Who Says You Can't Can't Go Home How to realize, remember, and reflect home in the Black Lodge of 2017

From "Beyond Life and Death"

David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks aired its last episode of season 2 in 1991, over a quarter-century ago. With the series finally making its return for season 3 on Sunday, May 21, we are celebrating all week with a string of Twin Peaks-related features. More from this series


I didn’t think I have to leave this place until I was standing in the Red Room with the six other men who looked like me. We had stuffed our limbs into ill-fitting Value City suits, and we’d shellacked our hairs back flat. We all wanted to be Dale Cooper, because we all knew we already were, at least in our own lives. I have to leave this place, I swallowed. I had not counted on seeing me here.

I left. I went home.

I didn’t decide I couldn’t go home until I was standing in the woods, humming a Bon Jovi song. In the woods and in the mirror, I didn’t look like Jon Bon Jovi any more than I looked like Special Agent Dale Cooper, like the other men in the Red Room. But in New Jersey 2006, when I’m 16 and home is easy to find (straight down 537, the rim of Freehold’s city limits, a left at Johnny B’s Diner, find the cul-de-sac, find me), Bon Jovi, the ultra-clutch patron brand band of macaroni-and-cheese musing and fist-clenching earnestness, would honk in certain chain restaurants all summer long. And Jon Bon, also from Jersey, from the place that was home, would grin sheen sing: “Who says you can’t go home.

Who says who says you can’t go home? And what if it’s me? There’s some of Twin Peaks’s inscrutable certainty and unknowable weirdness to the grammar of that hook. “Who says you can’t go home” is inquiry and resolution, heading and shredding the map. It’s being in the woods and resolving to never get back, but always knowing you can’t not get there. We’re all always going back home, re-booting revivals, re-arriving in the same strange familiar places. Home is somehow safe and never in the woods, the great pre-now, always-then (“MAKE HOME GREAT AGAIN.”). Who says you can’t can’t go home; you’re still there, and you haven’t changed. But something has. I don’t know where home is these weird days, in these woods. The stuff on television doesn’t look like home. And I don’t know the simple answers to complicated questions.

So I looked in the mirror. And I didn’t see Dale Cooper. So I turned away, and I ran.

Maybe when we look in the mirror and we don’t recognize what we see, we abandon our selves for fear of giving in to the strange things. Or maybe we run to get back to something we’ll recognize. Home is like Twin Peaks, the place where the population never grows or shrinks, even as souls shuttle about. We have all this actual matter rendered mirror material on the TV screen: investigators and lawmen seeking answers and resolutions to the dark things in the woods. The stuff we see in mirrors isn’t us, but like the stuff in our art, the reflection is a version. Facsimiles are copies, but any copy involves the original matter. Us as our doppelgangers matter to us; we can’t feel right in the Red Room, and there’s a reason Cooper runs from himself. The difference between realizing and reflecting is the difference between ears and eyes: every noise we hear appears in its own instant, and every thing we see is immediately montaged against everything else we’re seeing. The ear takes the world into our head, and the eyes realize outward worlds. When we can’t reconcile what we see, we turn away. I can’t go home in the mirror, because everything I’ll see isn’t me. So I turn away, and I leave.

I didn’t leave me in the mirror until I ran out into the woods, and I didn’t do that until I heard my sister on the phone, who was walking my dog, whose voice was heavy from the speakers and air-space it had traveled, who told me as I was looking at me, “He’s gone.” He saw something in the trees. He’d gotten off his leash and headed straight for the woods. I still hadn’t gotten to my friend’s Twin Peaks party yet, still hadn’t decided that I had to leave. I ran into the woods, where I couldn’t find my dog, the only thing that felt like home in 2015, and I decided I couldn’t go home. “I’ll see you in the branches/ I’ll see you in the trees.”

From “Lonely Souls”

When we look in the mirror and can’t reconcile what we see, we leave. But when we’re lost looking like not-selves in the dark, we can’t not seem and we can’t not be: Who’s me am I out among these leaves?

(The trick of our lives is thinking we’re mirrorable, that there’s more than one of us. We’re our doppelgangers, so of course that’s us in the mirror. Splitting life is the dishonest thing about remembering and the remarkable thing about art-making: here in these words I’m making, I’m talking about me in the woods and me in the mirror like they’re different people, which they can’t be, which of course they are. Everything about remembering is reflecting.)

Dale Cooper wasn’t in the mirror (“how’s Annie?”), and Twin Peaks wasn’t on the screens in my home. My father’s out here with me somewhere, voice like mitt-leather echoing off through the bark and dirt, calling my dog’s name. He didn’t watch Twin Peaks. My mother didn’t watch Twin Peaks. But part of home, then, was coming around corners and hearing and seeing and realizing Gilmore Girls, a show of a rebooted hometown that came back to us just when the world seemed at its un-homeliest. November 2016 felt like weeks of smashed mirror, like all of a sudden I couldn’t get back home even if I wanted, which of course I wanted. My mirror broke on me, and I’m not sure when: one broken shard morning in January, I kissed Sarah and went out into the cold and drove to work, and on the radio there was a small, ugly voice, sounding flat in a wind tunnel, solemnly swearing, hijacking our constitutions. The mirror broke, and there was blood all over.

There’s blood all over Gilmore Girls, that progeny intimacy where we can’t tell who we are. I didn’t think Gilmore Girls was as clear a mirror for horror until I was in a Starbucks in 2017 (another Washington state transplant from the 90s) watching the pilot, trying to look away from the screen. Because Lorelai looks at Rory and knows right away how to orient herself: “That should have been my first thought. After all, you’re me.”

And Rory looks back and looks away, scared, and says “I’m not you.”

Windows look like mirrors when there’s something on the other side. It’s what I told my car radio on that cold morning in January, and it’s a Duck Soup refraction, but sometimes the me in the mirror is too close by blood to be anything but part home. Progeny intimacy is bones rubbing against bones, an ugly proximity of self on self. Twin Peaks made sure Leland was possessed before it let him rape and murder Laura Palmer, but Twin Peaks made sure we knew that Laura Palmer was his daughter. And Ben Horne lusts after Audrey because he doesn’t know he can’t not lust, that there’s nothing home there because it’s too close to home. Our country is our country and our selves, even when it doesn’t feel like our home: “Harry, is it any easier to believe a man would rape and murder his own daughter? Any more comforting?”

Leland Palmer and Emily Gilmore

Twin Peaks and Gilmore Girls in 2017 reboot the home and re-present us our past hometowns we can’t get back to. Is our current national reflection scary enough that we need to see us in the past, us as our daughter or son? Twin Peaks is the place where everyone’s eccentricities are exceptional, especially because they don’t leave Twin Peaks. The only way out is knowing things aren’t what they seem, that there’s something worth investigating, and Coop never gets out, really. “It’s the strangest thing. She never made it home,” said Leland, after he won’t remember smashing his niece’s face against a picture of her home (Missoula, MT), after he can’t refuse re-making his daughter’s wrecked image.

Leland is our father, the image of what keeps us home. Star’s Hollow is like that snow-globe home, the tracked existence, like looking in the mirror and seeing yourself as your parent 25 years early, the admission that the only thing worth talking about is each other, because we’re us. Shouldn’t we let Rory’s return to Star’s Hollow feel tragic? “I wanna remember it all, every detail,” she says in the revival’s finale, and we nod along, wanting to want what she has. We reboot to remember the America that birthed these homes to disregard the one we see out of windows today. Windows look like mirrors when there’s something on the other side. But what happens 25 years after “I’ll see you in 25 years,” that Red Room warning from someone whose rape and murder we can’t wait to get back to? It means meanwhile, the year in the life, means that we can’t un-home where we are now, but we can’t not try. Meanwhile means that Rory reclines with her mother, confesses, “I’m pregnant,” and we cheer because we knew she was Lorelai, knew she was home. We remember “meanwhile…

Home is other people maybe, which is why in these woods I hope my dog will realize my voice is me, remember where his home is. And I hear my dad’s voice out here too, but it might be mine. We look at mirrors to see things that remind us of our selves, and we remember us when we’re good to us. When I look in the mirror and don’t recognize, I leave. Because the thing looking back might be BOB, might be the evil that humans do, and I don’t know how not to smash it, because that means it’s me.

I didn’t smash the mirror until I wanted to smash my computer screen, which was after I was sitting in a Starbucks drinking coffee like Coop and Lorelai, those remembered ciphers for ugly life, watching the new Gilmore Girls because I was looking for simple answers to complicated questions. And there, sitting among a circle of dead-Richard’s friends, part of A Year in the Life, back on the mirror screen was Leland Palmer, part of me and too close for me to get away from. What happens when we look in the mirror and can’t remember what we’re seeing? Who says you can’t see BOB? Who says the not-me I see isn’t just me anyway?

From “Beyond Life and Death”

In the woods, like in the mirror, I don’t look any more like me than Dale Cooper or Bon Jovi do. So I’ll find my dog, mud-covered and shaking, running from nothing, getting back to me. And I’ll loop his leash onto him tight, see me reflected back in his black droop eyes. Home is in each other.

It wasn’t until today when I reflected in these words the me in the Red Room among all the other Dale Coopers, and now: Why go back to Twin Peaks? Who said we could?

Twin Peaks was the investigatory text, prime time welcoming us back to turn up every rock to see all our ugly sides. By seeking to see where we were in 1990 and where we sit in 2017, we grant that Twin Peaks/art and a world is somehow always us reflected, even when it reviles us, even when it’s BOB. What we watch is us watching: there are so many things of me in the shards of a smashed mirror. In these woods of now, we can’t not look at what we see on televisions and feel cold threats to our investigatory liberty; all our useless reality stars have bled back through our dream devices into policy and community. Why retreat? Who said we could go back to the home we’re not in?

Can Twin Peaks be the mirror we want it to be? Is our country a home where we’ll kill our sons and daughters? We are our dreams reflected, or at least we can be. The only thing to fear in our Black Lodge is us running from our selves. Coop weathers every trial between and behind those red curtains until he sees himself. And then he recoils. We are the only threat to our selves, and as soon as we forget that, someone else comes running for us. Twin Peaks ends in caution, not despair. Coming home to Twin Peaks means reopening and revisiting the realizations and memories on our terms, in our art of image and dream. We sit at the countertops of diners, pressing tine to huckleberry pie, trying out our trepidations in French, “j’ai une âme solitaire.” We are lonely souls, but mirrors mean options for humans as meaning-makers, ways to fix the way we look, at and to others. Coming home means seeing all our fears in the mirror: “an evil that great in this beautiful world. Finally, does it matter what the cause?”

It matters. We remember that when we watch, which we must, which we will. We can’t get back to Twin Peaks because we never left: a revival is more than the ghost reflected. You aren’t a reflection of you 25 years too soon, and you aren’t just your mother on loop. You have blood and brothers and sisters in this home that isn’t 2017 or 1990. Home is all the time. “As a member of the bureau, I spend most of my time seeking simple answers to difficult questions,” said Dale Cooper, said Frank, in the woods now and then. As critics and citizens, of our art and our demons, it’s our job to realize us, all the time. We investigate our traumas, solve our collective ugliness by invoking the investigative forces and a little magic: we appeal to Zen, believe in dreams, speaks truths to empty spaces, reject chaos, reinforce justice, act on instinct, write poetry for lovers, compose and celebrate and refuse to let our world subsist in darkness.

I see us in the mirror. I reflect and I will not turn my back on home. We cannot abandon what looks smashed, especially when we did it, especially when we can solve it. We investigate us all the time, because there’s nothing else to do.

David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks aired its last episode of season 2 in 1991, over a quarter-century ago. With the series finally making its return for season 3 on Sunday, May 21, we are celebrating all week with a string of Twin Peaks-related features. More from this series

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