I watch MAD MEN and enjoy it. Then I read Alan Sepinwall’s recap and realize, “Holy shit! I missed half of what was going on!" There was all this symbolism and existential meaning and I was concentrating on whether we’d see Megan naked. Matthew Weiner writes on numerous levels and I marvel at Alan’s ability to analyze each one. But it got me wondering – what if my life were like MAD MEN?
For lunch at the beach – I had a sandwich.
The only question is – did Helen represent my mother? Or Manuel who makes sandwiches at the Apple Pan? Or Helen Dukoraniweiz, a girl I once sat next to on a bus? Sometimes there are no clear answers in my life.
The following day I was in the Hamburger Hamlet in Van Nuys, unbeknownst to me celebrating or mourning the passage of time as I did at the beach, thus perpetuating that theme, when I bumped into an old friend from my radio days. She said, “Hi Beaver” reminding me that I had two identities. To the world today I’m known as Ken Levine, but back then as a disc jockey, I answered to the name Beaver Cleaver. A chill went up my spine as a deep dark secret suddenly resurfaced. There had been a Beaver Cleaver. I had taken his name. And all the time I used it I lived in mortal fear that I would be discovered… and sued. I was living a lie, and not even making good money.
For a long time I kept this from my wife. And then one night she broke into my desk. And there they were. KYA surveys with my picture. Airchecks of me on WDRQ playing more of Detroit’s rock and soul. I explained it was a past life. Beaver Cleaver was dead. Well, not the real Beaver Cleaver but the persona Beaver Cleaver. She accepted that but asked why I picked such an utterly stupid name? I don’t know. Sometimes there are no clear answers in my life.
My radio friend’s name was Helen. Wait, could that be the Helen who made Joe his sandwich? She said I was sort of her mentor. At first she was very timid. It was hard for a woman to break into primarily a man’s business. But as time went on she became more confident, and eventually she took on the style and characteristics of me. She would have changed her name to Beaver except for… well, you know.
I remember the day Annie came to work with me. It was last Friday when we both helped punch up a pilot. I thought back to how she has changed over the years – how she’s developed from a little girl into a lovely young woman, and how I’m still pitching the same jokes. In fact, the joke I pitched for that WINGS scene that was rejected made it into the pilot.
Later that night I was sitting at a bar at the Courtyard by Marriott in Century City (no significance, I just get points toward a free room) feeling sorry for myself. Did that joke mean all of our past experiences are valuable and will at some time be called upon? Or does it mean that I’m just a hack? Sometimes there are no clear answers in my life. Jesus, I’ve even started repeating sentences.
A mysterious woman sat down next to me. She ordered a martini and the chicken wings appetizer. WINGS? She noticed I was depressed even though I said nothing. But my crying might have been a tip off. She said, “Are you sad because you’re lonely?” No. “Sad because you’re getting older?” No, but thanks for bringing that up. “Sad because you’re in need of sex?” No, unless that’s an offer. “Sad because there’s ultimately no meaning? No. “Then what is it?”
I took a drink, thought back to the beach and the pilot and my daughter and all the other clues and suddenly it became crystal clear. I didn't need to join some crackpot artist colony in Palm Springs or have seven affairs. The existential answer made itself visible to me. Here's what I realized:
This is the type of article that would be perfect for the New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs” feature but they never even respond to my submissions.
At that point the PA began to play "Hooked on a Feeling" by David Hasselhoff . I have no idea why. And then the lights went out but the song kept playing. This is tough to take every week.