Copy Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s Felix the Cat tale stretches back aways, starting with a few hand-drawn postcards I added to my collection back in 2014, and I had no idea what these postcards when I acquired them. While I have some enjoyably whacky examples of whacky free-hand Felix drawings (a post can be found here), these appeared to be penciled and inked, not perfect but surprisingly on model drawings of Felix.

A British card presumably made with stencils like mine. This pose in both the French and US versions. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

While I was writing about one of the more bizarre hand executed cards (that post can be found here) someone gave me a heads up that stencil kits was available and that’s how these cards were likely made. Evidently there was a set made and sold in France and a slightly different US version. The kit I purchased recently (another friend gave me this tip – many thanks to Bob!) is the US version. From what I can see, the European and American kits had some different poses and some of the cards I have appear to have been made from the European box.

A card from the Pams-Pictorama.com collection with a pose not in my box of stencils.

The instructions are great fun to study and it is interesting to reflect on a time when people were willing to make their own Felix postcards with a box of stencils. Although this could loosely be classified as a toy, these are a bit complex and the skill needed for these is a lot for a child as you will see when Kim tries one below.

The inner workings of the Felix stencil box set! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Most of the Felix-es are in the nice blocky early style that I especially like and this fellow on the jolly red and blue front of the box, huffing on a pipe is splendid indeed. (Although a careful look at the sheet below shows several different Felix styles really – some blocky and some rounder. Curious.) The front also boasts, not surprisingly, a Pat Sullivan copyright, a US patent, and a maker – J.W. Spear & Sons, New York. There is a smaller notation which says, (Spear’s Games), and my favorite note in tiny print in the lower right corner which is, manufactured at the Spear works Bavaria.

The instruction page for the stencils! Pams-Pictorama.com.

A meandering side note on Spear & Sons toy makers: Primarily a manufacturer of board games, the company was originally founded in a town near Nuremberg, Germany under the family name of Spier. With the rise of the Nazis, some of the family left Germany (they were Jewish) and went Britain where they had a factory and changed their name to the more anglosized Spear. The Germany company was taken over by the Nazis and was made into a munitions factory which was ultimately bombed and destroyed during the war. The British factory also made munitions during the war, but return to board games after. Subsequently the company was purchased and absorbed by Mattel.

A close-up of a set of stencils together. My guess is Felix Cheering at the Ballgame.

My box of stencils is well-used by someone who blackened the whole image (with ink) rather than a pencil or pen trace and then blackening in as my postcards were executed and as Kim executes below. Each stencil requires two cards (color coded and number, 1a and 1b, etc.) lined up with a pinhole in one corner. This allowed from more dynamic poses I think. My box appears to be missing two sets of stencils, 1a and 1b and 2a and 2b. Not sure which images these are although the one of Felix on the scooter appears to be one of them.

Watch Kim create some Felix magic here! 2 minute video.

Here at Deitch Studio we obviously have the talent on hand to give these a fair try. I have asked Kim to tool up and use these stencils to make a drawing. Have a look here and see the master at work toying with these stencils. As you will see, we find them a tad short of the full drawing and he had to finish him a bit freehand.

And voila! Kim makes a Felix!

January Madness

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s an overcast Saturday morning here in New York City and there is a light bit of snow blowing outside. This has put my deep desire for a late morning run in question and makes me vaguely peevish. Kim has misplaced several key drawings for his next story (five or so luscious large pencil pages) and is slowing spreading the latter part of an almost finished graphic novel across our one room apartment in search of them. The pages have not left the apartment so we know they are here. A thorough search of piles of original art is underway. A certain frantic undertone to the commencement of our weekend here at Deitch Studio.

The desk in question, being searched.

Meanwhile, Blackie is snoring softly behind me on a very large box which contains an air fryer. While I am a bit curious about air fryers I never would have purchased one (let alone such a large one) except we’ve been informed that a city mandated gas inspection, which commenced Friday, has our cooking gas turned off. It will take a minimum of 6-8 months, but many buildings report that it has taken up to two years or more. (Yes, you read that correctly – they are turning off our cooking gas for what could be years.)

The model chosen after reading the NYT Wirecutter and other reviews.

I have moments of thinking that maybe it would be worth getting involved in City policy long enough to eliminate this bit of idiocy which is based on an incident where someone tied out an illegal gas line with a garden hose and the building ultimately blew up. Manhattan, perhaps all five boroughs, are looking now to eliminate gas cooking. This is a concept that could ultimately roust me from my perch here in New York City – gas cooking is beloved to me.

Life without making soup seems dreadful so I purchased this as well. Let’s see how I do with these new toys.

So, for now and despite Blackie’s fondness for the aforementioned box, I will spend this weekend unpacking the air fryer and an Instant Pot. (I cannot live without soup. One of several recipes can be found here.) I will rearrange our tiny kitchen and somehow fit these new appliances in – some of my beloved larger pots and pans can live in the oven I guess. (An ode to a dying fry pan can be found here.) Of course the adventure of learning to cook with them remains – I suspect you will receive further details. We have a microwave as well which I have generally only used to heat leftovers, but will be pressed into service. I have tried to amass groceries for easy execution at first, baby steps.

Blackie in full possession of the air fryer box.

Maybe the toaster can live in our storage locker and give us back another 12 inches of counter space? Electrical outlets have become prized real estate overnight and we are grateful for a renovation which added one. Additionally, there are two electric burners which the building assigned to us as a stove top. I hear rumors that the power draw for them is huge and that they cannot be used in tandem with the other appliances. Note taken, but I think we can look forward to the odd days when we space on that and blow a fuse.

At work Covid is stealthily making its way through the office again. We talk about it less, but staff are sick with it or living with people who have it. Most of the rules and protocols have fallen away and we are left to our own devices, instructing people to stay home and test – five days clear? I think there is a sense that people will just get it and get it again and again, but we do need to think about the people for whom it can be dangerous for various reasons, or like me have someone in their life who is fragile physically.

A pot of soup from a former post.

Along those lines my mom was diagnosed with pneumonia last week, not surprising given her immobility. I have home tested for Covid, but will go out and get a PCR test in case I need to go back to New Jersey. I mentally add it to the list I am making for this weekend.

I have long thought that TS Eliot had it wrong – it is January not April which is the cruelest month. For me it has uneasy memories of illness commencing and death, truly the nadir of each year which then needs to be reincarnated annually. (Oddly I am a bit distrustful of August too.) There is a gentle but persistent, burgeoning insanity that is barely kept in check in the month of January.

However, the pages in question above have been located at last. Kim is now contentedly inking a page which was his intention when he discovered the pencils missing, so a calm has returned to the house. He has promised to bring me a cup of take out coffee from the diner so I don’t have to face the electric burner and coffee pot quite yet. Blackie has moved onto the bed making way for me to unpack the air fryer and at least for the moment the flurries have paused so maybe I will get my run in. January is half over, we’re turning the corner and soon February will dawn a bit brighter.

A bit of Deitch Studio effluvia that surfaced this week.

A Room with a View

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Drum roll please…because today we have our annual Christmas card reveal! Here at Deitch Studio we have been producing a holiday card for a few decades now. One day we’ll have to see who has old number one because, although I knew we kept some, I am not sure we can lay our hands on it. In the first year, and maybe the one that followed, we hand colored each one (differently) with colored pencil – but we had a smaller distribution back then.

A better look at this year’s card! Deitch Studio collection. Click on it to make it larger.

For those who are new to the card this year the general process is that, after discussing the general subject first, I do the initial drawing. Kim responds with his version and then we might negotiate this or that, back and forth until it is an amalgam of our styles. In general, if we appear on the card, the rule is you draw yourself. (A few card reveals from year’s past can be found here and here, but the archive is chock-a-block full of them!)

Kitty cooks in the kitchen! No, we don’t really let them cook. Deitch Studio Collection.

This year however, Kim has been admiring the view from our window and it permeated my thoughts when I sat down to draw the card and it fell together quickly.

For those who haven’t visited Deitch Studio for awhile, yes, the plants have indeed increased in number and lushness this year. A friend commented on that. For those who follow Pam’s Pictorama regularly you know that Blackie had a rough year and we almost lost him to a bad infection and subsequent diabetes. In fact we had a mini-emergency with him just this past week as his sugar dropped too low. Despite that he is looking like his old self, has gained his weight back and his coat is thick and shining as shown here.

An exuberant Blackie showing tummy and fang recently.

Cookie would have been just as glad (or so she says – frequently) if we hadn’t bothered bringing him home. They are sister and brother and fight as such – love to hate each other I say. It gives them something to do. Cookie is the talker in the family and at nine years old still chases her tail (daily) like a kitten; often in the bathtub. Go cat go! I say she has one cat joke and that is to hide behind the shower curtain in the bathroom so she can jump out, meowing, at an unsuspecting type coming in. I fall for it several times a week. She does a victory lap with her tail after.

Cookie, always a card, a Noir Alley kitty a few weeks ago.

The view out the window is obviously much simplified, although I like to think it somehow captures the overall sense and mood. Kim was very light in his touch this year and really let my original drawing shine through. The view is quite wonderful, but it is especially nice at night when it is a twinkling wonderland. When I can’t sleep, I come and sit down on the couch (usually with Cookie these days, who in turn requires ear scratching) and spend some time looking at it.

Our view – a dim rainbow in upper right corner.

One of the interesting aspects of the view is that in recent years it is also the northern end destination of my frequent runs. Now when I look out I know it differently and I know the trip under the bridge and up to 114th Street intimately firsthand. I have written more about running in New Jersey than here in the City, but it is in reality my more frequent, if somewhat more static route. (A New York running post can be found here – and one from New Jersey here.) The path along the river is soothing, if windy in winter and hot and sunny in summer, whereas the suburban New Jersey path is more varied perhaps and has surprises like visiting deer and suburban highlights.

The northern part of my Manhattan running route one morning recently.

When I purchased this apartment I had no idea how beautiful the view was as the windows were too dirty to see out. Now it is our escape, bringing the whole world into our single room and we wouldn’t trade it.

So as the holidays approach and 2022 comes to a close, Merry Christmas and the best of New Year’s to all from the four of us at Deitch Studio!

San Gennaro

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Occasionally I get the odd idea in my head for a mini-adventure and this weekend I decided to revisit my youth and talked Kim into hitting up the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy. This idea first scratched at the back of my brain when Kim and I were in Chinatown and Little Italy a few weeks ago as banners were already going up for it.

Then yesterday morning I was reading the local version of The Patch (does everyone have this ultra local newsletter? I am amazed by some of the things I find out reading it), which cheerfully informed me that the festival had commenced and would end its run this weekend.

I missed the Fireman’s Fair just blocks from my mom’s house this summer by a few days. I have written about that (here) and again, I haven’t been to it in many decades, but thought we might time a visit right and go but no, it didn’t work. So I guess I had a yen for that sort of thing – cotton candy, candied apples and the smell of fried dough against a background of rides and games of skill and chance. Kim was game so off we went.

For those of you who don’t know, the San Gennaro festival is an annual tribute to the aforementioned saint. This tradition in Manhattan’s Little Italy dates back to 1926 when immigrants from Naples congregating on Mulberry Street brought the festival to this country. Neapolitan’s had long looked to the saint for protection from natural disasters including eruptions from Mt. Vesuvius and he is the principal patron saint of that city. (For the record San Gennaro was martyred back in 305 AD and his miracle is the liquefaction of his blood after his death.)

The official statue incarnation of San Gennaro, surrounded by dollar tributes.

We missed the Mayor and former Astronaut Micheal Massimino in the kick off Grand Procession where the statue of the Saint is brought out for a walk around the grounds as well, complete with (unidentified) relic of the saint. Evidently the stands are also each blessed as the festival opens. All that happens on September 19 which is the day San Gennaro was killed and the beginning of the festivities.

Instead, we tucked ourselves into the hoards of people, early enough in the evening so no one had tipped over into overt and inevitable drunkenness from the impossible large and refillable plastic vessels of sugary well booze for sale. These days the air was also thick with the smell of pot mixing with a lot of more traditional cigar smoke. That combined with the smells mentioned above and a lot of roasting meat contributed to a carnival atmosphere.

Looks like it goes on forever from here but the entire festival is about ten blocks.

My expectations, based on the last time I attended which must have been back several decades (maybe as many as three) were kept fairly low. Kim hadn’t been since his days at Pratt, once on the year Connie Francis was celebrated. He didn’t see her, but they played her records (a selection of her international songs he remembers) and after a quick Google search it turns out that she also attended again in 1982 and yet another time in 2012. She’s clearly a fan of the festival. While we heard a band playing the theme from the Godfather at one point, music was not very much in evidence this year, recorded or live.

There was a smattering of rides with long lines of anxious small children.

I will say I was disappointed by the quality of the prize offerings for the games. No goldfish which is a good thing I am sure, but really uninspired stuffed toys. Usually I can pick out a sort of best of or favorite, but these were definitely bottom shelf. Of course I am a more discerning collector of toys now as well. Just as well as I do not think Kim or I had the skill to achieve in this arena. We did see one guy really having at the bottle knockdown stand. It is beer bottles these days and some were getting smashed.

The best selection of prizes I saw.

I did get a candied apple – one of my goals for the evening. They were much less prevalent than I would have thought, but I found a stand. (There turned out to be two places you could acquire them; sadly they are less popular than they once were.) Kim bought it for me and it was a traditional one with coconut pressed into the candied part. Yum! After breaking into it, and always the challenging part of the candied apple and the most hazardous to dental work. This makes me think in all fairness to my teeth I may not have many more candied apples in my future and will focus on cotton candy in the future perhaps. Kim seemed quietly mystified by my passion and took one adventurous nibble.

A blurry view of my half eaten candied apple.

A young man selling frozen ices from a cooler asked where I had gotten it (clearly a fellow candied apple fan) and I pointed him in the right direction, only up half a block from where we were in the slow moving crowd. He told his female partner to watch the ices and he’d be back in half a block’s time which made me laugh. I like a fellow partner in candied apple crime.

Dinner at the first joint we found outside of the festivals boundaries!

We ended the evening by circling back up and around to Kenmare Square where we perched at the edges of their outdoor dining space and ate a real dinner instead of standing in long lines for plates of fried food, meat or pizza at the festival. It was a satisfying end to the evening’s adventure.

Matching

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I had to ferret around the apartment this morning as I had no post in mind having lost a number of auctions lately. (And later today I will be scribbling advance posts to keep you all in Pictorama while I travel to Denver on business next Saturday!) However, I reached deep into the Pictorama archive and pulled out this rather wonderful little gem. It was a gift years ago from Richard Greene, match collector extraordinaire, who had us as guests for a weekend at his home when Kim agreed to do a con in Philly at his request. Richard and his wife live in a house chock-a-block full of interesting bits and pieces he shared with us and they were the very most generous hosts.

Fellow cartoonist (the sadly now late) Jay Lynch was also there for the weekend and it was the only time I ever spent more than an evening with him. I forget the exact year, but it was summer and terribly hot like it is now. The con was in an old, wooden, un-air conditioned building and I remember spending the day stationed thoughtfully in front of a fan.

Richard gave Kim a hat he still wears (if I remember he did advertising lay out for a living) when not in the old Stetson I gave him, and Richard gave me this splendid matchbook from his glorious collection.

Front. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Kernel Lew Mercur’s (Original) Nut Club is pretty darn interesting (and colorful!) in its own right. The back promises dinners, dancing, and laffs. Located in Miami Beach (Alton Road at Dade Blvd.) it was open all night. Cuisine by Delmonico is noted along the top fold. Mr. Mercur’s image, or what we offered as such, is on the front in top hat with a carnation and musical notes.

Verso. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Not surprisingly, there are few tracks on Mr. (Kernal) Mercur or the Nut Club, although I did find a reference to it in a book about the bygone hey day of eating establishments of Miami (Lost Restaurants of Miami by Seth Bramson) and it would seem that the Nut Club was among a proliferation of Jewish cafeteria style restaurants and delis that became popular in Miami at the time. Bramson notes that Mercur did indeed preside over the restaurant in a top hat.

Other restaurants of the time (1940’s?) and place included The Five O’Clock Club (acquired by Martha Reye and which made it into the 1970’s) and Bill Jordan’s Bar of Music, an eponymous piano bar. Interesting that these establishments liked to label themselves as bars and clubs rather than restaurants or cafeterias. (And Cuisine by Delmonico doesn’t much scream Jewish deli to me either.)

Full inside view. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

For me of course it is all about the inside of this matchbook which reveals (voila!) the matches, lined up like a picket fence, emblazoned with a black Tom cat atop a fence with a favorite wheeze, Ya gotta make calls…if you want results, as the other black cat and kittens march below. Devoted and early Pictorama readers will remember a post I did devoted to a celluloid match safe with the same saying. (That post can be found here.) I used to have a postcard with the same image pinned up in my office at the Met.

Celluloid match safe. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Not a spot on this matchbook goes undecorated and the inside cover goes on to assure the visitor, be entertained at the funniest and screwiest place outside an asylum, yes it’s Kernel Lew Mercur’s Nut Club. Never a cover charge! It gives the exact address (1827 Alton Boulevard) and a phone number (5-9952) for reservations tucked behind the matches. At the bottom it says, We’re Never Too Busy to Say Hello! Who wouldn’t want to go and nosh a knish? But most of all, who wouldn’t pocket these matches? So glad somebody did!

Rainbow Moon; Wishing Seat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There’s a first time for everything and today I claim a Pictorama first. Our featured photo is one of my husband Kim and his brother Simon. Family photos make occasional entries here, although usually a few generations back and until now always my family. However, Kim’s currently working on a story that involves his Mom, Marie, and her Mom, Kim’s grandmother which means a number of family photos have wandered out of storage and into the apartment for perusing. (See last week’s post here for a pencil detail of the story which also boasts an elephant bank I recently purchased.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This photo would be Pictorama perfection even if it wasn’t of a young Kim and Simon, which of course does make it that much more interesting. Moon photos are a bit of a sub-genre of the Pictorama library, although it is a competitive market and so I tend to only buy those when opportunity presents itself. (For a moon photo or two you can look early posts here and here.)

Deitch Studio Collection.

I am crazy about this weird rainbow moon with its big lips, staring eye and bushy eyebrow! Kim looks like he’s having a pretty good time and Simon looks a little less sure. (I can’t blame Simon – it would be fair to be terrified of this as a small child perhaps.) Wishing Seat is painted in wavy letters behind them.

A careful look and we see that the “rocks” are all concrete and in a wavy design like hard clouds. There’s a nice little bench to perch on for your photo however and you can lean back against one of the rocks. There are trees behind them and a nondescript bit of greenery up front. The photo is a bit torn on the lower right corner – it looks like it was in an album and removed.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Kim’s already growing into a lanky build that will define him going forward, his hair already thick but cut short so mastered for the moment. Simon will remain a bit shorter, his hair straighter here at least. Kim thinks this would have been taken in about 1951 making him about seven and Si about four I think. (Sadly, Simon died recently and his passing was noted in a post found here. Youngest brother Seth yet to be born.) They were living in Detroit at the time, but Kim speculates that they could have been there or on vacation elsewhere. Car vacations were far flung affairs according to him, so there’s no real way of knowing. It was unidentified on the back so I put some notes in pencil for future generations.

It goes without saying that the moon is eerily and almost comically Deitchian in its demeanor and one can’t help but wonder if a young Kim’s brain was busy recording it and tucking it away for future artistic anthropomorphic cartoon contemplation.

Remember to Save?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Elephants are a sub-genre here at Pictorama, a casual collecting category here at Deitch Studio. (A few previous elephant posts can be found here and here and an especially Deitchian one here.) Without really trying or thinking about it we have amassed not that many, but some choice elephant bits, and when this one caught my eye the other day (in the middle of negotiating a very large purchase to be revealed in a future post) I didn’t miss a beat before adding him onto the bill.

He is wonderfully modeled with his elephant skin well defined, nicely wrinkly just like the real thing. His trunk is proudly up – I’m a trunk up girl although I understand that there are those who believe good luck result only from down as well as those of us who believe in up. (And I gather still other cultures which believe either will do and all elephants are lucky!) His trunk is curled up onto his head, revealing short tusks and his empathetic elephant eyes.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I am very pleased with the shade of red they saw fit to paint him and find his worn and chipped spots create a nice patina effect rather than take away from his appeal. I have some trouble imaging him all neatly painted actually, but I am sure I would have adored him as a child if I had seen or been fortunate to receive him in his nascent state.

He is, as the title of this post implies, a bank, small slot at the base of the back of his head – albeit a small bank which could only have held a few dollars worth of silver saved by an industrious child. His bottom is painted a wonderful sea green and Vanio 1936 is embossed in the bottom.

This one credited to the Minneapolis Art Institute Collection.

Mr. Google doesn’t reveal much about Vanio, but these banks are referred to as penny banks since they are so small. I saw examples in two different greens (one for sale on eBay – I’m very tempted to buy a mate, one example belongs to the Minneapolis Institute of Art), black and a dusky white in addition to my red. There would have been a key for the bottom, a few examples had theirs, but it would be hard to see on my example. They made a fairly righteous Scotty dog bank too in a similar array of colors.

Scotty version of a Vanio penny bank for sale on eBay at time of publication.
Bank bottom on mine – oddly I paid less than $48 for him, that is an old tag.

This elephant wandered into the house just as Kim was designing the decor in a 1940 room in a new story that will go in his upcoming collection, How I Make Comics. He added our fellow in, turning him into an ashtray which was more appropriate for the story. Shown below, I close by sharing a bonus detail from the pencil sketch here – look out for the finished product in his next book in the story called The Two Maries.

Kim’s pencil sketch for an upcoming story called The Two Marie’s.

Bouncing Back?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s been a rough road back here at Deitch Studio this week. Pictorama readers know that last week we were working to get on the other side of catching Covid. (That cheerful post is here if you missed it.) I rallied enough to go to Jersey to check in on my mom on Sunday night for a few days.

It rained early on Monday so I didn’t run. It cleared later and although I have largely lost my sense of taste (and smell) I still managed an appetite for a strawberry ice cream cone, belatedly in honor of my dad for Father’s Day. A friend and I stopped at Ryan’s where I used to buy ice cream for him weekly. Summer is in full swing there and even on a weekday afternoon it was abuzz. I felt like I could taste it at about 40%.

True enough!

Therefore, I didn’t attempt my maiden voyage, post-Covid run until Tuesday morning; which very agreeably, dawned not just sunny but unseasonably cool. I took the route north through the woods and did a neat 3.7 miles, not bad if very slow. My body seemed willing to partake, but I could see my limit pretty clearly. Tired, but no coughing.

Gorgeous cool morning for a run in Jersey Tuesday.

I had piled a bunch of appointments up for this visit to my mom and post run I met with a flooring guy named Mike who was very pleasant and looked like this was probably his first job. One of mom’s folks had her grandchildren with her as it was the first day of summer vacation for them and their camp has not started yet. They were thrilled with a friend’s visiting Bichon puppy (Ariel looks like a toy and stays in a playpen when she visits the Butler house) and so, among increasing chaos, I retreated upstairs for a Zoom meeting.

Visiting puppy, Ariel. Have I mentioned that mom’s cats are not pleased?

It was just after the call that I found out my brother in-law Simon had died. He had been in the hospital but I hadn’t expected him to die. Kim and I were on the phone when I was called back downstairs as a mattress was being delivered. Puppy barking, children shrieking, a queen sized mattress coming in through the garage held by two confused looking men – poor Kim I had to call him back.

My brother in-law Simon Deitch in an undated photo.

It always amazes me that my housebound mother’s house is like Grand Central Station compared to our apartment in Manhattan. It is the crossroads of the universe.

I headed back to NYC that afternoon. I found Kim fielding the kind of calls you get on those days – friends checking in and whatnot.

Kim is the one who will write about Simon. (He already wrote something this morning which will appear in the Comics Journal, online shortly.) I really only knew him slightly, but he and Kim were living together when I first met Kim and their creative collaborations were still underway during the first years of our being together. (Simon subsequently did a stint in jail for selling his methadone, which arguably saved him from a potential overdose. That period effectively ended their active collaboration on Southern Fried Fugitives, a comic strip they did for Nickelodeon Magazine.)

A Wing, a Breast, a Thigh, and a Drumstick on the run in a world that hungers for their flesh!

Luckily Kim’s brush with Covid seems to have been lesser than mine and he seems more solidly back while I continue to have periodic coughing and sneezing fits which come on me simultaneously and flatten me briefly. I got up early today and violated my rule about writing this blog very first thing in order to be out and running before it got hot. Even before 7:00 today the temperature was climbing.

Still running slow, but topped out at more than 5.7 miles. It was good to check on all my usual haunts which I have seen so little of. (I walked part of the route last weekend and said a quick hello to those who follow my running journal on Instagram stories.) I am hoping it kicks my overall energy into gear.

So life has not quite resumed its normal stride here, but we’re working on it. I feel like I have to give a shout out to the folks at NYC Funeral and Cremation. It appears to be an enormous company here in the five boroughs, but Mary has thoughtfully guided me through an extraordinary labyrinth of online paperwork the likes I have never experienced.

On the East River earlier this morning.

She called on Friday when I had paused in the process (to work), making sure I understood next steps and the need to complete them. They answer their phone at all hours and whoever I have gotten on the other end was unfailingly lovely without being smarmy. I think I will remember their thoughtfulness for a long time to come. I always appreciate someone who does their job well and of course being treated kindly is also good. I would highly recommend them, but obviously prefer not to have to use them again.

So that’s where we are late morning on this Saturday at the end of June. The world is turning upside down politically and so we are swamped from the outside as well as from within. Nonetheless, we’re taking a few deep breaths and moving slowly forward here at Deitch Studio.

Viral

Pam’s Pictorama Post: So in the week that was, Deitch Studio finally fell prey to Covid. Not surprisingly, despite being an avid mask wearer and careful in general, I of course was the one who brought it home. Our return to office has had me in most days in the prior week or so, traveling on the subway and all – although in reality I have been matriculating through the world for a long time for work. The office, our club for dinner, breakfast meetings, lunches with donors.

Mom had it a few weeks back despite our extraordinary efforts to protect her. With her existing health problems that was very scary. She was sick and sicker at various times and I am grateful that she pulled through and now even her cough has receded. I am also deeply grateful to her caretakers who stayed throughout despite personal risk to them and their families.

Anyway, when we least expected it I woke up with full-on symptoms after a day in the office and an evening out for work. I tested negative, but began isolating. I was six days from a dinner for 85 people, our first of its kind since January of ’20. Of course in a one-room apartment there really isn’t much isolating to do, let’s be honest.

We’ve all heard varying levels of sickness from friends and family. I would say for me day one was more or less like being hit by a two by four. Blinding headache, sore throat, laryngitis and a deep rattling cough developed nicely through Day One. I didn’t test positive until the evening of Day Three. As others have said, it was strange to see a positive test after literally years of negative ones. It was definitive too, not a wishy washy second line but a dark one.

The good news is that I progressed rapidly toward better daily. That Friday night I missed the last concert of our season and the festive closing receptions which my staff executed nicely. They sent photos.

This machine beeped loudly the whole time I was there. Battery seemed to be dying.

On Monday morning, Day Four, I called both my GP and my rheumatologist (I have written a bit about my psoriatic arthritis and exercising in spite of it and that post can be found here) and true to form, the rheumatologist got back to me within the hour. He had me off to the ER for a monoclonal infusion immediately. (My GP was to get back to me around 5:30 PM. Not sure she agreed with the decision of the other doc, but seemed to have the sense to realize that arguing about it now was too late.)

I ate something and grabbed an extra layer of clothing despite the heat. We all know that any trip to the ER is not fast and once in their clutches you stay and will wait what seems to be endlessly before being spit back out. (And they keep it freezing cold – is that really to kill germs as someone suggested?) I was there almost exactly a year ago when I broke two fingers running. (A post about that misadventure can be found here.) Kim walked me over the ten or so blocks; I felt up to it and figured even with a mask on and an open window no one had it coming to them to have me in their cab.

As expected, folks keep a healthy distance from you in a hospital when you tell them you are Covid positive. (The admitting guard put on gloves to take my paperwork from me.) However, the doc who saw me cheerfully informed me that he had just gotten over it so feared my germs not. I was quickly approved for the infusion and sent to wait in a closet room which was at least twice as big as the tiny one I sat in for four hours with my hand, but they were storing furniture in this one. Kim went off to work some once I was ingested by the bowels of Lenox Hill Hospital.

My room doubled as storage. If the bed had been a tad more tempting I might have napped a bit but ick.

I sat with a port in my arm, waiting, while sitting in on two seating meetings for the dinner and helping to make some plans for it to happen without me, while I continued to sit in my closet. Some of you have read of my staffing woes and in addition to an entirely depleted staff those on the job are entirely new and have never seen an event in our hall. (A post can be found here.) There was no question about going to the dinner, even if I was better I would still be contagious. Other guests were dropping out, staff too, as the virus eddied around; my boss went down with it within days of me.

While I was sick and working from home I read an article in the NYT discussing how the sick day has disappeared and also how stupid it is to keep working while you are sick. I had time to ponder that, but I was leaving my colleagues in enough of a lurch by not being able to be there for this dinner. The least I could do is what I could manage from home, the seating and all the preliminary work could be done. (In addition my beloved Executive Assistant fell and broke her kneecap this week! Definitely worse.) Eventually my meetings ended, read my e-book for awhile, I got the infusion, was observed for another hour and eventually sent home.

I continued to improve over the next days although there was no dramatic change from the infusion that I could tell. By Wednesday I might have gone to the dinner if it wasn’t Covid, although that probably would have been a mistake, but I was feeling that much better. The dinner went off without a hitch and thanks to the miracle of cell phones and real time video it was almost like being there, even allowing me to double check seating and sight lines for our guests.

On of the snaps of the set up for the dinner last Wednesday. We used Facetime and stand-ins to do last minute seating.

Thursday allowed me to collapse a bit, although I tuned in for some follow up from the evening before, sent some emails to guests who had texted or emailed their well wishes for my recovery. I sent love and thanks to my colleagues for carrying it all off so brilliantly.

I had lost much of my sense of taste and smell by then. Then Kim began coughing and round two began. He had the good sense to test positive immediately. We spent yesterday trying to reach his doc even though he also seemed to improve. In the absence of his doctor getting back to him and it being Saturday we are wandering over to Urgent Care later today.

I am eyeing the good weather and wondering if I might try my first run as well. New running shoes showed up yesterday.

Tempting, right?

There is a lot of divisiveness around this illness, the vaccines etc. I can only say both that I was extremely grateful during the worst of this that I had gotten vaccinated and gotten the booster. (I wouldn’t have gotten the booster if it hadn’t been required for work to be really honest.) Man, I don’t want to think about this being that much worse than it was. The first wave of it must have been truly horrifying, but for me it wasn’t reduced to a few days of a common cold either.

Weirdly there is a lot of guilt attached to Covid. Who gave it to me? Who did I end up giving it to during a contagious period without symptoms? Just plain disappointment at getting it after avoiding it so long. It’s all wrong headed, but I still felt that way. Also, I found it oddly depressing as well. I almost wonder if it is a chemical aspect of the illness, an overwhelming sort of hopelessness and despair in the first few days. Others have agreed. I mention it in case others experience it.

For now that is our tale of illness and hopefully now recovery. With any luck, this will be the last you hear about it and we can be back to photos, toys or maybe a nice new jewelry acquisition starting tomorrow.

Pictorama!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This morning I sit down to write my 871st post on this blog. For those of you who follow Pam’s Pictorama you know that with little exception, posts have appeared here on Saturday and Sunday morning (some exceptions for time difference during travel, once for illness in the family) pretty much like clockwork since the summer of 2014. While there are exceptions (notes taken in advance, work travel) when they were written in advance, the general “rule” is that I write them each weekend morning before otherwise starting my day. I drink coffee, look at the window, chat with Kim while I do it – pay attention to a needy cat if necessary – while writing.

I launched Pictorama while recovering from foot surgery, bored in bed and needing a project, I thought I would use it to organize my collection of early photos. (I didn’t do that – they are still not really organized as I sit here in 2022 although it has grown like topsy.) At the time the collection was mostly photo postcards of people posing with giant stuffed Felix dolls (some above), but I have always picked up old photos from here or there. I want to publish them as a book and still hope to figure that out.

My avatar, Felix on a scooter, is oddly one I do not own although I write pretty much exclusively about my own collection. It is an Italian version of the toy I continue to chase but fall short of acquiring to date.

Pictorama immediately expanded to include my burgeoning toy collection – again, largely but not entirely devoted to Felix the Cat items from the 20’s and 30’s – my other great love. Cats are an underlying theme for both the photos and the toys. Of course there are real cats and Cookie and Blackie make routine appearances and more recent guest spots have been for mom’s cat’s, particularly Stormy and Hobo Kitty, who were just featured yesterday in a post here. I dig out memories, do light research on the background and history of objects, consider the object. It has evolved into what it is.

Over time other bits of Deitch Studio daily life slip in. Posts have been devoted to the reveal of our holiday card each year and to Kim’s extraordinary series of Valentine’s he draws for me annually. Some of his books have been launched (a two-part series on Reincarnation Stories can be found here and here) as well. Over recent years a series of posts has been devoted to my professional life, fundraising and the challenges, changes and triumphs there. Apartment life (studio apartment living before tiny houses existed) and renovation has demanded my attention and been shared with you.

Kim’s kitty portrait for Valentine’s Day this year! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Tales of my childhood, pets and people I have known, tend to be an underlying theme for many of the posts. I try not to repeat myself – I am sure I fail occasionally. I will just hope that a good story is worth repeating.

Working out and most recently running has become another area I devote space to. At first writing about it helped ensure I would push forward and keep it up; keep me honest. It was not an easy habit to develop and no one is more surprised than me when I started to top out at over six miles recently. Persistence pays off. Meanwhile, a year ago next week (Memorial Day) I fell and broke two fingers while running and you all had a front seat for that as well as the recovery.

A photo from my first few weeks of running.

During the first months of Covid I devoted space to redeveloping my cooking muscles, baking in particular. I probably owe you all a post about the dieting I had to do to lose that pandemic weight subsequently – running alone did not do it. Dieting has inspired fewer recipes, but I will get back to recipes. I continue to cook – soup in particular remains a favorite here.

Cheesy Olive loaf, a pandemic favorite.

This week my readership crossed the 400 mark and so I started thinking about you all. I know from the likes and comments some of you who favor certain posts. I wonder if any of you crossover to other posts now that you are here – did you start by favoring the work related posts and then discover that cats were great too? Or did you find one because of work out posts and then stay for toys? Or do you only read the ones in the areas you follow? I have found that the readers who come for the book reviews seem to have a long read around. Most of those have come via Goodreads. (My review of the children’s book The Story of Ping, found here, remains one of the most read posts, although not the most likes. That may go to a post about a tin Krak-R-Jak box that sits on my desk which can be found here.)

Many of you are in different time zones and I frequently wake in the morning to your likes and comments, or even the occasional late night ping from my phone tells me someone liked something. It is always cheerful and encouraging. Thank you! I like to hear from you.

Me with a beloved Aesop Fable doll and a nice Donald Duck, wearing a Kim Deitch t-shirt, from a past post.

At first readers came almost exclusively from Kim’s extraordinary Facebook page which I felt privileged to guest spot on each weekend. (Others find me when searching for him on the internet as well.) Early on a friend suggested the title sub-header, All Pam All the Time, and I liked it as a nod to alert folks that Pictorama, while resident here at Deitch Studio, was a distinct subset that is from my perspective. Sadly, we’ve been locked out of Kim’s Facebook page for a few months now. My own nascent page recently taking its place with Kim weighing in as he likes instead.

Pictorama led me over to Twitter and then Instagram among other outlets. Instagram became a source for jewelry, photos, toys and interesting stuff as well as numerous online friends who come from across the United States and the world. Instagram Stories is primarily a journal of my runs these days and IG is probably second only to WordPress itself for leading new folks here. (I can be found as @deitchstudio.)

A first edition

While writing of WordPress, please know that I have a love/hate relationship with it. Things morph and get changed which I never figure out, such as where the ability to add accent marks disappeared to one day. Occasionally they get harder and then much easier – such as the posting of video snippets which was quite arduous, then impossible, now easy. Links necessitated a work around, until suddenly they are possible again.

Pam’s Pictorama.com Collection.

In all fairness, WordPress offers the chance to attend online sessions where I could learn more, but life is too hectic it seems. I always mean to, but never have. Meanwhile, while having a look around today I discovered a cache of comments I don’t believe I ever saw – they were direct inquiries rather than ones tied to posts. I spent some of this morning writing to folks to apologize for the oversight. They are tucked away and hard to find however even now that I know they exist. The myriad mysteries of the site.

I hope to see you next week for post number 872. A new Felix photo is winging its way to me even as I write. Thank you again for being such a very nice audience!