Latitude Adjustment

A few months ago, we received an email from someone interested in finding out about a Rum Therapy Banner for his bar called Latitude Adjustment. Well, as we are always in need of a little latitude adjusting ourselves, and thinking it was a clever name for a bar, we emailed back to find out more. Thinking this bar was either in the Caribbean, or perhaps Florida, we asked for the location. The answer was one we did not expect. More on that later….

In addition, this person named Michael, asked for permission to use one of our photos of Foxy’s Taboo on Jost Van Dyke as inspiration for a painting he wanted to do. It turns out that not only does he have a bar with an excellent name, he also paints beautifully colored tropical scenes. We gave him permission to use this photo and asked if we could interview him for “Making Your Tropical Obsession Your Profession”. Here’s what we found out….

Foxy’s Taboo Photo by Rum Therapy

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Michael Bolz, and I live in Fairbanks Alaska.  I was raised here, and lived in the states for about 12 years before moving back after having kids.  It’s just a great community to be raised in, and being the overprotective dad that I am, I felt that my boys would do well here.  My wife Dani and I moved up with the boys about 9 years ago now, and she has been plotting her escape ever since.  Our dream is to retire to the islands, selling the house for a boat and living a semi nomadic lifestyle as a writer/painter in my sunset years.  Of course those years are a ways away still, but I figure I should get in as much practice as I can before stepping off into the unknown. Currently, I work at the hospital here in Fairbanks in the engineering department, which is a great place to work, but it does not do much to stimulate the creative side of me that is constantly screaming for attention.  I studied graphic design and illustration in college, and while it is still a huge part of my life (we will get to that in a bit) but the steady work and insurance the hospital offers is hard to say no to in favor of a hit or miss full time job as an illustrator.

That being said, I have not given up my passion for artwork, and my side gig is that of a painter and illustrator focusing primarily on tropical/island lifestyle.  I have been painting for as long as I can remember, and I imagine I will be doodling or painting till the day I die.  

2. What gave you the “tropical bug”?
Again, from Alaska…that pretty much says it all.  I joke about that, but to a certain extent it really is almost required to be able to take a break from the cold and dark in the winter.  Thankfully, I married a travel bug who is willing to go on vacation at the drop of a hat, and she is the one who really turned me on to tropical locales.  Before we met, she traveled extensively in Mexico and the Bahamas and her stories of these places really are what got me inspired to see for myself.  Most recently, we were in Key West and I immediately fell in love.  There is something about the remote aspect of the island life, the fact that you don’t end up somewhere by accident, you have to intend to go to some of these places in order to really get there.  I was describing Jost Van Dyke that way recently to a friend of mine, explaining that it is sparsely populated, and unless you are going out of your way to get there, you won’t go.  I love that about a destination, maybe because it reminds me in a way of Fairbanks…minus the snow.

3. Living in a cold climate, how do you fuel your tropical obsession?
In a word?  Rum.  No, honestly, I think the fact that we are isolated up here, and we need to have a goal in mind sometimes just to get through the winters.  That travel goal is a huge part of it as a result.  Also painting up here is really one of the things that gets me through the winters more than anything else.  My studio is in my basement, and I will go down there and put No Shoes Radio on the computer and just spend hours transporting my mind to a much warmer place.  There is something about the colors, the deep turquoise of the water in the Virgin Islands, the bamboo tiki vibe of the south pacific, and the incredible rock formations on the coast of the Seychelles that I am drawn to.  I have recently been studying the clouds and the way the sunlight plays with them during sunset, so you can expect to see a whole series of those paintings sometime in the future.

Another thing is that Dani is always finding incredible destinations for us to daydream about and plan our next trip to.  I think she is really looking at the Virgin Islands right now, and I have learned to just go along with what she suggests, she hasn’t steered me wrong yet..  While I have not been to all of these locations yet, I have every intention of fixing that.

Of course, the fact that Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney do such a masterful job of painting this lifestyle with their words and music helps a lot as well.  I currently have Kenny Chesney’s live album in my truck, and I vowed not to take it out until the spring thaw rolls around.  I’ll tell you, driving down the road singing “On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful” at the top of my lungs while it is -45 outside gives you a new appreciation for the lyrics!

4. Can you tell us about your bar called Latitude Adjustment?
Latitude Adjustment is my escape in the summer.  As I tell everyone that comes over, it is proof that I am living in denial.  When we bought our house, there was a corner of the back yard that did not get enough sun in the summer to really be able to grow a decent lawn, and the dogs had a field day digging in the bare dirt.  After a few years of fighting that, I finally snapped and said “That’s it, I am building a deck” Well, the deck grew exponentially, and eventually there was a fire pit added, and a gravel “beach” around the fire pit, and finally the bar that was built a few years ago.  It has been a huge hit, and I told myself in the beginning that if I am going to do this, I am not going to go half way.  We have seating at the bar for three, plus countless seats around the fire pit and my requisite Alaskan bench made of old downhill skis.  I am going to be installing a new standing table this spring which will almost double our counter space, plus I have my eyes on a really nice stainless steel countertop/sink fixture that will finish up the whole thing nicely.  The name Latitude Adjustment just seemed natural being a tropical bar in Alaska.  Primarily inspired by Jimmy Buffets “Changes in Latitudes Changes in Attitudes”, it just sort of happened.  With my background in illustration, I figured if it is going to be a real bar, it will need a logo.  I designed the logo, painted it on to a huge piece of wood and cut it out, weatherproofed it, and my buddy and I attached it to the side of my house. 

Latitude Adjustment Logo

My wife was not particularly excited about having a giant Latitude Adjustment logo on our house, but she has grown to love it.  Like so many things, I think she came home one day and it was just sort of there.  She looked at it, shook her head and said “sure…why would I expect anything different?”  Most recently, my buddy Ron and I built a smoker for the bar, so in addition to two grills, I can smoke up to 12 rack of ribs or 20 good sized salmon at a time.  The nice thing about the salmon is that if you run out, you just go catch some more!   It may seem like overkill but when you think of how many people could be there at any given time, it is almost required. We have a very strict open door policy in the summer, and I enforce it with an iron fist…if you are anywhere near my house, just come in because there is always something to drink and great stories to tell. 

Latitude Adjustment – during the summer ;)

I can’t tell you how many times I have come home from work and walked in to the back yard, margarita in hand, and there is a full blown party going on.  I would ask my wife and her reply is usually “I don’t know, it just sort of happened”.  The nice part is that in the summer, the sun never really sets, so there will be folks hanging out and laughing at almost any time of the day or night.  The boys are now of the age where they enjoy having friends over as well and the bar turns in to a tropical soda fountain for them.  That being said, I am also proud of the fact that my youngest has studied my ways and is now able to make a pretty good margarita for us adults. And yes, I have received the requisite “Rum Therapy” banner which will be proudly displayed on the wall at the bar as soon as spring rolls around.  If you find yourself in Fairbanks, grab a bottle of rum and head over, we would love to have you!

5. Tell us about your tropically inspired paintings.  
Like I said earlier, I have been painting for as long as I can remember.  I have always been drawn to illustration and spent many hours in trouble at school as a result of my distraction.  I started off working in watercolors in high school, as well as pen and ink work.  Once I went to school, I was introduced to so many new mediums that I was like a kid in a candy store!  I was drawn to airbrush work, and spent a lot of time working in that field.  I have done custom paint work on motorcycles and helmets, as well as some other odd items.  While I still like working with the airbrush, there is a nice instant gratification about acrylic, which is what I am working primarily in now.  When I was in Hawaii, on Maui, I stumbled in to this gallery in Paella that was showcasing the most incredible and vibrant paintings of the locale there, and I was immediately swept up in the beauty of it all.  The colors, the themes…surfing and palm trees, these little tropical trails and the hills of the upcountry were depicted in a way that I had never seen and I knew at that time that I had to start painting again.  I considered trying watercolor, but the vibrancy of the paintings that I saw was something that just cannot be achieved with the transparent qualities of watercolor.

Painting by Michael Bolz

One thing led to another, and for Christmas this year, my wife bought me a domain name to showcase my work online.  It is in the very early stages of development, but I have found that it is the best way to really reach any masses outside of Alaska.  The address is and it is dedicated primarily to the island lifestyle as well as my humble attempt to get my name out there in the art communities.  I have the opportunity now to talk to people from all over the world, and I do commission work that I would never have been able to do otherwise. Drop me a line in the contact us field, I would love to hear from you and what you think of the site as well as my artwork.

Small Paintings by Michael Bolz

6. What is your favorite tropical destination?
Come on, that’s not fair, there are so many to choose from!  When I was in Hawaii, I had the opportunity to visit Sammy Hagar’s new rum distillery, and chat with Mark Nigbur, the master distiller.  That has to be hands down, one of the coolest experiences I have had.  This guy looks just like Sammy, and when I saw him walking towards me I had to do a double take because I thought I was seeing things.  That being said, I have to say right now that my favorite place has been Key West, which is ironic, because my dad was stationed there in the Navy in the 60’s and told me for years that he has no desire to ever go back.  I think I may have changed his mind though.  I had an opportunity to visit some of the bars that he went to when he was in the service, and came back with photos and stories. We sat there at the table for a while laughing and swapping stories, and…don’t tell him this…but I saw that twinkle in his eyes.  He wants to go back, though he would never admit it.   While there, my wife and I  visited every key lime pie place we could find, and I have to say, my favorite is still my wife’s.

We spent a fair amount of time on Duvall street, talking to the cigar rollers and vendors as we made our way to the southernmost beach where there is a sign saying “I work everywhere, but I work best here”, a quote from Tennessee Williams.  Our hotel room literally opened up to that beach, and I have never felt anything like getting up, putting on my shorts and going straight from bed to the ocean.  Tennessee Williams was right. 

I have not yet been to the Virgin Islands, and I am hoping that will be our next destination.  There is something about the Atlantic Islands that I am really drawn to.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Hawaii and would love to see more of the Polynesian South Pacific, but I feel a connection to the Atlantic Islands that I don’t get anywhere else.  I have been doing a lot of paintings recently that focus on the V.I. and I have been enjoying it.  Plus, who knows, maybe one day I could do an album cover for Kenny Chesney, he seems to like it there as well.

7. Is there anything else we should know about you or your business?
Oh there is all sorts of stuff you should know about me.  I write a lot, I have a couple of Irish Wolfhounds that keep us all on our toes, love to ride motorcycles, and my favorite shirt is one that I died orange myself!  I have tried every rum available in Fairbanks, and am considering trying to distill some myself, but don’t tell anyone…

I live a pretty good life and I surround myself with people that I love dearly.  I am not in the islands yet, but our retirement plans include a boat a paintbrush, some canvases and a guitar.  I am always open to travel  and painting.  I am not sure when the next trip will be, but I can guarantee it will be on the coast of somewhere beautiful.

Oh, and if anyone has Kenny Chesney’s attention, I am serious about that album cover.  :)

And Michael’s painting of Foxy’s inspired by our photo?
Painting by Michael Bolz

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