17 August 2011

Dear Royal Society of Tiki Bar Explorers (Los Angeles Chapter),

The natives call it Anaheim. They believe it to be a Magic Kingdom with such fantastical creatures as a mouse schooled in the art of sorcery, an airborne train and a fiery red haired mermaid of unearthly beauty. After bypassing the Matterhorn, an icy behemoth rising above all she surveys, we stumbled into an Ali Baba's cave of tiki cocktails from which I write you now — Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar.

In the shadow of hotel spires and a waterfall, one ascends up stairs onto a landing where a diver's helmet guards the door like a steely sentry. Inside this dimly lit haven, proudly displaying savage totems, primitive artifacts and missives from earlier explorers on its walls, there is respite for the weary traveler.

The natives were not merely friendly. They smiled and gave us menus. They generously shared with us their libations, which they stir to untold potency and sweetness. They first put before me a Krakatoa, a grog of spiced rums, almond syrup and tropical juices. As I drank, it was as if the walls shook. Actually, the walls did shake. The lights changed in fantastical hues of violet and blue and red. All around could be heard violent explosions. From the walls on either side of the bar, replicas of that sinister volcano for which the drink is named erupt for your visual delectation. This drama plays out many times each hour. It was as if the drink itself conjured the eruption.

Next, they offered me an Uh Oa, a small cauldron of rums and exotic spices (how has the New World not yet discovered this strange syrup Falernum?) with a fiery lime bobbing within. My fellow explorers were exhorted to chant by the natives as the drink was set aflame. Their cries, slowly at first then restlessly, built to a jolly whoop until the flaming liquid was extinguished. A sip or two of this Uh Oa and all of my fires were quenched.

As if to test my mettle, they brought forth a Shipwreck on the Rocks. Innocent as it seems, this decantation of the strongest rums and fruit juices brings forth a sea change. The room darkens into an eerie glow. Mist sprays forth. Within a large glass bottle perched in a place of pride high above the bar, a ship capsizes amid a merciless storm. I, too, was beginning to feel thoroughly wrecked.

Still, they plied me with more libations. Out came a monstrously large concoction, a Hippoptomai-tai, as festive in its fruit garnish as in its sweet citrus flavor. We begged restraint, but the natives with their exotic name tags would hear none of it. They insisted we try the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum, an excellent and frothy mixture of coconut juice and pineapple dusted with cinnamon. I did not hear the birds sing words nor the flowers croon, as legend says will happen if one drinks enough of these, but it was a soothing nightcap to a festive evening.

Our expedition did not have time to taste any of the appetizers during our brief foray into Trader Sam's, but they were on bounteous display at tables around us. Stepping outside in the dusky evening, I found myself serenaded by natives in floral shirts strumming ukuleles as travelers gathered on the patio to listen.

Of all the wild and wicked lands I have traveled, this oasis beckons the restless spirit, soothes the savage terrain of the heart, the brain and the liver. Would that I could remain within this sanctuary of splendor! Alas, I must press on. Whether heading into or finding one's way out of the adjacent park, all weary travelers should lift a glass and compare expedition notes at Trader Sam's.

Your Humble Servant,

Somewhere Within This Wilderness Known As Disneyland

Trader Sam's at The Disneyland Hotel: 1150 Magic Way, Anaheim. (714) 778-6600.

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