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Down Under

While the police in our (last) home town of Gainesville, Florida were busy electrifying a protester , we were blissfully snorkeling over the Great Barrier Reef. For those of you not up on your Australian geography, the city of Cairns is the international gateway to Queensland, home to many significant natural attractions. Its airport sucks in hordes of tourists from Japan, Europe and the U.S., and packs them into huge hotels and boats.

We rented a small car and fled north, to the chic, relatively quiet little town of Port Douglas. The rainy season is a month or two off and the lethal, stinging jellyfish are still out to sea, waiting for their cue to come toward shore and scare the living daylights out of swimmers. As if the huge, saltwater crocodiles weren’t cranky enough to do the job.

We chose a relatively small, snorkelers-only boat to visit the reef…

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Down Under

Every morning someone comes along and tosses a shrink-wrapped log of a newspaper onto our front steps. I am often up before it arrives, but I have yet to see our delivery person. On Saturday, we receive two logs. The second includes the weekend magazines. I always weed out the sports, real estate and car sections before I bring the rest into the kitchen.

The plastic wrapping machine is very cunning, often taxing my ability to find the edge. Sometimes I give up, resorting to a sharp knife to fillet the newsprint. If I set aside some of the paper for later, I may find that it has disappeared during the day. My wife seems to mistake my lack of instant attention for a total lack of interest.

I was a freshman in college before I realized that my vocabulary needed improvement. I decided to look up every single word…

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Down Under

As the tattered British empire hobbled down the dark alleys of 1941, Australian troops were committed to protecting the motherland, not the home country. Churchill actually suggested that Prime Minister Menzies join his War Cabinet.

Menzies compatriots back in Australia were less than pleased with his willingness to kowtow to Churchill and he was forced to step down. In October, 1941, John Curtin took up the reins of power in Canberra. Within two months, Australia was at war with Japan.

Pearl Harbor shattered the illusion of invulnerability embedded in the psyche of Americans and Australians. The oceans were no longer big enough to keep the enemy at bay. Aircraft carriers, long-range bombers and submarines had changed the nature of war. As the Japanese carriers steamed out to attack the naval base in Hawaii, the Japanese army island moved south, toward Australia.

When Australians woke to the news of Pearl Harbor…

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