A week in Los Angeles

Recently, I attended two conferences in Marina del Rey, California. Marina del Ray is a small community on the beach just south of Venice. These two cities form a series of beach towns just southwest of downtown LA. Just one of many “micro” areas within the larger metropolis of Los Angeles.

Being from Las Vegas, I have traveled to LA many times. And often it is to stay within one of these micro areas, usually for a weekend. Each one has its own sights, its own charm. To give a few examples, Orange County[ beaches in Orange County like Laguna, Newport and Huntington; Hollywood and Beverly Hills; downtown; south beaches like Venice, Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo; Long Beach; north beaches like Santa Monica and Malibu; and the list goes on.

The thing is, I always went for a weekend, which even a long weekend is 3-4 days, and during that time I’m often either super busy with tourist-type stuff (shopping, sight-seeing, sporting events, etc.) or totally unplugging by laying on a beach or by the pool. So I don’t think I’ve really spent a chunk of time in LA just enjoying the neighborhoods, people, and special places that make these micro areas special and unique.

I didn’t go into the week thinking that would change necessarily, but I did know I would be in LA for a week because my wife and I had already scheduled a weekend in Santa Monica visiting her business school friends (and now my friends!). So two different micro areas, but still a week in LA is longer than I’ve ever been.

I came away with an appreciation of weekday life in Marina del Rey, and I liked it a lot. Very casual, fitness is clearly important, and it seemed like there were great people everywhere. I’ve always liked Santa Monica and it didn’t disappoint this time either, quiet, casual elegance. Great food. Fresh air.

I started to really think I could live in LA, except I knew I had spent a week in LA unlike how it usually is when you live there, since I hadn’t had to drive, and therefore hadn’t dealt with the traffic!

I am going to look for a time next summer when we can take a week and explore LA some more, a great adventure so accessible.


Annual Thanksgiving Week Trip

For the fourth year of five, Joyce and I took the opportunity to leverage the Thanksgiving time off at work into a vacation. Last year we were fortunate to take our honeymoon to South Africa. In past years, we had visited Hawaii and Palm Springs. This year, we hadn’t taken any sort of real vacation due to work, just weekends. So this was needed. We took another long flight and visited Hong Kong and Singapore.

I’d been to Hong Kong before, but only for a couple of days. And neither of us had been to Singapore.

Hong Kong in November is beautiful, moderate temperatures allowed for us to explore the entire area. We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, which is always a great experience of service and amenities. We enjoyed some great food and drink at the hotel and at some other restaurants, and got some great sightseeing done.

The highlight of sightseeing was likely the “big Buddha” at the monastery in Lantau Island. A bit of a trek to get there, but it’s magnificent, and indeed very large! Second to that was the visit to Victoria Peak (though we wish we had time to do the hike), where you can see all of the city laid out before you. We also did the Star Ferry harbor cruise, where you can see all the variety of lights the skyscrapers use, some specially decorated for the holidays. We discovered that Asians really like Christmas! Both in Hong Kong and Singapore, Christmas music was playing everywhere, even at the Bar at Mortons in Singapore during happy hour.

Shopping is of course good in Hong Kong. Joyce didn’t want to do many of the fancy stores as she doesn’t like them “following her around” while she looks. But she did hit Zara. Twice.

From a food perspective, we had a delightful Italian meal at 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo, sitting at the bar, maybe the best ravioli we had ever tasted. That was the same day we had lunch at Man Wah at the Mandarin, where we enjoyed dim sum, and a great rendition of Peking Duck, where they first served the skin in pancakes, then minced the meat and served it with lettuce wraps. We made a special trip to Tim Ho Wan for dim sum on another day, well worth the short wait for inexpensive and delicious dim sum. All told, we hit seven Michelin stars on this leg of the trip. It would be our last, as in Singapore it’s frankly better just to walk around and eat. Reminded us of Barcelona a bit that way. Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the obligatory McDonald’ and Starbucks visits – menus had some unique items, of course, but still amazing how consistent the taste of the common items (like a cheeseburger) is to the taste back home.

Singapore is absolutely amazing. Easily the cleanest and safest city I’ve ever visited from a tourist perspective. Easy to get around, most if it walkable. Food everywhere. Incredible architecture. Wonderful ethnic neighborhoods. I don’t know all the ins and outs of how they live, and feel like some research is necessary; but a bit of “big government” rule on things like cleanliness, guns and housing sure seems to make for a happy place to visit, and seemingly to live (again, would like to do some more research). One thing the government can’t control is the weather, pretty hot and humid all the time.

Hard to pick a highlight of this visit, we loved pretty much everything about Singapore. The view from the top of Marina Bay Sands sure was up there, we even got to see a thunderstorm roll in over the city. Plus they have the largest mall I’ve ever been in there. And another Zara. Food everywhere was wonderful, at every price point and quality level.

One thing to note about going to these cities is we are again reminded of how poor our domestic airports are. The airports in Singapore and Hong Kong are ranked as two of the best in the world, and you can tell why. And of course flying on Cathay Pacific the entire time was appropriately comfortable, with good food, great entertainment selections and perfect service.

All in all, a great trip. We didn’t explore as much as we could have, and would definitely love to go back to Singapore to do just that, maybe as part of a more extensive Southeast Asia trip.

leisure, travel

A quick trip report – annual Shakespeare Festival trip

Third annual trip to Cedar City to see the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Here are the highlights of another amazing trip.

  • Recall we go with the Selwoods, great friends, my former boss. This was their year to drive. One year, I want to hire a driver for the whole weekend.
  • This year, I got to exchange books at Main Street Bookstore. Picked up an eclectic mix of new books, including a cool “bracket” book where they take any topic and do “bracketology” with it (like best chick flicks, or animal food mascots), while Joyce stayed true to her romance books by getting Beauty and the Beast.
  • We made the annual visit to IronGate Winery, but this year they are in their new location, which is beautiful. A first class wine room.
  • This year we had dinner at Milt’s, which is sort of a legendary local steakhouse, on the way to Brianhead. We took advantage of free corkage as well, and all had a great time except Joyce who still likes exactly one restaurant in Cedar City – Centro Pizza. Oh, and the Chick-fil-a in St. George, where we stopped on the way up. We had The Fugitive and Kim Crawford for wines.
  • The next night we of course went to Centro, once again with free corkage and an amazing meal of salad and two pizzas, plus gelato. The Paring and Four Graces were the wines.
  • The two plays we saw were Romeo and Juliet and Guys and Dolls. Both were quite good. We barely got the end of Romeo and Juliet in with an impending thunderstorm, and then ran back to the hotel in a downpour. Fun!
  • Our hike was back to the Alpine Pond trail (same as two years ago), and it was lovely. Of course we grabbed coffee at The Grind before the drive up. Bob and Ginny make the absolute best rollup sandwiches for snacks, and this year we drank a lovely Josh rose wine. At the visitor center, Bob bought a lifetime all-National Park pass for $10 (cool senior rate), and we looked at the sun through two super powerful telescopes, something I’d never done before (they are getting prepped for the eclipse).
  • The BrianHead beer and spirits event wasn’t as good as last year in terms of variety of vendors, but the band was good (Closure, based out of St. George)and, hey, it’s fresh mountain air!

That’s a pretty quick summary. My favorite part of this trip is having an “anchor” deep in the summer that we can look forward to, knowing we will be with great company and relax as much as possible. We are already planning for next year – might stay at a different Best Western than the one from this year and last, will we ever find a restaurant Joyce likes other than Centro, should we go up earlier, and maybe try a matinee one day? These are all things to look forward to for next year!


fun, personal, travel

Strip photo from 1991 – what do you see?

strip 1991I recently saw this photo on twitter, thanks to the amazing twitter account of @classiclasvegas. If you haven’t seen it, you should follow it on twitter. Especially if you’ve been in Las Vegas for any length of time. Always showing old photos of Strip resorts, does trivia, just a really great twitter account.

The photo is an aerial shot of the Strip, largely the west side of the Strip, from just north of The Mirage. Of course, the Mirage had just opened a couple of years earlier.

My challenge to you – find/list/share the things you find of interest in this photo. There are many obvious ones and some not so obvious. I’ll get you started with some easy ones:

  • There is a golf course where Bellagio, CityCenter, Monte Carlo and T-Mobile Arena are now. That’s the old Dunes golf course.
  • In the very bottom of the photo, there is just a parking lot for The Mirage, where TI (Treasure Island) stands now. I remember parking in that vast lot (which extended past the photo all the way to Spring Mountain Road).

What else do you see? There is so much more!!


In praise of small airports

I know all the reasons small airports are impractical, and why bigger airports are good for the airline and related businesses. Allows for the hub and spoke model, leverages infrastructure investment and scarce land resources better; attracts more flights from more destinations.

But I love small airports. You know who you are – John Wayne in Orange County, Burbank, Nashville. I’m sure there are many others you’ve been to that I haven’t that fit the bill.

I recently flew in and out of Sarasota’s airport (SRQ) to see my Mom; we usually fly to Tampa and make the longer drive because flights are more convenient – Southwest even has non-stop from Las Vegas – and prices are way better. But this time I changed it up. I had a typical small airport “amazing” experience that those who use these airports all the time probably take for granted. Dropped the rental car off at 7:35. Was at the gate with Starbucks coffee and snack in hand at 7:50, for a 7:55 boarding time. Given I was one of the few folks in the security lanes, even the TSA agents were pleasant and helpful.*

If I could do that at JFK or ATL, I’d be a happy camper. But just the train from one terminal to another would take longer. And in New York, the commute time from the city to the airport instantly makes this journey one of the worst.

I wonder how much longer some of these airports will be around. In some areas, where the small airport is the only airport around, my guess is they will continue to be justified. But Sarasota (and Fort Myers for that matter), and the LA area small airports could become obsolete, if just from a cost perspective. Among many reasons I admire Southwest Airlines, there strategy to serve these smaller airports – and in the case of Dallas and Houston and Chicago to embrace them as a strategic advantage and invest in them – is good for the customer, and therefore good for the airline. Heaven forbid, a company knowing that happy customers equals profits.

I certainly hope these small airports can survive. The ability to spend a bit more time with friends and family on vacation, or even to sleep in a bit instead of waking up three hours early to make a flight when on business, is priceless to me.

* No offense to TSA agents at bigger, busier airports; I get that the job takes priority and it’s a pretty damn important job. It’s just a fact that the business makes it harder to engage in positive interactions with folks – not impossible and plenty of them do it well, just more difficult.



business, travel

Sometimes business travel doesn’t go as expected

I recently had a rough day and a half of traveling. Now, I don’t travel for business that much and I generally have pretty good luck. So I understand that you all have worse stories than this, and of course I didn’t run into any crazy over-booking situations. So I’m not trying to be dramatic, my intent is only to entertain.

My 36 hours started at 6 am eastern on 4/5 and ended at 6 pm Eastern on 4/6. Two delayed flights, one missed connection. None of these were red-eye flights.

  • 14 hours on planes – including 3 hours of delays
  • 9 hours in airport – 7 of those during delays
  • 4 hours of work
  • 3 hours in cars
  • 2 hours on calls
  • 2 hours meal breaks
  • 1 hour in meetings
  • 1 hour of real sleep (also obviously napped periodically on planes)

Boy was I glad to be home after that!


arena, business, travel

Musings on safety and security

I’ve been on a lot of planes lately, really for the last six months. Seeing the safety videos or hearing the safety announcements got me thinking…

Airlines are required to give the detailed instructions. They also have the information in the pamphlet in your seat back pocket. It happens on every flight, no matter what. I presume the intent is to ensure as few people get hurt or die in an emergency as possible. At least recently we have seen some creativity in the messaging, with Southwest flight attendants making jokes and others doing funny videos. I wonder how the safety information for a couple hundred people in an enclosed space compares to other examples.

If we check into a hotel, we don’t get a safety briefing. We get a laminated sheet of paper on the back of the door that tells us where to go if we evacuate, and some exit signs in the hallway. There are no oxygen masks or life vests needed, certainly. But a hotel may have hundreds or thousands of people in residence at any given time, and no briefing.

Cruise ships seem to be in a really tough spot – the most people yet, and an enclosed space, and on water. The only benefit is we don’t have to worry about air pressure at altitude. Given the risks, cruise ships take the most extreme measures. They make us practice an evacuation before the ship ever leaves port. Grab your life vest, meet in the lounge, listen to the captain’s orders, then –and only then – can you grab your first tropical drink in a souvenir glass. And during the cruise, the crew is regularly practicing safety drills.

OK that’s a good recap but so what. Well, I wonder if anyone has really challenged whether these industries have done a true risk/reward analysis on their safety information, and whether they should be more aligned. Maybe one of them is doing too much, for example, or some aren’t doing enough.

In the entertainment business we grapple with the same issues. We try to ensure our guests’ safety in a number of ways, and you have seen these measures increase over time. Security guards, then police presence, bag checks, then metal detectors, then limits on bag sizes, clear bags only, etc.

I only see this expanding from enclosed spaces like arenas and theaters to other spaces like nightclubs and even more open spaces like hotels and dense retail spaces. I would also expect much more collaboration and sharing of best practices among industries.

I do not expect, however, that arenas will add life vests under your seat or make you do an evacuation drill, but maybe a themed nightclub will drop oxygen masks from the ceiling someday. 🙂