Van Bueren’s Aesop Fables – the Toys!

In memory of Jane Withers who just died at 95 – and her toy collection!

Pam's Pictorama

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Extravaganza Post:  Hold onto your hats, this is a huge post! I started this morning with the photo of Jane Withers holding her wonderful Aesop Fable doll, the Princess, shown in a photo grab off the internet rather than a ham-handed photo of my own also rather pristine example – the first to enter my collection several years ago. Jane evidently had an enormous collection which she sold off in recent times.  (See http://collectdolls.about.com/od/auctions/a/janewithers.htm for more info.)  One can only imagine what toys a child star had the chance to indulge herself in! I like this photo and it is one of the ones in more or less permanent rotation in our tiny home.

But onto the cartoons – and the toys! I never got to see these cartoons as a child. I have to assume that I would simply be a better person if I had…

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Felix Trumps All

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As a devoted collector of Felix related objects I focus largely on the off-model, the unlicensed and often more singular, odd objects. These rarified bits often go for substantial money and as often as not I do not manage to acquire them. Sometimes fate allows one to fall into my hands and I put this one in that category.

Felix was popular with bridge players and I have seen other such interesting items related to the game, bid on and lost them previously. This Felix has a distinctly British look to him although he came to me from a US dealer. The design leads me to think he was made by Pixyland Kew (in the 1920’s they would have been Pixyland and Kew before they merged) as he has that look. As you can see, it appears they plunked this ready-made little fellow onto this base. (I wrote about my Felix Pixyland Kew figures once before and the history of that company. That post can be found here and another can be found here. Lastly, I have also done a post about the Felix Bridge tally card below which can be found here.)

From the Pams-Pictorama.com Collection and a December 2018 post also on Bridge!

I am not a Bridge player and it is frankly mysterious to me in all its facets. I gather that it was born out of the centuries old game of Whist which of course one reads about in early novels. Wikipedia tells me that the roots of that card game are in Italy and France. Bridge seems to have been a variation started by the British. (I feel like this country’s passion for it must have overtaken Britain’s at some point, but that is speculation.) Even Wikipedia’s simple description of the way it is played makes my head whirl. Kim says that the inmates of the asylum/rest home he worked at attempted to teach it to him. Their efforts did not take root, but Kim has a passing acquaintance with it as a result.

Another object made with a Pixyland Kew Felix. In the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I have never attempted to learn Bridge. I must confess that I am not a good game player in general, nor an especially able one when I am persuaded to try. I know I always had the wrong instincts in Monopoly as a kid and would try different, failing strategies such as purchasing as much of the affordable property as possible, or another time putting all my hopes on one Boardwalk or Park Place. I tried holding onto my cash and other times spending my money. It must be said that I would be surprised if I won a single game against my sister Loren over all those years of childhood. In some ways it amazes me that I have generally succeeded in life given the early indications of my lack of financial prowess playing Monopoly.

Pixyland Kew Felix from the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Bridge does seem to have some fascinating accessories and Felix is among those. I will always have a soft spot for an enterprise with good stuff. In this way I have always had at least a passing interest in Bridge. In the twenties and thirties Felix was at the height of his popularity and Bridge may have been as well, so it isn’t surprising that these two came together in some interesting items. (A post about popular everyday items sporting Felix can be found here and a glorious Valentine drawing Kim devoted to it can be seen below and the post found here.)

My Felix Heaven, by Kim Deitch. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Working with a large number of reasonably affluent Manhattanites of a certain age over many years, I knew at least second hand, about how avidly Bridge is pursued. I heard of different clubs and associations, each with their own identity, and of course occasionally about the skill (or lack thereof) of individuals who were mutually known to us. Sadly I feel like that group has largely passed, leaving me wondering how Bridge is faring these days, even before the pandemic. The Covid shutdown must have meant a long interruption – although I gather it can and is played via Zoom and Facetime so maybe clubs moved online. I am sure the social aspect of it suffered however which seems to be an important factor for players.

Felix is in dubious shape, his head is no longer permanently affixed and his paint is chipped. He has mitten shaped hand-paws and he appears to lean on an orange brick wall of sorts. His Felix emblem is a fancy font and he has a jaunty look in general. There is a hole in his shoulder which indicates something is missing from there. His paper indicator (what these displays mean is very much beyond me) is entirely intact. He is pretty great overall in my estimation however. While I am somewhat concerned about his condition, I remind myself that Felix is retiring to a quiet shelf where his imperfections should not matter much. His message these days might be quasi-political one day and a heart for Valentine’s Day the next. Meanwhile he is the newest denizen of Pams-Pictorama and beloved new resident here at Deitch Studio.

A Girl’s Best Friend

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is an intensely foggy morning here in Manhattan and we can see nothing but a sheet of white out our 16th story window. It is a bit doom and gloom so I have dug into my photo archive for a jolly one and have come up with this calmly happy one of this full-on flapper and her canine friend on a porch swing.

It is printed on photo paper, not a photo postcard, and bears signs of black photo album paper on the back. It is a very good shot with those interesting shadows I couldn’t have resisted either and the porch railing, the swing she is on, and trees behind create a nice frame of geometric shapes. However, the printing is a bit disappointing, not enough contrast and the blacks sink together although a careful look indicates that there was information there. They have cheated a bit and there is a white line added behind the dog’s hind quarters which I can see on the original, but you probably cannot in reproduction of the photo above. Nonetheless, despite any flaws, she takes us right to a time and place and holds us there for a moment.

I don’t know why, but it is her shoes that interest me in particular. As a collector of vintage clothing and photographs, you rarely get to really see shoes and while these aren’t notable, I just find myself looking at them and thinking, well, hmmm that’s what women’s shoes really looked like.

Recently a seller on Instagram has had a few pairs of women’s shoes from this period (@witchyvintge or witchyvintage.com) and they are surprisingly modern. There was a pair with kitten heels – or perhaps really more French heels – from this period that I commented I could slip on today and happily wear – if of course I ever wore anything but sneakers and slippers these days. (As an aside, @witchyvintage posts and sells some of the most remarkable vintage clothing I have ever seen in my years of collecting it. There are everyday pieces from the 1800’s, everything from long calico work dresses to corsets and dress clothes, the likes I have never seen outside a museum exhibit. It is fascinating to see them and know there are collectors out there who are sourcing and purchasing such early pieces actively.)

From Witchyvintage.com, still available, $265

Her hair is styled in the signature Louis Brooks bob of the day and it does a fair imitation. I wonder if it went up in the back the way Louis’s did. Her embroidered dress is perfectly of the time and so is the long strand of beads which was a length popular in the teens through the thirties, but not beyond.

This doggy is a large fellow to be even a partial lap dog, but canine affection knows no bounds. Dogs species are not well developed asset in my toolbox, but this seems to be an Airdale. I have never known one personally, but he seems very likable and clearly devoted to her. I remember when I was a kid our German Shepard couldn’t understand that she was no longer a puppy and would try to climb into bed with my parents, up between the headboard and their pillows. This of course was more possible for a pup than a seventy pound dog and caused some chaos – among the kids and cats that were also likely climbing on my folks at the time.

It’s hard to see the stages on the leaves on the trees, but I am going to gamble and call this an early spring photo, with the trees just starting to bud, about the same as where we are now in the process, maybe a week or two behind. Just warm enough to sit on the porch a bit in the sun without a coat and cuddled up with your dog.

A Deitch Studio Valentine

Pam’s Pictorama Post: At a quick count this is the seventh Valentine reveal we’ve had here at Deitch Studio and Pictorama. The actual tradition of Kim making me Valentines goes back to the first year Kim and I were together though and this November we round the two decade mark.

Cookie, currently in possession of my work chair.

Of course, like many folks, we’ve spent the past year knitted tightly together in our one room, with our two kitties, Blackie and Cookie. My days are punctuated by doing the small stuff, like fighting the cats for my desk chair (Cookie is sound asleep in it right now, I swear she’s smiling), or making us grilled cheese with jalapeno peppers for lunch. Somehow talking about our home life always comes back to food for me and my at home days have given birth to a revived interest in cooking – necessary and nurturing, it is at the heart of home.

My newly persistent home life means two distinct meals a day here – breakfast happens on our own (I myself am partial to yogurt and berries and the occasional sumo orange, Kim is on an avocado toast kick at the moment), but now lunch and dinner are more proper meals. Sometimes lunch is a bit of a pick up of leftovers, soup or a large salad, and sadly I have been known to eat mine while on a call or Zoom meeting. But more often than not is is taking a break and sitting down together at least briefly and consuming something nutritious. (I think back to many years ago in cooking school when a French chef-instructor, Guy, saw me eating standing up and he found me a chair and then lectured me on the importance of taking the time to appreciate the food and to focus on eating it. Very sweet and oh so very French!)

Easy to make, cheesy olive bread!

Dinner is really a proper homemade meal now with a couple of veggies and a protein. As some of you know, I passed through a baking phase early in the pandemic, recreating some of my grandmother’s recipes and finding some of my own. (A few of those posts along with quarantine life musings can be found here and here. Oh, cheesy olive bread!) I have moved into soups as part of my part two pandemic diet. These are hearty affairs which are closer to stews and are the centerpiece of the meal. Some recent recipes and thoughts on my confinement cooking can be found here and here. (Keep a weather eye peeled if you are a fan of the food posts, I’m currently dreaming up a vegetarian version of matzoh ball soup and my paternal grandmother’s split pea and veggie soup.)

A spicy clam chowder I invented recently.

Post-bookcase installation and re-arrangement of our apartment, my desk (an old and not especially beautiful drawing table that a friend was throwing out many years ago and has somehow stuck with me) is now placed about three feet from Kim’s large, wooden table he uses as a desk. (This table was acquired by us at the 26th Street flea market in the early years of living in this apartment. It was newly made and is substantial, although now one leg has been scratched on a bit by Blackie and it has its wonkinesses and weaknesses around the drawers too. I remember being somewhat amazed that we were making such a big purchase – what if we measured wrong? What if it didn’t hold up?)

Cookie enjoying some desk time recently.

As a result of our newfound proximity, Kim knows every aspect of my work life, fundraising for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and I hazard that he could easily take over for a day if pressed into service – repeating phrases and numbers he hears again and again. He knows the exact percentage we are at in our annual income budget and rejoices with me when the percentage point creeps up a notch or two. I sometimes consider if he ever really wondered what I did at work all day, as he himself has never worked in an office such as mine, but man, he sure does know about it now.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection, by Kim Deitch

When I look at last year’s Valentine, memories of last year’s life (in the before time) come rushing back. The fantasy of a Felix-filled cottage at the British seaside, like the locale of many of my posing with Felix photos. It is a reminder of how much change a year can bring and we have certainly all seen it in a variety of ways. I was in the midst of hectic domestic travel to some very snowy locations and I was exhausted from it and frankly welcomed the time at home. Of course, it begs the question of where we will all be when this time rolls around next year and we are presumably in what I call, the after time. I am sure many of you are thinking along the same lines.

This year’s card focuses in on my domain – our 600 square feet we call home and office. I get to sport a sort of semi-animated Felix necklace (Kim has a way of inventing bits and outfits I would love to own), but otherwise the players are (almost) all denizens of our tiny corner of the world. Cookie and Blackie are there, of course. Giant Mickey Mouse (a huge Dean’s Rag Doll display who inhabits the space near the bottom of our bed) waves his arms.

A line-up of a few of my favorite Aesop Fable dolls, along with a rather excellent Bugs Bunny I purchased randomly on eBay making an appearance. They are lined up behind Kim on his desk, in front of the ever-growing stack of finished pages of art that resides on his desk. A tiny Dean’s Mickey (Minnie really) Jazzer fills out the group on the desk. (They were designed to sit on the arm of your record player – yep, there’s a lot to absorb in that sentence and probably a bad idea for the records, which would have been 78’s at the time.) Kim is like the master of ceremonies – he has gathered the group to pay tribute!

Some of the Valentine participants shown here.

Meanwhile, Waldo is there and he is checking out Felix’s girlfriend, and while she is a creation of Kim’s mind, the Felix is not. He is a splendid, sizable example I purchased at auction because, although I have other somewhat similar examples, I couldn’t resist the bargain he was. (Of course, I have never regretted the purchase.)

What can such a fortunate girl say? I’m very pleased to be at the heart of this particular kingdom. Although not always absolutely peaceable, there is nowhere I would rather be. I hope to reign here, benignly of course, for many years to come.

Blackie (top) and Cookie as a matched set eating dinner recently.

A Tiny Trip to the Future

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is a contemplative work/life missive by way of warning to my readers. (Toys, photos and Felix to return shortly.) We haven’t had one of these in a long time. And while I have posting a bit about things like setting up my office in the apartment, (some of those posts can be found here and here) I have not written about my job since New York shutdown, our concert hall closed and tours canceled, almost a year ago now, last March.

Toy cafe in Shanghai

In the past I have written occasionally about my work at Jazz at Lincoln Center, often reporting in from trips with the orchestra to far flung places (some of those posts, from trips to Shanghai, London and South Africa can be found here, here and here), but I have not written much about our quarantine times professionally. (The photo above of the outside of our hall was taken in June on my first trip to midtown since March.) Frankly, I figured I didn’t have anything to add to what everyone was probably struggling with in their own way, living their own version of quarantine imposed issues and addressing them in your work life. Also, it has been exhausting to live it and I have not had much time for reflection. I will start though by saying that I know I am very lucky to be able to work from home (be it ever so humble), and of course to have a job at all. I think about both those things often. (For those of you who might be new to Pictorama and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I work for the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra and Wynton Marsalis, fundraising for the organization.)

As we march toward the one year mark, one that seemed impossible and I among those who refused to accept as even a possibility last spring, new rhythms and routines have of course been established. The work day starts very early here at Deitch Studio and I have adjusted to Kim’s program. It is rare that I am not at the computer and having my first look at the day around 6:00. Some mornings find me working out in a nearby park, jogging and doing some of the exercise that is hard in our confined space, working off early pandemic pounds. Other mornings might instead mean lifting weights here in the apartment – trying to make it possible for Kim to work in on the mat between rotations. (My posts about teaching myself to run and working out at home can be found here and here.)

Dawn recently at Carl Schurz Park, the site of my outdoor workouts.

If Wynton has calls he is making during the day ahead, to thank people or sometimes to ask for a gift, he gets his notes from me early. Sometimes there is an official briefing on the schedule, other times a spontaneous call early after reading my notes. (When I was walking instead of running sometimes I could multi-task and do a call then, but talking is beyond me while trying to run.) Then the long day of being at my “desk”, an ancient drafting table, commences. (I have recently ordered a new desk chair, one with arms, which will hopefully relieve what is now a chronic aching lower back.) Kim is subjected to a never-ending litany of calls and meetings, which he is required to endure my end of, my office now used to mutterings that occasionally come from his side of the room. Him now deeply versed in my work, where we stand to goal and each and every gain and setback daily. Wynton’s voice via the phone has at times seemed like another resident of the apartment.

Cookie and Blackie nearing dinner time recently, Kim, out of view the object of their scrutiny.

The work day continues, with a break to eat a quick lunch which Kim and I try to do together, until about six o’clock when Kim usually knocks off work and Cookie and Blackie get their (long awaited; by then they are on my desk and staring hard at the back of Kim’s head) dinner. I usually start our dinner around then, we eat together and then sometimes I drift back to work for awhile, or it might be another good time if Wynton and I need to talk. Sometimes there are events, me in front of Kim’s work table on Zoom doing a welcome and introductions.

Like everyone else, my days are now spent clad in variations of comfortable clothing. There are evening “events” such as online concerts and conversations, and those demand rare forays into applying make up (I really thought I had forgotten how at first), putting on a nice top and maybe even a pair of earrings. I, who always dressed for work and a roster of evenings out, who rotated a beloved array of rings on multiple fingers daily, and faithfully applied make-up every workday, I have embraced the soft trouser (think sweat pants; the Addidas ones are for dressy events although no one sees them) paired with a hoodie, or the workout clothes from an interrupted or abandoned exercise session earlier in the day.

I have worn variations on these moccasins for years, but never wore through a pair before.

I have worn out one pair of sneakers, the only shoes I wear these days, and I found recently that I had worn through my moccasin slippers which I wear in the house. Wore right through them and we started finding little diamonds of the soles around the apartment. The replacement, below, arrived yesterday and I am wearing them, quite contentedly, now. My feet resist the discussion of eventual progression back to hard shoes. I have coaxed my feet into snow boots on a few occasions as needed.

The photos over Kim’s desk which are now a frequent background for my greetings on Zoom evenings.

Earlier in the pandemic, Wynton was doing a live show, Skain’s Domain, on Monday night and each week kicked off with a night of 90 minutes of interviews followed by just regular folks who had logged on asking questions and telling stories. (A sample posted on Youtube can be found here.) It was usually about music, but politics and world events would creep in. People welcomed a chance to just be with other folks, even if it was more time on Zoom, late in the evening. It ran until the summer when we decided to take a break.

I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that a performing arts organization that once earned more than half of its revenue from concerts, touring, a jazz club and hall rentals, which suddenly found fundraising as its only means of income (and many of its expenses still pressing) has struggled mightily. That means me and a somewhat dwindling but devoted staff have been very busy for the past eleven months. As a fundraiser it is the challenge of a professional lifetime like I thought I would never have and that can also be exhilarating if exhausting. Someday I might write about that part of it, perhaps after I am not in the thick of it.

Wynton has, not surprisingly, been a great leader under these extreme circumstances. Although he has driven the organization hard and at times the staff almost to the point of breaking, as a result we have remained disciplined and continued to produce and remain in the public eye, despite the obvious limitations. He encourages, nags and at times if needed will even taunt us into action. A steady flow of online content, live shows, education programs, new music and archival concerts have been marshaled into being. My colleagues, who I always realized were amazing professionals each in their own field, have been incredible. I reflected the other day that among the very few people I have seen in person in the last eleven months (other than Kim and cats) have been folks from work. The absolute joy of in-person encounter leading to jumping up and down in excitement since hugging them was not possible.

Chateau Le Woof where I met a colleague for a outdoor drink this summer.

Needless to say, there is no victory lap here though and like everyone else, we remain unsure of where we even are in this process – halfway through? Almost there? My mantra has been not to look ahead, but keep my shoulder to the wheel, easier not to speculate beyond immediate needs. The race, clearly a marathon, continues.

This week however I found myself required to live in the future for a bit and it was interesting to go there. I have been writing proposals for an audience development project, one to take place after we return to our hall, whenever that turns out to be. For the purposes of the request we are assuming we are back, playing live music in January 2022. The request is to help underwrite the cost of concerts so we can offer deeply subsidized tickets for a returning audience, re-engaging with post-pandemic live performance in a hall, and also use the opportunity to grow our audience. Around each of these concerts would be an Open House style festival with school kids, families, local mid-town vendors and restaurants. All kinds of people together in a space – mingling and enjoying music.

In the process of writing I realized that, while of course I reflect occasionally on what I call the time before I have yet begun to construct a vision of what the time after might actually be. I mean, I suppose we all have some vague idea about aspects of it – what will a commute look further than ten feet across a room look like, how will we arrange swing shifts in the office, will we ever sit in conference rooms again. (How much will I travel for work? Will I ever return to purchasing nice clothing and make up?) But to really imagine a time when we are gathering inside in groups again and listening to live music, all presumably without fear of infection, is both hard and liberating. Can we just throw off more than a year of how we are now living and working? Surely there will be residual changes from it, but moments of living in that time in my imagination has helped the future start to take root.

Cookie basking in the desk light on my makeshift work space recently.

I am by nature a planner. I like to anticipate and know where I am going and how I will get there. I have had to release my grip on the need to know over this time which has not been easy for someone a bit compulsive like me. Still, suddenly it seems like maybe it might be time to start to let the future, the after time, to cultivate that glimmer in my mind and let it grow.

Krak-R-Jak: Keeping the Biscuits Fresh

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It likely won’t surprise Pictorama readers to know that I am the sort of person who embraces an opportunity to outfit a new space or venture. While I have bad things I could say about the pandemic induced change to working at home, one bonus is I have had the chance to equip an entirely new desk. I devoted some previous post space to my desk at my office in Columbus Circle (one of those posts can be found here) back in the before time, but a new desk where I spend my days here in the apartment called for some judicious acquisition. Some bits found their way back from Columbus Circle on the one or two trips I made there (the lucky waving cats are with me and remain on the job with me; their post can be found here), but for the most part I picked up some bits and pieces to make it more functional and of course fun.

Another earlier Miss Molly purchase. She specializes in Halloween items.

The most significant item is this large-ish tin box for Krak-R-Jak Biscuits. I purchased this from my new Instagram source who resides in the middle west region of our country, known to me as Miss Molly (@missmollystlantiques) who has supplied me with an array of interesting photos (one of those posts can be seen here) and some Halloween items (one gem seen here), but she is also the purveyor of several interesting boxes that now hold my office supplies.

This large tin box, which I gather kept generations of biscuits and bread fresh, holds my collection of greeting cards which were transported early on from Columbus Circle. I have long been in the practice of purchasing nice cards (or especially funny ones) whenever I see them. In the before time when traveling for work I would often wander into a card store in a new town if I spotted one. As a result there is a card shop in San Francisco I have frequented for years and another in Boston. (There is also a lingerie store in Milwaukee and a nice junk shop in Santa Barabara, but those are other stories.)

Of course I have my sources in Manhattan, although frankly even pre-pandemic they were already rapidly closing down and getting sparse. I cling to the one near us just above 86th Street on Lexington, there are two others, further down Third Avenue, or at least there were. Therefore, if you have received a greeting card from me its origin may have been Manhattan or it may have been Chicago, or another destination along my annual work route.

I actually spotted this large tin in a post Miss Molly did for some other items and asked about it. While technically not on the block for sale, she was willing to sell it and now it not only holds my greeting cards, but also holds up the stand for my iPad which (for a variety of technical reasons) is usually what I do my Zoom meetings on. It brings the iPad to a relatively ideal height, although the bookshelves behind me distort and it looks like Kim and I reside in a very long, narrow library.

As it turns out, this is not a rare tin and if you desire one you can probably purchase it for about what I paid for mine by looking online. Pristine examples might get up there a bit, but one like mine which has some good sides and some less good ones won’t run you too much. One person has assigned this to the 1930’s which I could find neither confirmation nor contradiction.

Of course I immediately assumed that Krak-R-Jak was somehow a forerunner to the candy corn, Cracker Jack. I would mostly be wrong as it turns out, at least as far as I can tell. This spelling of Krak-R-Jak seems to take you only to the Union Biscuit Company of Saint Louis when searched online. The actual history of said Union Biscuit Company is not readily available, or I have failed in finding it. Although my tin tells you to always ask for Krak-R-Jak Biscuits my online research mostly turns up a perhaps more popular slogan, Keeping the biscuits fresh.

The etymology of Cracker Jack or crackerjack according to Merriam-Webster is easiest to share in its entirety and is as follows: The late 19th-century pairing of crack and jack to form crackerjack topped off a long history for those words. Cracker is an elongation of crack, an adjective meaning “expert” or “superior” that dates from the 18th century. Prior to that, crack was a noun meaning “something superior” and a verb meaning “to boast.” (The verb use evolved from the expression “to crack a boast,” which came from the sense of crack meaning “to make a loud sharp sound.”) Jack has been used for “man” since the mid-1500s, as in “jack-of-all-trades.” Crackerjack entered English first as a noun referring to “a person or thing of marked excellence,” then as an adjective. You may also know Cracker Jack as a snack of candied popcorn and peanuts. That trademarked name dates from the 1890s.

Therefore, while I think Krak-R-Jak plays on this same term, it is in this case evidently not linked to the eventual creation of the candy, which appears to have been introduced to the world at the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and later perfected and marketed by Fritz and Louis Rueckheim. This recipe for candy corn and peanuts was already in existence and merely perfected (they figured out how to keep it from sticking one big mass) and marketed by them. I wonder if companies like the Union Biscuit were forced out of using the term eventually, although their logo cold easily pre-date the Cracker Jack candy use. Meanwhile, they were just using what would become an archaic term for pointing out that they had excellent biscuits.

A few of Kim’s drawing pencils seem to have found their way onto my desk which is an old drawing table.

While I thought I would also meander onto a wonderful little velvet covered box from Clark’s Spool Cotton Thread, which now houses paper clips, and can be spotted in the above photo, I will save that for another day. The Pictorama desk is full of delights to be revealed.

Cat Chair Cont.

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Returning today, as I ultimately always do to cat related photos, I share this great photo postcard I recently added to the Pictorama collection. I always consider these cards of folks perched on a giant cat especially good finds – perhaps even as beloved as my collection of photo postcards of folks posing with giant Felix the cat dolls, a find in this category to add to my small holdings of these is a reason for celebration here at Pictorama. They are an extremely jolly and jaunty variation and always find a place of pride on our crowded walls.

A careful look at the other versions I have hanging on the wall confirm that this is likely a different giant cat than the others – although the variations are very small, like the size of the eyes or nose. As for location, I have every reason to believe that is different too, although similar as these, like the Felix cards, always seem to be photos taken at the beach resorts, usually in Britain. (Although I have a number of examples taken in Katoomba, Australia, as well and at least one series showing such a Felix in Kuala Lumpur, below, where he appears to be directing traffic. Those posts can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Today’s card was never sent, but J. Easton, Clifton Paths, Margate is printed at the top of the back, along with (Extra copies please quote number.)

Impressively Margate’s history as a seaside destination for health and recreation dates all the way back to the 1750’s. An early photo of the cliffs referred to in Clifton Paths, are very dramatic, high cliffs in dramatic relief to the beach below which I assume are still in situ today. During this early 20th century period the area and its Dreamland amusement pier and beach were likely reaching a zenith of popularity for the sort of seaside retreat the British became known for. Another photo taken at Margate in my collection is below and the post can be read here.

Margate holiday photo, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Meanwhile, this youngster seems remarkably unimpressed with his perch – ungrateful child! I would love to swap places with him for this pic. His expression and body language, hands on hips, say it all and the language of small boys remains legible decades later – come on and take your stupid picture already! One imagines that a small child would have to be lifted atop of this large and wonderful kitty.

This photo below was also taken in Margate and identified as being in Cliftonville which seems to be adjoining or the same resort. This could be the same kitty, just a bit older in this photo. (That post, published on my birthday in 2017, can be read here.) The precise location seems to be different and this one does not have Mr. Easton’s logo so my guess is they were most likely competitors.

Cat Chair Photo, collection Pams-Pictorama.com

These kitties (Are they the same manufacturer? They look like Steiff toys but I can find no tracks to confirm they actually were produced by them) each seems to have the same little tongue sticking out, which always looks like a nose ring to me at first glance – here it looks like white beads or tufts outline the tongue. Most kitty chairs have a bow or a collar similar to this one, and many have white outlines defining the toes. Oh how I would love to see one in person!

Unlike some of the Felix figures, which even when their size approached that of small human probably allowed for the tucking under the arm and moving about, which means they are sometimes tatty compared with the apparent pristine of this fellow which somehow looks like he mostly stayed put – just being tucked away in the evenings or on rainy days. It appears to be an overcast day and the legions of beach chairs lined up behind them are all empty. Apartment buildings line the area, which I am figuring overlooks the water, as far as the eye can see here. There may be some vendors with stalls, likely on a boardwalk there. A sun spot has marked the photo there so it is a bit hard to see. Mr. Easton, photographer, has a tiny brand mark in the lower left corner. I wish I could find out a bit about his business but my research skills seem to be inadequate to do so.

While several of the photos I have of small children posing with an imposing Felix often larger than themselves occasionally look a tad worried or concerned, this cranky fellow is the only kid in my collection who is not enjoying his time on the giant black cat. I share some women who know how to have a good time on a black cat below – this photo lives on my site, but somehow there has never been a post devoted to it which it certainly deserves. They know how to have a good time. Go girls, go!

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Collaboration

Pam’s Pictoram Post: Today is something Pictorama readers really have not seen before – a true collaborative moment in Kim’s work between the two of us! While it is true that our holiday card is an annual collaborative effort (this year’s card is sitting half finished on the couch in pencil as I write, for those comics interested readers who are new to Pictorama, last year’s card reveal can be found here). Additionally, one or two of my bits of writing have been illustrated by Kim (see the appendix of Reincarnation Stories, and my own reincarnation tale – or catch it up here), this marks the first time a whole idea of mine has shown up.

The 2019 Holiday card, a collaborative Deitch Studio/Pictorama production.

Taken from Kim’s next book, How I Make Comics, these pages are an actual story of mine, told in my words, but embedded as part of a longer book length story. More or less just how it unfolds in the book, we were together one night at the Q train stop on 57th Street waiting. I was watching the rats frolic on the tracks and pointed them out to Kim. I have a mixed relationship with rats – mostly fear, but also respect for how smart they are and how adaptable.

Fair to say I take the, I’ll stay in my lane and you stay in yours, Mr. Rat, approach to our ongoing, symbiotic life in a big city relationship. Of course, having grown up on the water and beach, water rats were a part of my childhood and I was cautioned about them in a way that added to whatever fear of them I might have developed on my own. Water rats are significantly larger than their city counterparts (at first I thought city rats were large mice when I got here and saw them frolicking among the garbage pails on an alley), and our story is not about them today – although I may also have a water rat story lurking in me somewhere too.

Anyway, the real life story, which is largely accurately reflected in the book (although it takes you down the usual Deitch rabbit hole shortly after), is that I went to work the next morning, got off as usual at 57th Street and found myself reflecting on the subway rats again as I walked to my office. This story evolved quickly in my mind on that short walk and I shared it with Kim the next morning. (My early morning routine of coffee, paper reading, Kim working and our talking as well as my commute – back in the before world when I had one – has been expounded upon here. In addition, for comics fans, Kim’s process was thoroughly examined by me after the release of his most recent book, Reincarnation Stories, and that post can be found here. That post is a real companion piece to this one and if you haven’t read it and find this of interest, now would be a splendid time.)

As it would happen, it is a story of rat reincarnation. I will confide that Kim has frequented told tales of his friend since childhood, Tony Eastman, who kept rats as pets at one time and what excellent pets they made – smart and likable. (A special memorial nod to Tony who to our great sadness died very recently.) The downside of this ratty relationship is that rodents cycle through their lives at a very fast pace. Now, on one hand, if they didn’t the human race would rapidly be overtaken by them with their prodigious reproduction and cunning survival instincts. On the other hand, as Kim points out, it makes it a bit sad to become attached to them as pets. Just as you get attached, they die. I was thinking of that when this story came to mind.

Preview of How I Make Comics, by Kim Deitch. Copyright, Kim Deitch.

As a student of reincarnation, I got to thinking – you have the sort of classic prisoner in a cell with only a rat who he befriends. Sadly, the rat dies – as rats and I guess we all do – and he is bereft, hesitant to invest his affections in the next one that comes along, yet finally he does. Ultimately that one, and the next one, die as well, but slowly his affection and time invested in teaching the rats is rewarded by increasingly smart generations of rats because in fact it is the same rat, reincarnated. They are gaming the evolutionary and karmic wheel by cycling through rat lives with dispatch. Eventually, the rats surpass him on the wheel of reincarnation and when he ultimately dies, he becomes an elevated rat, now under their tutelage.

Preview of How I Make Comics, by Kim Deitch. Copyright, Kim Deitch.

It struck me as a particularly Deitchenian story so I shared it with Kim the next day. Although intrigued, at first he was reluctant to do another reincarnation story, but then it took root in his imagination and to my surprise he decided not only to use it, but to use it as I wrote it out – and here are two pages from it, for your preview pleasure!

There we have it – a rare view into the inner workings of Deitch Studio. As Kim just reminded me, I have to some degree, in his words, been back-fielding on his work for years – I had forgotten that the title of Reincarnation Stories was my idea. I have always approached this thoughtfully though. After all, as Kim Deitch’s biggest fan, I had no desire to change anything – to damage it unintentionally with my influence. However, years spent together, living a largely Deitchian world existence in this one-room apartment, was bound to have an influence. And today, for the space of a post, we pull back the creative curtain for the speculation and erudition of Pictorama readers.

French Felix with Jean Mitry

Pam’s Pictorama Post: For readers who feel like maybe there has been a lot of wandering around in these Pictorama posts lately, I have a very Felix-centric post for you today. I scooped up this single page a few weeks ago. I don’t read French so I pressed our friend Rika Deryckere into service and she was kind enough to do a splendid job of translating this for me (and Pictorama readers) as presented below. Thank you Rika!

Much to my surprise, it is a philosophical opining on our friend Felix the Cat by the French theorist, critic and film maker Jean Mitry. Mitry (1904-1988) has a small bio on Wikipedia citing him as the first person to take French cinema out of the club and into the university. He authored several books, film philsophy, critique and semiotics, and was the co-founder of the Cinémathèque Française. There is an annual award in his honor at the Pordonne Film Festival, given to individuals who have distinguished themselves in recovering and preserving film heritage.

This page was carefully removed from wherever it appeared and has come to me with no indication of the magazine it was excised from. Some of my more erudite film readers may know a lot more about this and I invite you to share if you do. It was certainly my introduction to it. I love the way it is illustrated and some of the non-Felix cats intrigue me.

Detail from Deja Vu in All Waldo Comics, Felix and Waldo make their plan.

Meanwhile, in a strange nexus of worlds, Kim points out that the passage where Mitry talks about Felix dividing himself into many and then coming back together brings us right to Waldo’s origin story. It is found in Deja Vu, most easily found in the collection All Waldo Comics.

There it seems Felix (yes, Felix), working for the CIA at the time, recruits Waldo and under Felix’s tutelage somehow the nine lives of cats becomes multiple Waldo – who in turn need to be dealt with in Waldo-Deitchian fashion. Hence, for those of you who have wondered, the reason that Waldo sports a #1 on his chest, as he is the original…and the universe here at Deitch Studio spins merrily forward! I share a few sample pages above and below from that story – and then onto the translation.

Early color reprint from Deja Vu

****

Le dessin animé

The Animated drawing

Félix – le – chat

Felix the cat

La gloire des vedettes est menacée. Un être étrange est apparu. Plus malin et plus simple, il s’est emparé du cinéma en sautant à pieds joints au beau milieu de l’écran.

The glory of the stars is threatened.
A strange being appeared.
Smarter and simpler, he took over the cinema by jumping with both feet into the middle of the screen.

Tache d’encre tombée du pinceau de Patt Sullivan, il s’est étalé sous la forme d’un chat. Ne me demandez point pourquoi on le nomme Félix, nul ne le sait et lui il s’en moque. Personnage important il n’écoute que lui-même, agit à sa guise, suit sa fantaisie, sans avoir de compte à rendre à personne.

Ink stain from Patt Sullivan’s brush, it sprawled out in the shape of a cat. Don’t ask me why he is called Felix, no one knows and he doesn’t care. An important character, he listens only to himself, acts as he pleases, follows his fantasie, without being accountable to anyone.

Il vit à l’ombre du pinceau curieux qui l’entraîne dans les plus folles aventures et le rattrape au vol après avoir fait mine de l’abandonner. Cependant il n’est jamais en peine de quoi que ce soit.

He lives in the shadow of the curious brush that takes him on the craziest adventures and catches him in flight after pretending to abandon him. However, he is never at all worried about anything.

Etre surnaturel, il trouve toujours toute ressource en lui-même et possède la faculté d’agir sur sa personnalité.

Supernatural being, he always finds every resource in himself and has the ability to act on his personality.

Changeant selon les événement, grand ou petit, terrible ou misérable, il se promène au milieu d’un monde créé pour lui.  Héros d’un univers magique, incarnation du miracle et de la légende, le voici qui s’élève sur le bout de petits pieds et lance par-dessus la balustrade des nuits un bonjour en copain à son grand frère Charlot. Mais, Félix, avantagés par les facultés invraisemblables de son aventure, évite d’une pirouette les cataclysmes les plus épouvantables, — mieux, il s’en sert pour triompher de ces ennemis en les retournant contre la logique.

Changing according to the event, big or small, terrible or miserable, he walks in the middle of a world created for him. Hero of a magical universe, incarnation of miracle and legend, here he rises on the tip of little feet and over the balustrade of the nights says hello as a friend to his big brother Charlot. But, Felix, favored by the incredible faculties of his adventure, avoids the most appalling cataclysms with a pirouette – better, he uses them to triumph over these enemies by turning them against logic.

Et celle-ci, la ridicule pipelette hargneuse qui vous oblige à se décrotter de toute poésie avant de rentrer chez soi, si fière de sa raison, loge étriquée, monotone et sans air, la méchante logique disparaît dès qu’elle le vois poindre à l’horizon.

And this one, the ridiculous surly blabbermouth which forces you to get rid of all poetry before returning home, so proud of its reason, cramped, monotonous and airless, the evil logic disappears as soon as it sees it dawning at the horizon.

Car Félix porte avec lui tous ces petits lutins espiègles que l’on nomme insouciance, féerie, irréel, imprévu, mystère-du-temps-présent, esprit-de-contradiction. Et la mégère rentre dans sa tôle car il est, lui, le champion de la liberté et de la fantaisie, son ennemi triomphant.

Because Felix carries with him all these mischievous little elves that we call recklessness, fairyland, unreal, unforeseen, mystery-of-time-present, spirit-of-contradiction. And the shrew comes back to his senses because he himself is the champion of freedom and fantasy, his triumphant enemy.

Il a battu en brèche les vieux préjugés asthmatiques, les convictions ancrées dans leurs tanières de certitudes comme les crabes dévoreurs de poissons.

He shattered old asthmatic prejudices, convictions anchored in their dens of certainties like crabs that eat fish.

Il est vainqueur. Et quand il paraît au coin de la page blanche, il se demande sous quel aspect il va se mettre en scène afin de mieux pouvoir tourner en ridicule les choses que nous croyons immuables et qu’il se charge de transformer malgré elles selon son imagination ou son caprice.  

He is victorious. And when he appears at the corner of the blank page, he wonders in what aspect he is going to stage himself in order to better be able to ridicule the things that we believe to be immutable and that he is responsible for transforming in spite of them according to his imagination or his whim.

Je me souviens de l’avoir rencontré au carrefour d’un village en quelque lieu de féerie nocturne. La drame rôdait sous l’aspect d’un chien râgeur, amant de la belle.

I remember meeting him at the crossroads of a village in some fairy-tale place. The drama lurked in the guise of an angry dog, lover of the Beauty.

Surprit, Félix tombe, mais il se ressaisit bien vite. Il veut vaincre, il veut être plus fort que lui-même. Et voici que s’opère le miracle : il se dédouble, il se multiplie et devient plusieurs «  lui-même » qui tombent à bras raccourcis sur le chien jusqu’ à plus soif.

Surprised, Felix falls, but he quickly pulls himself together. He wants to win, he wants to be stronger than himself. And here is where the miracle takes place: it splits, it multiplies and becomes several “itself” who fall with short arms on the dog until the end.

Après quoi tous les petits Félix seconds, satisfaits de leur rôle, rentrent les uns dans les autres et redeviennent l’unique Félix-le-chat.

After which all the little Félix’s seconds, satisfied with their role, fit into each other and become the unique Félix-the-cat again.

Et Félix possède toutes choses aussi bien que lui même. Il est dieu.

And Felix owns all things as well as himself. He is god.

Il agit sur tout et sur tous. Il n’est pas de désir ou de volonté si apparemment impossible ou invraisemblable qu’il ne puisse satisfaire, et qu’il ne satisfasse.

He acts on everything and everyone. There is no desire or will so seemingly impossible or implausible that it cannot satisfy, and does not satisfy.

Triomphe de l’illusion, de l’arbitraire, de l’acte libre. Triomphe de la poésie dans ce qu’elle a de plus secret, de plus inattendu.

Triumph of illusion, of arbitrariness, of free action. The triumph of poetry in its most secret, most unexpected.

Seul au monde, Félix peut dire : « Je m’abstrait, donc je suis », et je suis quand je veut, où je veux et comme bon me semble.

Alone in the world, Felix can say: “I abstract myself, therefore I am”, and I am when I want, where I want and as I see fit.

Poète surréaliste, plus fort qu’aucun autre, il vit son propre rêve. Il jongle avec les étoiles et transforme tout à son image. Aperçoit-il la « belleé tout en haut de l’Inaccessible » dans les nuages, si haut, si loin qu’il ne puisse y parvenir?

Surrealist poet, stronger than any other, he lives his own dream. He juggles with the stars and transforms everything in his image. Does he see the “beauty at the top of the Inaccessible” in the clouds, so high, so far that he cannot reach it?

Que feriez-vous à sa place? Eh bien, il attrape son regard, son regard qui fixe sans cesse ce joint si haut, l’accroche à une branche d’arbre et poursuit sa marche élastique sur ce fil conducteur.

What would you do in his place? Well, he catches her gaze, her gaze wish is transfixed, joins so high, hooks it to a tree branch and continues its elastic walk on this common thread.

Il se sert même de ses points d’exclamation et les transforme à dessein en massues, en patins à glace ou en ailes d’aéroplane. Il est le magicien de notre temps, et s’il s’est emparé du cinéma comme du reste, c’est pour s’en servir selon sa fantaisie de poète vagabond, humoriste et philosphe, selon son bon plaisir …

qui est le nôtre aussi bien.

He even uses his exclamation marks and purposely transforms them into clubs, ice skates or airplane wings. He is the magician of our time, and if he has seized the cinema as well as the rest, it is to use it according to his fancy as a wandering poet, humorist and philospher, according to his good pleasure …
… Which is ours as well.

Jean MITRY.  

On Bake Sales, Lining up and Casting Away

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I thought I would be writing about the adventures of Miss Pat and the joys of juvenile fiction, however today turns out to be a brief segue. For obvious reasons, over the past week I have had a lot of time to reflect on my particular, long-standing affection for voting. Please know I write this post in the most non-partisan sense and ruminating on the concept, act and how it takes place in our Yorkville community here. Spoiler alert – this is mostly a hometown post, a stroll through our town, New York City.

When I consider voting, there is the metaphorical aspect of it – participating in the process and fulfilling the mandate of being a citizen in a democracy. Women voting is a recent enough development – in the big picture – that I personally cannot imagine taking it for granted.

And I am enough of a nerd about all of this to have reveled, to some degree anyway, in the nitty gritty examination and descriptions of vote classifications recently, as the news media while searching for new speaking points over a long haul of many days of vote counting, dug into the strata of what votes are counted when and how, rules that vary by state. I am deeply satisfied at the extraordinary voter turnout in the recent election. Voter apathy always greatly saddens and troubles me. You don’t have to agree with how I vote, but quite simply in my opinion you should exercise the right to vote.

However, I also actually like the very act of voting. I deeply miss the voting machines New York clung to for a very long time. These antique metal boxes, with their pull-string privacy curtains, had lovely little colored levers you would push, ticka-ticka-ticka, you would pull the big metal handle into place your vote was counted. It was somehow very tactile and satisfying – you really knew you had done something when you pulled that lever.

Not an actual New York City machine, but these were the style we used for many years here.

Having been away at college for my initial voting years, my first in-person voting location, back when I lived on 85th Street here, was a small German Church a few blocks away on 84th, between First and Second Avenues – some services still delivered in German for the elderly residents of Yorkville, or at least this was the case, I have not checked in recent years and that population may have dwindled away. Voting took place as it does, in a sort of multi-purpose room as shown below, with the small stage at the front where I always somehow imagine Christmas pageants taking place.

Kim and I have frequently wandered into jumble sales held there over many years of living here. Often there is one associated with a small block street fair to celebrate Oktoberfest or the Steuben Day parade, oompah band playing outside while beer, bratwurst and hot dogs are happily consumed. In the before days – no block parties or street gatherings during the course of our pandemic fall.

Interior of Zion St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Yorkville

After moving to our current home on 86th Street, Kim and I voted in a school nearby on 88th Street for many years. There was usually a PTA bake sale going on (ignoring some arcane law which may prohibit such things) and I always loved the feel of it. You would see neighbors, out of their usual context of your halls and elevators, sans their usual dog on a leash, looking for the same line as you to wait in. It was set up in a high school gym so you had that sense memory too.

While I enjoyed the sight of the bake sales I usually eschewed them in favor of stopping by a great bakery that used to be on First Avenue, Glaser’s. They were in the same spot on First Avenue and 88th Street since 1904 and given the photos they displayed, it looked exactly the same. Three women, one younger and two elderly, all sporting degrees of Irish accents, waited on customers, tying white cardboard boxes of pastry with the red and white string I remembered from my childhood baked goods, as produced by my non-baking paternal grandmother on Sundays. They only transacted with cash and were pleased if you produced exact change which was deposited in an enormous old metal register like the ones you see on American Pickers, after they dutifully added your purchase up on a separate machine or by hand. You were issued a yellow handwritten carbon copy of a receipt from a pad.

Interior of Glaser’s Bakery

Glaser’s was a bakery that still produced mocha layer cakes – my sister’s unusual favorite choice of birthday cake since childhood and a dying breed of cake – an excellent black and white cookie, and a really superior apple turnover. I met my neighbors down the hall there for the first time, waiting in a long line for Thanksgiving pie pick-up. Judy had her dog Pica and I offered to keep an eye on the sedate canine while Judy had her turn inside. A few days later we realized we both lived on the 16th floor of our building.

Election Day however was more likely inveigh me to invest calories in one of their trademark homemade sugar doughnut – these always seemed perfectly right for an early November morning. I used to buy boxes of these cake-y treats for my staff at the Met after long nights working events at the Museum. No matter how late we had been there the night before the expectation was expected that you would be your desk at 9:00 the next morning – homemade doughnuts made that seem a bit less awful and was a thank you for their hard work.

I went to Glaser’s often enough to be known there, but not so often that I was a regular. Their Christmas cookies melted buttery in your mouth and I would order boxes in advance to bring to holiday gatherings and to drop off as a holiday thank you to various people. Sadly Glaser’s closed a few years ago now, lines circled the block in the last days to have one more go at their treats.

When I worked for the Met Museum Election Day was a holiday (it was made so at JALC for the first time this year) and I would usually vote in the late morning after the before work rush and before the lunchtime one. As someone who enjoys the whole process I vote in every election – even those with no major issues or candidates. I vote in all primaries and was among the few who showed up for them this year – pandemic and Biden’s candidacy meant folks did not bother.

I remember that I had in fact voted in a special election the morning of 9/11, among a small smattering of people, which meant I got to work extra early that morning, those result ultimately canceled as a result of the attacks.

Our voting place was moved to a church a block away a couple of years ago. It has a lovely yard with a garden I have always admired and I suspect that the actual church is one of the most beautiful in the area, although I have only glimpsed the interior. I used to make daguerreotypes in the garden, hauling my tripod from my darkroom on Second Avenue. No bake sales associated with voting there sadly. I admit that I like it a bit less, but still find it charming in its own way.

Holy Trinity Church on East 88th Street

Kim generally accompanies me to vote in the more substantial elections – Mayor and President. He and I voted early this year – a well publicized first for New York. (Initially I got the date wrong and we made what turned out to be a trial trip to 75th Street.) It held little if any of the charm of my usual voting experience, but a four hour wait on a chilly November morning, slowly moving around a block (and around again) had its own frisson of interest and was certainly memorable. Kim read one of my Judy Bolton novels and I listened to a historic novel about Britain the 1920’s on my iPhone. In the chill I began to fantasize about making a seafood pot pie which I made the next Sunday. (Instagram followers will recognize these photos as I tracked it all in real time posting.)

Within the first hour of our wait, when we thought it was moving quickly! I took this photo over Kim’s shoulder as he reads The Half Cat Mystery.
Initial and somewhat messy attempt at seafood pot pie made the next weekend.

As it turns out it was unnecessary, so many people voting in advance that we could easily have voted on Election Day. A conversation with a Jazz at Lincoln Center Board member who lives in my neighborhood confirmed that there was virtually no line – he still votes at the school on 88th Street. When I told him I missed voting there he bought me chocolate chip cookies from the bake sale and left them with my doorman.

Due to the pandemic the folks working at the voting location were younger than usual and that was sort of nice to see. We were hand sanitized and six feet apart – separated to the point of my almost losing track of Kim at one point, but his cowboy hat enabled me to locate him. Ballots are now fed into scanners, no ticking of metal switches, alas.

Seeing the entrance at last after almost four hours.

Partisanship notwithstanding, to see New York, and in fact the country, so actively invested in an election that there was literally dancing in the streets here when results were announced; the extraordinary election turn out despite the pandemic; and watching the process unfold in a determinedly ordinary way, despite sudden national examination and spotlight, deeply pleased and moved me.

I have long imagined that should I eventually make my way to an active retirement period of life that I will work at my voting place, becoming one of the no nonsense, bespectacled, cardigan wearing elderly women who authoritatively tells you where your line is or how to fill out your ballot, some chocolate chip cookies dotted with M&M’s, tucked in my purse for later.