What was supposed to be a quick drink and a picture of the pyramid turned into three drinks and another tour -- this time led by the woman from the bar. She said she knew of more sandbags, and maybe after we could have dinner at her place, watch her laserdisc of Chinatown.
The most impressive stop on the tour was off Benvoulin Road near Mission Creek. There, on the other side of a decorative cattle fence, stood a cairn of 24 sandbags (six layers of four). Most of the field was a burned-out yellow, except for a square area surrounding the cairn, which was emerald.
“Hard to imagine this grass as anything but healthy,” I said.
“Would you eat it?” the woman asked.
“If I was a cow, probably.”
I reached for my phone, to take its picture, but it was dead.
Like Heaven’s Gate (1980) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) is a great film that, like certain wines, only gets better with age. For me it is not just the film’s layers and how its composition reorients them as such (allows them to operate diagonally, for example), but the force of one layer in particular -- water politics -- and how these politics are lost on the film’s protagonist, who is in love with someone whose life is complicated beyond his comprehension.
“Is that what you think Chinatown’s about?” the woman asked after I went on a jag about how the subtext of the film is more interesting than its love story.
“No,” I said, "it’s about a lot of things.”
“Well, if it’s about its relationship with itself, like you said, then that’s what it's about, right?”
Her pad thai was sitting poorly in my stomach. I told her she was right -- that I was right, too -- before driving back to Benvoulin to take a picture of those sandbags.