Hawaiian Punch

I lost my connection with surf culture when my band broke up more than a year ago. Intense and driven, I had relied on the contagious calm that the guys — all of them surfers — brought to my life and to our collaboration. They were the vibe; I was the amp. When this didn't result in static, it helped me relax and hang loose — or at least a little looser.

On a recent Sunday night, in need of a "no worries" infusion, I headed to Kahuna. Despite the poseuresque Hawaiian name for a place for Florida locals, I quickly found it an ideal spot to chill for more reasons than just the frozen slushy selection. After all, nothing says "no worries" like being able to jump your car "Dukes of Hazzard style" into a drainage ditch, leave the scene of the crime, then laugh about it all later. And Mac, a server at the Deerfield Beach bar, did just that when I asked how he liked his job.

"Basically, I moved here and then parked my car in a canal," the server told me with a wry smile. "I'm working here to pay off the tickets."

Other than minor injuries, the only damage was done to the car and his driving record — and to his career. Though he has a business degree, he needed the fast cash of the restaurant job. When he told me the authorities found him by tracing the gym ID on the keys he'd left in the ignition, I couldn't help but laugh too. OK, it wasn't a classic surf tale, but it did share a similar spirit.

As the afternoon's reggae band carried out the last of its equipment, the night's acoustic entertainer began setting up. At 8:30 p.m., the crowd was in transition too. People shuffled in and out in their flip-flops. Most lounged in the chairs at the tables on the porch so they could smoke. Others leaned casually on tabletops chatting in booths by the wall.

A wood sign on the bamboo-lined wall declared: Locals only. But it seemed more like a decorative accent than a real warning (the locals had embraced a reckless driver from out-of-state as one of their own, after all). I was hoping they'd also accept a nosy reporter from the next county who'd dug up her surfer attire in the hopes of blending in.

The dude next to me with the maze of blond dreadlocks seemed natural in these surroundings and admitted he was a surfer who lived just around the corner.

"I'm here only during business hours," he quipped, "cuz when it's closing time, I know I have to get up for work soon."

It seemed like a reasonable policy, and I said so. Waiting for his beer, he let an easy smile part his densely grown beard and mustache and introduced himself as Eric. Then he quizzed me on who I was and why I'd come to his hangout on a Sunday night. But I wasn't giving up much.

"You're not riff-raff, are you?" he asked with a suspicious look.

"Is that something that washes up on the beach?" I asked, just to be a smartass.

"Good one!" he said nudging me with his elbow.

I was pretty sure it wasn't, but I was glad he was playing along.

When the bartender delivered his beer, I ordered a mai-tai slushy from the many colorful frozen drink options whirring in the stainless-steel machines and then asked him to define riff-raff.

"You know... people who... ," he said, clearly mincing words as he tried to define his term as vaguely as possible, "have bad habits."

"Sometimes I burp in public," I offered as a definition of one of my own bad habits.

He assured me such behavior was acceptable and accepted my peace offering — a sample of my brain-freezing cocktail — before returning to his bevy of babes at one of the tables.

Alone again, I eavesdropped on the staff's banter. A few of them, including Mac and another who introduced himself as Matt, were tossing the word zu-zu between them.

"Like Zuzu's petals?" I interrupted.

"No, it means 'penis' in Haitian," Mac explained, obviously so new to town that he didn't realize that Haitian isn't a language.

I noted the Creole term wasn't as masculine as the English slang.

"Cock and dick: Now there's some words with balls to them," I remarked with a smirk.

"That's because Haitians have smaller zuzus," Mac shot back.

I wondered aloud how he became such an expert in comparative penis studies.

"We had everyone in the kitchen line up," he laughed.

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Marya Summers