Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mad Men and Summer Bachelors

Mad Men, last Sunday night, was the best one (at least VB thought) so far this year. Quite a few critics panned it. VB loved the updo on Betty, and the fact that Joan is still in the show.  Before VB goes on to the main reason for this post, she's going to change tangents for a moment.  If you love Joan as much as VB, then you might like to check out, Mad about Christina Hendricks, from Self Magazine.  Unfortunately, the site only gives you a taste of the article, so for your viewing pleasure VB has photographed the important stuff.

As you can see below, there's a photo of a VW Bus.  She practically grew up in one.  VB just thought she'd mention this.  So now you all know.

Last Sunday's show was a reassurance that Pete was just as much of a scumbag as he was the first season.   VB didn't give Pete's home alone scenes too much thought until she read James Wolcott's blog, Mad Men Recap: Roman Hair Stylist Erects High-Rise Bird's Nest on Betty's Head.

Wolcott says: "Ah, Pete, finding himself adrift as a “summer bachelor,” a now mostly extinct species. In those sole-breadwinner fifties and sixties of the previous century, married men in Manhattan--mostly members of the executive class--reverted into summer bachelors when the wife and kiddies went to the country house upstate or in Connecticut or south to the Jersey shore and the husband was left behind in the city to relive his frisky youth and hopefully not get caught. This urban idyll, fruited with temptation, was immortalized in The Seven Year Itch, with Tom Ewell trying to keep his ice cubes from spinning out of his glass every time he was met by the creamy radiance of Marilyn Monroe, the upstairs neighbor who tucked her underwear in the refrigerator for that cool, tingling sensation."

This got VB to thinking, and remembering.  As strange as this may sound, Abu Dhabi always reminded VB of the 50's - 60's America. As modern as it technologically / architecturally, it was also like living in a small town 1960's.  A time when we Americans were just starting to flirt with a variety of freedoms, Abu Dhabi always seemed to be on the verge socially, but basically just stuck in time (and that also depended on which ethnic group you hung around with too.)  It was that nightly car prowl along the Corniche that brought back scenes from American Graffiti, even though the boys were wearing disdashas and the girls abayas. The cars were newer, as well, with some supped up, and as noisy as possible. The boys would yell out of their car windows, much the same way they do / did in the States.  This would be even more pronounced during Ramadan, when everyone and their brother went out at night to celebrate. 

But what pulls Wolcott's critique into perspective was the "summer bachelor". We sold our home in the USA, and were subjected to full Abu Dhabi summers as a family, with a short break of two-three weeks holiday each summer. The streets of Abu Dhabi would be virtually empty. Even the locals left town. The only people remaining, would mostly be the expat male workers, or as Wolcott calls them, "summer bachelors."

You always knew when it was time for all the womenfolk and children to clear out of town, when the freezers  at Spinney's spilled over with frozen Hungry Man and Stouffer's dinners; when real food all but disappeared, and all that remained were provisions for easy and quick cooking.  Certain goods became scarce (as they did occasionally) for the summer, not to show up again until school was in full session.

Summers in Abu Dhabi were thick and hot. The air would take your breath away. Windshield wipers were needed for cars, even though it wasn't raining. The heat was regularly reported at just almost 120 degrees, as any higher would, by law, allow all  the South Asian outdoor laborers to have the day off. 

When the streets are empty, and everyone's left town, what do you do in 120 degree heat with 100 percent humidity?  What would you do if you were left "Home Alone" in the summer?

Here's a few ideas:

(1) Hang out at the beach. Most private clubs, like the Hiltonia, have chilled pools. Sit and sweat, drink water, and then go sit in the pool and chill (literally) for awhile. 

(2) Become friends with someone who owns a boat, regardless of size. Go to one of the small islands where the ebb and flow of the sea have maximal effect (more sand and sun during certain hours.) Sit under an umbrella, drink (these people are drinking beers, and champagne), set your amuse-bouche on a board paddle, and enjoy the company. (VB doesn't know who owns this big boat. It's certainly not the one she took.)

Or know someone who owns a jet ski.

(Oh, yeah, that's the tiny boat below that fit all eight of us!  Go ahead...laugh.)

(3) Dig a hole. The sand is quite cool.

(4) Then go bury yourself in it.

Of course, it's still pretty damn hot, so make sure you've got some cover.

(5) Or use your camera. Take that fancy air conditioned car out for a drive!  You'd be surprised at how easy it is to make friends when you are out and about taking photos. You might realize you're not the only "summer bachelor" or  "bachelorette" around.  These guys were thrilled when VB showed up the next day with two copies for each of them, so they could send to their families.

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