The Hukilau: Epilogue

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Sunday 15Jun14 and Beyond

So Sunday was my fourth and final day at my first-ever Hukilau. Bruce flew out early Sunday morning, so I was on my own for the day until my own flight at 7:50pm. I had a nice big breakfast at the hotel restaurant, then hooked up with my friends Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis for one last trip over to the Mai-Kai. The last event would be a screening of the final cut of a new Tiki documentary, Plastic Paradise. Before that, we settled in with some drinks in the Molokai Lounge and jammed one more time to the surf stylings of Skinny Jimmy and The Stingrays. A Tiki brunch, if you will.

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After watching the movie, we went back to the hotel, where I parted ways with Beth and Cliff for the last time. I had already checked out of my room, so there was nothing left to do but walk around Fort Lauderdale and grab an early dinner before heading back to the airport for my flight home. I didn’t spend much time at the beach on this trip, so it was nice to just chill out, chow on some pizza, and enjoy the ocean before heading home.

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I made it home late Sunday night after an uneventful flight. I was happy to be back with my family, but I’ve really been going through Hukilau withdrawal this week. Work has kept me busy, but I can’t help reminiscing about the good times I had in Fort Lauderdale. I can’t believe it’s been over a week since I first arrived at the Bahia Mar hotel!

imageFortunately, I’ve got a bunch of new Tiki friends on Facebook to help me fill in the gaps. Folks like Gary Evans, the lead guitarist for The Intoxicators! (and The Disasternauts) who I kept running into in the elevator. Jeff Chouinard, a Tiki carver I exchanged stickers with at The Mai-Kai on Saturday night (Surf, Soul, Tiki). Robert Brauchler, the dude in the banana costume onstage with the Disasternauts at the Jetsetter Glo-Glo afterparty Friday night, who took some great pictures from the stage I happened to be in (with his handy-dandy banana cam). Michaël Bridoux, the bandleader of the wonderful Left Arm of Buddha from Belgium, whose album I downloaded from their website and have already worn out listening to it all week. These are new friends I’m hoping will help me keep the Tiki spirit alive and well in Bethlehem PA. They’ve already left their mark. Mahalo!

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The Hukilau: Day 2

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Friday 13Jun14

Day 2 got off to a slow start, as I caught up on some lost sleep and didn’t get out of bed until 9:30am. Since we didn’t have any scheduled events until 4:30pm, Bruce and I decided to take a walk along the beach and find some breakfast.

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After an omelette and some French toast (needed ballast!), we walked back to the hotel to get my Potions of The Caribbean book signed by Beachbum Berry in the Tiki Bazaar. Bruce ended up buying the book too, so he also got his book signed while he had the chance. His indoctrination into the Tiki ohana has officially begun!

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After that we hit the pool for some relaxation, sunshine, and swimming. It felt good to get the blood pumping a little today. The beer I had at the pool bar afterwards probably negated any exercise benefit from my swim, but today would not be a heavy drinking day (unlike yesterday).

We grabbed an early dinner at the hotel before heading over to the Yankee Clipper hotel to catch MeduSirena Marina’s mermaid show at the Wreck Bar. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the whole show, because I had to head back to the Bahia Mar for my volunteer shift from 7-11pm. I did, however, enjoy some of the staging of the swim show poolside before I had to run. Mermaids – you gotta love ’em!

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My volunteering experience at The Hukilau consisted of manning the door to the ballroom to make sure only people with paid admission got into the main event. This may sound boring, but I got a real flavor for the wonderful mix of people who attend this event. Young and old, male and female, everybody really gets their Tiki geek on here! My friends Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis fit in perfectly, resplendent in their Tiki attire.

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The highlight of my day turned out to be the after party, which began after the main event (and my 4-hour shift) ended. It began with the transformation of Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid into Marina the Orion Slave Girl. She was stunning in green!

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The after party was an intergalactic glow-glow extravaganza. Lots of black lights. Glow bands. 60s sci-fi vibe. Planet of The Apes motif with people in ape masks dancing around. The band, The Disasternauts, all wore NASA orange jumpsuits with ape masks, while they played some of the loudest, hardest surf music I’ve ever heard. Good times! Especially for Tiki geeks rejoicing into the early-morning hours. Tonight, I was one of them.
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The Hukilau: Day 1

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Thursday 12Jun14

The day began early. Very early. 5am early. My iPhone alarm woke me up in my friend Stan’s guest bedroom. Stan lives 10 minutes away from the Philly airport, and he and his wife Diana were kind enough to give me shelter for the night, and a ride to the airport, so I wouldn’t have to sweat the 90-minute drive from Bethlehem. Stan dropped me off at 5:45, I checked my bag curbside with a skycap, made it through security in only 10 minutes, and had plenty of time to board my flight for a 6:45 takeoff. Southwest Airlines flight 1655 arrived in Fort Lauderdale without incident at 9:15.

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I met my buddy Bruce at the airport and we cabbed it to our Hukilau headquarters, the Bahia Mar hotel. Our room was ready early so we checked in, got settled, then headed over to our first event: the Jeff Beachbum Berry symposium at The Mai-Kai. After my first Mai-Tai and some tasty appetizers, Beachbum took the stage and gave a wonderful presentation on the dark days of tiki drinks, starting in the 1970s. He interspersed his talk with his own personal history of Tiki discovery, which made for a wonderful story. We also got a sample of a new drink he created in a collectible Beachbum Berry glass, along with a couple of other sample drinks. We were feeling pretty good about the start of The Hukilau, and I was happy to finally meet Mr. Berry in person!

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After returning to the Bahia Mar and a light dinner, we attended the opening event in the ballroom. What an eclectic mix of Tiki entertainment! King Kukulele as the emcee serenaded us with his brand of comedic Hawaiian music, followed by Kinky Waikiki’s steel guitar, burlesque performances by MeduSirena Marina’s Aquaticats and Angie Pontani, and some rocking surf music by The Intoxicators. All surrounded by a marketplace of Tiki vendors with stuff I’ve never dreamed of being able to buy. Good times!

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We ended the night with an after party back at The Mai-Kai, where I enjoyed one last Mai-Tai with my friends Beth Lennon (Mod Betty) and Cliff Hillis (Pop Star) and the sounds of Gold Dust Lounge on the main stage. A perfect ending to a great first day. Aloha from The Hukilau!

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