Westward Bound

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am starting this post while on a plane to Denver. Some Pictorama followers know I sent an advance post yesterday, written last week. Today I am using my plane leisure time to share a missive for tomorrow. (I don’t want anyone to have to face Sunday morning without a Pictorama post!)

Those of you who do the full Monty and follow me on social media know that it was a tough week. Our beloved Blackie spent five days in kitty ICU for a diabetic episode which appears to have been brought in by an underlying infection – maybe a UTI or pancreatitis. He was, in the words of one friend, a VERY sick kitty.

I am pleased to report that with the amazing work of the vets at the Animal Medical Center he pulled through and we were able to bring him home last night.

Vet’s office when visiting Blackie the other night. He kept looking for a way to make a break for it.

He roamed our 600 square feet with wide eyed awe. He gave me head butts and purrs as the familiarity enveloped him and he relaxed into it. Blackie was one happy cat! Kim gave him a bowl of tuna and he tucked in for his first real meal in days although he was only able to consume about a third of a can.

After couch time with us he retired to bed with Kim and spent the entire night tucked and purring, between us (moving to occasionally perch on top of one of us) much as he had nine years ago on the day we got him. After a day of his hiding in a scary new place I woke to find a tiny kitten Blackie sound asleep between us in the middle of the night. Last night his little engine went purr all night, rising occasional and then falling to a reassuring rumble.

Blackie from several months ago.

He came home with an alarming number of medications and devices however. I feel awful that I had to leave it all to Kim at 5:30 am when the car service arrived today take me to the airport. It was very hard to leave them this morning and I have checked in with Kim several times. Poor Mr. Blackie has a long way to go, but we’re hoping for the best.

Nonetheless, off to La Guardia I went for an early flight to Denver. I agreed to be here at this conference for work months ago and little did I know how hard it would be. But I am pleased that with some of La Guardia’s terminals finally complete at least I no longer waded through puddles, endless broken paths and construction. A cheerful Indian man was my driver and he kept me from getting weepy about leaving home.

Sunset and incoming storm tonight in Denver.

The hotel is an enormous family resort with a Princess/Pirate theme going on. I landed in a heap only to find not only was my room not ready (I was early and had expected that), but the final night of my stay was mysteriously missing. Discouraging. I called Kim and then parked in various locales to take care of some work calls – I was minus wifi and was frustrated at not being able to post my Pictorama until late.

The resort is on a desert plot of land with not much visible in any direction – a little like landing on the moon. I walked outside briefly to get the lay of the land for a run tomorrow and was disappointed that it was pretty much concrete all around. Someone mentioned trails across the street so we’ll see. More to come, but now a nap!

Mr. Softee Summer

Pam’s Pictorama Post: By the time you read this I will be heading to Denver for a conference having left at the crack of dawn. However, I leave this summery post in my place. Today’s ice cream post is a bookend of sorts to last week’s running in the heat. One advantage of running through the summer is it allows for the consumption of a certain amount of ice cream.

Long time Pictorama readers (and well, anyone who knows me) are aware that I have a serious soft spot for ice cream. In my world ice cream has no calories and if ice cream is available it should be eaten. Therefore, I generally do not keep it in the house, although this seems to have only a marginal impact on my consumption.

Ryan’s homemade ice cream. Hard to beat!

My taste preferences are eclective – I am not an ice cream snob in the least – however, if you say salted caramel my ears will perk up. But I like a soft serve cone, a bowl of strawberry from a local creamery or something more exotic at a restaurant making their own all equally.

I appear to have inherited my love of ice cream from my father and his affection for it was documented in a very popular post which can be found here. Dad was always up for a trip to the local Dairy Queen and usually had a container or two tucked into the freezer, especially in his advancing years. He went from being a plain chocolate guy to having a distinct preference for exotic flavors with bits of candy bar or cookie. I started as a vanilla girl and now like, well, more or less all of it.

The New Jersey version of my habit is largely centered around trips to Ryan’s whose homemade ice cream I only discovered several years ago. Their strawberry is epic and when the peaches ripen the peach is just heaven. Although if time does not permit a trip out to Ryan’s I might talk my friend Suzanne into a much closer trip to Carvel. When dad was alive Father’s Day and his birthday were often celebrated with a Carvel, Fudgie the Whale of a Cake. Jolly blue icing bits in the one I remember and yummy chocolate crumbly bits.

Fudgie the Whale. I remember some of the piping as blue though…

For many years there was a Carvel near me here in Manhattan, on the corner of 85th and First Avenue, although sadly there is a Starbucks there now. I would stop in for the occasional cone, but they were too far from the office to grab a party cake there. (I did used to bring ice cream to the office at the Met sometimes, but needed to buy it closer – ice cream sandwiches did surprisingly well for delivery, re-freezing and consumption. I would also occasionally grab one or two other people and go across the street where a Mr. Softee is resident for the summer and buy dripping ice cream treats for whoever was knocking around the office on a summer afternoon.)

Mr. Softee on the corner of 86th and Lex.

Unlike people who might find the Mr. Softee tune (generally Pop Goes the Weasel) or tinkling bells annoying, it fills me only with joy. Having grown up in a wealthy suburb it was unusual for him to make his way to us and we generally drove to the Dairy Queen for ice cream, but I hear it not infrequently in the city.

Lots of interesting options although I seem to be pretty stuck on my usual these days. I used to occasionally like the ice cream bars with a coating of chocolate and nutty bits and a chocolate core.

Soft serve ice cream is still sold in the Rumson spot where Dairy Queen (DQ) was, although it has been renamed Crazees. I have not had the pleasure of trying them. In high school I yearned for a job at Dairy Queen which seemed like the pinnacle of cool. Sadly it was a much sought after job and I lacked the connections it seemed. Instead I had to settle for working at a pizza place serving my second favorite food – and consuming large quantities of it.

Still the same barn shaped building but no longer the telltale red and white. Rumson, NJ.

However, this summer has been the summer of Mr. Softee. The extreme heat and humidity and a calorie margin of error that 7 miles of running 4-5 times a week gives me has allowed me to develop the habit of grabbing Kim on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in search of the ice cream man. A classic vanilla wafer cone with chocolate sprinkles is just right for each of us although on the hottest days you need to eat it with a certain alacrity.

Colorful and somewhat whacky options on the side of the truck.

I understand the while Mr. Softee isn’t suffering from a lack of consumer interest, the rising prices of ice cream and condiments as well as gasoline has made it a difficult living. I can only offer each one I encounter my enthusiastic summer support.

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!

Feeling the Heat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a running in the summer heat post. As I sit down to write sweat from my morning run is still running off me, despite a dousing with cold water when I came in. I am writing this between mouthfuls of nectarine (sadly not a great one) and yogurt, having already consumed a green smoothie. (I’ve previously written about my green smoothie passion here.) I only drink cold coffee before I run with nothing else on my stomach.

I have posted about my running habit occasionally since I started about 18 months ago. (Some other running ruminations can be found here and here.) And in that time I have gone through a lot of sneakers and sunscreen, a few hats, broken two fingers (Memorial Day 2021), and worked my way routinely across the 7 mile mark recently. Always more interested in distance than speed, I am still very slow. (I average about a 12 minute mile.) I generally run four or five days a week, somewhat curtailed by early morning meetings for work.

Early morning wintery run.

While I have run through two winters (wearing layers and fleecy tights) I was sidelined for much of last summer by the broken fingers and lost a few months in the middle. Therefore, this is the first summer I am attempted to run through and I am in a battle with the heat.

Up until recently I ran with a scant 3 oz bottle of water tucked in my belt. However, it became abundantly clear to me in July that no matter how early I was getting outside I was going to need to drink more fluids if I wanted to achieve my run, which sent me off to try to figure out what kind of water bottle I was comfortable running with.

Leak proof bottles leaked on day one…

I started by experimenting with a water pouches. Amazon touted these for the purpose of running and, while it was clear that they wouldn’t last forever, I thought the pack of three might get me through the worst part of summer. Sadly, they leaked on the first day and I moved on.

This is the kind I carry now.

Vests and belts with water seemed annoyingly hot to add to what I am already wearing and reluctantly I accepted the need to just carry a bottle with a strap. Once empty I hang it from my belt where it gently annoys me for the remainder of my run. After some research I started adding a bit of sports drink to my water, 1:3, for the electrolytes. (I tried pickle juice, which I keep in the house for leg cramps, but it didn’t work for me.)

It is ridiculous, but there is part of me which reminds myself that I want to go back to my 3 oz bottle in the fall – not to get used to carrying more water. It is silly and I chide myself for it. I run better with more water and I should drink it.

A cool morning start to a Jersey run earlier this week.

These days it is generally upwards of 75 degrees when I start my run, no matter how early, and it climbs to 80 or more by the finish. I have experimented with re-ordering my run to optimize my time in the shade at the end, when the sun is strongest, but I have not really seen a difference.

Although my city run is along the water where there is a breeze, my New Jersey route, through a wooded area and then suburban neighborhoods, is usually several degrees cooler. Even with the water breeze off the East River, the sun beats down on me for the long middle portion of my route where I find I remind myself I still need to run back.

A pleasantly cloudy morning earlier this week.

These days a new Fitbit helps record my time as Strava has a way of turning itself off periodically which was driving me nuts as I am a data nut. Hopefully it can inspire me to improve my speed a bit.

Even too hot for the fishermen most days recently.

Next week I head to Denver for a conference where I can test a high altitude version of my workout. I agreed to a 5k group run on the Tuesday morning (why do we suddenly note kilometers when talking about running when we all think in miles?) so we’ll see how that goes as I always run alone. I promise to report in from there with any interesting developments.

Opal

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I don’t think I have ever opined on my affection for opals. I’m not exactly sure of the evolution of my fascination, but at some point I fell hard for opals. I was discussing this passion with Kim this morning. It may be the organic and individual nature of opals that fascinates me – each one with a different fire, a unique sensibility, hard to capture.

Opals are sensitive to shifts in humidity and moisture and one jeweler of antique gems told me that she is even careful about wearing them on airplanes as the shifts in altitude could cause cracking. I believe they are somewhat soft as gem stones go.

I cut my teeth on opal collecting teeth with the purchase of two necklaces, one from Australia and the other from New Zealand (both acquired via @murielchastanet_finejewelry) which appears to be one of the world’s natural El Dorados of opals, over a long period of time as they were significant indulgences.

Opals can be (generally are) very expensive, but my strings of opals can pass for nicely strung cheerful beads – circus beads I always call them, not calling attention to themselves unless you know what you are looking at. It is the endless variation and change in each light and against different colors that fascinates me, a never ending display, different each time.

Australian opals; Pams-Pictorama.com collection

The ring I am writing about today was purchased online right before I got sick with Covid. An IG dealer (@marsh.and.meadow) had previewed the ring and I asked for a heads up when it went on sale. The notification came while I was at work one night – in the middle of a set at Dizzy’s – and I bought it with having seen only one small photo and with no idea of the price! Absolutely no regrets – I was thrilled to have gotten it and I have nothing like it, nor am I entirely sure what it is.

Slices of New Zealand opals; Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Heather (aka Marsh and Meadow, whose daughter is named Opal incidentally) identified it as a boulder opal which I would say is very likely. When I research a bit I would also say a fire opal is possible as well, hard to tell and I welcome better informed opinions if any. Heather noted the setting as pre-1900, 10k gold – the doom of the stone .5″ from the setting. For me it appears to be an opal in formation, as if someone managed to catch it in the very act of becoming an opal, an entire world captured within, trapped in my ring.

This is the listing photo by Heather Hagans – a much better job than I can do!

Because I got sick immediately following buying it, the box sat unopened for a bit before I rallied enough to open it. What a treat! (Strangely I also acquired a very old, gold bracelet from Australia at the same time which also waited through my Covid period before being revealed. What was going on in my pre-Covid brain I wonder? More to come on this but I was on a bit of a jewelry tear – all extraordinary things though and some very old, future posts all.) I felt better immediately – the healing value of jewelry.

As some things do, it became an instant favorite and I have worn it several times a week ever since. I never tire of it.

I researched today and opals are formed by the evaporation of silica rich water over millions of years according to Mr. Google. The internet also informs that boulder opals (which evidently all originate in Queensland, Australia) represent serenity of the soul and actualization, but also success and rebirth. If it is a fire opal (mined largely in Mexico) it symbolizes a joy of the heart and a passion for the elements of life, as well as good fortune and success.

If I had to chose I would lean toward feeling the former. I slip it on frequently where it perches high on my hand and encourages day dreaming about that tiny internal opal world on my finger.

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.

Manly Pleasures?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a small, but curious item that wandered into the house with some incredibly interesting antique rings I purchased from a woman in the Midwest who goes under the moniker of @Witchyvintage, aka Paula Bates.

My Felix avatar on social media.

Paula (who is always @witchyvintage in my mind’s eye and ear, as I assume I am @deitchstudio to her, my little Italian Felix toy avatar her only image of me), has an Instagram account most notable in my estimation for really extraordinary vintage early American clothing.

There is something endlessly fascinating about seeing the shoes and dresses she presents for sale – some wearable and others fragile now and better suite for study. Sunbonnets that made the trip west, jackets with leg-o-mutton sleeves, capes and undergarments; cottons, silks and muslins.

The parade of boots she sells surprise me each time she posts them. Wear is evident on them, but they look remarkably well for having made the trip from the 1890’s. (My Nike spoiled feet scream in horror at the idea of wearing them, but they could easily be fashionable today.) I don’t need to own these (luckily for her there are others who feel different and she seems to do a brisk business), but I am addicted to looking at them and considering the lives these items have lived.

For sale on the Witchyvintage online store.

I have, on occasion, purchased jewelry from her, although less frequently than the folks in Britain I have written about (some of those posts here and here) or another favorite young woman in the Midwest who I have a soft spot for, @Marsh.and.Meadow, aka Heather Hagans.

During the shutdown period of the pandemic I found myself revisiting my interest in antique jewelry. Both because of its history (somehow objects with a past remind us that we have a future), and because buying it was putting a stake in the ground for the time I would start wearing jewelry again.

Ring purchased from Paula. I happened to have this screen grab from showing her which one I wanted. Lucky me, it came with this lovely box!

That time is slowly emerging now an my lapels are festooned with a collection of early 20th century insects, and rings sometimes adorn my hands again when I go out. A gold bracelet hallmarked 1895 sits from a vendor in Australia (@madamebrocante) on my right wrist. With a recent purchase of two rings (such indulgence! – I will write more about those another time after they have been fully considered for a bit), this interesting card was tucked in with a somewhat less compelling cabinet card shown below.

Cabinet card also included.

It is a bit larger than an average business card. Nothing is printed or written on the back. I can’t really imagine what purpose such a card might have served. And there is the obvious question of how is a woman’s hand reaching for a bird’s nest among flowers a manly pleasure? Am I missing some obvious or subtle Victorian symbolism? I love it, but it is a little hard to figure the guy who wanted to use this card.

As far as I can gather it is indeed a man’s calling card, although obviously lacking in a printed name – did they perhaps write their name on the back? Evidently, men’s cards were longer and thinner than women’s of the day, designed to fit better in a vest pocket. I especially liked the detail that if a caller left a card personally the right corner was generally folded down in as a way of denoting that the effort was made. A corner might be folded to indicate that he was there to see the entire family, and the litany of rules for unmarried women was intricate.

Kim and I both fell hard for this little item and we would like to find a way to get it and a few other of these tiny items up on our (very crowded) wall where we can admire them daily. Thank you Paula! A very nice bonus!

Dogged

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers may have noticed things getting a little canine around here and this snap shot is further proof of it. One recent morning I was thumbing through a sale of photos I had missed on Instagram (@missmollystlantiques) the night before when I saw this picture and loved it. Amazingly it was not sold so I scooped it up.

I really like this pair. I think it is fair to say that they look alike in a cocky sort of pet and owner way. (I feel like the dog would embrace a hat with the same joie de vivre and enthusiasm given the opportunity.) The human appears to be in some sort of a uniform, like a park ranger or something along those lines. The pup, a sort of Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix, looks like he is eager to get on with his work day with his beloved partner.

Nothing is written on the back of this photo which is well worn. It was poorly printed to begin with, over exposed along the bottom, additionally faded and much handled it seems, yet it maintains its charm.

Unlike most cats, many dogs are interested in having a job. They want a partner and they want to work, to have a day with routine and expectations. Farms, cowboys, police – all good dog careers. While in recent years Pit Bulls have developed a bad reputation, they are very smart dogs and very trainable – think of Pete the Pup in Our Gang.

Cash peering over the front seat recently – with his birthday self!

Pictorama readers and Instagram followers know that I travel to and from New Jersey with a working dog and driver duo. Rides with Cash (@rideswithcash) is a Monmouth enterprise which until recently was comprised primarily of Jeff and his beautiful Australian Shepherd Cash who run a cracker jack ride service out of this Jersey shore area. While the bulk of their work is to and from the airport, I think there are a few other regulars like me with other needs.

Cash on a ride earlier this spring.

Cash gets his name from Johnny, not dollar – and I will add that Jeff always has a good selection of music on the drive so this is not a coincidence. (I have written about these rides a bit before, here.) Jeff is infinitely dependable and he and his doggie navigators have improved my quality of life and my Jersey commute substantially.

The business (and family) recently expanded with the addition of puppy Penny, a gorgeous female bundle of crazy puppy energy. If I ride with Cash in my lap calms me, a ride with Penny is a full on puppy love madness scrum.

Penny, who is growing fast, in a recent IG post.

If this wasn’t enough puppy upping, I recently helped my mother’s best friend source a Bichon puppy. Her previous dog, Pierre, died a few months ago and she sorely missed the companionship. The demand for rescue dogs is still very high (after record demand during the pandemic) and for the first time ever, and after numerous attempts, she was unable to adopt a dog. So instead I helped her find a reputable breeder and she brought little Ariel home recently. Yesterday’s inclusion of her photo in yesterday’s post raised a clamor for her story so here we go.

Ariel on Suzanne’s lap. The world is her oyster.

Ariel, all three pounds of her, holds court from a doggy playpen when visiting my mother. My mom’s cats, all rescues who have done their time fending on the outside, are not especially accepting of Ariel, despite her pint size. In their eyes, a dog is a dog and they circle her warily. Ariel is utterly unaware and unconcerned because as far as she knows she rules all.

Mom’s cats keeping an eye on tiny Ariel who seems indifferent – or maybe even ready to play.

This is not always the case and growing up our cat Snoopy (a gentle male, white with black cow spots) was buddies with our German Shepard, Duchess. They would curl up together frequently and like us kids, Snoopy belonged to Duchess.

However, I’m sure with repeated daily exposure Ariel will become another accepted animal denizen of the Butler house.

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.

June

Pam’s Pictorama Post: So I sat down this morning with all good intentions of ignoring Father’s Day entirely. Having bared my soul on the subject of our mutual Deitch Studio illness yesterday, I was thinking more along the lines of a toy post today. However, for whatever reason with the sun streaming hard into the windows early this morning I was out of bed and drinking coffee at an obscenely early hour when I got the idea of reading some previous posts. My Dad, Elliott Butler, died back in ’18 and I wrote a post that remains remarkable even to me that year about bringing him ice cream. (That post can be found here.) It was however the one from June of ’19 that really struck me.

Dad’s buddy, his cat Red.

I find myself dividing life into the before time (pre-March 2020) and the new time after. It certainly isn’t that there weren’t problems and concerns in the before time, but somehow reams of them got shelved over the past two years as we negotiated a world that at first was rocked by a pandemic and has continued roil and roll upside down.

Ryan’s Ice Cream in NJ.

I haven’t had the time, energy or inclination to spend a lot of time looking back or digging through the concerns of late ’19 or early ’20. I remember being crazy busy with work, traveling too much and feeling vaguely like it was spinning a bit out of control. My first thought upon being told to go home for an undefined period was that I would at last get enough sleep – and I did.

However, looking back on my post of June ’19 I reflected on one of the last cogent conversations I had with my father the year before who had had one of those strange lucid moments in a sea of not knowing where he was or what was happening, where he looked up clear eyed and asked if I thought my job (still relatively new at the time) was going to work out. Just a year in at that point, I gave him the honest answer that it was tough going and the jury was still out. (That post can be read here.)

Dad’s favorite cookies, a NY Black and White, also known as Moon Cookies.

He was always very interested in my career. Working in an office, raising money for cultural organizations was all very foreign to his work life of news, constant action and cameras, but he always wanted to know about it. We shared a love of travel which our jobs supplied in good measure though, and he was proud of me and what I did, if occasionally confused by what my work actually consisted of daily.

When I read the post I remembered the conversation well. There has been so much water under the bridge since then, but I guess the main thing is that he would have gotten a kick out of what I have achieved at my job over the past few years. It has been a rough ride, but somehow our performing arts organization stayed solvent, everyone paid despite some severe belt tightening and a lot of asking for and receiving help.

Recent photo of the Met. Dad was always proud that I worked there.

Three years since that post and I have a level of assurance about my work that was lacking back when he and I spoke that day. I pointed out that the thing about a challenge is there is the very real chance of failure. It was wavering in early summer of ’18 and I was still struggling a year later evidently. The tide started to shift though and luckily I wasn’t found wanting when the bottom fell out in spring of ’20.

The fight is never ending at a job where you bring in money and my exhaustion has returned after the pitched battle of these past years, although has different causes, and it hovers over me while I try to negotiate the new world. However, while the struggle remains I think I can say that the verdict is in and I have been successful which would have pleased him.

Meanwhile, I am planning on having a run (he would have thought the running thing was crazy, but would have secretly been sort of proud of it) and most certainly some ice cream with a tip of the hat to him later today.