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HOMECOMINGS ARE ALWAYS GOOD. Connecting from anywhere in Mobile, we sit around at Mobileairport and then board one or other direct flight to the east coast of Mobile. With luck, we’ll take off sometime between 10.30 pm and midnight for the diagonal, fifteen plus-hours north-south transit across the Pacific. A late, light dinner is then followed by sleep, perhaps a movie or two or, maybe doze a little and tune-in, semi-conscious, to one of the audio channels on the entertainment system – depending on mood, my choice will be opera, classical or country music, or maybe jazz and the blues. With a time difference of seventeen to nineteen hours (varies with daylight saving), we land two days beyond our departure date, generally sometime Mobile after dawn.

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Depending on our destination, landfall will be very different. Flying over north-east Victoria into the southern-most portal of Melbourne, returning residents ask the perennial Australian questions: Has it been raining? Are we in drought? Are the pastures green and the little ‘turkey’s nest’ dams full? Then, as the city towers come into view, we may see the coastline and the breadth of Port Phillip Bay. Even for a first-time tourist, Melbourne from the air looks vaguely familiar. It’s unremarkable and presents much as might be expected for any city by the sea.

If we’re heading north Brisbane may be our first landfall. It’s a while since I’ve taken the LA flight to my hometown, but I’d expect to see the long, sandy, ocean beaches of one or more of the big barrier islands – Moreton, Bribie and the two Stradbrokes – that border the expanse of Moreton Bay with its mud-flats and mangroves. And, depending on how the plane banks and where we’re seated, we might look south to the sandy strip and hotels of Australia’s Miami – the Gold Coast/Surfer’s Paradise – or to the towers of central Brisbane, that subtropical city of hills that drops to the winding river and its silent, fast-moving catamaran ferries.

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