All the dirt, news, culture and commentary for Oklahoma's second century.

CHIMES ("And there's always music in the air")

Showtime
Jade holds the "key" to the Great Northern Hotel room that Agent Dale Cooper once stayed in - long ago.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Living in a place where the “wind comes sweeping down the plains” on a fairly regular basis, I like the idea of having wind chimes.

I used to have Tibetan prayer flags, but Oklahoma is just humid enough to where the flags – best hung up in arid climates, and at higher elevations – don’t work as well.

But wind chimes definitely do the trick here. Reminds me of the scene in Seinfeld where Kramer is trying to recreate "Anytown, USA" in his New York apartment - wind chimes and all.

(Castle Rock Entertainment)

Lately, as the wind has been blowing through the chimes on the porch – and I’ve noticed a tune, actually, or at least a part of a tune.

It was the song “Strawberry Letter 23.”

The best-known version of the song, recorded by the funk-rock band The Brothers Johnson, and released 40 years ago – in the synchomystic year of 1977 – was originally written by the brilliant R&B artist and musician Shuggie Otis and released on his 1971 album Freedom Flight.

It’s a decidedly psychedelic soul song, with very dreamy lyrics, as evidenced here:

Hello my love, I heard a kiss from you
Red magic satin playing near, too
All through the morning rain I gaze, the sun doesn't shine
Rainbows and waterfalls run through my mind

In the garden, I see
West purple shower bells and tea
Orange birds and river cousins
Dressed in green

Pretty music, I hear
So happy and loud
Blue flowers echo
From a cherry cloud

“Blue flowers echo?” Red magic satin?” Cherry cloud? Perhaps “cherry pie,” instead?

I couldn’t help but think of clues related to Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Return. Blue roses. Red-draped rooms. The line “Orange birds and river cousins / Dressed in green / Pretty music, I hear …” I think of Laura Palmer and her identical cousin Madeleine Ferguson. And the line in the original Twin Peaks, where “The Man From Another Place” talks backwards, saying: “She’s filled with secrets. Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air.”

Very “Strawberry Letter 23.”

And I should note that it was internationally-renowned producer Quincy Jones who produced the Brothers Johnson version. Jones was married to actress Peggy Lipton at that time. Lipton was in The Mod Squad, of course, and would go on to be the character of Double R Diner manager Norma Jennings in Twin Peaks in 1990 – the year Jones and Lipton were divorced.

Jones and Lipton had two daughters together – Kidada and Rashida Jones. Interestingly, as an aside, rapper Tupac Shakur criticized Jones for having relationships with white women. This led to Rashida writing “a scathing letter” in response to Shakur’s criticisms in 1994 in The Source . And, as fate, coincidence, what-have-you would allow, Rashida’s sister Kidada Jones would have a relationship with Tupac Shakur and was engaged to him at the time of his death in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada in September 1996.

Ah, Vegas. What happens there ... well, you know ... 

Of course Las Vegas plays a big role in Twin Peaks: The Return, with Dougie Jones/Good Cooper wandering around Sin City and particularly obsessed with a statue outside a building featuring a man holding a gun. “Dougie” stands by the statue for hours, prompting a security guard to tell “Dougie” to move along because he’s loitering. Is he drawn to it because Good Cooper was shot in the original series? Is he remembering that? Is it something else. Is it a statement on violence in America and how it seems to continue, unabated, despite the gloss and glamour and shiny colored lights that dazzle us to death?

"Dougie" (Kyle MacLachlan) and the statue of the man with the gun in Las Vegas. (Showtime)

So, in this same curious episode, the fifth in Twin Peaks: The Return, there is a scene where “Evil Cooper,” imprisoned at a South Dakota prison in Yankton, freaks out the prison warden when he gets his "free call." Evil Coop knows they are watching him on the screen and he proceeds to taunt them - Will he call "Mr. Strawberry"? Who is Mr. Strawberry. The warden is shocked. Evil Coop then dials a series of numbers that causes utter electrical mayhem. And causes the warden to be completely terrified.

But it was that name - "Mr. Strawberry" - that caught my attention. Why was that word coming up so much these days? 

FIRE ... WALKS WITH THEM

Painting of Lewis and Clark arriving at the Pacific Ocean in late 1805. (National Park Service)

Yankton, home of the Yankton Sioux Indian tribe, interacted with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark – the Corps of Discovery Expedition, also called the Lewis & Clark Expedition – who had been sent by President Thomas Jefferson in 1804 to explore the Louisiana Purchase – and beyond to the Pacific Ocean – after the purchase was made from France a year earlier.

The expedition left Camp Dubois, in the area of Wood River, Illinois, in May 1804, and by late August they had made their way up the Missouri River to the Yankton area, where a “friendly council” was held between the explorers and representatives of the Yankton Sioux.

“According to a legend, Lewis wraps a newborn (Yankton Sioux) baby in a United States flag and declares him ‘an American.’” It was a signal to the tribe that they were accepted into this new experiment in democracy, flourishing in an Age of Enlightenment and good will. But not all was well with the world, as any historian will tell you.

"All the way from Washington ..." - "Young Americans" by David Bowie.

In the remarkable book by Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, the author talks about the obvious importance of "fire" in all cultures and that "fire is a dominating factor in many if not most terrestrial landscapes. It has two main source: lightning and Homo sapiens."

And perhaps other, less known or observed, sources.

But Mann also notes Lewis and Clark were "entertained" by the Native Americans they encountered, with the "applying (of) torches to sap-dripping fir trees, which then exploded like Roman candles."

That sounds about right. The fire walked with them. Entertained them. Enchanted them. Lewis and Clark and their team of explorers were in previously "uncharted" areas of the Americas, at least for the eyes of Caucasians who ventured there (on "official government business," of course - all the way from Washington, or was it Philadelphia?), as Andy and Lucy's Marlon Brando-loving "son," "Wally Brando" (Michael Cera) reminds us in a recent episode of the new series. 

And with Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost's excellent guidebook, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, we learn more about trees, fire, secrets and Native Americans who inhabit or did inhabit the Pacific Northwest where Twin Peaks, Washington was incorprated - so close to nature, but using the resources - trees - to grow, as it were.

(Flatiron Books)

Lewis, most importantly (according to Frost’s ‘fictional’ account), was enchanted and lured into a sylvan area and told President Jefferson, in a secret ‘dispatch’ to President Jefferson, that he saw (l)ights from the sky, the silvery spheres … music, like some heavenly choir … fire that burns but does not consume … colors unseen or unimagined, flowing from all things … gold, all gold, bright and shining.” Reminds me of a certain Stanley Kubrick film from some years back ...

Lewis also noted a “portal” of “mirrors” that best describes what we know as the “Black Lodge.”

In the Journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Clark talks of "Strawberry Island" on October 31, 1805. The island, in the Columbia River, along present-day Skamania County, Washington, is now "Hamilton Island."

(Photo from ColumbiaRiverImages.com)

This theme of early American history - and more recent history - runs through Twin Peaks and the mysteries surrounding the whole phenomenon. And it is a phenomenon. More than anything Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones or any of these other TV shows offer. Twin Peaks is important in what it is telling us about ourselves. We have to look in the mirror and - good or bad - come to terms with who we are and what we have become.

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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