By Kevin Krein
For roughly the last decade, I’ve been tossing around the word “anhedonia”—long before it was part of the name that I chose for my music blog, it could be found in a rather lengthy quote I used as an email signature—a passage that struck me the first time I read Infinite Jest.1
The easiest way to describe “anhedonia” is as a condition where someone is unable to experience joy from what would otherwise be considered a joyful experience.
The feeling of “anhedonia” may be something you’ve experienced at some point in your life, but perhaps you were unaware that there was a somewhat cumbersome word for it—I mean, it doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it? While I am very familiar with the feeling, and while the word has been a part of my lexicon for many years, I’ve learned that this is not the case for everybody.
Recently I became Facebook friends with a few of my coworkers (a decision we all may live to regret), and one of them began asking a lot of questions about what I write, and specifically the name of my blog.
“Anhedonic?” she asked, wondering if she was even pronouncing it correctly.
I explained what it means, and she asked if it was a condition I was familiar with; without missing a beat, I practically cut her off by saying, “Oh yes. Most definitely.”
* * *
Out of all the things my companion rabbit, Annabell, enjoys the most, her daily doses of medication and fresh pieces of cilantro have to be her absolute favorites.
Annabell is nine years old—a “senior” bunny, if you will. Because of this, she is showing signs of aging, such as arthritic joints. To help her get around a little easier, and possibly ease any discomfort she may be in, we give her a small dose of an anti-inflammatory/pain reliever twice a day.
However, this medication may (or may not) be causing a problem with her liver; to offset that damage, for the last year or so, we have also been giving her a dose of a milk thistle supplement, in an effort to balance out her liver enzyme levels.
Recently, we added another medication to her regimen—a probiotic for small animals (yes, that is a real thing) to assist her with any possible digestive issues.
I know that this isn’t the case with every companion animal; I know that it can be incredibly difficult and patience testing to give medication to a dog or a cat. But thankfully, Annabell loves taking these. “Loves” isn’t even the right word—it’s not strong enough to describe what happens when it’s time for a treat, or her medication.
People who are unfamiliar with the lives and habits of companion rabbits may not be aware of just how smart they are. Annabell has lived in our home for five years, and has grown to understand what certain sounds mean—specifically what certain sounds mean for her.
Annabell understands that her cilantro lives in the refrigerator, and she also is aware of the sounds of opening and closing of the refrigerator door. Even when I am doing something as simple as getting a glass of water for myself, she hears those as familiar sounds, comes bounding over, and begins excitedly hopping and trotting around, along with producing very small growling sounds, all with the hopes that I will bestow upon her the coveted cilantro treat.
The same can be said about her medication—she understands that one of her medications is stored in the refrigerator, and she recognizes the sound of me shaking the bottles up before I wander into the living room with a handful of small syringes. She gets so excited about her medications (especially the probiotic) that she now tries to pull the syringe out of my hand and run away with it.
I’ve gone into great detail describing part of my rabbit’s day, and her routine, to describe to you just how much she enjoys these things. I have spent more than 400 words in this column setting up this joke: I will often tell people that I wish I was capable of caring about anything as much as Annabell loves eating cilantro or taking her medication.
* * *
My introduction to Twin Peaks was when it premiered in 1990. I was six years old, and was banished to my room for bed before the credits started to roll. As a child, I was well aware of the cultural impact it was having—my mother going so far as to buy a copy of the now out-of-print, tie-in book The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes. I can still recall hearing Angelo Badalamenti’s unforgettable theme song echoing through the house as I tried to fall asleep.
In high school, I rented the pilot episode (which, for some reason, turned out to be the international cut of the pilot) and the maligned prequel Fire Walk With Me from the video store—the latter of which haunted me well into my adult life, and still does; a haunting that is only assisted by having watched it two additional times.
It wasn’t until after my wife and I got married that we made the commitment to dive into all 29 original episodes of Twin Peaks, riding it out through the good as well as the bad (the second half of season two.) Its idiosyncrasies worked their way into our lives almost immediately—I’ve never looked at ceiling fans the same way again, and I will often reflect on a cup of coffee as being “damn good.”
* * *
I was going to make the bold statement that I cannot recall the last time I truly gave a shit about anything, but that is not totally accurate. I have fragmented memories of what actually caring about something—or looking forward to something—may have felt like. Reflecting on that time is odd because I can’t quite fathom what having that kind of exuberance must have been like for me.
In 2011, my best friend had a near death experience; unfortunately, around a year later, he passed away. During that first incident I noticed this true anhedonia starting to slide in and take over—it was as if someone had just turned the volume down on life—nearly everything had been tuned out. Over time, my existence could best be described as I was only watching life passing by, and rarely, if at all, being an active participant in it.
What was happening to me came as no surprise. There were a number of red flags early on—situations where I was self-aware enough to realize that there was an actual problem. But those moments are like the final few gasps of air someone tries to take as they are slowly drowning—and I was eventually pulled under.
* * *
The weird thing about Twin Peaks is that it both scares the ever-loving shit out of me, but it is also strangely alluring. It’s unsettling and horrifying at times, but it’s also an awesome mind puzzle—a mystery you want to try to unravel. It’s full of non-sequiturs that you hope, in the end, will come together to make sense. It’s also subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) hilarious in its nods to esoteric and absurdist humor.
In the summer of 2014, the entire original series, along with Fire Walk With Me, as well as 90 minutes of deleted/lost scenes from FWWM, were reissued on Blu-Ray. I think we are probably in the minority of people who never upgraded their home video equipment once Blu-Ray took over as the predominate form—and even though we already own the original series on regular-ass DVD, the promise of 90 minutes of deleted scene was enough to make me research just how much of a financial investment it was going to be to get a Blu-Ray player, along with a rather expensive, multi-disc set.
It turns out they practically give away the disc players these days—it would be the cost of a new television (our current, ancient television does not have the correct inputs) that we couldn’t justify at the time—and still may not be able to justify now. The summer of 2014 was also the summer I was temporarily unemployed, and for a few months, was coasting on the pittance that the State of Minnesota was providing me for my woes—and despite our love of Twin Peaks, doing things like paying the mortgage seemed slightly more important.
What I have come to love about Twin Peaks is that it both scares the ever-loving shit out of me is also strangely alluring.
So imagine how I felt during the initial rumors, at the end of 2014, that David Lynch and Mark Frost were resurrecting the show.
Imagine how I felt when, after the original agreement fell through, that it was confirmed a third season of Twin Peaks was actually happening.
* * *
What does it feel like to actually care about something—to look forward to something?
I have these fragmented memories of that “Christmas morning” feeling; of an excitement so grand, it’s palpable—but that isn’t something I’ve been capable of in a long time.
Sometimes I’d try—I would try to muster up the interest or excitement in a movie coming out, or a record that was going to be released, but following that initial wave of anticipation, I found I’d be able to talk myself out of just about anything—Your life will go on just fine if you don’t see this movie. Do you really need to buy another record?
You realize that none of this really matters, right?
It doesn’t even have to be a thing—an artifact of some kind that will take up space on my record shelf. I’ve bought concert tickets with the idea that I can somehow will myself to have fun, or look forward to the event. But it doesn’t happen, and my anehedonia only produces crippling anxiety about having to leave the house.
What does it feel like to actually care about something—to look forward to something? To care about anything as much as my rabbit loves cilantro, or her medication?
* * *
Filmed as an 18-hour movie, with a script over 500 pages in length, and a cast that is possibly more sprawling and hard to keep track of than that of “The Wire,” the third season of Twin Peaks, dubbed Twin Peaks: The Return, airs Sunday evenings on the Showtime network.
A throwback to a time before “binge watching” was a concept, the show itself is glacially paced—methodically moving from hour to hour, giving the viewer a full week of breathing room before it pulls you back in again for another 60 minutes.
Also, in a sense, it is serving as a swan song for David Lynch—who, at 71, has broken his decade-long silence as a film maker, and returned to his most beloved, defining, and arguably most popular creation.
Our television doesn’t get channels in the traditional sense—but thankfully, because this is 2017, you no longer need a cable subscription of satellite dish to get premium channels like Showtime; for, like $11 a month (reasonably priced) you can access content on Showtime’s website, or add it as an option from the streaming device of your choice.
I don’t recall the last time I ever had to tune in and watch something on television, but when 8 p.m. rolls around on Sundays, much to my surprise, it seems I have something to look forward to.
It really caught me off guard—this feeling, and I only realized it when there was a brief power outage caused by a thunderstorm. The outage happened at around 9:45 p.m., and I found myself saying that if it had occurred between 8 and 9 p.m., I would have been “fucking furious.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, I thought to myself, “Holy shit. I actually care about something.” And once I realized that this was the case, I was like, “Whoa, hey there friend—are you sure you want to go down this road? Are you sure that you are up for this? You realize that nothing really matters still, right?”
* * *
People who aren’t watching it have asked me how the new Twin Peaks is, and all I can say in response is that, “it’s wild.” Because, really, how else can you describe it? Trying to actually get into the plot, the structure and pacing of the show, the memorable characters, the different styles of filming and editing, et. al—it would be way too much to unload onto someone who may not be familiar with the original series, or may just be making small talk with me and not actually want to know.
But Twin Peaks has, once again, made an impact on my life—shortly after it began airing, I changed the notification sound my phone makes when it receives text messages to what is possibly the catchphrase of the summer—the sound of Kyle MacLachlan bellowing “HELLLLLOOOOOOOOO” from episodes three and four; at work, I somehow was able to convince the higher ups to print out “Donut Disturb” signs to use on the conference room doors for when the room is in use; the same logo appears on a mug I ordered for my wife—the one she sips tea out of every Sunday evening at 8 p.m.
I understand that this, much like just about everything in life, is fleeting.
I understand that there is no real cure for anhedonia—and if there is, well shit, point me in the right direction, please, and tell me how I’d slept on that for the last six years.
I understand that Twin Peaks: The Return is, at its core, just a television show—but what a show it is. And I know that it can’t last forever—at only 18 hours of content, (as of this writing) we have already passed the halfway point, and on September 3, it will all be over. Then, we’ll be living in a post-“Peaks” world, and more than likely, I will be suffering with post-“Peaks” depression.
And then—well, I can’t even comprehend what it’ll be like trying to watch anything else. It’ll be like starting a new book when you’ve just finished a really good book that you never wanted to end; it just pales in comparison.
In the first episode of the original Twin Peaks. MacLachlan, as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, tells Twin Peaks’ sheriff Harry S. Truman this—“Every day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it; don’t wait for it; just let it happen.”
Anhedonia isn’t a present; it’s just the hand I’ve been dealt. I didn’t plan for it. I usually don’t have to wait for it to descend upon me because the feeling almost never leaves. It happens.
However, the same could be said about that “Christmas morning” feeling of palpable excitement—that same level of enthusiasm that my rabbit gets when she knows a piece of cilantro is headed her way. I never plan for that kind of elation, and I gave up waiting for it a long time ago.
Twin Peaks: The Return may be just a television show, but it’s also a lot like life: it’s unsettling and horrifying; it’s an awesome mind puzzle—a mystery you want to unravel. It’s full of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) esoteric and absurdist humor. It’s full of non-sequiturs that you hope, in the end, will come together and make sense.
It is both strangely alluring, and it scares the ever-loving shit out of me.
1- For what it’s worth, I’ve read Infinite Jest, in its entirety, twice.
This article was edited by Rachel Wohrlin.
Kevin Krein has been operating the award winning music blog, Anhedonic Headphones, since 2013, and he contributed the back page column to the Southern Minn Scene magazine for roughly three years. His writing has appeared on Bearded Gentlemen Music, Spectrum Culture, and in River Valley Woman. He occasionally tweets about “Twin Peaks” and anhedonia; but more often than not, much like the column he writes, his tweets are both ‘disturbing and mean.’: @KevEFly
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