You’re in an abyss. You’re floating high above the clouds. Or maybe you’re deep underwater. You’re not sure; your senses are melting away. Or you may just be at Akhob, the permanent James Turrell exhibit on a secret floor of the Louis Vuitton store at Crystals. Trust me, wherever you are, you’re glad you’re here.
- Las Vegas Film Festival | www.lvff.com
- Vanguard Lounge | www.vanguardlv.com | 516 Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101
- Downtown Project | www.downtownproject.com
- Chicago Joe’s | chicagojoesrestaurant.com | 820 S 4th St, Las Vegas, NV 89101
- Dispensary Lounge | www.thedispensarylounge.com | 2451 E Tropicana Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89121
- IKEA | www.ikea.com/us/en | 6500 IKEA Way, Las Vegas, NV 89148
- National Atomic Testing Museum | nationalatomictestingmuseum.org | 755 E Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89119
- Akhob by James Turrell
Las Vegas Film Festival
On Friday, Jackie and I went downtown for dinner and a show. It’s Las Vegas Film Festival week, and we fished this awesome film called Frank and Lola.
This film just so happened to have been filmed right here in Las Vegas, so all throughout, we played that where-are-they-now game. (For those who don’t know, Nevada is paying movie directors to film here through a tax credit program.)
Frank is a chef who lives downtown (at the Juhl) that has to sell his restaurant (Carson Kitchen), but by the end of the movie, he ends up at the helm of a restaurant at a major strip resort (Encore Las Vegas).
Trust is a fickle thing. A thousand years can be undone in a single moment.
Frank’s relationship with Lola is new. When she cheats, he begins to question her fidelity. Frank is sent down a 90-minute path of exploration and frustration and skepticism and reassurance and back to skepticism…
Trust is a fickle thing. A thousand years can be undone in a single moment. Frank and Lola ask a question so many of us have to ask in a relationship at one point or another – can I trust this person? Can I trust myself?
Love creates relationships, but you need trust to keep them together. Distrust is the killer of so many relationships.
Inspire Theater/Downtown Project
The Film Festival was held downtown, so we whet our whistles at some of our favorite Downtown LV spots.
I’m embarrassed and borderline angry that I’ve been doing this MTW thing for 6 months now and this is the FIRST TIME you’re hearing about Downtown Project.
Downtown Las Vegas might be known by tourists for the Fremont Experience, 3 blocks of casinos on a street that’s closed to only pedestrian traffic and covered in a giant canopy of millions of lightbulbs that run a trippy little show every 30 minutes.
The Fremont Experience is littered with tourists, mediocre street performers, and kitschy plastic novelty yard glasses for frozen daiquiris. It’s the part of Las Vegas that bears the most resemblance to the Mars colony in the movie Total Recall.
Locals know Fremont by another name – Fremont East, a booming arts and culture district just one block away. A place that was nothing to shake a stick at just 10 or 15 years ago is quickly approaching its prime.
In the early 2000’s, the area was re-zoned. First came the hipsters. Beauty Bar. Vanguard Lounge. The Griffin. It was a seed of something awesome.
Eventually, it started to catch on. By the time Insert Coin(s) opened their doors, it was for everybody.
Then in 2013, Zappos moved their headquarters to the old City Hall building downtown. Instead of providing their employees with amenities internally, Tony Hsieh decided to push the investment outward into the community.
He pulled out his pocketbook and wrote a check for $300 million. The Downtown Project was born.
Yadda, yadda, yadda, fast forward to today, and the whole area is starting to hit this really exciting critical mass of cultural goodness. Okay, maybe I’m over-simplifying it, and also, the Downtown Project mandate includes investing the money in other stuff other than Downtown LV infrastructure, like tech. But you get the gist.
Say what you will about Downtown Project, and trust me, there are naysayers. But I can’t name one other entity that’s done what Hsieh and Downtown Project have done to move the downtown Las Vegas area forward. New restaurants and bars. Theaters. Grocery stores. Life Is Beautiful. Art. Entertainment. And the Las Vegas Film Festival.
As an example, the Film Festival was mostly hosted at Inspire Theater, a multi-use facility – part bar, part theater, part coffee shop, part members-only lounge – that would’ve shut their doors forever recently if Downtown Project didn’t come along.
Downtown Project an investment to make a tranche of our city a cultural hub for hipsters, tourists, and folks like me who just want to have a place where we can go for this kind of shit.
It’s a leap of faith. It’s putting trust (and money) in the hands of people who think something amazing can be done. It’s trusting that there’s enough people want this kind of thing. And trust me – people do.
And of course, I don’t mean to say that Hsieh and Downtown Project act alone. There are many others to thank. But tonight, we watch Frank and Lola complements of the Inspire Theater.
After the show, Jackie and I took a nice walk through Naked City to visit an old favorite of ours, Chicago Joe’s.
This place is exactly as it sounds. It’s a converted house, although not much was converted. The decor is so quaint.
There’s something humans love to trust about the old and familiar that makes us more comfortable in it. Like, hot tub-level comfortable.
And oh man, is the food good. The guys at the next table over forced us to get the cheese bread, and we were glad we did. Something about getting all the oil and butter and cheese to soak all the way through the bread…
Expect amazing pasta, chicken, seafood, and veal dishes right outa the windy city.
Every Friday and Saturday night, Dispensary Lounge transforms into The Jazz Club; from 10pm-2am, a small jazz band backs up guest singers. Tonight, it was Ronnie Rose.
During The Jazz Club, this otherwise sleepy run-of-the-mill video poker bar at Trop and Eastern fills up and lights up. It seems the word has caught on. If you want a romantic nightcap with your honey, swing by the Dispensary Lounge.
It’s great to see live jazz stay alive in this city. Thanks, Dispensary Lounge!
It’s not that we WANT trust to play such a crucial role in our lives; it’s that we NEED it to.
Coventry Beer Fest
Saturday night was our neighborhood Craft Beer Fest. You read that right: Our neighborhood throws a private Beer Fest. We block off the street, a band plays, and we drink and play games. Over a hundred people show up.
If it sounds a little white-trashy, it probably is. (Hey, it’s craft beer. Does that change things?) But either way, it’s all good, because it’s a vehicle for bringing cohesion to the neighborhood.
When Michael Herrera moved to this neighborhood, he knew he wanted to create a culture where neighbors could know one another and look out for each other. And in his words, “We are all responsible for creating the kind of neighborhood you want to live in, thrive in and raise your family.”
So he started a Facebook page. He knocked on doors. He got involved in the HOA. He organized events.
Fast forward to today, and the page has hundreds of members. Besides raising money for the neighborhood at events like the Beer Fest, we also raise money at an annual Wine Walk, and hundreds of families attend a Spring Fling event and a Halloween Safe Street.
At Christmas, hundreds of neighborhood kids convene in our private park for Santa to arrive by helicopter. (That’s the power of a collective.)
There are even sub-clubs that organize around great causes. The Coventry Mom’s Club has supported Help of Southern Nevada by adopting needy families for Christmas this past year. The Coventry Fitness Club Members have done 5K fundraisers to support the March of Dimes and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
We all kinda want this kind of neighborhood. The one that feels safe. The one we can trust. We all want trust at home.
What I’m trying to say is, be the change you want to see in the world. If you don’t like the culture in your neighborhood, maybe you’re the perfect person to lead the reform. Offer people an opportunity to be warm and friendly, and you’d be surprised at how many folks will get behind the idea. Even in Vegas.
Saturday was my first time at IKEA. I’m proud to say we went in for sheets and came out with… sheets!
I read case studies about these guys in school. Passing the cost structure along to the consumer and all that. Store design and consumer experience. And when they opened in Vegas, people were giving their first borns to get inside. On Saturday, holy shit were they crowded. Check out this parking lot!
But I gotta say, I don’t get it.
I mean, from a marketer’s perspective, LOVE. They FORCE everyone to walk through every aisle!
But from a customer’s perspective, WTF? People want this? I mean, the little vignettes and self-discovery were cool, but from a product offering/value, it just felt like a really big, really annoying Bed Bath & Beyond.
Then at the very end, after you’ve managed to survive the maze of bath and bedding and office and lighting and somehow manage to not kill your family with a blunt object in the kitchen section, THEN you enter the warehouse, where you have to FIND YOUR SHIT?!?!
We ate at their Swedish food court. Holy shit, did we wait in line. Probably 30 minutes. (Pictured is the line of people waiting to eat Swedish Meatballs. Probably because they know they’ll be at IKEA for another 8 hours.)
30 minute wait for a food court, people. But hey, at least the food wasn’t hamburgers and pizza. I respect that. As an American, I eat WAY TOO MUCH hamburgers and pizza.
(p.s. Don’t buy sheets at IKEA.)
National Atomic Testing Museum
The Atomic Testing Museum really (… okay, you’re really gonna hate me for this one, but…) blew me away? Too cheesy?
Museums don’t teach you what you know; they teach you what you don’t know. Sure, I knew there were some atomic bombs tested not too far from Las Vegas. But visit this place and learn so. much. more.
For example, the US just tested the bombs ONLY during WWII until we got it right; then we used them in Japan, and that was that, right? End of testing? Wrong. We stopped testing in 1992. How many tests did we run, do you think? Just a few, right? Wrong. 900. We blew shit up 900 times. 800 of those were underground. (Not sure how that works.)
Check this museum out and learn about:
- How Las Vegas tourists reacted
- How the country reacted
- What it was like at the test site (close, very close)
- What sort of testing was going on out in the Pacific Ocean
- Experience a test simulation
- And much, much more.
The museum’s guest exhibit right now is called Area 51 – Myth or Reality, and focuses on the speculation of aliens visiting Earth, the witnesses, the UFO sightings, etc. There are no pictures of that exhibit because you’re not allowed to take pictures. You know, cuz it’s top secret and all that.
Aliens are the shit. No, I’m serious. We love aliens!
No, I don’t believe we’ve been visited by aliens, but maybe we have. I mean, just watch ONE episode of Ancient Aliens and stay convinced we haven’t been visited. Go ahead, I dare you.
In fact, we’re obsessed with them. We LOVE seeing aliens in movies and on TV. (I totally grew up on X-Files.) We plaster them on t-shirts and lunchboxes. We name cologne after them.
So much so that we all know what aliens supposedly look like. We can all imagine in our mind the perfect little green alien. How strange is that? That’s religion-level shit.
I submit to you that, at the end of the day, the alien meme is that pervasive in our culture because we want there to be conspiracies in the world, like aliens and ghosts and who really shot JFK. We want there to be things that make us skeptical, so we can dance on the edge of trust.
It’s fitting that these two exhibits should share a space, a-bombs and aliens, because of this thing called the Fermi Paradox.
Its core assumption is that every civilization in the universe, so long as it continues to progress technologically, eventually acquires the ability to destroy itself. For Earth, that big sobering moment came in 1945, when the US dropped Little Boy and Fat Man on Japan, ending WWII.
The story goes, a bunch of physicists were chatting on their lunch break about the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. They did the math. There are billions of stars just like the sun, many of which that are billions of years older than Earth. At humankind’s pace, we’ll be able to reach many of those stars in, oh say, a million years or so. Plenty of time. The math was overwhelmingly in favor of the idea; they decided it must be true. There must be other intelligent life in the universe.
Question everything until you annoy people.
Then one of the guys around the table, Enrico Fermi, famously says, “So where is everybody?”
And that’s the Fermi Paradox. The math says they should be there, but they’re not there. So what, then? Why? What’s the reason they’re not there?
Enter another theory known as The Great Filter. It goes like this: There’s this point in every intelligent civilization where they acquire the ability to destroy themselves. And thus, they enter a period where THEY MUST SURVIVE, until they get to the point where they figure out how to NOT destroy themselves. That period is known as The Great Filter.
So every civilization goes through this pass/fail test. The thinking goes, the nature of civilization and the universe is such that most civilizations just don’t pass the test. And maybe that’s the reason why they’re not all out there. Why we haven’t been visited yet. Why we’re all alone.
- Nine countries on Earth are known to have around 15,000+ atomic weapons in total.
- Today’s bombs are many times more powerful than those dropped in 1945.
- Several countries that possess atomic weapons are either at war, or neighbors to a war.
- The US and Russia keep nearly 2,000 a-bombs on high-alert, ready to be launched within minutes of saying the word.
What I’m trying to say is, every day you wake up and you’re still alive, and the Earth isn’t radioactive and crawling in post-apocalyptic, flesh-eating zombies or something; everyday you nonchalantly head to Starbucks for a Grande Caramel Macchiato, and complain about having to wait in the drive-thru line; every day you watch The Voice and wonder if you’re wasting your life (you are) – every one of these days is a day that this world has NOT blown up in a nuclear holocaust that sets us back to the dark ages, or worse.
And when you think about that, it’s actually pretty fucking amazing.
All these thousands of bombs out there, and billions of humans, and 200 nations, and ISIS, and Kim Jong-un, and no one dumb enough or evil enough or both has yet managed to get their hands on one of these things and use it against their enemy? No one has metaphorically killed a modern day Franz Ferdinand, sparking World War III?
What I’m saying is, a lot of leaders and activists in the world do a lot of crazy shit, but when it comes to dropping these humanity-ending weapons, everyone’s just playing by the rules. Trusting everyone else.
What I’m saying is, trust is keeping us alive.
And we all just kinda trust that the end of the world won’t be coming any time soon. We trust it so strongly and confidently that we don’t even think about it. We watch our action movies and eat our popcorn; we work our little jobs; we do our morning burpees. We worry about our children, we worry about our finances, we worry about Donald Trump as president. But there’s one thing we don’t worry about. I’m just saying, maybe we should.
Maybe we should all be just a little bit more concerned.
Louis Vuitton has partnered with James Turrell before. In fact, this is his third installment at one of their high-end purse stores. They don’t advertise that Akhob exists. You can’t even reach Akhob from inside the store – it lives on a dedicated secret level of the store that only the exhibit staff can reach.
You just have to know about it, and ask. Doing so unlocks a top notch, white glove (literally) experience only Louis Vuitton could execute. It’s really awesome that Vegas is one of the lucky cities to have an experience created by Turrell. Definitely try to get there. (Reserve in advance.)
I don’t want to say too much, but Akhob is an all-encompassing room of light and color designed to leave you unable to tell the floors from the walls from the ceiling, leaving you unable to perceive depth or distance. Everything becomes nowhere. The result is known as the Ganzfeld Effect, a feeling of perceptual deprivation often experienced by pilots and deep sea divers. Akhob is designed to invoke this feeling, and to eliminate the outer world, thus drawing you inward.
It worked for me. And let me tell you, physically, it feels a lot like vertigo. You just have to experience it for yourself.
While experiencing it, I couldn’t help but think about trust – this idea that kept coming up this weekend.
Trust: You’re Doing It Wrong
Akhob reminded me that trust is all around us.
Trust is a warm blanket telling us everything’s gonna be alright. Telling us everything is going according to plan. Telling us we matter. Life matters. We’re making a difference in the world, even if it’s just in a little way. People care about us. We don’t need to be great today; we’re gonna live forever.
Trust is what allows us to build airplanes and skyscrapers and power plants. When we vote, we trust that democracy will work. During our morning commute, we trust that all the drivers around us won’t drive like idiots (which is probably why we get so upset when they do).
Trust is there when people gamble. Gamblers don’t trust casinos; they trust patterns they see. (Better known as superstition.) Patterns in the noise that simply aren’t there. They trust something they made up called luck, which is the product of combining this trust with hope.
Trust me, for 20% off, that’s a really good deal. Trust us, we’ll find Dory by the end of the movie.
Trust is there; in every breath, every decision, every moment.
It’s not that we WANT trust to play such a crucial role in our lives; it’s that we NEED it to.
And that’s where Akhob comes in. To trust that, as I type this, that the world is real, this keyboard is real, that any of this is even fucking here – the world we take for granted – to trust that, we must trust our senses. Where would we be – where would we think we are, if we didn’t have them – if we didn’t trust them. Would we be nowhere?
In a way, we create all of this world around us every day by trusting ourselves that it’s real. To put it another way, trust creates all of this. Trust is God.
I think therefore I am.
I trust therefore I am.
Trust comes so naturally to us that we don’t even consider it on a day-to-day basis. I’m here to tell you that you’re doing it wrong.
People think I’m a cynic, but I’m not – I’m a skeptic. There’s a difference. Cynicism has this negative tone to it. It’s selfish. I’m an optimist. And as a professional skeptic, I know and appreciate Trust more than anyone.
Trust isn’t real. We invented it, just like everything else. Don’t subject yourself to trust hedonism. Trust shouldn’t be free; it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Because the best kind of trust is the kind that started as skepticism. The kind that faced scrutiny, and passed the test.
Because in relationships – with ourselves, with religion and philosophy, and with our significant others, we want absolute trust. And the road to absolute trust is paved with skepticism.
Because we need the balance. And sometimes that means starting with skepticism. Disbelieving until you believe. Distrusting until you are convinced otherwise.
As kids, we’re all skeptics. It comes natural to us. We ask ‘why’ about everything. But we’re taught that it’s rude. We’ve built a society of polite trusters. We hide away the skeptic’s debate; we push it to the far corners of society – somewhere we know it will be safe and won’t get in the way, like believing in aliens. That way, we can get our skepticism fix without having to question the shit that really matters in life.
I ask you, I beg you, to defy that mold. Some of society’s best members are skeptics. Scientists, journalists, artists, Trump haters. We question things, and society benefits.
Without skeptics, the impossible would remain impossible. Rules would remain unbroken. The world would always think inside the box. The road forward would be a lot less interesting.
Find your balance. Take the red pill. Ask yourself ‘why‘ a lot, every day in fact. Question everything until you annoy people. Question any situation you haven’t before. If you’re not satisfied with the answer, change it. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
For all weekend recaps, visit maketheweekend.com.