My Publisher is an Avatar for the MMA (Pennsylvania Roadtrip)
by Angie Littlefield
Lucy Black and I hit the road from Toronto to Pennsylvania for the first ever Silver Sage Summit in Hellertown. Just minutes in, selfie-stamped, we shared our concerns about the trip in the safety-bubble of my car. The fear of being made sex slaves was long gone. Instead, we whispered our private worries on what we cozy Canadians might run into in the wild and wooly US.
The border crossing sped by when we offered the young US official copies of our books.
“Have a good day ladies,” he said and waved us through without asking the usual questions. We headed down Highway 81, the conduit to Cortland, our first overnight stop. We relaxed through the green beauty of upper New York State.
Two gentlemen at a rafting company in Watertown directed us to Maggie’s Restaurant overlooking the surging Black River, and we had our first US meal—a poached pear salad garnished with roasted nuts and blue cheese. Back on the highway, the hills pumped themselves up in size as we breezed along. The US roads were a delight. So far, no problems!
We had to make good time as the 1890 House Museum in Cortland closed at 5 p.m. The museum curator informed us we’d arrived beyond tour time, but he appeared as if from secret panels whenever we had questions. We came to understand the fortunes and exquisite tastes of the Wickwire family, made rich by wire manufacture. The home featured hand-stenciled wallpaper, a splendidly decorated wooden staircase, and an inglenook designed by a brother of Charles Tiffany (yes, that Tiffany), a vintage billiards table adjacent to the ballroom, and the bright garden room where the fragrance of ladies in hoop skirts seemed to linger.
But we, alas, could not linger. We planned to deviate here and there the next day before we arrived at our publisher’s home. The warm chocolate lava cake at The Café in Wilkes-Barre was an excellent diversion, as was the tour of 1770 Trout Hall in Allentown. From 1890 in Cortland to 1770 Allentown was a leap in both history and style, but the excellent Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum filled the gaps and then some. Who knew that Allentown had the second largest silk industry in the world at one time!? The lunch that followed at the Cachette French Bistro and Creperie in Bethlehem was a taste delight.
Next, the trusty GPS guided us through a warren of narrow back roads, cool groves, and gray stone houses to the welcoming meadow around our publisher Tracy Hill’s house. The pieces we’d read in Silver Sage Magazine became words incarnate, as Lucy and I chatted with the gifted authors who’d written them: Donna Scrafano, Peter Kravitz, and Jude Joseph Lovell. Before we partook of the splendid feast prepared by Tracy and her “chef” hubby Rod, Tracy told us about the exciting trajectory of the magazine and our part in it as writers and advocates. The phones came out as we tried hashtags, talked Trip Advisor, and discussed branding.
The best was to come. It turned out that Tracy is a Mixed Martial Arts enthusiast, her fervor stoked red-hot by an upcoming fight between “her” bantam-weight guy, Cory Sandhagen, and the undefeated Raphael Assuncao. We gathered around the TV on comfy big leather couches to await the combat. Two matches in, I figured I had the gist of the sport, and Lucy had chewed two fingers raw with the dread of impending head injuries. And then the bell tolled for Cory and Raphael.
Man, that Tracy could fight! She bobbed and weaved with impressive footwork, and she was good for all three rounds—never flagged. Cory won, but so did Silver Sage Magazine. I realized during that match that the magazine couldn’t help but grow with the vibrant fighter Tracy Hill at its helm. The Sandhagen victory was capped with a dessert of peaches Rod had seared on the BBQ, to-die-for brownies, and ice cream.
We made the trip back to Canada in one fell swoop. Lucy and I talked our way through the minutes and miles and were back in my driveway in Toronto ten hours after coffee with the Silver Sagers in Hellertown, PA.
After three days in the US, whatever worries we may have had were dispelled. Our memories would be of great roads, interesting destinations, wonderful meals, exceptional hospitality, and of the amazing experiences of the first ever Silver Sage Summit.
Angie Littlefield is an author, curator, educator, and editor. She has written three books about Canadian artist Tom Thomson, the most recent of which is Tom Thomson’s Fine Kettle of Friends. Her eclectic interests include curating art exhibits in Canada and Germany and working with children from Nunavut and Tristan da Cunha to produce their books. Her other books include Ilse Salberg: Weimar Photographer, Angelika Hoerle: Comet of Cologne Dadaists, and The Art of Dissent: Willy Fick. She co-created www.readingandremembrance.ca, a website with lesson packages for Ontario educators. Angie lives in Toronto, Canada.