Tuesday, January 11, 2011


“Z” is for “Zigzag”
As in “The Zigzag Road.”
From time to time I like to think back to some of life’s more memorable moments.

A few decades ago I had a marvelous job: I was making motion pictures in various parts of the world. And one of my earliest assignments as director was to shoot a film in Hong Kong.
The script called for a sequence with a Chinese farmer and his son, to be shot on a farm well outside the city. I had permission to shoot on the farm for only one day, Sunday, so we had to start early Sunday morning.
The actor playing the farmer was already at the location. With my crew I was waiting for the arrival of the boy who had been hired to play the part of the farmer’s son and who was to come with his mother. The mom, luckily, spoke good English. She would spend the day taking care of the boy while we worked. But they were late.
We sat there and waited.
Whoever first said that time was money must have been thinking about film production. We waited some more.
Finally, I could see the two of them hurrying toward us. The mother apologized profusely; the lad had slept late. Fine, I said, get in. Let’s go.
As we started off, the woman had a request. Her son had had no breakfast. Couldn’t we get something? He could eat it while we drove to the location.

It was very early Sunday morning; it seemed to me that Hong Kong was closed up about as tight as a drum. However, I did espy a small hole-in-the-wall sort of place that seemed to be open. It had a sign in front that read “Portuguese Cakes.”
I had no idea what those were but any port in a storm, as the saying goes. I gave some money to my assistant and told him to get something for the kid’s breakfast.
We waited some more.
When the assistant showed up I was startled to see that he had a large tray loaded with half-a-dozen containers of the aforesaid cakes. It seems that a Portuguese cake, at least in Hong Kong, was a variation on the cream-puff theme: each container had a sizable piece of cake on the bottom with a whopping amount of thick whipped cream on the top. Not your typical breakfast food.
I believe the boy had never tasted anything like that before; he proceeded to tuck into all of the cakes, and with great gusto.

I learned that the place for our shoot – the farm, our location – was on top of a nearby hill and that the road to it was well-known to people in that area. “It’s known as the Zigzag Road,” explained my assistant. It appeared that the reason for the name was that it was a winding street that had a habit of zigging radically off to the left, then zagging quirkily off to the right, etc., as you climbed the hill.
The inevitable happened.
Our young actor suddenly let loose with a monumental upchuck, probably of a dimension never before seen in that part of the Orient.
The rear seat of our vehicle – and unfortunately not just the rear seat – was covered with gobs of partially-digested gateaux portugais, which had somehow become transmogrified into something rather like Elmer’s Glue, except that the smell was far worse.
So this was the life of a film director?! As we continued toward the location, I could only wonder if Scorsese ever had problems like this. :-)


Gigi Ann said...

That was a fun post today, sounds like a mothers nightmare. ; )

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm sure Scorsese has probably dealt with worse!
Great story.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Leslie: said...

Oh NO! But at least it gave you something for a story today! What an experience for you and for the young lad.

Nanka said...

I am still pale and queasy :) But the pictures are great.

Richard Lawry said...

I was pleasantly enjoying the story until the boy threw up. I see that being a film director isn't all glamor.

An Arkies Musings

??? said...

I just laughed out loud, it's a great story.
Watch Heart of Darkness, the documentary about the making of Apocalpyse Now. I don't know about Scorsese, but Coppola probably would have loved to trade his actors for upchucking boys at quite a few points during that time.

Kay L. Davies said...

Hilarious, Berowne. Didn't the mother try to warn you? Most mothers (and most aunts) could tell you cream isn't particularly digestible. But a very funny story. I guess you had a wardrobe person to provide clean clothes for everyone? The other thing cream is - it's very smelly when it starts to go off.
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

R. Burnett Baker said...

Hopefully the film was completed... The last photo in your post is of smaller statues surrounding Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island, HK. I was last there in 2005, and the weather was, unfortunately, cloudy and very overcast. Nevertheless, worth the effort to spend part of a day there...


Wanda said...

What a great story ~And the pictures are wonderful. I believe in sailing, there is the zig-zag pattern.

Tumblewords: said...

At first, those delectable sounding cakes appeared to be a fine solution...

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Haha! Well, not so funny for you all, of course, at the time! Makes a great story though, doesn't it? I hope you were able to complete the filming assignment!

At least you know that you are in good company. I don't know about Scorsese but Terry Gilliam has certainly experienced similar trials, as portrayed in 'Lost in La Mancha'. He never did get that movie made, but it did (eventually) make a great documentary.

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

oh well... the adventures of a fancy director in the far Orient...I am pretty sure actor's vomit smell the same regardless of the number of zeros on their salary... for all I know, that poor boy could've been a young Leo DiCaprio, therefore if we apply the 3 degrees of separation rule, you could've been Marti Scorsese!

Margaret said...

Behind the scenes is where the true drama takes place!

Berowne said...

OJ Gonzalez: "If we apply the 3 degrees of separation rule, you could've been Marti Scorsese!"
Which is about as close as I'll get. :-)

Berowne said...

Gigi Ann: "That was a fun post today."
Roger O G: "Great story."
Jedediah: "I just laughed out loud, it's a great story."
Kay L. D.: "Hilarious, Berowne."
Wanda: "What a great story."
My humble thanks for such fine comments.

Berowne said...

Margaret Bednar: "Behind the scenes is where the true drama takes place!"
Expecially as far as the digestive processes are concerned. :-)

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