Mad Men, 1980; predictions on where the characters will be in 10 years

I love Mad Men. When my life feels out of control and sad beyond belief, watching the folks from SCDP is a reminder that as bad as things are, at least I’m not married to Pete Campbell. The show has 2 more seasons left and all signs point to Matthew Weiner ending the show as the 1970s begin. We’ll have watched these characters age for a decade; it will be hard to say goodbye. We’ll miss them, each and every one. Assuming the show does end in 1970, these people are just too damn much fun to leave there. Here are my predictions for where the major characters will be in 1980.

Don Draper will be 50 in 1980. Time will not have been good to him; the heavy smoking and drinking are going to catch up (we’re starting to see that already in season 6). He’ll be paunchy and have that bloated look that long time alcoholics get. Sterling Cooper Draper Price will continue to do well, so Don’s income will be high enough to ensure that each new wife is another attractive and adoring trophy he can show off. By 1980 his cheating will have lessened; not because he’ll have changed, but because of his changing abilities. Don will have developed a problem that requires a little blue pill that, in 1980, has yet to be invented.

Pete Campbell, the Don-Wannabe, the existential loser of the show, will continue being the pathetic guy you’d feel sorry for, if but for the fact that he’s such an jerk. Pete aspires to be just like Don even as he despises the actual Don. While Pete shares Don’s lack of moral character, he got there from a sense of entitlement; where Don is the personification of nihilism, Pete is nothing more than a big baby who throws a tantrum when he sees someone with a toy he doesn’t have. By 1980 Trudy, the best thing that will ever happen to Pete, is long gone. He’s become that paunchy middle aged guy who thinks he’s hip and sexy but is neither.

Peggy Olson is still a rarity, but no longer unique. She’s become a role model for women trying to break into advertising. She’s tough and smart and damn good at what she does. Peggy has truly been Don’s protégé, and in her favor is that she lacks his weaknesses. She’s fine in her personal life, whether with Abe or someone else, but work is always the biggest part of her life, and any man she’s with has to understand that and respect it. Her family still doesn’t understand.

Harry Crane lives in LA and is a network executive. His combination of obsequiousness and backstabbing will ensure his success.

Roger Sterling is a Buddhist monk. His search for meaning started with LSD and led to religion. Buddhism suits his mind set, and by the early 1970s his interest in pursuing the pleasures of life have become sated. Roger and Don were brothers in debauchery, but there was always a difference. Don wants to forget who he is, while Roger was always searching for who he could be.

Joan Harris is in her early 40s in 1970. She still looks great. By 1980 she’s managed to work herself into being fully and completely in charge of what we’d now call office infrastructure, and she does the same outstanding job she’s done on everything. She’s still single, as Joan’s problem has always been that she’ll only go with men who she knows aren’t good enough for her.

Megan is long gone from Don, and that’s a good thing. Her combination of smarts and talent has taken her far. Her career is thriving and she’s found a man worth her love.

Sally Draper grows up and becomes the 1980 version of what her mother was in 1950. With stone-cold Betty and a barely present Don as parents, the girl never had a chance.

Ken Cosgrove, one of the few normal and decent people, continues to work in advertising during the day and writing science fiction at night. He’s become a well known and respected writer under his pseudonym.

Michael Ginsberg heads the creative area. He’s in line to become the first non-WASP partner.

That’s my roundup of Mad Men in 1980. Here’s hoping that the characters are brought back for occasional specials; I’d love a chance to see if I’m right.


Daily Prompt: Collect a person, a place, and a thing: Breaking the coffee shop vibe

She sat in the coffee house, laptop open, cell phone at her ear. The place was full of singles and couples, all with laptops opened, and the quiet tapping sound of fingers on keyboards made up the rhythm of the coffee shop’s soundtrack.

It was a neighborhood place, locally owned. Mismatched furniture; old wooden kitchen tables and chairs, worn leather couches, wide-armed chairs, wobbly end tables; an assemblage that looked comfortable and welcoming. The walls were busy with a display of pictures hung up for sale and shelves filled with games, toys, books, and magazines for use by patrons.

This was the kind of place that would be filled with families on Sunday afternoon, kids hunched over a board game or iPad, whipped cream topped hot chocolate next to them, while their parents enjoyed a latte and read. Evenings found the same spaces filled with college students working on assignments and flirting.

As laid back as this place was, as much as it exuded a mellow 2nd generation hippie vibe, there was a well understand code of behavior expected from patrons. You came here to have conversations with people; people in the same room. You used this place as a kind of off-site living room, where you could go and just read a book or check your email. It was acceptable to interact with people; a quick nod, a hello, even a conversation. It was also a place for solitude, a chance to spend an hour reading a book or playing a game or writing.

What you didn’t do was have loud, pretentious conversations on the phone. And that’s what she was doing. It was clear from her dress and behavior that she was new to our small Wisconsin city. Her outfit was more about hipster fashion than comfort, and there was sharpness in every movement, even in how she picked up her coffee cup, that spoke to her outsider status. People shot aggreived looks, the Midwestern equivalient of a New Jersey “Whattayadoin”, but they were ignored. Her voice rang out, everyone sharing in the one-sided conversation, all of us futilely trying to ignore the harsh sound, instead ending up mentally filling in the missing half of the conversation.

I closed my Kindle and brought the empty coffee cup over to the bus tray. The vibe was gone; it was time to go home.

A tribute to Mr Francona, and to all the directionless amongst us

This story hit the news yesterday. Apparently Terry Francona, the new manager of the Cleveland Indians, got lost on his way to work opening day. I’m sure this was fodder for amusement by many people. Not me. I feel for Mr Francona, for I too am one of the directionless. The story of his getting lost on the 2-block trip from home to the ball field didn’t seem unusual in the least to me.

There’s the favorite family story of how, one September morning, I managed to get lost walking home from school. The punch line of the story is that my younger brother made it home fine. To be fair, it was the first day of school, and we were new to the town, and the school was a square building where the back and front entrances looked identical. Still, the fact is that I got lost because I went out a different door.

Even though I’ve lived in my current city for years, I still get lost on a frequent basis. It doesn’t take much; trying to get to a familiar place but starting from a different side of town can do it, and sometimes even familiar routes will suddenly look strange. Changes in landmarks really throw me; new construction can get me completely discombobulated.

Luckily, this trait wasn’t passed down to my daughter; from an early age she became my navigator, with her “Mom, why are you going that way?” the signal that something was wrong. She lives in NYC now, and I marvel at her ability to know how to get anywhere and what subway route to take.

Rick had a great sense of direction, and that’s just one more thing I miss. It seems trivial, and it is, but we complimented each other’s skills so well. On all our trips I could rest easy knowing that he knew the way to wherever we were going, and then back to the hotel. That probably doesn’t sound like much to most people, but to the directionless like Mr. Francona and I, it’s a big thing. Me, it’s a different story. There was that one time in New Orleans when I spent the morning walking on my own and got completely lost. I had to call Rick, twice, to figure out how to get back to our hotel.

I wonder if the first humans who crossed the Bering Strait land bridge and settled in the New World did so because they were led by someone as directionless as I am. The way I envision it, they wandered over and then couldn’t figure out how to get back. In fact, I have a theory that a lot of the expansion of humans out from the original cradle in Africa was due to people just like me, the ones who wandered for a few days and then couldn’t find their way home.

So, maybe, instead of being humiliated when I can’t find my way to a place that’s 5 miles from my house, I should view it as the same spirit that caused humans to spread throughout the world.

Springing forward into life

This week the signs of spring finally arrived. I’m hearing birds in the morning, and seeing nest building activities. Lawns have lost their snow covering, and there’s evidence of shoots starting to poke out of the ground. Trees and bushes are just beginning to bud. Spring came late this year. There were no soft breezes and gently sunlit days in March, so it’s all the more joyful to see these signs of winter’s end.

Other signs of spring are less delightful. Piles of thawing dog crap litter the small yards in my neighborhood. Easement lawn spaces are a mess of gouges from snowplows and piles of sand, salt, and rocks. The huge piles of snow hid a treasure trove of garbage, and now the discarded Christmas trees, furniture and other debris are fully visible. The smell of thawing garbage, and the sight of lawn damage. Potholes so large and widespread that driving to the grocery store feels like mogul skiing.

During the long winter, I waited for spring and dreamed of summer. I idealized it in my mind, concentrating on every warm, wonderful memory I had. Those harsh, ugly early-spring lawns aren’t what I think of during the last cold days of winter. I dream of those few, rare lovely days when the air smells of lilacs. That perfect late spring weather with warm temperatures, low humidity and no mosquitos. The first evening sitting comfortably outside until the sun sets.

For every one of those gorgeous, balmy warm days there is a day of nonstop rain. Spring brings the scent of flowers, but it also brings tornados.

Sunday was the 7 months anniversary of Rick’s death. Every month I think about the “lasts” and “firsts” each of these anniversaries bring. Last March we took a vacation; it was our last. His birthday is in April; it will be the first one marked not as a birthday celebration, but as a remembrance. I’ll think of what we were doing last year, and how different my life is now. This month marks a turning point in my sad little game. It was in May of last year that it became obvious something was wrong with Rick. The remaining months of my first year of widowhood won’t have many innocent memories left. I’ll be marking the anniversary of the steps taken down the road that ended last August with his death.

With spring finally here, I’m thinking back to other years. I’m remembering going out to see music, and watching baseball, and taking walks. I’m thinking about walking up to the Farmer’s Market for freshly picked asparagus and stopping for breakfast on the way back. I also remember doing this last spring, and realizing it was hard for him to walk just a few blocks, and how I started realizing there was something terribly, seriously wrong.

There are many parts of life where we don’t get choices. Shit happens, as the old saying goes. What is a choice is how we remember things – and people. We can view the past through a gauzy veil where all imperfections are smoothed out; we can focus only on the bad, the things we didn’t like; or we can try and remember everything, with all its complexities and richness.

In a few months, when the temperature and the humidity are in the mid-90s, and when I can tell garbage pickup day with my eyes closed, I’ll remember winter more fondly. I’ll think of the clean, bracing air, and the way that the blue sky of a sunny winter day looks against fresh snow, and how pleasant it is to sip a warm drink in front of a fireplace. Still, even in my attempt to feel cooler by focusing on winter memories, I won’t forget the less enjoyable parts. It won’t take away from my good memories; in fact, having a realistic, unpolished view will make me miss it all the more.