Add a pinch of salt to that story.

Mysterious tales and legends haunt the multitude of islands in the South Pacific. Uncharted destinations rarely sought by travelers. No island has been more shrouded in foreboding intrigue than Makoako Island. Come gather round and heed my warning.

That’s how the backstory for the Lava Flow Inn begins. It’s a detailed yarn that begins with Captain Redgrave and his nefarious crew raiding a Spanish Galleon and absconding some treasure. The pirates end up shipwrecked on Makoako Island sometime in the 1700s. After a single marauder escapes on a rowboat from a chieftain’s curse during a volcanic eruption, the story fast forwards to a party of early twentieth-century explorers. They seek the pirate’s treasure on the fabled island only to find a distasteful demise. The final chapter finds Matt with his wife Patty stumbling into a tiki hut deep in a jungle and finding an explorer’s skeleton clutching a map of hidden treasure.

None who have entered beyond this outpost have returned. Well, that is, returned in one piece. Some were maimed and some driven insane by the horrors they experienced in the jungle beyond. You see, this outpost is the last stop. Beyond this point are savages, ghosts, zombies, pagan rituals, voodoo rites, and cannibalism. Those of you with a taste for adventure enter at your own risk. You have been warned.

Although it might sound a bit unbelievable, all of the elements of the story came to him in a dream, long before Matt built his immersive tiki bar – The Lava Flow Inn – and the surrounding zombie camp in his sloping backyard. Matt’s dream turned into a backstory that focused his vision for a home tiki bar build.

In addition to being a long-time tiki enthusiast, successful lowbrow artist/illustrator/painter, master builder for many of the sets for Tiki Oasis, and prolific tiki mug designer, Matt (aka Reesenik) is an advocate for developing a backstory as an essential component of a tiki bar build. To him, the history of the space – either real or make-believe – helps guide the work and the collection. Using a detailed story to influence every element of a home bar helps the builder avoid “jumping the shark,” that is, going off in a direction with your collection or inclusion of structural elements that does not ultimately align with your vision. Does the story need to be completely finished before anything else happens? Not necessarily, but Matt did it that way. He encourages story development as an essential part of the design process, equal in weight to the more commonly-considered technical, electrical, and construction elements. Matt also understands the need for organic flexibility in the story. Details of your yarn may deepen as you find unusual collectibles or consider the constraints of your space. Regardless, the process of dreaming, imagining, and crafting your story is an important early step to the process.

“It’s hard to recapture the wonder and magic you had as a kid. When you’re an adult and want a place to fully escape, it’s important to make it as believable, as real, as possible.”

Matt loves the challenge of creating an environment so immersive that you feel, quite literally, lost. Once you’ve read the Lava Flow Inn’s story, you begin to see the narrative’s elements all around you. You may even feel a little uneasy, imagining you might become the yarn’s next character. To heighten the edginess, Matt has printed tongue-in-cheek liability release forms for his guests, asking them to acknowledge via signature (print your name here!) that their lives might be at risk when entering the Lava Flow Inn. To add to the fun, he’s developed a list of cannibal kitchen rules:

Don’t eat clowns; they taste funny. Sailors do not require salt. Divorced people taste bitter. Never stew missionary priests; they are friars. No staff children in the Boucan; they always play with their food.

It’s all part of creating the adult version of a kid’s sense of wonder and magic. He’s even developed the script for a yet-to-be-filmed mockumentary with a cast of zesty characters to portray the lengthy and foreboding history of the Inn.

Aubrey Mahoney sought the pirate’s treasure in the 1920s, but his party of explorers were never heard from again. It is said that his servants were all turned into zombies and his fellow treasure hunters, botanists, archeologists, and scholars were “dinner guests” at Chief Nekbudu’s celebrations over the “course” of several weeks. Rumor has it that the sailors who accompanied them were simply killed (as they were far too salty).

If you’re lucky, you might get to play a zombie in a pith helmet. I’m auditioning for the role of the bearded archeologist. I mean, I’m a natural for that character, right?

Kali Ma! Kali Ma!

When you hear the “Kali Ma!“ at The Headhunter, be prepared. You’ll feel an immediate urge to go shirtless and drink from a skull bowl.

Give in. Shed your shirt. Drink from the cup. Everybody takes part. The goddess of time, death, and change doesn’t care if you’re straight, gay, bi, or questioning. She doesn’t care if you’re non-binary, cisgendered or transgendered. She just demands bare skin from the waist up. At least, that’s what Jonny and Ilze have been told. It’s their home bar, but they didn’t come up with the ritual.

In fact, Jonny still isn’t quite clear how the practice began. Based on his slightly-impaired memory after several strong drinks at a late night party, it started with a heady, intellectual conversation:

“Dude! Let’s take shots out of the ceremonial bowl!”

Intrigued, Jonny reached up to the shelf, pulled down the kapala – a Tibetan copper-lined, silver, and turquoise-encrusted ceremonial skull bowl – and awaited further instruction. The idea sounded cool from the onset.

“We’ve got to take our shirts off!”

It was this statement that gave Jonny a moment of pause. Why did they have to take their fucking shirts off? Before he could voice his inner reservation, everyone around was chanting “Kali Ma! … Kali Ma!” and getting naked from the waist up. He quickly looked around the bar, expecting to see the spirit of Indiana Jones rising incarnate from the torches. Truth be told, the place was starting to look more like a B-movie bathhouse. Shirts were flying, and the partygoers were restless. Quick to appease the gods, Jonny shed his shirt, poured an elixir into the bowl, and passed the drink around.

Evidently, Kali was pleased that night, but not for too long. Word at the bar is that she demands a repeat sacrifice on a regular basis.

Why Kali got a front-and-center ritual at The Headhunter will remain a mystery. If anything, Mr. Bali Hai would be a better candidate for center stage. Over the past few decades, Jonny has established what is likely the world’s foremost collection of vintage mugs from Bali Hai, the iconic 1954 Polynesian restaurant located on Shelter Island in San Diego. Jonny has more than seventy vintage “Mr. Bali Hai” mugs, including three flat-bottomed originals (you can detect first runs by looking at the shape of the bottom), many vintage concave-bottomed mugs from the early days of the restaurant, and a so-extremely-rare-that-he-didn’t-think-they-really-existed lighter. All of the mugs were found “in the wild” or collected from various in-person hunts. The collection forms a brotherhood of headhunters as an apropos backdrop to the bar, serving both as an impressive display of vintage tiki culture as well as a beautiful reminder of his and Ilze’s wedding day at – yes – the Bali Hai.

Jonny and Ilze’s love for classic, period-authentic tiki is evident. Given his work as a vintage collectibles dealer in Southern California, Jonny has come across some amazing finds over the years. He’s collected (in weight) tons of fern tikis at estate sales from GIs who settled in the area after coming back from the Pacific theater. He’s obtained original lamps from “The Islands” the restaurant at the Hanalei Hotel, a local but long-gone tiki palace. One of Ilze’s favorites is the Tangaroa-Ru Baby from Disneyland. It is dated 1964 Walt Disney Productions and signed by Rolly Crump, who created it for the Enchanted Tiki Room set in those early days. Ilze found it for pennies, but it is worth an immeasurable amount more.

As Jonny describes it, The Headhunter is ninety-percent classic tiki, ten percent tiki revival. Almost the entire collection, both inside and outside, is vintage, while the a-frame structure and elaborate interior was crafted by Jonny and regional tiki artists. When Jonny and Ilze decided to build The Headhunter, they worked with some exceptional revivalists to ensure the space would have a soul of authenticity. Jonny designed the exquisite a-frame structure. With the help of his friend Chad, a general contractor, together they built a hut that appears to have been airlifted from the islands. When they needed a true tiki artist/craftsman to tie together the look and feel of the space, they reached out to a pillar of the Tiki Revival movement. Bosko Hrnjak designed and carved elaborate wood framing, trim, poles, and plaques throughout the space. And, when they needed tiki décor experts to act as consultants, they went to the very best. Bob Van Oosting at Oceanic Arts provided clear and critical recommendations to choose the right mix of materials. All this set the stage for Jonny and Ilze to kick their critical eye into hyperdrive. They have expertly arranged their extensive collection in a way that keeps you coming back to see something different with each visit. As I took in the layers of lamps, the schools of pufferfish, and the acquisitions of tikis, Ilze reminded me, “We’re adding things here and there. A tiki bar always has to evolve.”

In case you’re wondering, no shirts were removed during the making of this story. Kali was apparently off visiting Shiva during my visit with Jonny and Ilze, and thus, there were no unexpected chants to allure me into fractional streaking.

That doesn’t mean I’m not prepared, though.

Crows of a feather drink together.

A murder of crows is likely smarter than a potation of polynesiacs.

Crows outsmart children up to age eight on simple tasks. Studies have shown it. Extrapolating from this, I figure that once a group of tiki peeps get to our third or fourth drinks, we’re likely operating around the same mental age. Perhaps we should keep some crows around for cognitive support during last call?

Speaking of smart, it’s not fair that a group of crows got coined a “murder” from some fifteenth century quick-wits. Consider the other archaic group names: an ostentation of peacocks, a turn of turtles, a shiver of sharks, a smack of jellyfish, a pandemonium of parrots, or a knot of frogs. At least a potation of polynesiacs makes perfect sense.

Susan agrees that crows get a bad rap. She has loved crows as long as she’s loved tiki. When she was younger, Susan rescued injured crows from her cat. She’d doctor up their claws or immobilize their broken wings and give them time to heal. She became so good at it that she developed at-home methods to test when a crow would be ready to return to the wild. She’d set up an old bicycle pump, pull the handle up to the top position, and gingerly place the crow on it. Once there, the handle would slowly descend given the corvid’s slight weight. If the bird flew, she knew it was time to set it free. If it didn’t, the bird got some wing aerobics in for that day. It normally took about a week. During rehab, the crows didn’t seem to mind living in the garage rent-free with a steady diet of unsalted crackers, watermelon, tomatoes, or bread crumbs.

Knowing this history, it’s no surprise that Susan and Michael’s home bar is named The Crow’s Nest Lounge. It’s a place where smart birds gather to temporarily dull their wits, and Michael’s just the guy to effectively assist with this treasured transition. Our collective conversation that evening was cacophonous, much like a gathering of crows. Jim (aka Gone Tiki, an amazing tiki carver and close friend) was sharing pictures of his beautiful and bizarre moon-faced creations and his giant Ku carving at the Devil’s Reef, while Ray (aka Tiki with Ray) was asking me to find the “holy grail” of tiki mugs (it’s an inside joke…), and Susan was pointing out her Dawn Frasier Moodxotica original painting and multiple Bosko carvings. I was listening intently and asking a sporadic question while staring at the corner tiki. The carving was a beauty by Jim dubbed King Crow that holds a smaller tiki called Cameron Crow(e). As we chatted, Michael mixed his own cocktail creation, the “Crow’s Nest Mai Tai,” a blend of the classic 1944 recipe with a nod to the Hawaiian version of the same name. Using a rum combo, including Appleton 12, he added a bit of Plantation Pineapple and substituted coconut rock candy syrup to balance the sweetness. The result was delectable.

Susan is originally from Garden Grove, California. She’s always lived with tiki in her peripheral vision and polynesiacs in her family. She’s Big Al’s cousin. In addition to being a frequent patron of Sam’s Seafood (which later became a Don the Beachcomber’s location), she would often take ski trips up to Reno and visit Top of the Wheel at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe and Trader Dick’s in the Nugget. Trader Dick’s was one of only a few places that, when you bought an eight dollar drink, the mug came with. Apparently, you could even get a beachcomber hat with the Cha Cha cocktail. Later on, Susan and Michael lived right down the road in Gardnerville, Nevada for several years, and the visits became more frequent. After three decades of visits and a sizable collection of mugs, they were present on that sad, final night in February of 2014 when Trader Dick’s closed to become Gilley’s Saloon, a country-western nightclub. There is a bright spot, though. Two artifacts from Trader Dick’s now have a safe, second home at The Crow’s Nest Lounge.

I’m grateful Susan is still making friends with her backyard crows, other tiki folks, and wayfaring strangers like me. I may have not had a broken wing during my visit, but I’m thankful I got to perch on that bar stool for a night of rehab to prepare me for my flight back home.

Joey’s way cooler.

“Nothing says class like a monkey with a fez.”

This axiom is Stephen’s creed. The quip has even been written on his birthday cake. But, the original utterance was a retort to Heidi’s question “why the hell are you buying all this monkey with fez stuff?” To Stephen, the answer was obvious. The fezzed primate is the perfect lowbrow ambassador for the Rockin’ Jellyfish Lounge, his Pan-Pacific Pop Surrealist home bar.

What is Pan-Pacific Pop Surrealism? I asked the same question. I was familiar with the concept of Polynesian Pop. I even had a sense of Surrealism in art, but this was my first saunter into a Pan-Pacific Pop Surrealist setting. What should I expect?

Stephen gladly explained. Although he loves the classic tiki style, Stephen wanted his home bar to include art and carvings from additional places that bordered the Pacific, including South America, the Pacific Northwest, Central America, as well as Asia. Hence, the scope of his collection is wider than Polynesian. It’s Pan-Pacific. This latitude, combined with his love of low-brow art and surrealism – inspired by the collections at La Luz de Jesus Gallery (where the Art of Tiki show was held in 1996) – defines the look and feel for his Rockin’ Jellyfish Lounge. Well, that, plus he’s got actual mid-mod rocking chairs to lend authenticity to lounge’s name.

Stephen is not the first to contemplate a Pan-Pacific view of art and culture. In fact, obtaining a limited-edition print of Miguel Covarrubias’ Pageant of the Pacific: Art and Culture mural inspired Stephen to become as knowledgeable as a docent on the artwork. Stephen owns a set of the original 1940s era prints and loves to encourage others to learn more about its influence and origin.

Miguel Covarrubias was commissioned in 1939 to create six large murals for the Golden Gate International Exposition to be held on the recently constructed Treasure Island in San Francisco. The six murals were oversized, finely-illustrated maps of the Pacific featuring art, flora, fauna, people, economy, dwellings, and transportation. Take one look, and you’ll see exquisite examples of how Covarrubias’ Art and Culture mural included images of tikis, totems, and other indigenous carvings from cultures throughout the Pacific. In addition to being an accomplished muralist, Covarrubias was an ethnographer known for his studies of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican art, Olmec culture, the Islands of Bali, as well as a caricature artist of jazz personalities during the Harlem Renaissance.

Speaking of renaissance men, it’s apparent that Stephen is one as well. An aerospace-lawyer-docent-journalist by day, Stephen also knows how to mix an expert cocktail and is a regular guru on Tiki with Ray episodes. I was happy to sample his “Cobra Got Punchy,” a combination of six rums including Rum Fire, Doctor Bird, Kiyomi Japanese rum (that he said tastes more like cachaça), as well as some funky step-children rums (that he didn’t know what to do with). The drink claims the ideal sweet/sour spot between a Cobra’s Fang and a POG (passionfruit-orange-guava). As I sipped on my tasty adult beverage, I also heard Stephen’s lore of the three poor drinks — trying to replicate the great Tiki Ti’s Ray’s Mistake — that, when combined, became his once-in-a-lifetime drink. Sadly, he didn’t write down the recipe as he was making it and has yet to successfully recreate that perfect mix. Happily, Stephen saved the recipe for his “Stripper’s Mistake” also a nod to Ray’s Mistake and to the Strip-and-Go-Naked (a tiki drink with beer), which Stephen considers a success.

By the way, it’s clear there is only one thing cooler than a monkey in a fez. It’s Joey, Stephen and Heidi’s Cavoodle. Check out the Nour Noir painting of Joey wearing a fez and pawing a tiki mug. It’s on display in the lounge. Joey’s a high-class, low-brow, up-in-your face, sweet-as-can-be canine with surrealist puppy dog eyes for days.

You can agree with me, right? Joey’s way cooler. It’s ok. I won’t tell the monkey.

In between the geoduck and geocaching, you’ll find the smudge.

“It’s ninety percent her fault.”

Mark looked directly at Debbie as if to place responsibility for their extensive collection on her shoulders. I assumed the other ten percent had to be attributed to that time when Mark brought a tiki carving back from Tonga in 1978. Plus, Mark is the proprietor of the Fuzzy Smudge, their home tiki bar. Mark was giving me a house tour while Ray (Tiki with Ray!) kept Debbie company. She was putting the finishing touches on lunch, and chimed in from the kitchen.

“I started collecting Hawaiiana, and it blew up from there.”

Debbie is a collector by nature. She always has been. Her compilation of hawaiiana, tiki, classic horror, pin-up, sci-fi, taxidermy, and other wonderful oddities is impressive. From the souvenir pillows and flamingoes in the sunroom to the Betty Page figurines in the bedroom or the Moai-mosaic shower (designed and hand-tiled by her) in the master bath, every room in the house has multiple items to evoke wonder. What did I think was the most odd of the oddities? There’s a taxidermy geoduck. What’s that? A geoduck is the largest burrowing clam and one of the longest living species in the world. They can live up to 140 years.

Ray and I were excited to be there. We’d been invited over for a home-cooked Sunday lunch. As we enjoyed coconut cake for dessert, Debbie and Mark regaled us with stories of their four trips to Hawaii. The first expedition was on their tenth wedding anniversary. To prepare, Debbie read every single book on Hawaii from the local public library, made lists of what to see, and checked them off by including each stop in the itinerary. She was determined to get her money’s worth. By their fourth trip, they decided that they wanted to cruise to the islands rather than fly.

“It was just about as much fun as watching paint dry.”

Mark’s opinion of the cruise wasn’t exactly sunny. Although it was a great once they got to Hawaii, it took seven days on sea to get to the islands and seven days back, which made for much too much down time. To make things worse, the cruise line they had chosen was catering to an older, less active crowd. As if to prove the point, they found themselves reprimanded for being too rowdy while putting together a puzzle. From that point forward, they decided that if they ever cruised to Hawaii again, it would be on a cruise line that doesn’t cater to – in Mark’s words – the old and nearly dead.

Regardless, Debbie remained enthralled: “I just love the whole aura of Hawaii.”

Although Hawaiian souvenirs and artifacts are quite at home in tiki environments, “tiki” and “hawaiiana” are two distinct styles. What’s the difference? As we talked, Ray provided his definition to assist: “Tiki is a imagined vision of the South Pacific which borrows from all the islands of the South Pacific, including the orient, whereas Hawaiiana is literally just items and images from the islands of Hawaii like hula girls, tikis, and souvenirs that feature the islands of Hawaii.”

You might then ask the obvious. With all the aloha flowing around their home, how did Mark and Debbie’s bar get named the Fuzzy Smudge?

When they bought the house many years back, they found a spot in the shop that contained nothing more than a leftover smudge of fur and grease. An oddity in its own right, they decided to stanchion it off for awhile and allow private viewings for special friends. Debbie thought it might be the remains of a wombat, but Mark refuted her geographically inaccurate theory. As headmaster of his domain, he proclaimed it to be the last remaining smudge of a bygone squirrel. Once the spot was christened, it only seemed natural to name their tiki bar the same. There’s even a Fuzzy Smudge tiki mug, which I was lucky to score as a gracious gift.

“We do whatever we want, whenever it tickles our fancy.”

Mark’s words resonated with what I saw. I remembered the taxidermy geoduck and beautiful vintage leis from upstairs. In the Fuzzy Smudge before me, I gazed at a toothless shark, various tikis, girly mugs, a collection of more than 2,000 geocaching coins, a batman lampshade, an extensive collection of vintage menus, and a plaque with the vestiges of fuzz proudly displayed.

As I took it all in, I celebrated that Mark and Debbie do exactly what tickles their fancy.

For a brief moment, I was the Quiet Birdman’s brother.

“Are you LeRoy’s brother?”

Although I could tell that Orlando was joking, it was a huge compliment nonetheless. To be told I might resemble LeRoy Schmaltz, co-founder of Oceanic Arts is a huge compliment. LeRoy has well-documented shirtless and bearded swagger, and is likely the most prolific tiki carver of our time.

“I used to show up here and make Q.B’s for Bob and LeRoy in the afternoon.”

Apparently, although Orlando never worked at OA, he’d come and act as bartender to the men for many years. With rum and ingredients in hand, he’d mix up a batch of Q.B. Coolers – the Don the Beachcomer drink with a Mai Tai mystery past – and provide the crew an end-of-day distraction from the never ending carving demands and shipping orders. The drink seemed a fitting choice, given the name. Q.B. stands for “Quiet Birdmen,” a reference to the fraternity of aviators from the first World War. Orlando, LeRoy, Bob, and the crew seemed to have created their own fraternity over drinks at Oceanic Arts. Who wouldn’t have wanted an invitation to the Q.B. gathering for one of those afternoons?

“Bob didn’t like me showing up too early, but he’d eventually join us at the table.”

Orlando had come to the Oceanic Arts farewell event to say goodbye to a place he called a second home for many years. Decked out in his beachcomber hat, aloha shirt, and multiple tiki pendants, he showed me one of his prize possessions, a beautiful ceramic flask in the shape of a huge shark tooth. Orlando held it out for me to take. I held it gingerly, worried of the unforgiving cement floors of the warehouse below us, admired it, and gave it back. Orlando placed it in the leather holster for safekeeping, and I felt honored to have been trusted for a brief moment with his treasure.

I could see how drinking with Orlando would put a man at ease. Within a span of a few minutes, and despite my nerves for the presentation I was about to give, he treated me like a friend. He took me on a quick tour to show me some of his favorite carvings, noting that if he had the money, he’d want another one of Bob’s New Guinea masks to complement the intricately painted war club that Bob had done for him years ago. I told him about my home tiki adventures, and he was genuinely excited to hear about my travels. After a spell, I thanked him for his kindness, and made my way to the outdoor stage to prepare for my talk.

Within a few minutes, Orlando had found me again. But in this encounter, he had a new home tiki bar owner in tow. He wanted to connect the two of us to talk, and was so excited that he’d rushed out and kindly insisted that we meet. He introduced us, we started talking, but the homeowner began with sad news.

“Orlando just broke his prized flask.”

In his excitement, Orlando had quickly gotten up from his seat. When he rose, the flask fell out of its leather harness and onto the floor. What I had held only moments before was now in pieces.

Sadly, it seemed connected to the ethos of the evening. Here we found ourselves in a place that held so much history, so much creativity, so much excitement, and so much fraternity. Soon this hallowed place, like the flask, would never be the same.

Sometimes you want to hold your breath and make the world stop spinning just long enough to take it all in before it slips away. I’m still holding my breath.

I’m in the mood for phthalocyanine.

If tiki were to adopt official colors, I’d nominate Phthalo blue and Phthalo green and include every luxurious and exotic shade in between.

Dawn is the undefeated champion of Phthalo colors. She has spent her career crafting alluring works of art using the juicy watercolor and acrylic tints of copper phthalocyanine (CuPc). Take one look at her Moodxotica paintings, and you’ll fall deep into a pool of intense blues and greens surrounded by a tropical paradise. Or, wrap yourself in one of Sophista-tiki’s designed fabrics or aloha shirts, and you’ll feel immediately at peace in any mid-mod affair. With degrees in color theory and graphic design (pre-computers) as well as a masters in museum studies, she is a hue maven.

“I like Phthalo colors because all other blue and green pigments have white in them. Phthalo colors are really pure. You get so much depth and translucence. I want to live in the worlds they create.” When another artist scolded her, telling her she’d never be able to paint for long periods of time using just these blues and greens, Dawn’s response was “watch me!”

Dawn, like many of us, was taught early on to be afraid of intense color. Growing up in a world of beige, she remembers people commenting on her preference for colorful clothing. “Is it a special occasion?” “You’re wearing something loud!” “Are you going to a party?” Good thing she conquered that fear. Today, she continues to go bolder and bolder with color. It’s highly likely you’ll find her looking at paint chips for pure delight.

When Dawn invited me to visit the Bamboo Grove at Westwood, I knew the visit would color me tiki. It’s not one or two rooms, it’s a polychromatic paradise. Built in 1954, the Bamboo Grove feels 70s groovy. The look is inspired by her teenage years, when she was surrounded by art nouveaux mixed with a hippie vibe. The Bamboo Grove’s mid-century modern furnishings, Sophista-tiki shag rugs, Moodxotica paintings, vintage vinyl, and hand-carved tikis harmoniously come together in every room in the house. Dawn has done all the interior design and renovation work herself. She knows how to restore antiques. She’s not afraid to use her construction skills to fix what needs to be repaired. She grew up in Montana where her parents were always fixing something around the house. And, as a woman who was into tiki even before the renaissance of the 90s, she knows a thing or two about the tiki life.

Her current project? Although there’s always twenty or more art projects happening simultaneously in her home studio, Dawn and her kitties revealed a newly remodeled downstairs apartment decorated in a chinoiserie-tiki style. The contrast of the Chinese red lamp shades mixed with the black glossy embellishments and beautiful blues are sumptuous. The quite familiar painting of Monika Sing-Lee served as an anchor to the room.

That’s when it struck me. Dawn’s mastery of color could make even Tretchikoff’s Green Lady blush with envy.

This router is just right!

Every bar needs a story.

Kim asserted this truism as a matter of fact as she poured the six of us a grog. The rains had finally taken a break, and the recent floodwaters had subsided. Mixed with the sounds of Delstroyers surf and the Kentiki Jungle Box bird calls, I could hear the lapping of the waves against the boathouse walls and feel a gentle rocking as the hideaway floated on the lake. We settled in for story time.

Once upon a time, there were three headhunters that lived in a boathouse on Summit Lake near Olympia, Washington. There was Papua headhunter, Mama Vic headhunter, and Baby Doe headhunter.

One morning, the three decided to head out on a tiki bar expedition. With so many offerings in the Pacific Northwest, they’d be gone for days. While they were out, a couple of enthusiastic tiki folks – Kim and Mark – discovered the hidden boathouse. The adventurers had been to several public tiki establishments and needed a permanent place to hang their heads. They knocked on the door, and when no one answered, stumbled inside.

On the table, they saw three freshly crafted cocktails: a Mai Tai, a Honey Nut Glazed Punch, and a Patton’s Grog. They were quite thirsty and figured it’d be ok to taste a sip of each. When Kim tasted the elixir from the first tiki mug, it was clear the headhunters had made it too tart, so she adjusted up the sweet. Mark tasted some from the second tiki mug, but it was too sweet, so he added a little sour and a float of overproof Rum Fire. Then they tasted the third grog, and it was just right! It was so delicious they drank it all.

Kim noticed the headhunters had some routers in the boathouse shop and felt the sudden urge to create an entire set of intricately freehand-carved trim in less than three days. She thought it would frame up the hut quite nicely. She designed a pattern, made photocopies, traced them with carbon paper onto the wood, and plugged in the router to get started. Sadly, the first router was too big! She couldn’t see anything she was carving. The second router too small and hard to control. To make matters worse, she had a blow out. So, she headed out to the local bamboo shack and procured a third one, and it was just right! She started carving, burning, and staining and didn’t sit down until the entire hideaway was decked out – bow to stern and port to aft.

Mark admired the collection of Papua New Guinea headhunter’s masks. The first mask was just perfect. The second mask was just perfect. And the third one was too! When he asked Kim which one they’d save if the hideaway flooded, Kim got confounded and said – “All of them!” Mark was more practical and suggested the one closest to the door, but Kim would have none of that. She loved the eyes of every mask. It was definitely her aesthetic. In fact, she was so enamored by the carvings that she called up Tiki Tony and asked him to create a home bar sign inspired by the collection. Tiki Tony took a few pictures of the masks, came up with a design that honored their travels to Adventureland, and the Headhunter’s Hideaway was aptly charted.

A short time later, the three headhunters came back from their tiki expedition. They saw at once that someone had been inside. Papua headhunter looked at his collection and said, “Somebody has been admiring the ceremonial masks!” Mark responded, “I did, and they are all awesome!” Mama Vic headhunter said, “Somebody has been using my router!” Kim responded – “I did! Doesn’t the trim look fabulous?” Baby Doe headhunter said, “Somebody has been drinking my tiki, and it’s all gone!” Kim and Mark answered in unison this time – “Yes! We drank all three! Want another?”

They enjoyed a good laugh together and started squeezing white grapefruits for another round. All was well in the jungle, and Kim, Mark, and the three headhunters cohabitated peacefully in the hideaway happily ever after.

As Kim drew the story of the Headhunters Hideaway to a close, I was suddenly feeling a little uneasy about losing my head. No, it wasn’t the alcohol. I had to admit, I’d never shared space with three headhunters before. I found myself sitting a bit nervous between Mama Vic and Baby Doe on the bamboo lounger as they sipped quietly and stared intently at my neck.

Kim immediately offered another grog to take the edge off. As the rum soaked in, she reminded me of their family motto: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

The Dao of Aka.

The Chinese Village has quite a nice afterlife at the RiKa Tiki Reef.

It seems quite yin-yang to me. Childhood meals at elaborately decorated mid-century Chinese-American restaurants inspired many grown-ups to become home tiki bar enthusiasts. It’s fitting that the bamboo from yesterday’s temples should live on in today’s tiki residences. The Daoist circle is complete. Balance is restored. The chi (energy) migrates from one immersive environment to the next.

Lest you believe it was all quite serene and spiritual, Katrina and Rich will quickly confess that the migration didn’t come without backbreaking work. When they lucked into finding the 82nd Street restaurant’s bamboo at Hippo Hardware for only $100 (OMG!), the set included intact panels, dark red from years of nicotine, covered in dirt. Why had it been ripped out? When the City of Portland went non-smoking for all public restaurants, the Chinese Village decided to start fresh. Hippo Hardware had sequestered the smelly sticks to the basement and wanted to get rid of it. The red tar did not dissuade Katrina or Rich, so they packed the panels on top of their Durango, and headed for home. After a multitude of good scrubs and repairs, the bamboo now forms a stunning foundation for their subtropical hideaway.

The RiKa Tiki Reef gets its creative name from the first two letters of Rich (Ri) and Katrina’s (Ka) first names. Add Tiki – of course – and alliterate with Reef, and the name rolls off the tongue. Situated in the basement of their 1950 mid-century home, the Reef was first inspired by their honeymoon trip to Maui, but soon became influenced by their fathers’ and grandfathers’ military life experiences in Hawaii and the South Pacific. Rich’s grandpa even had a basement home tiki bar in Missouri back in the 60s, decorated with a fake palm tree. Katrina has populated the Reef with an splendid collection of mugs, carvings, nautical details, surfboards, and sentimental items from their parents, family and friends. Every item tells a story.

For the longest time, Katrina and Rich thought their tiki bar obsession was rare. It wasn’t until years after starting that they realized they weren’t the only “crazy people” who built home tiki bars. After connecting to other locals at Tiki Kon, they found their people, and the RiKa Tiki Reef now has the honor of being a coveted stop on conference’s home tiki bar itinerary.

Rich’s design of their space expertly creates the illusion that you’ve been shipwrecked on a isle. On one side you’ll find the Captain’s Quarters Bar, crafted from what appears to be the wooden remains of a ship’s galley. On the other side, you’ll sit under a thatched roof in a tiki hut and sip drinks in the glow of a titian orange sunset. In the corner, you’ll likely find Aka, the cat curled up on the director’s chair, purring to the rhythmic sounds of exotica.

Inspired by all that Rich and Katrina had created at the Reef, I resolved to be just like Aka when I transition – but with one of Rich’s pineapple daquiris in my paw. I like my yin with a good measure of yang.

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).