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Peak October

The makings of a Lynchian fall.

Illustration: The zig-zag flooring from the “Black Lodge” in “Twin Peaks” is shown replacing one of the streets leading up to the Wisconsin State Capitol on a foggy night. Photo in illustration by Richard Hurd on Flickr.

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

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There’s a switch inside me that flicks on and off as the seasons change. The moment we hit October, that switch flipped and a hunger grew within me, one that could only be satiated by the likes of murderous stories of ghosts, creatures, small towns, hauntings, and of course, beautiful fall foliage. 

Every fall, whether I want to or not, I embark on an endeavor to re-watch the beauty that is David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

The controlled terror of watching a horror movie (or show) I’ve seen countless times brings a bit of joy to fight off the seasonal depression that latches itself onto the year-round Major Depression. There is comfort in watching the fictional pain of others (too dark? You tell me).  

Despite its Washington location, Twin Peaks could easily be found anywhere in Wisconsin. Lynch himself spent a decent amount of time in the Dairy State filming his 1999 feature The Straight Story and has ties to Madison through his longtime collaborator (and briefly wife) Mary Sweeney, who grew up on the isthmus. Lynch has also collaborated over the years with Tandem Press, the UW-Madison printmaking operation currently based on the North Side. For years, Madisonians have passed around the rumor that Lynch favors the resplendently be-striped Le Tigre Lounge. (The bar’s owner, Paul Josheff, could not confirm this, but the rumor is pervasive and you can see why people buy into it.)

According to past reporting from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Lynch frequented L’Etoile, where he often enjoyed chicken in cherry cream sauce. Decadent. 

“It’s high art in food. It’s unbelievably beautiful food,” he said in a 2001 interview of the local spot. 

Anyways, back to the weird and scary shit.

For anyone who has yet to watch the series (or movie, or reboot), the plot—sans-spoilers—follows the investigation of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and local Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), into the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the made-up town of Twin Peaks, Washington. It’s a campy melodrama that wraps horror, comedy, crime, and the supernatural into two original seasons that make perfect nonsense, whether or not you’ve caught the much-belated third season.

Lynch expanded his already significant cult following through the show, and I consider myself thoroughly indoctrinated. (Anyone wanna see my Audrey Horne phone case?!)

The whimsical nature of Lynch’s worldbuilding whisks you to a place where the fall season spans 365 days a year and it’s ok if maybe there are some more “colorful” townsfolk lurking around every corner. Lookin’ at you, Log Lady.

Madison has always been a go-to Halloween destination for Wisconsinites and Midwesterners. But this year (and last), in a world without Freakfest, many of us found ourselves in the scariest situation we’ve ever faced: at home, alone. Your David Lynch and five Woody Woodpecker dolls group costume may have to wait until next year. That said, UW Cinematheque is hosting a Nov. 6 screening of Lynch’s 2001 film Mulholland Dr., one of his most ominous and eerie works, on 35mm.

In the darkness of 2020 we found solace in Zoom parties and long FaceTime calls. But even that shred of light faded away as the summer season turned to fall and darkness, quite literally, filled the days. And so, my days once again filled with the comforting intro song from Twin Peaks. There was—and still is—beauty in the familiar, despite how twisted that familiar thing might be. 

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