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