Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Social Event of the Season

Every community seems to have its "social event of the season:" Baron's Balls, black tie dinners, silent auctions, banquets, garden parties, regattas, casino royales, art galas, opera first nights, opera-under-the-stars--all organized for some philanthropic endeavor. These are events not simply for the social mavens, doyens, debutantes, and more aged afficionados to display their finest attire and jewelry, but for others to be welcomed not merely to the charitable circle of donors, but to the hierarchy of society itself. Simply stated, one obtains social standing.

Today, social events of the season seem not to be a thing of the past, but certainly a vestige of the past. In an age of Facebook and Twitter, video and instantaneous communication, almost any event ascends to the hierarchy of attention given proper dissemination. Wrapped in hyperbole, nearly every event arrives at the pinnacle of importance which, of course, only demands that the next be characterized more effusively.

Somehow, these events seem to have lost their privilege and with it, their meaning. At least in my warped vision of the past and the present. But it need not be that way.

For instance, let's consider the following. Bill Cunningham of the famed fashion pages of The New York Times delivers weekly to a worldwide audience a display of (usually) New York fashion, such that you would think this week's 'Baked Apple' play on the 'Big Apple' was the social event of the summer fashion scene. Perhaps it is.

Please dear reader: I emphatically plead with you not to misinterpret. I love Bill and crave his weekly insights. He rises above the din and places his finger, effortlessly, perspicaciously, on the pulse of life. Or at least of an aspect of life. I would not have it any other way. It's the way he sees beyond and through people and their superficialities and captures a moment's essence that has, seemingly, arisen and presented itself organically, unconsciously, and only constitutes a trend--and this is critical--because Bill has observed and decreed it as such. Therein lies the power of a social event of the season.

But here is where, somehow, most of our social events of the season part company with Bill Cunningham and seem less peculiar and special moments in time for which we prepare weeks if not months than an instance among many on a streaming calendar of life. We are all Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and status updates and tweets: we are moments vying for attention. And somehow we lose our way.

Perhaps indicative of the poverty of my social life, one event does appear on my calendar: the appearance of Blaze Starr Rose Mallow, which today offered her first dazzling spectacle. It is the summer solstice of gardening.

Like any social event of the season, she is larger than life. Well, now, that surely is an exaggeration, but seriously: the flower is enormous. Here, for scale, I photographed it from across the street against the backdrop of No. 410.  And she dazzles. Her fiery fuchsia and morphing lavender-to-magenta-and-plum colored stems, along with those palmate leaves: well now, that is one chic gown she sports!

Like any social event of the season, she lasts for a brief period of time, her moment on this earth infused with a curious mix of frivolity and seriousness that defines it. More properly stated, each flower lasts one day, though she blooms from mid-to late July into well into September.

And, like any social event of the season, she heightens one's sense of anticipation such that when she arrives, one feels relief and satisfaction, and somehow more alive having experienced it.

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