The Drapes Come Open, Revealing the Grand Ballroom

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December 2000, 357 Edgecombe Ave., New York, NY

There was a little man walking around the wedding wearing a huge tape recorder on his back. It was 1971 so the machine was not compact; he looked more like the plastic army man carrying the radio set, but substitute brown lace-ups and Dacron suit for combat boots and flak helmet. The straps from the tape-recorder backpack make the brown jacket bunch up at the shoulders. The cuffs of his cream-colored dress shirt protrude two inches, three inches, four.

Although a stranger, the man was hired to be the wedding’s roving reporter, to interview all the principals, to document with his microphone every step of the reception from cocktails to cake. The recordings would be pressed to vinyl and the LPs presented as a six-record box set to the newlyweds. On their shelf, next to the soft-rock jams they would acquire over the rest of the decade, his work would look like an opera. The interviews went better and better as the night progressed. Proud parents and old grannies and next-door neighbors and one little kid he suspected may have been a little off. The happy, breathless bride and groom at the very end, in the interest of dramatic timing. But it was in the opportunities to describe the scene, standing there alone and talking to himself, that he knew he really excelled:

And now something’s happening. The whole wall of red drapes across from the reception area has just started to come open from the bottom. An ever-increasing arc, rising, getting higher and wider, the opening revealing the wide expanses of a dining room: Didn’t even know it was there. A huge dining room, filled with tables with tiny, flickering candles among the flowers. Looking across, it looks almost like a castle ballroom. Way at the far end, we see Donna and Tom, embracing…


At least this is how I pictured it. This is from my friend Seth’s parents’ wedding forty years ago; for their thirtieth anniversary, Seth asked if I would burn the old records to a CD for him. The technology was still new. It was 2000 so the machine was not compact. I listened to the entire thing as the snow swirled outside my Harlem sublet. I had just moved back to the city after a year in the margins of Westchester and New Jersey. In the former, ill-conceived attempts at cohabitation and a bracing lesson in what love was and wasn’t. In the latter, a self-imposed exile to my parents’ nest where eventually I healed well enough.

By the end of the recording I knew all the guests as well as anybody. I felt like family. Family surrounds us always. Didn’t even know it was there.

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lyrics

And now something’s happening. The whole wall of red drapes across from the reception area has just started to come open from the bottom. An ever-increasing arc, rising, getting higher and wider, the opening revealing the wide expanses of a dining room: Didn’t even know it was there. A huge dining room, filled with tables with tiny, flickering candles among the flowers. Looking across, it looks almost like a castle ballroom. Way at the far end, we see Donna and Tom, embracing…

credits

from Thunderegg History Unit, Volume 1 (2012), released March 6, 2012
Originally on The Envelope Pushes Back (2000).

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