We hardly ever go to formal dinners. Perhaps I should say anymore, since there was a time when it did happen, occasionally, that I would end up at a long table with all sorts of artistic types talking, eating drinking and making merry... until the bill came and everyone disappeared... one of the reasons the enthusiasm for dinners has been somewhat subdued in recent years.
But this was a one-off special occasion... a gaggle of friends celebrating one of our own after years of estrangement, loss of contact, divergent interests and all that. A mix of people who knew/had known each other at some point, sometimes came across each other, with variant backgrounds of working together or alongside each other or in some way connected to the person being celebrated without his knowing officially, initially, but who showed up then, by circumstance fashionably late... so to speak.
The frame was opulent – a restaurant some of us had visited in the past, once perhaps, to give it a try but in fact way out of our budgetary range... which made this gathering a rather unique situation. It is perhaps a cliché to say, but the framework does in fact influence one’s state of mind (as well as dress) on this sort of occasion... Elevated sense of decorum perhaps, paying a bit more attention to one’s manners than otherwise? Who is to say, but for each one of us a bit of a treat... a celebration for us all, survivors in a way of times past, with ups and downs to recount, and diverging insights concerning the world around us. But common ground in general, the kind of shared attitude that makes adherence and coherence possible over long stretches of time and reconnect when the moment arises.
Conversations ranging from current affairs, activities and situations to small jaunts down memory lane, refurbishment of information on this or that person or thing-a-majigg end so forth... perhaps not the most profound exchanges, but useful updates and additions to general knowledge as well as specific dope on such-and-so... without descending into the unsavoury effluence of gossip. Capable, pattering conversation like small streams sometimes diverging around a rock or eddy of disinterest or just plain misunderstanding – or hearing problems at that, though it must be said the whole affarir was not noisy in any way... something one might have considered becoming given the guests and their reputations in bygone times... for in fact the group was quite a swathe through the more progressive tendencies of culture in the recent past, spearheading changes and new attitudes over a couple of decades at least...
While some had become established names in certain quarters of the cultural scene, others preferred to remain less obvious and in some cases downright secretive, without however relinquishing their convictions to some circumstance or other. The people around the table were not quitters and remained active in their own specific ways and sections of artistic practice. What could be said is perhaps that some might fare well with more public exposure, since one can’t help noticing that in the field many lesser figures were attracting more attention than their fair share. But then again, as said, some abhor attention, public or otherwise, and prefer to delve deep in a sort of virtual anonymity that does, however, surface when one knows where to scratch.
The meal was sumptuous, and the wines exquisite, contentment reigned and conversations flowed languid between all protagonists that milled and mixed somewhat in the interludes, making for a comfortable evening akin to such occasions as one might find friends who had only recently seen each other gathering... without the intensity and high-jinx of a younger set. We had had enough of that and no longer needed to play-act pretending our positions of underline them with affectation and exaggeration (x-ageration) so to speak. That in itself was refreshing and added to the feeling of being at ease, just enough to not become too mellow and on towards the morose. In fact the ending was very civilized, compared with the memories that had been rekindled during the evening – another difference that is not at all bemoan-able, since we all have had our share in out & out blasts and bust-ups in our time... in fact once even a prerequisite for a fine evening out... no this was quite stayed and amicable by comparison, one might even say statesman-like.
(though quite a different situation, I couldn’t help thinking of the feel &’ teneur’ of “my dinner with André”(Louis Malle 1981)
or the Banquet years (R. Shatuck) ...
...and yes, of course, but then in feudal times, among the aristocrats: fifty-fifty!)
or the Banquet years (R. Shatuck) and yes, of course, but then in feudal times, among the aristocrats: fifty-fifty!)