When we last left our heroine – my 25-year-old self – I’d just escaped, reasonably intact, from the grasp of US Immigration at Honolulu airport. I’d been branded for life “evasive” and had an urgent desire to buy some face scrubbing implements, but this was Hawaii! The names were entrancing – Honolulu! Waikiki! – the sun was out and I had some beach-going to do.
Waikiki and its surrounds had a charming air. Everything was slightly dowdy as if time had snagged on something. There are places today in Melbourne and Sydney of similar air, certain buildings of peach and colonial wood decor. I didn’t care, it only added to the feeling of being on a film set and the beach was satisfying beautiful. White sand and clear aqua water like Australian beaches.
I went for a swim, and when I came out a teenager was standing in the shallows with a giant parrot I discovered was called a macaw perched on his arm. The bird was huge, over two feet high, and dazzling in colour. Kids and adults were poking it or patting it, and talking to its keeper. Does it say something about my view of America, then or now, that I think the teenager was collecting money with his bird?
I stayed in Hawaii for a day and a half. I sat in the sun next to the pool on the hotel rooftop and wrote a self-dramatising letter to my boyfriend back in Australia. I walked around the hotel a few times and discovered you could hire a red Ferrari for the day. This seemed very sensible to me – if you’re going to hire a car for the day, why waste your time with a Toyota? – and I couldn’t believe how dumb we were in Australia to miss the opportunity. It was the era of Magnum PI, with Tom Selleck’s moustache and his car and manservant, so there was an obvious rationale to offering Ferraris to the plebs in Waikiki. All the same, it seemed sad no-one was catering to the motoring fantasies of suburban Australians too. I watched the day start to close. The shadows cast by the buildings crept over the beach, the sand turned cool under foot, the restaurants lit their torches and the holiday couples headed home for evening drinks.
The next day I went back to the airport to get on a plane for New York. I heard people talking about a “red eye”; I didn’t know it meant flying from LA to New York overnight.
I was wearing my blue and white Indian skirt and a white Bonds singlet with no bra, and was secretly wishing I could just abandon my heavily laden, soft-sided suitcase with the one, tiny, broken down wheel. I really shouldn’t have been let out alone. I couldn’t have been more conspicuous as I was suddenly seized with the bright idea of lightening my load by putting the $6,500 in travellers cheques I was carrying around my waist into said suitcase. Why not let the plane carry it all? I thought. I really really shouldn’t have been let out alone. Did I feel at all concerned seeing at least one male airport worker watching me do it? Not at all. I’d put the money inside the toiletries bag inside the suitcase, hadn’t I? Very cunning.
So, here I was, day 2 and a seasoned traveller at last. I was free of the suitcase for the next 8 hours or so and New York was the next stop! Look out world!
… to be continued.