THE OUTBACK AND SO FORTH – Sunday, 1 April

Today, we’re flying up the east coast to Gladstone, a small city north of Brisbane, to pay a visit to Ryan Ely, the Aussie stray who stayed with me those several days after September 11, 2001. I am startled and pleased when he’s there at the airport to meet us. God, 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 a wildly inaccurate assessment of the logistics of this visit. My only misstep. Ever.

We part ways with Ryan in order to adjust to the Queensland version of Celsius and our new digs, but after a short rest we rejoin Ryan and the Ely family, his wife Belinda and their girls, Chelsea and Kalarney at their home. It has a dog, some pescacidal fish, and a trampoline. Chelsea’s fourteen with a visiting boyfriend, Kai. Kalarney is twelve 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. It’s the last night of the festival and the crowd’s a little sparse. The glowstick / ball cap booths are closing up, but there’s still a line for burgers and chips. We sprawl on the grass. 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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