Fine Tuning: Country Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys

 

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

 

Changing Taste

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Fair warning that today’s post is a little bit of nothing that has been nagging at my brain lately, but for those of you who are willing to indulge me a bit, I am considering a an odd morphing of taste that has occurred over the last eight months or so. Now, don’t get me wrong, some of my preferences ebb and flow on a regular basis and a fondness for monochrome black clothing can easily give way to a mad desire for wild prints for example. However, I think of some patterns and desires to be as much a part of me as my brown eyes and it never occurred to me that they would change. I am thinking in particular of my consumption of coffee and tea.

The first significant shift in my coffee drinking predilection started quite awhile ago when I started drinking it cold in the morning. It started with not wanting to waste coffee after making it I would refrigerate it and heat it up. (I am a percolating coffee maker which I know puts me in the minority these days – I meet people in their twenties who don’t even know that percolating coffee pots on stoves exist. Kim is an instant coffee drinker and that preference remains truly mysterious to me.)

While I always drank coffee cold in hot weather, I also started drinking it cold before working out in the morning – and I loved this! Nothing like a fully caffeine charged workout with coffee consumed quickly on the way out the door into the pre-dawn morning. When traveling on business I would buy a cup of coffee and stick it in the fridge for my pre-workout the next day. (That was when hotels had refrigerators – when did they disappear? Am I the only person who had use for them?)

Eventually I began drinking my coffee cold every morning. (To be accurate, I will report that I also have a hot cup I picked up on my way to work every day as well.) As strange as this was, something much odder happened. Our food delivery company, Fresh Direct, sent us a container of cold brew. Since it was there I stuck it in the fridge and added it to my coffee one morning. As someone who values coffee first and foremost as a caffeine delivery system, there is no surprise at all that I quickly became addicted to the high octane combination brew.

What does surprise me however was when about five months ago I noticed a vanilla infused cold brew and decided to try it. Please understand, I have actually actively disliked vanilla coffee for years. It is safe to say there was a time when I would have considered it an abomination of sorts.  And yet, I had an undeniable yen and yes, I now add vanilla cold brew to my cold coffee each morning. I sit here drinking it as I write this morning. I keep wondering if it is a desire that will eventually just pass.

The other predilection which surprised me is an interest in tea which until recently I only consumed when sick – typically then with honey. However, I was on my way to see my folks in New Jersey one chilly morning and I saw a man with a covered paper cup of tea and it suddenly I was seized with the idea that a hot cup of tea with brown sugar would be just the thing. As it happened, I didn’t have time to indulge this desire and it was a few weeks later when I found myself home with a cold that I made some tea and dumped some brown sugar in. Now almost every afternoon these days find me indulging in this beverage which in my mind is still associated with childhood and I now find unbelievably comforting.

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These two seismic shifts in routine have me stumped.

For those of you who are totting up how much caffeine I am consuming, you are right to raise an eyebrow. My cut off time each day is 3:00 if I don’t want to risk insomnia. Less surprising to me, I will admit that I am also unnaturally interested in the newly unveiled Vanilla Orange Coke Zero (sounds heavenly to me) at the moment and planned to snatch some up as soon as it arrives in my neck of the woods. In addition, I report that there is a bottle of Jack Daniels received as a parting gift at an event recently (along with a John Grisham novel which I am now reading) sitting in a bag by the television. I haven’t had Jack Daniels since college, but I am eyeing it and there may be a future preference post in those beverage choices as well.

 

Train tracking

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I wrote yesterday of my reluctance to leave home (hearth, Kim and kitties) to commence travel in general. Now, as I write, I sit on an Amtrak en route to Boston, parked in New Haven. It brings to mind a trip several years ago, also on business, when a derailment somewhere in the Northeast had delayed a trip, I had commenced at 5:30 in the morning, by hours and hours in effect killing a day of business entirely and reminding me of why I always pack too much reading and food.

That day we inched our way up the east coast and I spent more than an hour on the train in this particular spot, looking at this same view. It was fall instead of spring. I think if you work in the Northeast and do any business travel this corridor (and perhaps this story) is familiar, although perhaps others have more tales of airports. Other than one occasion when it was late April and my flight in Boston was prevented from taking off in New York due to a snow storm in New York, most of the stories of travel are Amtrak ones.

I can almost remember being young and naïve enough to think that travel by train in this country might remotely resemble what I had seen depicted in early films. (Think noir, compartments, dining cars with service and china.) It most certainly does not and I had this drummed into my head on my very first trip to Washington DC from my New Jersey home, back when I was in high school. There was a problem, I want to say something fell across the tracks which is sort of fatal to train travel, and our trip home became a thing of family legend, involving total abandonment by Amtrak at a station off the beaten path (think woods) somewhere in the general area between Philadelphia and the New Jersey border, as night was falling, requiring several non-train methods of transportation and many, many hours beyond the requisite four or so before we arrived home.

Still, one can’t fly everywhere and I have put in my time on America’s trains. Coming home from college in New London, Connecticut – standing a long part of the way on a crowded train from New London to New York at Thanksgiving, before changing to a NJ Transit train there. (Today when the New London stop is announced in about forty minutes I will twitch with memory of getting on and off there. As above – entering New London and the video of leaving below – it looks pretty much as it always has.)

Young adulthood found me with a boyfriend in upstate New York which resulted in many Amtrak hours logged – delays, electrical failures and the like becoming part of the routine. Hard to believe, but there were things about that relationship that were worse than the train time and after Andrew I said adieu to my weekend warrior status on the train. However, I can’t be on one, chugging toward Boston or DC, or perhaps the lesser route to Albany, or even up to Toronto, without flickering memories of trips past, successful and otherwise.

In college I had found my way to Europe and those trains, in Britain, Scotland, France and Italy, carried a whiff of the old world rail charm old films had teased me with. They also carried a level of efficiency the heights of which Amtrak would never, at least in my experience, reach. Dependable, generally clean, the rail system is the primary travel artery for most of Europe and Asia in a coherent way that I fear ours is not.

In my thirties a friend found a cheap tour to Russia – flying into Moscow and then the train down to St. Petersburg. It was February, but reasonable warm for a Russian winter. Our tour group consisted of about six people in addition to my friend, her mother and myself. Suzanne’s mother, Jean, had been my painting teacher and was in her early eighties when we made the trip.

Jean and I shared an ancient compartment on the train overnight. It was exactly as I would have expected and hoped such a train would be – down to watching snow out the window overnight as we dashed through the countryside, wolves baying – really! We had been warned by our guide to lock our doors however, and to refuse to open them to anyone overnight which we did – I have no memory of anyone attempting to enter however.

Meanwhile, the Russians seemed to have great respect for older people and took a genuine interest in Jean wherever we went. They would always take the time to help her from the bus or over a step and to say a few words to her in one language or another. Sadly Jean is gone now, although she lived well into her nineties. She was a good traveler and made international trips, albeit gradually easier ones, for another several years after that trip to Russia.

My trips are no longer romantic or liaisons, and are mostly driven by conferences and these days concerts. Much of the travel time is now devoted to work. Despite that and the issues above, I generally find my time on a long train ride calming. Watching the world go by and eventually hopping off at my destination, mildly changed, hopefully for the better, by the process of getting there.

 

 

Smoking

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Born into the mid-1960’s my parents were in many ways a modern and scientific couple. My mother evidently eschewed alcohol during her pregnancies and gave up even what was evidently a lingering, occasional cigarette – so infrequent that I knew nothing of the habit until years later, but I will get to that in a bit.

I came more or less into a world where even among my extended family there was, to my memory, little or no smoking. It wasn’t like it was an issue. Of course tons of people smoked and people came to the house and smoked. To my knowledge nothing was thought about it and never anything said. Although as I think of it, I can only remember us owning one ashtray however – it was a large blue heavy ceramic item with a swirl of color in the middle that I liked for its heft and color. Perhaps that we only had the one ashtray is telling. (I own a single one as well – a cat head with a wide open mouth. Not really surprising I realize. The awkward design is not favored by visiting smokers.)

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When I was about twelve my mother, who must have been trying to lose weight in retrospect although I don’t remember her being heavy, took both running and smoking up. I eventually learned that my mother had been a high school track champion (to my knowledge a plaque noting her accomplishments is still at the Long Branch, NJ school she attended) and the running craze of the 1970’s had renewed her interest. What took her back to the occasional cigarette I am not sure. I smelled them but never saw her smoke one. She later said she stopped again because she could taste them when she ran, even after having only a single one and a day later.

Turns out my mother had been a regular smoker in college. She tells tales of tobacco companies coming to the campus at Douglas College where they gave free cigarettes to all the students, essentially getting them hooked which of course made it a good investment. They would have had to be free because my mother, at school entirely on scholarship, often also told stories of how she had her budget calculated down to how much shampoo she and her roommate could use monthly. (In addition, mom was pre-med and eventually was offered a fellowship to do cancer research. Pregnancy prevented her accepting the position – years later she mentioned that all of the researchers she worked with developed and died of cancers.)

On the other hand, my father disliked cigarettes and I gather he had encouraged or even insisted that she stop when they got together. He was not happy when she went back to that occasional cigarette either. While he did not smoke and disliked cigarettes, after I reached a certain age he told me had had tried pot and thought it okay. This tale was tied to a wild story about the friend of a friend, an artist named Ernst Fuchs, who drove a car trunkful of pot up from Mexico. Much to my surprise at a quick internet search, Mr. Fuchs only died in 2015 at 85 – I always thought he was older than my father, but he was about the same age. I hadn’t thought of that story in years. I supply an image of one of his paintings below, one done in a style that I think my father would have liked.

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Meanwhile father drove from location to location for ABC News in a car with his crew with many of whom did smoke. I am not sure if it was that or another exposure, but it is somewhat ironic that it was COPD that ultimately killed my father last year.

I believe the pipe shown here belonged to my great-great grandmother, on my mother’s side. It was discovered by my cousin Patti who is unearthing many family treasures as she cleans out her family home which has housed at least three prior generations. (See my recent post about a photo of a turn of the century family wedding party here.) It is my understanding that this Italian ancestor of mine was a tough cookie. She was a breast cancer survivor when the only option was cutting away as much as possible of the cancer as you could and survive. She had surgery and lived a significant time beyond it.

There is something so personal about such an item and you feel that when you hold it. I am impressed by the velvet-lined case it sports and survives in. I gather from looking at it that the mouth piece must have been replaced ongoing. The maker’s tag is unfortunately faded beyond recall.

Quick research shows various attitudes toward women smoking during what I vaguely calculate to be the late Victorian period, heading toward the dawn and start of the new century. (An interesting aside, smoking jackets originated because it was considered rude for men to expose the women in their lives to the smell of tobacco on their clothing and therefore changed into jackets for this purpose. Interesting, yes?)

I know my family was not wealthy so, putting aside the feeling about female smokers of the upper class, I am left with the impression that great-great grandma would have been considered either fast or somewhat hard-bitten. From what I know I lean toward the latter. She would have come to this country as a young, married Italian woman. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for having been fast.

I knew the story about the breast cancer and our ancestor because of my sister’s research of the family proclivity when she developed it. At the time no one mentioned that our great-great grandmother had been a smoker however. Loren was not, like me she never developed a taste for cigarettes. I assume like me she tried a few, but she was an athlete and generally disliked smoking. (I never developed the habit and don’t even really understand how to smoke them since it really is different than a joint.) I doubt she smoked much pot either although we never really discussed it. Loren’s cancer was ultimately labeled as environmental rather than hereditary, although I take little comfort in that – as we shared the same environment for many years of our lives.

For all of this, there is a bit of allure as I look at the pipe in it’s case – looking at the case from the outside, it is almost as if a tiny musical instrument was going to be found within. Another tiny piece of family history today, waiting patiently all these years to be taken out, examined and considered. Even our own limited family history surprisingly tied up and full of contradictions about this particular habit.

Beyond the Pale

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Earlier this week a friend and former Met colleague, Melinda Watt, one who I miss since she relocated to Chicago a few years ago, tagged me in an Instagram challenge to post seven book covers over as many days without comment. Since I Instagram frequently and inhabit both an apartment and office surrounded by books I figured what the heck. I started with what I was reading (a Judy Bolton juvenile mystery, but more about those guilty pleasures another time) and then pulled the next book off of the pile next to the bed, The Motor Boys on the Border.

Then I started going off the rails a bit – the no comment piece was sort of nagging at me. As you probably know if you are reading this, I am chatty by nature and as I posted The Heroine or the Horse, Leading Ladies of Republic Films on day 3 I felt a vague annoyance at not telling the story of how I had found it for sale on the street in front of Argosy Books several days earlier while running around for work, and snatched it up for Kim – and that by coincidence we had watched several Republic films over the following weekend. (Clearly vital information.) However, I did enjoy the commentary by folks on the post and snuck my snippet of a story in via the comments.

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So the next day I decided I would post Alias the Cat. While I could easily write volumes about the place this book has in my heart and life, I also felt that as book covers go which could speak for themselves it was an excellent choice, and not to mention that it is always a fine idea to promote the family product here at Deitch Studio. I posted it and I thank Instagram compatriots for all their nice comments and continued generous likes.

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The much beloved Alias the Cat where I step out as a character!

 

Earlier yesterday I also posted the sad news that Leslie Sternbergh Alexander died. I didn’t know Leslie and her husband Adam especially well, but over the course of more than a decade of openings and parties we were a part of each other’s world for many years. We first met over the duration of a seven year stint of my dating Kevin, Art Director for Screw magazine and comics fan who pre-dated Kim in my life, but I saw more of Adam and Lesley after Kim and I got together. They were fixtures at a certain kind of gathering and the premature passing of the second of them is mournful for the comics community. Leslie was a gifted artist whose work I felt like I never saw quite enough of, but who seemed to inhabit a life that was really her art. Yesterday Kim shared a story with me I hadn’t heard about how they had denied him my phone number when he heard that Kevin and I broke up. This was a bit of a running joke as no one in the comics community would give up my number until our friend Carol Lay jumped ranks and provided it. I hadn’t realized they were among the withholders.

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Leslie, on left, and Adam

 

For this reason, over the last 24 hours my mind has been dwelling on the early and mid-90’s – people and parties and how it all ultimately took my life on a course I couldn’t have foreseen. When I woke up this morning and I had a look at Instagram and thought about books again, Beyond the Pale came to mind. So in complete defiance of the no comment rule of the Instagram challenge, I bring you the tale today.

Back in about 1990 I was wandering around in a bookstore I used to frequent on Madison Avenue in the 70’s, Books and Co., which was a delightful way to spend an afternoon. (This bookstore, memorialized in various films as the prototypical bookstore, is still missed today by those who knew it. I was a tad intimidated by it and rarely went upstairs as a result. However its disappearance left a hole that I occasionally poke at – like a missing tooth.) As I was perpetually broke at the time, my purchases were spare but the enjoyment of the selection process was a pleasure to be savored. One day I found several copies of Beyond the Pale remaindered and I purchased one for $2. What to say about a $2 that changes the course of your entire life?

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Books & Co. as I remember it. This image snatched off the internet.

 

My then boyfriend Kevin had introduced me to the world of underground comics. I can’t say I was an especially astute student. Mostly I either found the art interesting or, less often the writing, but virtually never both. There were exceptions – Art Spiegelman’s Maus for one, a few other things. Suffice it to say however, I wasn’t getting it. However, as a devoted girlfriend I continued to try as Kevin was utterly devoted to them and found them endlessly fascinating.

Beyond the Pale, an early anthology of Kim’s work published by Fantagraphics, was different and I saw that immediately. I loved the art and how there always seemed to be something new in it each panel every time I looked – the stories took me happily down a rabbit hole of one kind or another, sometimes unsure where reality left off and fantasy started. The drawings were a visual aesthetic that rang a bell deep in my brain and the stories told of a fascinating world just outside of view, one I realized I had always wanted to visit. I took it home and devoured it. Reincarnated potatoes! Clowns, Big Billy Goat, chess playing marvels – tales of the asylum where Kim once worked, and of course early cartoons! This was where I wanted to live!

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Fold-out page from Beyond the Pale

 

I finally understood the appeal of this graphic form marrying the visual and the written – I got it. I went back and bought the remaining copies (two as I remember) and gave one away and kept the other until it too was eventually given away. I began raiding Kevin’s collections for snippets of Kim Deitch work. It was never quite as gratifying as the deep dive of an entire book, but Kim is prolific, Kevin’s library was pretty complete, and my ferreting paid off over time.

I was an official Deitch fan by the time I met Kim in person at an exhibit Art Spiegelman was having at a gallery on 57th Street a few years later. It was an evening with the comics crowd in full regalia. However I only remember meeting Kim and his brother Simon, and finally putting a face and person with the comics I liked so much. They were living in Westchester at the time and as a result were not all that frequently present at these Manhattan openings and parties. I liked talking to him though (he was as interesting in person although somewhat laconic – I was afraid of Simon) and in a compulsive way which is part of my nature, I began to look for him at each gathering, considering it a bit of an event if I saw him and spoke to him. The full progression from fan-girl to girlfriend and then later wife will require additional posts – it was a progression that took a number of years and a few turns before that happened. I now happily inhabit an entirely Deitchian world and there is no place I would rather be.

So today I take a moment consider this particular volume and how that $2 investment  took me down a path that I could not have possibly foreseen at the time – which is after all the way life is wonderful. Meanwhile, with this very long post, I have certainly subverted the Instagram challenge with its cover only pretensions.

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My copy of Beyond the Pale, with the original $2 price on the inside cover.

 

Maud Powell

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Last week I wrote from my mom’s home in New Jersey as I occasionally do. Shortly after pressing the publish button on that post I decided to take on the task of going through some things that were unearthed and put aside for my examination during their move a little more than a year ago.

Numerous emotionally packed things spewed forth in that exploration, many small  sentimental items of my father’s – his penknife, passports and driver’s license among them. I am pleased to have them and over time I may eventually write about those, but there was also a box of my sister’s jewelry, mostly small things she wore when she was younger, and in most ways least really of all is a tiny item I am writing about today.

This button intrigued me in part because my sister Loren was not a collector of buttons. To the extent there was a designated button collector and wearer in my family it would have been me. I was the keeper of the political buttons my father gathered on the endless Presidential campaigns he trailed from start to finish as a news cameraman; I had a collection of early smiley buttons. Remember those? (I was a collector of things as I hatched out of the womb evidently. All these early collections have vanished incidentally. I didn’t really learn how to latch onto things until I was older.) Even in college I was still pinning interesting buttons to the old army jacket I wore, and on the labels of the thrifted men’s jackets I favored in 1986. (A friend’s Instagram post of her in college sporting one she bought when we were together in Red Bank, NJ reminded me of that.)

So I was surprised to find this early button saved with Loren’s things, except that it is of a woman violinist and she played and loved the violin. Few things take me back to my childhood faster than certain violin solos which my sister would have practiced endlessly, usually picking up her violin to practice starting around 10:00 pm, after finishing her homework, and playing well into the night. We all learned to go to drift off to her playing since Loren herself never needed more than a few hours of sleep. For years after she died I found I couldn’t listen to violin music without crying.

As it turns out, Maud Powell is not a footnote figure in the history of American classical music. She was a top drawer, famous musician, internationally ranked, and according to Wikipedia the first American violinist of either sex to claim that distinction. Powell was also the first instrumentalist recording star of the Victor Talking Machine Company.

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Born in a suburb of Chicago in 1867 she was a child prodigy discovered at the age of 9. When she was 13 her parent’s sold the family home to fund her studies and career which took her to Europe, and where she first debuted before returning to the United States. Several online sources site her as an advocate for music by black and women composers, including having commissioned a composition by Sierra Leone-English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. She made a point of playing for underserved communities routinely. However, in 1919 she collapsed on stage with a heart attack and died the following year, age 52 while on tour, after a second attack.

A biography of her was published in 1986 and there is a Maud Powell Society which has an online presence. NPR did a short piece on Powell receiving a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2014. She was the first female instrumentalist of any instrument or genre to do so at the time. (A distinction I assume stands today, but I am sketchy on the Grammy awards.) Peru, Illinois sports a statue to her according to a Youtube fan of one of her recordings posted there. The Youtube selection of her music appears slim (you can sample it here) although several albums appear to be available in an online search.

The back of the pin helped to confirm that it was indeed old and not a later reproduction. you cannot easily read it in the photo here, but this pin was made by the Whitehead and Hoag Co…buttons, badges, novelties and signs Newark, NJ. (The company was extant until 1959.) I found it interesting that this company, established in 1892, in 1896 introduced and patented the pin back pin. For those of you who thrill to pin back or NJ manufacturing history and wish to explore it more deeply I refer you to a fellow blogger, Newark’s Attic and the post The Whitehead and Hoag Company.

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I will never know how Loren stumbled on this item as she was far less likely to meander through flea markets and antique shops than I was. However, it is easy to understand the appeal and why I would find it, tucked away, saved and waiting for me in a time capsule of her things.

 

 

 

 

Breakfast

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s early Sunday morning and instead of being curled up at our computer at the far end of Kim’s work table, which is where most mornings find me, I am propped up in bed in “my” room at my mom’s house in Fair Haven, NJ. Pictorama readers have found me here before and therefore might guess that I have cobbled together my breakfast from my mom’s mostly vegan offerings. Although only exercised infrequently, it is an alternate routine of sorts. I scrounge coffee and a bagel and take it back upstairs so I don’t have to face her hungry cats with the decision of whether or not I should intercede on their behalf, break ranks and feed them early.

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Mom’s cat Red joins me on a sunny spot on the bed while I write this

 

I myself have a cat-like craving for routine and a green smoothie and (very large) coffee in hand is how I start most days at home while at the computer and chatting with Kim. I try not to get sucked into my work email and instead read the newspaper online (prize or interesting tidbits read out loud to Kim, who in turn proffers some stream of consciousness thoughts while he works) or if it is the weekend work on a blog post.

I wrap up with a look at Twitter and Instagram (see last week’s post which describes my cheerful all-cat, all-early-film preferences on social media) and then, if it is a weekday I begin the process of getting ready for work. I like to get there early and frankly it isn’t an early morning kind of place so being there first isn’t that hard to achieve. Today’s post is about the space between leaving the cocoon of the apartment and arriving at work, although I will perhaps devote a future post to the Q train, which deserves one of its own and skip that part of my routine. (As someone who walked to work for years taking the train each morning was a big change.)

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I have lived my entire adult life in New York City, so I don’t know if the daily commute to work kicks off sufficiently different elsewhere. We live in a building in the Yorkville section of the most Eastern part of upper Manhattan. Our building, christened in 1960, is of an anonymous white brick facade where one in a rotating series of doormen are the last folks to say have a good day each morning. I always feel as if they should also hand me my brown bag lunch as my mom used to do on my way to the school bus each day.

I have written before about my chosen neighborhood diner previously in my post Cornered (found here) and also about the role a local diner played in my walking commute to the Met each morning – a tradition that I mourned a bit in my post, here,  about leaving that job after 30 years. Starting on my first day of work at Jazz at Lincoln Center I began sizing up my breakfast options. I eventually began dividing my breakfast consumption between a bodega and a restaurant – on either end of the block that is the west side of Seventh Avenue between 57th and 58th.

The bodega is less expensive. Starting with this new job, I fell into the habit of purchasing flowers for my desk  at the start of each week and the bodega wins many Mondays because it also sells flowers. The downside to it is coffee that is not great and the fact that the construction workers, who put in long days on the towering structures near my Columbus Circle office, form long lines and purchase baskets piled with staggeringly high calorie breakfasts of eggs, cheese, sausage and bacon, coffee and other drinks.

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Office flowers one day recently

 

On the other corner, my preferred establishment was a restaurant with take out in one half of it. The waiters and coffee guys. a rotating cast of musicians. occasionally belting out a rather stunningly good renditions of Happy Birthday (yes, at breakfast and I cannot explain that) for an appreciative customer. I often wonder to myself if being a few short steps from Carnegie Hall was encouraging or discouraging for them.

The short order cooks, a non-singing crew, generally remember my regular order. Then, as things do in New York, it closed abruptly one day. It took me a few days but I eventually found the cooks, but not the singing waiters and coffee guys, at a chain restaurant called Roast Kitchen and, after an initial snobby resistance to breakfast at a chain restaurant began to frequent it.

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Morning at Roast Kitchen, 57th Street near Seventh Avenue

 

My order varies daily, although my large coffee with skim milk is consistent. One of the men there offers me a blessed day whenever he waits on me (or sees me) which was a bit surprising at first, but I have come to appreciate. After all, blessing is good. They offered me the rare free coffee or even lunch on occasion – as at one point they also became my midday salad provider. (I am especially fond of the spicy pumpkin seeds, pepitas.)

The regular cast includes three men – the man who blesses me, another man who does most of the cooking and is the least friendly, and a very young man who seems only capable of the most simple tasks at hand. (Making your coffee is, for example, a bit complicated for him, especially when combined with the cash register. However, he seems to be reasonable adept a making the soup base and the prep for the later lunch.) There is an occasional woman working the register, but not often. They appear more frequently to help at lunch.

One of the things that interests me about it is that, despite being a chain restaurant, they actually do seem to cook there. I see stock being made each morning for the daily soup, the oatmeal homemade as well – it isn’t just all dropped off a truck from a shared kitchen in another borough. Hot greens with a pile of grain offerings isn’t my thing for lunch, but the salad made to order is acceptable – sometimes with a slab of roast salmon, but most often not. There is only mysterious artisanal and I tend to avoid it.

Lunch caters to a broad population, office inhabitants like myself, students and teachers from The Art Student’s League next door, and there is a long line snaking through the storefront. No time for any pleasantries – all business at lunch – as am I, feeling lucky if I have managed to duck out for the ten minutes round trip to get the aforementioned salad.

Meanwhile, the whole point of the breakfast interaction is that it also be briefly efficient and mine is generally satisfyingly so. Yet, it is an important interlude in the space between the subway and the office, as I move from one world to the next and prepare for the rigors of my day. It is a friendly oasis these days between and not unlike the doormen at my building each morning, they send me on my way with their well wishes for a good day and hopes to see me later – and a paper bag with a hot breakfast in my hands and I am repeatedly grateful – and yes, in fact somewhat blessed.