Our Man in the Quantum
One day in fall 2005 my wife Teresa Banik Capuzzo and I were quietly working in our house that looked across a creek to the village surrounded by mountains, wondering how we could publish a magazine in a town of 3,000 people when newspapers like The Philadelphia Inquirer, in whose newsroom we met, were slowly dying. We were wondering in particular how to design and lay out a full-color magazine when we’d spent our careers as writers. We heard a bang on the stairs and a tall, white-haired man with the bright joyful eyes of a slightly mad artist bounded into the room. This stranger pulsed with crazy, limitless energy for his sixty-eight years, a man jangling to a private jazz beat, Coltrane, it turned out. Within minutes, some new force raced between the three of us as he showed us his theater posters and his oil paintings that hung in museums from Philly to Kansas City. He said we had entered “the quantum” together, which he explained powered the universe but could be seen rippling the waters of Stony Fork Creek. His name was Amos (Tucker) Worthington III, the town was Wellsboro, and this was the day our home in the mountains became the headquarters of Mountain Home, a magazine, “Free as the Wind.”
Teresa and I started publishing Mountain Home monthly right then, with Tucker as our art director. He designed all the stories and many ads for years and every Mountain Home cover but one (in 2015 when he had hip surgery) from our first issue in December 2005 until November 2019, before that crazy, limitless energy returned to the universe, as he would have put it. Tucker Worthington died on January 8 at age 82. We three did 167 magazine covers together. This is a love story.
It was a tough sort of love. Tucker liked to shout. I did, too, one of many things he taught me. Tucker believed that conflict was the mother’s milk of creativity. Our graphic artist refused to simply design covers to reflect our stories like graphic artists subserviently do the world over. He wanted better headlines to match his art! He wanted cleverer words! Stories with oomph! Sharper ideas! Our artist was a wordsmith, too, and he taught we writers to be artists, too, so we could push him to be better. He showed us the elegant beauties of Claude Garamond’s sixteenth century typeface from Paris, especially when paired with something light and modern from twentieth century Minnesota, and that red was the color that convinced the mind it was real. He changed our life. He shouted about politics. As our staff grew, nobody in our “newsroom,” a small parlor with one oak table really, agreed about anything. But that was the surrounding gloom that allowed us to see the bright fire we were tending together.
In a divided world, Tucker saw it as the journalism of what we all have in common. He said if we threw our passion into the universe, the universe would deliver. “If we can do justice to the high culture in our region, the plays and museums, and also to the fishermen and the hunters,” he said, “we’ll be in the quantum.” Tucker insisted we changed his life, too, gave him a new perspective and some peace by showing him what a story really was. He liked our “business model,” Faulkner’s 1950 Nobel Prize speech hanging above the oak table. Faulkner said the writer “must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed—love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands. Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man.”
After midnight, with just the three of us on deadline in the old house, Tucker shouted at the computer. He didn’t understand the new design apps, and refused to read the manuals. He expected to navigate by intuition, by the light of his heart. We read the manuals for him. It was two in the morning, he was in his seventies, and we worried about his heart. That night and every night he designed beautiful things. The beauty he created was the face of the magazine: it touched people and drew them in.
Mary Myers, in her nineties, walked down Main Street with the loveliest typewritten reminiscences of sailing Keuka Lake with her late husband. Dave Casella, long disabled, wrote a brilliant hunting column from old memories and lost love, the source of the bullet in his pocket he swore might end his misery someday. Like Roy Kain, “The Mountain Man” who led his “green party” in authentic Daniel Boone regalia into the wilderness, Dave won awards as one of the finest writers in the state. Chili and beer and guitars filled the “newsroom” late at night; a Presbyterian pastor hung out saying the room had better spirit than the church. Tucker painted the noble craggy faces of the Webbers, Bob and Dottie, who lived nineteenth century-style in a log cabin over Pine Creek powered by nothing but love of life—“we live to live.” The magazine grew exponentially. Tucker’s cover designs piled up awards and recognition nationally and internationally.
One of our readers hurried onto our porch this summer looking for a dozen back issues, months in 2006 and 2007 when she’d been ill. She had saved every issue, every cover, for fourteen years; when I asked her why she looked at me like I’d gone bat-crazy. “Because I have to give them to my grandchildren!” That wouldn’t have happened, Mountain Home wouldn’t have happened, without Tucker.
Our artist believed in God, but he saw the living presence in the waters of Stony Fork. “The moment I stepped into that creek, it was like stepping into church,” he said. “It was really profound. I could see how everything is connected. Everything influences everything else. I could just sail into the interior of the thing.” Tucker called it the Quantum. Einstein, who helped discover quantum mechanics, was repulsed by it. He couldn’t understand why or how, no scientist can say why or how to this day, that when a physicist measured a particle that particle instantly changed and somehow communicated the matching change to another particle no matter how far apart in the universe they were. Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.” Tucker was comfortable with spooky things. He figured it had something to do with how love works.
In October, he couldn’t sit in front of his computer. Son Kylan, a talented artist in from Japan, helped finish the cover with him, a scene of Lakewood Vineyards set in the golden landscape of the Finger Lakes in autumn. Mountain Home was a family affair. Son Andy, a talented artist, helped his dad design the magazine during the early years. Grandchildren Charlotte, Noah, and cousin Jordyn dressed as Victorian newsboys and girls and handed out the magazine at the Dickens of a Christmas festival. Daughter-in-law Jennifer sold ads. In November, Tucker fought through pain to design his last cover by himself, the Vietnam heroism of Lt. John Hummel. He was pleased to help tell that story, an inspiring story, a mighty story that people needed to know, what a man John Hummel is, he said. We visited Tucker before Christmas. Sitting up in bed, his eyes flickered with limitless energy and joy.
“It’s important that Mountain Home continue,” Amos (Tucker) Worthington III said.