Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a small, but curious item that wandered into the house with some incredibly interesting antique rings I purchased from a woman in the Midwest who goes under the moniker of @Witchyvintage, aka Paula Bates.
Paula (who is always @witchyvintage in my mind’s eye and ear, as I assume I am @deitchstudio to her, my little Italian Felix toy avatar her only image of me), has an Instagram account most notable in my estimation for really extraordinary vintage early American clothing.
There is something endlessly fascinating about seeing the shoes and dresses she presents for sale – some wearable and others fragile now and better suite for study. Sunbonnets that made the trip west, jackets with leg-o-mutton sleeves, capes and undergarments; cottons, silks and muslins.
The parade of boots she sells surprise me each time she posts them. Wear is evident on them, but they look remarkably well for having made the trip from the 1890’s. (My Nike spoiled feet scream in horror at the idea of wearing them, but they could easily be fashionable today.) I don’t need to own these (luckily for her there are others who feel different and she seems to do a brisk business), but I am addicted to looking at them and considering the lives these items have lived.
I have, on occasion, purchased jewelry from her, although less frequently than the folks in Britain I have written about (some of those posts here and here) or another favorite young woman in the Midwest who I have a soft spot for, @Marsh.and.Meadow, aka Heather Hagans.
During the shutdown period of the pandemic I found myself revisiting my interest in antique jewelry. Both because of its history (somehow objects with a past remind us that we have a future), and because buying it was putting a stake in the ground for the time I would start wearing jewelry again.
That time is slowly emerging now an my lapels are festooned with a collection of early 20th century insects, and rings sometimes adorn my hands again when I go out. A gold bracelet hallmarked 1895 sits from a vendor in Australia (@madamebrocante) on my right wrist. With a recent purchase of two rings (such indulgence! – I will write more about those another time after they have been fully considered for a bit), this interesting card was tucked in with a somewhat less compelling cabinet card shown below.
It is a bit larger than an average business card. Nothing is printed or written on the back. I can’t really imagine what purpose such a card might have served. And there is the obvious question of how is a woman’s hand reaching for a bird’s nest among flowers a manly pleasure? Am I missing some obvious or subtle Victorian symbolism? I love it, but it is a little hard to figure the guy who wanted to use this card.
As far as I can gather it is indeed a man’s calling card, although obviously lacking in a printed name – did they perhaps write their name on the back? Evidently, men’s cards were longer and thinner than women’s of the day, designed to fit better in a vest pocket. I especially liked the detail that if a caller left a card personally the right corner was generally folded down in as a way of denoting that the effort was made. A corner might be folded to indicate that he was there to see the entire family, and the litany of rules for unmarried women was intricate.
Kim and I both fell hard for this little item and we would like to find a way to get it and a few other of these tiny items up on our (very crowded) wall where we can admire them daily. Thank you Paula! A very nice bonus!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Kicking off the holiday weekend with another lucky black cat post. I am, for the first time in several years, typing this out on a laptop while seated on a bus for work, in this case heading for the final concert of our season in East Hampton.
I’m not traveling with the orchestra – who are making a long trip in from Ontario, I think, and out to Long Island tomorrow – but instead I am on the Hampton Jitney which, for those of you not familiar with it, is a sort of luxe bus experience from Manhattan out to the Hamptons. (That is if a bus can actually be luxe – I happen to be of the opinion maybe not so much, but I am a bit of a bus hater.)
I myself would have probably opted for the train on this holiday weekend, but easier for my host this way so we are crawling along the LIE as I write. (In the end I could have flown to Paris in the amount of time it took me to land in Wainscott from the Upper Eastside today.)
So, now, onto the the kitties. This is an interesting early photo which I purchased on eBay recently. It did come from Britain. It originated Britain (a land where black kitties are celebrated as lucky, unlike my own native land) and is early but with no indication of age. It is a cabinet card, mounted on ancient faded bit of cardboard and obviously it had the misfortune to spend some time in the sun and we can see those fade marks as well.
However, for me it doesn’t take away from the extravagant portrait of these two kits which was done with great care. Charles XII and Nigel the Raven are carefully posed, to the extent you can pose a cat. If you look closely you will notice that kitties are carefully tethered on leashes. No kitty chaos in the studio with cats on the loose.
This portrait was the produce of J. Russell & Sons, Photographers and they are qualified as By special appointment to His Majesty The King. The studio had locations at 17, Baker Street, W 80 (?) and 13 High Street Windsor. They were active from the 1850’s through the 1940’s, quite a long run. So these were some high faluntin’ felines.
Unlike the unbelievably handsome Blackie Butler, Charles and Nigel have no visible white spots. Now, whose to say if a nice white spot couldn’t be found on the tummy of one of these pusses, or even one hidden under a leg. Kim has a theory that because people are superstitious about all black cats that almost all have had a bit of visible white bred into them. However, my mom has a boy named Beau (Beauregard Butler) who is as thoroughly black as these two cats appear to be.
I can’t say that C and N look like they are enjoying their turn in the limelight; they would very much prefer to be curled up at home in the sun on their favorite pillow – and of course they couldn’t know that I would be admiring their glossy beauty a hundred or so years later. Being cats, nor would they care.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers may have noticed things getting a little canine around here and this snap shot is further proof of it. One recent morning I was thumbing through a sale of photos I had missed on Instagram (@missmollystlantiques) the night before when I saw this picture and loved it. Amazingly it was not sold so I scooped it up.
I really like this pair. I think it is fair to say that they look alike in a cocky sort of pet and owner way. (I feel like the dog would embrace a hat with the same joie de vivre and enthusiasm given the opportunity.) The human appears to be in some sort of a uniform, like a park ranger or something along those lines. The pup, a sort of Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix, looks like he is eager to get on with his work day with his beloved partner.
Nothing is written on the back of this photo which is well worn. It was poorly printed to begin with, over exposed along the bottom, additionally faded and much handled it seems, yet it maintains its charm.
Unlike most cats, many dogs are interested in having a job. They want a partner and they want to work, to have a day with routine and expectations. Farms, cowboys, police – all good dog careers. While in recent years Pit Bulls have developed a bad reputation, they are very smart dogs and very trainable – think of Pete the Pup in Our Gang.
Pictorama readers and Instagram followers know that I travel to and from New Jersey with a working dog and driver duo. Rides with Cash (@rideswithcash) is a Monmouth enterprise which until recently was comprised primarily of Jeff and his beautiful Australian Shepherd Cash who run a cracker jack ride service out of this Jersey shore area. While the bulk of their work is to and from the airport, I think there are a few other regulars like me with other needs.
Cash gets his name from Johnny, not dollar – and I will add that Jeff always has a good selection of music on the drive so this is not a coincidence. (I have written about these rides a bit before, here.) Jeff is infinitely dependable and he and his doggie navigators have improved my quality of life and my Jersey commute substantially.
The business (and family) recently expanded with the addition of puppy Penny, a gorgeous female bundle of crazy puppy energy. If I ride with Cash in my lap calms me, a ride with Penny is a full on puppy love madness scrum.
If this wasn’t enough puppy upping, I recently helped my mother’s best friend source a Bichon puppy. Her previous dog, Pierre, died a few months ago and she sorely missed the companionship. The demand for rescue dogs is still very high (after record demand during the pandemic) and for the first time ever, and after numerous attempts, she was unable to adopt a dog. So instead I helped her find a reputable breeder and she brought little Ariel home recently. Yesterday’s inclusion of her photo in yesterday’s post raised a clamor for her story so here we go.
Ariel, all three pounds of her, holds court from a doggy playpen when visiting my mother. My mom’s cats, all rescues who have done their time fending on the outside, are not especially accepting of Ariel, despite her pint size. In their eyes, a dog is a dog and they circle her warily. Ariel is utterly unaware and unconcerned because as far as she knows she rules all.
This is not always the case and growing up our cat Snoopy (a gentle male, white with black cow spots) was buddies with our German Shepard, Duchess. They would curl up together frequently and like us kids, Snoopy belonged to Duchess.
However, I’m sure with repeated daily exposure Ariel will become another accepted animal denizen of the Butler house.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s been a rough road back here at Deitch Studio this week. Pictorama readers know that last week we were working to get on the other side of catching Covid. (That cheerful post is here if you missed it.) I rallied enough to go to Jersey to check in on my mom on Sunday night for a few days.
It rained early on Monday so I didn’t run. It cleared later and although I have largely lost my sense of taste (and smell) I still managed an appetite for a strawberry ice cream cone, belatedly in honor of my dad for Father’s Day. A friend and I stopped at Ryan’s where I used to buy ice cream for him weekly. Summer is in full swing there and even on a weekday afternoon it was abuzz. I felt like I could taste it at about 40%.
Therefore, I didn’t attempt my maiden voyage, post-Covid run until Tuesday morning; which very agreeably, dawned not just sunny but unseasonably cool. I took the route north through the woods and did a neat 3.7 miles, not bad if very slow. My body seemed willing to partake, but I could see my limit pretty clearly. Tired, but no coughing.
I had piled a bunch of appointments up for this visit to my mom and post run I met with a flooring guy named Mike who was very pleasant and looked like this was probably his first job. One of mom’s folks had her grandchildren with her as it was the first day of summer vacation for them and their camp has not started yet. They were thrilled with a friend’s visiting Bichon puppy (Ariel looks like a toy and stays in a playpen when she visits the Butler house) and so, among increasing chaos, I retreated upstairs for a Zoom meeting.
It was just after the call that I found out my brother in-law Simon had died. He had been in the hospital but I hadn’t expected him to die. Kim and I were on the phone when I was called back downstairs as a mattress was being delivered. Puppy barking, children shrieking, a queen sized mattress coming in through the garage held by two confused looking men – poor Kim I had to call him back.
It always amazes me that my housebound mother’s house is like Grand Central Station compared to our apartment in Manhattan. It is the crossroads of the universe.
I headed back to NYC that afternoon. I found Kim fielding the kind of calls you get on those days – friends checking in and whatnot.
Kim is the one who will write about Simon. (He already wrote something this morning which will appear in the Comics Journal, online shortly.) I really only knew him slightly, but he and Kim were living together when I first met Kim and their creative collaborations were still underway during the first years of our being together. (Simon subsequently did a stint in jail for selling his methadone, which arguably saved him from a potential overdose. That period effectively ended their active collaboration on Southern Fried Fugitives, a comic strip they did for Nickelodeon Magazine.)
Luckily Kim’s brush with Covid seems to have been lesser than mine and he seems more solidly back while I continue to have periodic coughing and sneezing fits which come on me simultaneously and flatten me briefly. I got up early today and violated my rule about writing this blog very first thing in order to be out and running before it got hot. Even before 7:00 today the temperature was climbing.
Still running slow, but topped out at more than 5.7 miles. It was good to check on all my usual haunts which I have seen so little of. (I walked part of the route last weekend and said a quick hello to those who follow my running journal on Instagram stories.) I am hoping it kicks my overall energy into gear.
So life has not quite resumed its normal stride here, but we’re working on it. I feel like I have to give a shout out to the folks at NYC Funeral and Cremation. It appears to be an enormous company here in the five boroughs, but Mary has thoughtfully guided me through an extraordinary labyrinth of online paperwork the likes I have never experienced.
She called on Friday when I had paused in the process (to work), making sure I understood next steps and the need to complete them. They answer their phone at all hours and whoever I have gotten on the other end was unfailingly lovely without being smarmy. I think I will remember their thoughtfulness for a long time to come. I always appreciate someone who does their job well and of course being treated kindly is also good. I would highly recommend them, but obviously prefer not to have to use them again.
So that’s where we are late morning on this Saturday at the end of June. The world is turning upside down politically and so we are swamped from the outside as well as from within. Nonetheless, we’re taking a few deep breaths and moving slowly forward here at Deitch Studio.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: So I sat down this morning with all good intentions of ignoring Father’s Day entirely. Having bared my soul on the subject of our mutual Deitch Studio illness yesterday, I was thinking more along the lines of a toy post today. However, for whatever reason with the sun streaming hard into the windows early this morning I was out of bed and drinking coffee at an obscenely early hour when I got the idea of reading some previous posts. My Dad, Elliott Butler, died back in ’18 and I wrote a post that remains remarkable even to me that year about bringing him ice cream. (That post can be found here.) It was however the one from June of ’19 that really struck me.
I find myself dividing life into the before time (pre-March 2020) and the new time after. It certainly isn’t that there weren’t problems and concerns in the before time, but somehow reams of them got shelved over the past two years as we negotiated a world that at first was rocked by a pandemic and has continued roil and roll upside down.
I haven’t had the time, energy or inclination to spend a lot of time looking back or digging through the concerns of late ’19 or early ’20. I remember being crazy busy with work, traveling too much and feeling vaguely like it was spinning a bit out of control. My first thought upon being told to go home for an undefined period was that I would at last get enough sleep – and I did.
However, looking back on my post of June ’19 I reflected on one of the last cogent conversations I had with my father the year before who had had one of those strange lucid moments in a sea of not knowing where he was or what was happening, where he looked up clear eyed and asked if I thought my job (still relatively new at the time) was going to work out. Just a year in at that point, I gave him the honest answer that it was tough going and the jury was still out. (That post can be read here.)
He was always very interested in my career. Working in an office, raising money for cultural organizations was all very foreign to his work life of news, constant action and cameras, but he always wanted to know about it. We shared a love of travel which our jobs supplied in good measure though, and he was proud of me and what I did, if occasionally confused by what my work actually consisted of daily.
When I read the post I remembered the conversation well. There has been so much water under the bridge since then, but I guess the main thing is that he would have gotten a kick out of what I have achieved at my job over the past few years. It has been a rough ride, but somehow our performing arts organization stayed solvent, everyone paid despite some severe belt tightening and a lot of asking for and receiving help.
Three years since that post and I have a level of assurance about my work that was lacking back when he and I spoke that day. I pointed out that the thing about a challenge is there is the very real chance of failure. It was wavering in early summer of ’18 and I was still struggling a year later evidently. The tide started to shift though and luckily I wasn’t found wanting when the bottom fell out in spring of ’20.
The fight is never ending at a job where you bring in money and my exhaustion has returned after the pitched battle of these past years, although has different causes, and it hovers over me while I try to negotiate the new world. However, while the struggle remains I think I can say that the verdict is in and I have been successful which would have pleased him.
Meanwhile, I am planning on having a run (he would have thought the running thing was crazy, but would have secretly been sort of proud of it) and most certainly some ice cream with a tip of the hat to him later today.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: So in the week that was, Deitch Studio finally fell prey to Covid. Not surprisingly, despite being an avid mask wearer and careful in general, I of course was the one who brought it home. Our return to office has had me in most days in the prior week or so, traveling on the subway and all – although in reality I have been matriculating through the world for a long time for work. The office, our club for dinner, breakfast meetings, lunches with donors.
Mom had it a few weeks back despite our extraordinary efforts to protect her. With her existing health problems that was very scary. She was sick and sicker at various times and I am grateful that she pulled through and now even her cough has receded. I am also deeply grateful to her caretakers who stayed throughout despite personal risk to them and their families.
Anyway, when we least expected it I woke up with full-on symptoms after a day in the office and an evening out for work. I tested negative, but began isolating. I was six days from a dinner for 85 people, our first of its kind since January of ’20. Of course in a one-room apartment there really isn’t much isolating to do, let’s be honest.
We’ve all heard varying levels of sickness from friends and family. I would say for me day one was more or less like being hit by a two by four. Blinding headache, sore throat, laryngitis and a deep rattling cough developed nicely through Day One. I didn’t test positive until the evening of Day Three. As others have said, it was strange to see a positive test after literally years of negative ones. It was definitive too, not a wishy washy second line but a dark one.
The good news is that I progressed rapidly toward better daily. That Friday night I missed the last concert of our season and the festive closing receptions which my staff executed nicely. They sent photos.
On Monday morning, Day Four, I called both my GP and my rheumatologist (I have written a bit about my psoriatic arthritis and exercising in spite of it and that post can be found here) and true to form, the rheumatologist got back to me within the hour. He had me off to the ER for a monoclonal infusion immediately. (My GP was to get back to me around 5:30 PM. Not sure she agreed with the decision of the other doc, but seemed to have the sense to realize that arguing about it now was too late.)
I ate something and grabbed an extra layer of clothing despite the heat. We all know that any trip to the ER is not fast and once in their clutches you stay and will wait what seems to be endlessly before being spit back out. (And they keep it freezing cold – is that really to kill germs as someone suggested?) I was there almost exactly a year ago when I broke two fingers running. (A post about that misadventure can be found here.) Kim walked me over the ten or so blocks; I felt up to it and figured even with a mask on and an open window no one had it coming to them to have me in their cab.
As expected, folks keep a healthy distance from you in a hospital when you tell them you are Covid positive. (The admitting guard put on gloves to take my paperwork from me.) However, the doc who saw me cheerfully informed me that he had just gotten over it so feared my germs not. I was quickly approved for the infusion and sent to wait in a closet room which was at least twice as big as the tiny one I sat in for four hours with my hand, but they were storing furniture in this one. Kim went off to work some once I was ingested by the bowels of Lenox Hill Hospital.
I sat with a port in my arm, waiting, while sitting in on two seating meetings for the dinner and helping to make some plans for it to happen without me, while I continued to sit in my closet. Some of you have read of my staffing woes and in addition to an entirely depleted staff those on the job are entirely new and have never seen an event in our hall. (A post can be found here.) There was no question about going to the dinner, even if I was better I would still be contagious. Other guests were dropping out, staff too, as the virus eddied around; my boss went down with it within days of me.
While I was sick and working from home I read an article in the NYT discussing how the sick day has disappeared and also how stupid it is to keep working while you are sick. I had time to ponder that, but I was leaving my colleagues in enough of a lurch by not being able to be there for this dinner. The least I could do is what I could manage from home, the seating and all the preliminary work could be done. (In addition my beloved Executive Assistant fell and broke her kneecap this week! Definitely worse.) Eventually my meetings ended, read my e-book for awhile, I got the infusion, was observed for another hour and eventually sent home.
I continued to improve over the next days although there was no dramatic change from the infusion that I could tell. By Wednesday I might have gone to the dinner if it wasn’t Covid, although that probably would have been a mistake, but I was feeling that much better. The dinner went off without a hitch and thanks to the miracle of cell phones and real time video it was almost like being there, even allowing me to double check seating and sight lines for our guests.
Thursday allowed me to collapse a bit, although I tuned in for some follow up from the evening before, sent some emails to guests who had texted or emailed their well wishes for my recovery. I sent love and thanks to my colleagues for carrying it all off so brilliantly.
I had lost much of my sense of taste and smell by then. Then Kim began coughing and round two began. He had the good sense to test positive immediately. We spent yesterday trying to reach his doc even though he also seemed to improve. In the absence of his doctor getting back to him and it being Saturday we are wandering over to Urgent Care later today.
I am eyeing the good weather and wondering if I might try my first run as well. New running shoes showed up yesterday.
There is a lot of divisiveness around this illness, the vaccines etc. I can only say both that I was extremely grateful during the worst of this that I had gotten vaccinated and gotten the booster. (I wouldn’t have gotten the booster if it hadn’t been required for work to be really honest.) Man, I don’t want to think about this being that much worse than it was. The first wave of it must have been truly horrifying, but for me it wasn’t reduced to a few days of a common cold either.
Weirdly there is a lot of guilt attached to Covid. Who gave it to me? Who did I end up giving it to during a contagious period without symptoms? Just plain disappointment at getting it after avoiding it so long. It’s all wrong headed, but I still felt that way. Also, I found it oddly depressing as well. I almost wonder if it is a chemical aspect of the illness, an overwhelming sort of hopelessness and despair in the first few days. Others have agreed. I mention it in case others experience it.
For now that is our tale of illness and hopefully now recovery. With any luck, this will be the last you hear about it and we can be back to photos, toys or maybe a nice new jewelry acquisition starting tomorrow.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I’m not sure I remember where this photo hails from, possible @missmollystlantiques which means it likely comes from the Midwest, or maybe eBay.
However, frankly I can find no tracks either way. I came across it yesterday when I was assembling the photos which had come to me via jewelry vendors (that post can be found here) where I had mysteriously put it aside after receiving. (And after publishing my post I was tickled to find out that at least one of my IG friends – shout out to Karen! – is a purchaser from the same vendors and collects their photos too.)
I have a fondness for this sort of early band photo which is something of a genre; seems folks couldn’t resist getting the band together in the yard before taking off somewhere. I don’t own more of them as they usually command competitive bidding and go high. However, I stumbled across this one and bought it. I was lucky and it is a good example. Only a $2 mark on the back of the photo, nothing to identify it further.
This is a banjo-heavy quartet with just the one guitar. I wonder what their sound was like. I probably would have liked a violin in there maybe, just saying. However, a quick look at Youtube tells me that banjos do like to hang together in multiple, not unusual to see four or five together.
These fellows are not youngsters, but of a certain age. We’ll assume they knew what they were about. Could have been bluegrass or something else. (The Youtube below may satisfy if this is putting you in the mood for early banjo music – a great slide show of banjo related pics too!)
Kim and I are unable to decide what their sign says, although I suspect that to them it seemed perfectly clear. FALL what? UJM? These four fellows are in their cleanest, whitest shirts and, as Kim pointed out, each is sporting the very same barbershop hair cut, freshly and recently executed. It is an earnest photo. The fellow on the top left is leaning in, probably as he would when he played.
If you look carefully, in the windows you can see some folks watching this photo being taken, as is the fellow out by the wash drying in the side yard, hand on hip. The front of a car (perhaps their conveyance to gigs) has nosed into the photo on the other side.
In my mind I imagine that right after this photo was snapped, they packed their sign and climbed into that car and took off into the summer day, on their way to their next gig.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I have two lovely little photos which were sent to me with packages from Rachel @wassail_antiques. I discovered Rachel’s business on Instagram during the quarantine period and I have written about the wonderful bits of jewelry I have purchased from her – mostly British items from the earliest part of the 20th Century – a parallel universe to what folks were wearing in this country. Similar yet somehow very different. (I have written about these purchases here, here and here for starters!)
Rachel is a gifted photographer and the images of her items always tempt. In addition, the packing upon arrival is always lovely and heightens the feeling that a gift has come in the mail. Several folks I buy from include some early photos or cards in their package (some shown above), but I always feel that Rachel has handpicked the ones she sends me, knowing my aesthetic predilections and interests. Two are shown here today. Neither has any identifying information on the back.
My favorite of these is the young woman with cat and dog. I imagine that this is a boat she is on, but it is possible it is some sort of pier seating near the water. I like her plaid trousers and of course that she has scooped up this nice stripped kitty of hers as well as her faithful dog companion. The water of course and some sort of cliffs behind her. Kitty and dog seem to be looking at something off camera in another direction, however she smiles for the camera.
The other is also wonderful although a bit harder to see. A little girl perches on this soldier (my guess is her father’s) knee along with the canine companion who poses on his hind legs. They are in a brick strewn yard with a tatty wall behind them, conceivably from Blitz bombing.
I have written about my quarantine and later pandemic pin purchases – a strange affinity for insect related items and also celestial, moons and stars, shooting comets, a pattern in my buying emerging slowly over several months. My fantasy life seemed to envision that I would return to the work world wearing jackets and that I would decorate the lapels with multiple pins of each – fly and butterfly pins, moons and stars. A yearning for the natural world? I have no idea. I had shown an affection for bees prior to the pandemic – bless their little organized hard working hearts! (My Queen Bee ring made for my by @murialchastanet_finejewelry shown below.) These pins were new affinities however.
Slowly this spring, the vision began to emerge as a reality. In fact I wear fewer jackets than I used to and the pairing is a bit more complicated than anticipated. However, the beaded butterfly pins (I wrote about these pins, made by British soldiers in internment camps during WWI, in a post here) have been a huge hit, although the celluloid firefly is a sure favorite. (That one came via Heather @marsh.and.meadow.) I recently acquired this nice fly below from yet another dealer (@therubyfoxes) at the same time I purchased a jewelry box from her (I wrote about the box in a post here), and it is perfect for somewhat subtle pairing.
What I had not anticipated is that in general I wear less jewelry than I used to in general. A strange shift in my vision of myself. One ring suffices where several used to routinely live. I have barely worn a bracelet since returning to the world – such as I have returned. However, I purchased two recently so we’ll see what happens.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I was in New Jersey over Memorial Day this year. Some of you may have caught my video clip of the Memorial Day parade I caught the tail end of while on my run early that morning when I posted it on Instagram. It was an unusually warm Memorial Day and memories of marching dutifully, first as a pint-sized girl scout and then in later years as a member of the high school drill team, immediately came back to me. (It should be noted that the appeal of the drill team was that it allowed me to sport short white boots with purple pom poms, a tiny purple corduroy dress which harkened to earlier decades and appealed to my nascent vintage clothing sensibility – and of course our wooden faux rifles which clicked and clacked in satisfying unison.)
Virtually every annual gathering found us early in the morning preparing to march in the damp chill culmination of a sodden long weekend. I have written about Memorial Day weekend growing up at the Jersey shore before – somehow you had it fixed in your mind that it was the commencement of summer and the beach and were always disappointed as even the end of May can be quite chilly. (That post can be found here.) This year however, beach weather it was this year and I was out for an early run so as not to expire in the heat of the day.
The parade route has evidently moved to Fair Haven. My dim memory was that we started somewhere in Rumson (where I grew up), probably the high school, but definitely not where I found them gathered last week, coming from a different direction. The marchers had gathered and the last groups were getting into formation in a baseball field across from the local middle school at the foot of mom’s street. I run through this baseball field every time I go out as it is the turning point in my run from going north, looping back to the south before heading home.
I managed to just catch the high school band which was bringing up the rear. It was a great hometown moment and I was happy to pause and record it.
That evening, after some instruction from a friend to ensure I would not blow us up, I tackled breaking in my mom’s new propane grill. My dad was the griller in the family and although I would occasionally act as his runner and lieutenant, and for all my other cooking experience I have personally not been in charge of a grill. Although we had a gas grill when I was a tiny tot, in subsequent years dad was a charcoal man. With Larry’s help (I video taped his instruction for posterity and future reference) I mastered the basics of the propane and managed to pull a credible vegetarian grilled meal together. If I can get it hot enough I can cook on it.
All this must have put me more in mind of my high school and college years in New Jersey. It was a certain kind of nice warm night and suddenly I thought of a place we used to frequent constantly called The Inkwell.
Somewhat incongruous in the environs of Long Branch, which was at that time a somewhat down at the heels beach community, The Inkwell was a coffeehouse harkening to the great tradition of coffeehouses of the ’50’s and ’60’s. It existed in a fairly stock format house and frankly I was always a bit surprised to see how it looked in the daylight because largely one was only ever there in the middle of the night. It was a constant on date night rotation, an inexpensive evening out. At night it exuded a come hither cool of a kind that was the siren call leading the likes of me to a life in New York City I guess. (Apologies for these low-res photos snatched from some local articles about the closing.)
The memory of not only cheerfully drinking endless cups of coffee (occasionally hot chocolate in winter) in the middle of the night back when evidently insomnia was not a yet a fact of life, but that the coffee was also topped with an enormous dollop of whipped cream. Oh my gosh! Well, waitressing and long days walking on the beach must have burned all those calories and still allowed me to sleep soundly.
I know we also ate food there sometimes, but what that was is utterly lost to me now and I guess it wasn’t really the point. I suspect it was along the line of onion rings, fries – maybe a burger as I still ate them back then. We were always hungry after late nights at the restaurant however and I think of the endless stacks of pancakes we consumed at diners in the wee hours of the morning more often.
However, you were at The Inkwell for coffee. No alcohol was served or allowed on the premises. In retrospect, it was a great option for high school kids. Although people of all ages were always there, generations of customers who frequented it over the years.
I have not even thought of it in decades really. Until the past year when I head over to stay with mom throughout the month, my adult visits to New Jersey have been almost universally a day or two in order to see my parents. I have not stayed in touch with anyone from high school who settled there who I might see socially while in town. One ex-boyfriend, Sam, who I saw through much of high school and college, died a few years ago. (It wasn’t clear, but it seems like maybe it was suicide sadly.) I had not been in touch with him since we broke up while I was in college. Other friends have either drifted way or moved to distant locales.
I am still close to my good friend Randy, an artist who shuttles between San Francisco and Los Angeles these days and who I first met in high school; he is one of my oldest friends. Kim and I just saw him on a visit to Manhattan and I get together with him whenever my job takes me to the west coast. Back in our Jersey days we worked at the same restaurant (I wrote a little about that summer and job here), and we would hit the diners mentioned above (one had oddly orange pancakes, never figured that out but they were good) and/or The Inkwell.
I don’t think I could have found it again on my own. Despite being a non-driver I remember most routes, but I am wuzzy on this one.
Anyway, I texted Randy and told him I was thinking of The Inkwell and our many trips there, even of the car he drove back then and that it was that sort of night in Jersey. He responded promptly and we had a nice impromptu text visit, late-ish night for me, early evening for him. One of the joys of our contemporary world.
On a whim yesterday I looked up The Inkwell and was surprised to find it had closed a week to the day of the evening I was thinking about it and texting Randy. Seems that over the years it had evolved to serve a wider menu of food but was largely unchanged. They remained popular and made it through the pandemic (outdoor service expanded into a yard where I only remember there being a porch before) and were closing for other undisclosed reasons.
I learned, not surprisingly, that Bruce Springsteen had frequented back when I was, or just before as his ascent to fame had already grown beyond the local. Kevin Smith the filmmaker (Monmouth County denizen and owner of Red Bank’s comic book store, Jay and Bob’s Secret Stash) was still a customer in recent years. There wasn’t much to do in Monmouth County – bars, beach and The Inkwell.
The photos bring it back fairly well although of course it had changed over time too. My memory was more toward old wooden mismatched chairs, classic red-checked table cloths with candles on each table, and Christmas lights year round. I don’t remember the first person to take me there although probably Randy’s older brother Ken who I dated for awhile. It was an excellent way station on the road to adulthood though and I am sorry I didn’t get a last visit in.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Yes! Kicking off this Deitch Studio weekend with a new photo postcard purchase of Felix posing with a pint-sized friend. Since I collect deeply in this area I can cheerfully say with some certainty that I really overpaid for this card, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to as a collector and of course each of these cards is singular. (I assure you I have bitterly regretted every one that has gotten away from me.) Also notable, it is the very first time in all these years I have purchased one of these cards from a US source. Every other one I own has come from Britain, Australia (Katoomba!) or (I believe) New Zealand.
Compared to many others in my collection, this photo suffers a bit from exhausted chemicals in the making and has faded. Somehow however it has become more atmospheric and this little girl in her white frock and falling knee socks, holding Felix’s paw-hand, is sort of emerging out of the image at us. Behind her we can make out a white hatted woman (or taller child) in the white cotton beach garb of Britain in the 20’s, carrying some sort of lap rug. There are other blurry figures behind her and the outline of the tall buildings that surround this beach area.
I have several photos of Margate’s summer pleasures past in my possession, most notably numerous ones of a giant cat chair one could pose on as well. A few of those posts and photos can be found here and here, although there are many so shop around in the archive for others.
The Felix in today’s pic is a low-rise model if you will, a pint-sized version whose pointy ears just come up to her tiny shoulder. (Many of my photos show this size Felix as opposed to the much larger ones I think of as “life sized”, closer to the size of a midget.) At a glance I don’t think this particular Felix is represented in my collection – he has a rather singular appearance – his face is rather tidy and his arms are very long! (My theory is these were designed this way to encourage people to throw his arm around them perhaps?) I imagine the arms on Felix were somewhat moveable and the head probably swiveled and turned a bit for posing. I generally prefer my Felix-es with a slightly more maniacal expression.
This card was never mailed although the inscription on the back also endeared it to me. In a faded script it says Taken at Margate 21st of Aug 24 and below Our Alana 2 years old 23 Months To Gran Daddy at USA. So it must have been put in an envelope or package and mailed to our shores all those years ago. It has a pinhole from where it spent time thump tacked up on a wall. It is faded and tattered but those are signs of having been beloved I think.
As this card creeps close to its one hundredth summer since it was snapped at that sandy beachside resort, I am reminded that simple summer pleasures have remained largely the same. On that note, it is time for me to throw on my running shorts, finish my ice coffee and get out for a run as this beautiful June morning beckons.