Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 02 2009

A boat trip and Ennio Morricone

I didn’t want to go home immediately when I arrived back in Taipei from Tainan; it was too nice a day, so Chenbl and I walked up Dihua Street, which was much less crowded than I recall it being before Chinese New Year, and over to the Dadaocheng Wharf to see what was going on with the “Blue Highway” service that began a few years ago. There we boarded a small boat that was headed up the Danshui River to Guandu. Down below a guide was talking to a group about Dadaocheng’s history, but I preferred to stand up on top of the vessel, just behind the pilot, enjoying the wind and scenery. Fish jumped out of the water occasionally, one actually hitting the side of the boat before falling back into the water, which was muddy but did not smell as I was expecting.

We passed under bridge after bridge, the banks and people riding bicycles on the riverside paths sliding past; it was very pleasant and relaxing, and I wondered if boating activities would ever make a comeback on the Danshui, which had for so long in the past been crisscrossed by residents in their small vessels from Taipei to places like Sanchong, Xinzhuang, Banqiao and Yonghe. As if in answer, a few residents of Shezi Island dumped garbage into the river as we passed by.

We crossed the Keelung River entrance and docked at Guandu, next to the steamboat used for weddings and other big occasions. In addition to fishing boats, I saw some private speedboats flitting about under the Guandu Bridge. Once on shore, the guide told us that back in the 60’s after a huge typhoon flooded most of the Taipei basin, the army blew up a promontory that had jutted out into the river on the Bali side, effectively freeing up the floodwater from the bottleneck there. After that, however, saltwater from the ocean was now free to flow up the river, changing the entire nature of the environment.

Rather than take the boat back downtown, we caught the subway. I was meeting Ray and Gordon later for a concert; Ennio Morricone, the man who composed and directed the music for some of my favorite films, was directing a concert of his own work at the Little Giant Egg on Dunhua North Road. Though Morricone is over 80 years old now, he moves like someone decades younger, though it was hard to see too clearly from our seats in the stadium. From that vantagepoint, however, the orchestra and choir appeared as some giant organism on the stage, manhandled, wrangled, poked and caressed by Morricone’s baton to do his bidding. Some of the pieces I didn’t recognize, but many I did. Tingles went up my spine when the orchestra played the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but for me the highlight was when Morricone brought out a soloist who sang the unearthly tones of the music played during the scene when Tuco is running around the graveyard towards the end of the movie. I was on the edge of my seat, imagining the scene over 40 years ago when Morricone was recording the music for the first time.

The audience was ecstatic, though there were large empty patches in part of the stands. People yelled out their appreciation in Italian every time Morricone appeared on stage. Three or four encores later it was apparent that no new pieces were forthcoming; the theme from Cinema Paradiso was the only encore he had prepared. The rest were repeats, but the audience was in love with the old Italian, and it was amazing to see him in action now, after all these years, directing music for movies that were made well before I was born.

posted by Poagao at 12:53 pm  


  1. Haven’t read you in a while but still just as good…

    Comment by Michael — June 6, 2009 @ 3:12 am

  2. The Mission – how can one forget.

    Comment by Hadi — June 13, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

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