Cause you’ve got – serentikity.

Serentikity (noun) ser·​en·​tik·​i·​ty | \ ˌser-ən-ˈtē-kē-tē \ : the occurrence and development of tiki events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. // “They found the carving by pure serentikity.”

I’d venture to say that Rob and Trish have excellent serentikity. They’ve been in the right place at the right time to score some amazing tiki collectibles on more than one occasion. Step inside the Cannibal Lounge, their home bar in Orlando, Florida, and you’ll agree with me. It’s a paradise.

When Rob and Trish began to design the Cannibal Lounge, they decided to attend a carver’s gathering hosted by Benzart, a.k.a. Ben Davis, a famous tiki artist and carver based in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Although Rob and Trish were not carvers, they wanted to soak in some tiki vibes to get inspired for the home bar build. What could be better? They were surrounded by aspiring artists armed with chainsaws and chisels who had come to learn the art of tiki carving. As they soaked in atmosphere, they met Will Anders, a “small guy that carves big” from South Florida. Those familiar with the Mai Kai know that Will is also a famous carver who has crafted many of the tiki carvings and sculptures in the gardens of the Mai Kai. Best yet, Will happened to have brought one of his large carvings to the gathering. It was a stunning root ball tiki casually propped up against a tree.

Rob took one look at the root ball tiki and thought: “You know. That might work.”

They purchased the tiki on the spot. Did they measure it? Nope. Did they consider how they were going to transport it home? Nope. Didn’t matter. They’d figure it out. It was one of their first moments of serentikity. It was the right tiki at the right time in the right place. Trish confided to me later that it barely fit in the SUV. With the tiki’s feet on the dashboard, and Trish sitting underneath, they made it work. Once home, the carving became the focal point of the Cannibal Lounge.

Serentikity has struck this couple more than once. Another example? Rob and Trish were admiring the vintage handcrafted sea creature lamps while sitting at the bar with Jeff “Beachbum”Berry two weeks after Lattitude 29 opened. Rob had to inquire of their origin. Jeff replied “Funny you should ask that. I got these from a tiki collector here, just across the river in Metairie. I think she may have more to sell – would you like her number?” Rob, attempting not to fall all over himself, answered with enthusiasm: “yes, please.” You have one guess where they were the next day.

Rob and Trish have many wonderful stories to tell. There was that time when they acquired a Leeteg. There was that moment when they acquired Mai Kai chairs. Or, that time when they acquired a vintage shell lamp as a finder’s fee. Or the Witco. Or their most recent collaboration with Typhoon Tommy to refurbish their bar. Serentikity happens, and often for this passionate collector couple.

Trish summed up what many tiki people know well: “You ask one person something, you make a connection, and that leads to new friends and new finds.” I can bear witness. Tiki people are known for being resourceful, welcoming, and friendly. It’s a community that shares its knowledge, skills, and connections with aloha nui loa.

As Rob poured me his “Danger Island” (a tasty daiquiri-inspired concoction with a combination of OFTD, Doctor Bird, Falernum and lime), I appealed to the tiki gods that the trade winds might also push me toward a few islands of serentikity as well.

The tiki’s in the details.

When you step into the Hala Kahiki Hideaway, you’ll suspect it might be a Disney Club 33 bar tucked into a secret grotto at the Polynesian Resort. I did. And I loved it.

It was intentional. Scott and Kim designed the Hideaway with the Polynesian Resort as their inspiration. It reminds them of their nuptials, which took place among family in the Bora Bora Bungalows at the resort. It reminds them of when friends gathered to celebrate their wedding and watch the fireworks across the Seven Seas Lagoon. It brings back memories of Scott and Kim’s college years of working at the Magic Kingdom, a work legacy that continued with one of their daughters. In short, the Hala Kahiki Hideaway is a place that grounds Scott and Kim’s family with memories of joy.

The Hala Kahiki Hideaway is emblematic of the Polynesian’s aesthetic in every detail. The focal point behind the bar features dark-stained wooden slats arranged and painted with identical orange and white colors as those found on every building – and many tiny tucked away places – at the Polynesian. How did they recreate the look? Scott and Kim approached the build as modern urban archeologists. There were field trips to the resort with digital protractors to measure the angles, paint chips to match the colors, cameras to picture the details, and notebooks for reminders. The result is stunning. The Hideaway has the same clean lines and welcoming feel of the iconic 1971 Polynesian Resort. In addition to the framework of the Hideaway, Scott and Kim have meticulously curated a selection of tiki mugs, carvings, and vintage lamps. Several lamps are Orchids of Hawaii originals on long-term loan from an avid collector and friend.

“Would you like a Hawaiian Eye?”

Scott tempted me with one of two magic potions as we continued to talk. In addition to a classic 1944 Mai Tai, Scott loves to make a 1963 Hawaiian Eye, a drink that Beachbum Berry credits to Tony Ramos at the China Trader restaurant in Burbank. The drink was inspired by the actors of the television series “Hawaiian Eye.” Apparently, the cast would take over the China Trader four or five late nights a week after filming the classic show. Scott’s love of the drink started with a gift of a bottle of Falernum and a listen to Vegas Vic’s Tiki Lounge (a podcast from almost two decades ago), which introduced him to the elixir.

Scott had similar experiences with tiki drinks in Chinese palaces. As he mixed the lime juice, rums, and Falernum, Scott regaled me with early memories of growing up in New England. Many towns had a large and ornate Chinese restaurant with a Hawaiian name, elaborate water gardens, and immersive decor. He remembers taking dates to these exotic temples to make a good impression. They were open late at night, often until 2 a.m., and provided a tropical harbor from the cold Nor’easter winds. Little did Scott know that he’d eventually be the creator of a similar hideaway with the true love of this life many years later.

“How about a toast to Vegas Vic and the Polynesian?” offered Scott. I was all in.

He’s somewhere in tiki time.

“Remember that old movie ‘Somewhere in Time’?”

George didn’t have to say another word. We both exclaimed next – “the penny!” and our flash of empathic resonance was complete.

For those that might not remember or have seen the film, it’s a story about a man who falls in love with a woman from the past, so much so, that he attempts to time travel back to her. He creates an environment in the room around him that is completely authentic to the time period in which she lived. He is eventually successful, transports himself into her time, they fall in love, and all seems well. Well until he finds a penny in his pocket with a date of 1979 on it. Immediately, the time-travel spell is broken, and his love screams in agony as he is whisked away from her.

What does this film have to do with a tiki bar? George is that man. He – like many of us – has created an immersive and authentic environment in a room that transports you to another place and time. George fell in love with the romantic period of a past paradise. But unlike many, George did not forget about the pennies in his space that might rip the illusion away. For some tiki people, it’s natural light in a tiki bar, for others it’s a misplaced choice of music. For some, it may be carvings or art that were not authentic to the tiki period of the 40s – 60s, and for others, it’s seeing all the wires for the lights. Whatever the penny might be, it’s important to consider how to rid it from your pocket.

George understands that challenge well at the Nui Keoki’s Enchanted Grotto, his home bar in Jacksonville, Florida. I felt as if I’d landed at a trader’s outpost when I entered George’s Grotto. His getaway is filled with vintage memorabilia, tikis, carvings, art, and includes touches of nautical whimsy and creature danger. After hearing some stories about thoughtful gifts that have been traded back and forth with Scott, his closest tiki friend, I was even more convinced that Nui Keoki’s Enchanted Grotto embodies a true trader spirit. When Scott had a special event coming up, George reached out to a local artist to have custom Peanuts-style drawing made of Scott and his family. When George had a special day coming up, Scott found an artist who recreated an advertisement from The Garden of Tiki, a vintage, local restaurant that was a favorite for George. In fact, George got a little emotional as he talked about their friendship and the wonderful gifts traded over the past years. It was clear to me that George and Scott’s passion for tiki has cultivated a lasting bond.

I loved getting lost in time at Nui Keoki’s Enchanted Grotto. There wasn’t a penny in sight. And, just like that famous line from Somewhere in Time, the Grotto is already calling … “Come back to me.”

Ohana means family.

If I were trying to woo the love of my life, I’m not sure I’d ask that person to run miles with me while I recounted the detailed history of the Anglo-Zulu War. It wouldn’t be at the top of my list of fifty ways to woo a lover. Out of breath discussions of military history? Naw. But, that’s just me.

It worked for Scott and Beth. While in medical school together, Scott had a longstanding crush on Beth. After spending lots of time studying together, Scott marshalled the courage to ask Beth to run with him. Beth was not an avid runner, but she agreed to join him under one condition: Scott had to tell lengthy stories to keep her mind off the run. Apparently, it worked quite well. Scott recounted military history, and Beth was wooed. As an homage to their romance from years ago, you’ll find a nook in the wall of the Papa Nui with a collection of vintage British Navy memorabilia. It serves as a reminder to that wonderful decision to run together.

The Papa Nui, Scott and Beth’s home tiki bar and guest house, is named in honor of their grandfathers and fathers. Scott and Beth’s family served in the military. Scott’s grandfathers both served in the Army and were stationed in the Pacific during World War II. Scott’s PaPa, the inspiration for his tiki interests, served at the 80th General Hospital in Papua New Guinea. Beth’s father was in the Navy and served during the Cold War. Scott credits his good friend Shannon Brunner, his brother-in-law, and Beth’s dad with the success of the build. Together they built an amazing tiki house from the ground up, complete with a home bar, a gathering room, and a full bath. Their collection of vintage lamps, tikis, carvings, and PNG masks is one of absolute envy.

To me, the real magic of the Papa Nui is the integration of family lore and history into the design and build of the space. When I first arrived, Beth took time to describe how she had painted traditional tattoo symbols on the support beam for the girl’s loft area. The tattoo symbols form a pictograph that begins with the story of Scott and Beth’s families, then honors their journey together to the present. and continues to a future filled with love and hope for Victoria and Beatrice, their girls. As you look around the bar, you’ll be grounded in the family’s past with multiple photographs of PaPa from the years he served in Papua New Guinea. Art from Victoria and Beatrice adorn the walls, and lamps have been crafted from family art projects. Beth and the girls have even hand sculpted a series of cannibal tikis, similar to those found in the Mai Kai. As I admired the family items, Scott emphasized – the Papa Nui belongs to the whole family, and all have inspired its creation. Ohana means family, and that is quite evident at the Papa Nui. Throughout the night, Beth and Scott continued to tell me wonderful stories of how they surprise each other with thoughtful gifts – either thrifted or created – that now find their home at the Papa Nui.

As the evening got late, we said our goodnights, and I crawled into the Murphy bed under the watchful eye of the iconic Kon Tiki Thor Heyerdahl mask. As I lay still, I noticed that the world was now in motion. I figured it was the gentle rocking of the Pacific Ocean waves, as I was now on the Kon Tiki. Then, I realized – it might just be my head spinning from the five (yes) expertly crafted cocktails that Scott had made that night. It didn’t matter. I was soon asleep on the Papa Nui raft, dreaming of the Zulu conflict.

Howard heeds the siren.

The Hukilau organizer looked right at Howard and exclaimed – “Someone stole all of the top-shelf rums from the tasting this afternoon. Can you believe it?” Howard gulped, paused, and finished off the top-shelf rum in his glass. He might have some splaining to do.

Howard likes rum. If you visit Bull Tiki, his and Jennifer’s wonderful home tiki bar in Durham, you’ll likely be treated to a rum tasting. If Howard visits someone else’s bar (oh, like mine, just a mile or two away), he’s not shy to suggest that there might be rums on your shelf that he hasn’t yet tasted. It’s a not-so-subtle but quite-welcomed hint that you’ve got an opportunity to taste rum with your FOMbro. Whether at home or abroad, when there’s top-shelf rum just sitting around that appears to be at risk of neglect, Howard springs into action.

That’s exactly what happened at the Hukilau.

Howard attended the rum tasting seminar at the Hukilau a few years back and had some lingering questions for the presenter. He waited patiently after it was over, after everyone else had asked their questions, so he’d have the presenter all to himself. What could be better than a rum enthusiast getting personalized attention from a rum expert? Not much – but wait for it. After talking rum for a bit, Howard couldn’t get his mind off the fact that there were some awesome rums, sitting in bottles, only half empty, just next to him. So, he had to ask:

“What will happen to all this rum?” The presenter said – “I don’t know. It’s not mine. You should take a bottle.”

So, Howard did. Well, he took three bottles. I mean, he had not driven to Florida, so he figured that three bottles might be all he could finish off prior to flying home. But, when he got back to his room, the other neglected rum bottles – still sitting in that conference room – were like a siren, calling to him. His mind began to wonder what might happen to the rest. He imagined some waitstaff person pouring top-shelf rum down a sink, and his heart began to race. So, he rationalized that the heroic thing to do was to take all of the bottles of rum. A few minutes later, there were a dozen plus bottles of high-end rum in this room. He smiled, took stock, but then started to feel a little guilty. All this rum for him? It was tempting, but his conscience got the best of him. His final plan? He’d offer shots of the most-excellent rum to others around the pool. It was perfect. The rum would be put to good use by those most likely to love it, and Howard would be a popular guy for doing the right thing.

As he was sharing his bounty at the pool, he struck up a conversation with one of the Hukilau organizers, who mentioned that she’d just heard that all of the expensive rum had been stolen from the seminar. Howard froze for just a moment, imaging what sounded like a completely different kind of siren (the blue light kind), and quickly confessed. Thankfully, the organizer understood, and they laughed off the incident (likely over some more good rum).

One of my favorite features of Howard and Jenn’s Bull Tiki is the levered bar top. Using a simple method of rocks in a bucket tied to a rope that’s hidden from sight, the bar top swings up via a pulley with the perfect counterbalance, giving a practical and nautical touch. In addition to this ingenious feature, you’ll find a marvelous collection of artifacts at the Bull Tiki. Built from what used to be a carport off their mid-centry home, Jennifer and Howard’s sunken home bar houses a beautiful collection of tikis from regional artists like Tiki Rancher, original Witco paintings, vintage oil lamps, and other mid-century treasures. Outside there’s a tropical garden with banana trees that provide a stunning backdrop against the handcrafted jade tile and bamboo screens on the windows. There’s a repurposed stained-glass window from a local factory close to where Jennifer grew up. When you step into the kitchen and living areas of the home, you’ll be treated to Jennifer’s vast collection of vintage Pryex and have the opportunity for some loving from Clover and Violet, the canine kids.

Over the past couple of years, Jennifer has commissioned craftspeople and artists to create specialized items for the bar. There’s now a custom wooden bar menu. Jeff Poe of Phunco, who built the beautiful jade and bamboo window screens, also designed a Bull Tiki graphic logo, which you’ll find on a sign at the entrance and printed on their coasters, as well as a unique fabric for Bull Tiki. Jennifer commissioned Rocket Betty to transform Phunco’s fabric design into an aloha shirt for Howard, which he proudly wore for our visit.

In short, if you’re with Howard when he hears the rum siren, you should follow – don’t run. You might get in trouble, but it’ll be worth every sip.

You must choose, but choose wisely.

But if you had to chose, which one? Don the Beachcomber or Trader Vic’s cocktails?

It all started innocently, but Ashleigh had asked a question that I’d never considered. We were having a simple conversation about the origins of tiki drinks, but she’d cut right to the dramatic climax, that final cliffhanger before a final series of bad commercials that leave you in a mix of horrid suspense for way too long.

How would I answer? How should I answer? How could I answer?

Scott and Ashleigh just opened The Royal Tot, a wonderful new tropical bar in Charlotte, North Carolina that serves some amazing tiki cocktails, and I’d been invited to “talk tiki” and sample the mastery of their beverage director’s classic and modern creations. When I started by ordering a Mai Tai, Ash asked me if the Mai Tai was the “first” tiki drink. So, I launched into a brief explanation (it might have bordered on mansplaining, I admit) of Don the Beachcomer and Trader Vic’s creations of the original cocktails. I stressed the importance of Beachbum Berry’s amazing work to catalog and establish cannon for what we now know as tiki drinks.

But which one is your favorite? Don the Beachcomer or Trader Vic?

There must have been an awkward pause as I imagined all of the air had left the room. She really wanted me to choose between them.

I couldn’t speak. It felt something akin to becoming Meryl in the final scene from Sophie’s Choice, or that moment when Kirk is faced with the Kobiashi Maru, or when Indiana Jones has to chose the right chalice, or when your least favorite child asks you who is your favorite child, or worst ever, when some unsuspecting well-intentioned friend asks you what your favorite tiki bar is. Amiright? God forbid we’d ever have to select just one!

So, I answered “both.”

Ashleigh was not dissuaded. She looked at me, intent, quietly waiting for my answer.

So, I considered the question for another moment, and I said “Trader Vic.” My rationale was that he introduced more flavor profiles and additional options of ingredients that expanded tiki offerings. Of course, it could have also been that I was sipping on a Mai Tai, which was Trader Vic’s creation.

But, as soon as the words left my mouth, I felt guilty. It was my horrible choice at the train, my failure of the Kobiashi. I was worried I had picked the wrong chalice. I could just see Earnest Gantt, in his iconic hat, in the fog down the train station platform, shaking his head, so sadly.

Was it too late to take it back?

Thank goodness we really don’t have to choose. Pour me another Mai Tai.

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?

We offer a smoke-free enchantment.

When JoAnna and Robert welcomed the Hawaiian Goddess Hi’iaka into their home, she reeked of cigarette smoke.

According to Hawaiian tradition, Hi’iaka’s family line is tasked with bearing the clouds, but I’m doubtful those clouds were supposed to be ones of cigarette smoke. JoAnna and Robert took her home and did their best. This beautiful carving of Hi’iaka had apparently had a hard life in a smokey dive bar in South Carolina. They started by giving her space to air out for a few days. Then, she spent a week with an air purifier isolated in a room. Still, the smoke was overpowering. Next, they drenched her in Febreeze (I suspect it was the “Hawaiian Aloha” scent), and finally, Hi’iaka was ready to assume reign over the Enchanted Honu Tiki Lounge, JoAnna and Robert’s amazing home bar in Charlotte, NC.

Hi’iaka is also the goddess of sorcery, so it’s no surprise that Robert revealed that in one of his childhood visits to the Mai Kai, he went prepared to dazzle his parents with a magic trick, literally, up his sleeve. Voila! Flowers appeared out of nowhere. Apparently, Robert’s parents were underwhelmed at the trick. Perhaps they were already under the spell of a Black Magic potion from the Molokai, but that didn’t extinguish the magic that Robert felt when we was in this place. Both Robert and JoAnna grew up in Florida not far from the Mai Kai. Both have childhood memories of special occasion dinners with family at this iconic tiki establishment. JoAnna remembers visiting as a young girl, mesmerized by the hula maidens and fire dancers. It was an entire family vacation packed into one night.

That magic now exists in the Enchanted Honu Tiki Lounge. The Lounge is filled with honu carvings (turtles), tiki mugs, family memorabilia, tikis, Disney-inspired art, vintage wicker monkeys, bamboo rafters, and jade-tile creations. Built in earnest almost two years ago, Robert and JoAnna decided to turn their upstairs bonus room into a tiki paradise after a family trip to Disney’s Grog Grotto. It wasn’t just the two of them that left inspired; the whole family got involved. First, they purchased the mugs. Then, Jason and Jessie, their son and daughter-in-law, started thrifting and remodeling to build a tiki bar in their home. Soon after, Robert and JoAnna decided they’d complement the kid’s indoor bar by adding an outdoor bar at their house. But, after collecting some amazing finds (like Hi’iaka), they quickly realized that outdoor Carolina weather would not be kind to their collection, so they opted for a four season indoor paradise. The family worked together. Jessie helped Robert craft and build. JoAnna collected. Jason mixed up amazing cocktails. The other kids are constantly on the lookout for additions to both spaces. Now, there’s two quite magical tiki home bars in one big happy family.

It’s quite appropriate that Hi’iaka now provides visitors with the opportunity to chant the Oli kāhea as they enter Robert and JoAnna’s Enchanted Honu Tiki Lounge. Hi’iaka is the goddess of chant and hula, and I quickly fell under her enchantment.

Here on Tiki Paka’s Isle.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale …

If you took the glamour and fashion sense of Ginger and mixed it with the spunk and hearty optimism of Mary Ann, you’d begin to get a sense of Pat, also known as Tiki Paka. Although she might not have the resources of a millionaire’s wife, she definitely has the resourcefulness of the professor, especially when it comes to finding treasures on, what these days may feel like, a deserted tiki isle.

The castaways’ ability to fashion an array of useful objects from bamboo, gourds, vines, and other local materials into useful treasures became a common theme in many episodes of the now-loved classic sitcom Gilligan’s Island. When Pat was little, she felt like there were days when she lived a similar life. She and the other kids would often spend days in the woods next to the beach along the Hudson River, making things with what they found. For lunch, they’d take a couple of eggs, and couple of hot dogs, and a loaf of bread. They’d build a firepit from a stack of rocks, use an old refrigerator grate for a grill, cook their meals, and enjoy the day – just like the castaways. Although those childhood experiences were long ago, Pat has never lost her joyous optimism and her innate gift for finding treasures.

When you visit Tiki Paka’s “Isle” – it’s not a home tiki bar, or one tiki room, it’s an entire tiki home. Pat and Dave live in an 1850’s Greek Revival house nestled in the woods close to the Hudson River. The home is packed full of vintage tiki, long-playing records, recent tiki art, along with treasures from tiki conferences over the past two decades. If the house is not enough to overwhelm your cravings for all that is tiki, Pat also has an amazing tiki hut and large tiki carvings in their back yard. Both the home and the hut contain a wonderful array of lamps, carvings, art, musical gourds, vintage mugs, and more. The hut’s walls are wallpapered with exotica album covers. The wonderful collection of lights range from lava lamps to trap-style lamps to vintage 60s rock candy style to black light torchieres. Her mug collection includes vintage mugs, newer Bosko, Kowloon bowls, Honeymoon Bowls, and one of the largest sets of “Into the Volcano” mugs by Raffi. Her black velvet paintings include recent acquisitions from artists like Gwen Rosewater. She even commissioned tiki artist Benzart to carve a beautiful pendant of her and Dave. And, if you’re especially nice, Pat might even show you her giant flat box display of old dental teeth. As with any great tiki bar, you can circle the rooms more than once and still not take it all in.

Tiki Paka is known for her kindness and her enthusiasm for connecting tiki people together. She loves to travel to tiki conferences and meet, face-to-face, the people she’s known via Tiki Central and/or Facebook over the years. She’s known to get people up and dancing. I was a witness to her skills as she worked the pool crowd at Ohana: Luau at the Lake. She put people at ease, introducing people to each other. It’s a wonderful skill to possess. She’s also known for her fabulous fashion sense. She and Dave are often spotted in vintage 60s and 70s finds. And early each Saturday morning, before the tikiphiles have recovered from too many rum drinks, you’ll find Pat and Dave thrifting for more great tiki and LP bargains at antique stores, yard sales, and/or estate auctions.

I’m glad for my three hour tour of Tiki Paka’s Isle. Although I could have offered to help her escape the island using yet another outlandish and comedic scheme, she and I both knew it was much better to remain a castaway in such a perfect, uncharted getaway.

But, baby, it’s cold outside.

Your tiki devotion might be serious when you find yourself driving back and forth through a blizzard for a chance of some Witco.

There was already 8 inches of snow on the ground when Randy mentioned to Paul that he’d seen a posting for an estate sale about 45 minutes away. It had all of the promising buzz words … a hammerhead shark, mounted fish, a basement bar … but Paul quickly dismissed the idea and watched the snow get a little deeper. A few hours later, Paul was having second thoughts. Maybe they might have something? Who doesn’t like a nice car ride in the driving snow? Something told him to go. So Paul, Randy, and Jim piled into the car (why take the SUV? – it’s just snow) and headed out.

When they arrived at the estate sale, they made a b-line for the basement. There it was – a stunning Witco bar and two stools. Paul was in the middle of deciding he had no room for it, when Jim interrupted him: “You are going to buy that bar.” It was a declarative sentence, not a question. Jim added “You will kick yourself if you don’t buy it.” He was right. So Paul headed back to the seller to see if he could talk down the price. “Can you do any better?” The seller responded with smug confidence: “I think it will sell at full price. I’ve already had some inquiries.” Sure enough, when Paul made his way back to the basement, there were two other potential buyers circling the bar like sharks on an unsuspecting surfer. That’s all it took. Paul ran back to the seller and paid full price.

It was still snowing. And just to be crystal clear, a Witco bar does not fit in a regular car. So, the stools sat on the laps of Jim and Randy for the trip home. Two icy hours later, Paul had picked up the SUV, made his was back and forth navigating a winter blizzard wonderland, and the infamous Witco bar finally found it’s new home at the Boom Boom Room, Paul, Randy, and Jim’s home tiki bar.

Who wouldn’t want to hang out in a Boom Boom Room? Although Paul came up with the name as a joke after watching an episode of a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the name pushes all the right buttons. Boom Boom Room evokes a mid-century, seedy place to have a drink and get a little (more than) intimate. Not to mention there’s a whole history of cool places with the same name. Paul, Jim, and Randy’s version includes some amazing Witco furniture, 40s Hawaiiana collectibles, vintage lamps, and much more. What used to be a back porch is now a four-season romper room filled with tiki.

Paul is an expert at thrifting and dedicated to tiki. He’s the guy you want on your side when you’re on the hunt for obscure tiki finds. Paul once found an authentic Steve Crane tiki bowl for $10. He’s the guy that friends could count on to show up at the tiki bar gathering in the dead of winter in snowy Pittsburgh. He’s known for descending like a locust on a estate sale. It’s likely because Paul was deprived of things considered “tacky” when he was growing up. His mother wanted a classier life for Paul. There were equestrian lessons and figure skating opportunities. He remembers riding in the car with his mother on his way to these lessons and passing a place called “Hawaiian Cottage” but never being allowed to stop. Hawaiian Cottage was local mid-century establishment complete with a giant pineapple-shaped gift shop. Sounds like fun, right? It’s now sadly long-gone, and Paul never got the chance to visit. But, he now owns several collectibles found from years of thrifting.

I’d suggest that Paul, Randy, and Jim have a quite the swanky life. I mean, what’s more high-class than sipping on a cocktail while sitting at a fancy Witco bar in a Boom Boom Room in a blizzard? Can’t think of it.