Jun 10

A Different View of the Bay Area

We took advantage of the 4-day weekend and Adrian’s upcoming birthday (tomorrow!) to go visit friends in the Bay Area. This time around we didn’t do what we usually do, which is spend too much time and money in The City. Instead, we poked around Oakland and even wound up spending a day in Antioch.

I think that was a good choice, as it gave me a better perspective on general Bay Area-ness.  Here are some things I gleaned from this trip:

  • It’s not always cold and foggy up there.
  • People in Oakland had a Midwest sort of nice about them. Everyone kept saying “Hello” to us.  For a moment there, we felt like celebrities.
  • Oakland is confusing to drive. Wackadoodle lights and stop signs.
  • I kinda want to spend a summer just taking in all the events at Jack London Square.
  • Lake Merritt is impressive. It’s like a flatter Griffith Park. So much to do and see.
  • Downtown Oakland is beautiful. I could spend a day or two just shooting the architecture.
  • Driving through parts of San Francisco on our way out, I realized that one could get the impression that San Franciscans are all fitness freaks. I know watching them made me want to go run or bike.
  • Antioch is hotter than Hades. My friends likened it to Santa Clarita or parts of the IE. Yep. Exactly.
  • The only place in Oakland you can legally smoke besides your house is pretty much in the middle of the street.
  • The males in Oakland are very fashion-conscious.  Even the security guards were looking fly in their uniforms.
  • I also declare Oakland Home of the Sexiest Black Men. Brothas in LA need to step up their game. For serious.
  • I don’t understand how it’s so relatively clean up there, when there are practically no trashcans on the street. Meanwhile, we have trashcans at the ends of almost every block here and it’s filthy.

I’m sure there’s more, but this is just the stuff that stuck with me.

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Aug 08

Las Vegas 2008

The Las Vegas Strip is home to Steve Wynn's la...

I’m in Las Vegas. Just like the last time I was in Vegas, I’m staying at the Riviera and attending a conference with internet people.  Unlike the last time, the chances of me having fun are really, realy high and Mark Warner’s not throwing a party in the Stratosphere’s tower.

But this isn’t about that stuff, this is about Vegas.  It’s been 2 years, 2 months and 2 days since I’ve been here and the city has shifted again like sand dunes in the desert.  Old buildings gone, with new ones being built or already built.  The Stardust was demolished soon after my last visit and across the street, Steve Wynn built another edifice to his ego, aptly named ‘Encore’.  The Aladdin has been revamped and is now Planet Hollywood, the Hooters Hotel & Casino isn’t brand new and the Trump tower is complete.

For the Strip, keeping fresh is paramount.  Some places do it, some even do it well…others struggle.  But it’s not just the Strip that’s getting revamped.  The suburbs, exubs and outrings are also being revamped.  The people of Vegas like the new.  So, as new housing developments go up, they move further and further away from the city center so they can have a 5000sf cookie-cutter house, leaving their 2 year old house behind.  Drive around the city in concentric rings and you can actually see the decay.  Places that 10 years ago were the hot neighborhoods to live in are now rundown and neglected.  I’m sure you see something similar where you live.  It definitely has happened in Los Angeles, but in Vegas it happens so much faster.

Flying in, I almost broke down in tears.  One of the best things about flying from Los Angeles to Vegas, was looking out the starboard window and seeing the desert, with mountains and then the glorious Lake Mead.  Well, the desert and some of the mountians have given over to grids of tightly packed cul-de-sacs, with houses stamped onto the tiny lots.  The lake…my goodness, the lake…looks like it has lost a good 30 – 40 feet of depth.  There was this little cove we used to go.  It was sheltered by a lot of trees and even the water was right at our feet.  About 60 feet away was a tiny island that almost rose up out of the water.  The first time I went there in ’93, it was completely underwater.  It was protected so the boats and jet skis wouldn’t hit it.  By ’95 it was a 10′ x 6′ island.  Now in 2008, our cove looks to be about 200 feet away from the water, the island is a large hill barely covered by water.  On the other side of the lake, the shelf where we’d anchor down the houseboat is very visible.

As much as I adore Las Vegas (to visit), I’ve always been turned off by the water wasting.  I always thought it was a big loss that a city that rose up outof the desert, never embraced it’s sandy roots, instead choosing to mimic landscapes found in less arid regions.  Las Vegas wasted prime opportunity to show the rest of the world that you can build, build large and do it with less impact and environmentally sound.

It seems Reality has hit the city and hit it hard.

In the ridiculously long shuttle ride to my hotel, I found I was smiling a lot more and it wasn’t just from being childishly dazzled by the lights.  The water-wasting, high-maintenance grass is being ripped out.  In its place is beautiful xeriscaping, with drought-tolerant and native plants.  River rock swales have been installed to reduce flooding when it rains.  The architectural beauty of the palms, cycads, cactus and succulents actually help make the Strip look a lot more natural.

Another thing I noticed is that the City is finally using its best resource: the sun.  Solar panels abound and it was nice to see that not only were they on new construction, but also going up on some of the older buildings.  From what I understand, the City gets a lot of it’s energy from Hoover Dam.  I never thought it was wise to rely on a crumbling and outdated structure like that, so the use of solar panels on businesses, hotel and homes is a welcome sight.

Viva Las Vegas…if you keep on this track, you can become an environmentally sound City of the World.