Panda’s Christmas Island

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Christmas Island. It is a magical place, where palm trees sway, Tiki drinks flow freely, and the music is very festive. In my version of Christmas Island, the soundtrack is made of all of the stars in Panda’s Galaxy of Sound: Surf, Hawai’ian, Exotica, Lounge, and Space-Age Bachelor Pad. It’s not exactly your parents’ Christmas music, but never fear: it will put you in the mood for Christmas. Tiki style.

This is my fifth Christmas compilation and first in 6 years. There’s a nice mix of old crooners, surf stalwarts, new Hawai’ian music, and some exotica that will leave you wondering how anybody could reimagine Christmas this way. I hope you enjoy it.

Mele Kalikimaka!

Here’s the playlist:

Panda's Christmas Island CD Playlist

And here’s a link to my 8tracks radio page where you can listen to this mix:

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Panda’s Childhood in the 1970s

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I turned 5 years old in 1970. My earliest musical recollection is of listening to The Beatles, and I remain a big fan. However, my parents were into straight-ahead rock & roll, having just gone through the Summer of Love a few years earlier. In rifling through their record collection, I was exposed to a lot of Led Zeppelin, Santana, and Jethro Tull, to name a few bands that were big then. As I grew into my teenage years, I supplemented that with my own favorites: Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, ELO. The list goes on and on!

This music defines the 1970s for me. I now own over 200 albums from that decade, and whittling it down to a manageable playlist was hard. To honor the 1970s, I made this a 2-disc set, or double album in the vernacular of the day (there were a lot of those back then, not so much anymore). Here is the playlist:

Panda's Chilhood in the 1970s CD Playlist

And here is a link to my 8tracks page where you can listen to it right now:

 

Pins in The Tiki Lounge

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There are many facets to the story of my Tiki journey. One angle I haven’t explored yet is my collection of Tiki pins. As I look back on the many pins I’ve gotten, and continue to get new ones, it suddenly occurs to me: these pins tell a story. With pretty pictures. Let’s start at the beginning.

2008-13, Walt Disney World

Our first family vacation to WDW in Orlando FL was in December of 2008. We were on the every 18 month plan, which saw us journeying to the Polynesian Village Resort four times between 2008-13. These were the days before Disney Magic Bands, so you carried your ID cards in a plastic pouch on the end of a lanyard. The lanyard was a perfect place to hold pins, and we were quickly introduced to the art of pin trading at Disney.

Pin trading was a family affair, as my wife and kids were really into it. I also enjoyed it, and was fortunate enough to score my first Tiki pin (the one with the black Mickey ears hat) via trade. I loved that pin, and through a little research, I discovered there were two more Tiki pins in the set. I managed to find the second one in due time, again by trade (because they no longer sold these), but the third one eluded me. Then, one day, by dumb luck, the third pin (the blue one) found me. Seriously! We were walking through Animal Kingdom, on our way to the Safari ride, when a Disney cast member came running up to me and offered me a trade. He had noticed (from afar) the two Tiki pins on my lanyard and told me he had the third one if I was interested in it. I sure was! It was karma that this missing pin found me, early on in my Tiki journey.

Besides trading for pins, we also bought our fair share of them. At first I was drawn to the pins from some of our favorite WDW rides, like The Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror. Then I discovered pins specific to the Polynesian Village, available in their main gift shop, Bou-Tiki. They had some fairly generic (but still cool) pins, and they incorporated Lilo and Stitch into some of them, an added bonus. During our first visit, which was during the Christmas season, I also found a special Holiday 2008 Polynesian Village pin. What a great find! It turns out they put out a new holiday pin every year. I have made it my goal to get one of these special pins every year that we visit WDW. So far, so good.

2013, Disneyland

For my 48th birthday, Jess and I decided to take a trip to Los Angeles CA. My main motivation for the trip was to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room, the original. We also snuck in a trip to Whittier to visit Oceanic Arts, on our way to Anaheim. Jess wanted to try Disneyland, to see how it compared to Walt Disney World, which we had been to four times already. She also had never been to California and wanted to see Hollywood and Santa Monica. We ended up staying at the Disneyland Hotel, which is where the ETR celebration was being held, and put us close to Disneyland before we toured LA.

Magic bands were just becoming a thing at Disneyland in 2013, but we still had cards to navigate our hotel, which meant another pouch/lanyard and more space for new pins! Here I focused on the pins specific to Disneyland, including the hotel were we stayed, the iconic park sign, and the rides we really enjoyed. Some rides were unique to Disneyland (The Matterhorn), some were better here than at WDW (Space Mountain, It’s A Small World), and some not as good (Splash Mountain). It was fun to try them all, and I got as many pins as I could to remember our one trip to Disneyland.

But let’s move on to the main reason for our visit: the 50th anniversary of The Enchanted Tiki Room!

I was very excited for this event, mostly because it would be another opportunity to see one of my Tiki art heroes, SHAG. Disney had commissioned him to do some special paintings for this event, and I was lucky enough to get him to personalize a print for me. I had also pre-ordered a bunch of ETR swag that I picked up at the event, including some pins marking the 50th anniversary (displayed on yet another lanyard, this one for the event!). While we were at Disneyland, we of course did the Enchanted Tiki Room, which was another attraction much better there than at WDW. The main difference is the outdoor courtyard area, which features 8 animated Tiki god statues and a stand selling Dole Whip (as captured in SHAG’s art). I hadn’t planned on getting the special pins dedicated to each Tiki god, but after seeing them in person, I had to have those pins too. All are now displayed proudly in the ETR corner of the Tiki Lounge.

2014-18, Walt Disney World Part Deux

Back to Walt Disney World we go. A lot had changed when we returned for a family vacation in 2014. Magic bands had now replaced the old card system, so there was no need to wear lanyards anymore. They were building a new Tiki bar at The Polynesian Village called Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, modeled after the Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel which had opened the year before (and we got to visit a mere weeks after it opened!). They also opened a new stand at the Great Ceremonial House, the Pineapple Lanai, where you could get Dole Whips and floats. And yes, they were building new over-water bungalows out back, and for a mere $2500 a night, you too could stay there. Too rich for our blood.

Anyway, though WDW and The Polynesian were changing, as were our family vacation plans (now on a 36-month schedule), my hunger for pins has not changed. I still seek out the special holiday pin every year we visit. Although we’ve only been back twice for full family vacations, we have been back for special trips at least once a year over the past 5 years. Even though we might not be there over the holiday season, I have friends in Florida who visit Orlando regularly and can pick stuff up for me. So, for example, we took a road trip in June that had us at The Polynesian for 4 days; the 2018 holiday pins weren’t available then, but you can bet I will have one of those pins hanging in the Tiki Lounge before the end of the year!

2018, Non-Disney Tiki

So, why did it take me 10 years to realize that other folks make Tiki pins besides Disney? I don’t know. Maybe I was distracted by other art forms, like paintings, Tiki mugs, and books. Or Tiki playing cards, like the cool Tikilandia deck designed by Robert Jimenez from LA. It was when I ordered two sets of these beautiful cards that I received one of Robert’s pins as a thank you gift. Well, that pin was so cool that I had to order another right away! I decided to display these pins on a new canvas, literally – the back of my Tiki bar director-chair stool, which is made of canvas.

Not long after I got the Tikilandia pins, I next discovered the Salty Dame and PinChe Loca pins made by Megan Besmirched from Chicago. Megan is part of the great Tiki scene in the Windy City that includes Kymm Bang’s gravel art and amazing Tiki bars Three Dots And A Dash, Lost Lake, and the Witco shrine of Hala Kaliki.

Finally, my newest pins come from Gil Taimana from San Diego. He is the owner of Tahiti Gil’s South Seas Trading Co. and Tahiti Felix’s Master Tattoo & Museum. I met Gil through the Disneyland Addiction group, and his artistic homage to Disney and the Enchanted Tiki Room is quite strong. Just look at these amazing pins! They really tell a story, and if you’ve been to the ETR at Disneyland, you appreciate the story even more. Pretty powerful that a tiny work of art can do that.

Panda’s Bride of Surf

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Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. My 6th Surf music compilation has a little bit of everything, from oldies but goodies like Dick Dale and The Ventures, to new artists like The Surfragettes and Jason Lee and The R.I.P. Tides; cool “borrowed” covers of my standard bookends, Wipe Out and Hawaii Five-O, and a couple of tunes by one of my favorite bands, Blue Hawaiians. This is a marriage made in Heaven.

Here is the playlist:

Panda's Bride of Surf Back Cover.jpg

And here is the link to listen to this playlist on 8tracks:

Start With Why

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A few years ago, I was sitting in a meeting with my Vistage Trusted Advisors team (a professional peer review group) when our host, Lori Blatt, threw us a curveball. Instead of doing the typical host business review, Lori put on a video and told us to relax and watch it. The video was a Ted talk featuring Simon Sinek entitled How Great Leaders Inspire Action. This 18-minute video opened my eyes. I was so impressed with Simon Sinek’s talk that I went out and bought his book on the same subject: Start With Why.

In a nutshell, Sinek claims that people won’t follow you simply because of what you do; rather, leaders inspire because of why they do what they do. His examples included Apple, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Wright Brothers. It’s a compelling story that I bought hook, line and sinker. You start with why, which leads to how, and results in what you do. Sounds simple, right? Sadly, this isn’t the way most leaders think, and those who don’t project why they do what they do don’t sustain success. This isn’t only true for business; it applies in all walks of life.

So, with this newfound knowledge, I asked myself: what is my why?

I really hadn’t thought about this before, being happy learning about the great examples Simon Sinek showed me and reading the specifics of how this all works in his book. I’ve always fancied myself a leader, but I never examined what made me a pretty good one (I’ve been told that I am, so I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn here). One of the things I’m most proud of myself for is that I’m the same person no matter what the circumstance. Business. Family. Friends. Society. It doesn’t matter who I’m dealing with; I always talk and act the same way. No situation seems too big or too small for me to be myself. I’ve gotten to know a lot of great people in my life, and I can count on one hand the ones I would no longer associate with (nor they with me). This makes me happy.

And then it hit me: my why.

“I believe that I was put on this earth to enter into long-lasting, positive relationships with as many people as possible.”

Whew. That’s a tall order, it’s a good thing I’m an extrovert! But, how do I do this?

“When I meet someone, I immediately act as if I’ve known them for my entire life, and often this leads to meaningful conversations in a short period of time.”

Wow. That’s me. Ask those in my life who interact with me the most (my wife, my kids, my boss, my coworkers, my close friends) and I think they would agree. I drive my family crazy with the way I will talk to anybody, and when they ask me “who was that,” I will often answer them “I don’t know, I just met them.” This ability informs my business success as well. Although I sell energy for a living, which as a commodity business can be very price-driven, I follow a relationship sales model. I have many long-standing customers and consultants who I consider friends. They do business with me because they like me and are comfortable working with me. I may not always have the lowest price, but my service to them is second to none. I always respond promptly, tell the truth, even if it’s bad news, and solve problems as quickly as I can. Simple, right?

So, why am I writing about this in a Tiki blog?

First, it’s my blog and I like to write, so deal with it!

Second, this is a story that’s been bouncing around in my head recently, and I needed to get it out, so here it is.

Third, I’ve been documenting my Tiki journey in these blog posts, and the one consistent theme has been the friends I’ve made over the past 10 years in the ohana.

Tiki is one of my newest walks of life, but I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in a short period of time. With the advent of the Internet, Facebook and social media in general, it’s even easier to develop meaningful relationships. Take my buddy George Borcherding (pictured with me on the cover image for this post), for example. George and I got to know each other via Facebook, as we travel in many of the same Tiki circles. George lives over 1,000 miles away from me in Jacksonville FL, but I consider him a good friend and Tiki brother. We’ve gotten together a few times now, all at Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort, where we’ve knocked back many Dole Whips and Tiki drinks together. George has inspired me with his love of Tiki, and I hope I have done the same for him. Mahalo Nui Keoki, I love you bruddah!

George is the exception, as most of my Tiki friends are people I haven’t actually met. No matter. Thanks to phones and the internet, I’ve had meaningful conversations with Tiki people all over the world. The syndicated radio/podcast host in Sydney, Australia. The Tiki mug maker in Paris, France. The Tiki wood carver in Kauai, Hawaii. The musicians in Jacksonville, Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles. The artists in LA, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Melbourne Beach, Florida. The list goes on, and I don’t want to mention all of the names for fear of forgetting somebody. If you’ve read my blog posts, you know who these good people are.

The moral of my story is this: relationships matter to me. A lot. I’m good with that, and glad to know it helps me in all aspects of my life. That’s my why.

What’s your why?

You can check out Simon Sinek’s Ted talk here:¬†https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

After you’ve watched the video, read the book:¬†https://www.amazon.com/Start-Why-Leaders-Inspire-Everyone/dp/1591846447

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Early Sunday Morning Coming Down

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I have long been a fan of Edward Hopper’s art. My favorite work of his is Early Sunday Morning from 1930. I first saw this piece at the Whitney Museum in NYC, and it was the first Hopper I ever hung on a wall (sadly I lost it in my divorce!). This art has long evoked images for me, which I can sum up with two pieces of mixed media: one movie clip and one song.

Scott Joplin’s Solace from The Sting. The Sting won the Academy Award for best motion picture in 1973. It’s a great movie. Great story, great acting, great setting in 1930s Chicago. My favorite scene occurs near the end of the movie, early in the morning of the day of the climactic scene. The mellow rag, Solace, plays as the main characters prepare themselves for the biggest performance of their lives. The mood set by this song, in this setting, reminds me so much of a Hopper painting that it’s scary. The calm before the storm. See for yourself.

Johnny Cash’s Sunday Morning Coming Down. Johnny Cash is America’s greatest musical storyteller. His songs paint pictures with words like nobody else’s. In Sunday ¬†Morning Coming Down, a hungover Cash struggles to get himself ready to face the day. When he sings about “a Sunday Morning sidewalk … a sleeping city sidewalk,” I can picture Johnny Cash walking into the Hopper painting. Listen for yourself.

Panda’s Musical Journey

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Every life deserves a soundtrack. This is the title of a new short story I’m working on, based on my lifetime love affair with music. It all started with The Beatles, moved through a lot of rock and roll into classical, jazz, blues, and much more.

I’ve catalogued all of my music in a database I started keeping when I was about 18 years old. I thought it would be cool to take a somewhat random sampling of my music collection by looking at every 50th album and picking a song from each. The result is this eclectic collection spanning over 1,150 albums I’ve enjoyed since 1977. It was tough to cut down to the 23 songs on this playlist; I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Here is the playlist:

Panda's Musical Journey Back Cover

And here’s where you can listen to it yourself: