If you’re as old as I am, you may be familiar with a television cult classic from the 1990s called Twin Peaks. Or you may be aware that there’s a remake that made its début on TV this past Sunday.
The fictional (and admittedly weird) community called Twin Peaks was based on and filmed in a real community called Snoqualmie, Washington. Last week I listened to a radio interview with some of the town’s current residents that explored Snoqualmie’s connection to the show and the effects the show had on the community.
It brought in tourists, for sure. The dark, brooding atmosphere brilliantly captured in Twin Peaks is attractive to fans who want to visit the diner—the one with the damn fine cup of coffee and where cherry pies go when they die—who can almost hear the Julee Cruise soundtrack playing in the background.
But things have changed in Snoqualmie since the original Twin Peaks was filmed in the early ‘90s. The lumber mill is gone. Seattle is a mere 20 minutes away, and its high-tech companies’ employees have flooded places like Snoqualmie with upscale housing tracts, strip malls, and demands for Big Macs. One woman—who was four years old when Twin Peaks was on TV—says that she wishes she had known the community then, and she watches the show on DVD to see what her home was like…before.
There’s a familiar ring to all that, isn’t there?
Like it or not, there’s one part of Donald Trump’s message that resonates with most of us: malls and McDonalds are no substitute for mom-and-pop stores, diners where they know what your order is, quirky buildings and hidden oases. From Washington to Massachusetts, from Snoqualmie to Provincetown, there’s a longing for that part of “what America used to be.”
Anyone who’s been here for any amount of time can walk down Commercial Street and feel nostalgia for the past, for what used to be there, whether it’s as ancient as Lewis Wharf or as recent as Sal’s Place. We look at plans for a CVS on Bradford Street with horror. We feel real fear that Ptown’s going the way of the rest of the Cape, transformed by the well-to-do who want to get away from their manicured lawns in Connecticut–but then can’t wait to make things look the same here. Like Snoqualmie, Provincetown is changing.
And that’s the face of America. And that’s a nerve that Donald Trump touched.
The problem is, of course, that you can’t pick and choose what you’d like to keep and what you’d like to discard. Yes, I wish that chain stores had never been invented. But…do I really want to live in a world without the Internet? Do I want to go back to a time of segregation and stewardesses, of leaded gasoline and Mother’s Little Helpers and the outlawing of sexuality? Of course I don’t. And therein lies the dilemma.
It’s a truism that the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself, and fighting change is a great way to make yourself crazy. We all want the “good things” (no matter how we define them, and we all define them differently) from the past, and the present, and even the future, and we want to discard the rest. Just as people do, however, progress comes as a package.
So what is the response? How do we deal with changes we don’t want to see happen, and encourage the changes we do?
Here’s one option. Provincetown’s Charter Review Commission recently invited members from every town committee as well as the public at large to attend a meeting. 10 people showed up. This is the commission that determines how the town’s charter works out in practical terms, folks. Provincetown has 44 commissions on which there are currently 35 empty seats. Think about that.
I get it. It’s The Season. No one has time. Meetings are dry. But here’s the thing: I think that one of the reasons Trump was elected is because we’ve lost an understanding of civics in general and of civic responsibility in particular. We let government do things to us, instead of claiming our rights as citizens: to have a voice in the process.
Is more participation in local government going to solve the problems that towns like Snoqualmie and Provincetown are facing? Will it eliminate fast food and big box stores? Of course not. But not being able to change everything is no reason to not try and change something.
FBI agent Dale Cooper noted that Twin Peaks was the kind of town “where a yellow light still means slow down and not speed up.” Maybe we can still say that about Provincetown, too. At least for a while longer.