Posted by: Old Sally Draper | January 7, 2011

The Ill-Planned Escape

Salt Water SandalsNever an impetuous person, I had no idea how to become one. I found myself adrift after I walked out of the house that Sunday. I was only almost-fifteen, so I didn’t have a drivers’ license, and wouldn’t have had the use of a car regardless. With no money, no identification, nothing but the shorts, floral top and Saltwater Sandals I was wearing, I dug my long-ago confiscated bike out of the garage and set out.

The bike was too small for me and a the tires were a little flat, but I was driven by rageful determination. I rode to the gas station, which back in those days had free air for tires, even for sort-of runaways on little-kid bikes.

I asked the gas station attendant how far it was to Ossining. He asked if I was going to visit someone in the prison and laughed. I had no idea that he was talking about the famous prison Sing Sing – my family just didn’t talk about that. I remember looking at him in the eye and telling him, no, I just escaped from prison. He seemed  freaked out by that, and eyed me in a strange way.

I asked him again how far. He paused to do some mental math, and told me that it was about twenty miles. He warned me that it was an easy journey in a car, but it would be really tough on a bike, “especially an old piece of crap like yours.”

Just as I was thanking him for his help, my mother’s station wagon came screeching around the corner. I think I actually saw the two outboard tires lift off the ground a bit as she made the turn into the gas station driveway.

Put the bike in the back, and get in the car, Sally Draper, she hissed through gritted teeth. You’re in trouble.

Posted by: Old Sally Draper | January 3, 2011

Life in the Bay Area

Flash forward to the present day, and life is a great deal better. I’ve lived in Berkeley, California for many years, and I love it here.

Life in Northern California, specifically the Bay Area, is kind of strange, but not in the ways you’re probably thinking. East Coast people, like my own beloved brother Bobby, think the entire state is Los Angeles. This is a large misconception.

Generally, long-time Bay Area residents hate Los Angeles, either secretly or openly. If asked why, they’ll usually say something like “they steal our water.” This is the vast political issue that Californians have been arguing about for generations, and its details elude me. All I know is that the clogged freeways, ubiquitous palm trees and aggressively perfect-looking people of the southern part of my adopted state frighten me. The slower pace of Northern California is more my speed.

The Bay Area in 2011

  • Bay Area residents are  just not interested when we hear about a 3.0 earthquake outside of California. Don’t bother me until it’s at least 6.0.
  • When asked how far away somewhere is, the answer is in time, not distance. It’s 25 minutes from Berkeley to San Francisco if you go when there’s no traffic, or an hour most of the time.
  • You’ll frequently hear passionate arguments over  Starbucks vs Peets. Starbucks burns the hell out of their coffee, and they use syrup instead of espresso for their lattes. It’s shit, man!
  • Don’t ever suggest to an Apple aficionado that Apple products are in any way inferior. Steve Jobs is the greatest visionary of all time. Don’t say anything bad about my iPhone just because the alarm doesn’t work!
  • If you see someone wearing shorts in San Francisco in August, you can be sure they’re not from the Bay Area. C’mon kids, let’s get on the cable car!
  • Everybody recycles. There are even recycling bins inside Costco and on streetcorners. You get dirty looks if you don’t use them properly.
  • “Cali” is a tipoff that the speaker is not from the Bay Area. No one says Cali. So uncool.
  • “Hella” means “very.” It was hella cool.
  • Saying “Frisco” is simply not allowed. We’re going over to The City.
  • Just about everybody is a Democrat. Everybody watches Jon Stewart.
  • In the Bay Area, freeways have numbers, not names, and there is no “the.” Saying “The 101” brands you as a Southern Californian. State highways are called Highway, though. Go south on 101.
  • It never rains here in the summer. Fog yes, rain no.
  • It almost never snows here, except on the mountaintops.
  • Anything south of Bakersfield is “L.A.” And we don’t even like to talk about that, except to go to Disneyland.
  • Everyone over the age of 12 has a cell phone.
  • A sure way to stop any conversation dead, in any company, is to say anything even mildly sexist, racist, or homophobic. Drive about 20 miles east if you want to do that.
  • Only 13% of adult Californians smoke. The figure is a great deal lower in the Bay Area. If you want to be a pariah, just torch up some tobacco. It’s almost impossible to find an ashtray anywhere.

Next post: back to the Sally Draper saga.

Posted by: Old Sally Draper | January 1, 2011

Betty Makes a Bed

BedspreadBetty Draper Makes a Bed and Loses a Daughter

On Sunday, August 10, 1969, Mother and I had the biggest argument ever.

I made my bed every morning, but my method was never up to my mother’s exacting standards. One morning, my lack of perfection was more than she could bear. Coldly, she told me that it wasn’t good enough and that I had to do it over. Outwardly stolid, with emotions swinging from resignation to indignation, I attempted to comply, and remade the bed.

Not good enough, Sally Draper, she repeated coldly. The bedspread is terribly uneven and the pillow is a mess. Why do I bother to show you anything? Here, she said, sighing with disgust. I’ll do it, as she jerked the pillow off the bed. She rearranged the bedspread and made sure that it was even on both sides, different from my effort by perhaps half an inch. Then she went to work on the pillow. First she folded the bedspread expertly, exactly ten inches away from the headboard, and creased it with her hands. Then she placed the pillow atop the crease and folded the bedspread back over it. Childs’ play so far. Then she did something that I found absolutely incredible. She inserted one hand under the pillow and put her other hand on top of it. She ran her hands down either side of the newly created pocket holding the pillow, creating a perfect crease all the way to the edge of the bedspread. Then she walked around the bed and repeated this procedure on the other side. She told me THIS is the proper way to make a bed.

I was simply agog that she would go to so much trouble  and insist that I do the same. I told her once the pillow was on the bed, the procedure was complete. She looked at me as though I’d slapped her. This was mutiny of the highest order. Sally Draper, you will make your bed the way I tell you to make your bed. Now do it correctly, and do it now! She jerked the perfectly made pillow off the bed, intending for me to remake it.

Mother, you’ll have to do it yourself, I told her. That’s crazy.

I walked out of the house.

Posted by: Old Sally Draper | December 31, 2010

Rebellious Teen

Psychiatric Help

Psychiatric Help

My Twitter bio reads:

Chronology: Unhappy child – rebellious teen – hippie – disco girl – addict – 12-stepper – clean and sober – recovery counselor.

 I’ve already talked some about the  “Unhappy Child” time of my life in the posts:

While I was in grade school and seeing Dr. Edna, I appeared to be very acquiescent. With her professional guidance, I learned how to play Go Fish, be sneaky, hide my feelings, and stop listening to my mother. Too bad there isn’t a Nobel Prize for Psychiatry.

All that stopped when I hit puberty, entered junior high, and discovered drugs, in approximately that order. It became harder and harder to maintain the even keel Dr. Edna espoused in the face of my mother’s continued downright meanness. Eventually, the emotional swings of a normal young teenager became a real burden when trying to cope with a situation my brother has described as being “like war.”

I found myself fighting with my mother every moment we were together. When she criticized my weight, my hair, my behavior, I’d make a nasty remark right back at her. I became as mean as she was. To attempt to take the pain way,  I smoked pot almost every moment we were apart. I was using weed the way she used alcohol. Within just a couple of years – by the time I was 15 – I was almost indistinguishable from my mother. Mean as a snake, and addicted (to pot instead of booze), and hating my life.

I had the misfortune of beginning my teen years in 1968, just as marijuana use became really widespread. Even in the lily-white suburb of Rye, New York, there was a growing group of  “low-caliber people” that had ready access to the weed. All a 13 or 14 year old had to do was walk across the street from school to the park to obtain as much pot as they wanted.

 Henry, bless him, tried to referee between my mother and myself for a while, and then he gave up. I feel terribly guilty because I think all of the fighting contributed to his early demise. 

 I already had a great “drunkalog” for AA and I was only 15. I had a lot more to go.

Posted by: Old Sally Draper | December 26, 2010

Casual Cruelty

The Question of Revenge

People often ask why I didn’t take a shotgun to my mother while she slept because of random, casual cruelty in the post cited below.

It was hurtful, and to some extent it stays with me forever. On the other hand I realize it was just words from an unhappy person. For the most part, I was able to ignore this incident and the many others like it. Like a dear friend told me many times, “Consider the source.”


Posted by: Old Sally Draper | December 25, 2010

The Watchful Child

 A Joyless Childhood

Set The TableDuring my childhoood, with the zen-like coaching of my psychiatrist Dr. Edna, I became a master at hiding my feelings from my mother. At that time my mother was effectively using cigarettes and lots of Scotch to crush her own feelings, so on the whole that strategy was was working out pretty well.

Unlike a lot of children, I became analytical and aware of others’ feelings. This awareness of others is probably because I was always watchful. I always had an eye on my mother. 

I learned several important lessons. One, always know what your adversary is doing and thinking. Two, never let your fear or disgust or sadness show. Three, don’t be observed while you’re observing.

It wasn’t a fun way to grow up. For a long time I hated my mother. Thank goodness for therapy. We get along much better now.

Previously published 12/15/10 on

Posted by: Old Sally Draper | December 25, 2010

Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

Adm. James Stockdale

Vice Presidential Debate

 Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

Adm. James Stockdale famously posed those questions during the Vice Presidential debates 1992.

Who is Old Sally Draper?

Old Sally Draper was inspired by the character Sally Draper on the acclaimed drama Mad Men. Where necessary, some of the facts of Mad Men’s Sally and Old Sally are the same – they have the same parents, for example. Other than those obvious facts, the details of Old Sally Draper’s character, history, and so on are completely fictional.

For purposes of this blog, Old Sally Draper will simply be referred to as Sally. This blog has no relationship or affiliation with AMC Networks or with the Mad Men television show. This is a work of fiction.

Why is Sally Here?

Sally is both real person and a work of fiction.

Sally’s voice, attitudes, and ideas and thoughts are those of a real person, the author of this blog. The author (who wishes to remain nameless) and Sally have a great deal in common. They were born in the same year, had largely absentee fathers they adored, and had cold and self-centered mothers.

This character first made her appearance on Twitter as @OldSallyDraper and continues to make regular appearances there. The 140-character format is fun but rather limiting. If Sally’s story is to be continued and fleshed out, a blog is the needed in addition to Twitter.

Posted by: Old Sally Draper | December 24, 2010


Land o Lakes

Glen and I discussed a dream, which lead to a discussion of  life, death, heaven, and eternity.

“This (dream) felt like I was going to heaven. Except that I don’t believe in it.  It doesn’t really bother me except that it’s forever. When I think about forever, I get upset. Like the Land o’ Lakes butter has that Indian girl, sitting holding a box, and it has a picture of her on it holding a box, with a picture of her on it holding a box. You ever notice that?”

Whether I know it or not at the time, I gave a pretty good definition of Recursion.

The act of recurring; The act of defining an object (usually a function) in terms of that object itself; The calling of a function from within that same function.

To this day, I don’t  like indefinite things. As a child, I lived in a house where there were so many unanswered questions. Will Mother be cruel to me today or simply ignore me? Will I see Daddy at all? Why does Mother hate my only friend, Glen? Advanced mathematics, with concepts such as recursion, were simply not in the cards for me. Importantly, another foreign concept was “eternity.” Much like recursion, eternity and forever were concepts that are too vague for my pragmatic younger self. Will eternity help my father stop drinking or cause my mother to be nice to me? No? Don’t need it.

A slightly different version of this post was originally published on Tumblr, December 14, 2010


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