newsletter #24: philly
Hi, reader. How are you this week? I have been doing my best to stay off social media and focus on what is in my direct, immediate control. Have you ever tried doing so? It is freeing, at times. This week, I wrote about an amalgamation of things, their through line being Philadelphia—a city I have grown an ever-increasing connection to since being with my lover, who is from there. I hope you are stimulated, at least, by my words and as always, I appreciate your unwavering readership.
on lynch & twin peaks
This week I finally finished watching Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s television creation, if you’re unfamiliar. Ale and I watched the first two seasons, which aired in the 90’s in rapid succession, consuming each delicious episode one after another in the fall. For those of you who don’t know a thing about Twin Peaks, I will give a brief explainer.
The show was canceled after the first two seasons, due to conflicts between Lynch and the network which lead to what Lynch believed to be poor creative output and, eventually, poor audience reception. After the show’s cancellation, Lynch made a prequel-slash-follow-up to the show called Fire Walk With Me, which was initially received abysmally by audiences but is now lauded as a cult-classic. (I found it to be both disturbing and incredible.) After years of audiences begging Lynch to reboot the show and resolve the many cliffhangers left over from the canceled seasons, Lynch revived the series in 2018, with an 18 episode program entitled Twin Peaks: The Return.
After watching the first two seasons I was eager to start the third, set about 25 years after the previous show’s final episode. That said, Ale and I have had trouble working our way through the third season—though not because I didn’t like it. The episodes are dark, and they’re quite existential and trippy, much like Lynch’s work in general. They leave you on edge, scared, which I really like as a juxtaposition to most modern television, which is usually meant to be gorged on and digested without thought. All of this is to say we had to take a break. But this week, I picked it back up, and I couldn’t put it down.
To those well-versed in cinema, my description and brief analysis of Lynch probably reads trite and dull. For that, I apologize—and I promise I’m moving on from this subject soon. Anyways, I won’t give away anymore about the show. (Watch it if you like to feel eerie and think.) But after I finished, I naturally was craving more information, since like most Lynch work, there’s no closure, and the series ends on a relative cliffhanger. I sought help from the internet to make sense of it all. I found a YouTube video (I’m not special; it has over two million views) called ‘Twin Peaks: Explained (No Really.)’ which is nearly five hours long. I devoured it over the span of a couple of days, naturally. I’d recommend watching it if you’re a fan of looking for ways to critically analyze the show a bit more on your own. That said, there was one part in the explainer that stuck with me: When the creator edited in a clip of Lynch discussing how he was inspired by Philadelphia earlier in his career.
“To me, it has the most beautiful architecture, row houses… the streets were narrow, the buildings were soot covered, the clouds hung low, and it had a beautiful mood. In the atmosphere there was fear, there was violence, there was despair and sadness, there was a feeling of insanity and of a knowledge of corruption. This kind of seeped into me, with this architecture, and made an influence, which I loved by the way.”
The better acquainted I become with Philadelphia, the more I am drawn to and touched by the city. I very much understand Lynch’s description, and I too have become charmed by the row houses, by low-hanging clouds. I’m particularly fond of Philadelphia’s rich vegetation—it’s woodsy, in a way. Sunlight seems to peak out through red burnt leaves no matter the season and, at times, that “beautiful mood” (which I feel deeply) certainly does turn “fearful.” There’s an air of despair in that at any moment, I feel that enchanted quality Philadelphia holds can turn haunted. I like that, though. It’s cozy, and I enjoy feeling encapsulated by the mood swings, ready to sit by the fire and look out at naked brown trees.
Naturally, I also like Philadelphia’s “narrow streets,” the “beautiful architecture.” The buildings are truly gorgeous, the homes often brick and studious. It’s a place where one pops in and out of little shops. One of those shops I particularly like is Yowie, a store that describes itself as a “lifestyle shop” (sorry) and design studio. Everything there is curated to perfection and, if I had the means, I would buy everything in the entire store.
I made Ale drive 40 minutes to South Street this weekend to take me there, where I absorbed the atmosphere of pretty things I needed for my home: speckled clay pots, checkered cloth planters, cheeky greeting cards, towels, candles, olive oil, ceramic mugs, non-alcoholic aperitifs. These are all things for which I am a sucker. Reader, if you know me, you know I am a sucker. (A harmless one though, I like to think.) If I see something you’ve convinced me will make my home feel fun and cool and more useful, I want it. I think this is my one allowance I give myself. Allow me to have it. Perhaps I will change my mind about it later. (Allow me that too.) That’s all I have to say about Yowie. It’s a place I love. I urge you to visit it, if you’re in the area. (Or read about it.)
I start knowing that I (overall) like a place when I’ve been there enough times to have memories of things happening in a place within that place; an area I’ve walked through enough, sat at enough, drove past enough to have specific instances ingrained in my mind of other times I've been in that exact position. (Bear with me.)
For me and Philly, it’s places like the stairs by a certain busy street where I was walking up one afternoon and a man told me “that fit goes crazy” and I felt happy. It’s when I watched my friend eat food out of a clamshell container in Rittenhouse Square during his break from a television show set on which he was working. It’s the Philadelphia Museum parking lot where I sat sweaty and sticky after a long run, waiting for my boyfriend’s mom to finish her own workout. Or the Uniqlo where I got a t-shirt with a heart on it that I never wear. Philly is starting to feel like a place I like, a place where I get lots of inspiration and creativity—even if I visit relatively sparingly, though also just enough.
I hope this makes sense. If not, I hope, at least, it is enjoyable to you. Or entertaining. Or relatable. I forget what kind of person we’re supposed to be online today.
Other things of note:
I finished reading Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom. I loved it and would certainly recommend reading.
I revisited this Ta-Nehisi Coates essay “I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye” to think about my feelings on a person whose art I love so much but truly cannot condone their behavior in any way, which I regularly struggle with.
This interesting piece about “The Narcissism of Queer Influencer Activists.”
I can’t get enough of the Maintenance Phase podcast. It’s just so good.