Pam’s Pictorama Post: Here at Pictorama in recent years we’ve developed a particular soft spot for medals. My discovery of school medals lead to recent post (which can be found here) about these emblems of encouragement that seemed to proliferate as awards in schools in the early part of the 20th century. Improvement! Excellence! Who doesn’t want a daily reminder of these qualities cheering them on? Somehow I imagine accumulating numerous ones to wear on a lapel together although this has not yet manifested.
These school award are not the beribboned ones for athletic prowess or competition, but smaller and sweeter in my opinion. I have both a US example and one from Canada. I have to believe that equivalents existed in Europe. Somehow I like to imagine an earlier society where pins like these proliferated. This one is brass and appears a bit more mass produced than my school awards which would have been, I think, produced blank and then etched with cheering motivations subsequently.
I am reminded of those pins by this odd kissing cousin of an item I purchased a few months back from a British jewelry dealer (I have written about purchases from @Wassail_antiques frequently before, a recent post can be found here – hey Rachel!) and while making another purchase I decided that I would acquire this pin from her shop too. I had been eyeing it and in the end I would be disappointed to see it go to someone else. It seems to belong here with me.
I did think it would be easier to find information about the Women’s Cheer-up Club than it has turned out to be. My limited research skills finally confirmed what I more or less thought I would discover, which is that the Cheer-ups were British societies in WWI. It seems to be an umbrella term for a loosely defined group of organizations which provided comfort and entertainment for troops during the war, raising money for these activities and also to create other resources for soldiers such as physiotherapy and the development of remedial skills. Drives were held for food, clothing and books for the troops as well and I believe some of these ultimately became veterans associations.
I found one other of these pins while doing my research – for sale on Etsy – and it was the exact same one, although it seems there must have been variations on the theme I could find none. The references I ultimately found were largely archival period newspaper articles writing up the activities of a local branch of a Cheer-up Club. The references I found were not specifically to it as a women’s association.
Southern Australia had an active equivalent and I was able to find more about those than the British clubs, the establishment of them and the doings of the groups. The Australian Society Cheer-up also seeked to care for their troops abroad as well as at home and there are articles about Cheer-up Huts for Australian soldiers in Britain during the war.
In addition to, of course, urging people to cheer up these pins were a brand of patriotism during that time. I imagine that sporting such a pin might also show a soldier, perhaps on leave in an unfamiliar place, where he might find a hot meal and gathering spot in the area. Of course, it also encouraged people to cheer up during a dark time and now it sits on a shelf near my desk where it does that for me as needed too.
Pam’s Pictorama.Post: This is just a bit of a follow-up for those of you who tuned in yesterday. I ended that post with a note saying that I had taken my mom to the ER. She was admitted and, as those things go, we started early, EMT workers milling around my mom’s tiny kitchen as they prepped her to go. She was fully lucid and in fact had gone from absolutely refusing to entertain a discussion of going to the hospital last night to announcing (rather grandly I thought) that she had made the decision the night before that she should go. Why argue with a good result, right?
It is strange to be in this house without my mom. Because she is housebound since she moved here, I have never been in this house without her, even briefly. Her cats are equally at loose ends. Her closest cat fried, Beau, is walking around, looking at her chair and staring at us meaningfully. Well? What’s with you people?Where is she?
I left mom resting comfortably and settled in at the hospital tonight. Her room overlooks the Navesink River, not the river I grew up on (the Shewsbury) on the other side of town. Unlike the houses on the blocks where I grew up, the houses here stare imperiously down to the river, sharp drops with steep staircases switchbacking down to the docks and boat slips at the bottom. Where I grew up we were more or less at the level of the water – more likely to flood, but more a part of the life of the river too. Today, looking at the window I remember somehow finding myself on that side of town once when I was about 12 and getting it into my head to walk along the river, climbing fences and skirting around fences and docks. Eventually I had to give up, unable to get any further.
Today as I looked out the window I saw a large furry dark brown animal. He occasionally sits up on his haunches, waving at me I think. A groundhog. Given the distance I think he must be a fine size fellow. I report on this to mom who can’t see him from where she is The nurse tells us they see foxes sometimes and baby deer have been romping out there.
The hospital is fairly well known to me. It is not huge, but it seems good and very caring which isn’t really an adjective I readily apply to hospitals. However, I purchased perhaps the single worst cup of coffee of my adult life from the cafeteria. I forgot that there is a perfectly splendid and very comforting Dunkin’ Donuts in the building. Tomorrow. Coffee consumption is an integral part of the long CNN watching days of hospital sitting.
I am reminded of being in the hospital with my dad, years ago now. He had a window where he looked out onto the water. He loved to see the boats there he told me. We talked about how we would rather be out there instead of where we were. I think about that sometimes when I see sailboats when I am running near the East River in the mornings.
I am told that the trip to the hospital was necessary so I am grateful for the stars which aligned to convince her to go and give us a chance to fight again another day.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am writing from New Jersey today. We are celebrating Thanksgiving early this year as mom worried about the potential exposure over the holiday with crowded travel. As she has a weaken immune system this has to be her call. Either way, a visit is good.
I headed down on the ferry Friday and the weather is more spring than fall – although today it poured rain on my run early this morning. Still, I am glad to catch the last of the Halloween decorations as well as the less glitzy Thanksgiving ones. It is a lovely small town and the houses are set closely together and are always nicely kept and decorated for holidays. A middle school is one of the stops on my running loop and many of the homes house families with small children. The autumn leaf display is always stunning and I am glad to catch it as well – fall is not fall for me without it.
Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. The nip to the air, the smell of decaying leaves, the light turning to an afternoon yellow I think we only see for a few weeks each year. Kim and I got married in the fall, October, a way to celebrate my favorite season.
I love the lead up to the holidays and Thanksgiving is in many ways the best – all the holiday of Christmas with less fuss and stress..And I am usually content in the face of winter each year – looking forward to what is cozy about it, down comforters, hot drinks, and books read in bed. Like many other folks maybe I thought fall would look different than it does as currently still looks much like last spring and even last winter.
When I leave here tomorrow I will head back to Manhattan to launch this week with the long awaited season opening of concerts at the House of Swing, the first orchestra concerts by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on Rose Hall stage in close to two years. As celebratory as it will be, somehow the new world still feels nascent and unformed, less a return to what we knew and more a dipping our toe in the water of something new. It is hard not to yearn to return to what we know, the constant re-imagining is exhausting. Cat-like I have always liked routine.
My staff (and no less I) are exhausted as we embark on another leg on the long marathon that has been the pandemic. We only know that we drive ahead, but no idea of how much longer the distance is. Like managers everywhere I find myself with a staff this is whittled down to a fraction of its former size. It continues to dwindle as colleagues try to re-start their lives in different locales, causes or goals. Everyone remaining has taken on additional work, re-orged again, and their job redefined repeatedly. I myself wear at least three hats. Choices about what priorities will remain and which we will forgo shift daily.
As fundraisers, we prefer to be able to plan and living in an ever shifting world makes us cranky and short with each other. One of my consultants urges me to read Churchill speeches as a way to inspire me and help me rally my “troops”, but he is not my style and instead of urging people to make war I need to compel them instead to continued kindness with their colleagues and to try to imagine their way to a new way of being. Instead I will pull my running clothes on, put Beethoven on my headphones and head out into another fall morning to work things out.
Postscript: my morning run ended with a trip to the ER with my mom. Looks like the universe has more in store for this week.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is a first foray into Halloween post for this year – although clearly not all of my insect related bits and bobs are creepy crawlies, and of course there will be black cats to come. As it happens, today’s parade of insects started with butterflies. As Pictorama readers know, over the long pandemic siege I have entertained myself by following a series of jewelry dealers on Instagram. I mentioned these butterfly pins before as I considered a new passion for pins in general. (That post and a few others can be found here, here and here.)
While several dealers I buy from hail from the Midwest, a few are further afield and one of the first, and the one I probably still buy from most frequently, is a woman named Rachel whose handle and Etsy shop can be found @Wassail_Antiques and wassailantiques.com respectively. She lives in a thatched cottage (yes, really) in the English countryside, with husband and lovely pooch, and is a gifted professional photographer so her photos are extra alluring.
Rachel was nice enough to supply the photo above of the spider bracelet (above and below). For the rest you will have to put up with my ham handed efforts or snatches off IG posts. I do believe looking at her photos of the countryside help to assuage any unsatisfied travel lust I might feel.
I saw the butterflies on her IG page first. Rachel wrote that they were likely made by prisoners of war or as trench art (during WWI, I believe) as trinkets for loved ones and a way to pass the time. I have found some passing references to this practice online, but am a bit surprised more hasn’t been written about it. These pins nagged at my brain for awhile and then I grabbed up these two last April when, perhaps like the soldiers in question, I was feeling my own desperate need for the outdoors, the natural world and perhaps a more orderly world than I was encountering. I bought two with the idea of wearing them together. I have not managed to execute that vision yet as my days of jacket lapels still seem to remain in the future days. (Although I have cleaned out the closets and jackets now wait at the ready!)
The dragonfly on the other hand, is celluloid and of a more recent vintage. Another favorite dealer (@marsh.and.meadow and @marsh.and.meadow.overflow) was having a sale – I have written that these sales are always fast and furious and this was no exception, but I bought this little gem. This was before I purchased the World’s Fair bracelet from her – a recent post which can be found here – and I felt lucky to score this little fellow. Although he is plastic I really love him and I did manage to sport him on some sundresses this summer. I can imagine wearing all three together. These pins say spring and summer to me.
Heading into the season of the moment, Rachel revealed this lovely bracelet and I jumped on it. I have never seen anything like this bracelet and it has become an immediate favorite. (I am not alone – it had a moment in the sun in a piece in Tattler magazine before winging its way to me!) I have worn it to almost every one of my in-person appointments since it arrived. Although it is very seasonal for the moment I expect to continue wearing it beyond October 31.
After the purchase of the bracelet another spider found its way to me in the form of a necklace. (This one courtesy @witchyvintage.) I am having a bit of trouble with this one though, and although I like it and the chain, I must paw through my jewelry box for a chain that works better for it. (She also has vintage clothing and just put up a black velvet cape that seriously stopped me in my tracks – but I really am not leading a black velvet vintage cape life right now. Alas! For those with more interesting lives who wish to investigate her shop can also be found at witchyvintage.com.
I admit I continue a yen for them – Rachel has two lovely bug stickpins on her Etsy site I can barely control myself from purchasing. I am decidedly not fond of the insects I find in my home (the moths continue their prodigious march despite my best ongoing efforts, I am constantly undertaking their elimination, systematically and randomly), and am actually fairly squeamish in general about that aspect of the natural world so this trend intrigues me. Bees have long interested me with their diligence and organization and perhaps in a different world I might have kept hives, but in general I like my insects at arm’s length, or (I guess) made from beads, silver or even plastic.
Maybe I relate to their chrysalis state, waiting to emerge from my own cocoon. Or maybe it is just a new yen for the natural world after a long time mostly at home. I am not sure, but I will also mention that I find myself purchasing items with stars, moons and other celestial motifs! (I am wearing favorite pj’s with stars on them gratis The Gap right now as I write this.) More on those to come.
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…
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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!)
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.)
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?)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.