THE OUTBACK AND SO FORTH – Sunday, 1 April

Today, we’re flying up the east coast to Gladstone, north of Brisbane, to pay a visit to Ryan Ely, the Aussie stray who stayed with me for those several days after September 11, 2001. I am surprised when he’s there at the airport to meet us. We’re all older now. In 2001, Ali was 12, Ryan was 24, and I was 51. We lasso our rent-a-car and follow Ryan to the Amber Lodge Motel, not far from his house on Pier Street. Here, I have to thank Ali for insisting that we rent a car. I had made the decision to forego an auto based on an inaccurate assessment of the logistics of this visit. My only misstep. Ever.

We part in order to adjust to the Queensland version of Celsius and our new digs, but after a short rest, we rejoin Ryan, his wife Belinda, and their girls, Chelsea and Kalarney at their lovely home. It has a dog, some pescacidal fish, and a trampoline. Chelsea’s 14 with a visiting boyfriend, Kai. Kalarney is 12 with many questions. When she finds out that Ali lives in Texas, she wants to know if she knows Beyoncé.

The sun sets and we all go to the last night of the Gladstone Harbour Festival to listen to a BonJovi cover band. The band tries very hard, but in spite of the full moon the crowd cannot be moved. Perhaps they are sated by Saturday night’s Alice Cooper impersonator. Ali and I are weary from our travels and excuse ourselves.

Oh, today was Easter. Jesus came back to life. Imagine that.

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