back went out. It was evidently a painful and prolonged trip getting both him and his equipment down in one piece. His colleagues then packed him in a car with pillows all around to enable him to drive the straight five hours or so back home in New Jersey. He spent the rest of the summer recovering, mostly in an ancient rocker which now sits in my apartment. At the time it seemed like the longest period he had ever been home with us which was probably true.
So I am no stranger to back pain, although I suppose if it came right down to it mine is a bit different than his which seemed to have been linked to discs that were being crushed by weight slowly over time. I have touched on my own psoriatic arthritis and exercise (a post can be found here) and at least some of my back pain is attributable to the inexorable advance of that disease, which expressed itself first in my lower back. And a recent hiccup with my longstanding meds (no one needs to hear an insurance company rant from me) has also exacerbated the problem again.
But one of the culprits is a byproduct of our return to the office (hybrid, three days a week) and sitting in lousy chairs. I realize now that my desk set up there is also a bit jerry-rigged, the chair (even with a back cushion added) is less than desirable and my feet at an odd angle. Add to that conference room chairs which seem to be down a notch from the one in my office and we have the recipe for worsening if not instigating said back pain. A long Board meeting on Zoom from there on Wednesday seems to have pushed me over the edge this week. Ironically now the home office is the better set up.
I have always felt that the weird part of back pain is that there is a subconscious preference for maintaining the postures that in reality make it worse and perhaps helped to cause it. Back pain does not make me want to be at a standing desk for example. It makes me want to sit on my couch or curl up on the bed – neither exactly great for back pain. It makes me want to not move, when exercise and movement is the best thing to alleviate it.
So I will start to fight back today. It is a sunny crisp fall morning and I will be out for a run shortly and perhaps that and stretching before and after will start me on the path to recovery. (The stiffness and pain has dampened my desire to run this week, although I was out on Monday.) Meanwhile, I will see what I can do about improving my work office with some implements to arrange me in a better position. Not much I can do about the conference room or concert hall seats, but I will hope that this combined with a resolution around my meds and that issue, will tip the scales back in my favor. I will let you know.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Like most of us, mid-September flips the back-to-school switch in my brain, honed by decades of school shopping (hard new shoes for feet that had grown) and the purchase of lunch boxes, notebooks, pads and Ticonderoga pencils to be sharpened. When very small, clothes came from my grandfather’s store or the Sears catalogue. Later there was a mall where over time I would shop for my clothes on my own, with my sister or friends.
As a tot if shoes were to be acquired they were purchased from a store called Sid’s in the next town over. (There is an excellent Italian market where Sid’s used to be. I stop there occasionally when in Jersey to buy soup for my mom or maybe a prepared dish or two. However, I always remember Sid’s too.) While they may not have sold children’s shoes exclusively (that sort of exclusivity was not as prevalent in 1960’s and ’70’s New Jersey suburbs and there were fewer speciality shops) they seemed to have a lock on the local market for children and sent us away with balloons, coloring books and Buster Brown type trinkets annually.
Sneakers, however, might also come from a store called Kislens one town over in Red Bank. Kislens would not only supply sneakers (of course a much more basic model of Keds and a vastly limited array than we are dazzled by now), but it was also the purveyor of gym clothes, uniforms, boots and any and all athletic related items and necessities. (I wonder, did every town have one of these?)
Kislin’s was close to a century old when it closed around ’05 and one could find items from prior decades peeping out from top shelves and cabinets, layered under and around more contemporary items. My memory is of wooden cabinets, fixtures and shelves that likely went back to the store’s origin. Even in my childhood, the floors creaked heavily when trod on. It felt like you could never truly get to the know all of Kislin’s hidden secrets, but whatever sporting needs, nascent or advanced, camping or scouts, Kislins would magically produce the necessary items when requested – they weren’t much on devoting space to display. When you embarked on an outdoor activity or sport, a trip to Kislin’s may have been on the agenda. All of the Speedo bathing suits of my youth were purchased there in a no fuss, no muss sort of way until well into my teenage years.
Meanwhile, speaking of sports, last weekend enjoying the first lovely cool morning for running in a number of weeks I was feeling great until I fell just as I was reaching mile 8 on a run that would have been my first approach on 9 miles. A bit bloody, but luckily not badly hurt (nothing broken and a thank you to the runner who helped me up and the gentleman drinking ice coffee on a bench who even gave me ice for my hand), I ran home and still recorded 8.8 miles. However, it has kept me sidelined this week while my knee fully recuperates, as well as my hands, one of which took the brunt of the fall. Therefore, I found myself walking to work on Wednesday, through Central Park when I had my back-to-school moment. The light was pure September and the trees are just starting to consider embarking on their winter waning.
Unlike my childhood incarnation, instead of sporting a new outfit to celebrate a post-Labor Day turning over of a new leaf, I had pulled on a pair of pre-pandemic pair of trousers getting their first outing in several years. They were fine except the running has moved muscle around and things from the Before Time are pulling in some places with new muscle (calves!) and evaporated from others (thighs!). In the end this may be what ultimately empties my closet of these frozen in time clothes at last.
When I got to the office my colleagues all seemed to be in a similar fall frame of mind embracing the new season, but a bit confused. We are all still struggling with the hybrid routine, days in the office together, others at home. Every meeting starts with a technology hiccup as we work the bugs out of new conferences software. (Move the camera please, and Can you hear me? I can hear you.) From home earlier in the week I realized one conference room has a zone where everyone sounds like they are Charlie Brown’s teacher, or vaguely underwater, made worse of course by wearing masks. (Can you all move to the other side of the table please?)
Several new folks joined the team in the weeks before Labor Day and they are still learning the ropes including which conference room is which – all are named for Jazz legends which adds a bit of complexity as we thoughtlessly toss out Jellyroll or Lady Day (the one with the sound issue) confidently and they just look at us befuddled. Computers remain a mash up of desktop, personal laptops, iPads and whatnot as new equipment has been delayed in being rolled out. Sometimes whole meetings happen with our colleagues of site represented only by my phone in the middle of the table, eating battery which I will forget until it is dead later in the day.
As for me, I can’t seem to stay on schedule in person and as meetings run long I blow through others or end meetings early because my timing is wrong. I try to make sure that those who are joining on camera are included, as well as being present for those in the office. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings take me out of the office, exacerbating the timing issues. It is exhausting. Eventually, I come home, work a bit more and collapse each night. Fall is here.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a running in the summer heat post. As I sit down to write sweat from my morning run is still running off me, despite a dousing with cold water when I came in. I am writing this between mouthfuls of nectarine (sadly not a great one) and yogurt, having already consumed a green smoothie. (I’ve previously written about my green smoothie passion here.) I only drink cold coffee before I run with nothing else on my stomach.
I have posted about my running habit occasionally since I started about 18 months ago. (Some other running ruminations can be found here and here.) And in that time I have gone through a lot of sneakers and sunscreen, a few hats, broken two fingers (Memorial Day 2021), and worked my way routinely across the 7 mile mark recently. Always more interested in distance than speed, I am still very slow. (I average about a 12 minute mile.) I generally run four or five days a week, somewhat curtailed by early morning meetings for work.
While I have run through two winters (wearing layers and fleecy tights) I was sidelined for much of last summer by the broken fingers and lost a few months in the middle. Therefore, this is the first summer I am attempted to run through and I am in a battle with the heat.
Up until recently I ran with a scant 3 oz bottle of water tucked in my belt. However, it became abundantly clear to me in July that no matter how early I was getting outside I was going to need to drink more fluids if I wanted to achieve my run, which sent me off to try to figure out what kind of water bottle I was comfortable running with.
I started by experimenting with a water pouches. Amazon touted these for the purpose of running and, while it was clear that they wouldn’t last forever, I thought the pack of three might get me through the worst part of summer. Sadly, they leaked on the first day and I moved on.
Vests and belts with water seemed annoyingly hot to add to what I am already wearing and reluctantly I accepted the need to just carry a bottle with a strap. Once empty I hang it from my belt where it gently annoys me for the remainder of my run. After some research I started adding a bit of sports drink to my water, 1:3, for the electrolytes. (I tried pickle juice, which I keep in the house for leg cramps, but it didn’t work for me.)
It is ridiculous, but there is part of me which reminds myself that I want to go back to my 3 oz bottle in the fall – not to get used to carrying more water. It is silly and I chide myself for it. I run better with more water and I should drink it.
These days it is generally upwards of 75 degrees when I start my run, no matter how early, and it climbs to 80 or more by the finish. I have experimented with re-ordering my run to optimize my time in the shade at the end, when the sun is strongest, but I have not really seen a difference.
Although my city run is along the water where there is a breeze, my New Jersey route, through a wooded area and then suburban neighborhoods, is usually several degrees cooler. Even with the water breeze off the East River, the sun beats down on me for the long middle portion of my route where I find I remind myself I still need to run back.
These days a new Fitbit helps record my time as Strava has a way of turning itself off periodically which was driving me nuts as I am a data nut. Hopefully it can inspire me to improve my speed a bit.
Next week I head to Denver for a conference where I can test a high altitude version of my workout. I agreed to a 5k group run on the Tuesday morning (why do we suddenly note kilometers when talking about running when we all think in miles?) so we’ll see how that goes as I always run alone. I promise to report in from there with any interesting developments.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s been a rough road back here at Deitch Studio this week. Pictorama readers know that last week we were working to get on the other side of catching Covid. (That cheerful post is here if you missed it.) I rallied enough to go to Jersey to check in on my mom on Sunday night for a few days.
It rained early on Monday so I didn’t run. It cleared later and although I have largely lost my sense of taste (and smell) I still managed an appetite for a strawberry ice cream cone, belatedly in honor of my dad for Father’s Day. A friend and I stopped at Ryan’s where I used to buy ice cream for him weekly. Summer is in full swing there and even on a weekday afternoon it was abuzz. I felt like I could taste it at about 40%.
Therefore, I didn’t attempt my maiden voyage, post-Covid run until Tuesday morning; which very agreeably, dawned not just sunny but unseasonably cool. I took the route north through the woods and did a neat 3.7 miles, not bad if very slow. My body seemed willing to partake, but I could see my limit pretty clearly. Tired, but no coughing.
I had piled a bunch of appointments up for this visit to my mom and post run I met with a flooring guy named Mike who was very pleasant and looked like this was probably his first job. One of mom’s folks had her grandchildren with her as it was the first day of summer vacation for them and their camp has not started yet. They were thrilled with a friend’s visiting Bichon puppy (Ariel looks like a toy and stays in a playpen when she visits the Butler house) and so, among increasing chaos, I retreated upstairs for a Zoom meeting.
It was just after the call that I found out my brother in-law Simon had died. He had been in the hospital but I hadn’t expected him to die. Kim and I were on the phone when I was called back downstairs as a mattress was being delivered. Puppy barking, children shrieking, a queen sized mattress coming in through the garage held by two confused looking men – poor Kim I had to call him back.
It always amazes me that my housebound mother’s house is like Grand Central Station compared to our apartment in Manhattan. It is the crossroads of the universe.
I headed back to NYC that afternoon. I found Kim fielding the kind of calls you get on those days – friends checking in and whatnot.
Kim is the one who will write about Simon. (He already wrote something this morning which will appear in the Comics Journal, online shortly.) I really only knew him slightly, but he and Kim were living together when I first met Kim and their creative collaborations were still underway during the first years of our being together. (Simon subsequently did a stint in jail for selling his methadone, which arguably saved him from a potential overdose. That period effectively ended their active collaboration on Southern Fried Fugitives, a comic strip they did for Nickelodeon Magazine.)
Luckily Kim’s brush with Covid seems to have been lesser than mine and he seems more solidly back while I continue to have periodic coughing and sneezing fits which come on me simultaneously and flatten me briefly. I got up early today and violated my rule about writing this blog very first thing in order to be out and running before it got hot. Even before 7:00 today the temperature was climbing.
Still running slow, but topped out at more than 5.7 miles. It was good to check on all my usual haunts which I have seen so little of. (I walked part of the route last weekend and said a quick hello to those who follow my running journal on Instagram stories.) I am hoping it kicks my overall energy into gear.
So life has not quite resumed its normal stride here, but we’re working on it. I feel like I have to give a shout out to the folks at NYC Funeral and Cremation. It appears to be an enormous company here in the five boroughs, but Mary has thoughtfully guided me through an extraordinary labyrinth of online paperwork the likes I have never experienced.
She called on Friday when I had paused in the process (to work), making sure I understood next steps and the need to complete them. They answer their phone at all hours and whoever I have gotten on the other end was unfailingly lovely without being smarmy. I think I will remember their thoughtfulness for a long time to come. I always appreciate someone who does their job well and of course being treated kindly is also good. I would highly recommend them, but obviously prefer not to have to use them again.
So that’s where we are late morning on this Saturday at the end of June. The world is turning upside down politically and so we are swamped from the outside as well as from within. Nonetheless, we’re taking a few deep breaths and moving slowly forward here at Deitch Studio.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This morning I took read my post from last Memorial Day weekend. I was in New Jersey for a concert for work. Despite being in a tent the extraordinary downpour had largely soaked us all and it had essentially been a cold and sodden mess. As it was still one of the first times I was hearing live music I more or less forgave the weather. It was also one of the first times I was seeing my mom as during the first year of the pandemic I treaded softly in the pre-vaccine, no home test days of last spring.
I had however returned to New York via ferry, somewhat exhausted from my exertions both physically and emotionally. I got up tired on Monday morning, Memorial Day, went running, fell and broke two fingers. (I wrote about it here and here.)
It was chillier, unlike this weekend which has already turned warm enough that I am puzzling through had to stay hydrated during my runs in the growing heat and humidity. I was still wearing my heavy sweatshirt when I fell – I was grateful that I thought to take it off so it didn’t need to be cut off once the huge bandage was on my hand.
Of course I thought about this while running yesterday – giving the lumpy sidewalk where I fell a jaundiced look as I went by. Falling kept me off of running for a few months. When I stopped I was running about three miles I think and it took me awhile to get back to that distance, especially since it was full on summer heat by then. The ring finger on my left hand is still recalcitrant and I think I will need to break down and have my wedding band refitted to that finger as I think that finger and the knuckle is permanently enlarged. (I had been told the swelling could take up to a year to go down.)
Given time I run six miles now, some days cutting it short to get to an early meeting. I tend to think that is where I am topping out, at least for now, as it is hard to find the time to run longer than that four or five times a week. (Then again, it never occurred to me that I would be running that far either so who knows?)
I will focus on getting a bit faster for awhile. I have never had the urge to run fast actually which is good as I know I never will. I have a short stride for a tall person and I have always been more interested in distance, the long haul. However, I am very slow so I can pick up the pace a bit. Not killing my middle aged self in the heat is a bigger problem though and for the summer mornings I cannot get out as early as I should I need to be careful. Investigating what and how much to drink when.
Mom has had some health issues and since Thanksgiving I make more regular and longer trips to stay with her in New Jersey, vaccinated now and endlessly tested. Although I am a devoted homebody and miss Kim and the kitties, I enjoy the time with her too. (A few of the posts I have written about my time there can be found here and here and one on running in Jersey here.) Whichever place I am in I find hard to leave. It is just the way I am. Running while I am there is one of the things that grounds me though. I am a person who responds well to routine and set about creating them wherever I am.
One of my routines is that since Christmas I have treated myself to coming and going to Jersey via @rideswithcash, a dog and driver duo based in Monmouth County. This has allowed me to come and go at odd hours which fit into my work schedule better and generally saves some wear and tear on me. Jeff is lovely and great about making time for me. The mainstay of his business is folks going to and from the airports, although I guess there are other needs like mine too. The bonus is of course having Cash, his lovely Australian Shepard, sitting with me along for the ride. Petting that beautiful pup has soothed me through some otherwise stressful trips as I fret about mom or work.
This spring Cash was joined by a sibling sis – Penny! Well, of course fluffy Penny is about as cute as anything could be. She flirts and plays and chews and is generally adorable. I am not sure Cash has totally bought into Penny yet, but I am sure he will over time. I haven’t made a trip with both of them yet so we’ll see about that, maybe as early as this evening.
Meanwhile, a year has brought us through an intact if somewhat abbreviated concert season at work. We will be wrapping with a final concert and surrounding events in a few weeks. Variants come and (sort of) go and attendance at events waxes and wanes accordingly although ticket sales for concerts has remained strong.
Our offices officially went to a three day in-office schedule in April. Although we try to bring everyone in on Wednesdays so we can plan meetings, it still feels very empty most days. We are still rebuilding staff which is a slow process and of course other days people might be out or taking vacation days before the end of our fiscal year. Rebooting what was our office culture is hard and I can only imagine that we need to embrace what a new version will be. We are impatient, but only time will help puzzle through that.
I wrote recently about the interviewing I have been doing recently for a myriad of open positions. (That post can be found here.) I wish I could report that the positions are all filled, but not yet to date. A newly fully staffed team will be a large step forward in creating a new work paradigm. In the short term however the interviewing process is like having another job.
For those of you who were following the story of Stormy, the kitten mom found in her backyard a few months ago, I have news to report. (Her rescue origin post can be found here.) After gaining a bit of strength and familiarity with the house, Stormy left her lofty perch in a large dog cage where she was protected from the hustle and bustle of other kits and has joined the kitty pack in the house.
On my recent trips she has hidden herself entirely during the day and I have at best only caught a glimpse of her at times. However, she has a distinctive meow and I hear her when the lights go off at night, leading a feline rampage through the small house, up and down the stairs, skidding on the bathroom rug at the top before heading back down.
Stormy’s special partner in crime is another adoptee from the backyard, a gentleman puss named Gus. Gus, who looks a bit like he is made from spare parts, has made no secret of the fact that he is quite smitten with Stormy and follows her around devotedly although her hiding even eludes him at times and I will find him waiting for her to emerge.
Well, the big news is that my mom woke up the other night to find Stormy curled up on her lap! She did not stay for pets although she evidently acknowledged mom before hopping down. It is a rather remarkable step however. I often wonder how she can be such a friendly cat, clearly used to being handled when we found her so very small and starving. Did someone have her and lose her? Put her out? We’ll never know her story, but despite my initial reticence about keeping her I am of course glad we did.
So, after those updates and bits of reflection I am off for that run (early) and then packing to head to New Jersey for a few days. I have promised to get the new gas grill working and some other daughterly duties. For those of you who follow my running journal on Instagram, see you from Jersey!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I found myself thinking about time during a particularly hard won five mile run yesterday at lunchtime here in Manhattan. It seems my body is more willing to do my bidding in the early mornings and by late morning and early afternoon it balks some at the request. Luckily this is where habit kicks in though and after working the kinks out I’m good until some point at about mile four where I have to apply some discipline to make it through. The fifth mile was added recently and time doesn’t always allow for it, so I am still negotiating it each time.
Being a fairly compulsive gatherer of data I have recently started using an app (Strava) to record distance. My phone was somewhat mercurial in its recording of distance, same exact run different reads, but now I get not only distance, but speed and performance such as tracking time on inclines. It’s a bit dangerous to start feeding me this sort of information because I immediately become competitive with myself and have an urge to go faster and further.
I have written before about the fact that I run slowly (some of those running posts can be found here and here), but even in the realm of slow jogging I find myself increasing my speed incrementally now that I see it. So I am thinking about time in various ways while I run, either in small literal ways or in a larger sense. Seasonal change happens in almost daily increments as demanded by the weather, always reminding me that regardless of what I think time marches forward inexorably.
I maintain a photo journal of my runs on Instagram (mostly posted as stories and can be found on the four or so days a week I run @deitchstudio) and those snapshots remain on my phone to remind me of the seasons of my runs over the last eighteen months since I started in November of ’20. Running in the cold gives way to spring and then the heat of summer and back again to fleece leggings. I am excited to see the progress of the magnolia and cherry trees in New Jersey as spring burgeons and when I am back this week.
Time and the perception of it passing is somewhat subjective in my opinion. Certain activities elongate time, not stopping but slowing. Meditation, printing photos, lifting weights and now running are among the activities that produce this effect for me. My work days, always crazy busy, tend to speed time up in a reversal. I have always needed to find activities to balance that frenetic work energy lest I just burn out completely.
Time with my mother in New Jersey passes at a different pace too. I find myself examining that time which also slows it down. Morning coffee with her is a good time and I savor it. Running in her suburban neighborhood takes on a somewhat magical quality and the same five miles seems more epic there than my trot up and down my also beloved East River at home.
Meanwhile, I have just passed the five year anniversary of my current job. Like everyone else, I have conducted the past two years during the pandemic and am now in a liminal phase of partial re-entry as we commence year three. I have frequently said that I learned more about my job (fundraising for a performing arts organization) during the past two years than I learned in the previous three decades. That is an exaggeration of course and it is the first thirty years that made success (defined in large part as survival) possible. I have drawn on experience, but also the leadership that I worked with and learned from in my nascent decades working at the Metropolitan Museum. (I wrote about my time there and my departure here.)
As I prepare to usher my somewhat tattered troop into a new work world with weekly time back in an office, I am reminded that despite an illusion otherwise, time has not stood still. The roadmap of our work remains intact, another annual Gala (the first in-person in two years) is on the immediate horizon. However, the issues we face for interaction together, such as mask and vaccination protocol, possible infection and negotiating our in-person time and space together are entirely new and I don’t begin to know how to answer all their questions. We are all older and we have spent the past two years intensively together and yet very much apart. So I stand on the threshold of my fifth year entirely unclear about what it will bring, but time will tell.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I pick up from where I left yesterday, but use the opportunity to focus on running. Pictorama readers know that about 18 months ago I started running. I have slowly (very slowly!) built my distance up to 4.5-5 miles four or so times a week, as my work schedule allows. This morning, having a bit of leisure time at my disposal, I topped out over 5 miles.
Today was overcast but warm. Rain has moved in since so I am glad I got out early. (Although it means you all are getting this post later than usual as a result!)
Running in NJ tends to encourage me to expand my footprint a bit as I investigate the neighborhood, poking down new blocks, cul de sacs and deadends. I am confident enough in my mental map that I don’t worry now about getting lost, although I tend to keep myself hemmed in to the east and the west by major roads it is easier not to cross.
As I have said in my previous posts about running, I run slowly. For a tall person I have short legs and therefore a less than impressive stride, but I cannot blame my overall slowness just on that. My feeling about running is pretty much that I find a pace I can generally just keep up, more or less indefinitely. As if I was an automaton toy, set into infinite forward motion. I will speed up around obstacles or otherwise as needed but there is a general lope that I keep myself to. Everyone passes me – people running with baby strollers pass me – the older and the younger alike. My only interest in increasing time is a sense of efficiency about the amount of time I have to devote to running and therefore the ratio of distance to time.
For me running is about being in the moment which releases me from all the nagging worries that I nurse throughout the day (and night) otherwise. I focus on my stride, where my feet are falling and the music (today was largely Bruce Springsteen in honor of New Jersey) which is familiar enough to be ritual as well.
Suburban life is stretched out before me as I run here. Today was no exception. The first part of my run takes me to the crossroads of several churches and a synagogue. This morning I was treated to the church bells ringing as I started out. This church is next to a playing field and a small wildlife preserve that I circle before heading back out into a neighborhood north of here.
I ran further north and then west than usual and encountered the elementary school for the town, tucked away behind a main street but somehow on a block I think I never encountered growing up here. The Viola Sickles School is a pretty Art Deco designed building. It has a large playground and playing field behind it which I toured. Just on the other side is a pretty little downtown street of restaurants and shops on a main road. My mom lived in one of the houses on that main street which was converted to a candy store which we used to visit occasionally when I was little. Somehow I couldn’t get rid of the idea that my mom grew up in the candy store but this was not the case. I think it was a small gas station that my grandfather had at that time and before they moved to a neighboring town.
The houses near the school are old and lovely. These few blocks seem to have somehow escaped the general gentrification of the area. I hope someone buys them and restores them on their tiny lots instead of tearing them down.
I loop around and head south for the most familiar part of my run which I have been saving for last recently. It is overcast and the sun alternately fights to come out and gives up. Today is one of the warmest runs I have had this winter and the temperature is hovering around 50. Robins are everywhere, as well as sparrows, cardinals and bluejays. I see a bunny with a bushy white tail – too fast for me to get a picture. Back at mom’s the chipmunks are in evidence again as well. I spy the first snowdrops of the season in bloom and snap a photo of them.
Around mile four I start to feel it in my legs a bit. I use a GPS driven running tracker now called Strava as my phone seemed to be inconsistent about recording miles. I had some trouble with it at first – it would turn itself off which was frustrating – but I seem to have gotten past that.
Strava makes me more competitive with myself despite not really intending to – can I be faster on the big inclines? Go a bit further today? It sends me electronic encouragement for each of my runs. I am a sucker for its praise.
This week I see several book exchange boxes in the neighborhood, but don’t take the time out to examine them. I do note them however for future reference. Today I realize one is in front of the Knights of Columbus meeting place. I run through the parking lot and notice these rather special benches below.
I realize that I am already over time and distance and still have to get home. I think of one of my favorite phrases – save something for the swim back. It is true of running – and many other things too.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I was very much in denial that it would happen, but when this week rolled around I found myself packing to head off on my first (albeit very brief) business trip to Chicago. My denial that it would happen (a west coast trip was canceled earlier this year as were similar events) of course did not enhance the experience as I deferred my decisions about packing and appointments until the last minute. (I have written about my pre-Covid business travel several times including here and here.)
I have always found packing for out of town events difficult. Each region has its own sensibility and trying to strike the right note and feel appropriate is stressful. In California, I sport too much black and am not beautifully causal enough, in the Midwest I tend to be under dressed or too professional and not festive enough. Add two years of not doing any of this, weight gained and weight lost, and a closet which in some ways is a frozen time capsule of winter of ’20 and you have packing stress.
It also came to my attention that my hair (which has been somewhat defiantly gray since my 30’s which I wrote about in a post here) had meandered down well past my shoulders and perhaps this was not the most professional look. These days I generally loop it up into a clip or with a hair tie and don’t think about it most days except when it annoys me by falling down during my run.
So with just a few days to go I dropped a haircut appointment on top of an ambitious schedule, although the person I have long been devoted to wasn’t able to take me. At his suggestion I saw someone else in his salon. Brianna did a splendid job and was the first person other than David Smith to cut my hair in more than two decades. (David owns the salon now, Smith and Morgan, and he did stop by to see progress on the big snip.) I am grateful to both for helping to transform me back to a more business-like version of myself on short notice.
That done an evening outfit was then considered and devised out of the decaying edifice which is my closet. At long last a peacock patterned silk blouse, a long-standing favorite of many years, emerged from the depths of my closet along with a favorite leather blazer and the new pair of dress trousers I am sporting this post-diet season.
Among jewelry I chose two rings from my favorite stash of ones I used to wear daily, a giant bee and a turquoise one that looks like a robin’s egg perched on my hand. They both always cheer me up to see. I have rarely worn rings during our long at-home period and breaking two fingers on my left hand has shuffled my ring wearing (actually dieting does too) when I do and left me somewhat bereft without my wedding band on that hand. (I was told the swelling could take up to a year to go down so I have not attempted to alter it yet.)
Where it started to go a bit wrong was deciding that I wouldn’t take my roller suitcase and instead use the weekend bag I take to my mom’s in New Jersey these days. My fear of wrestling it into the overheads on the plane and having to fight about it all was more than I could withstand considering.
My laptop of several years, which has been valiantly pressed into daily service in a way it was not purchased for, suddenly began to threaten that it may not be properly charging anymore. I purchased a keyboard for my iPad instead and decided I would bring it instead, cementing my decision that I didn’t need the larger bag. This was a mistake which I was to have much time to rue as I attempted to carry it on a mini-marathon gauntlet which is La Guardia airport and the equivalent of several city blocks between where my cab left me and the terminal. Part of this was through a construction site which was wet and muddy and well, long. The suitcase grew heavy, never again I swore.
Like many before me I will confess that my packing skills were sadly wanting for lack of use – my forays to NJ to stay with my mother in no way prepared me for packing to fly for a business trip. I found myself in Chicago with an entirely dried out old mascara and no shampoo. I almost forgot to put my liquids in a bag, but no one actually seems to care about that anymore? Worst of all, I didn’t pack anything to read! While I planned to work most of the time I didn’t pack or download a book for the trip whereas I usually include several – just in case. I purchased a trashy novel at La Guardia which sufficed for the most part, but gosh, what was I thinking?
Of course there is the mask part of this. A colleague in DC who has small children and a husband who travels frequently for work had made a study of the best and most comfortable masks. I was endlessly grateful to Lesley for both reminding me to think about it (comfort and safety for long periods of wearing) and for giving me a link where I was able to purchase them. Every restaurant in Chicago told me, as they checked my vaccination status, that this and the mask mandate are to be lifted next week.
Ironically Chicago was the last business trip I took in February of 2020 (I wrote about an earlier leg of that trip here) and I stayed at the same hotel, the historic Palmer House a few blocks from the Art Institute. I found the hotel still beautiful, but in a somewhat reduced circumstance with no room service and restaurants closed, occupancy felt low. At my arrival time of 8:30 at night I was barely in time to grab a quick sandwich at the bar. (There was a Grab & Go take out with some sad food and no one to pay – truly grab and go I remarked to a fellow traveler who spontaneously revealed that he hadn’t been out of his house in two years. I assume he meant travel?) My room was clean, but no cleaning staff in evidence which was fine for me, but unusual.
The long rabbit warren hallways are decorated with photo portraits of generations of musicians and actors. I made a point of remembering a soft right at Frank Sinatra, past George Burns and then a hard left at Louie Armstrong.
After some debate and planning I left the hotel just after sunrise for a run along the lake. I am used to cold runs along the water (and through the woods at mom’s), but even sporting my fleece tights and down liner the Chicago wind was a shock.
The stunning beauty of the waterfront made up for it and it is clearly a favorite with runners there. It is broader and larger than my East River Esplanade at home by far and there were fewer runners than at home and notably no dog walkers, too windy and cold for them I guess, and perhaps they prefer the nearby park. Although frankly I have never seen another city with as much dog walking activity and romping as Manhattan.
The Beaux Arts buildings dot this horizon in one direction, the more contemporary skyline in the other. A Ferris Wheel in the distance, by what appeared to be a cruise ship made me think of a young adult novel I read years ago about the history of the Ferris Wheel and its origins at the Chicago Exposition of 1893. Kim had suggested it called, The Great Wheel, was written and beautifully illustrated by Robert Lawson in 1957. I highly recommend it for all ages. Cakes of ice floated around, ducks took them in stride.
However, the Chicago wind did its job during my four miles and I returned to the hotel to find my face flaming red with windburn! I had, as I always do, put a layer of moisturizer and sunscreen on before my run, but that only appeared to have made it worse. I have never seen it so red!
Meanwhile, breakfast with a former Met colleague, now at the Art Institute, helped cheer and ground me later that morning. Then I dug into work, held a staff meeting from my hotel room after purchasing something to calm the skin on my face, thank you Neutragena and Target. I made it through the remainder of the day and evening largely without mishap, although running an event out of town for the fist time in years could be the subject of its own post about muscle memory. Snow! Cancellations! Guest of honor still on the road in the snow! Seating changes! Young musicians who forgot the stand for their keyboard! Cocktails and several courses of food later the evening wrapped.
A not insubstantial amount of snow overnight sadly meant no run on morning two – which I regret because I wanted a better look at the Ferris Wheel, alas. However, I rose early, packed, crammed three meetings, breakfast, coffee and lunch into the first part of the day (Board member download from night before, former staffer and long ago colleague – no cabs around so all via Uber which was also an atrophied muscle) and visited with a colleague who had just arrived. I see Georgina so rarely in person these days that an in-person visit with her was almost as rare as seeing my Chicago folks.
Before long it was time to pick up my very weighty bag, throw it over my shoulders and head back to the airport, home again to Kim and the kitties!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This past week I went on a particularly long run in New Jersey, more than four miles. The weather was an agreeable 35 degrees and my morning of meetings started late enough that despite being a bit cold I took the opportunity to explore a bit.
When I first started running there I was afraid of getting lost as I didn’t know the area and there are a lot of dead end streets and cul de sacs to get lost in. It took awhile for me to get the lay of the land and understand where my mom’s house is in relation to a few large roads that will always put me back on course eventually, making it almost impossible to actually get lost I now know. (I have written about running in New Jersey before and one of those posts is here. One of my early posts about teaching myself to run can be found here.)
I have written a bit about this area which exists in my mind these days as a sort of ideal small town with more ball fields and playgrounds than I can count. Communal basketball hoops adorn many of the dead end streets and it is easy to imagine a spring and summer rife with kids playing there. It has become my other reality or parallel universe now that a spend more time with my mom at her house.
There is a charming middle school at the end of my mother’s block, Knollwood it is called, and each morning when I run there I see kids in various states of readiness migrating toward it to start their day. They come on bikes or walk, alone or a few together, sometimes running or pedaling hard as it gets later. Cars and buses are dropping them off on the other side, but that isn’t usually what I see from the side of the school I approach.
The houses here range from new build large and obviously affluent, to bungalow and Cape Cod small, like my mom’s. They indicate a fair amount of disparity in wealth I think as I run by them, but somehow they manage to knit together a community, homes almost universally cheerfully neat and tidy looking.
If I head further in one direction I know that beyond the woods where I start these runs that the homes will grow larger and further apart in the town where I grew up. As I go in the other direction the homes get smaller and closer together and older. This area forms a literal meeting point of three towns and each has a different flavor.
As I survey my surroundings (to an unlikely soundtrack of Billie Holiday which I am stuck on for no identifiable reason), I ponder how mindfulness can be uncomfortable and how sometimes forcing yourself to be in the moment is so much harder and more painful than escaping it. For me and with my personal history January is the most terrible of months, stinking with the memory of illness and death. Accepting that and not trying to escape it is hard. Despite a determined brand of personal optimism, I tend to skirt the beginning of each year warily, more just getting through it than embracing it as a new beginning.
This year has its own challenges and this week packed a wallop of January-ness my way along with some sodden snowy rain. The anniversary of my sister’s death, two more resignations at work, spending time (mostly reliving the past) with my mom who is not well – it has been a rocky road and I will be glad when the 31st passes, hopefully gently, into February. A tsunami of these issues clamor for attention in my brain and only the gentle repetitious pounding of my sneaker clad feet can help me unsnarl these thorny thoughts.
As I make my way over, up and through this neighborhood I think about it. The word liminal keeps looming in my mind so I examine it. Liminal, the space between things, the moment on a threshold. We all are existing in that liminal space right now as we try to figure out what the world is going to look like, needing to let go of what was and embrace this unknown next thing. That space is a bit of a respite from the drive forward, but you know you are going to have to take the plunge so there is little comfort in that perch, like standing above icy water before diving in. By its nature it is an uncomfortable place to be.
I think I understand the desire to leave for a new job and to assign all that was bad about the past two years to what employed your hours during that time. I can see that a new job might be a fresh new page to draw on and a way to reinvent yourself and push into the new world. So I try not to resent the further dwindling of my work team and the demands it will make on me and the remaining folks, but I admit it is hard.
My own style however is to dig my heels in and have a real look at myself, marshal my reserves, retrench. It is only by facing what is hard that we can actually resolve it. One of my expressions is the only way through is through – a self-evident but annoying truth. I see signs of reluctance in myself that I need to square off, face and resolve. I remind myself that there is a steeliness I can call on when needed and it is called for now. I use it and add on that extra mile.