Go barefoot, but beware of bacon.

Mike has to keep a pair of flip flops in his car.

Teresa has to remind him. Otherwise, he might show up to pick up the grandson at daycare and forget he’s barefoot. He’d be shoeless all the time if he had his way. So, it was no surprise that when I arrived at Pele at Barefoot Bay – Mike’s outdoor home oasis in Imperial, California – he greeted me barefoot.

Why the name Pele? Mike loves volcanoes, lava, and fire. He believes every tiki bar should include an element of danger. When Barefoot Bay comes to life at night, you’ll see flames in multiple places. There are lava rocks that actually steam at the base of the pearl fountain. He’s also included a crafted symbol based on a carving of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lighting, dance, wind, and volcanoes. You’ll find lava and flame patterns in his ceramics, builds, and other items.

People who are passionate about tiki tend to be collectors or creators.

Mike is definitely a creator. He’s built or crafted almost every item in his home oasis with a sense of whimsy and fun. There’s a collection of milepost signs that point to far away places like Curacao 3,256 miles coupled with Maikapupu (sound it out …) only 20 feet away (the restroom). There’s a clock with 5s on every hour because it’s always five o’clock at the oasis. There’s a weather station with a hanging cocoanut which scientifically predicts the weather. If the cocoanut is swinging, it’s windy; if it’s dry, it’s sunny; if it’s blurry, it’s foggy. Like many creative types, Mike creates, conquers, and moves on to another project. Teresa commented that Mike is always busy. He’s tinkering, toying, crafting. It’s evident.

I’m particularly thankful to Mike and his creative spirit. As I was stuck at home like everyone else this past year, I took time to learn how to photograph fire elements in my cocktails using his flaming skulls, a favorite creation. After a year of isolation, it was great fun to get a chance to celebrate his work in person.

Mike left me with an important pearl of wisdom to pass on to all. His advice? When you make Spam Maki, don’t fry the bacon naked.

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