Armagideon Time

Peaked in high school

April 3rd, 2017

Excitement has been building among my friends for the upcoming continuation of Twin Peaks. While I hope the new episodes live up to my friends’ lofty exceptions, I plan on sitting this one out.

The original series debuted during the tail end of my senior year in high school. I first got word of it from my old man of all people, who never really got the whole concept of punk rock but did (and still does) make the occasional effort to bond with his sons over what he interprets as some quirky or geeky touchstone.

“I dunno, Andy, it’s supposed to be really weird and surreal and sounds like something you’d like. Oh, and that guy from The Rookies is in it.”

There was also a bit of buzz about it from the gaggle of geeky misfits I shared a lunch table with, mostly due to series co-creator David Lynch’s previous involvement with Eraserhead and Blue Velvet. The hype was enough to make me watch the pilot episode. Anything remotely “punk” or “underground” would get my attention in those days, when such things were relatively thin on the ground and beggars couldn’t be choosers.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting from Twin Peaks. I just know it didn’t deliver it on any level of interest to me, apart from the multiple oh-so-crushworthy female members of its cast. The series felt more affected than legitimately strange, as if the drama club girl who pinned a wilted gardena to her wide-brimmed hat became the showrunner for Dynasty.

My family used to throw barbecues with a schizophrenic who talked to Jesus and a guy who chewed off his own lips during a drug-induced stupor. No middle-aged woman toting a log was going to clear that bar for bizarre experiences.

Yet I did continue to watch the show, partly to swoon over Madchen Amick and partially to have something to discuss besides Dragonlance canon around the lunch table. The season one finale aired the night before my senior prom, and some classmates and I discussed the the episode’s shocking ending as we waited to pick up our tuxes at the rental place in Burlington the following afternoon.

I stuck around long enough to catch the second season resolution of that cliffhanger, but a lot of water had passed under the bridge in those four months. I had enrolled in college, and managed to hook up with an assortment of geeks whose intensity outstripped my suburban circles by several orders of magnitude. Being a hot new-ish thing with highbrow leanings, Twin Peaks was object of extreme devotion among the more artsy — or wannabe artsy — segments of the fanfolk population.

In practice, this just amounted to little more than a veneer of pretension over the old, familiar behaviors. The dwarf’s backward-forward speak was the subject of a billion piss-poor attempts at impersonation, while the “Damn good, [insert noun]” utterances approached actual infinity. No mixtape was complete without a segment from Angelo Badalamenti’s score from the show or a Julee Cruise number thrown in between cuts by Rush and Ministry.

In high school, I watched the show so I could have something to talk about with friends. In college, I rapidly learned to avoid any mention of it lest I unleash a long and stultifying torrent of fan-wank. Any residual interest I had in Twin Peaks died a painful death after a scraggly Skinny Puppy fan spent forty five minutes attempting to explain the Black Lodge to me on a stalled Red Line train.

An odd, but entirely predictable, consequence of the show was the uptick in handheld cassette recorder sales. I knew no fewer than four Twin Peaks fanboys who dropped money on the devices to emulate their idol Agent Cooper. The memory of this has set my mind to wondering if any of recordings made by them or others of their ilk remain.

If so, a transcription of their contents could form the basis for the saddest book ever published.

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2 Responses to “Peaked in high school”

  1. Christopher Pinkleton

    I feel like I was lucky in mostly avoiding Twin Peaks during it’s actual run, aside from seeing the “big reveal” episode when it originally aired with a female friend who was a rabid fan. Luckily, I forgot any details from that one viewing when my college housemate’s girlfriend (now wife) lent me her VHS set of the show (as well as a bootleg of the then legally unavailable pilot) somewhere around 93-94. She even had the “Laura Palmer Diary” that Lynch’s daughter penned, which was actually pretty creepy and decently written.

    Without all the hoopla (which I remember pretty well from English class, my junior year teacher was a fan) it was a nice wierdo Lynchian thing to groove on for about a month, knowing full well when I started that it was not going to have a satisfying ending. I don’t think it would have been nearly as fun if I’d had to “share” it with the masses. Punk rawk attitude, y’know.

    I love Lynch for his imagery which I find mirrors my own dreams and nightmares. I don’t expect squat in terms of a satisfying narrative from him. When that part gels well ( as it it did for me with Lost Highway) I consider it the cherry on top of the surrealist cake. I plan to check out the new season, but I am not expecting anything like closure to any of the threads I left behind over 20 years ago.

    On the subject of pretentiousness, I wouldn’t disagree you if you claimed that Skinny Puppy’s whole discography was an exemplar of that trait, and I find them close to unlistenable now, but dear God, they were an amazing live act in the early 90s. I never understood why they didn’t get an organic drummer to recreate their live sound on record –it was the “gathering of the (punk/metal/industrial dance) tribes” at their shows and it was fun, fun, fun…..

    Yes, I am uncool enough to admit I listened to industrial dance. Meat Beat Manifesto put on a good show too…opening for Nine Inch Nails, at a show a female friend had dressed me up in Robert Smith-drag for…..

    Hey someone had to be there for the really cool kids to make fun of. I was the guy in the T-shirt for the last tour the band had been on that I was seeing that evening too — more than once. Ouch.

  2. Tony Goins

    That’s a pretty good take on Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks was something I had an affinity for, and I listened the hell out the soundtrack, but I never managed to actually catch when it was on TV. I started watching it when it popped up on Netflix and, dang, is it slow. It’s not as weird as it wants to be, but way weirder than anything I was watching at the time.

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