And in the Spirit of Tiki…
I have moved to a foreign land. This is my second foreign land in two years. I am, as a rule, a homebody and not prone to travel, but I have moved again and find myself, not in the welcoming bosom of my homeland, but in the land of strangers. Perhaps you know what I mean. No one likes to be the new kid in school, but what am I to do? Life has lead me here, and here is where I plan to make it.
I really, really miss my friends from home. NO ONE could ever replace the friends I spent a lifetime getting to know. NO ONE. But they are far from here and I must be content to chat with them on the phone when I get the chance. But rather than wallow in my homesickness, I have made the best of it and made new friends, just like the ABC after school special would have wanted me to.
I have a new house and new neighbors. I have always been blessed with good neighbors. A string of luck that I can only hope follows me all the days of my life.
That brings me to the story that I am about to impart. (It is a beer story, I assure you.)
I have met all of my neighbors. Wonderful people all. But of all of them, I like Franklin best. Franklin is my next-door neighbor and is lots of fun.
He is a landscaper by trade and is as red as a cigar store Indian from the sun. He likes good beer and laughs easily. He has introduced me to the neighborhood and through him, have met the local characters. I’ll get to them in a moment.
According to Franklin, his son, Grumblington, was the originator of the idea that what his house really needed was a deck with a Tiki bar. Franklinton is not one to let a good idea go to waste. So he cleared the sod off a large sort of oval in his backyard and poured 6 tons of the whitest sand you ever saw. He had his “beach”.
The girls and I were in the yard when the dump truck backed up, and like a moth to flame, they meandered over. No kid can long resist the call of that much sand. I got my shovel and helped him sling it around until we had filled his man-made beach. That was when we got to talking.
He was descended from Slovenians, liked to cook, and spent as much time with his son as he could.
Markus, a carpenter from across the street that was an old friend of Franklins, swung a deal so that Franklin could buy a rack of treated lumber for a nominal fee. For those who don’t know, a rack of 2x6’s is a LOT of wood. 8X8X4 is my best guess. The two of them built the deck and bar on a Saturday. Markus had the nail gun and could snap out Franklin’s vision.
With the deck and bar done, they sat back to inspect their work. This is about the time I showed up. I helped them lay out the final boards to the bar and joined them in toasting a job well done. Soon, Christopher from across the street arrived with his family. They marveled at the progress and the kids introduced each other and played in the sand.
We have spent many evenings over at the Tiki bar, the family and I. I helped Franklin last weekend to build the fence/seating at the back of the deck that faces the road. I tried to explain to Franklin my idea for benches for the bar. He had it in his mind that there needed to be barstools. I pleaded for benches. He had all of this wide lumber (2 and ½ x 12) that it seemed expedient to create seating. Markus and Franklin had done their research and had visited various local pubs and measured their bars, as well as sample their wares. Forty-two inches they concluded. So they built their bar accordingly.
I have had the privilege to be a part in the raising of this local landmark. I told Franklin when I helped out on that first day that I was doing this for one reason, and one reason alone. I wanted a seat at the bar that was all my own.
Last night, after we had already had Sunday night movies there two days before, (I brought my little T.V./VCR over and we sat outside and watched Planet of the Apes till bedtime. It was great!) We all got together.
Markus, Christopher, Franklin and me. We sat and talked till 1’clock. We smoked, we drank, and we swatted a lot of misquotes. The beer was very cold and although it was domestic, it went down with unsurprising easiness.
Franklin is adamant about the use of candles as lighting. The only concession on this point is the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign that Grumblington refuses to omit from the Tiki bar. He does this in honor of me. My heart is touched.
That was a few weeks ago and I have gotten to know Franklin and his son, Grumblington, better. The Tiki Bar is almost finished. The final roof is to be set in place this Friday, when materials become available.
The whole point of the story is the almost palpable lure of the place. It is impossible to pull oneself away from the Tiki bar, as if some unseen tractor beam holds you in place and time ceases to exist. Not that time stops, just that it ceases to be. The bar is hidden by groves of trees and is surrounded by large beds of blooming tropical flowers. There is a palm and banana tree planted close by. I have had to train myself to steer clear of the Tiki bar if there is something I need to do, and when I go to relax, to take a clock with me. If I don’t, the days and nights blur by and suddenly it’s Monday and a week has disappeared out from under me. This may sound like complete hyperbole, but I assure you that documented examples are on record and are available to any accredited researcher that would care to look into this phenomenon. Fortunately, Franklin is rarely home during the week and spends most of his time in the nearby metropolitan area where his customer’s are.
But the siren song is still there and it is very hard to resist. I got my wish though; I have my very own seat at the corner closest to my house. The night that Franklin, Markus, Christopher, and I hung out together, we all chose our permanent seats. Christopher went so far as to carve his name in the bar. The nickname of “Fat Wally” was to grace the bar, but that night he only managed to get the word “Fat” carved in before he decided that maybe it would be better to put down any sharp instruments before he hurt himself and save “Wally” for some other night. While Franklin, Markus, and I have mostly been involved in creating the structure and decorations for the Tiki bar, Christopher has been working on making a working shower, so that after you step out of the “beach”, there is somewhere to wash off the sand. This seemed superfluous to me, but I was not consulted, and kept my comments to myself.
The “beach” is just one of the many amenities that the Tiki bar offers. It makes a great dance floor! A fact that had not occurred to any of us until last night when Franklin’s friend Patrice visited. I am not now, nor have I ever been a dancer; nor would I ever have horned in on someone else’s girl, but she insisted on dancing. Franklin is no more a dancer than I and quickly backed out of any dancing that was to be done. He felt that it was more important that he “maintain” the bar, meaning he was going to make sure that everyone was adequately supplied with beverages, topping off the snacks, and dispensing the bug spray. He steadfastly held his position behind the bar, and could not be budged.
I danced with her.
Now let it be noted that when I start dancing, most unaccustomed viewers phone for an ambulance, thinking that I am having a seizer or at least, some kind of fit. I warned them before hand. I have never danced like I did last night, before or since. The power of the Tiki bar was flowing through me and I thrashed and gyrated accordingly. My movements were not my own, the ground trembled at my touch, the world spun in a new orbit, and the universe stopped to stare at our revelry. The song is a blur. I couldn’t tell you what we danced to. The driving beat worked us into froth.
I sat down, sweaty and spent, like a dervish on a long weekend. I had given my all.
15 minutes later, she wanted to dance again.
I couldn’t refuse, and yet, I didn’t have anything left
I now know why Franklin didn’t dance with her. She is insatiable.
The Tiki bar is likely to appear in this forum again, since I don’t like bars as a rule and this one is the only bar I care to visit. Groucho Marx once remarked that he would never belong to any club that would accept any members like him. I have always operated under this principle. I want nothing to do with people like me, or most people, for that matter, but the Tiki bar has included me in their number, and I can not silence its siren song.
So if I should be missing or absent, please start looking there. I won’t want to leave, if you find me, but I am willing to listen to reason and buy you a cold one when you get there.