If you’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing an artist work in person, witnessing a fashion designer draft a pattern or a musician record music, it’s so inspirational to see them work their magic right in front of you, to see the process as their creation come to life before your eyes.
I was lucky enough to see Akira Nakai, the owner of RWB (Rauh Welt Built which translates to Rough World Concept in english), work his craft at their LA location. Akira’s level of free hand precision is mind-blowing. The fact that he can take a car that’s already a masterpiece and add to its beauty is truly impressive.
I needed a press car for a story i was writing. I asked Ken if he could help me out with that, he told me Andrew from Audi would be in touch. The next day i made the trek across the desert, from Vegas to Long Beach. Miguel from ESI was kind enough to wait around for me, when i met up with him around 10:30pm. I pulled off the san diego FWY and turned the corner where my GPS told me he would be, i could see the brilliant white sports sedan right away. I handed over my keys, and in return was given a shiney, black and chrome, ipod-size key fob. It was as impressive as the car was with its smooth finish and rich density. I picked up my good friend Julien, from his place in Corona before heading to Palm Springs.
I hadn’t seen Julian or “Stretch” (his childhood nickname for his 6’4′ stature that he grew into at a very young age). Julian is the person that put me onto so many things that shape who i am now. In the middle class area of New Jersey where we both grew up, there weren’t many people you could talk about art & fashion, bodybuilding, car culture or the monetary system, among an array of many other subjects. He is as complex and unapologetic about being so as i am. We are who we are. Me & Stretch have always been very like-minded, always on the same page, always onto what’s next. Just being around his positive, calming energy gave me a lot of neutralization in my hectic life.
The 2016 Audi S7 was everything i wanted it to be. If you know me, you know how unamused i am about everything. The pure driving experience of this german engineered masterpiece brought a genuine smile to my face. It’s fast, i mean really fast. Twin turbo, 4.0 V8, 450hp fast. The acceleration is initiated by the instant torque provided by the beefy V8 and is carried through the smooth powerband by the boost. That much power in a modified car would feel choppy, wheels would spin, the clutch would grab hard and your neck would snap back appearing to be going much faster than it really is. But the S7 isn’t modified, it’s a refined luxury car. The quattro system hooks up the tires to the pavement and the car soares forward effortlessly, the only thing you feel is the G’s from gravity against your stomach. All this power is matched by the most intuitive safety features money can buy. In that car, it’s hard to tell how fast you’re really going without looking at the speedometer. LA traffic lived up to it’s name on that saturday afternoon and the Interstate 10 West quickly turned into a parking lot. The heads up display in the dashboard realized what was going on before i did and brought the 4k lbs sports sedan to a gradual stop. What?!
We rolled into Palm Springs with about an hour of daylight left to savor. I prefer the night, but dusk in Coachella Valley is something that will never get old to me. I took advantage of this golden hour to capture the enchanting gradient of violet to pale yellow hues as they drown into the contrast of the mountains that make up the horizon. It felt like as soon as we arrived, it was already time to leave. I would meet the legendary Akira Nakai in the morning, i would need my sleep.
We drove through the night, heading south east of Vegas to our favorite getaway in the desert. Palms Springs and Coachella Valley as a whole has always been an escape from the impending stress that comes with life and naturally brings clarity to the que of my subconscious. We pulled through the long stone shaded driveway that winds around the The Parker Hotel and was greeted by valet attendants sharply dressed in all white. The lobby, with its all white walls, vaulted ceiling and bohemian chic decor, gave the resort a very luxurious and hip feel at the same time. Through the back of the hotel is a maze of trees with a gravel walkway that occasionally open to a clearing for a sitting area or a game of croquet. After getting lost in this Alice-in-wonderland-esque world of the Parker Hotel, it was time to leave for LA. After bar-hopping through West Hollywood, we made a stop by the iconic MOCA light installation. The morning came quick and my first stop was at RWB LA. I’m going to stop here and show you only a preview of what’s to come…
Today was warmer than usual, even for being january in Las Vegas. We decided to explore the infamous Death Valley, with it only being an hour drive away.The desert is an interesting place. With how populated the modern world is, the desert seems to stay preserved with its innate, unforgiving weirdness. Our first stop was unscheduled, but couldn’t be passed by. In all honesty, i keep my fingers crossed that i will run into places like The Death Valley Junction, more specifically the Amagosa Opera House…
Amargosa’s name stems from the Spanish word for “bitter” (amargo), and is located in a town called Death Valley Junction – population: less than 20, restaurants: 0, gas stations: 0, opera house: 1. I’m not the type of person that is easily shaken, my curiosity usually gets the best of me and overrides any fear, The Amagosa Opera House at first glance was much more interesting than scary. We parked the car and did some exploring around the property, taking in every little detail. This place sucks you in with its genuine surrealness. YOU ARE LITERALLY IN THE MIDDLE OF NO WHERE. No cell reception, none. The closest hospital is hours away. There’s no supermarket or any place to replenish the essentials of basic living. There’s no police station. If you died, there’s an infinite amount of places your body could be buried and never be found.
We parked in front of the Opera House and walked to the entrance of the hotel. We were warmly greeted by the overnight clerk that told us how he has lived in the desert ever since Vegas was owned by corporations and reminisced the days when the MOB ran Vegas. The lobby/gift shop looked and felt like it was frozen in time 20-30 years ago. I used the restroom and had an overwhelming uncomfortable feeling just being in the building. I usually like to poke my nose in everything in the name of photography or journalism or just because i’m me, but deep inside I just wanted to leave. You get a vibe that just emerges from your gut that tells you that you’re aren’t wanted there. You are not safe. As soon as i got to the car i immediately felt better. On the surface i told myself that what just happened was very weird, but my subconscious took a note of what just happened and i still don’t completely understand it.
I’d later research this area and learn that it was a hospital & morgue for the 1923 Pacific Borax Company. The same building that the Amagosa Opera House resided in was the same building that so many miners died inside from contamination of the borax cleaning agent. This very hotel has had numerous accounts of cold spots, apparition sightings and even possession or “channeling” of spirits with the hotel staff…
We drove for what seemed like hours of ever sprawling desert and blinding sun. Out of no where we saw a small wooden sign for BEATTY. On the way we ran into the small, ghost town of Rhyolite. The birth of Rhyolite started in August of 1904 with the discovery of gold and by January of 1905, with what started as a two-man camp, Rhyolite became a town of 1,200 people in two weeks and reached a population of 2,500 by June 1905. By then it had 50 saloons, 35 gambling tables, prostitution, 19 lodging houses, 16 restaurants, half a dozen barbers, a public bath house, and a weekly newspaper, the Rhyolite Herald.
By 1907, Rhyolite had concrete sidewalks, electric lights, water mains, telephone and telegraph lines, daily and weekly newspapers, a monthly magazine, police and fire departments, a hospital, school, train station and railway depot, at least three banks, a stock exchange, an opera house, a public swimming pool and two formal church buildings. By 1912, Rhyolite was a ghost town and in 1916 the power lines were shut off permanently.
The turn of the century was a very interesting time. It seemed like everything was so new and experimental, to which it could cost someone’s life or lifetime (a lifetime wasn’t very long back then) to explore a new idea. The winner’s won gloriously and the losers paid for their mistakes with their life, literally.
Eventually we arrived in Beatty, Nevada. What was once populated by the native Shoshone tribe, is now overrun by trailer parks. Beatty was named after the civil war veteran & miner “Old Man” Montillus (Montillion) Murray Beatty, who bought a ranch along the Amargosa River just north of the future community and became its first postmaster in 1905. Beatty is a small, quiet town where everyone knows everyone. As soon as Blondie and i walked into the Sourdough Saloon, all eyes were on us. Dino, one of Beatty’s natives immediately gravitated to us, inquiring where we were from and what could have possibly brought us there. For being obvious “out-of-towners”, everyone was very interested in who we were and weren’t shy about introducing themselves. Me being obsessed with cars, i noticed all the random automotive paraphernalia hanging on the walls. The bold yellow Mercedes SLK front bumper is the first thing you see as you enter the bar. Every summer, german engineers stay in Beatty to test their concept cars in Death Valley as a “litmus” test to see if the new product is up to par… Apparently it took a number of i8’s to die till BMW got it right…
On a cold night in December, me & Pablo(owner of a beautiful, yet very aggressive looking Nissan 350z), took to Fremont street to see what shots we could get. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Fremont or Downtown Las Vegas as it’s commonly referred. Even though DTLV is a bug light for all of Sin City’s lower element, it also has much more character and history than The Strip. Fremont Street is named in honor after the military officer & explorer John Charles Frémont. Fremont Street dates back to 1905, when Las Vegas itself was founded. Fremont Street was the first paved street in Las Vegas in 1925. The workforce from construction of the Hoover Dam had a huge impact on driving the population & economy in the early days of Las Vegas. It’s crazy to think how such a iconic city could be built in the middle of the desert.
Since i’ve migrated to Las Vegas, I’ve been very fortunate to meet a great group of guys that are part of a car club called Sin City’s Finest(composing of Infiniti G35/37’s & Nissan 350/370z’s). I met Christian, one of the members of the car club at the weekly “Fuku Meet”. Not knowing anyone there and freezing to death(i never knew how cold it actually got in the desert), I stood by myself surveying the meet and just taking it all in. Christian came up and introduced himself to me. I asked him which car was his and he pointed to the sharp looking slate grey Nissan 350z, sporting Infiniti G35 wheels. Christian told me about the car club and that i should join. That following week i was invited to a house party by Dave,one of the SCF members. There i met the rest of the Sin City’s Finest, including Raul. Me & Raul later planned to venture to the Wetlands on the east side of Las Vegas and shoot his shiny white Infiniti G37.