Uncle Cliff and the Temple of Deceit

“Mister, mister! Come here. I found relic in temple.”

It was 1950. At an ancient Mesoamerican temple in the Yucatan, a kid was holding a small idol fashioned from stone. He had just emerged from the base of a Mayan pyramid covered in dust, parched, and a bit out of breath. Uncle Cliff approached with caution and intrigue.

“I sell to you. $20 dollar.”

Could it be legit? Uncle Cliff decided it was worth the risk, produced the cash, and the idol found a new owner. Uncle Cliff was now a jet-setter travel agent with an ancient relic. He imagined telling the story to his friend Bugsy Siegel when he got back to Vegas. It would only clinch his reputation as a worldly ladies man. Beaming, he began his descent to the village when he happened to notice a tent with wares at the entrance to the temple. Curious, he made his way over, where his short-lived dreams of notoriety were dashed.

His one-of-a kind Mayan idol had 100 identical twins. It was a cheap souvenir. The savvy mid-century archeologist had tumbled into a tourist trap.

You can still visit that little idol. Half a century later, you’ll find he’s taken up residence at the Cosmos Lounge, Chris and Tanya’s home tiki bar in Salem, Oregon. Uncle Cliff’s treasure hunt inspired Chris’ early love of mysterious idols, so it’s the perfect habitat for a tiny stone god. He’s equally at home with Chris’s geocaching treasures as well as Tanya’s seamstress creations.

The Cosmos Lounge is otherworldly. It’s a nook where underwater meets outer space. Located in the basement of their 1920s home, the lounge is anchored by a bamboo bar, a pool table, and a surf board chandelier. If you take a closer look, you might find a few hidden surprises as well. The Millennium Falcon flies around the subterranean jungle vines, and monsters live above the surfboard.

As Tanya was mixing us a lemon and bourbon-based tiki concoction, the sudden sound of rushing water filled the room. Chris smiled at me and wailed, “wipe out!” in his best Ventures voice. I quickly learned that water, in its various forms, is an ever present element in the Cosmos. In addition to the occasional septic sensations from the house above, the possibility of an occasional flood in the basement is an important planning consideration when you live in the Pacific Northwest. Everything in the Cosmos Lounge is mobile. It better roll, float, or drift when the rain gods get pissed.

Chris and Tanya shrug it off. Their motto is “embrace the worst.” It’s just another karmic day in the Cosmos. Tanya finished mixing the cocktail, which she baptized “the Sump Pump” with a touch of humor. The three of us laughed and raised our glasses to toast.

To Uncle Cliff and the Temple of Deceit! (… and please no more rain).

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