I run into Joel at breakfast, and remind him that this gal, Judy, is coming to pick us up at lunch time. He says he wants to beg out, as he has a date tonight. Seems he went to an office for business, and met a chick, and hit it off. So I tell him, noway, he is not going to leave me stuck for an afternoon with some perfect stranger.
I spent a cool morning on the beach. Seems there are huge forest or prairie fires, or both, to the west of Sydney, and the smoke is so thick it is blocking the sun, which looks like a big red ball in the sky.
Judy comes by at Noon, and we crowd into her small car and take off. We stopped at a lunch stand, and she won't let us pay a dime! Great hosts, these Australians. We spend several hours getting the grand tour of Sydney, and I don't remember much of what it was we were seeing. As 4 p.m. approached, Joel asked if we were still going to her folks for tea, and she said we were, and then drove across the beautiful Harbour Bridge. We go out to the country side, and stop at a Koala Sanctuary, and spend about an hour looking at the cute little animals and some wallabies and kangaroos. I can't tell the difference, but Judy assures me there is.
Then, we got back into her car, and drove for an hour to her folks place! By now, it is 1800, and I can see Joel is fidgeting about the time. Me, I could care less.
We meet Judy's mom and dad, and she says tea will be ready in a bit. I noticed the dining room table is set for five, with candles, cloth napkins, etc., and said we didn't want to impose, because it was obvious they were expecting company. Judy's Mom said, Joel and I are the company, and then explained that tea in Australia is not like the English thing at 1600, and that it is really high tea, which is like our American dinner.
Joel gets red in the face, and sez he has a date, and please call him a cab. I figure these people went through a lot of trouble, and it would be rude for both of us to walk out, so I said I would stay.
Well, they wined and dined me, and we had a great time. Finally, at 0300 in the morning, I said I had overstayed my welcome, and asked that they call a cab for me. Judy's father says, "Nonsense! It is 40 miles to your hotel, and a cab would cost you a fortune, we'll drive you!" And they did. On the way, I said, "We are perfect strangers, who happen to know Judy's friend. Why are you so nice to us?" Her dad said, "We want to show our appreciation for what you Yanks did for Australia during the war!" And I knew he was talking about WWII.
Back at the hotel, I couldn't thank them enough, and invited Judy and her dad up to the "American Lounge," for a drink. We got up to the lounge, and found a party going on. The manager met us at the door, and said, "Ed, you're the first Yank to get back tonight. Come on in, we are having our hotel Christmas Party; hope you don't mind!" Of course I didn't, and after a couple glasses of champagne, Judy and her Dad took their leave. Nice people.
Now, I don't like champagne, but I drank my share until about 0900, when the manager asked if I liked to water ski. Absolutely, I said, and he said he knew a little place up the coast, and we would leave at 1000. That gave me just enough time to shave and shower, change my clothes, and grab a towel and my swim suit.
The manager's car was another little one, and the Aussies are fairly big people, and I wonder why the small cars. Anyway, the back is loaded with cold six packs, and off we go, leaving a trail of bottles along the highway. We drove for four hours! Finally, we got to the little place up the coast, which was some type of club, with a great beach and a dock, and we skied for a couple of hours, and then had another feast; with every bite washed down by wine.
Afterwards, we spent several hours in the lounge, swapping war stories and lies, and drinking brandy, scotch, and beer. I am feeling no pain, for sure. Then it hit me! I had to be back at the R&R Center early in the morning to go back to Vietnam!
Not to worry, said the manager, we'll leave in an hour, and get back in time. We leave around midnight, and I know he has had as much to drink, if not more than me, and my stomach is rumbling mightily, letting me know that one shouldn't drink so much, and certainly should not mix so much, either.
I dozed on the trip back, but I remember that we did not weave over the road, and got back to the hotel in good shape around 0500. That left me an hour to sober up, clean up, shave, get into uniform, and pack! Damn!
I got back to my room, to find the door open, and the maid just leaving. "You're all packed and ready to go, Sir," she said. My suitcase was packed, my uniform laid out on the bed - it still took me the better part of the hour to get ready, especially stopping the bleeding from cutting myself shaving. No, I didn't have a hangover, drunk is a better explanation!
0600, and the bus is there, and I take leave of my hosts. What a week it has been, and I have never in my life been so wined and dined.
Joel's friend is there to see him off, and she is a beauty.
We are the only ones on the bus, and he said, "Shit, why do we have to go back to Viet Nam?"