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Wrapped in Plastic coverTelevision in the new millennium can be a glorious place, where boundaries are pushed regularly, often by Hollywood heavyweights. It’s where directors such as David Fincher and Martin Scorsese come to experiment with long-form storytelling, and where renowned actors like Kevin Spacey, Jessica Lange, Steve Buscemi, Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick, and many others are willing to commit their time and talents. Sometimes there’s the allure of a great story that can be told in one season (an enticement that drew bona fide movie stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey to HBO’s True Detective). Other times, there’s the appeal of both creativity and freedom (Kevin Bacon only has to shoot 15 episodes a season of Fox’s The Following, allowing him to pursue big screen roles while also enjoying a steady paycheck). With the advent of edgy original programming across networks like AMC, Showtime, FX, Netflix, and HBO, the appeal of working in television has never been higher.

Andy Burns Headshot - cred Moment CommunicationsSo, you’ve written your first book. Is it a dream come true?

Um, sort of. I actually hadn’t dreamt of putting out a book for years. Back in my university years, when I was doing my undergrad in English and Creative Writing, creating a novel or short story collection was pretty high up on the priority list. But time and ambition changed my thoughts on pursuing that avenue. I’m an impatient person, so the whole process of sending out short stories for potential publication and waiting to hear back was just not in my make-up. Had two of the ladies from ECW Press not suggested I make a pitch for their Pop Classics line, I don’t think I ever would have considered it. I’m so thrilled it worked out, though. There’s something pretty damn surreal about holding a book with your name on it.

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The author in high school

This essay is part of a series of investigations, reflections, and reminiscences by writers, artists, and musicians who were influenced by David Lynch’s seminal television show Twin Peaks. To read more, or to learn about participation, visit www.twinpeaksproject.com.

Thanks to my library’s tattered copies of Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone that were encased in protective blue binders, (wrapped in plastic!), I knew the exact night some highly anticipated and highly bizarre show was going to debut. The critics were freaking out about the premiere of Twin Peaks, saying it was the weirdest thing to hit TV ever, so I—an identity-hungry fifteen year old kid on the brink of a major hormone and brain chemistry explosion—made sure to watch its arrival in the spring of 1990. The very first seconds of the title sequence shocked me into silence. It wasn’t what I saw that floored me; it was what I heard. Don’t get me wrong, the mythology took hold as the story unfolded, particularly the central mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, and why. But composer Angelo Badalamenti’s score was aural heroin.

Did you know that the bird in the opening shot is a Varied Thrush? When I watch the show now, I feel like his look mimics my own from that night when the first bass note hit. His head cocked up to the cloudy sky roughly translates to: “What the hell is that sound and where did it come from?” We both froze in rapturous attention.

Admittedly, I was stoned. But I’d never heard a resonance so deep, so thundering, and yet melodious. The first boom is cautiously wistful, and the second drops several octaves into a dark pit. The third note rises quickly back up to meet the first two somewhere in between, while the piano is a wisp of smoke in the background. I could actually see it.

Once that week’s show was over, there was no way I could get that music back until the next episode. During those pre-internet days, I only had one shot at viewing a program unless I recorded it on the VCR, which I did for the second episode. I watched the opening credits over and over, staring so hard at the screen that everything blurred into leaping green and black dots. For the next two months, I rushed home every Thursday night to watch the show.

Michael-David is an actor on the verge of an identity crisis. Too old for cool, not old enough for eminence. A Look Who’s Talking-era Travolta, staring down lean years clawing for scraps. Teetering on the B-List, Michael-David lucks into his own Pulp redemption: a starring role in the latest guerilla flick by unhinged auteur Chris Culpepper.

Something, however, is very wrong with this picture.

David Lynch’s video for the title track from Crazy Clown Time (2011) is here at long last, and in it Lynch demonstrates his special gift for approximating what goes on in the mind of a patient in a vicodin funk after wisdom-teeth extraction, complete with the tiny, twisted kid-voice of your nightmares explaining precisely what you’re seeing, mohawks aflame and all.  Warning: NSFW … and possibly NSF anyone with eyes and ears.

Please explain what just happened.

Rain.

 

What is your earliest memory?

I called my dad a pig and he was flabbergasted.

 

If you weren’t a musician, what other profession would you choose?

Travel journalist, food critic, and a yoga teacher. Who does just one thing nowadays?

 

 

“Here’s how it breaks down,” the stranger began to explain on the pool deck one summer afternoon. “Attraction for women comes down to these basic criteria: search for power, overcoming ambivalence, violating prohibition, longing and anticipation. It’s the same formula for every romance novel and best embodied by ‘Mr. Darcy’ in Jane Austin’s most acclaimed novel of science fiction. What’s ‘Sex In the City’ except science fiction? Really, what’s sex for a woman beyond the conversation she’s having with her friends after to contextualize it? She’s already doing it while you’re fucking her, right? Am I right? Of course she does. She requires that little detachment the whole time. Not to say that a guy’s bent is any better. Essentially women just enter into the equation as our masturbatory prop. As Zizek pointed out, Freud’s grossly misinterpreted. It’s not that sex is behind everything. It’s why sex itself isn’t enough while you’re doing it. Why do we have to be thinking about something while we’re having sex? Hey. Are you even listening to this?”



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In Parts I & II of This Post:

I’d been asked by the school nurse to give my fifth grade boys the puberty talk. A couple problems, though: First, I’d never given anyone the puberty talk. Next, the nurse had asked that I refrain from discussing too much about sex while giving the talk.

Yeah right, I thought. That would be like trying to discuss the Theory of Relativity without ever mentioning E = MC 2.

Still, I felt I owed it to my students to do whatever I could to help usher them into manhood.

And so came the day when I showed them the puberty video. Some were amused. Most, however, were stunned to silence.


Part III – The Final Installment – The Q & A Session:

After I’d shown the video and asked if anyone had any questions no one responded.

The room was so quiet you could hear the buzzing of the overhead fluorescent lights.

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“It’s all right,” I said. “Really. It’s just part of growing up. Like I said, I’ve gone through this myself.”

One boy raised his hand.

“Hector,” I said. “What’s up?”

His lips moved to speak, but no words came out. Finally, he managed to ask: “So I still don’t really get it. What causes an erection?”

Good question, I thought.

I could get all scientific and discuss how the nervous system sends nerve impulses that increase blood flow to the penis. And how the blood fills the spongy chambers, causing them to expand and become rigid.

Or I could simply give them an answer they could relate to.

Something I could relate to also.

“Well,” I said, “I guess the simplest way to explain it would be to say that it happens when you get really excited. Like when you see Shakira or something.”

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That one caused the boys to loosen up and laugh a bit.

Me, too. I laughed and loosened up also.

“But the thing you have to be careful about,” I said, “is sometimes when you’re getting your first erections you gotta realize they can happen at the oddest times. Like maybe when you’re walking down the school hallway, or sitting in class doing your work.”

That one caused a few boys to go deer-in-the-headlights to the Nth Degree.

“But don’t worry,” I said “Generally, you’re the only one to notice. Plus, if you’re lucky, maybe it’ll happen when you’re sitting at your desk, or when you’re carrying a big stack of books in your arms. That way no one will notice at all. Here,” I said, “like this.”

I reached for a nearby stack of reading books, held them in front of my groin area.

“There you go,” I said. “Instant erection protection.”

The boys liked that one. Even the ones that had gone deer-in-the-headlights. They all nodded and smiled in approval.

A boy raised his hand. “Mr. F. Do you get erections?”

It felt odd being asked that. I was so used to them asking questions pertaining to math, science, and reading. Maybe the odd political question here and there.

“Sure,” I said. “Pretty much all guys do.”

That one intrigued the students to no end. More hands shot into the air.

“Yes, Eduardo,” I said, pointing to one of the tallest, heftiest boys in the class. “What’s up, my man?”

“What about midgets?” he asked.

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“What about them?” I said.

“Do they get erections, too?”

Was this kid busting on me, I wondered. Or was he just channeling David Lynch?

Very soon I realized he was serious.

“Sure,” I said. “Midgets are just like us. I mean they might be a little smaller and all, but sure, yeah, they get erections.”

Seemingly satisfied with my response, Eduardo smiled and said: “Thanks.”

That was followed by a few questions regarding perspiration, acne, and wet dreams.

Then came another question.

“What happens if I wake up in the morning and there’s blood in my bed?”

My first thought: Did this kid see The Godfather one too many times?

You know, that scene where the movie producer wakes to find the horse’s head in his bed.

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My next thought: Was this kid picking up on the same David Lynch voices that the midget kid had channeled earlier?

A student sitting next to the curious boy said: “Duuuuuuuuuude. That’s a period. You belong in the librarywith the girls.

A group of boys began chanting: “Go to the library. Go to the library.”

Jorge, the boy who’d asked the question, wilted in his seat.

This was exactly what I didn’t want to have happen.

I didn’t want Jorge to incur puberty damage, and suddenly sprout breasts and get a period instead of growing bigger testicles and a penis.

I waved my hands in the air. “Quiet down you guys. Actually, my man Jorge raises a very good point.”

The boy brightened. Sat a little taller in his seat.

“He’s talking about menstruation,” I said.

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“This is important because when you’re older and have girlfriends you’ll need to know that once a month they’ll get their periods. During this time you’ll need to be extra nice to them and take special care of them because they don’t feel so well and can sometimes get cranky.”

The boys looked at each other, not quite knowing how to respond.

“Now you don’t want your girlfriends feeling bad, do you?” I said.

Some boys nodded, others shrugged.

“That’s why you need to know about menstruation,” I said. “Thanks, Jorge.”

The boy brightened even more. His face had become a hundred watts of pure pride.

“Now then,” I said. “Any more questions?”

A boy raised his hand. “Can a girl get pregnant if you stick your penis in her mouth?”

Whoa, I thought.

This was definitely one of those questions that had veered way too far into that area of sexual explicitness the nurse had warned me about.

Still, I did my best to tastefully respond.

I explained a little about sexual reproduction. And how the boys should wait until they were much older to engage in sex. And once they decided to do so, they should do everything possible to protect themselves and their partners from disease and pregnancy.

Once I’d completed what I’d hoped to be the one and only portion of the sex talk, another hand shot into the air. And another. And another.

“Since girls don’t have penises,” one boy asked, “how do they get excited?”

“What about sucking on girls’ titties,” another boy asked, “can you get a disease that way?”

“What about when your penis is inside a girl,” still another boy asked, “how does that make your penis shoot sperm?”

Where the hell was this coming from, I wondered.

Rarely could I get these guys to answer questions regarding the Civil War or surface area, and here they were asking tons of questions straight out of Penthouse Forum.

“You know what, guys,” I said, “I’d really love to help you out, but the school nurse specifically told me I needed to keep this talk strictly related to puberty. So if you have any more questions like this you might need to ask an older brother, or your father, or an uncle. Okay?”

They nodded.

“Now then,” I said. “any other questions related to puberty?”

Not one hand raised into the air.

Evidently, they didn’t want to learn so much about hormones, pituitary glands, or sebum. They mainly wanted the XXX facts of life.

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“All right, then,” I said. “I guess that’s it.”

After I handed out their packets filled with deodorant and a puberty pamphlet, there was a knock at the door.

“Check it out,” one boy called out. “It’s the girls.”

I glanced over at the door.

Sure enough, their faces were pressed up against the glass. But instead of appearing slightly shell-shocked like the boys, they were all smiles and giggles.

“What should we do now?” one boy asked.

“I think you should let them in,” I said.

“Really?”

“Sure,” I said. “Why not.”

“Can’t someone else do it,” he said.

I glanced around the room. “Who’d like to let the girls in?”

One boy, generally the shiest in the class raised his hand. “I’ll do it.”

Without hesitation, he bolted from his chair, and opened the door.

With that, the girls spilled into the class like giddy napalm.

Some boys stayed put in their seats. Others began making small talk with the newly enlightened girls. Still other boys stood in the corner playing with their deodorant.

Regardless of what those boys were doing, I realized that, from hereon in, their lives had changed.

Even when they’d be sitting in class, discussing photosynthesis or idioms, they’d really be wondering when they’d finally get their first erection.

And they’d be thinking about girls.

Maybe even wondering what nice things they might be able to do for their future girlfriend whenever she’d get her period.