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.