Years ago, my friend Anna and I fantasized about starting a modern day literary salon. We envisioned renting a space in the then still somewhat dingy meat market and decorating it with comfortable chairs, sofas and tables. Lighting would be soft and complimentary and there would be soft drinks, wine and coffee. We didn’t get far enough in our plans to discuss the particulars of membership, but I always kind of thought it would be invitation only to start, and then when word of mouth got around, people would ask to join.
Would there be membership fees? There would have to be in order to maintain the place unless a wealthy benefactor came forward, of course(!).
Three or four days a week, in our dream version, we’d be there and friends (members?) would drop in at their leisure and hang out, discussing books or films or gossiping or whatever. Maybe we’d have live music at times. There could even be….networking. But no cell phones or laptops allowed. The socializing would be old school – face to face and with no technological interruptions.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot again lately. I wonder what it would take to make a salon successful these days. Location? Yes. The ability to tear ourselves away from whatever pressing Netflix show, online Google hangout, Facebook status update or ‘urgent’ daily scheduled activities fill our hours? Absolutely. But also, and this is key, it would have to be run by someone for whom others will make the effort to be social.
Anna was/is that person. I, for reasons I’ve never fully been able to establish, am not. (There is a reason that “Elaine’s” – the famed Upper East Side restaurant that was, in fact, a kind of salon for the NY literati for 48 years – lasted only 6 months after Elaine passed away. She was the hook, the glue, the intangible reason everyone wanted to be there.)
Barring an actual salon, I’d settle for a semi-regular, drop in style hang out of friends & acquaintances. I’d even have it at our place, but I suspect it would fail miserably. In my experience, unless there is an actual occasion like a birthday or holiday, no one shows up. Also, it needs to be planned well in advance and a “drop in if you can” type invitation would automatically mean that no one could.
Is this a widespread problem? I certainly hope so, for purely selfish reasons!
Solution? Truly, I haven’t got a clue. Organizing a get together is often an exercise in frustration and I’ve just about given up on ever doing it again.
Except that in the back of my mind I think, “But what if this time it works? What if that regular, salon-style hangout is just one invitation away?”
Either I’m a glutton for punishment, or hope really does spring eternal.