My visa was expiring in a week and I had to make a big decision. I didn’t have to be back in California by mid-June for my sister’s wedding, so I wanted to extend the visa and stay an extra month in Byron Bay, working and partying and enjoying the last days of the Aussie summer.
The problem was that the visa extension cost money, and so did the plane ticket. And after binge-drinking my way up and down Australia’s East coast, my bank account was considering suicide.
I did all the calculations, averaging my work hours and weekly spending and considering selling my surf board and prostituting myself out to some wealthy Byron Bay divorcée. But it didn’t make a difference, no matter which option I chose, I’d end up broke. I checked the weather report and there was a week of rain forecasted for Byron Bay. Possible thunder storms. The Los Angeles report was a neat little row of smiling sunshines with beautiful blue sky backgrounds.
I’m a sun seeker. My life is an endless summer vacation. The decision was made.
I booked a ticket home and spread the word amongst friends and fellow booze hounds that I’d be leaving in just 3 days. The next three nights were a series of blackouts, followed by long days at work. My body had become so accustomed to drinking goon that I could drink it like mother’s milk, and somehow soak my liver to the point of absolute zero recollection.
On my last night I didn’t even remember leaving the pre-party. Apparently, I went home, dropped off my jacket, tried to seduce a Swedish girl, refused to let Rachael leave, went to The Northern, danced, went to Cheekies, was refused entry, and finally snuck off to bed. I woke up feeling tired but not hung over, with nothing but a black empty void for a memory.
I asked everyone to help me remember what had happened, but it didn’t help. That night will forever remain a blank spot in my mind. I just wish I could remember what a good time I had.
And on that note I left Byron Bay. I worked one last shift at Tribal, went out to dinner with Rachael and the Swede, said goodbye to Jessie, Shams, Rosie, and some old Arts Factory Friends. I packed my bags and got a couple hours of sleep before Wylie picked me up at 5AM to drive me to the Ballina airport.
It was still dark, and massive storm was rocking Byron Bay. The ocean was a washing machine and the streets were shallow, black, rivers. On the highway we had to swerve four times to avoid trees that had been uprooted by the wind and blocked whole lanes. Mother Nature was angry that morning. At the airport, the rain stung my face as it blew in horizontally and my hat blew off my head and rolled through the carpark as I struggled with my surfboard and backpack. I chased down my hat, I checked my bags, and finally, I boarded the little prop plane. It was turbulent, but it was a short flight to Sydney. From Sydney, I caught a flight to Fiji, and then a connection to Los Angeles.
It was a long day, but I had a lot of fond memories to keep my mind occupied during those lonely transcontinental hours. I hadn’t been back in Los Angeles for a year and a half, and I was excited to see all my old friends and to reconnect with the city that I used to love so much. That excitement was tempered by the memories of so many friends and so many experiences from my life in New Zealand and Australia.
I’m good at moving on, but I’ll miss those people for a long time to come.
As the plane touched down in Los Angeles, I shifted my thoughts to Johnny and Leah and the old LA crew. I had kept my return home a secret, so I’d have no one to meet me at the airport. I haggled a shuttle bus down to a reasonable price and had the driver drop me off in the old neighborhood.
As I walked down my old street, towards my old house, I couldn’t shake the smile from my face. I knocked on the door, and Johnny answered.
“Hey,” I said.
There was a minute-long silence as he contemplated why I was standing in front of him and not somewhere in Australia.
“What the fuck?!” he finally yelped.
And then he smiled. And then we hugged. And then it was like I never left.
It’s good to be back, but it’s still sad to be gone.