Well, I’m following suit and leaving for Las Vegas soon, but for very different reasons.
I've been back in my home state of Connecticut since March 22nd, when I arrived on an evacuation flight out of the Philippines. Little did I know that when I landed in New York City, I was touching down in the worst place in the world for Covid-19 at the time. Nor did I realize that the U.S. would be a complete shit show (technical term) when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.
Still, I was committed to keeping my Nikes on U.S. soil all spring and summer for two reasons:
1. My passport needed to be renewed. (I JUST got it!)
2. The Philippines won’t let me back in yet, as they still aren’t issuing tourist visas.
So, all spring and summer I was super comfortable, super well-fed, and super bored out of my mind in Connecticut. Thank god I had more work than ever before – a true blessing in this economy (or, more accurately, the economy soon to come). My only recreation was hitting a heavy punching bag and watching Netflix series, an epic waste of time – but serving a critical purpose during any pandemic.
I would go b-a-n-a-n-a-s if I was stuck indoors in Connecticut all winter and spring, so it was time to get the hell out for a warmer locale.
Which leads us to…Las Vegas.
Ticket booked on Jet Blue, I fly out of New York’s JFK Airport on November 2nd, arriving in Las Vegas 5 hours later. I’ll be setting up shop in Las Vegas for the winter until I can gain entry back into the Philippines.
Why the hell was Las Vegas on the top of my Covid-19 Winter List, you may be wondering?
First off, I need someplace warm, so I can exercise outdoors all winter, as well as sit outside to drink coffee and work (or drink beer and pretend to work). And there’s no way in hell I’m hanging out in a café or restaurant indoors.
My first thought was to roll out to Sacramento, CA – my adopted hometown for almost a decade, and I have mad love for the 916. But winters in Sactown are often rainy and relatively chilly, and it’s difficult or damn expensive to find short-term housing in the midtown area where I could walk or bike everywhere.
Furthermore, I know A LOT of people in Sacramento. That would be a huge draw in normal times, but during 2020 when I aim to keep my bubble small, I’d be way too tempted to get together with scores of old friends, putting me at risk.
Southern California was another option, but that’s even more expensive, you need a car to get around, and I’m not too familiar.
My sister has a rental property near the beach in South Carolina which would be chill…but it’s rented…and in South Carolina.
So, the next location on my list was Las Vegas. It actually came to me because a real estate client just hired me to write up a Moving to Las Vegas Guide, and it made me recall the few times I visited ‘Vegas.
- It’s warm (enough) during the winter, with a dry desert climate in the 50s or 60s or higher.
- Las Vegas has an endless supply of restaurants that will deliver or where I can sit outside safely, a convenient airport, plenty of inexpensive accommodation, good healthcare facilities, and all of the conveniences you can hope for in a small city.
- Once you get off the Strip, it’s actually a pretty chill place, and there are myriad nice parks, mountains adjacent to the Las Vegas Valley for hiking, mountain biking, etc.
- I actually have one good friend in Las Vegas, a dude named Tim who's a U.S. Army vet that I befriended in Cambodia years ago. Tim and his Khmer (Cambodian) wife and their child live in Henderson, Nevada. I visited them a few years ago, and not only did the trip confirm that he’s a really solid human being with his head on straight, but I got a taste of the real Las Vegas – away from the tourists and the Strip.
Tim already found me a decent suite at a resort that comes furnished, with a kitchen, and rents by the week, not far by the base of mountainous Red Rock Park.
I have absolutely no idea what to expect. My efforts Googling nearby restaurants, parks, and coffee shops have turned up a gun shop, a Church of Latter-Day Saints, and the Evil Knievel Museum within walking distance, so it must be a fine neighborhood.
But I’m not really looking for something fancy or too exciting – just a better place to ride out the literal and public health storm than Connecticut. And I won't be tempted to go walk the Strip or frequent bars or casinos at all since I pretty much avoid that scene even in the best of times.
I went back in 2007, but this time it was for the NBA's All-Star weekend. My good California/Filipino buddy, Gale Flores worked for the NBA every All-Star game, so he had a room that was paid for and even scored us two free lower level tickets to the game.
I still didn't do much except eat ice cream (do I have a problem?!) and people watch most of the weekend, except the All-Star festivities were a trip to witness. We had access to a few of the league's parties and events and got to meet a lot of players, NBA alumni, and other cool folks.
As an aside, watching the best of the best NBA players up close and personal, there were three players that stood out to me:
Shawn Marion was a freak of nature when it came to jumping. He was like a pogo stick, springing off the floor twice in the time it took other All-Stars to jump once. No wonder why they called him the Matrix!
And Kobe Bryant stood out as the most competitive SOB on the planet, a real meat eater. He went 100% hard every second of every play. You could see it in his eyes – he was trying to dunk on his opponent each time he had the ball. Respect!
Oh, and that young buck Lebron James wasn’t too bad, either. In fact, seeing him live led me to say that Lebron James looks like Magic Johnson and Karl Malone had a baby.
Anyways, the NBA was seriously considering granting Las Vegas an expansion team and the All-Star weekend was sort of like a soft opening.
I’m guessing my stint in Sin City this time will last longer than the National Basketball Association’s, but that’s my whole deal with Las Vegas: give me a park to work out in, a resort with good Wi-Fi and a pool, some foothills I can hike and mountain bike in, and a good sushi spot that delivers and I’ll be content.
Maybe my time in Las Vegas will only last sixty days, or maybe it will be six months until I can gleefully book my flight back to the Philippines. But either way, I’m making a big bet that I find peace and relative happiness in the most hedonistic city in America.
And I certainly hope it ends better for me than it did for Nicholas Cage.
PS If you’re coming through Vegas in 2020, look me up. Or don’t look me up. I’m not sure.