Tiki Ohana – Authors

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So, as I review my blog series on the Tiki ohana from last year, and after I updated the Artists list with a Part Deux, I realize there’s a new category I need to acknowledge: Authors. I’ve touched on Tiki books in some of my past posts, e.g. Thor Heyerdahl’s landmark Kon-Tiki (Tiki 101and Sven Kirsten’s seminal work, The Book of Tiki (Tiki Ohana – Builders). I’ve also hinted at several other people who were working on new books. Well, over the past few years, we’ve seen some pretty amazing new books published by the Tiki ohana. Please consider the following books as must-haves to start or expand your collection of Tiki literature.

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry: Potions of the Caribbean. Beachbum Berry is the single most important figure in the revival of the Tiki cocktail (Tiki Ohana – Cocktails). His work in researching the origins of Tiki drinks led him to discover that most of them were actually recipes from bars throughout the Caribbean, borrowed and repackaged by Don The Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the 1930s-50s. Bum’s book traces the history of rum going back to 1492, and expertly intertwines world history with the rise and fall and rebirth of rum as the important spirit it is. Potions of the Caribbean also includes a boatload of recipes for rum drinks throughout history, many of which were resurrected by Beachbum Berry himself via interviews with the bartenders who would have otherwise taken these once-secret recipes to their graves. If you’re a fan of history and Tiki, you must read this book. I don’t say this often, but I couldn’t put it down. Mahalo, Bum, okole maluna!

Sven Kirsten: Tiki Pop. What else can I say about Sven Kirsten? He is the undisputed king of the Tiki revival. Sven has published multiple books to this point, but here is something new. Tiki Pop is the companion volume to an exhibition he curated in 2014 at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris: Tiki Pop, L’Amérique rêve son paradis polynésien. My first thought was that it would be tough to build upon The Book of Tiki. I was wrong. By tailoring his message to an international audience, Sven Kirsten was able to expand upon his original masterpiece with an entirely new perspective on what drove the rise of Tiki culture in America. It works. Merci, Sven.

Martin and Rebecca Cate: Smuggler’s Cove. I just finished reading this book, and all I can say is: wow! Martin Cate is the proprietor of a Tiki bar in the SF Bay Area by the same name (Tiki Ohana – Cocktails), but Smuggler’s Cove the book is more than just an homage to the bar. Martin and Rebecca Cate have given us a how-to instruction manual on immersing yourself in the world of Tiki. This book chronicles their journey, but it does so much more. Here we have a thorough history of rum, it’s production methods, and numerous recipes with tips on how to select the proper rums and mixers. Martin and Rebecca have also educated us on how to throw a Tiki party, what the most important Tiki drinks are and how to make them, where to find the best Tiki temples in America (including Smuggler’s Cove) and how they were created. This book has quickly become my indispensable reference for the Tiki lifestyle. Ho’omaika’i ‘ana and well done, Mr. and Mrs. Cate!

Tim “Swanky” Glazner: Mai-Kai – History & Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant. Here is the newest book to arrive in the Tiki Lounge, hot off the presses this Summer. Tim Glazner was the cofounder of The Hukilau and was instrumental in making The Mai-Kai the focal point of this annual celebration. His love of this greatest Tiki temple of them all is illustrated in his beautiful new book, which tells the early history of how two brothers from Chicago moved to Florida and brought their vast Tiki knowledge with them. Tim used his access to The Mai-Kai and its owners to paint a picture of an amazing place, including beautiful pictures, intriguing characters, and a reverence shared by the Tiki ohana around the world. If you’ve never been to The Mai-Kai, you must go. My first visit was a Tiki epiphany (Aloha Spirit: The Mai-Kai). If you can’t physically go, Tim Glazner’s book will take you there in spirit. Mahalo, Swanky!

A Small Collection

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Tiki mugs are addictive. At least, they are for me. It all started with a nice score on eBay, and since my first Tiki mug purchase, I’ve gone on to collect a few more. I’m now out of room in the shelf I built just 6 months ago, which means I should probably stop buying Tiki mugs. Or build another shelf in A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge. 😎

As I marvel at the small collection of Tiki mugs I’ve amassed in just a few short years, it dawned on me: these works of art are mileposts along my Tiki journey. I will now recreate that journey for you, with pictures to prove it. Here we go.


The Kahiki Polynesian Supper Club, Columbus OH. As mentioned before, I found this gem on eBay, at a pretty reasonable price. There were many Tiki mugs sold at The Kahiki, so it isn’t particularly rare, but I had just begun researching this now-extinct Tiki temple and had a trio of “worlds colliding” moments (see Whenceforth A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge) when I found this mug. It was the start of a new addiction.


The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show, Fort Lauderdale FL. As my research into Tiki temples continued, I learned of the granddaddy of them all, The Mai-Kai. Founded in 1956 by two brothers from Chicago, this is the oldest and best Polynesian supper club in the world. My wife Jessica and I took a long weekend trip to Fort Lauderdale a couple of years ago (see Aloha Spirit: The Mai-Kai) so I could see this Tiki Mecca for myself. We spent many hours in this beautiful place, walking through the gardens, checking out the amazing Polynesian dance show, and knocking back a few libations in The Molokai Lounge. The tall Tiki mug came with my first Mai-Tai, and the rum barrel came from the gift shop. Good times, and I would return later for The Hukilau.



Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Trader Sam’s, Anaheim CA. In 2013, Jess and I hit the road again, this time to California for the 50th anniversary celebration of The Enchanted Tiki Room (see Aloha Spirit: Los Angeles). We spent a couple of sessions in the new Trader Sam’s, where my favorite drink was the Krakatoa. It came with a cool animated show in the bar and this spiffy, lava-dripping Tiki mug. I also picked up this amazing Pele mug by Kevin Kidney at the Enchanted Tiki Room festivities, where I also scored some cool SHAG swag from the man himself. It was a memorable trip that contributed a lot of pieces to the Tiki Lounge.


The Hukilau, Fort Lauderdale FL. In 2014, I left Jessica at home and met my buddy Bruce at The Hukilau, the East Coast’s biggest Tiki weekender event (see The Hukilau: Day 1). 4 days of hanging out with like-minded Tiki geeks led to many new friendships and 2 cool new Tiki mugs: an orange coconut mug and a Marquesian cannibal mug by Eekum Bookum. Tasty.

Tiki Pop, Paris France. Sven Kirsten is the godfather of the modern Tiki movement (see Tiki Ohana: Builders). His newest book, Tiki Pop, was the companion book to the expo he had in Paris in 2014, Tiki Pop : L’Amérique rêve son paradis polynésien, at the musée du quai Branly. I gladly scooped up this tome and the Tiki Bob mug that came with it. Both are displayed proudly in the Tiki Lounge.


Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago IL. Last year, for my 50th birthday, the family took a road trip to Chicago. We spent time visiting my buddy Bruce, who lives in Lincoln Park, and he surprised me with a gift of this cool Tiki mug from Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge in Minneapolis MN. After a wonderful dinner at David Burke’s Primehouse, Jess took the kids back to the hotel and Bruce and I headed to Three Dots and a Dash for some Tiki drinks. While there, I picked up this gorgeous seahorse bowl designed by Baï of Paris. This is the most beautiful piece of Tiki art I own! It would inspire me to get another Tiki mug from Baï later.


Hawaii Kai, New York NY. When we returned from Chicago, my mother-in-law Phyllis surprised me with a gift of this cool bamboo Tiki mug. She got it on her honeymoon in NYC, at the now-defunct Hawaii Kai, Manhattan’s most famous Polynesian supper club. This is the rarest Tiki mug in my collection. Mahalo, Phyllis!


Tiki Lounge, Pittsburgh PA. Last year, we attended the first annual Wildwood Vintage Tiki Weekender in Wildwood NJ (see Wildwood Weekend), organized by my friend Beth Lennon of Retro Roadmap. I made a lot of new friends at the beach that weekend, including Paul Matarrese from Pittsburgh. During a room crawl / swap fest, I bartered one of my music compilations for this cool Tiki mug Paul brought along. The matchbook was a nice throw-in.

 Tiki Farm, San Clemente CA. Tiki Farm is one of the most popular purveyors of Polynesian pop culture around. They’ve created many Tiki mugs during the current Tiki revival, and just celebrated their 15th anniversary with this beautiful mug by Doug Horne. The mug comes with a cast-in spear holder in the back to hold a cool orange spear swizzle stick.


Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at The Polynesian Village, Orlando FL. On a quick trip to Orlando for a work sales conference last month, we made a quick stop in my happy place, The Polynesian. When we were there for our last family vacation, Trader Sam’s was still under construction. It’s now open for business! I met my newest Tiki friend, George Borcherding, for some Dole Whips and a couple of Tiki drinks. Our first drink was the Uh-Oa, which came in this cool bowl. I now have 2 Tiki mugs from Trader Sam’s, one from each coast.


Ku by Baï, Paris France. Ku is the Hawai’ian God of War. This is my 2nd Tiki mug designed by Baï, but this one I got directly from her. Whereas the Three Dots and a Dash seahorse bowl is my most beautiful Tiki mug, Ku is my most detailed and substantial Tiki mug. I really love Baï Tiki’s work – it’s stunning!

So there you have it. These are my prized possessions: Tiki mugs collected along many stops of my Tiki journey. But these aren’t the only Tiki mugs I own. My friends have a habit of thinking of me during their travels, and pick up little Tiki trinkets to bring home as gifts to me. Some of these gifts are Tiki mugs. Nondescript but cool, I haven’t been able to identify their origins, but I display them around A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge nonetheless. Here are a few final pictures of these beauties in action. If anybody recognizes any of these Tiki mugs, please let me know. Aloha!




Tiki Ohana – Cocktails

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The Tiki craze of the 1950s was preceded by the Tiki cocktail movement started in the 1930s by Don The BeachcomberErnest Raymond Beaumont Gantt grew up in New Orleans, traveled the Caribbean where he collected rum-based drink recipes, settled in Los Angeles, dressed up his drinks with flowers and umbrellas and fancy tropical names, and changed his name to Don The Beachcomber (and eventually just Donn Beach). He opened his first restaurant and bar in Hollywood in 1933 and was a huge success, thanks in large part to his celebrity clientele.

The success of Don The Beachcomber led to a string of Tiki-themed restaurants. While Donn Beach opened new locations, imitators like Victor Bergeron with his Trader Vic’s and Stephen Crane with his Kon Tiki chain helped popularize the Tiki bar/restaurant across the country. This popularity peaked in the 1950s and 1960s, and like the rest of the Tiki movement, started to decline in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of these Tiki establishments are gone today, and their wonderful drink recipes might have been lost forever, were it not for the efforts of…

 

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Jeff Beachbum Berry. This guy, along with Sven Kirsten, is the most important figure in the current Tiki revival. Bum has been researching Tiki drink recipes for over 30 years, and his Potions of The Caribbean is the Bible for Tiki drink recipes and their history (get it here: beachbumberry.com/bum-books/). Like Donn Beach before him, Bum now calls New Orleans home, and he just opened his first Tiki bar there last fall, Latitude 29. It is a must-do Tiki temple! I was fortunate to visit Latitude 29 earlier this year, and Beachbum Berry himself welcomed me and even gave me an interview while I was there. You can hear it on my podcast: apandatikipod.podbean.com/e/pandas-tasty-jambalaya. Mahalo, Bum!

 

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Martin Cate. Few people, if anybody, have had a bigger influence on elevating the profile of rum than Martin Cate. He opened his Smuggler’s Cove bar in San Francisco in 2009 to much acclaim, both locally and nationally. Smuggler’s Cove is the physical embodiment of Beachbum Berry’s Potions of The Caribbean, focusing on “Traditional drinks of the Caribbean islands, classic libations of Prohibition-era Havana, and exotic cocktails from legendary Tiki bars.” All of this is served up in a bar with the most authentic Tiki decor you’ll find anywhere. You can find more about the story of Smuggler’s Cove here: smugglerscovesf.com/about/. Okole maluna, Martin!

 

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Suzanne Long. Across the bay in Oakland, Suzanne Long opened her new Tiki bar, Longitude, in 2014. Along with a mix of traditional and modern rum-based cocktails, Longitude features a stunning interior that evokes a spirit of adventure. Ms. Long didn’t limit herself to a strictly Polynesian theme, instead incorporating a whole world of tropical decor including artwork from east Africa. You can read a great review of Longitude here: insidescoopsf.sfgate.com. Full disclosure: I haven’t been to any of the Bay Area Tiki bars, but when I do visit, I’ll make sure to start with Smuggler’s Cove and Longitude. Aloha Suzanne, I hope to see you soon!

 

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Paul McGee. Another Tiki bar I have been fortunate enough to visit is Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, created by Paul McGee in 2013. I wrote about my first visit here in my blog post Aloha Spirit: Chicago (Jan 2014). Creating a Tiki mecca in the Midwest isn’t without precedent (think The Kahiki in Columbus OH), but Mr. McGee managed to create a Polynesian paradise in a speakeasy-like atmosphere, right in The Loop in downtown Chicago. Not to rest on his laurels, Paul left his baby earlier this year to open a new Tiki bar, Lost Lake, in the western Chicagoland neighborhood of Logan Square. You can read about how McGee partnered with Martin Cate on Lost Lake here: www.chicagotribune.com. Well done, Tiki titans!

Tiki Music: Surf

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Surf music, like jazz, is an eminently American creation. I believe it’s an essential part of Tiki culture, starting in Mid-Century Modern America and flourishing worldwide today. Like Tiki, surf music took a break in popularity starting in the late 1960s, but was revived in the mid 1990s.

Let’s start with the classics. The Beach Boys. Dick Dale and The Del-Tones. The Ventures. Jan & Dean. The Surfaris. The list goes on, but this is pretty representative of the Surf music legends who stormed the beaches of Southern California in the early 1960s. My favorite Surf songs are still Hawaii Five-O and Wipe Out, going back to my preteen days. I’ve always favored the instrumental music of The Ventures to the vocal surf tunes of The Beach Boys, and the instrumental style has better withstood the test of time. Dick Dale has a foot in both camps and is still going strong, but he can do whatever he wants, because, after all, he IS the King of the Surf Guitar!

So, here’s a list of the Surf music artists I’ve been listening to for the past 30 years, with a brief description of their style and where I first heard them.

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The Ventures: The Best of The Ventures (1987). These guys started it all for me in junior high. They actually covered a lot of songs, but they made Hawaii Five-O their own. I just saw The Ventures play last year in Bethlehem PA and they sounded great!

 

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Dick Dale and The Del-Tones: Greatest Hits 1961-76 (1992). The King of the Surf Guitar, and arguably the greatest guitar player on Earth. Dick Dale’s been playing non-stop since 1961, and his popularity was rejuvenated when his classic version of Misirlou was used as the theme song for Pulp Fiction in 1994.

 

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The Ultras: Surf Pop Sludge (1993). I first heard these guys on college radio in Lancaster PA. They were a nice blend of tribute and tongue-in-cheek, doing both vocal and instrumental Surf originals. The Ultras had the King of the Sludge Guitar!

 

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The Halibuts: Life on the Bottom (1996). I found this gem in a small music store in Chicago (my first listening post experience) and haven’t stopped listening to it for almost 20 years. The Halibuts played some of the most melodic instrumental Surf music you’ll ever hear.

 

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Red Elvises: Surfing in Siberia (1997). 4 cats from Russia move to LA and start playing Surf music. You can’t make this shit up! I first saw these guys play at Musikfest in Bethlehem in 1999, where they became a staple for years. Sadly, Red Elvises lost their mojo when their lead guitarist Zhenya left the band only a few years later.

 

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Los Straitjackets: ¡Damas y Caballeros! Los Straitjackets (2001). Another discovery at Musikfest, only these guys’ shtick is that they wear Luche Libre wrestling masks everywhere they go. Hailing from Nashville TN, Los Straitjackets are my favorite Surf band of all time. Classic, straight-ahead instrumental Surf originals with Spanish dialogue between songs. Olé!

 

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Coffin Daggers: Coffin Daggers (2002). Musikfest strikes again, this time with a band from NYC best described as Goth Surf. Coffin Daggers infuse Surf music with a heavy dose of fuzzy keyboards and theremin, creating a spooky, sci-fi sound very different from most other bands. Think Addams Family goes to the beach!

 

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The Intoxicators: Journey to the Center of the Earth (2006). I just saw this band for the first time at The Hukilau 2014 in Fort Lauderdale. The Intoxicators are a high-energy, instrumental Surf band from Tallahassee FL playing clever, original music. Twin guitars, thumping bass and a Shriner fez-wearing drummer make them the perfect Surf band for the Tiki Lounge.

 

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Great White Caps: Sting of Death (2009). Surf music from Bethlehem PA, of all places, and another Musikfest staple. We’re 90 miles from the ocean here, but Great White Caps crafted a unique Surf sound with their blend of original instrumental and vocal tunes. Sadly, these guys just disbanded earlier this year. Aloha GWC.

 

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Skinny Jimmy and The Stingrays (2009). Another band I just discovered at The Hukilau, these guys hail from Deerfield Beach FL, just north of Fort Lauderdale. Skinny Jimmy was the most nondescript, pleasant fellow when I talked to him during the event, but with a guitar in-hand onstage at The Mai-Kai, he was an animal! I may have to move to Florida to catch Surf bands like this on a regular basis.

 

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Five Eaux (2014). The newest band I’ve stumbled across hails from St. Louis MO. John Bartley, the creator of Five Eaux, reached out to the Tiki Lounge via Facebook, and we’ve been fast friends ever since. I can’t really classify them as simply Surf, as John also does James Bond themes, Spaghetti Western tunes, and much more. In his own words, Five Eaux is bringing Tiki back, with class. Aloha, Jon Tiki!

I’ve been creating Surf compilations for 10 years, and I’ve done more Surf mixes than any other genre of music. Over the years these mix discs have evolved as I’ve discovered more great Surf bands. I’ve also started incorporating other Tiki music styles into the mix, as I better learn the link between Surf and Tiki. They are inseparable! My friend Jeff Chouinard, a Tiki carver, says it best: Surf Soul Tiki. Mahalo!

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Stalking SHAG

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I love the work of Josh Agle, the artist better known as SHAG. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not obsessed with him. My chance discovery of SHAG’s art (see my 24Nov13 post, Whenceforth A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge?) started me on the path to Tiki, a journey I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and I sure have collected a lot of SHAG swag over the years. Most of it I’ve gotten myself, but some of it has been acquired for me by my partners in crime, often times in-person, with requests for personalized signatures on my behalf. Which is why SHAG must think I’m stalking him.

Chicago, July 2006. My second SHAG print, Raft of the Medusa, came from his SHAG After Dark exhibition at the DVA Gallery in Lincoln Park. Now I don’t live in Chicago, but my friend Bruce does, and he agreed to head over to the gallery and pick up this print for me. As it turns out, he went there on the first day of the show, and happened to meet Josh Agle in-person, who was there for the premiere party. Bruce got him to autograph the print for me, which was pretty cool.

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New York City, November 2008. I first met Josh Agle myself at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea, where he attended the premiere of his Voyeur exhibition. My wife Jess & I took a day trip to NYC, where we did our usual touristy stuff (Times Square, Rockefeller Center, F.A.O. Schwartz), walked down to the old Empire Diner for dinner, then ended the day at the art gallery for the SHAG party. We got there early, and he got there late, but he was gracious and kind enough to talk with me and pose for a few pictures. He also signed my new print, In Search of Tiki, which I had schlepped all over NYC in its tube in my backpack, hoping to get a SHAG personalized autograph. We were off to a good start, Josh & I.

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Anaheim, September 2009. Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009. SHAG was commissioned by Disney to create some artwork for the event. They had worked together before on other milestone celebrations, but this was the first time that I was aware of it beforehand and had the opportunity to get some swag in real time. If only I knew somebody in LA! Well, I didn’t, but my friend Gordon has an aunt, Mary Pat Killian, who lives in Whittier and happens to have season passes to Disneyland. Bingo! Gordon asked Aunt Mary if she’d be willing to pick up a few things for me, and she was game. No personalized SHAG autographs, but she did get me some great items, including a set of collectible pins, a tin of postcards, and a cool mini print with themed frame that now hangs in my daughter Natalia’s room. Thanks, Aunt Mary!

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Chicago, February 2010. SHAG came back to Chicago, this time to the Rotofugi Gallery (which had merged with DVA) for his Red Star, Black Eye exhibition. My wallet and I were on hiatus from spending money on SHAG prints (I was up to 4 by now), but even though I wasn’t in the market for anything, I told my buddy Bruce that Josh Agle was coming back to town. Unbeknownst to me, Bruce attended the premiere event, and picked up a little something for me as a surprise birthday gift: a toy Shriner car, also inspired and designed by SHAG. How cool is that?! Of course, Bruce got him to autograph the car for me, but by this time, Josh was on to me and my network.

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Orlando, October 2011. SHAG was called upon by Disney yet again, this time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World. Now this one was a big deal to me, as my family has fallen in love with WDW and had already vacationed there twice in the 3 years before this event. In fact, we were scheduled to be there again in December of 2011, but I was afraid that might be too late to get any of the good SHAG swag going on sale in October. So, who did I know on the ground in Orlando? Of course: another old friend and former hockey teammate, Michael Hardy! Mike had been living in Orlando for a few years, and when I asked him to run over to the Art of Disney gallery at Downtown Disney to pick up a few things, he was happy to do it. He called me from the gallery to tell me what was available, and we hit the mother lode: shirts, coasters, post cards, pins, and another cool mini print (this one hangs in my other daughter Lexie’s room). It turns out Mike was there on the day Josh Agle was there as well, so he went up to Josh and asked him to sign a few things for his friend, Andy Panda. According to Mike, Josh just shook his head, smiled, and graciously signed away! I was glad to be able to return the favor to Mike a couple of months later, when I treated him to a round of golf at WDW, followed by some Mai-Tais at the Polynesian Resort’s Tamba Lounge. Mahalo, Mike!

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Palm Springs, December 2012. I’ve gotten to know Monet Leann Orystick pretty well, even though I’ve never met her. Monet runs SHAG: The Store in Palm Springs, which is associated with M Modern Gallery, who has hosted several of SHAG’s art exhibitions. I’ve ordered a couple of SHAG shirts from Monet, who does a great job of sending out blast emails and Facebook posts to tempt suckers like me. One day I asked her if Josh Agle visited the store often, and she told me he tries to get there about once a month. I then asked Monet if she’d be willing to deliver a package to him, if I mailed it to the store, and she said she’d be happy to do that for me! I sent Josh a couple of my mix CDs featuring his art on the cover, and a nice letter asking him to consider coming to visit my hometown of Bethlehem. Boy, was I surprised when I got this hand-written note back about a month later!

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New York City, April 2013. Josh Agle returned to the Jonathan Levine Gallery for a 3rd time (I missed the 2nd time) for his Thursday’s Girl exhibition. He had some really cool paintings featuring Andy Warhol, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, which unfortunately I didn’t have the $10K to buy! I did come to the premiere party, however, and this time I brought the whole family with me. Thanks to some hellacious NYC traffic and family-friendly stops at Ellen’s Stardust Diner and the Nintendo Store, we were seriously late to the party, and almost didn’t make it before they locked the gallery doors. Fortunately, my friends Beth Lennon (a/k/a Mod Betty) and Cliff Hillis (a/k/a Pop Star) were there to let us in, and Beth had even gotten SHAG to sign one of the event postcards for me in case I didn’t make it. Another stalker joins the team! Well, we did make it, barely, and just like 5 years earlier, SHAG was gracious enough to chat with me and pose for pictures with my whole family. He also thanked me for the CDs I had sent him a few months earlier and asked me when we would come visit him in LA? Funny he should ask!

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Anaheim, June 2013. The 50th anniversary of Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room was a huge event in the Tiki world. I had already decided to spend my birthday weekend in LA with Jess, centered around this event as the focal point, and as an added bonus, we met “Aunt” Mary Pat Killian in-person and treated her, her husband Hank, and her nephew (and my friend) Gordon to dinner and drinks at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. So when Josh Agle asked me, a few months earlier in NYC, when we were coming to LA, I just laughed and told him we’d see him again in June! Of course, I already knew that Disney had commissioned SHAG once more to create the signature artwork for this celebration, and I was prepared to finally pick up my SHAG/Disney swag in-person, for the first time. And what a haul! I had pre-ordered most of it, but was still really excited to handle the merchandise: shirts, pins, postcards, mini prints, Tiki mugs, bowls, and even some cool extra stuff we got just for pre-registering for the event! As we met Josh to get some of our stuff signed, he again thanked me for the CDs I had sent him, telling me how much he enjoyed listening to them during his drives out to Palm Springs. I smiled as I handed him another CD I had brought him, just for this occasion! Josh then signed one of my mini prints, with the orange Sharpee I had brought with me for this specific purpose, giving me the coolest personalized SHAG autograph I’m proud to have. I was in Heaven.

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So when will I next see Josh Agle? Who knows? It may be as soon as The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale this June, which Bruce and I plan to attend. SHAG has been to The Hukilau before, so maybe he’ll be there this year? If so, I’ll be happy to buy him a drink, shoot the breeze, and not ask him to sign anything, for a change. Unless, of course, I end up buying some really cool SHAG swag there…

Aloha Spirit: Chicago

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As I mentioned before, I believe karma introduced me to Tiki, and it continues to swim in my bloodstream. I’ve seen many signs in my travels that have confirmed this for me. Here is the last example of what I’m talking about.

Chicago IL, August 2013. Last summer, the company I work for was acquired by another company, which is headquartered in Green Bay, WI. In order to get to know some of my new co-workers better, I wanted to visit our offices in Chicago and Green Bay, so we could all put faces to names and do a little bonding. It turns out I had already planned to visit my old friend Bruce to catch a Phillies vs. Cubs game at Wrigley Field at the end of August, so I decided to mix business and pleasure with a Wednesday to Sunday trip, starting in Green Bay and ending with a weekend in Chicago.

The Green Bay part of the trip went well, with time spent in the office meeting many of my new coworkers. I was shown around by the managing director of sales, Craig Avery, my boss’s boss and a fellow Tiki fan. I gave him a copy of my Oceanic Arts catalog so he could check out some new decor for his backyard Tiki bar. Craig was good enough to introduce me around the office, and we spent time after hours knocking back some beers and talking Tiki. I finished my stay in Green Bay with a visit to the hallowed ground of Lambeau Field.

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On Friday I flew down to our Chicago office, where I met the directors of our credit and marketing teams, who introduced me to their people. Another great group of coworkers! I joined some of the marketing folks for lunch at Heaven on Seven, one of my favorite Cajun restaurants right downtown in The Loop. What a tasty way to wrap up the business portion of my trip.

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Friday night I headed for my buddy Bruce’s place, where we started the weekend with a beer on his rooftop deck, admiring the Chicago skyline. What an amazing view of a great city! We had reservations for dinner at David Burke’s, which was voted the city’s best steakhouse by Chicago magazine for 2013, but before that, Bruce had a surprise for me. He wouldn’t tell me where we were headed as we boarded the red line el heading downtown.

We arrived at our destination at 435 West Clark, and it wasn’t until we walked down a flight of steps and turned a corner that I discovered my surprise: a Tiki bar, right in downtown Chicago! Bruce had brought me to Three Dots and a Dash, a new Tiki bar only open for 1 month prior to our visit. What a nice surprise! This was a serious Tiki bar, with authentic drinks, tasty appetizers, wonderful Polynesian decor, and beautiful wahines serving us.

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I enjoyed many great meals with wonderful people during my 5 days in Green Bay and Chicago, but none as memorable as my time spent at Three Dots and a Dash. Isn’t it ironic that the original reason for this trip, the baseball game at Wrigley, ended up being the lowlight (the Phils lost to the Cubs in one of the worst games ever played), while the highlight was a happy hour Tiki stop I never saw coming? Or, maybe it’s karma. Either way, mahalo to Craig Avery for championing the business part of this trip and sharing your love of Tiki with me. And a big mahalo to Bruce Philipson, who surprised an old friend with a new Chicago hotspot and added a new, special memory to a friendship already full of them.

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Aloha Spirit Ramblings

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What is Aloha Spirit? What is it about Tiki that has captured my attention for the past 10 years? Have my travels during this time frame, to places like New Orleans, Jamaica, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles, all been cosmically connected somehow? What does the word Mahalo really mean?

Okay, let’s start with an easy one. Mahalo is a Hawai’ian word that has come to mean, simply, “thank you.” I saw evidence of this going back to the original Hawaii Five-0 television series, which I’ve been watching the first season of lately on DVD, where Chin Ho and Kono would toss out mahalo like candy, I guess to make them seem more authentically Hawai’ian. I don’t think they really needed to do that, but I guess the screenwriters weren’t convinced we’d believe it unless they talked the talk. As if “Zulu as Kono” in the opening credits wasn’t convincing enough!

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I’ve looked into the etymology of the word mahalo and found a much more meaningful definition. Mahalo literally means “may you be in divine wind,” which to me is the same as saying “may the Holy Spirit be with you.” Hawai’ians say mahalo as a blessing or a one-word prayer, which I think is really powerful. You must be careful not to cheapen the word by using it without truly meaning it as a blessing. Mahalo must be experienced more so than spoken. Easy, right?

So, back to this aloha spirit stuff. What does it mean? To me, it seems simple: aloha spirit is the feeling inside you that is constantly grateful for everything, that keeps you happy when things aren’t so great, that gives you grace during times of stress, that puts a song in your heart and the spring in your step. Hawai’ians have it. Tom Brady has it. I have it, most of the time. Jesus really had it and tried to teach it to all of us: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). That’s what aloha spirit is all about, Charlie Brown.

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So, since we’ve given props to Jesus, let’s give Buddha his due and talk about karma. This one’s a little tougher to explain, since I’m not a Buddhist, nor do I play one on TV, nor have I read or learned much about Buddhism in my few years on Earth. What is karma? I know some people say it’s a cause-and-effect thing, you know, you get what you deserve, he had it coming, blah blah blah. I think it’s more complicated than that.

To me, karma is more a sense than action. It’s a feeling you get that you’ve been someplace before, it’s worlds colliding in some strange mashup of life’s pursuits, it’s coincidences that just seem too good to be true. I don’t believe in fate. I do believe in tempting fate. What I mean by that is we make our own fate. People say they’d rather be lucky than good, but I say be good enough to make your own luck. Karma is an attitude.

I was born in 1965. This was an interesting time in America: Tiki culture was nearing the end of its first good run; space-age bachelor pad music had peaked as well, swept away by the British Invasion and soon enough, the Woodstock era; the Mad Men sensibility of conspicuous consumption would be pushed aside in favor of the minimalist ethos of the Hippie and drug culture. The Baby Boomers of my parents’ generation changed the world, and not for the better, in my opinion. It was my fate to grow up in a world where the Hippies were running the show. It was my karma to revert to the culture from the year of my birth, albeit some 40 years later.

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So I believe karma introduced me to Tiki. I’ve seen many signs in my travels that have confirmed this for me. I’ll share some examples in my next few posts. Mahalo!