Arkiva Tropica is one of my favorite sites to go to, many of my Tiki Bar framed art are of menu covers featured within it!
*bows head for the Kahiki*
This fresh obsession with Arkiva Tropika got me thinking about San Francisco’s Tonga Room and how we dragged our friends there before our set at Future | Perfect. It was February and freezing cold, but we went to the Fairmont Hotel anyway, down to the lower levels where all the tan and taupe of the place — the $400 a night tan and taupe — gives way to this molten-lava entrance and a room that rains. I think we’d been invited to eat with the promoters + other producer playing the event that night, but we bailed in favor of this last vestige of mid-century American tiki culture. We’re from Columbus, so the closing of the Kahiki still sends ripples of regret through our chests, like maybe the entire community could’ve done more to save the indoor waterfall and the birds and the volcanoes and the peanut chicken. We live with this a little, all of us. If you’ve ever had a pre-prom dinner at that famous A-frame, or loved driving down Broad Street with your parents because you’d get to see the Poly-pop ceremonial house of it stabbing at the skyline, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Anyway. The Tonga’s always rumored to be closing, or about to close, or about to about to close. And even though Anthony Bourdain sang its praises on that new show I’ve never seen, we worried this might be our last chance to experience it before modernity ate up a strange bit of history that pretty much lives or dies commercially at this point with Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room + Polynesian Resort. (Both of which are still preternaturally amazing, I don’t want to hear it.) We were only there for happy hour, since we had to be at the club by 7pm, but we all drank mai-tais and ate spicy noodles and watched it rain over the river that used to be a hotel swimming pool before someone decided to recreate the South Pacific in the square footage around it. It was humid in there, if that’s even possible, and absolutely packed, even for 5:30pm on a Thursday. The lap-steels sang pitch bends over our heads. The light was like torches. And when we walked back out to the concrete San Francisco chill, it was like leaving a movie in the mid-afternoon sun. I squinted against the city, disoriented and rum-drunk, knowing only that I wanted to go back to whatever hyper-reality that room created and live there, with the scorpion bowls and paper lanterns, for pretty much the rest of my life.