Pam’s Pictorama Post: As most of our readers know, I work for a well known performing arts organization and you may remember that last year I missed our opening weekend, pushed late into November to avoid inevitably Covid related early fall issues. My mom landed in the hospital and needing to be with her trumped even our long-awaited post pandemic opening. So for me, although I attended concerts later in the season last year, this was my first opening weekend since the fall of 2019. While it lacked the heavy emotion of last year, last night was more than suitably festive and, despite masks still dotting our landscape, came close to feeling like at least the return to a new normal. There was a real joy in the room.
For me it also marked the launching of many colleagues who joined the organization recently and wonderful to see them each fully assume their new roles. (I have written some about the interview process and the overall state of the office here and here.) Like the slow forward movement of a mighty ship, the gears slowly turned and it was something close to full speed ahead by the end of the evening. For my folks the weeks and months of getting to know the organization and about our supporters was like the musicians and their hours or practice and rehearsal.
An evening like this is marked with a certain expected stress and mishap as is the nature of our business. Tickets gone missing (and a supply chain issue with ticket stock having made us crazy), introductions needing to be organized and executed, catering issues. (Last night a vegan sandwich made with beets appeared – which oddly looked remarkably like corn beef. They were enormous – and well, made with beets. Ultimately we had them quartered which made them more approachable and in the end they were surprisingly good.)
I was endlessly pleased to see my folks embrace their new roles, talking with guests, moving the reception along seamlessly. Our fundraising work bounces back and forth between the administrative and in person, a delicate dance really between the two. It is a a miracle when it all meshes into a successful evening like last night and fascinating to see the new people embrace their roles, each in a different and singular way. The trained singer who came to us to be back in this milieu taking obvious pleasure in the music and in meeting the musicians, the talented and personable young man who has taken a flyer on working for an arts organization for a totally different experience finding his voice. Our events manager fully in charge and in his glory after a few spring trail runs.
Mixed in of course remains a core group of hard working and great long-standing colleagues who have stayed through it all and helped introduce the new people to their roles while continuing to keep things afloat, as we have for months and really years now. It was a moment to glimpse the future and how a new team will work together and for all the bumpy starts see how the road ahead will shape up. It is just the start of the season, but I return with a new sense of swing to my step.
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: So in the week that was, Deitch Studio finally fell prey to Covid. Not surprisingly, despite being an avid mask wearer and careful in general, I of course was the one who brought it home. Our return to office has had me in most days in the prior week or so, traveling on the subway and all – although in reality I have been matriculating through the world for a long time for work. The office, our club for dinner, breakfast meetings, lunches with donors.
Mom had it a few weeks back despite our extraordinary efforts to protect her. With her existing health problems that was very scary. She was sick and sicker at various times and I am grateful that she pulled through and now even her cough has receded. I am also deeply grateful to her caretakers who stayed throughout despite personal risk to them and their families.
Anyway, when we least expected it I woke up with full-on symptoms after a day in the office and an evening out for work. I tested negative, but began isolating. I was six days from a dinner for 85 people, our first of its kind since January of ’20. Of course in a one-room apartment there really isn’t much isolating to do, let’s be honest.
We’ve all heard varying levels of sickness from friends and family. I would say for me day one was more or less like being hit by a two by four. Blinding headache, sore throat, laryngitis and a deep rattling cough developed nicely through Day One. I didn’t test positive until the evening of Day Three. As others have said, it was strange to see a positive test after literally years of negative ones. It was definitive too, not a wishy washy second line but a dark one.
The good news is that I progressed rapidly toward better daily. That Friday night I missed the last concert of our season and the festive closing receptions which my staff executed nicely. They sent photos.
On Monday morning, Day Four, I called both my GP and my rheumatologist (I have written a bit about my psoriatic arthritis and exercising in spite of it and that post can be found here) and true to form, the rheumatologist got back to me within the hour. He had me off to the ER for a monoclonal infusion immediately. (My GP was to get back to me around 5:30 PM. Not sure she agreed with the decision of the other doc, but seemed to have the sense to realize that arguing about it now was too late.)
I ate something and grabbed an extra layer of clothing despite the heat. We all know that any trip to the ER is not fast and once in their clutches you stay and will wait what seems to be endlessly before being spit back out. (And they keep it freezing cold – is that really to kill germs as someone suggested?) I was there almost exactly a year ago when I broke two fingers running. (A post about that misadventure can be found here.) Kim walked me over the ten or so blocks; I felt up to it and figured even with a mask on and an open window no one had it coming to them to have me in their cab.
As expected, folks keep a healthy distance from you in a hospital when you tell them you are Covid positive. (The admitting guard put on gloves to take my paperwork from me.) However, the doc who saw me cheerfully informed me that he had just gotten over it so feared my germs not. I was quickly approved for the infusion and sent to wait in a closet room which was at least twice as big as the tiny one I sat in for four hours with my hand, but they were storing furniture in this one. Kim went off to work some once I was ingested by the bowels of Lenox Hill Hospital.
I sat with a port in my arm, waiting, while sitting in on two seating meetings for the dinner and helping to make some plans for it to happen without me, while I continued to sit in my closet. Some of you have read of my staffing woes and in addition to an entirely depleted staff those on the job are entirely new and have never seen an event in our hall. (A post can be found here.) There was no question about going to the dinner, even if I was better I would still be contagious. Other guests were dropping out, staff too, as the virus eddied around; my boss went down with it within days of me.
While I was sick and working from home I read an article in the NYT discussing how the sick day has disappeared and also how stupid it is to keep working while you are sick. I had time to ponder that, but I was leaving my colleagues in enough of a lurch by not being able to be there for this dinner. The least I could do is what I could manage from home, the seating and all the preliminary work could be done. (In addition my beloved Executive Assistant fell and broke her kneecap this week! Definitely worse.) Eventually my meetings ended, read my e-book for awhile, I got the infusion, was observed for another hour and eventually sent home.
I continued to improve over the next days although there was no dramatic change from the infusion that I could tell. By Wednesday I might have gone to the dinner if it wasn’t Covid, although that probably would have been a mistake, but I was feeling that much better. The dinner went off without a hitch and thanks to the miracle of cell phones and real time video it was almost like being there, even allowing me to double check seating and sight lines for our guests.
Thursday allowed me to collapse a bit, although I tuned in for some follow up from the evening before, sent some emails to guests who had texted or emailed their well wishes for my recovery. I sent love and thanks to my colleagues for carrying it all off so brilliantly.
I had lost much of my sense of taste and smell by then. Then Kim began coughing and round two began. He had the good sense to test positive immediately. We spent yesterday trying to reach his doc even though he also seemed to improve. In the absence of his doctor getting back to him and it being Saturday we are wandering over to Urgent Care later today.
I am eyeing the good weather and wondering if I might try my first run as well. New running shoes showed up yesterday.
There is a lot of divisiveness around this illness, the vaccines etc. I can only say both that I was extremely grateful during the worst of this that I had gotten vaccinated and gotten the booster. (I wouldn’t have gotten the booster if it hadn’t been required for work to be really honest.) Man, I don’t want to think about this being that much worse than it was. The first wave of it must have been truly horrifying, but for me it wasn’t reduced to a few days of a common cold either.
Weirdly there is a lot of guilt attached to Covid. Who gave it to me? Who did I end up giving it to during a contagious period without symptoms? Just plain disappointment at getting it after avoiding it so long. It’s all wrong headed, but I still felt that way. Also, I found it oddly depressing as well. I almost wonder if it is a chemical aspect of the illness, an overwhelming sort of hopelessness and despair in the first few days. Others have agreed. I mention it in case others experience it.
For now that is our tale of illness and hopefully now recovery. With any luck, this will be the last you hear about it and we can be back to photos, toys or maybe a nice new jewelry acquisition starting tomorrow.
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: Although I am (and always have been) very fond of sleep, when I was a child I assumed that many of the truly interesting things in the world were going on in the middle of the night. Somehow I thought (knew?) that grownups were prowling the nights while I slept. They were watching gently muted television shows which were blue-lighting bedrooms or out at fantasy dinner clubs based on images I formed from early films. I imagined them sitting our suburban backyards, walking the streets and on moonlit ocean beaches. I imagined that somehow their night selves were more interesting and some day I would join them.
When I was very little and couldn’t sleep I would sometimes roll into an empty built-in bookshelf next to my bed and curl up there. The enclosure somehow being more comforting if less comfortable and it freaked my parents out in a mild way. My mother still talks about it and I have a visceral memory of it. (Of course I have no empty shelves in my adult life.)
My older sister, Loren, slept little and would go to bed late and get up early, although once asleep she slept soundly as far as I remember. When we were tiny she would usually be up for a late whisper or even prowl around the house together while our parents thought we were asleep. (During our adolescence we would fall asleep to her violin practice nightly which typically went on until about midnight.)
I always liked a cat on my bed for company if wakeful and from the time I was a small child I would lure them up at night. My first cat here in New York, a tuxie named Otto, slept wrapped around my head on my pillow most nights. She was the very best about sleeping with me and always kept me company.
Blackie heeds my call many nights (Cookie almost never and if she does she prefers Kim) and often sleeps at my feet where I find him snoring softly (he does snore) when I wake between the hours of 2:30 and 3:30 many nights. I like to find him there and give him a few pets and feel a gentle purr in response, but unlike young me I rarely wake him to keep me company. I usually slip out of bed leaving him and Kim sound asleep.
I am likely to have fallen gratefully into a deep sleep earlier in the night and wake to find my mind going from a manically busy dream right into a full tilt wakefulness. Sometimes I can lead myself back to sleep, but other nights I cannot and I lay in bed with a parade of thorny worries making maneuvers and marching through my brain until I finally give in and wander to the couch and take another hit of melatonin.
If I am reading a book I will read a bit (my posts about reading Judy Bolton novels can be found here and the Camp Fire Girls helped many a night and the first of those posts can be found here), but sometimes I scroll through my Instagram feed (I have conferred with @missmollystlantiques in the wee hours and bought photos from her) and see new posts from folks in other parts of the country and other parts of the world where their day has started.
Of course, sometimes I give into work and during the height of the pandemic unknotting worries about work snarling my brain would wake me so entirely that clearly the only resolution was to get up and do something about it. My colleagues grew used to responses to their inquiries time stamped for these late night hours. If I responded to a text from with my boss it could go on for a long time though as he is a notorious nightbird insomniac as well. (Jazz musician so of course!)
There are nights (many in fact) where I do the calculus of income to date at work and fret about how the gap will get filled before the end of the fiscal year, what needs doing to achieve it; budget is often on my mind one way or another. Other nights I fret over staffing or hiring issues. Recently I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about where a new hire would sit and wondered in the morning why it had so obsessed my mind the night before, the lens of sleeplessness magnifying things in an odd way. In the before times (pre-Covid) it might have been responses to a dinner that were especially slow in coming or thinking about an upcoming trip for work. Sometimes I get good ideas during these hours, other times not.
These days I am likely to be thinking (worrying) about my mom and may find a late night response to an earlier evening email from her. I like to see those, but am careful not to answer her because she will worry about my sleeplessness. She always writes that she hopes I am not seeing the email until morning. When I am in New Jersey with her I turn the television on to put me back to sleep which it often does. Here in New York our apartment is too small and I worry that even turning on a lamp will wake Kim and kitties.
I am aware that experts say that looking at a computer screen will wake you further. I do not find this and instead often take comfort in my electronic book or a gentle interaction with the evidently not quite sleeping world and find a short interlude distracting enough to soothe me and send me back to sleep successfully.
I do know from my own late nights and early mornings that there are legions of colleagues and friends roaming these same night hours. I see time stamps on other emails that confirm this. I frequently joke that we all know we could schedule a meeting for 3:30 AM. My friend and colleague on the West coast is usually having her sleepless interlude when I am first up and have started my day here in New York. We have email exchanges until she (sometimes) goes back to sleep for a bit once my work day has truly begun.
Running has helped me sleep better and in turn my early morning run is one of the reasons I urge myself to get back to sleep. As I generally get up around 6:00 (feeding time for the kits) it makes the timing of taking an actual sleeping pill, even a half, difficult to time. I tend to give into it a few times a month but generally prefer gummies that contain both melatonin and something called Rescue Remedy.
On a particularly bad night nothing will work, even after attempting to bludgeon the sleeplessness out of me with all of the concoctions above. On those nights there is no sense of camaraderie among my sleepless counterparts, just me and my fretting.
The author Steven Millhauser (a favorite of mine and gently disliked by Kim) writes about the night and describes it in a way that captures the way I would like to feel about it. If unfettered by place and responsibilities, I could freely roam the night with long neighborhood strolls and fill that time with creative production rather than nattering worries and concerns about early morning meetings and a long exhausting day ahead I might learn to love those odd hours. He devoted a great novella to a single night in a Connecticut neighborhood, Enchanted Night, although it is a short story called The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne that made me realize he was a kindred spirit on the subject.
Thursday night I attended a concert featuring Cécile McLorin Salvant and she talked about being inspired to write a particular song after reading a Colette quote about insomnia, on her phone in the middle of the night; leaving me to wonder if she was googling insomnia at the time, or Colette perhaps? (She also said that it was a New Year’s resolution to keep her phone out of her bedroom which failed almost immediately.) In its early stages, insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think or suffer darkly take refuge. For me the key word is almost.
And of course I know that some of you, my dear readers, are also reading this very post in the middle of the night and I hope it sends you back to the Land of Nod and so, sweet dreams.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is another sub-genre post, musings on my work life. Today I am deeply in thought about the week that was and will share a few thoughts about it as my mulling about it is occupying my brain this morning.
To start I will mention that we are back in our office on a hybrid schedule and because it is early days there is a certain amount of confusion and new patterns to be built. We recently had a staff meeting with half the office on Zoom and only my cell phone to tie them in.
Meanwhile, my office computer chose yesterday to flat out die – only a red flashing light came on. (My liaison in Technology emailed me red=dead in response to my hopeful inquiry about resuscitation.) I guess sadly the long days of disuse still counted against its useful life. I’m glad that my laptop continues to chug along at home, taped together and challenged at charging though it is. The current lean state of the staff is more evident with the new schedule and there are some days when it still feels like when I would go in during the height of the pandemic, largely alone.
Like many folks these days, over the waning days of the extended pandemic period, a number of my colleagues have migrated to other states, different careers and new paths – Etsy businesses were formed and consulting gigs found. Therefore, like so many others, I have been looking to build a new team and in the process start to reimagine who we are and what we will be. I have gone down blind alleys that didn’t pan out and cost me time and energy as my own group becomes understandably impatient with the attenuated process. Ghosts of former colleagues inhabit the space as we forget we won’t see them at those desks any longer.
Nonetheless, I am determined to be as thoughtful about each role as I would be if it was the only one I was filling this year and with several to fill, I am working hard to find the right combinations of skills and personalities to complement the existing team. Several months of groundwork is beginning to culminate in a tsunami of finalists and I find myself across the table (quite literally as most of my final in-person interviews are being done in an array of eating establishments across the city), from a long line of great people who are interviewing me as much as I am interviewing them.
If it wasn’t already a period of reflection on where we’ve been and where we want to go their probing questions have me considering it with determined frequency. Frankly these folks have mostly already vetted me, my management style and approach beforehand so our conversations go deeper. How has the team managed during these rough years and how are we pulling out of it? Where will we head now? How much travel do we anticipate?
I have some answers but my crystal ball falls short at others – yes to a hybrid office schedule, no idea on how much travel but probably some whereas it had been a lot. (Some of my tales of work related travel around the country and the world can be found here, here and here.) What are my goals and what keeps me at my job? The conversations focus me and rededicate me in an unexpected way. I am rebuilding and reimagining as we speak. The candidates are all savvy and have researched the organization and its finances online. People are looking to make the right move.
Small kindnesses extended to people over the course of my career have come back to me more than tenfold. Perhaps it is where I am in my own career or the comparably large number of people I need to hire, but it is almost overwhelming.
For every informational interview I extended, sympathetic ear I lent, each hand up or a place at the table I might have been able to provide, all these years later candidates tell me that they are sitting across from me now because they or someone they respect remembered it. I am touched by the number of people who are willing to vouch for me in this way and am grateful that my career at the Met gave me the opportunities it did. (I wrote about working at the Metropolitan Museum in a post that can be found here and a recent post dedicated to an early mentor of mine can be found here.)
I am pleased to report that the first senior position was filled yesterday. I am so excited about the new team member and the new partner he will be! Building on his skills gives me a benchmark for the others now as I move forward.
Therefore, as you try to balance long work days against those requests that always seem to come at the wrong moment, I encourage you to take a deep breath and find the time to sit on that panel or committee, or talk to that person. Whatever area you work in I am sure it too has a community with a long memory like mine and, like all aspects of life, what we put out in the world comes back to us in many ways. As I sit across from these talented folks and talk to them about their careers and hopes for the future I am refueled and very grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These photos arrived in the mail last night with another which I will share in a later post. At first I hadn’t realized that there was more than one (it was on Instagram, they are similar and I wasn’t really focused), but the seller (@MissMollysAntiques) suggested I buy all three and I am glad I did as they do belong staying together.
I like to look at old photos of musicians and traveling bands from the early 20th century, but I don’t generally purchase them for the Pictorama library. There is interest in them and they often seem to go for a lot of money, but I like to look at them. After all, until March of 2020 I found myself on the road with our orchestra on a regular basis, although our buses and wardrobe folks and whatnot don’t much resemble this. (I wrote about my first trip with the orchestra in a post that can be found here, and a trip to Shanghai where they were playing a few months after I started and that post can be found here.)
Touring, even now, is a pretty grueling process and for all the late night post-show drinking or pancake sessions, there’s a lot more trying to sleep on a bus and grinding the miles at 5AM. Even the small amount I have dipped into it has convinced me it isn’t what I am built for. I find myself eating more junk food in a matter of days than I usually do in months and keeping up good exercise habits is hard.
I have used my favorite of the three at the top of the post, with the two men holding their mandolins. A drum case and a large drum front and center, a banjo case is on the running board of the car. It would take a better forensic thinker to unpack with precision what year this might have been. The suits, the location behind them and the car could have belonged to a few decades. The printing of the photos and the film is fairly primitive, but those persisted for decades, especially for home use. We can’t quite see the car they are traveling in but it looks like an early roadster complete with running board.
They seem to have a set order that they pose in, leading up to the tall fellow but a short guy on each end. The instruments are also posed in front of them in a neat pointing pile. This was obviously well thought out. Hats on and hats off being the other variation.
These photos hail from the midwest and I suspect that is their place of origin from looking at them. Nothing is written on them (except inventory numbers) and there is no evidence that they were ever in an album. The nature of the poses, hats on and hats off, suggests that maybe these were taken for a commercial use, but the reproduction of them is too low in quality to imagine them being useful that way.
I would like to hear these guys and I wish there was some identification of who they were. I have a feeling that they would have been right up my ally, small traveling band from the 20’s or 30’s playing roadhouses and restaurants and whatnot. It is the period of music I love most. I can imagine sitting in a roadside establishment in 1931, beer in hand after a long day, hanging with my honey and listening to these fellows and being on top of the world.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: As we emerge from our Covid cocoons this spring and tip toe into the next stage of what I think of as the new normal, sartorial issues start to take front and center. I have alluded to it in past posts, but it is starting to take on a greater sense of urgency.
I always dressed for work in an office, at the Metropolitan Museum that ran more to jackets, skirts and suits and at my current position over time it evolved more into dresses and a series of nice trousers and jackets. However, like everyone over the past two years my wardrobe has consisted largely of track pants or leggings with a rotation of a few tops, a sweater or two and a large selection of tanks and t-shirts to wear under them. (A heavy sweatshirt, as below, has been added to the roster for running, but I try my best not to sport it on camera. I wrote about it in a running post here.)
As I whittled away at my pandemic weight (first I gained, then I lost and then lost some more), I added one or two items to wear to in-person meetings as those occasionally started to dot my calendar, event, an in-person lunch or meeting. A dress, a pair of nice trousers and a pair of jeans that fit were acquired over time. A leather jacket and favorite one with a snakeskin print (shown above) found their way back into the rotation from the world before, but not most articles have not found their way back, leaving me to ponder if I need to clear my closet of all but this handful of items I currently wear. Or instead will more items start to emerge back into consciousness as such?
Moths took care of a swath of clothing – the past two years turned out to be a moth breeding extravaganza in our apartment. However even after having eliminated what the moths munched and what was impossibly large there is a fair amount of clothing which is slowing aging, no longer worn in the closet and drawers. This week is our annual gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center and Kim will sport a new tux for the first time (sadly the moths consumed a vintage one he used to wear, however he too has lost weight and I think it would have been big on him anyway) and I will wear a dress I purchased several years ago and have only managed to wear twice before the long hiatus.
The week after, my office will begin a three day in and two optionally from home hybrid model. I will need to get into a new routine for time in New Jersey with my mother which has occupied my mind more than the question of what I wear to the office now. However, that question is starting to creep up on me even this week as I plan for in-person seating sessions (hundreds need to be seated for the concert and then dinner, seating is a week long affair) at the office and some visits with out of town folks.
I’m not saying I cannot rise to the occasion. I seem to have regained the skill of applying make-up (that actually took some practice) and I have more or less tamed my Rapunzel length locks (shown above, I’ve had gray hair since I was thirty years old and wrote about it here) back into an acceptable version of me. However, the question of what I wear nags at me. After all, it is a primary statement about our identity we confront the world with and what I wear will, to come degree, set the tone for how folks will be attired in the office.
Starting at the bottom, I can safely say my feet don’t want to be in anything but sneakers now (Nike running shoes optimally, but am willing to make occasional concessions for nicer looking ones or for the waterproof pair shown at top) for more than truly nominal periods of time. I have arthritis in my feet (two surgeries so far) and I have always had to be careful, no heels, but a series of expensive (mostly Italian) oxfords and pushing the envelop occasionally to something a bit more daring for evening. My feet are just over it all though. I think the nice shoes will largely disappear with one or two exceptions. Several pairs have spent the past two years in a drawer at my office.
Then there is jewelry. I actually bought a lot of it during the pandemic, developing a bit of a passion for British items from the teens purchased from a vendor or two residing in the British countryside. (Posts about those acquisitions can be found here and here.) So pins aplenty now, but rings pose a problem. Necklaces make occasional appearances on Zoom and have never disappeared entirely.
After breaking two fingers running last Memorial Day (yep, can read about that misadventure here) my left hand will no longer allow for my wedding band, nor any of a number of rings I wore on it. I may have to break down and have the band made larger (I was told that the swelling could take up to a year to settle so I have not yet), but thus far that finger still resists having a ring on it at all. I, who on any given day would have worn four or five rings (yes, several on each hand – I love rings and only regretted that there isn’t more hand real estate for them), have barely sported one for more than a few hours. I have not worn a bracelet in more than two years, the bangles which adorned my right hand have been languishing on my dresser.
So the question of who exactly emerges forth from the chrysalis and into the world on my behalf hangs in the air. Am I the make-up free, hair up, jeans sporting pandemic Pam, or will I slowly find a path back to a pre-pandemic world of routine hair trimming and manicures? Or is there a new middle ground? The question hangs in the air, along with a closet full of clothes, waiting for a decision about their future.
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 am pausing to post about one of my mentors who died earlier this month at the age of 89. Her name was Judy and although it saddened me deeply to hear of her passing I know the past few years have not been good to her, pandemic even not withstanding, and she must have hated that.
She had left her beloved Manhattan, whose sidewalks she had pounded for years and whose museums, theaters and concert halls she had frequented, for a retirement community out of state and near one of her daughters more than ten years ago. I saw her subsequently but her health during the years of her retirement has not been great in general despite having been a very robust senior. We had kept in touch through cards and occasional calls until my calls seemed to confuse her about 18 months ago.
As long-standing Pictorama readers may know, I worked at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for thirty years before taking my current position about five years ago. (My post dedicated to leaving the Met can be found here.) For several decades of that time I worked under Judy until, after her semi-retirement, she spent another several years working for me in one of those twists which I use as an example of management challenges I have faced when asked. As it happens, she did not actually hire me, but inherited me when she took up her position at the Met. My previous assignment was winding down and she was coming to start a new program. I remember thinking I would stay long enough to give it a try and see if I liked it which we joked about decades later.
There are many things I could say about her wit, intellect and elegance. Always ready to discuss politics or the latest production of a play, she was a remarkable woman and an enormous influence on me. Her voice continues in my head today pertaining to certain things and we were so close for so many years that an avalanche of condolences have come my way since news of her death was made known.
An attorney turned fundraiser, Judy had exacting standards which fit well into an organization which prized itself on world excellence. It created a high bar that I in particular as the person working most closely with her, assumed quickly. Whether it was a point of grammar (it was an office where grammatical discussions ensued on a regular basis and worn copies of Chicago Style would cross reference with a book of Met style and occasionally someone would site The New Times) or where page numbers should appear in a document, she had definite opinions. Pre-computer I sat with a thesaurus and a dictionary on a shelf over my desk which I would refer to continuously. (They remain there although mostly ceremonial at this point and of course inaccessible there over the past two years of working from home.)
It should be noted that a graduate of Smith college she had worked at different jobs (I believe she wrote for the early television show Omnibus), but was newly enrolled in law school when she was unexpectedly widowed. She was left with two young daughters and chose the difficult path of completing law school to support them. When I met her, Judy had left the practice of law and found her way into the newly developing area of fundraising called planned giving which focused on the tax advantages of philanthropy and estate planning.
Ours were careers that would span the dawn of the computer age and my early office eventually boasted one of the two fax machines for the Museum (that thing was loud and it used strange heat activated paper), followed by and a series of nascent computers and early attempts at email where I think we all had AOL accounts briefly. (I also transitioned from messages taken on note pads for that purpose to voice mail over the years!) We worked through a period where she hand wrote documents (on lined legal pads of paper) and I typed them on a word processor before we graduated to all having personal computers. Her handwriting was unbelievably neat or this would have been more of a chore. I rarely if ever had to ask what she had written, even when she was editing a document.
Within a few years our work and systems burgeoned and I was ambitious and took on all opportunities to turn my hand to additional areas. Therefore, in addition to my work with her I was running a growing annual giving program and special events such as dinners and receptions for exhibition openings, while we continued to work together on estate giving, creating complex contract templates and proposals. She was somewhat proprietary over my time and well, me. However she understood and applauded my ambition, and Judy knew that the best way to keep someone like me was to give me a lot of variety to learn from and keep me busy. I continued to work with her because I did learn from her and understood how valuable that was.
It wasn’t long before Judy evolved into den mom and chief confessor extraordinaire to the entire office and even a swath of the Museum. Given the closeness of my relationship (I used to quip that I spent many more waking hours a day with her weekly than with my now husband Kim) I would be tempted to say that she was a second mom to me, but she understood that I already had a wonderful mom who I am very close and our relationship was very close but definitely different.
When she retired I accepted the mantle of office good cop and chief sympathizer to a large degree although not a mom myself, never quite rising to the level of den mother. (Running my own office now I am keenly aware that I don’t get to be that person any longer as I am now required to be bad cop as well and keep the show running. I do miss my primarily good cop role at times.)
Judy was a fairly observant Jew and working with her pulled me closer to my (half) Jewish roots, reminding me of or teaching me about, aspects of the religion. She is, perhaps, the only person I know well who kept kosher. She taught me about the lesser celebrated holidays and some of the details of the better known
Every year at this time Judy would bake endless batches of hamantaschen for Purim. These are butter cookie pockets filled with thick jam in flavors like apricot, prune and poppyseed. Judy had a few recipes up her sleeve (we disagreed on the specifics of making matzoh brie as I remember and sadly I never tasted her potato latke that I understand were excellent), but by her own account didn’t love cooking.
Her hamantaschen production was her annual contribution and she made enough that tins of it would appear in the office each spring and soon it was legendary. In early March people would start to wander by the office with a weather eye for the day they would appear. She always secured a special tin of them just for me, heavy on apricot, and upon her retirement I ended up with it. I cannot see them in stores without thinking of hers. (The tin stayed with me and is the photo at the top of the post. I opened it today and discovered I had squirreled all sorts of Met related bits in it including several tin types and a nice plastic elephant that used to grace my desk.)
She guarded me like a momma bear over the years and I joked with one of her daughters via email that they must have felt like they had a third sister during those decades. I witnessed the wedding of her younger daughter (where I met a friend of hers who is a minister, Liz Wheeler, who ultimately married me and Kim) and waited with anticipation the birth of numerous grandchildren. Family always came first for her and her daughters and grandchildren were truly her proudest accomplishments. In turn, over time, she met my father and sister when they made their way to the Museum periodically and she knew the inner workings of my family and friends intimately as well. She was among those who saw me through the death of my sister toward the end of our time working together.
In addition to being exacting, Judy also had a hot temper and although never in all those years did she lose her temper with me, I did witness a number of remarkable skirmishes over time. Those who know me well understand that I have a hard and fast rule that I will not work for anyone who yells at me. I worked in kitchens early in my career and decided that I had had enough yelling for a working lifetime. There was one occasion, at the end when she was part time and working for me, when she came to me very angry about something and I told her that I thought she was being unfair and why, and maybe it wasn’t really me she was angry at. To her credit she accepted that; it was the closest we ever came to a real argument and I suspect was mostly about the shifting sands of time she was experiencing.
When after her retirement I had taken on a large part of the management and administration for that office and then eventually was lured away from the Met to run my own office, she marveled openly at my ambition. She had never wanted to leave her area of fundraising and was shocked but very proud of my subsequent accomplishments, such as they were.
I got a call last Sunday from a former Museum colleague while out running errands telling me of the paid notice in the New York Times announcing her death. Shortly after the call ended, I looked in a window as I continued on 86th Street and these trays of hamantaschen were on display. I thought to myself that it was like a wink from Judy as she went on her way.