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Tiki Central Forums Tiki Travel Midnite's Global Journey of Spiritual Discovery*
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Midnite's Global Journey of Spiritual Discovery*
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 1230
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
Posted: 2008-10-14 12:10 am   Permalink

Crawling From The Wreckage

9-12 October 2008

An Indian summer had set upon the Bay Area. Gentle winds from the East clear a presumptive fog and reveal the brightest azure sky. San Francisco awoke that Thursday morning to a cheerful today and hopeful tomorrow, yet my world was dark. A black canvas displaying pain, only the pain. I walk, solo, through the streets, searching for what I can never know. Always the darkness. And the pain.

Heh heh, it's time to crawl...San Francisco Tiki Crawl. A trip not of long layovers and distant shores. No, more like bad hangovers and lengthy straws. I stayed in a hotel, I travelled (a bit), and I had a room service club sandwich. That's a trip, it counts.

October brings some of the most special moments. Some I wait for all year. It's the time of the baseball playoffs, Fleet Week, and some years the San Francisco Tiki Crawl. I like October. It's the anti-August. Amen, brother. So, notwithstanding a severe crash in the equities market, it's time to party like it's 1999.

First up on the docket was South Bay Thursday. A trip by rail, who doesn't love a train ride, gets us to Palo Alto Trader Vic's. Now, let me me reveal a deep dark secret (no not that one): I have never been to this Vic's. Before you get out the pitchforks and torches, let me remind you: South Bay...Pal-o Alt-o... as in Stanford...Stanford University...see? I thought you'd understand.

Well, first impressions count more than second so let me say this, not bad. I dig the PNG art and the owner has a primo collection thereof. I had three cocktails and two of there were good. One was obviously made by the lone Leland Stanford Junior University grad behind the bar. Still, as Trader Vic's go this one was good enough. The room is simply too utilitarian for me, Trader Vic's or a Bennigan's? Hard to tell at times. See? Do you see what happens when you pour THAT much lemon juice in a Samoan Fogcutter. It becomes undrinkable, THAT'S what happens, man....and then it colors my impressions of the room.

Still, what a great start to the aught-eight crawl. Plus, I got, due to a lucky twist of decadence, to stay downtown in a posh hotel. Hey, Palo Alto is far, and I needed a club. What a club it was too. On toasted sourdough, with arugula and applewood smoked bacon...the Palace Hotel's chicken club is one severe San Francisco treat. It is, to coin a phrase, to "die for". Oh shit, the Harding family may read this, my apologies. He was a great man, if only a pedestrian president.

Day two on the Tiki Crawl and we're staying home. San Francisco that is. Maybe I'll see some celebrities in town for the festivities? That'd be cool. Almost as cool as watching my favorite military precision flying team, the Blue Angels. The time spent watching them fly was time I could not use to get to Tard'r Sam's. I felt like having a tiki drink done as if by Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour, too. Plus, dark secret number two: I have never been inside! So I missed Sam's. Sue me.

Made it to the Tonga Room though, what a lucky bastard! What a great room, what a great great room....sigh. Next!

It's a dark and secretive tale I suppose. Dark secret number three: I had never been to Bamboo Hut. I just figured it was not my style, and that I'd find it difficult to enjoy. Well, burn my toast, I liked Bamboo Hut. Of course it did not hurt that most of the clientele was fellow tiki-philes. Plus, Otto was spinning tunes which made the vibe more to my liking indeed. Also, I had beer. Bottom line, the Bamboo Hut is pretty cool in a counter culture tiki way. It brightened my mood after dealing with the typical Tonga Room experience (What a great room, a great great room. Sigh).

Day Three: midnite rides the bus. Well, like that's news! However, if it's the Tiki Crawl Bus it's news, alright. Dark secret number...whatever...I never rode the Tiki Crawl Bus! Wait, I did hop on the return leg of the South Bay bus. So, I was not a bus virgin. Scratch that last dark secret. First stop was Forbidden Island and it of course did not disappoint. Fantastic cocktail, a much more deeply appreciated decor, and plenty of good times with old friends. A warm Alameda afternoon, a tasty Sidewinder's Fang...why I gotta leave? Oh yeah, I'm on the bus.

The wheels on the bus go round and they roll to Conga Lounge. I like the Conga, but I love the pizza at Rustica even more. So, while the crowd competes for space upstairs we adjourned downstairs for some classic pie. I actually participated in an impromptu "College Avenue Crawl" during our stay at the Conga Lounge. That's for another report, though.

Two down and two to go. The liver is holding up, which is a surprising development to my physician. Off to the Kona Club to see the remarkable work of Bamboo Ben and Crazy Al. Ben did wonders in that space and it's always a blast to take it in. However, this time the blasted volcano was working. The bus crowd is hitting its stride and the evening is full of fine company and soon to be pleasant music? Oh, good Lord...Journey. Someone please set off the volcano again. I just may pass out before the Neil Schon solo...nope.

Last call for Trader Vic's! I love Vic's, I really do. However, by 11pm and after being out and about for over eight hours my sea legs are a bit, well, old. I'm hanging in there, if not for me then for the children. A Stinker, Navy Grog, and Trader Vic's Grog trifecta help get me through the night. Once again Vic's came through for the Tiki Central crowd. The Mai Kai Gents played their tunes and a good time was had, indeed. Is that really "Pretty Woman" on the TV...Ok, on this hand Journey, on the other, "Pretty Woman"...it's getting dark again.

A wee trip and a fine crawl. Too many folks to mention, but it was fantastic seeing you all come out for the greatest, longest running, modern-day tiki event. The glaze is food safe, too. Way to go Hanford, Martin, and Bill. Thanks also to the hard working crews at all the stops, they did a yeoman's job.

Now, the mystery of the Johnny Conch will be solved. This pranksterism will not stand.

The Johnny Conch, oh man, that is rare. Funny, in a dark humor sense.

Darkness? The pain. It's coming back. Yeah, I just stood around way too long. I'm getting old, man. It's October, these things happen. Forget it, Suzanne. It's Chinatown...a few blocks that way.

Until next year, crawl-wise that is.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 23, 2002
Posts: 1874
From: Tiki Central
Posted: 2008-10-14 03:32 am   Permalink


Several hours in Disney World, no club sandwich, seeing my old neighborhood (there are peacocks roaming the yards), some decent stuff at Polynesian Village, visiting with long lost family (ya know there is a reason for that)....hmmm, can I get an earlier flight out? Oh, and what is at SFO, in the international terminal? The Tiki exhibit.

More Disney, eek!, but at least there's a pic of Jack Lord.

Okay, this is several years late, but I saw your photo again on
page 1 in this post have to point this out.

It's not just Disney stuff you were sick of in that exhibit. Notice anything special about the wallpaper in the background? Does it seem familiar?

It's MY wallpaper I did for Humu for Ooga-Mooga. Yes, they took the wall paper, measuring a scant one inch across, and redrew it 100 times bigger, with new colors. I guess while painstakingly doing that, they didn't have the time to change some of it. I've had my Tiki backdrops taken before, but this is the first I've seen it get transfered into the real world.

I'm flattered, actually. Does this mean I've hit the big league, like the Banana Splits?


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 22, 2002
Posts: 3691
From: San Francisco
Posted: 2008-10-19 8:25 pm   Permalink

Speaking of dark Tiki Crawl secrets... much of the time that Otto was DJing, you were not actually listening to Otto's tunes, you were listening to my Exotica playlist on my iPhone set to random shuffle. There was some sort of technological snafu in the DJ booth at Bamboo Hut, so my iPhone was pressed into emergency service.

So if you liked the music for the first hour or so at Bamboo Hut, DJ Humu's Cellphone can be hired for your next corporate retreat, bris or convocation.

Another funny note about Hanford's story: when I mentioned it to the curators of the exhibit, they told me that they'd selected a totally different background (I forget what it was, but it sounded more legit). Their boss overruled them (this was their first stab at curation, they'd been installers), and the boss came up with this piece of STOLEN ART! They took the ribbing good-naturedly, and I hope they gave their boss some hell.


Critiki - Critiki News - Ooga-Mooga

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 23, 2003
Posts: 2158
From: www.crazedmugs.com
Posted: 2008-10-25 6:55 pm   Permalink

Mahalo for the narrative, Cap'n midnite.

I regret never making it out for a TC Tiki Crawl but your descriptions and photos help me enjoy a part of it anyway.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 07, 2005
Posts: 2276
From: The Polynesian Port of NOLA
Posted: 2008-10-26 07:27 am   Permalink

Agreed. Midnite's ability to archive events is one of his strongest qualities. He does it with artistry, grace, an wit.
"If you can't be a good example -- then you'll just have to be a horrible warning."
-Catherine Aird

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 27, 2005
Posts: 650
From: Amesbury, Mass
Posted: 2008-11-04 09:33 am   Permalink

Great thread - definitely worth reading from page one ! Great job chronicling and detailing your travels!

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Lake Surfer
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 21, 2002
Posts: 3414
From: Milwaukee, WI
Posted: 2008-11-12 02:37 am   Permalink

I see you had the joy of watching the racing sausages in my fine town, Midnight. Miller park is a fun place to take in America's Pastime.

The tailgating is even better.

Tell your tiki-loving nephew Richard that if he ever gets over to Milwaukee there are some traces of tiki here to enjoy, and I'll mix him a drink in my home bar.

He can even take a crack at carving a tiki.

Your tales of travel are always a pleasure.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 1230
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
Posted: 2008-12-31 11:14 am   Permalink



Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...it's that time of year again: yuletide carols, Eskimos, rum induced frolicking. Wrapped up in a box under the glowing aluminum Christmas tree this year is a trip to the Eternal City. A week in Rome for team midnite. Ciao Ciao! (blows kiss)

Obviously, in order to get to Rome one must first go through London. At least that is how I look at the map. Christmas and London go together like yours truly and a good day's work: once a year! Yes, we would stop in London for a few of my favorite things: Cocktails at Vic's and Golden Hinde for fish, room service club sandwiches served in a covered dish. Even on very short notice we were lucky to have some of the Bri-tiki contingent join us at Trader Vic's, a special treat as I consider myself an honorary member (with privileges) of that UK crowd. London Vic's was hopping, decked out in holiday cheer, it was good to see the bar area packed. Of special note were a few locals participating in a spot of long-straw drinking. I approved of that, if not of our first round of cocktails. Things did improve, with my Menehune Juice and Navy Grog being first rate. Also, I was happy to learn, with Chris' help, that the Molokai Mike is NOT the worst cocktail around. Well, least not in London Vic's where it was actually quite good. Cheers to Sian and James for the good times.

We arrived in Rome a bit later than I would have preferred and thereby broke one of my travel commandments: Do not arrive in a new city after dark. That's the breaks, or as they say in Rome, "C'est La Vie!" Still, we did the best we could as we made our way to the Hotel Excelsior, our home for the next six nights. After a brief get acquainted stroll around our Via Veneto neighborhood and a ridiculously expensive club sandwich (decent, traditional, solid) from room service we were ready to explore Rome.

Roam, Rome if you want to. We spent our first day visiting several famous sites of ancient Rome. A lifetime of travel can come down to a few moments: an unforgettable island sunset, that special meal, a timely bribe of the border guard. One such moment for me was the egress from the Coloseo metro station and seeing the Colosseum for the first time. Simply...Wow! For a long time I've held a deep interest in this most famous arena. I mean, there's that Gladiator movie! That, and the likely fact a few of my ancestors probably went down fighting inside the old behemoth. If one comes from, as I do on one side of the family, Central European slave stock, it sort of goes with the territory. I hold no grudge but dear old Dad was a always a bit, uh, cautious around the eye-talians.

The other ancient Rome archaeological sites we visited were similarly awe-inspiring experiences. Rome offers a lot for a visitor to take in. At times there is simply too much, capice? Some of the sites demand a bit of imagination in order to fully appreciate the situation, which can be difficult. One place that was not so was the Pantheon. The majesty of the building is hard to convey in words. Its almost fully intact state is a wonder to behold. The Pantheon will go down as one of my all-time favorite travel "sees" and it is one of those places which utterly blows away all expectations. In today's over hyped world the concern for a traveler is a serious let down from a landmark's pre-ordained, and not entirely bona fide, impressive reputation.

On any given Monday in Rome the vast majority of museums and sites, save the Vatican Museum, are closed. Therefore, on any given Monday the vast majority of tourists go to the Vatican. The Vatican museum is a huge mega-warehouse of antiquity in a tiny city-sized nation state. It's big all right but in some spots it can get a bit crowded. Similar to the Louvre and its star attraction the Mona Lisa, the Vatican Museum has the Sistine Chapel. It is a very popular sight, the room a mass of people with necks bent, heads back, mouths agape, gazing upward. Our visit that morning was akin to a scrum between me and thirty-seven Asian tourists. When one travels during Christmas one spends much time with Asian tour groups, even if like me, one does not wish to do so. Over the escalator and through the acres of religious art and iconography we go! Down too many to count hallways and stairs we (me and many new Chinese friends) are there. Now, as the Pantheon is to "Way cool Fonzie before he wore the leather jacket" the Sistine Chapel is to "Jumping a shark on water skis Fonz" That is to say it is a bit....meh. Now, don't get me wrong the room is impressive. I mean, it's all painted ceiling, Michelangelo, Old and New Testaments, on his back way up high, paint in the eyes, hand of God fabulous. Still, it is...in a way...a yawn. Give me the Vatican's map room and you can have the Sistine. The map room left me in awe, while the Chapel....pishaw. I know, you are thinking "midnite, you're going to hell for that comment!" Nuh uh, not this time, not by a long shot. I've got special dispensation.

The Vatican Museum was a bit over the top, St. Peter's Basilica was simply the tops. I have been to my share, and yours too, of the world's most famous churches, mosques, and cathedrals. They pale, no they fade into meaninglessness, in the shadow of greatness that is St. Peter's. I'm not that much of a believer, but the place is no holds barred inspiring. Get there, check it out, come back and dare tell me you were not humbled and exhilarated at the same time. Did it get to me? Definitely. So much so that I ambled over to the Basilica's Chapel of St. Joseph and went to mass. That is to say, the whole nine yards including the Blessed Sacrament. I took communion in St. Peter's. So, I got that going for me.

For just a brief moment I considered giving confession, but thought the wiser as we had a flight to catch in only four days.

You may know of my affinity for attending Christmas Eve midnight mass around the world. Well, here it was, the Big Kahuna so to speak. The Vatican, the ultimate midnight mass. Little did we know that one has to make a reservation, actually get tickets, to attend St. Peter's on Christmas Eve. Well, we effed up that one, Sarge! Our last minute fax to the Holy See was answered by the prefect, "No room at the Basilica." Christ! This blows. Then I recalled, as may you, my time on the Vatican City Bocce Team back in the mid to late eighties. The Holy See Rollers, ecclesiastical league champs three years running. Well, after a few visits to the Rome Offices of the North American Bishop we scored two tickets to midnight mass. Not the front row mind you, but St. Peter's Basilica nonetheless. Hot dog, we're in business! Then, the other shoe dropped. Judas!

There's a catch, always a catch. A ticket gets you to St. Peter's, and it will get you inside St. Peter's, but apparently one must get in line early as these tickets do not guarantee a seat inside. So, the pilgrim is instructed to arrive at St. Peter's several hours, the sister told me six, before midnight and hope, but certainly not pray, that one gets inside. A few hours standing out in the cold Rome night for a one in three, or so, chance at a seat? Where I come from that is a bit bait and switch. Pappa, we're going to pass on your mass. We'll take our tickets but we'll head to the Excelsior Hotel bar for my own personal "midnite mass": cocktails and club sandwiches. Praise the Lord. I tried the Planter's Punch. Was this drink a tiny spot of tiki in greater Roma? No, more like a small bit of rum in a great sea of grenadine. Ick! Well, I tried. Christmas dinner (also a club sandwich) and cocktails the next day were much better as I imbibed in my traditional Xmas Old Fashioned. The fair Michelle had a daiquiri. Both were yummy. Hallelujah!

Team midnite was back at Vatican City Christmas morning for the Urbi and Orbi blessing. The faithful do arrive early in order to secure a good vantage point in St. Peter's Square. What started as a decent-sized crowd soon became a huge all-encompassing mass of pilgrims. A virtual sea of believers crowding up front where I wanted to be. Dammit, I flew 6,000 miles and I wanna see the Pope! My two years parochial matriculation is just not cutting it here. I had to go public school on them. Survival of the fittest, if not the faithfullness, means a well-placed knee jab "casts aside" a junior pilgrim and I secure a spot for us right up front*. Pope Benedict XVI came out, spoke a lot in Italian, and then gave the blessing in over sixty languages. That means along with the Blessed Sacrament received at St. Peter's I also scored a Papal Blessing. Oh yeah, I'm golden.

*Find the midnites in the photo! This one is easy.

More Rome? Why of course, more Rome! The Capitoline Museum is a must visit. One has to go see the big hand, the huge foot, and the decent-sized head. Seriously though, it is one of the best museums I've visited and should be tops on your list. The Caracalla Baths were something else, too. A bit tough to envision past the crumbled ruins they are now, though. However, the massive scale and virtual remoteness of the baths lends one to undertake a contemplative mood that is otherwise hard to achieve while beating back the crowds and craziness of modern Rome. One favorite moment during our stay was a Christmas morning stroll, mainly along Via Coronari, near the Tiber. It was Rome as one would hope it could always be: ancient, beautiful, quiet, precious. The bad? The Trevi Fountain is a dump. Go very early on Christmas (or any other morning) otherwise not at all. Third world refugees hawking any manner of shite and, if you're lucky, a Peruvian flute band. The depression I feel from encountering the world's great sites ruined by crass commercialism is worsening. The same goes for the Spanish Steps...avoid at all but the earliest morning hours. Oh, one more thing, the number 116 bus is an annoying little ice cream truck of a public conveyance dead set on tormenting my mortal existence. It is evil I tell you!

My final impressions are Rome is big, frenzied, and not the cleanest place in the world. It takes some getting used to and for some personalities the city may be a bit volatile, perhaps too frantic. I fit in pretty well as I lean to the obnoxious, agressive, and overtly hostile. Nonetheless, Rome is one of the world's great cities. Yes, all roads do lead to Rome and seemingly each one ends up paved in hard uneven cobblestones that mess up your feet something awful. Roma, I love ya anyway (blows kiss).

We departed Rome and jetted back to London. At this point I was exhausted and my feet were threatening seccession after countless hours walking five of Rome's seven hills. I wanted nothing more than to visit my favorite city in the world and take in the waters at my favorite Trader Vic's. Well, it seems Boxing Day is too sacred for Vic's to be open. In a spell of sweet irony that befits my earlier 2008 travel plans Trader Vic's was closed for the day. Boxing Day...what the? I traveled six thousand miles, I want a Navy Grog! Sigh. As very little consolation we did visit a first ever Christmas market cum carnival in Hyde Park. Bit of a surreal scene it was. All the bright lights, rides, it's part German, part British, is that a Roman centurion? That's it, let's go play in traffic. Look right, mind the gap, no egg on the club, please.

The year ends with a long posting but it was a special trip and my only international excursion for 2008. The trips of aught eight were filled with much tiki and many tasty sandwiches. More importantly, my travels meant fine times with good friends and family. From Minnie's to London Vic's, from a warehouse in Richmond to St. Peter's in Rome. Ft. Lauderdale to Alameda, Wisconsin to Georgia. Life is good. No, life is glorious.

A new year beckons and new adventures are already planned.

Ciao Ciao!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 05, 2003
Posts: 1194
From: Texas Tikiland
Posted: 2008-12-31 11:42 am   Permalink

All the way to Rome & no pasta!?!?!?
Looks like you had a census of Rome's clubbys, though

Looks like you & the Misses had loads of FUN!!!!!

Say "Aloha' to your traveling companion for me

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 1230
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
Posted: 2009-01-27 12:45 pm   Permalink

MASS Hysteria!

Boston, Saugus, Fitchburg, Uxbridge 2009

Eastbound and down, headed to Beantown to see what they say can't be done. I'm traveling East to watch my nephew Robert James walk across the stage and graduate from Fitchburg State College. What seems like a repeat is almost that. His brother John graduated, we think, from that same institution just seven months or so ago. They're Irish twins, ya see.

The commencement brings me back to Boston, but this time it's the middle of winter and not the best strolling 'round town weather. So, in a fit of hyperactive tiki traveling I decided to head up Saugus way. Take in the waters, down a few, imbibe, bend the old elbow, play me some Keno? Yes sir, just a short trip on the orange line and a longish cab ride gets me back to Kowloon. Saugus's little Chinese/Polynesian drinking and eating emporium for a bit of lunch and some adult beverages.

This would be my second time to the food warehouse. However, Kowloon on a Thursday afternoon is not quite the same experience as my first time there in '06. One wants Kowloon packed to the gills, hundreds in its many rooms, diners, drinkers, Keno players galore. On a lazy and chilly weekday afternoon the dozen or so patrons just did not create the same frenzied buzz and rambunctious confusion that Kowloon displayed on my initial visit.

What the hey, I'm here, enjoy. When the place is almost empty the sheer size and strangeness of the joint does shine through. I like it, though. I could hang here, sure. That is if I could stand cold weather, Boston Red Sox fans, and "so-so" cocktails. I realized that while I had been here before I had forgotten which cocktails I enjoyed and which I had deemed unconscionable. A quick call to midnite central got me the info: Mai Tai and Zombie were my faves. Check. I proceeded to have both on this trip based on my report back in '06. I must have been high.

Mai Tai: ick. Zombie: ick, with prejudice.

The garlic shrimp was ok, if one is used to pretty pedestrian Chinese cuisine. Hungry, it fit the role of "best entree in a pinch". I don't know, perhaps I should have stayed in Boston and gone to Turner Fisheries or headed to the North End for some sweets at Mike's. Next time. I do have one more nephew from the Uxbridge Four who will graduate in a couple years. This time Kowloon was just, what do I say? It was "acceptable". I think I need to go when the joint is busy, crowded, frenzied. That bustle and noise supplied a form of distraction and entertainment which likely colored my impressions during that first visit. Maybe I just caught the weak sister bartender who works the lunch shift.

Kowloon, I will return. I think.

Out to Uxbridge it was for the nephew's graduation. Fitchburg State sees its second midnite nephew to earn his degree in as many years. Congrats were in order for Bob and his BS in Criminal Justice. You know what that means, someone to fix speeding tickets for me in the near future! We celebrated Robert's graduation with some homemade Mai Tai's (way fuc%#@!ng better than Kowloon's) and Painkillers. To pass the time we partook in some cutthroat Wii bowling competition. Verdict? I make a way better Mai Tai than I bowl, Wii speaking.

A few days hanging with my boys the Uxbridge Four, seeing one graduate, sharing some good times...that equals a great trip no matter what. A nice and easy start to the 2009 travel schedule. It's needed given what's planned for the rest of the year.

uncle midnite

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2002
Posts: 2244
From: seattle, wa
Posted: 2009-01-27 3:56 pm   Permalink

you did not order any ambrosia? the neon-bright sweet and sour chicken set ablaze in a pineapple shell is my favorite dish there!

and, we prefer Modern Bakery over Mikes, but either way, im jealous of your wonderful roadtrips!

you owe us a visit too, yaknow..

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 1230
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
Posted: 2009-04-14 01:18 am   Permalink



Was someone on house arrest 'round here? I mean, it's a great big world, get out there and order a sandwich! Alas, the major travel plans for Spring '09 were postponed leaving me with a spell of "staying at home-itis." Not to worry, your intrepid tiki pal will be putting himself in harm's way in some faraway port soon enough. So, with a wee spot of time on our hands and an itching to see someplace, where do the midnites go?

"Do they go to Marseille, or Arugala Bay
or some far archipelago?
Nah, they go to San Diego."

San Diego, my home for a couple of years in the mid-70's. I had not been back since '76, save for that wild overnight stay at Jack Murphy in 1982 to see The Who. My Dad left from here for the PTO in '44, then came back to San Diego as a drill instructor during the Korean War to train new Marines. My Dad's old Mr. Bali Hai mug started my journey into tiki, so let's go back to "Dago" and hoist a few for old time's sake, for dear old Dad, and Mom too.

While I once was a resident of this great city, my recollections of what to see and do back then revolved around the ice cream truck, slamming a tennis ball against the garage door, and eating at A&W. So, I contacted some of my San Diego sources for insightful advice and came away with some great suggestions. The first was the "Tractor Room", a "the Mid-West meets New York" steakhouse (as the manager put it). The only bad thing about Tractor Room was the fact we had to leave early for the Giants-Padres game. We ate WAY too much and were only able to try a couple of cocktails. I had the buffalo burger and the wild boar spring roll. My Mai Tai was made with the correct ingredients and was quite good. Michelle's Prohibition Punch was first-rate. My only complaint would be serving the Mai Tai in a tall ceramic bamboo chimney mug, proper presentation and all. I so wished to try the Zombie, but one more drink was akin to a wafer thin mint if you catch my drift. I will be back to the Tractor Room.

The Padres took it to our lowly Giants as is to be expected and the rain delay put a rather dreary mood on the event. Blecchh! Still, that's one more MLB Park for me and another chance to heckle a few of my favorites. Saturday brought a bit of better weather for a trip to the San Dieo Zoo and a chance to make faces at the animals. Hey, that was fun when I was nine years old and this time round at least the Meerkat seemed interested. I liked the zoo and so did Michelle even if she was struck with paralyzing abject fear as we traversed the zoo high up in the aerial tramway. An unexpected spot of severe turbulence hit our, and only ours, bucket but my steadying presence saved the day. Highlights of the visit were of course my bonding with the aforementioned Meerkat and seeing a tortoise which was likely not far from the very same spot I saw him roughly thirty-five years earlier. They move quite slowly, you know.

Saturday night we ventured to Shelter Island and a stay at Humphrey's. Quite an impressive facade that. Wow. Our room, overlooking the stage, was spacious and comfortable fitting the bill perfectly. We had some time to kill before dinner and because I make it a rule never to eat at the zoo we were a bit famished. What's that there? A room service menu? "Hot dog!" Well, more like "club sandwich!" A decent one at that, too. Hit the spot. Tiki and a club sandwich: as the USMC say, "F#@!&ing Aay!!"

A quick walk took us to Bali Hai, where one might say it all started for me. Some quick back story: after my Dad died I held a large garage sale. After days of sorting through and tagging items I found his circa 1975 Mr. Bali Hai mug. Hey, I remembered this weird thing, it's two straw hole head, it's sleepy countenance. I recalled how years before I came across this beast wondering, "What the...?" Wow, what memories it must have held. A real special night for my parents, a rare night away from, well, me. This was a near heirloom, a family treasure? Five bucks...sold! Alas, the financial windfall it provided was gone too soon but the memory of that droopy-eyed native stayed with me. A couple of years later I had this sudden urge to search for "Mr Bali Hai" on the internet and on eBay. To my utter surprise I saw the same mug selling for way more than five dollars. From that little acorn my love of drinking...uh, tiki, started to grow.

So, this was going home. The birthplace of cool, as it were, for me.

The Bali Hai did not disappoint, hardly. First impression, it's a bit smaller than I expected. Otherwise, because I had seen all the pictures before it was truly like visiting an old friend. I loved it, it was a special night. We sat at the bar, chatted up the bartender, ate at the best window table, and took in the view of San Diego's beautiful downtown skyline. It would have been great to be there with my parents and drink out of a big ceramic head as my Dad refused to tell war stories. Still, you take what you can, eh? Being there with the fair Michelle, knowing my Dad liked this place, took my Mom there, and that old mug started me in this aesthetic? Priceless.

My expectations for the cocktail experience at Bali Hai were fairly muted. I was keenly aware that the drinks may not be what I thought of as top-notch. Well, virtually without exception our selections were very good and in a few cases, excellent. We started, of course, with a Mr. Bali Hai and a Goof Punch. The MBH was a bit sweet for me but I could dig it nonetheless, and I truly liked the Goof Punch. I had a Zombie which was as much a visual as a taste treat. Superb, go home and slap your Mother good. We tried eight cocktails total as we were able to come the next afternoon for a little Easter Sunday imbibing. Were we lucky? Did we catch an unusually good pair of bartenders? Has my palate diminished? Don't know, don't care. While the food at Bali Hai was run of the mill I would be back every week to have a few more Zombies, Aloha Kisses, and Goof Punches. Oh, I did order Mai Tai number 2,035,205...and while "World Famous" and stronger than model glue it is not for me. My brain is still stumbling around Shelter Island looking for the Red Sails Inn.

San Diego is one great city. I liked Shelter Island and the surrounding area quite a bit. It seemed similar to Huntington and Newport back when I was growing up in those towns. I cannot wait to go back. Why did I stay away for so long? Although next time, no zoo. We'll go to Sea World!

Fortunate Son,

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Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2987
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2009-04-14 1:01 pm   Permalink

Glad you enjoyed my home town! I also think the drinks at Bali Hai are pretty good, especially the Goof Punch. The drinks have improved since the first time I went there. Next time you have to check out Albie's Beef Inn, The Red Fox Room, and the new Riviera Supper Club (another cook-your-own-steak place by the same folks who did the Turf Club).

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 1230
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
Posted: 2009-06-11 1:00 pm   Permalink

A Tale of Two Tikis

Las Vegas 2009

It was the best of times, it was the less than best of times. June comes again, as it seems to every year, and therefore time for the fair Michelle's birthday celebration. Departing from recent habit, this year I will not stray, I will be around for her actual birthday. Once again, be careful what you wish.

This year we head out to the desert to take in the waters, gamble a bit, and dine like it's 1968. A quick weekend out Las Vegas way. It will be just enough time to make a new friend and pay final respects to another.

Years ago I would scoff at visiting Las Vegas, it was not for me. The theme was too family-oriented, the place a bit tired and silly, typical Vegas gaming a pedestrian activity in my eyes. My attitude changed about a decade ago during my first trip to Vegas and now I like to visit on a regular basis. All you can eat buffets made quite an impression on me.

This visit would have us staying at the South end of the Strip at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. Nice place. A bit sleek and Euro-trashy but how can I slight staying in a hotel room larger than my apartment in San Francisco? The hotel was great, the club sandwich in the lobby restaurant was mediocre. Snake eyes for that effort.

We hit the jackpot though for Michelle's birthday dinner. Some of the big hitters were consulted for this selection and their combined expertise did not disappoint. Mrsmiley planted the seed with his Las Vegas dining tips and the deal was sealed when I sought guidance from the righteous one. WWJD? "Golden Steer, my son. Go forth and go with the 20oz Rib Eye." The Golden Steer was three sevens, a classic, one authentic slice of Vegas history. We sat in Mickey Rooney's booth, downed a couple of Old Fashioned's and enjoyed a great dining experience. A highlight of the stay and we'll definitely be back.

Dinner was a winner, let's double down on some late night beverages. Rolling the dice we're off to Frankie's Tiki Room. Craps? Well, to be honest that is what I anticipated. When this place was announced I was, of course, very interested. Years ago I went with eager enthusiasm to Taboo Cove, I was giddy to hear of a Trader Vic's opening in Vegas. I wanted to see it done in Vegas, done well and executed properly. I saw the bearded clam mug and thought, "Uh, wrong. Wrong in so many ways." Thus, I had dismissed Frankie's out of hand and did not keep track of the place whatsoever. Well, I am in Vegas, might as well give it a try.

Wrong, so wrong...I was. Frankie's is a real winner. Treated well by the friendly bartender, we were able to sample a few cocktails while taking in the swell decor and design elements. I felt at home given its clear kinship to Alameda's Forbidden Island. Drink-wise the Lapu Lapu and Mai Tai were quite good. I thoroughly enjoyed our time at Frankie's. It is without a doubt a worthy contribution to the Tiki world. I truly liked Frankie's, tasteless mug notwithstanding, and not just because of what was coming the next day.

It's never easy losing a friend, seeing the end coming, visiting that one last time, knowing death is near. Sure, it may be a merciful demise, but it still hurts even if the idiot bastard never should have been born. You still go, you have to. Yes, you go, you try to remain stoic. You also hope he looks away long enough for you to reach down and pull that effin plug and put the miserable SOB out of your misery.

Yes, I went to Las Vegas Trader Vic's. I knew what was coming, I'd heard the stories, seen the pictures. Nothing prepares you though, not for something like this scene. Oh sure, one can be conditioned to it enough so the shock would not be too overwhelming. I suppose a few days in the Ebola ward of some Congolese hospital would do the trick.

A Mai Tai?, in a red plastic cup, in an empty, joyless room. Do not resucitate.

That was gruesome, but it was still a great weekend. Got to spend it with my favorite gal celebrating her birthday. The Golden Steer and Frankie's were definite winners. Heck, I even came back with more money that I took. I am pretty lucky!

Threes, Sevens, and Nines...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 23, 2003
Posts: 2158
From: www.crazedmugs.com
Posted: 2009-06-12 11:47 am   Permalink

Golden Steer sounds like a porn flick.
I'd have steered (get it? get it? hunh?) clear of it if I didn't have the jab's word up.

Great read as usual.

Love the Mai Tai shot - it says more than a thousand words and they're all synonyms for "suck."

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