Category Archives: Vacation

The Hukilau

If you are researching cocktail culture in the ’50s and ’60s (as one is want to do) it’s hard not to stumble upon the music of Les Baxter. His exotic orchestrations were synonymous with post World War II escapism and the formation of “Tiki” bars such as Don the Beachcomber. Tiki bars flourished throughout the United States in the ’60s, but by the time we had the opportunity to see a real tiki bar, most businesses had collapsed or had been watered down into bad Polynesian restaurants.

Today, a true tiki bar is a rare find. A bad Chinese restaurant does not make for a tiki bar. True tiki bars are pure works of fiction. They were designed by Hollywood set designers as idyllic retreats for affluent business men. Mystery and adventure are the alluring qualities of a tiki bar. Food and drink are only used to add interactive experiences in a richly intriguing environment.

The fact that there are social groups dedicated to carrying on tiki culture is… well, we didn’t know what.

Back in June The Hukilau afforded us a long weekend in Ft. Lauderdale. Worst case, we spend a few days drinking Planter’s Punch and swimming in the ocean. It turned out to be much more.

The Hukilau centers around music: Surf Punk, Popular Exotica, Rockabilly, Hawaiian, Latin Jazz. Don’t ask why these things go together. Just accept that they are the genres of a heavily tattooed group of people who like fruity drinks and dressing as if it were 1962. Add in burlesque and mermaid shows and you’ve got yourselves some real entertainment.

We are still not sure what to make of it. Many people attending are in the business of tiki. They either run bars, or they dream of running a bar. The rest compose a diverse group. Attendees came from all over. Most from the US, but several from Europe and Canada. Most had been to a tiki “meet up” before, but it was never made clear to us how they got started. Likewise, we confused people by telling them we were novices.

The event centers around one of the oldest living tiki bars, the Mai-Kai. Just being in the building was a treat. It is layered with 60 years of embellishment. Lit just bright enough for you to find the straw in your Zombie, it is the epitome of mysterious tiki goodness.

While in Ft. Lauderdale we, of course, did swim in the ocean. We also visited the soon-to-be-displaced International Swimming Hall of Fame (who knew?), took a cruise of the inland water ways, and took in several tiki-related presentations.

Overall, this was a pretty impressive affair. There were seven bands including one from Japan and one from Belgium, some of the tiki-decor discussion  panelists were from the UK, and there were several dozen vendors selling everything from shoes to dried puffer fish lamps. But will we do it again? Hard to say, but it is worth going if you have the chance.

Your time is valuable! Choose seeing The Hukilau in 2 minutes or in 4 minutes:

And because The Left Arm of Buddha were so good, here are five more videos:

New Orleans Jazz Fest

For years, friends Nonny and Ernie have been talking to us about New Orleans Jazz Fest.  While we completely intended to visit New Orleans, the idea wasn’t that appealing: crowds, sitting out in the heat, listening to music in a city full of music.

As it turns out, Jazz Fest is much more than music. It’s an experience. With 11 stages, there is constant music. You can walk all day long and never escape the music. Ever changing, diverging from rock to pop to jazz to blues, Jazz Fest tempts you to abandon your plans. Well intentioned goals for seeing a particular performance are often thwarted by the draw of music en route. And the food is crazy good.

But we just wanted to see New Orleans. The city has fantastic architecture and history, food and music.  Post Katrina it’s a bit more gentrified – and safer, but still has most of the social qualities that make New Orleans livable and fun. Any city that lets you drink on public transportation is far improved over most places. With or without a drink, the street cars were a great way to get around and there are always taxis available.

Our vacation plans were firmed-up when we attended a charity auction and bid on a package to go to New Orleans.

We recommend thinking carefully before buying a vacation package at a charity auction. We have bid on hotels and services in the past, but the air/hotel package was a first. Ultimately, it was a mistake. The reseller, Winspire, operated in bad faith. Dates that were not blacked-out were made unavailable due to cost. Ultimately, we were extorted into paying to upgrade hotel rooms and flights in order to get the dates we wanted. Our recommendation: just give the charity cash and skip the vacation package that promises a retail value double that of what it actually costs.

In actuality, we didn’t go the dates we wanted. In order to accommodate the travel restrictions we stayed later into the Jazz Fest than we planned. This meant that we could be down at the same time as Nonny and Ernie.

We spend the first half touring the Garden District, an upscale eight block area full of historic properties. It is flanked by many of the cities trendiest restaurants and stores including Cochon and Pêche. We took a great walking tour and saw the National World War II Museum.

Then our friends show up. We had great meals at Commander’s Palace and August, the later being our favorite. We moved to the Hotel Maison de Ville, which is a fantastic little hotel in the center of the French Quarter. Sadly, when we return to New Orleans we will not stay in the Quarter again. It’s just way too touristy – something the city is fighting (and losing). The best thing about the French Quarter today are the art galleries. We were very fortunate to buy a painting by Jamie Kirkland from Gallery Orange, taking advantage of tax free art in the Quarter.

Wishes Nightime Spectacular 2010 through 2013

After four viewings of the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World we have compiled another multi-vantage-point video of the show.

This version is an update from the two camera version we did originally. It includes shots from the Polynesian Resort across Seven Seas Lagoon. Close-ups in front of the castle only ended up being close-ups after having to stabilize the video in post. This version also syncs-up the sound better, but is still missing the live audio at the start.

One or two more trips should get it to where we want it. Next time we’ll bring a tripod.