Tiki Central / General Tiki
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This was in the San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Nov 2003, Author is Peter Rowe:
Talking tiki: Polynesian icons topic of tour guide
PACIFIC BEACH – We peddled down Reed Avenue, Marc Menkin babbling, me attempting to steer my bicycle, scribble notes and dodge traffic. A wiser biker would have stopped, jotted some words and pushed on. But a wiser biker would have screamed, calling Menkin's attention to something that should have been obvious:
This is not . . .
"We're going to turn down Bayard Street," Menkin said, his voice wobbly with glee. "To me, when I came here, I couldn't believe that I live in such a place that has all these wide streets lined with palm trees."
OK, Bayard is a handsome street. But this is not . . .
"Just look at it! We're a block from the beach!"
Fine, the location's peachy. But this is not . . .
"And we're a block from the bay!"
To slam home his point, Menkin led us across busy Pacific Beach Drive, between the bungalows of quiet Braemar Lane and onto the bike trail ringing Mission Bay. We steered toward the Catamaran hotel, the first stop on Menkin's Tiki Tour.
Tikis? In P.B.? This is a sweet neighborhood, but – let me come right out and say it – this is not Honolulu.
On some level, Menkin knows this. He's traveled to Hawaii. Even married a Hawaiian. But his introduction to tiki culture came 28 summers ago, in Southern California. On a family vacation, the 12-year-old kid from a Philadelphia suburb fell in love with the palms, the bougainvillea, the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland.
He moved in 1989 to San Diego, where he could pursue his public relations career without snow shovels or chains. To his delight, he arrived in a time of rapid climate change.
Not global warming. Not global cooling. Local tiki-ing.
"The last five, 10 years, this whole tiki thing has just exploded!"
If I had any doubts, they were under siege from the moment I met Menkin. His tour began at Rum Jungle Smoothies, a P.B. storefront owned by Rum Dehkhoda. He serves fruity concoctions in plastic tiki mugs, on top of tiki coasters, on tables piled with tiki books, in a narrow room crowded with – sense a pattern? – tikis.
"The two big ones there?" Rum asked. "Those are mine. They're not for sale."
Tikis are carved from wood (usually the trunk of a palm) or stone (for instance, the Easter Island statues). They represent supernatural beings who wield amazing powers, not the least being the ability to make adults do silly things.
"We have a tiki at home that we call the God of Laughter," Menkin said. "We rub his head three times in the morning, and that brings you happiness all day."
At the Catamaran, the most impressive specimens sit in display cases, out of reach, un-rubables. But the directional signs on the resort's lush grounds are attached to tikis, and Menkin identifies each one.
"The iguana tikis."
"A fertility tiki."
"The pirate tikis."
Which reminds Menkin. "In the 17th century, when a pirate wanted to get something pierced, what was the going rate?"
I didn't know and was foolish enough to say so.
"A buck an ear!" Menkin cackled. "A buccaneer!"
Remounting our bikes, we rode away from the bay and into the neighborhood. The typical Tiki Tour takes you past a dozen homes and businesses. At the foot of one graceful tiki, an 18-footer on P.B. Drive, Menkin pointed out a plaque:
"Tiki Dan," it said, "858 279-6282."
That's actually the number for David Boeh, a tiki importer and carver and sometime partner of "Tiki Dan" Bailk. The latter was unavailable for comment, being something of a hermit. In Boeh's words, "He's one of those free-spirited, wacko kind of guys."
Boeh insists that his skills are several islands downstream from the oceanic talent of "Tiki Dan."
"I sanded some of those and burned them," Boeh said, noting that a tiki's facial features can be heightened by a little charring. "But I give Dan full credit for those tikis."
As folk art or protective deities, tikis are curious and impressive. Menkin's $20 tours – Tuesdays and Fridays, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. – may make you a believer. Bring your own bike, or call the reservation line, (619) 917-6037, and request a walking tour.
Maybe you'll discover why these examples of Polynesian culture are such a hit here, half an ocean away from their home. I didn't.
"People love tikis," said Boeh. "Maybe because they can't get to Hawaii. They want a piece of Hawaii in their back yards."
But this is not . . .
Freddie - I met these guys (Tiki Dan & Dave) at the Pacific Islander Festival a few months ago. We talked for awhile & exchanged info but never really hooked up. I don't make it to P.B. too often so if I'm missin' something, I don't know it. When I go to the Catamaran it's to see a band at the Cannibal Bar. Don't remember any tikis...but after reflecting on my past experiences there, that's not suprising.
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