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[California Seething] Fire, Seethe With Me

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The year was 1990. It was an amazing time to be alive or so Jesus Jones kept telling me. George Bush was bringing great wealth and prosperity to Americans named “Dana Carvey”, those individuals whose first REM album was Document referred to those individuals whose first REM album was Green as “fuckin’ poseurs” and They Might be Giants dropped the bombshell that ocean levels were rising because of their new album. Meanwhile, Generation X was on the way to being the first generation to do worse than their parents, Generation Y was on the way to being the first generation to wear bike helmets without getting the shit beat out of them (they actually got trophies for it) and the height of telecommunications technology was a phone shaped like a football that you got for free if you subscribed to Sports Illustrated. HowCal Seething- 110314- dom far we’ve come since then! Nowadays there’s nothing you can’t do with your smart phone- why, I just saw an ad for an app developed by Domino’s Pizza that uses voice recognition technology- so that you can order a pizza by simply speaking your order into the phone. Can you imagine that?? Ordering a pizza by talking on the phone- WILL WONDERS NEVER CEASE??? Next thing you know there’ll be an app where you can hear the exact time simply by dialing a number, or, even better, a messaging app that allows you to send “mail” using only your VOICE- or,- how’s this, a communications app that allows you to speak with any person in America simply by entering in a personalized 10 digit “number” for their “phone”  OH BRAVE NEW WORLD!!!! And, yeah, OK, all sarcasm aside- I do realize that the whole point of the Domino’s app is that you don’t actually have to talk to a real human being. Brilliant! That ought to make ordering a pizza every bit as easy as calling Time Warner for tech support. There’s nothing I love more than a hot cheese pizza topped with REPRESENTATIVE REPRESENTATIVE REPRESENTATIVE PERSON PERSON PERSON PERSON PERSON PERSON PERSON!!!!! Or you could just avoid the Noid altogether and call Pizza Hut on your fucking football phone (AUTHOR’S NOTE: I don’t actually have a football phone. But OMYGOGOMYGODOMYGOD can you imagine how awesome it would be if I did? I would totally invite over everyone I know and wait for someone to call me so that I could just be like “hey- does anyone hear that? It seems like something is ringing. Sounds like…a phone…but I don’t see a phone anywhere! Just this cheap looking random Cal Seething- 110314- phoneoneplastic football statuette. And- hey- WAIT A SECOND- the ringing seems to be coming from the football. But how can that be?? What can be happening?????? Is it possible that this football is really……. A PHONE???? BOO-YAH! BA – BAM! Brain goes KER-BLAMO!!!! Also Pizza Hut is gross. Not cheddar chili Frito pizza gross- but gross nonetheless.

But there is no area in which there’s been as much progress since 1990 as the spread of human rights, except maybe the eradication of global poverty. GOTCHA!!!! Human rights & poverty- you silly Billy- it’s television! Cause it may have been the first year of the 90’s, but in TV terms 1990 was very much still the 80’s. And, yes, I do realize that technically 1990 was the last year of the 80’s not the first year of the 90’s- so you can just shut up Mr. I Correct People About the Most Insignificant Things in Order to Feel Better About Myself (Or Ms.). You can just go back to writing stern letters to the editor about the shocking decline in the quality of the crossword puzzle while you’re not being invited to happy hour. Yeah- that’s right. Not invited. You know how everybody got quiet when you walked into the break room but you’re positive the last thing you heard was “half price margaritas and riblets”. Yeah. Think about that the next time you respond to a company wide email to tell everyone how I misused “your”. Asshole.

In the 80’s the only serious theme that you could tackle in a television show was drug and alcohol addiction (Alex P. Keaton taking Cal-Seething--110314--alfspeed to be able to study harder, Sam Malone’s lifelong battle with alcohol, Alf’s rapacious hunger for cats) and that was reserved exclusively for pre-designated “very special episodes” personally approved by Nancy Reagan. And as a result, what we learned from watching 80’s TV was that as long as we stayed away from drugs, the worst problem we would ever face in our lives would be having dates with two stewardesses on the same night and trying to juggle both of them while trying to hide our heterosexuality from our landlords. But if we did smoke pot even once, we were fucked for life. So it was kind of a good-news bad- news situation for all of us when we grew up and discovered that casual drug use wouldn’t ruin our lives but subprime loans just might. If only they had aired that very special Growing Pains where Boner buys a $750k 5 bed, 4 bath 4000 square foot house with a pool in Henderson, NV using a 1% Interest Only ARM loan and then takes a HELOC to remodel the kitchen right before the economy tanks and Mike Seaver blames it all on Obama and fags and tells Boner not to worry cause the rapture is coming.

As far as diversity on TV- we had The Simpsons which featured a panoply of ethnically diverse characters voiced by white people and of course there was Cousin Balki. So while there may not have been any Asian or Latino characters on TV, the island of Mypos was well represented right alongside Latka’s home country, the planet of Melmac and little girl robots named Vicki. Oh- and- of course! How could I forget The Cosby Show with American’s favorite Jello and rape enthusiast. Ahhh….such an innocent time. Cal Seething- 110314- cosbyHow could we know he was using the patterns on his sweaters to hypnotize young women into submission when he couldn’t sneak a roofie into their pudding pops?

And of course any type of non-linear weirdness was strictly verboten. Every series was permitted one Christmas Carol or It’s A Wonderful Life themed Christmas dream episode and that was IT.

So….yeah- the year was 1990 and TV sucked. And it was against this brainless backdrop of banality that David Lynch introduced Twin Peaks to the American public much to the squealing delight of pretentious wierdos like me and my friends. Of course, being pretentious weirdos we didn’t so much “squeal with delight” as we did “cynically smirk with a hint of derision in our eyes and disaffected souls” but we were “happy”. And why shouldn’t we be? Twin Peaks was a gift for pretentious wierdos and there was no one weirder or more pretentious than us- we called ourselves the Art Fag Posse, we joined a Unitarian Youth Group because of their liberal view of dogma and tolerant perspective on blue hair. We smoked clove cigarettes and pretended to like them while we waited outside Albany’s only art house to go see The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover which we then pretended to like as we spoke about it with animated tones in Albany’s only OFFICIAL café (Half Moon, Cal Seething- 110414-buttonbitchez) while drinking black coffee which we also pretended to like. We were the Capital Region’s cultural and intellectual elite and we had the buttons on our denim jackets to prove it  And Twin Peaks was our motherfucking show.  

But why did we love it so much? Why did the recent announcement by Showtime that they were bringing the show back after 25 years cause the nation to buckle and heave with a giant collective Gen X nerdgasm the size of which hadn’t been seen since JJ Abrams agreed to direct the next Star Wars movie and wouldn’t be seen again for a long, long time- or at least for about two weeks when the new Pee-Wee Herman movie was announced- and don’t pretend like you’re not super excited about that, cause I know you are (but what am I?) Anyhow- I wanted to go on a journey back to the early 90’s to remind myself the show’s appeal, so I built a time machine out of a Saturn, filled up a grotesquely oversized ceramic mug of coffee, put in my dubbed Jesus Jones tape (the one with C&C Music Factory on side B), took the football phone off the hook so no one would bother me and then I watched Twin Peaks on Netflix because it’s 20 fucking 14.

Welcome to Twin Peaks
Pop. 51201

Let’s start with the opening credits, shall we (it’s a very good place to start)?

All of the action has been slowed down a little and there is a slight brownish tint to the footage, like it was filmed through the bottom of a slightly used amber glass ashtray. We start with a bird (Bewick’s Wren for those that can’t be bothered to Google.) Then, an exterior shot of the mill. Plumes of white smoke gently puffing from the chimney like a new Pope is being announced only portending something much more eeeeeeevil, like maybe the election of eeeeeeevil Pope. Inside the mill, sparks fly as the blades on the enormous wood cutting wheelamabobs and thingamajigers (I was too lazy to Google this one) are sharpened in what may be the sexiest knife sharpening sequence ever filmed (though I’m no “bladie” so can’t be sure) Then, the music swells, lush, big and romantic like a large breasted hooker with sloppily applied lipstick and we’re in the road heading into town, a road hewn through towering Douglas firs (Sheriff Truman says what these are called in the first episode so no need to Google- hurray!) and we see the sign:

Cal Seething- 110314-twinpeakssign

The music lifts to a crescendo, the name of the show appears (Twin Peaks) followed by the names of the show’s stars. After Michael Ontkean and we dissolve to a shot of a waterfall as the music itself crests and falls. Then, right after Warren Frost we dissolve to a tracking shot of still, smooth water as the music tinkles on and the rest of the credits roll.

We learn three very important things from the sequence:

  1. Washington State is beautiful
  2. Washington State is creepy
  3. Washington State is wet

The town is tucked away among towering trees, isolated from the world by woods and water. The humble mill, symbol of the town’s economy, sharpens it’s teeth, ready for the kill, devouring virgin lumber with no mercy or remorse. The water looks calm Cal Seething-110314-jimmyand inviting, but just nearby it churns with danger. And oh oh oh, then there’s that bird and of course birds are just EW!

And of course all the trees are lush and green and there is water everywhere- it’s like moisture porn for the drought ridden. OK, OK, I get it – we’re all gonna run out of water and die while you folks in the Northwest laugh uproariously as you brush your teeth with the faucet running with gleeful impunity. But you can keep your plentiful reservoirs and green foliage- I’ll take the desert over the woods any day. After all, you never know what’s hiding in the woods. In fact my wife and I were just talking this morning about how we both loathe the woods (the family that hates together stays together.) You’ve got critters and bears and escaped mental patients with hooks for hands just waiting to hack you apart behind every tree. No wonder it was such a perfect place for Evil Bob to hang out just waiting to steal Leland Palmer’s soul and force him to kill his daughter (Shit! Sorry! SPOILER ALERT. I just ruined the entire show. Ahem. Yeah. My bad. Pobody’s nerfect!) The desert, on the other hand, is honest and plain. You know Cal Seething- 110314-bobexactly what’s coming for you- it’s like “Who knows what evil lurks out in the desert?? Wait- I do- it’s Evil Bob. Hey Bob! How’s it going out there? Hot enough for you? Heh heh heh. OK, take care. Don’t kill anyone I wouldn’t kill.”

But while I prefer the desert, I totally understand why Washington State is perfect for mysterious stories of the bizarre and inexplicable- like Twin Peaks or Twilight or the 2014 Seahawks. So what happens when you take a creepy little town like this and introduce the killing of a beautiful young woman? Television gold, baby! (No disrespect to crime victims, every life is precious, something something violence against women blah blah blah blah blah)

 

“She’s dead – wrapped in plastic” Cal Seething- 110314- dead
-Pete Martell

 

Laura Palmer had secrets. Honestly, though, I’m not sure when she found the time to keep them. She was a good student, cheerleader, and homecoming queen. She delivered meals to elderly shut-ins, gave private English lessons, tutored developmentally disabled adults and worked both as a salesgirl at the perfume counter of the local department store AND as a coke whore in a Canadian brothel- all of which while dating the captain of the football team and Mr. 90’s Sensitive Wussy James Dean (what is it about Washington State that turns guys who should be badass into brooding sensitive wussies or “Edward Cullen Syndrome” as the DSM V refers to it) and being menaced by the evil spirit that had taken possession of her father’s body and consumed his soul and would ultimately kill her (CRAP! No! I did it again. Alright- well, just pretend you didn’t read that either lalalalala I can’t hear you I can’t hear you)  It’s no wonder she was doing blow- she was busy! When was she supposed to sleep? It’s clear that Twin Peaks isn’t a gothic supernatural horror story about the mysterious evil that lurks in the woods of the northwest- but rather a cautionary tale about overscheduled kids. Think about that parents the next time you’re in the Honda Odyssey racing from flute lessons to soccer practice. Do you want your kid to end up blowing Mounties for 88 cents on the dollar (and it was way less back them) or washing up on the beach wrapped up like a plastic burrito from Chipolte? Do you??? Well, then maybe you ought to let her drop out of rhythmic gymnastics or take a little break from SAT prep. She can start back up with it when she turns 10.

Cal Seething- 110314- nadineI mean, why did Laura have to do everything in Twin Peaks? There were 50,200 other people in that town- what the hell were they doing all day?? Are they all just coma patients and sock puppets?? Were they all so busy cramming their cherry pie holes and inventing silent drape runners that they couldn’t deliver a fucking meal to an old person or pick up a goddman shift at the brothel?? Seriously, if you’re opening and closing your drapes so frequently that the noise from the runners is ruining your life- quieter drape runners are NOT THE ANSWER- like, if you’re shitting fire uncontrollably, you don’t need a low flow toilet. Not, if you’re opening and closing your drapes that much, you need to get yourself some therapy ASAP for your paralyzing OCD, even if the only therapist in town is obsessed with  Hawaii and wears 3-DCal Seething-110314-jacoby glasses all the time. I mean, I know he needed to wear those so he could see the depth in Sheryl Lee’s acting- but I don’t know if I could share my deepest darkest secrets with a man who’s ready to drop everything at any moment and watch Jaws 3.

If only Laura could be more like that nice Audrey Horne. She didn’t get bogged down with teenage distractions like boys and drugs and the helping the elderly (Kids today! What are you gonna do?), she just focused on the important things in her life like dancing by herself to Now That’s What David Lynch Calls Music…I Guess? (Volume 4) and learning how to tie a cherry stem in a knot in her mouth so she can nail her interview at the Canadian brothel (I can’t tell you how many countless hours I wasted in high school trying to teach myself that trick. Of course, nowadays, all I would have to do is watch this:

but things were much harder back in my day.). Even though she was saving herself for Billy Zane (and weren’t we all a little. Grrroowl.) Audrey defined sexiness for my whole generation of freakazoids. The Playboy Magazine spread with Sherilyn Fenn- clearly one of the highlights of my late adolescence (Remember when you had to buy a magazine to see Sherilyn Fenn naked. Nowadays, all you have to do is watch this:


Sherilyn Fenn Topless by eyecelebs

but things were much harder back in my day.)

Now if something tragic should befall your overscheduled teen daughter in Twin Peaks- there’s no reason to dance manically with her picture, kill a French dude, let your hair turn white, sing impromptu show tunes and send your niece back to MISSOULA, MONTANA!!!  (Leland Palmer’s five stages of grief) because the Twin Peaks Sherriff’s Department is on the case! Under the Cal Seething- 110414-tpsdearnest folksy leadership of Harry S. Truman, they’ve got Andy, who can’t control his crying when he’s confronted with death (sort of like I would be if I was a cop), lovably ditzy Lucy and, of course, and of course long haired wisdom dispensing Native American officer Chief Little Big Microaggression (That’s the word, right millenials? Microagression? For like when you say something like “You’re Jewish, you’re good with money” or “you’re Asian- can you help with my math homework” We had a name for that kind of racial attack, too. I think it was “compliment”)

So- yeah, the TPSD – not exactly inspiring much confidence. Fortunately, though, Special Agent Dale Cooper is on the case and he combines the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes, the zen-mastery of Phil Jackson and Warrant’s passion for Cherry Pie into one black suited slick haired bon mot dropping super cop. Seriously, pretty much everything that falls out of Dale Cooper’s mouth like a stray cherry is solid gold. Especially the one sided monologues he records into his tape player for his unseen Ms. Moneypenny, Diane (So…if someone were to send you a petition to change “Siri” to “Diane” would you sign? I’m just asking for a friend.) Arguably Cooper’s most memorable scene is the famous dream with the red drapes and the dwarf. Now this scene has been much discussed, analyzed and lampooned by Scooby Doo – and while everyone talks about Laura Palmer and the dwarf, nobody talks about the most disturbing part – that when Cooper wakes up, he has a flap of hair sticking up at a 90 degree angle to Cal Seething- 110414- hairthe top of his head, like a killer wave for surfing lice. It is the most dramatic case of bedhead that medical science has ever seen. Vidal Sassoon is in a bidding war with Tresemme for the rights to examine his scalp when he dies. There are baby ducks on the Gulf Coast with less grease in their hair.  It’s nuts- you could draw a line from the tip of his hair to the top of his head and then use the Pythagorean theorem to measure it – and if the fact that I know this much about Twin Peaks hasn’t shown you that I’m an enormous nerd, than Pythagorean Theorem joke should for sure.

“One day my log will have something to say about this. My log saw something that night.”
-Log Lady

Cal Seething-110414-logladySo, yeah, I was an enormous nerd- a lot of us Twin Peaks fans were. And this was before being a nerd was celebrated, before the very word “nerd” was appropriated and used as a slightly self-effacing badge of honor by anyone with even a slightly above average interest in a particular subject area (E.G. “Ohmygodyouguys I’ve seen Bring in On like 10 million times. I am SUCH a cheerleading nerd.” No. You’re not a nerd. You’re literally the worst person ever. Even though that is a truly fine film – pre-Spiderman Kirsten Dunst is the best Kirsten Dunst.) Back when Twin Peaks came out nerds were still marginalized and persecuted. Revenge of the Nerds was a glorious dream not an economic reality (watching it now, it’s our Django Unchained.) We were given huge plastic eye glasses to identify us, rounded up from our homes and sent to Computer Camps. And on TV we were marginalized and reduced to a punchline- Fraiser Craines in a Sam Malone world.

Then, Twin Peaks came along and put freaks and weirdos in the spotlight with biggest nerd of all calling the shots. Suddenly, there was a genuine, bona fide, Newsweek certified pop culture phenomenon and we were right in the center of it because we GOT IT. Every week David Lynch threw down the gauntlet of weirdness and we. we few, we nerdy few, accepted the challenge time and time Cal Seething- 110414- horseagain. A lady who carries a log around and talks to it? SURE! A biker bar where they listen to Julee Cruise and fight in slow motion? WHY NOT? A dancing dwarf, giant with a bowtie, white horse in the living room, owls that AREN’T WHAT THEY SEEM and copious, uncontrollable, prodigious weeping FUCK YEAH- BRING IT ON!!!! This was our moment and we reveled in it. We shared cherry pie and coffee at viewing parties, made bets during Calculus class over who the killer would be (her dad. CRAP! I keep doing that!) and taught a generation of TV executives that they could create something smarter and cooler and weirder than they had ever dreamed possibleCal-Seething--110314--copro and that people would fucking watch. Of course, in 1990 a generation of TV executives also learned that they could create a rock musical police procedural and viewers would flee in disgust but, you know, can’t win em all.

“How’s Annie?”
-Dale Cooper

Like many great shows, Twin Peaks ended ignominiously with Dale Cooper spending two hours trying to find the right conference room in the Black Lodge before becoming possessed by the evil and terrifying Bob who then compelled Cooper to do the most evil and terrifying thing that David Lynch could conceive of and SQUEEZE A TUBE OF TOOTHPASTE FROM THE MIDDLE.

Oh the humanity!!!! What could be next? Drinking milk from the carton? Using the bathroom and leaving just one little square of toilet paper on the roll?? NOT CLEANING THE LINT FILTER?????? Mother fucker’s the devil. Oh, also he broke a mirror with his face and that’s kind of evil. I guess. Anyhow, the show ended and we all thought this would be the last time we would be visiting the little town of Twin Peaks on TV.

“That gum you like is going to come back in style”
The Man from Another Place (Dwarf)

And now, it’s almost 25 years later. Many of us have little nerds of our own that we can introduce to Twin Peaks. Others, like me, Cal-Seething--100714--punkyhave dogs that don’t give a shit. Hi Punky! Punky Punky Punky Punky! Who’s my little Punky Wunky??? Who’s my little Punky Wunky??? PUNKY!!!!

Ahem. Sorry about that. It looks like I’m gonna be retarded for the forseeable future.

Anyhow, like I was saying – we all thought we saw the last of Twin Peaks, until Showtime announced that they will be coming out with new episodes in 2016 – 25 years after the show went off the air. And while it’s gonna be a little depressing to see just how old they’ve all gotten I know that I can not wait to hear that theme music start up again, see that Bewick’s Wren and go over the waterfall into the madness

But as much as I’m looking forward to it- I know the show’s not really for me. It’s for that misunderstood teenager stuck somewhere out there in Suburbia who sees David Lynch’s vision of evil in a small town and knows in his bones that Lynch is talking to him.

Meanwhile, for all of us old fans- I’d just like to ask that you put your one remaining hand over your heart, smile maniacally into the mirror and repeat after me:

Through the darkness of future pastCal Seething- 110414-mike
The magician longs to see
One chants out between two worlds
FIRE, walk with me.

See you in 2016. I’ll meet you at the corner of Sparkwood and 21. Seriously, David – WHAT IS SO FASCINATING ABOUT THIS FUCKING STOP LIGHT???? Is jaywalking yet another of Bob’s nefarious crimes? I guess we’ll find out real soon.

Cal Seething- 110416- 2016