Monday, September 9, 2013

The Art Deco Society of Virginia's Gatsby Afternoon Picnic

I held my tongue from yelling out, "Yes, we have no bananas!" at the ukulele player on stage, a cowardice that would follow me for the later part of the afternoon but would be greatly redeemed in the early evening by a ragtime piano player from Charlotte.  By that time the Art Deco Society's 2nd Annual Gatsby Picnic was winding down and most all of the Costumed attendees had packed up their baskets and left, the exception being my wife and I, a writer for a local magazine, and a few couples enjoying a last minute game of Croquet at the front of the house.  This left the dance floor wide open for us and the writer.  There I was keeping rhythm by clanking two empty champagne bottles together in my right hand while sipping a plastic flute of Moscato with my left and watching my wife tap dance on stage while singing along to "We're in The Money" in Pig Latin, just like Ginger would have done.  If it hadn't been a humid 90 plus degrees outside and the alcohol hadn't sweated straight through to my linens then we may have had a honest to God Scott and Zelda send off, but luckily we kept it together through the last few numbers.  We sang our songs and danced our dances, I even got to unbutton a few buttons, hold up my plastic and shout out that Yes indeed, we have no bananas.  The perfect ending to a 1920s morning.

We arrived at the Wilton House and Museum at One O'Clock, two hours into the picnic.  We had been delayed because, not having time to shop, I had to piece together a costume by going through my own collection.  It was then that I realized that all of my 20's era clothing are formal wear and none of it casual or summer appropriate, "We need to update our vintage duds, baby." Is how my wife put it, and I agreed but we had no time, so I put together a shirt and old linen pants, and what I lacked in specifics and accouterments I made up for with a tiny Tom Buchanan mustache.  As usual my skill with facial hair maintenance saved the day though proved unnecessary because upon arriving to the event the very first vendor was a straight razor barber.  He set up two chairs at the end of a walkway just beyond a slight field just big enough for two groups to play Croquet.  Beyond that was the Wilton House, a monument to 1750s Georgian style architecture, sitting on a wide hill overlooking a bluff.  As we rounded the house the hill was revealed and much to my surprise there sat dozens of happy pinic-ers all in full dress.

Looking down from the steps of the house parasols and blankets dotted the green grass like a perfect Sunday in the park with George.  Men wearing ties and women in fine dresses played and laid and drank and dined, and all in hats of course, in fact more than one conversation turned to the pleasantries of a good hat and how we should all wear them all the time, a welcome conversation to thin haired men like myself.

After a tour of the museum, a game of Croquet, and a visit to the photo booth, we relaxed on the grass for a few drinks and a pasta salad I put together that morning.  Sitting on that blanket was a most wonderful afternoon listening to songs that I love and hearing the sounds that I adore, birds chirping and champagne corks popping, it was a day of pure decadence in the perfect Deco surrounding. The performances were charming and scholarly my favorite being a ukulele singer I was increasingly jealous of with each ragtime arrangement he strummed through and sang, I wanted to ask him for lessons but I didn't get the chance, perhaps I missed my calling as a "Broadway Troubadour," something to remember for the next time around.  Sitting there happily with my wife smiling ear to ear I couldn't help but think that just maybe when we get another shot at this life, perhaps it doesn't have to be in the uncertain future, but maybe life does find it's way back around again and I could be born into the life I was meant for all along, I don't know where exactly I wold be, but I know it would look an awfully lot like this.

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