Falling Back?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As I write today Kim (the cats) and I are speeding toward the end of our summer vacation. Exhausted overall, we stayed in Manhattan and just determined to rest and have some fun here. One of the highlights was the postponed Cartoon Carnival evening which I wrote about in an earlier post (here), delayed initially by one hurricane and almost delayed again by a second one. The delightful Sunday evening had an unusual chill to the air for August and that and rough waters (Ida creeping up the coast?) made me scuttle my plan to take two ferries to arrive there and maybe sneak in a flea market as well. Instead we took the subway out and scored a nice dinner. The backyard of City Reliquary in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was the location and we had the added benefit of seeing their exhibit on candy as well.

Not quite a third of the way into the program (Out to Sea was the theme with lots of jolly swordfish fights and mice using donuts as life preservers), there was a power surge and the projector went off as did all visible lights around us, including in the apartment building looming behind the screen. The power came back quickly and, sadly, burned a frame or two of the print before Tommy could stop it (Tommy Stathes, our curator and host uses 16mm prints with a real projector), admittedly a familiar sight to those of us who have seen a lot of film run however. We quickly got rolling again though and were treated to several cartoons we had not seen before, for me two Felix cartoons and one by Paul Terry for starters. I also purchased a few dvd’s from him so we could continue the party at home. (If you love old cartoons you need to know about Tommy and his site can be found here or find him on IG @tomatitojose.)

The cheerful bar and candy counter at the outdoor backyard at City Reliquary.

When we headed back to the subway around 10:00, we were to discover that the power surge had caused an inexplicably large suspension of subways; 80 trains suspended we heard the next day. We first tried the L and then walked to the J before we realized that underground was not happening between Brooklyn and Manhattan tonight. Eventually we found our way onto a bus designated to essentially get people over the bridge and to the nearest station in Manhattan, Essex Street. There we discovered further outages, but eventually lucked out with a F train which took us to our beloved Q line and home. It was 12:30 before we got back – very relieved we’d fed our kitties before we left.

On the looong trip home. On the F train, the remains of someone’s dinner and, mysteriously, a large pile of lottery cards. We’re hoping he or she won and ran off the subway without the rest!

Monday dawned and I decided it was time to fulfill a long-standing pledge to myself to finally go through my closets which have largely remained utterly undisturbed since March of ’20. Yes, I belong to that group of people who climbed into workout clothes that weekin mid-March of ’20 and never really got out of them again. As some Pictorama readers know, over those first months I rediscovered my early talent for cooking and baking (recipes and cooking memoirs can be found here and here for starters) and of course gained a lot of weight. Last November I took it in hand and I began running and went on a diet. (Posts devoted to my nascent running can be found here and here.)

Two broken fingers later (I fell running) and having now lost more weight than I initially gained (but still looking to lose a bit more), I faced the time capsule that is my closet with many deeply mixed feelings. In addition to just needing to go through the closet moths have been erecting a citadel in both of them which I needed to confront, all those clothes sitting undisturbed was a moth bonanza it seems. So it was with great trepidation that I waded in.

From the great Felix cartoon dvd we purchased from Tommy!

It took three days and for the most part I didn’t bother trying to figure out what might fit or not, mostly only deal with the moths, cleaning, organizing and tossing damaged items. Notable among the victims were black wool tuxedo trousers that Kim has owned for decades, traded for a bunch of homegrown pot on a long ago day in California, long before we met. As the husband of a fundraiser Kim has needed a no less than annual use of said tux, alas, we are sad with this loss.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my overall extreme ambivalence about the idea of office clothes and returning to a world of wearing them. Please understand, I have always liked nice clothes and good shoes. (My love of jewelry which incidentally continues unabated has been documented here recently.) Therefore, my extreme disinterest in resurrecting them remains surprising. (I always liked make-up as well and have lost interest in that too for the most part.) It is somewhat disorienting to realize that I am somehow no longer that person, but am left with a fuzzy picture of who exactly that means I am. Part of me thought, let’s just pitch the lot of it.

Cookie helping with the closet organizing.

Having spent virtually my entire career not only working in an office but fundraising in particular has meant that I have gone to the office dressed to meet and speak with potential donors virtually every single day. When I worked at the Met it wasn’t unusual for people to phone unexpectedly who were visiting the galleries and ask to come and see me. Board members routinely wandered in for meetings. Early in my career there was an actual dress code (you didn’t wear trousers for evening events) and although that faded over time, it was expected that a level of professional dress would be maintained and people who didn’t catch on were flatly told to tow the line.

My current position has me less likely to have those unexpected meetings but between evening events, scheduled meetings and lunches, and a large amount of work travel while the precise nature of what I wore changed, the fact that I was dressed for business everyday was well ingrained. (A board member at my current position complained to someone that I wore too many suits. To this day that comment confounds me. Did she want me to show up in a tank top and flip flops?)

Central Park as the sun was setting, on our way to Dizzy’s Club in Columbus Circle.

The top strata layer of my closet reminded me that I had been traveling to the midwest right before shutdown. A trip to Wisconsin, following by Milwaukee and then a subsequent one to Chicago, had meant a lot of wool (more moth industry and joy) and layers that had been worn. (A blog post devoted to one of those trips and some musing on fundraising can be found here.) Further digging found the clothes I usually keep year round in the closet for seasonal trips to Florida and California. I cast a jaundiced eye at those wondering if my current weight would enable me to get me back in them yet. (A somewhat academic question for now of course, although in a sort of tentative world a trip to the west coast looms for January, maybe Florida in December.)

Another photo heading to Columbus Circle the other evening.

More importantly though, despite the visceral memories the clothes brought back of essentially another time, it crashed directly into my current sensibility of who I actually am now and more importantly, who do I want to be and where am I going with this?

Thursday night Kim and I decided to head over to Dizzy’s. (His idea really, as a treat to cheer me up a bit after three days of moth-y work. Thank you honey!) Dizzy’s is the Jazz at Lincoln Center, my former clubhouse of sorts in the pre-pandemic world, and we went to hear some young musicians I know. I had been to Dizzy’s once already for our re-opening two weeks before and the emotion of being back in that room and hearing live music had been overwhelming, not just for me but for the whole audience of friends and family we had invited for the evening. This night however, I had Kim with me and we were visiting as civilians as such, me not working. (I would be remiss if I didn’t say you can make reservations for upcoming shows at jazz.org.)

Isaiah Thompson on piano, Julien Lee on sax, TJ Reddick drums and Philip Norris on bass, Thursday night at Dizzy’s. Hard to beat the view out these windows, New York skyline and Central Park!

Without the distraction of working and being in charge of an event, I was more focused on the experience of just being there. Seeing these recent Juilliard graduates, some of the best young jazz musicians today, getting a chance to play at the club was wonderful. The leader of the quartet was Isaiah Thompson and one of the things he said in his introduction was that he found it was so much more intense to play in front of people now. I also find this to be true. Sitting down with people and talking to them in person is indeed more intense .

I also thought about the incredibly fragile ecosystem that is jazz and the hard work of Jazz at Lincoln Center to maintain that important link, helping to hold it together and connect the pieces, making evenings like this possible for these extremely talented and just ascending young musicians. I fell to thinking about the phenomenal work that we had all dedicated just to keep it alive over these more than seventeen months. I am proud to be a part of that, but also deeply tired. My ties to it go much deeper now, but my awareness of how delicate and even ephemeral it is remains indelible and front of mind as well. The grim reality is that it isn’t over yet, there is no real return to what we thought of as normal and there is much hard work yet ahead as I look toward returning next week.

Annual

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a remarkably wet start to the July 4 weekend here in Manhattan. The coffee is perking, Kim is reading a heavy tome (Thomas Wolfe) on the other side of this table, Cookie was last seen curled up in an odd small corner between a closet door and the entrance to the bathroom, and Blackie is snoozing on my desk chair, curled up with my black sweatshirt which has grown greatly tatty with use over the past 15 months at home.

This simple hoody was originally purchased with for the specific purpose of being a warm layer, easily washed, to protect me from the elements when coming home from the gym sweaty. While I have not employed it for that use in a very long time, it is frequently pulled on against the apartment chill of all seasons which, along with a much-worn pair of Addidas sweatpants, I will probably look back as the uniform of home pandemic wear. (I sport a looser sweatshirt – better for many layers – with my alma mater, Connecticut College emblazoned on it, when running. In fact I was wearing it when I fell a few weeks ago and was glad I had the presence of mind to change before going to the ER so that I didn’t need to cut it off to get around my heavily bandaged hand later in the day. I opine on the comfy sweatshirt as part of a post on running to be found here and of course my fall and subsequent broken fingers here and about my nascent running career here.)

Blackie blends into the sweatshirt, his white chest badge tucked under him and his glowing eyes shut. He is in danger of getting sat upon when perched here and we spent a lot of time this week fighting over this chair. He doesn’t trust my weekend defection to the other desk and computer.

My former stomping ground, the Metropolitan Museum, on a recent morning.

Rain or shine, in my fundraising life this holiday weekend has always marked the close of one fiscal year and the fresh start of a new one. Since taking on the role of head fundraiser the battle to meet an income budget has become paramount in my mind. At the Metropolitan Museum and during my many years there, it was also a busy time which combined tying up my own program income and in later years working through compensation, performance reviews and tracking the progress of the other fundraising programs, but the ultimately responsibility did not fall squarely on my shoulders as it does now – and the responsibility of the past two fiscal years has been, to say the least, substantial. (A post written upon leaving the Met after 30 years can be found here.)

So for me, this holiday is always about considering the prior year while starting to shrug it off in order to start over. Raising money is a sort of annual miracle which has to be built from the ground up every twelve months where we rise from the ashes of the prior year and build the new one. And although I always say it is at least as much science as art and of course good planning helps, I suspect it is a bit different than, let’s say the supply and demand of making and selling widgets. No one has to give money and fundraising is mercurial under the best of circumstances. And, as for many people and industries, the past 15 months of raising money for a shuttered performing arts organization have been extraordinary and stretched my creativity in ways I didn’t suspect I had. (Prior posts about my first year at this job and my pandemic work life can be found here and a recent one about contemplating the return to the office, here.)

Blackie is among the pets of the world who will need to adjust to no longer being a routine member of the staff.

In addition, like many managers I am facing a staff of folks who are trying to figure out how they will shake off the exhaustion of these long months at home and re-imagine the next phase of their professional careers. I think for many the difficulty of morphing back to the pre-pandemic world is so hard that instead they are deciding that instead they will open a new chapter somewhere else and start the story over. I can appreciate the inclination although I also believe that in the end you take your problems with you so you might as well face them where you are. Nevertheless, they are peeling off in record numbers and heading to graduate school, to support other causes, or to remain near family they have spent the last months with or caring for.

It isn’t just my staff obviously – we are reading about it constantly in the news, and I am also being asked to serve as reference for many of the colleagues I have remained in touch with over the years as they too shift and morph.

Whatever form post-pandemic work takes I would like to make sure I still spend time outside and in the park. I have really enjoyed that early morning time outside, in all weather, over the past year.

I was reading a response to a friend’s post on Instagram which addressed the overwhelming lassitude of returning the world and how she, as a busy professional had once balanced so many competing needs daily, now found herself exhausted just by making a grocery list. While the pressures of my job only increased over the last year and a half, it has all been performed from a command central here aloft in a high rise apartment on East 86th Street where I forced myself out the door just to get some exercise after the first six months were spent with virtually none.

Lobby of the Milwaukee Art Museum, taken on a break to visit a friend while on one of my last business trips shortly before the shutdown.

As we begin to plan for a rapidly approaching season of revived live music, events and related travel, I look askance at my now moth eaten wardrobe, assess the excess weight I am still in the process of losing, have endless discussions about what a return to the office will look like, and a pre-emptive exhaustion rolls over me. I try to exercise the weak muscle by making in-person appointments, first with friends and increasingly for work. Part of me is also trying to figure out the next chapter too – do I need to travel in the coming January? How many nights a week do I need to work? Which of the tools I was employing was actually working and which can I let go of? Does any of that matter now as we all rethink our world and try to form it in a new image?

On the other hand, I arrive on the shores of the new world with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation for my capabilities. Damn, I am good at this and have achieved against the odds, albeit certainly not alone, but with the undeniable hard work and commitment of so many colleagues. Still, I will return to the world with a new sense of my own capabilities and resourcefulness, more confident than before with less of a tendency to be apologetic. As I relax over this wet holiday weekend and allow the sense of relief to roll over me briefly, goals finally met, year closed, I will relax with Kim and kitties, grab a (fake) hotdog, pour a drink and gently cultivate thoughts of the coming next chapter and what I chose to make of it.

Progress

Pam’s Pictorama Post: My friend Eden gave me the tag line to this blog, All Pam, All the Time and I liked it because many of my readers, especially at first, found me through Kim and it seemed fair warning that, although you will get some Kim, Pictorama is a heaping serving of me. Some days are more me than others and this is one of those unabashedly me days.

In a quiet way, this week lurched forward significantly and was sort of a landmark week. To start, it was made public that Jazz at Lincoln Center was one of 286 recipients of extraordinary and unsolicited donations from MacKenzie Scott, the philanthropist ex-wife of Amazon titan, Jeff Bezos. (As one colleague said, I feel so much better about all the money I spent with Amazon over the pandemic.) It is a gift that will have a profound effect on the organization and as a career fundraiser it was a once in a lifetime gift to experience. Truly it is a testament to the hard work of Wynton Marsalis, especially his tireless work over the last year plus, as we struggled not only to survive but to be present for people who needed music and community during this time.

However, much like when Kim has a new book to promote, psychologically I had moved on once it was done (there is always more money to raise and we are still closing this year) which for me happened a few weeks ago, and I was drawn back into it with the public announcement, which lead to announcements to Board and staff.

On the walk over to Summer Stage Thursday. Cedar Hill, Central Park.

The other events of this week included my first hair cut in a year. Although I had gone last summer, the timing and location are bad for me working from home. However, my newly broken fingers have required first Kim’s help and then my own awkward efforts to put it up and I realized it was time. (I wrote about my longstanding decision not to dye my premature – at first anyway – gray hair in a recent post here.) It was nice to catch up with David who co-owns the salon and has cut my hair since our wedding back in 2000.

Unlike last summer’s cut (short, short because I didn’t know when I would come back) somehow this one transformed me back to a semblance of my pre-pandemic self. The pounds I have dropped (still some left to go, but many gone) probably help in that regard and the recent purchase of a sundress which I was sporting contributed to the overall effect.

Summer Stage opening in Central Park on Thursday.

The timing was good because shortly after I headed over to Central Park where the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was opening Summer Stage. Many of my colleagues from across the organization had booked tickets and it became an impromptu reunion – complete with hugging and elbow bumps for those not ready to hug. (There’s a lot of hugging in jazz.) The outdoors meant everyone was pretty comfortable being without a mask, eating and drinking. I can’t say the year melted away, but it was like salve on a wound.

As the sun was setting in the west and the orchestra struck up the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue I looked around and realized that coincidence had it that I was seated with many folks I sit backstage with during countless concerts in the hall and elsewhere. I stretched out in my chair and watched the sparrows ready for the evening, a few bats. My eyes welled with the sheer pleasure. The weather and the night were perfection. It was the first time I felt like maybe we really are back.

Friday dawned with a trip to Dr. Mir (hand surgeon – my Memorial Day hand exploits can be found in a post here) and my first session of hand physical therapy was later in the afternoon. I admit to being squeamish about pain and I can’t say I was without some trepidation. My hand is healing, more or less on schedule it seems though. With a little luck I may be allowed to take the splint off at home in another week – maybe even be cleared to run and work out a bit by the end of the month.

Seeing my hand without the splint really for the first time was a bit discouraging. It remains black and blue (quite green actually) in the extreme, still swollen in places. Being allowed to wash it was a huge relief however and that made up for the discomfort of it making its debut, splintless for examination and therapy. There isn’t much to say except that therapy is slow and hurts – almost by definition. I am a chicken about pain frankly, but a realist so I am focusing hard on making each movement count as I remind my fingers that they know how to bend. How could they have forgotten in a few short weeks?

Tucked into a tiny space on 87th near Lex. Hand rehab doesn’t take up much space.

By the end of forty minutes with the therapist we could see some, small improvement. I was reminded that my original purpose in taking up running (at least in part) was to tackle something different and hard during a time when my waking hours seemed to be confined to a desk chair in our one room apartment, working. While hand therapy will not get me outside, nor help me lose weight, it is unintentionally providing me with a new challenge to meet.

So I end the week with some renewed optimism about our impending nascent return to the office part-time next month. I think I am starting to shake off my Covid cocoon and if not the old Pam, at least the latest model of her,

Without the Net

The other evening our usually dependable Wifi sputtered during a meeting. I was able to get back on it, but yesterday we woke to the realization that we didn’t have Wifi. After two calls to our provider, RCN, our “box” was declared dead (well, dying, it has a few meager lights blinking) and a technician requested for later today. It was also, as it would happen, Kim’s birthday and so thoughtful wishes are piled up, as I write, in the world online, an internet connection away.

Kim, who is immersed in the latter stages of his next book spent yesterday tracing off pages which will then be tightened and eventually inked. (A post with the specifics of Kim’s process can be found here. It is a great favorite!) I still had online access, via my phone (and my ipad which decided it could operate off my phone) which meant I could do some work including attending meetings with my little Italian Felix toy avatar in my stead.

I have my own policy of trying to be on camera for most Zoom meetings, at least at the beginning of each, and I try to stay on for all meetings with staff. I think it is more humanizing even if I am just in from my run and admitting that I only make it to even nominal make-up about once a week these days.

Nonetheless, the lack of Wifi slowed me down mightily – if you are reading this it means either I posted it via my phone (a skill set that may well be beyond me), or the technician has come and restored us to full function. It makes me realize how much I depend on the internet for casually adding things to these posts as well. My fingers twitch to check references and add links and photos.

In case the day needed more complications, I had an appointment to get a new phone. Like many people, I beat the heck out of this thing over the past 18 months. The screen is cracked from dropping it from the elliptical at the gym, years ago now. (There was a time when I didn’t take my phone into the gym, preferring to listen to a tiny and somewhat finicky ipod instead, but when my dad was began his decline and was hospitalized I started bringing it with me to workouts. It bounced off the moving machine hard and it is lucky it didn’t hurt someone.)

It has been giving me warning signs that it is breathing its last (screens turning into strange shadow screens, no longer holds a charge) and so while making another change to my account recently (prophetically changing my date plan), I committed to a new phone. Suffice it to say, given the day that yesterday was, after more than an hour at the Verizon store, I left sans phone transfer complete – alas, I must return later today.

Evermore than even a year and a half ago however, I am tethered to the internet like it is a favorite child!

Simultaneously, this week I was encouraging my office to help inform a return to work plan and being met with recalcitrance, fear and assorted resistance which evinced an insurmountable level of exhaustion in me. Like many managers, the decision about a return to the office is an institutional one and Wynton Marsalis has made his feelings very clear throughout this period – we will not be an organization that operates remotely. We need to be together and to see each other as humans again as soon as is safely and reasonably possible.

My first work-out at the gym. Man, I swear the weights are heavier here than at home!

Like a good manager, I have been trying to gently exercise the muscle of in-person meetings and discussing our return. Our policy is to return to the office in person two days a week over the summer and then moving to full time mid-September. Having to decide on dates was like ripping the band-aide off for many folks though. It is hard to balance their variety of concerns, an institutional mandate while keeping any of my own feelings to myself. I am impatient with my own impatience.

The day finally concluded with Kim and I eating some excellent Vietnamese food which greatly restored me. Then, with the premiere of a concert for our virtual season, our full Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with the founder and head of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson. It was a great marriage of spoken language and jazz and spoke very directly to the topics of freedom and inequality and history. (Freedom, Justice and Hope is available on-demand until May 26 and you can purchase tickets to watch it here). It is in my opinion by far the best concert we have produced for online viewing and I am so proud of my colleagues who created it and how far we have come. It left me with the very real hope that we will come out of this period with a new way of continuing to reach audiences far beyond those in our hall and on our tour destinations.

Afterward, I watched the first part of a PBS documentary on the Metropolitan Museum. Long-time Pictorama readers know that I spent most of my career, thirty years, there before leaving for my current gig. (I wrote about my departure in a post called Leaving the Met which can be found here.) I gather that the documentary was originally meant to follow the museum through its 150th Anniversary Year. Instead it is half about that and half about how 2020 played out with the pandemic and the closure of the museum, the ultimate re-opening and then grappling with the new re-emerging world.

It was moving for me to see many former colleagues as well as some objects I know like they had spent years in my own living room, so they too are like old friends. But overwhelmingly for me it was so touching to see the conservators, curators and other colleagues I had worked with for so many years. I was graphically reminded that yes, despite our discomfort, Wynton is right. In the end it comes down to the people. People make organizations like these great and that will suffer if we do not make the effort to come back together again to work with each other in person. When I interview people I always ask them, what will you miss most about where you work now and almost to a one they say it is the people.

Me and Eileen Travell, Met buddies and long-standing friends, having our first post-pandemic in-person meal earlier this week! Sheer bliss to see her again. It helps to do some of the nice aspects of getting back into the world as well.

In her remarks, Carolyn Riccardelli, one of the conservators, kept coming back to the metaphor of the conservation work that had been done on the Tullio Lombardi statue of Adam. Many years ago, it famously fell spontaneously from its base and smashed into an almost infinite number of pieces, fragments, and some reduced to dust. Like a crime scene, the pieces were photographed in situ and logged where they fell to aide reconstruction. That reconstruction took ten painstaking years (it has been documented in a video called After the Fall and can be found on their website here) and is back on display. It looks flawless, but of course as part of the team who restored it, Carolyn must see her years of handiwork beneath the surface every time she looks at it. She talked about how sometimes you just need to move forward, even if you have no idea how you are going to do it, making progress and claiming small victories until finally, you are there.

Shown at top: Tullio Lombardo (Italian, ca. 1455–1532). Adam, ca. 1490–95. Italian, Venice. Marble. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1936 (36.163)

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.

Framed Again

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is my second installment of framed photos that have wandered into the Pictorama collection recently. This little treat was a Christmas gift from Kim’s brother Seth who always sends especially thoughtful holiday gifts.

Gift from Seth Deitch featured in a 2016 post, link above. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Much like yesterday’s post (which you can find here for those not following in real time), this hotsy totsy item is a wonderful object as he has assembled it, frame and decorative paper behind it spot on. It now has a special perch near my desk. While he has numerous talents, Seth has a great eye and came up with an equally special Christmas gift of a photo a few years back and I featured that one in a post you can read here, Merry Christmas from Seth. (Shown above.)

This year’s gift from Seth Deitch. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

These mandolin playing women stand on either side of this Christmas tree, which is done up in holiday decorating charm of an earlier era – the lead based garlands and tinsel which sparkled a bit brighter I think, but must have been banned at some point. (I found someone selling new old stock of it this holiday season and you can see it has more heft as well.) The Butlers were a garland and not a tinsel family probably because of the numerous cats we had, although my mom may have been mess adverse as well.

I remember my cat Otto eating some tinsel the first year I had her and had placed a tiny artificial tree in my apartment. (She gobbled it before I could do anything – hell bent on it – she was a nutty cat.) Luckily it didn’t kill her or make her sick – no tinsel after that. Meanwhile, I do remember that my grandmother had ancient tree garlands that were heavier and brighter than what are sold now. They seemed old-fashioned even back in the 1960’s and early ’70’s, but I remember the hard, crinkly feel of them.

The women and the tree are set up in front of a mural of a pillars, sky and sweeping drapery. They are clad in somewhat sensible low-heeled shoes atop a patterned carpet. The mural and even the carpet makes me tempted to guess that this locale is a ballroom or other commercial venue rather than a home. Both are dressed nicely, albeit somewhat subdued – the woman on the right has a necklace on, the other a pin at the neck of her dress.

I itch to hear them play those mandolins. I admit I had not given much thought to mandolin playing until I started working at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I was introduced to the wonders of the mandolin at several concerts, but Marty Stuart really made me take notice. I notice the guitars at the ready in this photo, and somehow I just get the sense that we could hear these women in a great swing band.

Some of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra members, from left Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printop, Carlos Henriquez and James Chirillo. Taken on tour in 2017, on the porch of Cracker Barrel after a breakfast stop.

Although the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra does not have a guitar player as a persistent member of the band, we are often fortunate to often have James Chirillo join us, and he was on the Big Band Holiday tour I joined on the road back in 2017. (You can read about that trip early in my career at Jazz at Lincoln Center here.) James was recently a guest for a Zoom member evening and it was nice to see him and talk with him again. Like all of us he is chomping at the bit to be back in our hall and playing live music again. (Someday I think people will wonder what the heck this Zoom was that we all talk about during the pandemic. Zoom, which I spend most of my days and some of my evenings on, tends to make me feel like I’m in a sort of bubble where I am almost with people, but alas, are not really. Ironically it is like the television phones of the future we all imaged and thought would be so wonderful. I just read speculation about such things in a 1922 volume of The Radio Girls series. More to come on that.)

This has set me off, thinking about the past and wondering about the future as I consume my second cup of coffee so I will leave it here for now, but with another final tip ‘o the hat to my brother in-law who can pick a mighty fine photo – with thanks!

Fine Tuning: Country Music

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I arrived home from a concert last night (more about that in a minute) and discovered that our scanner had died on Kim. As this will inhibit photo reproduction somewhat in the near future, please bear with me while I take the opportunity to meander down a path and bring those of you who follow the personal aspects of my life up-to-speed.

Last week I hit the two year mark at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Since it also happened to be our Gala I didn’t really have the bandwidth to pay much attention to the fact – nothing like more than 600 people for dinner and a concert to distract you. Subsequent to that I was knocked low by a stomach virus which only left me considering whether or not to head to the ER or if urgent care would do. Mostly recovered with the help of time and the miracles of medicine, last night I attended a concert featuring highlights of Ken Burns’s upcoming documentary on country music (to air on PBS in mid-September) paired with our Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra which I had been looking forward to and I was pleased not to be denied the pleasure of it.

I will begin by stating that I know almost nothing really about country music. Unlike Kim’s family, my folks didn’t listen to a lot of music, but they did have a handful of folk music albums and as I stumbled into nascent consciousness about music I gravitated for a bit in that direction. My father had worked on a documentary for ABC News on Woody Guthrie and for some reason the soundtrack had to be recorded on our home stereo (resulting in a day of tip toeing around the house, interesting equipment and strange people for small child Pam which I still remember) and a pile of those albums remained with us. (Meanwhile, my mother was a fan of Joan Baez and the sound of her singing takes me immediately back to my childhood in a way few things can.)

As I poked and stumbled through what appealed to me musically I found my way to people like Jimmie Rodgers. (Blue Yodel No. 9 was featured in the concert last night with Wynton on the trumpet doing the Louis Armstrong part and Marty Stuart on guitar and vocal as Jimmie Rodgers. The 1930 recording of Rodgers and Armstrong found here via Youtube.) I liked the stories and the music stayed with me, but I didn’t have access to a lot of it and my musical attention, such as it was, strayed. I eventually found radio stations that played jazz and suddenly I was getting warmer. Some of you already know that in college I stumbled across early popular music genius Rich Conaty (memorialized fondly in a post here) who introduced me to the broader music of the 1920’s and 30’s that ultimately became the mainstay of my music diet.

I first discovered Rich’s show when spending the weekends in Manhattan during the fall of my senior year in college. I had exhausted the opportunities I had to work in life from the figure in the art program at my Connecticut college. I had been passionate about drawing and sculpting the figure from life since high school and so I arranged my classes in a way so I could come to New York on Saturday and take an early all-day life class at the Art Student’s League on Sunday and head back to New London early on Monday. I stayed in a small apartment my father kept so he wasn’t forced to commute everyday during the final years of his long career.

It was sort of exhausting and I didn’t know anyone in New York so most of those evenings I spent alone in the apartment, listening to the radio while I ate and before bed. (Yes folks, actual radio. Someday I will expound here on my love of the radio – I adored it as a child and have never entirely deserted my fondness for it. While I mostly access it via the internet these days, I will never forget my childhood fascination with my first transistor radio. It was simply, a really great thing.)

It was during one of those New York weekend stays that I first discovered Rich, who at the time, and on and off over his many decades at Fordham’s WFUV radio station, had both the Saturday and Sunday night slot. His Sunday night show was the one I grew to love and listen to faithfully over the years however and it rarely strayed out of the popular music genre or period. The Saturday night show was a tad more freewheeling – at least this is how I remember it all. I couldn’t say for sure, but I believe it was the Saturday show that featured early country music. It was a revelation and I always wanted to know more.

I lost touch with Rich’s show for a year or so after I stopped coming to Manhattan on weekends. The radio signal was weak and I could not pick it up in Connecticut although I did try repeatedly. It was a year or more later before I was back in New York and resumed listening to him, although another couple of years before life was settled into enough of a routine that I became a regular and devoted listener.

Over time I got to know Rich and in retrospect I could really kick myself for not asking him about that country music show. I am not aware of his devoting any substantial air time to the subject subsequently, not in a dedicated way. I think country swing was probably the tributary that beckoned and was new to my ears, but hard to say how reliable memory like that of decades ago actually is. It stayed with me, but in the fall of 1985 with limited knowledge of Manhattan’s resources, nor armed with much information, it was never an avenue I really explored.

(Bob Wills, San Antonio Rose, 1938 can be found here.)

wills1

Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys

 

Last night, listening to Ken Burns talk about the dawn of country music those dusty musical memories started to emerge again and the musical curiosity of a 21 year old Pam stirred and itched at my brain anew. As someone said to me after discussing how great the concert was, however, just another Friday night for you at Jazz at Lincoln Center and I thought, not quite, but it is the very best part of my job indeed.

 

Hep Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I tend to think that this pin represents the crossroads of Pictorama and my work life. I could hardly be expected to resist it when it crossed my path on eBay recently. This knowing little fellow, sporting his bowtie, a wiseacre grin and numerous whiskers proclaiming his cool, something of a wink to us. (Would wearing such a pin have precluded actual cool on some level I wonder?) Early jazz slang seems to get intricate and dense pretty quickly, but I think Hep Cat is one we all pretty much recognize. Of course, it did lead me to reflect on how interesting it is that jazz musicians chose to call themselves cats which of course endears them to me further. For us here at Pictorama, cats are the very essence of hip and elegance. (Just ask Blackie.)

It has been noted by those who see me daily that my work attire has swiftly morphed from Met to Jazz. I readily acknowledge this – I do not dress up more or less so much as it is different. There are things I would not have worn to the Met, whereas I would say quite simply anything goes at Jazz. I spend a lot of nights at our club Dizzy’s and concerts these days and that too is quite different from galleries. I do subscribe to the theory that if your job is to ask people for money, you should always be dressed and ready to do it should the opportunity arise on any given day. Dressing appropriately is a sign of respect. (I recently saw a consultant I have worked with for years when I was dressed in my weekend wear, and he said it was shocking, like seeing the Queen dressed to work in the garden. I took this as a compliment.) I taught a class at Juilliard this spring on fundraising and one of their assignments was to arrived dressed to ask for money. They arrived in everything from pajama bottoms (he said he forgot) to suits, as well as everything imaginable between.

Meanwhile, to be blunt however, there is and never has been anything about my appearance that would lead one to think cool as such. Growing up in a preppy, conservative milieu, college largely same, and then landing at the Metropolitan Museum in fundraising, a penchant for vintage and vintage influenced clothing was my primary stake in sartorial individuality. Although really, we have all known people who have that extra something about them, what they wear and how they wear it and somehow so much more, that makes them hep cats indeed. In the end they could come from or exist anywhere. I believe you are born with it – those folks who wore even their gym uniform with a certain insouciance all the way back in grade school.

Without calling anyone out and embarrassing them, not surprisingly there are a few hep cats amongst us at Jazz, and not just among the musicians. Cool is a term which has virtually lost all meaning from overuse, yet we do still know it when we see it. As for me, maybe I will put this pin on my winter wool beret, next to the Krazy Kat pin I am sporting there because here at Pictorama, we generally celebrate a different kind of cat indeed.

Big Band Valentine

Pam’s Pictorama Bonus Post: Happy Valentine’s Day! Those of you who have known us for a bit know that it is an annual tradition here at Deitch Studio that a very special Valentine is produced each year in honor of the combined Valentine’s Day and Queen of Catland (my) birthday – as recently noted in Sunday’s post A Happy Birthday to Me. It has grown into a several week project – the conceiving of which often germinates weeks, if not months. in advance.

This year Kim has outdone himself with this rendition of the Jazz at Lincoln Center band, all as anthropomorphic cats of course, each one nodding to the actual gentleman who owns that seat in the orchestra. I don’t know how Wynton, Carlos, Sherman, Walter , Marcus and the rest will ultimately feel about their cat edition selves, but I hope they love them as much as I do! Kim and I are in our garb from the upcoming Reincarnation Stories book and I especially like what I call my Queen of Catland regalia. We are of course at the soon-to-be famous toy cat museum, of which I am the proprietress, featured in the latter pages of the same story. Kim is busy with the appendix of that book now which means it is slowly crossing the finish line!

The great rendition of a Feed the Kitty is on the floor – more a nod to my fundraising responsibilities than anything else. Kim also made the drawing below at my request recently. I will imagine the money and see it – and it will come!

Traveling with the Big Band

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As Pictorama readers and other online followers already know, I am currently on the road, although wrapping up my week’s sojourn with the Jazz at Lincoln Center band on their Holiday Big Band tour. Since it is hard for me to do any other kind of post on the road you all have been treated (or subjected) to a clutch of personal posts over the last few weeks.

It is Saturday afternoon, the second week of December beginning as I start this, I posted The Other Pam Butler a few hours ago. I cannot seem to find a position comfortable enough to nap in in my seat (some of the guys have perfected sleeping on these bus seats, but it is a skill acquired with time clearly) so it is as good a time as any to take stock. As someone pointed out yesterday, this job wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye a year ago as I went through my year-end rituals in fundraising, checking in with folks, gathering up last minute contributions at the Metropolitan Museum. I think I would have laughed (hard) if someone had told me I’d be on this bus with 18 or so guys, jazz musicians and road staff, crawling through North Carolina in a snow storm for 9 hours on our way to a gig in Chapel Hill. (The photo above is from our breakfast stop at Cracker Barrel, clearly a group favorite and after eating those biscuits I know why. The institutional precise consistency of these shop ‘n restaurants is a bit dizzying to experience, but clearly a stop of great comfort for road warriors through the greater American south and east.)

The band is moved with incredible efficiency. Time is truly money when you are feeding and lodging almost two dozen people and the team at Jazz is a very well oiled machine. The military precision of the early morning departures reminds me of my travel days through Europe with the Met – I guess the experienced moving of large groups is always done the same way, but it seems ironic to me that busing a jazz band across the American South as economically as possible is ultimately similar to toting well-heeled tourists through the cultural highlights of Europe on a luxury tour, but it is. Predawn departures on buses to airplanes, or to be driven to destinations and fed with hotel breakfasts of weird eggs, fruit and coffee. (The coffee was better than it mostly was in Europe and the South has those biscuits going for it too, not to mention the fact that we could drink the water.) The rest stops, complete with machines chock-a-block full of junk food are distinctly American, however I admit to being glad to see them, and I admit to eating food on this trip that I have not eaten since college. Unlike the Met trips however, the destinations are not luxury hotels and ships, nor cultural highlights, but business hotels of unromantic economy and maximum efficiency, located just off highways. Since I was most happy to see a bed and fall into it for four or five hours of sleep at a go, these hotels with their breakfast buffets and endless cups of coffee were always quite welcome.

atlanta snow

Predawn view out my hotel window in Atlanta, a view of the pool.

 

The band members are deeply experienced travelers and on this trip they have already been on the road for a week when I join them. (I had a prelude in Arkansas on other business.) They know how best to arrange themselves within the limitations of the bus seats to sleep a bit and as a rule no one is late for the various departures. It is generally quiet, although a soft spoken phone call or conversation drifts over the group occasionally. The travel is executed uncomplainingly by the band, and there is a real genius to the calculus of the number and length of stops to be made along the longer passages – such as this nine hours from Atlanta to Chapel Hill. Ray Murphy who manages the logistics has an gift for this – whether it is just years of experience or an innate talent I do not know. Somehow he keeps it all moving as painlessly as possible.

On most days late afternoon is the witching hour for the instruments, equipment, suits and shoes to be loaded in and taken to the venue, followed by sound check which can also function as a rehearsal. Then it is likely there is a Q&A with a school or other group who were invited to sound check, lead by one of the band members – a role which switches daily. Family style dinner is up after, usually around 5:30 or 6:00, and served in a backstage area catered by the venue. In this way we experience a range of food from a memorable homemade apple pie to an unremarkable attempt at tofu.

Schedule allowing, Wynton or another member might squeeze teaching a master class at a university in during the day, or the whole group might show up at a school as they did for an elementary school in Palm Beach. Usually there is some time to kill between dinner and concert and I use this time to call Kim at home. Concerts on the road seem to start between 7:00-7:30 and run for about 90 minutes with a brief intermission. After backstage meet and greet (or grip and grin as someone called it) and the reloading of the equipment it is usually close to 11:00 before we are back on the bus and at the hotel. By now our early dinner is a distant memory and we wrestle with the calculus of sleep against locating a late night snack. Sometimes there is drinking and eating at a hotel bar, or someone figures out rides to a Waffle House spotted on the way, but mostly exhaustion and the early morning start means bed calls.

Wynton in Palm Beach

Wynton and band at an elementary school in Florida.

 

Several nights of these nights our schedule necessitated that Wynton and I hop in a car after the show and drive to the next location getting in around 3AM so we could have early meetings. That leads to some really bad late night eating of pure junk food. Our driver, Dregg (not sure how he spells this) is an old hand at this kind of driving and we relax into his capable hands although sleep mostly eludes us. A long conversation which ranges from the role of human sacrifice in ancient Greece to childhood memories snakes through those drives and, in part, probably helps keep Dregg from drifting off as well.

As I finish this post up, it is one week later and I am happily perched back at our computer at home. It is a snowy gray morning here so the scenery is strikingly similar to the one I saw out the bus last week. My seat on the bus, it seemed an unspoken assignment, was a rotating shotgun one in front, for the random person who comes and goes I assume, similar to where I sat in Shanghai. I continue to mull over what I learned on this trip in terms of what it means to fundraise for this very special ensemble and maybe I will have more to say about that later. For now though, whether they realize it or not, I have in heart and mind adopted each and every one of the members of the band. They are my guys and I am their unstinting cheerleader.