Travel?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I was very much in denial that it would happen, but when this week rolled around I found myself packing to head off on my first (albeit very brief) business trip to Chicago. My denial that it would happen (a west coast trip was canceled earlier this year as were similar events) of course did not enhance the experience as I deferred my decisions about packing and appointments until the last minute. (I have written about my pre-Covid business travel several times including here and here.)

I have always found packing for out of town events difficult. Each region has its own sensibility and trying to strike the right note and feel appropriate is stressful. In California, I sport too much black and am not beautifully causal enough, in the Midwest I tend to be under dressed or too professional and not festive enough. Add two years of not doing any of this, weight gained and weight lost, and a closet which in some ways is a frozen time capsule of winter of ’20 and you have packing stress.

Brrr! Icy water views on my run.

It also came to my attention that my hair (which has been somewhat defiantly gray since my 30’s which I wrote about in a post here) had meandered down well past my shoulders and perhaps this was not the most professional look. These days I generally loop it up into a clip or with a hair tie and don’t think about it most days except when it annoys me by falling down during my run.

So with just a few days to go I dropped a haircut appointment on top of an ambitious schedule, although the person I have long been devoted to wasn’t able to take me. At his suggestion I saw someone else in his salon. Brianna did a splendid job and was the first person other than David Smith to cut my hair in more than two decades. (David owns the salon now, Smith and Morgan, and he did stop by to see progress on the big snip.) I am grateful to both for helping to transform me back to a more business-like version of myself on short notice.

I have always enjoyed this view of the rail yard between the Art Institute buildings.

That done an evening outfit was then considered and devised out of the decaying edifice which is my closet. At long last a peacock patterned silk blouse, a long-standing favorite of many years, emerged from the depths of my closet along with a favorite leather blazer and the new pair of dress trousers I am sporting this post-diet season.

Among jewelry I chose two rings from my favorite stash of ones I used to wear daily, a giant bee and a turquoise one that looks like a robin’s egg perched on my hand. They both always cheer me up to see. I have rarely worn rings during our long at-home period and breaking two fingers on my left hand has shuffled my ring wearing (actually dieting does too) when I do and left me somewhat bereft without my wedding band on that hand. (I was told the swelling could take up to a year to go down so I have not attempted to alter it yet.)

Where it started to go a bit wrong was deciding that I wouldn’t take my roller suitcase and instead use the weekend bag I take to my mom’s in New Jersey these days. My fear of wrestling it into the overheads on the plane and having to fight about it all was more than I could withstand considering.

Sunrise reflected in the windows of the Art Institute.

My laptop of several years, which has been valiantly pressed into daily service in a way it was not purchased for, suddenly began to threaten that it may not be properly charging anymore. I purchased a keyboard for my iPad instead and decided I would bring it instead, cementing my decision that I didn’t need the larger bag. This was a mistake which I was to have much time to rue as I attempted to carry it on a mini-marathon gauntlet which is La Guardia airport and the equivalent of several city blocks between where my cab left me and the terminal. Part of this was through a construction site which was wet and muddy and well, long. The suitcase grew heavy, never again I swore.

Like many before me I will confess that my packing skills were sadly wanting for lack of use – my forays to NJ to stay with my mother in no way prepared me for packing to fly for a business trip. I found myself in Chicago with an entirely dried out old mascara and no shampoo. I almost forgot to put my liquids in a bag, but no one actually seems to care about that anymore? Worst of all, I didn’t pack anything to read! While I planned to work most of the time I didn’t pack or download a book for the trip whereas I usually include several – just in case. I purchased a trashy novel at La Guardia which sufficed for the most part, but gosh, what was I thinking?

Sun fighting to come out over the lake.

Of course there is the mask part of this. A colleague in DC who has small children and a husband who travels frequently for work had made a study of the best and most comfortable masks. I was endlessly grateful to Lesley for both reminding me to think about it (comfort and safety for long periods of wearing) and for giving me a link where I was able to purchase them. Every restaurant in Chicago told me, as they checked my vaccination status, that this and the mask mandate are to be lifted next week.

The interior of the magnificent bar at the Palmer House Hotel.

Ironically Chicago was the last business trip I took in February of 2020 (I wrote about an earlier leg of that trip here) and I stayed at the same hotel, the historic Palmer House a few blocks from the Art Institute. I found the hotel still beautiful, but in a somewhat reduced circumstance with no room service and restaurants closed, occupancy felt low. At my arrival time of 8:30 at night I was barely in time to grab a quick sandwich at the bar. (There was a Grab & Go take out with some sad food and no one to pay – truly grab and go I remarked to a fellow traveler who spontaneously revealed that he hadn’t been out of his house in two years. I assume he meant travel?) My room was clean, but no cleaning staff in evidence which was fine for me, but unusual.

The long rabbit warren hallways are decorated with photo portraits of generations of musicians and actors. I made a point of remembering a soft right at Frank Sinatra, past George Burns and then a hard left at Louie Armstrong.

View as I left my hotel, Palmer House, early on Thursday morning.

After some debate and planning I left the hotel just after sunrise for a run along the lake. I am used to cold runs along the water (and through the woods at mom’s), but even sporting my fleece tights and down liner the Chicago wind was a shock.

The stunning beauty of the waterfront made up for it and it is clearly a favorite with runners there. It is broader and larger than my East River Esplanade at home by far and there were fewer runners than at home and notably no dog walkers, too windy and cold for them I guess, and perhaps they prefer the nearby park. Although frankly I have never seen another city with as much dog walking activity and romping as Manhattan.

One of several beautiful and unidentified buildings viewed on my run.

The Beaux Arts buildings dot this horizon in one direction, the more contemporary skyline in the other. A Ferris Wheel in the distance, by what appeared to be a cruise ship made me think of a young adult novel I read years ago about the history of the Ferris Wheel and its origins at the Chicago Exposition of 1893. Kim had suggested it called, The Great Wheel, was written and beautifully illustrated by Robert Lawson in 1957. I highly recommend it for all ages. Cakes of ice floated around, ducks took them in stride.

However, the Chicago wind did its job during my four miles and I returned to the hotel to find my face flaming red with windburn! I had, as I always do, put a layer of moisturizer and sunscreen on before my run, but that only appeared to have made it worse. I have never seen it so red!

Ducks at the dock at the Chicago Yacht Club.

Meanwhile, breakfast with a former Met colleague, now at the Art Institute, helped cheer and ground me later that morning. Then I dug into work, held a staff meeting from my hotel room after purchasing something to calm the skin on my face, thank you Neutragena and Target. I made it through the remainder of the day and evening largely without mishap, although running an event out of town for the fist time in years could be the subject of its own post about muscle memory. Snow! Cancellations! Guest of honor still on the road in the snow! Seating changes! Young musicians who forgot the stand for their keyboard! Cocktails and several courses of food later the evening wrapped.

Day two too slippery for a run – or even to walk at times.

A not insubstantial amount of snow overnight sadly meant no run on morning two – which I regret because I wanted a better look at the Ferris Wheel, alas. However, I rose early, packed, crammed three meetings, breakfast, coffee and lunch into the first part of the day (Board member download from night before, former staffer and long ago colleague – no cabs around so all via Uber which was also an atrophied muscle) and visited with a colleague who had just arrived. I see Georgina so rarely in person these days that an in-person visit with her was almost as rare as seeing my Chicago folks.

Before long it was time to pick up my very weighty bag, throw it over my shoulders and head back to the airport, home again to Kim and the kitties!

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.