**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.