There was a lot of excitement. There were people who had put a great deal of effort into their outfits. I saw a woman wearing a floor length gown that she had to hold up to shuffle her way in the grass. A few people sat on benches parked in front of the dance floor. Most people circulated around the park looking at others, checking out the merchandise stands (vintage trinckets, mostly), getting another drink, flirting with the waiters, flirting with a friend of a friend, saying hello loudly and cheerfully as if they were long lost childhood friends now reunited in this serendipitous feast of nostalgia.
What is it that attracts us to this time?
One blonde girl with a violent shade of red lipstick fingered her cigarette and spoke with the exaggerated yawns of forgotten movie stars from a time when clever women were called “dames” and drinking whisky at lunch was not so socially disgraced.
I don’t know anything about 1920s music so I did what any normal person should do under the circumstances: I let my enthusiasm carry me where expertise failed. I danced “The Charleston” with the avidity of people who are on the verge of collapse from too much drink. I was, for the record, totally sober (at that point) but it was worth seeing the instructor’s face. He was trying to be serious but he was wearing a beige suit that made him look like a pimp from Guys and Dolls.
I can follow a rhythm and mimic a step but I listened to all the tunes without prejudice. The band played for hours but it all sounded the same to my nescient ears. Eventually I did have a white sangria – or two, at least two – from the lovely people of Saint Germain. Then, the music seemed even more remote. The chords broke apart and scattered in the crisp air. I made plans with myself to come back to this island some other time and walk all over. It’s a free ferry ride from New York so if I’m ever in the borough…And I thought of Nick Carraway and Gatsby. “The Great Gatsby.”
Is it the liberality of personal morals set against the rigid social order of the time. The booze? The dresses? The patent leather shoes? A hangover to forget the war? There’s certainly plenty we might wish to forget today… I love that book. He bends the words to his liking and makes paragraphs as if he were making bouquets – there were these disparate shrubs and buds then he put them together and suddenly you must have it for your table. But it’s not all pinks and reds. Just when you’re afraid he’s gone sappy, you brush against a roughness.
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened — then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
The scene before us mirrored the book so well. I saw many Daisies. And a Jordan Baker. And a Nick Carraway would couldn’t bear his lady friend and lost her as soon they arrived on the island. People were boozing, dancing, necking, smoking, laughing. But sometimes, I saw her with bobbed hair and glittering eyes. Some peopled looked terribly lonely amongst their well-dressed friends – they looked perfect with big bright smiles painted on their faces.
There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden; old men pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless circles, superior couples holding each other tortously, fashionably, and keeping in the corners — and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps. – The Great Gatsby