January Madness

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s an overcast Saturday morning here in New York City and there is a light bit of snow blowing outside. This has put my deep desire for a late morning run in question and makes me vaguely peevish. Kim has misplaced several key drawings for his next story (five or so luscious large pencil pages) and is slowing spreading the latter part of an almost finished graphic novel across our one room apartment in search of them. The pages have not left the apartment so we know they are here. A thorough search of piles of original art is underway. A certain frantic undertone to the commencement of our weekend here at Deitch Studio.

The desk in question, being searched.

Meanwhile, Blackie is snoring softly behind me on a very large box which contains an air fryer. While I am a bit curious about air fryers I never would have purchased one (let alone such a large one) except we’ve been informed that a city mandated gas inspection, which commenced Friday, has our cooking gas turned off. It will take a minimum of 6-8 months, but many buildings report that it has taken up to two years or more. (Yes, you read that correctly – they are turning off our cooking gas for what could be years.)

The model chosen after reading the NYT Wirecutter and other reviews.

I have moments of thinking that maybe it would be worth getting involved in City policy long enough to eliminate this bit of idiocy which is based on an incident where someone tied out an illegal gas line with a garden hose and the building ultimately blew up. Manhattan, perhaps all five boroughs, are looking now to eliminate gas cooking. This is a concept that could ultimately roust me from my perch here in New York City – gas cooking is beloved to me.

Life without making soup seems dreadful so I purchased this as well. Let’s see how I do with these new toys.

So, for now and despite Blackie’s fondness for the aforementioned box, I will spend this weekend unpacking the air fryer and an Instant Pot. (I cannot live without soup. One of several recipes can be found here.) I will rearrange our tiny kitchen and somehow fit these new appliances in – some of my beloved larger pots and pans can live in the oven I guess. (An ode to a dying fry pan can be found here.) Of course the adventure of learning to cook with them remains – I suspect you will receive further details. We have a microwave as well which I have generally only used to heat leftovers, but will be pressed into service. I have tried to amass groceries for easy execution at first, baby steps.

Blackie in full possession of the air fryer box.

Maybe the toaster can live in our storage locker and give us back another 12 inches of counter space? Electrical outlets have become prized real estate overnight and we are grateful for a renovation which added one. Additionally, there are two electric burners which the building assigned to us as a stove top. I hear rumors that the power draw for them is huge and that they cannot be used in tandem with the other appliances. Note taken, but I think we can look forward to the odd days when we space on that and blow a fuse.

At work Covid is stealthily making its way through the office again. We talk about it less, but staff are sick with it or living with people who have it. Most of the rules and protocols have fallen away and we are left to our own devices, instructing people to stay home and test – five days clear? I think there is a sense that people will just get it and get it again and again, but we do need to think about the people for whom it can be dangerous for various reasons, or like me have someone in their life who is fragile physically.

A pot of soup from a former post.

Along those lines my mom was diagnosed with pneumonia last week, not surprising given her immobility. I have home tested for Covid, but will go out and get a PCR test in case I need to go back to New Jersey. I mentally add it to the list I am making for this weekend.

I have long thought that TS Eliot had it wrong – it is January not April which is the cruelest month. For me it has uneasy memories of illness commencing and death, truly the nadir of each year which then needs to be reincarnated annually. (Oddly I am a bit distrustful of August too.) There is a gentle but persistent, burgeoning insanity that is barely kept in check in the month of January.

However, the pages in question above have been located at last. Kim is now contentedly inking a page which was his intention when he discovered the pencils missing, so a calm has returned to the house. He has promised to bring me a cup of take out coffee from the diner so I don’t have to face the electric burner and coffee pot quite yet. Blackie has moved onto the bed making way for me to unpack the air fryer and at least for the moment the flurries have paused so maybe I will get my run in. January is half over, we’re turning the corner and soon February will dawn a bit brighter.

A bit of Deitch Studio effluvia that surfaced this week.

And the Season to be Jolly Continues…

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have a red velvet jacket, trimmed with a bit of black silk braid, that is probably a good decade (or even more) older than me. My guess is that it made its appearance on the scene in the late forties or early fifties. It is short and hits me just above my hips. It is a boxy cut so there is never a question if it will fit during and waxing and waining of weight. Mercifully the moths seem disinterested in it.

Since it is such an elder statesman of a jacket (showing some wear on the pile around the elbows) I only take it out for a few holiday runs a year, but without question it is a fan favorite and I always get so many compliments on it. Needless to say it dozed quietly in my closet over the pandemic years, and last year was a very abbreviated festive season with my mom in the hospital up to Thanksgiving and then with the time I stayed there. (A post from that time can be found here.)

Self-portrait in Christmas bulb on my run in New Jersey earlier this week. The NJ suburbs, as above, exude more holiday spirit.

So this year was the first in many years that I pulled it out again to wear yesterday, paired with high-waisted navy trousers and a silver (yes, silver – hotsy-totsy!) silk tank top. I have long found that dressing the part will get you part of the way to feeling it and I needed to pull out all the stops to find some ho, ho, ho this year for a dinner after work.

My evening out was preceded by a very long, frankly arduous and frustrating day at the office. As I alluded to in my post last week (it can be found here) fundraising is reaching a fevered pitch by this time in the calendar year. Some large events and important proposals have been layered on top of the usual frenzy truly making my head spin to the point of migraine meltdown early in the week. Yesterday I was sweating out the final version of a document right up until I had to leave to head over to a holiday dinner at our jazz club.

The evening was a mix of people I know and a few I did not, although even those I didn’t know only had a degree of separation really. I was a guest last night and so while I can never entirely stop my work brain when I am in our venues, the evening was not mine to run and fret over. Drinks and fried food eased us into the evening, always a good start.

Marilyn Maye performing at Dizzy’s Club last night.

The set featured Marilyn Maye. For those who do not know her, Marilyn is a 94 year young jazz and cabaret singer who is still belting out standards and last night with a sprinkling of holiday classics. Marilyn had her start as a truly tiny tot in talent shows in her native Kansas. Over time she moved from Wichita to Kansas City, and then later to the big time in Chicago where she began a long recording and successful performing career.

Evidently dinner club cabaret eventually gave way to more stage and theater work, and although I have seen her in our other, larger halls, she seems most wonderfully at home in the club atmosphere. In her sparkling sequin jacket, trousers and decked out in glimmering earrings and bracelets, she is every inch a dinner club diva.

As I settled into the music, my phone tucked away for the evening (although I did sneak this photo), which is rare for me because often when I am at a dinner in the evening I am working and need to be available to the staff who are also working. Last night as a guest I was able to focus entirely on the music.

The enthusiasm of these decorations inspired me to make my run past it so I could get a photo.

The love songs lulled me into musing over my own good fortune to have found Kim (as they always do) and that put me in a good frame of mind. By the time she got to some holiday music (a medley with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town among them) my harden, cold, Grinchy little heart had melted. Somehow even as it was unfolding I knew it was an evening that I will remember and look back on – just a very special moment in time which will stay with me. Thank you Marilyn!

‘Tis the Season

Pam’s Pictorama Post: WordPress has a new feature where each time you sit down to write it offers up a question – I guess for inspiration? For example, today’s was What is your favorite cartoon? (And last week it was What did you dream last night?) Since I have devoted a fair amount of posting space to cartoons, I’m not sure it is the inspiration I might be looking for, but nice to know they want to help on a difficult day when getting started is hard.

I have had the opportunity to pepper my posts with many marvelous toy acquisitions lately and coming off that fete I admit to being a bit betwixt and between. So today I am reflecting on what is most on my mind and as we find ourselves solidly in the holiday season and I am doing my best to keep up with it I will share some of those thoughts today.

Flooring sample!

As I survey my mid-December perch, the holiday cards are done and going into the mail this week. (Look out for a big card reveal post next week!) I have purchased no gifts yet, however I don’t live in much of a gift giving world any longer. There will be gifts for my mother’s caregivers this year and a rare few for friends and of course Kim. I gave mom a new floor for converting her garage to a room (nothing says love like vinyl plank), but will try to find something additionally cheerful for her.

Woods are becoming bare already in NJ.

If you are a fundraiser like I am the holiday season merges with an exponential increase in work since most annual gifts will come in the last six weeks of the calendar year. (At the Met it was I think a full third of all gifts.) This against a fevered pitch backdrop of holiday events (two dinners under my belt with three more and a series of concerts to go as I write) and like the season or not, at a minimum you need to have a lot of energy to get through it.

I can be depended on for holiday cheer – after all as a toy collector it is sort of my season. I am the person who wants to celebrate a moment of first snow, to set up a three foot light up Santa or a small tree for the cats in the incredibly small apartment. I love tinsel and sparkle and bubbling lights! I will have drinks with you to toast the season at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel and used to enjoy doing it with a view of Central Park from the Plaza when that was an option. I will systematically buy gifts with joyful anticipation of giving them. I was the kid who would volunteer to wrap all the gifts because I liked doing it so much.

Some low-key nascent holiday decorations in New Jersey a few weeks ago.

As stated, I like holiday decorations. I am heading to New Jersey tonight for a few days and I look forward to running in that neighborhood this week and taking in the burgeoning decorations of the ‘hood. Giant motorized snowmen and Santas are wheezing gently on front lawns amongst wonderlands of twinkling lights, elves and sleighs. Instagram followers of my running journal can look forward to those – although to really do them justice I would have to do a turn at night I think. The city is tame by comparison, although here I have the joy of running past the lines of Christmas trees awaiting purchase and breathing in their evergreen goodness.

Trees in Manhattan were being set-up the day before Thanksgiving this year.

However, the several sobering years of the pandemic changed my relationship to the festivities and in some ways I am finding it hard to resume my mantle of cheer. The mountain of work has climbed to tsunami proportions and sadly a full scale memorial needed to be inserted right after Thanksgiving (for a former Board chair, shortly after two large scale dinners) and has me and the team flagging. The idea of adding a single additional thing to my calendar taxes me beyond credulity. Collegial and friendly imbibing will have to wait for the New Year.

Carl Schurz Park tree.

Endless discussions occur about whether or not people want to eat from a buffet table now and how many people is too many in the living room of a small townhouse are enervating. Concerts have sold well, but occasionally the purchased seats go empty if the people do not show which seems to happen more frequently than in the past, giving the hall a slightly gap-toothed look. I have written about our altered universe before (see one of those posts here), but never is it more evident I think than than this time of the year.

Me and my (small but determined) staff will continue our march through the holidays, right through New Year’s when we can finally come up for air and fall into an exhausted rest. I will bribe them with cookies and all manner of treats when I am with them in person and rally them virtually when online. I am hoping that amongst the extraordinary generosity of the season that I will find that gear again, or maybe while listening to our orchestra, or to Marilyn Maye belting out holiday standards at Dizzy’s, or catching a final show with Matt Wilson and his Christmas Tree-O there.

Winter-ish scene from a recent run in NJ.

Regardless, shortly ’23 will be upon us and another holiday season behind. Last minute contributions will have been booked, concerts completed and parties concluded. We will head into January with our resolutions firmly in hand and see what we can make of the New Year.

Love’s Dream – a Listening Post

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This sheet music wandered into my collection recently via an eBay seller in Tasmania! I believe it is British in origin, but does have a Sydney, Australia copyright within. The photo on the front sports the Porter & Higgenbotham’s Danse Band, all six gents lined up in their rooty tooty suits with their hands in pockets, in order of size, instruments lined up.

Of course it has come to me because these fellows were cool enough to have a nice Felix, fully credited, on the front of their drum. An excellent indication for any orchestra and I would have followed them for that alone back in the day.

This sheet music also included are the little known tunes, All I Want is a Stay-at-Home Girl, The Rose of Flanders and a page of Dream House on the back as an advertisement. For better or worse I cannot easily find samples for your listening pleasure. Tasma Ockenden (?) has written his or her name on the top and it was stamped by Cawthornes Ltd. Music Warehouse.

I went searching for a version of Love’s Dream to share and came up with the one below. Give it a listen and let me know what you think. Hang in there for it to start to swing!

Liebestraume or Love’s Dream on Youtube available at the time of posting.

This recording is sort of in the sweet spot of my musical inclination left to my own devices, although I definitely like a good vocal too. Working for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has broaden my musical jazz tastes a bit as well of course.

I like to say that when Phil Schaap (music historian, producer and DJ extraordinaire) was alive he helped bring me into the forties, the latter part of the Swing era, as I used to say my musical inclination ended in 1939, although Bebop and its kissin’ cousins still elude me. (I have written about the start of this musical journey in a post about the wonderful Rich Conaty which can be found here.) But of course now I listen to the orchestra’s new compositions, some of them beloved to me, and arrangements and am reminded that indeed, all jazz is alive and modern.

I am partial to Wynton Marsalis’s Swing Symphony, (you can listen and download here) and I run to it frequently. I often think that when I hear it next in a concert hall I won’t be able to stay in my seat so strong the inclination will be to increase speed on what tends to be the last third of my run.

Recently I wrote about our season opening (here), a fall ritual I was viscerally pleased to return to this year for the first time since 2019. Wynton’s Shanghai Suite was on the bill and it sent me back to thinking about my early trip to that city for work, (I wrote about that rocky and wild trip here), but also how different it feels more than five years later. I also considered how being back to a program of listening to live music has returned me to my endeavor of learning to listen more actively. I am privileged to live in a world of rehearsals, concerts and sets at our jazz club. I return to it with ears still responding anew to live performance.

My pandemic music listening, aside from my job and what I listened to online for it, revolved largely around what I programmed for my runs once I started running in the November of ’20. Working in one room with my husband Kim at my side (happy 22nd anniversary Kim!) didn’t allow for a lot of music playing. My chatter on the phone was distracting enough for him poor man! Occasionally I would play some early jazz or dance band music when I needed serious mood enhancing, but mostly I would curl up on the couch and home renovation television, like eating junk food, to relieve stress.

Beethoven String Quartet Op. 135 in F Major, on Youtube at the time of posting.

Oddly, I mostly do not like jazz when I run however. Although I went through a long Billie Holiday phase, I generally listen to a sloppy compendium of classical and rock and roll from my childhood. (Yes, some Bruce Springsteen in there – cannot take the Jersey entirely out of the girl I guess.) This fall it has turned to Beethoven and there is something just right about the symphonies for the yellowing light of an east coast fall, temperatures rising and falling the way they do about now. Yesterday at my request Wynton suggested a Beethoven string quartet, opus 135, for my run which is slated for today. I am looking forward to it and will let you know how that goes.

Opening

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As most of our readers know, I work for a well known performing arts organization and you may remember that last year I missed our opening weekend, pushed late into November to avoid inevitably Covid related early fall issues. My mom landed in the hospital and needing to be with her trumped even our long-awaited post pandemic opening. So for me, although I attended concerts later in the season last year, this was my first opening weekend since the fall of 2019. While it lacked the heavy emotion of last year, last night was more than suitably festive and, despite masks still dotting our landscape, came close to feeling like at least the return to a new normal. There was a real joy in the room.

For me it also marked the launching of many colleagues who joined the organization recently and wonderful to see them each fully assume their new roles. (I have written some about the interview process and the overall state of the office here and here.) Like the slow forward movement of a mighty ship, the gears slowly turned and it was something close to full speed ahead by the end of the evening. For my folks the weeks and months of getting to know the organization and about our supporters was like the musicians and their hours or practice and rehearsal.

Birthday cake for mom earlier this week. I started the week working from New Jersey so I could be there for a small, but festive birthday celebration. Being able to work from there periodically is a post-pandemic blessing.

An evening like this is marked with a certain expected stress and mishap as is the nature of our business. Tickets gone missing (and a supply chain issue with ticket stock having made us crazy), introductions needing to be organized and executed, catering issues. (Last night a vegan sandwich made with beets appeared – which oddly looked remarkably like corn beef. They were enormous – and well, made with beets. Ultimately we had them quartered which made them more approachable and in the end they were surprisingly good.)

I was endlessly pleased to see my folks embrace their new roles, talking with guests, moving the reception along seamlessly. Our fundraising work bounces back and forth between the administrative and in person, a delicate dance really between the two. It is a a miracle when it all meshes into a successful evening like last night and fascinating to see the new people embrace their roles, each in a different and singular way. The trained singer who came to us to be back in this milieu taking obvious pleasure in the music and in meeting the musicians, the talented and personable young man who has taken a flyer on working for an arts organization for a totally different experience finding his voice. Our events manager fully in charge and in his glory after a few spring trail runs.

Mixed in of course remains a core group of hard working and great long-standing colleagues who have stayed through it all and helped introduce the new people to their roles while continuing to keep things afloat, as we have for months and really years now. It was a moment to glimpse the future and how a new team will work together and for all the bumpy starts see how the road ahead will shape up. It is just the start of the season, but I return with a new sense of swing to my step.

Fall Again

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Like most of us, mid-September flips the back-to-school switch in my brain, honed by decades of school shopping (hard new shoes for feet that had grown) and the purchase of lunch boxes, notebooks, pads and Ticonderoga pencils to be sharpened. When very small, clothes came from my grandfather’s store or the Sears catalogue. Later there was a mall where over time I would shop for my clothes on my own, with my sister or friends.

As a tot if shoes were to be acquired they were purchased from a store called Sid’s in the next town over. (There is an excellent Italian market where Sid’s used to be. I stop there occasionally when in Jersey to buy soup for my mom or maybe a prepared dish or two. However, I always remember Sid’s too.) While they may not have sold children’s shoes exclusively (that sort of exclusivity was not as prevalent in 1960’s and ’70’s New Jersey suburbs and there were fewer speciality shops) they seemed to have a lock on the local market for children and sent us away with balloons, coloring books and Buster Brown type trinkets annually.

Kislin’s in the 1980’s but more or less how I remember the facade. This was the annual sidewalk sale in Red Bank I believe.

Sneakers, however, might also come from a store called Kislens one town over in Red Bank. Kislens would not only supply sneakers (of course a much more basic model of Keds and a vastly limited array than we are dazzled by now), but it was also the purveyor of gym clothes, uniforms, boots and any and all athletic related items and necessities. (I wonder, did every town have one of these?)

Kislin’s was close to a century old when it closed around ’05 and one could find items from prior decades peeping out from top shelves and cabinets, layered under and around more contemporary items. My memory is of wooden cabinets, fixtures and shelves that likely went back to the store’s origin. Even in my childhood, the floors creaked heavily when trod on. It felt like you could never truly get to the know all of Kislin’s hidden secrets, but whatever sporting needs, nascent or advanced, camping or scouts, Kislins would magically produce the necessary items when requested – they weren’t much on devoting space to display. When you embarked on an outdoor activity or sport, a trip to Kislin’s may have been on the agenda. All of the Speedo bathing suits of my youth were purchased there in a no fuss, no muss sort of way until well into my teenage years.

A rather excellent bit of chalk drawing recorded on the first part of my run last weekend.

Meanwhile, speaking of sports, last weekend enjoying the first lovely cool morning for running in a number of weeks I was feeling great until I fell just as I was reaching mile 8 on a run that would have been my first approach on 9 miles. A bit bloody, but luckily not badly hurt (nothing broken and a thank you to the runner who helped me up and the gentleman drinking ice coffee on a bench who even gave me ice for my hand), I ran home and still recorded 8.8 miles. However, it has kept me sidelined this week while my knee fully recuperates, as well as my hands, one of which took the brunt of the fall. Therefore, I found myself walking to work on Wednesday, through Central Park when I had my back-to-school moment. The light was pure September and the trees are just starting to consider embarking on their winter waning.

End of my walk to work Wednesday in Central Park. Anyone know what these flowers are? I thought jasmine but they didn’t smell like it.

Unlike my childhood incarnation, instead of sporting a new outfit to celebrate a post-Labor Day turning over of a new leaf, I had pulled on a pair of pre-pandemic pair of trousers getting their first outing in several years. They were fine except the running has moved muscle around and things from the Before Time are pulling in some places with new muscle (calves!) and evaporated from others (thighs!). In the end this may be what ultimately empties my closet of these frozen in time clothes at last.

September light in the Park.

When I got to the office my colleagues all seemed to be in a similar fall frame of mind embracing the new season, but a bit confused. We are all still struggling with the hybrid routine, days in the office together, others at home. Every meeting starts with a technology hiccup as we work the bugs out of new conferences software. (Move the camera please, and Can you hear me? I can hear you.) From home earlier in the week I realized one conference room has a zone where everyone sounds like they are Charlie Brown’s teacher, or vaguely underwater, made worse of course by wearing masks. (Can you all move to the other side of the table please?)

Pictorama readers and IG followers might remember that Kim and I purchased this in Chinatown over vacation, a new lucky waving cat for the office.

Several new folks joined the team in the weeks before Labor Day and they are still learning the ropes including which conference room is which – all are named for Jazz legends which adds a bit of complexity as we thoughtlessly toss out Jellyroll or Lady Day (the one with the sound issue) confidently and they just look at us befuddled. Computers remain a mash up of desktop, personal laptops, iPads and whatnot as new equipment has been delayed in being rolled out. Sometimes whole meetings happen with our colleagues of site represented only by my phone in the middle of the table, eating battery which I will forget until it is dead later in the day.

As for me, I can’t seem to stay on schedule in person and as meetings run long I blow through others or end meetings early because my timing is wrong. I try to make sure that those who are joining on camera are included, as well as being present for those in the office. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings take me out of the office, exacerbating the timing issues. It is exhausting. Eventually, I come home, work a bit more and collapse each night. Fall is here.

June

Pam’s Pictorama Post: So I sat down this morning with all good intentions of ignoring Father’s Day entirely. Having bared my soul on the subject of our mutual Deitch Studio illness yesterday, I was thinking more along the lines of a toy post today. However, for whatever reason with the sun streaming hard into the windows early this morning I was out of bed and drinking coffee at an obscenely early hour when I got the idea of reading some previous posts. My Dad, Elliott Butler, died back in ’18 and I wrote a post that remains remarkable even to me that year about bringing him ice cream. (That post can be found here.) It was however the one from June of ’19 that really struck me.

Dad’s buddy, his cat Red.

I find myself dividing life into the before time (pre-March 2020) and the new time after. It certainly isn’t that there weren’t problems and concerns in the before time, but somehow reams of them got shelved over the past two years as we negotiated a world that at first was rocked by a pandemic and has continued roil and roll upside down.

Ryan’s Ice Cream in NJ.

I haven’t had the time, energy or inclination to spend a lot of time looking back or digging through the concerns of late ’19 or early ’20. I remember being crazy busy with work, traveling too much and feeling vaguely like it was spinning a bit out of control. My first thought upon being told to go home for an undefined period was that I would at last get enough sleep – and I did.

However, looking back on my post of June ’19 I reflected on one of the last cogent conversations I had with my father the year before who had had one of those strange lucid moments in a sea of not knowing where he was or what was happening, where he looked up clear eyed and asked if I thought my job (still relatively new at the time) was going to work out. Just a year in at that point, I gave him the honest answer that it was tough going and the jury was still out. (That post can be read here.)

Dad’s favorite cookies, a NY Black and White, also known as Moon Cookies.

He was always very interested in my career. Working in an office, raising money for cultural organizations was all very foreign to his work life of news, constant action and cameras, but he always wanted to know about it. We shared a love of travel which our jobs supplied in good measure though, and he was proud of me and what I did, if occasionally confused by what my work actually consisted of daily.

When I read the post I remembered the conversation well. There has been so much water under the bridge since then, but I guess the main thing is that he would have gotten a kick out of what I have achieved at my job over the past few years. It has been a rough ride, but somehow our performing arts organization stayed solvent, everyone paid despite some severe belt tightening and a lot of asking for and receiving help.

Recent photo of the Met. Dad was always proud that I worked there.

Three years since that post and I have a level of assurance about my work that was lacking back when he and I spoke that day. I pointed out that the thing about a challenge is there is the very real chance of failure. It was wavering in early summer of ’18 and I was still struggling a year later evidently. The tide started to shift though and luckily I wasn’t found wanting when the bottom fell out in spring of ’20.

The fight is never ending at a job where you bring in money and my exhaustion has returned after the pitched battle of these past years, although has different causes, and it hovers over me while I try to negotiate the new world. However, while the struggle remains I think I can say that the verdict is in and I have been successful which would have pleased him.

Meanwhile, I am planning on having a run (he would have thought the running thing was crazy, but would have secretly been sort of proud of it) and most certainly some ice cream with a tip of the hat to him later today.

Viral

Pam’s Pictorama Post: So in the week that was, Deitch Studio finally fell prey to Covid. Not surprisingly, despite being an avid mask wearer and careful in general, I of course was the one who brought it home. Our return to office has had me in most days in the prior week or so, traveling on the subway and all – although in reality I have been matriculating through the world for a long time for work. The office, our club for dinner, breakfast meetings, lunches with donors.

Mom had it a few weeks back despite our extraordinary efforts to protect her. With her existing health problems that was very scary. She was sick and sicker at various times and I am grateful that she pulled through and now even her cough has receded. I am also deeply grateful to her caretakers who stayed throughout despite personal risk to them and their families.

Anyway, when we least expected it I woke up with full-on symptoms after a day in the office and an evening out for work. I tested negative, but began isolating. I was six days from a dinner for 85 people, our first of its kind since January of ’20. Of course in a one-room apartment there really isn’t much isolating to do, let’s be honest.

We’ve all heard varying levels of sickness from friends and family. I would say for me day one was more or less like being hit by a two by four. Blinding headache, sore throat, laryngitis and a deep rattling cough developed nicely through Day One. I didn’t test positive until the evening of Day Three. As others have said, it was strange to see a positive test after literally years of negative ones. It was definitive too, not a wishy washy second line but a dark one.

The good news is that I progressed rapidly toward better daily. That Friday night I missed the last concert of our season and the festive closing receptions which my staff executed nicely. They sent photos.

This machine beeped loudly the whole time I was there. Battery seemed to be dying.

On Monday morning, Day Four, I called both my GP and my rheumatologist (I have written a bit about my psoriatic arthritis and exercising in spite of it and that post can be found here) and true to form, the rheumatologist got back to me within the hour. He had me off to the ER for a monoclonal infusion immediately. (My GP was to get back to me around 5:30 PM. Not sure she agreed with the decision of the other doc, but seemed to have the sense to realize that arguing about it now was too late.)

I ate something and grabbed an extra layer of clothing despite the heat. We all know that any trip to the ER is not fast and once in their clutches you stay and will wait what seems to be endlessly before being spit back out. (And they keep it freezing cold – is that really to kill germs as someone suggested?) I was there almost exactly a year ago when I broke two fingers running. (A post about that misadventure can be found here.) Kim walked me over the ten or so blocks; I felt up to it and figured even with a mask on and an open window no one had it coming to them to have me in their cab.

As expected, folks keep a healthy distance from you in a hospital when you tell them you are Covid positive. (The admitting guard put on gloves to take my paperwork from me.) However, the doc who saw me cheerfully informed me that he had just gotten over it so feared my germs not. I was quickly approved for the infusion and sent to wait in a closet room which was at least twice as big as the tiny one I sat in for four hours with my hand, but they were storing furniture in this one. Kim went off to work some once I was ingested by the bowels of Lenox Hill Hospital.

My room doubled as storage. If the bed had been a tad more tempting I might have napped a bit but ick.

I sat with a port in my arm, waiting, while sitting in on two seating meetings for the dinner and helping to make some plans for it to happen without me, while I continued to sit in my closet. Some of you have read of my staffing woes and in addition to an entirely depleted staff those on the job are entirely new and have never seen an event in our hall. (A post can be found here.) There was no question about going to the dinner, even if I was better I would still be contagious. Other guests were dropping out, staff too, as the virus eddied around; my boss went down with it within days of me.

While I was sick and working from home I read an article in the NYT discussing how the sick day has disappeared and also how stupid it is to keep working while you are sick. I had time to ponder that, but I was leaving my colleagues in enough of a lurch by not being able to be there for this dinner. The least I could do is what I could manage from home, the seating and all the preliminary work could be done. (In addition my beloved Executive Assistant fell and broke her kneecap this week! Definitely worse.) Eventually my meetings ended, read my e-book for awhile, I got the infusion, was observed for another hour and eventually sent home.

I continued to improve over the next days although there was no dramatic change from the infusion that I could tell. By Wednesday I might have gone to the dinner if it wasn’t Covid, although that probably would have been a mistake, but I was feeling that much better. The dinner went off without a hitch and thanks to the miracle of cell phones and real time video it was almost like being there, even allowing me to double check seating and sight lines for our guests.

On of the snaps of the set up for the dinner last Wednesday. We used Facetime and stand-ins to do last minute seating.

Thursday allowed me to collapse a bit, although I tuned in for some follow up from the evening before, sent some emails to guests who had texted or emailed their well wishes for my recovery. I sent love and thanks to my colleagues for carrying it all off so brilliantly.

I had lost much of my sense of taste and smell by then. Then Kim began coughing and round two began. He had the good sense to test positive immediately. We spent yesterday trying to reach his doc even though he also seemed to improve. In the absence of his doctor getting back to him and it being Saturday we are wandering over to Urgent Care later today.

I am eyeing the good weather and wondering if I might try my first run as well. New running shoes showed up yesterday.

Tempting, right?

There is a lot of divisiveness around this illness, the vaccines etc. I can only say both that I was extremely grateful during the worst of this that I had gotten vaccinated and gotten the booster. (I wouldn’t have gotten the booster if it hadn’t been required for work to be really honest.) Man, I don’t want to think about this being that much worse than it was. The first wave of it must have been truly horrifying, but for me it wasn’t reduced to a few days of a common cold either.

Weirdly there is a lot of guilt attached to Covid. Who gave it to me? Who did I end up giving it to during a contagious period without symptoms? Just plain disappointment at getting it after avoiding it so long. It’s all wrong headed, but I still felt that way. Also, I found it oddly depressing as well. I almost wonder if it is a chemical aspect of the illness, an overwhelming sort of hopelessness and despair in the first few days. Others have agreed. I mention it in case others experience it.

For now that is our tale of illness and hopefully now recovery. With any luck, this will be the last you hear about it and we can be back to photos, toys or maybe a nice new jewelry acquisition starting tomorrow.

Time

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This morning I took read my post from last Memorial Day weekend. I was in New Jersey for a concert for work. Despite being in a tent the extraordinary downpour had largely soaked us all and it had essentially been a cold and sodden mess. As it was still one of the first times I was hearing live music I more or less forgave the weather. It was also one of the first times I was seeing my mom as during the first year of the pandemic I treaded softly in the pre-vaccine, no home test days of last spring.

I had however returned to New York via ferry, somewhat exhausted from my exertions both physically and emotionally. I got up tired on Monday morning, Memorial Day, went running, fell and broke two fingers. (I wrote about it here and here.)

It was chillier, unlike this weekend which has already turned warm enough that I am puzzling through had to stay hydrated during my runs in the growing heat and humidity. I was still wearing my heavy sweatshirt when I fell – I was grateful that I thought to take it off so it didn’t need to be cut off once the huge bandage was on my hand.

Recent morning NYC run views of the East River.

Of course I thought about this while running yesterday – giving the lumpy sidewalk where I fell a jaundiced look as I went by. Falling kept me off of running for a few months. When I stopped I was running about three miles I think and it took me awhile to get back to that distance, especially since it was full on summer heat by then. The ring finger on my left hand is still recalcitrant and I think I will need to break down and have my wedding band refitted to that finger as I think that finger and the knuckle is permanently enlarged. (I had been told the swelling could take up to a year to go down.)

Cast one of three, the Urgent Care version.

Given time I run six miles now, some days cutting it short to get to an early meeting. I tend to think that is where I am topping out, at least for now, as it is hard to find the time to run longer than that four or five times a week. (Then again, it never occurred to me that I would be running that far either so who knows?)

I will focus on getting a bit faster for awhile. I have never had the urge to run fast actually which is good as I know I never will. I have a short stride for a tall person and I have always been more interested in distance, the long haul. However, I am very slow so I can pick up the pace a bit. Not killing my middle aged self in the heat is a bigger problem though and for the summer mornings I cannot get out as early as I should I need to be careful. Investigating what and how much to drink when.

The suburban version of my run which usually starts here and then heads into the wooded area at the top of this post.

Mom has had some health issues and since Thanksgiving I make more regular and longer trips to stay with her in New Jersey, vaccinated now and endlessly tested. Although I am a devoted homebody and miss Kim and the kitties, I enjoy the time with her too. (A few of the posts I have written about my time there can be found here and here and one on running in Jersey here.) Whichever place I am in I find hard to leave. It is just the way I am. Running while I am there is one of the things that grounds me though. I am a person who responds well to routine and set about creating them wherever I am.

My buddy Cash in a recent photo on a trip. Penny below, one green eye and one blue! She’s already grown since this!

One of my routines is that since Christmas I have treated myself to coming and going to Jersey via @rideswithcash, a dog and driver duo based in Monmouth County. This has allowed me to come and go at odd hours which fit into my work schedule better and generally saves some wear and tear on me. Jeff is lovely and great about making time for me. The mainstay of his business is folks going to and from the airports, although I guess there are other needs like mine too. The bonus is of course having Cash, his lovely Australian Shepard, sitting with me along for the ride. Petting that beautiful pup has soothed me through some otherwise stressful trips as I fret about mom or work.

Miss Penny has one blue eye and one green one! She’s already grown since this pic.

This spring Cash was joined by a sibling sis – Penny! Well, of course fluffy Penny is about as cute as anything could be. She flirts and plays and chews and is generally adorable. I am not sure Cash has totally bought into Penny yet, but I am sure he will over time. I haven’t made a trip with both of them yet so we’ll see about that, maybe as early as this evening.

Meanwhile, a year has brought us through an intact if somewhat abbreviated concert season at work. We will be wrapping with a final concert and surrounding events in a few weeks. Variants come and (sort of) go and attendance at events waxes and wanes accordingly although ticket sales for concerts has remained strong.

From a recent evening of Venezuelan jazz recently at Dizzy’s.

Our offices officially went to a three day in-office schedule in April. Although we try to bring everyone in on Wednesdays so we can plan meetings, it still feels very empty most days. We are still rebuilding staff which is a slow process and of course other days people might be out or taking vacation days before the end of our fiscal year. Rebooting what was our office culture is hard and I can only imagine that we need to embrace what a new version will be. We are impatient, but only time will help puzzle through that.

I wrote recently about the interviewing I have been doing recently for a myriad of open positions. (That post can be found here.) I wish I could report that the positions are all filled, but not yet to date. A newly fully staffed team will be a large step forward in creating a new work paradigm. In the short term however the interviewing process is like having another job.

A tiny Stormy here. Hopefully I will have a sighting long enough to get a new photo this weekend.

For those of you who were following the story of Stormy, the kitten mom found in her backyard a few months ago, I have news to report. (Her rescue origin post can be found here.) After gaining a bit of strength and familiarity with the house, Stormy left her lofty perch in a large dog cage where she was protected from the hustle and bustle of other kits and has joined the kitty pack in the house.

On my recent trips she has hidden herself entirely during the day and I have at best only caught a glimpse of her at times. However, she has a distinctive meow and I hear her when the lights go off at night, leading a feline rampage through the small house, up and down the stairs, skidding on the bathroom rug at the top before heading back down.

Gus in Stormy’s bed, waiting to see when she’ll be back.

Stormy’s special partner in crime is another adoptee from the backyard, a gentleman puss named Gus. Gus, who looks a bit like he is made from spare parts, has made no secret of the fact that he is quite smitten with Stormy and follows her around devotedly although her hiding even eludes him at times and I will find him waiting for her to emerge.

Well, the big news is that my mom woke up the other night to find Stormy curled up on her lap! She did not stay for pets although she evidently acknowledged mom before hopping down. It is a rather remarkable step however. I often wonder how she can be such a friendly cat, clearly used to being handled when we found her so very small and starving. Did someone have her and lose her? Put her out? We’ll never know her story, but despite my initial reticence about keeping her I am of course glad we did.

Hobo Kitty, the outdoor feline denizen of the Butler household.

So, after those updates and bits of reflection I am off for that run (early) and then packing to head to New Jersey for a few days. I have promised to get the new gas grill working and some other daughterly duties. For those of you who follow my running journal on Instagram, see you from Jersey!

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 C├ęcile 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.