Working

Pam Pictorama Post: It is a chilly September morning as I sit down to write this. We have a window open as we continue to try to air out the apartment from a persistent mustiness that settled on it as we tried to deal with clothing and a smattering of other items that were in our basement locker during the hit and run of Hurricane Ida. Coffee, the remedy to all things waking up, is perking (yes, perking, I actually still use a percolating pot) on the stove. Yesterday had the same September chill and I was thinking about how those first few chilly days somehow manage still to surprise us each year.

The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, set up for the first dinner I held there in 2017.

Every year we think it seems early, but it isn’t really as it is mid-September after all. And while we know that we will still have some very hot days still slated, somehow the spell of summer is really broken. As a kid I remember feeling that somehow that first day of school should have some chill in the air – it seemed wrong to go back to the school routine when it was still hot and you wanted to wear shorts and sandals instead of school clothes and hard shoes.

Rosh Hashanah commenced the Jewish holidays this week and welcomed in a New Year. I have always thought that the Jewish calendar of holidays was spot on – this is the time of the year when I think of starting over (it’s that back-to-school thing again), Yom Kippur shortly after which makes you take a hard look at yourself, and Passover as part of the renewal process of spring.

A box made by Kim which sits on the desk in my office. I wrote about it in a post called Kim’s Elephant Box.

I have written a bit on and off about the potential return to the office – it is still pending and currently set for mid-October, Covid variants pending. (Among those posts are two here and here.) I have spent the summer with a mental punch list of things that I need to do in order to begin to officially return to the world. As a result I have seen a litany of doctors and gotten myself back on their roster of maintenance and taken their neglected battery of tests, ending with the dentist finally this past week. I have had a hair cut, although I think I am already due for another. My weight loss program is nearing its goal which commenced last November and took on the pandemic pounds first and then moved onto what I had needed to lose before it all started. I am hovering within five pounds of my lowest fighting weight, as I like to think of it. I started running last November as well and have largely stuck to it through thick and thin, pausing only for the worst snow over the winter and longer after breaking my fingers on Memorial Day. (The finger tale of woe can be found here and the story of my nascent running is here.) I am a person who finds comfort in developing a list of achievable goals and the ability to check them off as I go.

Felix sheet music from my collection decorates the walls of my office. Sheet music Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

My office is still virtually deserted when I make trips there these days. We’ve cleaned and cleared the decks of old paper and tossed out the plants that didn’t make it on a visit as a group earlier this summer. It is in a state of perpetual weekend in my mind. I tend to show up for what I need to do there – checking the mail and the like – and I leave. There is no music wafting through the halls or out of the offices of colleagues. When I look around and try to imagine us all back I am reminded that many folks won’t be back – a staff of 16 which has whittled down to possibly as few as five of us returning to the office in my group and a similar proportion across the organization. The loss of a dear colleague, Jazz giant historian Phil Schaap, to cancer this week will linger over the common spaces we shared and his office. (His obit can be found here.)

Dog walkers back on the job in Manhattan earlier this week.

As I cleaned my closets and purged moth eaten clothing (another of the tasks on my long list) I realized that we are all essentially two years older. I realize this should be self evident, but everything else aside I haven’t sat cheek to jowl with this folks every day for seventeen months and counting. I look at these clothes in wonder and think about whether I have any interest in wearing them again – they are a microcosm of another time. I don’t right now, but keep the ones that moths have not (yet) made visible inroads in and that look like they might fit and figure I will worry about that another day.

The world at large still has mixed feelings about in-person interaction, at least here in Manhattan. I have scheduled numerous visits with patrons I haven’t seen in person over the duration over the coming weeks. Some still only doing outside and others looking forward to live music inside. I have emailed and spoken with others who are not ready at all. Our jazz club, Dizzy’s, is full some nights and deserted on others following a rhythm none of us can quite decode. Showing my vaccination status everywhere I go will become law on Monday, but many restaurants and other public venues have already adopted it.

Katherine Rusell performing at Dizzy’s back in July of ’19. I will hear her again in a few weeks at Dizzy’s.

My work days are long again. I start very early before my run, work through the day and find myself drifting back to my desk after dinner. My intermittent insomnia has already put in an appearance, the mental calculator of millions of dollars to raise this year ticking away in my brain.

This morning I am reminded of when my sister Loren’s apartment was broken into while going to grad school in Chicago – after that she would frequently refer to things as being “before the heist” or “after the heist”. This would usually refer to something she no longer owned, but sometimes it would refer to other things like the acquisition of her large dog Ron – although I believe he was adopted after a subsequent spate of robberies in Berkley. I felt that way after 9/11 and then experienced a personal version after Loren died a few years later. World wide disruptions and personal ones, the great divides that change the path we thought we were on but were never really destined for. We will be talking about the before time and the post-pandemic one for a long time going forward.

Still, my back-to-school spirit remains intact and although I am still layering sweaters over sundresses (and have not committed to ever wearing anything but sneakers again), I am mentally starting to construct what this new world is going to look like for me and to some degree for my team at work. I remain ever interested in what the future will look like and what I will make of it now.

Falling Back?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As I write today Kim (the cats) and I are speeding toward the end of our summer vacation. Exhausted overall, we stayed in Manhattan and just determined to rest and have some fun here. One of the highlights was the postponed Cartoon Carnival evening which I wrote about in an earlier post (here), delayed initially by one hurricane and almost delayed again by a second one. The delightful Sunday evening had an unusual chill to the air for August and that and rough waters (Ida creeping up the coast?) made me scuttle my plan to take two ferries to arrive there and maybe sneak in a flea market as well. Instead we took the subway out and scored a nice dinner. The backyard of City Reliquary in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was the location and we had the added benefit of seeing their exhibit on candy as well.

Not quite a third of the way into the program (Out to Sea was the theme with lots of jolly swordfish fights and mice using donuts as life preservers), there was a power surge and the projector went off as did all visible lights around us, including in the apartment building looming behind the screen. The power came back quickly and, sadly, burned a frame or two of the print before Tommy could stop it (Tommy Stathes, our curator and host uses 16mm prints with a real projector), admittedly a familiar sight to those of us who have seen a lot of film run however. We quickly got rolling again though and were treated to several cartoons we had not seen before, for me two Felix cartoons and one by Paul Terry for starters. I also purchased a few dvd’s from him so we could continue the party at home. (If you love old cartoons you need to know about Tommy and his site can be found here or find him on IG @tomatitojose.)

The cheerful bar and candy counter at the outdoor backyard at City Reliquary.

When we headed back to the subway around 10:00, we were to discover that the power surge had caused an inexplicably large suspension of subways; 80 trains suspended we heard the next day. We first tried the L and then walked to the J before we realized that underground was not happening between Brooklyn and Manhattan tonight. Eventually we found our way onto a bus designated to essentially get people over the bridge and to the nearest station in Manhattan, Essex Street. There we discovered further outages, but eventually lucked out with a F train which took us to our beloved Q line and home. It was 12:30 before we got back – very relieved we’d fed our kitties before we left.

On the looong trip home. On the F train, the remains of someone’s dinner and, mysteriously, a large pile of lottery cards. We’re hoping he or she won and ran off the subway without the rest!

Monday dawned and I decided it was time to fulfill a long-standing pledge to myself to finally go through my closets which have largely remained utterly undisturbed since March of ’20. Yes, I belong to that group of people who climbed into workout clothes that weekin mid-March of ’20 and never really got out of them again. As some Pictorama readers know, over those first months I rediscovered my early talent for cooking and baking (recipes and cooking memoirs can be found here and here for starters) and of course gained a lot of weight. Last November I took it in hand and I began running and went on a diet. (Posts devoted to my nascent running can be found here and here.)

Two broken fingers later (I fell running) and having now lost more weight than I initially gained (but still looking to lose a bit more), I faced the time capsule that is my closet with many deeply mixed feelings. In addition to just needing to go through the closet moths have been erecting a citadel in both of them which I needed to confront, all those clothes sitting undisturbed was a moth bonanza it seems. So it was with great trepidation that I waded in.

From the great Felix cartoon dvd we purchased from Tommy!

It took three days and for the most part I didn’t bother trying to figure out what might fit or not, mostly only deal with the moths, cleaning, organizing and tossing damaged items. Notable among the victims were black wool tuxedo trousers that Kim has owned for decades, traded for a bunch of homegrown pot on a long ago day in California, long before we met. As the husband of a fundraiser Kim has needed a no less than annual use of said tux, alas, we are sad with this loss.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my overall extreme ambivalence about the idea of office clothes and returning to a world of wearing them. Please understand, I have always liked nice clothes and good shoes. (My love of jewelry which incidentally continues unabated has been documented here recently.) Therefore, my extreme disinterest in resurrecting them remains surprising. (I always liked make-up as well and have lost interest in that too for the most part.) It is somewhat disorienting to realize that I am somehow no longer that person, but am left with a fuzzy picture of who exactly that means I am. Part of me thought, let’s just pitch the lot of it.

Cookie helping with the closet organizing.

Having spent virtually my entire career not only working in an office but fundraising in particular has meant that I have gone to the office dressed to meet and speak with potential donors virtually every single day. When I worked at the Met it wasn’t unusual for people to phone unexpectedly who were visiting the galleries and ask to come and see me. Board members routinely wandered in for meetings. Early in my career there was an actual dress code (you didn’t wear trousers for evening events) and although that faded over time, it was expected that a level of professional dress would be maintained and people who didn’t catch on were flatly told to tow the line.

My current position has me less likely to have those unexpected meetings but between evening events, scheduled meetings and lunches, and a large amount of work travel while the precise nature of what I wore changed, the fact that I was dressed for business everyday was well ingrained. (A board member at my current position complained to someone that I wore too many suits. To this day that comment confounds me. Did she want me to show up in a tank top and flip flops?)

Central Park as the sun was setting, on our way to Dizzy’s Club in Columbus Circle.

The top strata layer of my closet reminded me that I had been traveling to the midwest right before shutdown. A trip to Wisconsin, following by Milwaukee and then a subsequent one to Chicago, had meant a lot of wool (more moth industry and joy) and layers that had been worn. (A blog post devoted to one of those trips and some musing on fundraising can be found here.) Further digging found the clothes I usually keep year round in the closet for seasonal trips to Florida and California. I cast a jaundiced eye at those wondering if my current weight would enable me to get me back in them yet. (A somewhat academic question for now of course, although in a sort of tentative world a trip to the west coast looms for January, maybe Florida in December.)

Another photo heading to Columbus Circle the other evening.

More importantly though, despite the visceral memories the clothes brought back of essentially another time, it crashed directly into my current sensibility of who I actually am now and more importantly, who do I want to be and where am I going with this?

Thursday night Kim and I decided to head over to Dizzy’s. (His idea really, as a treat to cheer me up a bit after three days of moth-y work. Thank you honey!) Dizzy’s is the Jazz at Lincoln Center, my former clubhouse of sorts in the pre-pandemic world, and we went to hear some young musicians I know. I had been to Dizzy’s once already for our re-opening two weeks before and the emotion of being back in that room and hearing live music had been overwhelming, not just for me but for the whole audience of friends and family we had invited for the evening. This night however, I had Kim with me and we were visiting as civilians as such, me not working. (I would be remiss if I didn’t say you can make reservations for upcoming shows at jazz.org.)

Isaiah Thompson on piano, Julien Lee on sax, TJ Reddick drums and Philip Norris on bass, Thursday night at Dizzy’s. Hard to beat the view out these windows, New York skyline and Central Park!

Without the distraction of working and being in charge of an event, I was more focused on the experience of just being there. Seeing these recent Juilliard graduates, some of the best young jazz musicians today, getting a chance to play at the club was wonderful. The leader of the quartet was Isaiah Thompson and one of the things he said in his introduction was that he found it was so much more intense to play in front of people now. I also find this to be true. Sitting down with people and talking to them in person is indeed more intense .

I also thought about the incredibly fragile ecosystem that is jazz and the hard work of Jazz at Lincoln Center to maintain that important link, helping to hold it together and connect the pieces, making evenings like this possible for these extremely talented and just ascending young musicians. I fell to thinking about the phenomenal work that we had all dedicated just to keep it alive over these more than seventeen months. I am proud to be a part of that, but also deeply tired. My ties to it go much deeper now, but my awareness of how delicate and even ephemeral it is remains indelible and front of mind as well. The grim reality is that it isn’t over yet, there is no real return to what we thought of as normal and there is much hard work yet ahead as I look toward returning next week.

Returning: Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Although I am presently reveling in a sea of newly acquired Felix photos, I am pausing today to take stock of my nascent (albeit partial) return to our offices this week. Although I have occasionally had reason to go to Columbus Circle throughout the fifteen months (and counting) of the pandemic, this week I asked my (remaining, greatly reduced) staff to join me for a day of clearing out and organizing in advance of a full return in September. We met first in Central Park for breakfast and a farewell to a favorite staffer who is leaving to pursue his PhD in musicology full time.

As an aside, I have set the goal of walking to and/or from work as often as possible. This regime found me walking two six plus miles trips this week. Let’s see how long I can keep that going. We’ll put the pin there for now and return to that in a future post.

From a morning walk through Central Park this week.

Meanwhile, I had seen some of my colleagues when the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra opened Summerstage back in June. (A post about that can be found here.) Others I had made visits to, an outdoor drink or coffee here or there, just to have an in-person meeting with them last summer or as vaccinations had eased restrictions. However, even with that there were two I had not seen in person and it was altogether incredibly lovely to have everyone together in person for a bit. Being together has meaning and does make a difference.

This Le Pain Quotidien has re-opened in Central Park and we scarfed down treats from there for our celebratory Central Park visit.

Energized and armed with tummies full of carbs we re-donned our masks and headed over to our building to spend the afternoon tossing out dated paper, old food and reorganizing our work spaces. Despite periodic visits into the office for specific needs throughout this period, I for one still had a desk piled with paper from the middle of March 2020, not to mention a cabinet with bags of nibbles such as dark chocolate and boiled almonds. We’ll assume a mousy fiesta was had as I also cleared some mouse dung off my desk.

As an aside, has anyone else noticed that the sparrows have gotten extremely friendly and, well, assertive?

I was deeply struck by a few things as I created piles of documents to keep for files, shred and throw out. The first was how very little of all of that paper I ultimately kept. I created two small files – one concerning a trip to South Africa and the other which was research for a project I have picked back up. Piles of paper went out. Everything else I disposed of and after more than a year of working at home, almost all of it without a printer, I have finally broken the paper habit.

More subtly, I realized that I work in an entirely different way overall now. As always, necessity has been the mother of invention and I learned to raise money differently over this period. While I know it, can see and feel it, I am not sure I can put my finger on exactly what it means for going forward.

Strange to be back!

Looking at some of the lists and paper left time capsule-like on my desk (I have been thinking of it as Miss Havisham’s desk), much of it seems incredibly ineffectual to me now. Gosh, why had I been wasting my time chasing this or worrying about that? Why did I think that would go somewhere? It made me wonder if the evolution was a natural one that might have occurred anyway, but I wouldn’t have had a chance to revisit this way – this snapshot of 15 months prior. Or has the change really been that radical? Probably a bit of both.

As I try to unpack how to bridge what used to be and what will be going forward, at least for now, my brain aches with the effort and I find myself exhausted trying. What was working, is working and might still work? I do believe part of me really was thinking that when we returned that we would pick up doing what we had before and of course that is not possible. While I understood that on some level, I don’t think I saw the divide as clearly and I have finally started to let go of that hope. But what is worth devoting time and resources to? Raising money isn’t like making widgets and cause and effect does not always tick and tie, but of course some analysis will help. Still, I continue to work my brain going over the mental territory over again.

The lobby of our building. Familiar yet new again.

Of course, in addition to this thorny knot, the future remains a great unknown. While that has always literally been true, the last year and change have underscored this reality and we weigh possibilities like angels dancing on the head of a pin – if this, then that, if not, perhaps this? Fundraisers are by nature long-term planners and being thwarted in my attempts to plan is frustrating to all of us.

I credit this period with making me more skilled at my job, but can those newly acquired skills transcend the nature of this ever-shifting tide? While there seems to be a great deal of discussion simply about working remotely or in-person, I wish there was more about how we might take the best from both rather than an either or – back to the old or remain in the nebulous new. It isn’t just about where people work from, but how they work and forge a new way of working. Let’s take the lid off and dig into to it a bit. Perhaps everyone isn’t having these sorts of revelations, but I would be interested to know if they are.

Annual

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a remarkably wet start to the July 4 weekend here in Manhattan. The coffee is perking, Kim is reading a heavy tome (Thomas Wolfe) on the other side of this table, Cookie was last seen curled up in an odd small corner between a closet door and the entrance to the bathroom, and Blackie is snoozing on my desk chair, curled up with my black sweatshirt which has grown greatly tatty with use over the past 15 months at home.

This simple hoody was originally purchased with for the specific purpose of being a warm layer, easily washed, to protect me from the elements when coming home from the gym sweaty. While I have not employed it for that use in a very long time, it is frequently pulled on against the apartment chill of all seasons which, along with a much-worn pair of Addidas sweatpants, I will probably look back as the uniform of home pandemic wear. (I sport a looser sweatshirt – better for many layers – with my alma mater, Connecticut College emblazoned on it, when running. In fact I was wearing it when I fell a few weeks ago and was glad I had the presence of mind to change before going to the ER so that I didn’t need to cut it off to get around my heavily bandaged hand later in the day. I opine on the comfy sweatshirt as part of a post on running to be found here and of course my fall and subsequent broken fingers here and about my nascent running career here.)

Blackie blends into the sweatshirt, his white chest badge tucked under him and his glowing eyes shut. He is in danger of getting sat upon when perched here and we spent a lot of time this week fighting over this chair. He doesn’t trust my weekend defection to the other desk and computer.

My former stomping ground, the Metropolitan Museum, on a recent morning.

Rain or shine, in my fundraising life this holiday weekend has always marked the close of one fiscal year and the fresh start of a new one. Since taking on the role of head fundraiser the battle to meet an income budget has become paramount in my mind. At the Metropolitan Museum and during my many years there, it was also a busy time which combined tying up my own program income and in later years working through compensation, performance reviews and tracking the progress of the other fundraising programs, but the ultimately responsibility did not fall squarely on my shoulders as it does now – and the responsibility of the past two fiscal years has been, to say the least, substantial. (A post written upon leaving the Met after 30 years can be found here.)

So for me, this holiday is always about considering the prior year while starting to shrug it off in order to start over. Raising money is a sort of annual miracle which has to be built from the ground up every twelve months where we rise from the ashes of the prior year and build the new one. And although I always say it is at least as much science as art and of course good planning helps, I suspect it is a bit different than, let’s say the supply and demand of making and selling widgets. No one has to give money and fundraising is mercurial under the best of circumstances. And, as for many people and industries, the past 15 months of raising money for a shuttered performing arts organization have been extraordinary and stretched my creativity in ways I didn’t suspect I had. (Prior posts about my first year at this job and my pandemic work life can be found here and a recent one about contemplating the return to the office, here.)

Blackie is among the pets of the world who will need to adjust to no longer being a routine member of the staff.

In addition, like many managers I am facing a staff of folks who are trying to figure out how they will shake off the exhaustion of these long months at home and re-imagine the next phase of their professional careers. I think for many the difficulty of morphing back to the pre-pandemic world is so hard that instead they are deciding that instead they will open a new chapter somewhere else and start the story over. I can appreciate the inclination although I also believe that in the end you take your problems with you so you might as well face them where you are. Nevertheless, they are peeling off in record numbers and heading to graduate school, to support other causes, or to remain near family they have spent the last months with or caring for.

It isn’t just my staff obviously – we are reading about it constantly in the news, and I am also being asked to serve as reference for many of the colleagues I have remained in touch with over the years as they too shift and morph.

Whatever form post-pandemic work takes I would like to make sure I still spend time outside and in the park. I have really enjoyed that early morning time outside, in all weather, over the past year.

I was reading a response to a friend’s post on Instagram which addressed the overwhelming lassitude of returning the world and how she, as a busy professional had once balanced so many competing needs daily, now found herself exhausted just by making a grocery list. While the pressures of my job only increased over the last year and a half, it has all been performed from a command central here aloft in a high rise apartment on East 86th Street where I forced myself out the door just to get some exercise after the first six months were spent with virtually none.

Lobby of the Milwaukee Art Museum, taken on a break to visit a friend while on one of my last business trips shortly before the shutdown.

As we begin to plan for a rapidly approaching season of revived live music, events and related travel, I look askance at my now moth eaten wardrobe, assess the excess weight I am still in the process of losing, have endless discussions about what a return to the office will look like, and a pre-emptive exhaustion rolls over me. I try to exercise the weak muscle by making in-person appointments, first with friends and increasingly for work. Part of me is also trying to figure out the next chapter too – do I need to travel in the coming January? How many nights a week do I need to work? Which of the tools I was employing was actually working and which can I let go of? Does any of that matter now as we all rethink our world and try to form it in a new image?

On the other hand, I arrive on the shores of the new world with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation for my capabilities. Damn, I am good at this and have achieved against the odds, albeit certainly not alone, but with the undeniable hard work and commitment of so many colleagues. Still, I will return to the world with a new sense of my own capabilities and resourcefulness, more confident than before with less of a tendency to be apologetic. As I relax over this wet holiday weekend and allow the sense of relief to roll over me briefly, goals finally met, year closed, I will relax with Kim and kitties, grab a (fake) hotdog, pour a drink and gently cultivate thoughts of the coming next chapter and what I chose to make of it.

Pinned

Pam’s Pictorama Post: One of the strangest byproducts of the past year was a developing penchant for pins. Backing up a bit, allow me to assure you that I have long been a joyful purchaser of jewelry. However, pre-pandemic, I was decidedly more of a ring gal and my preference was almost exclusively gold. My taste did not especially run to gem stones, although with occasional exception. It wasn’t unusual for me to wear four rings on a typical day, including my simple gold wedding band which I wore every day, along with a few gold bangle bracelets. Really, fingers were for decorating.

Coinciding with staying at home my fingers began to swell. I have mentioned that I have psoriatic arthritis, (related posts can be found here and here), but it has typically not been fully resident in my hands and my fingers remain fairly straight. I assume the swelling is in some way tied to less cardio exercise – the lack of the daily walking around town of the sort that used to be normal. Anyway, that combined with rarely leaving the house to do more than shop for groceries or hit the drugstore, meant that for the most part I took my rings off last March and have rarely worn them since.

This one also from Wassail_Antiques contained a Felix mug as well! Future post there!

And yet some time around last fall my photo buying interest on Instragram (the purchasing of photos and other ephemera has been documented in posts here and here) lead me to a few select, vintage jewelry dealers. These are folks, mostly women from Great Britain, deal largely in turn of the century items. At first it just fascinated me that these items were not things I typically have seen in looking at vintage jewelry in this country since I was a teenager or younger. While it wasn’t wildly different, it was different enough to capture my imagination – sort of a parallel universe to the vintage jewelry I have been looking at and purchasing for years in the US. Almost entirely silver, this is strangely like a mid-life, British version of the early vintage jewelry I boasted in my twenties and early thirties.

Early purchase, incoming package!

As an aside and bonus, these folks all seem to live with access to the most stunning British countryside and an additional benefit has been the gorgeous photos of their surroundings which feed a craving for some non-urban views in this narrow New York City life. Folks like Mia – aka @therubyfoxes treat me to almost daily photos of her ambitious (if often muddy) morning runs through the farms and woods there. She also has two adorable cats and recently posted a great series of nighttime hedgehog videos from her garden. (In addition she makes a darn good looking Friday night pizza for her husband and son and was kind with encouragement about my nascent running career.) Marco, of @fiorisfinds, and the purveyor of the heart pin (shown further down) and more recently a pretty faux aquamarine ring, has a pair of mighty fine looking bunnies, Basil and Dinky, who have their own account, @abunnycalledbasil.

Photo credit to Rachel from Wassail_Antiques. I wore this to a rare in-person lunch yesterday.

Because many of these sellers also deal in early photos, a photo or two often shows up with the package. Rachel in particular wraps her packages in a layered and luxurious way and it is a bit like Christmas or your birthday when one of her packages shows as shown below. (The recent purchase of a necklace from @marsh.and.meadow came with a tiny early photo worthy of its own post – watch for it and a related Easter post tomorrow.)

My most recent package from Rachel at Wassail_Antiques. She and most of the other dealers mentioned can also be found on Etsy. Am especially loving the Rinty card here!

Slowly I began to purchase an item here and there. Given the swelling in my hands and that rings are generally best tried on, my interest wandered to pins. I have never worn many pins and consider getting them attached attractively to clothing a challenge and a talent, like tying a scarf, I do not readily possess. Nevertheless, I have acquired quite a few. Among them a jolly horseshoe to be placed upward to hold the luck in, congratulatory messages on hearts, and most recently two beaded butterflies.

I definitely have not done these butterfly pins justice. Hard to describe but they are very lovely indeed in person.

The butterflies are more beautiful in person than they photograph. I purchased them from a favorite seller, @Wassail_Antiques who is also a talented photographer and I have treated you to a few of her photos here. Therefore it is rare that an item arrives and Rachel has not fully captured its beauty, yet these fellows pleased me even more in person than they had online. These butterflies languished in her shop long enough to gnaw at my brain which was looking for a fix of spring, just waiting for me I guess. They have done the job and the gorgeous pics of her dog and the sheep and meadows around her house as spring blooms help too. (In pulling together photos for this I realize that rings are not entirely absent from my purchases and several necklaces, very short for good Zoom viewing, bright and cheerful glass “stones” have also been acquired and gone into rotation. Zoom jewelry is, oddly kept on a shelf near my computer rather than with my other jewelry.)

This double heart feels like it is shouting encouragement at me. This style of silver pin is very available and I have to resist the temptation to just keep buying them.

The butterfly pins were evidently made by prisoners of war, I believe during WWII, but perhaps in the first World War as well? I was unable to find any real history about the practice. Butterflies were also a symbol used in mourning jewelry in Victorian Britain, but I will mostly ignore that fact and focus on spring I think. For that matter insect pins in general have begun to interest me – Art Deco fat insects with paste or gem stones. I had to control myself over a large cicada pin which of course would be a nice way to celebrate the little fellows on their once every seven year appearance coming this spring. I do not know where the vision of me sporting many insects crawling up my shoulder has come from or why exactly it now appeals.

Cropped photo from Wassail_Antiques on Etsy.

Like most of us, the shoulder and neck view of Zoom has meant that my colleagues and associates have largely seen a long line of dark scoop necked tops with the occasional cardigan (or frankly sweatshirt) thrown over them. I don’t have pierced ears, but a tiny pair of bright blue glass earrings that were among my early purchases from Rachel make an occasional appearance. Meetings with Board or non-staff might encourage me to pull out one of two soft sweater jackets that I acquired for that purpose as well. For some reason though it seems weird to sit in my apartment in a fitted jacket with lapels of the kind I used to wear almost daily. Yet somehow in the back of my mind I have been formulating a vision of a time when I will sport lapels again, boasting multiple pins on them. Hearts will gather together, horseshoes will provide good luck, and butterflies and perhaps other insects will flit across my shoulder.

Springing Softly

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Those of us in the New York City area we were treated to an early and unexpected few days with temperatures in the high sixties and seventies. Windows were thrown open and thoughts of ice cream started to dance in my otherwise strictly diet-minded brain. Suddenly the idea of eating outside appeals rather than making us reach glumly for the long johns and down. I am rethinking my running attire which has been a many layered affair until now, knowing that soon it will be a question of stripping down rather than staying warm.

It is the end of March and we are sincerely hoping to hold onto the out-like-a-lamb part of the saying, but experience tells us that even early April can have some nasty weather surprises so I am trying not to get too attached. Nonetheless, we are like insects delayed too long in our larvae stage, now finally thrust into a metamorphosis. We were in a sense deprived of spring last year as it was the beginning still of our pandemic year – I know that the weather must have turned with the same appeal come hither temps, but the other aspects of last April have wiped spring from my memory. Only a long hot summer remains when I look back.

Spring beds coming to life in the park.

This year we emerge both tentative and with the power of pent-up desire. Discussions about how to build the bridge back to normal fill my work days now, although the terminus of this marathon is not yet really quite in sight. My brain struggles to work on a duel track of finishing the next leg of this quarantine period and setting an agenda and plan for moving forward. Part of me just wants to loll like a kitty in the sun by an open window, the other part is all business.

I don’t switch gears quickly so I am trying to allot time for this process and to imagine what that post-Covid life looks like. Twinkling reminders of the before time and the joys of it bounce into memory and then out. My brain gets swamped immediately though as I try to sort through and I can’t quite get a purchase.

Trees starting to bloom on an otherwise gray day in the park this week.

I gently remind my office colleagues that being out in the world is a muscle, somewhat atrophied, that we must start to exercise, encouraging them to meet me outside but close to them, to begin the process. It is hard for me and it appears to be difficult for them too. So far I have very few takers. I understand their reluctance.

The upcoming advent of Easter and Passover are harbingers of the season and turn my mind habitually to thoughts of renewal rebirth as they do in any year – just as fall will eternally remain the turning over of another back-to-school type leaf.

This year though we relive the launch of the pandemic as the wheel of the year turns to our second one, meanwhile straining to see the end of it. Is everyone experiencing the same simultaneous desire and reluctance to cast off our cocoons? I feel like everyone wants me to go faster than I can and I admire the people who seem to be better at it. However, I admit I struggle with the mental exercise of being in two places at once and of two minds. And of course it isn’t going back to the before time that we are weighing now, but thoughtfully attempting to create an entirely new world after and what we want it to look like.

Belated

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As is sometimes the case, a birthday post has been nudged forward by the great Deitch Valentine reveal. My birthday comes right before that holiday and has a way of getting mashed up with it. As Pictorama readers know, my idea of a birthday celebration in the before time was for Kim and I to spend the day poking around an antique toy store here in Manhattan, and checking in at a few places I would happily classify as junk stores and then grabbing lunch. (Past birthday posts can be found here and here and always resulted in a pleasant acquisition of stuff.) Covid times do not allow for that and I wonder what merchants of that kind will still be with us when we get to the other side, as well as restaurants.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Kim gave me this rather splendid ancient Halloween toy which I found at auction and is the first of its kind to enter my collection. His head is paper mache and his body is a woolly felt. His red ruff is a bit of silk and he is perched on a wooden handle. He can be moved gently like a puppet and I think he would have been a jolly addition for a child celebrating the holiday and is the right size for that. Unwrapping it in the morning, along with some birthday cards (yes, I still send them via the mail and receive a few in turn) launched the day nicely.

I was born in a snow storm. My mom often tells the story of her decision to go to the hospital as soon as she sensed it might be the day and having a look at the weather forecast. (We Wheeling women are planners!) It was a good decision because the snow piled up rapidly and by the time I was born in the late afternoon, the New Jersey town of her own birth and where they were staying with her parents, was under a deep blanket of snow.

My father brought her a large box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. (Dad always brought us boxes of chocolates for Valentine’s Day – Whitman Samplers and puffy heart shaped boxes of Russell Stover ones.) As the story goes, the long-standing family doc visited her in the evening (he had not delivered me, an obstetrician had) and sat on the edge of her bed and ate his way through the entire box of chocolates! Much to my father’s surprise when he showed up, the empty box remained and he gave his wife a sideways look (it would have been quite an accomplishment after giving birth only hours before) until she realized and let him in on the demise of the candy.

Carl Schurz Park in the snow the day after my birthday.

Having a mid-February birthday has meant a regular routine of canceled or rescheduled plans over the decades. I won’t say there is snow on the ground for everyone of my birthdays, but several major snowstorms stick out in my mind including one where I stubbornly went down to the East Village to meet someone and incredibly found myself in drifts of unshoveled snow waist deep. A few years later, there was a weekend trip with a then boyfriend that sadly had to be canceled, but instead he booked us into a wonderful old-fashioned hotel in midtown where we watched the snow pile up around us.

Snowy February view from our apartment.

To be honest, I find birthdays a bit overwhelming. When I turned 21 I decided to take matters in my own hands; I invited a friend to join me and I concocted a worthy day of celebration. Once I had a job, my sister insisted that I take the day off from work and to reinforce the idea Loren also took the day and we spent it together a few times. The first time we visited the butterfly exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History (it was endearing to me that she went despite the fact that later I found out that they actually freaked her out) and had lunch together. Loren also had the habit of calling me at the crack of dawn on my birthday, stating that she wished to be the first to wish me a Happy Birthday. (A good friend of hers keeps the practice via text and email rather than phone at 5:30 or 6:00 – although the day at Deitch Studio is already well underway by then these days.) I still miss it every birthday.

Many years ago I founded the practice of a series of dinners with friends and colleagues who also had February birthdays throughout the month, a birthday club of sort that embraced people from all aspects of my life. Sadly in recent years it has whittled down to just a few (fellow Aquarians, feel free to speak up!) and of course this year bringing all more or less to a halt. Covid combined with piles of snow! Still, I look forward to catching up with those folks annually and have the space to just relax and check in with each other.

Eileen Travell at a birthday dinner last year.

Somehow even my game of pretending outdoor eating is like being on an Arctic expedition couldn’t meet the challenge of the weather for outdoor dining this year. (My last outdoor meal was at the end of December and there was snow piled on the ground already. We sat under heaters and were offered blankets sealed in bags. My layers and boots combined with the consumption of a hot toddy and hot soup kept it festive for a bit more than an hour before we decided we were done.) My birthday week the restaurants were largely in agreement with me and weren’t even trying as they dug out from what the snow plows dumped in their al fresco dining areas. I think I will bring my own polar fleece blanket if I tried again before spring.

This year I did however take the day off from work and despite being home I really came as close as I have since last March to unplugging. My office was very thoughtful and flowers arrived from one faction and a lovely bag of cheese and treats from another. I purchased a new chair for work as I have been perching on a very worn one sans arms and my back has been in violent protest. (My trainer, Harris Cowan, told me that no arms on the chair was a big no no as he tried to get me to stretch my way out of the lower back pain.) While I had intended to buy it for myself for my birthday my mother stepped in and made it a birthday gift from her. Several days prior to my birthday it arrived and Kim and I put it together which, while challenging, we managed handily.

Cookie in full possession of the new office chair earlier today.

I deeply suspect that buying a desk chair is a bit like buying a new mattress – it can be a very expensive mistake and it is hard on the face of it to judge how spending hours in it is really going to work out. Going to office supply stores to try them out seemed out of the question under the circumstances, nor do I think you can really tell what it will be like to sit in something for hours on end by just sitting down in it. It is a decision you are going to live with and therefore somewhat intimidating to make. I researched them online (there were none without complaints, but I decided on which things I thought I could live with if true), decided on a medium sort of price range (they quickly go from inexpensive to more than a thousand dollars), and picked one. Sadly, I was told about four days later that the chosen one was no longer in stock and I went with my second choice.

Cookie on the former chair favorite, now a lesser perch.

Although I am still adjusting things around it (table height of the drafting table I use as a desk still isn’t right) it was a fine choice. The cats fight me for it daily in fact (they adore it) and as I write this at our “big” computer (I work on a laptop during the week) Cookie is curled up in it. She has been asleep in it since last night and she has one eye half open staring at me wondering if I am going to take it away from her. She and Blackie go to war over it almost daily – war hoops and boxing over the right to claim it. In general I would say Cookie has the edge in the amount of time she spends in it – she is very determined. When shutout Blackie goes back to sleeping on the bed, Cookie often to the chair I am sitting in now – which used to be the chair of cat choice. When Cookie and Blackie allow, I sit in it for upwards of ten hours a day and I am very glad for the arms in particular – especially when work requires I be on camera for long periods of time.

In the spirit of birthday, I also purchased myself the pin below. Last year I had purchased an old school medal which declared, Improvement in this very different year I bought this one with hearts from Great Britain which instead offers Best Wishes. (This purchased from an Instagram seller I am very fond of following, @fiorisfinds. Hey Marco! Thank you!) Nice to give myself encouragement where I can.

I have not resigned myself to the idea that I won’t still figure out a birthday meal of sorts with at least one determined friend, and perhaps at least a call or a Zoom call with another. A few of the elderly ones will have to suffice with cards and emails this year. When the weather warms up even a smidge I will see if Kim and I can’t get out of the apartment for a day in another part of town – everything outside of the immediate environs of Yorkville feels exotic these days. And when we do, I promise to tell you all about it.

A Deitch Studio Valentine

Pam’s Pictorama Post: At a quick count this is the seventh Valentine reveal we’ve had here at Deitch Studio and Pictorama. The actual tradition of Kim making me Valentines goes back to the first year Kim and I were together though and this November we round the two decade mark.

Cookie, currently in possession of my work chair.

Of course, like many folks, we’ve spent the past year knitted tightly together in our one room, with our two kitties, Blackie and Cookie. My days are punctuated by doing the small stuff, like fighting the cats for my desk chair (Cookie is sound asleep in it right now, I swear she’s smiling), or making us grilled cheese with jalapeno peppers for lunch. Somehow talking about our home life always comes back to food for me and my at home days have given birth to a revived interest in cooking – necessary and nurturing, it is at the heart of home.

My newly persistent home life means two distinct meals a day here – breakfast happens on our own (I myself am partial to yogurt and berries and the occasional sumo orange, Kim is on an avocado toast kick at the moment), but now lunch and dinner are more proper meals. Sometimes lunch is a bit of a pick up of leftovers, soup or a large salad, and sadly I have been known to eat mine while on a call or Zoom meeting. But more often than not is is taking a break and sitting down together at least briefly and consuming something nutritious. (I think back to many years ago in cooking school when a French chef-instructor, Guy, saw me eating standing up and he found me a chair and then lectured me on the importance of taking the time to appreciate the food and to focus on eating it. Very sweet and oh so very French!)

Easy to make, cheesy olive bread!

Dinner is really a proper homemade meal now with a couple of veggies and a protein. As some of you know, I passed through a baking phase early in the pandemic, recreating some of my grandmother’s recipes and finding some of my own. (A few of those posts along with quarantine life musings can be found here and here. Oh, cheesy olive bread!) I have moved into soups as part of my part two pandemic diet. These are hearty affairs which are closer to stews and are the centerpiece of the meal. Some recent recipes and thoughts on my confinement cooking can be found here and here. (Keep a weather eye peeled if you are a fan of the food posts, I’m currently dreaming up a vegetarian version of matzoh ball soup and my paternal grandmother’s split pea and veggie soup.)

A spicy clam chowder I invented recently.

Post-bookcase installation and re-arrangement of our apartment, my desk (an old and not especially beautiful drawing table that a friend was throwing out many years ago and has somehow stuck with me) is now placed about three feet from Kim’s large, wooden table he uses as a desk. (This table was acquired by us at the 26th Street flea market in the early years of living in this apartment. It was newly made and is substantial, although now one leg has been scratched on a bit by Blackie and it has its wonkinesses and weaknesses around the drawers too. I remember being somewhat amazed that we were making such a big purchase – what if we measured wrong? What if it didn’t hold up?)

Cookie enjoying some desk time recently.

As a result of our newfound proximity, Kim knows every aspect of my work life, fundraising for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and I hazard that he could easily take over for a day if pressed into service – repeating phrases and numbers he hears again and again. He knows the exact percentage we are at in our annual income budget and rejoices with me when the percentage point creeps up a notch or two. I sometimes consider if he ever really wondered what I did at work all day, as he himself has never worked in an office such as mine, but man, he sure does know about it now.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection, by Kim Deitch

When I look at last year’s Valentine, memories of last year’s life (in the before time) come rushing back. The fantasy of a Felix-filled cottage at the British seaside, like the locale of many of my posing with Felix photos. It is a reminder of how much change a year can bring and we have certainly all seen it in a variety of ways. I was in the midst of hectic domestic travel to some very snowy locations and I was exhausted from it and frankly welcomed the time at home. Of course, it begs the question of where we will all be when this time rolls around next year and we are presumably in what I call, the after time. I am sure many of you are thinking along the same lines.

This year’s card focuses in on my domain – our 600 square feet we call home and office. I get to sport a sort of semi-animated Felix necklace (Kim has a way of inventing bits and outfits I would love to own), but otherwise the players are (almost) all denizens of our tiny corner of the world. Cookie and Blackie are there, of course. Giant Mickey Mouse (a huge Dean’s Rag Doll display who inhabits the space near the bottom of our bed) waves his arms.

A line-up of a few of my favorite Aesop Fable dolls, along with a rather excellent Bugs Bunny I purchased randomly on eBay making an appearance. They are lined up behind Kim on his desk, in front of the ever-growing stack of finished pages of art that resides on his desk. A tiny Dean’s Mickey (Minnie really) Jazzer fills out the group on the desk. (They were designed to sit on the arm of your record player – yep, there’s a lot to absorb in that sentence and probably a bad idea for the records, which would have been 78’s at the time.) Kim is like the master of ceremonies – he has gathered the group to pay tribute!

Some of the Valentine participants shown here.

Meanwhile, Waldo is there and he is checking out Felix’s girlfriend, and while she is a creation of Kim’s mind, the Felix is not. He is a splendid, sizable example I purchased at auction because, although I have other somewhat similar examples, I couldn’t resist the bargain he was. (Of course, I have never regretted the purchase.)

What can such a fortunate girl say? I’m very pleased to be at the heart of this particular kingdom. Although not always absolutely peaceable, there is nowhere I would rather be. I hope to reign here, benignly of course, for many years to come.

Blackie (top) and Cookie as a matched set eating dinner recently.