Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a Joy of Jersey post. This week I headed down for my regular visit with mom a bit off schedule as we hosted a large dinner at the hall on Friday. We have Election Day off and, as Kim and I had discharged our civic duty over the weekend, I headed down to her on Tuesday afternoon.
It was my last shot at seeing some beautiful changing leaves as I made my daily morning run. I was running shorter distances last year, and I realized I had also missed much of the changing leaves as mom was in the hospital this time last year. (A post about that time can be found here.) That was about the time I changed to a regular schedule of being in Jersey, generally every other week for several days. Anyway, the foliage did not disappoint and I had pretty runs each of the days I was there.
A good friend, fellow Jersey-ite of my youth, was also going to be visiting while I was there this week. In honor of and in advance of Randy’s visit, I turned my first run to the south to and through the small downtown area nearby called Red Bank. A lovely small commercial area, it was where we kids went to feel grown up. It wasn’t really where we went to get into trouble – there is a beach town in the other direction called Sea Bright which was full of bars which was designated for that (posts about that town can be found here and here), Red Bank, on the other hand, is where you shopped and ate out.
The bones of Red Bank have remained the same while the denizens have come and gone. Jack’s Record Shop lived on the opposite side of the street in my youth and had a head shop in back – in the days before I knew what that was. It now occupies a spot near where a huge hardware store called Prown’s was. I can still smell the specific dust and fertilizer odor of that store. (They are still in business, but have moved to another location. In fact, they just installed a new backdoor for our garage at Mom’s.) The Woolworth’s is gone as is the Newberry’s, and the Steinbach’s department store, but there is still a coffee shop on the edge of town which is either the most recent incarnation of one of my youth, or a newer version. (It sported wax fruit in the window and my mother used to say, Never eat in a place with wax fruit in the window. It was a good point, but I have frequently eaten in such establishments and lived to tell the tale.)
There was a large photography shop called Dorn’s which lasted into my adulthood, but eventually fell prey to digital photography. I did find this new photo store below which is good news if I eventually start making early process photos again at mom’s. I wrote recently about another family business in time gone-by called Kislan’s – it took care of all of our athletic needs, which were admittedly less diverse in those days. (That post is here if you are interested in the full NJ roundup.) Randy and I spent many hours of our youth, together and separately, in the town of Red Bank. Whether it was pancakes at the diner in the middle of the night, running errands or wandering the small shops on the side streets.
Wednesday and Thursday passed in a blur of work this week, cramming five days of work into three. I staked out time to spend with mom over morning coffee, lunch and tried to end the work day at a reasonable time. Randy showed up in the evening on Thursday and mom got a kick out of seeing him for the first time in decades. Despite sporting a mask for her benefit, mom declared him unchanged.
Along with our friend Suzanne, we had dinner at a restaurant which probably deserves its own post, Tavolo Pronto. This epic establishment is, in my opinion, one of the best things to hit Monmouth County in years. Their sandwiches have carried my through long dark days spent in the hospital and hospice with dad, and now it is my favorite lunch spot during my stints there. Their singular fare will stay linked in my mind with these years of my life, the adult years spent visiting Jersey, and it has comforted me during some bleak times.
Friday, Veteran’s Day, was another day off and a plan was cooked up to have breakfast at Edie’s, another local eatery that morning. Suzanne and I are early risers, but Randy hoped to sleep in a bit. This meant I could get a run in, have a coffee with mom and head over for a rare treat. Edie’s was my dad’s territory and favorite breakfast locale. He adopted it late in life and somehow he and I never ate there. The plan was set! Tomorrow, in the second part of this Jersey tribute, I will take you to that surprisingly historic spot which also has great personal significance.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a running in the summer heat post. As I sit down to write sweat from my morning run is still running off me, despite a dousing with cold water when I came in. I am writing this between mouthfuls of nectarine (sadly not a great one) and yogurt, having already consumed a green smoothie. (I’ve previously written about my green smoothie passion here.) I only drink cold coffee before I run with nothing else on my stomach.
I have posted about my running habit occasionally since I started about 18 months ago. (Some other running ruminations can be found here and here.) And in that time I have gone through a lot of sneakers and sunscreen, a few hats, broken two fingers (Memorial Day 2021), and worked my way routinely across the 7 mile mark recently. Always more interested in distance than speed, I am still very slow. (I average about a 12 minute mile.) I generally run four or five days a week, somewhat curtailed by early morning meetings for work.
While I have run through two winters (wearing layers and fleecy tights) I was sidelined for much of last summer by the broken fingers and lost a few months in the middle. Therefore, this is the first summer I am attempted to run through and I am in a battle with the heat.
Up until recently I ran with a scant 3 oz bottle of water tucked in my belt. However, it became abundantly clear to me in July that no matter how early I was getting outside I was going to need to drink more fluids if I wanted to achieve my run, which sent me off to try to figure out what kind of water bottle I was comfortable running with.
I started by experimenting with a water pouches. Amazon touted these for the purpose of running and, while it was clear that they wouldn’t last forever, I thought the pack of three might get me through the worst part of summer. Sadly, they leaked on the first day and I moved on.
Vests and belts with water seemed annoyingly hot to add to what I am already wearing and reluctantly I accepted the need to just carry a bottle with a strap. Once empty I hang it from my belt where it gently annoys me for the remainder of my run. After some research I started adding a bit of sports drink to my water, 1:3, for the electrolytes. (I tried pickle juice, which I keep in the house for leg cramps, but it didn’t work for me.)
It is ridiculous, but there is part of me which reminds myself that I want to go back to my 3 oz bottle in the fall – not to get used to carrying more water. It is silly and I chide myself for it. I run better with more water and I should drink it.
These days it is generally upwards of 75 degrees when I start my run, no matter how early, and it climbs to 80 or more by the finish. I have experimented with re-ordering my run to optimize my time in the shade at the end, when the sun is strongest, but I have not really seen a difference.
Although my city run is along the water where there is a breeze, my New Jersey route, through a wooded area and then suburban neighborhoods, is usually several degrees cooler. Even with the water breeze off the East River, the sun beats down on me for the long middle portion of my route where I find I remind myself I still need to run back.
These days a new Fitbit helps record my time as Strava has a way of turning itself off periodically which was driving me nuts as I am a data nut. Hopefully it can inspire me to improve my speed a bit.
Next week I head to Denver for a conference where I can test a high altitude version of my workout. I agreed to a 5k group run on the Tuesday morning (why do we suddenly note kilometers when talking about running when we all think in miles?) so we’ll see how that goes as I always run alone. I promise to report in from there with any interesting developments.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s been a rough road back here at Deitch Studio this week. Pictorama readers know that last week we were working to get on the other side of catching Covid. (That cheerful post is here if you missed it.) I rallied enough to go to Jersey to check in on my mom on Sunday night for a few days.
It rained early on Monday so I didn’t run. It cleared later and although I have largely lost my sense of taste (and smell) I still managed an appetite for a strawberry ice cream cone, belatedly in honor of my dad for Father’s Day. A friend and I stopped at Ryan’s where I used to buy ice cream for him weekly. Summer is in full swing there and even on a weekday afternoon it was abuzz. I felt like I could taste it at about 40%.
Therefore, I didn’t attempt my maiden voyage, post-Covid run until Tuesday morning; which very agreeably, dawned not just sunny but unseasonably cool. I took the route north through the woods and did a neat 3.7 miles, not bad if very slow. My body seemed willing to partake, but I could see my limit pretty clearly. Tired, but no coughing.
I had piled a bunch of appointments up for this visit to my mom and post run I met with a flooring guy named Mike who was very pleasant and looked like this was probably his first job. One of mom’s folks had her grandchildren with her as it was the first day of summer vacation for them and their camp has not started yet. They were thrilled with a friend’s visiting Bichon puppy (Ariel looks like a toy and stays in a playpen when she visits the Butler house) and so, among increasing chaos, I retreated upstairs for a Zoom meeting.
It was just after the call that I found out my brother in-law Simon had died. He had been in the hospital but I hadn’t expected him to die. Kim and I were on the phone when I was called back downstairs as a mattress was being delivered. Puppy barking, children shrieking, a queen sized mattress coming in through the garage held by two confused looking men – poor Kim I had to call him back.
It always amazes me that my housebound mother’s house is like Grand Central Station compared to our apartment in Manhattan. It is the crossroads of the universe.
I headed back to NYC that afternoon. I found Kim fielding the kind of calls you get on those days – friends checking in and whatnot.
Kim is the one who will write about Simon. (He already wrote something this morning which will appear in the Comics Journal, online shortly.) I really only knew him slightly, but he and Kim were living together when I first met Kim and their creative collaborations were still underway during the first years of our being together. (Simon subsequently did a stint in jail for selling his methadone, which arguably saved him from a potential overdose. That period effectively ended their active collaboration on Southern Fried Fugitives, a comic strip they did for Nickelodeon Magazine.)
Luckily Kim’s brush with Covid seems to have been lesser than mine and he seems more solidly back while I continue to have periodic coughing and sneezing fits which come on me simultaneously and flatten me briefly. I got up early today and violated my rule about writing this blog very first thing in order to be out and running before it got hot. Even before 7:00 today the temperature was climbing.
Still running slow, but topped out at more than 5.7 miles. It was good to check on all my usual haunts which I have seen so little of. (I walked part of the route last weekend and said a quick hello to those who follow my running journal on Instagram stories.) I am hoping it kicks my overall energy into gear.
So life has not quite resumed its normal stride here, but we’re working on it. I feel like I have to give a shout out to the folks at NYC Funeral and Cremation. It appears to be an enormous company here in the five boroughs, but Mary has thoughtfully guided me through an extraordinary labyrinth of online paperwork the likes I have never experienced.
She called on Friday when I had paused in the process (to work), making sure I understood next steps and the need to complete them. They answer their phone at all hours and whoever I have gotten on the other end was unfailingly lovely without being smarmy. I think I will remember their thoughtfulness for a long time to come. I always appreciate someone who does their job well and of course being treated kindly is also good. I would highly recommend them, but obviously prefer not to have to use them again.
So that’s where we are late morning on this Saturday at the end of June. The world is turning upside down politically and so we are swamped from the outside as well as from within. Nonetheless, we’re taking a few deep breaths and moving slowly forward here at Deitch Studio.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: As some of my friends from the broader online world know, I keep a photo journal of my runs which I post in Instagram stories. This wasn’t a conscious decision really, just something I started doing.
During the worst months of the pandemic we all seemed pretty desperate for images of the outside world (I was enjoying posts from folks in Britain and Australia in particular) even if it was just daily stuff and I loved my view along the East River so much I thought others might too. So somehow taking some pictures along the way and posting them afterward became part of my running habit. Today’s post is a bit of a tribute to some of the urban history I have plucked along the way.
My early jogging attempts here in Manhattan took me through Carl Schurz Park and down the Eastside Esplanade along the river. I run with the urban scene of the FDR Drive to one side of me and the East River to the other – there are days when you would never know that an endless line of commuter cars is honking and belching along next to me so silvan are the water views.
At about 72nd Street there is a park with one of the free city pools in it, the John Jay pool and playground there. I watched last spring as it was prepped for summer and then ultimately filled with the first of the throngs of folks that would come and line up during the hot summer days. At the foot of this park is an interesting old stone building and over time I realized that it had Eastside Settlement House etched in stone. As it happened I was reading about the charitable establishment which was located there in one of my books about the Red Cross Girls and I wrote about those books in a post that can be found here. (An excellent article on the history of the Settlement House can be found here and it notes an article from the Times which was called, Girls of Gentle Breeding Enjoy Unaccustomed Dances With Partners Not in Their Set.)
In those early months of running the Esplanade was open all the way down the Eastside and I thought about someday getting enough miles under my belt to make it down to the Roosevelt Island tram at about 57th. Before my running got me down below 70th Street, the path was closed for repairs (sink holes are a very real problem) and my runs to the south were curtailed.
I continued my route along that part of the river as far as I could (the Esplanade dips down there and you are closer to the water which is nice, river smell for better or worse tends to waft there) which would take me past a ramshackle Con Ed building that appears to be entirely taken over by rats and pigeons. (I tremble to think of what must go on in its interior.)
Over time I worked up to running up a long incline at about 82nd. When I began using an app (Strava) to as a GPS recording of my miles it informed me that this land bridge has a name, Jamie’s Bridge. I am told there is a plaque which I have yet to locate. I will update if I discover more about that.
A post could be devoted to the park itself which I have become very fond of – weekdays are largely given over to my fellow runners, ferry commuters, dog walkers (I give dogs some distance but New York City dogs are generally more interested in each other than me – while suburban dogs seem to be more interested in taking a bite out of me) make up the lion’s share of the denizens and, especially over the past two years, there are a number of people just walking or sitting outside. Some smoke (cigarettes and pot in almost equal measure) and others study their phones, still others just stare off. Weekends, as the weather warms, means the park plays host to a long line of birthday parties for gangs of small children. Shiny balloons staking the spot and declaring the age of the child in question – which seems to be 3 more often than not.
More miles and being curtailed to the south mean pushing north and at first I just ran up to the ferry. The New York ferries were one of my great pandemic discoveries and I am sad that in no way can I utilize them on my daily commute to 57th Street because I would enjoy it. Miles underfoot quickly took me a bit further to the waste station up near Asphalt Green recreational center. I was against this garbage facility when it was proposed to be built, but have to admit that they have kept the impact on the neighborhood low. Under this land bridge is a resident tent dweller who keeps a pile of workout equipment there. I have seen him tend it but never work out there.
Asphalt Green declares its history as the site of an asphalt plant from 1944-1968 in its prior life. In the late 70’s an effort was made to rehabilitate this derelict site and in 1984, several years before I became a Yorkville resident, this impressive gym and recreational center and playing fields opened. I ponder its service in the production of asphalt for all those years and what that may have been like and why they stopped as asphalt is still presumably needed.
The 96th Street entrance to the FDR always reminds me of trips to the airport and now the path to and from Jersey when I ride with Cash and Jeff – the human and doggie duo who have transported me during odd hours in recent months. Jeff usually takes us up to the George Washington Bridge so this leg of the run always makes me think about leaving town.
Eventually I found my way up to the Randall’s Island Bridge. Unlike most of the other bridges (all land bridges) on this route, this pretty blue-green bridge is very neat and tidy, its underbelly in excellent repair which I note each time. For a long time this was the outer reaches of my run as it then climaxed around the four mile mark. I consider eventually adding a run over this bridge to my route. It would be a not insubstantial addition as it has several levels of incline and the span of the bridge is considerable, over the river. I also think about taking Kim there on a walk when it gets a bit warmer. Playing fields, bike and running trails and who knows what else await us there when the time comes. I see kids heading over for early morning practice on weekday mornings.
Running in New Jersey near my mom (some posts have been devoted to that and can be found here and here) expanded my miles to more than five as curiosity encouraged me to further explore her area. That combined with a new closure to the south at 74th Street, has recently pushed me up even further to the area around 107th now. I am fascinated by this pier, Pier 107 CVII according to the sign on its side, which is just beautiful despite its derelict condition. I cannot help but imagine walking out on it and admiring the water views from there, or stopping to sit on one of the benches.
Built originally back in 1931 it serviced a now long forgotten industrial complex and Harlem Market which defined the area before it became more solidly residential. The Pier was originally converted to pedestrian use in the late 1980’s with an award winning restoration that was completed in 1991. I cannot imagine why it was allowed to deteriorate again. Just beyond it is this odd little dock which seems to have been part of it historically. A place for boats to unload or tie up briefly I assume.
To the west I note this beautiful Art Deco building which appears to be home to the Department of Sanitation of all things. I wonder if the building is still employed for this purpose or if it has another use now and if all the original beauty has been removed from its interior.
My run tops out here to achieve a total of about 5.5 miles and I head back to the park where I will loop myself past the Mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion. I have toured that (surprisingly intimate) historical wood frame home which has impressive river views from its perch at a high point in the park. Then it is a final check of the Peter Pan statue and surrounding area – one that Kim has been contemplating using in a story – some stretching and home again.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I found myself thinking about time during a particularly hard won five mile run yesterday at lunchtime here in Manhattan. It seems my body is more willing to do my bidding in the early mornings and by late morning and early afternoon it balks some at the request. Luckily this is where habit kicks in though and after working the kinks out I’m good until some point at about mile four where I have to apply some discipline to make it through. The fifth mile was added recently and time doesn’t always allow for it, so I am still negotiating it each time.
Being a fairly compulsive gatherer of data I have recently started using an app (Strava) to record distance. My phone was somewhat mercurial in its recording of distance, same exact run different reads, but now I get not only distance, but speed and performance such as tracking time on inclines. It’s a bit dangerous to start feeding me this sort of information because I immediately become competitive with myself and have an urge to go faster and further.
I have written before about the fact that I run slowly (some of those running posts can be found here and here), but even in the realm of slow jogging I find myself increasing my speed incrementally now that I see it. So I am thinking about time in various ways while I run, either in small literal ways or in a larger sense. Seasonal change happens in almost daily increments as demanded by the weather, always reminding me that regardless of what I think time marches forward inexorably.
I maintain a photo journal of my runs on Instagram (mostly posted as stories and can be found on the four or so days a week I run @deitchstudio) and those snapshots remain on my phone to remind me of the seasons of my runs over the last eighteen months since I started in November of ’20. Running in the cold gives way to spring and then the heat of summer and back again to fleece leggings. I am excited to see the progress of the magnolia and cherry trees in New Jersey as spring burgeons and when I am back this week.
Time and the perception of it passing is somewhat subjective in my opinion. Certain activities elongate time, not stopping but slowing. Meditation, printing photos, lifting weights and now running are among the activities that produce this effect for me. My work days, always crazy busy, tend to speed time up in a reversal. I have always needed to find activities to balance that frenetic work energy lest I just burn out completely.
Time with my mother in New Jersey passes at a different pace too. I find myself examining that time which also slows it down. Morning coffee with her is a good time and I savor it. Running in her suburban neighborhood takes on a somewhat magical quality and the same five miles seems more epic there than my trot up and down my also beloved East River at home.
Meanwhile, I have just passed the five year anniversary of my current job. Like everyone else, I have conducted the past two years during the pandemic and am now in a liminal phase of partial re-entry as we commence year three. I have frequently said that I learned more about my job (fundraising for a performing arts organization) during the past two years than I learned in the previous three decades. That is an exaggeration of course and it is the first thirty years that made success (defined in large part as survival) possible. I have drawn on experience, but also the leadership that I worked with and learned from in my nascent decades working at the Metropolitan Museum. (I wrote about my time there and my departure here.)
As I prepare to usher my somewhat tattered troop into a new work world with weekly time back in an office, I am reminded that despite an illusion otherwise, time has not stood still. The roadmap of our work remains intact, another annual Gala (the first in-person in two years) is on the immediate horizon. However, the issues we face for interaction together, such as mask and vaccination protocol, possible infection and negotiating our in-person time and space together are entirely new and I don’t begin to know how to answer all their questions. We are all older and we have spent the past two years intensively together and yet very much apart. So I stand on the threshold of my fifth year entirely unclear about what it will bring, but time will tell.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I pick up from where I left yesterday, but use the opportunity to focus on running. Pictorama readers know that about 18 months ago I started running. I have slowly (very slowly!) built my distance up to 4.5-5 miles four or so times a week, as my work schedule allows. This morning, having a bit of leisure time at my disposal, I topped out over 5 miles.
Today was overcast but warm. Rain has moved in since so I am glad I got out early. (Although it means you all are getting this post later than usual as a result!)
Running in NJ tends to encourage me to expand my footprint a bit as I investigate the neighborhood, poking down new blocks, cul de sacs and deadends. I am confident enough in my mental map that I don’t worry now about getting lost, although I tend to keep myself hemmed in to the east and the west by major roads it is easier not to cross.
As I have said in my previous posts about running, I run slowly. For a tall person I have short legs and therefore a less than impressive stride, but I cannot blame my overall slowness just on that. My feeling about running is pretty much that I find a pace I can generally just keep up, more or less indefinitely. As if I was an automaton toy, set into infinite forward motion. I will speed up around obstacles or otherwise as needed but there is a general lope that I keep myself to. Everyone passes me – people running with baby strollers pass me – the older and the younger alike. My only interest in increasing time is a sense of efficiency about the amount of time I have to devote to running and therefore the ratio of distance to time.
For me running is about being in the moment which releases me from all the nagging worries that I nurse throughout the day (and night) otherwise. I focus on my stride, where my feet are falling and the music (today was largely Bruce Springsteen in honor of New Jersey) which is familiar enough to be ritual as well.
Suburban life is stretched out before me as I run here. Today was no exception. The first part of my run takes me to the crossroads of several churches and a synagogue. This morning I was treated to the church bells ringing as I started out. This church is next to a playing field and a small wildlife preserve that I circle before heading back out into a neighborhood north of here.
I ran further north and then west than usual and encountered the elementary school for the town, tucked away behind a main street but somehow on a block I think I never encountered growing up here. The Viola Sickles School is a pretty Art Deco designed building. It has a large playground and playing field behind it which I toured. Just on the other side is a pretty little downtown street of restaurants and shops on a main road. My mom lived in one of the houses on that main street which was converted to a candy store which we used to visit occasionally when I was little. Somehow I couldn’t get rid of the idea that my mom grew up in the candy store but this was not the case. I think it was a small gas station that my grandfather had at that time and before they moved to a neighboring town.
The houses near the school are old and lovely. These few blocks seem to have somehow escaped the general gentrification of the area. I hope someone buys them and restores them on their tiny lots instead of tearing them down.
I loop around and head south for the most familiar part of my run which I have been saving for last recently. It is overcast and the sun alternately fights to come out and gives up. Today is one of the warmest runs I have had this winter and the temperature is hovering around 50. Robins are everywhere, as well as sparrows, cardinals and bluejays. I see a bunny with a bushy white tail – too fast for me to get a picture. Back at mom’s the chipmunks are in evidence again as well. I spy the first snowdrops of the season in bloom and snap a photo of them.
Around mile four I start to feel it in my legs a bit. I use a GPS driven running tracker now called Strava as my phone seemed to be inconsistent about recording miles. I had some trouble with it at first – it would turn itself off which was frustrating – but I seem to have gotten past that.
Strava makes me more competitive with myself despite not really intending to – can I be faster on the big inclines? Go a bit further today? It sends me electronic encouragement for each of my runs. I am a sucker for its praise.
This week I see several book exchange boxes in the neighborhood, but don’t take the time out to examine them. I do note them however for future reference. Today I realize one is in front of the Knights of Columbus meeting place. I run through the parking lot and notice these rather special benches below.
I realize that I am already over time and distance and still have to get home. I think of one of my favorite phrases – save something for the swim back. It is true of running – and many other things too.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This past week I went on a particularly long run in New Jersey, more than four miles. The weather was an agreeable 35 degrees and my morning of meetings started late enough that despite being a bit cold I took the opportunity to explore a bit.
When I first started running there I was afraid of getting lost as I didn’t know the area and there are a lot of dead end streets and cul de sacs to get lost in. It took awhile for me to get the lay of the land and understand where my mom’s house is in relation to a few large roads that will always put me back on course eventually, making it almost impossible to actually get lost I now know. (I have written about running in New Jersey before and one of those posts is here. One of my early posts about teaching myself to run can be found here.)
I have written a bit about this area which exists in my mind these days as a sort of ideal small town with more ball fields and playgrounds than I can count. Communal basketball hoops adorn many of the dead end streets and it is easy to imagine a spring and summer rife with kids playing there. It has become my other reality or parallel universe now that a spend more time with my mom at her house.
There is a charming middle school at the end of my mother’s block, Knollwood it is called, and each morning when I run there I see kids in various states of readiness migrating toward it to start their day. They come on bikes or walk, alone or a few together, sometimes running or pedaling hard as it gets later. Cars and buses are dropping them off on the other side, but that isn’t usually what I see from the side of the school I approach.
The houses here range from new build large and obviously affluent, to bungalow and Cape Cod small, like my mom’s. They indicate a fair amount of disparity in wealth I think as I run by them, but somehow they manage to knit together a community, homes almost universally cheerfully neat and tidy looking.
If I head further in one direction I know that beyond the woods where I start these runs that the homes will grow larger and further apart in the town where I grew up. As I go in the other direction the homes get smaller and closer together and older. This area forms a literal meeting point of three towns and each has a different flavor.
As I survey my surroundings (to an unlikely soundtrack of Billie Holiday which I am stuck on for no identifiable reason), I ponder how mindfulness can be uncomfortable and how sometimes forcing yourself to be in the moment is so much harder and more painful than escaping it. For me and with my personal history January is the most terrible of months, stinking with the memory of illness and death. Accepting that and not trying to escape it is hard. Despite a determined brand of personal optimism, I tend to skirt the beginning of each year warily, more just getting through it than embracing it as a new beginning.
This year has its own challenges and this week packed a wallop of January-ness my way along with some sodden snowy rain. The anniversary of my sister’s death, two more resignations at work, spending time (mostly reliving the past) with my mom who is not well – it has been a rocky road and I will be glad when the 31st passes, hopefully gently, into February. A tsunami of these issues clamor for attention in my brain and only the gentle repetitious pounding of my sneaker clad feet can help me unsnarl these thorny thoughts.
As I make my way over, up and through this neighborhood I think about it. The word liminal keeps looming in my mind so I examine it. Liminal, the space between things, the moment on a threshold. We all are existing in that liminal space right now as we try to figure out what the world is going to look like, needing to let go of what was and embrace this unknown next thing. That space is a bit of a respite from the drive forward, but you know you are going to have to take the plunge so there is little comfort in that perch, like standing above icy water before diving in. By its nature it is an uncomfortable place to be.
I think I understand the desire to leave for a new job and to assign all that was bad about the past two years to what employed your hours during that time. I can see that a new job might be a fresh new page to draw on and a way to reinvent yourself and push into the new world. So I try not to resent the further dwindling of my work team and the demands it will make on me and the remaining folks, but I admit it is hard.
My own style however is to dig my heels in and have a real look at myself, marshal my reserves, retrench. It is only by facing what is hard that we can actually resolve it. One of my expressions is the only way through is through – a self-evident but annoying truth. I see signs of reluctance in myself that I need to square off, face and resolve. I remind myself that there is a steeliness I can call on when needed and it is called for now. I use it and add on that extra mile.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Suddenly there is a nip in the air on my early morning runs and I find that I have added a cotton layer to my togs and my running shorts have been put away. Sunrise is later and later these mornings and up to this point I have resisted going out before the sun is poking up onto the scene – I remind myself that this is still New York City and running alone in the dark is perhaps not the best idea nor indeed safe.
I am hitting the one year mark since I started running and thus far I have persevered through summer heat and two broken fingers. (Earlier running posts, and the broken finger story, can be found here and here.) I try to run most mornings, short of having to be in midtown for an in-person meeting before 9:00 which I increasingly often do for work. On those days I walk the three miles to (and often also back from) Columbus Circle instead. Those mornings I cut the city catty corner and walk through Central Park which certainly has its own early morning charm. I cannot help but compare and contrast these mornings to mine spent in our little east side enclave.
At the one year mark I run about three miles. I run a slow, gentle jog. Despite being exclusively on concrete I try to land softly, mid-foot, and to keep my joints loose. My right hip and the muscles reaching down tend to complain a bit, less so if I am rigorous in my warm up, which I try to be. I have psoriatic arthritis and I know that eventually it will all catch up with me, but I have taken the use it or lose it approach to my joints as I will ultimately be a great candidate for a hip replacement regardless. I have chosen to take the using them up approach to my joints. (A post devoted specifically to my workout as someone with arthritis can be found here.)
I began running because I was spending so much time in our tiny apartment sitting in a chair, no longer able to go to the gym, that I realized I needed to do something. Walking (which took too much time and didn’t seem to raise my heart rate at all) quickly gave way to running. Although I like working out, especially lifting weights, I have never aspired to run so this was a strange turn of events, however it solved the cardio problem and also helped address the pandemic pounds I needed to shed.
At first my body resisted this turn of events, but with the help of my trainer I stretched and cajoled it into compliance. I have, over the year, lost close to 40 pounds (most of those put on in the first six months of the pandemic – read some of my baking recipes here and here at your own peril), although I warn anyone entering into this endeavor that it is very easy to feed a workout and gain weight instead of losing it. Losing weight, for me anyway, is tied to a careful (merciless really) counting of calories and thoughtful food choices in conjunction with exercise. Running has also largely eliminated nagging lower back pain I had acquired even before the pandemic from too much sitting, long hours of airplane travel and concert hall seats.
I commented to Kim this morning that running has changed my body in an interesting and far more overall way than I expected. Of course you expect more muscle in your legs, but it has changed my upper body too. Something about my posture and even the way I move is different. Far more than lifting and my former (devoted and beloved) gym routine the total impact is more significant it seems to me.
I run slower than most of my morning compatriots and speed just isn’t something I am competitive about, my competition is only with myself and is generally more about distance and consistency. I set myself at a comfortable pace and mostly only alter it to go around folks or if dogs get too inquisitive – in a nippy way. Some days are peppier than others, but regardless I take time to note the denizens of the Esplanade and those of you who follow my Instagram account know that I will take time to snap some photos. (My running adventures are documented more or less daily in my stories here.) I try to take a kindly attitude toward my middle aged body which is, after all, answering my call to this kind of exercise. I remember that it is serving me well and I should not be critical of its efforts on my behalf.
I used to listen to books but while running I replaced those with music – at least to the degree I can cajole my iPhone to play it while running while still snapping the occasional photo. I tend to like to listen to the same thing over and over, and then switching to something else. Wynton Marsalis’s Swing Symphony accompanied me on many a run, second maybe only to Beethoven’s Seventh. I have wandered through some classical – YoYo Ma playing solo concertos, Moonlight Sonata – popular music of my teen years (think Bruce Springsteen) and most recently Billie Holiday which is a bit of surprise. I usually like something more upbeat. However, I was taking a tour of Autumn in New York this week, hence the name of this post. (A few choice versions can be found on Youtube here, here and here, Sinatra, Holiday and Sarah Vaughn respectively – at least available at the time of writing this.)
I pass the qi gong and tai chi practitioners, some stationary, others in a sort of walking-moving meditation. Folks are taking boxing lessons (I would like to try this some day, broken fingers notwithstanding), others working out with someone instructing them via their phone, yoga gatherings and a series of trainers who are set up along the river just beyond the park’s environs – Juliet and Darryl are among the trainers who watch me run by everyday, their white boards with contact info and declaring their names. They have stopped offering their cards, but I watch their instruction with some interest daily. The gorgeous view of the river is great for this (and meditation and yoga which is also all around me) and I find the time near the water restorative. I am nicer and kinder in general on the days I run. I often think that if I worked for me I would make sure Pam was out there every day!
On my route there is one camp I always note, set up by a gentleman in a choice spot over the river in a little cul de sac above some sort of Con Ed semi-deserted building. Recently he has added house plants, an interesting framed print and most poignantly a Fischer Price type child’s toy of a house. I don’t see the resident often, although occasionally I see him communing with some sea gulls who seem to know him. He disappeared for awhile and it seemed that someone was packing up the area but he came back and it seems to have rolled back to where it was.
Among the permanent residents, Collage Woman is either sleeping or working on gluing things from catalogues into her books. Writing Guy, if he is there, has nodded out on his bench and over his notebook. Then there is a steady stream of people, virtually all men, who I suspect have only recently joined the ranks of the homeless. Often they are using a roller suitcase for their possessions, although sometimes a back pack with frame and a sleep mat. One day I ran behind one very large man using a table leg and a Fresh Direct bag as a bindle. This group fared poorly during the harsh storms and hurricanes that battered us a month or so back (our tales of flooding and leaking can be found here and here), but I worry about all of them as the colder weather approaches. This group seems especially and terrifyingly ill-prepared for it.
The East River Esplanade, running along the river and along with Carl Schurz Park, waking slowly into being our Yorkville town square these days as I wrap an early run at the north end. The morning traffic along the FDR drive runs less scenically along one side of me. As I head up back from 91st Street I look at it and always have a moment being grateful that I am not commuting in one of those cars today.
I loop back through the park and stretch some more. At this hour we runners and early bird walkers are slowly outnumbered by commuters are lining up for an early ferry, the dog walkers who have multiplied, school kids making their way to their destinations, as well as people heading to work on bikes, motorized scooters and of course walking – this group replacing those of us in work out wear with office attire. In my mind I run through an unconscious rule of thumb which is: vehicles should give way to runners, runners give way to walkers and we all find our way around those who, for various reasons but usually involve dogs, are standing still in the path. Not everyone follows this rule and we try not to be run down by the various newly motorized bikes and scooters, not to mention regular bicycles, sometimes in the hands of a nascent rider. I worry about those because they usually do not sport a helmet either.
I smell the coffee and breakfast sandwiches of those who are parked on the benches, just enjoying the sunrise or communing with their phone. It wakes my empty stomach up with an inquiring growl and I remind tummy that reward in the form of coffee and breakfast awaits us too, but after the run. These days I split my breakfast acquisition between Bagel Bob and The Mansion Diner. Bagel Bob became my pandemic go-to in the neighborhood and a couple of eggs on a whole wheat wrap is my order there. I stand in a line of bagel buyers and folks on their way to work or school. Although it has re-opened its few tables it isn’t really a sit down sort of place. People at Bagel Bob’s are on the go.
The Mansion Diner, another neighborhood stronghold, is more of a sit down affair and now offers a broad range of seating both in and out. It is frequented by our local policemen taking a break on the job, but also folks who have the time to savor a proper breakfast, or maybe having take-out like me, or supplying the ongoing delivery business which seems to employ a small army of men. (Who orders breakfast delivery in the morning? I have long wondered about this. Doormen? Is it a version of breakfast in bed for the UES clan?) I wait for my single egg on an English muffin here, listening to a rather consistently fine loop of Frank Sinatra blasting inside (this invariably makes me think of college Sunday brunch) and out while checking my email, or occasionally heading back outside to finish my stretching on neighboring stairs, while my breakfast is being prepared.
Unlike Bagel Bob’s, The Mansion stays open to cater to a dinner crowd, even in these nebulous post-pandemic (can we say we are post I can’t help but wonder?) times. At one time it would have been mostly elderly people and some with young children, but now that we all eat earlier (six o’clock is the new eight o’clock here) and as it is very local it is a broader sampling of the neighborhood.
I am starting to eye warmer socks online, also running caps as my baseball cap will seem insufficient soon. (Yes, the dreaded moths have eaten all my wool hats I ran in last season.) I am giving reflective garb a sideways look too – if for no other reason than when I run at my mom’s house in New Jersey where cars are a bigger issue. (Running there has been documented in a recent post here.) I am somewhat confused by the idea of putting screws in the soles of old sneakers for snow and ice traction. But my cotton baseball shirt will give way to a proper sweatshirt and it will take more willpower to get out the door in the morning. I know autumn will quickly turn to winter here, but I do plan to be out there even on those frosty and snowy mornings.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Some on-going Pictorama readers may have figured out that I am an Aquarian, a February girl, my birthday tucked in next to Lincoln’s and a kissin’ cousin to Valentine’s Day; amethyst is my birthstone and I am a water sign. Although I do not go deeply into astrology I have given a lot of thought to my relationship to water which has informed much of my life although sometimes I wouldn’t say I actually have an affinity for it as this story bears out.
I grew up on a river, close to the Atlantic ocean, and these days we live with a view of the East River where I run most mornings now. (IG followers see my running journals, @deitchstudio or Pams-Pictorama, where I share some of the views of the water as well as my slow progress, impeded in part by falling and breaking a few fingers on Memorial Day. I have written about my endeavor to start running over the past year which can be found here, here and here. Reconnecting with the life of the waterfront has been wonderful over this past pandemic year and I appreciate it as much as the much needed exercise.)
I was taught to swim as a tiny toddler, in a pool in Sea Bright, New Jersey (a neighboring beach town I have devoted a few posts to which can be read here and here) and I took to it reasonably well. I have never been a great swimmer, unlike my sister Loren who was all swim teams and life saving, however I was at the beach and in the ocean and pools constantly between the ages of about six and twenty, so I guess I did it well enough to stay afloat and get where I was going.
Living on the river as we did floods were a constant part of our lives. At first we had an adorable little house on a narrow spit of land in Sea Bright where the river ran hard and fast into the bay on one side and the ocean was on the other. Without the sea wall the walk from one to the other would have taken ten minutes. It is a cottage that lives on in my imagination, a nifty little mail order home from Sears, it was sea sunlit and smelled of salt and sand.
We only spent summer weekends there so I was not subjected to the ongoing floods of suffered by year round residents, threatened as it was by both sides when tides rose. When I considered moving back there as an adult my parents were loathe to have me deal with the flooding, which while endurable as a summer beach cottage would have been more problematic 365 days a year, so instead I settled in Manhattan.
While still a tot my family moved full time to the shore and our first house in Rumson was on the (aptly named) Waterman Avenue. Just around the bend from the Sea Bright-Rumson draw bridge, we lived on a fast moving part of the water as it merged into the bay, teeming with boat traffic in the summer. Our view was of downtown Sea Bright across the river and the ocean just beyond and we were within walking distance of the beach. (My adult dream life takes me back there occasionally, enduring hurricanes and even tidal waves.)
Each year fall and early winter would bring hurricanes and quickly we learned about the days we would be picked up from school early, the car would be parked on higher ground where it would be safe and we would prepare for the high tides around us at home with streets that turned into ponds or sometimes raging rivers. (Sadly, I believe a hurricane did pre-empt Halloween one year.) Occasionally we kids would be left with my mom’s parents in Long Branch, an inland part of the neighboring town where my mother grew up, but she would generally return to Rumson to weather the storm and keep an eye on things. She recently described one of those evenings spent in bed on the second floor of that little house with the walls quaking with water and wind.
Generally those storms were a lark, the flood days, at least for us kids. My mom would put on her waist-high waders if she had to go out when the squall calmed, but the water had not yet receded. (Dad was usually at work in the city or traveling for his job at ABC News – it was the family joke that he missed just about every major flood we had.) Sometimes the flooding was just annoying, occasionally it was significant and memorable, but mostly it was just part of the fabric of my childhood, accepted as part of the way things were – the same as having cats and dogs and a green Plymouth station wagon.
Eventually we moved to a larger house several blocks away, but perched on an inlet of the river which was further protected by a small island between the mouth of our “pond” (which went by both names Oyster Bay and Polly’s Pond – I never could find out who Polly was and the oysters were sadly long gone when we got there). The natural barriers and somewhat higher land meant not just calmer waters, but less flooding on a regular basis. Hurricanes still meant flooded streets, but even water in the yard was less common.
Although flooding impeded daily life less, we weathered a few significant and memorable storms in that house. My parents were ultimately dislodged from that home by Hurricane Sandy and the shifts in water tables which brought the first water into the house we ever had – even then it only filled the garage, but destroyed the water heater and even warped the wooden floors with so much dampness under them. With the advent of every hurricane we have, I offer ongoing gratitude that my mom, now alone, is tucked away, relatively far inland in a tiny home in neighboring Fair Haven.
All this to say, that history behind me, these days I live on the 16th floor of a high rise building on the upper Eastside of Manhattan and while our river views mean we can get with some high force winds in a storm, in general flooding is not something we often consider. Living on the top floor of a building which is more than a half century old means that our water intrusion generally comes from above, or occasionally from aging pipes. (Our building was re-piped several years back – a true horror. I thought I had written about it, but alas I cannot find it as a link for your consideration.)
Kim and I have experienced leaks in almost every single possible area of our compact 600 square foot abode – water has come from under the kitchen sink, it has worn through pipes and leaked in the bathroom walls. On occasion it has poured from incorrectly installed pipes in the ceiling near the windows and onto our books. As I write today, the ceiling near the windows sags from another mistake in design after the re-piping fiesta and the wall under it is soggy as well, all pending repair in the foreseeable future.
Most notably, a new front has opened over my current work at home desk set-up as a result of the recent Hurricane Ida. As it turns out, after a lifetime of preparing conscientiously for storms and fretting about them, when one finally came along to bite me, there was no real warning or preparation. Normally a storm that has hit land and traveled over it for several days means no more than some stormy days by the time it arrives. A storm that has gone back out to sea can pick up speed again and be a threat, but Ida, while she packed a wallop when she hit New Orleans and Texas, didn’t seem to be a threat as she winded her way through the Midwest and up to the greater New York area.
As the somewhat desultory rain of the day turned harder into the evening, I became aware that the wind was blowing hard enough to make me glad that the building had installed new windows – although they could certainly still shatter in high winds. However, it was a call that I got from my doorman at 10:00 at night that worried me. Our building basement had several feet of water in it already and the elevators were not functioning. We were not to go to the basement and be aware that the stairs on the first floor would be slippery.
Morning dawned and the news was appalling. The death toll climbed steadily throughout the day – people trapped in basement apartments and in raging flash floods. Horrible stories. Meanwhile, several feet of water remained in the building basement although the elevators came back online in the morning. (We were told that the water simply poured in from the windows and the street.) It was several days before we were allowed to begin investigation of the storage locker we keep down there, shifting seasonal clothes kept in bins, household items that have gone out of vogue or use for a time and not much but some artwork.
As it happens, we found some interesting stuff and I will devote tomorrow’s post to what we found (art by both Kim and me) and rescued from that rapidly molding enclave.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am pausing in the Pictorama photo post fiesta which will likely resume tomorrow, the reflect a bit on my return to running. I run slower than ever since my fall running on Memorial Day which resulted in two broken fingers. (Posts about my nascent running and the finger crushing fall can be found here and here.) In the heat of summer it is tough going to get back to my former distance. Still, every morning which does not require a breakfast meeting, or it isn’t pouring rain, out I go to give it my best.
Running clears my brain better than most things. (Lifting weights can also have this effect, but the hand is definitely still too weak to be trusted much with the free weights in the apartment. I wrote about my studio apartment pandemic workout a few months back and can be read here.) While I used to listen to books while working out at the gym it has developed that it has to be music for running. I have become partial to Beethoven, in particular the 7th Symphony, but I have roamed around a bit too. I love Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach cello concertos and am very fond of the Moonlight Sonata, but neither runs quite as long as I need and I find myself mid-run looking for the next thing to listen to. As I Jersey girl I will admit that I also have Bruce Springsteen as a fallback – always good if I need a kick in the pants to get me going.
I am also a bit strangely partial to Wynton Marsalis’s Blues Symphony. (As a staffer I would be remiss not to point out that the free download can be found here and a variety of other places on the web.) And in fact I was listening to it when I fell – apologies Wynton, but true. That did not dampen my affection for it however and I still like it very much and have it in rotation. My usual run down by the East River is along the FDR Drive and that means that half of it is quite noisy with commuter traffic. I had a day of trying to listen to Russ Columbo (long-standing Pictorama readers know that I am partial to popular music from the 1920’s and 30’s – this post found here is one of several which touches on that part of my life) while running and alas his voice is too soft to hear. You need a bit of boom to be heard over the morning traffic I am afraid.
Last weekend I made the trip to Jersey to visit my mom. I had last seen her earlier in the fateful Memorial Day weekend when I had been in for a wet, cold concert on that Friday evening – perhaps my exhaustion that morning contributing to my fall. (Arg! That tale can be found here.) The rigors of hand in cast, followed by ever so much ongoing physical therapy have occupied me greatly and made travel a tad harder so this was my first chance to get back there.
Sunday morning had breakout sun and heat for my ferry trip after a night of heavy rain. Unfortunately a quick front moved in just as we pulled out of the Sandy Hook stop on the ferry, a summer stop only for beach goers. Pulling away from the piles of families we just left on the beach in a very sudden, pouring rain, which then lasted the rest of the day. I thought about those poor stranded folks for the rest of the day as there is virtually no shelter there and the next ferry would be a wait.
On Monday morning I woke early with good intentions and determination to head out for a run, despite the gray morning. I threw on my running togs, layered for some Jersey chill, and said a quick hello to mom and went out the door – and into a new torrent of rain. I regrouped and had a nice coffee with mom, ate a really memorable Jersey peach, and was ultimately rewarded for not eating a full breakfast when the rain cleared around 7:30. Out I went. I queued up Beethoven although it would have been a nice day to nod to Bruce as I was virtually down the street from his home.
These days my mom lives in a town just a few miles from the one I grew up in. I am familiar with it in a general way, but realized early on that I could easily get lost in the roads walking or running around in the area surrounding her new house. I mapped a route earlier in the spring, but wanted more distance today and so I peeled off toward a grammar school with a playing field I figured I could check out. I always had my phone to get me back to her house after all.
The morning was still heavy with rain water and the trees, flowers and grass were soaking. I resigned myself to sodden sneakers early on and instantly wished I had thought to pack extra socks. (I have a friend/antique jewelry dealer on IG, Mia aka @therubyfoxes who runs in the British countryside and always shows photos of her mud caked sneakers post-run. I was channeling you Mia!)
Observing the etiquette of the suburbs I greeted the few folks I met along the way with a cheery greeting of Morning! (In Manhattan the most you might have is a nod at someone you encounter frequently, but in all fairness, there are a lot more people here in New York.) I took my chances and followed a road beyond the school up, figuring I could make a big loop without getting hopelessly lost.
The roads around my mom’s house are named for schools. She lives on Oxford and I found myself running along and past Dartmouth, then Harvard, Princeton and Rutgers – a nod to the home team I guess. My sister had a high school boyfriend who lived on one of these streets – I think it was Dartmouth. I was trying to remember and see if any of the houses looked familiar, although many are newly built on the sites of older ones. I may have picked it out, but hard to say.
There are a number of cul de sac dead ends where basketball hoops proliferate and kids clearly command the streets. Several homes sported unmask our kids signs which reminded me that it had always been a community that wore its politics on its sleeve with yard signs favoring political candidates, making statements. Maybe all suburbs are – it is the only suburban community I have ever lived in so I am unsure.
I continued on, up toward some additional community playing fields boardering on a heavily wooded area which I believe is responsible in part for the diversity of birds my mom enjoys in her tiny yard – including hawks and, surprisingly, turkey vultures. As I approached the field I saw unleashed dogs playing and was hesitant to run through – however as I got closer I realized they were instead young deer romping. I jogged the perimeter of the field and noted a nice community garden with someone just beginning his work there, along one side.
Running on turf as opposed to concrete, as I do here in Manhattan, was a bit heavenly and I couldn’t help thinking that a fall here would likely only result in getting muddy as opposed to broken bones. Meanwhile, don’t think heroic thoughts about how much I was running. It was my usual three miles and still required (several) periods of walking and as there were no inclines to challenge me I can only admit I really just don’t have my wind and stamina back yet.
There is something downright edenic about being out in the suburbs though, especially after our long months bound to our apartment and our corner of the city, although I always feel fortunate to have grown up in such a pretty place. These days though even being on the ferry and out on the water, some part of my brain releases and relaxes in a way it doesn’t quite ever do here these days – although my time along the esplanade in the mornings comes close.
My route ended with a loop around the original area I had mapped out. Street names that my friend Suzanne had helped me list during a walk one day as I found an initial route. I checked in on Forrest (my grammar school nearby was Forrestdale), Park and Beekman, easy for a Manhattanite to remember for obvious reasons – touched base near her house on Ridge, and turned tail home where mom and a (not New York) bagel with smoked salmon awaited me.