You might be stoked about surfing if you’re willing to compete in an arm cast. That’s Jim for you.
It all started when Jim heard from one of the Thunderbirds that the Air Force was looking for Surf Club recruits. Each year, there was a surfing invitational among the military branches. Although he couldn’t jump in for that first round, he was in. He was currently serving in the Air Force, stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and providing support to F-15 equipment and maintenance for the Thunderbirds. For someone providing support to those who were cutting through the clouds, Jim was more interested in riding the waves. He promised himself that he’d join the surf competition the following year. Jim was single, living on base, and had grown up surfing the Atlantic in Florida, the Gulf Coast from Louisiana and Texas, and the Pacific from California with trips to Hawaii and Costa Rica.
When the call for the Military Surfing Invitational came a year later, Jim was ready. The first time he went, he was solo. Jim traveled by himself and stayed in trailers and tents but enjoyed the experience enough to do a repeat. When the following year’s call came close, Jim was in a full arm cast from a bad break. It didn’t matter. Jim convinced his Orthopedist to give him a partial arm cast, and he was in. He even convinced several fellow soldiers to join him, even though they had never surfed. He figured they would enjoy the paid time and would be there to keep the beer cold, if nothing else.
Unfortunately, despite his resolve, the arm break left him a little weak on the waves, and Jim got knocked out in the semi-finals by a coast guard reservist, whom he suspected spent most of his time on the waves when he was not on reserve duty.
It’s not difficult to figure out how Jim’s surfing connected him to the tiki life. Surfing led to surf music mixed with rockabilly, which led to a memorable raucous Marine Corp grass skirt luau broken up by military police, which led to tiki. Skip forward a few years, and Jim found himself sipping Mai Tais sitting at the Lew Low bar in his hometown of Houston, wondering how he might recreate a bit of Lei Low at home. He lived a bit too far south of Houston to be a regular and didn’t want to overindulge and drive, so he was determined to create his own tiki bar. His wife said no to inside the house, so carving out a room in their garage was the logical next step.
When Jim sets his mind on something, he’s in for the win, no matter the breaks. Tiki Jim’s R&R Bar is a perfect place for rest and relaxation. Jim has done all of the work himself. Like many, he didn’t want to spend a fortune and was willing to do the work. After installing the lauhala and chair rail trim, Jim filled his downtime with learning how to use a dremel to carve second-hand frames and a router to create elaborate trim throughout his hideaway. Jim’s black velvet Elvis painting fits perfectly between the bamboo trim, which he harvested locally. Take a quick look around, and you’ll find surfing references abound. Jim’s surfboards ride the ceiling. There’s a Papua New Guinea carving holding a surfboard. It’s 120 square feet of paradise.
Tiki Jim’s R&R Bar’s most frequent patrons are those who served in the military. Jim is active in local services groups that support veterans, and his neighborhood veteran friends started their own tiki club. They call themselves LOS 214 TDS or the “Lakes of Savannah 214 Tactical Drinking Squad.” The Lakes of Savannah is their neighborhood. The number 214 is a reference to the military form DD-214, an honorable discharge, and Tactical Drinking Squad, well that needs no explanation. To demonstrate just how tactical they can get, Jim has a call sign board with which members can earn ribbons in the style of Tonga Hut’s Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard. There’s a ribbon for Zombie Hunter (2 or more Zombie in one night) or Nightstalker for gatherings that last past 3 a.m. Jim has also created tiki culture ribbons for Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber. These are awarded when a member takes the time to learn more and can pass a quiz about tiki origins, including questions about Donn’s service as an Army Air Corps officer in WWII. It’s Jim’s way of breaking people into tiki in his “R&R” – rest & relaxation – style.
With all the fun times, good drinks, and comradery, Tiki Jim’s R&R Bar is a refuge for kindred spirits. When Jim learned that a new neighbor was a multi-tour Afghanistan vet, Jim invited him over. When the man got up to leave, he told Jim, “I haven’t felt this welcomed in a long time, not since I first lived on base.”
Jim might not have come in first that year in surfing, but it seems to me that Jim has won big in what makes life meaningful, arm cast and all.