How do I feel about Vegas?

I’ve been to Vegas for a total of four times. Each one of these experiences were unique, with wildly different folks. And I happened to have a very good time, even when I didn’t expect to.

The first time I was a prude. Hating the idea of how a city could  harbor wild secrets of infidelity, drugs and excessive drinking. I was 20 years old, going as a student chaperone for underaged summer students from Turkey, China and Australia. Not surprisingly, we weren’t able to enter any clubs or establishments with alcohol. It was a pretty tame trip of shopping in the outlet malls, tubing in the rapid river pools and walking in the hot sun chatting with these awesome folks. I was also able to meet up with my internet boss/founder of Mochi after only chatting with each other online/through phone for the previous 5 years. Walking down old Fremont street, I was amazed by the fire breathing Mantis, giant yellow fire hydrant and Zappo’s vision of Vegas. The students honestly didn’t really need my chaperoning. Great trip, and I had a hotel room all to myself and slept like a baby. Plus, this is when my love of Burgr by Gordon Ramsey started, and proud to say – I’ve been back three times.

The second time I went to Vegas, I went with an RA group of seniors. One of the folks was my then boyfriend, and we were all 21, so we hit the club. Although I was lucky to have my date look out for creepers at the club, I became weirdly defensive about my personal space in the crowded Omnia club, and much rather preferred the Ka show by Cirque du Soleil. We had Fat Tuesdays plus Earl of Sandwich, drank and slept quite a bit. I also had a dark thought wondering if any of the children performing on the streets were being trafficked or exploited for their talent. But I kept that to myself…also what I found interesting…Rather than taking the long distance bus, my RA buddies drove all the way there. That was wayyy tiring. 

The third time had me nervous. It was a bridesmaids party. Boy was I nervous. Is someone gonna get arrested now? I had this crazy idea that it would put me out of my comfort zone – but the weekend actually turned it to be tame. We hit the day pools and ran into these polite Canadians who we spent the weekend with up until dawn.  We got amazing seats for the Britany Spears show, and ate lots of Taco Bell. I passed by the Miss USA contestants and planned to check out the aquarium- until I read the horrible Yelp reviews. The other girls had already driven home and I had some time before the flight, so I just treated myself to good food and people watching.

The fourth and latest time I went to Vegas was with a different group of RAs for our friend’s birthday. We surprisingly went to a pizzeria to get kale salad, and I couldn’t have been more proud of our responsible group. Some older guys tried to buy us drinks, but we weren’t really having that and ran to see Zedd’s set. Again, I felt uncomfortable with crowded places and our guy friend had an intense stare down/shoving match with this jerk who tried to touch us. But we got to the front and stayed the whole night long. Then we ate at the Wicked Spoon, bumped into some folks we happened to know from high school. Met awesome Singaporeans from UC Berkeley who shared their mega drink with us and just took time to do some self care. One of my favorite parts was the group of laughing Asian women in their 40s holding a divorce party. I complimented one of the women’s shoes and she told me to never get married to the wrong person. I felt like she had words of wisdom. 

Overall, my initial skepticism of Sin City turned out to be unfounded. Yes, quite a folks blew smoke, yes, there are cheating horndogs who holler, and unscrupulous folks. However, if you roll with me – I’ll be your mother hen. I will keep it safe and sane. I found myself enjoying these mini vacations of dressing up and enjoying the sun. Hope next time I go, I swim more, watch more shows and check out the Grand Canyon.

Crayfish Removal at the Santa Monica Mountains

My friend Lauren and I had a great Saturday collecting and measuring crayfish. They’re an invasive species in the Santa Monica Mountains, most likely introduced by fishermen. We learned quite a bit about them thanks to the friendly folks from the Mountain Restoration Trust, who host bi-monthly removal events to educate the public about these efforts.

Originally from northern Mexico and southeastern USA, the red swamp crayfish are a hardy species. They thrive in freshwater, but can survive in brackish mucky water sources as well. In times of drought, they can burrow 3-4 feet into the ground in order to reach the water table. They eat nearly everything, including each other. These cannibalistic baddies are causing ecological damage and outcompeting local species here. The crayfish don’t have natural predators in the area, so they’re pretty much the apex species here. We found specimen anywhere between 5 to 13 cm, ranging from bright red to a dark rusty brown.

Here are some photos from our day.

It’s a free event, and I’d personally love to go back with more friends. Nifty activity, great way to reconnect with nature’s beauties and absolutely a good memories. So if you’re going, hit me up!

In case you were wondering, we didn’t eat these animals. Instead, they’re most likely going to be refrigerated and fed to animals in rehabilitation, like these cute little raccoon below.

Source: KPCC
Frozen crayfish are fed to rehabilitating raccoons and opossums at the California Wildlife Center. Source: KPCC

Besides, who knows what’s been in that creek? The crayfish might not be the healthiest to eat. On the other hand, we heard that a particular someone used to take these crayfish home, store them in a fresh water tank for a few days and boiled for dinner. So it appears, it’s possible to eat them, but why would you want to?

Things to Check Out: Explore Downtown Los Angeles

A friend asked about recommendations on places to check out around Los Angeles. Considering it’s such a large city, I had to break this request into several parts.

So here it goes. One of the hippest places for the 21+ crowd is Downtown LA, also known colloquially as DtLA. Here are some cool things to do in the area.

Walk through the Arts District.

Look around, there’s just so much street art to see! If you’re a museum-junkie like I am, you’re sure to enjoy this neighborhood since admission to Hauser Wirth & Schimmel is free.

Looking for the perfect gift for your hipster friends? Poketo surely has something to fit their aesthetics.

In the Arts District, there’s also a farmer’s market during the day. At night, should you choose to stay past sunset, Angel City Brewery is laidback with lots of room, food trucks, and tabletop games!

Brunch at Egg Slut at Grand Central Market.

The Market is also home to gluten-free ramen there as well as famous ice-cream. As you exit, you’re across from Angels Flight Railway, close to where “500 Days of Summer” was filmed.

Don’t mind spending more time Downtown?

Get tickets to MOCA, which can also get you admission to its sister branches in West Hollywood and Little Tokyo. Then check out the classic Pacific Electric Building. If you’re looking for live music, some people like the view from Perch.

Support the artists on the upper floors of The Last Bookstore, or at least get cheap books and new profile photos upstairs. Afterwards, you can share some world famous macaroons in Botega Louie or splurge for dinner there.

Noteworthy mentions include the Central Library, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Staples Center, City Hall and Grand Park.

Notice something missing? While Little Tokyo technically is part of DtLA, I have to devote a different section for this neighborhood. There’s just too much to say! It’s the perfect place for foodies, arts patrons, museum goers and those interested in Japanese American history.

Afterwards, let’s talk about Chinatown/Olvera Street.