Wednesday, November 14, 2007

California Road Trip: Oceanic Arts

I’m back from an incredible adventure along the California coast. I started in LA, dipped down to San Diego for Tiki Magazine’s “Tiki Island at the Bali Hai” art show and then cruised up to the Bay Area for the Tiki Central Tiki Crawl with all sorts of memorable pit stops along the way. Most of the time, compatriot Tiki Racer and Chongolio (who’d flown in from Kauai) were by my side. In retrospect, the whole trip seems very Wizard of Oz, with fascinating characters, new and old friends making appearances and plenty of lessons learned. However, when it came time to fly back, I was clicking my heels wishing I could stay just a little bit longer.

My first full day in California found Tiki Racer and me driving to Whittier to visit Oceanic Arts, “the world’s leading supplier of tropical and Polynesian décor since 1956.” OA is still run by the original owners, Leroy Schmaltz and Bob Van Oosting, who have kitted out virtually every major Tiki establishment in the world, including Disneyland and Trader Vic’s. Critiki aptly describes OA as a “Home Depot of sorts for the tikiphile.” I would just like to add that it's also one of very few must-see old school Tiki destinations still in existence today.

Fortunately, Bob (pictured above) was in to show us around during our visit. He also shared some great stories with us, such as accounts of his and Leroy’s 1960 visit to Papua New Guinea. The mix of tropical kitsch and Polynesian artefacts in an industrial warehouse setting made me giddy and camera happy. My trip was off to a brilliant start.

Click here to view my Flickr set of photos from my day at OA.

Photography by Chris Osburn © 2007

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