For the past week I’ve been hitting up my favorite tiki bars in SF and Oakland, one final lap through each, snagging all the commemorative mugs on my way out. On Monday I ran over to Kon-Tiki and picked up their enormous Muntiki mug, on Tuesday I ran to Pagan Idol and completed my collection with their skull and leviathan 12 ouncer, last night I hit up Smugglers Cove and got their matte brown Ku, and tonight I rode the cable car up to the Tonga Lounge to pick up the Tangaroa and green lantern mugs.
The Tonga room is… so special to me. The height of kitsch, a tiki paradise; it weirdly marries the most disparate parts of my life — my childhood love of the Tiki Room at Disneyland, my mission to Hawaii, the earliest days of falling in love with San Francisco’s weird neverland magic on work trips, John meeting my dad for the first time — it holds so many memories for me. Utah, San Francisco and Hawaii are linked in real life, a side effect of Mormons’ westward exodus and Polynesian colonial schemes, but with me, here in this colossal basement bar, the dreamy fantasy versions of all three came together. It’s a castle in the fog, a place that never quite materialized, that exists in ideals and scuttles on the rocks of grim reality.
A side effect of collecting these mugs, as they all come filled with very heavy pours of overproofed rum cocktails, is me getting pretty tanked at 5:30 in the afternoon, and having all my emotions bubble right to the top.
On my way home on the Muni, an older woman nervously tapped me on the shoulder. “Do you know which stop the big Safeway is at?” I told her it was at Church, where I was getting off, and that she could follow me out. I watched her hobble across the crosswalk with a wave and got teary real quick. This is my city! I know it like the back of my hand. I can answer any of those questions here! How long will it be before I can do that in Los Angeles?
Back in the Tonga Room I stood by myself overlooking the pool while the fake lightning flashed and “rain” gushed down, texting John. I can’t believe my time in San Francisco is over. This was the first place where I really felt like I could unfold and build the life I truly wanted. I’m so excited for this next chapter, and like John responded, I think we’ll be surprised at all LA has to offer us, but this will always be my spiritual nativity and leaving her is brutal.