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.