On Board

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As I write this I am preparing to, for the first time in twenty months, introduce a new staff member to my team. With any luck I will repeat this process many times in the coming weeks and months (approximately seven times minimum), but as I sit at home on a rainy Monday and look at the prospect it is challenging.

As it happens, the new hire will report directly to me so there is no layer to help soften the blow. Also, the new fellow has expressed a (reasonable) desire to do some of his work from our offices which, to some degree, still largely languish with feeble use. A group of us have reason to be there throughout the week, but it tends to be spotty at best and I am frequently there with none of my team, but seeing a few other folks from various areas.

The ground level entrance to our hall earlier this year.

Therefore, I will start my day with a Zoom meeting with him and our Human Resources area and then make my way to midtown to meet with him in person. I will introduce him to my leadership team via Zoom from one location or the other. After showing him the office we will probably leave and meet over coffee nearby.

Due to life issues outside of work, I haven’t devoted a lot of time to thinking about how best to introduce and integrate this gentleman into our team. As I sit with my coffee this morning, I am realizing that it will be more challenging than anticipated.

However, despite my own absence from our opening concerts (you can read my posts about being stranded in New Jersey helping my mom who landed in the hospital here and here) I did get him a ticket and assigned another senior team member to sit with him and introduce him around at our pre-and-post concert receptions. I think it was a great night to see us at our best as well as close to our pre-pandemic selves as possible.

Someone snatched this for me. One of the special cookies we had made for our opening concert receptions.

I am constantly brought back to how hard it is to be a thoughtful manager under these circumstances. We operate without any playbook and just sort of shoot from the hip. Staff don’t mean to be critical, but they groan under the always increasing pressures and sometimes find fault with my bumbling efforts. More often they seem to appreciate my attempts, but still, my misses are duly brought to my attention.

With any luck we will hire two more people in the coming weeks and work to bring them on board. How to gather the troops so there is a feeling of camaraderie among them and the new folks aren’t just new tiles on a grid?

******************

It is two weeks since I began this post. I met the new staffer in person late in the day to show him the office and have a coffee together. There were a few folks, mostly my fellow VP’s, working that afternoon and so he met a few (duly masked) colleagues.

Office flowers.

Our office space was always a sort of joyful beehive of activity as offices go. Music played wafting out from the communal kitchen and sometimes you’d walk past as something so great was on you’d sit and listen and be late for your meeting. Our space is very open with seating nooks where pick up meetings might take place – or lunch shared. Many conference rooms, but few separate offices. People often commented on the personality of the space when visiting. It very much embodies us. Having come from the Metropolitan Museum I didn’t think I could be as fond of a physical place to work, but Jazz at Lincoln Center’s offices do hold a special place in my heart.

Catherine Russell performing at Dizzy’s this fall.

As above, the new hire is planning to work part of his time from the office and partly remote so I show him where his physical desk is, although it is not ready for him yet as office support is a bit spotty. Generally I am in the office a day or so a week, depending on my meeting schedule in the area. We have a person (now two – the second hire) who work there a few half days every week to process incoming contributions. Other people make less frequent, but occasional appearances from my team.

I make arrangements for a backstage tour of our hall which has returned to its former luster, glowing gently in Columbus Circle in the evening, our club full to selling out frequently especially as we approach the holiday season. We will make hay this fall as we know people will likely hibernate in the cold months of January and February. I plan to take the three (yes! hired a third!) new people and their managers to Dizzy’s one evening so at least we can have some face time together and they can experience the club.

Our stage door entrance.

Due to an emergency trip back to New Jersey I have to delay his formal introduction the day before Thanksgiving. When a week later we are gathered we have the second new person with us as well. In advance I asked the staff to all be on camera to greet the new folks so the folks aren’t facing endless tiles of names and Zoom snowmen.

We spend so many hours on Zoom I do not often ask them to be on camera as I know it is an additional burden. People talk about how it is better for morale, but it is a string I don’t pull often. As I have written before, (some of my work from home posts can be found here, here and here for starters), unless it isn’t possible for some reason I do my best to be on camera with them despite whatever state me, the cats and the apartment are in. I feel like they should have the option of seeing me – for what that is worth.

Our iconic entrance and marquee, taken on my first trip back to Columbus Circle in spring ’20.

Today at my request they have to a one complied and for the hour it is almost like a regular staff meeting of yore. However, a few pets make appearances (there is a dog in Connecticut who likes to bark in meetings who I am especially fond of), although it is early in the day for Blackie and he snoozes on the couch instead. And as we push forward I realize that somehow we have already moved into that new world we’ve been talking about.

Following Up, Filling in and Fall-ing

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s an overcast fall morning and I am waiting for hot coffee to finish brewing so I can wallow around in a few mugs of it. Our windows are open as a nod to plaster from recent repairs to dry and as a result our shades are uncharacteristically wide open, also as an assist to the workmen and to keep them clean in the demolition and repair of the ceiling and wall around them. (Some posts devoted to the clean up post Hurricane Ida can be found here and here.)

View from our currently denuded windows this AM.

October showed up last week and I still feel only a reluctant recognition of the fact. However, there is no stopping the march of the seasons and I no longer run in shorts and have even layered the occasional long-sleeve top. While I haven’t seen many leaves start to change yet, some trees have already lost theirs. There is a final hurrah of fall flowers in the park which I am grateful for and in the way that October has yesterday was downright hot in the sun, while today is gloomy and chilly.

Kim and I were married in October – our anniversary comes up this week. It was a freakishly warm and gloriously sunny Saturday, after a prior weekend when a tropical storm had raged here in New York. October turns this black cat collector’s mind to Halloween and some related posts are likely to come soon.

Miniature boat pond in Central Park this week. This pair from a family which hatched early this spring and are now mature. They seem to like this little raft which is sort of funny since they are ducks.

For those of you who follow the adventures of my work life, I can say that there are more days I wander in and out of the office and evenings at our jazz club, Dizzy’s. I have always been fond of Dizzy’s, but somehow it has really been a bit of a beacon from the past as I formulate a work vision of the future. Our concert season doesn’t commence here in New York until November which seemed like a long time ago until now it does not. But somehow a few hours of live music and dinner at Dizzy’s, overlooking Central Park and Columbus Circle, is comforting in a way I had not imagined. It is a bridge between the then time and now.

Finding a new routine, tried a new diner near work for breakfast this week.

Otherwise, I largely trot around the city in a rotation of breakfast, lunch and drinks meetings related to work, largely seated outside. (My 3 mile morning run expanding to include daily walks to locales around Manhattan, now racking up as much as another 7 miles a day!) It will be interesting to see if these meetings move inside as it gets chillier or cease for the moment. My team joins me with a combination of trepidation and some enthusiasm. An October date for a full on return to the office has been pushed back, but for how long we are unsure. I understand the peevishness of my staff at the uncertainty, but remind them we are getting the job done and there is nowhere to go but forward.

Drayton in an undated photograph.

Meanwhile, I have a rare post follow-up (last week’s post can be found here) and discoveries made post publication. I had penned my post on a cast iron puppy piggy bank I acquired earlier in the week and when Kim read it he informed me that the designer noted, Grace Gebbie Drayton, is actually of some commercial art and comics note.

Puppy bank designed by Drayton, shown here in shop window. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Speaking dog bank also in the window of the store – this just because I missed it last week!

Born in Philadelphia in 1878, her father an art publisher, she attended Drexel and the (then) Phildelphia School of Design for Women where she studied under Robert Henri. She married, and divorced, twice (she seemed to have a hard time getting much passed the decade mark with husbands) and Drayton is the moniker of husband number two.

Campbell Soup Kids figures by Drayton.

Her significant claims on fame are the creation of the Campbell Soup Kids advertisements beginning in 1904 and a comic strip called Dolly Dimples. In reality she had several such comic strips, all with somewhat saccharine names, among them – Naughty ToodlesDottie DimpleDimples,  and The Pussycat Princess, some strips (The Adventures of Dolly Drake and Bobby Blake in Storyland and The Turr’ble Tales of Kaptin Kiddo) were written by her sister, Margaret Hayes and illustrated by Drake.

Fairly rare kiddie volume from 1910 by Grace Drayton, under her first married name, Grace Wiederseim. Not in Pictorama.com collection.

Cuteness seemed to be her professional beat although there is something about her bio which suggests it may have been less in evidence in her personal life. Drayton owns the title of first woman to be a cartoonist for Hearst. She specialized in round faced, chubby child characters and in addition to the comics and commercial work she illustrated children’s books. An abundance of her Campbell Soup Kids and Dolly Dimples work survives (the Dolly Dimples paper dolls proliferated), and Drayton’s work is in the collections of several museums here in the United States and Great Britain. Drayton died young at age 56 in 1936.

September Morn by Drayton, not in Pictorama.com collection.

Kim had recognized the style of the bank even before knowing that Drayton had a hand in it. While researching her we turned up this nifty cat bank and doorstop variations, shown below. It is a bit less available than the pup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it (or a slight variation) doesn’t enter the Pictorama collection. More on that if it it comes to pass.

Cat doorstop designed by Drayton and produced by Hubley. Not in Pictorama.com collection.
Cat bank designed by Drayton. Not in Pictorama.com collection – yet!

My bank had the rattle of a few coins in it and Kim was itching to see what they were. I was reluctant to unscrew the bank which shows no evidence that it has been apart in many decades. Much to my surprise Kim displayed his adeptness of a childhood skill which involves coaxing coins out of a bank through the deposit slot. Only a bit rusty, he had four wheat back pennies, and one Lincoln, out in no time. (I do wish I had taken a photo of this process!) Wheat backs were minted between 1909 and 1959. One of these is dated 1924, three are from the 1940’s and one is from 1975. As Kim cheerfully volunteered, this proves all of nothing, but somehow is still interesting. I am toying with the idea of putting them back in the bank, but Kim has the finders keepers on that one and he can decide.

And that, dear readers, is my update for today.

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.

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.

Progress

Pam’s Pictorama Post: My friend Eden gave me the tag line to this blog, All Pam, All the Time and I liked it because many of my readers, especially at first, found me through Kim and it seemed fair warning that, although you will get some Kim, Pictorama is a heaping serving of me. Some days are more me than others and this is one of those unabashedly me days.

In a quiet way, this week lurched forward significantly and was sort of a landmark week. To start, it was made public that Jazz at Lincoln Center was one of 286 recipients of extraordinary and unsolicited donations from MacKenzie Scott, the philanthropist ex-wife of Amazon titan, Jeff Bezos. (As one colleague said, I feel so much better about all the money I spent with Amazon over the pandemic.) It is a gift that will have a profound effect on the organization and as a career fundraiser it was a once in a lifetime gift to experience. Truly it is a testament to the hard work of Wynton Marsalis, especially his tireless work over the last year plus, as we struggled not only to survive but to be present for people who needed music and community during this time.

However, much like when Kim has a new book to promote, psychologically I had moved on once it was done (there is always more money to raise and we are still closing this year) which for me happened a few weeks ago, and I was drawn back into it with the public announcement, which lead to announcements to Board and staff.

On the walk over to Summer Stage Thursday. Cedar Hill, Central Park.

The other events of this week included my first hair cut in a year. Although I had gone last summer, the timing and location are bad for me working from home. However, my newly broken fingers have required first Kim’s help and then my own awkward efforts to put it up and I realized it was time. (I wrote about my longstanding decision not to dye my premature – at first anyway – gray hair in a recent post here.) It was nice to catch up with David who co-owns the salon and has cut my hair since our wedding back in 2000.

Unlike last summer’s cut (short, short because I didn’t know when I would come back) somehow this one transformed me back to a semblance of my pre-pandemic self. The pounds I have dropped (still some left to go, but many gone) probably help in that regard and the recent purchase of a sundress which I was sporting contributed to the overall effect.

Summer Stage opening in Central Park on Thursday.

The timing was good because shortly after I headed over to Central Park where the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was opening Summer Stage. Many of my colleagues from across the organization had booked tickets and it became an impromptu reunion – complete with hugging and elbow bumps for those not ready to hug. (There’s a lot of hugging in jazz.) The outdoors meant everyone was pretty comfortable being without a mask, eating and drinking. I can’t say the year melted away, but it was like salve on a wound.

As the sun was setting in the west and the orchestra struck up the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue I looked around and realized that coincidence had it that I was seated with many folks I sit backstage with during countless concerts in the hall and elsewhere. I stretched out in my chair and watched the sparrows ready for the evening, a few bats. My eyes welled with the sheer pleasure. The weather and the night were perfection. It was the first time I felt like maybe we really are back.

Friday dawned with a trip to Dr. Mir (hand surgeon – my Memorial Day hand exploits can be found in a post here) and my first session of hand physical therapy was later in the afternoon. I admit to being squeamish about pain and I can’t say I was without some trepidation. My hand is healing, more or less on schedule it seems though. With a little luck I may be allowed to take the splint off at home in another week – maybe even be cleared to run and work out a bit by the end of the month.

Seeing my hand without the splint really for the first time was a bit discouraging. It remains black and blue (quite green actually) in the extreme, still swollen in places. Being allowed to wash it was a huge relief however and that made up for the discomfort of it making its debut, splintless for examination and therapy. There isn’t much to say except that therapy is slow and hurts – almost by definition. I am a chicken about pain frankly, but a realist so I am focusing hard on making each movement count as I remind my fingers that they know how to bend. How could they have forgotten in a few short weeks?

Tucked into a tiny space on 87th near Lex. Hand rehab doesn’t take up much space.

By the end of forty minutes with the therapist we could see some, small improvement. I was reminded that my original purpose in taking up running (at least in part) was to tackle something different and hard during a time when my waking hours seemed to be confined to a desk chair in our one room apartment, working. While hand therapy will not get me outside, nor help me lose weight, it is unintentionally providing me with a new challenge to meet.

So I end the week with some renewed optimism about our impending nascent return to the office part-time next month. I think I am starting to shake off my Covid cocoon and if not the old Pam, at least the latest model of her,

Without the Net

The other evening our usually dependable Wifi sputtered during a meeting. I was able to get back on it, but yesterday we woke to the realization that we didn’t have Wifi. After two calls to our provider, RCN, our “box” was declared dead (well, dying, it has a few meager lights blinking) and a technician requested for later today. It was also, as it would happen, Kim’s birthday and so thoughtful wishes are piled up, as I write, in the world online, an internet connection away.

Kim, who is immersed in the latter stages of his next book spent yesterday tracing off pages which will then be tightened and eventually inked. (A post with the specifics of Kim’s process can be found here. It is a great favorite!) I still had online access, via my phone (and my ipad which decided it could operate off my phone) which meant I could do some work including attending meetings with my little Italian Felix toy avatar in my stead.

I have my own policy of trying to be on camera for most Zoom meetings, at least at the beginning of each, and I try to stay on for all meetings with staff. I think it is more humanizing even if I am just in from my run and admitting that I only make it to even nominal make-up about once a week these days.

Nonetheless, the lack of Wifi slowed me down mightily – if you are reading this it means either I posted it via my phone (a skill set that may well be beyond me), or the technician has come and restored us to full function. It makes me realize how much I depend on the internet for casually adding things to these posts as well. My fingers twitch to check references and add links and photos.

In case the day needed more complications, I had an appointment to get a new phone. Like many people, I beat the heck out of this thing over the past 18 months. The screen is cracked from dropping it from the elliptical at the gym, years ago now. (There was a time when I didn’t take my phone into the gym, preferring to listen to a tiny and somewhat finicky ipod instead, but when my dad was began his decline and was hospitalized I started bringing it with me to workouts. It bounced off the moving machine hard and it is lucky it didn’t hurt someone.)

It has been giving me warning signs that it is breathing its last (screens turning into strange shadow screens, no longer holds a charge) and so while making another change to my account recently (prophetically changing my date plan), I committed to a new phone. Suffice it to say, given the day that yesterday was, after more than an hour at the Verizon store, I left sans phone transfer complete – alas, I must return later today.

Evermore than even a year and a half ago however, I am tethered to the internet like it is a favorite child!

Simultaneously, this week I was encouraging my office to help inform a return to work plan and being met with recalcitrance, fear and assorted resistance which evinced an insurmountable level of exhaustion in me. Like many managers, the decision about a return to the office is an institutional one and Wynton Marsalis has made his feelings very clear throughout this period – we will not be an organization that operates remotely. We need to be together and to see each other as humans again as soon as is safely and reasonably possible.

My first work-out at the gym. Man, I swear the weights are heavier here than at home!

Like a good manager, I have been trying to gently exercise the muscle of in-person meetings and discussing our return. Our policy is to return to the office in person two days a week over the summer and then moving to full time mid-September. Having to decide on dates was like ripping the band-aide off for many folks though. It is hard to balance their variety of concerns, an institutional mandate while keeping any of my own feelings to myself. I am impatient with my own impatience.

The day finally concluded with Kim and I eating some excellent Vietnamese food which greatly restored me. Then, with the premiere of a concert for our virtual season, our full Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with the founder and head of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson. It was a great marriage of spoken language and jazz and spoke very directly to the topics of freedom and inequality and history. (Freedom, Justice and Hope is available on-demand until May 26 and you can purchase tickets to watch it here). It is in my opinion by far the best concert we have produced for online viewing and I am so proud of my colleagues who created it and how far we have come. It left me with the very real hope that we will come out of this period with a new way of continuing to reach audiences far beyond those in our hall and on our tour destinations.

Afterward, I watched the first part of a PBS documentary on the Metropolitan Museum. Long-time Pictorama readers know that I spent most of my career, thirty years, there before leaving for my current gig. (I wrote about my departure in a post called Leaving the Met which can be found here.) I gather that the documentary was originally meant to follow the museum through its 150th Anniversary Year. Instead it is half about that and half about how 2020 played out with the pandemic and the closure of the museum, the ultimate re-opening and then grappling with the new re-emerging world.

It was moving for me to see many former colleagues as well as some objects I know like they had spent years in my own living room, so they too are like old friends. But overwhelmingly for me it was so touching to see the conservators, curators and other colleagues I had worked with for so many years. I was graphically reminded that yes, despite our discomfort, Wynton is right. In the end it comes down to the people. People make organizations like these great and that will suffer if we do not make the effort to come back together again to work with each other in person. When I interview people I always ask them, what will you miss most about where you work now and almost to a one they say it is the people.

Me and Eileen Travell, Met buddies and long-standing friends, having our first post-pandemic in-person meal earlier this week! Sheer bliss to see her again. It helps to do some of the nice aspects of getting back into the world as well.

In her remarks, Carolyn Riccardelli, one of the conservators, kept coming back to the metaphor of the conservation work that had been done on the Tullio Lombardi statue of Adam. Many years ago, it famously fell spontaneously from its base and smashed into an almost infinite number of pieces, fragments, and some reduced to dust. Like a crime scene, the pieces were photographed in situ and logged where they fell to aide reconstruction. That reconstruction took ten painstaking years (it has been documented in a video called After the Fall and can be found on their website here) and is back on display. It looks flawless, but of course as part of the team who restored it, Carolyn must see her years of handiwork beneath the surface every time she looks at it. She talked about how sometimes you just need to move forward, even if you have no idea how you are going to do it, making progress and claiming small victories until finally, you are there.

Shown at top: Tullio Lombardo (Italian, ca. 1455–1532). Adam, ca. 1490–95. Italian, Venice. Marble. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1936 (36.163)