Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Jayme vs. the Wreck Bar

So last summer, during our roadtrip vacation, we traveled to Fort Lauderdale after departing Orlando and our fun experience with Trader Sam's Grog Grotto. Why Fort Lauderdale? Because it was withing driving distance, we'd never been there, and the locale had several destinations we wanted to visit. First among these was the Wreck Bar. The Wreck Bar resides within the current B Ocean hotel and resort, but predates that hotel by decades. Opened in the 1960s, as I understand, the Wreck Bar is adjacent to the hotel swimming pool, with large windows behind the bar that lets patrons view the underwater happenings in the pool. When the place first opened, they had mermaid shows regularly. These ended after a few seasons, but started back up about a decade ago. As my eldest was a varsity swimmer in high school and my middle child aspires to be a professional mermaid (she already owns several swim tails), it seemed that the Wreck Bar would be a treat for the whole family.

Because we'd be driving 1,300 miles, I didn't want to show up only to have the show sold out (they have a family-friendly show at 6 p.m., with adults-only burlesque shows later in the evening) weeks before our trip I went onto the B Ocean reservation page, called up the Wreck Bar section and tried to make reservations. "Nothing available." What? So I tried again. Same result. They couldn't be sold out this far in advance, could they? Maybe they just hadn't opened the show up for reservations at that point. So I try every day for a week, no luck. Then I start calling and emailing B Ocean for clarification. No response to my email inquiries. Nobody returned my calls. Finally, a few days before we're scheduled to leave, I get ahold of someone. They promise to call back with information for me. They don't. Finally, after quite a long time on the phone, I finally get someone who tells me they don't accept reservations for the Wreck Bar. Then why is it listed on their online reservation system? The lady's about to hang up, but I stop her and ask that if they don't accept reservations, if the show sells out (there's no cover charge, but you're expected to order dinner and drinks). It almost always sells out, she says. We'd need to arrive at least an hour ahead of time to get seats. That tiny bit of information would really be useful put on their website, you know? Would've saved me hours of effort. But whatever. I now had a plan.

We arrived at around 4:40 or so, and were the fourth group in line. As early as we were, there were folks ahead of us. And the Wreck Bar was completely shuttered, not letting anyone in ahead of time. The line had gotten pretty long by the time they opened the doors at 5:15. Here's the thing that makes the Wreck Bar cool, beyond the fact they have mermaid shows--the space is designed to look like the interior of a wrecked sailing vessel. A Spanish galleon, if you will. It's not a tiki bar, but it's a themed, immersive space. I instantly loved it.

Waiting to order dinner as more and more people continued to file in, The Wife and I order some cocktails. The Wife orders a mai tai, as that is our go-to drink to evaluate the quality of the bar program. Her mai tai arrive looking unlike any mai tai we've ever seen. Skeptical, she took a sip. It was, without peer, the worst mai tai she'd ever tasted. Even the pineapple-and-rum mai tais from A Very Taki Tiki Bar were palatable, even if they weren't mai tais. This one was just bad.

I like to try out cocktails I can't find anywhere else, so I took a chance on the Wreck Bar's A1A cocktail, described as a refreshing mix of tequila, passion fruit and other tropical flavors, or something to that effect. I'm always on the lookout for new tequila cocktails to add to my home tiki bar, and this one sounded promising. The end result was anything but. I tasted no passion fruit, no citrus. In fact, I'd be surprised if the A1A I was served consisted of anything more than Cuervo served over ice. The Wife and I compared notes and immediately agreed not to waste any more money on the Wreck Bar's half-assed cocktails.

We ordered dinner, which was from the menu of the Naked Crab restaurant across the lobby. The food, I'm happy to report, far surpassed their cocktail program. I had a sort of lobster sandwich, which was excellent. The entire family was pleased with their entrees.

By this time it was approaching 7 p.m.(!) for a show that was listed as starting at 6. There must've been 60 people crammed into the bar, with another 70 or so standing outside the bar looking in. We were packed in there. Lots of people pressing into a small space, enough to give someone claustrophobia if one were so inclined. They announced a mermaid was available for photos, so we went out and sure enough, there was a mermaid. Our son was disinterested, but my daughters got their photos taken with her. We even showed her photos of Fairy Girl in her mermaid persona. The mermaid wanted to chat more about the mermaid lifestyle, but there was a long line, so that conversation was cut short.

Note DudeBro glaring at us from the bar. We didn't notice the colossal chip he was wearing on his shoulder at the time, but he clearly noticed us. DudeBro plays a much larger role in the remainder of our evening!

So the mermaid show finally starts, but DudeBro, looking like Matthew McConaughey's bratty kid brother, and his wingman, a sort of Penn Jillette-wannabe, plant themselves at the bar, completely blocking out view, and the view of the people at the table behind us. They don't actually have seats, mind you. They're just standing there, basking in their testosterone-fueled entitlement. The DJ announces over the P.A. there's no standing at the bar, but these guys ignore him. Finally, I tap Penn on the shoulder, say they're blocking our view and could you please move? Penn looks at me as if a roach had just skittered across his arm. DudeBro jumps in, telling me, "No, man. That's my girlfriend swimming, see?" and proceeds to turn his back to us, not moving, still blocking our view. We're just stunned by the arrogance. The Wife flags down one of the staff--the woman we take to be the floor manager--and explain problem. She shrugs and says, "Nothing I can do" and walks away. We were dumbfounded.

The thing is, DudeBro overheard. He was incensed that anyone would dare suggest he not block their view. He started yelling at The Wife, "Who do you think you are?" My eldest, who's got a short fuse, started in on him and I quickly escorted her out before punches were thrown (believe me, it was escalating fast). The eldest turned on me and vented quite loudly in the middle of the crowded lobby then stormed off. I returned to find the DJ and DudeBro going at it, with the DJ telling him there's no standing up front, and DudeBro yelling that it's his girlfriend swimming and he could stand anywhere he damn well pleased. Then he yelled at The Wife that if she'd have asked nicely he would've introduced us to his girlfriend, because that was his girlfriend swimming, but since she didn't ask nicely, he wouldn't introduce us. Then he stormed off.

Holy hell. We were all shaking. Were the police on the way? This isn't the way this was supposed to turn out. At all. Threat of a barroom brawl now past, The Wife took the opportunity to photograph some of the mermaid show, of which we've missed maybe 15 minutes of. Joy.

And then--you knew this was coming, right?--DudeBro comes back. Our waitress apologizes, telling us that DudeBro's been dating her only a few weeks, and that he's there every night she performs. Fine. Whatever. We were done. We paid our bill and departed just as hotel security arrived. Maybe they were asking DudeBro nicely if he'd introduce them to his girlfriend. I dunno. I will say that was the single worst experience of our vacation, and left a bad taste in our mouths--even worse than the cocktails. The Wife posted a brief writeup on Facebook about the ordeal, and MeduSirena, the mastermind behind the mermaid shows, messaged her apologizing and asking if she could send us a gift to make up for it. We thanked her and suggested maybe an autographed photo of MeduSirena would be cool. You know, hang it up in the Lagoon of Mystery? That wouldn't be too bad. That was back in July. Still no photo. Ah, well. Live and learn.

Now Playing: The Tikiyaki Orchestra Stereoexotique
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Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Tonight's video is the Rolling Stones' "Harlem Shuffle," because why not? This one came out when I was still in high school, and everyone though the Stones were too old (ha ha!) to make music anymore and this album proved they were over the hill. I'd always assumed Ralph Bakshi directed this, because look at that weird-as-hell animation and tell me Bakshi's fingerprints aren't all over it! But the joke's on me--according to Wikipedia (and Wikipedia has never led anyone astray) Bakshi only directed the live action sequences, while John Kricfalusi, best-know for creating Ren & Stimpy a few years later, did the animation. Wild, huh? Anyway, the Stones rebounded from the ho-hum reception of Dirty Work and put out several killer albums in the coming years. So yay for old rockers!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Ukulena.

Now Playing: Yma Sumac Mambo
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Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Tiki build-along, pt. 22

It's hard to believe my last build-along post came way back in June! It's not that I haven't done any work on the Lagoon of Mystery, but much of my efforts have been piecemeal that don't make for much of an update. I have a few cool additions to share now, however, starting with this guy, who The Wife gifted me for my birthday:

I have to say, the Gill-Man looks right at home in my Lagoon, even if it isn't black. This is ostensibly a Halloween decoration. It's a dense, mold-injection polystyrene foam, so it's relatively light, but somewhat durable as well. The detail on this sculpt is pretty impressive, and the paint job is mostly excellent (more on that in a moment). I wanted to have him breaking through the wall above the stereo cabinet, so I started the installation by taking old, scrap bamboo weave and cutting and painting it to achieve the desired "bursting" effect. Then I stapled it to one of the furring strips I have backing the bamboo weave on the wall (note that this is a new addition as well--that wall was exposed siding for most of the year).

I measured, drilled and installed wall hooks to support the Gill-Man. Despite my measurements, I had to reposition them a couple of times before it would sit right.

There was no obvious way to wall mount him, despite the packaging suggesting such a course of action, so I ended up epoxying in two eye hooks into the hollow back.

I connected galvanized wire to the eye hooks. It took a bit of trial-and-error to get the length correct. It doesn't sit entirely flush against the wall, but it's fairly close.

Now we get to my big disappointment. That nice, detailed paint job? It was peeling up on the crown of his head. That bald spot was about the size of a nickle, but the surrounding paint had separated from the foam in an area about 5 times as large. I thought about sending it back, but that meant serious hassle. And I didn't want to let go of my Gill-Man.

Maybe I could fix it on my own. And add some unique character while I was at it. Fish hook, anyone?

I cut the damaged paint away with a razor blade.

I mixed up some epoxy ("Strong stuff").

I applied the epoxy over the hook and the damaged area of paint. Then I let it dry and cure.

The next day I sanded the epoxy and started applying layers of acrylic paint in various shades of green. It took a good deal of mixing and layering to approach the mottled look.

I was not completely happy with the final results. Fortunately, the new paint isn't nearly so bright or obvious as it appears in this image. The color shift is much more subtle, and when the Gill-Man is mounted high on the wall the difference is imperceptible.

[UPDATED] I left the following photo out of my initial post because I am dumb. Gill-Man, as cool as he is, is still made of polystyrene foam. Which is vulnerable to UV degradation. I've seen that even under the covered patio, reflected UV light still does a number on plastics. And I have no idea what varying humidity will do to it, either. So as a hedge against these forces of nature, I coated the Gill-Man with several coats of water-based spar urethane. Why water-based? Well, it goes on clear, whereas the oil-based type has an ambering effect. Hopefully this will offer enough protection to ensure the Gill-Man is with us for many years to come. And while I'm at it--just look at the detail on this sculpt! For a cash-grab, somebody put a serious amount of effort into this production.

Every spring we have problems with barn swallows attempting to build mud nests in the shelter of the patio roof. This does not mix well with our tiki bar decor. Artificial owls have proven to be the best at scaring away the swallows, but now I find myself wondering if the Gill-Man might do a better job.

Doesn't he look great? Note in those photos the dark wood trim dividing the bamboo weave paneling on the top half of the wall from the vertical tortoise shell bamboo tambour on the bottom half. All that went up so that Gill-Man might be installed properly. I hate to admit it, but I actually began routing that wood trim a year ago. Other projects intervened, and I set it aside, not even half-finished. I didn't expect it to take the better part of a year to get back to it. Over time, the parts that I'd originally carved out discolored so as to match the unmolested wood. It's funny, because my newer cuts stand out as bright white! I had to also carefully measure a cutout so the trim would fit around the built-in stereo cabinet.

Each piece of middle trim has a few design elements that set it apart from previous trim pieces I've cut. They're all a little different, even though certain design elements repeat. It's my modest effort to always have something novel for visitors to discover.

To make the cut-out, I used a jig saw. I did not use a guide on this cut, because reasons. The result was a cut that was mostly straight, but awkwardly lumpy when placed up against the stereo cabinet. I fixed this problem through application of brute force--I hit those lumps with the power sander until they were no more. Problem solved.

Next, as I do with all the wood trim, I torched it. After the wood was thoroughly scorched, I scrubbed it with a wire brush (not shown) then stained with Minwax Special Walnut (not shown) and sealed with two coats of spar urethane (also not shown).

Before I put up the trim, I had to get the tambour panel up. I really, really like the tortoise shell style. It just gives a nice, visual texture to the layout. I used trim nails (and a drill to make pilot holes) to attach the tambour to the wall, then used my Dremel with a cutting disc to accommodate the rows of switches. This was probably the easiest step of the whole build.

The switch box was quite dirty. There were mud dauber nests in there. At some point, I will change out those old, white switches with dark brown ones. I've already replace the switch plates.

And this is how all the paneling looked prior to the finished trim piece being installed. Scroll up to see the finished scene. Normally I try to do these in sequence, but how could I not lead off with the Gill-Man?

The Gill-Man was a fun addition, but it had never been part of my master plan for the Lagoon of Mystery. This next addition is a huge step toward fulfilling that master plan. As I've said before, the Lagoon of Mystery is primarily occupying a 65' covered patio. Thus far, we've tikified about half of that covered space. The farthest end, below, remains mostly untouched. I use it for my work area and it's normally somewhat cluttered. When we have gatherings, nobody goes there, because there's no reason to. My grand vision, however, was to have this as the "cool spot" to hang out. I call it "Mermaid Cove" because of the silhouette painted on the ceiling. I wanted to install a circular restaurant booth here as a sort of physical statement "This is the end of the tiki bar." The only trouble was that new booths are crazy expensive. I'd resigned myself to build one, but I couldn't find any plans online that matched what I envisioned. Even with plans, the build would tax my modest carpentry and upholstery skills.

Enter the miracle of Craig's List. By sheer, dumb luck, I discovered a recently-closed Fuddrucker's in Houston (I love their burgers, so this is kind of bittersweet) was selling off their restaurant booths. What's more, their asking price was less than the cost of lumber to build my own. Wow. So last Saturday I drove from New Braunfels to Columbus, borrowed my brother's trailer, drove to Houston, loaded the trailer with sections of restaurant booth, drove back to New Braunfels, unloaded, then returned said trailer to Columbus. I got home around 10:30 p.m. having logged approximately 500 miles. I ached. But I had my booth. Totally worth it!

This is how it looks in situ. Pretty cool, huh?

And another view. I am currently building a table in the style of my previous cocktail tables for the booth, which will look spectacular once in place. I've decided to build a (modestly) raised deck for the booth to rest on to enhance the sense that Mermaid Cove is a distinct location unto itself. What to do with the opening to the yard beyond is starting to come together in my mind, involving a combination of bamboo poles, thatch and Chinese jade breezeway tiles. All of that lies in the future, however. Currently I am weatherproofing all the wood surfaces with my go-to sealant, Flood CWF-UV (natural clear). Those open areas around the back of the booth? I plan to close those in and turn into storage cabinets through the strategic use of hinges and magnet locks. I've done some measurements and sketches, and am convinced I can thoroughly tikify this booth before I even think of replacing the vinyl with tapa pattern (which, initially, I thought I would have to do first thing). Can you tell I'm excited? I'm excited.

Alas, there's no such thing as a free lunch. As good a bargain as this booth was, it did not come without drawbacks. This was a restaurant booth, after all. It seems like 20 years' worth of food crumbs, soda spills and grease from Fuddrucker's had found its way into every nook and cranny. All of that hand to be cleaned out.

Despite concerns about water damage to the plywood, this was too big a job for me to tackle with simple elbow grease, so I broke out our pressure washer. Even with that furious spray, some of the caked-on garbage was reluctant to let go. The "white" vinyl cushion on the seat was particularly striking. A determined spray revealed that it wasn't white at all, but rather white underneath with an embedded patina of grey dirt and grime. Yuck!

The lower I went, the nastier it got.

The slider/foot rests for the booth were old, worn and rusty. I needed to keep the booth elevated so the wood wouldn't be in contact with the concrete, so I replaced these with new, larger furniture sliders. It's the little things that make a difference. Each booth section took 12 sliders. That adds up.

Once all the booth sections dried in the sun, I moved them back into place on the patio and gave the whole thing a once-over using 409 to remove all remaining grease and grime. Despite the pressure wash, there was a lot of nasty stuff left. The good news is, the booth is now cleaner than it has been in 20 years and ready for whatever comes next. And I have to admit, it just feels cool sitting in it.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd The Journey Suite
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