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Photograph by Eric "ug" Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Haole Punk Finds Tiki Love

By Eric "ug" Carlson

"Madness is always better than X."
Cordwainer Smith

JEANNE EXAMINED my Durango barn boots and metaphorically posed, "Oh my, I hope you're not going Louie on us?" Louie was a guy who turned into a cowboy--incrementally. First cowboy boots, then a cowboy hat and, later, pearl-buttoned shirts stitched with prancing palominos. And Louie didn't stop there. He bought real horses. And land to ride them on near mist-enshrouded Half Moon Bay. I asked Jeanne whatever became of Louie, and she whispered, "I don't know, he was never heard from again." I have no intention of going "Louie." But I am in the process of going "surf," which is similar to going "Hawaiian." Substitute instrumental surf music for Hawaiian music and think Ford Woody wagon in lieu of plump grass-skirted hula dancers. Tiki masks, the ocean and Polynesian knickknacks are common to both camps. The magic of faux Polynesian struck a deep chord with me on the memorable night I escorted Joan Dufour to the Bali Ha'i restaurant in New Orleans for a high school graduation dinner. We drank fancy rum drinks in a room dripping with palms. That night, a friend of mine and his honey drank one too many Navy grogs and ended up pregnant the next morning. Apropos of that, or not, when surfing big waves at Waimea, keep in mind the labyrinth of coral beneath the surface. Small chunks of surfboard--and human teeth--are part of the reef décor down there.

Despite the dangers of intoxication, impregnation and loss of teeth, "surf" is a noble and free-spirited path. The journey can begin at Sun Jose Hawaii (410 Capitol Expwy.). There I purchased a porcelain desk lamp distinguished by a seminude hula dancer (dual Janet Jackson) base, with floral red-tasseled shade. And a yellow decorative faux ukulele. And a hand-carved tiki pole. And four shot glasses with bikini babes painted on. Sun Jose is a treasure-trove of Hawaiian music, clothing and food--and a plethora of Polynesian oddities. I spoke with Jessie Parungao, who told me the store has been a family concern for years. The selection of Hawaiian music and clothing is impressive.

Another store with things Polynesian is Sonny's Place Hawaiian Shop in Cupertino, across from Sears at Vallco Shopping Center. It sells everything from books and stationary, hula implements, Hawaiian rubber stamps, fabrics and pareos. I purchased a "Musical Banana Harmonica" with "I went bananas in Hawaii" printed on the peel. Like the ukulele, the musical banana is not an exceptional musical instrument but functions just fine as surfer décor. The hula studio of Island Moves is also located here. Need Hawaiian performers? Want to learn to hula? There is no "surf" without surf music. I recommend the following: King of the Surf Guitar: The Best of Dick Dale and His Del-Tones, Dick Dale's Tribal Thunder, and a selection by the Aqua Velvets. There is much more, but this is a good start.

Continue your surf immersion with some classic surf movies. Bruce Brown's The Endless Summer (1966) and The Endless Summer II (1994) and Big Wednesday (1978). The Endless Summer movies are enjoyable on many levels, one being the placement of naive blonds (males in this case) into complicated National Geographic countries. Brown cheerfully records the miscues and social faux pas, and it is all quite insipidly entertaining--like combining a Three Stooges movie with beautiful waves. The photography of surf and surfer maniacs in the part II movie is ethereal. You will be stoked.

The next step is to visit Santa Cruz surf shops to buy surfboards (for decorative purposes only) and other surf flotsam and jetsam. Then fly to Cocoa Beach, Fla., and visit the great and glorious Ron Jon Surf Shop. Ron Jon's is to surf décor what Fry's Electronics is to electronic gadgets. And it doesn't hurt to live with a parrot, like William--pictured above.

Final Note: Do not actually try to surf or approach the ocean. There is no antidote for shark bite, and besides, the water is cold.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the February 12-18, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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