Treading Gently

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It seems safe to say spring is finally on the rise here in NYC and this month marks six months in my experiment with running so I thought I might give a bit of an update today. February threw down some serious snow which brought me to a complete halt for awhile, however after several weeks in captivity I forced myself to head back out (with some trepidation) to see how much ground I had lost. Much to my amazement I pretty much picked back up where I left off.

For those of you who missed my earlier post (it can be found here) I started jogging because otherwise during our long pandemic period, I found myself not moving from my home desk (Deitch Studio is also a studio apartment and our single room leaves little room even for pacing), and watching as many hours melted rapidly into days. I don’t have much time and I wasn’t able to get much walking done in the hour or so I can devote to it so in a bid for efficiency I began running.

I came to exercise late in life, but pre-pandemic was a happy gym rat, cramming it into early mornings, evenings and weekends. (I have written generally about my workout and that post can be found here.) However, I have always been a reluctant runner. I dislike treadmills (I don’t really imagine that will have changed when I get back to them) and running was sort of a final frontier of exercise I had not embraced.

Dramatic signs that spring is unfurling earlier this week.

My mother ran and was in fact a high school track and field star whose records there were only broken decades later. (I believe it was the long jump she excelled at.) She ran for a brief period when I was a kid, but she had largely given it up as an adult. My sister, Loren, ran. Loren was a bundle of hyper energy that needed to be released daily in large dollops or she was impossible to live with. Therefore it wasn’t unusual for her to run and bike, swim or play tennis together in combinations daily. She ran cross country, was on the track team in high school and generally distinguished herself as she did in most things. (Loren’s college rugby career in is mentioned in a post here.)

It can only be said that I did not inherit my mother’s genes in this area and it must be my more sedentary father I take after. I frankly cannot imagine my father running – it isn’t an image I can conjure if I did indeed ever witnessed it. He was a tall man, 6’5″ and skinny in his youth, but he filled out as an adult, muscled from his work carrying camera equipment for his job daily. Still, other than a daily work out of reluctant stretches for a bad back, executed on the floor of the bedroom, there are no memories of dad and exercise.

Frankly, I run badly and I am relieved that it is very unlikely I will actually ever see myself run. I run slowly – there may be people who walk faster than I jog. My strides are short and plodding. I seem to be a different animal than many of the folks around me, boasting their shirts from the marathons they have run, bouncing, gliding and zooming along. Young, old, women and men of all ages generally make a better job of it. It is only thanks to my long time trainer, Harris Cowan (@livestrongernyc) that I have managed to ease my unwilling body into running.

Area I start my warm up in each time. Often there are others working out, walking dogs or on their phones. These trees have been late breaking into bloom.

However, doing something with determination even if badly, is a good foil for the narrowness of our current cooped up state I think. I remind myself to be grateful to my body for what does achieve, not critical for its failure to do it better. It’s been good to put myself up against something hard that is concrete and which can be chipped away at. Running makes me use another part of my brain and gives a rest to the thorny problems of work and what needs to be done, or what has risen to the top of my agenda for fretting. Releasing the problems for a time allows me to better work through them later I think.

Strangely and unexpectedly I have started listening to classical music, largely orchestral, while running. I run along the east side esplanade, along the water (my brother Edward reminded me in my prior post that our East River is actually an estuary) which tends to be glorious with the sun rising over it in the early mornings. I will never tire of the various moods of the water – choppy with current one day and still the next. It reminds me of the river which was always in our backyard growing up.

View of Roosevelt Island with water sparkling during a run earlier this week.

However, not to be too romantic about it, on the other side of me each day is the FDR drive and a noisy endless bevy of cars, fighting their way to their early morning destinations. Therefore, it is not the glorious sounds of nature I would enjoy if I wasn’t plugged into my phone. Audio books were always my go to when exercising and I have listened to some wonderful things. Yet I was finding increasingly that they weren’t right for running, distracting but not in a good way.

The park during a more wintery run.

I switched to a music mix I had used occasionally for workouts which ran I admit with some embarrassment heavily to Bruce Springsteen (can’t take the Jersey out of the girl I guess) which did the job but was a bit repetitive. However, one day it started with a curiosity about Beethoven’s 7th symphony and the feeling I had never really listened to it. I downloaded it and decided I would listen to it while running – which I did many times over several weeks. After that I wandered over to Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony which has long been a favorite, but I hadn’t heard in a long time. I welcomed spring with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. (Admittedly, I have pretty routine taste and I suppose if I want another challenge I could actually start learning about classical music.)

A fairly calm morning on the FDR.

I listened to a Beethoven violin concerto and realized that after years of it making me sad after my sister died, more than a decade later now I love listening to the violin. Staying with Beethoven I was listening to a piano concerto yesterday and realized I have rarely listened to much piano at all and what an amazing instrument – one-stop shopping for a full orchestra in a single instrument. The education of my ear which I had been receiving with live music via jazz on the job in recent years, has taken a turn with classical music.

The long incline at about 80th Street on a cold morning.

My experiment with running began with a combination of walking and running. Running as long as I could, followed by periods of walking which became shorter over time. I achieved a milestone the other day and did virtually the full run without a break. (There is a steep incline at a land bridge which I have yet to tackle at even a slow run.) I had dragged myself out that day which it turned out was a gentle spring morning not to be missed and was rewarded. For those who have followed my running via my IG stories, I am taking fewer photos now that I am walking less!

Little guy found a cache of nuts and was happily porking down the other morning while I stretched at the end of my workout the other day.

Frankly most mornings it is still sheer will that gets me into my sweats and out the door. (I wrote last time that I was doing the post simply to keep me from quitting the whole venture.) It is hard and drinking coffee at my desk or even lifting weights in the comfort of the apartment is more appealing. However, once I am out it is good for me and I am seeing spring unfold in the park where I start and end my jaunts. Earlier this week a hawk swooped right past me at eye level while I warmed up with a few moving stretches pre-run. (He was a big fella and I was glad not to be a small mammal or bird. Yikes!) Plants are beginning their persistent and riotous emergence and squirrels and birds are suddenly everywhere, feasting and frolicking. When I look back on this time I think it will be these mornings I remember best.

Springing Softly

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Those of us in the New York City area we were treated to an early and unexpected few days with temperatures in the high sixties and seventies. Windows were thrown open and thoughts of ice cream started to dance in my otherwise strictly diet-minded brain. Suddenly the idea of eating outside appeals rather than making us reach glumly for the long johns and down. I am rethinking my running attire which has been a many layered affair until now, knowing that soon it will be a question of stripping down rather than staying warm.

It is the end of March and we are sincerely hoping to hold onto the out-like-a-lamb part of the saying, but experience tells us that even early April can have some nasty weather surprises so I am trying not to get too attached. Nonetheless, we are like insects delayed too long in our larvae stage, now finally thrust into a metamorphosis. We were in a sense deprived of spring last year as it was the beginning still of our pandemic year – I know that the weather must have turned with the same appeal come hither temps, but the other aspects of last April have wiped spring from my memory. Only a long hot summer remains when I look back.

Spring beds coming to life in the park.

This year we emerge both tentative and with the power of pent-up desire. Discussions about how to build the bridge back to normal fill my work days now, although the terminus of this marathon is not yet really quite in sight. My brain struggles to work on a duel track of finishing the next leg of this quarantine period and setting an agenda and plan for moving forward. Part of me just wants to loll like a kitty in the sun by an open window, the other part is all business.

I don’t switch gears quickly so I am trying to allot time for this process and to imagine what that post-Covid life looks like. Twinkling reminders of the before time and the joys of it bounce into memory and then out. My brain gets swamped immediately though as I try to sort through and I can’t quite get a purchase.

Trees starting to bloom on an otherwise gray day in the park this week.

I gently remind my office colleagues that being out in the world is a muscle, somewhat atrophied, that we must start to exercise, encouraging them to meet me outside but close to them, to begin the process. It is hard for me and it appears to be difficult for them too. So far I have very few takers. I understand their reluctance.

The upcoming advent of Easter and Passover are harbingers of the season and turn my mind habitually to thoughts of renewal rebirth as they do in any year – just as fall will eternally remain the turning over of another back-to-school type leaf.

This year though we relive the launch of the pandemic as the wheel of the year turns to our second one, meanwhile straining to see the end of it. Is everyone experiencing the same simultaneous desire and reluctance to cast off our cocoons? I feel like everyone wants me to go faster than I can and I admire the people who seem to be better at it. However, I admit I struggle with the mental exercise of being in two places at once and of two minds. And of course it isn’t going back to the before time that we are weighing now, but thoughtfully attempting to create an entirely new world after and what we want it to look like.

Spring?

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I bought this photo from an IG sale, probably several months back. Apologies to the vendor, but I have forgotten who exactly I purchased it from. It doesn’t look like a photo postcard, however it is. It was never mailed, but on the back, in pen, Julia Severson, is written in a clear hand. I assume one of these women is Julia. Perhaps she is the one holding a box camera – was there another photo taken that day of the woman and the dog?

Most of these photo purchases hail from sellers in the Midwest, but I have no idea where this was taken. The outfits are from the teens I think, a period of clothing I am especially fond of as both attractive and yet comfortable looking. These women wear hats for the sun (and also probably because women, like men at the time, generally did wear hats) and they have this lovely, fluffly canine companion who seems to be enjoying himself immensely. The edges of the image are a bit diffuse (an effect I am also enamored of) as is often the case with photos from these early simple cameras.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This photo looks like a glorious spring day and we are hungry for those right now and that was why I plucked it from the pile today. In this year, which has the unusual distinction of having been a very strange one for pretty much everyone, the promise of spring seems more alluring than ever. As we start to contemplate, quite literally, coming back out of our homes as the weather turns warm and vaccines are on the move throughout the country and the world, we are like larvae that has been crystallizing for a year too long now.

This past Thursday marked the one-year mark for many of us to have started working from home here in New York City, as the pandemic began to rage, quietly at first and then quickly rising to a roar. Our assumption that this would be an inconvenience of a few weeks at most – I had envisioned myself running back to the office as needed and really didn’t pack up very much – gave way to the reality of a city that rapidly emptied out creating an enduring silence, broken it seemed only by the litany of ambulance sirens day and night.

As it turns out I have only been to my office four times in the past year and one visit was just this week. And of course it was a year filled with myriad loss and fear for everyone.

This appears to have been taken on early on the morning of the day we shut our offices. I must have been on my way to an early morning workout.

As it happens this past Thursday was one of those rare March days with temperatures rising into the 70’s and it delivered a walloping dose of spring fever, which in my case came in the window as I did not have a chance to leave the apartment. It had an intoxicating effect nonetheless.

I sat on the couch by the window on the phone most of the day and while conducting business part of my brain was also roaming over memories of spring visits to the beach growing up – especially as a teenager, the first few warm days, no matter when they came, planted the seeds of allure for upcoming beach weather and that bell rang in my head. I have not thought about stretching out on a beach in a very long time indeed, but my brain was on a loop toying with the thought. Suddenly a former world of wearing spring dresses and shoes that are not sneakers seemed real again. A haircut (I had one last summer) seems like a good idea and a coffee outside with colleagues or friends is a real possibility – let’s make dates and kick up our heels and frolic!

Of course, as it is only March, snow and cold rain are on the way for the coming week, the temperature has already dropped back into the 40’s. The reality of managing the return to our hall and offices along with rules and process to keep everyone safe is daunting and the next bit of slog ahead is still very real.

However, the glimpse gave me hope for resilience, like spring itself. The season of renewal is almost upon us. Easter and Passover are on the horizon and chocolate bunnies and matzohs dot the stores – the food harbingers of early spring. An idea for a vegan matzoh ball soup is playing around in my head and memories of homemade matzoh brie make my mouth water.

This week I was at the hall for the very first time in exactly a year.

Like many people I think, I learned a lot over the past year and I am still mulling over what lessons are likely to stick going forward. (I hit my four year anniversary at Jazz at Lincoln Center this week as well – remarkable!) I have recently seen several colleagues opt for dramatic changes in their lives, impacted by this year at home.

I know I was weary from travel and late nights at work when I plunked down on my couch with a laptop a year ago. I do know I don’t want to be that tired again – maybe the only thing I know for sure. I may not make it home to make dinner every night, but I want it to be more the rule than the exception. I want time to run in the morning before work. I want to go spend a week in New Jersey with my mom. Somehow I need to figure out how not to work during all my waking hours.

Taken while stretching after a run in the park this week.

Meanwhile, I know I am better at my job and find I am flexible in ways I had not imagined before which gives me some confidence that there is a path to be found. My reluctance to leave the house is likely to return with the bad weather (sometimes March can’t get its lamb and lion thing straight it seems), and a daily subway commute and days in an office in a mask remains a hurdle. But like the daffodils and crocuses in the park which are starting to poke up, it seems like the urge to do it will return on schedule if I look for the signs and go with it.

A Tiny Trip to the Future

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is a contemplative work/life missive by way of warning to my readers. (Toys, photos and Felix to return shortly.) We haven’t had one of these in a long time. And while I have posting a bit about things like setting up my office in the apartment, (some of those posts can be found here and here) I have not written about my job since New York shutdown, our concert hall closed and tours canceled, almost a year ago now, last March.

Toy cafe in Shanghai

In the past I have written occasionally about my work at Jazz at Lincoln Center, often reporting in from trips with the orchestra to far flung places (some of those posts, from trips to Shanghai, London and South Africa can be found here, here and here), but I have not written much about our quarantine times professionally. (The photo above of the outside of our hall was taken in June on my first trip to midtown since March.) Frankly, I figured I didn’t have anything to add to what everyone was probably struggling with in their own way, living their own version of quarantine imposed issues and addressing them in your work life. Also, it has been exhausting to live it and I have not had much time for reflection. I will start though by saying that I know I am very lucky to be able to work from home (be it ever so humble), and of course to have a job at all. I think about both those things often. (For those of you who might be new to Pictorama and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I work for the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra and Wynton Marsalis, fundraising for the organization.)

As we march toward the one year mark, one that seemed impossible and I among those who refused to accept as even a possibility last spring, new rhythms and routines have of course been established. The work day starts very early here at Deitch Studio and I have adjusted to Kim’s program. It is rare that I am not at the computer and having my first look at the day around 6:00. Some mornings find me working out in a nearby park, jogging and doing some of the exercise that is hard in our confined space, working off early pandemic pounds. Other mornings might instead mean lifting weights here in the apartment – trying to make it possible for Kim to work in on the mat between rotations. (My posts about teaching myself to run and working out at home can be found here and here.)

Dawn recently at Carl Schurz Park, the site of my outdoor workouts.

If Wynton has calls he is making during the day ahead, to thank people or sometimes to ask for a gift, he gets his notes from me early. Sometimes there is an official briefing on the schedule, other times a spontaneous call early after reading my notes. (When I was walking instead of running sometimes I could multi-task and do a call then, but talking is beyond me while trying to run.) Then the long day of being at my “desk”, an ancient drafting table, commences. (I have recently ordered a new desk chair, one with arms, which will hopefully relieve what is now a chronic aching lower back.) Kim is subjected to a never-ending litany of calls and meetings, which he is required to endure my end of, my office now used to mutterings that occasionally come from his side of the room. Him now deeply versed in my work, where we stand to goal and each and every gain and setback daily. Wynton’s voice via the phone has at times seemed like another resident of the apartment.

Cookie and Blackie nearing dinner time recently, Kim, out of view the object of their scrutiny.

The work day continues, with a break to eat a quick lunch which Kim and I try to do together, until about six o’clock when Kim usually knocks off work and Cookie and Blackie get their (long awaited; by then they are on my desk and staring hard at the back of Kim’s head) dinner. I usually start our dinner around then, we eat together and then sometimes I drift back to work for awhile, or it might be another good time if Wynton and I need to talk. Sometimes there are events, me in front of Kim’s work table on Zoom doing a welcome and introductions.

Like everyone else, my days are now spent clad in variations of comfortable clothing. There are evening “events” such as online concerts and conversations, and those demand rare forays into applying make up (I really thought I had forgotten how at first), putting on a nice top and maybe even a pair of earrings. I, who always dressed for work and a roster of evenings out, who rotated a beloved array of rings on multiple fingers daily, and faithfully applied make-up every workday, I have embraced the soft trouser (think sweat pants; the Addidas ones are for dressy events although no one sees them) paired with a hoodie, or the workout clothes from an interrupted or abandoned exercise session earlier in the day.

I have worn variations on these moccasins for years, but never wore through a pair before.

I have worn out one pair of sneakers, the only shoes I wear these days, and I found recently that I had worn through my moccasin slippers which I wear in the house. Wore right through them and we started finding little diamonds of the soles around the apartment. The replacement, below, arrived yesterday and I am wearing them, quite contentedly, now. My feet resist the discussion of eventual progression back to hard shoes. I have coaxed my feet into snow boots on a few occasions as needed.

The photos over Kim’s desk which are now a frequent background for my greetings on Zoom evenings.

Earlier in the pandemic, Wynton was doing a live show, Skain’s Domain, on Monday night and each week kicked off with a night of 90 minutes of interviews followed by just regular folks who had logged on asking questions and telling stories. (A sample posted on Youtube can be found here.) It was usually about music, but politics and world events would creep in. People welcomed a chance to just be with other folks, even if it was more time on Zoom, late in the evening. It ran until the summer when we decided to take a break.

I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that a performing arts organization that once earned more than half of its revenue from concerts, touring, a jazz club and hall rentals, which suddenly found fundraising as its only means of income (and many of its expenses still pressing) has struggled mightily. That means me and a somewhat dwindling but devoted staff have been very busy for the past eleven months. As a fundraiser it is the challenge of a professional lifetime like I thought I would never have and that can also be exhilarating if exhausting. Someday I might write about that part of it, perhaps after I am not in the thick of it.

Wynton has, not surprisingly, been a great leader under these extreme circumstances. Although he has driven the organization hard and at times the staff almost to the point of breaking, as a result we have remained disciplined and continued to produce and remain in the public eye, despite the obvious limitations. He encourages, nags and at times if needed will even taunt us into action. A steady flow of online content, live shows, education programs, new music and archival concerts have been marshaled into being. My colleagues, who I always realized were amazing professionals each in their own field, have been incredible. I reflected the other day that among the very few people I have seen in person in the last eleven months (other than Kim and cats) have been folks from work. The absolute joy of in-person encounter leading to jumping up and down in excitement since hugging them was not possible.

Chateau Le Woof where I met a colleague for a outdoor drink this summer.

Needless to say, there is no victory lap here though and like everyone else, we remain unsure of where we even are in this process – halfway through? Almost there? My mantra has been not to look ahead, but keep my shoulder to the wheel, easier not to speculate beyond immediate needs. The race, clearly a marathon, continues.

This week however I found myself required to live in the future for a bit and it was interesting to go there. I have been writing proposals for an audience development project, one to take place after we return to our hall, whenever that turns out to be. For the purposes of the request we are assuming we are back, playing live music in January 2022. The request is to help underwrite the cost of concerts so we can offer deeply subsidized tickets for a returning audience, re-engaging with post-pandemic live performance in a hall, and also use the opportunity to grow our audience. Around each of these concerts would be an Open House style festival with school kids, families, local mid-town vendors and restaurants. All kinds of people together in a space – mingling and enjoying music.

In the process of writing I realized that, while of course I reflect occasionally on what I call the time before I have yet begun to construct a vision of what the time after might actually be. I mean, I suppose we all have some vague idea about aspects of it – what will a commute look further than ten feet across a room look like, how will we arrange swing shifts in the office, will we ever sit in conference rooms again. (How much will I travel for work? Will I ever return to purchasing nice clothing and make up?) But to really imagine a time when we are gathering inside in groups again and listening to live music, all presumably without fear of infection, is both hard and liberating. Can we just throw off more than a year of how we are now living and working? Surely there will be residual changes from it, but moments of living in that time in my imagination has helped the future start to take root.

Cookie basking in the desk light on my makeshift work space recently.

I am by nature a planner. I like to anticipate and know where I am going and how I will get there. I have had to release my grip on the need to know over this time which has not been easy for someone a bit compulsive like me. Still, suddenly it seems like maybe it might be time to start to let the future, the after time, to cultivate that glimmer in my mind and let it grow.

Framed Again

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is my second installment of framed photos that have wandered into the Pictorama collection recently. This little treat was a Christmas gift from Kim’s brother Seth who always sends especially thoughtful holiday gifts.

Gift from Seth Deitch featured in a 2016 post, link above. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Much like yesterday’s post (which you can find here for those not following in real time), this hotsy totsy item is a wonderful object as he has assembled it, frame and decorative paper behind it spot on. It now has a special perch near my desk. While he has numerous talents, Seth has a great eye and came up with an equally special Christmas gift of a photo a few years back and I featured that one in a post you can read here, Merry Christmas from Seth. (Shown above.)

This year’s gift from Seth Deitch. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

These mandolin playing women stand on either side of this Christmas tree, which is done up in holiday decorating charm of an earlier era – the lead based garlands and tinsel which sparkled a bit brighter I think, but must have been banned at some point. (I found someone selling new old stock of it this holiday season and you can see it has more heft as well.) The Butlers were a garland and not a tinsel family probably because of the numerous cats we had, although my mom may have been mess adverse as well.

I remember my cat Otto eating some tinsel the first year I had her and had placed a tiny artificial tree in my apartment. (She gobbled it before I could do anything – hell bent on it – she was a nutty cat.) Luckily it didn’t kill her or make her sick – no tinsel after that. Meanwhile, I do remember that my grandmother had ancient tree garlands that were heavier and brighter than what are sold now. They seemed old-fashioned even back in the 1960’s and early ’70’s, but I remember the hard, crinkly feel of them.

The women and the tree are set up in front of a mural of a pillars, sky and sweeping drapery. They are clad in somewhat sensible low-heeled shoes atop a patterned carpet. The mural and even the carpet makes me tempted to guess that this locale is a ballroom or other commercial venue rather than a home. Both are dressed nicely, albeit somewhat subdued – the woman on the right has a necklace on, the other a pin at the neck of her dress.

I itch to hear them play those mandolins. I admit I had not given much thought to mandolin playing until I started working at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I was introduced to the wonders of the mandolin at several concerts, but Marty Stuart really made me take notice. I notice the guitars at the ready in this photo, and somehow I just get the sense that we could hear these women in a great swing band.

Some of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra members, from left Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printop, Carlos Henriquez and James Chirillo. Taken on tour in 2017, on the porch of Cracker Barrel after a breakfast stop.

Although the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra does not have a guitar player as a persistent member of the band, we are often fortunate to often have James Chirillo join us, and he was on the Big Band Holiday tour I joined on the road back in 2017. (You can read about that trip early in my career at Jazz at Lincoln Center here.) James was recently a guest for a Zoom member evening and it was nice to see him and talk with him again. Like all of us he is chomping at the bit to be back in our hall and playing live music again. (Someday I think people will wonder what the heck this Zoom was that we all talk about during the pandemic. Zoom, which I spend most of my days and some of my evenings on, tends to make me feel like I’m in a sort of bubble where I am almost with people, but alas, are not really. Ironically it is like the television phones of the future we all imaged and thought would be so wonderful. I just read speculation about such things in a 1922 volume of The Radio Girls series. More to come on that.)

This has set me off, thinking about the past and wondering about the future as I consume my second cup of coffee so I will leave it here for now, but with another final tip ‘o the hat to my brother in-law who can pick a mighty fine photo – with thanks!

Krak-R-Jak: Keeping the Biscuits Fresh

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It likely won’t surprise Pictorama readers to know that I am the sort of person who embraces an opportunity to outfit a new space or venture. While I have bad things I could say about the pandemic induced change to working at home, one bonus is I have had the chance to equip an entirely new desk. I devoted some previous post space to my desk at my office in Columbus Circle (one of those posts can be found here) back in the before time, but a new desk where I spend my days here in the apartment called for some judicious acquisition. Some bits found their way back from Columbus Circle on the one or two trips I made there (the lucky waving cats are with me and remain on the job with me; their post can be found here), but for the most part I picked up some bits and pieces to make it more functional and of course fun.

Another earlier Miss Molly purchase. She specializes in Halloween items.

The most significant item is this large-ish tin box for Krak-R-Jak Biscuits. I purchased this from my new Instagram source who resides in the middle west region of our country, known to me as Miss Molly (@missmollystlantiques) who has supplied me with an array of interesting photos (one of those posts can be seen here) and some Halloween items (one gem seen here), but she is also the purveyor of several interesting boxes that now hold my office supplies.

This large tin box, which I gather kept generations of biscuits and bread fresh, holds my collection of greeting cards which were transported early on from Columbus Circle. I have long been in the practice of purchasing nice cards (or especially funny ones) whenever I see them. In the before time when traveling for work I would often wander into a card store in a new town if I spotted one. As a result there is a card shop in San Francisco I have frequented for years and another in Boston. (There is also a lingerie store in Milwaukee and a nice junk shop in Santa Barabara, but those are other stories.)

Of course I have my sources in Manhattan, although frankly even pre-pandemic they were already rapidly closing down and getting sparse. I cling to the one near us just above 86th Street on Lexington, there are two others, further down Third Avenue, or at least there were. Therefore, if you have received a greeting card from me its origin may have been Manhattan or it may have been Chicago, or another destination along my annual work route.

I actually spotted this large tin in a post Miss Molly did for some other items and asked about it. While technically not on the block for sale, she was willing to sell it and now it not only holds my greeting cards, but also holds up the stand for my iPad which (for a variety of technical reasons) is usually what I do my Zoom meetings on. It brings the iPad to a relatively ideal height, although the bookshelves behind me distort and it looks like Kim and I reside in a very long, narrow library.

As it turns out, this is not a rare tin and if you desire one you can probably purchase it for about what I paid for mine by looking online. Pristine examples might get up there a bit, but one like mine which has some good sides and some less good ones won’t run you too much. One person has assigned this to the 1930’s which I could find neither confirmation nor contradiction.

Of course I immediately assumed that Krak-R-Jak was somehow a forerunner to the candy corn, Cracker Jack. I would mostly be wrong as it turns out, at least as far as I can tell. This spelling of Krak-R-Jak seems to take you only to the Union Biscuit Company of Saint Louis when searched online. The actual history of said Union Biscuit Company is not readily available, or I have failed in finding it. Although my tin tells you to always ask for Krak-R-Jak Biscuits my online research mostly turns up a perhaps more popular slogan, Keeping the biscuits fresh.

The etymology of Cracker Jack or crackerjack according to Merriam-Webster is easiest to share in its entirety and is as follows: The late 19th-century pairing of crack and jack to form crackerjack topped off a long history for those words. Cracker is an elongation of crack, an adjective meaning “expert” or “superior” that dates from the 18th century. Prior to that, crack was a noun meaning “something superior” and a verb meaning “to boast.” (The verb use evolved from the expression “to crack a boast,” which came from the sense of crack meaning “to make a loud sharp sound.”) Jack has been used for “man” since the mid-1500s, as in “jack-of-all-trades.” Crackerjack entered English first as a noun referring to “a person or thing of marked excellence,” then as an adjective. You may also know Cracker Jack as a snack of candied popcorn and peanuts. That trademarked name dates from the 1890s.

Therefore, while I think Krak-R-Jak plays on this same term, it is in this case evidently not linked to the eventual creation of the candy, which appears to have been introduced to the world at the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and later perfected and marketed by Fritz and Louis Rueckheim. This recipe for candy corn and peanuts was already in existence and merely perfected (they figured out how to keep it from sticking one big mass) and marketed by them. I wonder if companies like the Union Biscuit were forced out of using the term eventually, although their logo cold easily pre-date the Cracker Jack candy use. Meanwhile, they were just using what would become an archaic term for pointing out that they had excellent biscuits.

A few of Kim’s drawing pencils seem to have found their way onto my desk which is an old drawing table.

While I thought I would also meander onto a wonderful little velvet covered box from Clark’s Spool Cotton Thread, which now houses paper clips, and can be spotted in the above photo, I will save that for another day. The Pictorama desk is full of delights to be revealed.

Specs

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This card is one of my recent purchases. When all is said and done about this time one of things that I think I will remember is how I started purchasing things on Instagram. I had never even thought about it before, let’s say, April or so. I have always loved Instagram – my feed devoted to seeing what a handful of folks I follow are doing and of course, many cats – rolling, playing, posing. I don’t have interest in famous folks and I don’t want to know much about the sad state of the world while I am on Instagram – it is largely escapism for me. I realize that other folks have been buying on it for ages, just never occurred to me that I would find interesting old stuff there.

However, in checking out a new follower of mine, I realized she sells old photos and antiques, from there I realized another follower sells vintage photos, a third sells jewelry and other bits (some clothing, pin trays and the like), from the early years of the 20th century from her home in the British Countryside. (@MissMollyAntiques, @spakeasachildvintage or aka WheretheWillowsGrow, and @Wassail_Antiques respectively.) Over time you chat a bit and now I realize that one is a musician (as is her husband), selling out a space in an antiques mall she used to have, another is photographer of musicians, that work largely gone – a theme here. (I received something from her the other day and it was wrapped so lovely – like a gift!) The new economy evolves.

I’m sure other office supplies will find their way into this box over time.

Anyway, this bit of cat advertising turned up recently and I snatched it, along with a cute little box that was made to sell spools of thread which now houses binder clips on my desk.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Today we boast this proper Victorian Mrs. Kitty who is both sporting and advertising eye glasses – fine steel specs according to the back of the card. These were available with Blue and Bronzed Colored Frames…Filled and Sterling Silver Filled Noses. Strangely the actual advertising on the back was printed and with only a rough approximation of the cat outline and therefore words are cut off in places. However, we can also make out that you could have beautiful styles of lorgnettes in shell and (probably?) celluloid.

Casually executed advertising copy on the back of the card.

She is wearing a locket in the fashion I opined on in a recent photo post, she models an out-sized hat in the style of the day, and of course she is bespectacled. (The photo locket post was the recent one which can be found here.)

As it happens, I was shopping for eyeglass frames yesterday so I pulled this card out of the pile from the recent haul. During quarantine the rimless frame glass I have worn for several years began to loosen, started sitting crooked on my face, and I began to fear that they would truly come a cropper while the world was closed down. I do have a spare pair, but they are behind one prescription – the lenses for my eyeglasses are very expensive and those frames aging, therefore right now these glasses and a pair of sunglasses are the only current ones I have. (Some of you might remember my sad tale of woe concerning losing these eyeglasses during a trip for work to California. It can be found here. You would think I would have learned my lesson!)

My specs – not so different from Kitty’s. Hard to see the smashed bit here, right side.

One of my very first forays into the post-quarantine world was to the East Village, to have these frames tightened. When they started this delicate manuever the guy on duty warned me about the possibility of the lenses breaking – tighten at your own risk. They managed to do it successfully but, alas, I noticed the other day that they are starting to shatter near where the screws are, so back downtown we went to begin the cycle of purchasing frames and updating prescriptions.

I purchase my eyeglasses from a shop in the East Village, Anthony Aiden Opticians, which came highly recommended by someone, cannot remember who now, on the basis of the execution of the lens measuring and fitting to be especially thoughtfully done. Having once, a long time ago, strayed and purchased a pair of glasses with my graduated prescription elsewhere I learned my lesson and never tried that again. Yes, you pay a premium for quality, but seeing is important and we are talking about something you wear on your face everyday. (Zoom presents its own challenges for the eye glass dependent. I have trouble finding a viewing range where I can both read notes and see participants. I could be wrong but it doesn’t seem worth adjusting my prescription for although I will ask the eye doc when I see him.)

Yesterday I discovered that Anthony Aiden Opticians had made it through the quarantine period by doing individual appointments, something to remember for the future although I think I would have been loathe to take the trip on the subway at the time.

Photo of their establishment pulled off Google.

It is a small store, just east of St. Mark’s Place. When we arrived they were too crowded and asked us to return in a bit. We complied by having lunch, somewhat precariously perched at a table outside of the B&H Dairy (where a stern but friendly woman with an Eastern European accent oversaw the delivery and consumption of our food), and wandered back after.

B&H from the inside, back in the days of indoor dining.

Trying on eyeglass frames with a mask on was interesting of course. Once I had a few finalists for Kim to help choose from, I unmasked. They also measured my eyes without a mask – their request. I believe the gentleman who waited on me was the owner – Mr. Aiden himself? I purchased gray plastic and metal frames. My long buying and prescription history was on file and I was able to order lenses for my sunglasses as well.

I have an appointment with my eye doc in about ten days and now am just babying my glasses along until I can have the prescription called in and lenses ordered. Hopefully I can be back in business, fully eyeglass-ed up within a month, all ready for whatever fall and winter brings.

Bathing Beauties

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s post focuses on a small bevy of beach beauties all originating from a single album. If I understand correctly, although found in the Midwest, these photos were probably taken in New London, Connecticut. Fastidious Pictorama readers may remember that I graduated from Connecticut College, located in New London (a post about that can be found by clicking here on Train tracking), and therefore these images strike a particular cord of memory of the beaches there.

As college students we did occasionally find our way to the beaches of New London and the surrounding areas. However, given that I returned home to the Jersey shore for the months of June, July and August, I tended to be in New London off season and have no memory of having been swimming there, nor do I think I ever even wore a bathing suit while there. I do have a very fond memory of being at Harkness beach late one night in the snow however. There is a boardwalk sort of arcade. It was very beautiful and I remember regretting that I never had seen it in season.

At the time of these photos New London was still largely an enclave of some wealth and privilege. The college was already there, attracting the more Bohemian young women of a moneyed class. As I have written previously, for a variety of reasons the town has mostly fallen on hard times, a cycle of struggling and failing to achieve urban renewal. However, there is an area near the water where the old mansions still exist and the shoreline is largely beautiful, if somewhat marred now by industry.

Given the singularly female focus of these photos I wonder if they were attending the college which was at that time, a single sex all-women’s school, although for them, like me, this would be out of season. Or perhaps at least they were chums from school there.

Pams-Pictorama.com

I purchased other photos from this album which I will share in future posts, but I will note, these women liked to be lined up for a photo. (You will see more of this in those later posts.) Looking at what to us today appear to be impossibly ancient swimming attire, they appear quite natural on them and they certainly do not seem encumbered by them as we might think today. The water is crowded with people, wading and lounging in what looks to be fairly shallow water, perhaps on a sandbar of some kind. I look especially at the picture of them submersed in the water, up to their necks, and I envy them! This is what vacations were when I was a kid.

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Meanwhile, I especially like the image of the woman alone on a now deserted beach. Her long white cotton dress and a jaunty scarf. Perhaps early morning or evening, before or after the crowds of the day, both lovely times to be at the beach.

Pams-Pictorama.com

By comparison Kim and I are more or less wrapping up our sort of a summer vacation this year. At some point we mostly gave up and shifted into working, albeit perhaps a bit less than usual, slowing to a jog instead of the long hard sprint of spring into summer. I have never failed at vacationing so resoundingly, my list of household ambitions largely unsatisfied, truly unable to unplug, let alone visits to the shore or lazy days.

Sidewalk dining at Veselka earlier this week.

Some ambitions were met, new shades were finally installed (this after our window replacement last October, the huge boxes containing them sitting in our one room like furniture since March), the bottom of a closet cleared out as needed for storage. However, other bookcases that required sorting out – in one case a coat of paint needed (I got as far as purchasing the paint), and a new carpet for the living room were among the items not achieved.

Kim and I ate out for the first time since March, Veselka in the East Village, and we tried a Vietnamese restaurant for take out near home. Our old favorite Mexican joint across the street reopened, to our great happiness and surprise as we thought they were clearly victims of the virus economy, closed first for renovation and then through the intervening months since March.

However, I cannot say I really got rested – I suspect Kim would say the same; he returned to several hours of inking daily in week two. Work continued to need my attention and I remained restless. I will take this last week before Labor Day at something less than full throttle and see if I cannot rest up a bit more. Somehow this year, with the whole world standing on end and trying to reinvent itself, letting go of the reins entirely was not possible, not for me. Labor Day weekend is on the horizon, let fall begin.

Team Sports

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased this 5″x7″ photo of a basketball holding girl awhile back and have been giving her a lot of thought. I like the image – she is solid, muscled, intent. Her uniform is antique, but there is something that remains practical and current about it. Those shoes look uncomfortable to me – almost like playing in your socks really. However, the belted shorts and shirt are trim and they appeal to me. The South where on her shirt is lost to us now, although maybe somewhere a local would know immediately. There is no information on the back of this photograph however. It appears to have been well-preserved, most likely in a frame.

This card was sold to me by a photo dealer in, I believe, Ohio. He actually posted that he was at a flea market the other day and I was very envious. (I am generally always envious of people who are at flea markets when I am not, but in pandemic Manhattan it combines some additional elements I am missing and craving these days. It sounded heavenly.)

Our basketball player is in a professional photo studio with a somewhat formal backdrop for our athlete. I cannot help but wonder if the entire team had their photos taken this way, one at a time, and someday I could perhaps come across some of the others. This sort of thing happens if you do this photo collecting thing long enough. In fact, I just bought a photo postcard taken in the same spot as another that I plan to write about in the next post or so – future post! However, since she in her athlete’s get up is a bit of an exception to my collecting tendencies and searching, so it seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, I find her to be unexpectedly compelling. She has a look of intensity about her, eyes focused on a goal we cannot see. Game on with her I’d say.

Pictorama readers probably know from past posts that I never played sports or worked out as a kid, teen or even young adult. I think if I had I would have been drawn more to individual sports rather than team ones, in part because I like the challenge of improving against myself, and also because although I wasn’t a shy kid, I wasn’t social enough to pursue group activities, especially athletic ones.

Having said that, as an adult there are times when I wish had pursued that experience. I have often thought that team sports probably prepare you well for the sort of teamwork adult work-life demands. When I interviewed with Wynton Marsalis for my job at Jazz at Lincoln Center he used a lot of sports metaphors, football I believe, which frankly left me utterly confused. What I don’t know about football is pretty much everything there is to know. I can’t say that at the time it made me feel like the job would be an especially good fit.

I got over it and now, three years later, I like his stories about the basketball and football games of his high school years. He tells a good story when making a point. Jazz is obviously another frequently used metaphor, but I have grown fond of the sports ones. Mostly these stories boil down things like setting your goals high – beyond what is needed to win; even if you know you are going to take a beating you have to go at it the best you can full on; and even if you are winning you have to stay focused and finish strong. There’s one guy in Wynton’s tales (Kim would say, one of Nature’s noblemen), who lives in my imagination now – bigger and more agile than the rest of them, he did his best to lead their team to the occasional victory, but more often kept them from goofing off or slowing down when the odds were against them.

Clearly our new world order currently requires employing every skill acquired over decades in the workplace and elsewhere: managing a team which is now scattered all over the country and who are wrestling with their own myriad of personal and home problems, most of us working out of tiny New York apartments where we are housed with our families, a few living in basement in their parent’s home, some folks dealing inevitably and terribly with illness and death. It is time to be a good team player and invest in teamwork across the organization, finding ways to support each other. Everyone is fighting similar battles regardless of industry I am sure. I can’t help but think I might be better equipped to manage now if I had been on some of those teams growing up. However, I can borrow Wynton’s lore – after all that’s what the stories are for.

Travel

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: An odd pairing of two recent photo purchases today under the rumination of travel. I am a homebody in many ways, but I have always also had a travel itch. I have been to Tibet (twice) and been lucky to travel all over Europe, to South America, and most recently South Africa for my jobs first at the Metropolitan Museum and then Jazz at Lincoln Center. (Notably the trips to Tibet were on my own, not for work and I have traveled in Europe on my own as well. Meanwhile, I have documented my conflicted feelings about home versus travel in posts that can be found here and the story of one trip gone very wrong here.) The contemplation of certain destinations have always inflamed this itch – Samarkand, Mongolia, Mustang and Vienna (oddly it has eluded me), remain on my to do list.

Dad traveled incessantly for his work as a news cameraman for ABC. He loved it and it is likely that I inherited the itch from him. (I am under the impression that my mother has only been on a plane twice in her life and perhaps her extreme is what counterbalances the desire to hit the road.) My sister Loren had the itch, although less so than me perhaps; she got engaged while traveling to Prague and made numerous trips to the south of Italy in the last few years of her life. I lost count of the number of times she drove across the country though and she exceeded me there. It felt like she would just do it at the drop of a hat. Although my brother has traveled some, he seems to have been largely free of the burning desire. I would say, after Dad, I get the family prize for wanderlust however, especially on an international scale.

Some of the photos I have been looking at and buying lately are a lot more random than my usual ferreting out of cat and toy photos. Many are clearly old photo albums being broken up and sold, the final refuge for such albums once they have outlived their useful family life. Mostly this just makes me a bit sad and although I am very glad if someone wants an old wedding photo or one of a family vacation. Most don’t speak to me but it pleases me if they can find a home. Sifting through the pile of recent purchases these two stood out for different reasons, but got me to thinking about these destinations as I look at them today.

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New Orleans

I love this photo of a couple on holiday in New Orleans. They are radiating a good time holiday here, posed in front of this horse and buggy tour operator, probably preparing to step on or having ended their ride. Happy holiday photos (or day at the seaside or in a photo booth) are a genre I pursue and this one fits nicely.

Just behind the horse is Sally’s Original Creole Pralines. (Sally is still selling those pralines and you can get them online.) The horse and buggy are jolly and perfect, but it is their holiday outfits I love. They are dressed to the nines in their late 40’s garb, especially her in hat, heels and spring weight coat. They are radiating a certain kind of posed for travel joy – having a great time and wanting to remember this being telegraphed into the future, and arriving even now.

Sadly nothing is noted on the back – I would like to have their names. The photo is small, only about 3″x4″ but it has this zippy boarder which declares Elko at each corner. There is a production number printed on the back and I assume that this snap was a requisite add-on as part of the buggy ride package, perhaps taken in the beginning and ready by the time you got back.

I have been to New Orleans, twice, and a very long time ago. I have always wanted to go back and spend more time as both trips were brief and rushed. If I really turned the apartment upside down (it is already upside down really as we are packed up in boxes for the installation of bookcases commencing tomorrow) I could probably locate a not very good photo of a 25 year old me in New Orleans, but I know it isn’t as good as this one. My mouth waters for pralines, beignets, and po’ boys just looking at it.

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Scan 4

The second is a sort of odd photo for me to have acquired. It is small, a snapshot. On the back it is identified as Moutrier, Riviera, 1944. Presumably this is a photo of Allied soldiers during the liberation of France in that year, probably enjoying the Bar and Dancing more than the actual Casino aspect of this establishment. I can’t quite make out the name of the establishment detailed with photos of the performers behind these gentleman.

I bought this one for a few dollars. I like the idea of these guys maybe having a good enough time (given how awful fighting the war must have been, they certainly had it coming) that they wanted to commemorate it – and then keeping this photo for decades. The last of this generation is mostly in their nineties and is going now – sadly the Covid virus having pushed more of them along. I have talked to men for whom being shipped there to fight in WWII was their first trip to Europe, for a few the only trip with no desire to go back, others whose lives would take them there frequently. I know at one who loved Italy so much he and his wife settled there for much of his life after the war, working for the army.

The final trip I took to Europe for the Met, in October of 2016, took me to the South of France and Monte Carlo. While the natural beauty of the coast is undeniable, I found the crowded nature of that city uncomfortable and commercial – every single square inch appears to have been built on. We visited the Casino there, briefly and during the day, but while interesting to see that building, gambling holds very little appeal for me and I don’t appear to have documented that part of that trip. (Photos were prohibited inside the Casino.) I offer instead a photo from the roof of my hotel somewhere on the Riviera – I believe I sent this unremarkable shot below to Kim to show him I was really there, landed and settled for the moment on the first day.

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Much of my travel for Jazz at Lincoln Center has been domestic. I was in both Milwaukee and Chicago just a week or so before March 13 and the stay at home order for New York City. Without that order I would have traveled to Boston, London, possibly Russia, Colorado and San Francisco in the intervening time. It is hard for me to believe thinking about it now. Admittedly it seemed like a daunting summer even then – albeit in an entirely different way than it has indeed been daunting.

Other than talking a little bit with Wynton about it, I have not had a chance to ask the orchestra members about what it is like for them to be grounded for so long. Not just no travel, but even more seriously no gigs at all of course, save those online productions we have managed. For them the rhythm of travel mark the coming and going of their work life each year and this interruption is an epoch. Most, like Wynton, have traveled and had gigs every single week of their working lives, starting quite young.

Even more than after 9/11 it is hard to imagine reformatting our lives back into this kind of travel. Taking off our shoes, stuffing our liquids in a small bag to be presented at the commencement of each trip, all quickly became rote annoyances we took in stride and seem like nothing now. However, in a world where folks are wearing gloves at the supermarket and we look a bit askance at the subway, even hopping on an Amtrak to Boston seems unlikely let alone something we have a craving to do. Having said that I do know people for whom either necessity or itchy feet have already gotten them on planes in recent weeks. For now I am taking it slow, with maybe a trip downtown on the subway planned for our vacation in August.