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A ''Twin Peaks'' convention

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A busload of tourists unloads, improbably, at an upstate Washington trailer park. A hundred camera toters wander past the ”No Trespassing” sign and down a dirt road until someone spots a blue mobile home. ”This is where Teresa Banks was bludgeoned!” an older gent announces. At the back of the crowd, a couple of kids who live in an adjacent trailer stand baffled. ”Who’s Teresa Banks?” asks one. ”I’ll go ask Mom,” says the other.

We are on holy ground, and the locals don’t even know it. It’s been more than seven years since the Twin Peaks pilot provoked a coffee-and-donuts epidemic and five since this was the Fat Trout Trailer Park in David Lynch’s movie prequel. Yet thousands of Peaks cultists still travel each year to scout its locations in the small towns outside Seattle — most notably in August, when the real hardcore spend $175 for the annual TP fan festival. And while North Bend’s erstwhile Double R Diner cherry pie lures the biggest crowd, no railroad trestle is too mundane a stop for these damn fine fans. ”I’ve seen the episodes so many times that coming here is almost like coming to a fictional place — like taking Delta to never-never land,” says Denver’s Travis Smith, 24. Others wax religious. ”This is my Mecca,” gushes Robin Garrels, 20, of St. Louis.

One reason Peaks won’t die is its inconclusiveness — the cliff-hanger ending (with Kyle MacLachlan’s Special Agent Cooper trapped in the Black Lodge), the dozens of unresolved clues about the battle between good and evil. Over a salmon dinner, those in search of closure center their quest on character actors who played supernatural figures — like Carel Struycken (”The Giant”) or Al Strobel (”The One-Armed Man”) — in hopes that maybe these insiders hold the unfinished symphony’s missing notes. Says Strobel, ”The people who really get it aren’t going so much for the teenage sex symbols — which David loves to put in his movies — but some of Lynch’s deeper, more mystical enigmas.”

There is a certain high-mindedness at the three-day fest, an attachment to a shining moment when the avant-garde met the mainstream and anything seemed possible on TV; in the wake of this brilliant but challenging noir-comedy-horror-soap’s Nielsen nosedive, debtors like Northern Exposure and The X-Files thrived. ”This is not a Star Trek convention,” insists Michael Horse, who played Tommy ”The Hawk” Hill.

Unlike Trekkers and their deep space, Peakers have an accessible holy land — Washington — which encourages at least as much ritual. Right now the faithful are gathering at the riverside spot where Laura Palmer washed up, taking turns being… wrapped in plastic. If Cooper were here, mightn’t he say: Beam me up, Diane?

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