Vegas: Unlike Virginia, Not For Lovers

Las Vegas is many things to many people, but opinions vary on what it is not. From the surface appearance, it is not for the long-term, the serious, the romantic. In other words, it’s for fast fun frolics. At least that’s what everyone says. I wonder how often the casual-meetup section of Craigslist or the hookup apps crash under the sheer weight of panting people in party apparel.

Now its mid-May and the first blast of heat for Las Vegas in 2014: four solid days of 100-ish temperatures with barely a bit of gauzy clouds to filter the rays. Tourists pound the pavement in search of whatever it is they think Vegas is, with barely a bit of gauzy clothing to filter their derrieres.

The King (of photobombs?)! Photo by Geo Perdis

I use the word tourist deliberately, optimistically, and elitistically, for I no longer consider myself a tourist. In my first few Vegas stops, sure. I “did” the Strip, stayed out relatively late, ate comically-cheap-in-every-sense-of-the-phrase buffets, and tried to not make an ass of myself. (In that last bit, perhaps I’ve isolated myself from many tourists here.)

These days, and this trip in particular, I’m a visitor. I work with Vegas to coax out what I need: wonderful but not stupid expensive food, trail running, social opportunities. Getting lost in the thicket of Caesar’s Palace is amusing and a bit sad instead of exciting, even if Bourdain and Ruhlman lived it up within those walls. In the mornings I escape for dirt pounding on trails south or west of town, or find a local coffee shop a drive away from the hubbub. Note to coffee-fiend visitors and tourists alike: Sunrise Coffee is THE SHIZ.

Las Vegas, this visit, is the vehicle for a group get together of sweets professionals: the 2014 eGullet Confections & Chocolate Confab. I’m no pro, but good friends with some in the bunch, including the amazeballs James-Beard-nominated Rob Connoley of The Curious Kumquat. I’m not a pro, so I’m just spending my time doing writing, researching for Rob’s book, and attempting to take in some of the local non-strip offerings.

I’m not sure what I hope to learn from the stay this time. A trip to a completely divey spot like the Double Down might be awesome. I’ve had Lotus of Siam now, and that is well worth the visit for crispy fried prawns. Tonight will be taco trucks a go-go and hey, sometimes that’s all a person needs.

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Please Gawk And Stare at North Korea

As a modern internet-addicted lazy person, I pondered two wormholes of internet interest recently. They made me think about celebrity culture and our human desire to LOOK. The first was new to me – a family that has spent the last 5+ years documenting every single day of their lives. They seem very nice, and normal. I have no problem with what they do or how they broadcast it. Neither does their 2 million subscribers.

As humans and social creatures, we are all compelled to LOOK.

If you visit countries that have different social and cultural expectations, such as China, you’ll find something stands out – people STARE. If something is interesting, they’ll form a crowd and just look. Americans seem to constantly be fighting with themselves over whether to look at something interesting or do the “polite” thing and walk on by. The idea of “rubber-necking” is frowned upon as something crass and unseemly – wholly apart from any actual risks from the act of looking itself (such as causing another car accident while you drive by staring at one already happened, et cetera).

From Chinese News Daily

From Chinese News Daily

In China, if you see something, you look. Because, why not? Interesting things are fun to look at, so what is wrong with looking? That seems to be their attitude.

Source: Off Exploring's blog

Source: Off Exploring’s blog

Here in the States we reserve much of our staring and looking for the safety of the internet and tabloids. We don’t want the objects of the staring to experience it firsthand, so we do it by proxy. This includes using paparazzi to get our celebrity cellulite photos for us, and YouTube to chronicle an entire family’s life, day by day. We feel strange or awkward if we were to see one of those interesting people on the street and were caught just looking at them for no good reason.

Where is all of this leading and how can it possibly involve North Korea? It is because in the case of North Korea, we cannot look directly. And yet we must, by any means available.

Rather than spend another minute on the Shaytards, I went back to the haunting photos of North Korea of the daily lives of their people. More and more I searched for photos and articles on what’s happening because it is so . . . interesting.

Source: The Guardian UK. North Korean workers at the Chinese border

Here’s one description of what eating looks like for citizens there: “Food shopping is equally problematic. Staples such as soy sauce, soybean paste, salt and oil, as well as toothpaste, soap, underwear and shoes, sell out fast. The range of food items available is highly restricted. White cabbage, cucumber and tomato are the most common; meat is rare, and eggs increasingly so. Fruit is largely confined to apples and pears. The main staple of the North Korean diet is rice, though bread is sometimes available, accompanied by a form of butter that is often rancid. Corn, maize and mushrooms also appear sometimes.”

Women in North Korea have recently started wearing some amounts of makeup, and it is noted that the reasoning is partially to hide blotchy and unhealthy skin – one side effect of underlying malnutrition. So a country where some people have enough spending money to buy cosmetics in order to cover up the health effects of not being able to purchase real food – that is North Korea.

Source: Guardian UK. Public transit in Pyongyang.

In the last few years, things appear to be getting way worse for an average person. For instance, this spring, outside of the capital city of Pyongyang, food is basically becoming a luxury. Food is actually starting to disappear as a thing you can “get”. Read that again, from a local, “In January, housewives were given two kilos of mixed rice and corn and households received 10 days of rations on top of that. But there has been nothing since then . . .”

There might be little as a single person I can do about the conditions in that country, but perhaps much we can do as knowledgeable humans, collectively. But to be blunt, just start with gawking and sharing what you see with friends and family. Spread the images and the situation far and wide.

Rubber-neck all you want. And then consider what you might be able to do, as wished for by North Korean people.

 

How’s That Working Out For You?

Jonathan Fields is one of my inspirational mentors; his emails help to keep me mentally ruddered. Definitely a good thing. His last email asked the “how’s that working out for you” question. It’s so important to use that question as a way to make sure you are doing what needs doing instead of stagnating.

To get out of stagnation, doing something crazy like skateboarding in Iceland (as seen in a brief image from the upcoming Secret Life of Walter Mitty) is highly recommended, at least once in a while.

So, what movie are YOU seeing over the holidays???walter mitty iceland

Chocolate Without Sugar = Paleo? Sure! . . . ?

Kakawa's elixir and truffle

Kakawa’s elixir and truffle

Yesterday, the final day of the Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta, I was in Santa Fe, former stomping ground of the Robb Wolf clan, sipping on a tiny cup of ridiculously good Aztec style drinking chocolate. The place is called Kakawa and it has seen a handful of owners in the last 15 years but never has the quality of those cups of chocolate declined. At least not that I can tell.

For those more keen on a bit of sweetness, they offer everything from sustainably sourced chocolate bars to handmade truffles with goat milk, rosemary, chile, and even local cherries. Not all in the same truffle. Usually.

On this visit I kept to the drinking chocolate and a truffle, forgoeing the very good housemade ice cream and a gluten-free, coconut-sugar-sweetened brownie that nearly tackled me and snuck into my paws.

If and when the Ancestral Health Symposium decides to alight on Santa Fe, we’ll be ready with treats like this, as well as a vibrant farm scene and some pretty awesome locally raised pastured meats. Santa Fe is ahead of the curve for a town it’s size, and that’s good for all of us.