I dropped myself smack into the Roaring Twenties one evening last month, into a crowd dotted with pencil-thin young ladies showing off exquisitely coiffed hair, costumed in flapper dresses, strands of pearls wrapped all around; all of which would have jolted my Ganny Lowder instantly back to her youth.
Having arrived early, I passed the time in the Dallas Museum of Art's Atrium Cafe, where I tolerated a terrible chardonnay while devouring some great food from the cafe's American 20's Inspired Menu.
How I love a pre-show hour; unhurried yet bursting with heightened anticipation!
The vast, white staircase beside the atrium, is in itself art to me, strategically a sharp contrast to the vibrant, colorful glass vine adorning the large window opposite. That sculpture was created by Chihuly, the Venetian artist whose show comes to our city's arboretum in a few days.
I've tried at home to adhere to the premise that rooms should leave one wall or at least one space, bare. "The eyes need a place to rest," I've always heard, and in this mass of people, I uncannily found myself often looking upward.
I wasn't here for the Youth and Beauty art exhibit, and I wasn't here for the performance of Twenties Era Music which was about to start, the musicians readying on the small central floor as I was preparing to leave the tiny bar table I'd so patiently waited to snag.
I saw George just then, George of the McKenzie Quartet I follow around town. We spoke briefly later in the night when he passed me as I stood in the long book-signing line, just as I'd done the night Pat Conroy came to town.
That evening was not my first time to see Mr. Conroy but it was the first time I thought to bring him a yellow rose, welcoming him to Dallas. A few pleasantries were exchanged in a matter of seconds as he signed my book.
I'd wanted to talk about Beach Music and Rome, the low country and gardenias but it was late, the end of the line, and I found myself embarrassingly at a loss for words. I thanked him sincerely and read the inscription as I walked away: "For the love of Texas".
I cringed, my heart racing, fighting the two feet wanting to run back to the table so I could explain. "No, no, you've misunderstood; I was born in Charleston! You see, I'm not from here! I don't know why I'm here! I miss the south!"
I wanted to cry.
I did have a few tears that festive Friday night as Paula McLain stood at the narrow podium and reintroduced The Paris Wife to us, her rapturous audience, reading a few first pages of the prologue with the voice she'd imagined and given to Hadley, giving it then to each of us.
That is why I had come.
With nothing less than a lump in my throat, I've since reread those paragraphs several times. The first, just because. The second time to Spoke, late one night. Tears came before I got to the third sentence even, but he made me continue, knowing instinctively that there was much there, much in the lines and between the lines that I wished to share, that was important for me to share with him.
I'm waiting now for Ann Patchett to return to Dallas, maybe this time to the art museum where she'll stand at the same rostrum as did Conroy and McLain and where I'll hang on also to her every word. I'll happily bide time in the book-signing line, however long and on any given evening.
Several years ago she signed my favorite of hers, the beautiful Bel Canto: "Nashville sends its love. Come visit." I think sometimes not of visiting but of moving back to Nashville. I've considered ways to convince Spoke of the city's merits. I've imagined us in other places too.
"What would I do there?" I ultimately ask myself each time the thought of moving entices me. It's very clear I'm still trying to find my way in Dallas, but I'm beginning to realize, to admit; I'm having so much fun doing it.