The New York Tiki Hut Tribe

Everyone knows the Hawaiian greeting, “Aloha!” But there is another, more personal greeting that Hawaiians use too. It is “Aloha kaua”, and it translates to “How are we?” Meaning, “How is our friendship? Are our spirits connected?

For the past 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming friends to “The only tiki hut in the world with a view of the United Nations building.”

Nestled in Midtown Manhattan, in the footprint of the Chrysler building and Grand Central, it became a hub of creativity and celebration.

Of course we enjoyed several luaus in the tiki hut over the years, drinking potent tropical punch, listening to slack key guitar music and eating kalua pork, lomi lomi and haupia…

But we also celebrated a new friend about to enter the world when we threw Gillian a baby shower in the tiki hut…

We read tarot cards, drank warm beer as we endured the 2003 Blackout of NYC, tried on bridesmaid’s dresses, rehearsed for shows, created props for shows…

…hung out after recording podcasts and I put together an extremely unsuccessful garage sale, in which I only managed to sell a George Forman grill and some candle sticks.
We said goodbye to friends leaving NYC, cried over breakups, rejoiced over promotions, roasted marshmallows in December, and one night Mike smoked a cigar in the hut while he sketched the logo for my arts salon, Mama D’s Arts Bordello:

The tiki hut was far from perfect. Some guests were unwelcome. Like the mouse who showed up for Kari’s Italian festa and this spider:

And while the laundry vent was hidden, it still smelled Downy fresh out there (especially on Sundays.) In the summer months, the upstairs neighbor’s air conditioner dripped down on everyone’s heads as they entered the hut, and all year round lit cigarettes were dropped from various windows above. One of these cigarettes bounced off of Danny’s head, and many of them threatened to ignite this authentic raffia umbrella:

One year a snowstorm squashed the tiki hut.

But each year it was rebuilt and new adventures took place. We solved a 1930’s style murder mystery while dressed in costume. And one night the hut was haunted.

We had a pool in the hut for a while, until I decided to float some candles in it for an “elegant” effect and burnt a hole in it.

We barbequed turkey burgers in pith helmets…

…slurped cioppino and munched on Joulutortut at the Finnish Independence Day gala. We danced under the full moon and came up with crazy schemes. Christmas card alter egos Donna and Herb were often photographed in the hut.

We threw a surprise birthday party for Alison…


…and photog Jay managed to take these incredible photos through a window in the hut:

(After which, we drank scotch in the hut for several hours until glampire C*nt Dragula decided to terrify the neighbor by making Larry the Garden Gnome talk to him over the fence. Larry soon fell off the ledge and became a vase. He remains the only casualty of the tiki hut.)

But now that I am about to move to a new apartment and the last days of the tiki hut are upon us, I just want to tell all of you members of the New York Tiki Hut Tribe: you are my ‘ohana. Thank you for your humor, your camaraderie, your generosity. Thank you all for putting a coat on when the hut was chilly…

…huddling under the umbrella when it rained and sweating when it was muggy. Thank you for pretending not to hear the next door neighbor’s dogs when they barked, not complaining about the mosquitoes and pulling up a chair when the neighbors across the way put a camera in their bedroom and we thought they were going to grind out some homemade porn:

Thank you all for being part of our tribe. The wonderful ideas and friendships that were created in the tiki hut have made my life in New York so rich. I feel so lucky to know all of you. When I was 14, I dreamt of living in New York. But I never pictured anything quite like this. It’s been so unique (okay, bizarre) that I don’t think anyone could have imagined it.

You’re all in my heart if no longer in my tiki hut. But that just means the next time I say “Aloha kaua” to you at a party…it will be indoors!

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4 thoughts on “The New York Tiki Hut Tribe

  1. Saar, there’s not been a place that’s ever made me feel more loved or welcome in the city of New York. I will follow you wherever you go because you understand the necessary ingredients for true friendship. Thank you for inviting me in to the Tiki Hut. I treasure those memories.

  2. Well fuck, I can’t top what Kari wrote…

    It’s the beginning of a new era, and home is where the Saar is! Thanks for the memories Tiki Hut! You will be missed, as will the phrase so commonly said by Saar…”Al, you’ll never guess what I found for the tiki hut at the party supermarket.”

    1. Ha! And Al, you’ll be happy to know I’m already planning something wacky for the new apartment. A scooby-doo style library nook! With a fireplace! Now I just need to figure out how to create a secret passageway in a one bedroom apartment…

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