Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Bite me! Oh wait, you can't.

Hmmm. For a while now, I've been thinking about writing an entry about this phenomenon I've been calling "the people in black."

There is an elaborate form of traditional Japanese theatre called bunraku. Bunraku is a form of puppetry where as many as four people clad all in black work together to operate one puppet. It requires intense teamwork, as one person may only be responsible for moving, say, the puppet's mouth.

The puppets move in such lifelike, subtle ways that supposedly the audience doesn't even remember that the people in black are visible on stage (as opposed to hidden under a platform, behind scenery, or similar, like Muppets.) Again, unlike Muppets, the puppets never interact with humans like Harry Belafonte, Rosie O'Donnell or Luke Skywalker, so the audience is able to further suspend their disbelief and ignore the puppeteers. They just stop seeing them.

This place works the same way. Keeping up the glossy veneer of effortless perfection is essential here, so armies of people are needed to clean the toilets, bleach the teeth, mow the lawns, wax the body hair, scrub/paint the feet, fix the luxury vehicles, remove the garbage, and raise the puppet-children. Those of us who do those jobs, and most of the time I count myself in this group, are the people in black. The rich people just don't see us.

True story: It was dark and stormy night at a country club. A man pulled a Lexus SUV up to the main entrance, left it running and ran inside. A valet jumped up and called after him, "Sir! Excuse me, sir! Are you-" and before he could say, "just running inside for a minute?" The man called back, without turning around to look, "Oh, the valet will take care of it!" not realizing that he was *talking to the valet.*

Some of the people in black wish the puppets would die in their sleep.

Anyway, last weekend, two of the "people in black" got married. He works for the department of public works (DPW) driving a snowplow in the winter, and, I think, a garbage truck the rest of the year. She works in a drugstore. I first met them (and their kids from previous marriages) ten months ago. I was doing a story about the DPW workers (and volunteers) who build parade floats in one of the towns.

I kept seeing them at Girl Scout events, cheerleading practices, the PTA fair. They asked me to be their wedding photographer. They are so nice, and I know they're saving up to send their teenager to a good college in a few years. I knocked as much as I could (75%) off the price.

The wedding was simple and lovely. They were so happy, except when a fire alarm that went off in the church as soon as the bride got down the aisle. They had cupcakes on a three-tier cake stand instead of a wedding cake. The reception was in the social hall.

Still, the bride was worried about what her mother would say "about all the extravagance." The bride's mother reminded me of my own grandmother (who almost boycotted my parents' wedding in 1973 because the reception wasn't held in a fire hall.) And yes, her father accidentally left his teeth in New England, which makes shooting portraits where everyone smiles kind of interesting.

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