Thursday, February 23, 2017

Office build-along, pt. 9

Progress on my office bookshelves has slowed, but not stopped. I'm keeping at it. Part of the problem is the season. Despite the relative lack of winter weather, at the stage I'm in it is often too cold or too wet or too windy to work outdoors, and the staining and varnishing produces too many fumes to safely breath whilst working in the garage. So progress is slow.

That said, today I'm going to talk about a major milestone and genuine headache for woodworkers in general: Polyurethane. When I built my bookshelves at the old house, I didn't use polyurethane. Instead, I applied sanding sealer, which builds up quickly after just a couple coats to form a smooth, shiny surface. The downside to sanding sealer is that it is soft and scratches easily. It's not terribly durable. I didn't know that then--my main concern was getting a polished, smooth finish on my shelves. Polyurethane, on the other hand, is harder, more durable and comes in a wider variety of finishes. I used polyurethane on my workbench for its durable properties, so I thought I should stick with it for the bookshelves.

For the record, I went with a satin finish. I though full gloss coat would look cheap, but I'd put too much effort into this to settle for a dull matte finish. Satin was a comfortable compromise.

The thing is, polyurethane (and spar urethane for outside projects) comes with its own set of challenges. Go online and the most common complaint focuses on bubbles. Tiny bubbles like to form in polyurathane, and if they dry that way, the surface is marred and uneven. Smooth and glassy is what we're going for here, remember? In fact, people are so paranoid about bubbles forming that the can carries a warning not to shake it to mix contents, because that will induce bubble-forming. Well, I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't shake a can of polyurethane to mix it, but not out of fear of bubbles. It separates after sitting a long time into an oily liquid and thicker, resinous goo that will not willingly mix together no matter how much you shake a can. They can only be mixed by stirring, and stirring, and stirring. Shaking, and even stirring, will create largish bubbles, but these aren't stable and pop easily. No, the bubbles that bedevil woodworkers are those that form when actually applying the varnish to the wood. Unlike stain, polyurethane is something of a prima donna when it comes to application and requires a decent-quality brush. Cheap bristle brushes and foam brushes apply it unevenly and are very frustrating to try and use. I know, because I tried. The polyurethane should be applied slowly in long, straight strokes. That show part is key. The slower applied, the fewer tiny bubbles form, but at some point you get diminishing returns. You have to figure what trade-off you're comfortable with. For me, I apply to the entire board/section at a moderate speed. The polyurethane begins curing almost immediately, so usually by the time I've finished the initial coat on a board, it's gone from liquid to tacky. At this point I give it another brush-over with more vigorous back-and-forth strokes, and this seems sufficient to eliminate most remaining bubbles. At least, that's what seems to work for me. Some people can be borderline superstitious with polyurethane, so they might give completely different advice.

Another thing I can't recommend highly enough is to have back lighting. That is, a strong light source opposite you that can reflect off the wet, freshly-varnished surface. If a fixed light's not available, a flashlight will do. That reflection is the most effective means of locating areas that the brush missed. The last thing you want is to spend 20 minutes on a shelf only to discover later that there's a big, bare spot along the left edge. There are always bare spots. The bare spots kill the reflection and show up easily, showing exactly where another few brush strokes are needed.

Another thing I can't stress enough: Less is more. Apply the polyurethane in thin coats. Resist the temptation to glop it on. If memory serves, sanding sealer was very forgiving on this count. Not polyurethane. Thickly applied, it doesn't cure properly and remains soft, which defeats the purpose of using polyurethane. With this, you apply a thin coat, and once it dries, sand lightly with a fine grit sandpaper (I use 400) and then apply another thin coat. The idea is to just remove the surface imperfections, bubbles, etc. with the sanding. You don't want to sand hard enough to remove the coating and get down to the actual wood. Repeat this process until the buildup is sufficiently smooth. To be honest, this is a serious time sink, because polyurethane doesn't contain the filler additives of sanding sealer, and therefore doesn't build up nearly as quickly as sanding sealer. Whereas two coats of sanding sealer was more than enough to give me a smooth, glossy surface on the old bookshelves, the polyurethane demands three or more coats to match that level of finish. It's not a fast process, so that extra work adds up. The temptation to cut corners and say "Good enough" is very strong, and I'll admit I've done so on the undersides of shelves, where one coat is sufficient to seal the wood but not enough to give it that smooth texture. I justify this by saying, "Who looks at the undersides of shelves, anyway?"

Despite all that, the 2"x12" upright shelf supports are all finished. Stained, coated and sanded, ready for installation. So here I'm installing the end board on the far wall. Firstly, I need to use a stud finder to locate where anchor spots may be lurking behind the sheetrock. Fortunately, there are horizontal framing boards near the top of the wall that come down 2.5" below the ceiling.

I mark the bottom edge of the framing boards, just to be on the safe side. Relying on my memory is a good way to make a lot of avoidable mistakes.

Next, I repeat the process for the lower part of the wall.

On the upright shelf support, I mark where the framing boards would be, then mark the spot for a pilot hole about an inch from the edge of the board.

I use a large drill bit--I can't recall the exact size, but it's diameter is slightly larger than the screws I'm using--to make a shallow, pseudo-pocket hole. I say pseudo, because true pocket holes are normally drilled as shallow angles. This one's right at 90 degrees.

Then I take a smaller bit--again, not sure the size but it's slightly smaller than the thread width of my screws--to drill the pilot hold directly in the middle of the pocket hole. Drilling a pilot hole serves two purposes: 1) it eliminates the chance of the wood splitting while drilling in a screw, and 2) it makes the drilling of said screw much easier.

This is what the pocket/pilot combination looks like on the unstained end of the upright, the part that will be covered by the base cabinet.

For comparison's sake, this is what the pocket/pilot looks like on the stained and finished end. Once all is said and done, I'll fill the shallow pocket hole with wood putty and stain it to match the surrounding wood. It should be mostly invisible, if I manage to use the proper stain color.

I set the upright against the wall where it meets the floor, and push it up into position. It's looking more and more likely that I'll end up replacing both the baseboards and crown molding in my office. I'd hoped to avoid that because of the expense, but I'm not seeing any way around it as this project progresses.

Now I drill 3" wood screws through the pilot hole to anchor the upright to the wall. Those are long screws and not super-easy to work with, but necessary when going through 2" of pine and another 1/2" of sheetrock. You've got to find solid wood to anchor the shelf.

The top didn't quite want to fit into position. I'd tested it before, and it was tight then. Storage outside must've caused some swelling in the wood from the absorption of moisture from the air. It's been humid lately. So I pull out one of my newer purchases, a rubber mallet. A few solid whacks and the upright is neatly in place. What's really nice is that the rubber doesn't damage the wood or leave any marks on the finish. I expect I'll be repeating this in the near future.

With the upright firmly in place, I can take the next step and attach the end cabinet. The process is essentially the same--drill pilot holes through both the cabinet and upright, then insert screw. I didn't bother with the pocket holes this time, because a shelf will be covering the hollow where the screws reside.

And there you have it! One end of my built-in bookshelf has taken shape, with more to come!

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gary Cartwright (1934-2017)

Well, hell. Legendary Texas writer and hellraiser Gary Cartwright died today following a fall in his home. An Arlington native, he attended the University of Texas briefly before transferring and graduating from TCU. He went into newspapers, but didn't stay there. A decades-long contributor to Texas Monthly, he wrote all sorts of fantastic magazine articles and books, but specialized in true crime. His Cullen Davis trial work is the stuff of legend.

More personally, he talked with me quite a bit when I was working on Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch. Truth be told, he tried to discourage me from the project for a time, telling me that Larry King had already written all there was to know about that topic, and that nobody could ever top King. I respectfully disagreed. Thinking my Chicken Ranch research amounted to tilting at windmills didn't stop Cartwright from sharing some great stories with me, however.

Growing up between Dallas and Fort Worth, Cartwright was no stranger to brothels. The lower end of Fort Worth had more brothels than anyone could shake a stick at, with a handful of prostitutes working each of the old flophouse hotels that dominated that part of the city. The big thing to do for boys in high school in Arlington was to drive over to Fort Worth and pay the going rate of three dollars to spend a few quick minutes with one of the flophouse whores.

“It seems like nothing now, but at the time three dollars was fairly dear. At La Grange the price was five dollars, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this must really be a classy joint!’” Cartwright said. “This one girl came over and started talking to me. Her name was Patsy, and she was from Highland Park in Dallas. Highland Park was kind of the ritzy, silk stocking area of Dallas, so I was impressed. Here was this hooker from Highland Park! That added a little cachet to the situation.

“She was skinny, blond, not particularly attractive but not unattractive. The other girls in the room were about the same—no real knockouts but no dogs, either. Eventually, we went to one of the rooms, and the whole thing lasted three minutes, four minutes, then it was over,” he said. “I went back and sat in the waiting room. The socializing in the living room section was probably more memorable than the actual sex, which, as I said, lasted almost no time.”
Cartwright's literary archive is curated by the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Thrill of an early spring, redux

Spring is breaking in Central Texas, and I'm scrambling to keep up with the various plants breaking bud hither and yon. This is not a new experience for me. Consider what I wrote here almost one year ago:

We haven't had much of a winter this year. That's both good and bad. Good, because I absolutely hate the cold. The reason I tolerate the brutality of August in Texas is so that I might wear shorts outdoors in January and February. On the other hand, it's not that great for my fruit trees, which need a certain amount of chill hours annually to produce good crops. That's not a big deal yet, because we've only lived at the new house about 18 months and the trees I planted last year are still too young (for the most part) to bear fruit. Last year we recorded almost 1,000 chill hours, which is a significant amount for this part of Texas, which is more than enough for any of the fruit trees I have growing. This year, even with the mild winter, I'm at 600 chill hours--a decent amount for most of my plants.
This year, I'm sad to say, we're not even at a meagre 300 chill hours--just 293 at last reading--with little hope of gaining any more at this point. That is discouraging, to put it mildly. We had two big freezes this year, and one dropped down to 22F doing significant damage to some of my plants, despite the fact that I'd covered them and/or added heat lights. Last year we never had any hard freezes, but it stayed chilly for long stretches. Without sufficient chill, fruit trees won't produce. Most of mine are still too young to worry about that, but if this trend persists through the coming years, it will prove problematic.

What's not problematic are my passion vines. That big flower bud above is from my potted passiflora vitifolia, aka the crimson passion flower. It's already bloomed once in February and has set a bunch more buds. Out in the yard, my passiflora incarnata, aka native maypops, are popping up all over the place after freezing back during the winter. So some plants are happy with the warming trend. Others have a chance to get an early start on the growing season. Below, you'll see the haul I got in from the T.V. Munson vineyard at Grayson College. For the uninitiated, Munson was a horticulturalist who set up shop in Texas back in the 19th century and bred hundreds of varieties of grapes. He's also credited with saving the French wine industry. Many of the grape varieties he bred used wild stock and are particularly well-suited to growing in Texas, where other domesticated grapes struggle due to climate, disease pressure, etc. Sadly, almost all of Munson's varieties are not available commercially, but the good folks at Grayson sent me cuttings of Elvicand, Ben Hur, Valhallah and Wapanuka. I treated the cuttings with rooting hormone and currently have them warming in moist sphagnum moss to encourage the formation of rooting calluses. In about a month I'll plant them in pots and if all goes well, should have a bunch of vigorous (and rare) grape vines growing by the end of spring.

I also put some effort into propagating the Ison muscadine growing in my back yard. Muscadine grape vines do not easily root from cuttings, so one has to air layer the vines. This involves wounding part of a vine near a bud node, treating the area with rooting hormone (not strictly necessary, but I always do so), and then enclosing the wounded area in a growth medium. In the past I did my air layering using starter pots and tying the vine down... actually, it was pretty labor intensive are my failure rate was high. I saw online this alternative method, which involves cutting the bottom out of a liter bottle and just running the vine straight through, then filling with soil. It certainly is a lot simpler. Time will tell if it is more successful.

Last year, a great deal of my time was spent grafting apple trees. I didn't graft that many this year, but I still did some work in that area. Out front, I have two young Blanco crab apple trees planted. Or rather, did. One abruptly died last fall, and I'm still unclear why it died. To hedge my bets, this year I took some of the pruned branches and grafted them onto the two dwarf apple trees I so vigorously grafted onto last year. You can tell the Blanco crabs aren't domesticated because they've got some serious spurs on the branches.

A few razor cuts later, and the graft is completed. I use cheap electrical tape had have good results. I wrap tightly from the bottom up, then counter-wrap from the top down with a second piece of tape, that way, if the tape starts to unravel (and it does) the top layer has to unravel a lot before the more important bottom layer can come loose. In the end, I did seven Blanco crab grafts. I also found a branch on my young Arkansas Black apple tree had broken, but was still attached to the tree. I pruned it off and used the good sections of the broken branch to make two more grafts on the dwarf trees. I lost the first Arkansas Black I planted two years ago to drought, so insurance is always good.

This is the simple cleft graft process I use. It's the simplest form of grafting, but I've had excellent success with it. The base of the scion wood is cut into a narrow V, and inserted in a narrow wedge, or cleft, of the tree. Out of the dozens of grafts I made last year, almost 100 percent took. One Hall apple graft started to grow, but abruptly died. Then later, I accidentally broke off a King David graft that was growing vigorously, with no hope of saving it. So, that's a pretty good success rate.

This is what the cleft graft should look like a year from now, when the wound is scarred over and the graft is growing as a solid part of the tree.

The graft union doesn't always grow so neatly. Here's one that's bursting forth through the electrical tape from last year. The tape's not really strong enough to strangle the limb, but it is restrictive. After a year, once the union has properly healed, the tape should be removed.

And this is what it looks like when the tape is peeled away.

I also had two apple salvage jobs left over from last year. I ordered four crab apple trees to go along with the two Blanco crabs out front. Two were Hewe's Virginia crab, and two were Wickon's crab. Alas, the Wickson grafts were DOA, leaving me with only rootstock, and my beagles broke one of the Hewe's, leaving me with just one of the preferred types I'd ordered. Fortunately, the surviving Hewe's put out several branches and I was able to graft parts of them onto the two surviving root stocks. Because these are growing in pots, I was able to get cute and use wax to seal the ends and prevent water loss that way. Not necessary, but always an option.

So, what else is new at the Blaschke homestead for 2017? I'm glad you asked. Whilst I have a couple of paw paw trees, a che and several banana cultivars still in pots waiting on me to prepare their planting areas appropriately, I've managed to put several other new fruiting plants in the ground. The scrubby bush below, in the tomato cage is not new, though. This is a two-year-old goji bush. It struggled the first year in the ground but came on strong last season. I planted another type nearby last year, and it struggled as well. I'm hoping it catches up to its older sibling this year.

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This one is new. It's a "Sweet Scarlet" goumi, otherwise known as elaeagnus multiflora. A relative of Russian olive, this one's not supposed to be invasive. It's also a nitrogen-fixer. I've planted two. It just now occurred to me that I also planted a new pineapple guava (feijoa) last month, the named "Mammoth" cultivar. No photos of that one, though.

I also finally got around to planting my latest jujube tree--the hard-to-find "Honey Jar" cultivar. Theoretically, it's my last jujube. I have a li, Shangxi li and Black Sea already in the ground, and the li produced several fruit last year. I'd kinda like to get Tiger Tooth and Sherwood types, but this one will be enough for the forseeable future. It's kind of hard to see in the photo because of all the branches. That's what's left of the out-of-control Lady Banks rose bush the previous owners planted and then never trimmed back. The darn thing had a trunk six inches thick, I kid you not. There's a lot more of it outside the frame. I'm going to be mulching this one a long time.

Next up is a Sumbar pomegranate. It, and the Austin pomegranate about 10 feet away are already leafing out. They're both sweet types, so I need to get some more tart types to balance them out. The common "Wonderful" variety doesn't grow well in the Central Texas climate. Fortunately, I've got some cuttings heading my way of the somewhat obscure Kajacik Anor cultivar. I sampled this one at the A&M pomegranate tasting earlier this year, and it was my favorite of the lot. Hopefully I'll be able to root a few cuttings.

Remember those hard freezes I mentioned earlier? They hit my bananas hard, but fortunately the fruit that had already set survived, as did the plants. Not so lucky were my mandarins. Two years ago I got the new Orange Frost and Arctic Frost satsumas, cold-hardy types that had been developed in San Antonio and actually growing in the SA Botanical Gardens for decades, surviving repeated hard freezes. Unfortunately for me, those were mature trees and mine were anything but. Even covered with a frost blanket, these took a serious beating. The forecast was for 28F, which they'd weathered a few weeks earlier without any trouble. But dropping down to 22F and staying there for the better part of a day killed all the leaves and most of the branches. Fortunately, the lower branches survived and are now leafing out. These types are grown on their own roots, so I don't have to worry about the rootstock taking over. The next time we have a hard freeze coming, I'm going to wrap them with hot Christmas lights, like I did my bananas.

The panache tiger fig is another new addition this year. These are the nifty-looking yellow-and-green striped figs you sometimes see in the fresh produce section. It started leafing out before I even got it in the ground. I had great success with the unidentified open-eye fig at the old house, but that open eye attracted all sorts of flies and wasps. I ended up getting stung several times, so I'm all about the closed eye fig these days. I hope to add a couple more types, but deciding on the best option for my needs is not that easy.

My other fig, a Marseilles Black grown from a cutting I traded for years ago at the old house. It's been in a pot ever since, and not terribly happy about that fact. It's been in the ground for a year now, and while it leafed out all summer, producing a few small figs, it had very little growth. I'm assuming it spent last summer investing all its energy into growing roots. Regardless, the 22F freeze that hammered my mandarins killed this one back as well. It didn't die back all the way to the ground, though, and already I see new growth breaking out. It'll be interesting to see how much it grows this season. I'd like my figs to grow large enough to act as a privacy screen (along with the rest of my fruit trees).

This coming year I hope to get a few kumquats to plant along the driveway, a replacement for my dead Blanco crab, a weeping mulberry (or two) and a dwarf key lime to grow in a container. There are some dwarf papayas that would look quite nice in a container as well. Oh, and I also have some Texas (remote) Pinion Pine tree seedlings on order. So I should keep busy for the next six months or so.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

If you read my Pilikia post, or paid attention to my book release party, you might have picked up on the fact that I'm getting into tiki culture. It's true. And there are a lot of cool people involved in the tiki revival. Some of them are talented musicians, and some of them are in the Hula Girls, performing "Hula! Hula! Bang! Bang!" You're welcome.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Jayme vs. Pilikia

Since we moved into the new house more than two years ago, I've been growing more and more interested in tiki. Palm trees and the swimming pool will do that to a person. But up until maybe 6 months or so ago, I had no idea tiki culture remained an active scene, as opposed to one that died out in the '70s. This, despite the fact that I built myself a tiki bar, which made its debut at my book release party back in August. Over the weekend, as you may or may not know, I attended ConDFW in Fort Worth. Well, I had learned that a new tiki bar, Pilikia, had recently opened up in Dallas. Since I had no programming obligations Friday night, and seeing as how I'd never visited an actual, for-true tiki bar before, I thought I'd make the jaunt over to Dallas and check it out.

First advice about driving in Dallas--don't do it. What mapped out as a 30 minute trip turned into an hour ordeal once all the road construction, detours and missed exits are accounted for. Pilikia itself is near the downtown just off the spaghetti snarl of highways, a few miles from both West End and SMU campus. The neighborhood seemed quiet, a mix of old businesses, small warehouses and big, new apartment complexes going up, your typical gentrification process in action. The parking lot seemed smallish, and it's valet only (tip based, with no additional fee) which threw me a bit. There doesn't seem to be any convenient street parking nearby, so to my eye the lot is likely to fill up long before the bar itself does. The pergola-covered patio area with the bright Pilikia sign on top presents well from the street, but the entrance itself, with a thatch awning, flanking tikis and a big moai off to the side, seems a little tacked on.

I was unsure what to expect after the exterior mix of industrial with tiki, but the immediate inside of Pilikia dazzled. To the right of the door was a small seating area separated from the main bar by rope/railing. The entire wall was taken up by backlit, golden skulls. It was really pretty darn stunning, especially if you're not expecting it. Centered on that wall is a small bar, which looked to be dedicated to a DJ setup, or something like that. I can't see them actually serving drinks there.

The wall between the skull wall and the door had a cabinet filled with tastefully arranged clutter. It wasn't jam-packed enough to be entirely authentic, but considering the skull wall overwhelms everything on that end of the bar, I'll cut 'em some slack.

They had some nice lighting effects on this tiki right across the rope room divider.

And this is the main barroom as seen from directly in front of the skull wall. It was neat and clean, orderly, with subdued lighting and good tiki-style eye candy. Pretty much what one would expect of a tiki bar in Dallas, if you took the time to preconceive a notion. I'd arrived about 8:30 on a Friday night, and while there were several groups of patrons there, I'd have expected it to be a little more crowded.

I'd intended to eat there, but it became clear very fast that this is primarily a bar, not a restaurant. The menu (below) appeared pretty much an afterthought, printed on a plain white sheet of paper as opposed to the nifty design of the regular drink menus. And it's geared toward feeding a larger group rather than individuals. Is this normal? I dunno--this is my first tiki bar. After debating for a few minutes, nothing appealed to me so I gave it a pass. Someone else will have to report on the food quality.

The drink menu. Lighting was very dim, and I had to crank the ISO up way high on my camera to get this hand-held (no tripod with me) so it's very grainy. I uploaded this image larger than the others for anyone who wants to click through to parse the drinks more closely.

Since I was driving myself, and had never had a real one, I ordered a single mai tai. The bartender was friendly and chatted as he mixed my drink. It was an impressive display. The drink itself was fine. Was it authentic? As far as I could tell it was, but I had no baseline for comparison. I've never had a real mai tai, that is, one that didn't come out of a bottled mix. I'd happily drink one again. Not so great was the $11 price tag. Ouch. I expected complex tiki drinks to cost more than your standard issue rum-and-Coke, but still. And there was a lot of ice in that tiki mug. I guess I need to reset my expectations.

Here are a couple of detail shots from the bar.

Here's one of the behind-the-bar liquor alcove. There were two of these. And the friendly bartenders at work. Neither one of these guys made my mai tai.

Here's the big, glowing tiki behind the bar. I have to say, this guy was magnificent. Apart from the skull wall, easily my favorite part of the place. He had serious personality, if you know what I mean. And tucked off to big glowing tiki's left was a diving helmet. It was very easy to overlook. I can't help but think they're misusing this piece. Personally, I love these old diving helmets and hope to get one someday for my own tiki project and turn it into a lamp.

Speaking of lamps, with a bar that impressive, they're bound to have some amazing tiki lights hanging on the ceiling above, right? Right? Oh dear...

Let's pretend we didn't see that, and instead look at the big, glowing treasure chest that at one point held what was undoubtedly a potent group cocktail, followed by a view of the main seating area from the bar. See that doorway there in the middle? That leads outside.

Here we go outside. The main barroom area of Pilikia is pretty much a straight rectangle, and the outside forms an L around it. The long part is enclosed, with a patio roof and kind of a wood plank wall to keep the elements out, but it's not climate controlled. The photo below is looking into the bar proper, the windows corresponding to the peacock chair booths.

Immediately to the left coming out of the bar proper is a raised platform with an assortment of lounge chairs, daybeds and the like. I tried a couple and they weren't as comfy as they appeared. Primary decorations here were banana-faced tiki masks on the wall (yes, I know they're supposed to be surf boards. But I keep expecting them to break out into the Chiquita banana song. So sue me). The positive feelings the interior decor begin to erode a little. This is starting to feel more store-bought than sincere.

This guy was tucked into a corner opposite the banana tikis. He didn't feel mass-produced. I liked him. Probably my favorite tiki in the place, apart from the big glowy guy behind the barn.

This is looking down the length of the L. The fireplace is a nice touch, but not particularly tiki. Most of the tiki decor is simply tacked onto the wall--Amazon masks, bamboo panels. It's about this time that I realize I hadn't seen any custom carvings. All of the wood posts, walls and beams are bare. If it's lucky, it'll have a colorful mask affixed to it.

There were a bunch of these guys outside. Tiki by Toscano? Don't get me wrong, as they're cool and I wouldn't mind having them at my place. But everything outside is feeling like they went shopping at Tikis R Us and grabbed whatever was on the shelf.

Decent bamboo chairs at tables on the short end of the L. This is the part visible from the street, with the bright, rectangular Pilikia above. The area's covered by the pergola. The live bamboo screen is a nice touch, and will be nicer once the boo grows in to make a thicker screen. The next photo shows the secondary bar in the L. Old banana face makes another appearance.

After this, I got bored and figured it was time to go. I finished off my mai tai and headed back inside to see if I'd missed anything on my first pass. Above each of the peacock chair booths was this type of lamp. It's a definite step up from those bare bulb things over the bar, but I've seen a lot better homemade lamps on Tiki Central. I realized I hadn't noticed any blowfish lamps, so I specifically looked for some. Found two in the bar proper. The first, here, was behind netting hanging from the ceiling. The effect would've been better with more flotsam and jetsam cluttering the net. As it was, the net was pretty much empty. The other blowfish lamp was hanging not too far away, between the wall of skulls area and the bar. They'd installed color-changing bulbs in them (which I assume is a common practice) and while I'm not the biggest fan of blowfish lamps, I have to admit the effect was kinda cool.

I found this abandoned drink sitting underneath an orchid on an endtable. I thought it an interesting image. Not far away was this pineapple head tiki was at the front, near the exit. It amused me.

Pilikia made a powerful first impression on me, then steadily frittered it away the longer I stayed. The outside/deck came off as an afterthought. The music selection seems to be a big complaint amongst tikiphiles, and I can see why. No exotica played while I was there. Mostly they seemed locked in to playing inoffensive reggae/Caribbean hits. I chuckled a little when "Pass the Dutchie" came on, then cringed when Shaggy's "Angel" started playing (I can't say how much I hate that song). I stayed about 45 minutes and those were the only two tunes I recognized--no Bob Marley or even the Killer Bees. It's like they knew current top 40 was inappropriate, but couldn't be bothered to figure out what they should play instead. If they're not doing exotica, then bossa nova or Cuban jazz would've set the tone better.

Overall, Pilikia is trying for an upscale vibe with this club, and while I don't think tiki bars need to be a dive, I kinda feel they should be more egalitarian. I liked the interior, but the outside decor was just going through the motions. I came away with the impression that Pilikia was comprised of equal parts honest effort and pretentiousness. There's not a whole lot in Dallas that's authentic, and in that sense, Pilikia fits right in.

I'd go again if the opportunity presented itself, but I wouldn't make a special effort visit.

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