My life is now complete.
I got to walk on sacred territory — the famed racetrack at the Palm Beach Kennel Club at West Palm Beach, Florida. This legendary track has been running dog races since 1933.
Here I am (above) posing with “Caddyshack,” the most recent race winner at PBKC, which was the World Series of Poker Circuit special feature race.
“Caddyshack is on the left, that’s me on the right — so as to avoid confusion.
By the way, “Caddyshack” paid $7 to win — which is more money than I have in my pocket right now.
Here’s another photo, with the executive staff, along with “Caddyshack” and his handler. He’s a two-year-old spotted greyhound.
Living in Las Vegas never gets dull. There’s always something fun to do here.
However, there are times when I like to escape.
What many Las Vegas locals and visitors may not realize are the numerous nearby attractions which have nothing to do with casinos or gambling. In fact, the 100-mile radius surrounding the area offers some of the most remarkable natural scenery near any big city in America.
Most of these cool places are within just a 1-2 hour drive. You’ve probably heard of some of these attractions — such as Red Rock Canyon, Mount Charleston, and Valley of Fire. You’re also likely to be familiar with Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. All these places are certainly worth visiting. But what I find far more interesting are the lesser-known gems which don’t attract typical tourists.
Today, I’d like to tell you about one of these lesser-known attractions. I’ve never heard anyone talk about this very unique place. That’s because so few people seem to know about it. In fact, I never even heard of it myself until I picked up a guidebook about Nevada’s best hiking trails, and was surprised to learn that one of the most breathtaking vantage points in North America is located less than a two-hour drive away from my home.
This special place is called “Dante’s View.”
Phillipe-the-Original is the kind of place I love to go.
Unpretentious and genuine — this is a bona fide Los Angeles institution located just north of downtown (right across the street from Union Station at 1001 N. Alameda St.). It’s the kind of place you’d expect to find in two of America’s most authentic restaurant cities — New Orleans and Memphis. With its unfinished cement floors, memorabilia hanging on the walls, and fresh, delicious, consistently outstanding food — it’s easy to see why this place has been around for more than half a century.
Indeed, one of the early indications that a restaurant has great food is examining its clientele. Fact: When you see people from all walks of life lined up and huddled together at wooden tables — bankers sitting next to construction workers, young hip-hop party goers scarfing down sandwiches along with retirees — you know the food is going to be good.
And it is.
Best known as the origin of the world-famous French Dip sandwich, there’s really only one reason to come here. And that’s for (drum roll please)….the French Dip. Few decisions are to be make. In fact, the menu hangs on the wall. The big dilemma is what kind of meat to order — beef, lamb, ham, or chicken. Less than a half-dozen side options exist (potato salad, coleslaw, etc.), and each is homemade. There’s also plenty of fresh desserts and beer/wine available. But the real stars of this long-running attraction are the sandwiches.
Oh, and they cost $6.50 each. That’s right. Six-fifty.
What a bargain!
Running is pain.
Each and every step is a bone-grinding reminder that I’m not young anymore. I can’t quite do all the things I used to be able to do — at least not as fast, nor with as much ease.
But I try.
One year ago today, began my daily running routine. All 262 lumbering pounds of me shook the pavement with the full force of a jackhammer. I remember the pain as if it happened this morning. Perhaps that’s because today I felt many of those same pains once again. Indeed, I have come full circle to the place I was once before.
One year ago I weighed two-hundred and sixty-two pounds. Making it a full mile without stopping left me bent over, panting, and breathless. Running a few miles, even with deliberate stops in between, made my joints ache. After a few runs, my legs cramped up. At time, the pain was so severe, I felt paralyzed.
But I ran that first day. And the next. And the next, too. And with every step along the way, the one thereafter became just a little bit easier. Within a week of my daily run, I was already beginning to feel dramatic changes. Not only did I feel better physically, but mentally, as well. I also had lots more energy.
My lifestyle revolution — where I committed myself to running every single day with no excuses — began in the Bell Gardens section of Los Angeles on January 4, 2012.
And now today, it’s one year later. I have returned again to this place where it all started.
Preface: This story was written a few months ago during my stay in Cannes, located on the French Riviera. It appears in print here for the first time. This story recounts one of my most touching memories of 2012.
This is the story of an empty blue chair.
More precisely, it’s the story of a person who once occupied it — someone’s name I do not know.
It’s the story of a loyal companion who sat beside the blue chair, so faithfully — at the same time and place, each and every day.
This is the story of love and loss, of life and death, and ultimately of rebirth and renewal.
This is a personal story, a search for that special someone who once occupied the blue chair — which is now empty.