|I had been looking forward to doing this trip for a long time now. I've been fortunate enough to have lived in both
Honolulu and Sydney for approximately 3 1/2 years each. As my wife can attest, I often get terribly "homesick" for
each of them. And why wouldn't I? These are two fantastic places! Some of the reasons for their appeal are obvious,
while some are discovered only when one gets the opportunity to spend significant time living and working as a
"local." I couldn't be more grateful to be able to have experienced just that, and I feel blessed to be able to consider
both Sydney and Honolulu (as well as Kansai, Japan) my alternative hometowns.
Tee and I moved away from Hawaii in 1996 (I remember Tee crying on the plane as we flew out of sight of the
island), and I've been able to return for a visit on a couple of occasions since, although the last one was almost 8
years ago. Ever since having lived here I always felt that there would be a significant place in my heart for Hawaii
and the city of Honolulu. To this day I can't imagine living my life without at least the occasional visit to the islands.
As for Sydney, we left in 2000 and haven't had any opportunity to return since. As much as I have missed Sydney
over those years I suppose it's not too surprising that I haven't returned given it's far flung local, the expense and
travel time involved. Not to mention the not so insignificant fact that I now have two children to look after full-time.
Still, I always assumed that there would come a time when I would return in order to see friends, observe first hand
the ways the city is changing, and to (hopefully) continue to make this very special city a part of me and my life.
Well, after having had the opportunity to return to Japan a couple of times over the past few years I decided that
the next "big" trip I was able to do would be to Honolulu and Sydney. I started discussing the possibilities of doing
this trip with Tee almost a year ago and as usual she was very supportive. She is not only supportive of most
anything I do anyway, but she knows as well as anyone just how wonderful these cities are and what they mean to
me personally. I couldn't do it without her support (nor her airline miles and hotel points!).
I had made arrangements for friends and family to take turns looking after the kids for part of the time I would be
gone. Tee took a week off from work and took the kids to Atlanta to visit her sister and their cousins for the other
part of the time. So by the time I left I felt confident that the family would not only be OK while I was gone, but
would be able to really enjoy having some of their own fun while I was away.
The day to depart finally arrived and I was taken to the airport on Sunday morning 9/16 by Tee and the kids. We
all said our "goodbyes" and I was off. Thanks (once again) to Tee and her big stash of airline miles I was able to fly
Delta Airlines' direct flight from Salt Lake to Honolulu in First Class, so the check in was smooth and I had a
comfortable flight out. The lady sitting next to me had been upgraded to First in order to be close to her elderly
mother and it was fairly apparent from the outset that she was no "frequent flier." She started out by sitting in the
wrong seat (mine), then proceeded to talk and talk and talk to me from the time I sat next to her. She was a nice
enough lady, but a Chatty Cathy! I normally don't watch videos when I fly, but with this lady talking my ear off I
had no choice but to put my headphones on and watch something. I ended up choosing to watch an episode of the
HBO series "Rome," which turned out to be quite good.
It was great to see the islands from the air as we approached. Straightaway I spotted some familiar landmarks and
was anxious to get on the ground. I grabbed a cab to Waikiki and immediately rolled down the windows in order to
take in the savory island air. I didn't know exactly where my hotel was located. I only knew it was in the central
Waikiki area near the Ala Wai Road. So I was pretty excited as we pulled up to the entrance to find that the hotel is
located in a very convenient spot straight up the street a couple of blocks from the prime area of Waikiki.
Now, normally if I were to give advice about what to do and where to go in Hawaii to the average person going on
vacation I would usually advise them to limit there stay in the Waikiki area to one, maybe two nights max. Waikiki
is obviously a significant part of the life and economy of the island of Oahu, but in no way does it represent the
culture of 'Hawaii.' While Waikiki beach itself is a beautiful and quite pleasant place, the surrounding
neighborhood of Waikiki (everything between the Ala Wai Canal and the beach) can be a busy, noisy, expensive,
and somewhat unnerving place to spend time. Waikiki is Hawaii on speed. The place is a full-scale, 24-7, 365 day a
year tourist "trap." The place is non-stop; eating, drinking, shopping, and milling around. Not all of this is bad by
any means. In fact, Waikiki offers some nice things as well; the beach, a couple of truly worthy places to eat and
drink, as well as the many bikini-clad surfer girls and sunbathers that freely waltz around the area with their hair
dripping wet with sea water and their skin glistening with tanning oils. (Do I have your attention?) So, while
Waikiki definitely has a few things to offer, the average person on vacation in Hawaii who is looking to enjoy the
best of what Hawaii has to offer should not look to spend much of their time in Waikiki.
I'm an exception to this rule, having worked daily in the exotic, romantic chaos that is Waikiki, and having come to
know it in a unique and personal way. As opposed to many tourists, I was looking to specifically locate myself in
the heart of the beast. It also happens to be a convenient spot from which to operate when "doing" the city of
The only requirements I had for deciding on a hotel for my initial couple of nights was that it be located in the heart
of Waikiki, be clean, safe, and cheap. I succeeded in finding just such a hotel when I booked the Waikiki Sand Villa
through Travelocity. After checking in and finding the Waikiki Sand Villa to be a simple yet charming and
comfortable place located in a convenient spot I was more than satisfied. I have definitely found my new little spot
in Waikiki. One which I will no doubt be using in future.
|My new-found home in Waikiki
The Waikiki Sand Villa
|By the time I had dropped by bags in my room and changed my clothes it was about 4:30 pm. The very first place I
was wanting to visit was my old workplace, the oldest and most impressive of the Waikiki hotels, The Moana
Surfrider. I worked at this grand hotel, often referred to as the "First Lady of Waikiki," for 3 1/2 years from 1992 to
1996, starting out at the front desk and concierge desk, and eventually becoming Japanese Guest Services
Manager (Japanese guests making up the majority of the clientle). I always felt grateful for the opportunity to work
and become intimately familiar with this special historic property. I consider the hotel's Banyan Court Beach Bar
to be the best place in Waikiki to enjoy the best of what this part of the island has to offer. I still have friends who
work in the hotel that I wanted to see, so I left the Waikiki Sands and made off toward the Moana.
As I walked down Kanekapolei Street I past by King's Village and one of my one time favorite old pubs, The Rose
and Crown. Unfortunately this great old English-style pub used to be a bit of an oasis from the themed bars and
tourist filled restaurants of Waikiki for many of the neighborhood locals. It has now succumbed to the higher rents
in the area and was sold in order to become an Elvis themed diner (go figure). I had known the pub had closed
several years ago, but this was the first time I'd been by in person since. I couldn't help but take a quick look
inside. I entered from the slightly hidden side door which I always used to use all those years ago. Nothing looked
the same, but I could still picture where the long, curving bar used to run, and where the jukebox and old standing
piano used to sit. I was sad to see that such a kitsch and cheesy business was operating out of the place, but...what
are you gonna do? I approached the guy running the souvenir counter and asked if he remembered the old Rose
and Crown Pub, and if he knew how long ago it closed. He gave me a knowing smile. "I miss that old place too." he
said, and I could sense that he felt bad it had become what it is now too. "It closed six or seven years ago and was
replaced by a crab restaurant. That closed a couple of years ago and was replaced with this." Standing right where
the old bar top once made it's turn toward the back of the room I said "This is where I used to sit and watch the NFL
years ago." He then told me that they still kept some old memorabilia of the Rose and Crown mounted high up on
the wall of the back room. I went back and took a picture of a framed Rose and Crown t-shirt they had framed,
thanked the guy, and crossed over Kalakaua Avenue to check out the Moana.
|The "First Lady of Waikiki,"
The Moana Surfrider Hotel
|I entered that beautiful building that once served as my home away from home and was flooded with number of
great memories. The furniture and employee uniforms have been updated since my last visit, but otherwise the
place maintains it's unique and special charms. I initially walked to the concierge desk, located where it's always
been, and inquired about a couple of my old friends who used to run the desk. I was told that Sandie had left a
couple of years ago, but that Tomoko still worked there, though it was her day off. I then passed the front desk and
didn't recognize anyone working there. I specifically wanted to inquire about some people I knew still worked at the
front office, but thought I'd come back by again on my way out.
It was then out and around the Beachside Cafe, passed the swimming pool, and up onto one of the chairs at the
Banyan Court Beach Bar; the best place to have a drink in the whole town. I was thrilled to immediately be
recognized by my old friend Kate who was one of the bartenders on duty. "Brad! What are you doing here?" she
said greeting me with a big smile and a hug. We caught up on what we each had been up to over the past several
years, and she filled me in on what had happened with several of the other people I used to know at the hotel.
Mark was fired from the Concierge Desk almost ten years before, Winnie (my old crush) was currently on maternity
leave with her third child (!), Tim C. is still an assistant manager and watching over the pool and bar area, Tim M. is
now head of Food and Beverage at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, and Peter is still head bartender at the Beach Bar.
"Hey Peter! Look whose here." Kate called out. Peter came over and gave me a big handshake. "Gotta have a
Peter-Colada!" I said. "You got it." The "Peter-Colada" is Pina-colada, but with a extra friendly dose of the prime
ingredients, and in this case, a "side-car" of overflow. We all chatted a bit while I sipped my drink, then snapped a
couple of photos together before I went off to look for my good friend Marianne who runs the hotel's Front Desk.
|As I approached the front desk I recognized my old friend Janice. Janice used to run the Travel Desk . The Travel
Desk used to sit adjacent to the Concierge Desk. Janice and I used to talk a lot when I was working the Concierge
Desk and we always had a great relationship. We hugged and chatted for a minute, then I asked her if Marianne
could come out to say "hi." A minute later Marianne and I were hugging and laughing together. Marianne is a very
special person to me; a person who served as a bright light to everyone around back when I was at the hotel. We
worked closely for years and developed a relationship filled we constant laughter, mutual teasing, and a number of
really meaningful conversations. What a great thrill to see her and find that she looks so young and maintains that
radiant countenance! We talked for several minutes, reminiscing about the "old days" and catching up on each
As we were talking Marianne abruptly says "Hey, there's Thelma!" Thelma is the woman who first hired me at the
hotel some 15 years ago. At that time she was the Front Desk Manager. She has since had a number of high-profile
positions within the Starwood Hotel Corporation. We ran after her as she went to enter the elevator. It was really
good luck to have had the chance to catch up with her. I've always had a great deal of respect for her, and have
always thought she was a terrific person. Again we spent several minutes catching up and taking some pictures
together. I almost didn't want to leave, but knowing that they still had work to do I excused myself and set off to see
|Heading "Eva" (West) out from the hotel I noticed immediately that the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center was
mostly closed, fenced-off, and undergoing renovations. Not only was it a huge eyesore in the heart of Waikiki, but I
had planned to eat dinner at a favorite restaurant of mine, Chibo, located on the third floor and thought that was
now not a possibility. My mood was quickly lifted however when I got to the Eva end of the shopping center to find
that there were a handful of businesses still operating at that end; one being Chibo! I wasn't yet quite hungry
enough to go in for dinner so I did some looking around in the new shopping complex on Lewers Street, just
adjacent to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. Apparently this new group of modern shops and restaurants is
called 'Waikiki Beachwalk.' I actually only entered one shop, called In4mant, and ended up buying a great t-shirt
with Lee "Scratch" Perry on the front.
Eventually I walked back over to Chibo for dinner. Chibo is a small chain of Japanese Okonomiyaki restaurants,
the main branch of which is a place I've visited regularly for almost 20 years in the Namba district of Osaka. I even
wrote a bit about my last visit there when I was traveling in Japan last year. Okonomiyaki is a certain type of
Japanese food which is a bit hard to describe here, but I'll just say that it is a food item which is very appealing to
the Western pallet but has yet to find it's niche outside of Japan. Hawaii is an exception given the huge numbers
of Japanese people who visit the islands. Thank God for that, because the Chibo restaurant was always an
authentic and convenient way to access great Okonomiyaki when I was living in Honolulu.
The place was busy when I arrived but I had no problem getting a seat at one of the large teppanyaki style grills. I
quickly ordered my favorite dish, Okonomiyaki Chibo, and a Sapporo Draft beer. I got talking to my chef, first in
Japanese, then in English when I discovered he not only had no accent when speaking English, but had been
born and raised in Philadelphia. We had a great conversation as he cooked my food, and I noticed we had the
attention of a nice looking Japanese family who seemed a bit jealous that Chef Mike and I were able to switch back
and forth between Japanese and American English. The food was great as always, and although I felt like I could
eat a whole other order, I went ahead and paid my bill.
On my way back to the hotel I bought an orange juice and a bottle of water at the ABC store. Back in the room I
took a shower and then found that one of my favorite movies, Momento, was on T.V.. I watched for about an hour
before I could no longer keep my eyes open.
|The next day was Monday, September 17th, my only full day in Honolulu before flying out to Sydney. I didn't have
a precise itinerary in mind for this day, but just knew it would fall in place naturally as I had several things I
wanted to do and see. The first thing I had to do was to rent a moped for the day. During the years that Tee and I
lived here we came to learn just what a beautiful thing a moped can be in this town. I'm convinced that by relying
on a moped for most of one's transport while in Honolulu, one increases and expands the experience of being here
by several times. While a moped would certainly not be advisable to those leaving the city proper, or those with
surfboards or golf clubs in tow, I would still highly recommend them as the best way to see and travel throughout
Honolulu. A moped allows you to feel and smell the air (sometimes in the form of a misty rain), keep up with the
pace of city traffic easily, and are a common site throughout town. They also burn less than $1 a day of gasoline
and are easy to park. The downsides are: first, they are somewhat expensive to rent ($35 -$40/day), and second:
"Like a fat girl, they're fun to ride until your friends see you with one."
At about 8:00 am I walked a couple of blocks to a place that looked to be my best option online, Big Kahuna
Motorcycle Rentals. I was really hoping that they might have the Honda Elite moped as opposed to the far more
common Yamaha Razz. When we lived in Hawaii years back both Tee and I owned Honda Elites, and quickly
learned that the Elite is a far better moped than the Razz. The Yamaha is weak and can barely keep up with traffic
half of the time, despite both models being 50cc engines. Over the years since we've noticed how few Elites are
around, and never understood why. I arrived at the rental shop just as they were opening and started chatting to
the owner Larry about where all the Elites had gone. His explanation was simple; they don't make them anymore.
He told me that my perception of the Yamaha Razz was right, but not to worry because he rents a new brand of
moped called Sym. I had no idea what a Sym was, but he said it was a product out of Taiwan and had plenty of
power. Once I was away and riding it I realized that he was right. It was just the bike I needed.
I was on my way down Ala Wai, making my way out of Waikiki, and smiling ear to ear. Once again I was
experiencing the old, familiar pleasure of being on a gutsy little moped in one of my favorite cities.
Breakfast was the first thing on the agenda, and I knew that there was only one place to go, the Like Like Diner. If
you were to ask the locals of Honolulu where one goes to get the true local breakfast experience you would likely
get only two answers, Like Like or Zippy's. I planned to do both on this trip. Zippy's is a chain restaurant found
throughout the islands, while the Like Like is a single location (on Keamoku) diner that is still run in a mom and
pop style. The Like Like is an iconic place in Honolulu, especially for the older generation. It's also the place that
Tee and I most regularly relied on for a satisfying breakfast while living here.
I pulled into the parking lot and parked in our old spot just away from the historic signboard at the street-side.
While Tee and I always sat in a booth, I took a seat at the counter this morning because I was by myself. There was
really no need to look at the menu. I ordered a real Hawaiian breakfast of Spam, eggs, rice, papaya, toast, and decaf
Kona coffee. Instead of salt and pepper, all that is required to season this breakfast plate is a small dose of soy
sauce. I consumed the lot in about 10 minutes, and considered doing the whole thing again but had in mind that I
had a lunch date with Aunt Sandy and Uncle Cal later that day and didn't want to completely destroy my appetite.
|My Hawaiian-style breakfast at the
Like Like Diner
|I had no specific plans before having to meet Uncle Cal at his place later. I was so happy just to be able to have a
moped and some time to drive around that I just started driving to where the streets might take me. I first headed
up Keamoku to Wilder, then east toward the University of Hawaii campus (a drive I used to do daily years ago). Just
after passing Makiki District Park heading east on Wilder you pass Honolulu's most prestigious high schools,
Punahou. I mention it here only because it is Barak Obama's Alma Mater, along with many of the state's movers
I continued to the university and drove around the familiar roads and paths throughout the campus for about 1/2
an hour. Once again I was flooded with memories of the place; the pungent smell of tropical 'rot' as you enter, the
umbrella tables of the Manoa Gardens patio, the slippers and t-shirt style of the students, as well as images of Tee
in her old office (sparse desk, chair, and cheap coffee maker), or Tee chatting with her students on the lanai of the
student dormitory. All wonderful memories unique to that time and this place.
After my leisurely and serendipitous ride through campus I exited back out onto University Ave. and headed Makai
(toward the ocean) and down into the neighborhood of Moilili. This is the first neighborhood I ever knew in
Honolulu as it is where Tee and I first lived while staying with Uncle Cal and Aunt Sandy when we first moved to
Hawaii back in 1992. Not a lot has changed since then, although the big movie theater has closed and my favorite
little French/Vietnamese deli has now moved up to Manoa Gardens on campus. I turned left on King Street,
passed Sandy and Cal's apartment building (a large, phallic highrise called The Contessa), and made a right onto
Kapahulu Ave, continuing toward Waikiki.
As I passed by the Ala Wai Golf Course I just HAD to pull in and take a look around. This golf course is truly
unique, and holds a lot of great memories for me. The Ala Wai Golf Course is a relatively cheap public course that
is played mainly by the older men and women of the local area. If you want to do a certain kind of networking in
this town, the Ala Wai Golf Course is a prime place to do it. Because of a peculiar type of booking system that
favors those who have played here for years it is difficult to secure a tee time in advance. So, when I used to play
here (just as I was beginning to play golf) I would take my clubs (held between my legs on my moped), a sack
lunch, and a book with me to the course, put my name on the waiting list, and pass the time waiting to be called
out on one of the benches by the putting green. Although almost always playing as a single, the wait time usually
totaled a minimum of 2 hours, and averaged closer to 3. It is, after all, said to be the busiest golf course in the U.S..
But, what can I say? It was always worth it and I came to really like this course and feel that I belonged here.
I parked the moped at the old bike rack that is still there in the same spot it always was and entered the
clubhouse building. Nothing about the place has changed since the first time I set foot there all those years ago.
The center hallway remains dark and unfurnished. The proshop is still small and cramped. The starters still
grumpy looking and busily distracted with...what? I don't know. Several people were eating and reading as they
waited to be called out to the tee on the same benches I used to wait on. I stopped into the proshop and purchased
a hat with "Ala Wai Golf Course" on the front. Two old local guys were in the shop and asked me where I was from.
I told them that I was from Salt Lake City, but that I used to live in Honolulu and used to play Ala Wai regularly.
"Great looking girls in Utah!" said one of the guys.
"I think there are some pretty great looking girls here!" I replied.
"Suppose you always want what you don't have ya?" the old boy said.
We had a laugh and I was off again.
Heading back down again into Waikiki I thought I had just enough time to drop by my hotel room and change into
something a bit nicer in order to meet Sandy and Cal for lunch, then stop off again at the Moana to take a look at
a couple of things I hadn't seen the day before. After going by my room to change I rode my moped over to the
Moana and parked in my "secret" spot on the 2nd floor of the delivery/maintainence area. I then entered into the
2nd floor lobby that fronts my old office space. My old office area, The Admiral's Room (named in conjunction with
the adjacent restaurant space, The Ship's Tavern) was closed up, seemingly for good. I had read that the
neighboring Ship's Tavern restaurant, once the fine dinning outlet of the hotel, had closed over a year ago,
although the doors, exterior glass, and sign above the entrance still looked the same as it always had.
The other spaces I wanted to see again were the restaurant space that once housed the W.C. Peacock restaurant at
the far Diamond Head side of the hotel and the little known rooftop patio of the hotel's central Banyan Wing. I
went to the elevators of the Banyan Wing first only to find that they were not working. A girl working as a Front
Desk "Greeter" told me that the entire interior (other than the lobby) of the Banyan Wing was under extensive
renovations, and was therefore closed. I was disappointed because I had really been looking forward to spending
some meditative moments in that great little secluded spot at the top.
Oh well, I also had some terrific memories of time spent at the tables of the old Peacock restaurant, so I headed
over there. The W.C. Peacock has been closed for even longer than the Ship's Tavern, but it too looked like it might
just have closed for the day. I walked out directly to the secluded seats overlooking Waikiki Beach where I would
often bring my breakfast during the time the restaurant was closed in the mornings. It's a beautiful and quiet spot.
As I sat relaxing and meditating for several minutes I distinctly felt as if it hadn't been long at all since that time
when I used to eat breakfast here. Over 11 years had past, but at this moment it seemed as if less than half of that
time had gone by since then. My feelings then confirmed for me the thought that a part of me would always be
here in this beautiful hotel. A great feeling to have.
The time for meeting Cal was nearing, so I hopped back on my moped and drove back up to Moilili via Kapahulu. I
rang from the security phone at the front of the building and Cal came down to meet me. It was great to see his
face after so many years. He looked great, walking with a brisk pace and sporting a wide smile. Again, it suddenly
felt like it hadn't been so long at all since last visiting Cal at The Contessa. We took the elevator up together to the
22nd floor, and when I entered the condo I was struck with the fact that so little had changed. The furniture was
newer, as was the television, but otherwise the place was laid out and decorated in the same fashion. There was
something very comforting about that. Cal took a seat in his "throne" which serves him in much the same manner
as that of Archie Bunker. Whenever I picture Cal, it is of him seated in that Lazy-Boy recliner.
Cal and I had a fun and lively chat, attempting to catch up on years of not seeing one another. At one point Cal
went to go and answer a phone call and I stepped out onto the lanai. As I've said, Uncle Cal and Aunt Sandy were
kind enough to put Tee and I up at their place for a few weeks when we first moved to Honolulu, and I have very
clear memories of standing on this lanai and taking in my first views of the city. The view is spectacular and had a
strong effect on me at the time. I remember looking at the view from this lanai on one of the first nights I spent in
Honolulu and thinking "I'm going to find my place in this town." It was a feeling of excitement mixed with a dose of
determination. The view remains spectacular, and I didn't hesitate to snap a series of pictures while taking it all in
again after all this time.
|Sandy came by and picked us up for lunch. Sandy and Cal had decided on a particular Japanese restaurant that
they said was very popular amongst the local Japanese in Honolulu. The place is called Gyotaku, and although it
has been at it's King Street location for many years I had never known of it. The first thing I noticed as we entered
were the many art pieces displayed on the walls. The framed prints were all striking images of various fish and sea
creatures. When we were handed our menus I noticed a paragraph on the front cover explaining that the
restaurant's name, Gyotaku, was a word that referred specifically to the type of prints that were displayed there. I
later asked the manager about the artist and was told that he is a local Japanese guy named Noaki Hayashi. The
manager also supplied me with the artists business card.
As for the restaurant itself, it is a modest place consisting of two floors. We were seated on the upper floor against
the windows. It was quite busy and I couldn't help but notice that Sandy and I were the only Haoles in the place
(everyone else, including Cal, being local Japanese) and I took this as a good sign. The menu was extensive and
affordable. I had a difficult time deciding on what to get but eventually settled on Katsudon, a breaded pork cutlet
on a bed of rice, topped with a mixture of egg, onions, and seaweed flakes. Since I was in Hawaii I also wanted a
portion of the Poke appetiser and asked if Sandy would split it with me, which she did. The meal was fantastic, but
the portion more than I could handle, so I ended up packing half of it out with me.
|Sandy drove us back to their place then returned to work. Cal and I visited for a little while longer, then he walked
me out to where I had parked the moped. He said several kind and complimentary things to me, and I felt a little
sad knowing it may be several more years until I see him again. I really enjoyed seeing and visiting with both Cal
and Sandy, and felt that my stopover in Hawaii had been worth it even if just for that.
The only thing I really wanted to do after lunch was continue to drive around town on the moped. I headed down
Kapahulu Avenue, turned onto Kalakaua and then right on Diamond Head Road. This stretch takes you up and
over the front of Diamond Head toward Kahala, eventually becoming Kahala Avenue. This is a great little drive that
takes you to the face of Diamond Head where you can access some secluded beach front areas popular with wind
surfers and then on into the ritzy and relaxed neighborhoods along the beaches of the Kahala district. This
particular drive ends at the location of a couple of interesting places; one being the Waialae Country Club (home to
the PGA Tour's Sony Open) and the other being the Kahala Hotel.
The last time I was in the area I had bought a great golf shirt for Tee at the Waialae C.C., which became one of her
favorites. Then, about 3 years ago she misplaced it while we were visiting Toronto. So I decided that I should stop by
the proshop and buy something new for her. I had decided on a modern ladies jacket and was continuing to look
around with it in my hand when a lady member said to me "That's my favorite thing in the whole place. She'll love
it!" Then, when I went to pay for it the Japanese lady at the desk said "That's my favorite item in the whole shop!"
Having two women give me the same positive comment on the jacket within 5 minutes gave me confidence that Tee
would indeed like it. I paid for the jacket and arranged to come and pick it up when I was back in Honolulu again
on my way home so that I didn't have to pack it around with me for two weeks in Sydney.
|On my way back from Waialae C.C. I veered inland at Fort Ruger Park where Diamond Head Road begins to wrap
around the back of Diamond Head. I now had a specific destination in mind and made my way back to Kapahulu
Ave. via Campbell Ave. and headed to the well known shave ice vendor Waiola Shave Ice. I think most anyone who
has been to Hawaii knows what shave ice is; sort of a Hawaiian style snow cone, where the flavors are largely
tropical, the flakes of ice thin and broad, and the portions large. I ordered a small (?) shave ice flavored with Mango,
Lychee, and Sour Apple, and spent 15 minutes or so eating it while watching the passersby from the wooden bench
out front. There were a few collage aged Haole kids in their bikinis and boardshorts there who didn't seem to be
tourists, but rather temporary transplants from the mainland as I had once been. I kept having one thought about
them (along with a bit of envy): "Keep living the dream guys!"
|From there I drove down Beretania St. toward are old neighborhood of Makiki. I went directly to our former
apartment building, Terrazza, at the five way intersection on Green Street. The building stands out because of it's
unique pink color, and other than a new fence that surrounds the pool area the place looks the same as it always
did. I pulled into the parking garage in the same way I did daily for years. The parking area for mopeds and bikes
now has a security fence around it, something I wish we would have had then (Tee had her moped stolen from that
spot once). The entrance from the garage into the apartment building again was the same as it had always been. I
looked into the pool area and saw it was the same, and also noticed that the dryers in the laundry area hadn't been
upgraded in over 12 years either! Still, surprisingly, the place looked good.
|From the Terrazza I took a drive to a nearby area that has very special meaning to me. "Tantalus" is the name of a
road that leisurely winds up and into the mountains above Honolulu between Punchbowl and the Manoa Valley,
and served as a personal haven of meditation and rejuvenation for me throughout the time I lived in Hawaii. The
road is quiet, cool, and intensely tropical. The otherworldly, aromatic smell of it's lush hills is so distinct and solidly
implanted into a primitive part of my brain that I can detect it blocks away. I relied on the 30-40 minute drive up
and around Tantalus/Roundtop as a regular refuge from the stresses of daily life, making the drive about 3 times a
week. I honestly can't imagine my life in Hawaii without the sanctuary of this special place. Although I hadn't
driven Tantalus since my last visit to Hawaii over 7 years ago I was almost overwhelmed with the fact that I still had
an intimate knowledge of each of the dozens of it's twists and turns. I can't remember the last time I had such a
feeling of excitement about being in a particular place.
|I stopped off at the public lookout point at Puu Ualakaa, another significant spot for me. It provides a view of
Honolulu like no other and is rarely visited by more than a couple of people each hour. On this occasion however
there was someone there, a young Swiss girl who was in the process of "traveling the world." We had a nice chat
and I asked her to snap a photo of me.
|I had been told that the road, which normally starts/ends at either the "Punchbowl" side or the "Wilder" side had
been closed at some point due to a landslide. As I drove I was happy to see that the road was clear for a long way, and
by the time I had made my way almost 80% of the way to the other end I was convinced that there was no closure.
However, just as I was expecting to exit back into the city on the Wilder end of the drive there was a large fence
blocking the width of the road with a sign posted reading "NO ACCESS," and I was forced to turn and drive the entire
length of the road back to Punchbowl. I didn't mind at all. In fact I was more than happy to do it!
|It was now time for a beer, and I knew just the place. I headed straight for one of my old favorite places, Murphy's
Irish Pub. Honolulu has plenty of places to get a drink, but there isn't really any kind of "pub culture." Murphy's is
an exception to this; a true Irish pub complete with dark wood panelling, dart boards, the well-known shuffle board,
Irish food from the kitchen, bartenders in ties, and a customer base consisting of mostly locals/regulars. When
living in Honolulu I was always very grateful that there was a place like Murphy's, and Tee and I made it a regular
stop. The other thing that I've always liked about Murphy's is the fact that it is located downtown, between the
business/financial district and the best avoided area of Hotel Street and Chinatown. It was always easy access for
me from where we lived, yet was not a typical neighborhood for most people to travel into.
I parked my moped next to the side door as I always used to do and took a seat up at the U-shaped bar. I was hoping
to see my old bartender Wayne, but the only guy working was someone I had never seen before. I ordered a
Guinness and asked about Wayne. I was told that it was Wayne's day off. I mentioned that Murphy's served as my
"local" back in the mid-1990s and the guy introduced himself as the "new guy," and with a smile said he had been
there 8 years. The customers were a mix of just the kind of people who always used to patronize the place; a table of
gossiping college girls, a couple of mixed-race 30-something guys playing shuffle board, several businessmen with
briefcases at their sides, and a number of 30 and 40 something sports fans occupying the majority of bar stools,
their attention duly fixed on the Monday Night Football game. I drank a couple pints of Guinness, watched the 2nd
quarter of MNF (Philly vs. Washington), and talked a bit to a couple of the guys there.
|At this point I was a bit tired and decided to head back to my hotel to rest up a bit. I turned in my moped about 1/2
hour before it was due and walked back to my hotel. After a quick shower and a change of clothes I went down to
the modest yet comfortable and appealing hotel bar to watch the end of Monday Night Football. I made some notes
in my small notebook about the events of the day then walked over to the Mai Tai bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in
order to be in a prime place for sunset.
Again, The Mai Tai Bar is a place I'm very familiar with. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel (also commonly referred to as the
Pink Palace) is an iconic hotel in Waikiki and a sister hotel of the Moana Surfrider (both run by Starwood Hotels).
When I was a member of the Moans's management team I ate at the Surf Room regularly as we were able to eat
there for free. The Mai Tai bar is basically the outdoor social section adjoining the Surf Room. It's a beautiful spot to
have a cocktail at sunset despite the fact that it is full of tourists.
I ordered a Longboard Lager (Kona Brewing Co.) and settled in with my book. The scene was idyllic and the colors of
the Hawaiian sunset did not disappoint. At some point I took notice of the fact that both tables nearest mine were
occupied by Australians. I struck up a conversation with the very friendly middle aged couple just to my left and
quickly found that they were booked on my same flight to Sydney in the morning. The husband's name was David
Forsyth, and they were on vacation from Melbourne. As we talked the couple sitting on my opposite side joined in
and it was discovered that they too were on our flight to Sydney the next morning. Quite a coincidence! The one
couple left at some point and another couple was shown to the table. Wouldn't you know it, but they too were
Aussies, and yes, they TOO were to be on the flight to Sydney the next day! None of these couples knew one
another nor had any associations, so it was really quite strange that all of us would end up sitting next to one
When the Forsyths left their table I took a bathroom break. When I returned I noticed right away that there was a
very attractive young couple now sitting at the table next to me. They were laughing and taking pictures of each
other. Sure enough, they were Australians! I offered to take a picture and they sort of hesitated before agreeing to
the photo. The reason for their hesitation turned out to be the fact that I had assumed that they were a couple when
in fact they were brother and sister. We began to talk a bit and I was impressed by what a fun and friendly couple of
people they seemed to be. There names were Richard and Treen McPhillamy. Both are young (Richard being about
28 and Treen being a couple years older) attractive, and oh so typically Sydney-siders; well dressed, bright-eyed,
healthy, funny, and in "party mode." Treen was an almost prototypical Sydney girl; absolutely gorgeous white blond,
blue eyes, and blindingly white smile. The more we talked the more I realized just what a perfect female specimen
Treen was. She was truly flawless. Not only was she a stunning beauty, but she was fun, sweet, and articulate. Wow!
It will be an awfully long time before I get the image of this very special woman out of my mind.
Richard and Treen and I talked a lot about Sydney, and they were really excited to find that we actually knew a
couple of the same people from my old neighborhood of Paddington. They insisted I go and see their friend who
recently bought one of my main pubs in Paddo, The Grand National Hotel. The three of us talked for over an hour
and there was no doubt that there was an immediate bond amongst us. We somehow felt that we were old friends
and could have gone on drinking, talking, a milling around Waikiki all night. However, I had a long flight the next
morning at an early hour, so I eventually had to excuse myself and walk back to my hotel.
|My flight was to depart just after 9:00 am, so the morning started early. I was up and packing by 5:30 and checked
out of the hotel by 6:30. I shared an airport limousine with an older Aussie couple from Brisbane and was in line to
check in at the airport just after 7:00. As I was looping through the velvet rope maze I passed the Forsyths looping
around ahead of me. They gave me a big smile and a "G'day!" We spoke briefly and it was fun to think I already had a
few friends on the flight thanks to my going to the Mai Tai Bar the night before.
Just then an airline employee approached the line and asked if anyone was interested in an upgrade for $250. My
hand flew up before I could even think. A few other people also accepted the offer and we were pulled from the line
in order to check in at a separate counter. I was really happy that I was able to upgrade. I was a bit worried about
how I would fare on this 10 1/2 hour flight in coach, so it was a relief to know that I would at least be in a more
comfortable situation for this long flight.
The upgrade also allowed me Qantas lounge privileges, but I opted out of going to the lounge and instead went to a
secluded cafe area near gate 28. I had asked the Wiki Wiki driver where I might be able to buy a Spam Musubi and
she told me that this particular cafe was the only place in the airport that sold them. "I buy one there every day" she
said, then offered to drive me to it after dropping everyone off at our gate (33). Not only did she drive me there, but
she got out with me, walked me in and showed me exactly where the musubi were. Spam Musubi is a staple in
Hawaii, a perfect snack food consisting of a cake of steamed rice topped with a soy marinated, pan fried slab of Spam,
and wrapped with an "obi" of nori (seaweed). I bought two and sat eating them at a small table in front of the T.V..
My seat on the flight was a window seat on the second row. Eventually a guy came to take the seat next to me. He
didn't say anything and looked awkward. He definitely didn't want to talk, which is always good by me, but he didn't
even acknowledge me. So of course I turned, looked him in the eye and said "Hi. How's it going?" He said "Hello" in
reply and I quickly turned back to reading my book. The guy was sort of a nerdy, nervous type, and reminded me of a
blond haired, blue eyed Mr. Bean. Not a word passed between us for the duration of the flight until about 30
minutes prior to landing, when I asked him about the book on terrorism that he was reading. Turns out that not only
is the guy an expert on terrorism, but is the Chief of Security for Qantas Airlines! We had a great conversation about
airline security, Qantas, Sydney, and our families. In fact, we had really kind of "hit it off" by the time we landed, and
the guy kept up our conversation until we split up at the immigration station.
I exited the airport to find that it was a typically sunny and warm Sydney day. I hopped into a cab and kept the
windows down during the drive to my hotel. I would be staying at the Sheraton Four Points at Darling Harbour using
some of Tee's hotel points. The hotel is in a convenient location in that it is walking distance to the Central Business
District (CBD) as well as to all points in and around Darling Harbour.
I was helped at the front desk by a 20-something Aussie guy who I happened to notice was wearing a Japanese flag
lapel pin. I asked in Japanese if that indicated that he spoke Japanese, and he replied that it did. He told me that he
had taught English in Shikoku for a couple of years and I of course told him of having lived in Kansai. He gave me
the keys to the room and I went to check it out. As soon as I saw the room I was on the phone to the front desk to say
the room wasn't going to work for me. It was tiny, and had a horrible view of the building to the front. When they
called back to tell me there were no other rooms available I went down to talk to my man at the front desk in person.
He hemmed and hawed while looking at his computer screen. I in turn told him that I needed a better room partly
because I wanted to show off Sydney to my friend James who was coming in from Tokyo, and this wasn't going to
make the best first impression. "I'm sorry. There really aren't any other rooms available for all the night's you'll be
here" he said. I started to turn the screws on him and replied "I'm sure you can work it out. I have faith in you mate."
He kept tapping away at his computer but I could tell it was mostly for show. He again told me that he didn't think
anything could be done. I really didn't want to up the heat, but I had no choice, so I told him "I know how these
things work. I used to be Guest Services Manager at the Moana Surfrider, so consider me family hey?" "The Moana
Surfrider?" he asked. "Have you been there?" I asked. "No. I haven't been there, but I certainly know it." he said.
"Just a minute." His keyboard tapping seemed to take on renewed purpose, and sure enough, a minute later he
handed me keys to a new room.
I was thrilled when I saw the new room (#722). It was just what I had hoped for upon checking in; a good sized room
with an expansive view of Darling Harbour to the west. This was the view I was hoping to greet James with when he
arrived in Sydney. The problem now was: Where is James?! I had fully expected him to have arrived before me. I had
even made sure his name was also indicated on the reservation so that he might be able to check in before I arrived.
He had originally told me that his plane arrived that morning. I assumed he had probably left his bags with the bell
desk and went out to look around.
|I went passed the front desk, slipped my check-in receptionist a $20 and told "Job well done mate!" Then I went and
sat on the benches outside the hotel entrance thinking that James would come by at anytime because we had
discussed meeting there by 5:30 if we hadn't met up before then. I waited almost 30 minutes, then decided there
had definitely been some kind of mix up. Oh, well. I was hungry and really craving my first V.B. (Victoria Bitter)
back in Australia. I wrote a note to James just in case, telling him that I could be found at the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel
on the opposite side of Darling Harbour's pedestrian bridge (Pyrmont Bridge), and left it on his bed.
It was a beautiful evening, if not a bit chilly once the sun had gone down. I walked across Pyrmont Bridge to the
Pyrmont Bridge Hotel, a pub I knew well from the days I lived in Sydney. It's a traditional pub, and I was glad to see
it still is. I wanted to begin my time in Sydney with a true pub-style meal and 2 or 3 schooners (just smaller than a
pint) of V.B.. The Pyrmont was just the place in this neighborhood to do it. I ordered a bangers and mash along with
my beer and sat at the window looking onto the busy intersection of the bridge, Darling Drive, and Union Street. It
was a great feeling to be back in Sydney. I took note of it's vibrancy as I watched the various people cross the
intersection and pass by my window; young businessmen in contemporary tailored suits and ties, joggers, bikers,
Chinese families, 20-something hipsters, couples, groups of friends looking for a drink, and of course the plethora
of supremely fashionable young women. It was all so "Sydney," and I love it.
I suppose I was hoping to spot James coming toward me from across the bridge at some point, but that didn't
happen. I made some notes in my notebook, watched a bit of rugby on the telly, and drank a couple more beers.
The V.B. was as good as I had been anticipating, but I was getting tired, and without a drinking companion I
thought it best to call it a night and return to the hotel.
|My note to James was still on the bed and I remained confused yet hopeful about his arrival in Sydney. I took a
shower and felt completely drained. As I was ready to go to sleep I saw there was an interesting show starting on
Channel Ten. It was a show called "Kenny" about a guy who owned and ran a porta-potty and sewer truck business.
It was one of the funniest thing I have seen on T.V. in a long time, and I plan to keep my eye on the Channel Ten
website to see if it is ever offered for purchase on DVD. By the time it was over I was so beat that I was floating out
of my body and not able to even think straight.
I slept well and woke up at about 6:30 am. Because I had gained a day on my flight from Hawaii it was now
Thursday, Sept. 20th. There was still no sign of James, but I figured he would show up soon, so before heading out
for breakfast I again left a note in the room for him telling him of my intended itinerary in hopes that he would
catch up to me sometime that day.
My breakfast destination was a well known place in Surry Hills called Bill's. Breakfast in Australia is a funny thing
for an American. There are very few, if any places that serve a truly American style breakfast, i.e.; eggs, bacon,
omelet, waffles, or pancakes. A typical Sydney breakfast place specializes in either an English style beans and toast
approach or a distinctly more Continental coffee and croissant one. It was always one of the most frustrating things
for Tee and I during our time here (in addition to a dearth of Mexican food and reggae music), so all I wanted at this
point is to get something agreeable in me to give myself a good start to the day.
The day was a bit cold and rainy. I took a cab to Surry Hills and timed my arrival at Bill's just right so that I was
able to get the only table still available. Bill's is a bit of a snobbish place, with a very contemporary and controlled
feel. The menu is questionable, especially to an American who appreciates starting the day with unpretentious food
designed to stick to your ribs. I did spot one very interesting item on the limited menu, that being a bowl of
porridge with rhubarb. It turned out to be as good as I had hoped, though it was really the coffee that turned out to
be the star of the show. I normally don't drink coffee, but Sydney is a renowned coffee city, so I broke down and
ordered a "flat white." It was exquisite, and I made sure to compliment the resident coffee maker as I paid my bill.
|Bill's in Surry Hills
|The weather remained cold with a light rain. I stood across the street from Bill's for a few minutes thinking about
what I should do. I began walking down toward Oxford Street and then turned there toward my old neighborhood of
Paddington. Even before entering my old neighborhood however it was clear that certain things had changed. The
city of Sydney has obviously seen some impressive economic growth in the past 10 years or so, and this is reflected
in the incredible number of renovation and rebuilding projects throughout town. Paddington is an area that is
prime for upgrades because of it's reputation as a top spot for shopping and socializing, so I suppose I shouldn't
have been surprised to see that it had attracted a number of new and impressive shops, or that many of the old
businesses were almost unrecognizable due to upgrades, but I was.
My heart was pounding as I walked the main drag along the north side of Oxford Street in the heart of Paddington.
So many memories! And such good ones! It was hard to imagine that 7 years had past since I called this wonderful
and vibrant area "home." I turned down my old street, curious as to what our old terrace house looked like now.
William Street has always been a very cool and hip little one-way artery that runs off of Oxford Street north into the
heart of residential Paddington. It has always served as a place that accommodates nicely a couple of pubs, some
exclusive fashion shops, and the terrace apartments that house the local residents. It remains exactly that though I
was struck with the fact that there are now almost double the number of retail shops; most having been converted
from terrace houses.
I reached our old terrace house at 60 William Street to find that other than a revamped exterior on the 2nd floor
sun room, the place looked the same. My old local pub across the street, The London Tavern, looked only slightly
different, but it was still too early to step in and check the interior. I then went to the extremely small corner shop
at William and Underwood Streets to see if it's old proprietor and my old friend Charlie was still running the place. I
stepped in and it was if nothing had changed in 7 years. Charlie stood behind the counter and he lit up as I
entered. We caught up on many things and I could tell that Charlie had aged. He still looked good, but he seemed
far more mellow and his sight seemed affected. After a nice visit of several minutes I walked back toward Oxford
Street without an umbrella in the light rain.
|I crossed Oxford Street from North to South at the head of William Street and stood looking for an oncoming bus or
taxi. I was there no longer than 30 seconds when I looked to see one of my closest friends from the area, Anita,
crossing the same path I had just taken. She was half-way across Oxford Street when we caught each other's eye.
Both of our faces lite up. "Brad! What are you doing here?!" she said. We embraced each other and remained
speechless for several seconds. I couldn't believe I had just run into Anita. She and her husband, Kaz, had been our
close friends and neighbors for several years when we were living in the neighborhood, and I had only minutes
before been specifically inquiring about her at Charlie's place. We hugged and hugged. She looked better than I
could have ever imagined. Anita had always been one of my closest friends during the time I lived in Paddington,
but she had always been a live wire with a penchant for late nights on the town drinking copious amounts of red
wine (she won't mind my mentioning this). Despite the fact that she has a wonderful Japanese husband and two
beautiful kids, she was a person always living on the edge, just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I would have
never guessed that after all these years I would be standing here on the corner of William and Oxford Streets seeing
Anita as such a healthy and vibrant person as she seemed to be in this moment. "Do you have time to visit?" I
asked. "I was just coming here to have coffee." she said, and we took a seat only a couple of paces away at a cafe
fronting the bus stop. What an amazing 45 minutes ensued. We talked, laughed, embraced, and stared into each
other's eyes for the entire time. I felt that even if the rest of my time in Sydney was somehow a "bust," (and this was
never even a possibility), that my trip would have been worth it just for this time with Anita.
She had an amazing story to tell me. She had come to a crossroads in her life 5 years before and had quite drinking
altogether, cold turkey. She shared the spiritual journey with me that had taken her beyond her days relying on
alcohol to the place where she is now; as hard working professional woman, devoted wife, and doting mother to her
two boys Tyson and Nelson. She also delivered to me some news that wasn't easy for me to hear; that being that
several of our old mutual friends had passed away. She told me of Bret Lee, a great old Aussie about 15 years older
than me with whom I had worked briefly and drank with frequently He had died of cancer a few years before. She
also told me of Debra, a girl my age from the neighborhood who I saw regularly, both at mutual friends houses and
up at the Moore Park Golf Course where she used to work as a club house bartender. She had died from a brain
tumor. She mentioned the deaths of a couple of other mutual mates from the area as well, but it was when she
mentioned that my old friend Don had died that I struggled to keep from weeping in that public place.
Don, "The Kiwi Pirate," was one of the most important people in my life during my years in Sydney, and though we
hadn't been in touch for several years it was my hope to look him up while here on this trip. It was not meant to be.
Don was one of the first people I met after moving to Sydney. I was cornered by the huge crowd at the London
Tavern who had gathered to watch Mike Tyson fight Evander Holyfield (yes, the fight where Tyson bit Holyfield's ear)
and ended up pinned up against Don's chair. The guy looked menacing; large in stature, shaved head with a couple
of impressive scars visible, and one bad eye which he would half close with a squint when looking at you. Little did I
know as we began conversing during the fight that this rough hewn, surly ex-biker would become my close friend,
confidant, and inspirational tutor. He took me immediately under his wing, which assisted in my becoming an
accepted part of this somewhat insular neighborhood quicker than I otherwise would have.
Don was a prime example of why one should not judge a book by it's cover. I used to call Don "The Kiwi Pirate,"
because he looked the role to a T. He wore the many miles he had seen on his face, and you could hear his
confidence and potential strength in his gruff voice. Yet this was a gentle, funny, insightful, and frighteningly
intelligent and eloquent man. Don was a prolific reader, reading 3 or 4 books a week, and I was always interested in
asking about what his "book of the day" might be. He was also always kind enough to ask about my modest reading
interests. We had a great chemistry that allowed us to converse on a wide range of topics, for hours, several times a
week. While we gave deference to one another and agreed to disagree a number of times, Don taught me many
things for which I'll always be grateful. Knowing I would never have a chance at gleaning any further inspiration
from his insights, or being denied merely the sight of the gleam in his eye as we clinked glasses and sat against the
south end of the bar at the Grand National Hotel was hard for me to realize. I continued my conversation with Anita
burdened by a large lump in my throat and small tears welling up in my eyes.
Anita and I laughed and talked and continued to embrace occasionally until it was time for me to leave. I hopped
into a cab in front of the cafe and rode away with Anita continuing to wave until she was out of sight.