Thursday, November 22, 2007
…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
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 http://www.sxc.hu/photo/907380
Friday, November 16, 2007
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 http://www.sxc.hu/photo/682327sxc.hu/photo/682327
Thursday, November 15, 2007
SFGate.com - 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.
PalmBeachPost.com - Realtors Upbeat in Las Vegas:
Seriously? Was there a massive infusion of Prozac into the coffee?
Photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/601702
Monday, November 12, 2007
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.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
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.
Friday, November 09, 2007
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
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
--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
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.
Nellis Air Force Base
The DaVinci Experience
Henderson Events Plaza
A hands-on exhibit of DaVinici’s innovative creations
$17 for admission
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 http://www.sxc.hu/photo/737069
Monday, November 05, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
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.