A successful romp at Easton Book Festival: Sex in the Text

**author’s note: I’m sorry, not sorry, that this piece has become rather long and a tad historical. I will divide the piece with subheadings so that readers seeking particular topics can scan quickly. But for those who love historical context and rambling storytelling combined with my unique chaos, have at it.

It’s a quiet October morning, before the sun rises, and I am sharing my thoughts with you regarding our experience last night at the 4th Annual Easton Book Festival (2022). I’m posting in my personal blog, as I don’t know if I have fully formed thoughts (other than I had my concerns that the grassroots chaos of the festival, part of its charm, might drive my organized self to lose my mind and LO! and BEHOLD! I had a great time. Perhaps the cusp Taurus in me is mellowing into a new calmer self, my Gemini side).

I appeared briefly in the original Easton Book Festival “trailer,” look for me on YouTube with my salmon dress which looks rather orange and my trademark scarf. I join a lot of local celebrities so that tickles me.

The pandemic appeared in the festival’s youth and the city has decided to renovate (and in my humble opinion destroy) Centre Square, where the Book & Puppet Company bookstore is located. They have reduced the circle from two lanes of traffic to one and eliminated all the parking in front of businesses. They have also been toying with the traffic patterns, often closing main streets and making the traditional heart of the downtown one way. As someone who has lived in this community for more than a quarter of a century, I’m annoyed.

My history with downtown Easton

The city has two main parking decks currently in the same basic vicinity, which is good, but they have destroyed one convenient central parking lot and pocket park to build a new deck, which is not open yet. The oldest of the parking structures will soon be eliminated, as are on-street parking permits for residents. As more upscale apartments and multi-story structures join the historic downtown, the footprint of the city is changing. Or perhaps gentrifying.

My first apartment, with poet Darrell Parry, who is on the board of the festival, was an absolute dump but so much fun. We were two recently out of college, engaged kids with a pile of student loan debt and cars that barely ran. I worked at Lafayette College in the Public Information Office and Darrell worked at Caldor, a department store that, like many, no longer exists. It started his career as a shipper/receiver and honed his skill as the master of packing boxes.

Our rent for our strange one-bedroom started at $450 a month, with off-street parking and basic utilities included. We couldn’t afford cable and dial-up internet so we chose internet as we had television our entire lives and the World Wide Web was new. We would often scrape our change together and walk to Coffee and Tea Time Café, which also no longer exists, and I believe the structure is now part of the freshly-reconstructed Hearst Magazine offices that have moved to Easton from New York City. And on spaghetti nights we would order garlic bread from Colonial Pizza, which does still exist, since the restaurant was practically across the street. When we would call to order, they would often say, “Is this the neighbor?”

And then after spaghetti and garlic bread, we would go down to The Purple Cow Creamery, which later had to change it’s name to Bank Street Creamery, but you can still go there for ice cream. It’s not the same owners as it was in my day, but it has remained a hot spot of the downtown.

And since I’m already aging myself, I might as well add that Book & Puppet stands pretty much next to a place called The Crayola Factory. When I was an intern at Binney & Smith (now rebranded as Crayola since that’s the name everyone knows), I was tasked with writing and pitching a then under-construction, exciting new attraction in the former Orr’s building, another defunct local department store, called Two Rivers Landing. It would contain The Crayola Factory and the National Canal Museum.

(And I happen to be a Crayola junkie and a canal aficionado.)

You see, in my day, you could actually walk through the real Crayola factory in Forks Township and follow this blue line through all the stages of crayon and marker production. When you arrived at corporate offices in the morning, if they were making crayons, the air would carry that trademark warm aroma of wax, and if they were making markers, it smelled like burnt plastic.

I can remember sitting in my cubicle in corporate communications pitching my press release about this new family attraction to national magazines. My small, unattributed contribution to history. I did a lot of fun things at Crayola. Including dressing professional dancers in phallic crayon costumes at New York City’s Rainbow Room.

Okay, so now you see why I did not start this in the Parisian Phoenix Publishing professional blog. Because I’ve transformed into an old woman telling you the way it was in my day. And if I want to throw it back another generation, whenever I get off topic, I like to reference Arlo Guthrie‘s “Alice’s Restaurant.” If you don’t know the song, you’re young enough to find it on YouTube, Spotify or Apple Music. “This is a song about Alice. Remember Alice?” the lyrics say, even though the song seems to have nothing to do with Alice for most of the 18-or-so minutes the song goes on.

This is a song about the Easton Book Festival and “Sex in the Text.” Remember the Easton Book Festival?

This is a song about Alice. Remember Alice?

Arlo Guthrie

Darrell hates that song.

Opening Act: Poetry galore

I will not make a James Bond reference off of that title to relate it back to “Sex in the Text.”

Lynn Alexander opened the poetry segment reading from her collection, Find Me in the Iris. Followed by our own Nancy Scott, then Darrell and Rebecca Reynolds. Nancy read from newer work, including a poem about her recent move. Darrell read from his book, Twists: Gathered Ephemera, with a rather stunning introduction delivered by Lafayette English professor and festival board president, Chris Phillips. Rebecca read from each of her books (Daughter of the Hangnail and The Bovine Two-Step) and her work in progress.

And if you ever wanted to watch someone read Braille, here’s your chance.

Sex in the Text: Making Love Between the Pages

So, for some reason GLVWG (Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group) and our (Darrell, the festival board, myself and Book & Puppet) connections did not yield more panelists for this discussion. So, Darrell and I talked about making the panel into a talk show type format where questions could be placed on index cards and William Prystauk, author of the Kink Noir series, and I could ask the questions of each other Oprah-style and discuss.

We had a fantastic time and the questions were thoughtful not only from a literary perspective but also from a societal values perspective.

It was a refreshing night, and I hope the spectators enjoyed it as much as Bill and I did.

Chasing a dream in the autumn chill

Sometimes, as members of the human race, we have days that are full of delights from sun-up to sundown. Those days are rare, but often involve a leisurely day with the family, a vacation or a holiday.

Then there are days that are good despite— or perhaps because of — their imperfections and today was one of those days.

Maybe today was my “bones day” after all. If you don’t get the reference, it’s a prognosticating pug on TikTok (read more here).

I was originally going to blog this on the Parisian Phoenix website, but I thought I could be more honest and personal here. So here I am.

I came home from work in a lot of pain last night. I achieved 90% in my work metrics and came home, once again, in the kind of pain that leaves me crying and nauseous. Part of a marker for bad pain for me is if the pain interferes with my sleep and/or does not dissipate by morning.

I did not sleep well and I woke in pain.

But, I got up, got dressed, combed my hair and put on makeup. Because today was the Easton Book Festival. It might have been cold and rainy, but I was putting my best foot forward, even if the discomfort made it hard to put a shoe on that foot.

Now, here’s the thing.

Easton has been a part of my life for more than 25 years. Even now, I live very close to Easton. I can walk there.

Book and Puppet Company has been a part of our lives for quite some time. The teenager’s father connected with the owners of the independent bookstore. The teenager had a career as a contained character there.

Andy Laties of Book and Puppet founded the Easton Book Festival three years ago. I even appeared in the original “Read a Book” video— and they also featured a Muslim student in hijab outside the literacy center at my last non-profit job in development at ProJeCt of Easton.

My supervisor there quickly forgot the things I did well, like that placement and our involvement in the Easton Downtown Association scarecrow competition, in which they still participate. But I digress.

The teenager’s father now serves on the board of the Easton Book Festival, so when they organized a local author’s event, he invited me.

One month into Parisian Phoenix’s launch and I have a promotional spot. I didn’t sell enough books to pay for the small expenses of the event: parking, coffee, book printing (but hey, I would have needed those anyway), and the copy of the inaugural issue of the Lehigh Valley Literary Magazine I bought. And an overpriced breakfast.

But one person not only bought my book, but also came back specifically to hear me read. So that was touching.

I read a scene from the sequel to MANIPULATIONS, COURTING APPARITIONS where the villain performs a magical ritual in downtown Easton.

It was my first “reading out” in years!

I kept it very brief, because some others had run long and we were all tired.

Until the YouTube video drops— you should be able to view the Facebook live here.

I had intended to join the teenager’s father at one of the last poetry events of the festival, but I was frozen so I came home instead.

My neighbor, aka Sobaka’s mom, has now formally joined the Parisian Phoenix team as a proofread. She says we need to talk about chapters 1 & 2 of COURTING APPARITIONS tomorrow.

The teenager’s father received the copyright for his upcoming poetry chapbook so that could be going to press in a few weeks.

And tomorrow I hope to make applesauce, post some new material from Rachel Thompson on the Parisian Phoenix blog, and start typing Maryann Stephanie Ignatz’s material.

I even got to have dinner at my favorite diner with my neighbor to celebrate Jan’s official status as part of the Parisian Phoenix team.

The Christmas Season has launched

So today has been a rather surreal day, culminating in a unexpectedly joyous moment where my daughter is curled up in my bed beside me reading Ted Morgan’s memoir My Battle of Algiers, a favorite of mine, with the neighbor’s dog at her feet.

Today Easton hosted small business Saturday and my daughter had to work at her very part-time gig downtown. Amid various entertainment, a sale at Book and Puppet Company, and horse-drawn carriage rides, I ran into an old friend.

The Grinch and I toured the downtown. A horse snotted on him. Everyone asked for photos–including my old friend Marishka who tells me every time I see her that I keep getting more beautiful.

After our visit to Easton Public Market, Grinch and I met up with my daughter. We had coffee at Dunkin where several people commented on my “G” Alphabooks journal. A very small child even stole it.

Next, my teen and I went to retrieve her euphonium from the car. She had registered to participate in Tuba Christmas. She had heard about the event in school and as a low brass player (with a mom who loves Christmas carols) how could we resist the chance to play in a band of only euphoniums, baritones, tubas and sousaphones?

Tuba Christmas

The group met for the first time about 90 minutes before the performance. They practiced at the Sigal Museum, filling the entire building with bold horn music.

I ran into another old colleague there who couldn’t quite figure out why I was there, especially since I didn’t have an instrument. Apparently he hadn’t seen my daughter since she was a preschooler.

In many ways, returning to professional life has felt like emerging from hibernation. I have lived in the same house the entire time I worked retail, but it is mind-boggling how I feel like I have been more absent from life than I realized.

Now, how do I say what I want to say next? Ummm… let’s just say the act before Tuba Christmas included “Dominic the Donkey” and his ability to impersonate a donkey was amusing but perhaps not in a good way.

After an hour outside in frigid weather, and seeing an elf on stilts:

The teen and I jacked the heat up in the car and stopped at Dunkin, again. This time for hot drinks.

And that is how I say hello to the holiday season!

Easton’s Heritage Day 2019

My daughter and the Weiner-mobile

I normally don’t enjoy street fairs and community celebrations unless they have a theme that interests me. Carnivals and municipal anniversaries don’t do it for me.

I love the history of Easton’s Heritage Day, especially since I am a history nerd.

When the “founding fathers” signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, it took several days for the messenger to arrive in Easton. He got to town on a Sunday and read the Declaration of Independence on the town circle. Now, for 200 plus years, the town officials plan a community fair downtown and re-enactors read the Declaration of Independence on the circle on the first Sunday after July 4.

My daughter works downtown for Book and Puppet Company, a fun bookstore and let’s just say she helps with “character visits.”

Like when Paddington Bear visited today:

Naughty Paddington

I had also heard that the Grave Cellar at Saint John’s Lutheran Church would be open, so that was enough to entice me out of my anti-Street fair attitude.

Parking at meters would be free for the day or $5 (cash only) at the garage. I found a spot very close to the book store.

And my daughter mocked me for asking the police officer if there was a geographic boundary on the free parking. My use of geographic apparently highlights my nerdness.

The Grave Cellar and Parsons-Taylor House

When St. John’s Church expanded quite some years ago, they moved the graveyard to another local cemetery but some of the graves still exist under the church. Not as creepy as the Paris Catacombs but pretty unusual.

From there we went to the tiny Parsons-Taylor house. George Taylor, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, lived and died there.

My daughter looked in great detail at the craftsmanship of the house and furniture.

And the grazing begins…

We started exploring nearby shops, and we felt a little hungry but didn’t want to eat until we’d seen all the offerings so we shared a slice of buffalo chicken pizza from a new restaurant in town. Then we shared a lavender lemonade from Green Marketplace.

Lavender lemonade

Then we looked at classic cars and city construction equipment and I got a hard hat.

We also saw how the wind twine into sisal braided rope.

Then we meandered down another street and watched some of the kiddie activities and I found the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. I was very excited.

Donating Blood

And then I saw a sign that a local church was hosting a blood drive. So I registered. The last time I tried to donate blood was 25 years ago, and can you believe they had my address on file from that time period? I didn’t give then because my blood pressure was too high.

I haven’t given since then because tattoos, piercings, anemia and travels to exotic third world countries.

But I’m O-negative when it comes to blood type so I should give. And I did. For the first time.

Then we went to my daughter’s “office” and Paddington Bear came to visit.

Shopping and more food

After work, an artist drew her and she bought a vintage Monarch train case at Salvage Goods.

We also explored the dollar store on the circle. That might have been the only disappointment of the day.

And the teen had some bacon nachos from Porter’s Pub and I had one chicken and one steak taco from the restaurant at 645 Northampton Street that has really good food.

Our last stop was Easton Public Market again for a watermelon lime slush from Modern Crumb.