With today being the day that Twin Peaks returns to television, I walked the actual streets of that fabled town to discover that the owls are not what they seem. And that you can merchandise everything.
About an hour into Washington State along the I-5, the biggest owl I’ve ever seen in my life flew right across my windshield and into the trees along the freeway.
My goal was to reach the Snoqualmie and North Bend area before sunrise to check out all the places where David Lynch and co filmed Twin Peaks. Not just the first two seasons but the one coming out literally three weeks from time of writing that I have been ecstatic about for the better part of two years, or whenever it was they announced it. In anticipation of the show, I’ve had the first two seasons on heavy Hulu rotation and dug myself deep into co-creator Mark Frost’s recently published novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, which links the 25-year gap between seasons two and three. So, as I was the only car on this stretch of the road, after that owl passed over, it was relatively easy for me to take that leap into the world of make believe.
The town of Twin Peaks
“It’s just a show,” you could say, but you couldn’t tell me that as I rolled past Snoqualmie Falls around three in the morning, headlights barely cutting through the fog as quiet streetlights reflected in puddles along the main drags. As far as I could tell, beyond a gas station here or there the whole town was shut down. Not a soul in sight, just Douglas firs, owls and fog. A big part of the show’s appeal is how interconnected it is with the real world. Like all of Lynch’s work, the line between fact and fiction is as easily blurred as the line between dream and reality. So, as much as it’s Snoqualmie and North Bend, it’s Twin Peaks.
The first stop was Twede’s Cafe, the setting of the Double R Diner where many of the first two seasons’ iconic moments and lines take place. Through the car’s speakers I crank up Angelo Badalamenti’s gorgeous “Twin Peaks Theme” and from the steering wheel film my drive through town. My windshield wipers clear the foggy mist away to reveal the cafe as the synthesised strings crescendo. It is a standout historical landmark in the area.
I park along the side, right in front of a mural of coffee and cherry pie, hop out and run to the big yellow striped sign that reads “Cafe”, check to see if anyone is around, and start scoping the place. Inside, I can see through the glass front door, a cook is prepping for the Sunday breakfast rush. I take a brief walk up and down the sidewalk, past Twin Peaks Nutrition and Wellness, and then take a selfie in front of the cafe sign. As I do so, an older green pickup pulls up to the curb in front of Twede’s. A man gets out with a stack of newspapers and puts them in one of the racks near the front door.
“Taking pictures, eh?” he says, a tone of suspicion in his voice.
“Twin Peaks fan,” I am quick to say, assuming anyone driving by would have figured as much, though I admit that the sight of anyone taking pictures in a small town at three in the morning is odd.
“We appreciate your loving it so much,” he tells me, but he’s really talking to all Twin Peaks fans (there’s even a Twin Peaks Fest held in the town), “I think we take it for granted around here.”
We chat a bit about the show and the town, and I tell him how impressed I am with the Douglas Firs in the area. Within minutes he’s back in his truck, off to the next newspaper rack. A perfectly eerie start to my brief but wondrous visit. I think nerdy thoughts, like if 51,201 people really lived here, as the “Welcome to Twin Peaks” town sign suggests, the city would be ten times as big as it is in real life. The cafe won’t open for another five hours, so I head back to Snoqualmie Falls.
When I get there, it’s the same scene. No cars in the parking lot, except for up the hill at the Salish Lodge & Spa, the setting for The Great Northern Hotel in the show. I check out the falls, barely visible through the 4am mist. This is the same river where Laura Palmer’s lifeless body, wrapped in plastic, washed up near the Packard Mill and was discovered by Pete Martell. On the way to the falls from Twede’s, I passed Mount Si/Twin Peaks High School, where James, Bobby, Donna and everyone else first heard the news.
Frost’s book is impressive in its scope. Marketed as a novel, it reads like a dossier, full of faux newspaper clips, handwritten notes, candid photographs, and leaked government documents. While the book ties up some loose ends from the first two seasons, feature film Fire Walk With Me and The Diary of Laura Palmer, the mystery is only increased. This, of course, is the whole point. Beyond the question of “Who killed Laura Palmer?”, which Gorbachev once asked George HW Bush, the mystery was never meant to be solved. At least, not completely. Beyond that, it reads something like an esoteric history of the American Northwest, with references to Thelema, Scientology, Project Blue Book, Freemasonry and other mystical outlets, tying them into the backstories of Twin Peaks characters and historical figures alike. As a work of fiction, I wish more authors would be so bold in their construction of text.
I go back to the car and nap until sunrise, then head back to Twede’s. Cherry pie and damn fine coffee are in order. But first, one of the biggest, best breakfasts I’d ever had. Scrambled eggs smothered in cheese. Sourdough toast. Hash browns. A pile of bacon. Absolutely delicious. I sit in the stool where Bobby Briggs sat in the pilot. The cafe is not at all different from how it appears in the show. The waitresses and servers all wear Twin Peaks-themed shirts. There’s Twin Peaks merchandise along the main counter.
“All done?” my waitress asks.
“Nope,” I say, and give a knock on the counter, “I would like some cherry pie and damn fine coffee please,” and it really says “Twin Peaks Cherry Pie” in bright red lettering in the Twede’s menu.
She smiles and asks if I want ice cream or whipped cream with the pie, one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. I go with whipped cream.
As I wait for my breakfast dessert, I look around to get a sense of the space. In a couple booths people sit and take pictures of the menu and of the diner, just as I was doing. In the hallway going towards the back, where the bathrooms are, hang an array of photographs and memorabilia going as far back as the early ’90s when they first filmed the show. Some are newspaper collages, behind-the-scenes candids, and even a Wolverine comic where the title character makes a stop at the Double R. It’s really impressive, actually. A priceless collection.
I finish my pie and damn fine coffee, pay the check and tuck my receipt into my copy of The secret history of Twin Peaks, right where the faux menu for the Double R is, near the middle of the book. I thought to ask one of the waitresses if they would sign it, but the place was packed and I felt it might have seemed a little weird. But then again, this is Twin Peaks. Maybe next time.
As I take one last drive through town I admire the clouds creeping over the top of Mount Si, how it looks like talons over the summit, and remember the owl.
They really aren’t what they seem.