Friday, August 31, 2018

Vegas: People and pets on the Promenade (part 2)

One of the cheesiest, and possibly also most alarming, things Antho ever told me, was the time he excitedly described to me a homeless couple he had seen- while they were both quite obviously living on the street, destitute and broke, they were clearly and unquestionably infatuated with each other and seemed beyond content despite a situation most of us would never consider a remotely tolerable turn of fate. He saw it as a poetic image, a testament to the undying power of love to overcome any and all challenges despite any situation it might find itself in... I saw it as a bit of a terrifying indicator for just how low he was willing to let his standards of living fall so long as he had me tagging along to bolster him, but I digress. He's a dreamer at heart, a fantastic, whimsical, flashy theatrical type who was raised on a steady and heavy diet of Hollywood films while I tend to be the logistician who grumbles, gets a migraine, and sorts through the realities of the matter like some impression of an adult in an effort to sway the tides of time in my favor. Homelessness, while not something I consider a desirable or even romantic notion, is an inarguable reality of modern society. I've seen, and interacted with, homeless people in Japan as well as the United States, and witnessed their camps while in Korea... Each country approaches things in their own ways, and each homeless person's story is unique, too, so it's not as though a simplistic blanket approach could ever work for everyone. I do have to say that I rather like Japan's approach, which seems a respectful distance and non-interference. When police want to evict a homeless encampment on public land, they're forced to abide by the same procedural processes as in an eviction. Most homeless are left to sleep in peace, and the time I did stop and offer a hot coffee and a sandwich to a homeless man in Tokyo, he was shocked by the gesture and asked incredulously where I had come from. He'd made me laugh on a difficult morning, so I figured it an equitable exchange, but this does make me wonder how far indifference stretches before it turns to a cold shoulder. 

 All photos in this post were taken by Antho! 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Vegas: People and pets on the Promenade

Winners and losers love Las Vegas, though for their own entirely different reasons. Those lucky few winners are able to amass gargantuan piles of cash, obscene quantities of paper power filling their happy hands eagerly, while the losers...well, what is life without hope? Without the glimmering of hope at the end of the tunnel life becomes meaningless, but dangle the proverbial carrot a sufficiently tantalizing distance away and that optimism will power a horse (or person) through otherwise insurmountable challenges. The homeless population of Las Vegas has plenty to hope for, in the city of Sin, after all one of our biggest sales points is the fact that you can go from zero to hero with one fortuitous spin of the slot's reels, all it takes is luck! While I, personally, would never wish (or wish for my enemies) to be homeless in this unforgiving desert climate, there are benefits to the near endless parade of sunny days to be sure, namely the constant flow of tourist's foot traffic that means crafty buskers can make a fairly decent chunk of untaxed income, especially when they have an outstanding talent or deformity. There's one fellow you can regularly find in front of the Bellagio's fountains who draws portraits with his mouth, due to his lack of hands. 

It's not just the homeless that are likely to gather in these large public arenas, of course. You will invariably encounter several superheroes in varying stages of accuracy, decency, and dress. These hopefuls will pose with their eager fans for an exchange of currency, so don't try to take their photos without their permission (unless their backs are turned), as you're likely to find yourself in an awkward confrontation with a pissed off Defintely-NOT-Ryan-Reynolds-Deadpool. Like it wasn't bad enough it wasn't the real Ryan Reynolds, but to get hostile too?! Not very X-Force, man. But when you're dealing with money-hungry imposters like this, instead of the anti-heroes themselves, what can you expect?   

But the people watching is something else, that's for sure. 

All photos in this post were kindly provided by Antho Jay, who has been my faithful photographer!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Vegas: Ellis Island adventure

This is in part a story about the Ellis Island casino, but also it's kind of not. It's a bit of a convoluted story, I suppose. You see, our good friend Epic Beard Louie recently did a show at the Huntridge Tavern where he and Antho got to hang out and reconnect a bit, and it was awesome! Good times. This, perhaps not surprisingly, lead to them wanting to hang out again in the near future as they were reminded of their friendship from yonder-year, back in a previous tense where they worked side by side (or at least in relatively close proximity) for hours and hours every week as colleagues in a call center. They've hit a couple of open mic nights and things over the years, but it's always nice to catch up with a friend you don't get to see too often, isn't it? So, they agreed to get together and meet for a meal and drinks at Ellis Island, a small local casino just off the strip. It may be attracting more of the tourist crowd these days, but for as long as I've known the place it was staunchly a local's haunt with it's cheap on-site brewed beer, old Vegas steak / rib / seafood dinner specials in their steakhouse, and karaoke I never went to (but Antho was a fan). 

I've always enjoyed their cheap beer specials, featuring the beers they brew on-site with their own small brewery. It used to be $2 or $3 for a pint, I believe, but maybe I'm getting senile in my old age (my birthday is coming up and it's making me acutely aware of my mortality, I'm afraid). And maybe in it's heyday, Ellis Island was the most popping place to be if you wanted to rub elbows with the elite...but these days it's a little more rough around the edges. Last time I, personally, set foot on the premises I found the parking lot nearly unnavigable (in my little Volvo box!) and the proximity to what seemed highly indicative of a hooker-motel to be quite a bit skeevy... but it's hard to resist cheap brews and chews, right? And it had been years! So, Antho happily agreed to pop over to Ellis Island with his good buddy. And he had fun. He got some great photographs. Had an overpriced White Russian.  But, after delivering my 50/50 burger (half bacon, half beef), he walked Louie back to his car and tried to re-enter the casino premises, he was barked at by a gruff security woman who told him in no uncertain terms he was no longer welcome on premises. 

To be clear, Antho is a charming and friendly young man. He tries very hard to be open and cheerful with most everyone he meets. While he does drink, these days, it's rarely more than a single drink or two and he never gets belligerent in public, so there's no reason to believe he acted poorly or out of line. During his time inside the casino, no one ever approached him to say he had done anything wrong either, and he had spent a fair bit of money on food and beverages during his time there over the course of the evening. The sudden turn around of this woman shouting at him to leave the premises after escorting his pal to his vehicle seemed unfounded, and quite frankly upset Antho a lot. He was perplexed, and we had discussed going to the place together to check it out for nostalgia's sake prior to the security woman telling him to vamoose. 

He reached out to Ellis Island via their Facebook page and they got back to him pretty quickly. From there he was able to get ahold of their head of security, who assured him that no papers had been processed that night evicting anyone from the premises permanently and the woman was tossing around her authority without merit. After a brief discussion with the guy, Antho was told he was absolutely welcome back on premises at any time and that if any issues arise to call the head of security directly on his personal cell-phone. So in roughly the course of an hour, hour and a half or so, Antho was unceremoniously told that he was unfairly and unjustly 86'd from the premises of a business he had just given lots of cash, then welcomed back with open arms by the head of security. What a wild ride! 

I'm a bit torn on whether we'll be stopping by now... Nostalgia is great and the 50/50 burger was pretty damn delicious, lukewarm, despite my neurotic preference for scalding hot foods or bust... Such blatant abuses of power are not a nice addition to an evening out, and while we were assured by the head of security that we had his backing should we ever want to give them our cash again, we can't feel confident that we won't run into the same woman and have a negative experience or anything. Bummer. 

At least Antho got some cool photos along the way!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Vegas: Waterfalls and Sunsets

Broad swathes of taupe and greige paint a stark contrast to the vibrant shades of periwinkle, pink and fuschia that tend to dominate the desert landscape as the sun continues its timeless crawl behind the sanctuary of the mountains dotting the horizon. In the city, jutting angles of cement arch out with neon bedazzling, trying to strike their own eminent pose over the archaic landscape. Sunrise and sunset are both outlandishly beautiful here in Vegas, likely due in large part to the extensive views and visibility offered by the sparsely shrubbed landscape. Just like most all other ecosystems existing on our planet currently, water is the single most important lifeblood of the carbon-based lifeforms proliferating the region, be they human, animal or shrub. The Las Vegas strip itself is a glittering bastion of hydration and pomp, offering both stunning views of our horizontal changes throughout the day along with exceptional water-fixtures freely splashing their wares for the enjoyment of all who walk by. 

It should go without saying by this point in my blog (and, say, our existence as conscious semi-responsible beings with ready access to the internet and all its veritable informational and educational resources) that water is a rarified resource here. As the city continues its quest for relentlessly growth and prosperity, the resources we currently have at our disposal (the Colorado river and Lake Mead, foremost) are going to become more and more tightly stretched, as they're already being shared between growing communities throughout Southern Nevada, Southern California and Arizona. There is, of course, something to be said for the predictably sunny and warm weather we have here, which attracts many people sick of the seasonal shifts and cold (or otherwise inclement) weather of back home, so despite the stretches to our reserves I foresee no slowing in the settlement. The economy should boom, with lots of eager workers moving in from other regions, and all the new infrastructure going in currently to support the Raiders and other entertainments popping up around their installation. For now, the water flows abundantly. 

All the photos in this post were provided by Antho! Thanks babe!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Vegas: People (and pigeons) in the Promenade

Viva Las Vegas, the city of Lost Wages, of Sin and too much of a good thing! This city welcomes one and almost all with open arms, so long as you've got a valid passport and a pocketful of cash (or at least some plastic for the swiping). The booze is ever-flowing, the party ever-pumping... or at least that's the impression the city so sorely and fanatically wants for you to have of it. It's kind of like those raging party girls who, with age, start to be a little less exciting and enticing and more ragged and pathetic as the abuses of excess start to Tara Reid, basically. Vegas certainly lacks no amount of spackle for when it comes to glossing over its age or the fading charms of some of its dingier corridors, and with the constant evolution comes the relentless forward-charge that tries, so desperately, to prevent the ravages of time. For the most part this means Vegas is a glittering, built up mecca to consumption and entertainment, drawing the hordes of eager visitors with the promise of possible riches and a great story to tell the folks back home, if nothing else.

Party hardy.

Whether its a bro-squard in matching Hawaiian/tropics-inspired-print or a drunk and disorderly bachelorette squad in their tiny dresses, heels in hand, Vegas is best enjoyed with other people. Even Hunter S. Thompson brought his trusty attorney to Vegas for his wild drug-binge-ride. It's just one of those things- sometimes you need a friend to rally, or to hold your hair while you get sick, but someone has to help you take photos so it's not just an endless procession of awkward selfies. I've done the solo-travel thing (when I lived in Japan and Korea), and while I'm incredibly grateful for the experience and wouldn't trade it for the world, it also made me acutely aware of how much fun it can be to travel with friends. It's also good to know that you can pack up and go, on your own, and there's a lot of benefits to be had with solo travel... but if I were to be the judge, which I basically am, since this is my little slice of the internet- Vegas is a town best enjoyed with your BFFs or at least a romantic partner. 

Take it from this guy! He gets it.
 Look how happy he is!

Photos in this post were provided by Antho Jay~ 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Vegas: Jjolmyeon in Greenland Market

After spending an incredible six months living over in Seoul, South Korea, it shouldn't catch anyone off guard that I absolutely adore the food there. In fact, true hardcore readers (if such a thing exists) might recall one of my earliest ever blog posts (on my much neglected food-oriented sister blog, Culinarily Curious) being about a simple Korean soup with beef and radish- and that was back before I had even ever traveled to Korea! I was enamored with the clean, simple dishes full of complex flavors, and my love of Korean food has only deepened since the days of wandering the many narrow corridors of the city streets and eating anything I could find. Not only is the food itself often exceptionally healthy due to being predominantly vegetable based, but the flavors are often complex and comprised of fermented ingredients that bolster gut health and add incomparable depth. Suffice to say, it's good stuff and I am always happy to find an excuse to dig in on some K-grub.  

Here in the city of Las Vegas, one of your better options for finding a variety of common-place (in Korea) dishes (and ingredients) at a reasonable price point with expedient service is to head over to Greenland market, on the corner of Rainbow and Spring Mountain. Spring Mountain road is pretty much our version of Chinatown, with a huge assortment of different restaurants and businesses catering to all things from the East, whether it be cars, banks, food or fashion. If you're hankering for some dim sum or conveyor belt sushi (or an izakaya, Korean barbeque, hot pot, etc) and don't want to linger in a casino, you'll find the bulk of your pick of restaurants on Spring Mountain. Greenland, however, is especially oriented to the Korean population, which is pretty large here in Vegas. It's my favorite destination for Korean foods and groceries, with the fresh food cafeteria by the front doors offering all sorts of tasty meals to fill your belly before buying your groceries. While out and about on this particular adventure, we popped in and I finally was able to satisfy the fiendish craving I'd been having for jjolmyeon, a cold chewy noodle dish made with wheat noodles and a sweet and spicy sauce that coats the fresh, crispy veggies and makes each bite a savory mix. It's good stuff, and while not as commonly seen as bibim-naengmyun or bul-naengmyun, which also consist of cold noodles in a savory sauce, it holds its own. Ever since summer settled in and started grabbing us by the balls, I've had a need to stuff cold, spicy noodles in my face hole. Am I the only one?  

It ain't a rounded Korean meal without banchan and some soup! This meal came with some kimchi, braised potatoes, macaroni salad and a clean, simple beef broth alongside my big heaping bowl of noodles. Even with Antho's help I wasn't able to finish the whole portion! 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Vegas: Snails' trails

Slippery, slimy, squirming, sliming, slithering, squishy... Snails are ripe fodder for alliteration! How do you feel about the little guys? For many, they're a vermin, the foe of a meticulously tended garden when they find their very slow and determined way to the leaves and start munching away. In some cases, they're the inspiration for creepy crawly comics, like the awesomely unnerving kind drawn by the fabulously talented Juwhoseto, whose comics have provided the inspiration for movies like Uzumaki and Tomie (for those of you who are into Japanese horror flicks). As a nearly lifelong resident of an extremely arid and inhospitable environment to snails, they've become something of a novelty for me. We don't get to see the cute little buggers too often because there's rarely enough ambient hydration around the facilitate any sort of life for the salt and sun-phobic guys. 

We're certainly not afraid of snails, if you remember Antho's enthusiasm upon encountering them in San Francisco when we found this cute fella and bonded during our hike. Since we don't get to encounter them in our native state of Nevada, especially here in Vegas proper, too often, it tends to be quite a moment when we do stumble upon some. We're fascinated by life in its myriad forms, whether it be friendly road-side goats in Glendale or an aquarium in San Francisco, tortoises or our beloved little squeaker friends, animals are awesome! So why wouldn't we love snails in all their slime-coated goodness? Heck, I even love their mucin for slathering my face during my skincare routine, as my skin seems to soak it up and become super-duper soft. Snails are amazing! 

So it should really come as little to no surprise to you, my lovely readers here, that Antho was exceptionally excited to stumble upon this little ecosystem right here in the heart of Vegas! All it takes is a semi-regular stream of water and suddenly life flourishes, whether it's the moss or the snails, grass or some other creepy crawly thing. While some places are inundated with snails, like I said- here in the middle of the desert they're a novelty, a pleasant and unexpected surprise to pique your curiosity at nature's infinite creative weirdness. Because nature is nothing if not infinitely creative, and infinitely weird. The more you learn, the weirder it gets. Kind of like us!

Photos for this post were kindly provided by Antho, who giddily texted me about his find shortly after discovering it. Isn't he cute?

Friday, August 24, 2018

Vegas: Psychedelic night drive

Who's your favorite superhero? I know superheroes might be a sore topic for some, given the events that unfolded in the Infinity War... I mean, I know that I can speak from personal experience to say that I'm still reeling and feeling a bit traumatized by what we all witnessed, and repeated viewings on Blu-ray haven't helped matters much... but Antho and I, we've been watching The Flash on the CW since it first started airing (four years ago!)... it's been our show. We've grown and evolved as a couple over the years while we watched our favorite hero and his rag-tag group of scientists and alternate-Earth friends grapple to confront the meta-human menace and time-travel-tangled mess they've found themselves in every week. Even when I was off in Korea for six months we managed to synch up and watch the new episodes together, video-chatting with our reactions in real time! It's been a lot of fun, and while the show is currently on hiatus (boo, hiss) we're eager for when it returns to the airwaves in October. Sheesh, October still sounds so far away, but really we're almost through August already... all the little kidlings have gone back to school, and the big yellow buses have resumed roaming the neighborhoods. Time has been flying by, not unlike our favorite Scarlet Speedster, and summer is rapidly coming to its conclusion. Here in Vegas, summer doesn't fade away without a fight- she digs her claws in deep and spews her fiery, arid breath through much of October. Usually by time of All Hallow's Eve we've got enough of a nip that those skimpy insert-blank-here costumes are mildly uncomfortable... at least, for me. Some girls can walk the streets in booty shorts when it's -15 degrees fahrenheit out, and my respects to them, but us desert rats tend to have thin blood. 

I mention the Flash, though, because when doing long-exposures and driving things tend to take on an aspect not unlike that our favorite fast guy gets, with any light source creating streaks that resemble lightning. We do a fair bit of cruising around in that big van of ours and decided one night to experiment with long exposures. This is the result of that. Also, bonus cicada, because it's summer here and I love the little singing bugs. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Vegas: A den of penultimate horror, aka the Storage Unit (and bonus sunset drive)

Do you want to play a game?

What scares you? Is it cradling your phone close to your face in the deep of night, huddled under your blankets with only the cool electronic glow to stave off the darkness as you read Nosleep or Creepypasta into the early hours? Or do you prefer visceral visual gore, a screen painted in vibrant and guttural shades of red and pink with all the imagination and texture the creation department could muster through gallons of corn syrup and latex? Or are you more into the slow creeping cerebral of psychological horrors? 

I like a fair bit of each, depending on my mood. Sometimes I want a slithering, spine-tingling spectacle that lingers and latches on, like a greasy film from a cheap lotion- the kind of creeping dread that H P. Lovecraft is so adept at crafting. Other days you just want a big absurd splashfest in the vein of Dead Alive by Peter Jackson (yes, the same guy who made Lord of the Rings) where the cringe-inducing pus-squirts and custard incidents, as revolting as they are, are still snuggly-wrapped in their blanket of Kiwi humor. There are even those days (probably more oft than naught) where a mostly-light-hearted rom-zom-comedy like Shaun of the Dead fits the bill best of all. The greatest thing about all these multifaceted horrors is that most can be left behind by simply shutting a book or pressing a button. Slam. Zap. The spookiness is over and mostly gone. Tentacles recoil into the ink stains forming the words on the page, and gnashing teeth fade to black. 

But these horrors are all firmly rooted in fiction, so at the end of the day, no amount of fear or anxiety they induce is based on any real, imminent threats to you. Movies, books, even terrifying-anxiety-inducing-nightmare fests of a game like Dead Space are entertainment, for better or for worse. These are outlets that allow us to confront these things in safety, shouting at the clumsy victim of the moment as they stumble and stagger their way through their scripted slaughter. Reality itself provides no shortage of macabre and mortifying material to contend with, and for me, this often manifests as an overwhelming abundance of stuff. I strive for a minimalist sort of existence and having hopped continents several times now while living out of one or two suitcases found it extremely liberating. Less is more, they say, and whoever they are they've got the right idea. There are few things quite so deeply, unnervingly horrific as the storage unit. A place where your excess stuff goes to be forgotten, locked away in a spare bedroom you pay to forget. It's ridiculous- instead of, say, getting rid of the detritous that ways you down, it accumulates to the point of needing an additional offsite location to put not only are you paying for the house you yourself need space to live in, but a separate home for your stuff. What sense does that make?! It's like the dead coming to life, but it's all your dead stuff that's chasing you down, draining your finances and patience,  hoarding their dust-bunnies and potential spider-nests in wait until the day they can strike you down...

A fucking horror show, I tell you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Vegas: Huntridge Tavern show

Oddity and the city of Las Vegas are awkwardly close friends, the kind you might half expect to find sloppily making out as a drunken mess in an alleyway or find together in a bathroom stall halfway through the evening's festivities, before encountering them again pounding more shots and taking turns holding each other's hair back during the ensuing vomit parade.  Weird and Vegas go together like peanut butter and jelly, Catholicism and pedophiles, strippers and glitter...  Between the excessive heat that blisters and peels most reasonable soft people into bitter withered husks, the constant flow of starry-eyed tourists looking to get riggity-riggity-wrecked and perpetual creation of shiny new entertainments, the weirdness permeates and sinks in deep like the tobacco smoke stench in old hotel rooms wallpaper. Vegas and weird, you know, they're real tight besties. For that, we should all be incredibly thankful. 

Without this deep-seated weirdness Vegas might not be half as fun or half as interesting, and likely would have followed the countless other ghost towns nearby and shriveled into a brittle husk eon ago, forgotten amongst the sands of the desert that surrounds it. Luckily for us, the city continues it's undulating growth, sending paroxysmal tendrils out into new corners of the valley and sending a healthy flow of humans to fill the new appendages. More humans mingling and cohabiting means more weirdos crawling out of the woodworks, more eccentrics and worst of all, artists. The most insidious of weirdos, artists, and musicians seem drawn to the city like moths to an oh-so-beautiful light. Maybe it's all that neon blinking it's beacon out into the night, like a Bat-signal for the abnormal among us. All this means is that it should come as no surprise to you fine folks reading this blog here that we happen to know, and sometimes even rub elbows with, some musicians and their ilk from time to time. As creative types ourselves, we try to support our fellow makers when given the chance. After all, we're pretty weird, too...

So, if you find yourself out walking around Vegas, especially near the Arts District or Downtown (or, in this special case the Huntridge Tavern off Charleston) and hear some odd, eclectic mix of sounds that may or may not be a nightmarish hellscape, and a man in a dress covered in (fake?) blood tumbles out, don't be afraid. It's probably just Aaron. He's cool, albeit a little weird...but, hey, who you are you to judge?

Photos in this post were not provided by this handsome dude above, but he is a friend and long-time badass. Photos were taken by Antho. Enjoy!