Last Sunday Blake rushed home from the Sales conference meeting in Branson so we could make it to the first Brownville Concert Series event of the year: a duo performing the songs of Cole Porter. The gent appeared in a dapper wide striped grey suit; madame's first costume was a ravishing gown of illusion netting and glass beads over ruffled white petticoats. She had the ravishing patrician looks of an old time movie star, made even more attractive by the fact I suspected she was "of a certain age." She wore rings with giant cut stones and a diamond bracelet of 1920s vintage design; I feel I've seen bracelets like this one at antique stores displayed on black velvet. It was worn tight upon her wrist with long glittery fringe of rhinestones or crystals of some kind.
At any rate, they were elegant and their costumes brought to mind our very first wild hare of a trip to Washington on a whim: our first American Enterprise banquet and ball. Blake had written something for the magazine and thus we got the engraved invite in the mail. Perhaps this wasn't the first invitation, but this time we recognized the honoree of the banquet, George Will. We looked at the calendar, bought a cheap flight to Baltimore, and made our plans to got where we really didn't belong. Blake went with me to purchase a ball gown. That's what brought all this to mind, because the dress (from Dillards) was black with lots and lots of glass beads. It was HEAVY! It was lovely even though I could not help but feel that the dress resented the fact that a person with no mascara, no nail polish and a ten dollar hairdo was in it. I knew the event was a big deal because my husband even went shopping with me.
He wasn't as fortunate. The dinner was black tie, so I went to Howard's in Shenadoah to pick out and order a tux. This wasn't as expensive as I expected, but still seemed like plenty of money for a couple of hours of apparel. However, it was part of our adventure and I sprinted up one afternoon, picked up the bag with shirt, studs, tux and shoes and threw them in the suitbag.
Our flight switched planes in Cleveland. From the air, it was a beautiful approach over the city. Our long cab ride first delivered us to the wrong Hilton in Washington (we needed the Washington Hilton north of DuPont Circle, but we had no idea how many Hiltons there were in D.C.) We checked in, eyeballing the guest list and searching for our numbers on the many tabled seating chart. The invitees were a Who's Who of the conservative, think tank types we so admired. The folks at the tables in the outer orbits, (like farmers from Missouri) were more obscure type hangers on....staffers, perhaps, or other writer wannabes. No matter, we were pretty convinced we would be the only farmers there.
I can't remember what we ate; I'm sure it was tasty, nicely presented, but still high class banquet food. I do recall that the speech was all we had hoped and the company at our table varied from social climber disinterest (looking for a better table!) to pleasant conversationalists, interested enough to query young farmers from Missouri.
Perhaps the best part of the evening was the dance orchestra. Eric Felten was a name known to us from his articles in the Wall Street Journal. And while I have played in swing bands and even listened to swing bands, the musicians have always been either very young or pretty seasoned. Here, however, was a swanky, classy, live and lively band blowing the drapes off the walls. There weren't as many dancers as one would have wished for; signs of the times, I guess. And I admit, we didn't dance as much as we should have in order show true appreciation for their efforts and the rarity of the occasion in our experience. But it didn't have anything to do with our innate lack of practice or ability...
No, I have to tell you the main reason we didn't dance and spent most of our evening seated was a problem beyond solving on short notice. In my haste, I had naively included Blake's rented tux in its original bag, assuming that to be the best way to keep track of all the rented parts. And so it was that we never knew, until he donned his fine duds, that the black tie suit we had rented had......tails. Oh woe! Instead of mingling in our best black outfits, my poor husband looked like, as he put it, the maitre' de.
To his credit, we enjoyed ourselves anyway, spending just a tad more time as wall flowers than we might have without tails, considering we had nothing to lose and no one to impress. We were the extras in the movie, the props, the scenery.
And I'd do it again. But I'd check the costumes first!