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Monday, January 23, 2006

insert hand here

Originally uploaded by kristalynn.

marionettes scare me. their face paint is usually falling off leaving half an eyebrow or lip, their hair is in tatters, and they generally look like they smell because they have been placed in unmentionable areas.

so imagine my consternation when i was offered a job as set photographer for a marionette movie.

"there's one thing that you might need to think about," said my then boyfriend who had found me the job.


"it's a movie about marionettes, acted out by marionettes."

"oh gross." i said.

i used to love the muppets when i was young. even today, when i hear buffalo springfield's "for what it's worth", i see kermit and some other animals hiding from redneck hunters singing, "We better stop, hey, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down."

i remember asking my mom one night, i think the night luke skywalker was hosting, how the hosts didn't get bored.

“what do you mean?” she asked.

“well, they have no other people to talk to - only muppets. doesn't that get boring?”

i guess the muppets were pretty convincing.

so i accepted the marionette job. i was in graduate school - i needed the money. i also like meeting freaks. so i did it under the guise of "facing my fears".

the first marionette i met scared the shit out of me. he had flaming orange yarn hair and freckles. all of the marionettes were about 2 1/2 feet in height. there were families of them. there were pirates and teenagers, and ones that swam. and they were mobile. and they spoke. i was screaming inside my head.

"aren't they great?!" asked the director.

"do you want me like this, or should i hold my girlfriend's hand?"

the redheaded one was asking me a question.

"...or do you want me to tug on my mom's skirt?"

i looked up to the puppeteers, who were perilously perched 20 feet above me on a bridge.

"can he hold her hand?"

there was no reply.

"if you want me to hold her hand, you're going to have to get some tape from federico."

the puppet was replying to me.

"who?" i spoke directly to the puppet. out of the corner of my eye i saw the director nod.

"federico - that guy." he pointed to a rotund gaffer.

i followed his whittled, brittle finger. "thanks joey." i stood up. my knees trembled. federico taped their hands together and joey and his girlfriend were photographed looking lovingly into each others eyes. each time they blinked, their eyes made a loud, clanking noise.

by the end of the week, i was having a blast with the marionettes. i had my morning coffee with them, told them about what i did last night, removed schmutz from their faces, and fixed their outfits. "thanks krista," their long-eyelashed eyes clanked at me.

i also have never laughed so hard in my life. as soon as each take was over, they started cracking jokes. they were sarcastic little buggers. i think one of them kicked me in the ass. but as soon as the director yelled "action" they were all business. they were also the best models to work with: so much patience, so willing to accommodate.

"how's this krista? are the shadows under my eyes gone?"

i'd managed, once again, to forget that there were men behind those strings.

except at lunch, when the puppeteers descended from the bridge. they definitely were a strange bunch and kept to themselves. i'd never been witness to so much sharp wit in my life. instead of joining the rest of the crew outside and be forced to listen to how fabulous they thought their careers were ("no kidding? six weeks with eric roberts on the jersey shore?"), i stayed inside in the dark with the puppeteers. they had me in stitches. and in tears. and probably peeing in my pants.

for people that worked with strings, nothing seemed to be able to tie them down.

"what are you doing after this?" i asked the head puppeteer.

“i'm taking my motorcycle to montana. i'm going to live in the woods."

his carefree attitude required that i develop a crush on him.

"where's peter these days?" i asked the director several years later. we'd become quite good friends.

"oh, he met a mountainwoman. he's living in the mountains with this mountainwoman."

peter continued to live in the woods - only sometimes resurfacing for a puppeteering gig - until he became ill a few years ago. the director visited him in the hospital. his spirits remained high. his sense of humor was untouched.

peter sadly died a little over a year ago. the world lost one of its best puppeteers that day.

i have peter to thank for reassuring me that it was okay, and not retarded, to believe in magic.


At January 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there were so many interesting pieces here that if i were to comment fully, it would be way too long. then you would accuse me of making paxisisfat all about me.

i was just going to put one line saying "that's sad" because it is. But then i figured i'd get a chastising note saying that "that's sad" implies that i gleaned only the smallest detail and that i had missed the global message about irrational fears and pessimism evolving from years of disappointment, how growing up seems to inevitably result in jadedness and loss of innocence, but if you allow yourself to be just a little bit vulnerable, you can experience it again.

so i ended up not posting a comment at all.

At January 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great!!!....just a great story.

At January 26, 2006, Blogger Kell said...

Did you see "Being John Malkovich?" That movie made me realize how cool puppets could be. Glad you had the chance to get to know the puppetteer. I'm coming to the conclusion that we should just be grateful for the time we get to spend with inspiring people...

I had a professor in college like that. He died of melanoma - and all I kept thinking was how glad I was I got to sit and listen to him - if only for a semester.

At February 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm touched by your story for i too, have the fear of the puppet. but i have hope..


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