SHOWDOWN AT SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil


Here's the video from my recent reading in Berkeley

Roving Camera Album: Click Photo

Monument to Stubbornness
Muse | VIdeos

Incense Cedar


As we pass the 30-year mark in our home next week, the tall tree in the right rear corner of the yard, an Incense Cedar, stands tall and true, more than twice the height of the house.

When we moved in, there were two tall trees. The left rear corner held a Monterey Pine, so enormous and overgrown that many low branches reached 25 feet across the yard to touch our deck. Others extended over our neighbor’s fence, then across her yard, to rest on the opposite fence on the far side.

The pine was a happy, magnificent, giant forest tree, but clearly it lived in the wrong part of the world. The neighbor remembered that the pine had . . . CONTINUE READING: Incense Cedar

Muse | Production | Travel | VIdeos

Showcasing ‘Showdown at Shinagawa’—The Video


Video of a presentation by Bill Zarchy at Northbrae Community Church, Berkeley, California on 2/3/16.

The author reads excerpts from four of the stories in his book, Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil.” He also discusses the ins and outs of self-publishing, as well as his background as a globe-trotting cinematographer.

The stories read:

  • “Starstruck at Cannes: Morgan Freeman on the Red Carpet”
  • “21st Century Village: Telemedicine in Rural India”
  • “Dog Years: Sophie, Pop, and Bill Clinton”
  • “Shanghai Lunch”

Please note: Video is from an iPad. Sound level is low, but audible. Crank it up!


Muse | Production | Travel

Bangkok, the Saudis, and the Jism Balls


Sunset over the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok

“I’m hungry,” said Randy, as we set up a sunset shot from the overpass near the end of our first day on the ground. “We need something to eat.”

“Okay,” Larry agreed. “I’ll get street food. There’s lots of it around.”

“Is that safe?”

“This is at least my fifth trip to Thailand. I’ve never gotten sick on street food here.”

“Unlike Mexico,” I put in, “or India, or Uganda.”

“Or other places. I think everything’s very fresh here. When you buy something, it’s usually been made just minutes before.”

Larry crossed to the other side of the pedestrian bridge, past a mutilated street beggar, to one of several food carts . . . CONTINUE READING: Bangkok, the Saudis, and the Jism Balls

Books / Writing | Production | Travel

Showcasing ‘Showdown at Shinagawa’ in Berkeley This Week


Upcoming Book Event—Wednesday • Feb 3 • 7:30 pm

I’ll be discussing my book and reading some stories this Wednesday evening at Northbrae Community Church in Berkeley.

The stories are from my memoir Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil, about my global travels and work as a cinematographer.

Showdown features 18 tales, from the surreal Japanese bowling-for-budget match in the title story, to commiseration with President Clinton over family tragedies in “Dog Years,” to a bus trip down India’s deadly Bombay-Pune Road in “Wrecks and Pissers.”

I’ll be describing the relative ease of self-publishing, compared with the challenge of getting noticed among over one million books published in . . . CONTINUE READING: Showcasing ‘Showdown at Shinagawa’ in Berkeley This Week


Dog 3.0—Good Golly, Miss Molly


Meet Molly.

The third in the Pantheon of Zarchy Family Dogs, she follows, in succession, Sophie the Wonder Dog and Montana Banana Zarchy, all of them delicious sources of unqualified love.

Molly is eight months old, about 45 lbs., a super-cute Boxer mix with light fawn-and-white coloring and a longer snout than the typical purebred Boxer. She was a stray found in another part of the state, without tags or microchip, then rescued from a “high-kill” shelter by the fine folks at Milo Foundation in Point Richmond. We adopted her two weeks ago, and she is making an easy transition from pound pup to pampered pooch.

(Kudos to the Milo people, BTW, who rescue over 1500 animals per year.)

. . . CONTINUE READING: Dog 3.0—Good Golly, Miss Molly


The Moon, the Snow, and Dr. Zhivago


One autumn about a million years ago, I was living with friends in Vermont, teaching high school, avoiding conscription, and just starting my California Dreaming.

We lived on a farm on a dirt road off another dirt road. The farm didn’t grow anything. The owners lived on Guam, used it only as a summer house, and were dumb enough to have rented it to four just-out-of-Dartmouth, draft-dodging, occupational deferment, Vietnam-avoiding high school teachers.

They decided to rent it because they had been burglarized the year before when the house was empty and thought having someone live in it year-round would enhance security. They also installed a bright street light over the yard to ward off burglars.

The farm consisted . . . CONTINUE READING: The Moon, the Snow, and Dr. Zhivago

Books / Writing | Muse

This Wednesday Evening: I’ll Be Reading a Story at Weekday Wanderlust in SF


I’m honored to be reading a travel story at Weekday Wanderlust in San Francisco this Wednesday evening 11/18, starting at 7. The story will be from my book Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil.

Weekday Wanderlust is a free monthly program where three travel writers each read a story. It lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. The other two writers in this month’s program are Kirsten Koza and Jayme Moye.

It all takes place at the Hotel Rex, a boutique hotel at 562 Sutter Street in San Francisco, a couple of blocks north of the St. Francis Hotel, near Union Square. Some of . . . CONTINUE READING: This Wednesday Evening: I’ll Be Reading a Story at Weekday Wanderlust in SF

Baseball | Muse

Present at the Re-Creation: The Loma Prieta Earthquake


October 17, 1989, 5:09 pm

Section 51, Upper Deck

Candlestick Park, San Francisco

“It’s in the drink, man! The Bay Bridge has fallen down!”

Uh oh, it’s going to take a while to get home tonight. The man in front of me with the radio pressed to his ear continues to relay news to the fans around us. We’re here for the third game of the World Series. Five minutes ago, the earth shook, and the crowd cheered. Now we start to realize the magnitude of what’s happened. And where the heck is Darrell? . . . CONTINUE READING: Present at the Re-Creation: The Loma Prieta Earthquake

Books / Writing

This Saturday in San Francisco: Travel Writers Read at LitCrawl

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I’m delighted to be reading a story at LitCrawl in San Francisco this Saturday evening, along with five eminent travel writers.

Across the Wide World: Traveling Writers Explore Encounters with People, Places, and Cultures

Saturday, October 17, 2015 • 6 – 7 pm

Weston Wear • 569 Valencia Street • San Francisco, CA


More info on this event

See it in Google Maps

Traveling out of our comfort zones creates opportunities for discovery, transformation, and illumination. These writers bring back life lessons that are profoundly . . . CONTINUE READING: This Saturday in San Francisco: Travel Writers Read at LitCrawl


A Chance Encounter

Running the clapboard. First year at Stanford film school.

Running the clapstick. First year at Stanford Film School.

Sometimes the course of your life can turn on one small thing, one chance encounter. It happened to me, many years ago, the day Beverly invited me to visit her.

Of course I had the hots for her—pretty, round face, sparkling blue eyes, long blond hair. But ever since our one blind date during college, I had known we would never be more than friends.

I ran into her at Butcher and Stephanie’s wedding about a year after graduation. She was the maid of honor and I was an usher. During the reception, at a fancy club on the harbor in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Beverly and I wandered down the hill . . . CONTINUE READING: A Chance Encounter


We Loved Our First House


We loved our first house in San Francisco, in the Excelsior district of the Outer Mission. We loved the fact that we owned it, loved that we had managed to move quickly enough to evade eviction by our last landlady (who had suddenly decided to move into our apartment), loved that our living space had increased to include three bedrooms and two baths, loved that we now had a huge, two-car garage with washer and dryer and a concrete back yard we transformed into a garden with roses and sunflowers and paths of brick and camomile.

We loved our location across from Crocker Park, loved taking our toddler to the swings there, loved jogging around the park, loved watching . . . CONTINUE READING: We Loved Our First House

Books / Writing | Muse

Pop’s Podunks


Whenever my dad wanted to speak metaphorically about Podunks—places that were remote and sparsely populated—he often cited Broken Elbow, Indiana, and Frozen Dog, Iowa.

I always assumed they were real places, and recently I dug around to find out how they got their colorful names. Internet research truly is the best!

Googling “Broken Elbow, Indiana” yielded a few promising results: a juicy lead about an Indiana Pacers player (Chris Copeland) who broke his elbow; an informational site for medical elbow and shoulder providers in Indianapolis; another site for orthopedic surgeons in northwest Indiana; and a news alert about an Oakland A’s player (from Indiana) who broke his elbow throwing a pitch this weekend.

My search for the origins of . . . CONTINUE READING: Pop’s Podunks

Books / Writing | Travel

Good Night, Irene—Confessions of a Mileage Whore


Bronze Certificate, Funny Travel Category, 9th Annual Solas Awards for Travel Writing from Travelers’ Tales, March 2015

It’s not easy being a mileage whore. Sometimes you have to do things that don’t seem to make sense.

United Airlines operates a major hub in San Francisco, and I’ve whored for their miles for years now. On my trip to Brazil recently, because I wanted the mileage, I had chosen a longer United itinerary through Newark going and Washington coming.

But when things got complicated on the return, I had to decide if the miles were worth it.

We wrapped our week-long video shoot in São Paulo on a Friday night—amid much hugging and thanking with the cast . . . CONTINUE READING: Good Night, Irene—Confessions of a Mileage Whore

Books / Writing

New Book Review? Is This English?


I just found an online page which appears, at first, to be a review of my book SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA. Then I read the page all the way through. I know these are English words, but … is this English? My favorites are learning that “SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA … lets you cook flavorful and tasty food without the hassles” and “will go a long way to discourage mischievous activities at the home or business. The one is simply the ultimate for the budget-conscious hunter that refuses to sacrifice performance.”


Here is the whole piece, from, which purports to be an “Internet online shopping directory:”

Showdown At Shinagawa: Tales Of Filming From . . . CONTINUE READING: New Book Review? Is This English?

Teaching | Tech | Travel

Why They Call It Far-go


At 9 am Monday, I left my home near San Francisco for what proved to be one of my longest trips ever. Twenty-nine hours later, I reached my destination, after a grueling air journey.

But I hadn’t been hurled halfway around the world. I had finally touched down in Fargo, North Dakota, just halfway across the U.S., a mere 1450 miles from home.

At that rate—about 50 miles per hour—I could have driven there.

By comparison, some years before, in 24 hours, I flew from Singapore to Johannesburg to Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda—over 7500 miles. Another time I traveled 8800 miles from San Francisco to Singapore in 23 hours, including a very short overnight in Bangkok. Twice I had . . . CONTINUE READING: Why They Call It Far-go

Books / Writing | Production | Travel

New Award & Reviews for SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil


My book SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA tells true stories from my long career as a director of photography, working on film and digital cinema shoots across the U.S. and all around the world—Japan, India, China, Uganda, the Philippines, New Zealand, France, Singapore, England, Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil.

The book has recently been honored as a Commended Winner in Non-Fiction in the 2014 Self-Publishing Review Awards. One of the three highest non-fiction awards!