March 2012

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Honey, don’t forget the Steely Dan

Getting on the plane to fly to the Nadi airport. Photos by David Lansing.

I packed and took a last minute look around my villa to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind. Christopher had told us that the Royal Davui always asks their guests to leave their luggage outside their doors and come down for a final cocktail while the staff sings the traditional Fijian farewell song, Isa Lei, partially so housekeeping can meticulously go through the cleared-out villa while the guests are still on the island.

“We almost always find that people have left something behind,” he told us.

“Like what?” I asked him.

Well, he said, yesterday a young couple who had been honeymooning here for a week were drinking a final glass of champagne while the staff sang them the farewell song when a member of housekeeping had quietly come up to Christopher and showed him a dildo. The couple had left it under the mattress.

“Should I give it to them?” asked the maid.

“God, no,” said Christopher. “Take it down to the dock where their luggage is waiting and slip it into one of the suitcases.”

So that’s what happened. But it got me to thinking—what if it wasn’t theirs? What if some earlier guests had left it? Or what if it was the wife’s but her new husband didn’t know she’d brought it, which is why it was under the mattress, and housekeeping slipped it into his luggage instead of hers?

“Holy shit,” the guys says when he gets home. “What the fuck is this doing in my suitcase?”

“Why are you asking me?” says the indignant wife. “Why did you bring a dildo on our honeymoon anyway?”

A lot of variables here.

Anyway, I very carefully went through each room in my villa making sure I’d packed everything.

Saying goodbye to Siteri.

I was the first one down to the Banyan Bar. As Siteri was pouring me a glass of champagne, I asked her if she was sure she wouldn’t like to go back to Los Angeles with me. She laughed and said, “No, Mr. David. But thank you.”

When Marguarite came down, I asked her to take a photo of me and Siteri together. I’m going to miss her. Who will make my banana pancakes for me every morning?

The staff gathered and sang Isa Lei. Then they came by and shook each of our hands. Lots of hugs all around.

Around three, we went down to the dock. All of our luggage was already on board. Christopher came down and said, “Uhm, ladies, I think one of you left something in your room.”

“Oh, god,” said Marguarite. “What?”

It was a nautilus shell, a parting gift from the resort. Not a dildo at all.

It took us half an hour to cross the bay to Pacific Harbour. No one talked on the crossing. Katie sat on the bow of the boat, her eyes closed, the wind in her face. At Pacific Harbour, a van was waiting for us. We drove about fifteen minutes down the highway to a tiny little dirt runway where our little two-engine plane was waiting for us. The pilot weighed first our luggage and then us, and then directed us as to where he wanted us to sit. He had me in the front, next to him. After we were all in and buckled up, he changed his mind. He told everybody to get out of the plane. He put one of the girls in front and put me in the back.

And then the engines were started, the plane accelerated, and we were in the air. Flying low over the water, Davui, off to our left, slowly vanishing, and the Fiji mainland, dead ahead, rushing up to meet us. The trip was over.

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The sun also rises over Davui

The view of my villa from the water as the sun comes up. Photo by David Lansing.

This morning I got up with the sun, skipped breakfast, and took out one of the kayaks. I wanted to see the island—the whole island—from the water. Plus I kind of wanted to be alone. Spending this much time with the same group—sharing breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus most of the activities—is sort of like going to a high school reunion that goes on for days and days. At first you’re just excited to see everyone and then you start thinking about skipping the Sunday brunch and just staying in your room. Not that I haven’t had a great time. I have. But I felt like I needed some Dave-time. So I got a kayak.

It was low tide. The soft coral reef that rings the island like the halo of hair on a Capucine monk was so close to the bottom of the boat in places that I worried about running aground. Clown fish darted in and out of the blue and red and orange coral. A small shark nervously searched for a way out of the lagoon. I paddled south, against the current, figuring it would be easier when I got to the other side of the island and was coming back with the current behind me. After 15 or 20 minutes, I’d reached a spot opposite my vale. The folding doors were pushed back and I could see into my living room and bedroom. It was odd, but a part of me half-expected the guy that was staying there—me—to come out on the deck holding a cup of coffee in his hand, and wave at me.

“Dave!” I yelled out across the water. Of course, Dave didn’t show up because Dave was in the kayak. But I kind of got a kick out of it anyway. It was like when you’re dreaming and you’re in the dream but you still somehow know you are dreaming. That’s what it was like. I was paddling in a kayak (or was I?) and looking back at the house on an island (my life?) and wanting Dave to come out on the deck so I could talk to him. But Dave wasn’t there.

A long, long time ago I was driving by myself to Oregon and stopped, exhausted, in the middle of the night at a campground beside Lake Shasta. I slept in the back of an SUV and shortly before dawn, I woke up dreaming that a bear was in the car with me. Except it wasn’t a dream. There was a bear. Leaning in through my open back window, pawing at the bag of food next to my sleeping bag. I remember how foul his breath smelled. Like dog food that has been sitting in the sun for a couple of days.

The bear snatched the food and lumbered away. I sat up in my sleeping bag, my heart racing, feeling breathless. The surge in adrenalin made it impossible to go back to sleep. So I got up and, dressed only in a T-shirt and boxers, walked in the darkness through the trees down to the edge of the lake. The sun was not yet up. I sat on the muddy red bank of the lake trying to calm myself down. I watched as the sky went from a deep bruised purple to a soft orange light. And then I took off my shirt and boxers and walked into the water. I swam out about a hundred feet from shore and then I turned around and looked back on where I’d been. A part of me was waiting for the bear to arrive. And the thought didn’t scare me. I imagined that the bear would swim out into the lake, not towards me but near me, and the two of us would just float, several yards apart, waiting for the sun to come up. And, of course, the bear would be me.

That’s the way I felt in the kayak looking out over the water at my vale where Dave was asleep. That’s exactly how I felt.

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The remains of the day

The pool at the Royal Davui. Photo by David Lansing.

We were all a little morose at breakfast this morning. Cindy and Elina departed yesterday; Marguarite, Katie, and I depart tomorrow. So this is our last full day at the Royal Davui.

“What haven’t we done yet?” I ask as Siteri brings me my banana pancakes.

“I haven’t gone kayaking,” says Katie. “I should do that. Around the island.”

“Have you ever kayaked before?” I ask her.

Katie shakes her wet hair. “I’ve been in a canoe,” she says. She asks Marguarite if she wants to go kayaking with her. Marguarite grimaces. “Maybe,” she says in that way that you know means no.

“What haven’t you done?” I ask Marguarite.

“I don’t know,” she says. She thinks about it for a moment and then says, “You know what I haven’t done? I haven’t been in the pool.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I know, right?”

So after breakfast, Katie dons her Under Armour outfit, and Gus, her Hobie Cat instructor, comes down from the Marine Centre to teach her how to paddle the kayak. Marguarite and I sit under the shade of the banyan tree watching as Gus and Katie carry a bright red kayak across the sand and in to the water. Gus steadies the sit-on-top while Katie tipsily gets in. Gus pushes her away from shore and Katie tentatively starts paddling. She paddles the kayak the way she steered our skiff—zigzagging one direction and then another. Gus laughs watching her.

“We’ll never see her again, will we?” says Marguarite.

“Nope. She’ll be in Suva by nightfall.”

Later in the afternoon, Marguarite and I meet at the pool. We’re the only souls here. I get in first. “How’s the water?” Marguarite asks.

“It’s lovely,” I tell her, floating on my back.

Marguarite slips in without getting her hair wet. “Oh my gosh!” she says. “It’s so nice. Why haven’t I done this sooner?”

“Don’t know.”

We walk around in the shallows, our arms stretched out in front of us, above the water, like old women doing water aerobics. We talk about Jack and Diane; about our new movie, Sex and the City 3.

“I’m not sure I want to be Carrie,” says Marguarite.

“No? Who do you want to be?”

“Maybe Samantha.”

Fine, I tell her. She can be Samantha.

Katie, done kayaking, comes down to the pool. “How was it?” I ask her.

“Good,” says Katie. “But it gets kind of boring after awhile.”

I ask her if she went all the way around the island.

“Gus said I probably shouldn’t. I think he was afraid the current would get me and take me to Tonga or something.”

“We were afraid of the same thing,” I tell her.

Katie sits on a chaise and watches Marguarite and I paddle around the pool. The sun starts to get low in the sky. Marguarite and I get out and dry off with the last rays of the sun. Shadows cross the pool. The off-shore breeze has picked up. It’s almost chilly out. Katie stands up. “What time is dinner?” she asks Marguarite. Cocktails at 6:30, dinner at 7, says Marguarite.

“Good,” says Katie. “Just enough time for a nap.”

I dry off and head back to my room. I sit on my deck for the last time and watch the sun set. The sky holds the last blue light of the day. Slowly my room gets dark. Soon, I think to myself, I will need to get up and shower. And turn on a light or two. But not yet. For now I want to just sit here and enjoy the remains of the day.

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A new cast for Sex and the City 3

Is this the new cast for Sex and the City 3? Jack and Diane think so.

I’m sitting at the Banyan Bar, sipping on a beer, when Jack pulls up a stool next to me. “So, Mr. Big, is it?” he says, chuckling.

“Excuse me?”

He leans over conspiratorially and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Christopher told us,” he whispers. “About the movie.”

“The movie?”

“S and C Three. Don’t worry, we won’t say anything. But this is the perfect spot for it, don’t you think?”


At dinner, Christopher explained. Jack and Diane had been pestering him for days to find out who we were—the guy with the four chicks. Tired of their questions, Christopher told them we were here scouting the Royal Davui for a third iteration of the Sex and the City movies. It seems there’s talk that not all of the original cast members will be in S&C3. In fact, they might go with a whole new cast. At least that’s what Christopher told them.

“Which one would be Samantha?” Jack asked Christopher. “She’s the saucy one, isn’t she?”

Christopher slowly looked over to the table beneath the banyan tree where we were having lunch. “The blonde on the left.”

Jack nodded appreciatively. “I can see that,” he said. Katie became Charlotte, Elina was Miranda, and Marguarite was the new Carrie Bradshaw.

“But don’t tell anyone,” Christopher whispered. “It’s still a secret.”

Truth be known, I rather like being Mr. Big.

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Trapping the under toad

Grahame Southwick, the rogue (and owner) of the Royal Davui. Photo by David Lansing.

Grahame Southwick, the owner of the Royal Davui, has gone back to Suva but he left something behind for me: a copy of his autobiography, Hard Day at the Office. I spent much of the weekend reading it, a bit surprised at how good it was, although I have to say that if I was as careless with fish hooks and long-lines as Grahame is with punctuation and spelling, he’d toss me off his boat in a heartbeat (in the same chapter where he bitterly laments the lazy method his crew uses to locate tuna using spotting binoculars, he pens this sentence: “Mostly, avid “Grog swipers” as they are known, always ensure that their “grog cloth” travels with them, but on this occasion, this was a detail overlooked, much consternation and what to do…?” I have no idea what he’s trying to say here, do you?)

Anyway, despite the fact that Grahame can’t type worth a damn, he’s a good storyteller. One of my favorites is about a marine biologist who asked to go out with Grahame and his crew one time when they were shrimping. Grahame’s crew would haul up traps from 1,200 feet or deeper and the marine biologist was curious as to what else they were hauling up from the deep. The crew would take a trap and dump it on a table and sort everything out, keeping the shrimp and tossing the rest of it back into the sea.

So the crew is doing this when the biologist notices that they’ve brought up a cane toad. He says to Grahame, “That’s impossible! Its 400m down there and the water temperature is 12 degrees…and how would they breathe?”

Grahame writes, “Over the next 20 traps we caught about a dozen of these fat creatures and he was absolutely flabbergasted. They were photographed, measured and weighed. All details were recorded in the book. When we returned to the jetty that night he thanked me for a most interesting day, shook my hand and his head and left.

“Today, this young lad is one of the Pacific’s premier marine consultants and I often wonder what he wrote in his book and if he ever produced a paper on the cane toads that lived with the deep sea shrimp in 400m of salt water or indeed if he had ever lectured about them or told anyone.

“I never told him what that was all about, after all why let the facts again get in the way of a good story. The facts being that the day before we went out, we had made up another 50 traps and left them on the lawn near the jetty. Overnight, there had been heavy rain and there were toads all over the lawn. Some had obviously taken refuge in some of the traps and when the boys baited and set them the previous evening, they hadn’t bothered to take the toads out of the traps.”

Ah, Grahame, you rogue!

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