What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

When the bells all ring and the horns all blow
And the couples we know are fondly kissing
Will I be with you or will I be among the missing?

Maybe it’s much too early in the game
Ah, but I thought I’d ask you just the same
What are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s eve?

Jessie and Jason’s answer to Loewe’s 1940s lyrical question was that they would be home, building a tiki bar. I mean, what could be more romantic and stress-free on the eve of a new year in the midst of a pandemic than sawing bamboo, hanging lauhala, wielding a glue gun, avoiding bodily harm from a power stapler, and having to re-do half of your work because your spouse thinks it didn’t come out just right? Might there have been a lover’s spat that fateful night?

I hear on good authority that it didn’t matter. It was a labor of love. Jason summed it up quite nicely: ‘The best stories are not about the drinks you had or the collections you amassed. The best home bar stories are the ones you create as you build your private paradise.”

The Likelike Lounge, Jason and Jessie’s special island, sits just down the road from his parents home (and the Enchanted Honu Tiki Lounge, their home tiki bar) in Mint Hill, North Carolina. Built over the past two years, you’ll find handsome touches of structural elements, including bamboo mat walls that house a collection of vintage photographs, a console ripped out of an old local hotel to form a bar, a wood beam ceiling that makes you feel that you’re in the belly of a great ship, and a beautiful Japanese screen that provides an alluring pattern yet fits just perfectly over the window to diffuse the dim, natural light. Jessie has cultivated a collection of items from her family and her childhood trips to Hawaii. There’s an original Tiki Bob mug from her parents. There’s a hula skirt and coconut bra from her original Cabbage Patch doll adorning a wicker monkey. There’s a picture of Mom doing the hula. Leilani (salvaged from a Sailor Jerry hula girl display) anchors the corner. And, there are carvings of exotic birds throughout, which serve as a homage to Jason’s earliest memories of the Enchanted Tiki Hut, back when – as he puts it – it was still spooky and scary.

To be clear, Jason is not discounting the positive impact of a good tiki drink to ease the edge off those stressful home bar builds when he creates his stories. In fact, I sampled one of Jason’s creations while visiting, a tasty mix of Pyrat rum, pineapple juice and cinnamon syrup (among other ingredients) that he had originally created for the family’s St. Nicholas Day gatherings. Jason is no stranger to good mixology. He received the gift of a bartender’s guide, and it’s inspired him to keep crafting and shaking.

It’s truly a family affair. Jason and Jessie invite the family over often, and the evening might include a sip on one of Jason’s concoctions, a listen to the sounds of the exotic 40s tunes, a long stare at the layers of tiki collectibles, or a chance to curse a bit while installing a new feature in the Likelike Lounge. It doesn’t matter. It’s just the eve of a new story they will soon tell passerby sailors like me.

Maybe I’m crazy to suppose
I’d ever be the one you chose
Out of the thousand invitations you received

Ah, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance
What are you building New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?

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