Tuesday, June 23, 2009

European Vacation, Day 4

After another recovery period, I headed down to the Miami Beach Club, which was supposed to be the locale for a pre-Bal beach party. Although I didn’t seem to locate the rest of the crew, I had a pleasant afternoon on the Mediterranean. They have oddly-shaped, but eventually comfortable, demi-chaises-longues scattered throughout the fine pebbles, and one can order table service right on the beach. It was fun to watch the tourists, families, and twenty-somethings on holiday. (Although I’m in general happy with my choices in life, I would have taken my twenties a little less seriously had I it to do over again.) The Med beckoned, and while a bit chilly at first, it was eventually very pleasant and rather astounding to turn back towards shore and look up at the precipitous cliffs and pastel-colored villas under the azure sky and realize how lucky I am.

I joined Brent, Adam, and Karim at the Café de Paris (not surprisingly, just across from the hotel) and we enjoyed some well-advised sustenance before the ball. The first group of rotating women that came by were what turned out to be three Bahraini sisters in rather preposterous hats and blood-red lipstick. They had little conversation, so it was a relief when they were replaced by a couple of other Bal-goers who told a hilarious story about having accepted a boat ride to Italy from some billionaire who may or may not work as a bartender and, in the need to escape his clutches, had to leave behind their shoes in the boat and hitch a ride in a pickup from some construction workers. They were thoughtful, interesting gals, and the talk turned—as it often does—to relationships. Brent shared his theory that the whole system of marriage is an out-of-date arrangement that made sense when the life expectancy was 35 but does no longer, and that being cleaved to one person is unnatural. I can see his logic, but I think I am rather more romantic than that and still hope to find someone, not who will complete me, but who will enhance me and make me a better man.

The hour was late, and my hoped-for disco nap was made an impossibility, so I threw on the tux and Gabrielle, Gray, and I planned to head out when we were diverted to the Hermitage for a pre-party overlooking the Mediterranean and I was called on for some sartorial assistance. The Bahraini sisters were there once again in hats that had gone from improbable to weird/dangerous. One had an enormous feather that, if one were at the wrong height, could easily result in a poked-out eye. Completing the getup was some sort of orange Navajo blanket. Karim was wearing a very darinig, custom-made tuxedo jacket of black-and-white paisley with white piping on the lapels; hats off, as I wouldn’t have had the cojones, but he wore it well.

The Bal started with cocktails on the lawn outside the Sport Club, which afforded more interesting people-watching. One chap showed up in, I kid you not, a kilt, with a fake parrot attached to his right shoulder, and wearing a nametag—you know, in case you confused him with the other guy wearing a kilt and a parrot. On the whole, the crowd was probably 25-50 in age, although there was one rather distinguished older gentleman, but his female companion had a black skirt, a Soviet-era blouse, baggy hose, and orthopedic-looking shoes. It was like he had brought Colonel Rosa Klebb as his date. We were finally ushered into the Sport Club, which had been beautifully decorated and had a very high ceiling strewn with stars. Rudolf kindly had me at his table, and I had a very nice seat as well—he’s a marvelous host and brought together a nice bunch of people for the dinner. Somehow, the conversation was oddly disjointed, but those who wanted to participate (mainly in English and German) were able to find some common friends or interests. There was an entertainment portion of the evening that was—luckily, compared to last year, I’m told—quite brief, and then the dancing to a pretty good DJ began. Not as many of our tablemates were as up for dancing, but I made do; Lauralouise was especially good. After the required interlude at Jimmy’z, which was much better than the prior evenings, we ended the night at Adam’s suite at the Hermitage, hot tub and all, overlooking the Mediterranean. By that point in the evening—or rather, morning—I was so tired I can’t remember much of the interactions except that I was prevailed upon to put up or shut up on my claims to be an aspiring opera singer, so I managed as best I could to croak out some Don Giovanni, and the reception was overall positive. I stayed long enough to watch the sun rise over the sea, which was beautiful and fun to say and know I had done, and then I staggered home with promises on all sides to connect soon in New York or France or Japan or Estonia or Austria or wherever else.

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