Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Next Generation

It’s a strange thing to read about retirement parties for people you remember as youngsters. When I read John L. Smith’s column about the retirement of Las Vegas Metro Homicide Detectives Jimmy Vaccaro and Tom Thowsen, I shook my head in disbelief.

I was working in Metro’s Crime Lab in the early 1990s when Vaccaro and Thowsen were the new guys in Homicide. We were used to the old-timers like Tom Dillard, Don Dibble, and Dave Hatch, none of whom had a spare word for the office help like me, unless they were barking orders. None of us thought much of it. Cranky, short-tempered cops were common, and those who had chosen a full-time assignment to cover Death in all its violent, brutal, and tragic forms were forgiven for skipping the niceties. When these two young, handsome detectives took the assignment in Homicide, in the office we tsked a little to ourselves. It would be a shame, my office mate Martha and I agreed, if Vaccaro and Thowsen succumbed to the stresses of Homicide, an assignment that we watched wring the life out of several detectives. Vaccaro and Thowsen were fun to talk to, and that was important. There were plenty of details about our job that were never, ever going to be fun.

A steady stream of cops trickled in all day to our office to pick up crime scene pictures and lab results. One detective, Roy Chandler, wore irresistible aftershave that made Martha and me swoon; he was also a sweet-talker. Since Chandler, like Vaccaro, had started out in Vice/Narcotics and later moved to Homicide, we reasoned that there was a chance Vaccaro might retain some of his charm. When I left the Lab in 1994, both Thowsen and Vaccaro were still charming, upbeat, and speaking to the office staff.

Smith’s column covered some of their big cases; I remember them all. Smith muses over whether or not either man can put his time with Death behind him. I suspect that Smith knows the answer, since reporters see many of the same horrors as cops. The case I never forgot was Stephanie Isaacson, a 14-year-old girl whose body was found in an empty desert lot just blocks from where my in-laws lived. She was just a couple of years older than my nieces. Someone brutally assaulted her and left her a bloody mess in the dirt with her textbooks scattered nearby. I wasn’t at the scene – I merely saw the photos and read the file. Many deceased bodies remain in my memory, but it is her name that always floats to the top.

Over the years I worked in the Lab, I was often asked if I ever wanted to become a Crime Scene Analyst (now they’re Hollywood-ified and are officially CSI – Crime Scene Investigator). Thanks, but the pictures and occasional dead body in a car in the Lab’s garage was enough for me. The men and women who agree to accept the challenge of unraveling murders are a rare breed. Justice and consequences may be concepts for some, but for them both are day-to-day reality. “If you’ve ever said you’d never kill someone, then you don’t know people,” Martha used to say. I think she’s still at the Lab, where I imagine she’s sizing up the next generation of Homicide detectives.
Photo courtesy of

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Las Vegas News Updates

A few news updates you might have missed...
...In November, I wrote about Pam Anderson, who joined with PETA to serve a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal to homeless people at a local charity, Family Promise. The irresistible and unavoidable comedic material generated by this information overshadowed, to some degree, the philanthropic goals involved. No one wrote much about Family Promise, a charity forced out of its former west Las Vegas home back in 2006 after a bureaucratic snafu over licensing. I haven’t seen too much about the organization lately, so it’s good to know that they have survived and are continuing to serve the woefully underserved Las Vegas homeless.

...Heavy Hitter Glen Lerner isn’t worrying about where to rest his head at night – the RJ reported on November 18 that Lerner sold his Summerlin home and is waiting for his new $20 million dollar home to be built. Wow. I guess the guy knows what he’s doing with all those goofy TV ads, no matter what the State Bar Association thinks.

...Just when you thought it was safe to drive on US95 again, the state is getting ready to commence a widening project from Washington Avenue to Kyle Canyon Road. Road Warrior Francis McCabe reported on phase two, which is set to begin in February. Like it’s a mystery why road rage is so widespread here?

...The New York Times originally reported on the new water-sharing agreement between California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming. One way Las Vegas will be getting more water is through an agreement to finance a reservoir in California that will capture water that was headed to Mexico. Shouldn’t we be feeling a little worse about stealing water from another country? Oh, sorry, I forgot that we’re running out of any to swipe in our own.


Ice Skating at MonteLago Village at Lake Las Vegas
Noon – 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 3-9 p.m. Monday through Friday
Through February 17
$15 per person, $12 for children

Ethel M. Chocolate Factory Chocolate Wonderland
2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson
5-10 p.m.
Admission: Free
Through January 1; Santa Visits on Fridays & Saturdays
Call 800-471-0352 for details

Photo information: My Photos in August of Kyle Canyon Road, where a 16,000 home development and high-rise casino is planned and where the soon-to-be-begun road widening will end in approximately six years.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Back to the Want Ads

I’m still thinking about that perfect night job, so I’ve been cruising the want ads, an activity which offers high entertainment value. This Sunday I perused the Review Journal's Official Classified section because any other day of the week produces a far slimmer list of employment opportunities.

I immediately skipped over Accounting, Automotive, and Aviation as I have no skills or inclinations in any of those areas, unless I’m flying someplace where I must rent a car to visit someone who owes me money. Next was Call Center/Customer Service; I’m not that desperate yet. The Casino section: barf. I think I’d rather go back to work for Metro. Computer? Well, maybe, depending upon what needs to be done to the computer. If you need a computer doctor, I’m more like a nursing assistant; none of the jobs were for light computer help at night. Construction/Trades – I don’t think I have enough butt cleavage. Education might be a possibility if only I could tolerate more than four small children at a time. Engineering? Sure, right after I put in my app for brain surgeon.

Florist! I’d love to be a florist! Experience is preferred, which I assume means optional if I were able to show any indication of aptitude. Sadly, there’s not much call for night shift florists. Government – Maybe I could apply at the Spring Mountain Youth Camp as a part-time cook, if only I didn’t despise cooking. I would also assume skill is required beyond my survival-level culinary abilities. Hair/Nail: not likely. My hairstyle is “ponytail” and the closest I get to doing my nails is washing my hands. Healthcare, Hospitality, Human Resources, Insurance – oh, no, no, no, no.

Janitorial and Grounds Maintenance – this is where they keep the nighttime office cleaner jobs, which I thought would be perfect night work. Hmmm. Three jobs were listed. One was just a phone number with a warning about the background check. One listed a wage, $9/hr, and two of the three were across town. It would cost me more in gas than I would earn. Well, so much for that idea.

I skipped to Miscellaneous: “A Customer Relations/$18.36 hr +/Need 10 GOOD QUALIFIED PEOPLE for our Customer Relations Manager Trainee Program.” Will someone be teaching these future managers the proper use of all caps? And that “A Customer Relations” makes no sense? I could help them with that. Someone needs a dog sitter, but it appears from the ad that the dog sleeps at the sitter’s house. I don’t think my two spoiled dogs and one crabby cat would cooperate. I tried out for the movie extra thing once, but was rejected.

Office & Clerical, along with Media & Advertising, is where I would normally look for an actual job (along with the numerous job boards that are online). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a night job in the Media & Advertising section, although I know some reporter jobs are at night (those are usually online). This Sunday there weren’t ads for writers of any kind. You can find clerical work at all times of the day and night, however, so I must soberly acknowledge that, icky as it might be, here I might find something. For instance, I could start with the poor soul who placed the ad for an “Admin Istrative Sstistant." They even asked for someone detail-oriented. It doesn’t say if I can be detail oriented at night. It would be far better than resorting to the Professional/Management ads two columns over. The thought of being anyone’s boss ever again makes my eye start to twitch. I just skipped right over those soul-sucking positions, which don’t have night or day work; it’s just work all the time.
Real Estate? Wait a minute, I have to stop laughing. Research & Development, Retail, Sales, Social Services, Transportation/Drivers, Travel (only one ad and you have to have experience, darn), Veterinary/Pet Services, and Warehouse… nothing leaps off the page, although a little extra desperation can always cause you to widen your search criteria.

Looks like I’m sticking with freelance writer for right now.
Photo courtesy of Elvis Santana at

Monday, December 10, 2007

Red Rock Pictures

This weekend Red Rock was draped in clouds. The higher altitudes saw snow (look behind Turtle Head in the top photo). These are my pictures from Saturday, when I drove to the overlook. I stopped in Calico Basin on the way back. The top two pictures are of Turtle Head Peak peeking over the top of the Calico Hills; next is the west view from the overlook; bottom is Calico Basin.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Winter Arrives

Winter means many things to Las Vegans. You can open your power bill without experiencing heart palpitations. Your car’s interior temperature dips below Broil. You can walk barefoot on the sidewalk without looking like you’re doing the Balinese Fire Dance.

Around my neighborhood, the approach of winter is signified by the closing of the pool. The whole concept of pools being closed is as alien to me as the idea of non-24/7 grocery stores. I thought everyone knew that the Jacuzzi is a year-round activity here, being as our winter days are often 70+ and sunny, but snow-country transplants don’t know this. Perhaps they know and just don’t care, considering it’s the HOA who decided we aren’t allowed to use the pool between November and March.

During this no-pool season, the HOA decided to rip out all of the beautiful climbing vines that were growing on our iron pool fence. In spring, the vines bloomed with tiny white flowers that looked like a cross between a rose and a carnation. The vines shaded the area and gave pool-goers some privacy. Now we have Pool in a Cage. At least this aesthetic eye-sore ensures that I don’t care about the pool being closed. If I’m going to be in a cage in my swim suit, someone better be shoving a whole lotta dollar bills at me.

But back to enjoying winter. You can wear long sleeves without fear of heat stroke. Wood burning fireplaces scent the evening air. White icicle Christmas lights sprout on every stucco home. The saguaros need their blankies. Yup, winter has arrived.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Las Vegas December Events

Santa Train
Nevada State Railroad Museum – Boulder City

December 8 & 9
Special fare: $2

The Nutcracker
Nevada Ballet Theatre
Friday December 14 – Thursday, December 27, 2007
Judy Bayley Theatre, UNLV
Call 702.895.2787

Henderson WinterFest
December 6-9; Admission is free
Entertainment, craft show, ice skating, and the play, A Christmas Carol (Saturday and Sunday)
Call 267-2171

Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Now through December 30, 2007
$9 for adults/$7 for children
Call 225-XMAS

Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort
Now open with a base of 18” on open runs
Call 702-593-9500 for snow info
Photo information: My photo of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City

Monday, December 03, 2007

Pondering Las Vegas Employment Options

Writers are not well-known for being highly paid, unless you’re talking about the Stephen Kings of the world. I’d rather be writing than doing anything else, but I’m really quite attached to the whole idea of regular meals.

I’ve been contemplating a night job recently, and I have to tell you that this is probably the only time I ever wished I was a bartender. Well, I guess I still could be a bartender, technically speaking, but that would require going to Mixologist U, passing the How to Spot Drunks Class, and camping out at the police department for a Sheriff’s Card. No thanks. When I searched through the ads for night work, however, I could see that the pickings are slim for those of us not employed at a bar or casino.

Kennel attendants, security officers, and exotic dancers all work at night. Dancer was out, for all the reasons you might assume. I don’t like guns, so security officer was also a no-go. Kennel attendant didn’t sound too bad, actually, except that there are too many unknowns there. Sick dogs or well dogs? Does “kennel attendant” really mean “icky fluids and semi-solids cleanup person”? Are the dogs sleeping? May I be sleeping, too, unless a dog is in dire need? And what constitutes dire need for a dog, anyway, at 3 a.m.? I tell my own dogs to knock it off and go back to sleep if they wake me up in the middle of the night. Okay, so kennel attendant is definitely out.

I suppose McCarren is hiring night-time TSA agents, although I just don’t think I can participate in such a vast bureaucratic conspiracy to torment travelers for the sole purpose of pretending to thwart terrorists.

An escort agency was hiring a night operator/receptionist, which sounded like it might be fun, but I knew it was unlikely to gain approval from my husband. Actually, I determined, I could pretty much skip over anything containing “adult” in the job description. That eliminated several ads.

Home care workers also work at night, but that sounded terribly depressing to me. I’ve taken care of ill and elderly people, and $7 an hour isn’t enough. I thought maybe a nighttime janitorial service might be hiring, but apparently those primo spots are only for those who know somebody – nary a single ad.

Maybe I should re-consider that whole bartender thing after all.
Photo courtesy of

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m grateful for many things today – and if you’re living in the United States, you, too, probably have a long list of things to give thanks for: running water, democracy, etc. Personally, though, the thing for which I’m most thankful this Thanksgiving is that my sister-in-law, Sandy, is cooking today, which means I don’t have to. Yippee! Other things this Vegas Girl is grateful for:

…The combination daily newspaper – The Las Vegas Review Journal/Sun. Only other newspaper watchers understand how wonderful it is that these two editorially opposite newspapers operate on a shared printing agreement that saved Las Vegas from being a uni-paper city.

…A home not in foreclosure. With every new housing-meltdown article I read, I thank God and all the angels that we purchased our home when the price was reasonable, that we understood the difference between fixed rate and voodoo rates, and that we didn’t treat our equity-rich home as an ATM.

…Wonderful family and friends living here who disprove all that garbage you read about what rotten people live in Las Vegas.

…That I’ve been privileged to have a life filled with interesting people, many of whom also had interesting names: Pear Shape, Stormin’ Norman, and Dolly Doyle, to name a few.

…Being a native Las Vegan. My city may be gaudy and corrupt and tasteless, but it’s also beautiful, eccentric, and fascinating. That's why I remain a Vegas Girl.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Housing Crisis, Meet Water Shortage

Have you noticed that the predicted housing shortage seems to be en route for a head-on collision with the predicted water shortage? The Southern Nevada Water District has been sending out ominous warnings that the taps will run dry in 2010, right about the same time that the Southern Nevada Home Builders, among others, are predicting a housing shortage.

Since everyone else is breaking out the crystal ball, let me make my own predictions. Possible scenarios:

#1: No water, no houses; we all leave the Valley and Las Vegas becomes the world’s biggest and newest ghost town. Probability: low, but not impossible. Ever heard of New Orleans? Mother Nature can, and still does, wipe cities off the map occasionally.

#2: Our city’s leaders confab and come up with a solution that makes affordable and sufficient housing available, as well as ensures an adequate supply of water through conservation and smart growth. Probability: lower than Britney Spears missing a week as a front-page tabloid story.

#3: All the major decision makers ignore the warnings to prepare for either the housing shortage and/or the water crisis until both impact the casino industry. Once the casinos become concerned, the entire city develops a burning interest in both issues. Probability: higher than the odds on a fixed boxing match.
Photo courtesy of

Friday, November 16, 2007

Holiday Light Festivals & Other Las Vegas Events

The Las Vegas RJ publishes the Neon insert on Friday, so if you’re looking for something to do, this is the one day of the week you should buy the paper. Everything from events on the Strip to hikes at Red Rock is covered, including where you can find live music, plays, and museums.

The Gift of Lights continuing through January 1, 2008. Kick off your holiday season with a ride through the artful light displays at Sunset Park. Gates open at 5 p.m. and close at 9 p.m. (10 on the weekend). Admission: $13 per car/$2 discount with a bag of gently used items for Goodwill.

The Lakes Festival of Lights, December 8, 2007: Free all day block-party type festival with a car show; the event closes with the Electric Light Boat Parade.

Winter Lights Festival at the Springs Preserve, November 23-December 30: Light displays, music, hot cocoa. $4 for adults, $2 children (limited admission to the festival area only).

"Fiddler on the Roof," performed by The Nevada Conservatory Theatre at the UNLV Judy Bayley Theatre begins November 23 and runs through December 9. Tickets: $20-$30.

Out of Town: Jerome, AZ This historic ghost town/artist colony just outside Sedona will host its last Art Walk of the year on December 1, 5-8 p.m. Do you like browsing through fabulous arts and crafts stores? How about in a picturesque ghost town? In its glory days Jerome was mostly brothels and saloons, but today it's known for its ambiance and friendly locals. (Note: bring the longjohns - it's likely to be cold.)

The Wizard of Oz at the Charleston Heights Art Center, performed by Rainbow Company Youth Company: December 7-16. Tickets: $7/adults, $5/teen and seniors, $3/under 12. Call 229-6383 for more information.

Las Vegas Great Santa Run 5K is a benefit for Opportunity Village: December 1 at the Fremont Street Experience.

Bill Maher will be at the Hard Rock Hotel: December 21 & 22.
Photo courtesy of

The Democrats and OJ

While at first this may seem like an unlikely pairing, let's remember that both are in town. Both are garnering national attention while most of the locals couldn't care less about either.
I don't know what our percentage of registered voters is, but I'm sure it's not good. I don't even want to look up what the turnout was for the last presidential election; that will just depress us all. Las Vegans are well known for their apathy. People are just passing through here, on a temporary life layover for a job, or a lover, or whatever it was that brought them here. They're passing time until the next city, and during their time here, they can't be bothered with silly things like poltics.

As for OJ, well, I would like to think that our city's jaded heart would simply file him under Celebrities with Issues and ignore him appropriately. However, I suspect that the OJ Show will attract far more attention that the Democratic presidential contenders. __________________

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Las Vegas in the News - Anderson Helps the Homeless in Las Vegas:
Pam Anderson is feeding homeless people vegetarian meals. This is a good and commendable thing… now if I could just get rid of my mental image of her in that Baywatch swimsuit, handing some poor homeless man a plate of tofu.

KLAS Las Vegas - Fifty Running Couples to Get Married in The Las Vegas Marathon:
Like we need to add complications to marriage or marathons?

KTUU Anchorage, Alaska - Kott says Viva Las Vegas:
One of their corrupt politicians got approval to take a Las Vegas vacation because his tickets were already paid for. Okay, Alaska, we’re full up on corrupt politicians. Keep yours at home.

Ireland Online - Raunchy Beyonce billboard upsets Las Vegas locals:
In Ireland, they believe Las Vegas locals are outraged at a revealing Beyonce billboard. She’s on a billboard here? Where? What outraged locals? They must have been so traumatized that they moved to Ireland. - Realtors Upbeat in Las Vegas:
Seriously? Was there a massive infusion of Prozac into the coffee?
Photo courtesy of

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembering Our Veterans

How did you commemorate Veterans Day? Did you watch the parade downtown? Put out a flag? Remember a veteran?

Chances are, you know a vet. My family is full of former and current service members. My nephew Joe and niece Sarah are both active-duty Army; Joe’s been on one tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. My nephew David served a tour in Iraq with the National Guard. My brother-in-law Frank is active-duty National Guard; he’s also former Navy.

My Dad came to Las Vegas not long after he had done his part in the Last Good War, otherwise known as World War II. He was a Marine who went to Japan as a part of the occupation, and he rarely talked about the war. After he got out in 1946, he wound up in Los Angeles. He told me he took only one trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas without air conditioning; since he was a car salesman at the time, he made sure he had a car that traveled fast and cool. By the late 50s, he was living here.

The only things Dad had from his days as a Marine were kept in a metal ammunition box in his closet. Every once in a while, we’d look at silk Japanese flags and a handful of his black and white pictures of Japan. Now the box and the flags are mine, a direct link to a former time that fades away at the rate of 1,000 memories a day.

Holidays may lose their meaning; for many, I’m sure Veterans Day is nothing more than an extra day off. But if you think about it, it’s a holiday for people you know. You probably have a friend or family member who served. Put a face on Veterans Day, and you’ll appreciate the day more fully.
Photo information: Pictures of my dad, Walter E. Hudson, when he was a Marine, 1945-ish.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Familiar Boulder City

I was telling a friend – a former Las Vegas resident happily transplanted to New York – that I had been in Boulder City recently. “Does the downtown still look the same?” she asked me in an e-mail. That’s one of the great things about Boulder City – it looks the same, year after year, while Las Vegas changes on a daily basis.

The newest shopping center, including a ubiquitous Starbucks, sits on the site of a former trailer park. I remember the trailer park because a good friend of mine spent a summer there, living in a trailer the size of my kitchen. The loss of that trailer park was probably a bonus for Boulder City.

My dad is buried in Boulder City, at the Veteran’s Cemetery. It’s bordered by the desert on one side and the airport on the other. The drive there takes you past a couple of lovely golf courses. This part of Boulder City feels small and slightly isolated, just like Las Vegas used to. Dad picked this as his final resting place before he passed away. He liked the fact that the airport was nearby. The day he and I visited the cemetery, we watched small planes zooming low over the graveyard as they prepared for landing. “That’ll give me something to look at,” he commented.

When I was driving into Boulder City yesterday, sky divers suddenly poured out of the sky over the airport. I considered taking a detour to try and snap pictures of them floating to earth, but a quick mental calculation told me I’d never make it before they all landed. I smiled and took it as a hello from Dad.
Photo information: My picture of the historic Boulder Dam Hotel in downtown Boulder City.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Clooney vs. Fabio

Yesterday Norm Clark reported on the dust-up between actor George Clooney and the big-haired, pectorally gifted Fabio. Clooney is one of Las Vegas’ favorite celebrities, mostly because of the Ocean’s movies. There's also his pretty Las Vegas girlfriend, the failed Las Ramblas, and his friendship with Randy Gerber. (Gerber is supermodel Cindy Crawford’s husband and a successful businessman – although if you Google him, you’d think his only achievement in life was marrying Crawford.) Norm Clark thoughtfully keeps Las Vegas up-to-date on Clooney sightings.

Las Vegas loves her stars, but over the years, the tone of her relationship with celebrities has changed. In the Old Vegas, you were more likely to meet a celebrity than you were to read he’d been in a fist fight. Remember, we used be a pretty small place, and that whole “what happens here stays here” thing was more true. Celebrities were a part of the city, not just occasional visitors. Yes, I know, Celine Dion lives at Lake Las Vegas, but it’s not the same. Stardom was different in that prior age. Packs of paparazzi weren’t stalking people. Fame didn’t involve international cable television, reality shows, or relentless media exposure.

When I was a kid, everyone knew someone famous, or once removed from famous. In my childhood neighborhood at Charleston and Eastern (a neighborhood now casualty of urban decay), we lived across the street from Fritz and Mary, probably my parent’s best neighbor-friends. Fritz was a piano player for the Mills Brothers. We used to get to watch their house when they were out of town; I learned to swim in their pool. Fats Domino was another friend of my parents, and although I was too small to remember the days when Mom helped him fix his wrinkled feather ties (according to the story, sofa cushions worked best), I do remember being backstage to watch Fats perform. When I was about 11, Doyle Brunson moved into a huge house about five blocks away from mine. His daughter and I became friends after a playground scuffle over a four-square game.

When James Garner was in town filming an episode of The Rockford Files, my dad met the actor at the Aladdin. At that time, Dad was the bar manager at the Aladdin. I had the world’s largest crush on James Gardner, so my dad took me to the hotel one day while they were filming. I just wanted to watch my idol from afar, but Dad had other ideas. He waved to Gardner, who recognized Dad and walked over to say hello. Dad motioned me over so I could say hello. I pretended I didn’t see him. I ducked and dodged hand signals and Dad’s growing aggravation to avoid having to say hello. Despite my contortions I was still involuntarily introduced to James Gardner. Somewhere, I have his autograph.

In the 80s, Johnny Carson owned Channel 5 here in town, where my mom was the controller. She told me that the picture taken of her and Johnny at a work function propelled her into virtual stardom in her Texas hometown.

Dad was really concerned about me either becoming a musician or dating one. At my house we had a whole rack of autographed records from big names. Dad’s hearing loss was primarily a result of working at service bars too close to live entertainment. In hindsight, I suppose I can understand his concern. I had to endure an entire lecture on the unreliability of work as a musician before he would allow me to take guitar lessons.

From time to time you still meet people from the shows; but now it’s the shows that are famous, not the individual performers. My son’s newest karate coach is a former Cirque du Soleil KA performer. A few years ago, a Splash performer lived down the street. Talk about the pectorally gifted. My good friend Merina almost crashed her car one day as she was oogling Mr. Splash, who was doing shirtless yard work. After she regained control of her car, she immediately called me so I could run into my front yard to see this fabulous sight just three houses down the street. Sadly, Mr. Splash was back inside by the time I got within oogling distance.

Which brings me back to Fabio and George Clooney. In the New Vegas, celebrities are one more fabulous prop in a city filled with world-class distractions for everyone. If they know how to do anything down there, the casinos know how to entertain, to dazzle, to manufacture awe. It seems to be working well, judging from the 90% room occupancy and the thousands of new hotel rooms slated to be built.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Late Las Vegan

Okay, I admit it: I’m perpetually late. This is partly because I get so absorbed in what I’m doing that I fail to stop in enough time to get ready to leave my house. The rest of my tardiness is because I consistently underestimate how long it will take me to drive from one place to another. For many years, you could go any place in town in under 20 minutes. Now you can’t drive around the block in 20 minutes. Unfortunately, in the dark recess of my brain, I’m still operating on the 20 minute rule.

Take today, for instance. I had my writing group at 1:00, but for various reasons (phone calls, dogs, uncombed hair, etc.), didn’t leave until 12:40. According to the MapQuest crow, it’s 11.33 miles from my home to the center, and the drive takes approximately 16 minutes. (I assume that the crow was out at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday to make that time.) Anyway, I immediately ran into the first rule of Las Vegas driving: If you are in a hurry, everyone is going 10 miles under the speed limit. Conversely, if you are driving safely – or, God forbid, under the speed limit – everyone is passing you like they’re on the NASCAR circuit. Today, everyone was driving 30 miles an hour on the 45 m.p.h. Fort Apache/Rampart/Durango. (I’ve never learned why we give the same street as many different names as possible. Do our city planners intend for us to be confused?) As I joined the other NASCAR entrants determinedly navigating around the accelerator-challenged, I noticed that no one was using turn signals, not even me. Ooops. I made a mental note to stop that.

As I passed Summerlin Parkway, I slowed for a few minutes and kept my eyes peeled for any cops sitting at Bruce Trent Park. The driveways into the parking lot and sporting complex make a great place for a speed trap. After I saw no motorcycle units, I went back to cruising speed until just before Cheyenne. The police substation is just west of the intersection, so I thought I should slow down. It was 12:53 at that time.

Let me just reassure you that I wasn’t doing 60, or weaving in and out of traffic, or tail gating, or doing anything to induce road rage. I leave that sort of driving to my significant other. Although I was breaking the speed limit, I only did so mildly. Seriously. Really.

With five minutes left, I turned east on Craig. I was concentrating on getting green lights. I think I even spoke out loud to a few lights. “Turn green! You want to be green! Green green green!” Sadly, my positive green thinking had to stop for the school zone that slowed everyone to 25 mph, except for those who were only going 25 to begin with. Never mind that no children were present, nor would be for another two hours, the light demanded that we be alert and drive slowly for a few hundred feet.

After the school zone was over, I resumed dodging slow drivers as I sped toward Rainbow. When I made my left turn it was only 12:58; I think I hit the parking lot at 1:00 precisely. This made me only mildly late. And I must point out that… it only took me 20 minutes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Little Las Vegas News

--In case you haven’t heard, Heidi Fleiss, aka the “Hollywood Madame,” now lives in Pahrump and runs a Laundromat while waiting for her stud farm to, umm, grow to its potential. She made the New York Times today: “With Brothel Plans Delayed, A Madam Does Laundry”

--The scrap metal thieves have sunk to a new low. It’s not enough that they kidnapped and mutilated the angel statue in front of Opportunity Village. Now they’re prime suspects in the thefts of dog poop dispensers. The article is in today’s Sun: “Across the valley, poo bins go poof”

--Nevada once again placed at the top of a bad list: On October 30, 2007, the Review Journal reported that we were third on the list of states with dismal high school graduation rates. A recent study of high schools identified “dropout factories,” schools graduating less than 60% of their freshman. Once upon a time, a person could make a living here without a high school diploma, but those days are disappearing fast. Construction workers, maids, and truck drivers are just few professions battling an influx of cheap, illegal labor.

Events Around Town:

The Las Vegas Design Center at the World Market Inventory Clearance Sale
Open to the Public
November 16 and 17
The first sale in June brought in nearly 7,000 shoppers and raised over $67,000 for local charities. $10 admission fee. Proceeds go to benefit the Nevada AIDS Project, Habitat for Humanity Las Vegas, and Opportunity Village. Call 599-3093 for more information.

Meet the Author
Local children’s author Carolyn Ahern reads from her Tino Turtle books
November 10, 11 a.m.
Barnes & Noble, 8915 W. Charleston

Mountain Man Rendezvous
Spring Mountain Ranch
November 10-12
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Unleash your inner Grizzly Adams and learn how to shoe a horse, fire a black powder gun, or make an arrowhead.

Aviation Nation
Nellis Air Force Base
November 10-11

The DaVinci Experience
Henderson Events Plaza
A hands-on exhibit of DaVinici’s innovative creations
$17 for admission
Call 877-775-5252

If you don’t subscribe the RJ, be sure to check your mailbox today for the View News, which is full of information on local events.
Photo courtesy of

Monday, November 05, 2007

Children's Book Festival Pictures

Day two of the Vegas Valley Book Festival included the children's book festival. The weather was perfect, the food was free, and books were plentiful. What more could a person ask for?
Pictures, top to bottom:
--Tales to Tails reading therapy dogs from Heaven Can Wait Sanctuary (both dogs are rescued shelter dogs).
--Wandering juggler.
--Krisit Holden from the Phantom of the Opera, reading the Velveteen Rabbit.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Vegas Valley Book Festival

I spent almost the entire afternoon at the Vegas Valley Book Festival. I would have completely missed this poorly advertised event if I hadn’t been watching for it – I think it was last week before I saw any local press on it. I decided to go at the last minute when my husband wound up with the day off. Today’s author panels were at the El Coretz and were in conjunction with downtown’s First Friday.

Last year the panels were aimed at writers, and they were wonderful. A full day’s worth of presentations by the Henderson Writer’s Group covered everything from publishing to proofreading. The last presentations were aimed at the general public, and they were wonderful. One was on Howard Hughes and one was on the mob. Speakers included George Knapp, Bob Maheu, and John L. Smith. The sessions were standing room only. Media crowded the room. Francis McCabe of the RJ (he's now their new Road Warrior Columnist) sat next to me – I knew him, but naturally he had no idea who I was. A host of old-timers and suits assembled in the back of the little art gallery to hear about eccentric, innovative Howard Hughes and the days of the Mafia. Local attorney Tom Pitaro opened the session on the mob with, “You’re all here because of the myth.” The speakers from the Howard Hughes panel stayed for the mob talk and chipped in periodically. I loved Bob Maheu’s story about his encounter with the mobster Johnny Roselli when Roselli tried to muscle in on Huges at the DI. "I told him to drop dead," Maheu told the room. Today I expected something as electric and interesting, and except for the first presentation I heard, I was sorely disappointed.

Matt O’Brien and Kurt Borchard gave the 11:45 presentation, “Down and Out in Las Vegas: The Struggle to Survive in Sin City.” This was by far the winning panel of the day, addressing an important local topic in an articulate and well-presented manner. O’Brien was the day’s best speaker, and I would have gladly listened to him all day. His stories about the men and women living in our city’s storm tunnels were absorbing and sobering. Borchard’s reasoned academic take and his stories about talking to the homeless made him the perfect co-panelist. I plan on getting a copy of O’Brien’s book, Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas, as soon as possible.

The day’s next speaker, Tom Miller, is an accomplished travel writer. I wanted to hear him speak because I’ve just spent the last year doing a monthly travel article for a local magazine. I found his talk helpful, from a writer’s standpoint, but nothing outstanding. My husband, David, said that Tom seemed like he would be a great guy to sit down and talk to, considering the places Tom has traveled. During the last 30 minutes of Tom’s talk, however, David became deeply interested in shredding his paper napkin into confetti.

The last panel of the day, the one I was eager to hear, was “Old Vegas, New Vegas: Everything Old is New Again.” Norm Clark, Heidi Knapp Rinella, and Mike Weatherford filled out the panel, which was supposed to be about celebrities and Las Vegas. If I could have thought of way to gracefully escape from the second row, I would have been out of there shortly after they started.

Mike Weatherford brought a copy of a 1955 travel book on Las Vegas that he dug up – how quaint – and used it as the basis for the “Old Vegas” portion of the talk. Here’s a clue: If you’ve only been here eight years, you don’t have a clue about Old Vegas. Did anyone think to actually find a journalist who was here during the Old Vegas years?

Journalistically speaking, this is a fully qualified panel. But if they were prepared for the talk in any way, beyond their odd little book, it didn’t show. Clark stammered and stuttered his way through almost everything he said (although, as I pointed out to David, he is a writer, not a speaker). Rinella looked bored to death, and even yawned once. Weatherford must have asked five times if time was up, which I assume was because he was absorbing the general boredom of the room. (Although I must say that the boredom in the room might simply have been post-lunch sleepiness since three-quarters of the room was over 75. Did they truck in seniors from a near-by home to increase the pitiful audience size?)

Listening to this last panel go on about the idiots who pay $1,000 to get into our nightclubs, or $360 for a 16-course meal, or $300 per bottle of booze for “bottle service,” you have to wonder if the contrast between the day’s earlier panel on homelessness and this one was intentional. The last panel’s discussion on celebrity chefs, rowdy sports enthusiasts, and underage celebrities in nightclubs struck me as stupefyingly boring.

The New Vegas these people were talking about is a place I’ve never known. They talked about “Old Vegas” with little laughs and nods to each other, like it was just a bad, tacky joke that only they understood. I’m not interested in the New Vegas that I heard about, in its over-priced shows and snobbish, faux hip attitude. If you’re going to talk to me about Old Vegas, then find someone who lived here prior to Steve Wynn building the Mirage. Don’t talk to me about Old Vegas if you didn’t see at least one of the Rat Pack perform.

The book festival runs through tomorrow, with more author sessions scheduled for tomorrow morning. The Children’s Book Festival is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. at the Lewis Avenue/Centennial Plaza. Author Sarah Vowell is the featured speaker tomorrow night at the Las Vegas High School Auditorium, 7-8 p.m.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My Inner Showgirl

How was your Halloween? I decided to go with this Showgirl Sorceress, mostly just because I felt like dressing up. My son, the little grim reaper there in the background, asked to go trick-or-treating by himself. He was pretty unhappy with my answer, but since we made such a striking duo, he got over being embarrassed that his mother went with him. I have to say, the fake eyelashes were easier than I thought they would be. I guess we natives come by some talents naturally.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Red Rock Gets Help

Today's Review Journal reports that a massive re-planting is underway at Red Rock. Fires in recent years have ravaged the desert within the conservation area (and throughout the region). Invasive species, namely non-native grasses, dry out and become tinder in the desert. Nature didn't have fires in mind in the desert; the native Mojave desert is sparsely populated with plants. Dried out grasses furnish an initial fuel that allows fires to spread widely and rapidly. Here are some pictures I took last year of the area currently being replanted. To learn more about the efforts underway there, read the story, "Desert islands of growth," which ran on the RJ's Nevada section today.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween

Do you have all your spooky plans in place for tomorrow? If you're looking for haunted houses and other Halloween-ish stuff to do, check out the View's Halloween listings. (Check your mailbox for a hardcopy of this RJ section.)
Photo Courtesy of

Bad Neighbors

According to the Sun, Las Vegans can now scope out their neighbors at The first time I tried to access the site, I got continuous error messages. I thought it was probably overrun with paranoid Las Vegans checking on the people next door.

One of the most frequent complaints I hear is that no one in Las Vegas knows their neighbors. I happen to know all my neighbors, but that’s because I’ve lived on this street almost ten years. I count neighbors and former neighbors as some of my closest friends. But with that said, I’ve had some pretty annoying neighbors, starting with the screaming toddler who currently lives across the street.

For no discernable reason, this three-foot high human siren goes off at all times. I see him standing outside, screaming at nothing. It looks like all of the adults are ignoring him; I imagine there’s little else they can do. I’ve seen them pick him up and carry him in the house, and he screamed the entire time. I don’t think these people qualify for the rottenfolks website. They’re just noisy. Approximately five to ten Middle Easterners live in that house, and another branch of the family, with just as many members, lives in a house just down the street. They’re constantly walking and driving back and forth between the two houses, several children in tow, in a sort of moving, on-going family get-together. It’s kind of charming, except for the screamer.
I’d have to go back to a particular neighbor from our former home for a truly deserving nominee. Our neighborhood was already on the downhill slide when the owners of Monster Dog moved in. The snarling, snapping, acrobatic beast could leap to the top of the ten foot cinder block wall that separated our homes, hook his front legs over the fence, and bark viciously at my husband as he mowed the lawn. We tried to make friends with the animal, but since his owners didn’t think it was important to let him come in the house – ever – he was a little short on social skills. When we weren’t in the backyard, he climbed on top of the fence and walked along it, like a cat might, jumping down into our back yard to leave piles of crap. Then his stupid owners decided to go out of town overnight, leaving the dog chained to a pole in the backyard. It bayed, howled, and barked all night long. When we looked in the backyard, we saw that the animal had wound itself around and around the pole so that it couldn’t reach its food and water. We threw it ice cubes.

We did out best to talk to these people. My husband was able to talk to the father once, but after that they would never answer the door. We left notes, politely asking them to do something about their dog. Animal control was called so many times that the last time they responded they came to our house to let us know that there was nothing else they could do. “You’ll have to file a complaint with the court,” the officer told us.

The woman was the meanest, rudest person I’ve ever observed. I never saw her speak to anyone. She was always yelling, whether it was at her husband, her kids, or Monster Dog.

If I hadn’t been holding my newborn son the night she went off on my husband, the outcome would have been ugly. Monster Dog had been barking for who knows how long. Our homes were incredibly close together, so my husband went out and looked over the fence. There was the woman. “Can you do something about your dog?” he asked.

She went off like a rocket. I’ll give her points for respectful language; she even called David “sir,” as in “Sir, what else do you expect us to do about our dog?” followed by a litany of all the dog-friendly things they’d installed in their yard. She seemed to be genuinely perplexed as to why it was a problem that her dog barked all night, lunged at people in our backyard, and was a general nuisance. I thought David did an admirable job of staying calm. She ended her tirade with, “Maybe you should just move!”

So we did. We sold our house in less than a month. The people who moved in after us put carpet tacking strips on the fence. I hoped neighbor karma was at work.

How about you? What’s your neighborhood like?


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Enjoying The Greenbelt While It Lasts

I was out for a walk yesterday when I noticed this spruced-up drainage channel. I cracked up when I saw the tidy pile of caliche rocks around the pond, with its white gravel bed. Raise your hand if you think this pleasantly arranged area will be intact after the first good flash flood. You haven’t lived here long, have you? If you’ve witnessed a couple of good gully washers, you know the whole thing is destined for some spot downstream, God knows where.

I relish my daily walks through the Greenbelt because I believe its days are numbered. Did you know that it’s actually not a mystery as to why the Anazai disappeared from this area? One of the major contributing factors was a 60 year drought. I’m starting to think Boise, Idaho looks pretty good as a contingency city. Lots of water. I spent a blurry, intoxicated teen-aged summer there, tubing down the river that runs through town and riding bikes with my boyfriend in the middle of the night. I remember the stars were incredible and the sun didn’t set until 10:00. It was 1980, and smoke from Mt. St. Helens filled the sky.

Have you ever thought about where you’ll you go if we run out of water? I think we can safely say we’re no longer the only ones in the country facing this question.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hard Times

Unless you’ve been living in an abandoned mine, you’ve heard that Las Vegas leads the nation in foreclosures. Amid all the hand wringing about the Housing Apocalypse, I’ve noticed two things: a ludicrously surprised attitude by people who should have known better, and a lack of media coverage about how the meltdown is affecting almost everyone in the Las Vegas economy, not just those homeowners about to be hit with $4000 house payments after their wacko no down/adjustable rate/negative amortization loans adjust.

Every day the newspapers report that things are going to get worse before they get better, which is a frightening thought for those of us taking business losses in the tens of thousands of dollars right now. That’s why every time I read quotes from officials expressing shock/surprise/disbelief that the mortgage boondoggle is as awful as it is, I always want to ask them, “Don’t you read the paper?” I mean, I don’t know about you, but I would expect that the people who’ve been placed in positions of authority over millions, even billions, of dollars might want to at least glance over a newspaper once in a while. Journalists were writing about the coming disaster two years ago. (Check out this 2005 Sun/AP article, "Interest-only mortgages raise stakes in real estate.") The signs that a massive financial mess was looming couldn’t have been easier to see if they were broadcast on a Strip billboard with showgirls dancing in front of it. I understand that the media has its own challenges, especially here in Las Vegas, but even local business writers were able to see this one coming. How could anyone believe that giving loans to people who had no possible way of repaying them was a good idea? I mean, let me go out on a limb here and pose a question: If the bankers and bureaucrats in charge of things had actually taken action to stop idiotic and exploitive loan practices when the media first reported it, do you think we’d have the mess we have today?

Which brings me to the relative absence of stories about the strain the slowdown has placed on the entire Southern Nevada economy. Construction and real estate are critical sectors of our growth-based economy, and both are in the toilet right now. Many people connected to these industries are dire straits. Furniture stores aren’t selling furniture because people aren’t buying houses. Magazines aren’t able to generate advertising revenue because no one is buying ads. Printing companies are giving killer deals because their presses are idle. Almost everyone I know has been affected by this mess. Pick any business, except for debt collectors and payday loan centers, and I bet they’re hurting right now.

We used to believe that Las Vegas was recession-proof. Back in the days when only a few hundred thousand of us lived here, that seemed true enough. Houses were reasonably priced, and well-paying jobs existed in abundance. Now that we have 2 million residents, I believe we’ve stretched ourselves too thin. The old recession-proof Vegas is now the metropolis of Southern Nevada, and anything is possible.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Remembering Lake Arrowhead

In July, I spent a Saturday in Lake Arrowhead, one of the hardest hit areas in the current Southern California inferno. Over the past week, I’ve watched their community be besieged by wildfire. In our CNN era, we get to watch disasters as they unfold, enabling the entire country to feel physically ill at the same time. The last report I heard said 500 homes in Lake Arrowhead had been destroyed.

As you can see from these pictures, Lake Arrowhead was a gorgeous place. I was there to do a travel story and was honestly a bit disappointed in what it offered for a day trip. But as we wandered around the giant shopping plaza that doubles as their town center, we had to admit it was beautiful. When I sent in my story and pictures, my editor e-mailed me with kudos on the photos. I told her it was almost impossible to take a bad picture there.

Hollywood has loved Lake Arrowhead for years. Photogenic in the extreme, the man-made, privately-owned lake is rimmed with beautiful, decadent, and historic houses. The San Bernardino Forest surrounds Lake Arrowhead, and outside the lake’s exclusive shoreline I saw sobering damage from both bark beetles and the 2003 fires. The homes around the lake sat in largely unscathed forest. The extremely wealthy people who built multi-million dollar mansions around Lake Arrowhead were able to maintain the trees and alpine look that made the area famous. Does the name Hilton ring a bell? Let’s face it, these are the people who can afford the water bills to duplicate what prior normal rainfall was like. But fire is an equal-opportunity destroyer, regardless of your bank account or pedigree.

The day I took the boat tour – one of the only way non-property owners can use the lake – it was refreshing to look at a forest untouched by modern ravages. Do you remember the way forests used to look? Lush, green trees as far as you could see? Today, almost every forested area within a five-hour drive from Las Vegas has been ravaged by drought, fire, and/or bark beetle damage. When I looked at those solids stands of healthy trees on Lake Arrowhead’s shore, I was torn between sorrow and gratitude.

I can’t imagine the terror of fleeing from a wind-fueled wildfire, nor the agony of finding nothing but ashes where my home once stood. My heart goes out to this community. Sadly, this brutal fire season isn’t done yet, and Lake Arrowhead’s tragedy is only one of many unfolding right now, live on CNN.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Time Flies

I’m embarrassed to see that my blog has languished for two months, but not surprised. The month of September passed me like a Las Vegas driver late for work. October hit, and suddenly all my deadline-oriented projects skidded to a halt. This was fabulous news because it meant: a) I got to take a week off for the first time in a year and b) I got to work on my book proposal, a project which until now was progressing at the speed of a three-legged turtle.

Along with neglecting my blog, I also completely missed the Las Vegas festival season. San Gennaro, Boulder City’s Art in the Park, the Renaissance Festival at Sunset Park, Summerlin’s Sidwalk Chalk Art Festival, and a host of other festival-ish events whizzed past. Normally, I would have been at every one of them, snapping pictures and taking notes. This October, I spent all my free time parked on my little patio, working on my notebook computer – the computer without Internet access/temptation – working on one of three projects: the book proposal for my book, The Department: Behind the Scenes at the Las Vegas Police Metropolitan Police Department; the new narrative for the train ride at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City; or my journaling project. As I was enjoying the blue skies and gentle temperatures in my backyard, I thought about the fact that I was missing the one time of year when all of Southern Nevada does its best to have some culture. While this is a rare occurrence, and God knows we need to encourage any kind of culture we can around here, I have to confess that I didn’t miss it at all.

A few Festival Season events are yet to come:

Spring Mountain State Park
Civil War Re-enactment
October 27-28

Also at Spring Mountain
Mountain Man Rendezvous
November 10-12

Aviation Nation
Nellis Air Force Base
November 10-11
Photo Info: The view from my backyard.

Friday, August 31, 2007

My Friend Marie

Have I told you about my friend Marie? She goes against every Las Vegas stereotype. She's incredibly fit and healthy, friendly, and active in her community. Here she is teaching a water aerobics class. Did I mention she's 80 years old? Prime View ran a story on her, "Marie McDonald: Making a splash water instructor dives head-first into 2nd career." She also has a book on physical fitness coming out soon (full disclosure: my mom edited it).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Las Vegas Events

Looking for something to do? Try one of these non-Strip events:

September 1- 30, 2007
National Library Card Sign-up Month
If you sign up for a card at the Clark County Library District , you may win four tickets for a Lake Mead Cruise. While you’re signing up, check out their list of activities; branches sponsor story times, kid’s activities, author events, and festivals, among other things.

September 6-9, 2007
Greek Food Festival
St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church
5300 El Camino Road
Can you say baklava? $5 admission.

September 8, 2007
The Dog Daze of Summer
Desert Breeze Water Park
8275 W. Spring Mountain Road
Fido can splash around in the Desert Breeze pool while the humans hang out on the sidelines. Small dogs take the pool from 9:30-10:30 a.m. and pooches over 35 pounds are up from 11:00 to 12:00. $1 entry free or one item for donation to local animal shelter. Owners must show proof of current vaccination and doggies must play nice with each other.

October 14, 2007
Author Mitch Albom discusses his new book, For One More Day
2001 Canyon Gate Drive, Jewish Community Center
At 10:00 a.m. Albom will be on hand to discuss his book and sign copies. Albom is also the author of Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. $18 for members, $25 for non-members. Call 794-0090 for more information.

Nov 1-2, 2007
El Dia de los Muertos - “Day of the Dead” festival
3130 S. McLeod Drive, Winchester Cultural Center
This is a Mexican tradition that I predict will spread beyond the Hispanic community. This is a day to honor those who have passed on by remembering them as they were in life. The festival is sponsoring a Ofrendas and Calaveras competitions. Ofrendas are altars that honor the departed and are decorated with food, drinks, and other items cherished by the deceased (space reservations close Oct. 15). Calaveras are witty, rhyming epitaphs written for living relatives and friends (deadline is Oct. 12).

Visit this website for some photographs of El Dia de los Muertos in Mexico:

Support Your Community
Clean out your closet to support….

Coats for Kids Drive
October 1 – November 4
Look for boxes at all Las Vegas Albertsons
The gently used coats you donate will be cleaned by Al Phillips The Cleaner and distributed by the Salvation Army to needy children. Call 233-2417 or 240-7568 for more information.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas

This isn’t just the title of an incredibly depressing Nick Cage movie. Much is made of the 8,000 people a month who move here, but you don’t hear about the thousands of people leaving every month. According to the Census Bureau, only 35% of Las Vegas residents were still living in the same house at the end of a five year period (1995-2000). If you live in Las Vegas, you’ll become very familiar with saying goodbye.

Sometimes this is a good thing, as it is for my friend Julie. She’s never liked Las Vegas much, and when you’re not all that thrilled with your hometown, the inevitable ups and downs of daily life feel even worse (not to mention attributable to the lousy place you live.) After over a decade spent trying to figure out a way to leave Vegas and return to the bucolic serenity of her native Nebraska, Julie is finally leaving town tomorrow. I’ll miss her, but I’m thrilled for her. Life is far too short, and our country far to large, for anyone to suffer in a city they don’t like.

What puzzles me is how many people I meet who’ve moved here and have not one single positive thing to say about Las Vegas, yet seem to have no plans to move. It’s too dry, it’s too hot, people are unfriendly and undependable, good jobs too difficult to find, there’s nothing to do, crime is too high, traffic is unbearable and so on and so on ad nauseum. Here’s what I say to you complainers: MOVE ALREADY! The roads lead out as well as in. Planes fly away from McCarren on a steady basis, making that right turn that has so many people up in arms with one more thing to complain about.

Now, I know change is scary. It’s that old cliché about the devil you know being better than the devil you don’t. But let me reassure you that every person I’ve known who has wound up unhappily living in Las Vegas was deliriously happy when they moved. Las Vegas simply isn’t for everyone. My buddy Julie is smiling non-stop. My friend Kelly, who moved over ten years ago, can’t even stand to visit and is extremely pleased with her home (and bountiful garden) in New York. My high-school pal Marilyn tried to move back once and lasted about six months before fleeing home to West Virginia, where she is happy to deal with snow and a challenging economy. I don’t like seeing my friends move away, but seeing them miserable is worse.

Those of us who remain have to learn to say good-bye supportively. For my own friends who move, like Julie, that’s not hard. What gets me is the long list of friends my son has lost. Just as soon as he meets someone he likes, a “For Sale” sign sprouts in his friend’s yard. After losing several friends this way, he has lost interest in meeting new kids in the neighborhood. Adults can adjust to the transitory nature of our city, but it’s hard on kids. I graduated from high school with some of the same people I started kindergarten with; even in college, I ran into people I’d known since elementary school. Today, sadly, my son is unlikely to have that same experience.

Are you a happy transplant to Vegas, or are you counting the days until the U-Haul is packed?

Photo courtesy of Garann Rose Means at

A Little Las Vegas Flood

Let me just give the standard disclaimer here: People at home should not go out and stand in a flood channel to snap pictures of the rising water. Hey, I'm a professional! These pictures were taken beginning at 2:32 and ending at 2:50. This should give you an idea of how quickly flood waters will rise, and this was a very tame Peccole River. The trash and debris that you can clearly see on the right is the high water point from the previous day.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Monsoons Arrive

My late dad used to say, “We have flood control. When it rains, the flood is in control.” Over the years, Las Vegas has done its best to build enough detention basins and drainage channels to stop flash flooding. It’s a commendable effort, but anyone who thinks we can completely tame a good desert monsoon hasn’t lived here very long.

Pictures, top to bottom:
The Peccole River, which in its other life is the Peccole Ranch greenbelt walking path; Gowan detention basin; flooded soccer field/detention basin. Click to enlarge.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Las Vegas Headlines

Things happen so fast around here that keeping up with Las Vegas news and events is tough for a lone blogger, but I’ve been saving up my news clippings and wondered if you’d heard about…

Boy Scouts Add Realtor Badge
In case you didn’t notice this very quick news story, the Las Vegas Boy Scouts are selling their Mt. Potosi camp. They received the property for free from the government, but are now selling the property, which is expected to fetch more than $100 million. Does this mean an end to little Boy Scouts asking me for money when I’m trying to walk in and out of the grocery store? I mean, this should wipe out the need for fundraisers for quite some time, don’t you think?

Vegas Gets A Brain
Well, no, not really, but at least we have a think tank. Carol Harter, former president of UNLV, heads up our home for brainiacs, the Black Mountain Institute. BMI recently took over a literary journal, Witness, which the RJ reports will publish its first Las Vegas edition in fall. Does this mean something will be published in our city that doesn’t include a review of nightclubs? Please?

Don’t Confuse Us With The Facts
A series of bronze historical markers on Fremont Street have been found to contain several inaccuracies. Local officials were unconcerned. According a report in the Review Journal, Mayor Goodman said, “It’s a fun thing. I’m hoping people on the Fremont East are half-lit, and could care less what the markers say.” Personally, I think this story explains a lot.

Who Needs History Anyway?
Residents living in the neighborhoods bordering the Las Vegas National Golf Course (Desert Inn and Eastern) learned that development may soon ruin their vintage Vegas neighborhood. The golf course’s recent sale combined with its residential zoning may result in 500 cookie cutters replacing the golf course. According to recent reports in the Sun, current residents are looking into the requirements to acquire historical status. This is a neighborhood full of unique, old-time Vegas houses and it would be great to see something of our city preserved instead of razed. I’m so sick of seeing things blown up and torn down that I could scream.

Las Vegas Events

Looking for something to do as summer heads into its final stretch? Try one of these local events:

This Friday, August 3, 2007, is First Friday in the Arts District. Get out and show your support for art in Las Vegas.

Super Summer Theater at Spring Mountain Ranch will begin running Jesus Christ Superstar on August 8, 2007. Bring a blanket and a picnic.

Summer Jazz at the Rampart Casino wraps up its season this Wednesday, August 1, 2007, with David Van Such from 6-8 p.m. in Addison’s Lounge.

The Guggenheim’s new exhibit, Modern Masters, displays work from artists such as Manet and Piccasso.

LVAM's annual Art Roundup is on display through August 26; admission is free.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Threatened Pahranagat

The Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, located north of Las Vegas off US93, is an oasis of marshlands, ponds, and lakes. Part of its wonder is the dichotomy of its existence – on the refuge side of the US93, a lush wetlands beckons with grasses as tall as a man, huge cottonwoods, and birds in abundance. On the desert side of the highway, only yards away, stand cacti, Joshua trees, and open desert to the horizon..

The water level at the Lower Pahranagat Lake appears to be extremely low, and blossoms of some kind of orange algae mar the lake’s edges. Dried up ponds are visible everywhere. One has to wonder what effect the Las Vegas Valley Water District’s plan to pump water from the northern counties will have on this area. Global warming appears to have started the job, but the exploding population of Las Vegas may finish it off. Dr. Jim Deacon’s letter to the editor in the RJ’s June 29th issue says that the proposed pumping will affect water levels in the entire region – some as far as 1,600 feet.

At the Upper Pahranagat Lake, we saw campers and fishermen. A huge blue heron flew past us and settled into one of the massive cottonwood trees that line the lake. Trails are abundant everywhere in the area, but be careful – hunting is allowed in the preserve.

On the way to Pahranagat NWR, we passed Coyote Springs, Pardee’s planned community out in the middle of nowhere. Harvey Whittemore, the developer, is sticking to his story that this community is online and not being affected by the slow housing market. Things looked pretty deserted to me, but it was Saturday when we drove past. We saw part of a golf course, lots of construction equipment, and possibly one house in the distance. Interestingly enough, the RJ carried a couple of articles about Coyote Springs in late May. With our current water woes doing nothing but getting worse, I would think that the water availability might be more of a problem than the depressed housing market.

Coyote Springs has been controversial since its inception, and I expect we’ll be reading more about this development. Since Jim Rhodes’ Pravada in Northern Arizona has halted construction, I wouldn’t discount the possibility that Coyote Springs may run into similar problems, although our legislators are far more agreeable to questionable development deals than Arizona.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Trash In The Museum

Now I know that the outdoor Neon Museum – heck, any museum in Las Vegas – is lucky to even exist, much less get special care. But when I was downtown to cover the Neon Museum’s exhibits on the Fremont Street Experience, I was saddened to discover trash dumpsters parked in the middle of the 3rd Street cul-de-sac display. Between “Weddings” and “The Flame” were “The Full Dumpsters.” Yikes.

As I wandered through the deserted Neonopolis, I realized that trash in the museum is the least of downtown’s worries. Despite a never-ending influx of money (over $5 million for the new expansion eastward), some dastardly eminent domain moves, and breaks that treat the area as a park, Downtown remains the Strip’s ugly stepsister.

Despite all that, the Neon Museum and Fremont Street Experience are still worth your time. The vintage signs – which I fondly remember from the days when they hung outside their former establishments – are captivating at any time of day or night. The adult playground of FSE allows visitors to wander from casino to casino, drinks and smokes in hand. Even the hottest days are bearable because the casinos’ air conditioning creates a bubble of cool air around the outside of the buildings.

Aladdin’s Lamp, the Hacienda’s Horse and Rider, and Anderson Dairy’s mascot are among the eleven signs on display. Hopefully, the trash dumpsters aren’t a permanent addition.

You can read more about the Neon Museum in my article in the July issue of Elegant Properties, available free throughout Las Vegas.
Photos, from top to bottom: Trash in the Neon Museum, the Fremont Street Experience, neon signs at the Neonopolis, the deserted Neonopolis.