Fortunato escapes the Lalotai.

Librarians love literary tiki mugs.

Sometimes tiki mugs resonate with an unexpected crowd. Jonathan and Allison have seen it happen. When librarians see their Cask of Amontillado mug, they quickly make the short-story connection, let out an oh-so-restrained glee, ooooh and aaaah a bit, and make a quick purchase. Once the mug makes it home, the hope is that it will hold tasty elixirs, not pencils or vengeful poisonings. Nonetheless, it’s a fun moment for Jonathan and Allison, who designed and produced the mug out of a love of classic horror literature combined with tiki.

Cthulhu was the inspiration for Jonathan’s first tiki mug design. To say it was an instant success would be an understatement. Truth is, Jonathan just wanted to create a cool mug for his home bar out of his own pocket. Allison, being the business-minded partner that every artist needs in their life, demurred. To compromise, they decided to try it as a community effort. It was the perfect way to move forward. Jonathan designed the prototype and found a sculptor. Having recently helped a friend do a campaign on this new thing called Kickstarter, the pair created a project to fund the startup costs. The day the campaign was launched, they expected a slow beginning, so they put it up online and headed off to the movies. Two hours later, when the phone ringers were turned back on, there were too many pings to count. Within that short timespan, the project was funded. $15,000 had been raised, and this figure would eventually rise to almost $80,000. Clearly, there was a thirst for combining horror and tiki out there, and Jonathan and Allison had quenched that blood-thirsty lust. Horror in Clay was born.

When Jonathan and Allison go into something, they go in fearless, and they go big. After successfully expanding into tiki glassware as well as continuing with seven more mugs (to date), they sought a way to bring the local tiki community together to learn and celebrate. After partying with friends and customers at their respective home tiki bars, Jonathan and Allison organized a home bar tour around Atlanta. The first Inuhele -“cocktail journey”- was a huge success. Based on this success and inspired by years of fun attending Dragon Con, friends quipped that the couple should start a tiki con. It didn’t take long to turn that casual suggestion into a reality. After securing a hotel, deciding on a venue, energizing a team of dedicated volunteers, and pairing the con with a new home bar tour to accompany the event, Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend was created.

I was an eyewitness. Jonathan and Allison’s Inuhele Weekend was my first tiki conference, and it holds a place of honor in my heart. In addition to the amazing people I met, the wealth of information I learned, and the skills I developed, Inuhele connected me to my own home tiki community. As such, you can imagine I felt quite fortunate to get the opportunity to visit Jonathan and Allison’s home tiki bar: Lalotai, Den of Monsters at Horror in Clay’s World Headquarters. Yes, it’s their family’s hideaway, but it’s also the place where mugs get boxed, décor for Inuhele gets built, or a sundry of other Horror in Clay business gets conducted.

Speaking of feeling “fortunate,” the parallels of my experience and the story found in Edgar Allen Poe’s Cask of Amontillado did not occur to me until much later. Here I was, quite like Fortunato, sipping on one of Allison’s elixirs in a subterranean hideaway, being led around by Jonathan, a master of horror, to observe macabre oddities. Slowly, I was becoming intoxicated and could have easily found myself chained to a tiki, completely unaware.

Yet, my camera, my recorder, and I made it out safe and happy. Anyone who knows them knows that Jonathan and Allison are not the vengeful type. In fact, they are the perfect examples of aloha. Otherwise, I might have found myself walled into a home tiki bar.

It would be a likely and appropriate demise for me. Someday, it will happen when I least expect it.

2 thoughts on “Fortunato escapes the Lalotai.”

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