Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Been a Long Time

I can't remember when I have seen a TV show that is literally a revelation.  "Mad Men" is a series that I can't wait to watch on Monday nights (buy it through iTunes; works well since it is a little carrot in front of my nose on Mondays).  The plot and characters are fascinating.  And the meticulous attention to detail gives the series a feeling of time travel through my youth. (I'm about Sally Draper's age, btw). 

The Kodak Carousel episode at the end of Season One made me shed a tear. If you knew how little I cry it would help you understand the potency of Don Draper's Carousel pitch.  It not only made me cry - it made me want to tear our house apart looking for the Carousel projector that I inherited from my parents, along with the numerous Carousels of slides documenting my childhood, Road America in Elkhart Lake, my father's gorgeous flower photos.  "... in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a space ship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called a wheel, it’s called a carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and a round, and back home again. To a place where we know we are loved."

The recognition of a drinking glass, a particular dress, or type of telephone  makes me want to drag people into my room and stop the show, while I go on and on, "We had that...really, just like that!"

Last night's episode "The Flood", centering on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King left me absolutely stunned.  It's not just that I remember King's assassination.  I watched as much as I could on TV, read all our periodicals voraciously, and listened (more or less) to  our 7th grade classroom discussions.  Technically there was nothing new for me in this episode.  Except this was the first time in 40-some years I considered Dr. King's assassination and the concomitant civil unrest surrounding it from the point of view of an adult.  I've always remembered the facts - filtered through the perspective of a 13 year old suburban girl.

The late sixties were, to me, a magical time.  (maybe some of it was hormones?)  But it was all filtered through the 3 channels on the TV, Life magazine, the Milwaukee Journal, etc.  A crazy time all taking place at a safe distance.  Not unlike the setting of one of my favorite books - Ragtime, by E. L. Doctorow - “There were no Negroes. There were no immigrants.”  The only black man I had met was Henry Aaron, who we'd run into at the little market in our town from time to time.  The world outside the enclave in which I was raised was changing and I lapped up all the change that I could absorb from the media.  Except for that week my family spent in LA and San Francisco* in 1969, the world was at such a such a safe distance.  And I felt so safe that I could absorb everything as though it were on some other planet.

During "The Flood" tonight I had my first inkling of facing this time of unrest as an adult. Wow.  For 45 years my grasp on these events have stayed on the level of a coddled 13 year-old.  That's another good thing about having my "Mad Men" on I can watch it again and ponder it more.

*visiting Haight-Ashbury felt like another Disney Land attraction; It's a Small World with scruffier 'children'.

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