Monday, April 23, 2012

Roger gets his space ticket

MAD MEN gets it right again.

As I have written here before, LSD was originally the (legal) property of the drawing room and the elite types who visited psychiatrists, such as Henry and Claire Booth Luce, Cary Grant, RD Laing... and Roger Sterling and his wife Jane. Hippies did not widely partake until the Merry Pranksters decided to go cross-country, playing Johnny Appleseed and distributing it throughout the heartland. And THEN it was made illegal (in 1966), in response to their nefarious scheme to Enlighten the Masses.

In fact, where do you think the first hippies came from? Guys like Roger, transformed. I am curious what will happen to Roger now; the show closed with Roger informing the ever-beleaguered Don Draper, "It's a beautiful day!"

At this point in the show, it is likely Roger will tell Don about his acid-experience and 1) try to get Don to take it, or 2) Don will be sufficiently curious (after hearing Roger's description) to try it himself. And all of that childhood-trauma of Don's? Wow, that will be hairy. Because yes, those traumas really do come back in technicolor, they weren't joking about that. I would compare it to one of those 180-degree photographs, everything momentarily frozen so that you can go back and have a full-look at it, maybe start a conversation with someone else in the frame.

From Entertainment Weekly:

I could write 3,000 words just about what happened after Roger let a sugar cube of psychedelic chemicals dissolve on his tongue. So many of Roger's hallucinations fed right back into his horn-dog Peter Pan syndrome: The half-grey-half-black hair dye ad; the Beach Boys' "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" playing overtop a far older song I couldn't quite place; Roger cackling in the bathtub as the 1919 World Series unfolded in his head. It was a telling detail that Roger imagined Don to be his spiritual guide, but I ad0red so many of the small, silly details, too: The bombastic (possibly Russian?) opera that played after Roger uncorked a bottle of vodka; the cigarette that collapsed like an accordion the moment Roger began smoking it; the five dollar bill with Bert Cooper's face on it...
Although it never happened to me personally, paper-dollars with various faces on them was a pretty common LSD-hallucination. Also, the faces on the bills suddenly talking to you. George Washington talks! (I once got out a dollar-bill, hoping George would say something to me, but I guess money only talks to some people.)

And Roger and Jane finally get real:
Really, though, the long, strange trip was all about stripping away Roger's defenses -- his glib charm, his fragile ego -- and building up Jane's self-assurance and confidence so they could both admit to each other that their marriage was over. As Roger and Jane stared at the ceiling, the truth came gently tumbling out of them: "It's over." Their hostess wasn't Jane's friend, she was her therapist, who thinks Jane has been waiting for Roger to tell her their marriage is over so she won't have to. And although Jane's thought about having an affair, her love for Roger was real. But, Jane added, "I just know for a fact that you did not fall in love."

"So what was wrong again?" asked Roger.

"You don't like me."

"I did. I really did."
And their marriage is done.


As a lone six-year-old who had somehow blundered into the wrong place and time, I was once cornered in the doorway of an empty house by a cluster of (white female) teenage bullies. They had backed me into the proverbial corner and were slapping me, grabbing hair, kicking... all while laughing and laughing. I knew it was just the warm-up, because they were having too much fun. I was sick with fear.

I tried to say something cute, be charming or polite, all the things that had ever worked in the past; like a dog that rolls over and suddenly shows its underbelly in a fight, I was hollering uncle in a hundred ways. They correctly read my body-language of surrender and were emboldened and maliciously overjoyed by it, like a pack of wolves, circling. Exactly like that.

I turned, cupped my hand and peered through the small window on the door. "There's nobody in there," one said, threateningly. The words echoed and echoed through my psyche, and I could never remember what happened directly after. My mother said they had beaten me, but I could not remember it. Approaching that moment in my memory had always frightened me, more than the threat of nuclear weapons, more than drowning, more than snakes. I shut it down, pushed it back, thought of something else.

We all do this, and so do you.

But LSD goes straight for the house that has nobody inside (when it should have), straight for that thing you have repressed. And it can go several ways, from what I am told. But for me?

I was transported back to the sidewalk in front of the house (which I had passed many times) and saw the girls on the porch, who suddenly seemed so young. My goodness, I thought, they are only 14 or 15, aren't they? They aren't giants. They aren't adults. And as I ascended the porch stairs, one by one, they disappeared. I could never remember their faces anyway, but this made it official: they really did not exist any more. They were phantoms that had chased me. I realized, these girls had since grown up. I turned to one, just as she vanished, and asked her if she remembered. "Do you remember this?" I asked her.

She wrinkled her brow and shook her head, no. She was the blonde one, and she was the last to vanish.

I then saw my little six-year-old self, who had been beaten. I was wearing the same clothes I always remembered wearing. They had ripped my favorite shirt, with multicolored pockets on the front. I knew my grandmother (who had bought it for me) would be mad. I hoped she wouldn't be mad at me for straying too far from home, but of course, beaten or not, I thought she would be.

And then, the adult me embraced the six-year-old me. The little-me wept, while I soothed and comforted this little girl (me and not-me, all at once) and told her how strong she was for enduring this. I told her it would make her tough from this point onward, and as I said this, I realized: it had.

I told her everything would be okay, and she would grow up and the girls would vanish. Look, I said, they are gone already. I gestured, and showed her/me, that they were gone.

"They ARE gone!" the six-year-old me said, smiling through tears. Yes, they are.

And they were.

They never came back.

Here's hoping Roger fares as well. And Don, with his ghosts. They might vanish or they might return and kick his ass. It's all up to him.

Be nice to your old self; be charitable and kind to the younger-you. After all, you did the best you could.