As I approached the Encore at Wynn, my driver asked, “ First time in Vegas? Are you staying in the suites?” I replied no, answering both questions quickly not wanting to deviate from staring at this behemoth of a hotel located at the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip. Check-in was prompt (despite arriving six hours early), and I quickly headed to my room on the 27th floor to awe at the view of the mountains I was told would be breathtaking. Upon entry into my room, I didn’t lose consciousness due to lack of air, however I was impressed with the spaciousness of the suite, bathroom, the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the lack of noise from the Encore Beach Club.
I can be a bit inquisitive when I visit new hotels, so as soon as my companion joined me, we swapped our business attire for swim suits and proceeded to check out a few of the amenities: A casino, spa, shops and two pools (the European option is a favorite of topless beauties) are on the property. Encore’s sister property, Wynn, allows Encore guests to venture over and take advantage of their more impressive swimming holes. To be honest, I spent more time at the Wynn pool for its superior aesthetic. Do you like gambling? Encore’s got it. Like rowdy clubs that play EDM? Encore’s XS Nightclub will satiate your thirst for melody-less tunes. Overall, Encore provides enough activities (including water-themed extravaganza Le Reve) and dinning options that you’ll never have to venture off the property to have a pleasant stay in Sin City.
Every business trip I take I try to sneak away and explore the surrounding area. On a recent sojourn down south, I found myself trekking an hour outside Austin, TX to Pedernales Falls State Park. The park boasts activities including hiking, swimming, biking, boozing and the world famous Falls. Don’t get too excited. This body of water couldn’t beat Niagara in a wet t-shirt contest but its slow moving river and selfie-inducing views will calm any frenetic city dweller. And, after you’ve awed at God’s creation, head back towards the capital and stop off at Salt Lick for some of the best brisket in Texas Hill Country.
I don’t care about fashion. I only read The New York Times’ Sunday Styles section for the Modern Love column (I’m more romantic than trendy). Recently, a friend asked me to accompany her to the Brooklyn Museum to see the exhibit, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, before it closed on February 23. My only knowledge of the designer was his cologne, Le Male, which my stepfather would wear religiously. Despite my ambivalence, I joined my friend and awed at 140 Gaultier ensembles, ranging from his earliest to most recent collections. My favorite haute couture outfit: A S&M getup I’d wear while forcing Anna Wintour to pick through the bargain bins at the Gap.
A recent outing during another blistering winter storm, led seven associates and myself to Momofuku Noodle Bar, an intimate Asian-inspired restaurant on 1st avenue. Since it’s opening in 2004, Momofuku has been serving foodies bowls of delicious ramen dishes with chunks of pork belly and Sichuan sausage. Before I ordered, I noticed several patrons slurping on what appeared to be a pork-based dish. Instead of inquiring and trying something new, we ordered the fried chicken dinner and gorged on the two whole fried birds (one southern styled, one Korean style). I should have stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried a pork/shiitake bun, but my gut shouted, “If you can’t identify it, don’t eat it, Jamil!”
The beauty of accumulated snow in New York City fades quickly. Crisp white snow is replaced with slush mingled with canine feces within hours of its plummet. This winter has brought frequent storms to NYC causing me to lament and inquire, “Where are you, spring?” I’ve lived in the northeast for well over a decade, however, I’m still not acclimated to its temperamental seasons. I don’t ask for much, but what I really want, no, need, is for spring to come quickly and bring with it a balmy breeze.
If you’ve ever visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, you’ve awed at Urban Light, the large-scale installation designed by artist Chris Burden. Situated at the entrance of LACMA, this solar-powered assemblage caught my attention while I was cruising down Wilshire Boulevard. I begged my friend to pull over so I could capture the above image taken around midnight on a balmy January evening. There is something magical about Urban Light’s street lamps illuminating this stretch of the Miracle Mile. Not only is it breathtaking, it will transport you to the 1920s, the era in which the lamps were created.
My weekend activities bible, New York Magazine, recently published a story on new ice skating rinks in the five boroughs of New York City. One in particular, LeFrak Center at Lakeside, stood out among the others for its cerulean-blue ceiling and close proximity to my house. So one-night, a friend and I ventured to Prospect Park in Brooklyn and joined a horde of teenagers for a performance of “A Black Man on Ice.” As the star performer, I treated the attendees to some amateurish tricks and strained facial expressions. In spite of the lack of applause and adulation, I had a great time and left with a blister as a souvenir.
My father and I both love road trips, so during my weeklong stay in Texas we ventured to Marfa, TX. Situated in the Chihuahuan Desert, Marfa is a town of about 2000 folks, including a growing number of artists. During our visit, and after a gorge fest at Dairy Queen, we toured The Chinati Foundation, a museum with outdoor installations by such artists as Donald Judd. The highlight of the trip was Prada Marfa, an art installation on U.S. Route 90. Don’t’ bring your credit card; a camera will suffice to capture quirky photos just like Beyoncé took during her stopover.
I’ve lived in several different states including Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Colorado and New York. However, I identify Texas and California as home. This holiday, I spent time with my father in Fort Stockton, TX, a small town of 8,000 denizens. After five o’clock, the town shuts down and there isn’t much to do. For example, on Christmas Eve around dusk, instead of heading to the local bar for some Christmas-inspired spirits, I counted kids. Not the foul-mouthed bastards on New York’s subways, but newborn American Boer goats. Most folks would be caroling on this holy night but not us West Texans: it’s all about the kids.