Last weekend, you may have noticed, was not a tiki weekend. But I have an excuse! I was in Florida for my mother’s week-long, booze-soaked 60th birthday blowout. We spent most of the week in Key West, where, in what the locals kept insisting was a freakish atmospheric anomaly never before seen, it rained the entire time. But everyone in my family got a lot of important drinking done, so my mom had a good birthday after all.
Why, here she is enjoying a tiki-appropriate Bahama Mama!
If she looks a little pale in this photo, it’s because the sun hadn’t touched us in several days.
We also did a little coconut bowling for charity at the restaurant Blue Heaven. Here’s my cousin Kim qualifying for the coconut bowling finals, in which she won third place and a priceless gift certificate for more booze.
My family believes I need a setup like this outside my as-yet-hypothetical tiki bar/office. I have to admit, it’s pretty sweet.
However, East Coast tiki can be dangerous. I’m not opposed to mixing a little Caribbean with my Polynesia, and you can certainly get a lot of good pirates, parrots, and stuff made from coconuts, but if you’re not careful you can drift out of Tiki Land and into Margaritaville. And Margaritaville is not a place you want to be.
In the end, though, Key West contained far less tiki than I was expecting, especially considering the number of tiki bars and restaurants scattered along the Florida coast and the upper keys. In fact… brace yourself here… Key West has no tiki bars at all. Yes, you can get fruity drinks, and there are a few places that laconically advertise themselves as “tiki bars,” but they’re just regular bars. There are no tiki heads, no hula girls, no bamboo or rattan, no drinks in amusing containers with umbrellas on top. Not a single tiki bar on the island.
“We’ve talked about this many a day,” the bartender at Pepito’s Cuban Cocktails told us. “Why does this not exist?”
Yes, my mother and I had taken to interviewing the locals about our week-long failure to drink anything out of a coconut. We were pretty broken up about it.
This, combined with my recent trip to our nation’s shockingly tiki-free capital, has inspired me to implement a new Tiki Weekend policy. Whenever I travel out of town, I will rate the tiki level of my destination. The metric will, of course, be my beloved cast-iron bottle-opening bird:
Here’s the scale.
I AM ACTUALLY IN HAWAII
TIKI LEVEL ACCEPTABLE
TIKI LEVEL UNACCEPTABLE
THE HELL CAN I GET A MAI TAI
For example, the dismal level of tiki in Washington, D.C. earns it the lowest rating.
Although Key West has parrots and coconuts and things, its failure to develop its tiki potential reflects poorly on the island and its understanding of the tiki spirit. Low marks all around.
KEY WEST, FLA
Which is not to say that I didn’t find some tiki souvenirs. Behold my new barware!
That’s right, I got another bottle opener. Because my bottle-opening bird has a new job: almighty judge of tiki.
And when I got home to Berkeley, my husband Andrew had a new drink-size bamboo end table waiting for me. He picked it up on a trip to the glorious and only slightly cat-piss-scented salvage Nirvana Urban Ore.
Now this, cities of the world, is a man who understands what tiki is all about. It’s good to be home.