Improvement and Excellence

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is both a jewelry and personal Pam post. Pictorama readers know that I love old jewelry and these months at home have introduced me to many new sellers, primarily on Instagram, several in Britain. (For a few of those past acquisition posts you can read here and here!) However, my fondness for jewelry runs deep, all the way back to childhood, and over time I have acquired a number of pieces that have great personal significance. Not always, but frequently when I acquire a new piece, I have the symbolism tugging at the back of my mind. (My photos do not do any of these objects justice, but the best I can manage on a overcast Sunday morning.)

As it happens, the first of these medals was purchased in honor of my (February) birthday, in ’20, just weeks before the shutdown here in New York City. I was dropping something off at the jeweler and took a bit of time to paw through the trays they keep stacked in their glass counters. The jeweler I have used for years, Cluster, is down in what New Yorkers call the Diamond District, a few blocks of Midtown in the forties around Seventh Avenue. They are housed in a rabbit warren of offices and other establishments on the high floor of an anonymous office building. It is difficult for two people to be together in the tiny space allotted to customers at the front of their workshop which is walled off with glass.

Horse cameo ring, my collection. Made by Muriel Chastanet Jewelers.

Two generations of the family worked there and I most often speak to the daughter, Robyn, although her father likes to come over and inspect what I am wearing or bringing in and comment on it. He is particularly fond of a ring I wear often with antique horse cameo. It is beautifully made by a friend on the west coast (Gizelle Strohkendl, who along with her sister Charley runs the Westwood Village shop, Muriel Chastanet, in Los Angeles which can be found on IG @murielchastanet_finejewelry and I have written about them before in a post here) and her dad likes to take it and study it a bit. If I am wearing my mother and grandmother’s diamond engagement ring and wedding band (they reset the diamonds in the engagement ring years ago) he takes them and cleans them while I wait and talk to Robyn. Right now they have a string of pearls I dropped off to be restrung in March of ’20. My timing at the office has been off to retrieve them and as a result Robyn and I have chatted on the phone a few times.

My collection. Pams-Pictorama.com.

Robyn showed me the little medal which proclaims Improvement. I had never seen one of these and I fell in love with it instantly. These are school medals, 9k I think, and I believe from the first half of the 20th century. I am sure their history is quite straightforward and maybe a reader can inform me, but I have been unable to really find out much about them. And may I just say, who wouldn’t try to improve or excel with promise of such a glittering reward?

The Improvement pin is engraved with B.A.R. Jan. 1910 on the back. It has a makers mark which says, Lambert Bros NY at the bottom. One wonders who B.A.R. was and what area precisely s/he improved in so dramatically? The jeweler, Lambert Brothers, was 100 years in business from 1877-1977. According to the jewelry site, Kaleidoscope Effect:

Quality jewelry lasts, according to one of the oldest jewelry companies, Lambert Bros NYC founded in 1877 by Italians August Lambert and his brother. Later, Henry L. Lambert (1905 – 1983) headed his father and uncle’s business. Noteworthy, before joining the family company, he had studied gem cutting and jewelry design in Amsterdam and Paris.
The company’s store located at Third Ave at the corner of 58th street, sold bracelet watches, medals and a variety of fine jewelry – cigarette cases, pearl strings, rings, bracelets, cufflinks, brooches, earrings, chains and necklaces. Creating their jewelry pieces, the designers of the company used precious metals – gold, platinum, and sterling silver.

Using the name of the company I found one or two similar examples of medals, the sterling one for a firefighter was on the Worthpoint auction site and claims to possibly be haunted. (This long and interesting story can be found on their site here.) However, I did not find any similar school medals.

From the Worthpoint auction site – said to be haunted?

I have been looking for others in a casual way. Some similar items came up on IG, but if I remember correctly they were unengraved which didn’t quite suit. I asked one or two dealers to keep a weather eye for me and to give me a heads up if they found any for sale. However, I ultimately stumbled on my second one, Excellence, on eBay recently. I purchased it from a Canadian seller and vaguely assume it hails from the area originally. Unlike Improvement there is no maker’s mark on the back of this medal, just E.N. 1945. There is a tiny symbol at the bottom like an open book, but I don’t know what it means. This one is a tad more grand (Excellence being a bit more grand than Improvement perhaps?), but I especially like them together and look forward to having them on a lapel some day.

My collection. Pams-Pictorama.com.

Jewelry to me has always been worn to convey a message, either to myself or others. Usually the message is a bit less direct – my horse cameo ring is for good luck, my mother and grandmother’s rings to remind me constantly of the smart, great women in my life, an enormous bee is to celebrate industriousness and ingenuity – although Gizelle assured me that it is indeed a Queen bee! Symbols are important.

Ring from my collection. Made by Gizelle Strohkendl, Muriel Chastanet Jewelry, LA.
Music in sterling showed up on Etsy today while researching this! A further acquisition?

When I bought the first medal I was congratulating myself on my progress at work. My first year there was very difficult, the second year better but still very hard. It was halfway through the third year that I finally was feeling the swing of things and could see the early efforts I put in place paying off. It was my own little award to myself for the hard won changes I had wrought.

It is somewhat ironic that the medal that would show up next would be Excellence. As I look back on the more than 17 months and all accomplished I decided that I deserved Excellence as well.

Returning: Part One

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

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

From a morning walk through Central Park this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange to be back!

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

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

The lobby of our building. Familiar yet new again.

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

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

Progress

Pam’s Pictorama Post: My friend Eden gave me the tag line to this blog, All Pam, All the Time and I liked it because many of my readers, especially at first, found me through Kim and it seemed fair warning that, although you will get some Kim, Pictorama is a heaping serving of me. Some days are more me than others and this is one of those unabashedly me days.

In a quiet way, this week lurched forward significantly and was sort of a landmark week. To start, it was made public that Jazz at Lincoln Center was one of 286 recipients of extraordinary and unsolicited donations from MacKenzie Scott, the philanthropist ex-wife of Amazon titan, Jeff Bezos. (As one colleague said, I feel so much better about all the money I spent with Amazon over the pandemic.) It is a gift that will have a profound effect on the organization and as a career fundraiser it was a once in a lifetime gift to experience. Truly it is a testament to the hard work of Wynton Marsalis, especially his tireless work over the last year plus, as we struggled not only to survive but to be present for people who needed music and community during this time.

However, much like when Kim has a new book to promote, psychologically I had moved on once it was done (there is always more money to raise and we are still closing this year) which for me happened a few weeks ago, and I was drawn back into it with the public announcement, which lead to announcements to Board and staff.

On the walk over to Summer Stage Thursday. Cedar Hill, Central Park.

The other events of this week included my first hair cut in a year. Although I had gone last summer, the timing and location are bad for me working from home. However, my newly broken fingers have required first Kim’s help and then my own awkward efforts to put it up and I realized it was time. (I wrote about my longstanding decision not to dye my premature – at first anyway – gray hair in a recent post here.) It was nice to catch up with David who co-owns the salon and has cut my hair since our wedding back in 2000.

Unlike last summer’s cut (short, short because I didn’t know when I would come back) somehow this one transformed me back to a semblance of my pre-pandemic self. The pounds I have dropped (still some left to go, but many gone) probably help in that regard and the recent purchase of a sundress which I was sporting contributed to the overall effect.

Summer Stage opening in Central Park on Thursday.

The timing was good because shortly after I headed over to Central Park where the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was opening Summer Stage. Many of my colleagues from across the organization had booked tickets and it became an impromptu reunion – complete with hugging and elbow bumps for those not ready to hug. (There’s a lot of hugging in jazz.) The outdoors meant everyone was pretty comfortable being without a mask, eating and drinking. I can’t say the year melted away, but it was like salve on a wound.

As the sun was setting in the west and the orchestra struck up the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue I looked around and realized that coincidence had it that I was seated with many folks I sit backstage with during countless concerts in the hall and elsewhere. I stretched out in my chair and watched the sparrows ready for the evening, a few bats. My eyes welled with the sheer pleasure. The weather and the night were perfection. It was the first time I felt like maybe we really are back.

Friday dawned with a trip to Dr. Mir (hand surgeon – my Memorial Day hand exploits can be found in a post here) and my first session of hand physical therapy was later in the afternoon. I admit to being squeamish about pain and I can’t say I was without some trepidation. My hand is healing, more or less on schedule it seems though. With a little luck I may be allowed to take the splint off at home in another week – maybe even be cleared to run and work out a bit by the end of the month.

Seeing my hand without the splint really for the first time was a bit discouraging. It remains black and blue (quite green actually) in the extreme, still swollen in places. Being allowed to wash it was a huge relief however and that made up for the discomfort of it making its debut, splintless for examination and therapy. There isn’t much to say except that therapy is slow and hurts – almost by definition. I am a chicken about pain frankly, but a realist so I am focusing hard on making each movement count as I remind my fingers that they know how to bend. How could they have forgotten in a few short weeks?

Tucked into a tiny space on 87th near Lex. Hand rehab doesn’t take up much space.

By the end of forty minutes with the therapist we could see some, small improvement. I was reminded that my original purpose in taking up running (at least in part) was to tackle something different and hard during a time when my waking hours seemed to be confined to a desk chair in our one room apartment, working. While hand therapy will not get me outside, nor help me lose weight, it is unintentionally providing me with a new challenge to meet.

So I end the week with some renewed optimism about our impending nascent return to the office part-time next month. I think I am starting to shake off my Covid cocoon and if not the old Pam, at least the latest model of her,

Jersey Girl

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I am writing from mom’s house in New Jersey. It is Memorial Day weekend and I am reminded that Memorial Day (much vaunted in this beach community as the start of the summer season) is almost invariably cold and wet. This weekend is a great entry in the annuals of lousy weather on Memorial Day weekend.

In high school there was a small town parade (which has continued with the exception of last year; I don’t know if they are returning to it this almost post-pandemic year or not) which required the services of our high school marching band and drill team. This means I know something about standing around in the wet and chill in a brief uniform, toting a faux weapon. (That alone is probably news to Pictorama readers – yes, drill team. Loved the noise the fake rifles made as we slapped them and hit the ground in unison!)

Most importantly in a summer community like this it means the opening of the beaches and the green light for tourists and after our last (pandemic) summer I am sure they are quite anxious to get back to it here. We’ve had some glorious days recently so even old hands were tricked into a false sense of security, but man, that Jersey weather is having a good laugh at us. We Jersey shore folks remain ever optimistic however.

Ferry landing at 35th Street in Manhattan. Looks nice but was very cold!

Upon arrival in Fair Haven, I paced the backyard while taking the remainder of work calls that needed winding up. Meanwhile I enjoyed my mom’s absolutely gorgeous garden. She is housebound and enjoys it via the windows, and what gets brought in, but Mike who works on the tiny garden and yard does a great job. The peonies below are from plants I gave her in 2019 and they have grown nicely!

I am actually not technically here to celebrate the launch of the season. I arrived yesterday in time to attend a live gig with Wynton Marsalis and the septet for work. I invited three friends and it was a dinner club set-up, much like we did in the fall. (You can find that post here.) The ferry ride was very cold (and the water rough) yesterday morning. I chatted briefly with a young man with a bike who was preparing to ride to some area north of Philadelphia. (Yeah, I don’t think this must have worked out too well for him.)

The concert promoters assured us that the concert would happen rain or shine so we bundled and layered up and off we went. True enough, there was a tent and we were protected from the (hard) rain and wind, at least for the most part. I did see the music start to blow off the stand on stage until secured. It was 51 degrees and despite having spent the past year dressing for outdoor dining in all weather, I was layered but cold in my scarf and down liner. (My friend Suzanne lent me a large waterproof outback hat which helped keep the rain off.)

Wytnon Marsalis and the Septet last night in Eatontown, NJ.

I felt for the guys playing and knew they must be freezing in their suits. (Let’s face it, brass instruments can be cold!) The music was great despite the inclement weather though and it was a real treat to hear them in person again. In particular, our pianist Dan Nimmer was having a memorable night.

I came back to the house, got rid of my soaked clothes (trousers still wet this AM) and had some hot tea. Soon I was happily ensconced in pj’s in bed watching television while the storm raged around the tiny house. Gale force winds and rain were pounding when we heard a loud bang and the entire neighborhood went pitch black. I decided it was my cue to head to sleep and luckily this morning the power has returned, although the storm continues. Sadly no running here today, but a day with mom ahead so enjoy and more tomorrow.

Pinned

Pam’s Pictorama Post: One of the strangest byproducts of the past year was a developing penchant for pins. Backing up a bit, allow me to assure you that I have long been a joyful purchaser of jewelry. However, pre-pandemic, I was decidedly more of a ring gal and my preference was almost exclusively gold. My taste did not especially run to gem stones, although with occasional exception. It wasn’t unusual for me to wear four rings on a typical day, including my simple gold wedding band which I wore every day, along with a few gold bangle bracelets. Really, fingers were for decorating.

Coinciding with staying at home my fingers began to swell. I have mentioned that I have psoriatic arthritis, (related posts can be found here and here), but it has typically not been fully resident in my hands and my fingers remain fairly straight. I assume the swelling is in some way tied to less cardio exercise – the lack of the daily walking around town of the sort that used to be normal. Anyway, that combined with rarely leaving the house to do more than shop for groceries or hit the drugstore, meant that for the most part I took my rings off last March and have rarely worn them since.

This one also from Wassail_Antiques contained a Felix mug as well! Future post there!

And yet some time around last fall my photo buying interest on Instragram (the purchasing of photos and other ephemera has been documented in posts here and here) lead me to a few select, vintage jewelry dealers. These are folks, mostly women from Great Britain, deal largely in turn of the century items. At first it just fascinated me that these items were not things I typically have seen in looking at vintage jewelry in this country since I was a teenager or younger. While it wasn’t wildly different, it was different enough to capture my imagination – sort of a parallel universe to the vintage jewelry I have been looking at and purchasing for years in the US. Almost entirely silver, this is strangely like a mid-life, British version of the early vintage jewelry I boasted in my twenties and early thirties.

Early purchase, incoming package!

As an aside and bonus, these folks all seem to live with access to the most stunning British countryside and an additional benefit has been the gorgeous photos of their surroundings which feed a craving for some non-urban views in this narrow New York City life. Folks like Mia – aka @therubyfoxes treat me to almost daily photos of her ambitious (if often muddy) morning runs through the farms and woods there. She also has two adorable cats and recently posted a great series of nighttime hedgehog videos from her garden. (In addition she makes a darn good looking Friday night pizza for her husband and son and was kind with encouragement about my nascent running career.) Marco, of @fiorisfinds, and the purveyor of the heart pin (shown further down) and more recently a pretty faux aquamarine ring, has a pair of mighty fine looking bunnies, Basil and Dinky, who have their own account, @abunnycalledbasil.

Photo credit to Rachel from Wassail_Antiques. I wore this to a rare in-person lunch yesterday.

Because many of these sellers also deal in early photos, a photo or two often shows up with the package. Rachel in particular wraps her packages in a layered and luxurious way and it is a bit like Christmas or your birthday when one of her packages shows as shown below. (The recent purchase of a necklace from @marsh.and.meadow came with a tiny early photo worthy of its own post – watch for it and a related Easter post tomorrow.)

My most recent package from Rachel at Wassail_Antiques. She and most of the other dealers mentioned can also be found on Etsy. Am especially loving the Rinty card here!

Slowly I began to purchase an item here and there. Given the swelling in my hands and that rings are generally best tried on, my interest wandered to pins. I have never worn many pins and consider getting them attached attractively to clothing a challenge and a talent, like tying a scarf, I do not readily possess. Nevertheless, I have acquired quite a few. Among them a jolly horseshoe to be placed upward to hold the luck in, congratulatory messages on hearts, and most recently two beaded butterflies.

I definitely have not done these butterfly pins justice. Hard to describe but they are very lovely indeed in person.

The butterflies are more beautiful in person than they photograph. I purchased them from a favorite seller, @Wassail_Antiques who is also a talented photographer and I have treated you to a few of her photos here. Therefore it is rare that an item arrives and Rachel has not fully captured its beauty, yet these fellows pleased me even more in person than they had online. These butterflies languished in her shop long enough to gnaw at my brain which was looking for a fix of spring, just waiting for me I guess. They have done the job and the gorgeous pics of her dog and the sheep and meadows around her house as spring blooms help too. (In pulling together photos for this I realize that rings are not entirely absent from my purchases and several necklaces, very short for good Zoom viewing, bright and cheerful glass “stones” have also been acquired and gone into rotation. Zoom jewelry is, oddly kept on a shelf near my computer rather than with my other jewelry.)

This double heart feels like it is shouting encouragement at me. This style of silver pin is very available and I have to resist the temptation to just keep buying them.

The butterfly pins were evidently made by prisoners of war, I believe during WWII, but perhaps in the first World War as well? I was unable to find any real history about the practice. Butterflies were also a symbol used in mourning jewelry in Victorian Britain, but I will mostly ignore that fact and focus on spring I think. For that matter insect pins in general have begun to interest me – Art Deco fat insects with paste or gem stones. I had to control myself over a large cicada pin which of course would be a nice way to celebrate the little fellows on their once every seven year appearance coming this spring. I do not know where the vision of me sporting many insects crawling up my shoulder has come from or why exactly it now appeals.

Cropped photo from Wassail_Antiques on Etsy.

Like most of us, the shoulder and neck view of Zoom has meant that my colleagues and associates have largely seen a long line of dark scoop necked tops with the occasional cardigan (or frankly sweatshirt) thrown over them. I don’t have pierced ears, but a tiny pair of bright blue glass earrings that were among my early purchases from Rachel make an occasional appearance. Meetings with Board or non-staff might encourage me to pull out one of two soft sweater jackets that I acquired for that purpose as well. For some reason though it seems weird to sit in my apartment in a fitted jacket with lapels of the kind I used to wear almost daily. Yet somehow in the back of my mind I have been formulating a vision of a time when I will sport lapels again, boasting multiple pins on them. Hearts will gather together, horseshoes will provide good luck, and butterflies and perhaps other insects will flit across my shoulder.

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.

Screwy

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This little object came across my path on eBay and I snatched it up. Corkscrews have become a popular collectible and I was afraid I might face some stiff competition. I was lucky that it didn’t appeal to the collectors and I acquired him unchallenged.

There’s something perfectly appealing about this kitty and his corkscrew tail, sticking up in the air. This little fellow (or gal) sports a big bow, an arched back and a slightly wide-eyed expression. He (or she – despite the big bow I’m feeling he I think though), has nice heft and stands well on his own. He is easier to hold and better designed (and to pull on) than you might think, although I find this kind of minimal opener requires a sort of brute strength I don’t have and ultimately leads to bits of cork floating in my wine. Therefore, despite being quite sturdy, this fellow is officially retired from the work of cork removal as far as I am concerned. I am eyeing a cabinet which I think he will be quite at home in.

As someone who both waitressed and cooked professionally I became committed early on to a very specific device to removing corks from wine bottles. One of the most useful life skills (aside from extraordinary patience) that waitressing provided me with was the most fail safe methods of opening wine and champagne.

One summer during college I worked in a high end French restaurant (which despite being called Harry’s Lobster House, had quite a reputation for its French seafood cuisine), and this was where I believe I was introduced to this style opener. (I was also given instruction in the careful opening of champagne table side – slowly and wrapped in a towel – so that it would of course pop! but with no spillage.)

Pretty close to what Harry’s looked like back in the day when I waitressed there, but this appears to have been taken a bit later than that. They added outdoor dining in an ajoining area after my days of waitressing there.

For the most part I was a pretty lousy waitress. Friendliness was the best skill I brought to it (in addition to the aforementioned patience), which bought me a fair amount of forgiveness with the customers. Frankly though this made me better suited for working behind a counter, making sandwiches and serving coffee as I had the summer before,

I can still remember how befuddled I was by the specific names of the liquors when people ordered drinks – this was a high-end restaurant and Sea Bright in summer was a drinking beach town. I wasn’t familiar with top shelf alcohol brands and was decidedly unsophisticated in this regard. (Mom and Dad certainly had liquor in the house, but they were fairly mundane in their imbibing.) I did my best to write the order exactly, phonetically when needed, on my pad and report them faithfully to the bartender who, although nice enough really, in retrospect must have thought I was an idiot. Mom tells stories of working her way through college waitressing and it doesn’t seem to be a gene I inherited. (Incidentally Mom was also a record breaking long jumper in high school and a runner – these days while learning to run I often reflect on not having those genes either.)

To be clear, a superior corkscrew to me is a bit like the better mousetrap – you can try to make one, but the bar is high. It is a perfection of a certain kind of ingenuity and design. One should not tamper lightly with success.

These generally have a small knife, at top, to help peel off the cover on the cork and can also be used effectively for opening beer bottles, using the hook on the end.

Anyway, I have been using the same corkscrew since cooking school, mine came with an assigned kit of knives and implements. It has a red nail polish dot that I assigned to all my stuff so I could easily identify them quickly in a crowded kitchen. If you’ve never used one, you quite simply screw it in and then use the other, short, protrusion for leverage at the lip of the bottle and pull the handle – and voila! Bottle opened. Neat and tidy.

Growing up, the largely preferred bottle opener was the one below. I have a fairly good success rate with these as well, although clearly you can’t carry them around and use them as a waitress or cook. (The other folds nicely and lived in my pocket daily, handy for when needed.) This model has a bit less control than my preferred model (I’ve had more corks fall apart with these than the others), but I think one of these still also rattles around in my kitchen drawer. (Because of my former life as a cook, long ago though now that it is, there are some amazing things in that drawer that are rarely if ever used – things to make melon balls, pie crimpers to name a few. My zester recently came back into favor and my olive/cherry pitter lives there and is a much beloved item.)

Given all of this knowledge, opinion and lore, you would think that I would have successfully imparted this bottle opener knowledge successfully to my family at large. However, for some reason, my father became enamored of every possible variation of bottle opener to be found. He bought them in stores, at garage sales and they represented every conceivable variation on this theme. Some were quite absurd. Many were heavy and complex. Despite my protestations he would deliver them cheerfully to me as well. The fact is they almost never worked as well as my simple device – although in general I will grant you that they were more colorful and interesting, at least in theory.

Dad broke another rule of bottle opening and one evening opened a bottle of champagne which exploded in his hand, top breaking off, and cutting him badly enough that he had to trek to the emergency room for stitches. He did adopt my wrapped bottle technique after that.

Cafe d’Alsace earlier this week for a belated birthday dinner with a friend – they kept us pretty cozy despite the early March outdoor temps.

For all of this, you would think we are popping a whole lot of corks over here at Deitch Studio, but mostly we do not. Kim doesn’t drink and I am currently on a diet. Until earlier this week at a belated birthday dinner (which as my IG followers know was eaten outside under a heater and was actually quite lovely, pulling at the memory strings of what eating out used to be) when I broke down and had a glass of wine; I had not had a drink since December, maybe November. (The alcohol calories don’t make sense for me when I am counting them carefully. I always like to say that being on a diet is not so much fun that I want it to go on any longer than necessary so I try to be extremely focused and swift!)

I do cook with wine (or vermouth – although that’s a screw top) and there’s usually a bottle of something around for that. Pre-diet I enjoyed an occasional glass of wine or Prosecco with dinner – I like an occasional ice cold vodka tonic with lots of lime in summer. However, I am not and will never be knowledgeable about wine beyond what I like and what I don’t. Red wine triggers migraines which eliminates me largely from the erudite pursuit of wine. Nevertheless, when needed I know exactly how I am going to open that bottle.

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.

Hitting the Wall: Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Living in a studio apartment there is no way that all of my carefully curated photo collection could all ever find life on the wall here. For those of you who have never had the chance to visit us (the majority of you, to say the least), you may have wondered (or not) about which make the cut and what is up on the walls here. I had not given it more thought than the average person until the Covid craze for Zoom calls commenced. These days our photo laden walls are the subject of some discussion by meeting attendees and other video visitors. It has been intimated that guessing what is behind me has become something of a pastime, much like staring out a window in a meeting, when bored.

 

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Blackie on my chair recently. He and Cookie love this seat and fight me for this chair all day everyday.

 

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Lucky waving kitty who usually lives on a shelf in my office.

 

A few months ago I shared details in a post about setting up a new base of operations for my daily grind now taking place here in the apartment. (I wrote a bit about the new work set-up here at Deitch Studio in a post that can be found here.) I spend much of my day now, directly behind Kim, utilizing an old drawing table of mine which I frankly haven’t bothered to clear off entirely. At this moment on my desk I can spy: the Halloween cat head from last week’s post; a hand woven bowl from my trip to South Africa last fall; and two waving lucky money cats. (A post about my lucky cat habit can be found here. I brought the second one back from the office recently, concerned he wasn’t getting any light and helping to make Jazz at Lincoln Center more money – we need it!) And lastly, a photo of the costume jewelry designer, Kenny J. Lane.

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My photo of Kenny J. Lane, taken by Eileen Travell and a gift from her.

 

Ken was an honorary board member of the Met. Sadly he died shortly after I left for Jazz at Lincoln Center. He had been very ill, but nonetheless I was very sad I had not had a chance to see him and so my friend Eileen Travell gave me a very lovely photo she had taken of him for a magazine story several years ago. It sits in my office at work on a shelf above me, where I like to find Kenny looking down at me. I found I missed him and retrieved it as well on my recent trip to the office.

From that admittedly choatic table I do my much of my daily work. (Although recently while Kim is working on laying out a new story I have taken a number of Zoom calls on a corner of our bed, set up with my enormous Dean’s Rag Co. Mickey Mouse looming over me, backlit despite having been told it is a bad effect. A post devoted to big Mickey and his acquisition can be found here. A surprisingly few people have commented on him actually.)

 

Although I have pledged that I will devote some posts to the most popular view and what is contained there, the space above Kim and his work table, which does contain many of our finest specimens, today however I start with a bit of wall that folks don’t see, but one which will disappear soon. Technically it isn’t actually a wall, but the side of bookcase which for many years has held these photos and is where many years worth of calendars have been kept.

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Anyway, I have been encouraged to document the wall decoration a bit and I start with this, which has been my view at the foot of Kim’s table where I have written this blog from, for many years because in a couple of weeks it will disappear. After many months delay, soon we will pack up a bunch of stuff (yep, again) and make room for an entire wall of bookcases. This was the next stage of renovating our tiny abode which was scheduled to happen a few months after recovering from the kitchen renovation, but which has been long delayed by the quarantine.

The installation of bookcases and cabinets along the entire wall will hopefully relieve some of the ever-looming piles of books, art, dvd’s, and yes, photographs and even toys, that are currently like topsy everywhere. It does mean that the existing, scattered bookcases will depart including this one. For some reason it only just occurred to me, the other night at 1:30 AM when I couldn’t sleep and decided to worry about things for awhile, that this sliver of bookcase would be gone soon, replaced by my work table moving into that spot after it is displaced by the new bookcases. Where will the calendar go? And the paint pole we use for exercising?

The bottom two images are strange favorites – Halloween photos from a Brooklyn parade in 1917, which I purchased in multiple separate lots but of the same gathering when examined closely. I did an early post about them, back in 2014, which can be found here. I find them unfailingly cheerful and of continued interest.

 

Lurking above these are two nice examples of photo postcards of Felix at the beach. Pictorama readers know these are like catnip to me and these two examples have been featured previously in posts, here and here.

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Photo featured in All in the Family, a January, 2018 post.

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Featured in Felix and the Gang, a 2016 post.

 

Not in danger of are several real photo postcards of people posing with giant black cats, the corner of some sheet music, and a few other gatherings with Felix at the beach. Those will have their due in a future post, as I go around the room. There is also the top of an ancient mirror that came from my grandparents house, oddly hinged, and weighing far more than you would imagine.

Somehow I manage to be both the necessary agent for change here at Deitch Studio (the bookcases, like the kitchen renovation, are my idea) and still panic about it. I have a cat-like dislike of change and wrestle with the need at times – check in with me at 3:00 am in the coming week. As we start to pack up bookcases and hopefully even shed a few things starting next weekend, I hope I can quell my fear of having to find a new place for these beloved photos, the paint pole, and a heavy metal door jam in the shape of a black cat you don’t see in this photo but is directly below. There will be a week or so of upheaval, hopefully resulting in a few more feet for exercise and reveal part of another bookcase I have not been able to access for several years. Wish us luck with the bookcases and more to come on that I bet!

 

Somewhere in Dixie Land

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Long time readers know that I am a bit of a sucker for photos of men and cats. While affection for felines was certainly been a requirement of Pictorama paramours predating Mr. Deitch, it still especially pleases me, and even surprises me a bit, when the male of the species scoops up a kitty for a photo like this. (Other photos in this Pictorama sub-genre can be found here, here and here.)

This photo, which is dark and a bit grimy by any standards, hails from a seller in Columbus, Ohio. There is no address or postmark which means it was likely stuck in an envelope. In a strangely light blue ink and carefully neat hand it says, Your Ever Loving & Affectionate Son Fred. XX and below that, Somewhere in Dixie Land. (It was also marked for previous sale at $20 which means someone took a loss as I paid a lot less.)

Of course the recipients, Mom and Dad, knew Fred in the photo but sadly we do not know which of these strapping young fellows he is. I would like to imagine he is the one who grabbed kitty in the middle, unruly hair somehow escaping the camp barber. In some ways it is the patterns of those cans, the tiles and even the door that give this photo a visual interest. (Given our current bunker existence I will admit to eyeing those pyramids of canned goods in a way that pantry envy may not have tapped me previously.)

Our quartet of guys are in casual army issue garb. Somehow it manages to look hot and muggy without specific evidence other than donning shorts and the rolled up sleeves of their shirts. Not sure this was actually KP duty or an adjunct of working in the pantry. Kit, who is hard to see, but I would gamble a guess is a tuxedo, probably lived a pretty high life between treats from the humans and a pleasantly steady high protein diet of mice.

I imagine there is a chance that these fellows left the relative comfort of the humid American South for the more dangerous and decidedly uncomfortable existence of a WWI soldier elsewhere in the world, probably a century ago now, and at a time much more challenging even than our own.