I roto i te Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
Nga manu katoa waiata kupu, me nga puawai croon
I roto i te Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
Nau mai ki to tatou hideaway pārūrū, koutou waimarie te iwi ki a koutou!
Ki te kahore i tatou i roto i te tīmatanga whakaaturanga tika atu,
Hiahia kia tatou i roto i te whakarongo rawa
I don’t know about you, but my first experience with a Tiki Room was at Disneyworldland. For those of you who don’t know that fabled attraction of Disneyworldland, this Tiki Room was a pile of then sophisticated animatronic animals that sang a song as part of a floor show of sorts. On the right measure, the entire room would come alive including the statues on the walls all chanting and waling and chattering and clanging away and all manner of crazy, or at least that’s what I remember through the fog of time and Tiki. The song I won’t quote other than to say it was the type of jungle jingle that would crawl into some primitive corner of your brain to take a huge hairy dump, and there in your brain the song would slowly decay, expanding and expanding until most of your memory and mental space for days, weeks, or years was consumed by that song. I didn’t have brain capacity for years, an entire part of my childhood taken away because this song virus (the Germans call it an ear worm) playing on repeat in my mind. But, at the time I was at Disneylandworldcenter I loved the attraction. I didn’t know that in Y.o.O.L. 19 hundred and [redacted] the theme was already beyond nuked the fridge. Tiki even then, was a thing of the past.
Tiki was a popular theme of the 1950s. The Tiki Room embodied a lot of Raceclassgender(tm) something something of America of that time. Were I more college edumakated I could expound upon at length. I could take up the entire post with some dark vision of those rooms as an objectification of yadayada whakarewarewa O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao and used this appropriated culture by capitalist to forward a Western Curriculum and push out the Geography of Nowhere that eventually flattened the cultural landscape of the United States and actual cultural variations as well as imported regionalisms. For some, the Tiki Hotel, the Tiki Room/s, and Tiki Drinks are part of a last gasp of colonialism, and yet for others, it is the hallmark of the new face of colonialism – made cartoonish, safe, and consumable for everyone, including any descendants of the tribes or people referenced who have long forgotten their old culture.
At its most harmless, Tiki is a dabble for the Western Middle Class into a foreign and to most strange and exotic culture. At least to me, a kid from outer suburbia who liked talking animals, and strange god statues, and the sense that I could escape to the jungle… I did not see an issue. In time, I grew up into a person who enjoyed fruity drinks. And fire. And fire gods. And sexy beasts in grass skirts. And Tiki gives you all that. If you don’t let your university degree pollute the experience. But it didn’t have to be Tiki.
Most Tiki is but an ancient and strange civilization lost to time. It is the relic reminder of the middle class of this Great Nation. The inclusion of so many different new cultures all of which have flaming cocktails, cootchy shows, and inclusive dinner specials of recipes where the spices and ingredients have been toned down for inclusion of the broadest popular audience made Tiki seem like multicultural training wheels. Unneeded now that we have grown up globally. The art of the Tiki Room has become frozen in American culture and no longer refers to any particular geographic area or tradition other than Roadside America – the same as alligator farms and tourist traps. In most cases it is the fetish of rock-a-billy and those girls that dress like 1950s pin ups… except for the tattoos and face rings and lack or organized labour… and perhaps they’ve swapped out the husband for… Whatever floats their boat.
There are a few Tiki establishments that remain outside of the fetish world and these are still accessible by those remaining Middle Class Americans as part of that lost highway tapestry of humble vacationland. One yet exists in Lake George, New York, United States of North America. This establishment has a personal connection to me as I have seen it since I was a child. For the first time ever, I did not sleep overnight in a car at Lake George.
When I was young, a child, a wee barin, along with my siblings, our parent would make the commute to Canada from Lawn Guy Land. This trek was in order to make more of us, since there was the other parent there in that great and cold nation, and then to ostensibly visit that parent among the ice and snow of the Great White North. To and fro, we would pit stop at Lake George since it was a long commute and Jimmy Carter had lowered the speed limit along with placing horrid solar panels on the roof of the hollowed and sacred White House. It was more the speed limit that we knew of at that time as it dropped down to 55 MPH (what is that in KPH? 90?). . The route to Montreal in those days was The North Way, or Interstate 87. Completed in 1966, this route had just broken open vast expanses of territories and made remote hamlets more accessible by car. Lake George was already a vacationland. Already filled with hotels, motels, adventure parks, places for the kiddies, the Mini Ha Ha, and miniature golf. However, we were unable to afford but the free stuff in the Village (our parent saved the money for the theme park), and nothing really comes free in this world – except for listening to the Mini Ha Ha, a steam boat with an organ that played patriotic tunes (and still does), the canon firing from Fort William Henry, and maybe a round of golf from that one time a couple gave us their golf balls and clubs rather than sinking that last hole that captured the ball and sent you to the exit.
Once I had saved up enough coins from here and there to go to the Frankenstein Wax Museum. Another time, I believe we all shared an ice cream. Things changed, clothing styles changed, I grew up, went to Lake George less and less but the Tiki Hotel and Resort did not vanish from the list of familiar sights nor did it change – or at least their front building and stone (cement?) statues, the little fake boat, and the tree house that also served as a sign as well as the marquee that still offers a Polynesian show and fixed price dinner as it has, I imagine, since before I was born.
I was finally able to stay at the Tiki Hotel and Resort. And for the first time, not sleep in the back of a station wagon in the back of some repair shop or wherever my parent could find a place to hide out from the police and “blend in” for the night. This time I did not manage to stay for the Live Show, but I did get a sense of what it was like to stay in the Village of Lake George, the utter strangeness of the place, and was amazed that in a world that has changed so much, this entire village is locked in time. The Middle Class Americans from Long Island and New York. The Roadside America. The Wax Museums, Steamboats, Fort Williams, and a Tiki room so locked in time as to be a perfect diorama of a culture so exotic and foreign that I cannot believe it once existed… that of the Suburban America I grew up in. The recorded songs playing at the pool area. The old cloak room used by those old suburban guests back before the changing of fashions allowed us to drape coats on our chairs at dinner and dress like slobs is now boarded up, but the hint remains. The old Tiki patterns painted on the doors. The little flourishes little cared for and those that have been painted over but you can still see a trace.
Perhaps because I was raised in the Western Curriculum I identify, maybe because I am old and welling with nostalgia, but I wanted to dress up, check my hat and cloak, look my best, smoke, drive a huge car, and watch the natives dance and spin fire as I sipped made up drinks with fake names and dream of foreign shores and the pounding of drums or at least rest drunk and easy before another day on the lake before returning to my blue collar but union protected job on the brand new highway that was built, just for me.
Editor’s Note: This is not a review of the Tiki Hotel and Resort in Lake George nor a secret paid promotion of Lake George like so many travel blogs out there. If for some reason you would like to have the song die in your head, you can catch it HERE.