Max Visits a Dog Friendly Town

Folks have been living in the Cayucos area since about 11,000 BC which is approximately the last time the AJF admitted I was right during any argument.


A great stop-off point along the coast between Southern and Northern California.

The early inhabitants were Chumash Indians. They were there for the fish, abalone and other critters in the lush kelp beds just offshore.

The Spanish explorers visited Cayucos in the mid-1700s and it became part of a Spanish land grant in the following century.

But it was a New England sailing captain who put the town on modern maps when he sailed around the Horn and landed there in 1867.

Captain James Cass quickly noted that Cayucos (the name comes from the Chumash language meaning kayak or canoe) was well-suited for growing fruit, dairying, berries, farming, alfalfa and beans and the topology of the area made it a good shipping port for cheese, hides, beef and fresh water.

But that’s not why the Malt was interested in visiting Cayucos. Nope, there was a more important reason. You see, among its many other delightful attributes Cayucos also boasts of being the most dog friendly town on the California coast.


Downtown Cayucos. Guess what? I found a saloon!

It starts with a beach that is not only dog accessible but which is leash-free its entire length.

Then there are the many dog friendly motels, most of which have retained a throwback ambiance that resonates of the Old West or at least the 1960s.

Restaurants that allow dogs?

No…In Cayucos, the restaurants welcome dogs and compete for their trade with canine menus.

The businesses up and down the short main drag set out water bowls on the sidewalks and allow pups to come in and browse.

Maybe that’s why that great travel tome Budget Travel dubbed Cayucos, “the coolest small town in America.”


The Sea Shanty has pretty good fish and chowder and welcomes dogs on the outside decks and patios.

As you might expect, there are lots of dogs in Cayucos.

His Furriness visited Cayucos last month while we were driving the coast route north, ultimately to visit family in Sacramento. We planned the overnighter at Cayucos to break up the long drive and personally sample the dog friendly atmosphere.


The little seaside town of Cayucos and the location of the Cayucos Motel not to be confused with the Georges V. The pier, originally built in the late 1800s,  is the hub of town activities.

Our lodgings were at the Cayucos Motel, a seven room facility straight out of a Gidget movie. Quick poll: who was the better Gidget? Sandra Dee or Sally Fields?

Vote now.


The correct answer is, of course, Sandra Dee. I heard Sally felt so inadequate as Gidget that she ran away and joined a flying Nunnery.

The color scheme at the Cayucos Motel is turquoise and lots of it.

The owner adores dogs and her tiny office is festooned with dog posters, dog knick-knacks, and signs detailing the many reasons why dogs are better motel guests than humans.

(#3 They don’t smoke in bed.”)

When making reservations, which are mandatory as the place is always full, the desk asks your dog’s name and then uses that info to make a personalized water bowl chock full of toys and treats.


Max’s welcoming gift. He ignored the giraffe, we gave away the ball but he was very grateful for the treats and water dish. Note turquoise dresser.

No check-in at the Cayucos Motel is complete without a lot of fussing over the four-legger, which Max absolutely loved.

Max’s digs were about 25 steps away from a wide sandy beach that stretched a mile or two in either direction.

The beach had a fair amount of flotsam and/or jetsam washed ashore including body parts of various sea creatures which were irresistible to the Malt.

The kelp floats, dead crabs and mystery sea corpses were enticing too and demanded an energetic roll-over and wallow. We knew we were in trouble when we first spotted an odoriferous, unidentifiable carcass in the distance.

  • Command: “Max, stay away from that!”
  • Warning: “Max, you better not get near that!”
  • Entreaty: “Come on, Max, don’t you dare roll in that!”
  • Discovery: “Oh jeezumcrow that stinks. What the hell is that thing?”
  • Acceptance: “Now what do we do with him?”
  • Bargaining: “He’s your dog, AJF. No, he’s not.”
  • Resolution: “Fine, I’ll take care of him.”

Suffice to say the Malt was disgusting. Fortunately, the motel had an outside pet shower and bath. I could swear he had a huge Maltese smile on his repellent little face the whole time we were scrubbing and scrubbing.


Cayucos Beach where smelly dead sea creatures attract dogs and convince them to act disgusting.

After that long beach walk and the horror of the Malt’s beach roll, we sat on the motel’s lawn, sipped a couple of canned adult beverages and watched the sunset whilst the newly clean Fuzzbutt explored the landscaping and greeted other motel guests.

Then, it was off to dinner for all three of us.

California law restricts pets to outside eating areas but most of the restaurants in town have large patios, some with ocean views.

When we arrived, Max was given a bowl of water and a pad to sit on under the table. With an infrared propane heater nearby, the outside seating was very comfy. Fish dinner for three!

Later we strolled around the little town, stopped by the cookie store, and then retired expecting to hear barking since all seven motel rooms had at least one dog but we were surprised that the night was silent. Perhaps all the Furballs were exhausted from their beach romps.

The next morning we were up early and departed Cayucos wishing we could have had more time there and promising a return.

Max agreed wholeheartedly. Especially the part about rolling around in the sand and fish guts.


Let’s do it again.

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The Dog from Rancho Cucaracha

Dog on Hearth

Aloha…uh, I mean…Hello and Buenos Dias

Okay, it’s not really called Rancho Cucaracha.

That’s just a name the AJF (Alpha Japanese Female) made up. Max’s new home is really a town called Rancho Cucamonga which, come to think of it, is equally silly sounding.

“Rancho,” as it is called colloquially, is in Southern California, about 60 miles east of the Los Angeles Airport. No ocean views until the next big earthquake. It sits at the base of Mount San Antonio which everybody calls Mount Baldy. At 10,064 feet, Baldy is the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains, and the highest point in Los Angeles County, California.

Of late, some folks have taken to calling me Mount Baldy but without the Mount part, but I digress.

If you are of a certain age (and I know which ones of you are) you’ll remember Jack Benny who, from January 1945, had a running gag on his radio program in which Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, pretended to be a station agent who announced repeatedly, “Train now leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga,” drawing out the name of Cuc…amonga longer and longer each time. That schtick is largely the reason there is a Jack Benny Street in Rancho Cucamonga and a bronze statute of the old time comedian is at the local playhouse.

The 1948 cartoon classic Daffy Duck Slept Here also had the wise- cracking, slobberin’  poultry saying the famous Jack Benny lines.  Part of the joke, for the Los Angeles audience, was that no such train route existed, although all three cities do exist.

If you were a 60s freak (and I know which ones of you are) you’ll be pleased to hear that Frank Zappa  did some of his best stuff here in Rancho Cucamonga. But there is no Zappa Street as far as I know.

And who, besides all of you, could forget Jan and Dean’s immortal 1964 paean to senior ladies and their muscle cars, “The Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review and Timing Association.” Well, here ya go…and don’t miss the final tender lyrics: “Go granny, go granny, go granny go!”


Anyway, that’s enough Cucamonga lore for now. Rancho Cucamonga is indeed a funny sounding name for a town but Max calls it “home.” Let me catch you up a bit on the Malt…

Dog on Kitchen Mat

He likes his new home. Except the hardwood floors provide little traction for his mighty paws.

Our move from Hawaii in late November last year went rather smoothly, a result of superb planning and execution on my part sheer dumb luck. We were able to spend the holidays with family which was a delight for all. Initially, we rented a condo so we would have time to explore our new environs and decide where to settle. We expected it would take a while.

However,  we quickly found a little house that met our requirements, made an offer and were new home owners by December 29th.

Max had no problems with the transition from his beloved islands. He flew from Honolulu on Aloha Air Cargo and was delivered to us at midnight on our arrival date, his little cage having been carried across the airline warehouse on the 6-foot prongs of a huge forklift.  Later, he received so many surreptitious treats from everyone on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Years that we considered renting that forklift to move His Furriness around.

Dog on Bed

The struggle is real but he tries to cope.

Max settled into his new abode immediately. It’s a modest place but it’s almost 3x the size of our Hawaii condo and…drum roll…it has a fenced backyard and lawn which, to our knowledge, is virgin territory with respect to canine poop. It’s the kind of place a Malt can roll on his back and return covered with green stains and smelling only of grass.

Very close by our home is Central Park which is a lovely spot where we brazenly flaunt the local dog ordinances and let Max run free for as long as he likes which is usually about three minutes.

At Central Park

Max’s other backyard, Central Park with Mount Tom, er, Baldy in the background.

Of course, yours truly got himself a big old BBQ right off the bat and we built a patio and cover so we can enjoy the maximum time outside which is a carry over from our Hawaii days. We have a hot tub, too, that enables us to fully immerse (snorf, snorf) ourselves in the sybaritic California lifestyle, sans Speedo, and thereby assault our new neighbors’ eyeballs.

The Furface found a new veterinarian who was successful in prescribing a new medicine that has made a huge improvement in mitigating the itchies/scratchies which have afflicted the pup since birth. Happy, happy, dog, dog.

Fat Dog

Okay, a lot of this is fur…but some is dog fat. He’s slimmed some since this photo.

Max’s big challenge at the moment is to lose weight. Throughout the moves and new experiences he has been eating a little too well. He has always been a master at extracting treats from everyone and has added a “poor transplanted me” look to enhance his productivity when begging.

The AJF has taken to using a tape measure to check the distance between Fuzzbutt’s belly and the floor and she records the dimension weekly.

Max’s adventures so far have taken him up the California coast to a town that proclaims itself the most dog-friendly place in the State, to visit family in Sacramento, up to Lake Tahoe and along the eastern slope of the Sierra plus many shorter day trips. As in the islands, Max is always on the move, discovering new places to sniff and pee. I hope to report on these and other adventures in future posts.

In closing this post, I need to apologize to all of you for not staying better in touch over these past months. No excuses, and I hope to catch up on what’s happening with each of you. In the meantime, if you are of a mind to follow a gentle little white dog’s exploration of a new home, you know that you are most welcome on the journey.




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Aloha ‘Oe

When I was a kid, my Dad would drag out the famous lines from Lewis Carroll’s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter anytime some matter of importance needed discussion.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings—”

Well, the time has come to speak of some things here on the silly dog blog, too. Not shoes or cabbages.

I am not one to sneak up on a topic or sugar coat news, so I’ll just blurt out that this is likely the final post in the series about Max’s adventures in Hawaii.

Our adventurer.

Our intrepid adventurer says aloha.

However, before I elaborate, let’s talk about Spike Jones.

Spike was born in 1911. He specialized in writing and performing novelty songs, often parodies of famous musical scores and popular tunes. He would take a tender ballad, a moving classical piece or a treasured song and add gunshots, cowbells, slide whistles and all manner of outlandish sound effects. He would also change lyrics with abandon.

Spike and his orchestra – The Musical Depreciation Revue – became quite famous touring post-World War 2 North America. Later, Spike formed a second orchestra which he named “My Other Orchestra.” Actually, over his short career – the booze and ciggies got him at 53 – Spike had lots of bands including “The City Slickers” and “The Band That Plays for Fun.”

But I digress even further than I intended.

I bring up Spike because he recorded a classic parody of the Hawaiian War Chant. After a tender opening verse of “Aloha ‘Oe”, Spike intones the timeless phrase:

“As the sun pulls away from the shore, and our boat sinks slowly in the west…”

OK, before we go much further you need to hear Spike’s version of the Hawaiian War Chant, a parody guaranteed to offend every resident of the 50th State. Give a listen…

By the way, if Spike is unfamiliar to you, do yourself a favor and Google his stuff. It’s old-timey, corny but ultimately very funny material and, trust me, you will waste many happy hours exploring all that he left behind.

In what may be the greatest sentence in all of Wikipedia is this explanation of the impact that Spike had on modern music:

There is a clear line of influence from the Hoosier Hot Shots, Freddie Fisher and his Schnickelfritzers and the Marx Brothers to Spike Jones — and to Stan Freberg, Gerard Hoffnung, Peter Schickele’s P.D.Q. Bach, The Goons, Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, The Beatles and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Is that great, or what? The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Who knew?

Let’s get back to the point of this post.

The reason that I say this may be the finale of Max’s Hawaii explorations is that we are moving away from our beloved Hawaii a little later this month. By the time Thanksgiving raises its cholesterol-laden, turkey and stuffing head, we will be residing in…gasp!…California.

“Good heavens, man, are you daft?” they say. Well, maybe, but we prefer to look on our relocation as starting a new phase of our lives. The motivation for the move is simple, unimaginative and very common: as we evolve from elegant seniors into  Old Pharts with a Malt, we find that our family tree has become a pyramid.

Our family tree. It's all about the base.

Our family tree. It’s all about the base.

We sit at the top with no parents or elder relatives. Our siblings have passed and except for the odd cousin (and that adjective was judiciously chosen) there are no peer relationships.

All we have are the kids and grand kids and, as long as we stay in Hawaii, we will never see them with any frequency. Their interests, aspirations and careers have taken them away from the islands and, for them, Hawaii is now a holiday destination, not a place to make home.

Basically we are moving to be closer to, and more involved with, our kids and their kids’ lives. As many of you will appreciate, this face time stuff gets more important as mortality becomes a more immediate issue. So, the move is all for good, even if it comes with very mixed emotions.

I don’t know what to do with this silly dog blog. There over 150 stories here and most of them are about a gentle little white dog who explores his island home. It doesn’t feel quite right to take a turn and have him now explore California, but simply terminating the blog doesn’t seem right either. What to do…what to do?

If you, Dear Readers, have any thoughts on this subject let me know. The next few weeks will be busy ones but I’ll do my best to reply to comments.

Packing and prepping to move is at best a wee black bear of a task and at worst a ferocious Grizzly bear of a task. So we’ll just grin and bear it. Snorf, snorf.

We were fortunate with the sale of our condo: we listed it and had first showings on a Friday. A ton of people showed up. (No, really, they each weighed a ton. It looked like a plus-size sale at WalMart.) We were in escrow at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning.

The sheer number of details involved in a cross-Pacific move is intimidating. It can be stressful. I have found, for example, that all my possessions are really of inconsequential value and we should look to reduce the clutter. Meanwhile, the AJF’s stuff is sacred ground without which we will surely perish in the wilds of California.

My “junk” – her term – can be tossed into cardboard containers with vegetable pictures emblazoned on the side while her “possessions” – her word again – must be gently packed with organic, gluten-free floss plucked by virgin Nepalese monks from free-range hummingbirds’ armpits. Perhaps I overstate the case.

Despite the seemingly overwhelming list of “to-do’s” we know that soon we will be saying goodbye. We’ll be boarding United Airlines while the Poocharoni, after a visit to Miss Nanako at the Beauty Salon for Doggies, will be loaded on Aloha Air Cargo to meet us six hours later on the really big island of North America.

We are also making our final visits to our favorite spots and restaurants, spending time with dear friends of long standing and looking at our home land with a different set of eyes that want to take in, capture and preserve sights that we won’t see again, at least for awhile. I think the AJF’s eyes may have been a bit misty of late.

Paul Theroux said, “Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.” Thus it shall always be for us. But it is time to once again swirl up our little Nutri-Bullet of a mixed nationality family and say “さよなら” (sayonara). See ya later. Farewell and godspeed. And in the immortal words of Spike Jones, “Wicki wacki woo.”

Or simply, aloha ‘oe.

Thanks for being with us on this silly dog blog and joining the Mighty Furball on his adventures in the 50th State. I count all you fellow dog-lovers as good friends and promise to be a faithful reader of your blogs in days to come.

Me ke aloha pumehana,
Tom, Machiko (the AJF) & Maxwell the Dog

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No Substitute for the Malt

Fascinating stuff but until it nibbles my ear, turns over for belly rubs and rockets up on the cute meter, I think I’ll stick to my little Furbeast. And…hey!…stop kicking it!

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I Dare You Not to Grin

I double dog dare you.

Told ya.

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Preview of Coming Piñatas

The Alpha Japanese Female (AJF) and I took Max to our local Petco shop to pick up some poochlet necessities.

Max getting prepped for his photo shoot.

Max getting prepped for his photo shoot.

While we were in line at checkout we were approached by the store manager and another lady who was toting a large camera.

"Let me get this want me to do what? Put on what? What exactly is wrong with you, Dad?"

“Let me get this straight…you want me to do what? Put on what? What exactly is wrong with you, Dad?”

They wanted to know if we would allow Max to be photographed for a story about dog Halloween costumes to be featured in our local paper – The Honolulu Star Advertiser. Max seemed amenable. The AJF began to transform into a stage mother and I thought the whole rigmarole to be funny.

Max and I were both intimidated by the store manager in the pink shirt. She was a tough cookie.

Max and I were both intimidated by the store manager in the pink shirt. She was a tough cookie.

Max was carted off to the pet grooming area to be “prepped” for his photo shoot. A young lady appeared with a pin brush and started glamming up the Furbeast. Meanwhile earnest consultations transpired over which costume should be worn by the Malt.

Test shots to determine if he had the right stuff and alliteration to be a mucho macho male Malt model.

Test shots to determine if he had the right stuff and sufficient alliteration to be a mucho macho male Malt model.

An alligator? No…doesn’t match his personality. Star Wars? Nope, he’s already as furry as Chewbacca eating an Ewok. Finally, for reasons that remain obscure to me, they decided that a piñata would be Max’s ideal get-up.

"Does this face look like I'm enjoying this process?"

“Does this face look like I’m enjoying this process?”

By then, the brush out was complete, copious food bribes had been offered and ingested and we were ready for his close up, Mr. DeMille. But first Max had to be dressed in his costume and, as you can see, he failed to see the good humor in the process. Miffed Maltese.

Hang down your head and cry.

Hang down your head and cry.

Eventually our little piñata was fully prepared and the photo session went off without a hitch. The AJF was so proud although I heard her mumble about union scale, residuals and percentages off the top whatever that was about.

"Get this off me now."

“Get this off me now.”

He will make his newspaper appearance within the next couple of weeks. I promise to post the actual newspaper photo of Max when it is released.

Oh the humanity. The shame. If this gets out, his reputation among the Maltese community is doomed.

Oh the humanity. The shame. If this gets out, his reputation among the Maltese community is doomed.

Meanwhile, Max and I decided on his “official” costume for Halloween. You may remember that last year he dressed as a Viking warrior. Well, this year will be quite different but I’m not giving away the secret yet… For now, Max will remain a piñata.

A piñata who hates me.

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Reluctant Maltese

Max is a creature who likes his comforts and will resist any initiative to get him off his favorite chair.

This is particularly true when it comes to his 10 PM walk. He has mastered the passive part of passive-aggressive behavior.

Submitted as proof of this hypothesis:

No doubt you think the production values rival those of Spielberg. You’re right. Marvin Spielberg that is, the dentist from Poughkeepsie.

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Max Visits Mu Ryang Sa

I told the Alpha Japanese Female (AJF) that Max and I were going to visit Mu Ryang Sa. She responded, “Huh?”

Mu Ryang Sa, the largest Korean temple outside of Korea, the Malt's destination.

Mu Ryang Sa, the largest Korean temple outside of Korea, the Malt’s destination.

That is pretty much the reaction you will get from many folks on Oahu when you mention the name of the largest Korean Buddhist temple outside of Korea. It’s just not that well known.

Despite its relative obscurity, Mu Ryang Sa (the name means “Broken Ridge Temple”) is a fascinating place. It’s found at the end of a narrow, winding road that penetrates deep into Palolo Valley just a few miles from Waikiki Beach.

Even the derivation of the name is interesting. It is called Broken Ridge Temple in part because the Honolulu City Council denied a request by the temple builders to exempt it from the height restrictions in the building code.

Notice how the roof was cut from a peak to a flat surface which may have ticked off a lot of monks but, of course, they would never show it.

Notice how the roof was cut from a peak to a flat surface which may have ticked off a lot of monks but, of course, being monks they would never show it.

As a result, the contractors had to cut off the peaked portion of the temple roof.

The resultant “broken ridge” is a sore spot for the temple monks but they have turned Buddhist lemons into theological lemonade and point to the construction debacle as a learning lesson proving that all in life is an illusion and that “ignorance should be ignored.” (a shot across the City Planning Department’s bow, methinks.)

The Malt had a special affection for this statue which I think is the Goddess of Mercy.

The Malt had a special affection for this statue which I think is the Goddess of Mercy. Max apparently equates mercy with treats.

Mu Ryang Sa is not an ancient worshipping place. It looks old because of its traditional architecture, designs and ornamentations. Whilst Mu Ryang Sa holds replicas of pagodas and statues dating to the 5th century, the temple actually started construction in 1980.

It is more than just a lovely place for the monks to hang out, chant and meditate. The temple is also a cultural community center with educational, cultural and monastic programs.

For three bucks (less for seniors – cough – and students) anyone can visit the temple and explore the grounds and even enter some of the buildings. Dogs, Maltese for example, are prohibited and therefore must be smuggled on to the temple grounds.

Dogs are not permitted. That's not a dog. That's Max at a pagoda.

Dogs are not permitted. That’s not a dog. That’s Max at a pagoda.

Long term, Mu Ryang Sa hopes to launch a four-year college that is devoted to Buddhist studies in English.

The school wants to focus on Korean Buddhism, language and culture including Korean dance, music, calligraphy and tea ceremony. The marketability of a degree in tea ceremony is left open to debate.

The temple gardens are both lovely and peaceful and, according to a certain Malt, they smell good, too.

The temple gardens are both lovely and peaceful and, according to a certain Malt, they smell good, too.

The temple founders also want to establish a nursing home and hospice care facility for Korean elderly.

There is much to see at Mu Ryang Sa starting with an impressive entryway where giant statues of the “Four Heavenly Kings” guard each of the cardinal compass points and prevent the evil spirits from entering. According to legend, they sit up high and use their feet to squish the bad guys.

The Heavenly Kings keeping the riff-raff off the property. This photo by David Chatsuthiphan at

A cockroach-eye view of the Heavenly Kings keeping the riff-raff off the property. This photo by David Chatsuthiphan at

A focal point of the property is the World Peace Pagoda. In the center of the pagoda’s base is a small urn, holding the remains of the Buddha. These came from a temple in Sri Lanka and are revered by believers as genuine relics of the historical Buddha.

The Bell Tower houses an impressive bronze bell that is a copy of the historical Emille Bell in Korea, the oldest Buddhist bell in Korea and the largest ringing bell in the world.

The main temple featuring the manifestations of Buddha, photo by David Chatsuthiphan.

The main temple featuring the manifestations of Buddha, photo by David Chatsuthiphan.

Dominating the temple grounds is the main building – the Hall of Heroes – which holds several manifestations of Buddha in a stylized Chinese setting which reminds visitors of the migration of the religion to Korea from China.

Statuary abounds. Some of the figures are on a grand scale and some are tiny and tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the temple grounds, for example, a crowd of 1080 miniature figurines of disciples.

There are (allegedly) 1080 of these little rascals located behind the Main hall and representing the faithful disciples.

There are (allegedly) 1080 of these little rascals located behind the Main Hall. They are said to represent faithful disciples.

There’s a lot more to see at Mu Ryang Sa and I’d recommend you click on the gorgeous photo site done by David Chatsuthipan. Like David, I do not pretend to fully understand what I am looking at when I visit there but my eyes gobble up the beauty nonetheless.

Max seemed to enjoy his visit. The selection of sniffing material was extensive and I’m pretty sure he got a small buzz from the incense. The AJF and I agreed to return again sans pooch to explore this hidden piece of Oahu at greater depth.

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Miss Kiku – Grand Champion!

For the past week or so the AJF and I were in sunny California visiting spawn and enjoying a get away.

Max was in dog jail which is how he thinks of boarding. We got some good news upon our return.

Here's our new Grand Champion - what a cutie. And obviously playing to the crowd!

Here’s our new Grand Champion – what a cutie. And obviously playing to the crowd!

We found out that on September 5th our favorite little Yorkie, Miss Kiku, became an AKC Grand Champion, winning Best of Breed to achieve the final qualification for that exalted ranking.

Previously, she had fulfilled the other requirements of winning 25 points and 3 majors, with the last item being to beat three champions.

Her competition was Pierre, a formidable Yorkie with many notches on his collar for wins as a show dog.

He thought he could beat our Kiku but she refused to be intimidated.

“C’est dommage, mademoiselle, but I am French and thus the superior chien,” he said dismissively, trying to rattle Kiku.

The tiny champion with her professional handler. The AJF says I could use a professional handler, too.

The tiny champion with her professional handler. The AJF says I could use a professional handler, too.

“Hon, hon,” she replied in fluent French which no one knew she could speak, “Vous êtes un chien stupide et sentez comme le fromage puant.“

OK, maybe I made up that dialogue but you catch my drift, n’est-ce pas?

Note fancy Latvian hair bow, discussed in previous Kiku posts.

Note fancy Latvian hair bow, discussed in previous Kiku posts.

On the downside, Miss Kiku’s owner, uh, servant had the sheer effrontery to move out of our happy condo to new digs so it’s not certain we can claim this Fluff Pup as one of our own any more.

But we can always say we knew her when….

Kiku in her pajamas watching the laundry. It's her new favorite hobby.

Kiku in her pajamas watching the laundry. It’s her new favorite hobby.

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Max Visits The Last Tiki Bar

Stop me if you heard the joke: a Malt and the Alpha Japanese Female (AJF) walk into the last Tiki bar...

Stop me if you heard the joke: a Malt and the Alpha Japanese Female (AJF) walk into the last Tiki bar…

The Tiki Bar dates back to 1933 when a guy by the name of Ernie Gantt opened his first “Don the Beachcomber” restaurant in Los Angeles. It was a place stuffed full of faux-Polynesian statuary and artifacts with a menu focused on exotic rum drinks and Chinese food re-named to pretend that it came from genuine Pacific Island recipes.

At one time Tiki bars were the hottest trend. Today, they are a relic of the America landscape in the years just before and after World War 2.

This story is about the last Tiki bar in Honolulu. Max, the AJF and I are fond of this place and we often visit when picking up or dropping off friends and relations at the airport. Arrive and hit the Tiki bar. Depart and hit the Tiki bar. It’s a nice symmetry but I digress.

Here's Ernie...uh...Don the Beachcomber. One look and you can tell he was a rascal.

Here’s Ernie…uh…Don the Beachcomber. One look and you can tell he was a rascal.

Ernie Gantt started out as a bootlegger from Texas who moved to California during Prohibition and went totally Hollywood, establishing what was considered an outlandish food and beverage concept themed to the South Seas.

This was prime escapist fare for celebrities of the time like David Niven and Marlene Dietrich. The restaurants were considered a bit raffish with uncertain reputations – in 1936 Howard Hughes partied late at a Tiki bar and then struck and killed a pedestrian with his car while driving home.

Keep in mind that the Pacific Islands, Oceania and Southeast Asia were terra incognita for Americans in pre-World War 2. To folks back then, the Tiki establishments were as exotic as the cantina scene in Star Wars.

The interior of a Trader Vic's Tiki Bar & Restaurant. This one was in Boston I believe. Not my photo.

The interior of a Trader Vic’s Tiki Bar & Restaurant. This one was in Boston I believe. Not my photo.

The Don the Beachcomber restaurant chain grew to 16 facilities, mostly due to the efforts of Ernie’s wife.

She was the driving force that perpetuated the Don the Beachcomber brand during WW2 in which  Ernie served with distinction, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, while following orders from his friend General Jimmy Doolittle to set up rest and relaxation camps for the Air Force along the French Riviera.

Tiki culture flourished in post-war America. Tiki restaurants were perhaps the top fad in the 1940s and 50s. During that period, Don the Beachcomber faced stiff competition from the larger, copy cat Trader Vic chain and the owners of these Tiki restaurants became amicable rivals for life. Both Ernie Gantt and Vic Bergeron claimed to have created the Mai Tai which is perhaps the most famous of the rum drinks. The Zombie was another drink of contested origin.

Max and the AJF outside the restaurant part of La Mariana Sailing Club, the last Tiki bar in Honolulu.

Max and the AJF outside the restaurant part of La Mariana Sailing Club, the last Tiki bar in Honolulu.

Ernie got so wrapped up in his own myth and legend that he formally changed his name several times from Donn Beach-Comber, to Donn Beachcomber, and finally Donn Beach.

When Don divorced his wife and business partner Sunny, she retained control over the restaurants and Don was prohibited from opening a Don the Beachcomber in the United States.

In response, he moved to Hawaii (which had not yet become a State), settled in Waikiki, and opened a venture called the “Polynesian Village.” Inside the bar was a mynah bird that presided over the premises and was trained to yell, “Give me a beer, stupid!”

Don’s faux-Polynesian operation launched the careers of many entertainers, notably the giants of the “exotica” music genre, Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny. Exotica music blended the sounds of conga, bongos, vibes, Indonesian and Burmese gongs, bamboo sticks and Japanese koto along with bird calls, big-cat roars, and even primate shrieks to invoke the dangers of the jungle. Fantasy music taken to a whole new level. Here, take a listen.

Over his career, Don invented 84 bar drinks to embellish his Tiki concept. He remained a well known figure in Honolulu until he died in 1989 at the age of 81.

The Tiki culture lasted longer than most other fads. At one time, Honolulu was plastered (hehe – bad pun) with bars decorated with carved fake gods, thatched roofs, tree stump stools, velvet paintings and the infamous pu-pu plate which offered such creatively Polynesian nibbles as egg rolls, sweet and sour ribs and pineapple-shrimp kebabs, all washed down with huge rum drinks.

No self-especting Tiki bar would lack a Tiki Hut, source of fine souvenirs with a special focus on ashtrays made from faux-lava and hollow bamboo drink glasses!

No self-respecting Tiki bar would lack a Tiki Hut, source of fine souvenirs with a special focus on ashtrays made from faux-lava and hollow bamboo drink glasses! It was closed so the Malt could not pay a visit.

Little known facts:

1) Rum was chosen as the Tiki bar liquor of choice, not because of any affiliation with island culture, but because it was the cheapest alcohol available in the post-Prohibition days.

2) “Tiki” derives from the Tahitian language. In Hawaii the god statues are called ki’i and, quite frankly, the Tiki theme is insulting to some native Hawaiians because they feel it mocks their religious beliefs. Sort of the equivalent of a Jesus Bar or Mohammed Lounge. Most folks roll with the notion that the whole Tiki thing was just a fantasy promotion dreamed up by rascally Ernie to flog booze but be aware that others are offended by the whole idea.

Tiki culture has made a stab at recovery from time to time but the successors are what the Aussies might call “weak beer.” Even now there are several of these so-called Tiki bars in Honolulu but there is only one true inheritor of the Don the Beachcomber mantle.

Honolulu’s last Tiki bar is located in an industrial district on Ke’ehi Lagoon, not far from the end of the Honolulu International Airport runway. It’s not easy to find and its name is rather bland: La Mariana Sailing Club.

Founded in 1957, it has survived almost six decades, two moves, assorted financial crises and tidal waves. The last tidal wave, following Japan’s March 2011 earthquake, damaged boats at the adjacent docks, but La Mariana soldiered on. The story of this establishment and its revered female founder is worth a read – find the fascinating tale of Annette La Mariana Nahinu here.

And now here’s a delightfully cheesy promotional video made by the last Tiki bar that explains more about the place than I could veer hope to accomplish:

This bar and restaurant has an extensive collection of artifacts gathered from other Tiki bars upon their closing including the old carved statues from the Sheraton Hotel’s Kon Tiki Room, the koa wood tables from Don The Beachcomber, stuff from Trader Vic’s, the Tahitian lanai and other legendary watering holes of Eisenhower-era Waikiki.

The last Tiki bar is across the lagoon from the seaplane runways which, of course, are water. You can book a flight over Honolulu from there for about $150 for a half hour.

The last Tiki bar is across the lagoon from the seaplane runways which, of course, are water. You can book a flight over Honolulu from there for about $150 for a half hour.

This is where you come to drink rum in tall glasses with little umbrellas, pineapple garnish and abnormal coloring.

Things like a Mai Tai, a Zombie, a Hurricane, a Tropical Itch or the Blue Hawaii. It is always 1957 at the La Mariana Sailing Club.

The décor is classic Tiki bar: tapa-print tablecloths, shell chandeliers, carved statues, canoes, lighted glass fishing floats suspended in nets and lots of candles and string lights.

The food is basic bar food with an emphasis on quantity at a reasonable price. For $20, you can accompany your libation with a large platter of tako (octopus) and ahi (tuna) poke and decent sashimi or a massive rib plate or a wide variety of fried seafood delights.

La Mariana is also an actual sailing club. This is a snapshot of the harbor taken from the front door of the Tiki bar.

La Mariana is also an actual sailing club. This is a snapshot of the harbor taken from the front door of the Tiki bar.

The entertainment at La Mariana is well worth making a visit. There is a blind piano player who is very talented and quite well known among bar folk. The over-60 set claims karaoke privileges on weekend evenings and it’s not unusual to have some locally famous names and faces join in singing the old songs.

“Drunken family fun” is a fair description of the late night ambiance. The family-style ambiance asserts itself with the staff’s attitude, too. Just like family they feel free to hug you, insult you, ignore you, dote on you and enfold you depending on their mood and your behavior.

At the end of the evening, everyone stands up, forms a circle and holds hands, and sings Hawaii Aloha, (listen to one of my favorite versions by Braddah Iz, here) the state anthem Hawaii Pono’i, and, usually, America the Beautiful. Often, an ancient standard like My Maile Lei gets thrown in for good measure.

Step right in, order arum drink or four, nibble some raw fish and bask in all that Tiki memorabilia.

Step right in, order a rum drink or four, nibble some raw fish and bask in all that Tiki memorabilia.

Chances are, if you visit me I‘ll end up taking you to La Mariana. I find it’s a bit of a litmus test for a person’s adaptability to island life, a strange blend of fantasy, campy culture from a bygone day and a mélange of interesting characters, not all of whom live in the present. I have found that if you cannot handle the scene, you may be wound a bit too tightly for our laid back lifestyle.

La Mariana Sailing Club. The last real Tiki bar in Honolulu.

After a mai tai or two, the Malt needs to be carried home.

After a mai tai or two, the Malt needs to be carried home.


I was asked for more info about the song Hawaii Aloha that I linked in this story. It is revered as a local anthem and twice – in 1967 and 1978 – almost became the official state anthem. We sing this song at the conclusion of most all gatherings, formal and informal. You can be at a public meeting, fighting like cats and dogs, but when the first notes are struck, everybody stands, forms a circle, joins hands and sings together. Traditionally, you raise your joined hands above your head for the last chorus. I happen to love this song and what it represents.

If you didn’t click on the link above, here’s another chance; it’s a lovely melody and watch how the song galvanizes everyone to join together. Here are the words and the meaning:

E Hawaiʻi e kuʻu one hānau e
Kuʻu home kulaīwi nei
ʻOli nō au i nā pono lani ou
E Hawaiʻi, aloha ē

O Hawaiʻi, O sands of my birth
My native home
I rejoice in the blessings of heaven
O Hawaiʻi, aloha.

E hauʻoli e nā ʻōpio o Hawaiʻi nei
ʻOli ē! ʻOli ē!
Mai nā aheahe makani e pā mai nei
Mau ke aloha, no Hawaiʻi

Happy youth of Hawaiʻi
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Gentle breezes blow
Love always for Hawaiʻi.

E haʻi mai kou mau kini lani e
Kou mau kupa aloha, e Hawaiʻi
Nā mea ʻōlino kamahaʻo no luna mai
E Hawaiʻi aloha ē

May your divine throngs speak
Your loving people, O Hawaiʻi
The holy light from above
O Hawaiʻi, aloha.

Nā ke Akua e mālama mai iā ʻoe
Kou mau kualono aloha nei
Kou mau kahawai ʻōlinolino mau
Kou mau māla pua nani ē

God protects you
Your beloved ridges
Your ever glistening streams
Your beautiful flower gardens.

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