The best part of traveling is coming back home… unless it’s on fire

Another routine monthly Beverly Hills is in the books. I don’t have too many photos this time, as the trip was pretty uneventful.

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Because the team house is up in the Hills, the parking is naturally a bit difficult. The road leading up to the property is narrow, and street parking is very limited. If we try really hard and none of our neighbors take any street parking spots, we can squeeze in a maximum of eight vehicles, two of which would be barricaded in.

Of course, on one of the days that we had a few producers and writers at the house holding an ideation session, an electrician, the gardener, the pool cleaner, and a pest control company came, virtually all at the same time… and then the landlord showed up to help coordinate and make sure everyone was doing their job.

Needless to say, I was very much barricaded into the back of the garage by two vehicles, and we were still running out of parking spaces, with some cars now just randomly sitting there in the middle of the road. Obviously, I couldn’t go out for my daily food run, so I decided to order delivery.

With COVID-19 stay-at-home orders loosening, the traffic around the Los Angeles area is increasing, so it took about 50 minutes for my food to arrive. By that time, exactly two people had finished their work and left the house. Which two people? The two people who were barricading me in. My truck was now free to exit, and I didn’t have to order delivery.

One of these days, the world will run out of ways to mildly troll me, and then I will finally find peace in my life.

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On my drive back home to Las Vegas, I ended up sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the middle of nowhere in the California desert, because it’s California and why not.

At least the view was nice.

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The day after I got back home, Tempo‘s CEO reynad came to visit Las Vegas for some business meetings. He was staying at the Cosmopolitan and got pretty lucky with a 45th floor hotel room, so I snapped some photos while I was there to meet up with him.

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I always say that the best part of traveling is coming back home, and I still believe that… unless your home is about to catch on fire, that is. Of course, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but apparently the Las Vegas Valley was having a bit of a tough time after I got back, first having some massive dust storms coming in from the north, then a massive fire starting in Mount Charleston, later named the Mahogany Fire.

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If that fire comes closer to the city, I think I’m going to need a bigger fire extinguisher.

 

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Re: “Why do you think Las Vegas is the greatest city in the world?”

In March 2018, a little over a year after moving from the Chicagoland suburbs to Southern California, I moved, by myself, to Las Vegas. I rented a mini­van with lay-flat second and third row seating from Enterprise Rent-a-Car, packed it literally to the brim with my belongings, and drove from Corona, CA to my new apartment in Summerlin South, a census-designated place in the Las Vegas Valley.

Two months after I moved, I wrote a blog post titled “Re: ‘Why did you move to Las Vegas?'” where I addressed… you guessed it, why I moved to Las Vegas. In that post, I pointed out why I decided to relocate, then busted some myths about Las Vegas. A lot of what’s in that post still stands, but I decided to do a follow-up post, now that I’ve been living here for over two years.

In those two years, it’s become a meme among my friends and co-workers that I am one of the most avid proponents of the greatness of Las Vegas. To be clear, that being a meme is well-labeled. I definitely do not think that Las Vegas is objectively the greatest city in the world. In fact, I think it could very well be one of the worst cities for many, many people to live in. Obviously, the greatness of a city is highly subjective, and my belief of Las Vegas’ great­ness is subjective to my own unique situation.

With that being said, Las Vegas is what I believe to be my best place to live, and I decided to list off some of my personal favorite things about the city.

  • It’s the perfect combination of a city and a suburb.

    I hate the unnavigable congestion of packed cities, but I also don’t want to live in the middle of nowhere like the small village where I grew up in the Chicagoland suburbs. I don’t want to be in a bustling city of millions where I’m constantly shoulder-to-shoulder with other people and have to pay to park at the grocery store, but I also want things to be accessible.

    I think Las Vegas is a perfect combination of both a city and a suburb. There are no stretches of forest or empty land separating things, but things also aren’t so packed that it’s excessively dense. I value the fact that it feels like I can get from place to place without having to traverse through nothingness, while also feeling like I can drive somewhere and I can actually get there faster than just giving up and walking.

  • I can live in luxury without paying luxury prices.

    I currently live in a studio on one of the upper-most floors of a high-rise condo on the Las Vegas Strip. My building has dedicated security and all amenities you’d expect from a luxury hotel. Depending on your preference, this is basically one of two living situations that you could classify as the “best” in this city, the other being a mansion on the outskirts of the Valley by the mountains, if you like that over high-rise living.

    My housing expenses, including rent and all utilities, total less than US$1,500.00 per month. I personally have an unbelievably great deal, but literally anyone, even the worst negotiators, could live this lifestyle in Las Vegas for less than US$2,000.00 per month. Search for something com­pa­ra­ble in Los Angeles and you’re look­ing at an absolute minimum of US$4,000.00 per month.

    And it’s not like I have to make “sacrifices” for it being in Las Vegas. I live on the northern end of the Strip with a north-facing view, so I’m not constantly bombarded by the flashing lights and ground-shaking music of Las Vegas Boulevard. There’s occasionally a loud train horn, but other­wise, it’s just the basic hum that you’d expect from any bustling city.

  • A vast majority of anything that I would possibly want to do is within a half-hour drive.

    Las Vegas is built as a tourist hotspot, and as such, it has pretty much anything and everything you could possibly want to do. Of course, a lot of it feels forced or artificial (because a lot of it is), but I’m not too picky, and something that feels fake will still often meet my relatively low standards of satisfaction. (To be clear, I am known to have unrealistically high standards for things I truly care about, but for everything else, I’m mostly in­different because I take all the “care” that I would allocate to those “other things” and just hone them in on a few select important things.)

    There are also nature-y things to do in and around the Las Vegas Valley as well, with Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston, the Hoover Dam, available on the outskirts. A “desirable” thing that is obviously missing is the ocean, but I go to California enough already, and I personally am not really too compatible with big bodies of water anyway.

    In a similar vein, actually getting to all of these unique things you want to do isn’t a pain. My central location on the Strip means that everything is relatively close-by, but even if it wasn’t, Las Vegas traffic isn’t that terrible (at least not yet). Even when traffic gets “bad,” you still feel like you’re getting to your destination, albeit a bit slower; it’s not like California where you just feel stuck in an endless stretch of jammed freeway.

  • There is little to no risk of natural disaster.

    I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to account for everything that could go wrong and minimize any risks that could be a consequence of unattended or unexpected variables.

    As you can imagine, this means that I particularly do not get along well with natural disasters, and specifically, with earthquakes. It makes no sense to me that you would willingly put yourself in a scenario where your living situation could be thrown completely off balance by something you cannot predict and something you have no control over. I don’t think I will ever understand people who choose to move to Los Angeles voluntarily (meaning, they don’t already have family there and it’s not for work), then proceed to pay inflated prices to purchase real estate, only to be at per­pet­ual risk for your overpriced property to collapse without notice.

    Las Vegas occasionally gets earthquakes, but it’s only when the actual earthquake itself happens elsewhere, and the magnitude of said earthquake is high enough that Las Vegas is within the affected area. Las Vegas also takes the concept of avoiding natural disasters a step further by not really having natural disasters or severe weather effects in general.

    A lot of tech companies are moving their servers to Las Vegas to minimize the chances of their data being lost to something unexpected. I ob­vi­ous­ly value my own life more than tech companies value their data, so I think it’s only reasonable that I think the safety of the Las Vegas Valley is one of its big pros.

  • I save money by not paying state income tax.

    This one is pretty straightforward. The state of Nevada doesn’t have state income tax, so that is literally money that I pocket each tax year just because I decided to live in Las Vegas.

    The impact of this can be made a bit more obvious with a mathematical comparison. Someone filing taxes as a single individual living in California who has an annual salary of US$100,000.00 pays over $6,000 in state income tax. If that individual instead chose to live in Nevada, they would pay $0. That means that they would pocket an extra $6,000 every year.

    Of course, that’s oversimplified, because if they lived in Las Vegas (a city with a lower cost of living), then their annual salary might be adjusted down. Or, the same kind of high-paying Californian career opportunities might not even be offered in Nevada. However, for someone like me who works full-time remotely, this actually literally functionally becomes a “free” $6,000 every year.

  • McCarran International Airport provides great accessibility to the rest of the country for business travel.

    I travel for business quite a bit. If it isn’t going back and forth between Las Vegas and Los Angeles to take care of in-person work with Tempo, then it’s usually flying to random places across the country for events, conventions, and meetings.

    Because Las Vegas is a tourist hotspot, the airport has a great selection of affordable, non-stop flights from a lot of destinations to incentivize people to come visit. That’s obviously good for me as well, because those tourist flights can be the same flights that get me where I need to be for business.

  • I like the hot weather.

    I think snow is a magical thing. Waking up one day and seeing everything covered in a pretty blanket of white sets you up for a great day.

    That is, until the snow keeps falling, day after day, foot after foot, until you’re sick of seeing white everywhere and you can’t get where you need to be because everything is buried in snow. Living in the Chicagoland suburbs dumped too much of a good thing on me (often continuing on into the spring), and it took away the magic of snow.

    Ever since moving to the Pacific Coast, snow has become magical to me again. It’s so rare in the Las Vegas Valley that seeing it after waking up in the morning brings back that childhood awe and that feeling of knowing that it’s going to be a special day.

    Also, just in general, I prefer warmer and drier weather. I hate humidity because I feel like it makes the air feel heavier and more difficult to breathe, and it leaves an unsavory weight on your body where you always have an urge to shower throughout the whole day. The dry air in Las Vegas feels crisp and clean, and I never get that unsettling feeling on my skin.

  • Nuisances that I’ve had to deal with my whole life, like mosquitoes and allergies, are no longer a thing.

    This one is pretty self-explanatory. I can actually leave my sliding glass door open during the evenings without worrying about a swarm of mos­qui­toes leaving behind 50 red bumps on my skin. When I lived in the Chicagoland suburbs, I had the worst bout of seasonal allergies that would cripple me between August and October, but that’s completely gone in Las Vegas.

    There hasn’t really ever been a thing where I would look at it and think “wow, that’s annoying” that was exclusive to the Las Vegas Valley.

  • I feel like I’m “cheating” at real life.

    I have a stereotypical “ruthless businessman” kind of mentality. I have a strong foundation of morals and ethics, but as long as I believe I am abiding by those standards I have set for myself, I often do not show much mercy. This also means that I will do unusual things and employ non-traditional strategies—things and strategies that some people may consider questionable—in order to get ahead in life.

    By having a remote job with a company headquartered in Southern California, I almost feel like I’m “cheating” the system. A massive portion of Las Vegas revolves around the service industry, so the “health” of the city is based heavily on tourism. When the tourism industry is prospering, the city prospers; when the tourism industry suffers (like during the COVID-19 pandemic), the city also suffers.

    By maintaining a non-service job from outside of Las Vegas, I am able to remain completely financially stable, even through the ups and downs of Las Vegas. This means that when the city dips down to a low, it actually ends up serving as an opportunity for me to swoop in and take advantage of the situation. For example, if real estate prices go down because people are moving out after losing service-related employment, that’s a chance for me to come in and get a property at a great deal, even if I would’ve been able to afford it at the non-discounted price anyway.

    I am under the firm belief that you cannot become the top 0.1% in the United States by doing things the traditional, “normal” way. Making net-positive business decisions like this adds up, and with enough of them, I can get closer to joining America’s elite and setting myself and my family up for a great future.

As I said before, these are my reasons why Las Vegas is the best city for my situation. My situation is obviously very unique and unusual, so for the sake of providing clearer information catered towards the general public and presenting both sides of the argument, I’ll be covering the cons of Las Vegas as well in a future Q&A post.

If you’ve read this because you were one of the people who were just curious as to why I rave about Las Vegas so much, hopefully this was a satisfying-enough response. If you’re here because you’re seriously considering also moving to Las Vegas, be sure to keep an eye out for my cons post as well, in addition to doing additional research and collecting information from multiple reliable sources before making a final decision.

 

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I tried to buy a snake plant today

I heard that snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata, formerly Sansevieria) were excellent house plants. They have good air cleansing properties, they release a relatively high amount of oxygen, and they’re next to impossible to kill. All of these points are important to me, as I want a plant that’s going to improve my living situation and look out for my health, while also being able to occasionally survive on its own while I’m out on extended business travel.

Today, I decided to buy a snake plant. I searched Google Maps for the closest Home Depot and headed west towards the Garden Center of the Home Depot on the 800 block of South Rainbow Boulevard. I went inside, only to be massively overwhelmed by way too many plants.

I tried to buy a snake plant

After a few minutes of browsing, I discovered a small problem. All the plants out in the Garden Center were potted in flimsy plastic temporary pots, and I would have to move the plant into a better home by purchasing a separate ceramic pot and some dirt.

You may be asking, why is this a problem? Well, I didn’t want to buy a bag of dirt, only to use just a portion of it and have a leftover half-bag of dirt. This scenario wouldn’t matter much for most people, but remember that I live 400 feet up in the air in a high-rise condo. I don’t have a backyard where I can dump the remaining dirt, and I don’t have a garage where I can just store the leftover dirt for future use.

But, for this to even be a problem in the first place, I would have to find a snake plant that I want to bring home. I decided to save some time by asking the Garden Center attendant.

The attendant was obviously wearing a mask, which isn’t too confusing if you’re reading this blog post not too long after I published it, but in case you’re someone from the far future and aren’t aware, everyone needs to wear a mask right now because there is a COVID-19 pandemic. However, this attendant decided to wear her mask so it was covering her mouth… but left her nose hanging out over the top of the mask.

I approached her and stayed six feet away from her like a good social distancer, but she slowly crept closer and closer to me until she was within a foot from my face. From here ensued one of those comical scenarios where two people with different personal space requirements are in a conversation, and one person is functionally “chasing down” the other. I think we traveled literally from one side of the Garden Center to the other while she told me how there were no live snake plants I could buy, but there were some fake ones available, they had a great selection of different plants, and there were also some real snakes for sale if I wanted to go three miles west to the pet store.

I thanked her for her help and left Home Depot.

I don’t get discouraged that easily. I decided that my next stop would be the Garden Center at Lowe’s Home Improvement. I made it there to find that there was as equally of an aggressive selection of plants there as there was at Home Depot. However, I managed to actually find a snake plant. Now I had to go back to resolving my problem of not wanting to buy a bag of dirt.

I flagged down another Garden Center attendant and asked her if I could just pay someone at Lowe’s to move the snake plant from its plastic container to a ceramic pot. She was a bit confused as to why I needed someone to do that, and insisted that the process was very easy and that I could do it myself. I then had to go through an extended conversation where I explained that I live on the Las Vegas Strip and I don’t really have a place to do home gardening, let alone a place to use leftover dirt.

The reliving part about this conversation was that this attendant appeared to know how to wear a mask. … The unfortunate part was that she removed her mask every time she was talking, then placed it back on her face every time she was done talking.

She may or may not have ultimately proposed a valid solution to my problem during our conversation, but I was so confused at how a country could possibly be so incompetent at using personal protective equipment during a global pandemic that I don’t even remember what she said.

The only thing I recall is thanking her for her help and leaving the store without a snake plant.

So yeah, I still need to go buy a snake plant.

 

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I watched a $7 million house on fire today

Is that a sensationalistic clickbait title? Yes.

But is it technically true? … Also yes.

 
Living in a high-rise on the Strip with a vast, unobstructed view of the city, suburbs, and mountains has its perks, one of which is the fact that I can always see what’s going on in almost a third of the Las Vegas Valley just by looking out my sliding glass door.

Today, the interesting event of the day was a house fire at 224 W Cincinnati Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102. This is a small, run-down house on the south side of the Gateway District, in an area formerly known as “Naked City” because it was the area where show girls would sunbathe naked in the 1950s. This blog post with a clip of a garbage truck accidentally dumping trash all over the road is dash cam footage from Naked City.

Today, Naked City is just a low-income neighborhood between the Strip and downtown, behind the Stratosphere. When I say “low income,” I mean that in the most extreme way possible—Naked City is often perceived to be the most dangerous place in Las Vegas, and rent prices for apartments in the neigh­bor­hood can be as low as US$500.00 per month for a unit.

Now, the perception of danger isn’t completely unfounded, but the area has gotten tre­men­dously better recently. This area was a hotspot for illicit drug transactions and prostitution, but with government assistance, the streets are much safer now.

This all probably sounds incredibly underwhelming. Why in the world would I be blogging about a random house catching on fire? … Well, it’s because this house is $7 million.

 
Something probably doesn’t add up in your head, and I don’t blame you. How can this house—a house that looks like it’s about to collapse—in an ap­par­ent­ly terrible neighborhood go for $7 million?

First, I guess it would be prudent for me to demonstrate that I’m not just making this up. ABC 13 KTNV Las Vegas ran a story almost four years ago about this property, and you can check for yourself in the price history on the Zillow page for 224 West Cincinnati Avenue that it was indeed on the mar­ket for US$7,000,000.00, originally listed by Simply Vegas, then later taken over by Keller Williams Marketplace, with momentary representation by Plat­i­num Real Estate Professionals.

So, why $7 million? The easy answer is that it’s not about the house; it’s about the land.

 
Remember how I said earlier that the government has been assisting with cleaning up Naked City? The downtown and northern side of the Strip is un­der rapid development right now, and many people are projecting that the area will flourish and prosper very soon. The owner of that plot of land is prob­a­bly expecting the area to explode in growth so much that there will be some entrepreneur who will want to snatch up that “premium” plot of land to get a head start.

There are some substantial flaws with that thought process:

  • The street leading into the entrance of the building is important. If this was a plot of land with a direct opening to Sahara Avenue or Las Vegas Boulevard, then it wouldn’t be as outlandish, but no matter how close this property is to the “busy area,” it still involves driving through shady-looking back streets to get there.
  • The neighborhood still matters. Even though the area is improving, it’s a slow and gradual process, and it’s still not at the “tipping point” where it’s worth it to get in on the redevelopment. There’s getting in early, then there’s getting in very early… and then there’s getting in too early. We’re still at the too early point right now.
  • That lot is zoned as residential. If an entrepreneur were to come along and purchase the plot of land to start a business to capitalize on the im­prov­ing conditions of the north Strip, they would have to petition and go through an excruciating approvals process with the city to convert the land into commercial zoning before they can get permits to begin construction.

 
With that being said, if it wasn’t already just about the land and location… now it definitely is. The Clark County Fire Department and the Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Department responded today to 224 W Cincinnati Ave to reports of a fire. I observed the firefighters hard at work tackling the problem.

224 West Cincinnati Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89102

I guess they had trouble gaining access into the property, because they started climbing on the roof and bringing out what sounded like chainsaws. E­ven­tu­al­ly, they put a hole through the roof, and billows of smoke started coming out from the opening.

224 West Cincinnati Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89102

It reached 106°F (41°C) today, but this was captivating enough and standing in the shade of my balcony was tolerable enough that I watched for about half an hour. I was watching this from over 500 feet away, so I obviously couldn’t hear anything they were saying, but what I was able to make out just from my observations was that the house was vacant at the time of the fire, someone else called to report smoke coming from the house, and the fire­fighters had to force entry to ensure the property was clear.

Shortly after they put the hole through the roof, the smoke poured out then stopped, so I imagine they were probably also able to gain access through the back as well to extinguish the source of the blaze.

 

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How not to pick up food from North Las Vegas

North Las Vegas is widely considered to be one of the more dangerous places in the Las Vegas Valley.

Of course, neighborhoods a few blocks off the Strip or around downtown (near where I live) don’t exactly have the best reputation either, but the vibe of the area is completely different. There are luxury high-rise condos a few streets off the Strip, so it actually becomes quite ironic, in that both the richest and poorest people in Las Vegas end up intermingling (albeit, it’s often the rich literally looking down upon the poor from hundreds of feet in the air from the safety of their guard-gated skyscrapers).

North Las Vegas, on the other hand, often gives off a “rough” and “run down” feel. There are no dichotomous elements to the neighborhoods, so it just seems like a regular mid- to low-income area.

 
Yesterday, I was browsing through some restaurants to see if I could find something new to try. I came across Teriyaki Boy Healthy Grill, described by Google as an “Asian counter-serve restaurant doling out grilled meat and rice bowls along with boba smoothies.” There were five locations in Las Vegas: one in Enterprise, one in Henderson, one just shy of Summerlin, one in East Las Vegas, and one in North Las Vegas. Being on the northern side of the Strip, the closest branch to me was the one in North Las Vegas.

Lately, I’ve been driving out to the suburbs on a regular basis, acting as my own food delivery driver, just to see how Las Vegans were handling COVID-19 quarantine in the outskirts of the Valley. One of the places I hadn’t been to so far was North Las Vegas, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to check out the area and gather some information. I put in my order for pick-up at North Las Vegas and hop on I-15 for the quick six-mile drive up north.

 
The drive on the freeway was quick and smooth. Once I get to the Cheyenne exit, I take the right two lanes and exit the freeway. Out of nowhere, the right two lanes suddenly expand to six lanes, three going westbound and three going eastbound. I needed to go east, so I kept right at the fork. … Except the three lanes going eastbound weren’t actually three lanes. It was only two.

I cross to the right-most lane, assuming it would be a turn lane, but no, it’s actually a shoulder—the most massive shoulder I had ever seen in my life, even more massive than the lanes themselves, and without any diagonal markings. So now I am just randomly sitting on the shoulder of a freeway exit, facing directly at a point in the road where the shoulder sharply nar­rows into nothingness, while two lanes of cars have me blocked in from the left at the traffic light.

 
I am going to take this opportunity to go on an intermission to inform you that, this took place in the evening and the sun was setting, so I’m just per­pet­u­al­ly blinded. Not only that, but I haven’t washed my truck since coming back home from Beverly Hills, so my entire windshield is covered in a thin film of what appears to be bug semen or something, and when the sun shines directly at my windshield, it just glows white. Obviously, just having the sun in my eyes isn’t enough, so now I am literally functionally driving blind.

 
Back to the freeway. As I’m sitting on the shoulder, the person directly to my left looks over, realizes what I have done to myself, and decides to be a good samaritan and let me cut in front of him so I don’t have to suffer the full wrath of my mistake. But remember how I said the shoulder sharply narrows into nothingness? It wasn’t literally nothingness; it was a curb going into a triangular divider that exists for no apparent reason.

The traffic light turns green and the guy to my left rolls down his window and waves me forward. I too roll down my window and start gesturing, letting him know that I can’t actually go forward, because there is a curb and platform directly in front of me.

But no. This man was not going to let me foil his opportunity at doing his good deed of the day. He more furiously waves me forward, while I more furiously gesture back at him and yell “can you open your stupid eyes and realize that I can’t actually go forward?” But luckily, it comes out of my mouth as just “I can’t.”

I am now a participant of a gesture war on the shoulder of a freeway exit—a gesture war of two men trying to make the other one go first.

People start honking behind us. I realize it’s a lost cause. I drive up over the curb and onto the platform, just barely missing some object protruding from the ground, and off-road my way onto East Cheyenne Avenue. At this point, I already just want to go home.

(Note: I do not have a diagram for this because there was new construction recently completed in this area, so the aerial view of this area on Google Maps at the moment no longer reflects what the road actually looks like anymore.)

 
But I can’t go home yet. I need to pick up my food first. I take a right onto Civic Center Drive and turn into the west entrance of the parking lot of Cheyenne Pointe, the strip mall where Teriyaki Boy Healthy Grill is. I glance down at my navigation system and realize that the restaurant is actually on the opposite side. I ideally should’ve just stayed on Cheyenne Avenue for another quarter mile and used the northeast entrance, but it’s fine. I’m already in.

Cheyenne Pointe

And then… hordes of people. As far as the eye can see. There are sidewalks and walkways, but no, we absolutely cannot use those. There are literal fam­i­lies—a mom, a dad, and like four little children—just randomly walking around the parking lot, crossing roadways, and just aimlessly wandering at the most random trajectories. They don’t have shopping carts, they don’t have merchandise, and they apparently also don’t have a purpose. They’re just going for their evening family stroll in the parking lot of Cheyenne Pointe.

There are, no joke, about six groups of families that I have to get through before I reach the restaurant. A big pickup truck approaching from your left? Better start walking more slowly; you don’t want that guy driving the truck to get to his destination.

I’m fairly certain it took me an extra three minutes to get to the restaurant.

Remember, throughout all of this, I’m still being blinded by the sunset.

 
I enter the restaurant and pick up my food.

 
As I turn out of the restaurant and drive westbound towards Civic Center Drive, I notice that a small white sedan is following me pretty closely. I thought I could just drive straight and exit the parking lot, but I was very mistaken. For this next part, I have a beautiful diagram constructed from a screenshot taken from Google Maps’ satellite view to illustrate what happened at the Panda Express.

How not to drive around Panda Express

I thought the area circled in pink had open access to Civic Center Drive, but I was clearly wrong. The red line represents me driving my red truck in the wrong direction. The green arrows represent the direction in which a competent person would drive when going through the drive-thru of Panda Ex­press. The yellow line signifies that the parking area on the side was full. The yellow circle comes into play later.

It’s fine, though, because I can just back out of this before anyone pops out of the drive-thru. I reach over to my shifter and put my truck in reverse.

But remember the small white sedan that was following me too closely earlier? Apparently they decided to be equally as idiotic as me, because they were still following me, and they were also driving in the wrong direction towards the drive-thru. As I realize this, a vehicle approaches me from ahead. Some­one is trying to get out of the drive-thru, and I’m boxed in from behind by this sedan.

Instead of putting his car in reverse and just backing out, the driver of the small white sedan instead decides that this would be a fantastic opportunity to prove that he was, in fact, more idiotic than me. He decides that he needs to turn around.

If you take a look at the diagram, you’ll notice that the travel lane to the west of Panda Express is extremely narrow—just a little bit more than a single car’s length—because of all the cars parked off to the side. Remember the yellow circle from earlier? That yellow circle is a curb—a curb that the white sedan drives up and down multiple times while he performs an eight-point turn to do a 180.

As I gaze into my rear-view mirror in astonishment, witnessing the beginning of the human race facing extinction as a consequence of its own stupidity, the car in front of me decides to add to the theatrics by beginning to honk at me.

The white sedan finally manages to turn around. I decide that today would be a great day for me to use both halves of my brain, so I just reverse out. The guy trying to get out of the Panda Express drive-thru, surely proud of himself for honking because that clearly made the situation much better, is also free from his eternal damnation. Everything is okay now.

 
After what feels like 14 additional twists and turns, I finally make it to the southwest exit of the Cheyenne Pointe parking lot and prepare to turn right onto Civic Center Drive.

While checking for cars, I notice a woman in her 30s riding a bicycle on the opposite side of the road. I’m not entirely sure what happened afterwards, but it’s almost as if her front wheel just suddenly malfunctioned and stopped spinning, because she got launched forward in a nosedive and the bicycle went slightly airborne, flipping upside-down in the process.

The incident looked pretty severe, so instead of turning right, I cut across all six lanes of Civic Center Drive, drive onto Harewood Avenue, and activate my warning lights. I step out and ask, “Are you okay? Do you need me to call EMS?”

Her response:

“Fuck off.”

Harewood Avenue, North Las Vegas

When you’re in a neighborhood of small, run-down, single-story homes with chain-link fences, dying palm trees, and lawns overrun with weeds, and some­one tells you to fuck off, you fuck right off. I hop back in my truck and drive away.

 
After making it back home, I open my bag of food to realize that Teriyaki Boy had forgotten to include the extra side of vegetables that I added to my order.

Now that’s what I call an 11/10 experience.

 

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Re: “Why haven’t you bought a Ram Rebel yet?” & “Are you going to buy the new Ram Rebel TRX?”

There’s been a lot of news popping up lately about the new Ram 1500 Rebel TRX, a new off-road pickup truck that’s supposed to compete with the Ford F-150 Raptor. Because my favorite vehicle is the Ram Rebel, and because I’ve spoken out in the past about how overrated the Raptor is, I’ve had an in­creas­ing number of people coming to me lately asking why I haven’t bought a Rebel yet, and if it was because I was waiting for the TRX to come out.

I figured this would be a good time for me to lay out the four main reasons why I haven’t bought a Rebel yet:

  1. Ram Rebels are inconveniently large as a daily driver.

    Even though this might not make much sense to most people, I’ll start with the raw numbers. Right now, I have a GMC Canyon, a mid-size pickup truck with stock dimensions of 212″ L × 74″ W × 71″ H. With the grille guard and leveling kit I have installed, the modified dimensions are ~220″ L × 74″ W × 73″ H. In comparison, a stock Ford F-150 of the same base configuration (basically, the “normal” family pickup truck you see on the street) would be 232″ L × 80″ W × 75″ H. A stock Ram Rebel measures 233″ L × 82″ W × 78″ H. If I were to even go as far as to get a conservative leveling kit, the height would hit 80″.

    In a language that can be understood by normal people and not just truck fanatics who are also mathematicians, trucks are big. Compared to the Toyota Corolla, the most popular car of all time, the Rebel is more than four feet longer, a foot wider, and almost two feet taller. Having a longer vehicle means a higher chance of swiping things with your sides while turning. Having a wider vehicle makes maneuvering more difficult; anything over 80″ is basically considered a commercial vehicle and requires extra clearance lighting to be installed. Having a taller vehicle means you might not fit in every parking garage.

    I live on the Las Vegas Strip and I drive to Los Angeles relatively often; neither of those places are too friendly towards huge pickup trucks. You generally won’t face any problems if you drive a Rebel out in the suburbs, but once you get into the bustling city, navigating narrow roads and trying to slide into parking spaces becomes a big hassle.

    To be clear, these hassles aren’t just theoretical; I’ve personally faced these issues first-hand, even when driving just a regular pickup truck. There are some hotel parking garages on the Strip with insanely low ceilings, and I’ve gotten dangerously close to maxing out the clearance, even in my mid-size pickup truck. I’ve ridden in a Ford F-150 through an Orange County parking garage and the antenna kept scraping up against the ceiling. Trying to get into the Tempo team house garage requires a five-point turn with a full-size pickup truck even with the “perfect” angle, and parking at the Tempo studio requires taking up two parking spots. U-turns at city intersections become k-turns. Imagine how worse all of this would be with an even bigger truck.

    If I lived somewhere out in the Midwest suburbs and had no reason to ever drive into the city, I might’ve already gotten a Rebel, but with my cur­rent living and work situation, my adoration of the truck doesn’t outweigh how inconvenient my life will become. Realistically, I only ever see my­self getting an oversized off-road pickup truck after I get married, assuming my wife will have a smaller vehicle and I can take her’s when I know I need to drive somewhere cramped.

  2. Fiat Chrysler is notorious for reliability issues.

    I had to think very long and very hard before deciding to buy a GMC Canyon over a Toyota Tacoma, because one thing I prioritize very highly is reliability. Toyota Tacomas are known for basically running forever, and that’s definitely something I want.

    Unfortunately, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the group behind the Ram brand, is notorious for having severe reliability issues. Recent reports have shown that they’ve improved their build quality substantially, but I’m still very hesitant to jump into a Ram truck until I wait it out for a few more years and see if critics of the future still agree that Ram is getting better.

    I also know a handful of people who own Ram Rebels who have been complaining about a lot of problems coming up. Most of the issues are (rel­a­tive­ly) minor, like the back-up camera showing up as a blank blue screen or the infotainment system not booting up at all, but some of them are also pretty significant, like clunking sounds coming from the powertrain. What’s even worse is that I’m hearing people are hav­ing trouble even getting the dealership to fix the problems at all—they would put in a work order and get the truck returned in “fixed” condition, but the problem would just come back days (or even hours) later.

  3. All-electric pickup trucks are coming out soon.

    I have enough to say about all-electric pickup trucks that this could be its entirely own blog post, but long story short, I want my next pickup truck to be an electric one. Definitely not a Cybertruck, but still an electric truck.

    In summary, I think the pros of electric trucks already outweigh the cons, but for my situation in particular, the cons aren’t even that bad, so it becomes a no-brainer to snatch one of these up once they’re in production.

    The timing of electric pickup trucks entering the market is actually perfect with the schedule of me having bought my GMC Canyon in 2018. I’ve been having some severe transmission issues with the Canyon, so I definitely want to get rid of it before the five-year powertrain warranty runs out. That puts us at mid-2023, which is about a year or two after electric trucks should already be on the market; that will give manufacturers enough time to troubleshoot any problems they find in the first couple years. So, I’ll be getting a new truck, but not a so-new-that-it’s-broken truck.

    I’m actually very happy with how this timeline turned out and love when things fall into place, so I’m definitely not going to go out of my way to mess it up.

  4. I’m not rich enough to get a new vehicle after less than two years.

    Just because you can afford something doesn’t mean you should buy it. I bought my GMC Canyon in late 2018, so already trading it in now for a new truck would be an absolutely devastating depreciation hit. If my truck were new and I counted the value of all the modifications, it would MSRP for over US$40,000.00. If I try to sell it now, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to get more than US$30,000.00.

    I’m still relatively young and there’s a lot that I want to save for. Going $10,000 negative on a truck, then proceeding to buy another new truck and going another $15,000+ negative again in the next two years… that sounds like financial suicide.

I think it’s clear now that I’m not opting not to buy a Ram Rebel yet just because I’m waiting for the Ram Rebel TRX. Not only is the TRX going to be even wider and taller than the regular Rebel—so it’s even more impossible for me to use it as a daily driver—but it’s speculated to have a 707 horsepower Hellcat engine, so it’s not going to be an electric truck.

With that being said, I am equally as excited for the TRX as anyone else, even if there’s basically a 0% chance I’m going to get it. Just last week, there was some footage released online of what appeared to be a camouflaged TRX out in the wild in the Las Vegas desert. A few days ago, there was also a spy shot of the console area where there’s a graphic of a tyrannosaurus rex dwarfing a truck—this is suspected to be Ram throwing shade at Ford because of how much larger a T-Rex (“TRX”) is compared to a raptor.

 

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Someone stole $100 of ammo from me

My ammunition of choice for self-defense is the Federal Premium Law Enforcement Tactical HST 9mm Luger. Because it’s designed for law en­force­ment, you won’t just find it for sale at your local gun store, so I have to order it online. (If you want to get your hands on some as well, the Personal De­fense HST is effectively the same ammunition, but much more readily available to the public.)

Of course, ordering online means shipping, and my supplier sent me the ammunition via FedEx. The package arrived fine at my condo’s receiving area, but then it went on a mysterious adventure…

Federal Premium Tactical HST 9mm Luger ammunition

 
My condo’s homeowners’ association has been hiring quite a few new people lately. That, coupled with the fact that there is literally a global pandemic right now, and people are trying to streamline things to minimize social contact. The security for package distribution has gone down significantly—not only do the new people not recognize all the residents, but ID checks and signatures are also being waived so people won’t have to interact for as long.

I have no clue what the motive was, but a resident who lives in the other wing of my floor apparently decided that the day after my ammunition arrived would be a great day to take someone else’s package.

Why had I not already picked up my package by the day after it arrived, you may ask? My ammunition arrived on a Friday, but I had an Amazon package scheduled to arrive on the following Monday, so I figured I would just go down to concierge on Monday and pick up both in one shot—for the sake of minimizing person-to-person exposure, obviously. I very rarely do this, but I guess this was a very unlucky time for me to choose to do this.

On Monday, I went down to concierge and let a new guy know that I had two packages. He said that he could only find one—my Amazon package that had arrived that day—and told me to come back when the manager was available again so he could look into the other one. I checked in an hour later upon the manager’s arrival, and he stated that my FedEx package from Friday—the one containing 100 bullets—had already been picked up.

Thus ensued an investigation where the homeowners’ association, concierge, and property management company looked through security footage to find out what exactly had happened to my ammunition. Luckily, I live in a luxury high-rise condominium so the security in the building is extremely tight, and the concierge has strict inventory processes and procedures. So, they were actually able to pinpoint on exactly what day and what time my pack­age was taken; they also easily identified the resident who walked away with my package.

At first, the resident seemed cooperative. By the time we had discovered the package had been given to the wrong person, that resident had already gone out of town. However, he permitted concierge to enter his unit and take the package from his kitchen counter. So concierge went into his unit to retrieve the package… and it wasn’t there.

That’s fine, though—maybe that resident just thought it was on his kitchen counter but had actually already moved it, or maybe concierge just couldn’t find it. We waited until the resident came back from his trip. … This is where things start getting strange.

 
“I don’t have the package, and I never picked it up. What do you want from me, old woman?”

Apparently that was the resident’s response when the manager of the concierge team followed up with him about the package he took that wasn’t his. He had altered his strategy since when we first discovered he was the one who took my package. His cooperation turned into feigned ignorance, and he be­gan acting like he had absolutely nothing to do with the missing package.

I guess we’ll never know why he decided to change his approach, but by doing so, he turned a situation that could be glossed over as a mistake… to a situation that could land him in prison for up to 10 years. As per 18 U.S. Code, Section 922(j):

It shall be unlawful for any person to receive, possess, conceal, store, barter, sell, or dispose of any stolen firearm or stolen ammunition, or pledge or accept as security for a loan any stolen firearm or stolen ammunition, which is moving as, which is a part of, which constitutes, or which has been shipped or transported in, interstate or foreign commerce, either before or after it was stolen, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the firearm or ammunition was stolen.

Surely, the other resident knew the ammunition was stolen—by himself—because the recipient and unit number on the package clearly was not him. My supplier is based out of the Southeast, so there was definitely interstate transportation. He had just committed a federal offense.

The concierge manager asked me to call the police.

 
An officer from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department came for a visit to take a report. I gave him a quick summary of what had happened, then referred him to the concierge staff, who had a folder of evidence ready for him.

From here, I’m not entirely sure what happened, because I wasn’t directly involved in the officer’s conversation with concierge. I suspect it was a com­bi­na­tion of unclear evidence, overexplaining, and uncertain recounts of what had happened, but ultimately, the officer concluded that there was in­suf­fi­cient probable cause to make an arrest, and there definitely was not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for there to be a conviction.

The main hold-up seems to be that there is no clear proof that the package the other resident walked away with was my package. Sure, the dimensions were the same, and my package was the one that was logged in the system as “picked up” at the same exact moment that he received that package, but all of that is deductive evidence. The security camera wasn’t clear enough that the package in his hands clearly showed my name and my unit number on it.

Regardless, a police report was filed, and a detective would be assigned to the case to investigate further.

 
The concierge company contracted by my homeowners’ association ultimately took responsibility for the error and agreed to reimburse me for the cost of the ammunition. Now that I was made “whole” and it was concierge that took the financial loss from the larceny, they were the new victims in the case, and it would be up to them to pursue further charges against that resident if they wanted.

I’m obviously definitely going to help them out if they need my assistance, in the scenario where they do choose to pursue charges—which I’m unsure as to whether or not they will do. However, the one thing that I am sure about is that I’m no longer going to let packages sit at concierge anymore.

Federal Premium Syntech Training Match 9mm Luger ammunition

Twitch bulletsSince then, I repurchased a replacement set of Law Enforcement Tactical HST ammo, as well as 20 boxes of training rounds. Luckily, both packages are in my possession without incident, the larger shipment of which just arrived today.

If you do end up going with the Personal Defense HST ammunition that I linked above, I recommend going for the purple-tipped ammo pictured above for training—the Fed­er­al Premium Syntech Training Match 9mm Luger.

It’s always a great idea to train with the ammunition you would use in a self-defense sit­u­a­tion, but that can get pricey with hollow-point rounds. The Syntech Training Match se­ries is designed to emulate exactly what it feels like to fire personal defense rounds—down to the velocity, trajectory, and point of impact—but at only a third or so of the cost.

I’m not going to say that this necessarily applies to everyone, but I firmly believe in the idea that people don’t actually rise to the occasion, but rather, fall to the level of their training. Sure, you can get round-nose bullets for cheaper than synthetics, but I think it’s worth the extra bit of cash to provide yourself with the best possible training, especially if it’s in preparation for a life-or-death situation.

(If you don’t understand the screenshot to the right, that is taken from a conversation with one of my co-workers. She lives in Europe and isn’t particularly a gun enthusiast, so she presumably has never seen synthetic ammunition with colored tips, and called them “Twitch bullets.”)

 

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The second time I’ve ever enjoyed going to Los Angeles

The first time was when I originally moved there.

 
With COVID-19 quarantine regulations ever so slightly easing up, and my desire to travel ever increasing, I spent the last week and a half in Beverly Hills at Tempo‘s team house. Of course, just because stay-at-home orders are lifting doesn’t mean the threat isn’t still there, so I drove there instead of taking a flight.

Usually, driving from Las Vegas to Beverly Hills can take anywhere from five to seven hours, depending on the severity of the traffic. Obviously, the trek through the desert is usually pretty quick, but it’s the final stretch of road from San Bernardino to the Pacific coastline that really gets you. I distinctly re­call a drive back home to Las Vegas in December 2019 where that stretch of freeway had so much congestion that I was sitting in traffic for three hours and literally had to get a hotel in Victorville because I was already so tired and felt like I couldn’t safely finish the drive home.

This trip? Four hours and forty-five minutes, including three breaks. Actual driving time was just shy of four hours. It was the fastest I had ever made it from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.

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My favorite part of the drive was when I went to a McDonald’s in Barstow and proceeded to get kicked out because I didn’t have a mask on. Why is it my favorite part? Because the person who kicked me out had his mask on around his neck instead of on his face.

 
I usually like keeping myself isolated and staying alone, but this trip actually made me realize that interacting with people can be nice if the people are pleasant and also just as driven for success as you are. The team house obviously hasn’t been getting any visitors lately, so the only people around were long-time employees around whom I’m already comfortable, so my time in Beverly Hills was surprisingly productive.

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What made things even better was that the Studio City area was actually driveable. When I was setting up the team house back in December 2019, there was so much traffic that I literally couldn’t even find a spot to park in at the grocery store, so I had to go to three grocery stores before I found one with sufficient parking to actually go in and get food. This past week, I’d say the traffic was at about 50% of what it usually is.

Now, I’d say the “usual” traffic in Studio City is around 160% of maximum capacity, in that it’s about to explode around the edges because there are so many cars, and the roads are just completely inconvenient and unnavigable because of traffic congestion. Obviously, 50% of 160% is still 80%, so the roads were still pretty busy, but it actually just felt like a bustling city rather than a place that needed a purge. I was actually able to go out and do er­rands without having to drive in circles for ten minutes before each stop in an attempt to find parking.

One funny thing though was how fast food restaurant drive-thru lanes were packed and flooding out into the street. I’m not too familiar with the Studio City area, so for food each day, my strategy was to drive around until I found a restaurant with a drive-thru that actually had room for me to fit. This made it so almost every day’s meal ended up either being McDonald’s or Taco Bell.

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One of the days, though, our CEO added my food to his Postmates delivery order from SUGARFISH. I went with the “Trust Me,” which came with 8 pieces of nigiri, a small cut roll, some slices of tuna sashimi, and edamame. The price? With tax and fees included, ~US$42.00. For that price in Las Vegas, you can get all-you-can-eat sushi with a specialty beverage and gratuity covered. That’s absolutely insane.

 
Due to the generally confidential nature of my job duties, I can’t share too much else of what I was up to in Beverly Hills, but one thing that I can share is snapshots from all the productions that happened while I was around. We did some filming with one of our Rainbow Six Siege players, went out to The Point at the Bluffs in Pacific Palisades to capture some b-roll footage, and recorded some YouTube videos with our broadcast personality Jake.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously a terrible thing, but if we’re searching for silver linings, I think one of them is the fact that people are realizing that they can do a lot of things from home, and they don’t necessarily have to go outside. I’m hearing that a lot of tech companies are realizing how ef­fi­cient work-from-home actually is, and are extending the offer to employees to continue working from home, even after the pandemic has subsided.

People staying home is what’s making Los Angeles much more pleasant for me now, because I feel like I can go out and take care of business without having to be paranoid about not being able to find a place to park my pickup truck, or worrying about not being able to make it back home from run­ning errands for 2-3 hours.

If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think this is going to last. But while it does, I don’t think Los Angeles is that bad. Dare I say, “not that bad” enough that I might return for another visit in a few weeks.

 

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