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  • J.A. Willoughby

The Night We Called It A Day-Creating the Illustration for "Spell of the Seven Stitches...&quot

Fifth in this blog series about illustrations for my book, This Side of Center, is the illustration for “The Spell of the Seven Stitches” written by my wife, Rebecca Lynn Willoughby.

I like progressive rock, jazz and classical music, great food and craft beer. I enjoy fine wine and excellent Scotch, as well. Now, before you label me a gluttonous, alcoholic music snob, I don’t consume them all at the same time, okay? I spread their sensory delights out over time, enjoying what I can, when I can. Moderation, moderation, moderation…

With that said, my wife and I had the opportunity to see Tauk, a “heavy instrumental rock fusion” band (as their website describes them), perform live at the WVIA studios in Pittston, PA. If you support the station as members, as we are, admission to the shows is free. George Graham, the show’s host has been a persona extraordinaire at WVIA multi-tasking as a Public Radio Host, producer, music journalist and audio engineer there for many decades. The performances are broadcast on the NPR-affiliated radio station, as well. I performed at one such event in the late 1980’s as the bass player in Hybrid Ice, a popular rock band then, and now. It was a memorable evening for me as was this one, but in a vastly different way.

We made a call made to the studio and confirmed our intention to attend. Having previous appointments that day, we left on the hour-long drive north with little time to spare and did not have time for dinner. That dinner would have been an extremely late one – when the two hour-plus show ended – so we decided to stop at a restaurant on the way. The stop was multi-purposed: it afforded us a meal and served to visit with a former student of mine, and her family, for the first time in many years.

A safe and uneventful highway journey brought us to the exit where we were to proceed to Cooper’s Seafood House in Pittston. Located many “river towns” north on our shared branch of the Susquehanna River (no, that’s not where they get their seafood), it was a first time visit for us. We were looking forward to visiting with Melanie. However, police cars and fire trucks blocking the exit turned our enthusiasm south, as did our detour. We never did find out what happened but it was enough to send us past the exit and back again, resulting in too much lost time to make up to do everything we wanted to do.

Not to slight or be the least bit insulting to Tauk, Mr. Graham and WVIA, but when we walked into Cooper’s it was like walking into an enchanted forest – literally. Local pride, in the form of historical photos, newspapers, magazines and military uniforms adorned the walls and hallway on the way to our table. A five foot highly detailed model of The Nautilus, from the Jules Verne classic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, hung from the ceiling. Our table was located indoors in a ‘forest’ – life-sized trees strung with white lights, bordered by colorful mushrooms, and figurines from out of a fairy land. My wife, who by her perpetually happy nature is truly an elf, by the way, was mesmerized.

After we were seated I looked at four things: my watch, the menu and the beer list. (The fourth thing is coming, wait for it…) My watch told me there was no way we were going to make the show on time. It was too late because of the unexpected detour. The food on the menu looked excellent, as was the extensive craft beer list. The atmosphere of the place had Becca firmly in its grasp. Done deal. We were staying. After we ordered, I looked to my left to see a large butterfly “flying” up out of the mossy area at the base of a tree. I pulled out my phone and got a couple of shots, very discreetly. I didn’t want to look like some common river town tourist, ya know? That was it – the fourth thing. Thanks for waiting.

That image was imported into Photoshop where I reduced the number of colors, giving it a cartoon appearance. I also added a lens flare to the image, creating a mysterious central focus for the scene. The overall look of the image lent itself very nicely to my wife’s storybook fairy tale narrative. The Spell of the Seven Stitches is a whimsical story about an imaginative young girl who perceives her trip to the supermarket as a wondrous adventure filled with imaginary giants, chariots and a mindful, ever-present Narrator.

We had an excellent meal that evening and sampled several flights of top notch craft brews, some that were of local origin. Okay, so that’s two gluttonous things at once. Melanie was our most excellent server and we stayed until her shift was over, visiting with her and her parents as planned, catching up in ways that social media cannot touch or replace.

And what of our “dessert” that evening? We were able to hear Tauk after all. Because they had an opening act, the headliners started their set at a later time. We heard most of their show on WVIA 89.9 FM – listening to it on the radio all the way home. ~ JW


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