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.