What's Old Is New Again
Like many, I’ve been devouring David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return — much like Agent Cooper’s tulpa, Dougie Jones, devours pie and coffee, in a manner that’s at once entranced and expectant, with surprise and delight at every morsel/mouthful proffered. And so, to add to my enjoyment, I took a plane to the west coast, boarded a minivan full of strangers (one, our guide, was dressed as an FBI agent, so official) and visited for the first time (or was it again?) the town of Twin Peaks — actually a composite of Snoqualmie and North Bend, Washington (with other scenes filmed in Poulsbo, WA, Seattle and elsewhere, beyond the scope of this excursion).
With any fan tour or pilgrimage, there’s a blurring of fact and fiction that occurs. Reality and mythology collapse to disappointing, confusing, comic or enlightening effect. What awaited me on the Twin Peaks tour was uncanny, simply because it was outside (and only just) the ordinary (very Lynchian indeed). But the effect was also expansive. New details fill in gaps in space and time, or, alternately, obscure (like the smoke from British Columbia’s wildfires that blotted our view of the twin peaks of Mount Si), just as the new series solves and adds mysteries in turn.
Up until the start of The Return, Twin Peaks was a world with fairly defined edges — if not psychically, then at least physically. Our collective mental map of this Pacific Northwest town included the Great Northern, the Double R Diner, Laura Palmer’s house, Big Ed’s Gas Farm, Twin Peaks High School, the Sheriff’s Department and the Saw Mill. Certainly, there were places within that original universe that existed, elusively, on borders and fringes: One Eyed Jack’s, the railcar, Shelly and Leo Johnson’s makeshift residence, Harold Smith’s orchid greenhouse and, of course, the Red Room — where the rules were different, proprietors had strange (French-Canadian) accents, dream logic prevailed and bad things happened. Together, these places created a world so vivid and bizarre we were thrilled to return to it after a quarter century.
In Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, a collection of interviews with cast and crew by Brad Dukes, series co-creator and executive producer Mark Frost recalls arriving in Snoqualmie, on a scouting trip: “There was a sawmill, the diner by the railroad tracks, a hotel by a waterfall, the gas station. It was all there like we’d been looking through some kind of magic crystal and seeing this place from a distance, then we get there and find it’s exactly as we’d written it.”
Snoqualmie provided the good bones, but the details (the real magic) had to be conjured too. In Lynch’s book on meditation and creativity, Catching the Big Fish, he says “While many sets are good enough for a wide shot, in my mind, they should be good enough for close scrutiny, for the little details to show. You may not ever really see them all, but you’ve got to feel that they’re there, somehow, to feel that it’s a real place, a real world.”
Touring Twin Peaks is disorienting, even as it is orienting. The real real-world lives alongside Lynch’s fictional real world, sometimes reflecting one another through a strange mirror,
sometimes conspiring symbiotically,
sometimes locked in existential conflict
and sometimes ignoring each other completely.
But maybe the more beautiful visual analogy for how these worlds get along was found on the trail from the Snoqualmie Falls lookout to the riverbed below, cut through an ancient forest of Douglas Firs, Western Hemlocks and Bigleaf Maples: new growth atop old.
And the new growth is especially verdant. The Return has expanded the scope and detail of the Twin Peaks universe significantly to include a mysterious glass box at an undisclosed New York City address, the house with the red door on Lancelot Court in Las Vegas and a glassy insurance office owned by a former boxer with a cowboy statue out front. Even places that we thought we knew, like Fat Trout Trailer Park or the Roadhouse, are changed, occupied by new terrors or captured, as one theory goes, in the mind of a character. “Isn’t it too dreamy?” asked Audrey Horne long ago.
The dream world has been enlarged too, beyond the Red Room with its sashaying curtains and zigzagging floors, to include additional realms, a fortress on a purple sea, a jazzily decorated room with a floating giant emanating light, a convenience store populated by flickering woodsmen — accessible only by long strings of coordinates, sockets, levers and swirling clouds. Remarkably, Lynch has sensitized us to believe in these implausible places, to subscribe to their wacko rules and time codes and then apply those sensitivities elsewhere, to the real/fictional/even banal world we’re more used to. A two-and-a-half-minute scene of a guy sweeping the barroom floor to Booker T’s Green Onions? I can live there (even enjoy my time there) now that I’ve witnessed a nuclear detonation that sent particulate, light and insects flying every which way for what felt like an eternity.
It’s this sensitivity training, delivered by Lynch through the screen directly to the nervous system, that made Twin Peaks the tour better and stranger (synonymous, perhaps) and more meaningful. Certainly, our enthusiastic guide, the soundtrack, the trivia and scouted locations were essential, but it was Lynch who provided the impetus and the lens for looking.
The penultimate and ultimate episodes of the new series, airing back-to-back on Sunday, promise Coop & c.o.’s full return to Twin Peaks. We’ll all be there too, sharing the experience — a group meditation not unlike the kind that Lynch advocates for in his writing on Transcendental Meditation. A gathering of energy and experience, after which we, the viewers, and the world, however slightly, will be changed. Twin Peaks, you strange amalgam, we’ve been preparing for this. Are you ready to receive us?
The Twin Peaks Tour is an approximately three to four-hour tour, visiting 29 possible locations from the original series and Twin Peaks: The Return.