Tales of the City

From Tinder hookups to DJ tutorials, we present our personal ‘bests’ of 2014

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

In keeping with the spirit of our fifth annual Best of the City issue, Vegas Seven’s editorial team shares its favorite moments, events and experiences of the first half of the year:

Pop Culture: Las Vegas’ most prominent contribution to pop culture this year was Think Like a Man Too. But that had Jerry Ferrara, so we’ll look elsewhere … like to Horseplayers, Esquire Network’s handicapping reality show. It wasn’t perfect, but it threw some light on my favorite, least-appreciated form of gambling, and gave attention to the Vegas-based National Handicapping Championship. Couple that with a narrow Triple Crown miss for California Chrome, and it’s been a great year for racing, Vegas, television and the Venn diagram where they all overlap. – Jason Scavone, DailyFiasco.com Editor

Arts & Entertainment: Whenever I go to a concert, I dream of connecting with the band. Whoever they are, whatever the genre, I hope they are singing to me personally. Yes, I know my dream is ridiculous. But that’s the magic of music: It’s the ability to foster that wish, to appeal to the masses on a personal level. Well, one night in March, one musician made my dream a reality: Tito Jackson. He was performing with his brothers as the Jacksons during a residency at Planet Hollywood, and during a particularly romantic solo, he looked down and sang directly to me. Then he winked. Then he reached out to touch my hand. For that brief moment I was part of the show. And it was awesome. – Cindi Moon Reed, A&E Editor

Dining: More than any restaurant opening or dining trend, I’ll always remember this as the year when my colleagues pulled together to help our own. After learning of the life-threatening crises confronting Vegas Seven food critic Max Jacobson (who suffered severe brain trauma when struck by a car while in a crosswalk); rock ’n’ roll chef Kerry Simon (who has Multiple System Atrophy, an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease); and Hachi chef Ryen Indica (who suffered a stroke), dozens of servers, bartenders, restaurateurs, food-truck operators and top chefs volunteered their time at various fundraisers. They cooked some amazing meals, threw some awesome parties and raised a lot of money to help offset medical costs (for Jacobson and Indica) and help find a cure (for MSA). Just as importantly, they demonstrated that the Las Vegas food and beverage world really is a community. – Al Mancini, Dining Writer

Drinking: The best thing that happened to our beverage scene this year didn’t actually happen here. After years of getting dust kicked on us by other cities at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, a Vegas bar was finally invited to play with the big kids (New York, San Francisco, Boston, etc.) at this month’s annual city-on-city mixology throwdown, Bar Fight Club. That honor belongs to Herbs & Rye, and owner Nectaly Mendoza was stunned when he got the call: “We’ve shown hard work, dedication and passion, and are humbled that it was noticed.” And it paid off, as they won the People’s Choice award – Xania Woodman, Senior Editor

Nightlife: The best thing besides bottle-service drones? That would be the Valley’s first DJ institute, Blend. Anyone who wonders (or rolls their eyes) about what DJs actually do can get answers here. In the midst of an era when 15 minutes of fame comes at the push of a button and those so inclined can broadcast sets to multiple clubs at once, the hands-on instruction taught by Presto One & Co. is an important reminder that spinning is a joy and a skill. – Camille Cannon, Calendar Coordinator (and budding DJ)

Downtown: The evolution of Fremont East continues, and the most refreshing sight of all is the Downtown Project’s renovation of the former John E. Carson Hotel on Carson Avenue and Sixth Street. The revived Carson Building looks terrific; I love the two-story lobby and lush courtyard they managed to give to a building that was never meant to have either. And its mix of businesses—Carson Kitchen, O Face Doughnuts, Black Spade Tattoo, Grass Roots juice bar and others—rivals anything you’d find on a similar block in Portland or Brooklyn. – Geoff Carter, DTLV.com Editor

Social Media: Critics of social media like to argue that it actually pushes people further from real-life interactions. Not Tinder. The location-based dating app provides very real, very physical connections. Almost ubiquitous in Las Vegas, it’s popular among both locals and tourists looking to meet new people—but mostly to hook up. As a recent transplant, it’s helped me make friends and build my network. And, yes, it’s gotten me laid. What have you done for me, Twitter? – Zoneil Maharaj, Engagement Editor

Technology: Getting most startups off the ground isn’t easy, and that’s particularly true for hardware startups. Not only do founders have to dream up a product, they also have to manufacture and distribute it in a cost-effective way. That burden will lighten thanks to Tony Hsieh and the $10 million he put into Factorli, a one-stop shop Downtown that will produce and distribute consumer electronics for startups. Who knows? Manufacturing could be what finally puts the local tech scene on the map. – Nicole Ely, Interactive Producer

Sports Betting: The No. 1 goal when betting sports: Win. No. 2: Win without stress. Which is why I’ll always have fond memories of this year’s Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl. First play from scrimmage: Ball snapped over Peyton Manning’s head for a safety, producing a winner on the “Will there be a safety?” prop. First play after halftime: The Seahawks return the second-half kickoff for a touchdown, giving them a 29-0 lead and ensuring I would nail the Super Bowl winner for the fourth time in five years. The only thing I had to sweat during the game’s final two hours? Whether or not I’d run out of beer. – Matt Jacob, Editor and Sports Betting columnist

UNLV: When UNLV announced April 10 that its football team was ineligible to play in a bowl game this season because of poor academics, it was an embarrassment—especially since the Rebels qualified for a bowl in 2013 for the first time in 13 years. But the shame was lifted June 26 after UNLV’s Academic Progress Rate score was readjusted, giving the team the chance to qualify for the postseason. The Rebels might not achieve the 7-6 record they’ll need to become eligible, but at least now they enter this season with something for which to strive. – Sean DeFrank, Associate Editor (and UNLV alum)

Community: I’m pretty adept in spotting and correcting the little mistakes in stories, but the fine details eluded me when it came to teaching my teenage daughter how to drive with Jimmy Johnson-like confidence. Which is why the best thing I did this year was enroll her in Driver’s Edge. The free half-day course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway puts young drivers behind the wheel for lane-changing exercises, emergency-braking maneuvers and skid-control practice—all from professional drivers who mix in sensible, matter-of-fact life lessons. Since completing the program, my daughter is now much more assured each time she backs out of the driveway. Her father, too. – Paul Szydelko, Copy Chief