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  • Snow? What snow? (Or, Why I Moved to Florida)

    Posted on December 19th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 4 comments
    My house in Northfield, 1999. 1956 Buick Century Station Wagon in background, 1979 Lincoln Mark V in foreground.

    My house in Northfield, 1999. 1956 Buick Century Station Wagon in background, 1979 Lincoln Mark V in foreground.

    Funny, hearing all about the snow hitting the East coast yesterday must have really gotten into my head…because when I woke up this morning, with a slight chill, I had that old feeling that when I’d look out the window, the world would be covered in a blanket of white, sparkly magic. Really, I woke up thinking there would be snow outside.

    Then as I gained consciousness, I realized the chill was from the air conditioning, and that looking out the window I would see palm trees and parrots. You don’t get snow in South Florida.

    I gotta tell ya kids, I did really love watching the snow fall, especially at night, watching those crystal white flakes flurry down against a black sky, shimmering in the light of a lampost. I loved how everything seemed so peaceful, so clean. So beautiful.

    What I didn’t like about the snow  – as with most people –  was getting around in it. Which leads me to my sub-headline:

    Why I Moved to Florida

    Ok, this isn’t the only reason why we headed down here. In fact, it was my plan to move from the land of toxic waste to the land of palm trees from when I was three years old (really). But this was the clincher…

    The closest I ever get to snow now is on my Christmas train platform. The trains are my father's Lionels from 1931. There are also a couple of TootsieToy cars that were his as a kid.

    The closest I ever get to snow now is on my Christmas train platform. The trains are my father's Lionels from 1931. There are also a couple of TootsieToy cars that were his as a kid.

    It was the winter of 1999/2000. I was living in a little suburb of Atlantic City, NJ that went by the moniker of Northfield. This little burg was kinda nice; my house was a 1928 Jersey  Shore bungalow with a Tiki Bar in the basement and giant oak trees in on the lawn. The only problem with it was that it was in the North.

    At the time, I had four cars…I know, krazy, but I’m a car guy…a 1956 Buick Century Station Wagon (aka the Dragon Wagon), a 1979 Lincoln Mark V (That my old man was borrowing at the time), my 1953 Chevy Belair Hot Rod (which I still have today), and a 1975 Buick LeSabre ragtop. I’m telling you all this for a reason, read on…

    I used the wagon as my everyday transporter. I loved it. It was fast, kool, and had a ’50s look that turned heads everywhere. The one thing it didn’t have was heat. There was a valve stuck somewhere, and by the time I found out about it, it was too cold to try to fix it. So, for most of the winter, I used the secondary car, the summer car…the ragtop. Funny enough, the heat worked in there. (I also used the Chevy on occasion for short trips, but never in the snow).

    So, one night it snows. No big deal really, three inches. Of course, in South Jersey, where it really doesn’t snow a lot, three inches is a big deal. Businesses were closed, etc. But I worked for a newspaper, and the paper had to be open for production. So, I had to drive in the snow.

    Ok, at this point you’re probably thinking, “Uh oh, he cracked up the ragtop in the snow!” Well, calm down. Nothing that drastic…but tormenting just the same.

    It’s freezing like hell. I get all bundled up in my wool overcoat, scarf, fedora, and gloves. I’ve got me keys in my hand, and make my way carefully through the icy snow to the car. My hand raises up to put the key in the lock…and the keys fly out of my frozen, numb, gloved hand, and land a few feet away in the damned snow.

    Now it should be pointed out that I was pretty much snow-blind, as my eyes hadn’t adjusted to the brightness of the fluff.

    So I didn’t see where they landed. Worse, the snow was the fluffy kind…and immediately closed itself in on the spot where the keys fell.

    Remember earlier I mentioned those giant oak trees on the property? Did I mention I was not very good at raking leaves?

    So here I am, cold, annoyed, trying to find my keys in three inches of snow covering two inches of leaves. I move around the snow where I though they fell…no dice..

    My 75 Buick LeSabre Convertible

    My 75 Buick LeSabre Convertible

    Scene cuts to TWO HOURS LATER. With a rake, a shovel, and a hose, I finally find my keys. I’m frozen on the outside and sweating on the inside. I have to take a shower and change clothes. I’m three hours late for work. Oh, and the phone lines are of course down, so no one knows why I haven’t been to work in three hours. Finally I go outside, raise the keys to the lock, and they fly out of my hand again. AHHHHHH. But this time, there’s no snow left for them to fall into.

    I hope you’re getting a little giggle outta this. It was very traumatic for me at the time. Sure, most of you are saying ‘big deal’. I know a lot worse things could happen in the snow. But hell, isn’t any excuse a good excuse to move to the subtropics??

    Now, instead of dealing with snow, I deal with falling coconuts. The grass stays green year-round here and there aren’t any leaves to fall off of palm trees. Sure, we get some bad weather now and then; hurricanes are a bitch. But I’m much happier here in Dixie than I ever was in the great white north.

  • Tiki Stocking Stuffer Idea…Tropical Fruit??? Sure!

    Posted on December 16th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 3 comments

    Christmas Tiki Stocking stuffed with Tropical FruitWhat do you get the Tiki Man or Woman who has everything? A Coconut.

    That’s right, this year’s hot idea (that I just made up) for Tiki Lovers is a stocking full of fresh, Tropical fruits. Fill that sucker up with all kinds of fun stuff like Bananas, Coconuts, Asian Pears, Kiwis, Blood Oranges, Kumquats, Starfruit, Mangoes, Persimmons, Lychees, Passion Fruit, Pomegranates, Papayas, Melons, Honey Dew and whatever else looks like fun. Top the whole thing off with a nice fresh Pineapple sticking out of the top, and some tropical flowers for a little flair.

    Of course Santa will have to keep it cool until it’s ready to give away, but a little planning should help that…use a cooler…in fact, you could buy one of those Styrofoam jobs and decorate it like a pirate chest or bamboo trunk! Hey, I just thought of that too!

    Look for some more kookie, kool & fantabulous Tiki-Lover Christmas gift ideas in the next week here at the Tiki Bar Blog.

    Have a fun idea of your own? Go ahead and post it in the comments, or email it to me, Tiki Chris, c/o this site (little envelope fruit-2in the top right corner).

    Don’t forget, if you dig Tiki Lounge Talk then Digg Tiki Lounge Talk! Plus you can sign up (on the right) for an email subscription to get updates sent to your email…and no annoying spam!

    Also, check out our Groovy New Fan Page on Facebook…The Retro Tiki Lounge! Post all sorts of fun stuff, pix and goofiness daily.

    – Aloha from Tiki Chris Pinto (Mack)

    UPDATE: Sunshine Tiki of suggested adding some good fruits to use with tropical cocktails, like citrus fruits. Now why didn’t I think of that? Must have been all that rum. Thanks Sunshine Tiki 😉

  • Mod Movie Mondays! A Charlie Brown Christmas Special

    Posted on December 13th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 4 comments

    charlie-brown-christmasOk, I know…this ain’t mod, and it ain’t even a movie. But it is Monday, and it’s my site so just roll with it kids!

    It has come to my attention that there are still segments of the general population who are not hip to the most famous Cartoon Christmas special ever laid down with ink, A Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Well, if you’ve seen it, it’s now your responsibility to spread the good word. If you haven’t seen it, then read on children and I’ll give you the why’s of why you should, and soon.

    On October 2, 1950, a young cartoonist named Charles Schultz hit the world with what would become one of the most famous cartoon strips of all time, Peanuts. It became so popular that in 1965 CBS broadcast the first of a long series of Peanuts specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The basic idea was to take Schultz’s panels and turn them into animation. Easier said than done. They did it on a shoestring budget. They used real children (some who couldn’t read) for the voice-overs. They used cool jazz for the soundtrack at a time when kids were listening to rock. They didn’t have enough dough to finish editing the project correctly, which gives the whole thing a kind of choppy, home-movies feel. And it’s fantastic.charlie-brown-christmas-alb

    I first remember seeing this toon when I was just a little kid, around the age of Charlie and his gang. I kind of remember feeling I was a lot like him. Turns out most kids felt that way at some point or another, which is probably what makes it so successful. Every year we’d wait for shows like this to come on, because if you missed it, that was it. There were no video tapes, no DVDs, no TiVo, and no streaming video. You stayed home that night and watched the show.

    (No spoilers, don’t worry) The story is about poor ole Charlie Brown, a kid that nothing good ever happens to, and his dog Snoopy, the coolest kid in town. Charlie is depressed about Christmas, because it’s always such a disappointment to him, and because it’s so commercialized. He enlists the help of his ‘friend’ Lucy, who convinces him to direct the school Christmas play. Of course nothing goes the way he wants it to. You’ll just have to watch it to find out what happens.

    The network execs fully expected it to be a flop. Instead, it became one of the most beloved Christmas stories ever aired, winning an Emmy and Peabody award in the process. The incredible soundtrack my jazz virtuoso Vince Guaraldi includes the infamous “Linus and Lucy” (aka the Peanuts theme, you know it, you’ve tried to play it every time you were near a piano) plus the most jazziest of versions of “Oh Christmas Tree” ever to come off the keys. The jokes are great, the story is great, and the way it’s drawn, acted and edited makes it feel like you’re in another place, another time watching this classic.

    Airing Tuesday, December 15th, 8/7C on ABC

    By the way…my dog’s name is Snoopy.

    -Tiki Chris Pinto (AKA Mack, AKA Zoot, Awe forget it!)

  • Frank, Dean & Ella at the Cal-Neva Lodge, 1963

    Posted on December 9th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 10 comments

    Bar Napkin, 1963, signed by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Ella FitzgeraldRing-A-Ding Ding, Baby!

    This marks the 150th Post since  I started Tiki Lounge Conversations back in April…

    and I wanted to do something special. So, to commemorate our 150th post-a-versary, I’ve decided to share a drink, a story, and a very special bar napikin.

    The Drink.

    The first booze I ever tasted was Scotch. My old man let me try some of his Cutty Sark on the rocks at a Christmas party wen I was 12. It was a little strong for me at the time, but I knew when I was old enough to really start enjoying whiskey, Scotch would be it. I wasn’t wrong. When I was old enough to dig it, Scotch became my #1 choice.When I finally got my own joint and was able to built my first Tiki Bar, along with the rum and the Midori and the Kaluha sat a bottle of 12 year old Chivis.

    The first bottle of booze I ever bought at a liquor store was Chivas Regal. This particular bottle is from 1955. The Gold nugget next to it is a chunk of fool's gold my old man dug up in the Nevada desert in 1963.

    The first bottle of booze I ever bought at a liquor store was Chivas Regal. This particular bottle is from 1955. The Gold nugget next to it is a chunk of fool's gold my old man dug up in the Nevada desert in 1963.

    In 1991 I had the good fortune to see the Chairman of the Board himself perform at the Spectrum in Philly for his 75th Birthday Diamond Jubilee tour. Steve and Edie opened for him…and half way through his set, he said “I’d like to thank my two best friends for being with me tonight…Mr. Chivas and Mr. Regal.” He then took a drink of the 12 year old Scotch from a platform onstage, and continued the show. Chivas-Regal sponsored the tour…and got me to try their booze. Today, Chivas is in my top five favorites. If it’s good enough for Frank, it’s good enough for me.

    Momentos from my old man's trip to Vegas, 1963

    Momentos from my old man's trip to Vegas, 1963

    The Story.

    In 1963, before he met my mother and while he was still free enough to do his own thing, my father took a trip on a whim to see his cousins in California. On the way he stopped in Vegas, and hit all the hot spots of the time…The Golden Nugget, The Sahara, and of course, the StarDust Hotel. He rented a Hertz and drove up to Tahoe, and made his way to the Cal-Neva Lodge, then owned by Frank Sinatra himself. He stayed a while, and continued on his trip to CA.

    42 years later, a couple of years after his death, I was going through some of his photos and heirlooms. I found an envelope with a letter requesting a Hertz rental car in Nevada from 1963, and a folded up napkin with some blue smudges on it.

    The Napkin.

    Our Rat Pack Wall in the Dining Room

    Our Rat Pack Wall in the Dining Room

    I opened it up, and immediately recognized the smudge as the name “Ella Fitzgerald”. (That opened my head to a memory of him telling me he had met some celebrities in Vegas…but I was so young when he told me, I didn’t (yet) know who these people were. ) When I flipped this napkin over, imagine my surprise when I saw very clearly two more names…’Frank’, and ‘Dean’.

    calnevaCall it dumb, call it funny, but it’s better than even money that these are the quickly scrawled sigs of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, scribbled while having a slug at the bar in Frank’s place, the Cal-Neva, probably after a show, along with the slightly nicer sig of Ella, who was probably sitting right there with them. I don’t have any way to authenticate this, and I’m not paying anyone to do it…for all I know my old man could have gotten the bartender to autograph the napkin as a joke, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think I’ve got a little magic here, a couple of autographs from a couple of guys who loved to entertain, and loved to hang out in the bar with their fans, have a drink, and share a few laughs in the days when celebrities could get away with it without being stalked. A very special napkin, from a very special person, who met some other very special people in his long and krazy life.

    So that’s post number 150. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than with a drink at the Tiki Bar, an story from the past and a salute to the Chairman of the Board.

    Mahalos to all you kats & kittens  for tuning in to Tiki Lounge Talk For 150 Posts!


  • In observance of Pearl Harbor Day

    Posted on December 7th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments

    pearl-harbor1“December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy…” When President Roosevelt spoke these words, I believe he knew that indeed, this day would be remembered as long as America lives on. This marked the first time (and still the last) since the War of 1812 that foreign shots were fired on American soil. Not until the sneak attacks on 9/11 would America have experienced such loss of life on our own land.

    “Tora! Tora! Tora!”, Japanese for “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” was the code call that started the attack on the Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Although warned that there might be an attack somewhere in the Pacific and some time soon, our boys were caught with their guard down, and suffered heavy losses. This is the attack that brought America into WWII. This is the attack that changed history, and led to the world we live in today.

    Let us remember the men and women who fought and died on this day 68 years ago. Let us remember that they fought for what they believed in, and that their sacrifices were not in vain. They fought for freedom, and to make the world a better place.

    Well, they succeeded. If not for the these men and women, you wouldn’t be reading this now. You wouldn’t have a home computer, or an iPod, or a digital camera. You wouldn’t have had 8-Track tapes and Huffy bikes as a kid, or Jazz music today. It’s because of the advances in technology and the freedom to create that you have these to enjoy.

    I had an uncle who was eating breakfast in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked. He lived into his 90’s, but for his entire life he jumped every time he heard a car backfire, and shook when an airplane would fly overhead. An entire generation of Americans and Japanese (as well as most of the world) experienced bloodshed and horrors that we today can’t even imagine. But as the years go by, the wounds heal. We’ve been friends with Japan for a long time. We dig their technology, they dig our culture. If we can win over an enemy like the Japanese were back then, there’s a lot of hope we can win over our enemies today, are you hip?