Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Red Rock Fires

Today I drove to the Red Rock Overlook to see if any of the Loop fires were visible from that vantage point. At the overlook, the smell of fire filled the air. Thunder boomed and lightening flashed nearby. As I was getting out of my car, a park ranger walked up to me and told me I’d need to stay on the west side of the parking lot. The helicopter was scheduled to arrive on the east side of the parking lot in five minutes; it wasn’t landing, but instead was scooping up water to drop on a distant fire. “He’s just coming over to give us some help with this small fire,” Marty the park ranger told me. The big fire is in Lovell Canyon. Everyone in the parking lot snapped away as the helicopter roared in, dipped a bucket of water, and then choppered off to douse a small blaze.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

In My Neighborhood

During the school year I see the Arabic women in my neighborhood walking their children to school, talking to each other in a language that, unlike Spanish, is completely unfamiliar to me. One of the ladies wears a headscarf every day, always a vibrant print and a rich-looking fabric. While the rest of the morning moms (myself included) are decked out in sweats, hiding behind dark glasses, and carrying our morning Starbucks, these women wear heels and pressed slacks. One of the moms is a Lebanese lady who lives up the street from me – her husband is a professional gambler – and I’ve often wondered if they’ve thought about a nickname for their son, Osama. “It’s a very common name in that part of the world,” the mother explained when we met them.

David and I both worried about our son playing at their house. When we first met them, September 11th wasn’t that far in the past, and even for an open-minded gal like myself, I was having a tough time with, “Mom, Osama wants to know if I can play at his house.”

“As long as he doesn’t come home shouting ‘Death to the infidels!’, I think we’re okay,” I told my husband.

They frequently vacation in Lebanon over the summer, and I haven’t seen them in weeks.

An Iranian dentist lives next door to us, a quiet man who travels a great deal and who just married a much younger woman. His family fled Iran when the Shah was overthrown. A few years ago, he took a trip back to his homeland. “There were people with guns everywhere,” he told us when he got back. I got the impression he was both shocked and disappointed by what he saw.

Two years ago when my son started kindergarten, I met a Palestinian lady. She and I were about the same age, and we walked the same way to drop off and pick up our kids. She didn’t speak much English, and I don’t speak any Arabic, but we managed to talk about housework, husbands, and kids. I’m sure we looked like we were playing charades half the time. “You know Palestine?” she asked me once.

“Yes, I do. Do you ever get to go home?” I asked her. I figured if my dentist friend could go to Iran, anything was possible.

“I would like. But it’s hard to go there,” she said, shrugging and sighing, giving me the hands-up signal that meant “I can’t explain it in this language.” I wished she spoke better English, because I wanted to hear what had happened to her, why she was in the United States, and how she and her husband and daughter came to Las Vegas.

One day we were waiting outside the kindergarten gates when a Jewish woman joined the group. I knew she was from Israel and taught pre-school at a synagogue – one of many details I had absorbed about the other parents as we waited by the gate each day. Somehow she and the Palestinian lady started talking, which I watched in open amazement. “Do you speak Arabic?” the Palestinian lady asked her.

“No. Only Hebrew.”

“You are from Israel? I am from Palestine.”

“They’re kind of the same place now.”

They both smiled and stepped away from each other, and I wondered if the Palestinian lady wanted to punch the Jewish lady in the nose. If she did, she didn’t show it. Interestingly, not only does my neighborhood seem to have a large number of Arabs and Persians, we also have a large population of Jewish people. Every Saturday I see families walking to temple. Mezuzh scrolls adorn doors all over my neighborhood.

As I watch the Middle East erupting on television each night, these are the people I think about.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Orange Moon

Smoke from the fires in California turned our moon orange.

Metro Under The Microscope

Las Vegas’ recent rash of officers fatally shooting suspects has many people concerned, including Sheriff Bill Young, who recently appeared on Jon Ralston’s show, Face to Face.

For years the ACLU and other organizations have complained that Metro officers were always cleared of wrong doing in the shooting deaths of suspects. The standard argument has always been that the IAB investigations and Coroner’s Inquest were stacked in favor of cops. The assumption seemed to be that unless the suspect was armed with a machine gun and rampaging through a Station Casino bingo room, something else should have been done – something non-lethal.

Like a large percentage of the population, I’ve never had to face the decision on whether or not to take someone’s life. I have known several officers and soldiers who did have to make that decision, and I can tell you that it was not a decision they took lightly. It was also not a decision that left them unscarred; just the opposite. Each man and woman at Metro goes out on patrol knowing that they might not come home at the end of the shift. They also know that they might be the reason some family looses its father, brother or son. Neither thought is an easy one.

For everyone involved, I can only hope that the inevitable (and needed) scrutiny of these shootings will offer answers, but in these cases – as in so many that went before – I imagine the questions will always outnumber the answers.

New Blog Site

Welcome to my new Vegas Girl Blog! While I can't say I had any complaints about AOL's blog service -- it's much more user friendly than this one, I think -- AOL makes it too dang difficult for non-AOLers to post comments, so here I am. My regular post will appear later today.

This is my cat, Gray. He would welcome you to the blog, but he requires upfront milk and catnip. He's running for a seat on the Clark County Commission.