Not Exactly Water and Power by William L. Kahrl

Mulholland Drive is a paved snake winding its sinuous way for dozens of miles through the curvaceous contours of the Hollywood Hills.  Pause at a precipitous turnoff, careful to avoid parked cars whose occupants have fogged their interiors; and gaze southward, where iconic canyons steeply recede into riparian mysteries and rustic enclaves of musicians and artists; or, glance north, and if its night, all the stars will have fallen from the sky, still alight, in gaudy boxy grids, a matrix of massive and enmeshed illumination, this sunken panorama otherwise known as Los Angeles and the Valley.

by Dawn2dawn photography
Mulholland Highway extends further out west, gaining altitude as it slithers along the crest of the fire drenched Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu before dead-ending, like so many damned California dreams before it, on the rocky cliffs confronting the Pacific. What little rain falls rarely reaches the ocean except for whatever runoff escapes the concrete lagoons either side of PCH. Come autumn, come the as much maligned as they are malignant, Santa Anas, whose combustible gusts some unseasonably hot afternoons are stand-ins for fuses, for gasoline.  Santa Anas are the L.A. arsonist's aphrodisiac.

Were Mulholland Drive a human being, she'd have gone mad or been murdered.  Be missing. On F.B.I. Most Wanted persons list and posters, or wanted by any one of a million garden variety Valley pimps exploiting her online. Had she survived into middle age, she'd be skidding around the corners in her old man's baby beamer, cranking Coldplay, driving drunk, disoriented, on drugs, her custom black sundress she'd named Eclipse billowing around her like a busted parachute with the top down, her skimpy dress whipped skyward in the molten breeze.  After a near head-on or three, she'd slam the brakes and spin to a stop on the slim shoulder of a hairpin curve, unable to remember how she got there. David Lynch might know.

Leaving the BMWs lights on, she'd stand atop the earthen embankment at the edge of road, where pieces of pavement have cracked off like so many scales, a slender silhouette on a dangerous stage.  She'd

She'd what?

Maybe its better Mulholland Drive was named for a man.


The above began as a book review, now abandoned, of Water and Power by William L. Kahrl, a 1982 comprehensive account of the legal (and more often illegal) conflict over water rights between the citizens of the Owens Valley -- the duped victims of the man that Mulholland Drive was named for, William Mulholland -- and the city of Los Angeles, but quickly metamorphosed into something else above.  Which is to say that, like the 1974 Roman Polanski classic Chinatown, Water and Power fueled my imagination gone temporarily neonoir-ish.