THIS MORNING I heard Iris Dement’s sweet nostalgic song “Our Town” on Prairie Home Companion. Hearing that song brought to mind a flood of memories surrounding the final episode of Northern Exposure, a popular TV show that ran for about 6 years from 1990 to 1995.
At the time, Treesh and I were living on Vashon Island in Puget Sound, and commuting into Seattle on a ferry. Friends in Seattle had invited us to a celebration of sorts — watching the last episode of our favorite TV show – which was shot on location in the small town of Roslyn, Washington just an afternoon’s drive up into the mountains beyond Snoqualmie Pass.
Perhaps it was because it was local that we claimed Northern Exposure and it’s weird cast of misfit characters as “our show.” What was it that caused us to love that show so much?
Was it Joel Fleishman, the new doctor who was assigned to the remote outpost of fictional Cicely, Alaska? No, Joel never really wanted to be there, and the show’s arc was ending with his triumphant return to New York City. Maybe it was Maggie’s penchant for hooking up with the wrong guy again and again, or Chris, the radio DJ who provided appropriate philosophical background for all the goings on. Or maybe it was former astronaut and businessman Maurice Minnifield, whose conservative outlook provided contrast for all the others. The show had a gentle sweet spirit unlike anything else on TV at the time.
Northern Exposure was a story that felt perfect for its particular time and place in our lives.
That TV show ran during most of the years my wife and I lived in the Seattle area. We moved to Seattle from Evanston, Illinois in 1989, after Treesh got a job as a mathematician with the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington. During our first years there we lived in an apartment on Bellevue Avenue just up the Denny Hill from Seattle’s downtown. We built a house on Vashon Island in 1991. We met many of our friends there through Seattle Mennonite Church — young urban professionals (“yuppies”) like us who for entertainment played on co-rec soccer teams, drank Starbucks coffee to ward off the winter blues, and cocooned in bedrooms or living rooms to watch TV in the evenings.
One way or another those quirky characters worked their way into our hearts, and watching this video now still brings tears to my eyes, because all those characters feel like good friends to me, among a larger circle of good friends. I had never heard Iris Dement before, but her song never fails to bring on a lovely wave of nostalgia about that period of my life, and all the memories I have of my friends there.
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