Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hukilau 2008 - The Last Hukilau Ever....?

On Thursday, June 12, Volcano Bern, Lukelele & I jetted our jaded selves to Fort Lauderdale for Hukilau 2008 and Other Fine Activities.

We took a "late" flight and landed at 10:30 am - it was an historic event for us as NO DRINKING OCCURRED during the entire flight! We did see a fabulous, intense rainbow though, mid-flight. Lest Our Readers think we may have entered rehab or some such nonsense, we quickly found the nearest liquor store to our motel after checking in- a Walgreens liquor store. I heard an announcement for a Mrs. Needlebaum to pick up her prescription and commented how annoying it must be that the intercom was never disconnected...the proprietor informed me that the liquor store WAS part of you could, say, pick up your Valium prescription AND a bottle of Night Train all in one convenient location! Also, Manischewitz in Five Festive Flavors.

Then, it was off to the Publix grocery store! Whoo-hoo- we were livin' la vida aloha! We narrowly escaped Certain Death by Grocery Cart-those old retired folk are tough - and managed to pick up food, cocktail fixin's and the like. Since Thursday's Hukilau activities for us meant just registering, we were free to drink and grill at our hotel. Whew- exciting stuff.

After dinner, we went, um, resort-crashing. What this means, Dear Reader, is that the fancy hotels across the street with the private beaches became our little playground. We swam in the rollicking ocean until dark, deftly dodging the Portuguese Man o' Wars (the lifeguards were flying purple flags for them and we all know what that means...), then availing ourselves of the pool and hot tub. It was tremendously fun and we were definitely the least expensive-looking people there. Then, back across the MacDonald's lot, behind the dumpster, through some garbage and back to the motel for more drinks! By that time, they had removed the dead hooker from the room next to ours....

Friday was a lovely day where we discovered the depths to which a 'continental breakfast' can sink - pretty damn low. Then off to the Tiki Bazaar! The Bazaar was smaller this year because there was a fabulous 'Fine Art Tiki' show put on by the Harold Golen Gallery, complete with self-important gallery owner! There was TONS of great eye candy and one of the coolest things to see was the 'artist's hand' in these pieces- for instance, Shag's paintings have visible brush strokes in them, something that is not apparent in all the tchotchke that has his artwork on it. Also, Bosko's nod to Witco creations are far smaller than I thought they'd be, with a Van Gogh-esque amount of crusty paint here and there. One of my favorite pieces by far was 'Quequeg's Big Adventure' by John Kissee. There were some fantastic paintings on velvet (really!) that were priced beyond our reach and, unfortunately, I don't remember the artist's name who created them (trying to remedy that....)
As usual, DJ Dr. Scopitone provided the music to shop by, at a deafeningly high volume. All the hungover shoppers must have really appreciated that - I know some of the vendors seemed really annoyed. The three of us managed to snag a photo with lovely Marina the Mermaid - she was very gracious and, boy, doesn't Bernie look happy? I had a nice chat with Doug Horne, who is a doll and Bernie purchased a fabulous glass mosaic piece as my birthday gift from Mark Bloom. Since we had purchased so much stuff last year, we refrained from going overboard this time. Well, we did get more postcards and necklaces. And a vintage shirt. And two mugs. And some Tiki Magazine t-shirts. But that's it! Oh, and more mugs at the Mai Kai.

We then retired to the Wreck Bar for drinks, mermaids and the Martini Kings. All were very good. The Wreck Bar was reserved exclusively for us tiki-lovin' types and had been decorated with painted panels - very cool! Also in that picture are some people that were on the Northeast Tiki Tour with us last year. They're from New Jersey.

We then staggered off to Jeff 'Beachbum' Berry's seminar, 'Potions of the Caribbean'. No pirates, just some hoohah about drinks. I was a little disappointed by this presentation as it wasn't nearly as awesome as last year's 3-hour rambling lecture. Got some free drinks, though! And they warn't in no sissy sippin' cups, neither! Plus, there was extra for the takin' on the way out. One of the drinks had pimento liqueur in it and was darn near undrinkable - one guy swigged it in one shot and practically stopped breathing! He did turn some pretty neat colors, so it was very entertaining.
IMPORTANT: we learned two fun phrases: 'Sucking the Monkey' and 'Tapping the Admiral.' Both refer to the supposed habit of long-at-sea sailors running out of rotgut rum and tapping the vessels that contained bodies of either preserved exotic animal specimens or preserved high-level seamen types to obtain the fine elixir within......

Please use those phrases often and inappropriately.

It was in the lobby of the Yankee Clipper after this seminar that I had an epiphany - apparently all these people stayed in their rooms days & night drinking, only to emerge for the occasional seminar activity, to which they could bring their drinks. When asked if we were going to some other thing, I replied, 'We're going to the beach!' This was met with a short stare of incredulity and the response 'The beach?!' (Yeah, bozo, that big blue watery thing with the beige dirt-like stuff next to it that you must have seen from your room window....) So, off to the beach we went! We saw a cool beach wagon in the parking lot...and avoided contact with the Portuguese Men o'War in the sea.

After fighting for our lives in the ocean we ate lunch at the atrocious White Trash Cabana (I don't what we were thinking, but we obviously were not using any judgment at all. In a way it was good, because we were to return there that night for the big Friday Night Main Event and we knew not to eat anything or use the bathrooms. Seriously.)

So, after lunch, we primed ourselves for the Main Event and arrived just in time for the fabulous Tikiyaki Orchestra's set - they are amazing and Marina did her Fire Dance during their set- hot! On top of all of this, we finally saw Mike & Sandy from 9th Wave- it was a little bizarre to be all the way in Florida and be with people who live 10 minutes away from us, but it was also very refreshing as they both truly have the aloha spirit....we also saw the Intoxicator's set, and they tore the palm-lined roof off the mothersucker. Unfortunately, we were also forced to endure King Kukelele's 'set' featuring 'the littlest mermaid.' Why he thought a bunch of partying adults would give a rat's patootie about small children at 11Pm during a swingin' luau is beyond me...(please feel free to imagine additional, snarky, non-flattering comments here.)

Saturday we were up and at 'em early, popped in to the Bazaar again to score an awesome necklace for the joey Zone, and went to the Bosko seminar - he spoke about his life as an artist and had a slide show and we magically were served drinks at this seminar, too (mental note: next time, sign up for ALL the seminars...) Bosko is one shy dude, but very nice.

Then it was back to resort-crashing. I was treated to the awesomely entertaining sight of one of my male companions stumbling over an article of clothing buried in the sand, only to almost instantaneously right himself as the amazing, rare, exotic sight of a woman sunbathing topless (article of clothing and topless person were unrelated.) Priceless. Almost as amusing was the fight between the desire on part of my male companions not to be crushed by the gigantic waves in the ocean, yet still whip their heads around 180 degrees attempting to get a glimpse of bare breast every thirty seconds....

After an exhausting battle with Ol' Man Neptune and imminent whiplash, we primed ourselves for the Saturday Night Main Event at the fabulous, moody, exotic Mai Kai Restaurant and Entertainment Palace. I forgot how stunning this place is, especially when entering into its inky maw after being outside in the blinding sun and seeing the fantastic decor loom up out of the darkness. Of course, we started out with happy hour, where the enormous boozy drinks are two-for-one....then we were seated for dinner and subjected to the opening act: no other than King Krapalele himself. Leilani Luke reported that almost everyone in the Mai Kai looked just as irritated & bored as we did....and the King looked like he was sweating it just a little - it was during the fruit song. I don't really know the song, he just names fruits really quickly. I do know it sucks, though. Apparently, he also plays with a band called the Friki Tikis, but we've never seen them - I think the situation is analogous to the Dee Dee King/Ramones thing.

Fortunately, our fabulously nice, professional waiter gave us menus to distract us ('special' menus for the Hukilau.) During the wait for foodstuffs, I believe every single man who had a birthday in the last 6 months asked for the Mai Kai Mystery Bowl, which is a scorpion bowl delivered by dancing girl. I didn't think she was going have enough energy to perform in the actual show after all those drinks! Someone at our table ordered one and he was completely delighted (I have to say, the dancer was a lot taller and more substantial than she looked far away - maybe he was scared...hard to tell after drinking one and half Black Magic drinks...)
Volcano Bern, appropriately enough, ordering the Bananas Bengali - which was really Bananas Foster with tons of blue flames and lots of showmanship!

Between dinner and the show, we sat through an interminable 'awards ceremony' which consisted of Hukilau people receiving awards....I think. I was losing interest really quickly. The Hukilau producer announced that, in fact, this was not going to be the last Hukilau. Surprise, surprise. Apparently, back in January the family that owns the Mai Kai decided to sell the land to a developer, then one family member sued the rest of the family to keep the Mai Kai open, so it's not closing, yada yada yada...tears of gratitude, more awards, speechifying....

Finally, we saw the fabulous Polynesian Show with dancing and fire and music and drums and sweat and guys and girls and hips and stuff....very intense and very cool. We then retired to the Molokai Bar (fully restored after damages from the past) to have...more drinks and listen to the Haole Cats!, more Tikiyaki Orchestra and Fisherman, who are marvelous (and apparently also the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus band.) Mike & Sandy gave me a fab tiki bottle opener (natch!) and better yet, sang 'Happy Birthday' to me....sweet! We also had the opportunity for much people watching and the sartorial insanity there was awe-inspiring. Please look at the pictures - they're very, very entertaining....(I believe Charles Phoenix is the gent with the full-on tapa cloth suit and the three large men with leopard-skin fezes and tapa jackets are the Moai Mafia - I couldn't stop laughing whenever I'd see them...they totally beat out Lukelele's Thurston Howell duds from last year.)

Sunday morning, we were up bright & early again so's we could check-out on time and spend some time at the fantastic Flamingo Gardens and Wildlife Sanctuary. It was a dreadfully hot, sticky, overcast day, so it was the proper setting for walking around the gardens- all the tropical plants were their proper size (instead of 1:48 scale like you see at Sears or Home Depot nurseries) and they were stunning! There were little lizards roaming everywhere & I wouldn't have been the least surprised to see a coupla velociraptors or two bounding out of the foliage and eating us. We have some lovely photos here.


We came across the Aviary, where we could go in and walk around a large area filled with all sorts of birds, many that I've never seen before: Roseate Spoonbills (they reminded me of Dodo birds and were friendly as they were hoping for handouts), Wood Cranes, Pelicans, Fisher Crows, White Ibises, Egrets and there were also a few turtles sprinkled around for that Everglades effect. There was also a Raptor and Owl section, but each type of paired birds were in their own cages. All the animals and birds at Flamingo Gardens are rescued from horrible accidents, then paired up and their offspring are released back into the wild - very cool. We attended a 'show' and were given much info about various animals, such as the Great Horned Owl, a snake, alligators and the very rare and exotic opossum. We then cruised around to the animal section, and saw many, many, many flamingos, macaws, peacocks in heat (they are loud and the boys were displaying their impressive array of beautiful feathers to entice the peahens...), Florida Bobcats, River Otters, a few immobile alligators, and best of all, two glorious Florida Panthers. This whole place was just gorgeous and fascinating.

Several hours later, Volcano Bern & I were at the airport (changing into fresh clothing so as not to stink up the airplane after sweating up a storm at the Gardens) waiting for our flight and we see....Mike & Sandy again! Not only were they on our flight, they were sitting sort of opposite us. Volcano Bern had never flown at night, so he had his face glued to the window, watching the
thunderstorms and lightning that were parallel to us the whole flight- it was really gorgeous to watch.

So, there you have it- a little less lubricated by booze, definitely fewer photos, but the trip was certainly enhanced by the trip to Flamingo Gardens. And, never fear, there will be more Hukilaus in the future....



Sunday, June 01, 2008

Some Completely Opinionated Reviews

Two Movies:

Sweeney Todd

Wow, I can't say enough in regards to my incredible disappointment with this movie - it
sucked. I know the story and even I felt...unfulfilled....with the advancement of the 'plot.' The characters were cardboard cut-outs without any substance whatsoever (honestly, Helena Bonham-Carter is a terrible actress - I don't want to see the gigantic amount of mental processes happening in her face before she arranges it for the camera.) There was no sense of anyone acting with the other person in the room - it felt like a series of one-man shows that happened to be occurring at the same time. Oh, and let's just get the 'singing' portion out of the way- whoever green-lit Mssrs. Depp & Rickman & Ms. Bonham-Carter's 'singing' should be forced to listen to the soundtrack every. single. day. of their miserable lives. I seriously thought that there would be no way Depp & Rickman could ever embarrass themselves on-screen, but they did. And what was with the over-the-top graphic violence? It lent NOTHING to the movie and was merely anticlimactic.
My disappointment is overwhelming- I had seen a production of this musical at the Goodspeed Opera House about 12 years ago that was far, far more adept at achieving what this movie completely failed to do. On stage, the lighting was more medieval and effective, the set was sparse, so the actors were able to flesh out their characters without distraction, and nothing could compare with the actor who played the judge (a dead ringer for Christopher Lee) singing about his ward Joanna while shirtless & flagellating himself in a sexual/religious frenzy. That production was as meaty & juicy as that story could ever get - all without the tiresome glam-goth 'moodiness' of Burton's movie. Z-

Indiana Jones and the Thing with the Crystal...and stuff...

To paraphrase the Perilous One, it's a 'popcorn chomper' - it's got a lot of action, but kinda fizzles towards the end. The story takes place in the 1950s, with a visual nod to 'The Wild One' - there seemed to be a lot of nods-to-another-movie throughout, but I couldn't place my finger on the rest. There's greasers & hot rods, cold war intrigue, Yale, commies, nuclear testing and....sigh...aliens. The plot was not fancy or particularly interesting, the basis of it along these lines- old civilizations could NEVER had this technology without the help of aliens!’ theory, which always annoys me. But the plot didn't really matter- really. It was an action movie, plain and simple, and Cate Blanchett was magnificent (when is she not?) - John Hurt's role could have been played by anyone, sadly enough. I would have been happy if only Ford (looking good!) and Blanchett were in the movie. A few downers included the old 'revive-an-old-romance' ploy, a Disney-esque 'surprise' that a ten-year-old could have figured out.
All-in-all, it was an Indiana Jones movie, so just see it and enjoy! B-

Places to Eat & Drink:

Captain Scott's Lobster Dock
80 Hamilton St., New London

Oh, if you love seafood, this place is for you! It's located between a marina & the railroad tracks in Downtown New London. All the food is incredibly fresh, cooked well and you can eat outside at one of their tables. It's also very clean and the staff, who really hustle, are super nice. I sampled the fish & chips, and you can opt to have red potatoes (grown locally) instead of fries- both the fish & potatoes were amazingly tasty & cooked perfectly. A coworker had the lobster bisque-in-a-boule & found it to be very tasty, we sampled the onion rings (also good and as a rule, I don't really like them), another coworker has the grilled cheese & tomato sandwich, which she liked, and we also tried some really good ice cream. Non of the food was greasy, smelly, or tasted like the cooking oil had been harvested from an '88 Buick. The big draw is apparently the hot lobster roll, which everyone raves about, so I guess that means a return trip soon! The lines can be long, but they move fairly quickly. I highly recommend this place!

The Cove, Rte. 1, Mystic

This used to be a good place to get crab cakes, fish & chips, etc., but it's become horrifically bad. Bad food, bad environment and I'd like to know where all the crows that used to hang out there went to....

Opus on Main Street

This restaurant has opened on the site of the former Victorian Lady restaurant. Bernie & I decide to check out the Adult Martini Bar as it was their grand opening. Oddly, the place still has many of the original fixtures, which is a bit of a time-trip if you had frequented the Victorian Lady in the past. We popped in at 10PM last night, and there was pretty much no one in the restaurant and a couple of folks at the bar on that side (we realized that the kitchen was probably closing, hence no diners.) We made our way to the other side and...we were the only customers. Not promising, but in retrospect, it was like having our own private bartender and nice bar. The idea of that bar is attract the 30+ crowd, as the owners and bar staff know that every single spot in town is generally taken over by the college students. Very irritating that there's no place to get a nice drink at night anymore. So, I'm very enthusiastic about that idea. It has a nice atmosphere, but for some weird reason, the lights were on full blast, but they were dimmed at our request. We then turned our attention to the 'martini menu', which features many lovely types of cocktails and an actual martini. There were no prices on the menu, which was a bit disconcerting, but we gamely ordered our first round: I had a Creamsicle, Bernie had a Kaffir Lime. Oh my. HUGE glasses (I would say the drinks were doubles) and they were delicious. I'm not one for sugary, cloying drinks, and these were delightfully subtle & tasty. The Creamsicle was a frothy, light version of the ice cream, and the Kaffir lime was chilled to perfection and lightly lime-flavored. Bernie then sampled a Sapphiretini, which was Bombay Sapphire gin, orange juice and cranberry; I had an enormous glass of Belvedere, to cleanse my palate. Again, what could have been an acidic nightmare of a drink was both light and tasty. We then decided we needed to try more, so I ordered the Key Lime & Bernie had the Blueberry Pie. The Key Lime was a little sweeter than the Kaffir Lime cocktail (probably due to the Midori liqueur) and the blueberry pie tasted faintly of sweet blueberry, just not overpowering. We also looked at the menu, which looked similar to the fare the Victorian Lady used to offer: steaks, fish, mainly American cuisine with some nice finishes. The bartender, Bill, told us that Thursday, Friday & Saturday were the best days to go, he recommended we have dinner instead lunch, and he highly recommended the steaks. They had just had a private party in there that evening comprised of 65 people, so the lack of patrons was definitely understandable. Apparently, this restaurant was reviewed twice by someone who did not give it good marks - Bill told us the reviewer had come in on the 3rd day they were open, for lunch (which would hardly give anyone a chance to succeed, it would seem to me) and then returned, again for lunch, on a day they had to fire the chef. Oy. We are definitely going to try dinner there, and we hope we can entice some other 30+ peoples to enjoy the lounge.