Something's Missing

city suppers

In terms of what you might expect at a dinner party, something was missing.

We had the food, of course: appetizers, main course, dessert. Polite amounts of adult libations. Good music playing in the background. A table big enough to accommodate everyone. But a few things were missing … things that sometimes end up dominating dinner parties.

We were lacking that feeling you get when someone at your dinner party isn’t clicking with the others. And that moment when you decide, “OK, this has been fun, but it’s time for you all to go home.” And that look your spouse gives you that says, “What the heck were we thinking?”

Missing. Absent. Nowhere to be found.

For our inaugural (and, we’re guessing, first of many) City Suppers outing, Jen and I had put together a short list of guests based on a few simple criteria: Neighbors. Smart. Fun. Eclectic. Jen whipped up two pots of soup, we cleaned the house and even raked up the leaves in the front yard. To honor the involvement of Indiana Humanities and its ALL-IN project, I put together an iTunes playlist featuring Indiana musicians (due to user error, the playlist never materialized during the party, but we’ve enjoyed it in the days since).

Our guests arrived. Interesting people, interesting mix, all cultivated from within a few blocks. An artist/photographer. A graphic artist/art director. A youth pastor/Habitat for Humanity employee. A fundraising/development professional. A residential lighting contractor/backyard pizza oven guru/chicken farmer.

Apparently we attract people with slashes.

As our guests, they dove right into conversation. And didn’t stop for a few hours.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that we occasionally fed the conversation with questions and tidbits prompted by the ALL-IN deck of discussions cards: “What’s your Indiana-versary?” “Indiana ranks ___ in the nation for religious diversity.” “Share your favorite inspirational quote.” And it helped that we offered prizes for people who could answer some of the questions correctly. (Hey: Everybody loves door prizes, especially when they include a copy of “Food for Thought: An Indiana Harvest,” an ALL-IN deck, or an autographed copy of “Baby, It’s You.” OK: That last one was kind of a booby prize, but …)

 Still, some of the best conversations were the ones that ran off as tangents, but isn’t that the whole idea? You don’t hold a dinner party for the sake of holding to an agenda; you hold a dinner party to get to know new people or to get to know old friends even better. You hold a dinner party to enjoy people’s company, and to get the same warm feeling in your heart and brain that the hot soup and fresh bread put in your belly. You hold a dinner party to connect people and connect with people.

 Yeah, something was missing Sunday night. But other stuff quickly filled the void.

John Thomas

Just for kicks:

Here’s the list of musicians on the Indiana playlist that never made it to the party. Yes, many worthy musicians have been left off this list, but this was just the stuff I could quickly pull together from my CDs (the ones I could find) and iTunes library. Thanks to the producers of “The Jazz State of Indiana” and the “The Jazz Kitchen 10th Anniversary” CDs for making it easy by compiling a lot of Indiana’s best jazz.

Al Cobine Babyface Bill Lancton Blueprintemusic Brenda Williams Buselli Wallarab Cara Jean Whalers Marcy Carrie Newcomer Carter/Markiewicz Jazz Quartet Cathy Morris Charlie Smith Clifford Ratliff Sextet The Corn Brother Trio Cynthia Layne David Baker David Young Deep 6 Sextet Dog Talk Everett Greene Frank Glover Freddie Hubbard Gary Walters Hoagy Carmichael Indy Guitar Summit J.J. Johnson Jack Gilfoy Jennie DeVoe Jim Farrelly Jimmy Coe Big Band John Hiatt John Mellencamp Josh Kaufman Kel (aka, Kelly Taylor) Marvin Chandler Mary Moss Michael Stricklin Paula Owen Pookie Johnson Rob Dixon Royce Campbell Seven Pleasures Steve Allee Steve Robinette Tommy Mullinix Wes Montgomery