What is A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge? Or, more appropriately, where is it? Are we talking about a physical place, or is it more a state of mind? The answer is: yes. Both.
I created A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge in name and logo only a few years ago. The elements that make it up have been around a lot longer than that. Some of it is physical, a lot of it is virtual, and most of it is now captured on my Facebook page of the same name (www.facebook.com/pages/A-Pandas-Tiki-Lounge). The short stories collected here all have something to do with this very real place.
Why A. Panda? It’s short for Andy Panda, my nickname going back to elementary school. One of my oldest friends, Greg Kevorkian, gave me this nickname. Greg was good at nicknames. He was funny and quick-witted, and loved to cut people up whenever he could. Greg had a tendency to talk pretty fast, and when he gave you a nickname, that’s who you were for the rest of your life. When Greg started calling me Andy Panda, he would pronounce it Anda Panda because that was easier for him to say fast. Greg was the first one to say Anda instead of Andy, but soon everybody in school started calling me that too. Anda Panda doesn’t make as much sense as Andy Panda, so I guess one reason I abbreviated it to A. Panda is to keep the spirit of Greg’s original nickname without stressing over the proper pronunciation of my first name. As an added bonus, A. Panda lends itself to a possessive descriptor of whatever follows it. A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge implies a tiki lounge owned by a panda. Pretty simple really!
So where did the name Andy Panda come from to begin with? I believe a short history lesson is in order here. Andy Panda was a cartoon character popular in the 1940s (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Panda). Walter Lentz created Andy Panda in 1939, just before he came up with the more popular Woody Woodpecker. Most people remember Woody Woodpecker, but very few have ever even heard of Andy Panda.
Why was I surprised when I asked my firstborn daughter Natalia if she had ever heard of the original Andy Panda and she looked at me like I was crazy? I shouldn’t have been. Natalia was born in 1999, so how could she have possibly been aware of an obscure cartoon character from 60 years before she was born? I had some work to do to bring my kids up to speed!
I love to educate my kids about old-school movies and television. It’s our job to bring up our kids on the classics, so that we never forget where we came from. My son Ryan adores The Three Stooges, and constantly asks me to bring him down to the basement so we can watch them on the big screen. My daughter Lexie is nuts about the old Pink Panther cartoons, and we just watched one of my all-time favorite movies together, The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
When I tried to find Andy Panda cartoons on DVD, it ended up being tougher than I thought it would be. It seems Andy Panda was more obscure than I remembered, and at first I couldn’t find anything on VHS or DVD. Thank God for the internet! It turns out a small video house in Hong Kong had released a couple of Andy Panda discs, and I was able to order one and get it delivered to the US. Imagine my surprise when I tried to play the DVD and all of the menus and dialogue were in Mandarin Chinese! After some help from my kids, we managed to navigate the Mandarin menus and find the original English language track. Lexie likes to watch Andy Panda in Chinese, but it definitely makes more sense in English!
So just where is the physical A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge? My wife Jess and I decided to build a new house back in 2006, so we had a pretty blank slate to start with. Right up-front we made a deal: Jess got the last say on all décor decisions above ground; the basement was all mine. She liked this idea because she saw the basement as the repository for all of my tacky crap she didn’t want in the house. I viewed it differently: the basement would be my man cave, a place for my stuff, my respite from the real world. My Bali-Hai.
There were 3 main things I wanted to accomplish in my basement: a home theatre, a tiki bar and game area, and a toy train layout. Fortunately the basement is L-shaped, so it was pretty easy to lay it out so the home theatre and train layout were at opposite ends and out of sight of each other. The tiki bar and game table occupy the center of the basement at the crook of the L, and quickly became the focal point of the space. I didn’t realize it back in 2006, but this was really the birth of A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge.
In 2015, a change in ownership of the company where I worked forced me to create an office space in our house. I decided to take the triangular nook at the far end of the basement and turn it into my new office. Of course, I had to decorate it to fit the Tiki motif of the rest of the space, with a grass skirt around my desk and a thatch-covered, A-frame roof over top. I now spend 8 hours a day (when I’m not on the road for my job) in my basement Bali-Hai, in addition to the countless hours spent watching movies, listening to music, admiring art, and playing cards. I must admit it’s tempting to have a fully-stocked Tiki bar 5 feet away from my workspace, but it’s worked out for me so far. I really enjoy spending so much time surrounded by a few of my favorite things. A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge is a very real place that harkens to the escape that is Tiki at every turn.