The light is on.

And Brian said, let there be a tiki bar. And Brian divided the rum from the beer, called his dad over, and in three days, the Barloney Tiki Lounge was created. And Brian and his neighbors said, it is good.

Brian’s wife didn’t even know that he was building a tiki bar over a long weekend until she and the kids returned from the weekend trip. When she left, it was an outdoor beer and poker bar. When she returned, it was a full-fledged tiki bar. Brian’s dad painted beautiful murals on the walls and was himself a carver of tiki back in the 80s. Brian created shelving, made lamps, and stocked the space with flotsam from his life. He built everything in his bar from what he calls “garbage.” The result is beachcomer at its finest.

Not everything went as planned. Although Brian is master craftsman, he decided to (quite literally) try his hand at chain saw tiki carving. That did not go well. After recovering from a scary moment when a chainsaw almost took his arm off, he burned that tiki in effigy and decided that collecting tikis was just fine.

Brian’s advice? Have artifacts that people can point to your bar to remind them of a story. Encourage them to tell that story. Take time to listen. When you come to a tiki bar, you want to be part of its narrative, so help others find words to tell their stories. Look around. Pour a drink. See yourself.

Brian Maloney has a light on the outside of the bar that can be seen by his neighbors from the street. When the light is on, any friend is welcome to come, sit down, and escape. Brian doesn’t need to be there. In fact, he has looked out the window and seen people enjoying themselves in his backyard bar. Half the time, the light stays on all night. Brian often forgets to turn it off. But, he doesn’t care. It is more important to offer a moment of aloha for his friends whenever it is needed. That’s Brian’s personality. He’s open. He creates space for others to escape.

The light is on. Have a tiki. Sit awhile. Tell me story.

My daughter hides drawings of zombies.

Mick had seven perfectly crafted cocktails ready for our visit. He’s clearly a master of mixology. Everything I sampled was amazing with perfect proportions, expertly crafted ice unique to each drink vessel, and beautifully crafted garnishes. Mick approaches crafting a cocktail like an engineer. He’s even researched and perfected his own home recipe for a grog mix based upon visits and talks with the bartenders at Trader Vic’s.

While I sipped on my tiki drink, I looked out a porthole to an enchanted island. I survived a rainstorm, a volcano eruption, and a frosty paned winter scene all in less than an hour. Mick programmed all of this. Mick’s day job is video gaming, and he’s put his talents to great use in The Monkey Room. Like his approach to cocktails, Mick also researched algorithms to create the sensation of floating. Any modern day sailor might develop sea legs by staring out Mick’s porthole while sipping on a grog.

Mick’s advice for those who want to build a tiki bar?

Whatever it is that makes you want to build it, go deep into that. Whether it’s the cocktail, whether it’s the social aspect. Stay true to that. Build whatever you’re into. Use Sven’s chart to figure out the various aspects. Don’t try to emulate someone else’s bar. That can be a trap. It’s deeply personal. Keep going deep. Everything in here has a story. Everything has a connection. Every single thing in The Monkey Room means something to me.

My daughter hides drawings of zombies for me in the The Monkey Room. It’s a reminder that The Monkey Room is about family. It’s about my kids. It’s not about getting drunk on rum. The bar is about Ohana.

A few minutes later, Mick confided that the rum does also help.

I’m a weird eccentric woman fish.

Lori Glenn is a collector – a designer – a thrifter. She has a Witco. She has tikis. She has black velvets. She has vintage Hawaiian photos of her Grandma kissing Don Ho. She is also a good friend and a fellow member of the Fraternal Order of Moai here in Durham.

Yesterday Lori – also known as ZsaZsaRumWhore – invited me to sit down and enjoy a honeysuckle daiquiri as we discussed her passion for creating a tropical escape in her knotty pine lounge. It was my first official visit for Tiki Tom-Tom’s Polynesian Pop Expedition.

Lori’s advice? Keep collecting. Find the odd things that connect to your life. Should you worry if it’s everyone’s taste? No. Should you worry if it’s tiki? No. Does it work? Yes. Take a look at Lori’s oasis and see for yourself.

“I have a black velvet of Old Gregg. Is it tiki? No. It’s not at all. It’s The Mighty Boosh. I love it because it’s eccentric and weird. I’m just like that. That’s me – I’m a weird eccentric woman fish.”

Mahalo, ZsaZsa.

#tikitomtomppe2021 #tikitomtom #tikihomebars

Call me Ahab.

The process of creating Queegueg’s Coffin, my home tiki bar – my special island, is a never-ending process, as is the case with many other tiki enthusiasts.

This week I purchased a new wide-angle lens, so I thought it was time to update the images for my home bar, especially as I prepare to embark on my journey across the states to visit with other “passionfruit people.”

My most recent additions include home sewn (I made them) sails anchored with sisal ropes tied with nautical knots as a nod to the whaling ships that the harpooner Queequeg was on in Moby Dick. I’ve also added additional Hue lighting to the bar and tiki mug shelves that allows for constantly changing tropical sunset colors. I’ve added mirrored port holes and additional black velvet paintings. These are all along with my existing huge tiki from Tiki Rancher and my aqua neon “TOM” (old letters from a vintage motel sign) that Les had restored for me.The bar is not done by any means. Les has helped me brainstorm ideas for adding a coffin element that is artistic (not morbid since the iconic reference is one of saving one’s life in the book) and provides an equal reference to the tattoos that covered Queequeg’s body.

I hope to work on those when I return from the trip this summer.

Call me Ahab?