A Place Both Wonderful and Strange

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This is a very much younger version of me at Snoqualmie Falls in the summer of 2001.  It took me a long time to get there.  By that I don’t mean the plane ride from Heathrow to Seattle (half an hour to transfer in Cincinatti, please, like that was ever going to work out!  I made it but my bag sure didn’t) or the bus ride from the centre of Seattle; rather that I had been thinking about standing in that spot for more than ten years.

I don’t know exactly why I went upstairs to watch the pilot episode of Twin Peaks on Tuesday 23rd October 1990.  Fourteen-year-old me might have seen something about it in the Radio Times magazine.  In fact, I think I might have missed the first couple of minutes as I was with Mum and Dad in the living room.  They weren’t interested in watching so I went up to my room and the portable black and white TV within.  Usually, I ended up watching stuff like M*A*S*H, Cheers, Brush Strokes or The Mary Whitehouse Experience.  This was different to anything I’d ever seen before.  I had no idea who David Lynch or Mark Frost wereMost of the actors, I didn’t recognise.  There was just something about what I was seeing that felt, grown up.  The locations, the atmosphere, the mystery: I was wrapped up in the story from the minute I started watching.

As the weeks went by, I became more and more obsessive over my Tuesday nights.  Nobody else I knew was watching and this was before the Internet so I had no way of discussing what was going on.  I wasn’t bothered about who killed Laura Palmer; I just wanted to see what was going on in this wonderful word that had been created.  I’ve always loved the woods and maybe the location held a special fascination for me.  I didn’t even have a theory about who killed Laura.  It was all about the experience and the many different plots.  Sometimes I would forget just how scary the show could be: the brilliance of it was that I could get wrapped up in the comedy and the soap opera elements and then, out of nowhere, Bob would be climbing over the furniture at me.  The power of the show to subvert your expectations was quite unique.  Whatever you expected to happen would be turned on its head.  My parents indulged me by letting me tape the late night Saturday repeats so I could watch in colour on Sunday mornings or Mondays before I went to school.  As soon as it was released, I bought the soundtrack on cassette and that went onto hard rotation on my Walkman as I walked to school or did my Sunday paper round. Julee Cruise’s beautiful, haunting vocals became a piece of my teenage soundtrack.

I started eating more doughnuts (cherry pie was tricky to find in the North East of England in 1990 and Mum wouldn’t make it), asked for smoked cheese on our trips to the supermarket (preferably in the shape of a pig) and even had the occasional raw carrot like Ben Horne.

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I’ve got a scrap book at home and in it is Kyle Maclachlan’s autograph which he was kind enough to give me when our paths crossed at Heathrow Airport around the mid-90s.   Agent Cooper became an absolute hero to me.  I can never give someone a thumbs up without doing it like him and knowing it.  I work in a school and I do it ALL THE TIME.  Much as I tried, I’ve never been able to get into coffee.  Cooper was just a beacon of everything I wanted to be: intelligent, brave, skilled, open and, most importantly, chivalrous.  I had major crushes on Sherilyn Fenn and Madchen Amick and when the former turned up in Room 315, Coop was a perfect gentleman.  I remember thinking what a great role model he was.  He never judged people either: not Andy with his shooting, not Denise and her wardrobe.  He just took everything in his stride and looked for the good in everyone.  I guess that’s what made the final few seconds of the show such a gut punch.  The last episode, I managed to convince my parents to let me watch on the big colour TV in their room.  It was the first episode of the show that I didn’t see for the first time in black and white.

I couldn’t believe that was the end.  I felt completely numb. That could not be how it ended.  There had to be more, right?  Over the years, I’ve told everyone who’ll listen that it’s the best cliff-hanger ever and the perfect way to end the show.  At the time, though, it left me stunned.  I had spent about half a year enjoying this world, getting to know the characters and now it was over.  I set about collecting the VHS tapes as they were released until I had the whole series, watching it through and collecting up the tokens so I could get my pin badges and t-shirt (I have no idea what I did with those pin badges but they’re gone forever).  I also convinced my Dad to give me his mini-cassette recorder.  I had a Diane of my very own!  I used to carry it around with me at school and, well, everywhere and record my thoughts.  I would dearly love to know what fifteen-year-old me was talking about because those tapes are long gone.  On top of all that, I read Laura’s diary and Coop’s autobiography, I got the board game for Christmas but no-one would play it with me because they didn’t understand what it was all about.  This was something that was all mine, which had its advantages and disadvantages.

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When I saw Fire Walk With Me for the first time, I was secretly a little disappointed.  It didn’t have the same feel as the TV show and it was quite a hard watch.  I have to remember, though, that I was only sixteen when it came out.  I think FWWM is a lot more intense and I’m not sure I was ready for it at that age.  The more I watch it these days, the more I enjoy it as its own entity.  Over the years, as I’ve rewatched the series from time to time, I’ve always picked up little things that I never saw before and had a different insight into other characters.  Big Ed, Truman, Norma, Hank. Every time I watch, I see another layer.

In 1992, my family moved to London from the North East and I started at a new sixth form college.  There I met my best friend, Graeme.  Finally, I met someone who had watched and loved the show almost as much as I had.  Plus he had scary ‘Bob’ hair at the time.  Having someone to talk to about all this kind of stuff was amazing.

Now I started this with a picture of me at Snoqualmie Falls.  It took me until the summer of 2001 to get the opportunity to go to Seattle and visit some of the locations.  I got the bus out to North Bend and had a nice day walking around: I had a coke in the Double R, a very nice burger and chips inside the building used as the exterior of the Roadhouse, then the following day I took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island, hired a bicycle and pedalled over to the lodge where they filmed the interiors of the Great Northern.

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It was a wonderful trip.  Side note: I got to see Dan Fogelberg in concert while I was in Seattle which was another thing I never thought I would get the chance to do.

All the while, I never thought anything else would come of my obsession.  The mannerisms and lines from the show have passed into my personal lexicon and it has just become part of me.  Nothing I’ve ever watched since has matched the level of influence that it had, perhaps because I was at a certain age and looking for an identity.  The closest thing I’ve seen to it over the years is Lost.  That’s the only show since that has left me at the end of an episode with such glorious confusion.

Outside of Twin Peaks, I gobbled up every other piece of work that I could find by David Lynch.  I remember sitting up watching Industrial Symphony no.1 one night on BBC looking for any references or clues.  Was anyone else my age watching that?  My favourite films by Lynch are probably Dune, Blue Velvet and The Straight Story, although the others are all on my shelf.  Those three are the ones I come back to most often.  I know Dune gets a lot of stick and the story was tampered with irreparably, but the cast is marvellous and the overall aesthetic of the film is wonderful.

This is about Twin Peaks, though, so I won’t linger on other things.  I always wanted to go to the Festival in Snoqualmie but by the time I had the money to do it, I was a teacher and the dates never worked out for me to take holiday.  It was purely by accident that I saw an advert for the Twin Peaks UK Festival in 2014.  I couldn’t believe that I’d missed it for a couple of years before.  I snapped up a ticket and left my heavily pregnant wife to go along and meet Sheryl Lee and Dana Ashbrook and all the other people who shared my fascination and appreciation for Twin Peaks.  It was a fantastic day, brilliantly organised by Lindsey Bowden and her team, and I spoke to so many people from all over the place who were all just as fond as I was of that world.  I even got to see a bit of The Missing Pieces (I don’t own a Blu Ray player so have no way of seeing it to this day).

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When I spoke to Dana and Sheryl, who were fantastic even though they had been signing autographs and speaking to people for hours and hours, I just said thank you.  Thank you for being part of my journey since I was about fourteen years old.  An ever-present, comforting reference point on the road map of my life.

My wife was kind enough to buy me Brad Dukes’ book, Reflections, for Christmas that year.  After our son, Michael, was born on New Years’ Day, I sat with him in my arms, reading him passages from it to implant the germ of fandom in his mind too.  I also play him episodes of Scott Meaney and Matt Chorney’s fantastically irreverent “Fish in the Percolator” podcast.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the festival the next year (Madchen Amick and Sherilyn Fenn were there and I probably would have had one too many Black Yukon Suckerpunchers and embarrassed myself so it’s probably not a bad thing) but this year I’ll be back.  I’m looking forward to meeting Chris Mulkey and Ian Buchanan and all the other people who share my love of the little town in the Pacific Northwest.

I also look ahead to next year and Season 3.  I don’t know what’s coming or whether it will be able to recreate a special feeling that I had all those years ago.  I was at a very impressionable age and there was nothing else like it.  Television has moved on so much in its wake and its influence has permeated so many other things.  On the whole, however it’s just good to know that I get to go back and visit with some of these characters that have floated around in my mind over the past 25 years.  I have no idea where it will lead us, but I have a feeling that it will be to a place both wonderful and strange.

So, if you’re off to the Twin Peaks UK Festival on Saturday, I hope to see you there.  I’ll be trying to finish off Mark Frost’s book on the train on the way to Crouch End, wearing my http://www.richardaustinwriter.com t-shirt and telling all and sundry about how much I love Twin Peaks.  I’ll probably bend your ear about the first draft of my novel that I’ve just finished too.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite lines…  Oh Ed, you big lug!

“And you know, by golly.  I shot out Nadine’s eye on that honeymoon!”

Thanks for reading.

Richard

 

PS – If you haven’t seen them already, please check out my best dressed lists at:

https://richardaustinwriter.com/2016/10/22/whos-the-best-dressed-woman-in-space/

and

https://richardaustinwriter.com/2016/09/23/whos-the-best-dressed-man-in-space/

People from Dune appear on both.

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