Bob taking nanna nap
Photo Courtesy of: Hinch
One of the side effects of being under house arrest for five months in 2011 was that I was forced to spend December locked up in my apartment rather than strolling up Fifth Avenue, rugged up in a New York winter.
The fact that I had had a life-saving liver transplant only six months earlier also precluded an American vacation. Although, once I was released from detention – for naming serial child sex offenders whose names had been suppressed by the courts, I did manage a mini-holiday in Sydney between Xmas and New Year. That was to see how the new Hinch would cope with flying.
And that was a precursor for a Manhattan mission in June 2012 --doctors permitting.
Another annual ritual, Hawaii in June, also went out the window in 2011 because I was facing sentencing for those charges mentioned earlier and because I had been given only months to live with liver cancer unless I got a transplant. I was not allowed to travel more than 45 minutes away from the Austin Hospital in case I got The Call.
My old mate and radio veteran Bob Rogers and I had celebrated our non-ratings mid-year break by going to Kaua’i several years earlier. We had lived through Hurricane Iniki on Kaua’i in Hawaii in 1992 when I got broken ribs and a Hawaiian friend lost an eye.
In 2009, when back problems were slowing Bob up and getting him down I decided we should go back to Kaua’i for the first time since Hurricane Iniki.
We rented a condo near Hanalei, legendary home of Puff the Magic Dragon [‘frolicked in the autumn mist in a town called Hanalei’], lunched daily with the queen of Hanalei, Nancy Boyer, a treasured friend who is turning 80 in 2013 with a luau on the beach, told the same embellished stories to each other, laughed at the same old jokes and played Texas Hold’em poker every night.
The following year a repeat performance was thwarted when Bob was flattened by a back operation. I decided to go alone. I was determined to get Bob back to Hawaii in 2011 but when June came around it seemed that I only had a few weeks to live if a transplant didn’t appear and beautiful Kaua’i seemed like an island mirage for both of us.
I believed I had seen for the last time the Na Pali coast, whose goat tracks I had trekked along one New Year in the 1990s.
So this year, instead of heading to hula-land I decided to bring Hawaii to us. The mountain must come to Muhammad. So we had ‘Kaua’i at Crown’.
Bob and I checked into a luxury suite at Crown Casino in Melbourne and didn’t leave the complex for four days. We dined at a Crown restaurant every night, played Texas Hold ‘em in our suite, told the same old stories and I photographed Bob having his afternoon siesta a la Hawaii. Every day it was the same sleeping pattern, just a different coloured shirt.
I put captions on the pics and sent them to his daughters with captions like ‘Here’s Bob surfing’, and ‘Bob hanging five’. We played poker, every day and every night and if you look closely at the picture with this article you can see the poker chips on the table.
We had some great meals. Guillaume, re-opening his eponymous eatery re-named Bistro Guillaume, put on a great night for some lucky VIPs. And next day at breakfast I checked out his new Parisienne-style terrace which will become a summer haunt.
We lunched at Koko’s, a long time favourite Japanese restaurant of mine. One of my cherished spots for sashimi and sushi, especially their inside-out California rolls with Flying Fish roe and deep sea tuna. The meal was made even more special because I knew that once I got a transplant – if I got a transplant – all raw fish dishes would be off my menu for at least a year along with raw oysters. Dodgy immune system couldn’t risk it.
We also had a great dinner at Silk’s, but just two people in a top Chinese restaurant is always a bummer because there are so many dishes you want to taste and share. Their baked spiced minced crab in a shell was stunning.
Speaking of spice: At the new Spice Temple [where Guillaume used to be] we didn’t have that problem because Bob’s daughter Justine flew in from Sydney along with a friend. The huge braised lamb dish is stunning but follow their instructions about what is hot and what is super hot. This is starting to sound like a Hungry Hinch review so I’ll move on.
Our ‘Hawaii at Home’ vacation sound crazy but it was also a bit nostalgic because neither Bob nor I can be sure we’ll ever get to Kaua’i again. Just for old times’ sake I had a ‘Beautiful Kaua’i’ CD playing when we walked in.
It was a terrific holiday. Not only having an exotic jaunt away-at-home but our wives decided it was ‘secret men’s business’ – although Chanel dined with us at Bistro Guillaume one night.
The whole adventure was made all the more precious because Bob knew he was facing more back surgery later in the year and I faced either jail or house arrest – if I lived that long. And, to be honest, I wasn’t very confident that I would still be around to say ‘mele kalikimaka’ at Christmas 2011.
But, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous organ donor and his family, I can. So, Merry Christmas in Hawaiian: MELE KALIKIMAKA!