Friday, July 29, 2011

My Dinner With Anita

Last night, my editor at Patch asked me to cover an event. It was a Diner En Blanc that someone tried to get going in Montclair, modeled after the possibly-legendary-but-I-had-never-heard-of-it-before Parisian event that has been taking place every year for the past 20. The concept has many trappings of a Flash Mob, which, by all accounts, should have piqued my interest. But there’s no dancing involved (strike one) and you’re required to bring your own food (strike two) and it took place in a mosquito-filled park at dusk (strike three), so I was less than enthusiastic.

However, because I am a good worker bee, I agreed to check things out.

If my kids had heard Dinner en Blanc (and could speak French) they might have thought they’d died and gone to heaven – assuming, as they would, that the Dinner in White referred to the menu rather than the dress code. They would have been disappointed.

The original Diner en Blanc took place in 1988 when a Parisian guy (I’ll call him Francois) returned to Paris from some time abroad and wanted to hang with his friends. There were a lot of people planning to get together for dinner – too many – so they ended up bringing dinner (and tables, and chairs) to the Bois de Boulogne (which is a park, although about a million times bigger than the Montclair park I went to last night) and had their party there. They decided to all wear white so they could find each other easily as the group convened.

The rest is history. Every year since, some group has met at some Parisian monument or locale, dressed in white, tables in tow, and had what I’m sure was a fabulous, butter-drenched, French repast. There’s lots of secrecy around the event. Everyone knows the date but no one knows the place until immediately beforehand. Friends invite friends. Organizers organize. The event has grown to include thousands of people, all elegant and full of √©lan.

Last night’s White Dinner included 25. People, that is. It wasn’t fabulous, but it was sweet.

I would typically never go to something like this. I have a difficult enough time feeding my family from the convenience of my own kitchen – anything that smacks of pot luck puts me over the edge. However, like most things that I eschew, it’s still nice to be invited.

As it turned out, I had once met the organizer at a party and I knew about half the people in attendance. The organizer’s name was Anita and she had sent out 60 emails and those people sent out emails in turn, and I had a lot of questions to ask in order to write my story but the one most pressing question rolled around in the back of my head unspoken: How come I didn’t get an invitation to this?

No one knew who was coming, or who had been invited – it was all electronic word of mouth. In fact, when I showed up, many had assumed I’d received somebody’s email rather than just crashing in as The Press. But I know a lot of people – people from many different groups and niches – and I was a bit surprised that I had not even heard of it before. Even more so when Anita asked if I’d heard about this from Laurie.

Laurie, who lives next door to me.

I told myself it was because I have a reputation for never going anywhere, ever, but aside from the bugs and having to bring food, this is just the kind of whimsical thing I’m drawn to.

I tried very hard to stay focused on the event itself, but as soon as I got there, someone asked to see my bra (because of this) and I got into a long drawn out discussion about Keratin (as usual), which might be why my editor had to completely rewrite the first three paragraphs of the Patch piece.
C’est la vie.

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