Monday, April 16, 2012

Last night I dreamed an episode of Mad Men. Importantly for this episode, there is an orphanage in the next building to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and at one point Don has adopted two orphans, a boy and a girl. This early part of the dream was very detailed but I have forgotten it. But anyway, the orphans cause trouble in the agency (they are more disruptive than Sally Draper, especially the boy, who has a malevolent quality) and either Don kills them or just gives them back to the orphanage.

Don and Peggy are in Don's office arguing over a campaign. Pete comes in and is struck by the way his colleagues are behaving with a strange antagonism and belligerence. Not the usual kind of argument over work… they seem meaner, somehow… changed. They seem in the middle of a fight. Don shouts at Pete, then the arguing pair lock themselves into Don's ensuite executive bathroom.

Pete withdraws with a wounded bitchface to his own office. He tries to do his own work but something still strikes him as odd about the argument in Don's office. He stares out his office window, where he realises he can see across the courtyard into the window of Don's executive bathroom. Framed in the window is Peggy's face, with Don's leaning over her shoulder. Inexplicably, Don is now wearing a hat. To Pete they both look red-faced, puffing, almost as if… No, they couldn't be… could they?

Cut to the interior of Don's executive bathroom. It's really palatial in here, with white tiles and chrome fixtures, a large shower and a sink mounted in a huge marble bench. Don and Peggy stagger away from the bench, over which they have recently been bent. Don knocks the hat from his sweating brow. The hat was a trick to fool anyone who happened to peek in through the window, because otherwise he and Peggy are completely naked. It's just as Pete suspected – they have been fucking!

Now they are confused and bewildered – how did this happen? It's as if they've been possessed. In the dream it took the characters a long time to figure out that the discarded children from the orphanage have possessed them. I think it was because Don says a phrase that only the orphan boy was heard to say. Some crap like that. Also, there were more possessed hate-sex scenes in the executive bathroom, but I will spare you those. I forget how the possession plotline is resolved but somehow they exorcise the evil orphan spirits.

At one point there is a meeting. A Paul Kinsey-like character (but not actually Kinsey) is sitting at the table in a large overstuffed chesterfield armchair, which is how we know that he is an outmoded character who will soon be left behind by the attitudinal changes of history. The other characters are all sitting in sleek midcentury chairs with spindly legs.

Meanwhile, Betty has heard about the latest new craze – tiki bars! She sneaks into the city to visit one, wearing a trench coat, headscarf and sunglasses. Once inside she doffs her disguise to reveal a lipstick-pink two-piece swimsuit. She heads to the ladies' room to tie her sarong skirt, which is bottle green with pink hibiscus flowers. (In the dream I wonder why Janie Bryant has chosen these colours in particular.)

In front of the gilt mirror, Betty is having some trouble getting the skirt to look the way she wants. She's tucking and tying and tugging at the skirt – should it be short or long, look full or pencil-y, or have a daring side split? – when an older but glamorous woman comes into the ladies' room to adjust her own sarong. Betty surreptitiously copies the other lady, who notices and introduces herself.

Turns out the lady is the manager of tonight's band, a ukulele wunderkind who travels around America like a carnie, touring all the tiki bars. The wunderkind is her son. The lady is kind to Betty and offers to introduce her, insinuating it's a real honour and a big deal to meet such a legendary musician.

The bar is dimly lit with fairy lights and flaming torches. The bar itself is in a grass hut, and there are poles tricked out to look like palm trees. The manager lady leads Betty over to the stage, where a young man is setting up with a bunch of other musicians. He is stocky, with a sad, chubby face, but striking pale grey eyes. He seems pleased to meet Betty and says he can play any song she can think of, better than she has ever heard it before.

Betty flicks through some nearby sheet music and inexplicably chooses a Christmas carol, 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'. The ukulele man strums and sings a very simple, slow version of the carol that is very beautiful.

Betty is about to applaud, but he's not done… he softly counts in to his musicians and they tear away with a much faster, almost bluegrass-sounding version. There is clapping and foot-stamping. It manages to be joyous, but the singer's voice still sounds profoundly sad, like a guy standing alone at a party. Betty is blown away by his artistry and in the dream I am pretty damn impressed as well. When he finishes there is applause throughout the bar.

The ukulele man looks meaningfully at Betty and it is clear he recognises her, and has some previous relationship to her. But she hasn't sensed it herself. In the dream it wasn't clear. Were they lovers? Is he the son of someone she knows? (But she doesn't recognise his mother, the manager…) Is he her own secret love child?

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