We had gathered in an East Dallas home to have a party before a party when someone asked, "What is House of Plates?"
The question grows more common with each soirée thrown by the Dallas group of um, bloggers? Event planners? Mysterious tweeters? Master Instragrammers? They are all those things, yet it doesn't seem like the answer to the question.
"Dallas' party planning committee?"
Given House of Plate's penchant for mystery, something vague works best as a response.
The House of Plates blog presence has a dash of playlists and a sprinkle of quippy interactions with some of the city's most interesting chefs, bartenders and baristas, recipes for nights spent in or out in Dallas. On the surface what it seems House of Plates has is good taste. What House of Plates "is" may be a boring question anyway. Invitations to last Friday's "midsummer night's swim" promised a private pool party, downbeats from Jaffrene and bites from Neighborhood Services. If it was to be like the House of Plates parties already behind us, it would be cool. But this time it seemed it would also be a touch curated. There would also be a paleta cart.
From the party before the party, we walked the streets of East Dallas in a kind summer breeze. A friendly gentleman in our midst who wore a crown made for a marching band leader led the charge to the House of Plates manor, known to friends of the resident and East Side kids as the "Monster Den." That fine hat had been swiped from another celebrated Dallas institution, Warren Nash's Memorial Day gathering. So it was a fitting torch to light the path in front of us, like some hedonistic good luck charm.
The pool glowed. It looked like a movie. The twinkling lights arched over the glowing turquoise of the water, amongst the occasional lightning bugs flying out of the trees. I knew it wouldn't last forever, but for just a few hours, it looked and felt like every fantasy we'd collectively had of a proper summer night.
In fact, maybe I should work backward to put the pieces together. The bring-your-own nature of the evening meant guests were very friendly with the Champagne top-offs, the Jell-O shot-filled coolers and 24-packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon lining the pool's rim. Hospitality kept the evening afloat till well past the published midnight end with everyone's final dives ending somewhere much closer to 5 a.m.
The next day I stopped by to see the aftermath and noticed a zebra mask and a bottle of cologne in the lawn. My mind immediately jumped to two men in masks wading through the shallow end of the pool. The vision seemed ridiculous, but made sense in the midst of the music and good lighting and when the sun was down. It belonged to the artist Arturo Torres but it ended up on the face of many before the night was over. A picture of guests with sparklers reminded me that fireworks made recurrent appearances throughout the night. Folks clearly kept a few tucked back from the holiday weekend for the dark of a night swim and an audience of inebriated mermaids and men.
A stranger's Vine reminded me of a song I really liked but couldn't remember the name of.
A search for a connecting hashtag or location didn't reveal much but among the found media I was reminded of back flips into the water, of dives into the 12 feet of blue or the traveling floats of relaxing guests who would inevitably be on the annoying end of a cannonball. At its best, a pool party turns even the most civilized guest into a pranking teenager, eager to dunk and splash.
At about 2:30 in the morning I couldn't tell if the same people were still at the party or if a new crop of guests had arrived after last call, but I overheard that Greenville Avenue Pizza was on the way. The music was still playing at the same volume, though a new DJ was at the helm. This, I reason, is why I had no sense of time. There was no one to flash the lights. No one was ready to be quiet. No one would make us.
I have seen enough movies to know what the great American summer is supposed to be like. Hot. And carefree. Red Solo cups filled with cold something. You should be laughing and your hair should be perpetually drying. You should find at least three pairs of underwear around the pool when you come outside to clean the next day. There should be mysterious bruises and meandering walks back home as the sun comes up. Even the House of Plates parties are mysterious. It was smart to make us all collide in the water. Only a few were brave enough to bring their sacred telephones. No one knew what time it was. No one took enough pictures. Text messages asking for the address went unanswered. There were no bread crumbs.
Well, except the gentlemen who left their underwear. And the stolen hat that I watched jump from friendly head to stranger head and landing on one of the host's head, at least in a photo. It's there somewhere.
I don't know where that hat is now. I still don't know what song was playing in that video. I don't know how to answer your questions about House of Plates. "What is House of Plates?"
They are the folks who have you four hours of the great American summer. Now quit asking so many questions and just RSVP.