Saturday, February 15, 2014

No. 110 – Sun King

Performer: The Beatles
Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Original Release: Abbey Road
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: None.

Yes, I know this is part of an extended medley, and I certainly wouldn’t argue with someone who included the entire thing in his or her list, but this is the only part I like, and again, my house, my rules. Besides, it wasn’t listed on the original album as part of a medley but as an individual song. Heck, originally, Her Majesty wasn’t even listed at all.

I mentioned a little while ago (good ol’ No. 121) about how when I was with Debbie, we began a tradition of having everyone—including Mom—over for a Christmas celebration. For a while, the tradition extended to a dinner out, too. Mom wasn’t included, because much drinking was a large part of the festivities. Allow me to explain.

The Kahiki was one of those restaurants that I knew about, maybe even as far back as when I was a kid, but I never went until Debbie took me one fall day in 1995. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before or since.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about—and that would be anyone who didn’t live in Columbus between 1961 and 2000—The Kahiki was a Polynesian restaurant on the East Side of town. The food was decent enough, but what made The Kahiki legendary was the atmosphere.

The Kahiki building resembled a war canoe of the South Pacific, and twin Easter Island style (and size) flaming-head Tikis greeted you at the entrance … of the building. You then walked about 50 feet through a tunnel of stone and cascading water to the entrance of the restaurant.

Through those doors, you were transported into a Polynesian village with a massive Tiki God rising over a fireplace in the center of the village—complete with faux palm trees. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Columbus any more.

Surrounding the village dining area were themed rooms. Each themed dining room was lined with fish tanks and had what you would imagine to be the cheesiest of South Pacific theme décor—high-back rattan chairs, thatched walls. Heck, you might even have found overhead lights that were inside an inflated puffer fish’s body.

The Rain Forest included audible rain and thunder and lightning flashes above the fish tanks. All around you were the steel-drum stylings of The Beachcombers.

Even the bathrooms were part of the theme, including open giant clam shells as the sinks. My guess—my hope, actually—was that none of it had changed since it opened in 1961. For those of you who missed it, it’s really a fool’s errand to adequately convey the complete awesomeness that was The Kahiki.

As I said, the food itself was serviceable—lots of fish, lots of Asian, as you would expect. The drinks were the best part of the menu. Again, typically, they included a lot of rum and fruit juices. Untypically, each one was served in a unique glass.

There was the zombie, served in a skull mug. The pina passion, served in a pineapple. And the headhunter, in a shrunken-head Tiki mug. The draw there was that you got to keep the mug, and I still have mine from the first time I went.

But the greatest drink on the menu—perhaps the greatest drink of all time—was the Mystery Drink. Debbie and I didn’t have a Mystery Drink the first time we went, because it was a four-person drink. It was a large bowl of rum and fruit juices, and it was served by the Mystery Girl—a bikini top and sarong-wearing lass who served the Mystery Drink after a crash of a gong. She also brought a ceremonial lei to place over your neck.

And did I mention that the Mystery Drink came with a center pool of dry ice that covered the entire table like you’re at a Genesis concert? I didn’t? Oh, well, it did.

Well, a place this awesome was meant to be shared, so share it I did. In 1996, Scott and Shani came up for Christmas dinner—I picked up the check—and we got a Mystery Drink, then another, then another.

Aside from it being plenty tasty, a Mystery Drink was fun. Everyone got a straw, and if everyone sipped at the same time, you could make the drink drop several inches, like a draining bathtub.

Even more fun was that after a couple, when the rum started to take effect, you could collect up to a dozen straws. Hey, we’re all friends here, amirite? Then you could sip the drink pan-flute style, like Zamfir.

We had such a blast that it became an annual event. Each time I picked up the check. Jin joined in 1997, and we put on our Aloha shirts and old leis and hit up The Kahiki. In 1997, we sat in the village by the fireplace. In 1998, when Jin brought her camcorder to capture the frivolity, we sat in the Molokai Hut. (Debbie and I sat in the Rain Forest in 1995.)

Unfortunately, that was the last time we went to The Kahiki. In 1999, Debbie got sick the day of our reservation—she never got sick—and we bailed. In 2000, the Kahiki was gone.

Apparently, the company’s frozen-food business did so well that the owners closed the restaurant to focus on that. Walgreen’s bought the site and leveled the building, because, you know, it’s federal law to have a drugstore on every street corner of every city.

Excuse me, I suddenly don’t feel like writing any more …

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