Anyone that knows Allison and me personally, is well aware of our fascination and love for all things Tiki. We’ve spent the past five years or so traveling the world visiting dozens Tiki bars and collecting related mugs and ephemera. Alas, the large three-foot-tall Tiki god in our hallway has started to split in half. I assume it’s from the dry air in our apartment, but I’m sure the cats had something to do with it. Though I can’t prove it.
While not my favorite Tiki in our collection, it does have an interesting story. About a year ago, Allison and I were traveling back from Key West when somewhere between Key Largo and Islamorada, we stumbled across an old man carving giant Tikis on the side of the highway. Allison freaked as a I screeched the rented Focus to a halt and jumped out of the car ranting wildly.
Turns out that there is a group of carvers that spend their days carving these gorgeous statues under the blazing South Florida sun using chain saws and chisels. We spent a few minutes chatting with the gentleman and purchased our favorite totem pole for about a hundred dollars.
A few weeks past and the effigy hadn’t arrived. I called the number on the receipt and got a voice mail. After a few more weeks, the voice mail also disappeared. Figuring we had been had by a guy with a great story and a collection of prefab Tikis, I gave up the hunt. Until a month later when I received a random email from someone I didn’t know, rambling about how sorry they were that I didn’t get my Tiki.
It turns out that the carver died the day after he sold us our Tiki from numerous cancers and that ours wasn’t mailed out because he died before he could deliver it to the post office. I gave the person my condolences and my address. A week or so later, the Tiki arrived and has spent the past year on top of the subwoofer in our living room watching over clients and guests alike.
The photo at the beginning of this post might be the last photo ever taken of the carver. I don’t know even know the guy’s name, but I’m sure he has a family out there that misses him. I completely forgot about the image. It wasn’t meant to be a portrait, just evidence of what we bought in our travels. The plan now is to find the guy’s family and send it to them. Let’s hope I have some success.
Sadly, the Tiki has split all the way down the middle lengthwise and halfway into the circumference. The goal now is to restore it using wood filling, sandpaper, and some luck. Any advice would be great. Part of me is doing this to save a cool Tiki, but I think I’m really doing it out of respect for the Tiki Carver of the Florida Keys—whoever he is.