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.

Following Up, Filling in and Fall-ing

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

View from our currently denuded windows this AM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drayton in an undated photograph.

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

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

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

Campbell Soup Kids figures by Drayton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Falling Back?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the great Felix cartoon dvd we purchased from Tommy!

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

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

Cookie helping with the closet organizing.

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

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

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

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

Another photo heading to Columbus Circle the other evening.

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

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

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

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

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

Let the Vacation Begin…

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today marks the official beginning of our summer vacation here at Deitch Studio, although Kim has the jump on me having started last week. I have become bad at vacationing I am afraid. Especially since taking my current position, somehow vacation has not really panned out for me.

Toy cafe, Shanghai

My first summer at this job I was very new and I went to Shanghai on business after only a few months in my job. (A post about that extraordinary trip can be found here.) It was fascinating, but I was learning so much about the organization and everything was so new that it was exhausting and as far from relaxing as I can imagine. The subsequent summer my father was sick and then died in August and I was largely preoccupied. Our pre-pandemic summer was spent preparing for the window replacement in our apartment and a September business trip to South Africa. (Posts about these events can be found here, here and here.)

Window installtion, fall of ’19 and immediately after a lengthy trip to South Africa.

Last summer we were in the cautious reawakening of New York City after being truly housebound and were just forming newly found pleasures in re-opened restaurants serving booze on the street and eating outside. My days which were routinely more than 12 hours, cut back a bit but the pace could not really stop. The organization needed money and my job was to keep that ball rolling forward.

Therefore, I can say I am hitting this few weeks pretty exhausted and with low-key expectations. I do not plan to travel further than to see mom on the Jersey shore, although I have some other interesting ideas about ferry exploration which I gather can now take us up to the Bronx, but also to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Day trips! There is a cartoon show hosted by Tommy Stathes in Brooklyn tomorrow night which, if not interrupted by hurricane, I would like to see. I had planned for us to take the ferry there too, but will likely employ the subway if stormy as predicted. (Details on that show for other locals can be found here.) Kim seems game for all my nascent schemes.

Where I run in the mornings, along the East River and FDR Drive.

In addition, I have pledged to do my best to purge the moths and moth eaten clothes (still largely from the winter of ’20) from the closets and will clear off my desk. I also have numerous sessions of physical therapy for my hand to be completed – hopefully getting it back into shape for the fall!

My other vacation goals are few. I have been reading the Red Cross Girls series by Marjorie Vandercook (a few of my myriad posts about her Camp Fire Girls and Ranch Girls books can be found here and here) and I think you all will be hearing more about those when I finish them. (I am currently in occupied Belgium, volume three.) I would like to get my running back on track now that I am back from a six or eight week lay off for the broken fingers on Memorial Day.

Don’t own this one – and hoping to continue reading them for free online!

Also due largely to the broken fingers, I haven’t been lifting weights in recent months. I would like to start to get that part of my workout back on track although the bad hand is still weak and I have to be careful with free weights. It would be nice if I could get close to my diet goal before going back to work, although vacation should be about good food too.

A few moments of sound from Dizzy’s Club, last Wednesday night at our soft opening.

I have an eye toward thinking about the fall, although our plans at work are uncertain like most people’s right now. We re-opened our jazz club, Dizzy’s, last week. It was a joyous return to live music indoors and wonderful to be back. Herlin Riley and his band could only be described as ebullient and exuberant – exactly what was needed. It was good to exercise the muscles of in-person interaction. Still, it was a night informed by Covid protocols and the reality of the new world never really left us.

Our return to full time in the office has just been deferred by a month, into October, in deference to the rising rate of the variant. Meanwhile, our concert season doesn’t begin until November so perhaps our timing will be good. It is hard for someone like me not to be able to plan, but I am trying to loosen my grip on the need to do so in this environment.

The joys of hand physical therapy will continue for the foreseeable future.

I am in the midst of hiring staff to shore up a team that has dwindled over the past 17 months, and also in the process leading up to asking for a very large contribution, all which must continue forward over the next few weeks so I doubt my vacation time this year will be pristine. Still, my OOO message is on my work account and at a minimum I see some strolls with ice cream along the waterfront, some late nights watching old westerns accumulated by Kim for this purpose, much cat petting and sleeping late in my immediate future.

Returning: Part One

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

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

From a morning walk through Central Park this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange to be back!

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

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

The lobby of our building. Familiar yet new again.

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

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

Annual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wild West

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The world is slowly returning to its pre-pandemic axis, at least in some ways, and the sheer delight of seeing people we haven’t and even conducting business in person is a process of rediscovering a forgotten pleasure. Yesterday we had an early dinner with our friend Bill Kartalopoulos. It was so lovely to sit outside on a beautiful evening (and not because we had no choice but to be outside), and catch up with him in person after more than a year.

Bill took this photo of me and Kim while we were together yesterday.

Meanwhile, last week I had an afternoon to myself and headed over to the Upper Westside of Manhattan for drinks with a fundraising colleague of many decades. Karen and I have never worked at the same place, but we have been a part of professional groups together and loosely tracked each other through work and life changes, our careers running along an unusually close parallel, these folks help you along – sending prospective staffers your way when needed, assisting when you need to unknot thorny problems, and of course having a drink and a giggle over what is going on in your respective organizations or cheering you on when you are just frustrated and losing your perspective.

I was early to meet Karen and strolled east on 84th Street. These days of too much desk sitting in a small apartment has pushed me to add on a few blocks here and there of walking whenever I can. Scratching at the back of my brain was a shop I often walk by, but either it is closed or I haven’t had time to go in whenever I have found myself in front of it.

Plates so nice! I wish I had space to add one or two.

I have peered at its interesting windows, chock a block full of fascinating bits, frequently over the years. Recently, when late for a haircut, I had taken note of a wonderful array of jolly painted doorstops, mostly of flowers in the window. (One tempting cat doorstop, in the shop.) I will say, I am relieved to see that this establishment had made it through the pandemic – oh the frustration if it had disappeared and I had never darkened its door!

Oh those painted doorstops!

It turned out it was my lucky day and John Koch Antiques was open for business. (The link is here in case you wish to peruse a bit of online antique furniture buying.) It is happily the sort of place where you should expect to have to squeeze through stuffed aisles sideways in places. Furniture piled high, cabinets full of china and trinkets worthy of notice though. Just the sort of place to spend some happy time perusing and digging around. So little of this sort of thing left here in Manhattan!

John Koch himself was seated behind a desk, approximately right in the center of it all. He was carrying on an animated conversation with a customer about a museum reproduction of a Rodin’s The Kiss.

I had half an eye out for silverware – we need some in a not especially urgent way and I like to pick up old, odd silver pieces or bakelite handled ones. Meanwhile, I gave a look at a silver (plate? painted?) tourist cup of New York which appeared to feature Grants Tomb. (I was unable to see what else was featured.) However, when I wandered into the furtherest room I saw this towel rack, on the wall with companion piece. (Apologies that I cannot remember the subject matter of the other one, but whatever it was I found it less dynamic than this one I purchased.)

Perhaps it was my latest reading project, The Ranch Girls by Margaret Vandercook of Camp Fire Girls fame – clearly more to come on this series – however, thanks to Kim’s interest in the Western genre, we are in general a very cowboy friendly household. Mr. Koch didn’t miss a beat when I interrupted his conversation to inquire about it. He immediately named a price I found agreeable and shouted for a man, working nearby in the same room as the piece, to unscrew it from the wall. It was wrapped and in my hands in a few moments and I was only five minutes late to meet Karen.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Made of some sort of resin to resemble carved wood, this fellow is caught in an action pose on his rearing bronco. I like the little ranch on a hill behind him which gives the ‘scene’ a lot of dimension. I am a fan of the faux stone design at the bottom, as if he is perched on this ledge. Arguably, there is something odd about the turn of the cowboy’s foot, and the proportions between his figure and that of the horse are a bit off, but we can’t really blame the designer for cheating it a bit, he or she caught the spirit of the thing nicely. The textures of his chaps and coiled rope, the stony terrain and the definition of the horse give it texture.

It is my assumption that it was made to hang on a kitchen wall where hand towels and pot holders could be kept handy. (Let me know if you know otherwise!) My thought is to hang it away from the stove in case it is inclined to melt a bit, nor do I want it to get gooped up with grease. If I thought it was necessary ongoing I might designate it for holding our masks by the front door of the apartment, but we are very much hoping that our mask wearing will soon be a distant memory of a time gratefully gone-bye.