Tiki Anyone?

My upcoming novel, The Sommières Sun delves into the tiki culture of Paris and New Orleans.

The philosophy, if you will, is living moments of a peaceful life. Let the magic of the ocean and the breeze heal you and wash away your cares. Think white sand and the smell of an ocean breeze. It’s primal.

The above quote is from “Beach” Roberson, Steve’s new acquaintance in Paris in The Sommières Sun. In the novel, Beach owns one of Paris’ hottest bars, Tiki-Paris. He will have much more to say about the importance of tiki culture in the American experience. For him, it is literally spiritual.

Perhaps, you might wonder, “What’s tiki?” It is a complex question to answer. One could start with tiki bars. Donn Beach (He was born Ernest Gantt, likely in New Orleans.) is often considered the “founding father” of tiki culture. He opened the first tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber, during the 1930s in Hollywood, CA. It was later expanded and additional Don the Beachcombers opened in the United States. 

Donn Beach (left), Don the Beachcomber. Source: Don the Beachcomber Restaurant, Huntington Beach, CA (currently closed.)

What makes a tiki bar a tiki bar? Traditionally tiki bars are south seas-themed drinking establishments that serve elaborate cocktails, especially rum-based mixed drinks such as the Mai Tais, Zombies, Nui Nuis, Suffering Bastards, etc. Tiki bars are aesthetically defined by their trappings of Polynesian culture.  Most bars also incorporate general nautical themes or aspects of retro culture such as 1960s iconography.

Vintage “Pre-Tiki” Bar, Source: Don the Beachcomber Restaurant, Huntington Beach, CA (currently closed.)

Purists will point out that the tiki iconography didn’t surface until the mid-1950s and that the initial “pre-tiki” bars mostly featured decorations that evoked south pacific island life (vestiges of straw huts, bamboo, driftwood and palm trees) and nautical items such as Japanese glass floats, fishing nets, nautical lanterns, etc. The tiki statues, such as representations of Moai, the statues of the Easter Island, and many other forms started to appear in the mid-1950s.

Tiki iconography in the Tiki Tolteca bar, New Orleans. October 2020 (c)CE Hunt

The history of the whole tiki cultural phenomenon is rich and complex. Urban archeologist, Sven Kirsten, has written some outstanding histories of the culture. Book of Tiki and Tiki Pop are both impressive. He goes into some of the earliest literary foundations of the culture as well as other aspects such as the impact of movies of the era and the once close realtionship between tiki bars and the Hollywood film industry.

Source: Don the Beachcomber Restaurant, Huntington Beach, CA (currently closed.)

In recent years, tiki bars have begun to resurface on the American landscape. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, owner of the excellent New Orleans tiki bar, Latitude 29, is a highly regarded “mixologist” and tiki anthropologist. He has published numerous popular books on vintage tropical drinks. Sippin’ Safari would be a great one to start with.

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s Latitude 29 in the French Quarter, October 2020 (c)CE Hunt

Popular American artist, Josh Agle (Shag), has incorporated tiki themes into his work and captured the imagination of a lot of Tiki fans. Pictured below is sample of his work. It was for the opening of a new tiki bar in Kansas City, Tikicat. Click here for more samples of Josh’s incredible work.

Tiki Cats and Kittens, an example of Josh Agle’s (Shag) fabulous work (acrylic on panel) https://shagstore.bigcartel.com/

There is also a great magazine, Exotica Moderne, to keep one abreast of Tiki culture. It covers many aspects of the Tiki scene, including music, drinks, food, bars, “Tiki Lit” and art.

Exotica Moderne Magazine

I look forward to you delving along with Steve, my protagonist, into tiki culture in The Sommières Sun this spring. Meanwhile, search out a good tiki bar near you, imbibe a couple of great cocktails and see if the “tiki” vibe affects you the way Beach suggests above.


In the coming weeks, as a bonus to those of you who enjoy a good tiki bar, I’ll review my two favorite tiki bars in the Big Easy–Latitude 29 and Tiki Tolteca, both of which are featured in The Sommières Sun.

Coming spring 2021

Why a Sequel?

After I finished A Moveable Marfa, my brother, Carl, also a published writer who played a key editing role in the book, asked me, “Are you ready for a sequel?” He said the characters in A Moveable Marfa were rich and well-developed, and there was more story there.

My response? “No! It’s finished!” I honestly thought I was done with Steve and what I thought was a colorful cast of characters on both sides of the Atlantic. I missed those characters and the interactions they had with each other and their distinctive worlds, but I just wasn’t feeling like I needed to say more. I just didn’t want to write a sequel for the sake of a sequel.

I thought it was settled. It was time to go enjoy a sunset or something…

Sunset, Paris 2011 ©CE Hunt

Then a few other readers reached out to me and spoke. They asked me when was the next book coming out? With those readers I knew personally, I challenged them with a “why do you ask?” The response was that they wanted to know what happens next. I thought it was settled. They felt otherwise. They felt there were numerous unresolved issues and the characters needed to tell us more about themselves and their worlds.

I reflected.

Driving into France on N-260 2009 ©CE Hunt

Maybe my readers were right. Certainly, there’d be curves in the road ahead for Steve. What was around the corner? Would things work out?

On a lark, I sat down in the spring of 2020, to just play around, see if I was feeling it. Maybe the readers were just being kind. I wasn’t convinced.

Then a funny thing happened.

I was shocked when the follow-on story almost started writing itself. The text I’d written almost literally handed me the title, The Sommières Sun, and I was all in. I called my brother and told him something that brothers are sometimes loath to do. I told him he was right.

Meanwhile he had begun writing a book: Paradoxes of Power. Knowing my passion for nature, he asked me to co-author a chapter with him on our society’s dysfunctional relationship with nature. I agreed, so for a while, I was working on both books at the same time.

Meanwhile, Carl was occasionally reviewing the text of my sequel and saw a passage he wanted to quote in a chapter on which he was collaborating with other authors on the dysfunction of power relationships concerning race in America. Consequently, there is an excerpt in Chapter 4 in Paradoxes of Power from The Sommières Sun, even before it is published. In the excerpt, a friend of Steve’s is laying into him about how our nation often takes for granted the contributions of non-white Americans and those who desire to join the ranks of US citizens.

Llança, Costa Brava, Spain, 2009 ©CE Hunt

When I started writing The Sommières Sun, I quickly realized Steve had many mysteries and challenges on his horizon. While the end of A Moveable Marfa signaled to the reader a possible outcome, Steve’s fate was far from sealed. Further, he still had a lot of growing to do to become the person and writer he wanted to be.

I am hopeful and modestly confident that The Sommières Sun won’t disappoint the reader. Many surprises and some intriguing new characters await Steve and their readers as we continue on this life journey with them, which, in some respects, is really universal to all of us.

The projected publication of The Sommières Sun is spring of 2021.

Paradoxes of Power was published last month and available now. All, I ask is, please finish A Moveable Marfa before you read the lengthy except in Chapter 4 of Paradoxes of Power. I wouldn’t want the ending of a A Moveable Marfa to be spoiled for you!

Spring 2021

Monique and the Gift of Resilience

Steve’s life in France seldom goes the way he expects. Surprises are not uncommon when traveling outside one’s nation. An acquaintance of his, Monique, offers up a few more surprises than most.

Steve, sitting in front of Au Petit Suisse Café, realizes he’s likely been stood up by Monique. He has a decision to make. He could sulk or move on and see what’s around the next corner. His new friend, Chester, helps him to move on. The group of friends he meets that night changes his experience in Paris mostly for the better. Within an hour he’d be drunk on sangria and laughing the night away with his dear old (new) friends.

Definitely a life lesson here. We’d all generally be better off reassessing situations after a disappointment to see how we can best rebound or even profit. Sometimes, the rebound is better than the anticipated “bound,” whatever a bound is.

No matter how one expresses it, “Carpe diem,” “Profitez du moment” or “Seize the moment,” it is generally good advice.


In my novel, A Moveable Marfa, my character Steve has an in depth conversation with a French woman on the definition of wealth and impacts of technology.

It’s a profound question.

Sign proclaiming a phone booth near Pesmes, France ©CE Hunt 2004

When this sign was first installed, whether it was here or nearby, one can imagine the excitement of this development on the outskirts of Pesmes, France. A real connection to the outside world! Of course, the installation of a phone booth in this village was just the beginning of a dramatic transformation of humans’ relationship to information and in a real sense, wealth.

Pesmes, France ©CE Hunt 2004

Perhaps another way to pose this question would be, “Has technology adversely affected our wealth? Does it distract us from pursuing our real wealth? How many times have you spent an hour or so on the internet and marveled at how little you grew that hour, how little you made “your habitat” better? Did you become wealthier during that spell?

That of course depends on your definition of wealth.

In Chapter 37 of A Moveable Marfa, Steve and his French friend share a bottle of wine attempting to define wealth. The nexus of American notions of wealth with his friend’s French notions makes for a stimulating conversation. I won’t spoil it, but money is certainly not at the forefront in the final analysis.

Below are some images that in my eyes evoke elements of wealth…

Fort Davis National Historic Site ©CE Hunt 2007
Books that we connected with or made our world a bigger and more interesting place or sensitized us to something important
El lamento del torero — C E Hunt 2020 All Rights Reserved
Gettysburg National Historical Park, Little Round Top at Dusk — C E Hunt 2017 All Rights Reserved
A nice draft at Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, New Orleans C E Hunt 2017 All Rights Reserved
Muffaletta at Napoleon House in New Orleans — C E Hunt 2017 All Rights Reserved

Beautiful scenery, great books, art, history, quality brews, good food …

But some of the most important aspects of true wealth can’t be fully captured in a photograph — love, caring, a good friend, health, spirit, spiritual maturity, unity, etc.

Steve and his friend do fair job tackling what is wealth over that bottle of wine in a small Moroccan restaurant in Sommières, France. Read chapter 37 in A Moveable Marfa if you want to “eavesdrop” on their conversation.

Sommières, France — C E Hunt 2004 All Rights Reserved


In memoriam of George Floyd 1974-2020.

Like me, he was a native of Houston. I played sports against his high school, Jack Yates Senior High School. The last picture is a picture of George catching a touchdown pass while at Yates. I didn’t know George, but I feel very connected to him somehow and at the risk of stating the obvious, feel these things cannot be acceptable at all in our society. Things must change now. My sympathies to his family and fiancée. (Love, caring and unity are all forms of wealth. In this department, we have so much to do in the United States.)

The Gaze of the Blessed Virgin

With much of the longstanding buzz about the art scene in Marfa, one doesn’t hear as much about the traditional, but very important, aspects of the city.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marfa, January 19, 2007 –C.E. Hunt

Though mostly a bit behind the scenes, St, Mary’s Catholic Church in Marfa plays an important role in the early part of my novel, A Moveable Marfa. A very important scene takes place in front of the Statue of the Blessed Virgin inside the church. Mass is celebrated most days in the active parish, and the church contributes greatly of the fabric of the more traditional aspects of the city. At times the avant-garde expressions of the artistic community of Marfa creates tension with the more traditional aspects of the community. Other times, they complement each other. Regardless, it is an important influence to the overall cultural landscape of the city and nearby region.

The roots of Catholicism run deep in the area.

Though Presidio County had been inhabited by indigenous tribes for thousand of years, Catholicism started to take root in the region in the 1500s with the arrival of Spanish expeditions across the region. The first Spaniards likely came to area in 1535. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions stopped at the Native American pueblo, placed a cross on the mountainside and called the village La Junta de las Cruces (at a site south of modern day Marfa near the modern-day City of Presidio). The history of St. Mary’s Parish dates to 1875 when Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission was established in Marfa in a small building west of the present town limits.

[St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Marfa, Texas], photograph, 1964; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth87871/m1/1/: accessed May 16, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Marfa Public Library.

More background on St. Mary’s Catholic Church

In 1889 the population of Marfa and the surrounding area became great enough that Our Lady of Guadalupe was established as a parish. As a parish, Marfa gained its own resident priest.

The cornerstone of the present day building is dated 1889. However, the people ran out of funds and building was delayed for a time. During this time, services were held in a building which had been a wool storehouse. When funds again became available, the church was finished.

From the time the parish was established in 1889 with one priest until 1912 when there were four priests, there was no rectory. The priests lived in the back rooms of the church building. A rectory was finally built in 1912.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Marfa, Texas, photograph, Date Unknown; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth87869/m1/1/: accessed May 16, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Marfa Public Library.

At one time, Marfa actually had two Catholic churches. In 1917 a second church, Sacred Heart Church, was built at the northwest corner of Highland Ave. and San Antonio St. It was dedicated on December 27, 1917. That same year Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was enlarged and remodeled. In 1945, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was again enlarged. The name of the Church was changed to St. Mary’s.

In 1959, St. Mary’s Church and Sacred Heart Church were made one and the Sacred Heart property was sold. St. Mary’s was again enlarged. Furnishings and materials from the Sacred Heart Church, including adobe bricks and the stained glass windows, were used to renovate and beautify St. Mary’s Church. (Primary Source: https://churchmarfa.blogspot.com/)

Credit: The Foundation for the Diocese of El Paso
Reportedly, the 1927 interior. Credit: [Interior of St. Mary’s Catholic church in the late 1920s],photograph, 1927~;(https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth39711/m1/1/: accessed May 16, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Marfa Public Library.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marfa, January 19, 2007 –C.E. Hunt
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marfa, January 19, 2007 –C.E. Hunt
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marfa, January 19, 2007 –C.E. Hunt

Per a 1960’s history of the church, the church is, like many historic Marfa structures, constructed of adobe blocks. The exterior walls are reported to be three feet thick. Like Saint Mary’s and its history, this preponderance of adobe architecture is just another special aspect of the City of Marfa.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marfa, January 19, 2007 –C.E. Hunt

Mas de Peuch (or Steve’s place in Southern France)

In A Moveable Marfa, Steve rents a gîte on an old farm not far from Calvisson and Sommières in Languedoc (about 22 km from Nîmes). He wants to get away from Paris and his curious group of friends there and write. The area around the gîte is a beautiful area featuring many small villages, vineyards and olive groves.

April 2004, C E Hunt All Rights Reserved

Here is the patio where Steve writes his “Great American novel” and philosophizes with Brites well into the wee hours of the morning.

April 2004, C E Hunt All Rights Reserved

Here is the front of Steve’s gîte. Small but quite welcoming and perfect for his writing.

Villevielle, next to Sommières, has an olive cooperative where locals can bring their olives to be pressed for oil. Steve and his Brazilian friend, Brites, visit it in the book.

April 2004, C E Hunt All Rights Reserved
April 2004, C E Hunt All Rights Reserved

I’ll share more on Sommières in the future. It plays a key role in the book.


Toshiba Digital Camera

I myself was fortunate enough to visit the cooperative “one day” and had a wonderful chat with Jean François Thurmond, the manager. It was the first time I had the opportunity to do an olive oil tasting. Jean was a very nice chap. I was learning French at the time, and he somehow understood me rather well. For that, I had an instant admiration for him.

Stacy’s Gift to Steve (or be open to the little things)

See anything in the above photo of Julia Street in New Orleans?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. But you could have…

This is Steve’s acknowledgement to Stacy that she had opened his eye to new things. Let’s go back and drill down in the above photo a bit more.

Let’s take a bit closer look at this unusual, tiny structure.

A few interesting features start to pop out. For one thing, the grill work is extraordinary.

Now, I’m not saying this is unqualified beauty, as if there were such a thing, but I’m sure almost every driver fails to see these nice features, probably most pedestrians in fact.

And this being New Orleans, something totally unexpected and inexplicable MUST happen. I never expected the Queen to wave at me through the grilled window!

Slow down, let a little of Stacy rub off on you, if of course, you’ve read the book.

If you haven’t, there’s a way to make this happen. It might make you a better person. Okay, well maybe, … I mean, it could happen.

Enjoy and be inspired!

Galería del Sol

Steve’s art gallery is introduced early on in A Moveable Marfa, page 7 to be exact. I thought it might be interesting to give the reader a little insight into my inspiration for it to be an important venue in the story.

It was actually back in 2006-2008 when I first started hanging out in Marfa to write the Marfa part of the story. There was this oddly shaped building near the railroad tracks on S. Austin St. that caught my eye. I decided over time that this would be one of the buildings that Uncle Clive would leave Steve. In the novel, Steve lived on Austin Street on the other side of the tracks.

Here’s a picture I took of the “Gallery” to be in January of 2007. C E Hunt All Rights Reserved

Now, of course, this building is known as the Crowley Theater, a cultural arts center, but in 2007, I saw the Galería del Sol. A place where Steve would grow in his relationship with Stacy and Pilar and meet the formidable “Paco.” Some of these characters are loosely inspired by real people, but for legal reasons, I won’t say which characters are based on real people and which ones are purely fictitious. This is true of many of the characters in the book in Marfa and France. Anyway, I saw the gallery being full of interesting art with maybe a studio or two in the back.

To give you an idea of the overall setting, this cool building sits across the tracks from the Crowley Theater today.

NOLA by Night

New Orleans has a very different personality by night. Far from Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, a somber, dignified city awaits, reflecting an interesting blend of old and new. Many of the buildings of the Warehouse District and Central Business District were built throughout the 1800s. Many were added in the 1900s and some are very new, but often at least somewhat sympathetic to their surroundings.

Sadly, many tourist never see much of this side of New Orleans. Maybe because of the quiet and lack of crowds, one can better get a real sense of place.

Don’t forget to peer inside places as well.

Art galleries evoke a strange loneliness late at night.

My mind races thinking about writing a short story about a mysterious character slowly walking down the rain soaked street pictured below!

Spend some time across this great city. Inspiration is everywhere.

For all content — C E Hunt All Rights Reserved

The 10 Bar

Source: 10 Bar

A couple of scenes take place inside this unusual bar near Jardin de Luxembourg. This bar has pretty much been miraculously preserved since 1955. Originally started by a dude from Spain named Mariano, it’d be hard to find a more authentic, vintage “dive” experience in Paris than this place which can hold about three dozen people. It is kind of like a musty, “Belle Epoque” cave covered with a mixture of Belle Epoque posters and a few touches from the 1970s, especially its 1970’s era juke box.

“Monique’s Perch” – Source: 10 Bar

In A Moveable Marfa, Monique sat in the bench, second from the right, and watches Steve. You’ll have to read the book to find out what comes of this. I wrote this section of the book actually sitting where Steve sat on a rainy night a few years ago. I tried to capture the feel of this special place.

Source: 10 Bar

I recommend you check out the 10 Bar if you find yourself in Paris. The sangria is very good and the setting will stick with you for a long time.

Outside of 10 Bar Odeon

Don’t let the rustic exterior deter you! At 10 rue de l’Odéon,