Pam’s Pictoram Post: Today is something Pictorama readers really have not seen before – a true collaborative moment in Kim’s work between the two of us! While it is true that our holiday card is an annual collaborative effort (this year’s card is sitting half finished on the couch in pencil as I write, for those comics interested readers who are new to Pictorama, last year’s card reveal can be found here). Additionally, one or two of my bits of writing have been illustrated by Kim (see the appendix of Reincarnation Stories, and my own reincarnation tale – or catch it up here), this marks the first time a whole idea of mine has shown up.
Taken from Kim’s next book, How I Make Comics, these pages are an actual story of mine, told in my words, but embedded as part of a longer book length story. More or less just how it unfolds in the book, we were together one night at the Q train stop on 57th Street waiting. I was watching the rats frolic on the tracks and pointed them out to Kim. I have a mixed relationship with rats – mostly fear, but also respect for how smart they are and how adaptable.
Fair to say I take the, I’ll stay in my lane and you stay in yours, Mr. Rat, approach to our ongoing, symbiotic life in a big city relationship. Of course, having grown up on the water and beach, water rats were a part of my childhood and I was cautioned about them in a way that added to whatever fear of them I might have developed on my own. Water rats are significantly larger than their city counterparts (at first I thought city rats were large mice when I got here and saw them frolicking among the garbage pails on an alley), and our story is not about them today – although I may also have a water rat story lurking in me somewhere too.
Anyway, the real life story, which is largely accurately reflected in the book (although it takes you down the usual Deitch rabbit hole shortly after), is that I went to work the next morning, got off as usual at 57th Street and found myself reflecting on the subway rats again as I walked to my office. This story evolved quickly in my mind on that short walk and I shared it with Kim the next morning. (My early morning routine of coffee, paper reading, Kim working and our talking as well as my commute – back in the before world when I had one – has been expounded upon here. In addition, for comics fans, Kim’s process was thoroughly examined by me after the release of his most recent book, Reincarnation Stories, and that post can be found here. That post is a real companion piece to this one and if you haven’t read it and find this of interest, now would be a splendid time.)
As it would happen, it is a story of rat reincarnation. I will confide that Kim has frequented told tales of his friend since childhood, Tony Eastman, who kept rats as pets at one time and what excellent pets they made – smart and likable. (A special memorial nod to Tony who to our great sadness died very recently.) The downside of this ratty relationship is that rodents cycle through their lives at a very fast pace. Now, on one hand, if they didn’t the human race would rapidly be overtaken by them with their prodigious reproduction and cunning survival instincts. On the other hand, as Kim points out, it makes it a bit sad to become attached to them as pets. Just as you get attached, they die. I was thinking of that when this story came to mind.
As a student of reincarnation, I got to thinking – you have the sort of classic prisoner in a cell with only a rat who he befriends. Sadly, the rat dies – as rats and I guess we all do – and he is bereft, hesitant to invest his affections in the next one that comes along, yet finally he does. Ultimately that one, and the next one, die as well, but slowly his affection and time invested in teaching the rats is rewarded by increasingly smart generations of rats because in fact it is the same rat, reincarnated. They are gaming the evolutionary and karmic wheel by cycling through rat lives with dispatch. Eventually, the rats surpass him on the wheel of reincarnation and when he ultimately dies, he becomes an elevated rat, now under their tutelage.
It struck me as a particularly Deitchenian story so I shared it with Kim the next day. Although intrigued, at first he was reluctant to do another reincarnation story, but then it took root in his imagination and to my surprise he decided not only to use it, but to use it as I wrote it out – and here are two pages from it, for your preview pleasure!
There we have it – a rare view into the inner workings of Deitch Studio. As Kim just reminded me, I have to some degree, in his words, been back-fielding on his work for years – I had forgotten that the title of Reincarnation Stories was my idea. I have always approached this thoughtfully though. After all, as Kim Deitch’s biggest fan, I had no desire to change anything – to damage it unintentionally with my influence. However, years spent together, living a largely Deitchian world existence in this one-room apartment, was bound to have an influence. And today, for the space of a post, we pull back the creative curtain for the speculation and erudition of Pictorama readers.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: For readers who feel like maybe there has been a lot of wandering around in these Pictorama posts lately, I have a very Felix-centric post for you today. I scooped up this single page a few weeks ago. I don’t read French so I pressed our friend Rika Deryckere into service and she was kind enough to do a splendid job of translating this for me (and Pictorama readers) as presented below. Thank you Rika!
Much to my surprise, it is a philosophical opining on our friend Felix the Cat by the French theorist, critic and film maker Jean Mitry. Mitry (1904-1988) has a small bio on Wikipedia citing him as the first person to take French cinema out of the club and into the university. He authored several books, film philsophy, critique and semiotics, and was the co-founder of the Cinémathèque Française. There is an annual award in his honor at the Pordonne Film Festival, given to individuals who have distinguished themselves in recovering and preserving film heritage.
This page was carefully removed from wherever it appeared and has come to me with no indication of the magazine it was excised from. Some of my more erudite film readers may know a lot more about this and I invite you to share if you do. It was certainly my introduction to it. I love the way it is illustrated and some of the non-Felix cats intrigue me.
Meanwhile, in a strange nexus of worlds, Kim points out that the passage where Mitry talks about Felix dividing himself into many and then coming back together brings us right to Waldo’s origin story. It is found in Deja Vu, most easily found in the collection All Waldo Comics.
There it seems Felix (yes, Felix), working for the CIA at the time, recruits Waldo and under Felix’s tutelage somehow the nine lives of cats becomes multiple Waldo – who in turn need to be dealt with in Waldo-Deitchian fashion. Hence, for those of you who have wondered, the reason that Waldo sports a #1 on his chest, as he is the original…and the universe here at Deitch Studio spins merrily forward! I share a few sample pages above and below from that story – and then onto the translation.
Le dessin animé
The Animated drawing
Félix – le – chat
Felix the cat
La gloire des vedettes est menacée.Un être étrange est apparu.Plus malin et plus simple, il s’est emparé du cinéma en sautant à pieds joints au beau milieu de l’écran.
The glory of the stars is threatened. A strange being appeared. Smarter and simpler, he took over the cinema by jumping with both feet into the middle of the screen.
Tache d’encre tombée du pinceau de Patt Sullivan, il s’est étalé sous la forme d’un chat. Ne me demandez point pourquoi on le nomme Félix, nul ne le sait et lui il s’en moque. Personnage important il n’écoute que lui-même, agit à sa guise, suit sa fantaisie, sans avoir de compte à rendre à personne.
Ink stain from Patt Sullivan’s brush, it sprawled out in the shape of a cat. Don’t ask me why he is called Felix, no one knows and he doesn’t care. An important character, he listens only to himself, acts as he pleases, follows his fantasie, without being accountable to anyone.
Il vit à l’ombre du pinceau curieux qui l’entraîne dans les plus folles aventures et le rattrape au vol après avoir fait mine de l’abandonner. Cependant il n’est jamais en peine de quoi que ce soit.
He lives in the shadow of the curious brush that takes him on the craziest adventures and catches him in flight after pretending to abandon him. However, he is never at all worried about anything.
Etre surnaturel, il trouve toujours toute ressource en lui-même et possède la faculté d’agir sur sa personnalité.
Supernatural being, he always finds every resource in himself and has the ability to act on his personality.
Changeant selon les événement, grand ou petit, terrible ou misérable, il se promène au milieu d’un monde créé pour lui. Héros d’un univers magique, incarnation du miracle et de la légende, le voici qui s’élève sur le bout de petits pieds et lance par-dessus la balustrade des nuits un bonjour en copain à son grand frère Charlot. Mais, Félix, avantagés par les facultés invraisemblables de son aventure, évite d’une pirouette les cataclysmes les plus épouvantables, — mieux, il s’en sert pour triompher de ces ennemis en les retournant contre la logique.
Changing according to the event, big or small, terrible or miserable, he walks in the middle of a world created for him. Hero of a magical universe, incarnation of miracle and legend, here he rises on the tip of little feet and over the balustrade of the nights says hello as a friend to his big brother Charlot. But, Felix, favored by the incredible faculties of his adventure, avoids the most appalling cataclysms with a pirouette – better, he uses them to triumph over these enemies by turning them against logic.
Et celle-ci, la ridicule pipelette hargneuse qui vous oblige à se décrotter de toute poésie avant de rentrer chez soi, si fière de sa raison, loge étriquée, monotone et sans air, la méchante logique disparaît dès qu’elle le vois poindre à l’horizon.
And this one, the ridiculous surly blabbermouth which forces you to get rid of all poetry before returning home, so proud of its reason, cramped, monotonous and airless, the evil logic disappears as soon as it sees it dawning at the horizon.
Car Félix porte avec lui tous ces petits lutins espiègles que l’on nomme insouciance, féerie, irréel, imprévu, mystère-du-temps-présent, esprit-de-contradiction. Et la mégère rentre dans sa tôle car il est, lui, le champion de la liberté et de la fantaisie, son ennemi triomphant.
Because Felix carries with him all these mischievous little elves that we call recklessness, fairyland, unreal, unforeseen, mystery-of-time-present, spirit-of-contradiction. And the shrew comes back to his senses because he himself is the champion of freedom and fantasy, his triumphant enemy.
Il a battu en brèche les vieux préjugés asthmatiques, les convictions ancrées dans leurs tanières de certitudes comme les crabes dévoreurs de poissons.
He shattered old asthmatic prejudices, convictions anchored in their dens of certainties like crabs that eat fish.
Il est vainqueur. Et quand il paraît au coin de la page blanche, il se demande sous quel aspect il va se mettre en scène afin de mieux pouvoir tourner en ridicule les choses que nous croyons immuables et qu’il se charge de transformer malgré elles selon son imagination ou son caprice.
He is victorious. And when he appears at the corner of the blank page, he wonders in what aspect he is going to stage himself in order to better be able to ridicule the things that we believe to be immutable and that he is responsible for transforming in spite of them according to his imagination or his whim.
Je me souviens de l’avoir rencontré au carrefour d’un village en quelque lieu de féerie nocturne. La drame rôdait sous l’aspect d’un chien râgeur, amant de la belle.
I remember meeting him at the crossroads of a village in some fairy-tale place. The drama lurked in the guise of an angry dog, lover of the Beauty.
Surprit, Félix tombe, mais il se ressaisit bien vite. Il veut vaincre, il veut être plus fort que lui-même. Et voici que s’opère le miracle : il se dédouble, il se multiplie et devient plusieurs « lui-même » qui tombent à bras raccourcis sur le chien jusqu’ à plus soif.
Surprised, Felix falls, but he quickly pulls himself together. He wants to win, he wants to be stronger than himself. And here is where the miracle takes place: it splits, it multiplies and becomes several “itself” who fall with short arms on the dog until the end.
Après quoi tous les petits Félix seconds, satisfaits de leur rôle, rentrent les uns dans les autres et redeviennent l’unique Félix-le-chat.
After which all the little Félix’s seconds, satisfied with their role, fit into each other and become the unique Félix-the-cat again.
Et Félix possède toutes choses aussi bien que lui même. Il est dieu.
And Felix owns all things as well as himself. He is god.
Il agit sur tout et sur tous. Il n’est pas de désir ou de volonté si apparemment impossible ou invraisemblable qu’il ne puisse satisfaire, et qu’il ne satisfasse.
He acts on everything and everyone. There is no desire or will so seemingly impossible or implausible that it cannot satisfy, and does not satisfy.
Triomphe de l’illusion, de l’arbitraire, de l’acte libre. Triomphe de la poésie dans ce qu’elle a de plus secret, de plus inattendu.
Triumph of illusion, of arbitrariness, of free action. The triumph of poetry in its most secret, most unexpected.
Seul au monde, Félix peut dire : « Je m’abstrait, donc je suis », et je suis quand je veut, où je veux et comme bon me semble.
Alone in the world, Felix can say: “I abstract myself, therefore I am”, and I am when I want, where I want and as I see fit.
Poète surréaliste, plus fort qu’aucun autre, il vit son propre rêve. Il jongle avec les étoiles et transforme tout à son image. Aperçoit-il la « belleé tout en haut de l’Inaccessible » dans les nuages, si haut, si loin qu’il ne puisse y parvenir?
Surrealist poet, stronger than any other, he lives his own dream. He juggles with the stars and transforms everything in his image. Does he see the “beauty at the top of the Inaccessible” in the clouds, so high, so far that he cannot reach it?
Que feriez-vous à sa place? Eh bien, il attrape son regard, son regard qui fixe sans cesse ce joint si haut, l’accroche à une branche d’arbre et poursuit sa marche élastique sur ce fil conducteur.
What would you do in his place? Well, he catches her gaze, her gaze wish is transfixed, joins so high, hooks it to a tree branch and continues its elastic walk on this common thread.
Il se sert même de ses points d’exclamation et les transforme à dessein en massues, en patins à glace ou en ailes d’aéroplane. Il est le magicien de notre temps, et s’il s’est emparé du cinéma comme du reste, c’est pour s’en servir selon sa fantaisie de poète vagabond, humoriste et philosphe, selon son bon plaisir …
… qui est le nôtre aussi bien.
He even uses his exclamation marks and purposely transforms them into clubs, ice skates or airplane wings. He is the magician of our time, and if he has seized the cinema as well as the rest, it is to use it according to his fancy as a wandering poet, humorist and philospher, according to his good pleasure … … Which is ours as well.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Picking our very Halloween run of posts back up today, I share with you all a candy container which just turned up here at Pictorama. (May I just add that the very phrase vintage candy container thrills me?) He is an odd duck and a bit more fragile than I thought he would be. I have not yet found the best final spot for him in the new bookcase, among the black cat toys. I had planned for him to live with some of his Halloween brethren, but in addition to being fragile he rolls dangerously. Right now he is resting against one of my extremely off-model Felix toys, nestled safely into his side safely on a lower shelf.
Mr. Pumpkin has a few dents which can be forgiven considering his advanced age. He is marked simply on the bottom, German, and nothing else. (I don’t know how much they actually celebrate Halloween in Germany but there was a time when they were making some of the greatest Halloween items being sold in this country. Strange, right?)
Pumpkin Head appears to be paper mache, or a close relative, lined with cardboard. I can only imagine what a glorious thing it would be to show up for a Halloween party and find an army of these fellows, stuffed with candy on a decorated table! Or perhaps he was dropped into the candy packed pillowcase of some lucky child – who loved him so much he has survived the long march of time this far.
He is pretty friendly looking with just a touch of madness. I confess to a bit of intimidation by some pumpkin-headed figures. Even as an adult, I admit that they fill me with some unease – my idea of a horror film, being chased by mad pumpkin-headed figures, legs and arms seem to make all the difference to my psyche.
In addition to the well-documented ongoing black cat addiction, I went through a period of purchasing Halloween decorating books of the aughts and teens, originals and reproductions. As a result a brief examination of the Dennison’s decoration empire can be found in a 2015 post here. Founded as a maker of jewelry boxes in the 1840’s, Dennison’s was the first maker of crepe paper. They were the reigning king of holiday decorating for over 100 years, starting in 1897. Their Bogie Books fulfilled every curiosity I harbored about the details of early 20th century Halloween celebrations.
Even as a kid I was somewhat fascinated by Halloween of yore. I remember insisting on bobbing for apples at some Halloween party and I can only say it is perhaps a skill that one develops over time. (And clearly not one to revive in this Covid year of contagion.) Perhaps this was a regional thing and some of you readers were routinely bobbing away. My Halloweens were ones of unromantic plastic pumpkins and pillowcases for candy, uncomfortable masks of hard plastic that were purchases out of boxes and were hard to breathe in and even harder to see out of, especially in the dark – they always seemed to poke you in the eye a bit.
I am not sure if a renewed interest in Halloween items is speaking to me this year because of unexpected availability or perhaps fulfilling a different yen during this oddest of years. Maybe it is a desire to mark the changing season in a year of remarkably similar days. (My new mid-West supplier Miss Molly seems to be the reigning Queen of Halloween and has turned up a surfeit of items – she occasionally even sends me things to look at while she is in the parking lot of a flea market, somewhere in the environs of St. Louis. Seems like a glorious way to spend your weekends actually. I enjoy vicarious pleasure in her ventures.)
When I was a young adult I continued to carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns much as I had since I was a child, wielding the knife now however – and cleaning up the huge mess. The last time I did it was the first Halloween after Kim and I got together. What I remember best is that my cat Otto loved the smell of the pumpkin guts, rolled around in them and insisted on eating it. (Incidentally, canned pumpkin can help at cat clear hairballs out of their system. Just a kitty tip in passing.) Sadly, I did not have the foresight to document the Deitchien influenced creation.
Trick or treating in Manhattan is an odd ritual with the kids of our high rise building going door-to-door to apartments who have indicated that they are welcome. Local businesses also get into the spirit and hand out candy to the kiddies. This year, a sort of ham handed CDC recommended fashion, the building will forego and instead offer pre-filled bags to the offspring of the building. Regardless, we are on the countdown to Halloween ’20 however, and I have at least one more small Halloween treat up my sleeve to share next week.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The folks in these photos are costumed, but it might be a bit of a stretch to say these are Halloween photos, nonetheless I offer them for your pre-Halloween delectation today.
These photos are 9.5″x 3.5″, a size I have never encountered before. They are printed on a heavy stock – it might be fair to say photo postcard paper, but since they were long glued into an album (black paper sticks to the backs) it is a bit hard to tell exactly what their original weight was. Quite simply, these appear to be a miniature version of the foot long or panorama photo. They are slightly solarized, the silver somehow working its way to the surface as they aged.
On the technical side I am unsure exactly what camera would have sported this film, although the desire to make panoramas goes back to daguerreotypes – starting with the fitting together of consecutive shots, something that continues into the wet plate era.
Kodak was evidently making a panorama camera back in 1898, but my guess is that this photo may have been made with a 1911 Kodak model sold through the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. (I am not that smart about these this and some of these tidbits come from a larger article that can be found at A Brief History of Panoramic Photography.)
Generally panoramic photos were larger and made by either the lens moving or the camera and film rotating, but it seems that home panorama camera kits were mass produced, used roll film and the swing lens theory, but did not require a tripod. They made for smaller photos, topping out at around 12 inches. The negatives could be enlarged or contact printed. Given the information in these photos and the size I would guess their were contact printed. The edges of these photographs are a bit over-exposed and diffused which I am guessing either this particular camera or perhaps was prone to or that that process was likely to have.
Some of you might remember that there was a brief fad for disposable panoramic cameras, shortly before digital cameras (ultimately followed by the phone-photo) became the rage. They had a generally unsatisfying picture quality however, the dimensions somewhat shorter and wider than these. I was more a fan in theory than fact. (There was a more rarified 3-D disposable camera which I purchased, but sadly my photos were lost in the development return process so I cannot comment on the quality.) Somehow the panorama quality of my phone camera also disappoints and I use it rarely if at all.
If you look carefully at these pictures you can tell that the leafy surround of the stage is the same in both photos although the elaborate costumes and backdrops make me think these are entirely different productions. Both appear to be of a historical nature, but one has thrown in a number of angels, even two who “float” above the group, a technical triumph I am sure.
These pictures found their way to me from the mid-West (as many photos have recently) and there were a smattering of others, apparently from still other productions, that were sold at the same time. I was fascinated by the size which I had not encountered before.
Meanwhile, I would say that all evidence points to these kids really knowing how to put on a show. If I had to choose I think I would be partial to seeing the one with the angels doing their thing – although perhaps their special effect was only for this picture.
As an aside, a little known Pictorama fact is that I was an active participant in high school dramatics. Plays found me onstage and musicals behind the scenes as an assistant to the director. As such I can still recent lines from Harvey and know most of the lyrics to things like How Are Things in Glocca Morra? I’ve painted my share of scenery and assembled all sorts of costumes so I can appreciate the work that appears to have gone into these productions. (I am not much of a singer so Kim and the cats are blissfully spared my actual vocalizing of show tunes.)
For a number of years I have searched for the right panorama photo to find a home here at Deitch Studio. We have so little wall room that I have long held out for the right one, perhaps a wild west show, although of course something with cats would really be best. I am agnostic on size, although some are really quite huge. Most of what has come my way for purchase has been gala dinners for salesmen so I continue to wait for the right one to come along. I did post about a sort of faux panorama of cats, Kitty Sextette Singers, which can be found here which was assembled through a bit of photo negative magic.
Kim tells a good story about being in a panorama photo as a kid at an animator’s picnic with his folks – that or even one like it would be the real find. He also points out that with the roll film or rolling camera and film, a trickster who thought ahead could race from one end of the photo to the other and appear on both ends – a long forgotten joke of a bygone era.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: While I purchased this because I was in a Halloween mood, it is an interesting way to have promoted a long ago and evidently foreign postal service. Perhaps ours in the US today could use such a boosting campaign? A witch and a toy black cat can do a lot for business, at least in my opinion.
This card, never mailed, is Dutch. The stamps featured on the card entice and call out to the viewer to: think of me, call me, give a shout, stay true to me, visit soon,shout soon, as well as I love you, I’m waiting for you, 1000 kisses. Oh the things you can say with a postcard – the possibilities are endless. (A reader tells me that the stamps indicate that the card is from 1957 or later.)
Why there was a need to promote postal service, as well as why they might have used a Halloween motif is somewhat beyond me, perhaps that information is just lost to the sands of time. However, she is a fine looking witch and the black cat toy she is shushing or sharing a secret with appears to be a very nice and fluffy looking one. His or her kitty head is appropriately cocked for listening to the witch.
I would say this nice toy is based on Steiff, but fluffier in the tail and overall design than Steiff, more appealing for my money. (For me there has always been something a bit lifeless about the series of Steiff black cats. Unlike their teddys which all seem to have a knowing gleam in their eye, the cats seem remarkably without character.) One bright cat eye gleams out at us. A great toy overall – I would snatch him up in a flash.
A quick Google search shows that not surprisingly Halloween is a relatively new Western influence for the Dutch. (The reader who wrote in agreed that Halloween has only started to gain traction in Holland in the last decade or so and therefore it is a bit hard to explain why the image.)
Perhaps as we consider an upcoming winter largely to be spent at home again, we might all think about who we might surprise and cheer up with a handwritten missive. I have perpetuated a long held affection for the handwritten word as a special way to remember someone or cheer them up. I send my mom cards for every holiday I can and have for many years and she looks forward to them in the mail. When I was younger and traveling I was an excellent correspondent and would at a minimum send postcards from almost any new locale.
On the receiving end, I can tell you that the mail became far more interesting once Kim became resident – Deitch Studio mail was quite different and far more interesting and exotic than my own. A prodigious letter writer himself, Kim received many – also interesting packages with books, videos (and later dvd’s) might show up unbidden. He continues a written correspondence with a clutch of people, although like me some handwritten relationships supplanted by email. My own correspondence has slowed mostly to the aforementioned cards to a small group of people – otherwise largely gone to email. However, it is a cheerful thing to find in the mailbox among the ads and bills. (Yes, I still largely pay bills by mail.)
However, it is no mystery that here at Pictorama we enjoy a great many lovely parcels coming in the door as I am constantly adding photos and items to the collections here. It is always a cause for joy when one shows in the mail, especially during these quiet days.
Nicely some of the folks I buy from frequently these days, largely my new Instagram sellers, pack their photos with extra care, enclosed in waxy envelopes with a note or a sticker, frequently adding a few random old photos they have around or a note. Miss Molly tends to use whatever is at hand for her homemade packing and sometimes I laugh at what old boxes and papers she has employed to ensure a solid package.
I have purchased two items from a woman who sells jewelry and clothing, predominantly from the teens and twenties. She’s British and lives in the countryside there and is largely known to me as Wassail Antiques although I gather she is also Rachel.
Wassail Antiques, aka Rachel, takes stunning photos of her items and seeds equally beautiful ones of the British countryside surroundings of her home as a backdrop to them. Looking at them always cheers me and takes me out of myself and the four close walls of Deitch Studio at least for a moment. She is evidently a professional photographer – taking pictures of musicians in the time before the shutdown. Her packages arrive wrapped in layers like splendid little gifts, an old photo and a note thrown in. They are an event to open, beyond the appealing items within.
At some point I may take more time to share those items – oddly both are silver rings. This is somewhat notable to me. In the before time I liked to wear rings and wore gold ones on a variety of fingers daily – my lucky horse cameo, a huge bee ring made for me by a jeweler friend on the west coast for a recent birthday. However, for a variety of reasons (finger swelling and apathy among them) I have generally not been wearing rings during our time of captivity and have actually rarely put on any jewelry.
These rings remind me a bit of ones I might have purchased when I was younger – appealing colored stones set in sliver with Deco designs. They cheer and please me in a quiet way. I have worn them out for my limited forays into the world and even just around the apartment to cheer a dull day.
This week I gather myself and put on an inexpensive flowered fall dress, purchased for upcoming Zoom events such as panels or teaching gigs in the coming weeks. I was headed to get my hair cut for the first time since February (I was not one of the folks who had the foresight to do it before the shutdown) and I thought my hair dresser of 20 years, David Smith, would appreciate seeing me in something other than sweatpants and I wondered if I still knew how to get properly dressed.
I pulled my now shoulder length hair into a braid (I haven’t been able to wear it that way since I was about 25), pulled on an ancient leather jacket and my old straw hat. I put on the rings and even applied a bit of make up before heading over to the west side. As I went to enter the basement staircase to Smith and Morgan, a young man paused and with a grin looked at me and told me he loved my dress. I thanked him profusely for the compliment, we exchanged a few more words of mutual appreciation and then we beamed at each other for a moment before continuing on our way, basking in a brief moment of connection and the sheer enjoyment of being outside on a gorgeous fall day here in New York City.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I needed a giggle and this card provided it for me so I purchased it – and I hope it does as much for you, Pictorama reader. As we can see from the front, this card was sent on June 25, 1906. It appears to be Compliments of RJH. What we know from the back of the card is that it was postmarked from Cleveland, Ohio at 12M and arrived in Brooklyn on June 26. It is neatly addressed, Miss Emma Lampe, 2680 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.
While I for one immediately assume that RJH is the fellow with his buddy tossed over his shoulder looking out at us, I guess it could also be the guy held aloft, also looking at us. Of course, it could be the third fellow or anyone for that matter.
I don’t know what we want to make of the fact that the card was purchased from the Midwest, near its place of origin – making me wonder if Emma and RJH eventually got together, she went out there or returned to there, and she brought the card with her. Perhaps that is reading a lot into it however. So now, on the next leg of its journey more than hundred year journey, it has come to rest a borough away from its original Brooklyn destination. Kim has done a good job scanning this card. In person it it actually is a bit hard to see – the surface has silvered and reflects the light.
With all due respect to RJH it is a goofy (albeit perhaps also charming) way to woo Emma Lampe. Meanwhile, their 1906 state of the art gym clothes fascinate me – the layers! Sort of black stockings as the bottom layer, then the white trousers, all topped off by shorts. No wonder they are outside. Like the swimming clothes of the period – how could they maneuver in all of that? Each seems to have a strap across their chest, even the fellow looking on – perhaps better informed readers can tell me what that does for you when wrestling. The ground does not look especially soft so I hope the guy on his shoulder doesn’t get dumped unceremoniously there.
Kim is feeding me tidbits of wrestling lore as I write this – he knows quite a bit about wrestling, which may seem a tad strange, but is true. It is one of those facts about Kim that I have known for quite awhile now, but surprised me upon discovery. He just told me there was a time when someone could have had another person in a headlock for an hour. Oy, that sounds bad for everyone involved. (Kim’s interest in wrestling came and went long before we got together so it is neither a particular interest of mine, nor one I am knowledgeable about by association. I know nothing about it.)
Meanwhile, Kim is commenting that wrestling seems to have evolved into some sort of strange entertainment over time – part athletic feat, part theater. Actually very Deitchian now that I think about it. There are some Deitch drawings about wrestling out in the world (I believe they were made for friend and collector Glenn Bray and can probably be found in the book about his collection), but no Deitch stories about wrestling. Hmm, maybe we’ll have to get him to see about that one of these days.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It has been a long time since I bought what I call a moon photo. When I first started collecting I looked at them endlessly, purchasing a few along the line. One is pinned up in my office – that place I used to go to daily and have barely laid eyes on for the past seven months. I realized the other day that I missed seeing the toys, photos and sheets of early music adorned with cat imagery that I surrounded myself with there. I retrieved a few things on a trip in recently, but am thinking I may need to rescue a few others on my next trip. (This very special box made by Kim resides on my desk there and I think it needs to come home to my now home office desk on the next trip. I wrote about it once here,)
Years ago I saw a wonderful accumulation of moon photos, all framed together – each one top notch. It was at an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. A quick search on their website shows some really great ones (you can find them here), but it was the great eye that had put them together in a frame a certain way that appealed to me. Some things seem to be better when you amass good examples of them together for display. If I had the space I would consider investing the time in creating a nice moon photo grouping like that. Instead I have my wall of people posing with Felix-es I guess. (The photo below from an April 2018 post which can be found here.)
When I first considered taking up photography (both the collecting and the taking) it was the idea of the sort of joy that people seem to bring to posing for photos like this that interested me. It is the same with folks posing with Felix – they get a big smile on their face just by being there. It remains one of my goals in life to find a moon set and get my photo taken in it. I briefly wondered about building our own moon photo set, but there are some things a studio apartment really cannot accommodate, no matter how creative you get.
An early entry into my collecting was featured in a short post at the very beginning of this blog. It is below and 2014 post can be found here. It is a nifty variation – a full moon and it seems like a professional postcard that was produced en mass rather than the sort of individual snapshot. Still, for me, all moon photos are of interest. They can run into a lot of money and if seriously collecting them you would be forced to pay up for the most part. Therefore, given my other weaknesses, I am a somewhat desultory collector of moon photos.
Today’s photo interested me in particular because one of the participants is holding a small animal – I am guessing dog although one could make the argument for cat. The man in the dark suit is holding it in a grip my father used to call cat prison – holding the kitties, with both of this large hands, in this no nonsense sort of hold – usually when they were within reach and doing something somewhat undesirable. It was not cat-escapable. When ultimately released the cat would shoot forward like a feline missile. Annoyed at the interruption of its wrongdoings and the temporary containment and limitations imposed on its inalienable freedom.
It seems to me that dogs don’t seem to require this sort of strong arming for photos under most circumstances – they usually get with the program pretty quickly and pose with the family. Either way I have an extra soft spot for folks who bring along the family pet for such photos.
That roguish fellow with pet notwithstanding, our photo participant posers are a fairly serious looking group. Two out of three women are smiling – the woman in the middle isn’t and I don’t know why because she has the best spot, smack in the middle, white stocking legs, ankles crossed, hanging right over the edge of the moon. The photographer had a good eye for this set up and composition. It is a bit faded, one imagines that the developer used was probably well into its long day of use.
The set is a slightly less imaginative one than some and sadly the moon face is largely cut off from view – I always like to see those variations and here we just see the tip of the nose. (The photographer loses points for that. He or she also loses a few points for the distinct shadows behind the people which kill the illusion to some degree, although it does give us a better sense of the construction of the set.) The clouds are a tad lumpy, but there are stars which I tend to approve of in my moon sets. The card, like most of this kind, was never mailed and there are no notations on the back.
I leave you today with a snapshot of the Felix photo wall – there are a few additions pending and soon it will march over the ajoining top of the kitchen door and ultimately wander down the other side. (There is another, smaller annex of Felix photos, tintypes, in the hall near our bathroom.) Small apartment or not, I always say there’s always room for one more Felix photo.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: After seeing flea market finds from folks in other parts of the country on Instagram, I got to thinking about the Chelsea Flea Market. It had closed last December, but then I had heard a rumor that it was taken over by someone else so I went online to investigate. Sure enough, although originally scheduled to open in April the re-opening had been delayed due to Covid, but it would be opening in a few weeks, in September. I marked my calendar and last weekend, perhaps week two of its reincarnation, Kim and I wandered over.
Like many New Yorkers, my relationship to this market is as long as my residence here in Manhattan. In the years before I lived here I frequented one on Canal Street which I was very sorry to see disappear, and another small one on Broadway, both on the edges of Soho. (Imagine! Flea markets in Soho – needless to say both gobbled by the rising real estate and gentrification of that area. I wonder if, now that evidently no one wants to live here in a post-pandemic world, we will see flea markets crop up, once again, on lots that would have otherwise gone to over-priced luxury apartments? One can only hope that it will be a byproduct of our unusual time.)
However, it was the Chelsea Flea Market that held the record for ongoing weekend visits over decades. More things purchased at the garage there, which used to boast two floors of vendors, than I can possibly remember – although a few stand out in my mind, like my black cat ash try stand which I happen to be looking at right now. I didn’t really mean to buy it, but the seller made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – and now, many years later, I am so glad!
The Chelsea Flea Market was a constant weekend companion and occupation through several relationships prior to meeting Kim, in fact a sort of an acid test for men I was dating – I mean, there was no long term hope for a relationship that didn’t embrace the flea market, right? With Kim the flea market became a weekend rotation every six weeks or so throughout the spring, summer and fall. The insatiable desire for property to build on nibbled away at the edges and it went from a high I remember of about six scattered locations, to the just the garage (which closed) and the now current (lone) spot on 25th Street, off Sixth Avenue.
In these weeks and months while Manhattan tries to find its footing again, figuring out what the city will look like now on the other side of closing down back in mid-March, we keep our expectations pretty low as things try to start up again. The current incarnation of the market is about two thirds of the lot devoted to sellers, in a vaguely socially distanced way, and the other third given over to a few food trucks and tables. Someone reminds you have your mask up as you enter the lot. (This lightly gated approach reminds me that one of the lots went through a phase which lead to a lot of peering in and seeing if it was worth paying the vigorish to enter or not.)
Sadly, the large indoor market that houses my favorite toy store, The Antique Toy Shop – New York, is closed. His website says he hopes to return at the end of December. I remain hopeful of its return.
At first I thought the sellers were all new merchandise (mask anyone?) of little interest to me, but a slow stroll around revealed tables boasting boxes of photos, vintage clothing, jewelry, and finally even some old books of interest. The table where we purchased this really sort of special photo, glued into its period self-frame of embossed cardboard, also boasted a bookcase of interesting young adult fiction from the early 20th century.
I quickly picked up the volumes below: The Outdoor Girls at Wild Rose Lodge, Larkspur, and Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures. (Ongoing Pictorama readers are aware of my fondness for juvenalia of the early part of the last century. You can read some of those posts about everything from the adventures of TheAutomobile Girls, and Grace Harlowe to Honey Bunch can be found here, and here, not to mention Judy Bolton, Girl Detective, which can be found here.) I will be sure to report back if any of these volumes reveals a new vein of reading interest.
While waiting for the seller to finish with some other customers Kim and I found the photo. The embossed frame seems the perfect setting for this timeless photo of a family in front of this extraordinary thatch roofed building. It is a pretty huge building really, with large windows which appear to have shelves behind them. A chimney belies a fireplace within, but while I thought this was a home at first I am unsure as I look more closely. The enormous double doors don’t seem residential somehow – was it a store? There is a neat path leading up to the front door and around the side.
The family looks prosperous, mom in a long black dress which could have been found in parts of this country (and Europe) from 1900 through the 1920’s. Both the man and the boy are in suits – the boy is sporting a shiny bicycle though, which appears to be a full adult size and probably a bit big for him. Something slightly illegible is inked on the back – something and John. Could be Linda and John. Kim and I cannot fully decipher it.
Sadly it is missing a corner and there is a split in the lower right side, but none of that takes away from the overall effect and beauty of it. When I was able to speak to the seller she apologized for the delay. The books were five dollars apiece and much to my surprise and delight, she threw the photo in with the group. I packed it carefully between the books in a bag I keep with me. (Remember when the end of plastic bags in New York was big news at the beginning of March?)
Feeling quite chuffed, Kim and I strolled back to Broadway in the autumnal sun and alighted atop of some highboy tables at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant where we consumed spicy shrimp sandwiches. The sun was out and the Flat Iron Building within view. Thank you New York! Our day was a good one.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s photo is not only suffering from age, but probably from being under exposed in the first place. In person it also has a bit of solarization that photos from this period often get, almost as if the silver is rising to the surface, making it even harder to see. I knew this when I bought it (to Miss Molly’s credit she does nothing to enhance the images of the photos she sells – that doesn’t happen often, although in my hobby I come across it occasionally), but I loved the image and I decided to take a chance. It is small, the image is only about 3″x4″. So, my apologies for its inherent short comings.
This photo appeals to me because I would have adored having such a set up as a child. I have written on several occasions about employing our long-suffering German Shepard, Duchess, and my cat Snoopy in a complex series of games and scenarios. The fact that, at least as a small child, I would not have had the appropriate real estate needed to really enjoy such a contraption, I will leave aside – you need some real acreage to really sport about it something like this, but wow – you’d really be doing something!
I have long contemplated that the connection with our domestic animal friends is different when you are a small child. Is it because you are, in reality, that much closer to their own intellectual bandwidth at that point? Or are you just communicating more freely? I have always wondered. I can remember long childish conversations with them both, prattling happily along, looking deep into their eyes as I spoke, absolutely certain they understood every word.
Perhaps because of the sheer amount of attention paid to them, they would allow me to undertake all sorts of indignities that I wouldn’t dream of inflicting on my pets as an adult – trying to ride the dog, dressing up the kitty, adventures with the doll carriage and the like. My parents would intervene occasionally if things got out of hand, but generally we were left to our own devices. I would have been on this dog cart thing in a minute given the opportunity. Duchess, somewhere in dog heaven, is perhaps grateful the opportunity did not arise.
My new always-at-home life has changed my relationship with Blackie and Cookie. It isn’t a coincidence that shelters have been emptied of dogs and cats during the pandemic. They are excellent company during these days that merge into one long working day.
The daily routine of Cookie and Blackie was forged early here at Deitch Studio, formed around Kim working at home and his day. Kim and the kitties start the workday (very) early, and he is in charge of their feeding, morning and evening. (Eating to cats is, without question, the most important part of the day – a brief but glorious interlude. We have strict feeding times in an, ever-failing, attempt to keep them from driving Kim nuts all day while he works.)
Until the middle of March I was on the outer edge of this cat constellation, home on weekends, but otherwise generally in the ongoing daily act of coming and going – packing a suitcase and leaving for days at a time on occasion, very undependable. They expected it and my departures and arrivals frankly rarely rated so much as a flatten ear or a greeting glance from either.
I noticed the other day when Kim went out for a walk that the cats sat by the front door the entire time, staring at it. Waiting and willing him to return. They clearly have very little faith in my ability to open a cat food can.
Yet, I think the cats have, over the course of more than four months, completely erased my daily departures from memory. I too am now a daily fixture – if a slightly less useful one. Blackie makes his appearance in Zoom calls and demands a 3:30 cuddle no matter what else I am doing – and Cookie helps me work out daily (she likes it when my trainer, Harris, appears on the iPad for a FaceTime workout where she flirts with him a bit), and both fight me for my work chair. Kim can vouch for the fact that I talk to them all the time – Cookie tends to actually answer. She’s the chatty kit of the two.
And of course I believe they understand me, or at least a certain percentage of what I tell them – mostly encouragement about being the best kitty in the whole world! and the handsomest boy cat! and even the occasional please get off of the desk – thank you very much! – it isn’t philosophical discussion for the most part. I will have to be home many months longer before I can perhaps find my childhood knack and we can enter into long talks about the meaning of life together, Cookie, Blackie and I.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Deitch Studio followers may already know that Kim is well-documented for his commitment to a daily work out routine. On the other hand, I think I have only touched lightly at best on my own devotion to a work out regime which I am reflecting on a bit today.
Let me start by stating that my interest in anything athletic was desultory at best growing up. If I swam, it was never laps; I might hit a tennis ball around with someone, but rarely really played a game; I would walk to get somewhere, but never was a runner. Like many little girls in the suburbs, I took ballet lessons when little, but while interested was not promising in this area and my parents deftly moved me on from it.
Loren’s rugby trophies from Princeton.
Was it because I grew up in the shadow of my older sister who was captain of every team, winning a myriad of varsity letters? Loren did it all – swim team, tennis, and track in particular, but the only thing that precluded her from joining a team was another that took place at the same time. She was a restless bundle of energy and needed to blow off steam daily and it was a rare day when she didn’t have workouts of one kind or another morning and evening. (I wrote about her rugby adventures here.)
In my early twenties I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and I began a program of yoga, developed specifically for me, that was a daily constant in my life for many years. It did a fairly good job at keeping my joints functioning. (My workout was designed by a brilliant man named Allen Bateman who appears to have disappeared entirely off the face of the earth, Google cannot find him.) I turned Kim onto it and he incorporated some of it into his workout, some things that he continues with today. There came a time however when some of the practice was getting a little risky with the advance of the arthritis and gradually I fell away from it. A few years later a sore shoulder which blew up into a frozen shoulder lead me ultimately to Pilates. I loved Pilates and it always makes me feel good about myself and my body.
However, at some point I wanted more exercise than I could afford via Pilates and the instructor of that studio sent me to Harris Cowan, personal trainer (@livestrongernyc), who I have seen pretty much every single week of my life (a few work trips notwithstanding) for the past 9 years. I have followed him to a myriad of private gym spaces – some nice, some just not – over the years. In many ways, I would have considered myself the least likely person to enlist the help of a personal trainer, but the arthritis meant certain concerns if not actual limitations, and as I had never walked into a gym in my life I wouldn’t have known what the heck to do. I joined what passed for an inexpensive gym in Manhattan and set a commitment to myself of a minimum of three days a week in addition to seeing Harris on a fourth.
Harris probably deserves his own future post as a regular and important feature in my life, but for now I will just say that he has always been superb at pushing me just beyond comfort. I am rarely actually sore the next day, yet progress is achieved. He is sensitive to the issues my body has, but generally has a can do no nonsense approach. When setbacks (such as foot surgery) occur he has helped me reset and again we build and move forward. He slowly restored first one shoulder, and then eventually the other, to full usability.
No one could be more surprised than me that it turns out I love lifting weights. Left to my own devices it is all I would ever do in a gym, eschewing cardio (back in the pre-quarantine days when I actually did some), and tedious but necessary things like squats. Actually, I adore the gym. I relax immediately upon walking into a gym. I find that if you are going to hold weights over your head you had better focus your mind on that and nothing else which means it is a method to clear my mind of the constant demanding chatter of work and life.
When I traveled for work it was always the most centering thing I can do. No matter where I am in the country or the world, if I can drag myself out of bed early and to the gym I am the better for it. The first thing I check about every hotel in advance and when I check in is the gym.
I happily stuff earphones with a bit of contemporary fiction via Audible playing in my ears and I am in a blissfully focused, quiet place for 60 to 90 minutes. Exercise does as much (if not more) for my mental state as for my physical one. (Strangely, passages of those novels replayed, bring me right back to where I heard them first, either my own gym here on the east side of Manhattan, or a hotel in San Francisco where I traveled down the block to use a gym for a workout, back when I was still at the Met.) I have a mental image of hotel gyms across the world (they are lousy in most of Europe) and the country – some that were quite nice and others a bit less so. Some crowded, many (most) fairly empty.
My first gym was a small local chain of a few gyms. I went from feeling like an alien there to slowly becoming a fixture there, among a small devoted clutch of folks who were there upwards of four days every week. In the first years of working out I often found myself there six days a week. Because I often only found time to work out before going to the office, I kept a locker at the gym and would shower and get ready for work there. I considered a locker essential as not only did it mean that I could carry less on those mornings, but it also meant I could leave clothes and sneakers there, enabling me to stop by for a workout I had not planned. When the gym eventually did away with lockers as part of a renovation, I somewhat regretfully moved a few blocks up to the more upscale Equinox.
In Manhattan Equinox is somewhat in the upper echelon of gym chains. While I had enjoyed the decidedly low rent aspect of my first gym, I ultimately felt that for someone who spent as much time at the gym as I did I probably could pay more and I sunk happily into the relative luxury of it, although I admittedly missed some of the regulars at my old establishment.
Not that I ever much spoke to them. In my mind I had names for them such as Man Who Reads the Paper on the Bike, but Never Pedals or Woman With Red Hair Who Runs. I never felt the need to really talk to people, although after a few years some of us might nod at each other. One day I ran into one of these folks on the crosstown bus and we actually had a conversation. We commented on how strange it was to see each other fully clothed, ours was a locker room acquaintance and I’m sure the other passengers thought we were very odd. One of them (Thin Man Who Lifts While Biking) turned up at Equinox and we had a happy nod hello to acknowledge the reacquaintance.
Starting three years ago my job at Jazz at Lincoln Center took a ferocious bite out of my time and it has been harder to make it to the gym on weekdays in the past few years. My six and seven day habit became more of a three and four day one with work being a starting very early and ending very late sort of thing. I was still very relieved to get there and let everything else fall away.
My view of Cookie from the floor while working out the other day.
So, of course, living our quarantine lives has meant no gym and I miss it very much. (So much that I dreamed about working out on machines last night – probably the inspiration for this post.) Even the gym in our building (which I also belong to in order to grab more workouts on the fly, yes, I belong to two gyms) is closed by order of state law, unable to open until some future post-phase 4 re-opening. (I occasionally fantasize about breaking into the one in the basement and making off with a few weights and the Bosu ball.) Gyms in New York are in a suspended state in much the same state as our concert hall, awaiting such a time as it is safe for us to return.
Cookie looking a bit critical during a recent workout, perched on Kim’s work chair.
On the other hand, exercise continues at Deitch Studio as a daily ritual. Like so many people these days my new work wardrobe consists primarily of workout clothes – mine starting to get a bit ragged from the constant rotation. Kim and I vie early each morning for time on our 10’x 4′ (or so) space on yoga mats, our designated work out area in front of the flat files and blocking the entrance to the bedroom.
Yep, gym equipment piled up next to DVD stacks and some of Kim’s comics reading.
I have slowly accumulated a variety of weights (luckily I had some from a former period of at home rehab which was a good thing because there was a shortage of them and price gauging online if you could get them at all), a ball, some bands, a foam roller. Cookie in particular is interested in this daily ritual (she is wildly fond of a paint pole we use for shoulder exercises and also comes running if I am using the green band). Blackie, ham that he is, only shows up to say hello to Harris during my Facetime workout however. (Blackie has discovered his inner actor and extrovert tendencies as a video call cat star during these work at home days.)
Yummy corn muffins in progress last weekend.
Harris appears on my iPad weekly, where he watches some random portion of me visible to him, and I work out to his instruction. Not ideal, but it works. And despite missing the gym and a broad variety of equipment there, the good news is that I am back up to five or more workouts a week, biceps gaining ground and abs attempting to keep up with my renewed interest in cooking. (See prior posts here, here and here.) As mentioned above, cardio is a bit of disaster despite the occasional trip up the 16 flights of stairs here; I find myself huffing and puffing when I attempt to walk more than a mile. I am slowly adding in daily walks to offset this until such time that more walking and even elliptical machines are a part of my life again.
However, I often joke that I will emerge from the bunker days with a prison pallor, oddly buff, but a bit puffy and overweight – perhaps sporting a Deitch designed cat tats on each bicep. Perhaps I will work some of that good cooking weight off biking to work in the coming new post-Covid world. I will let you know.