Jersey Daughter, Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I find myself unexpectedly in New Jersey today. Mom’s health took a turn for the worse and I hopped down here on Friday night.

As some of you know, coming and going at odd hours to New Jersey these days I have abandoned the cold and limited schedule of the ferry in favor of a car service a friend suggested. Rides with Cash provides not only thoughtful and dependable service, but Cash, a beautiful Australian Shepard who climbs in my lap for ear and tummy rubs along the way. Petting Cash, talking music with Geoff, makes the ride go quickly and calms me on my more anxious rides like Friday. (For those in the greater, NJ, NYC and Philadelphia area, you can book Jeff and Cash here.)

Cash who operates as a canine co-pilot to Jeff on rides to and from NJ.

I arrived to find mom weak and very surprised to see me – I didn’t know I was going to be a surprise, but it was nice to see how happy she was once she realized she wasn’t dreaming. She has stabilized a bit and although still very pale from a loss of blood, she is stronger and eating well.

Mornings are my favorite time spent here and I am sure they are what I will remember most fondly in the future. There’s usually a nice hour or so when we are mostly just the two of us, before I go running and her next shift of help arrives. I drink too much coffee and she has some tea maybe. In the winter it would be dark out and I would be waiting for the sun to come up before heading out for my run.

Sun coming up out my window here this morning.

We are beyond fortunate that we have folks helping out who have some deep roots with us and over this period these strong women have formed a community around mom as they come and go, working out a schedule among themselves. The group somehow magically expanded when we decided that we needed someone overnight after mom got out of the hospital over the holidays.

This enclave of extraordinary women, all from Jamaica, have become my mom’s society and despite her physical woes her keen interest in them and their lives continues to grow. Like family, some are closer than others, sisters rather than cousins. However, as we share meals, work around the house and concern for mom, they are our clan. (Mom is still trying to feed the world and so much take out food is ordered to be shared by all. However, sometimes I cook or they do. Recipes are exchanged.) Mom enjoys the occasional visits of their children and grandchildren and she seems to be a favorite among some of the youngest.

Photo of a child me with a younger Mom, carrying my brother Edward in this photo.

I get to share in this deeply feminine society during my periodic stays. Everyone is fairly interested in my professional life and invested in the success thereof as they hear me pacing around the house on the phone or on endless Zoom calls in an upstairs room, where I am perched typing now. This is its own world which I enter when I am here. The tentacles are long though and at least one among my mom’s caretakers texts me periodically with anything she thinks I should know. It was a family friend, Suzanne, who is also devoted to my mom and like a sister to me, who texted me on Friday to get down here as soon as I can. Mom had been dismissive of my change in plans earlier in the day, but Suzanne was right and I am glad I came.

The house has a new inhabit, a kitten named Stormy. For those of you who follow me on social media you saw photos of Stormy posted as we tried to find her a home after Mom rescued her recently. (Yes, despite everything Mom is still managing to rescue animals as she has her whole life.) Once trapped and brought inside Stormy has turned out to be barely out of kittenhood and has the sweetest and most winning demeanor.

Stormy is now a permanent member of the Butler clan.

Well, my Dad used to say that cats only ever come into the Butler household and none ever leave and despite a fair amount of effort on our part it seems to be holding true. Stormy has managed to become a household favorite however and even those not especially disposed to cats stop to chat with her on their way around their business of the house. Stormy is presently residing in a very large, multi-level dog cage in the living room where she can be a part of the life of the house, but not yet subjected to the rough and tumble of the other kits. Needless to say, Stormy isn’t going anywhere.

Strangely, considering she is a stray, Stormy appears to be domestic and really likes people. She enjoys being petted, ear and even tummy rubs in particular. Her fur is kitten downy and although she greets the world with a somewhat unblinking wide-eyed and concerned stare, she seems contented. She is still eating copious quantities of food and is slowly filling out. I cannot imagine what her history is – she is so used to humans and handling and, it must be said, not Stormy in the least. (She was christened as such based on the blustering winter morning she was trapped on.) For all of her placid personality and evident enjoyment of handling she does not purr. She will occasionally grab your hand if you stop petting her and she lets out the occasional silent meow or soft growl.

Having this new little critter in the house as we navigate health care issues, and a growing war in the Ukraine which blares over the television via my mother’s endless devotion to CNN, centers us a bit on something nice. We saved Stormy, but she is doing her part. She is good for us too.

The morning is now in full cry and another pot of coffee and a Saturday run is in the offing. I will probably have a little more to say about that tomorrow.

David, Our Favorite

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I devote space to this nice little cat photo postcard. We can see that the name David was etched, carefully, into the negative, complete with quotation marks and a swirl below. The card is a bit dark, but we can see that David is a handsome, spotty puss. He sports a collar and although we don’t see it too clearly I like the spot on his forehead, right between his eyes. He looks like a lively fellow and something has his attention in another direction while having this photo taken. One imagines he was off and chasing after it moments after the shutter clicked.

This penny postcard card was mailed from Lisbon, Ohio on August 8 at 8 AM. It is obscured, but I think the year is 1912. It was sent to a Mrs. Chas Lutes, at 515 N. Park Street, McKeesport, PA. It is inscribed as follows, You may not know who this is but he is my favorate. We did not get a very good position yet it looks like him. Gaskills. Kim and I had some morning discussion around the signature, Gaskills. Last name used as moniker? Not sure really, but we agreed that was what the neat, if faded, script says.

Gus and Beau in their respective boxes at Mom’s the other day. Gus is also a recent rescue and Beau from Newark several years ago.

Our beloved pets! We keep photos of our kits and pups (bunnies and what all), but a bit interesting that this one was kept by the recipient (at least I assume it was she who kept it) carefully as well. Of course which detritus of the world ultimately sticks to any of us is a bit mysterious.

Like children, I guess I have always thought one shouldn’t have favorites among the cats. You do I guess, but it doesn’t seem right to cop to it anyway.

As some Pictorama readers know, I spend part of my time with my mom in New Jersey these days. She recently identified a new stray cat in her backyard and mom had cousin Patti and I feeding it until it trusted us enough for someone to come and trap it yesterday morning. Turns out to be a young female, longish hair with stripes, gray and black – she was mostly a blur to me as she dashed off while I offered food. I hope to have photos soon to share soon.

Peaches, another relatively recent rescue who lives with mom, still won’t let any of us near her although she does follow me upstairs to observe my endless Zoom calls while I am there.

Mom is full up with cats in her own small home, but we are determined to find a permanent loving home for this little girl. She is going by Stormy for now, named in honor of the windy and wet morning she was finally caught on. Stormy is with the rescuer for now, getting some tests and medical attention. As mom and I both said, we both slept better last night knowing that little kit was warm inside with a full tummy for the first time this winter.

This is the little sweetheart mom just rescued! Email for info! We need to find her a home.

A B&C Deitch Valentine Portrait

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Here at Pictorama we enjoy certain inflection points during the year and the great Valentine reveal is one of them. Today is the day and welcome to all!

For those of you not in the know, each year my wonderful husband (Chief Artistic Genius and eponymous creator here at Deitch Studio, Kim Deitch) creates a Valentine’s Day drawing for me. Discussion about it begins seriously after Christmas and a period of development is followed by execution in early February. (A few examples from prior years can be found here, here and one that even features the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra as cats here.)

Some years I have very general thoughts and other years I may have more input. This was a rare year when I had a very specific request. I wanted an actual portrait of our cats, Cookie and Blackie! It is a perfect fit into my collection of images, usually vintage photos, of people and their feline friends. (These make up a whole sub-genre of images here at Pictorama so poke around the archive if you want to see some!)

Sadie and Dottie in a recent portrait by @crownandpaw.

You see, it started months back when a couple of kitties I follow on Instagram, Sadie and Dottie, had their portraits done. Sadie is a tuxie and her sister Dottie is, as self-described, a sort of cow spotty white kitty with black spots. Sadie and Dottie (@sadieanddottie) have a robust 13.3k followers and despite what you might think, I don’t actually follow a large number of cats on IG. There’s a cat in Japan, white with a comical big black mustache, who is dropped into my feed occasionally (name in Japanese so I don’t know), and a calico named Fudge who I like to see once in awhile. However, cats actually make up a smaller portion than antique jewelry, although more than rundown old houses for sale.

However, Sadie and Dottie’s mom and dad somehow manage to provide followers with a pitch perfect and pleasant stream of kitty triumphs and frustrations doled out at just the right pace. On some long, stressful days sitting down for a few minutes of treat time or bird watching (and chirping – which in turn makes the ears of my kits twitch as does the treat time meow) is the perfect antidote. Often I share a good post with Kim (and occasionally Cookie or Blackie), usually while sitting on the couch together, or in bed. I’m sure if Cookie and Blackie really understood they would be peeved at my defection of attention as it is they are just mildly annoyed by the thing in my hand which prevents two handed petting at times.

Sadie and Dottie (media stars that they are) have had their portraits done several times and it got me thinking that we really needed was a Kim Deitch portrait of our pair. I mentioned it to Kim who promised me that he would make me a grand one. Somehow months later as we were discussing my Valentine I decided that it was the appropriate moment and I knew he would deliver.

Sadie and Dottie in an earlier IG post posing with their portrait by @paintermurray_pet_portraits.

I was also thinking about years ago when Kim did a spectacular portrait of his friends Jay and Kathy with their Sphinxes and I was thinking of a picture that combined both elements of kitties romping in their usual pursuits and a straight ahead portrait of them – and today’s Valentine is it!

Kim Deitch portrait of Jay Rogers and Kathy Goodell with their cats and collection.

In addition to their likenesses front and center, their typical Cookie and Blackie romping is shown around the border. We have: catnip banana munching; chasing (Kill the Guy! the only game they play together); each shown with their own style of water drinking from a mug; neck biting (the denouement of Kill the Guy – but also sometimes B just walks over to C and starts biting her neck); Cookie chasing her tail and of course eating! Eating is their favorite activity and they would do it on demand if we allowed – but no. Here at Deitch Studio we have wet food at twelve hour intervals 6:00-6:00 and dry food in the interim.

It’s the Kim Deitch Valentine ’22 reveal!

I am shown sporting a star-patterned sweat shirt I actually wear most winter mornings agains the chill. (I am wearing it now as I write this, paired with my elephant toile print pj’s which I wrote about once here. It also highlights some morning cat activity here at Deitch Studio.)

Cookie, despite having left kittenhood far behind, still chases her tail almost daily. It is largely a morning occupation for her and if you know her you can see a fit of it starting to come on her as her tail seems to (rather independently and enticingly) commence twitching in a come hither sort of way. Sometimes it takes place in the tub (dunno why, but it does) and occasionally she combines it with trying to scare someone coming into the bathroom by popping out from the shower curtain. I call this her cat joke. Go Cookie!

The maniacal expression on Blackie’s face as he gets yelled at for biting Cookie’s neck here cracks me up! I am yelling, No neck biting! no doubt. Meanwhile, while Cookie is in charge of requesting fresh water (there is a division of labor between them always – for example it is Blackie’s job to wake us for food in the morning, although Cookie observes from the doorway), Blackie likes to drink his water standing up at the flat files in a quasi-human sidling up to the bar kind of pose. Line ’em up and keep ’em comin’ barkeep! Cookie prefers a more traditional go at it.

Blackie posting in front of his picture the other morning, perched on my desk chair.

I think Kim has done an entirely excellent job with the center portrait likenesses as well. Blackie is quite handsome and debonair – he knows he is a very good looking fellow and he is displaying a certain stuffy cat dignity here. Cookie has her more mercurial expression – paw resting lightly on that wild and erratic tail of hers.

Although wall space is always a premium here at Deitch Studio and Pictorama, I am tempted to get this one up somewhere. It is a great favorite already and my loving thanks to Kim for executing my request so splendidly and lovingly! Kim, you’re the best! Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

Doggett, Bassett & Hills

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is kicking off with this great little advertising card I bought on a whim sometime over the last few months. I like a good cat advertising card and this kitty couple caught my eye. I love that they are holding each other’s paws and their curled tails. They walk on tip toed hind legs – Cookie and Blackie only stand this way in order to box with each other, or perhaps a bit of a stretch when something above interests them. Her expression is sweet and his a bit concerned – concerned being a bit of a go-to expression for kits I find.

She sports the human attributes of a parasol and bow. They are both nicely striped tabbies and the pattern creates some visual interest. Oddly, Doggett, Bassett & Hills Co. was a shoe company and these kitties are decidedly shoeless. Doggett, Bassett & Hills was one of Chicago’s first shoe dealers and manufacturers under the name of Ward & Doggett, founded in 1846. By the early 1870’s they had peaked, but then declined and disappeared in the 1880’s. (All this from an online encyclopedia of the history of Chicago which can be found here.) The website mentions a Lake Street address, but this card is for one at 214 & 216 Madison Street, Chicago.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Despite the fact that I think of Chicago as a city that has done an excellent job of maintaining many of its old buildings, a quick Google image search shows no extant old buildings at this address now. I am always hoping when I search for an old address I find that I will find the building intact even if its former moniker is long gone. I don’t believe I have achieved this to date.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

These pre-printed advertising cards abounded in the period and cats were a favorite subject so they are a bit of a sub-genre here at Pictorama. Merchants must have gone to printers that had endless examples to pick from and chosen a card image to then have their text added at the bottom and sometimes also on the back. I often wonder about how you knew that you weren’t choosing the same one as your competitor just purchased yesterday.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

I have written about some of the others in my collection (above and below) and those posts can be found here, here and here. (All of these examples have their advertising text on the back.) Still, seems a bit odd that the folks at D,B and H would choose these barefoot felines, but who am I to tell them how to sell shoes?

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

There are marks on the back from where this card once resided in an album of some sort, the way and reason many of these have survived. People did seem to hang onto them though – much more so than the boring business cards we generally see today – a few tucked under the plexi cover on my drawing table converted to desk and littering the surface remind me. No one is going to be saving the card from the pest control folks residing there. (Moths!) Cats sell and Madison Avenue has never entirely forgotten that lesson.

Pussy cat postscript: Ah, Caturday at Deitch Studio! Cookie is rolling and stretching at my feet and meowing for attention as I write this. She still chases her tail and was at it earlier, even at seven years old. (I must say, it does have a sort of come hither twitch at the end.) She is by far the chattier of the two kits and wants to converse every morning at some length – we are charged with responding or are subject to her wrath. (Meanwhile, if Blackie ever chased his tail it is a long forgotten practice and he snoozes most mornings after he’s eaten. The difference between boys and girls?) Kim is discussing how awful it would be if he were married to Cookie (I’m pleased I get a higher rating), and it would quickly end in divorce court with a sharky kitty attorney (one a bit smarter than Cookie he added) he says. We’ll have to see if there’s ever a story about Kim and his cat wife – and divorce court kitty!

Cookie also likes to claim my work chair in the morning.
Blackie, snoozing earlier this week and showing some fang!

Putting the Dog Before the Cart

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s photo is not only suffering from age, but probably from being under exposed in the first place. In person it also has a bit of solarization that photos from this period often get, almost as if the silver is rising to the surface, making it even harder to see. I knew this when I bought it (to Miss Molly’s credit she does nothing to enhance the images of the photos she sells – that doesn’t happen often, although in my hobby I come across it occasionally), but I loved the image and I decided to take a chance. It is small, the image is only about 3″x4″. So, my apologies for its inherent short comings.

This photo appeals to me because I would have adored having such a set up as a child. I have written on several occasions about employing our long-suffering German Shepard, Duchess, and my cat Snoopy in a complex series of games and scenarios. The fact that, at least as a small child, I would not have had the appropriate real estate needed to really enjoy such a contraption, I will leave aside – you need some real acreage to really sport about it something like this, but wow – you’d really be doing something!

I have long contemplated that the connection with our domestic animal friends is different when you are a small child. Is it because you are, in reality, that much closer to their own intellectual bandwidth at that point? Or are you just communicating more freely? I have always wondered. I can remember long childish conversations with them both, prattling happily along, looking deep into their eyes as I spoke, absolutely certain they understood every word.

Perhaps because of the sheer amount of attention paid to them, they would allow me to undertake all sorts of indignities that I wouldn’t dream of inflicting on my pets as an adult – trying to ride the dog, dressing up the kitty, adventures with the doll carriage and the like. My parents would intervene occasionally if things got out of hand, but generally we were left to our own devices. I would have been on this dog cart thing in a minute given the opportunity. Duchess, somewhere in dog heaven, is perhaps grateful the opportunity did not arise.

My new always-at-home life has changed my relationship with Blackie and Cookie. It isn’t a coincidence that shelters have been emptied of dogs and cats during the pandemic. They are excellent company during these days that merge into one long working day.

The daily routine of Cookie and Blackie was forged early here at Deitch Studio, formed around Kim working at home and his day. Kim and the kitties start the workday (very) early, and he is in charge of their feeding, morning and evening. (Eating to cats is, without question, the most important part of the day – a brief but glorious interlude. We have strict feeding times in an, ever-failing, attempt to keep them from driving Kim nuts all day while he works.)

Until the middle of March I was on the outer edge of this cat constellation, home on weekends, but otherwise generally in the ongoing daily act of coming and going – packing a suitcase and leaving for days at a time on occasion, very undependable. They expected it and my departures and arrivals frankly rarely rated so much as a flatten ear or a greeting glance from either.

I noticed the other day when Kim went out for a walk that the cats sat by the front door the entire time, staring at it. Waiting and willing him to return. They clearly have very little faith in my ability to open a cat food can.

Yet, I think the cats have, over the course of more than four months, completely erased my daily departures from memory. I too am now a daily fixture – if a slightly less useful one. Blackie makes his appearance in Zoom calls and demands a 3:30 cuddle no matter what else I am doing – and Cookie helps me work out daily (she likes it when my trainer, Harris, appears on the iPad for a FaceTime workout where she flirts with him a bit), and both fight me for my work chair. Kim can vouch for the fact that I talk to them all the time – Cookie tends to actually answer. She’s the chatty kit of the two.

And of course I believe they understand me, or at least a certain percentage of what I tell them – mostly encouragement about being the best kitty in the whole world!  and the handsomest boy cat! and even the occasional please get off of the desk – thank you very much! – it isn’t philosophical discussion for the most part. I will have to be home many months longer before I can perhaps find my childhood knack and we can enter into long talks about the meaning of life together, Cookie, Blackie and I.

Gentlemen with Cats and Chicken

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Taking a break from the ramping up of holiday madness all around us and spending a little time with these fine fellows today. Men with cats has long been a favorite sub-genre of my card collecting. (A few earlier examples can be found here and here.) This card was never sent, but someone wrote what appears to be the name Robert Hersir. (On a whim I looked the name Hersir up and discovered it means Viking King.)

I like these guys, and not just because they were smart enough to immortalize their cats and chicken when having this photo taken. There’s something frank and fun about them – the rakish guy with his askew bow-tie in the middle especially. Hat thrown down in front of him, shiny button boots of a day gone by fashion thrust forward, young striped tabby cat in his arms, looking somewhat alarmed or at least admittedly peevish. He stares right out at us from his day, back in the early part of the last century.

My father would occasionally hold one of the cats in the manner of this man, and he would inform the cat that he or she was in “cat prison”. It is a term and strong arm approach I have sometimes adopted with my felines as well when grabbing them up and holding them hostage in this way. (Despite or even because of this, the cats adored my father. I can’t say mine seem to enjoy the experience as much.)

Our guy’s suit, like the kitty, is striped and the photographer gets credit too for the symmetry of the image and how well the image works. It appears to be a photo set when I examine it carefully, a much worn one though it must be said. It also leaves me wondering who takes their kitty and rooster to a photo studio? I can only imagine a world that was a slightly different (more interesting?) place back in that time. Oddly, this is not the first rooster booster pet photo in my collection. I wrote about roosters as pets in photos at least twice last year. (Those posts can be found here and here.)

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The chicken in question, held by a fairly natty fellow with a posy in his buttonhole, looks calmer than the cat. He is somewhat indistinct and it is a bit of a call on my part to say rooster rather than hen, but I believe it is a fellow fowl.

Our third gentleman, who sports a sort of sweet smile, has an almost imperceptible black cat curled up in his lap. Like my kitty Blackie might have, this kitty has made himself comfortable for lap petting during the duration of the session. No stress for him. This man and cat are perched on a small bench of sorts while the guy with the rooster seems to be squatting, but it is hard to tell. All three men wear suits, the paper collared shirts of their day and ties.

I hardly need to mention that the painted backdrop is stained, peeling and generally tatty beyond imagination. The floor covering appears to be much in the same state. It suits these guys fine, but I can’t exactly imagine who came in next. Hard to imagine newly weds or vacationing duos lining up after, but it seems a fitting setting for these guys and their pets.

 

A Trip to the Pet Store

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Kim and I are largely the stay-cation types and enjoy the quietude of Manhattan on holidays as a rule. This week we took a walk together in the late morning of July 4. One of the cat dishes had broken earlier in the week and, as our beloved family owned store on York Avenue, Calling All Pets, was closed for the holiday, we wandered into Petco on Lexington and 86 Street to see if we could procure a replacement. We did, almost immediately, scoring the exact small white dish with pawprints in a design around the outside.

While at the check-out counter with our purchase we noticed a single bright blue Fighting Fish, a Betta, in a container at the register. He was in the sort of one serving size container you get for take-out soup and seemed a tad forlorn. Never having gone further into the store than the catfood display at the front, I had not realized that they sold fish. We decided to wander back and have a look after a brief discussion about whether or not we should add this single fish to our lives – we decided that only Cookie and Blackie would win as a result of that decision. (Our only foray into fish ownership, such as it is, was the subject of an early popular blog post Ode to a Shrimp which can be read here.)

Let me begin by stating that there is an official broad Butler family prohibition on pet stores. Betty, my mom, has actively protested them and has especially been involved with the elimination of puppy mills, at the source and in stores. My mother’s animal rights involvement is indeed another future post as she is an amazing person, but suffice it to say, I have never purchased an animal from a pet store. However, Petco did host the adoption day where we ultimately acquired Cookie and Blackie so it is in a sense their ancestral home. We discovered a small ongoing adoption center for dogs at the back of the store and, although they sell birds, there was a sign encouraging the adoption of those as well and notification that they had a parrot available. The bird display was a bit  low-key and sad. Although they seem to have a nice community here.

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However, fish tanks fascinate me and remind me of my childhood, so after a quick look at the birds we went over to examine the tanks. I never did find the friends of the Betta and perhaps he was up front because he was the last to be sold. Siamese Fighting Fish, are in the gourami fish family and, although they are gorgeous, colored in deep jewel tones with extravagant long fins, they are called fighting fish because the males are so aggressive that they cannot be in a tank together or they will fight to the death. I always believed they could not be in a tank with any other fish, but my reading online for this blog states otherwise.

The fish tank of my childhood was a tribute to the tanks of my mother’s own childhood, informed by her experience and also eventual pre-med studies of zoology and biology in college. (Douglas College, the all-women’s division of Rutgers at the time did not have a proper pre-med program and she tells me that one took a dual major to achieve the closest possible coursework.) In retrospect it wasn’t glorious by some of today’s standards (I have been in homes and offices where amazing tanks take up whole walls, maintained frequently by visiting professionals), but ours had a variety of fish with live plants which fascinated us kids and our then cats alike. (Zipper was very fond of it and liked to “pat” the fish on the glass but never reaching in; Snoopy, a very dignified cat paid it less attention. If kitten Pumpkin had an opinion I do not remember.) Like most children, we’d started with goldfish won at fairs and the like, which had sadly abbreviated lives and I guess mom figured if we were going to do it we would do it right.

Even such a fish tank at the level of ours takes a considerable amount of care and in hindsight I am a bit amazed that my mother took it on knowing what it required. Periodically the fish had to be removed and the tank and any objects (I believe there was a sea chest with treasure in it) carefully cleaned in a way and with substances that would not harm them. Then fresh water had to be prepared, the tank and plants re-installed before the fish could be returned. All of this under the watchful eyes of three small children, as many cats and a German Shepard – most likely while my father was off at work or doing something else. I remember her explaining to me that saltwater tanks were even more complicated and that she had one when she was a little girl.

Nonetheless, mom ran a pretty tight ship on the fish tank and it is a glowing memory of my childhood. Neon tetras (which can be seen in my phone video below made at Petco the other day) made up the rank and file citizens of our tank and their winking color brings me right back to being about eight years old and staring at our tank, sometimes with Zipper in my lap, so he could have his polite look.

 

 

I’m not sure I remember all of the denizens of our tank but I know we also had a few Zebra fish, some guppies and some tiny shark variety of critter. (Internet swipes stolen below.) There were also snails and a catfish sort of guy to help keep it all clean. (I liked his “whiskers” and he was a favorite to watch, often attached to the side of the tank so I could see his tummy.) Lastly, something we called an Angel fish, but I cannot really find its likes online. Our track record with keeping them all alive wasn’t entirely unblemished – I do remember a few fish funerals held at the toilet of the coincidently well located, nearby bathroom. However, in retrospect and reading even a little about it online today I realize that ours was generally a well kept and happily balanced fish tank and that even as a small child I had a sense of how fragile that ecosystem was.

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This lesson was dramatically brought home to us by the acquisition of a Kissing Gourami. Now, to mom’s credit, even online right now you will be told that this is a non-aggressive division of the species compatible with smaller fish in a tank – much like the tale of the fighting fish outlined above. Sadly, we were not to find this to be the case. This little fellow, bully that he was, began systematically eating his way through all the other fish! It wasn’t so dramatic that we realized it right away, but nevertheless it quickly became apparent – and what to do?

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As hateful as this was none of us quite had the stomach to kill him outright, but of course we could not allow him to slaughter every other fish. Luckily someone my father worked with had a much larger tank (where our Gourami would not be the biggest guy on the block) and he was packed off to live with Jack Gray’s fish, leaving us to wonder how he fared matriculating in that larger milieu. (The Buddhists have a saying, big fish eat little fish and I reflect on that often. A favorite illustration of that -from the Met of course! – below.)

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Big Fish Eat Little Fish, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Metropolitan Museum of Art collection

 

I do not remember the ultimate demise of our fish tank. I know it did not make the move to our next house when I was about 12. I assume it petered out – for which my mother was likely grateful.

After our adventure looking at fish, we had a quick tour of lizards before leaving. Generally speaking I have an okay relationship with lizards. It is a step up from rodents, for whom I wish a happy existence however I generally like to keep at arm’s length, but below furry critters who I pretty much universally want to get to know. Gecko’s proved endearing when traveling through Nepal where they ate the mammoth cockroaches in the hotels, “barking” all the while. I have a vague memory of my brother asking for a lizard and my mother saying she just couldn’t do it because all she could see was the day that she found one of our cats with a lizard tail hanging out its mouth.

I’ve always been particularly interested in chameleons. This little fellow, shown at the top of this post and below, took a real liking to me yesterday and he stood and waved at me for what seemed to be an extraordinary length of time. For all the world he did seem to be appealing to me to please take him home and I was tempted to heed his call. With Betty’s long ago words about cats and chameleon’s sadly I could not however really consider it.

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Mornin’

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This entertained me with its little bit of photo collage that makes it possible. The noisy boy kittens (I think they are wearing shirt collars like they just came from a late night party) are “singing” to these proper girl cats, who sport enormous bows, presumably it is their human neighbors who are also being serenaded, much to their chagrin. I am especially enamored of the little house the girl cats are in. This card was mailed on October 22, 1907 at 5:30 PM from Lyons, Kansas to Miss Dorothy Curtis, Villisca, Iowa. (Villisca remains a very small town, only 1200 people as of the 2010 census so even today maybe a street address isn’t needed. The town is evidently best known for an unsolved axe murder in the summer of 1912.)

Cats preventing sleep – night and morning – is a big topic, bless their little nocturnal hearts. I have written some about the morning routine here at Deitch Studio. You’ve heard about how I take my place at the computer eating breakfast while Kim commences working at his end of the desk. During the week I read the newspaper and maybe cheat in a little work email and on the weekend I sit, as I do now, writing this blog. What I have not described is Cookie and Blackie’s routine which starts much earlier.

Ever since his first night in the apartment as tiny kitten, Blackie has been the most likely to sleep on the bed with us. (Despite having been terrified of us and hiding under the bed all of his first day here, I woke in the middle of the night to find him curled up between us snoring away.) He starts his evening between us, usually while we are reading, but after lights out he moves to a spot near my feet. He is sometimes joined by Cookie, who has a pillow of her own down there.

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Blackie, crammed between us during nighttime reading in bed.

 

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Cookie on her pillow perch at the foot of the bed.

 

Come 4:00 am (that’s not a mistake, 4 o’clock!) Blackie begins a frontal assault, primarily on Kim as I do not get up at that hour. This largely takes the form of head butting and jumping on a bookcase full of toy cats, and then plummeting down onto the bed. Cookie watches to make sure he executes properly. If for some reason he does not, she will start racing around on the bed – sometimes they have a chase over us for good measure. Kim is an early riser and more susceptible than me and generally he gets up and feeds them and starts his day.

For those of you who follow us here at Pictorama ongoing, you know that my job at Jazz for Lincoln Center keeps me out quite late on some evenings. In addition, anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to sleep so the early routine of the house is a bit trying for me at times. I have always loved to sleep. My mother tells the story that she brought me home from the hospital and I slept through the night (as did she) and she panicked thinking something had happened to me. I am fond of picking the right pajamas and night gowns, always cotton like our sheets. (I discuss my fondness for my pj’s in a former post which can be found here.) At this very moment I am wearing a pair of pajama bottoms with a toile elephant print which I purchased in homage to the elephant drawings Kim is working on. I adore them.

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My pj’s are still available online from a company with the great moniker, The Cat’s Pajamas.

 

But I love my kitties more even than sleep. And, as I alluded to above, they have figured out that I am not the most likely suspect to get out of bed and often, now tummy full of delicious cat food, Blackie will wander back for a second snooze, curled up with me when I finally hear the clock radio an hour or so later.

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Blackie coming back to share the bed early one morning recently.

 

And of course, once we are both out of the bed it becomes a kitty haven. I close with a rare shot of the two of them sharing it.

 

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