Friday, October 27, 2017

The Newest Game in Las Vegas: O.J. Sightings

I’m surprised someone hasn’t created an app yet to track sightings of O.J. Simpson, who was recently released from prison and is now living near the Red Rock Country Club.

Allegedly, O.J. Simpson wants to move to Florida, but while he’s trying to get that figured out, he’s taken up residence in Summerlin. While I commend O.J. on his taste in neighborhoods, I have to say it was bizarre to see him strolling around the Tivoli Village Farmers Market last Saturday. I totally forgot to buy half the things I needed.

He’s just as gracious as you’ve heard. When I first saw him, I spotted him because of the small group of people standing around him taking pictures. I recognized O.J. immediately. While I could’ve easily walked right up to him and asked for a photo, I didn’t... because: a) I was raised not to bother celebrities in public, regardless of how infamous they might be; and b) it just felt wrong. 

Instead, I snapped a pic from a distance--but he had seen me and smiled and waved for my picture. And yes, I smiled and waved back. He’s charming, even from a distance and even if you know all about his history.

Now, the new game in town seems to be who can spot O.J. while he’s out and about. If I had spent nine years in a prison in Northern Nevada, I would be outside every chance I got, no matter how many people took pictures of me. Apparently O.J. feels the same way because social media and local news have had a steady stream of O.J. Sightings. Apparently he likes Grape Street up in DTS and Wahoo’s over at Boca Park. Considering how many great restaurants Summerlin has, I imagine he’ll find plenty of places to try.

I’ve heard from at least one person who plans to go out this weekend in pursuit of an O.J. Sighting. I don’t think he'll have to look too hard.

Summerlin and Brentwood could be cousins, ambiance-wise, which makes me wonder if that’s part of the reason O.J. seems to feels so comfortable here. We even have a Rockingham Drive. (Random Factoid: Simpson’s L.A. home on Rockingham Avenue--the house we all saw on TV--was demolished in 1998.)

While it’s incorrect that the Las Vegas jury or judge had any “payback” in mind with the robbery verdict, O.J.’s incarceration for robbery was related to the murders, if you think about it. While he was acquitted of the criminal charges, he was found liable in a civil lawsuit and was ordered to turn over assets to go toward the $33.5 million the Brown and Goldman families were awarded. O.J. and his pals hid his assets to avoid turning them over. He claimed the items he was “recovering” here in Vegas were stolen from him, which is obviously debatable considering his scheme to hide property. Pursuing legal actions to get the items back would have subjected them to the dreaded turnover order. Had he not been trying to avoid the order, he probably wouldn’t have had a reason to rob anyone. 

And if he would have taken the plea deal he was offered for the robbery, he would have been sentenced to about 30 months.

He could have been out working on his golf game a whole lot sooner.

Would you take a picture with O.J? Leave your answer in the comments.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Restaurants List Updated

I've updated my list of local Las Vegas restaurants with ten new entries, including Andre's Bistro and Marche Bacchus. Check out my list of restaurants to see all of my current favorites.

Marche Bacchus at Desert Shores
What are your favorite local Las Vegas restaurants? Leave your suggestion in the comments!

Photo by Terrisa Meeks

Friday, October 13, 2017

Photo Friday in Las Vegas: Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

I was downtown today and stopped at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health to take photos of its signature twisty Frank Gehry design, including inside its incredible event center.


All photos by Terrisa Meeks

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Las Vegas Farmers Markets

Visit a farmers market and you’ll never want to buy tasteless grocery store produce again (I’m looking at you, tomatoes).

I believe the old truism, “Food is medicine,” and as a result I’ve been spending more time at farmers markets lately. Eating more fruits and veggies is a good idea no matter where you buy them, but if you want produce at the peak of its taste and nutritional value, farmers markets are the way to go.
Tivoli Village Farmers Market
You can find farmers markets throughout the week at a variety of places in the Las Vegas valley. While most of the produce comes from California, you’ll find locally produced honey, eggs, herbs, and micro-greens. These markets are small in comparison to what you’ll find in greener areas, so if you're looking for something on the scale of a farmers market in California or Oregon, dial down your expectations. 

Since we’re in the desert, much of the food at our farmers markets comes from further away than the locavore’s gold standard of being produced within 100 miles--but the 400 miles between Vegas and Fresno is far less than the miles most produce travels before hitting the grocery store shelves. It’s also been allowed to ripen before being picked, which is why it all tastes so good.

Summertime’s bounty of fruits has just passed us, but we’ll soon see apples and citrus (as my favorite fruit vendor told me a couple of weeks ago). Can’t wait. My family is so excited to find out what fresh apples taste like.

Another way to get fresh produce is to pick it yourself at Gilcrease Orchard, or sign up for a CSA, which is a subscription-type service from a community farm. You can pick up local eggs and honey on weekends at The Farm, which is also an animal rescue, and you can check with the Vegas Roots Community Garden to see what they have for sale.

I have to warn you: if you start shopping at farmers markets and local farms/gardens, be prepared to work it into your weekly schedule. Grocery store produce will start tasting like cardboard in comparison. Trust me. I tried to make pico de gallo with grocery store tomatoes, and it just made me sad. They were tasteless, watery, sorry excuses for tomatoes. Once your taste buds get used to fruits and veggies with actual flavor, there’s no going back.

*  *  *

Here’s my current list of Las Vegas farmers markets. Keep in mind that hours and locations may change, and weather is a factor for most markets. Some markets may also close for winter and/or winter holidays. If you have corrections or additions, please leave them in the comments:

Tivoli Village Farmers & Makers Market, Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Las Vegas Farmers Market at Downtown Summerlin,  Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Las Vegas Farmers Market at Floyd Lamb Park, 1st and 3rd Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
fresh52 at Solista Park in Henderson, 2nd and 4th Saturday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
fresh52 at Sansone Park Place (9480 S. Eastern), Sundays, 8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Las Vegas Farmers Market at Bruce Trent Park, Wednesdays, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Las Vegas Farmers Market at Gardens Park, Thursdays, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Henderson Farmers Market on Water Street, Thursdays, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
The District Farmers Market - open seasonally on Thursdays, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Downtown 3rd Intuitive Forager Farmers Market - Old Bus Station at 300 N. Casino Center, Fridays, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Do you shop at any of the Las Vegas farmers markets?

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Stand Strong, Las Vegas

On the night of October 1, 2017, a gunman unleashed the equivalent of machine gun fire into a crowd of 22,000 people who were gathered on the Las Vegas Strip for a country music festival. For 10 minutes, he fired in bursts. At the time of this post, 58 people are dead and nearly 500 injured. Some remain in critical condition.

The gunman, Stephen Paddock, used his suite on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay as a sniper’s perch to carry out this mass murder. He killed himself before Metro’s SWAT team blew the door open. His motives are still unknown. Details continue to emerge at each new press conference.

In the aftermath, the city remains in shock.

Like many people in Las Vegas, I woke up on Monday to messages from friends and family who wanted to know if I was O.K. Their messages sent me to the television, and from that point on, everything has felt very weird.

The magnitude of this crime is hard to get your mind around. I’m still struggling.

Many people want to know what they can do. The blood banks currently are stocked due to an overwhelming turnout of donors (although it's worth noting that United Blood Services has pointed out that blood will be an ongoing need). Ditto for donations of water and food to the Red Cross and the assistance center set up at the Convention Center, but you can visit Clark County's Emergency Information Page to find out where else you can donate and volunteer. Vegas Seven's page also has a listing of needs--Metro's Enterprise Area's Command is "In needs of lots of coffee," for instance.  You can donate to the GoFundMe that Commission Chair Steve Sisolack and Sheriff Joe Lombardo started. Its initial goal was to raise a few hundred thousand dollars for the victims and their families, and it's now close to $10 million dollars. That’s not counting the $3 million that MGM Resorts has pledged.

Because I, too, like to be helpful, I’m going to suggest two things everyone can do that are free and can be done from the comfort of your home.

#1 - Don’t contribute to the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories.

By early afternoon on Monday, I had to go for a walk to take a break from the news. While I was walking, I overhead a woman on the phone telling someone she was sure the shooting was some kind of government conspiracy. I’ve seen stories online insisting there was more than one shooter. I even heard conjecture about whether or not the gunman was actually dead, but that was before the crime scene photos were leaked. 

Please, don’t spread these stories.

I don’t personally know the people who are investigating this heinous crime, but I know the kind of people they are because I worked for Metro for 22 years. I know every piece of evidence is being carefully collected and cataloged. I can’t even imagine how long the crime scene analysts must have worked on the concert grounds. It’s mind boggling to think of the size of the scene and how many locations were involved. The pictures I saw of the concert grounds reminded me of a debris field from an airplane crash, although not as large and with one notable exception: instead of body pieces, there were whole bodies littering the grounds. It’s incomprehensible.

The authorities are working as fast as they can to piece this all together. In the meantime, don’t spread disinformation. Make sure you’re posting from a credible news source. Better yet, take a break from social media and the news--it’s too easy to get sucked into the coverage of this story and become overwhelmed.

#2 - Be a little extra kind.

While this might seem like a suggestion that applies pretty much always, it’s particularly relevant in Las Vegas right now. We’re all in this one together, folks. This tragedy has touched an immense number of people in the valley and beyond. For all you know, that less-than-efficient grocery store clerk you got today might have a loved one in critical condition. Or worse.

Anyone on the Strip on Sunday at the time of the shooting was affected, even those who weren’t at the concert.

One of my husband’s friends was at the Bellagio on Sunday night when the first wave of 40 or 50 people fleeing the massacre burst into the casino. A second wave hit, and the Bellagio prepared to put the property on lock-down, but this man wasn’t having any of that. He’d heard the shooter had a machine gun, and he had no intention of being herded into a ballroom, which was in the process of happening. People thought the shooter (or shooters--no one knew) was on foot and headed in their direction. “I wasn’t going to be a fish in a barrel,” he said, and he and his friends started looking for ways out of the hotel.

He and his pals wound up searching for an exit through employee-only areas, surprising (and scaring) groups of employees they encountered in the process. Finally finding an exit, he and some of his friends made their way to the Rio, where he called someone to come get him. Some other members of his group were separated in the scramble to get out, and those folks spent the night hiding in a pool-side cabana at Caesars Palace.

Impressively, he still made it to work on Monday morning.

You’ve probably seen the video of the man at the concert who was drinking his beer and flipping off the shooter. Some people think he must be a local, since his defiance certainly seems to sum up how a lot of people feel. I just hope he made it out OK.

Las Vegas, keep standing strong. 

In the immortal words of Chumbawamba:

I get knocked down, but I get up again 
You are never gonna keep me down 

Nothing will keep our city down, not even this heinous attack.

Keep that middle finger attitude, my friends.


I'm not sure who to credit for this graphic. If anyone knows the original source, please leave it in the comments.

You can visit these pages for for more information and resources:

VegasStrong on Facebook 

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police - Victim and Family Assistance Resources

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Visit to Seven Magic Mountains

If the neon boulders at Seven Magic Mountains remind you of the colorful rock formations found throughout the Southwestern United States, you understand what the artist had in mind.

Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains inspires strong reactions. I’ve read both derisive comments that question its artistic merit and enthusiastic reviews extolling the giant land art.

I recently visited the piece one Sunday afternoon and found the area full of happy people who were snapping pictures and exploring the stacks of boulders. Whatever the detractors may say, the people I saw were enjoying the sight of Seven Magic Mountains, situated with the dry lake bed of Jean on one side and I15 on the other. 

So, is Seven Magic Mountains “art”? I’ve read plenty of comments from people who think it’s not. That begs the question: What is art? To me, it’s creative work that inspires, enlightens, informs or delights. For some people, it’s all about technical mastery or technique, and they only see art in things like a Renaissance painting or a Rodin sculpture. That’s the thing about art: it’s subjective. 

Rondinone took five years to create Seven Magic Mountains, which is built from locally-sourced limestone boulders. According to an interview with the artist in Art News, he took inspiration from hoodoos and the “meditation practice of balancing stones.” 

Some of the most striking pictures I've seen of the piece were taken at sunrise or sunset when the towers are standing alone in the desert. 

But on the day I visited, the presence of people made it feel like a mini-festival. My hubby, our dog Gigi, and I walked from a crowded parking lot down a short desert path filled with a stream of people. A woman in front of us was carrying a little drone, which we later got to watch fly as we walked around the boulders.

Not long after we arrived, a tour helicopter flew in, buzzing in a quick arc around the towers before turning and zipping back toward town. 

Nearby on I15, the cars and trucks were speeding by.

Despite their 30-35 foot height, the stacks are dwarfed by the vastness of the Mojave, which appeared an obvious metaphor for Las Vegas. 

I loved seeing people wandering around in the desert, taking pictures of not just Seven Magic Mountains, but of the landscape around them. Whether or not you like Rondinone’s artistry, you have to acknowledge the magnificence of the place where it sits. 

Seven Magic Mountains is planned to be on display for two years. It opened May 11, 2016.

Background Note: For those who are concerned about taxpayer funds being spent for the project, don’t worry--Jane Ann Morrison at the RJ reported that of the $3.5 million it cost, only $100,000 came from taxpayer monies via the Nevada Commission on Tourism. That makes sense to me, considering the international attention the installation has drawn. The rest of the funds were raised from donations.

Have you been to Seven Magic Mountains?

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A Road Trip to Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly

Over the Thanksgiving holiday my family and I took a road trip to Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly. I wanted to be in wide open spaces with spotty cell-phone coverage, travel on roads the GPS couldn’t find, and see stunning natural beauty and ancient cliff dwellings.

I scored on three out of four: sadly, cell phone coverage was pretty consistent throughout the trip. 

Day One - Las Vegas to Chinle

The route: I15 north to 9 in Utah, then across a series of smaller roads eastward. In Kayenta, Arizona, we picked up 163 to Monument Valley proper. At the visitor center we took the scenic dirt road through the valley at sunset for as long as we could see it in the fading light. After leaving the visitor center, we turned back on 163 and followed it to 191, where we headed southward to Chinle.

Total miles: approximately 439
Hours on the road: 10

We planned this trip along the most scenic route we could take, given our time constraints. You could easily spend a week or two (or more) along the route we traveled, if you took the time to explore the side trips in the region.

We, however, had a limited amount of time to get from Vegas to Chinle, and our biggest desire for the first day was to see Monument Valley.

The last time I’d been there, it was still a remote place, easy to spot from the highway because there weren’t many roads or buildings.

This time, the presence of people was apparent. It’s not visited on the same scale as the Grand Canyon’s South Rim or Yosemite, but a lot of people are finding their way to this magnificent place. Adjacent to the visitor center there’s even a hotel, The View Hotel, which gives guests a sweeping view of the famous valley.

“When you said we’d see ‘rock formations,’ you didn’t say anything about the size,” my son said as we gazed at Monument Valley’s distinctive buttes, spires, and mesas.

The light here is stunning against the towering rocks, especially at sunset with the advancing shadows adding an intense contrast in colors. After the sun set, the sky gave us a ribbon of pink and blue on the horizon as a backdrop to the red rock spires, which held onto their distinctive colors well after the sun was down. 

After Monument Valley, we hit the road to Chinle, (shin-lay) and were soon enveloped in total darkness. We could almost see the Milky Way from the tinted windows of the car, but we couldn’t see anything else. I’d love to drive this road during the daylight to see what else this area holds.

Day Two: Chinle to Flagstaff

The route: In Chinle, we traveled both the North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive to each of the ten overlooks of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. We then backtracked to 191, and connected with 264 west into Tuba City, picking up a short stretch of 160 before turning southward toward Flagstaff along 89.

Miles: 237, plus 71 miles in Canyon de Chelly
Hours exploring and on the road: approximately 9

In the morning we watched the cows grazing in the field adjacent to our hotel as we loaded up the car. The rooms at the Holiday Inn were wonderfully comfortable and clean, and the entrance to Canyon de Chelly was so close we almost could have walked there.

The restaurant at the hotel had as many locals in the early morning as tourists. The gift shop had a full display of Tony Hillerman books, and at breakfast I spotted one tourist avidly reading one of the author’s popular detective novels set in the Navajo Nation and surrounding areas.

After breakfast we headed directly to Canyon de Chelly. Our first stop was at the visitor center, where we verified the pronunciation of the name: Canyon de “Shay,” not “Shelly.” I picked up a map and NPS guide before we set off to explore both rims of the Monument, which encompasses both Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto.

The Navajo still live here, both along the rims and in the canyon. Traditional hogans are a common sight, and many roads are marked as private. Visitors need to be respectful of the fact that these aren’t all public lands--this is home to many families.

To enter the canyon floor, you must have an authorized guide, unless you hike down into the canyon along the White House Trail, which starts at White House Overlook and leads to one of the ruins. It’s a 2.5 mile hike, 600 feet down and back along switchbacks, and takes about two hours round trip.

Our first look at Canyon de Chelly was at the Tunnel Overlook, where a man was selling hand-made wares from his car, a common sight in this region. The path down to the viewing platform is steep, and my husband chose to skip it and chat with the artist while I inspected the view. The canyon’s not so deep here, close to its mouth, but eventually attains a depth of about 1,000 feet.

The depth and majesty of the canyon starts to show at Tsegi Overlook. This was where I began saying, frequently, “Please step back from the edge of the canyon,” or some variation thereof. (Also spoken often: “No, not funny. Not funny at all.”)
“That’s a lot of down,” my son observed, peering down. You will not find an abundance of rails or walls here to keep you from exploring right up to the edge of the cliffs. Posted signs warn you to keep your kids and pets under control, but sheer drop-offs are everywhere. It’s a little scary and one of my favorite parts of tribal lands in the Southwest.

Each overlook provided a new and stunning view into the valley below, where ancient ruins exist next to small farms and stands of trees. The day was icy cold and clear, with ravens and hawks soaring above and below us, taunting me to take their pictures. 


The history of the canyon is long, and some of it is quite sobering. It’s been inhabited for 5,000 years, including the years during which we waged war on the Native Americans. According to the informational pamphlet: “In 1863, Col. Kit Carson began a brutal campaign against the Navajo. In the winter of 1864 Carson’s troops entered the eastern end of Canyon de Chelly and pushed the Navajo toward the canyon mouth. Resistance proved futile; most Navajo were captured or killed. Carson’s forces returned in the spring.... They destroyed the remaining hogans and orchards, and killed the sheep.”

This happened during the Long Walk, the forced 300-mile march of Navajos to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. The forced walk and subsequent internment resulted in the loss of thousands of Navajo lives. After four years of exile, the remaining Navajo were allowed to return to their homeland. When you know the history, it’s hard to forget when exploring the canyon.

We left Canyon de Chelly late in the afternoon and headed toward Flagstaff. Instead of dropping down to I40, we took 264 across Navajo and Hopi land. We saw huge expanses of country filled with mesas and rock formations. Homesteads dotted the landscape, where cattle, sheep, and horses grazed. Few other vehicles were on the road, mostly pick-up trucks.

After the sun had set in a spectacular blaze of orange and gold in a cloudless sky, we turned southward toward Flagstaff. As we started to climb into the mountains, we pulled over and took a few moments in the 28 degree weather to stare at the night sky, filled with stars and a fabulously visible Milky Way. It had been years since I’d seen the Milky Way. In Las Vegas, light pollution has bleached the stars from the sky.

We talked about going to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, but after we checked into the hotel, got lost (twice) trying to find a restaurant, and finally had dinner at the retro Galaxy Diner, it was too late. Something for the “next time” list.

Day Three: Flagstaff to Las Vegas

The route:  I40 to just past Ash Fork, where we picked up Route 66, which we took into Kingman. Then we grabbed 93 home to Las Vegas.

Miles: 266
Hours on the road: 5

By day three, we were all ready to get home. No matter how much spectacular scenery we’d seen, everyone was ready to be out of the car.

First stop: Matador Coffee, the coffee shop we’d driven past several times while we were lost the night before. It’s a little local place in a remodeled car repair garage. The food and coffee were great, but the only downside was that we wound up eating in the car. There wasn’t much seating and not much (if anything) in the way of heating, and it was about 27 degrees out. I noticed the temperature didn’t deter the line of bundled-up people waiting for coffee and food.

We headed out of Flagstaff west on I40 until we grabbed an exit onto Historic Route 66. The old road runs in a semi-circle, roughly parallel to I40 from around Ash Fork all the way into Kingman. Beyond that, you can continue on into Oatman and all the way to Topock, and in California the road picks up again just off I40 along the Mojave Preserve’s southern border.

We were only going as far as Kingman, with one stop at the Hackberry General Store.

As Route 66 unfurled in front of us, I saw dozens of places ripe for photographs: ruins, horses, memorabilia shops, and kitsch galore... more stops for the “later” list.

I’ve stopped in Hackberry many times over the years, and it’s always a fun place to photograph. This time was no different. Loads of vintage cars and Route 66 memorabilia fill the grounds. It’s hard to resist buying a souvenir here.

After our short stop, it was only about two hours until we pulled into our driveway. That’s the moment we enjoyed one of the best parts about any trip: getting home.

Additional reading and notes on the route:

I’ve collected some example of possible side trips off our route, but be forewarned: adventurers will find many more places to explore in this region. Remember to take all appropriate travel precautions and consult an actual map, not just your GPS, when you’re in remote areas. Here are some possibilities:  Zion, Cedar Breaks National Monument, all Rims (North, South, and West) of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Valley of the Gods, Petrified Forest, Sedona, Montezuma’s Castle National Monument, Jerome, Oatman, and the Mojave National Preserve.

On the history of Canyon de Chelly and the Navajo:

I found this account of the Long Walk as related by Navajo elders. It includes the story of Fortress Rock, where the Navajos who refused to surrender hid atop the rock and outlasted the troops who had been left to wait them out, presuming the Navajo would run out of food or water.

The Navajo did run out of water, but waited until nightfall on a full moon to create a human chain down the rock to a water source, silently collecting and passing water up the chain of people. Although the holdouts outlasted the troops, they were also eventually captured and forced on the Long Walk.

I first read about the history of the canyon and the Long Walk in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which devotes a chapter to it.

If you’ve been into any of these areas, what are your favorite places?
All pictures by Terrisa Meeks. See more from this trip on flickr.