In the Night Hours

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Although I am (and always have been) very fond of sleep, when I was a child I assumed that many of the truly interesting things in the world were going on in the middle of the night. Somehow I thought (knew?) that grownups were prowling the nights while I slept. They were watching gently muted television shows which were blue-lighting bedrooms or out at fantasy dinner clubs based on images I formed from early films. I imagined them sitting our suburban backyards, walking the streets and on moonlit ocean beaches. I imagined that somehow their night selves were more interesting and some day I would join them.

When I was very little and couldn’t sleep I would sometimes roll into an empty built-in bookshelf next to my bed and curl up there. The enclosure somehow being more comforting if less comfortable and it freaked my parents out in a mild way. My mother still talks about it and I have a visceral memory of it. (Of course I have no empty shelves in my adult life.)

The current sleep uniform here at Pictorama, shown from the site, The Cat’s Pajama’s. I am partial to cotton pj bottoms both summer and winter.

My older sister, Loren, slept little and would go to bed late and get up early, although once asleep she slept soundly as far as I remember. When we were tiny she would usually be up for a late whisper or even prowl around the house together while our parents thought we were asleep. (During our adolescence we would fall asleep to her violin practice nightly which typically went on until about midnight.)

I always liked a cat on my bed for company if wakeful and from the time I was a small child I would lure them up at night. My first cat here in New York, a tuxie named Otto, slept wrapped around my head on my pillow most nights. She was the very best about sleeping with me and always kept me company.

Blackie is a bit worried and wakeful here.

Blackie heeds my call many nights (Cookie almost never and if she does she prefers Kim) and often sleeps at my feet where I find him snoring softly (he does snore) when I wake between the hours of 2:30 and 3:30 many nights. I like to find him there and give him a few pets and feel a gentle purr in response, but unlike young me I rarely wake him to keep me company. I usually slip out of bed leaving him and Kim sound asleep.

Blackie and Cookie in napful bliss.

I am likely to have fallen gratefully into a deep sleep earlier in the night and wake to find my mind going from a manically busy dream right into a full tilt wakefulness. Sometimes I can lead myself back to sleep, but other nights I cannot and I lay in bed with a parade of thorny worries making maneuvers and marching through my brain until I finally give in and wander to the couch and take another hit of melatonin.

If I am reading a book I will read a bit (my posts about reading Judy Bolton novels can be found here and the Camp Fire Girls helped many a night and the first of those posts can be found here), but sometimes I scroll through my Instagram feed (I have conferred with @missmollystlantiques in the wee hours and bought photos from her) and see new posts from folks in other parts of the country and other parts of the world where their day has started.

This series lulled me back to sleep many a night in 2020.

Of course, sometimes I give into work and during the height of the pandemic unknotting worries about work snarling my brain would wake me so entirely that clearly the only resolution was to get up and do something about it. My colleagues grew used to responses to their inquiries time stamped for these late night hours. If I responded to a text from with my boss it could go on for a long time though as he is a notorious nightbird insomniac as well. (Jazz musician so of course!)

There are nights (many in fact) where I do the calculus of income to date at work and fret about how the gap will get filled before the end of the fiscal year, what needs doing to achieve it; budget is often on my mind one way or another. Other nights I fret over staffing or hiring issues. Recently I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about where a new hire would sit and wondered in the morning why it had so obsessed my mind the night before, the lens of sleeplessness magnifying things in an odd way. In the before times (pre-Covid) it might have been responses to a dinner that were especially slow in coming or thinking about an upcoming trip for work. Sometimes I get good ideas during these hours, other times not.

These days I am likely to be thinking (worrying) about my mom and may find a late night response to an earlier evening email from her. I like to see those, but am careful not to answer her because she will worry about my sleeplessness. She always writes that she hopes I am not seeing the email until morning. When I am in New Jersey with her I turn the television on to put me back to sleep which it often does. Here in New York our apartment is too small and I worry that even turning on a lamp will wake Kim and kitties.

My folk’s cat Red used to sleep with me when I visited in Jersey. He seemed to feel that it was his duty as official concierge kitty.

I am aware that experts say that looking at a computer screen will wake you further. I do not find this and instead often take comfort in my electronic book or a gentle interaction with the evidently not quite sleeping world and find a short interlude distracting enough to soothe me and send me back to sleep successfully.

I do know from my own late nights and early mornings that there are legions of colleagues and friends roaming these same night hours. I see time stamps on other emails that confirm this. I frequently joke that we all know we could schedule a meeting for 3:30 AM. My friend and colleague on the West coast is usually having her sleepless interlude when I am first up and have started my day here in New York. We have email exchanges until she (sometimes) goes back to sleep for a bit once my work day has truly begun.

East River sunrise.

Running has helped me sleep better and in turn my early morning run is one of the reasons I urge myself to get back to sleep. As I generally get up around 6:00 (feeding time for the kits) it makes the timing of taking an actual sleeping pill, even a half, difficult to time. I tend to give into it a few times a month but generally prefer gummies that contain both melatonin and something called Rescue Remedy.

On a particularly bad night nothing will work, even after attempting to bludgeon the sleeplessness out of me with all of the concoctions above. On those nights there is no sense of camaraderie among my sleepless counterparts, just me and my fretting.

I recommend Steven Millhauser – perhaps for a sleepless night?

The author Steven Millhauser (a favorite of mine and gently disliked by Kim) writes about the night and describes it in a way that captures the way I would like to feel about it. If unfettered by place and responsibilities, I could freely roam the night with long neighborhood strolls and fill that time with creative production rather than nattering worries and concerns about early morning meetings and a long exhausting day ahead I might learn to love those odd hours. He devoted a great novella to a single night in a Connecticut neighborhood, Enchanted Night, although it is a short story called The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne that made me realize he was a kindred spirit on the subject.

Thursday night I attended a concert featuring Cécile McLorin Salvant and she talked about being inspired to write a particular song after reading a Colette quote about insomnia, on her phone in the middle of the night; leaving me to wonder if she was googling insomnia at the time, or Colette perhaps? (She also said that it was a New Year’s resolution to keep her phone out of her bedroom which failed almost immediately.) In its early stages, insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think or suffer darkly take refuge. For me the key word is almost.

And of course I know that some of you, my dear readers, are also reading this very post in the middle of the night and I hope it sends you back to the Land of Nod and so, sweet dreams.

Interviewing

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is another sub-genre post, musings on my work life. Today I am deeply in thought about the week that was and will share a few thoughts about it as my mulling about it is occupying my brain this morning.

To start I will mention that we are back in our office on a hybrid schedule and because it is early days there is a certain amount of confusion and new patterns to be built. We recently had a staff meeting with half the office on Zoom and only my cell phone to tie them in.

Meanwhile, my office computer chose yesterday to flat out die – only a red flashing light came on. (My liaison in Technology emailed me red=dead in response to my hopeful inquiry about resuscitation.) I guess sadly the long days of disuse still counted against its useful life. I’m glad that my laptop continues to chug along at home, taped together and challenged at charging though it is. The current lean state of the staff is more evident with the new schedule and there are some days when it still feels like when I would go in during the height of the pandemic, largely alone.

Like many folks these days, over the waning days of the extended pandemic period, a number of my colleagues have migrated to other states, different careers and new paths – Etsy businesses were formed and consulting gigs found. Therefore, like so many others, I have been looking to build a new team and in the process start to reimagine who we are and what we will be. I have gone down blind alleys that didn’t pan out and cost me time and energy as my own group becomes understandably impatient with the attenuated process. Ghosts of former colleagues inhabit the space as we forget we won’t see them at those desks any longer.

An ongoing need to test as I spend more time out in the world has made me a regular at the LabQ tent.

Nonetheless, I am determined to be as thoughtful about each role as I would be if it was the only one I was filling this year and with several to fill, I am working hard to find the right combinations of skills and personalities to complement the existing team. Several months of groundwork is beginning to culminate in a tsunami of finalists and I find myself across the table (quite literally as most of my final in-person interviews are being done in an array of eating establishments across the city), from a long line of great people who are interviewing me as much as I am interviewing them.

If it wasn’t already a period of reflection on where we’ve been and where we want to go their probing questions have me considering it with determined frequency. Frankly these folks have mostly already vetted me, my management style and approach beforehand so our conversations go deeper. How has the team managed during these rough years and how are we pulling out of it? Where will we head now? How much travel do we anticipate?

I have some answers but my crystal ball falls short at others – yes to a hybrid office schedule, no idea on how much travel but probably some whereas it had been a lot. (Some of my tales of work related travel around the country and the world can be found here, here and here.) What are my goals and what keeps me at my job? The conversations focus me and rededicate me in an unexpected way. I am rebuilding and reimagining as we speak. The candidates are all savvy and have researched the organization and its finances online. People are looking to make the right move.

Flowers on my desk back in ’18. It had been my practice to buy new ones each Monday for the week.

Small kindnesses extended to people over the course of my career have come back to me more than tenfold. Perhaps it is where I am in my own career or the comparably large number of people I need to hire, but it is almost overwhelming.

For every informational interview I extended, sympathetic ear I lent, each hand up or a place at the table I might have been able to provide, all these years later candidates tell me that they are sitting across from me now because they or someone they respect remembered it. I am touched by the number of people who are willing to vouch for me in this way and am grateful that my career at the Met gave me the opportunities it did. (I wrote about working at the Metropolitan Museum in a post that can be found here and a recent post dedicated to an early mentor of mine can be found here.)

Our Essentially Ellington competition alumni band performing earlier this week. A stunningly talented group of young musicians who have competed in the 27 years of this educational program.

I am pleased to report that the first senior position was filled yesterday. I am so excited about the new team member and the new partner he will be! Building on his skills gives me a benchmark for the others now as I move forward.

Therefore, as you try to balance long work days against those requests that always seem to come at the wrong moment, I encourage you to take a deep breath and find the time to sit on that panel or committee, or talk to that person. Whatever area you work in I am sure it too has a community with a long memory like mine and, like all aspects of life, what we put out in the world comes back to us in many ways. As I sit across from these talented folks and talk to them about their careers and hopes for the future I am refueled and very grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Time

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.

Recent Strava read from a run.

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.

Winter ’20 view from Carl Schurz Park during my first winter running.

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.

East River view spring of ’21.

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.

Magnolia tree near mom’s which inspired the purchase of one for her yard.

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.)

Me at Dizzy’s post Gala in ’18! Wearing the same dress this year!

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.

Daydreams

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I am sharing a photo postcard that just wandered in the door this week. It turned up in a search because of the black cat drawing in the upper left corner, but I think it is an image that those of us who were once art students find familiar and that is why I bought it. Although this postcard was never mailed, it is inscribed with “Daydreams” in a neat script and underlined on the back.

Our aspiring artist has his inspiration images pinned up along with what I assume is some of his own work. These drawings largely appear to be exercises in commercial art and perhaps that is how he ultimately made his living. His brushes, which looks a bit large for the art pursued here, are neatly sticking out of a jar. When I look very carefully I wonder if there aren’t two other photo postcards perched under the lamp, at least one that might be this same space depicted previously.

Our artist appears to be mulling, posed artfully and self-consciously, over a photograph of a woman and at his leisure, sitting back in his chair with his feet up. Very natty, our artist is wearing a tie and is neatly combed. The photo documents a space and time well despite the artifice.

There is something odd and somewhat wonky about the printing of this photo and I cannot help but wonder if his friend the aspiring (perhaps not yet entirely successful) photography student from down the hall attempted it. Recognizing that it hails from a time when a photo lit exclusively by a single bulb would have been challenging to execute (film being much slower), perhaps that is part of the issue. However, it is also printed poorly with dark edges from where it was not properly set for printing, an errant over-exposed corner in the upper right. Over decades it has solarized in the way that early prints sometimes do.

Cookie and Blackie enjoying my desk.

It reminds me of studio spaces in I had in college and later the areas I have devoted to drawing in various apartments – some favorite postcards or reproductions pinned up along with some recent work, a work lamp, brushes at the ready. He is neater than me, by far; I generally was covered in black pastel (a favorite medium) or really made a mess earlier with oil paint. My photography work of more recent vintage was executed elsewhere so no pets or humans would be injured by fumes or chemicals in our tiny abode. Kim says this photo reminds him of a young him as well, although I will add he seems a bit disparaging about the prospects of this young man.

My drawing table, alas, has been my work desk, as shown above, for the last two years and sees more action that way than it was for producing drawings. (I wrote about setting up that work space in an oddly popular post that can be found here.) It can’t be seen in the photo, but I do keep some photos around me at my desk as well, among them one I recently acquired of me and my sister as tiny tots, in a long forgotten yard somewhere.

Framed photo of me and my older sister Loren which just turned up recently and lives by my desk..

Meanwhile, as I write I sit at the far end of Kim’s long work table as I type this. It is a personal idiosyncrasy that I write my blog sitting at our big computer, not my laptop. I think I have mentioned before that Kim’s work table is a long, wooden table that I think was designed more for dining than for drawing. We bought it at the 26th Street flea market from its maker years ago. The antique table I had assigned to Kim early on had fallen over from the daily use.

Kim’s desk this morning, work in progress.
The ever-growing pile of finished pages like grow like topsy.

I guess Kim’s workspace is a glorified and professional version of this student one, with an enormous pile of finished pages at his right, some favorite books and his lucky dogs in front of him and our mutual collection of early photos lining the walls above. He is not, it should be noted, someone who likes his own work up on the wall around him. His workspace and my mine sit side-by-side these days and are pretty much central to our daily lives with the two cats, here at Deitch Studio.

January

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.

Discovered the local police station nearby recently.

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.)

Wooded area where I run. Looks more wild than it is – there are the backs of houses within sight.

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.

The suburban street near mom.

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.

Flowers in memory of my sister Loren, brought by a friend earlier this week.

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.

One of the endless playing fields I run through on my NJ mornings.

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.

Planning

Pam Pictorama Post: It is pre-dawn here and a soft rain is occasionally ticking against the window. Despite a late night at work (Big Band Holiday concert) I woke early and chafed a bit at my self-imposed rule that I won’t run in the dark as part of me wanted nothing more than a slow run through the park at 6:00 am. It sorts out my brain like nothing else and in an effortless way I will never really understand, but am grateful for when I can employ it. However, instead, I sit down and write and think maybe that run will come later.

Recently in the process of interviewing someone, I was asked about my own plans for the future, where I expect to be in five years. I laughed to myself and thought, after the last more than twenty months of the pandemic, how can anyone actually ask me what I think I will be doing in five years? I sure as heck didn’t think I would be doing what I have been for the last twenty or more months with a basis of operations from our one room here at Deitch Studio, but the question has gnawed at me a bit.

Big Band Holiday concert last night.

I was reminded of when I graduated from college. I formulated a very specific plan which roughly involved getting a job cooking in a very good restaurant here in New York City, applying to graduate school for painting and then using that restaurant experience to land a good job and work my way through said graduate program, probably somewhere in the mid-West like Iowa, and then most likely teaching art and trying to sell my own work. (Yes, I had a lot of energy then!)

I achieved the first step on the ladder and landed the job in a restaurant cooking with a rising young chef star, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. I won’t go down the tributary of my cooking career for now, but only note that it ended abruptly with a fall down a flight of stairs which put me out of commission for that kind of physical work. Over time painting gave way to photography and these days this blog is most of the creativity I employ on a regular basis.

The Met one recent morning as I walked to Columbus Circle for work.

After the fall, so to speak, I took a job in the bookstore at the Metropolitan Museum. I was eventually hired out of the bookstore into the administrative offices and, for the most part, stayed there contentedly for the better part of the next thirty years. (I wrote about this on my departure from the Met about four years ago and that post can be found here.) I had never imagined working at the Met and I had never considered (or remotely thought about) fundraising as a career. And once firmly and happily ensconced at the Met I never imagined leaving.

I have tried to make considered choices and planned my career with some thought however. I developed a broad base of skills (such as annual giving, events) and ultimately specialized deeply in the areas that most people avoided – tax consequences of gifts, charitable estate planning and back office operations for example. (My best single piece of advice to people starting out is always raise your hand for the job no one wants – that and for goodness sake, dress appropriately for any interview.)

A holiday Matt Wilson Tree-O at Dizzy’s Club earlier this week.

I embraced the opportunity to manage staff over time and took on overseeing a fair amount of hiring and on-boarding and compensation for that office. However, I always deeply enjoyed working with the individuals who supported the work of the museum and at least half my time was always devoted to that.

I had assumed I would retire from the Met. My decision to leave and run an office for a performing arts organization in many ways surprised no one more than me and it was a huge shift that left me reeling at first. However, the skills I had built up working at the museum have served me well.

Meanwhile, I think we can all safely say none of us expected the world to shift the way it did in March of 2020. It has been exhausting and exhilarating in turns. I feel as if I have grown decades of professional experience crammed into the past two years, approaching my work with a new efficiency as well as renewed urgency. I have often said that from that perspective I wouldn’t have missed it, but much like falling down that flight of stairs all those years ago, the path I thought I was on certainly veered wildly in another direction. We see a lot of folks making radical life changes as a result of the pandemic – changing where they live, where and how they work.

Big Band Holiday last night.

Recent months have allowed a return to seeing some of our supporters and friends in person. Last night was my first in the hall for a concert (I wrote about planning for and then missing our opening concerts in November in a post here), although I have been in our club venue on many evenings. A shift in staffing has meant that I am spending more time with folks and welcoming them in person. It is nice to be doing more of that again.

I have yet to respond to the question about where I expect to be in five years – neither to the person who asked nor in my own mind. I consider it for a bit this morning as the misty morning finally comes to light out the window.

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.

Barty Nichols

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This postcard turns out to be a fairly common one, although I had never seen it before purchasing this example. It was never mailed and nothing is written on the back. The image is a bit odd, Barty the puss peering out between the slats of this sort of picket fence effect, perhaps he is on a porch?

A handful of other capable bloggers have already done tribute to Barty and Hal who was a radio pioneer in Long Beach, California. A musician himself (a few ragtime pieces he wrote can be found on Youtube) Nicols channeled it into the early days of radio, starting in high school where he programmed a station which I assume was the school’s station. (I nosed around in the early days of radio, which are fascinating, via a series of books called The Radio Girls and that post can be found here.) Evidently it really was the medium of radio itself that he loved.

Hal Nichols in an undated photo. A photo of Barty appears to be on the wall behind him.

Unfortunately I could not find an example of the radio show to share and no one has really recorded what kinds of music he played on it. Therefore, I will just imagine that Hal played the jazz and dance band tunes of the 20’s and 30’s that I love since that would have been nostalgic in the 40’s and 50’s. (For a tribute to the radio persona who enlightened me on this subject you can find my post about Rich Conaty here.)

Hal purchased the KFOX-AM station (1280 on your dial) with a 20th Century Fox partner in 1924, but the partner bailed early and he became the sole proprietor. According to his obit, he was on air until his death in October of 1953 after a long illness, presumed to be cancer. I am not sure what the broader programming of the station was, but the Memory Room show was nightly at 6:30. (Today it is a Korean language station out of Torrance, California.) In addition to Barty, Hal was survived by his wife Dorothy – who doesn’t seem to get much air time in the discussion of Hal and KFOX.

Article on Barty. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Barty, who weighed in at 18.5 lbs and was described as a tortoiseshell and white cat (fluffier and more long-haired than he appears in my postcard), entered the picture as early as 1946 and I gather his contribution seemed to be purring into the microphone for listeners at home. It is said he could (would?) purr “on command” (request?), but of course exactly who was doing what over the radio waves is a bit hard to verify. Another writer suggested that maybe Barty just purred all the time – seems unlikely to me as a cat owner. One assumes there was the occasional meow, chirp or mutter as well. Regardless, Barty seemed to manage to transcend the shortcomings of this early communication medium as a cat performer and he had quite a following. His fan mail routinely exceeded that of Hal’s, especially over Valentine’s Day and over the holidays.

The Barty pin, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

As one writer pointed out, being a feline radio mascot was probably a pretty good gig – lots of time with Hal, much attention from staff and I am sure lots of food and treats. I’m not sure fame interests cats much, but of course it is hard to say what their views really might be.

Holiday card not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Hal Nichols had something of a nose for promotion and he ran with the ball on Barty. Holiday cards featuring the feline were produced annually and there were buttons which proliferated as well. This postcard is another example. These collectibles are variously available on eBay, Etsy and at auction although I didn’t see any of the cards for sale except this one I purchased. In my research, I readily came across one magazine page devoted to the duo (which can be found here) and I suspect there were others. There is no indication if Barty headed home with Hal nightly or if the station was truly his only domain.

Holiday card not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

If it were not for the proliferation of pandemic Zoom, I would not have known of my own cat Blackie’s desire for fame and interest in being a broadcast personality. His daily involvement in Zoom meetings (he prefers late afternoon, but will make an exception for especially long meetings – think Board or Committees) earlier in the day. He is charmed by my being such a captive audience for an extended period.

Although his command center is generally my lap, he does make on-air appearances and favors turning his hindquarters to the camera and I attempt to spare my colleagues that view. He also has a gift for chin and ear rubbing his farewell appreciation on the jerry-rigged set-up which frequently sends it flying to the ground, making viewers believe that I have experienced either an earthquake or, more appropriately, a mini sort of Godzilla cat intervention. All this to say as a result, I can easily imagine Barty, perched on Hal’s lap or giving the mic a few ear and chin rubs, or an errant tail knocking it over occasionally, while purring his way into the hearts of listeners across California for many years.

For further reading on Barty and Hal you can try these blog posts and sites: http://World Radio History; http://Arcane Radio Trivia and http://Estate Sales Chronicles.

Fall Further

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am writing from New Jersey today. We are celebrating Thanksgiving early this year as mom worried about the potential exposure over the holiday with crowded travel. As she has a weaken immune system this has to be her call. Either way, a visit is good.

Mom’s cat Peaches is considering making friends.

I headed down on the ferry Friday and the weather is more spring than fall – although today it poured rain on my run early this morning. Still, I am glad to catch the last of the Halloween decorations as well as the less glitzy Thanksgiving ones. It is a lovely small town and the houses are set closely together and are always nicely kept and decorated for holidays. A middle school is one of the stops on my running loop and many of the homes house families with small children. The autumn leaf display is always stunning and I am glad to catch it as well – fall is not fall for me without it.

From my run earlier today.

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. The nip to the air, the smell of decaying leaves, the light turning to an afternoon yellow I think we only see for a few weeks each year. Kim and I got married in the fall, October, a way to celebrate my favorite season.

I love the lead up to the holidays and Thanksgiving is in many ways the best – all the holiday of Christmas with less fuss and stress..And I am usually content in the face of winter each year – looking forward to what is cozy about it, down comforters, hot drinks, and books read in bed. Like many other folks maybe I thought fall would look different than it does as currently still looks much like last spring and even last winter.

From yesterday’s run.

When I leave here tomorrow I will head back to Manhattan to launch this week with the long awaited season opening of concerts at the House of Swing, the first orchestra concerts by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on Rose Hall stage in close to two years. As celebratory as it will be, somehow the new world still feels nascent and unformed, less a return to what we knew and more a dipping our toe in the water of something new. It is hard not to yearn to return to what we know, the constant re-imagining is exhausting. Cat-like I have always liked routine.

My staff (and no less I) are exhausted as we embark on another leg on the long marathon that has been the pandemic. We only know that we drive ahead, but no idea of how much longer the distance is. Like managers everywhere I find myself with a staff this is whittled down to a fraction of its former size. It continues to dwindle as colleagues try to re-start their lives in different locales, causes or goals. Everyone remaining has taken on additional work, re-orged again, and their job redefined repeatedly. I myself wear at least three hats. Choices about what priorities will remain and which we will forgo shift daily.

View leaving the house for a run yesterday. Stormy weather.

As fundraisers, we prefer to be able to plan and living in an ever shifting world makes us cranky and short with each other. One of my consultants urges me to read Churchill speeches as a way to inspire me and help me rally my “troops”, but he is not my style and instead of urging people to make war I need to compel them instead to continued kindness with their colleagues and to try to imagine their way to a new way of being. Instead I will pull my running clothes on, put Beethoven on my headphones and head out into another fall morning to work things out.

Postscript: my morning run ended with a trip to the ER with my mom. Looks like the universe has more in store for this week.

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.