I'm Still Alive
I was a teenager in the 1990s and I loved grunge music. I loved Pearl Jam. I came around on Nirvana (everybody loved them and that made them too...popular for me to admit to liking them). I went to see the Cameron Crowe gem Singles in the movie theatre at the mall. I wore plenty of plaid flannel. I was into it. I imagined Seattle to be a kind of dreary but cozy coffeehouse-laden town. Ramshackle houses lining old streets and funky shops and plenty of live music venues. That was my imagined Seattle. Singles and Pearl Jam and other random media seemed to confirm this. Then, in college, I finally discovered Twin Peaks. It was an obsession. I purchased both seasons on VHS (no small feat in the days of TV on tape...probably like 10 VHS tapes in a giant cardboard sleeve costing approximately $150 when ordered from a very primitive amazon.com) and watched them over and over again. I collected Twin Peaks memorabilia on ebay. I made all my friends watch it, too. I was very into it. And because I studied it as if it were as important as my actual college courses, I had a pretty good idea what the Pacific Northwest was really like.
When I arrived in Seattle, all of my certainty about the PNW disappeared. Seattle is a huge city. It is all gleaming glass skyscrapers and spreads across the area over land and sea. I booked myself in a slick hotel in Bellevue (Microsoft is there...so) and valet parked the van. To get to Pike Place Market and the Space Needle and fancy brunch on Saturday, I had to take a $30 Lyft ride into the city. It was a long ride. All of my Lyft drivers were very kind and lovely...and I felt terrible for making them travel all the way from Bellevue to Seattle and vice versa. My cozy, dreary town was a big, sleek city. I’m guessing it was different 20 years ago, but I was surprised to find it as I did in 2019.
The Tuesday after Easter, I drove myself the 45 minutes to North Bend to see Twin Peaks
locations. There is the Salish Lodge (the Great Northern Hotel) and Snoqualmie Falls and Twede’s Cafe (the Double R Diner). It was a gloomy day (big surprise) and fog hung heavy and low over the treetops and obscured the mountaintops. My first stop was at the falls and the hotel. It looks...exactly the same. It is absolutely what I imagined because it is what was filmed. Thirty years later, this small lodge and the falls
remain unchanged. I stood at the misty overlook and felt the spray on my face, breathed the clear air, and felt much like I think old Dale Cooper felt when he drove into town on that first day. When he arrived, he conveyed to his faithful secretary, Diane, that it was “54 degrees, slightly overcast, weatherman said rain.” That’s exactly the kind of conditions I experienced, too. I then drove myself into town to Twede’s Cafe, which was the exterior and model for the Double R Diner in the series. Coming into town, the road bends rather suddenly and you’re all at once looking right at the famous sign for the place. I actually gasped when I saw it. Inside, it looked just like the Double R (something I was not at all expecting) and I enjoyed a piece of very good cherry pie and, fair enough, a damn fine cup of coffee. The waitresses weren’t wearing the blue uniforms of the series, but otherwise things were indistinguishable from Twin Peaks. I loved every moment of it. At the lodge, I bought some Twin Peaks-themed gifts and a postcard of the falls in black-and-white.
The Pacific Northwest does have a dreamy quality. It is moody and dark and there are many, many trees. For me, it was both exactly as I imagined and completely surprising. I don’t know what it might have been like 20 years ago. I only know that I felt lovely familiarity and complete confusion while I was there. I don’t thrive in gray and rainy weather. My darkest moods tend to start there. I couldn’t be happy living in the PNW. However, I can highly recommend the pie, the coffee, and the donuts. Dale Cooper had it right there, at least.