We’ve lived in “The Lakes” section of West Las Vegas for about ten years, now. When we first moved onto this street, it was a quiet neighborhood made up mostly of retired people. Now, younger families with kids have flooded into the area. Our street also has many different nationalities — including Canadians, Palestinians, Chinese, Russians, Mexicans, Egyptians, Persians, and Romanians. We even have a few Mormons. They’re from some weird place called Utah.
During those earlier years, a few of our neighbors put up decorations over the holidays. Usually, the lights and decorations were modest. A few strands of lights here and there. A lit up Christmas tree. Maybe a Santa Claus or a manger scene.
Moreover, decorating usually began during the first week in December. Thanksgiving was regarded as separate holiday. Imagine that. No one dared to put up lights at least until November had ended.
Personal Note: In the coming days, I’ll be posting stories of people and incidents that have inspired me. Hopefully, these special people will inspire you, as well.
How would you define strength?
Ponder this question for a moment.
How is strength best defined? Take a moment and consider the possibilities.
Okay, so perhaps you have an answer. Now, permit me to have a go at this. Perhaps by the end of this essay, you may want to re-think your answer and consider alternative ways that strength is revealed in our society.
Here’s my take.
Strength isn’t manifested in achieving superiority, nor by making others inferior. Strength isn’t exhibited in anger or intimidation.
To the contrary. Real strength is embodied in personal sacrifice. It’s going out of one’s way to help a fellow human being. It’s putting another person’s comfort above your own. It’s dealing with the bad breaks in life and making the most out of them. That’s real strength.
I still have a lot to learn. I have a long way to go. No doubt, I have inner demons to conquer. But life has taught me it’s the small things that really matter. It’s the small things in life that bring joy and nourish optimism. Small things, like a glass of vintage wine, a meaningful conversation with family or friends, a comfortable resting place beside a warm fireplace, hearing your favorite Christmas carol, or watching a golden sunset.
Each of those things might not seem exceptional. But they are! They are indubitably rewarding. When we look back at our lives, I think most of us remember the simpler things we have done and experienced that brought us the most happiness.
It’s also the small things that often provide us with the most profound lessons. A seemingly trivial moment in the middle of the day can reveal a great deal about what’s really important. Our values stem not so much from formal education or access to the most learned academics. Life’s most meaningful lessons are taught in the classroom of daily life and come directly from one’s own experiences and observations. Our values are challenged and often reaffirmed by things that happen to us every single day.
The National Finals Rodeo is in town this week. Every December for the past 27 years, thousands of rodeo cowboys and cowgirls come to Las Vegas from all over the country — indeed from all over the world — to watch and participate in the national championship finals rodeo. Up and down the Vegas Strip, it’s backed up bumper to bumper with pick-up trucks and horse trailers — with license plates from Oklahoma, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Manitoba, Texas, and all points in between. Cowboy hats are everywhere — whether it’s elegant Venetian or down-home Sam’s Town. Almost every visitor has shiny new belt buckle and wears a pair of blue jeans or coveralls. An “invasion” of cowboys would not be too strong a word.
It’s rare to get four very busy people who live in different cities together for a festive meal. Fortunately, that was the occasion last night at a new restaurant located on Paradise Road, in Las Vegas.
I joined good friends Rich Korbin (who works for one of the better-known companies in the poker business — I’ll leave it at that), Glen Cadamartori (Marketing Director for Caesars Entertainment), and Terrence Chan (one of the best Limit Hold’em players in the world and currently a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter) for drinks and dinner.
We chose a new steakhouse which just opened up about a week ago, called Kelly’s.
The following narrative will be a combination restaurant review and recount of our dinner conversation, which went three all-too-brief hours.
I’m a carnivore. Morten’s of Chicago, Ruth’s Chris, Del Frisco’s, The Palm, Smith and Wollensky — pick any of these places and you’re guaranteed to enjoy a good meal.
Friday night, we decided to go a different route. Since both Ruth’s Chris steakhouse locations have now closed in Las Vegas (victims of the economy, no doubt), we noted that a new restaurant had opened up at the old Ruth’s Chris location on Paradise Road. This is positioned in a busy strip mall, across the street from Del Frisco’s. In fact, Yoli’s — the excellent Brazilian-style steakhouse — is also located along the same row of businesses.
Kelly’s has only one other location, so their excursion into the highly-competitive Las Vegas restaurant market is a major step for the privately-owned landmark based in Long Beach, CA.
Indeed, “Kelly’s Restaurant” has been an institution in Long Beach for more than 30 years. It’s very much an old-style “power lunch” kind of place. However, given its close proximity to the ocean and fresh seafood, there are many other menu options, as well. One has to wonder if this would be a rubber-stamp of the proven Long Beach venue. Or, would the new owners decide opt for a different flair near the Las Vegas Strip.
Upon first glance, Kelly’s looks very much like what was the former Ruth’s Chris restaurant. Perhaps when the new owners moved in, they realized that redecorating costs would be minimal, since the dark-wood, white-table cloth ambiance would perfectly match the atmosphere Kelly’s would be trying to create.
Some holiday decorations around the bar and dining area added to a festive feel. That cordiality was enhanced by very personal attention from the host (actually series of hosts) which greeted our party warmly as we made our way to the table.
Upon taking a seat — the look, the feel, the atmosphere all are what one would expect at a first-class steakhouse. Add live music in the bar area provided by a piano-playing crooner performing old standards, and you have all the makings of a great night out on the town.
Why’s it so goddamned difficult to get a decent margarita? I mean, what the fuck!
The recipe is simple. Simple! The act of mixing the cocktail isn’t difficult. But for some reason, which I fail to contemplate, most bars and restaurants — even highly-rated Mexican restaurants — serve shitty-ass margaritas made with no love nor care. It’s time to start sending these abominations back. A major education campaign must be launched, and I’m here to do it.
I’ve had it. I’m livid!
Where’s the pride? How can an owner, a manager, or a server put out such lackluster product, when a margarita should be the centerpiece attraction? How does a restaurant keep its doors open using cheap tequila and rock-gut triple sec poured out of pathetic plastic bottles combined with disgusting powder-based mixers and have the audacity to call that a “margarita?” It’s like putting lipstick on a pig and calling that Anne Hathaway.
Case in point: Whoever created the margarita pictured in the photo below should never be able to set foot behind a bar again. Ever! The criminal should be digging a ditch or serving on a chain gag. Bitch slap his ass! I mean, look at this travesty! And study carefully. Drop what you are doing and pay attention!
Imagine a highway where you drive 60 miles and don’t see another car the entire way.
Imagine a highway where the nearest person is perhaps 20 to 30 miles away.
Imagine a highway with no gas stations or businesses of any kind.
Imagine a highway with no lights or power. A place where cell phones don’t work (which is just about everywhere, if like me you’re unfortunate enough to have have AT&T).
There is a such a highway.
It’s Nevada State Highway 266, which is the desolate 60-mile stretch of asphalt that straddles across the Nevada-California border at a crux where towns and people do not exist. You’re more likely to see a UFO on this lonely road than another vehicle.
If you head West, the highway begins its path about one hour north of the sleepy desert town of Beatty, NV. The road empties out several ecosystems later about 20 miles south of Bishop, CA — located at the foothills of the gigantic snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range. The other main junction from the West is California State Highway 395.
I’ve taken this incredible road perhaps two dozen times. I think of it as a well-kept secret — until now. When driving along it’s winding path, I feel the road is in control. Not me. I’m a passenger rocked into solitude within its bosom. Driving this highway is the closest thing I’ve experienced towards achieving complete peace. And honestly, it’s even a little frightening if you’re driving it alone. Especially at night.
The highway is a single-lane road, except for one short stretch which plunges through a narrow canyon. The rocky pass is so small that only one car at a time will fit through. But since there’s no traffic, passage is easy.
The road includes a barren desert with little to see but rock and sand. In fact, upon one’s first impression there’s no sign of life whatsoever. Then, prickly plants suddenly appear. Next, you see sagebrush. The road climbs upward and starts winding. You enter a drive through rocky cliffs. The curves are so intense, the speed limit is 20 mph. Then, the road quickly becomes engulfed by a forest of pine trees. Next, the road winds back down and eventually rests in a fertile grassland with grazing cattle. Then, the road winds up again through another mountain range, then through another short desert maze, another forest, followed by several canyons. Finally, you end up looking at the breathtaking central valley which is bordered by the majestic High Sierras.
This is an incredible journey. Yet, I’ve never heard or read anything about it. Perhaps the few that have driven this lonely stretch of highway want to keep it their secret. I don’t blame them.