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Chinatown July 23, 2014

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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The first time I saw Chinatown, I was a seventeen-year-old kid passing through Camden, Maine, on vacation with my best friend’s family—in a motorhome. We had traveled from Maryland to Boston, to Cape Cod (taking in a play at Falmouth, I believe); taken a ferry (sans motorhome) to Martha’s Vineyard and back; then headed up the coast of Maine, getting as far north as Camden.

Sue and I were ready to be on our own, away from her parents and an accompanying couple. There was a movie theater in town, kind of art-housey, I guess, because they were showing Chinatown, and this was five years after its initial release. Could we go? Sure, Mary Helen said. Get a cab out to the campground after. Off they drove to the outskirts. Somewhere.

So we saw Chinatown. (“She’s my sister and…!”) Then, in the dark Camden evening, we found a phone booth (remember those?) and scanned the phone book for a cab service.

There was none.

Sue and I grew up in a small town. It’s not so small anymore, but it was then. In that small town, there were cabs to be called. A complete lack of cabs hadn’t occurred to any of us.

We didn’t know where the campground was or how to get there or how far a walk out of town it might be. There was no way to contact our peeps and have them disconnect all their hookups, leave their campsite, and come get us.

So we walked to the police station.

It turned out that despite our having always been told how helpful the police could be, these particular police were not very sympathetic to our predicament. They sat us down on a bench with other teenage hoodlums and made us wait. And wait. For what, I’m not sure. It seemed that there were more cops than hoodlums and perhaps we might be helped more quickly. Clearly, no one wanted to lower himself to cab service.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Perhaps an hour later, figuring we had suffered enough, someone loaded us into the back of a police car and drove us to the campground, several miles out.

That night, that station, that car—that’s what I think about when anyone mentions Chinatown. I remember very little of the movie.

But another Sue—one who has never seen the film and has had a DVD copy forced upon her by a mutual, well-meaning Faye Dunaway–freak friend (“What? You’ve never seen Chinatown?”)—plans to drop over this evening, right after she gets her hair done, and watch it on my big-ass TV screen. I haven’t seen Chinatown in thirty-five years. No doubt the police in this film will prove to be very helpful people. Right?

 

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Comments»

1. Dona - July 24, 2014

I love this story — the police in the 70s and 80s were rather involved and in my recollection, thought teenagers were either things to be ignored or embarrassed.

2. Mali - July 28, 2014

I loved this story too. Sigh – kids these days wouldn’t understand it. They don’t know what it is to be unable to contact someone, to be without cellphones.

(Mind you, my husband has a cellphone, but good luck ringing him on it!)

3. Helen - July 28, 2014

I remember being so shocked by the “She’s my sister and…!” scene (and Jack Nicholson slapping Faye Dunaway around); did it have the same impact the second time round?

indigobunting - July 28, 2014

Knowing it was coming softened it a bit. I wasn’t expecting it the first time.


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