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Sweetness and light: Desserts that won’t put you in a diabetic coma // Klatch of the titans: The nice old ladies who birthed Vegas culture // Why Clark County should seek statehood. (“Sinnesota” has a nice ring)

WE’RE

NOW MONTHLY!

J a n u a r y 2 01 1

New year! New start! New YOU!

you look like health

Day spas, health food stores, stress cures, soul boosters and strange (but effective) new exercises you should try right now

PLUS: Fitness tips from Immortal Superhumans


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editor’s note

Welcome to The Renewed Now

I Next Month in Desert Companion

Pow! Bam! Oof! Vegas natives and newcomers battle it out in our “Best of the City” edition

I was always reluctant to buy into this notion of Las Vegas as a place of second chances and new starts. It seemed too easy. The proposition of renewal amid the neon had the flavor of a consolation prize. It prompted indignant questions: But what about first chances? What about just starts? Now I’m throwing my hallelujahs into the chorus. This time, it seems like our renewal is real and sustained. Renewal? What renewal? A-ha. That’s what makes me suspect it’s real: It is slow, unglamorous and not readily apparent — decidedly un-Vegas. Still, there is an unerring sense that in subtle but crucial ways, Las Vegas is shaking off a limp that, for so long, has made us hobble, one lurch forward, two stumbles back. To be sure, in some cases, it’s a desert-style renewal of the soulscouring, tough-love variety. I would be callous to cheerlead the bursting of the housing bubble and its aftermath, but you can’t deny that it has helped reframe the discussion of what Las Vegas is supposed to be. At the very least, I hope we’ve all dispensed with the rabid fantasy that had us in its grip for more than a decade: that Las Vegas can exist as some ever-spreading stucco supernova rolling into the desert, hosting house-flippers and couch-tocubicle commuters instead of truly engaged citizens. That certainly marks the start of a renewed vision of what Southern Nevada can be. Meanwhile, the renewal of downtown continues to percolate, with a few joyous sputters in the mix — such as the announcement that shoe giant Zappos will move into the old

2 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

City Hall in 2012. This development does much more than inject money and energy into the heart of the city. A billion-dollar company rooting itself downtown is also a sweeping confirmation of the hope and sweat of countless artists, creatives and entrepreneurs who’ve been quietly working for years to perform CPR on the city’s core. Isn’t that how true renewal is supposed to work: from the inside out? Even on the Strip, The Cosmopolitan is sparking murmurs among our most critical observers that there’s something new at work here, some third way that forgoes the usual Strip bombast for more oblique aesthetics and boutique virtues. Every morning, I run (and, yes, sometimes wheeze and limp) along a portion of the Las Vegas Wash. It’s near the same place where I used to wade into the trash-clogged waters to snag mutant crawdads and flirt with who knows what kind of flesheating bacteria. Today, thanks to an ongoing rehab effort by a coalition of volunteers and government agencies, the Las Vegas Wash hosts an improbable array of wildlife. It’s a bit of fiction, sure: The wash is an urban river that flows back into the artificial lake that supplies our water. But to see sandpipers scuttling just feet away from the whoosh of traffic on Boulder Highway speaks of our versatility. Whether you’re an urban runner, a yoganaut or even a baffled but curious newbie, this issue is sure to offer plenty of prospects for renewal, whether it’s through our tour of exotic day spas (page 36) or a crazy new exercise that just might burn off calories in great

steaming gusts. We should know: Our intrepid writers sample a host of diet and fitness trends starting on page 39. And for those of you just toeing the waters in the fountain of youth (or at least delayed decrepitude), take heart in the everyman tale of Scott Dickensheets (page 47), whose initiation into the world of yoga is both entertaining and enlightening (or, to borrow a bit of Scott’s verbal dexterity, enlightertaining). And we did some in-house renewal as well. You’ll notice our crisp and lively new look, thanks to Desert Companion Art Director Christopher Smith, that marks our shift to Southern Nevada’s premier monthly city magazine. Countless pundits have dubbed today’s cloudy economic reality as “The New Now.” From the city whose obsession with the new certainly has its upsides, I propose a brighter alternative to call our own: “The Renewed Now.”

Andrew Kiraly Editor


Names Change BUT WONDERS

NEVER CEASE The Harrah's Foundation is now the Caesars Foundation. Since 2002, our Will to Do Wonders has led us to direct tens of millions of dollars in funding to noble causes that make life better for everyone: education, health care, social services for seniors, and programs that promote diversity and a sustainable environment.

Under our new name, that Will remains unshakable. For more information, go to www.caesarsfoundation.com


contents 14

desert companion magazine // desertcompanion.com

01.2011

09

All Things to All People

Max weight limit: The speedometer for your butt

16

Architecture

Is there cultural life in strip malls? Yes By Alan Hess

20

Health

Welcome to the chill-itary laxdustrial complex By Heidi Kyser

26

33

Issues

Livable homes aren’t just for the disabled. They’re for everyone By Pattie Thomas

features 32

Happy New You!

Shake off that hangover. Give away the rest of that three-foot cheese log. From exotic day spas to healthy living tips from local superhumans, we’ve got the guide to a happy new you.

46

Klatch of the Titans

The Mesquite Club has been a vital force in creating key Las Vegas cultural institutions. All while wearing fetchingly quaint hats.

4 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

33

Dining

Desserts that won’t put you in a shivering diabetic coma By Jarret Keene

55

Guide

From rock to theater to dance, your guide to culture

64

Essay

It’s time to secede and become The Republic of Southern Nevada By Hugh Jackson

on the covers Immortal superhumans: Sasha Larkin & Jaymes Vaughan

Photography: Sabin Orr

R o m a n B at h s c o u r t e s y o f C a e s a rs E n t e r ta i n m e n t; S TO R E COU R TE S Y OF H & M ; B is c ot t i : C h ris to p h e r S m i t h

The Roman baths at Qua Bath & Spa at Caesars Palace. See more exotic day spas on page 36.


masthead

01.2011

publishe D B y nevada public radio

Mission statement

Desert Companion is the premier city magazine that celebrates the pursuits, passions and aspirations of Southern Nevadans. With award-winning lifestyle journalism and design, Desert Companion does more than inform and entertain. We spark dialogue, engage people and define the spirit of the Las Vegas Valley.

Editorial & Art Andrew Kiraly Editor

SENIOR STAFF Florence M.E. Rogers President / General Manager

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Art Director

Melanie Cannon Director of Development

Advertising CHRISTINE KIELY Corporate Support Manager

Cynthia M. Dobek Director of Business, Finance & Human Resources

laura alcaraz National Account Manager

Phil Burger Director of Broadcast Operations

Sharon Clifton Senior Account Executive

dave becker Director of Programming

rebecca smietana Senior Account Executive allen grant Senior Account Executive Subscriptions Chris Bitonti Subscription Manager OnLine Danielle Branton Web Administrator

Contributors Maureen Adamo, Cybele, Scott Dickensheets, Maureen Gregory, John Hardin, Hugh Jackson, Jarret Keene, Sara Kokernot, Heidi Kyser, Juan Martinez, David McKee, Aaron McKinney, Chris Morris, Sara Nunn, Sabin Orr, P.J. Perez, Kim Taormina, T.R. Witcher

nevada public radio BOARD OF DIRECTORS

nevada public radio COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD

Officers Elizabeth FRETWELL, Chair City of Las Vegas

David Cabral, Chairman American Commonwealth Mortgage

Susan Brennan, vice chair NV Energy

DENNIS COBB President, DCC Group

REED RADOSEVICH, Treasurer Northern Trust Bank Florence M.E. Rogers, Secretary Nevada Public Radio DIRECTORS shamoon ahmad, m.d., mba, facp Cynthia Alexander, Esq. Snell & Wilmer Louis Castle, Director Emeritus Patrick N. Chapin, Esq., Director Emeritus

To submit your organization’s cultural event listings for the Desert Companion February edition, send complete information to guide@desertcompanion.com by Jan. 5. Feedback and story ideas are always welcome, too. Office: (702) 258-9895 (outside Clark County 1-888-258-9895) Fax: (702) 258-5646 Advertising: Christine Kiely, (702) 258-9895; christine@nevadapublicradio.org Subscriptions: Chris Bitonti, (702) 259-7810; subscriptions@desertcompanion.com KNPR’s “State of Nevada” call-in line: (702) 258-3552 Pledge: (702) 258-0505 (toll free 1-866-895-5677) Websites: www.desertcompanion.com, knpr.org, classical897.org Desert Companion is published twelve times a year by Nevada Public Radio, 1289 S. Torrey Pines Dr.,Las Vegas, NV 89146. It is available by subscription at www.desertcompanion.com, or as part of Nevada Public Radio membership. It is also distributed free of charge at select locations in the Las Vegas Valley. All photographs, artwork and ad designs printed are the sole property of Nevada Public Radio and may not be duplicated or reproduced without the express written permission of Nevada Public Radio. The views of the Desert Companion contributing writers are not necessarily the views of Nevada Public Radio. ISSN 2157-8389 (print) ISSN 2157-8397 (online) Follow us online: www.facebook.com/pages/Desert-Companion/239852554596 www.twitter.com/DesertCompanion

6 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

KIRK V. CLAUSEN Wells Fargo sherri gilligan MGM Resorts International jan L. jones Caesars Entertainment Corporation John R. Klai II Klai Juba Architects Lamar Marchese, President Emeritus William mason Taylor International Corporation

Al Gibes Stephens Media Interactive Carolyn G. Goodman Meadows School Marilyn Gubler The Las Vegas Archive Kurtis Wade Johnson Precision Tune Autocare Megan Jones Friends for Harry Reid edmÉe s. marcek College of Southern Nevada Susan K. Moore Lieutenant Governor’s Office JENNA MORTON N9NE Group Steve Parker UNLV Richard Plaster Signature Homes Chris Roman Entravision Kim Russell Smith Center for the Performing Arts CANDY SCHNEIDER Smith Center for the Performing Arts Stephanie Smith

Chris Murray Director Emeritus Avissa Corporation

Bob Stoldal Sunbelt Communications Co.

Curtis L. Myles III Las Vegas Monorail

kate turner whiteley Kirvin Doak Communications

Jerry Nadal Cirque du Soleil Peter O’Neill R&R Partners William J. “Bill” Noonan, Director Emeritus Boyd Gaming Corporation MARK RICCiARDI, Esq., director emeritus Fisher & Phillips, LLP Mickey Roemer, Director Emeritus Roemer Gaming TIM WONG Arcata Associates

Brent Wright Wright Engineers bob gerst Boyd Gaming Corporation


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January2011

NEWS PEOPLE POLITICS SHOP HUMOR

INTER V IE W

Hot new exercise trends for 2011*

Smells like (too much) team spirit

1

Ab-ageddon Xtreme: The Ab-pocalypse

2

Moderate sexercise

3

Pontius Pilates: Fitness for Catholics

4

H

Cake lifts

5

Wii Tantric Yoga: Family Edition

6

Cardio Facebooking

7

Randy Couture’s Pre-Emptive Global Thermonuclear Muscle War

8

High-Intensity Interval Dying

9

Spazzercise

10

Low-impact RUNNING REALLY #@!%ING FAST WHILE LIFTING HEAVY OBJECTS! *This is satire. For real exercises we tried out ourselves, see page 39.

H EA L T H

Too fat, too furious Happy New Year! Ready to lose weight? Great! First, let’s calculate your Body Mass Index. Take your weight, divide it by your height in inches squared. Then multiply that figure by 703, and then take that number and look it up on this complicated chart … you still there? Hello? We don’t blame you. University of Nevada Reno’s George Fernandez has come up with a weight-watching system that’s easier to figure out — and easier to stick to. It’s quite simply called Maximum Weight Limit. And what better time to learn about it than during National Healthy Weight Week, Jan. 16-22? “It’s one number that we can’t go over, just like a speed limit,” says Fernandez, director of UNR’s Center for Research Design and Analysis. No charts, no heavy math — and it’s applicable to people from 20 to 75 years old. It works like this: The man of average height — 5 feet, 9 inches — should not weigh more than 175 pounds. For every inch he is taller or shorter than 5 feet 9 inches, add or subtract five pounds to the maximum. Women? If you’re 5 feet tall, you should weigh no more than 125 pounds. Taller or shorter? For every inch, add or subtract 4.5 pounds to the maximum. Fernandez came up with the system to cure his own confusion when he hit 50 and started facing weight-related health issues. “I asked my doctors, ‘How much weight should I lose?’ All of the answers were different, so I used BMI. But then a new issue arose: How does a BMI of 30 relate?” Fernandez knew there had to be a simpler way. His eureka moment came when — you guessed it — he was driving down the freeway. “Speed limits,” he says. “If we go above that limit, we are punished. If you are over MWL, it doesn’t mean you will die. If you’re driving at 70 miles an hour, it doesn’t mean you will get into an accident, but you are definitely at a higher risk.” It’s not a perfect formulation. For instance, it doesn’t account for active lifestyles, and doesn’t apply to 15 percent of the population. But if you want a simple number to shoot for when tackling your New Year’s weight-loss resolution, maximum weight limit might keep your needle out of the red. — Maureen Gregory

Mayor Oscar Goodman has it. Caesars Entertainment Corp. has it. People in curious facepaint have it. What is it? Sports arena fever! We wanted a dose of reality, so we got in touch with Neil deMause. Along with Joanna Cagan, he’s author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit (University of Nebraska Press, $19.95). What’s the problem with sports arenas? The problem is with the financing, which is almost always skewed to extract large sums of money from taxpayers to little public benefit. continued on pg. 10

A charming grifter. A spoonful of orange sorbet. A eulogy for the Harmon Hotel. Find them all at desertcompanion.com

Got a tip for All Things to All People? Send it to Editor Andrew Kiraly at andrew@desertcompanion.com. illustration by christopher smith

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 9


Dance dance evolution

N ews

continued from page 9

A

Why do city officials get sports arena fever? There are a bunch of factors at work here: desire to suck up to sports fans; pressure from lobbyists and campaign donors; the lure of getting to sit in a luxury box at a building you helped build; and the so-called “edifice complex,” which I usually explain as the fact that it’s really hard to put a plaque with your name on it on, say, reduced kindergarten class sizes. What is it about sports arenas that are so tax-hungry as opposed to, say, performing arts centers? They’re similar, but arenas are much, much more expensive. Also, there’s a culture of — let’s call it “extortion” — that has developed around sports facilities that doesn’t work as well for arts centers. It’s hard for a concert hall to get public subsidies by threatening to move out of town. That’s what having a legal monopoly will do for you. — Andrew Kiraly

{

}

Hear More

Legendary ballerina brings gravitas to Nevada Ballet Theatre’s avant-garde moves by heidi kyser

A legend of dance has been living right under our noses for more than a year. Of course, a secret like that couldn’t last. Now this legend hopes to help Nevada Ballet Theatre leap to new heights well into 2011. Cynthia Gregory joined Nevada Ballet Theatre in September as artistic advisor and coach. She originally moved here in 2009 at thecaption urging of friends and family — and to be closer to her hometown of Los Angeles. But it wasn’t long before she was adopted by another family — an artistic one. The Nevada Ballet Theatre’s Cynthia Gregory Center for Coaching has been open for business since October. Cynthia Gregory’s mission as dance coach: “From the point of view of classical ballet to make art out of mere movement in America, (Gregory) was one of the most significant American prima ballerinas,” says Hanna Rubin, editor of Pointe, a trade magazine for dancers. “She was a legend in her own time when she was dancing.” Having appeared on her first dance magazine cover at the age of 7, Gregory joined the San Francisco Ballet at 15. At 21, she made her American Ballet Theatre debut in New York as the dual character of Odile-Odette in “Swan Lake.” During her 26 years with the American Ballet Theatre, Gregory danced in more than 80 ballets. She’s worked with a who’s-who of choreographers and directors — George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Glen Tetley, Birgit Cullberg — and danced with as many famous male leads. In joining the staff, Gregory heightens the company’s rising profile, which received a boost when James Canfield became artistic director in January 2009. It will be interesting to see how this titan of classical dance complements a company evolving rapidly under Canfield, its tattoo-sleeved artistic director known for progressive works that mash up contemporary and classical. “I idolized her. She was one of the greatest — if not the greatest American ballerina,” Canfield says of Gregory. “I watched her do ‘Swan Lake.’ I watched her do all the classics, and she was phenomenal. To be able to work in the same capacity with her, as colleagues, how do you measure that?” As coach, Gregory is tasked with coaxing out of dancers the expressions that transform mere movement into art — to take dancers beyond skill and into the realm of spirit and emotion. More than just training, coaching involves fine-tuning particular dancers for specific roles. And not just physically. “To me, dancing was all about connecting with the audience,” Gregory says of her approach. “I wasn’t playing to them. I wanted them to feel what I was feeling. When you do the classics right, you can do that. What I’m worried about is that dance has become very technical and athletic, which is wonderful, but the personality is being lost.” In the eyes of Nevada Ballet Theatre co-founder Nancy Houssels, Gregory will do nothing less than help nurture the next wave of dance in the Las Vegas Valley. “As a person with such a wealth of knowledge in performing and performing certain roles, as a coach, she can really put that on our dancers and share that with them,” she says. “That’s how the real art is passed on. These great ballerinas work with new people and budding ballerinas. Sharing their knowledge with them is invaluable. It gives a depth that, otherwise, a dancer wouldn’t have the chance to explore.” For Gregory, teaching what you know is much more than a job. It’s an obligation to future generations of dance. “I moved into this community, and dance has always been my life, so I’m naturally drawn to the dance world here,” Gregory says. “I had such an amazing career with the people I worked with and all the different things that I’ve done … I’m happy, and it’s necessary to pass that on.”

Fans and critics of sports arenas discuss their pros and cons on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at www.desertcompanion.com/hearmore

10 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

C Y N THI A G RE G OR Y : CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Are sports arenas really the economic boosters they’re touted as? I have yet to find any independent economist (in other words, one not working for sports teams or cities trying to build arenas) who thinks that arenas provide any substantial boost to the local economy. The two main reasons: the “substitution effect,” which is economist lingo for the fact that lots of money spent at arenas would be spent elsewhere in town if you didn’t have a new arena; and “leakage,” which is the degree to which arena spending disproportionately leaves your local economy since it ends up in the pockets of athletes and musicians who largely live in other cities.


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PEOPLE

Steven Baugh found healing — and power — in the ancient art of chi kung.

PRO F I L E

‘This is what kept me alive’ The prognosis: death. The doctors had all but given up on Steven Baugh, who says he’d been diagnosed with a form of sickle cell anemia at age 12. “They said I was going to die before I was 16,” says Baugh, 57, founder and sifu (master instructor) of the Lohan School of Shaolin in Chinatown, where he teaches tai chi, chi kung and self-defense. The cure? Baugh’s grandfather took him to a Chinese doctor. But not just any Chinese doctor. Baugh was treated by Ark Wong, the kung fu master widely credited as a pioneer in bringing the martial art to the West. His healing regimen? Not pills, drips or injections. Instead, think acupuncture, herbal medicine and lots of chi kung. “(Wong) taught me traditional Chinese medicine and kung fu,” says Baugh, a transplant from Los Angeles. “The chi kung helped make me physically strong. I thought, wow, this is a cool exercise. It wasn’t jumping jacks or stuff like that.” Today, Baugh’s nonprofit academy (www.lvlohans.org) aims to strengthen the bodies — and spirits — of the community. The training room is lined with practice swords and spears, all overseen by a golden dragon — a gift from action star Jackie Chan after the school’s Lion Dancers appeared in last year’s remake of “The Karate Kid.” Thanks, Hollywood! “We went from about 20 kids to 60 overnight.” Crash course: “Lohan” is Chinese for “enlightened being”; “Shaolin” refers to martial arts originating from the Shaolin temple in ancient China. Chi kung is a 2,000-year-old exercise system that emphasizes slow, gentle movements. Tai chi combines chi kung and martial arts. But it’s not about kicking butt — unless it’s your own. “Most of the people who do chi kung have extreme health problems and they just want to become normal,” says Baugh. “They just want to be able to walk again.” And many of them do — walking well into old age. “My grandfather would take me to Chinatown (in Los Angeles) and I would see all the elderly people doing tai chi. The old people in my neighborhood were old. The elderly Chinese people were moving everywhere and I was amazed. They weren’t frail.” — John Hardin

12 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

PHOTOGRAPHY By CHRISTOPHER SMITH


B U Z Z W ORT H Y

SHOP

Style secret

Think of H&M like an Ikea of clothes.

Y

S H IN Y NE W T H IN G S

H&M and you You may have been at the grand opening of the world’s largest H&M at the Forum Shops at Caesars Dec. 11. If so — and if you’re a dude — you’re likely (a) trim, (b) Asian, (c) sharply dressed, (d) 15 years old, (e) were singing along to the store’s VERY LOUD MUSIC, or (f ) all of the above. If you were there and not (a)-(g), then you were thinking you’re too old be in there. You’re not. Fast-fashion Swedish conglomerate H&M has a great deal to offer anyone interested in looking good, though there are a couple of general rules to keep in mind, essential where high-end design meets lowest-bidder workmanship. Rule 1: Do not buy an outfit. H&M makes fun jackets, and beautifully fitted dress shirts, and some pretty wonderful scarves — resist at least one, or risk looking like a refugee from an ’80s post-apocalyptic movie.

New to the racks

Rule 2: Avoid black. Nothing wrong with black, but H&M black looks pale and cheap after the first or second wash, and even when brand new it tends to lack a certain necessary saturation. Rule 3: Avoid shoes. They’re cheaply constructed, so unless you’re in the market for espadrilles, you’re better off spending the $200-plus minimum that decent footwear requires. Rule 4: (a) Try everything on, (b) inspect all stitching. H&M favors the slim, though their range is decent. Try stuff on, then inspect for loose threads. Find your size again, re-inspect. Eventually, you’ll find a shirt or a jacket that won’t come apart. Of course, if you are 15, and if you were at the grand opening, disregard. Because your awesomeness is not to be denied. All of you young kids had curious hair in the best of ways, and some of you were the last great hurrah of the faux-hawk — this last great phalanx of undeniable fierceness. You may one day regret some of your style choices. You shouldn’t. You look awesome. — Juan Martinez

No longer will ladies of Las Vegas have to pass by the Tom Ford boutique at Crystals, longing for the days when Ford dressed more than just Julianne Moore in his directorial debut, A Single

14 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

Man. The designer and fashion personality who created intensely sexy collections for YSL and Gucci in the ’90s and early aughts has returned to womenswear with his own Spring 2011 collec-

these fashion-obsessed, designer-dazzled days that there’s anything going on that doesn’t show up on the runways or the blogs. Such gems often hide in plain sight, forgotten on the commute from the designer to contemporary sections at our local favorite department stores. Next time you’re on the way, pause and take a look around for the house brands. Neiman Marcus in particular has a fine selection of cashmere sweaters and light outerwear that can easily carry you through the horrors of 50-degree winter weather. They also offer top-quality plus-size womenswear. Bonus tip: If a trip to Primm is on your radar, a generous selection of discounted NM-branded clothing is available at Last Call. Neiman Marcus, Fashion Show Mall, 731-3636; Neiman Marcus Last Call, Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, Primm, 874-2100.

Stylish winterwear awaits at Neiman Marcus.

tion, available exclusively at his boutiques. The prices are at least as high as the cache, but we say it’s worth it to be a Tom Ford woman. Tom Ford, Crystals Las Vegas, 740-2940. — Sara Nunn

STORE I N TERIOR CO U RTES Y H & M ; S w e at e r C o u r t e s y N e i m an Ma r c u s

It’s easy to forget in


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architecture

Love your strip mall Don’t dismiss Vegas’ classic urban form. You’ll love strip malls after this tour that traces the DNA of an emerging new city by alan hess

16 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

T

The pearly glitz of the Las Vegas Strip should not cause us to neglect all of Las Vegas’ other strips. Our sprawling shopping centers, parking lots, chain restaurants and gas stations are the basic building blocks of Las Vegas urbanism. People who like pearls should keep an eye on these oyster beds, too. They contain the DNA of a new type of city. Hal Rothman, the late UNLV professor, documented how Las Vegans fashion urban life out of such oft-criticized faux-environments on the edge of sun-blasted parking lots. As he told in his book Neon Metropolis, he sat one day at an anonymous Starbucks near an anonymous shopping center at Wigwam Avenue and Pecos Road. He discovered that it was actually an oasis of diverse, co-existing humanity going about the business of living: Carpool moms taking the kids to school, retired ladies gathering to chat in the sunshine, businesspeople catching up on their accounts

Our frequently mocked strip malls are often nodes of commerce and culture.

on laptops and so on — just like any traditional city. Go figure. When budding restaurateurs looked at the corner of West Sahara Avenue and South Valley View Boulevard, they saw something more than an asphalt parking lot and a nondescript mini-mart encrusted with signs. They saw a place where people would gather in the cool evenings to dine on tacos  al fresco. All it required was the simplest of architecture: a metal-sided trailer with a mobile kitchen and flip-up sides, and a few picnic tables. The proverbial bumblebee, according to the laws of physics, cannot fly; this desolate, cacophonous corner, according to the laws of urbanism, cannot sustain human habitation. And yet there it is. Such creative architectural improvisation should not be surprising to Las Vegans. Long ago, that spirit turned ordinary neon-lit motels into the glamorous Las Vegas Strip itself.

PHOTOGRAPHY By christopher smith


Pleased to meet you. Again. Award-winning journalism. Lively arts and lifestyle coverage. Gorgeous visual appeal. No wonder Desert Companion is the must-have magazine for the savvy Southern Nevadan. And starting in January, Desert Companion will publish monthly. Pick up your copy at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or Jamba Juice, or subscribe now at www.desertcompanion.com.

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architecture

Las Vegas’ shopping centers come in all shapes and styles. There’s the venerable Huntridge Plaza with its fine Moderne architecture; the efficient 1960s Mid-Century Modernism of Westgate Shopping Center on West Charleston Boulevard at Hinson Street; the populist palace of Fantastic Indoor Swap Meet at Decatur and West Oakey boulevards, with its colossally classy mansard roof; Village Square in Commercial Center, at East Sahara Avenue and State Street, a vast shopping center 1,000 feet on a side, with a central parking parterre  on a scale that equaled the original Caesars Palace. These strip malls often boast architectural gems, such as the Bank of America on the corner of West Charleston and Decatur boulevards, designed by local Modernists Walter Zick and Harris Sharp. Or the many exotic, Asian-inspired shopping centers (check out 5395 West Sahara Ave. near Lindell Road) with green-tiled temple rooflines. Or the classic Liberty Square at 4209 West Sahara Ave., with its replica Statue of Liberty, home to a mix of jewelry and ammo stores, and boutiques catering to the striptease industry. Nowhere does the Las Vegas’ strip mall prove its versatility more brilliantly than at the corner of East Tropicana Avenue and Spencer Street. It’s a typical mall. An L-shaped row

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H OW D O YO U F E E L?

That’s not an odd question, coming from a hospital. The answer to that is our reason for being. And we’re here for you in ways that should make you proud.

A s S o u t h e r n N e v a d a’s o n l y p u b l i c h o s p i t a l, we ex i s t b e c a u s e o f yo u . We exist for you. Your neighbors are under our care, and because of you, we can provide some of the best care in Nevada. Many strip malls hide architectural gems, such as this Mid-Century Modern bank on Charleston and Decatur boulevards.

of one-story buildings, framing two sides of a parking lot, exhibits the stylized arches of Modernized Spanish architecture. An outrigger building designed for a restaurant sits on the corner to grab the eye of passing motorists. This mundane strip mall raised the bar by housing an unexpected center of culture: a museum with studios for artists, musicians and students, all under the wing of the Liberace Museum. Frank Gehry could have designed a custom building here, but how much more fitting was this re-use of an indigenous Las Vegas building? It’s more sublime than anything he might have imagined. The Liberace Museum closed in October, but there’s no reason this strip mall can’t attract another cultural or commercial anchor. The ordinary shopping center quite easily becomes the extraordinary: a seedbed of the future, the spark for untold ideas to enrich the future. Didn’t the architect Louis Kahn say, “A city is a place where a small boy, when he walks through it, may see something that will tell him what he wants to do with his whole life”? Here you are. Alan Hess is a writer and architect. His latest book is “Casa Modernista: A History of the Brazil Modern House.”

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d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 19


business

Relax, Inc. Inner peace sells, but who’s buying? We all are. A seasoned, stress-busting insider offers insights on the modern industry of peddling wellness

I

by heidi kyser

It used to be that massage therapy was for injured athletes, psychotherapy was for the mentally ill, and boxing was for, um, boxers. Not anymore. Mom goes to the boxing gym once a week, Dad has a standing massage appointment, and the kids are in semi-monthly therapy. This is because Mom, Dad and kids are more stressed out than they used to be. In their quest for solace, they’ve created demand for a product as modern as the iPad. Professionals have arisen to supply services to fill that demand; businesses, in the form of gyms, spas and counseling centers, are springing up to churn out happy customers. Welcome to Relax, Inc., the business of undoing the damage people and societies do to themselves. I’m a cog in this giant machine: I’m a yoga teacher. When I’m not writing, I’m coaxing people to chant, pretend they’re contortionists or simply sit still — all for the sake of a little peace. It came to me one night during Savasana — that’s trade parlance for “corpse pose,” or lying down on your back with your eyes closed at the end of a class. Looking around the floor packed with spent, sweaty bodies, I realized: This is why they’re here. They need time to lie still and do nothing, just as they need their massage therapist’s help to relax their muscles or their boxing coach’s permission to punch the bejeezus out of something. I’m part of an emerging industry, a wellness complex — one whose foothold in Las Vegas is anything but coincidental.

All amped up and nowhere to run “I recently read that people today have 1,000 more choices per day than their grandparents had,” says Charles Regin, assistant professor of health promotion at the UNLV School of Community Sciences. He teaches stress management not just to university students, but also to high-strung corporate types from global companies such as AT&T and Nike. Regin is explaining to me why people are more stressed out today than they used to be. He blames the dysfunctional relationship between human impatience and technological ingenuity.

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“We used to have three TV channels, plus PBS,” he says. “Now, we have 900 or 1,000… Yet, people will scan those 900 channels and say, ‘There’s nothing on.’” In other words, we crave immediate gratification, but the tools we invent to satisfy that craving fail us. Nowhere is that more apparent than Las Vegas, a city built upon the promise of con-

tinually available options for self-indulgence, yet the city that Forbes magazine in August named the No. 1 most stressful in the nation. Forbes based its ranking on the criteria of high unemployment, long commute times, long work hours, limited access to health care, poor physical health and lack of exercise. In addition to the then-14.5 percent (now 14.3 percent) un-

Illustration By Aaron mckinney


business employment rate and nation’s highest metropolitan foreclosure rate, the Forbes article also pointed to a stunning lack of exercise among Las Vegans as a contributing factor in its ranking. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, nearly 30 percent of Sin City residents reported not having exercised at all during the preceding month.

major cities, Businessweek found that Las Vegas was first, sixth and ninth, respectively, in suicide, divorce and crime. Framing this dismal local picture is the creeping malaise of the human race. In 1998, the World Health Organization estimated that approximately one-third of the world population may suffer from mild depression (often related to stress) at some point in their lives. Ron Lawrence, director of the Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada, believes our society’s evolution has played a significant role in the general rise of stress. Ancient humans developed the fight-or-flight response as protection from predators, rival tribes and other threats. Hormones that quicken the reflexes flood the body, launching us into Superman-like action. “In nature,” Lawrence explains, “we had balance; adrenaline would trigger the flight, and we’d run it off.” But beginning with the Industrial Revolution, our world rapidly became safer,

“They have a hard time turning off,” Lohr says. “They need a place to go where they feel it’s okay to do that.” Forbes’ assessment followed an even more depressing one in February 2009 by Bloomberg Businessweek, which ranked Las Vegas the seventh unhappiest city in the U.S. based on rates of depression, suicide, divorce, crime, unemployment, population loss, job loss, weather and green space. Evaluating 50

while our biological systems have struggled to adapt. Stressful situations still trigger the fightor-flight reflex, Lawrence says, but we rarely run it off. The result is a perpetual anxiety state. Could this explain the paradox of my overflowing yoga classes in the city that has become the Phuket of the 2008 economic tsunami? Even this past July and August, the perennial dead zone of the yearly schedule at the studio where I teach, people lined up to pay 18 bucks a pop for yoga class — not just mine, but others’, too. It seems the most stressed out and unemployed people in the country are somehow finding room in their budget to work out their fight-or-flight angst.

De-stress me, please Of course, it could just be my specific situation — the popularity of yoga, or the reputation of the studio where I teach. Not according to the therapists and fitness instructors I talked to. They say the stress relief business is booming. The waiting list for services at Lawrence’s agency has gone from 30, which was typical pre-recession, to more than 170 at pres-

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ent, he estimates. “We’re constantly adding groups,” he notes. “We have 52 groups now, up from 40 last year.” Boe’s Boxing Gym is recovering from a dip in demand that began in 2009, says owner Steve Boe. Having managed to stay open while a few other gyms around the city went under, he’s now up to 60-70 clients a week, on average — nearly pre-recession numbers. Melanie Andrade reports she has 160 people signed up for unlimited access to the 29 classes per week offered at her Jazzercise studio in Henderson. (The midmorning Monday class I observed in August had 35 people in it.) She says attendance has increased steadily since she opened in January 2010. How many people go to the gym to relieve stress? Boe believes they all do, based on anecdotal evidence. Andrade knows for certain: Out of the 51 surveys her Jazzercisers completed during July and August, 36 named “stress” as a reason for taking classes. With demand comes supply. If, like me, you could swear that strip mall massage parlors are multiplying like rabbits, you’re right. Massage therapy instructor Penne Lohr told me the school where she teaches, European School of Massage, is cranking out a dozen graduates or more per 640-hour session today, compared with four or five when she started there approximately two years ago. Lohr’s observation is backed up by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which estimated there were 1,540 massage therapists in Nevada in 2009, up from 1,440 in 2008 and 1,130 in 2007. Other stress-relief fields show similar increases. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Economic Census, the number of non-physician mental health firms in Nevada nearly doubled from 54 in 2002 to 100 in 2007. Ask anyone in these fields, though, and they’ll tell you they wish their jobs were unnecessary. Far from profiting off the misery of others, stress relief professionals see themselves as part of the solution. The problem, they say, is that people don’t take care of themselves.

Fight for your right to feel good … Unless, of course, their BlackBerry tells them to take care of themselves. Something about having a time and place designated for stress relief seems to be part of the current appeal. Andrade thinks it’s because places like hers offer solace and community. “I’ve had students going through divorce or breast cancer tell me it (Jazzercise) helps them get back into

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 23


business the swing of life,” she says. Boe, who got a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Nebraska and worked in child protective services before opening his gym five years ago, says boxing clubs offer places for latchkey kids to avoid risky activities, whether that’s experimenting with drugs or forming emo bands. “We focus on kids here, because we want to teach them constructive ways to deal with their anger early on.” Where classes offer support, individual sessions promise peace. Lohr believes the rising demand for massage derives from its promise of quiet time in a world where “we’re bombarded with stimuli that stress us out 24-7.” Regin says herd mentality plays a role in the rising number of people flocking to stress relief sites. “People tend to do what their best friend is doing,” he says. “You hear about enough people discovering yoga, and you decide to try it yourself.” He also thinks the recession has motivated people to try things they wouldn’t have done before. Whereas people used to get rewarded for working hard and following the rules, he says, today they’re finding they did everything they were told to — and lost their job or home or family anyway. “So maybe all the old rules were never really applicable,” Regin says. “They’re saying, ‘I don’t want it to be the way it was before. I’m going to counseling. I’m going to yoga. I’m going to the gym. I want to be a better me.’” Lawrence agrees: “People are re-authoring their lives in some way, and there’s no recipe book to do that, so they’re trying new things. We have CEOs coming in here who’ve lost everything and would never have sought therapy before.” Having an appointment helps give people permission to seek the help they need. Contemporary Western society, Lawrence notes, tends to reward productivity and scorn laziness. “People are so over-booked, and they feel guilty about taking the time out of their schedule for self-care. If they don’t schedule it as an appointment, it will slip away,” he says.

Are you stressed? Are you? ARE YOU? WELL? Like any good corporation, Relax, Inc. has effective marketing. Organizations such as the Yoga Alliance (which lists “stress relief” as the No. 1 reason to try yoga on its website), the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the American Massage Therapy Association have invested in public

24 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1


awareness campaigns designed to make sure the public knows the benefits of their members’ services and where to find them. Lohr cites the prolific Massage Envy as a model for the marketing approach taught by the American Massage Therapy Association, which aims to convince people that a regular massage is part of a healthy lifestyle. “There’s always going to be an opportunity for those businesses, now that people are aware of what they need to feel good,” she says.  Skeptics argue that too much inward focus does more harm than good. In his blog “Outrospection,” writer Roman Krznaric suggests that life’s meaning is more likely to be found by devoting yourself to a cause than by spending hours on an analyst’s couch.   Regin wonders if a little stress is really such a bad thing, anyway. “Stress is life; life is stress,” he says. “It’s a series of opportunities

and events from which we can learn, or which we can ignore. We repeat the lessons we’re supposed to learn in life until we get it. Some of us are just slow learners, I guess.”   The fact that people are slow learners is perhaps the best argument in favor of professionalizing stress relief. I realize this after all the research and interviews and writing are done, and, weeks later, I’m back to observing my students in  Savasana. As busy attorneys and blackjack dealers and property managers, they may find time to walk the dog or have lunch in the park with a friend, but they certainly won’t manage to learn the basic Sanskrit, human anatomy and yoga philosophy that brings them to this blissfully alpha-waved state. That’s my job.  And if it helps bring us all a little closer to the day when our nervous systems have caught up to our survival skills, I’m happy to do it.

Busting stress the old-fashioned way

The irony of the rise of the stress-relief industry, says Ron Lawrence, director of the Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada, is that many of the same benefits you can get with professional help are available for free by doing things you’ve had to cut out of your busy schedule. Remember long walks and family picnics? Whatever type you are, you don’t necessarily need a pricey therapist or arcane yoga poses to take back a semblance of sanity.

The Loner Stressor: Too much time spent alone, worrying whether the kids walking down your street are looking to vandalize something. Buster: A book club or community meeting at the public library. Take a friend for coffee afterward. (www.lvccld.org/events)

The Party Animal Stressor: Too much Downtown, not enough down time. Buster: Sunday morning meditation at the Zen Center, followed by a lunch you cook for yourself at home. (www.lasvegaszencenter.com)

Runaround Sue Stressor: Get off work, pick up kids, take to practice, go to grocery store, hit the gym … Buster: An afternoon at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, strolling through the

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Sir Sitsalot Stressor: A forest of deadlines hacked away at from a hunching position behind a computer screen. Buster: A jaunt at Red Rock Canyon, followed by a stop at the nearest smoothie joint. (www.redrockcanyonlv.org)

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Workaholic Stressor: Married to your job, cause of constant white noise-like sound from actual spouse and children. Buster: Family time. Pack a picnic and drive up to Mt. Charleston for a brisk hike followed by lunch. Added de-stress points for a movie together afterward. (www.nevadadventures.com) — H.K.

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d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 25


issues

Let us in Think accessible housing is just an issue for the “disabled”? Think again. Making Las Vegas livable in the future means making homes more visitable — today

A

by pattie thomas

After a year in rehab recovering from surgery that left her without the use of her legs, Marteen Moore wanted to be with her children and go back to work as an interior designer. There was one catch: As a new wheelchair user, she could no longer navigate her own home. Unable to shower, she needed help to be lifted in and out of the tub. Unable to drive, she had to be chauffeured. That was until she learned about a program called Rebuilding All Goals Efficiently. With the help of this Southern Nevada-based program, Moore modified her home and her vehicle — and got her life back. “It is wonderful. I have a sense of independence. I can live again,” says Moore, a Summerlin resident. “I can go places. I can work. Of course, I have to take my portable ramp with me to be able to go into clients’ and friends’ homes.” Moore considers herself lucky. Her front entrance and hallways didn’t need modification, and she had a bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor. “If I had picked any of the other three floor plans in my community,” she says, “I would have had to move.” Many newly disabled persons are not so lucky, explains Reggie Bennett, executive director of Rebuilding All Goals Efficiently. “We look at a number of factors in helping families adapt a home,” says Bennett. Those factors include everything from technical nuts and bolts to the family’s emotional state. “But not all homes can be adapted,” he adds. “It is not always cost-effective. Retrofitting is not 26 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

Marteen Moore modified her home to make it wheelchair-friendly. “I can live again,” she says.

always possible. It is not always feasible to move into another home, even if we could find one.” And there aren’t a lot of adaptable and accessible homes in Southern Nevada to begin with. No one tracks the data specifically, but Bennett says existing inventory of accessible and adaptable dwellings is scarce in the Las Vegas Valley. Yet, almost everyone agrees that as advances in medical science continue to save and lengthen the lives of people who are injured, become ill or grow older, demand for such housing will only rise. In other words, if you think a disability won’t touch your life in some way — and the way you live in your home — think again. “Babies survive birth defects and go on to live

longer lives. We are fighting two wars with a number of our troops coping with post-combat disabilities. People survive accidents and illnesses more frequently. People are living longer,” says Eleanor Smith, executive director of Concrete Change, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that promotes inclusive housing. “Advances in medical care and technologies have led to more people being able to live well with disabilities, provided they have accommodations.” In Nevada, 6.5 percent of the population has a physical disability and is living in the community, according to 2008 figures from the Annual Disability Statistics Continuum; the national figure is 7.2 percent. However, those figures do not include people with chronic

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conditions who are not consistently disabled, or people who are temporarily disabled by injury or accident. And they do not include people who are institutionalized, but could be living in the community with accommodations. But whatever the number of disabled people in the state, experts say Southern Nevada is not prepared to meet the coming wave of demand for adaptable housing. “I wish there was some hope,” says Suzanne Thomas, a local disabilities consultant, “but right now people are saying, ‘There’s no time to think about this because I have to worry about how to raise money.’ There wasn’t a lot going on (in adaptable housing) before the economic downturn, now there’s nothing. The Baby Boomers will have to become vocal and until that happens, I don’t think much will get done.” Ah, the Baby Boomers. 2010 marks the beginning of the much-anticipated retiring of the Baby Boomers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people 65 and older to every 100 people of traditional working ages (20 to 64) — called the old age dependency ratio — is projected to climb rapidly from 22 in 2010 to 35 in 2030. For Clark County, whose population of people 65 and over is lower than the national average, the bump is still significant. Our ratio will go from 18 persons per 100 in 2010 to 23 persons per 100 in 2020. As people grow older, they develop disabilities that require medical and practical attention — and cost money.

As our population ages, experts say Southern Nevada is not prepared for the next wave of demand for adaptable housing. The questions that concern Bennett will confront older adults as they seek retirement homes — or try to stay in their current ones. In short, accessible housing will become an issue that touches just about everyone.

Visitable homes, adaptable homes The key to addressing this coming wave of demand: visitability. More than just a design buzzword, visitability describes basic features that ensure short-term access to a home for a person with mobility limitations; or it allows a person to live in a home while recovering from a temporary injury or illness. Over the long term, a visitable home presents fewer barriers to adapting the home for use by someone with more permanent limitations. A 2008 AARP report encourages more visitable homes be built so that, as people grow older, they can age in place. “Aging in place”


is a concept that recognizes both the desire of most people to remain in the community as they grow older, and the public policy advantages of avoiding institutionalization. Institutionalization requires taxpayer money. Older folks who remain in their homes cost the public far less. The best way to increase visitable inventory is through new home builds. “Retrofitting is important,” explains Smith, “but it is much more cost-effective to build from the ground up. The cost differences between retrofitting and new builds are mega-percentages.” Bill Altaffer, a civil rights attorney in Tucson, Ariz. who has muscular dystrophy, started working to pass an ordinance in the late 1990s after discovering Concrete Change and learning about visitability. He and his wife, Colette, spent several years convincing both Pima County (in 2002) and Tucson (in 2008) to pass visitability features as part of codes required on new homes. “Besides the legality issue,” Altaffer told the AARP, “there was the other component, the builders saying this could not be done.” Pima County hired a professional estimator to figure the cost of visitability in a new home. The estimator found the cost to be around $100 — including a $25 profit. That low cost for a long-term benefit convinced commissioners to pass the ordinance. Since the ordinances passed, an estimated 17,000 homes have been built in Pima County with at least one entrance with no step, doors at least 32 inches wide, lever door handles, reinforced walls in groundfloor bathrooms for easy grab bar installation, switches no higher than 48 inches from the ground, and hallways 36 inches wide throughout the main floor. “Local builders seem to now embrace the concept,” the Altaffers told the AARP in July 2010. “They sell the idea of ‘aging in place’ as a key part of encouraging people to buy new homes.” Other regions have followed suit. As of December 2007, 57 state and local initiatives had been adopted, with 33 of those making visitability mandatory in some way. The AARP compared the two approaches. As of 2007, only 1,000 homes had been built under voluntary initiatives, compared to 28,600 homes built under mandatory initiatives.

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A steep hill to climb However, mandates can be a hard sell. Southern Nevadan homebuilders insist on looking to the market, not the law, as the source for change.

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 29


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issues “I use a wheelchair,” says Irene Porter, executive director of the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association. “I recently had to renovate my own home. There is no reason for all new homes to have these modifications. What the market dictates will determine how much gets built. Home builders respond to the market.” Almost any new single-family home can be built as adaptable or accessible, she says, because almost every builder offers custom home builds that include visitable and accessible features. “If we have to make additions to the home that are not necessary or desired by an owner, the cost of the home goes up,” Porter says. “For every $1,000 added to a home cost, 1,500 families are priced out of the market.” However, advocates suggest there’s misunderstanding of what a visitable home entails. “Accessible features are beneficial for everybody across the lifespan of the home,” says Darrell Christenson, director of community integration for Arizona Bridge to Independent Living in Phoenix. “Wider doorways means you can move that 55-inch flat screen into your living room. Zero-step entrances means that you can roll in your child in his stroller after a walk in the park. Lever hardware makes it easier for a person carrying groceries into the house.” Bennett of Rebuilding All Goals Efficiently agrees. He recently sold his accessible home to someone who was not disabled but loved the features nonetheless. “He was excited about the wider spaces. He liked the idea of an easy to walk-in shower.” But modifying a home can be a doubleedged sword. Jennifer Longdon was not so lucky when she considered selling her fully accessible home in Phoenix. A home inspection devalued her home by $20,000 compared to other homes in the neighborhood because some of the $70,000 in extensive modifications she made to the home would have to be “reversed,” such as lower kitchen counters. Shocked, Longdon called Michael O’Donnell of Prudential Arizona, her agent when she purchased her home. “I wanted to know how we could sell the home as the jewel that it is instead of distressed housing,” she says. She discovered that the problem wasn’t her home, but that the Multiple Listing Service did little to highlight her home’s accessibility features among the right people. It’s a similar situation in Southern Nevada. “Let us in” continued on page 62


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A locals’ favorite for casual chic dining, Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza’s Zagat awardwinning menu includes gourmet woodfired pizzas made from scratch daily, heaping salads, entrees, pastas and the famous giant Messy Sundae®. We also offer happy hour daily from 4-6pm at all locations.

The critics and the dining public agree. KNPR food critic John Curtas named Todd’s Unique Dining “Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year” (East Side) in his 2009 restaurant awards. Also voted Best Gourmet Restaurant by Las Vegas Review Journal editors and readers.

6500 W. Sahara 4300 E. Sunset Rd. 7160 N. Durango Dr. 7345 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy. 9516 W. Flamingo Rd.

4350 East Sunset Road Henderson, NV (702) 259-8633 www.toddsunique.com

6653 Las Vegas Blvd. So., Town Square, Las Vegas, NV (702) 914-9145 www.brioitalian.com

227-6000 450-6664 365-7777 263-7171 638-9500


News

January2011

Reviews In t e rv i e w s

dining Sweetness and light Start that New Year’s diet already? Fortunately, Megan Romano proves that good desserts don’t have to make you feel bad by jarret keene

Succulent blood oranges picked at peak flavor, churned into mouth-puckering sorbet. Stunning color and complementary flavor of late summer’s fleeting Concord grapes. Invigorating wake-up call to the senses sparked by a sprig of fresh spearmint. Is this a cookbook or a poem? A little of both. With a fine arts and communications degree from Northwestern University, Megan Romano was all set to climb the corporate media ladder on the East Coast. Instead, she followed her dreams and became an established (yet sensible) chocolatier in one of the most renowned restaurants in one of the world’s most decadent cities. How did that happen? >>>

PHOTOGRAPHY By CHRISTOPHER SMITH

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After graduation, Romano cut her teeth apprenticing in the Chicago kitchen of Chef Charlie Trotter. Once she entered a world of musky asparagus, floral tomatoes and summer basil, Romano was hooked. She absorbed the basics and never looked back. A decade later, at 42, she’s now executive pastry chef at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole in Mandalay Bay. Not too shabby for someone with absolutely no formal culinary training.

Such consuming passion marks every page of her recently published book, It’s a Sweet Life: A Collection of Desserts. The idea was to make dessert creation accessible. Romano says many of her friends and family members were curious about cooking, but were often discouraged by complex tomes detailing 40 or more steps per recipe. For Romano, it was crucial to offer a book emphasizing fresh ingredients (rather than

DC Bonus! Visit www.desertcompanion.com for more recipes from Megan Romano’s cookbook, “It’s a Sweet Life: A Collection of Desserts.”.

Pistachio lime biscotti Ingredients 

Method For pistachio lime biscotti 

12 oz. butter  4 cups sugar  3 tablespoons lime zest, fresh  8 eggs  8 cups all-purpose flour  3 teaspoons baking soda  1 teaspoon salt  3 cups pistachios 

Preheat oven to 320ºF. In a mixing bowl using a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth.  Sift sugar and gradually add to butter. Add lime zest. Add eggs one by one. Sift together dry ingredients. Add by thirds until incorporated. Add pistachios.   

For a traditional biscotti roll:

On a floured surface, roll dough into a log and chill for 2 hours. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate pan in oven, then bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven to cool. While still a bit warm, slice biscotti crosswise into rectangular pieces. Return biscotti slices to 300ºF oven to dry for 15 minutes. Makes two rolls.  

To bake as a crisp wafer:

Press dough into a square or rectangular pan. Freeze dough overnight. Remove frozen biscotti from pan and defrost for 15 minutes. Slice dough into 2-inch x 4-inch blocks. Place rectangular pieces of dough between 2 sheets of parchment with nonstick baking mat on top. Bake for 6–8 minutes until golden brown. Makes about 50 wafers. 34 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1


For more info on It’s a Sweet Life, visit www. chefmeganromano.com.

Inspiring children to achieve since

Join Us for an Open House! Tuesday, January 18 Saturday, January 22 Tuesday, February 8

9 a.m.–6 p.m. 9 a.m.–2 p.m. 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

© 2010, Barbara B. Baker

butter- and sugar-loaded diet-killers) and straightforward methods with plenty of gorgeous visuals. “I don’t think great food should be hidden away in professional kitchens,” she says. “I have three kids myself and believe food is meant to be communal, to bring people together at the table, in the kitchen.” And, of course, dessert caps everything off nicely. Still, don’t feel pressured to grab a cookbook and immediately gear up to treat dozens of guests to Blueberry Linzer Tarts for the “grand finale” in your mind. According to Romano, all you need are a sprinkling of tools and a pinch of knowledge before preparing, for example, a pineapple lime sorbet for the kids. “I want readers to feel confident in preparing dessert,” she says. “That’s why I include easy techniques in the first few pages, like simply placing a damp towel around a bowl so you don’t splatter stuff everywhere and spend half the afternoon cleaning up after yourself.” Better yet, she’s patient with “no-duh” questions from a complete novice (like this writer) who, for example, asks: Why does the book begin with sorbets and end with chocolate? “Sorbets are a natural place to start for the beginner,” she explains. “It’s a pure, clean process. Chocolate is the most advanced. I love chocolate, but it takes patience.” Pure and clean are the hallmarks of It’s a Sweet Life — in other words, creating flavor without loading up on sugar and butter. Though she confesses to having a sweet tooth “hard-wired” into her genetics, Romano loathes the trend in American dessert-making that, as she writes in her book, “leaves the home cook with few options other than the overly rich, overindulgent and over-the-top dessert.” She’s got good reason to criticize the trend: Romano is also an avid runner who often appears in the pages of Runner’s World magazine. Ultimately, Romano has simple advice for anyone wishing to try dessert preparation: Be assertive. “Just don’t be intimidated,” she says. “Trust your instincts. With desserts, there’s plenty of room to improvise as you do with savory food. … Delicious results are not out of reach. I crafted these recipes with the home chef in mind, and they’re designed for ease of preparation in any standard kitchen, no matter your skill level. The idea is to just make it taste great.”

Summerlin 9900 Isaac Newton Way 878-6418 Green Valley 1725 East Serene Avenue 990-7300 Los Prados 5150 N. Jones Boulevard 839-1900

Because You Know the Value of Education An independent private school offering preschool through eighth grade ChallengerSchool.com d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 35


The Shirodhara treatment at Qua Baths at Caesars Palace features oils from a local grower and blender.

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Heal thyself

(and pamper)

Spas used to be about massages and mud baths. Now they embrace alternative medicine and exotic therapies from around the globe. Turkish goat’s milk poultice, anyone? By Heidi Kyser

Swedish massages? Sooo last century. The modernday spa specializes in Qi balancing, Shirodhara, Hammam, Rhassoul and other stuff that’s hard to pronounce. Translation: Today’s spa embraces a holistic approach to wellness that treats mind and body — while mixing in therapies from around the world. And, ironically enough, our city built on distraction and instant gratification also hosts some of the world’s most unusual and obscure wellness techniques. “People don’t take enough time to turn inside. They need to simply sit down and listen to their breath,” says Chrystal King, director of Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace, explaining why she added guided meditation classes led by a swami to the spa’s menu. Jennifer Lynn, director of the Spa at Mandarin Oriental, chose obelisk-like crystals to cast a specific spell on each area where one is placed. “Here, you slow down, you remember to look around you, to smell, to listen,” she says. “It’s about being in your body completely.” Whether they offer Turkish goat’s milk poultices or Indian hot oil baptisms, here are some of the most exotic options for healing (and pampering) thyself at spas in the valley.

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The Spa at Mandarin Oriental

Signature treatment: Hammam Aqua Experience. In the Turkish version of this Middle Eastern treatment, you lie on a 110-degree marble slab while a therapist exfoliates you with a dry brush, alternately splashes hot and cold water on you, places goat’s milk poultices on pressure points, then wrings them out while massaging the liquid into your skin. But if you really wanna get crazy, try … Qi balancing, a three-and-a-half hour treatment based on the ancient Chinese practice that includes foot massage, body exfoliation, hot stone massage and deep relaxation.

ARIA Spa at CityCenter

Signature treatment: Retreats that can last several days, planned around a specific goal such as detoxification. The detox retreat includes meals, nutrition counseling (with or without fat testing), body work and “indoor hikes” that include stopping in front of CityCenter’s sculptures for calisthenics and stretches. Bonus: In-room, custom meditation with an experienced guru. But if you really wanna get crazy, try … Ganbanyoku, a Thai hot stone spa with bodysized, near-boulders that you lie on naked. “We recommend all the guests go there for 20-30 minutes on their stomach, then their back,” says Michelle Wilkos, spa director. “It increases your circulation and metabolism, and gives the muscles a sense of energy.” 38 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

The Aria Spa’s Shio salt room. The salt-brick walls are said to promote healthy skin.

Canyon Ranch Spa Club at the Palazzo

Signature treatment: Energy therapies, a smorgasbord of 50-minute treatments, from chakra alignment and craniosacral therapy, to Reiki and vibrational therapy — all delivered by Canyon Ranch energy renewal therapists. But if you really wanna get crazy, try … The co-ed Wave Room, with zero-gravity chairs and light and sound effects that make you feel like you’re floating. Or Ashiatsu. That’s when therapists walk on you, using their body weight and full foot to work your muscles. Canyon Ranch Exercise Physiologist Laura Horvath says it’s better than massage, “where they basically use only their hands.”

H a m m a m A q u a e x p e r i e n c e R o o m C o u r t e s y M a n d a r i n O r i e nta l ; S pa at En c o r e : R u ss e l l M a c M a st e r s ; T E a : Ch r i sto p h e r S m i th

Turkish delight: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental’s Hammam Aqua Experience room


EA Sports Active for the Wii

When you’re done meditating at the Spa at Encore, wrap yourself in Moroccan mud.

Treatment hall Spa at Encore The tea at Qua Baths & Spa is curated by a certified tea sommelier.

tea sommelier, who will pair your treatment with the appropriate Art of Tea blend out of the 20 varieties available.

The Spa at Encore

Signature treatment: Shirodhara Stillness, an Ayurvedic treatment in which warm oil is poured slowly onto your forehead, then massaged into your head. Spa Director Ella Stimpson is quick to point out that while many in the spa industry have latched onto Ayurvedic treatments, they’re a form of ancient Indian medicine and are not to be taken lightly. But if you really wanna get crazy, try … The Moroccan Mud Wrap. Therapists rub Rhassoul clay all over you, massage it in, then let it dry while they give you a face massage.

Qua Baths at Caesars Palace

Signature treatment: Mojave Rain Experience. Administered by Jordania Goldberg, an Ayurvedic healer who’s also been studying Native American healing for more than 20 years, this treatment incorporates aromatherapy, reflexology, massage, room clearing and tea. Spa director Chrystal King gets the oils from a local grower and blender. But if you really wanna get crazy, try … The clothing-optional Roman baths, community pools done in the imperial style, with baths at 72, 98 and 104 degrees, the frigidarium, tepidarium and caldarium, respectively. Or the tea lounge. Qua actually has a certified

Sensations Skin & Day Spa

(3155 N. Rainbow Blvd., 645-7727) Signature treatment: Peppermint sea twist body wrap. You start by being cocooned in a body-shaping wrap infused with organic seaweed and essential oils. After 20 minutes under a thermal blanket, the wrap is removed for a massage with seaweed body cream. But if you really wanna get crazy, try … Chakra cleansing and balancing, conducted with the use of crystals, energy and intention — ideally followed by a one-hour massage. And then there’s raindrop therapy. Nine essential oils are dripped down the spine in a specific order, supposedly alleviating the toxins that build up between and compress the vertebrae.

Oh God. Please let this be the last rep. This jump infernal jump machine jump says there are only four more exercises before I can flop down in a sweaty heap. Jump! Oh God. That last leap was only two inches off the ground. Huff! If only this Polly Pocket of a virtual trainer weren’t so perky and positive. Lunge! I hate her. Lunge! Isn’t there a hunky man trainer? Lunge! Can’t we get him on here? Lunge! But I am lunging properly! This thing is so insensitive. Lunge! Really?! Stop telling me I’m not lunging! This is me lunging! Heave! OK, I can shoot some baskets. I like that. Huff! Jump shots? Huff! Jumping will be the death of me. Whoosh! Jumping lunges. Whoosh! Jumping squats. Whoosh! Jumping jumping jumping! Whoosh! But I bet that really tones my butt. Whoosh! Resistance band? Lift. This thing doesn’t work. Lift. I should shorten the band. Lift. That would make it harder. Lift. Nope. Lift. Still doesn’t work. Lift. These are the weakest back rows ever. Jog jog jog. Great. I got a trophy for a journal entry. Huff. That reward feels as empty huff as my carb-starved stomach. Huff Oh God. I tried it. Verdict: I like huff some of it; other parts lift not so much. — Maureen Adamo

The Spa at Red Rock Resort and Casino

Signature treatment: “Mother-to-Be.” Ask any mom what she’d give for relief from the discomfort of pregnancy and she’ll tell you, “Anything.” This massage is tailored to expectant mothers in their second and third trimester to promote circulation and relieve joint, neck and back pain. But if you really wanna get crazy, try … Reiki, performed by one of the city’s few masters in the modality, Emily Heim. The non-invasive (i.e., no poking) energy balancing treatment is so good at producing the alpha brain wave state, Heim says, that it can be tough for clients to get up from the table afterward. d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 39


Your fellow Las Vegans — from police to performers to passionate outdoorsmen — share their secrets to staying in shape By Heidi Kyser P H o t o g r a p h y B y S a B i n ORR

Forget the exercise vids and pricey equipment. Want to eat better and get in shape? Take some advice from your friends and neighbors — your fellow Las Vegans. Whether they’re performers, police or outdoor pioneers, they’ve got just what you need: straight talk, plain advice and a dose of positive thinking.

40 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

Jaymes Vaughan Singer, “Show in the Sky” at Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino; dancer, Chippendales The body: “I do an hour and a half of weight training four to five times a week at the gym, two body parts per day. So, say it’s an arm day; I’ll do triceps and biceps.” The fuel: “I take amino acids, all-natural vitamins, and I drink three protein shakes a day. I actually do carb and protein loading before I go to bed, so my body can use the fuel while I’m sleeping, and I don’t wake up hungry.” The attitude: “You see the guy who’s 80, working out, eating a banana and doing whatever he wants. Then there’s the guy who didn’t maintain his body, he’s hunched over and using a walker. I wanna be the first guy.”


Wendell Broussard Red Rock rock-climbing pioneer; craps dealer, Caesars Palace

Sasha Larkin Sergeant, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; former dancer in “Enter the Night” at the Stardust The body: “Running is my favorite thing to do. Aside from that, I train in the gym two to three days a week. … I meditate every day and do a physical yoga practice five days a week.” (Sasha had her first baby in July.) The fuel: “I don’t eat any red meat or pork, a little organic chicken and fish, and a lot of fruits and vegetables. I’m really lucky to be able to eat all the whole grains.”

  The body: “I’m a skier, a climber, I used to run marathons. I’ve done everything. But at 70 years old, I’m mostly rock climbing and skiing now. I work nights, so I climb in the daytime.”   The fuel: “I don’t eat hamburgers or fast food. I actually cook for myself. I try to do steamed vegetables, fish and stuff like that instead of junk. … For climbing, I’ll eat a good breakfast, then take a can of tuna or Power Bar or some raw vegetables to hold me over.”   The attitude: “Do something you enjoy, and don’t do it (to the) extreme. Let your body tell you how far to go with it. The body will tell you everything you need to know.”

The attitude: “As a dancer, I had to come to the realization I was never going to be 5’ 10”, 110 pounds. I’m just not built that way. But I could be 5’ 8”, 140 pounds and solid.”

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 41


Tara Reid Irish Dancer for the band Sin É Rí-Ra at New York-New York hotel-casino The body: “Krav Maga has been a very interesting exercise choice. It kicks your butt, and you get addicted to it. … Someone might look at me and think I’m an easy target, but I could probably take them.” The fuel: “I try to eat a lot of small meals, four to five times a day, with more fruits and vegetables than anything else, and drink plenty of water. I’m a big red meat eater, so I have to watch that.” The attitude: “For me, going to the gym and working out on my own just doesn’t work. You should move, but you should also have fun and meet people.”

Maythinee Washington Lady Macbeth, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” by Insurgo Theater Movement The body: “To warm up for Lady M, I do some Brahmeri. I assume different shapes and warm up my breath and my body through different kinds of buzzing (sounds). I also do calisthenics.” (based on the Suzuki, Linklater and Slow Tempo techniques for stage). The fuel: “I tend to eat more green and raw things. When I’m really in a crunch, I’ll pick up a lot of salads from Trader Joe’s. I do sometimes omit dairy.” The attitude: “It’s important to have a sense of humor about the body. … I don’t know what I weigh. I’m proud of the things my body can do. Earlier this year, I was in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost,’ and I had to pick up a guy.”

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Get up! Get out! Get started! Emmanuel Kizayilawoko Acrobat in Cirque du Soleil’s “KA” house troupe at MGM Grand

  The body: “Aside from work, I do parcours  (French for ‘free running’). I use what I have around me — like jumping from one obstacle to another, or jumping over things. … I also do yoga twice a week, because I think, as a performer, it’s necessary to be flexible.”   The fuel: “I’m trying not to eat fast food at all. … In the afternoon, I don’t really eat, because we have training, so I keep my energy up by eating nutrition bars, bananas, apples.”   The attitude: “Eat what you love, but minimize things like sugar. Keep your cardio up, because that will help you get thinner. You’re your only obstacle. If you keep a good mindset, you’ll definitely get to your goal.”

Maybe you can’t bound up 20 flights of stairs like a Cirque acrobat — especially while lugging that baggage you acquired during the sugar- and fat-saturated Bacchanalia known as the holidays. What can a mere, out-ofshape mortal do? Two local experts say getting started is easier than you think. From John Moretti, owner of Moretti Fitness and fitness manager at Palms Spa: Do something — anything — physical. “Start walking, get in the pool, take a breathing class. Whatever you can do to increase your heart rate will help metabolize what you consume better.” Start small. “Begin with 20 to 30 minutes a day. You just have to get the ball moving; then, the body will take care of itself.” Keep a journal. “Write down what you’re eating, drinking and doing. People who are getting healthy create awareness, and awareness creates change.” Get help. “Not everybody can afford a personal trainer. If you can do things with friends or in groups, do it. Goals become a lot more achievable when they’re shared.” Make it last. “Anybody can get into shape in 60 to 90 days on a program. The question is, what are you going to do on the 91st day? Real fitness comes from within. It’s a lifestyle.”

From chiropractor Stephanie Youngblood, who incorporates nutrition into her practice: Eat breakfast. “Research shows that eating breakfast leads to more energy and activity during the day.” Drink water. “Drink about half your body weight in ounces. For example, a 150-pound person should drink 75 ounces of water per day. This is especially important in the desert.” Get close to nature. “Stay away from processed, preprepared foods. Avoid artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, monosodium glutamate, hydrogenated fats. Eat fruits and vegetables and organic whenever possible.” Supplement. “In particular, take quality omega 3s. These are called essential fatty acids because it is essential you get them in your diet. They impact all areas of health, improve mood and reduce the risk to cardiovascular disease.” Eat five small meals a day. “Don’t skip meals. This keeps your blood sugar regulated and helps to avoid overeating.” — H.K.

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 43


Eat well, feel good, get fit Community resources for a happy new you Eat well Bet on the Farm! farmers market Organized by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, the Bet on the Farm! market is a foodie’s fresh paradise, hidden in a nondescript office park. Just follow the trail of fashionably rumpled suburbo-hipsters and make yourself a dinner to remember. 7485 South Dean Martin Drive, Ste. 106, www.betonthefarm.com Chef Mayra, vegan Caribbean personal chef Lettuce was never so exciting: Chef Mayra brings Southwestern and Caribbean flavors to vegan cooking. The personal vegan chef also makes gluten-free wedding cakes and baby food. But what about gluten-free wedding cake-flavored baby food? 722-0108, www.mychefmayra.com Go Raw Café Living Cuisine and Juice Bar The raw lifestyle isn’t just about nibbling a fistful of kale and calling it “nature’s leafy ice cream.” With two locations, Go Raw serves delish raw dishes, from sushi to pizza. 2910 Lake East Drive, 254-5382; 2381 E. Windmill Lane #18, 450-9007, www.gorawcafe.com Las Vegas Farmers Market In addition to tasty organic produce, this market also features art and jewelry. Don’t eat those, though. It takes place the third 44 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

Bet on the Farm! farmers market is a foodie heaven, if heaven were made of organic vegetables.

Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 9200 Tule Springs Road, www.lasvegasfarmersmarket.com Peas and Carrots Vegan Food What’s a lazy vegan to do? Call Peas and Carrots Vegan Food. They cook and deliver everything from vegan cupcakes to meatless casseroles – all without so much as making a panda frown. 612-6663, www.pcveganfood.blogspot.com

Ronald’s Donuts This unassuming donut shop is the only one in town to sell vegan donuts. Translation: Diet and pig out at the same time. 4600 W. Spring Mountain Road, 873-1032 Stay Healthy! This health food mainstay has been in business for more than 25 years, and has a KLAV 1230 AM radio show to get the health in your ears. 840 S. Rancho Drive, #14, 877-2494, www.stayhealthy.info

Pure Health Foods If you want to fortify your hoard of ear candles, Pure Health Foods is the place. And it’s the place to get your tough-to-find health foods, from Miracle Noodle (made of miracles!) to vegan cheese alternative. 7575 W. Washington #129, 366-9297, www. purehealthfoodslv.com

Sunrise Coffee Co. Never feel guilty about ordering a bucketsized caramel macchiato again: Every drink at Sunrise comes with a choice of soy, almond or rice milk and organic syrup and sweeteners. And for fiber: poetry on Wednesday nights. 3130 E. Sunset Road, 433-3304, www.sunrisecoffeelv.com

Rainbow’s End Las Vegas This 30-year-old all vegan café and store sells groceries, vitamins and herbs. There’s so much health going on here, the place needs a health overflow valve. 1100 E. Sahara Ave., #101, 737-1338, www.rainbowsendlv.com

Veggie Delight Mock Meat: Hot new band or the specialty of Veggie Delight? The answer: yum! They also serve meatless Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. 3504 Wynn Road, 310-6565, www.veggiedelight.biz


Acrofit

Feel good

I didn’t know there was a name for the ascetic diet I put myself on about once a year, but there is: the “RAVE” diet. It entails going beyond veganism, eschewing all processed or refined foods, and even vegetable oils. It supposedly wards off cancer, heart disease and reality TV. My regular diet is already about 75 percent vegan. But it includes a lot of breads, a lot of meat substitutes and an occasional night of binge drinking. So last holiday season, instead of partying until my liver shriveled and my stomach burst, I decided to detox. No alcohol, no soda, no dairy — only fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, all raw when possible, for 10 days. Despite early hunger pangs and a weird, dull headache at first, the benefits — increased energy, improved digestion, getting less fat — quickly became obvious. Of course, so was the decreased size of my wallet after every trip to Trader Joe’s. Will I ever go fully vegan? Hard to say, but so far, no cancer, no heart disease, and no “Real Housewives” to be seen anywhere. That’s a start. I tried it. Verdict: I like it. Once a year, anyway. — P.J. Perez

DC BONUS!

We take even more diets and exercise regimens for a test drive at www.desertcompanion.com.

Dedicated Woman Hey ladies! Locally based Dedicated Woman claims to be the only nutritional manufacturer of health supplements designed for women. All of their products are gluten-free, so stop rubbing bread on your face and try this stuff now! 405-7816, www.dedicatedwoman.com Kim Erickson’s Everyday Organics Kim Erickson created an organic line of cosmetics that are cruelty-free and vegan. In other words, lipstick that doesn’t murder bunnies. Buy them online or at Cloud 9 Salon and Day Spa. 3211 N. Tenaya Way, Ste. 110, 871-8663, www.everyday-organics.com Princetta’s Beauty Secrets How do you know Princetta’s products are pure? Because everything — from the lotion to the hand cream to the massage oils — are handmade. And you can’t handmake evil things, can you? Thought so. 900 E. Karen Ave. C-214, 253-7546 Total Health Essentials Inc. This group of health practitioners takes a holistic approach to health by promoting vitamins and organic foods. Their services include hydrotherapy, raw and non-cooking classes. Non-cooking? Isn’t that what my wife does? Ba-dum bum! 796-5044, www.alternativehealthnv.com

Get fit Barry’s Boxing Center Dawn and Pat Barry know how crazy kids can get: Their law enforcement backgrounds have given them plenty of exposure to angry teens. Barry’s Boxing Center aims to give a healthy physical outlet to snots, er, kids and adults of all ages. 2664 S. Highland Drive, 368-2696, www. barrysboxingcenter.com Bikram Yoga Summerlin Stephanie Dixon opened this “hot yoga” studio after suffering from sciatica and experiencing chronic lower back pain. Today she can touch her pancreas with her elbows. 7520 W. Washington Ave. Ste. 150, 367-9642, www.bikramyogasummerlin.com Boe Boxing and Fitness Retired professional boxer Steve Boe runs a dynamic but safe boxing gym to give everyone an intense fitness experience. Tone up that flabby eye of the tiger! 1801 E. Tropicana #19, 682-8096, www.boeboxing.com

Raw food diet

I hate gyms. Not honest gyms in honest neighborhoods, local Ys, rec centers and the like. I mean those vacuumsealed, 24-hour Temples of Fitness, crowded with clinical weight machines manned by beefy guys with thick brown leather belts strapped around their waists, lined with treadmills and Stairmasters dutifully overseen by serious-looking women with razor-sharp ponytails. So, early last year I tried something new. Acrofit. It’s run by Alvin Tam, a former Cirque acrobat, in a yoga studio at Town Square’s Whole Foods. Acrofit (www. acrofit.com) is a deceptively simple mix of acrobatics and cardio. Some of the moves are child’s play — literally. Cartwheels and forward rolls. Leaps in the air. Hopping on one foot. And yet, very quickly, Acrofit becomes challenging. When you try to turn a forward roll into a pushup, when you try to elongate your legs upside down in mid-cartwheel, when you try to quiet your breathing after an ab-busting set of gentle boat rocks, suddenly you’re sucking wind. Acrofit activates a kid’s desire for uncomplicated play, but it appeals to the adult’s — this adult’s — need for focus and discipline. I may not be ready to take the stage with Cirque du Soleil, but I’ve found something immeasurably more valuable — the feeling that I am more fully awake, more settled in my own skin. I tried it. Verdict: I flippin’ like it. — T.R. Witcher

RAVE diet

When I have money to spare and am running low on impulse control, I’ll stop by Go Raw Café (www.gorawcafe.com) and drop $9 on a pack of raw curry sticks. That’s right: nine bucks on a few ounces of uncooked crackers. I’d buy a box of saltines if they were equally delicious and good for you. Maybe. This is not a diet for the lazy and undisciplined eater. In addition to feeling mentally energized and alert, I also felt neurotically preoccupied with what I was going to eat next — the raw diet requires a tremendous amount of preparation and planning. And eating such light fare means eating more often to feel satiated. Without an apple with raw almond butter in tow, I’d get hungry, and my resolve would melt at the mere glimpse of a Doritos bag. I lasted two and a half days before surrendering to a convenient, delicious — and filling — slice of pizza. But oddly, I missed the grace of uncooked ingredients: massaged kale salad tossed with lemon tahini, ginger miso dressing with unpasteurized soy sauce, chilled avocado and tomato soup. Not cooking your food is surprisingly timeconsuming — not to mention expensive. And while raw pad Thai is, indisputably, tastier and more dynamic than the kind you can heat up in a microwave, peeling zucchini into noodles is no 15-minute meal. I tried it. Verdict: I like it. My wallet and schedule: Not so much. — Sarah Kokernot

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 45


Boot Camp Las Vegas Julie Johnston began this rigorous exercise regimen when she found herself more than 60 pounds overweight. Her hardcore, military-style boot camp will have you shedding pounds (and maybe a few tears — you little crybaby!). 767-8797, www.bootcamplasvegas.com Carol Dickman Vegas-based yoga guru Carol Dickman teaches yoga and produces gentle, accessible yoga DVDs for seniors, beginners and those looking to explore the yogatistical lifestyle. In other words, this stuff won’t snap you in half like a stick of stale Doublemint. 735-3922, www.stretch.com

Chi kung

Red Rock Climbing Center features climbs for every skill level, and is free from the terrifying wild animals commonly found around real cliffs.

Chuck Minker Sports Complex Named after a former boxing judge, this gym offers a wide variety of programs including martial arts. The best part is memberships start as low as $3 a day, and $12 a month for senior citizens. You know what that means: buff grandmas. 275 N. Mojave Road, 229-6563 Fitness in the Square Sure, shopping is great exercise, but you can actually exercise for real at Town Square. Yogis Unite presents this free fitness program in Town Square Sundays at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., and 10 a.m. Dr. Randa Bascharon acts as the sports medical director to ensure participants exercise properly. Town Square, 6505 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Live-In Fitness Welcome to Debra Stefan’s house — now drop and give her 20! Stefan borrows techniques from “The Biggest Loser” reality show, opening her home to those who are serious about getting fit. Participants stay at Stefan’s Henderson home for a weekend or a strict 30 to 90 day program. Think twice about that midnight snack — the fridge is electrified. 898-4622, www.live-in-fitness.com Pole Fitness Studio How do strippers stay in such good shape? Lots of pole. Owner Fawnia Dietrich began pole fitness trend when the former exotic dancer decided to share the secrets of sensual exercise. She also teaches belly dancing, yoga and cardio kickboxing. Guys: Some classes are co-ed! 46 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

Upstairs Studio: 4265 S. Arville St. Ste. A, Downstairs Studio: 4275 S. Arville St. Ste. E, 878-7653, www.poledancinglasvegas.net Red Rock Climbing Center Rock-climbing is great, until you fall off a cliff and land in a bear’s mouth. Avoid such untidy fates at the Red Rock Climbing Center. The center offers both top-rope and lead climbing, and routes change weekly to challenge your skills. 8201 W. Charleston Blvd. Ste. 150, 2545604, www.redrockclimbingcenter.com Sherry Goldstein’s Yoga Sanctuary Sherry Goldstein has contorted with the best of them. She’s trained cast members from Siegfried and Roy, and dancers from the Nevada Ballet Company and The Rockettes. 7915 W. Sahara #101, 240-7666; 9480 S. Eastern #252, 407-0043, www.lasvegasyoga.com Student Recreation and Wellness Center at UNLV If you graduated from UNLV between 2004 and 2007, you can work out free for every semester you attended UNLV. Not an alumni? Don’t fret. A daily pass costs $10; a monthly pass is $30. The center also features a café and juice bar. Now, about those overdue library books … 4505 S. Maryland, 774-7100, www.srwc.unlv.edu Studio 222 Former Muay Thai trainer James M. Wong opened this 3,300 square foot exercise studio to teach things such as boxing and cardio strength training. Give those love handles a

About 15 minutes in to the Lohan School of Shaolin’s chi gung class (www.lvlohans. org), I’m doing pretty good, proud of myself for keeping up with the 70-year old man in front of me. Then the instructor says we’re done stretching and will now begin the actual chi kung. Today’s practice is baduanjin, or the “Eight Section Brocade.” It’s eight simple exercises meant to improve general health. We’re breathing deeply, extending our hands over our heads or touching our toes. We do a posture called “Drawing the Bow,” which requires standing in “horse” stance. (Mime sitting on an invisible chair while carefully aiming an invisible bow and arrow, and you’ve got it.) I go into a low horse stance to show I’m no newbie. I can feel the burn in my thighs but, otherwise, this is easy stuff. Suddenly, about the fifth stance in, I start sweating. Soon, it’s like someone opened a faucet on my head. I am dripping sweat onto the hardwood floor. I pull the instructor aside. “Look,” I say. “I’m a writer. I’m not really supposed to sweat.” He says this particular stance is good for people who spend too much time sitting, and gently pushes me back into position. When it’s all done, I feel great. My body is stretched and relaxed. I’m calm from the breathing exercises. I feel a sense of balance and equanimity, and things seem in perspective. The next day, my thighs are so sore that it hurts to move. Chi kung is subtle, but its effects are very real. I tried it. Verdict: I like it. (Ouch. My thighs.) — John Hardin

KO! Now taunt them as they lie there in an unconscious heap! 8645 W. Flamingo Road #104, 769-2991, www.studio222lasvegas.com Vegas Hot! Yoga and Pilates From Hot Pockets to hot messes, everything’s better with a higher temperature thrown in. Same goes for yoga and pilates. This studio specializes in hot pilates, hot yoga as well as core power, endurance and more. 5875 S. Rainbow Blvd. #206, 257-8171, www.bikramyogalasvegas.com


feelin’ the om I’m the last guy you’d expect to try yoga. What I discovered stretched my understanding of the practice — and (pop!) of myself B y S cott D i ck e N S H EE T S

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 47


AFTER SPENDING MY YOUTH CONVINCED OF MY INDESTRUCTIBILITY, I’M SPENDING MY MIDDLE AGE IN DENIAL ABOUT MY FRAGILITY I don’t bend well. Can’t touch my toes; can’t limbo under a bar lower than eye level. I can flex 10 degrees to either side, 15 degrees if someone tugs on my arm. At 48, I just don’t have many moving parts — I can feel the little rubber bands that hold my body together stiffening forever into place. I’m just as inflexible upstairs, where my mind is stretched tight around the junk of modern life: a constantly mutating schedule, a to-do list with the length and complexity of a Russian novel, transcripts from too many emotional dramas, and maddeningly precise memories of the Burt Reynolds movie Stroker Ace. It’s hard to find a clean sightline in there. Now, mine is generally a la-di-da attitude toward wellness — if I’m not dead, I’m well enough — so I didn’t grok my bodily hardening and mental untidiness as problems. That implies they can be fixed. To me they were simply inevitabilities to be endured, occasionally medicated and mostly bitched about. I figured it was all just an older guy thing. A brainweary, overweight, older guy thing. Nothing could be done. Trying yoga never crossed my mind. Not even close. WHAT I (THOUGHT I) KNEW ABOUT YOGA: A MORE OR LESS COMPLETE LIST Achingly physical; requires excessive pliability and potentially embarrassing poses. “Ommm.” (Snicker.) Practiced by thin, pretty, affluent people with lots of free time. Moves have funny names — something about a Downward Dog? (Snicker.) Just another Eastern cultural tradition appropriated by callow yuppies trying to season their bland, capitalist lives with a little exotic woo-woo. Not for me. BUT MAYBE IT’S TIME FOR A RETHINK Then, one day, climbing a set of stairs totally winded me. Damn! That day was actually a while ago; it took more stairs and more fishfaced gasping before I entertained the hard question: Should I maybe do something? Jogging? Not unless it was a 100-yard run directly toward an emergency room. Walking? Two words: Bor. Ring. A friend hooked me up with a trainer, who promptly tried to murder me with a treadmill. I quit. More stairs. More gasping. 48 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

I don’t bend well. Can’t touch my toes. Can’t limbo. Is yoga for me? It’s especially for me.

A different friend said, You should try yoga. Loosen you up, clear your mind. WHAT IS YOGA? It’s a set of mental, physical and sometimes spiritual disciplines developed centuries ago in India — according to abc-of-yoga.com, 3,000-year-old carvings depict yoga poses, although the founding text of the practice, the Hindu Bhagvad-Gita, dates to about 500 BC. There are eight strains of emphasis in yoga, ranging from ethics to tolerance to physical exercise to breathing to meditation. Hatha, the most widely practiced variety in America, is big on gentle physical movements; bikram is practiced in a heated environment to better purify the body; kundalini focuses heavily on breath control. “It’s a natural progression of integrating your mind and body into better health,” says local yoga instructor Ana Maria Rydell. “All yoga is designed for you to get to that meditative state. If you exercise your body and be aware of your breathing, you’ll get to a place where you can meditate.” Cheryl Slader, of Blue Sky Yoga in the Arts Factory, elaborates: “Yoga does not begin until the fluctuations of the mind end.” The allure of that notion is reflected in steadily climbing participation rates: According to the National Sporting Goods Association, in 2009 almost 16 million Americans did yoga; other studies suggest that three-quarters of them are women, many of them past their 30s.

“A lot of people go into it thinking it’s just a physical practice,” Slader says. “And with the stress of the economy and everything, more people are getting into it for the stress-relief aspect. There’s always the hope that people will realize it’s also a spiritual practice, and try to live it off the mat.” “The perception of what a yoga person is — well-heeled, fit, middle-aged — is a relatively recent perception,” says writer Neal Pollack, whose latest book is “Stretched: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude.” “In the ’60s and ’70s, the vision of that person would be more hippie-ish, less athletic. The idea of yoga changes according to time and place.” THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: ME? Okay: In this time and this place, I couldn’t picture my big round self, popping sweat and snapping tendons, amid a floral arrangement of thin, gently bending, perfectly centered people on their custom yoga mats. That seemed less likely to clear my mind than overload it with fresh anxieties. But it needn’t be intimidating, Rydell says. “Yoga kind of starts with what I call radical self-acceptance — where you are is exactly where you need to be.” Note the underlying dynamic of my mental image: me versus them. Comparison. Yoga, on the other hand, is inward-directed. “Just be,” she advises. “Don’t worry so much about what it looks like.” “I got into yoga because the New York


Times called me fat,” Pollack says. In reviewing one of his previous books, America’s newspaper of record referred to Pollack as “doughy.” “It got to me,” he says. “My wife said we should take a yoga class, so we did.” He’d never thought much about yoga. “I was really ignorant, which was a good place to start.” Huh. THE UNBEARABLE TIGHTNESS OF BENDING Really Ignorant, reporting for duty. It’s 8 a.m. on a November Friday, and I’m stepping onto the mat upstairs at Xtreme Couture, suddenly reminded of something I’d momentarily forgotten when Rydell agreed to let me sit in on a beginner’s class. She teaches mixed-martial artists. So it was five tough, buff dudes in peak physical condition — and me. Yoga is deceptively simple. The first move has us on our hands and knees, arching our backs, chins to sternums, breathing deeply. Easy enough. Before long we’re in the Downward Dog — no snickering, please — which requires us to be on hands and toes, tailbone up. Again, easy enough. But as the moves combine, extending a leg and arm, or bringing a knee to the chest, always ... breeeeaaaathing ... ... deeeeeply ... the exertions become cumulative. I sweat. My tendons snap, though not as audibly as I’d feared. I have zero flexibility, which doesn’t bode well for my future. (“If you don’t do it for any other reason,” Slader had told me, “do it so you can tie your own shoes when you’re 80.”) Rydell is a willowy presence on the front mats, talking softly over a prerecorded “ommm” sound as I heave through a move that has my left leg wedged under my thorax, trying to unknot the tensions of this century with the dimly understood techniques of another. I try to empty my mind. Somewhere back in the circuitry I hear my late father’s voice: Shouldn’t be too hard for you, son. And, in truth, it is surprisingly easy. When you’re as large and unmuscled as I am, the sheer industry required to hold even the slightest pose eventually blanks your mind. I didn’t do most of the moves properly and couldn’t do several at all, but hey: Where you are is exactly where you should be, right? Still, someone’s gonna have to sanitize the mat where I left a body print smeared in sweat. HERE ARE SOME IMPORTANT THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND 1. Breathing is paramount. “That’s where people carry their tension,” Rydell says. The physical and the mental meet at the breath — it oxygenates the blood and calms the mind.

“You inhale, you pause, you exhale,” Rydell says. “Concentrate on the pause.” 2. Try to still your mind. Not easy. What do you think about to stop thinking? According to Nicholas Carr, in his book “The Shallows,” our hyperlinked, multitasking way of life has eroded our ability to concentrate, to hold something — or in this case, nothing — in deep focus. “That’s the key to the peace of it, to occupy the space between thoughts,” Slader says. Without that, yoga becomes just a stretching class. 3. Remember what’s important. “You don’t need a hundred-dollar yoga mat or expensive yoga retreats,” Pollack says. “What you do need is a teacher you can trust and a non-attachment to results.” 4. Don’t get attached to results. Not easy either. Millennia of evolution have wired us to be competitive, and contemporary society has made us goal-oriented — both antithetical to yoga’s purpose. “I would tell people not to have a goal, not to put pressure on yourself to achieve,” Rydell says. “Once you have a goal, you’re not really doing yoga.” 5. Be realistic. “It won’t give you an awesome body, peace of mind and solve all your problems,” Pollack says. “I still get sick, I still get hurt, I still have to deal with problems. The practice itself is its own reward.” 6. It can be as totalizing as you let it. When Slader talks about “living it off the mat,” she means transferring the principles of yoga to other aspects of life: “What you’re putting into your body, what movies you choose to watch, who you’re hanging out with. ... If you can do a headstand and remain calm and not fearful, maybe you can be that way in traffic.” Then there’s Pollack’s approach: “I’m still

lazy, smoke pot, eat meat, drink and watch football. And I also meditate.” THE UNBEARABLE TIGHTNESS OF BENDING 2 The MMA yoga sesh draws to a close with a small ritual: As we lay on the floor, feet up, Rydell oils her hands, gently pounds the soles of our feet with her fists, and, using an essence of peppermint, touches our temples and foreheads. I’m first, so I lay there as she slowly anoints the rest and then rings a tiny, echoing bell; the peppermint spots seeping deeper into my awareness — temples, forehead. My mind may not be totally empty, there’s a bathtub ring of anxiety circling my skull that will never be gone, but I’m as relaxed as I believe it’s possible for me to be. Class ends with a few breathing exercises. The fighters smile and murmur about how happy and peaceful they feel. They use those words, these guys: “happy,” “peaceful.” “Now you can go beat people up,” Rydell says brightly. “When you’re happy and peaceful,” one responds, smiling, “it’s easier to do.” I’m not sure that’s the classic definition of living it off the mat, but I get what he means. I don’t expect you to buy this; I expect you to shrug it off as a phony sentiment I’m inflating so as to end this story on the pleasing, reaffirming note these things always take. But: I feel effing great afterward. (Italics mine.) Really. My wrists, arms, ankles, hammies, thighs, waist, back, shoulders and neck ache — but don’t hurt. Dopamine sighs lightly in my brain — but I’m not wired. My emotions are calm. It won’t last all day, but for now I’m really feeling the Ommm.

P90X P90X isn’t your mother’s “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.” It’s a notoriously relentless, 90-day program that combines strength and cardio workouts you can do at home. The only equipment you need: hand weights, a chin-up bar or bands, a yoga mat — oh, and ibuprofen. And lots of courage. Strength workouts emphasize pull-ups and pushups, done every other day, and yes, they’re as intense as everyone says. Particularly intense is the 16-minute Ab Ripper X (which is scary even to say, let alone do). Not brutal enough? On the cardio side, there are plyometrics — imagine leaping around like a rabid kangaroo. The toughest of all the PX90 workouts, plyometrics often left me in a puddle of sweat. Advice: It takes about eight to 10 weeks to see results, so patience is a must. Patience definitely paid off for me. I’m now on my second, 90-day round of P90X — no small feat, considering that I’m the type to give up on a workout program within two weeks. I never looked forward to working out, and I do now. I sleep much better at night. I’ve lost eight pounds, gained muscle and toned up in places I didn’t think possible. I tried it. Verdict: I [flex!] like it. — Kim Taormina

DC BONUS!

We take even more diets and exercise regimens for a test drive at www.desertcompanion.com. d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 49


Klatch of the

titans

Many of Southern Nevada’s cultural institutions have roots in the historic Mesquite Club, the women’s organization that does much more than afternoon tea

By John Hardin

Nearly 100 years ago, a group of Las Vegas women gathered for tea. The city hasn’t been the same since. In 1911, Las Vegas was a dusty stopover with little culture or refinement. Just six years old, this ambitious railroad stop wouldn’t be incorporated as an actual city until March 16 of that year. The 800 people who lived here then were hardy, young and ambitious. Nobody came to Las Vegas without hoping to cash in, one way or another. The men wanted to make fortunes in mining or agriculture; the women sought to carve a bit of civilization out of the desert.

50 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

On February 10 of that year, 20 of Las Vegas’ most influential, forwardlooking ladies met at the home of Mrs. O.J. Enking to form a group called the Mesquite Club. This February, the club — which brought Las Vegas everything from its first fashion show to its first library to its first neighborhood watch — marks 100 years of improving Southern Nevada, no matter the odds or the obstacles. “You can’t buck the ladies of the Mesquite Club,” says Mary Shaw, a member and the club’s unofficial historian. “Nothing frightens them.”


Opposite page: The Mesquite Club in February 1914. This page: A sampling of the club’s activity in arts and horticulture over the years.

More than just ‘paint a little’ “There is a mistaken idea that culture means to paint a little, to sing a little, to dance a little and to quote passages from the late popular books. As a matter of fact, culture means mastery over self, politeness, charity, fairness, good temper, good conduct. Culture is not a thing to make a display of; it is something to use modestly that people will not discover all at once that you have it.” — Ella E. Lane-Bowes, from the Mesquite Club Yearbook 1922-1923 From the beginning, the Mesquite Club was about much more than afternoon tea, despite the lofty social status of most members. The women of the Mesquite Club were instrumental in fostering art, literature, music, fashion and horticulture in Las Vegas. They combined high style with high purpose, and got a lot done while maintaining a full social calendar. When they weren’t feeding orphans, they were organizing flower shows. After working to make the streets safer, they threw charity masquerade balls. “The Mesquite Club is one of the critical, civilizing influences of Las Vegas,” says Mark Hall-Patton, Director of Clark County Museums. “They’re a crucial part of our history. Without the Mesquite Club, you wouldn’t have the library. You wouldn’t have the Clark County Library District. You wouldn’t have a lot of things we take for granted now,” he says. “They took on the cultural

and educational infrastructure needs of a new community, and did it well.” The Mesquite Club is entwined with Las Vegas’ history. Among its charter members was pioneer Helen J. Stewart, who had lived in the valley since 1882, and operated the Las Vegas Ranch after her husband was killed in 1884. She was the fledgling town’s first postmaster in 1893. When she sold a portion of the old ranch to the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, the city of Las Vegas became possible.

Stewart presented the young club with a gift — and its name. She donated a gavel made of mesquite wood and suggested the group name itself after the hardy tree, saying that if the club could do as much for their community as the mesquite did for the local Paiute Indians, it would be wellnamed. In the early days, they met at the opera house on Fremont Street, where they paid $2.50 for a room upstairs, which got them use of a piano and a stove; bags of coal were extra.

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 51 d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 51


Dues were set at $2 a year, payable in installments. They adopted club colors; yellow, green and red, and also a slogan: “United effort toward peace, charity, equity, and a higher civilization.”

Made in the shade “We would get up at the crack of dawn, close all the windows and pull the shades — the house would remain fairly comfortable until three o’clock, but from then until sundown we sweltered. As soon as the sun set, doors and windows were thrown wide open. Frequently, a heavy dust storm would come up soon after sunset, so we would rush to close everything up until the storm passed, which was usually about 15 minutes. Hardly anyone went to bed before midnight, as it took too long for the house to cool off to be bearable.” — Francine Squires, daughter of Delphine Squires, from Isabella Blackman’s Biographies of Mesquite Club Presidents Peace. Charity. Higher civilization. Noble goals for a town where most of the population lived in canvas tents. It wasn’t long before the club took up more practical concerns: examining the condition of the roads, petitioning the state Legislature to establish libraries, or agitating for the suppression of the Sunday comics supplement. Their first project was practical and urgent. The city needed shade.

52 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

Above: Club members pose with students at Helen J. Stewart school in 1974. Right: A news story on the club’s initiative to distribute safety information cards in hotel rooms. Opposite page: Mesquite Club headquarters, and one of the club’s popular parade floats

“The heat in those early years was probably no worse than it is today, but we had no air conditioners or even electric fans for a few years. There were no trees, lawns or foliage,” Francine Squires said in Blackman’s biography. “It was discovered that one of the clothesline posts at Lloyd Smith’s Palace Hotel was sprouting out leaves, so folks began putting cottonwoods in their yards.” The women of the club threw themselves into fundraising, something they would prove to be very good at over the years. Embarking on a campaign of selling wearable tags with the motto “To Plant a Tree is to Bless the Earth,” they raised enough money to purchase 2,000 cottonwood saplings. They were planted on Valentine’s Day, 1912, rechristened “Arbor Day” to honor the Mesquite Club members who made it happen. “Citizens Generally Unite With Enthusiasm in Making the Day the Most Notable in Vegas History,” said a headline in the Las Vegas Age newspaper. “Vegas still may look backward to February 14, 1912 as the greatest day in her history — the day which created for her bowers of greenery to give rest to the eye and pleasure to the tired mind and body during the hot summer days.” (High praise, though it should be noted that the newspaper was owned and written by Charles P.

Squires, husband of Mesquite co-founder Delphine Squires.) Members of the community pitched in to water the trees near their homes and businesses, but club members dragged hoses or buckets to all of the farther-flung trees for two summers, until they talked the city into using the dust-control truck to water the saplings.

Turning a new leaf “Mrs. James G. Givens has presented to the Club, a very valuable Encyclopedia of Art and Literature; complete sets of Scott, Dickins (sic) and Irving, and also about 150 other volumes of standard works. The Club gratefully acknowledges the gift and plans to make it the nucleus of the Club Library.” — Mesquite Club Yearbook, 1913-1914 The Mesquite Club had a scholarly bent from the beginning. Most of the charter members wanted the club to be a literary society; early meetings were opened with poetry read-


Mesquite moments 1912

Club members plant 2,000 trees. Mesquite Club President Estelle Givens becomes the first Las Vegas resident to write to a Nevada senator when the club petitions state leaders for library funds

1918

The club stages “The Mikado,” with proceeds going to road improvement

1926

After 14 years of work by club members, Las Vegas officially adopts the Mesquite Club library as its own

1934

After a campaign by the Mesquite Club, state leaders amend property laws, making it easier for Nevada women to own and operate businesses

1947

Mesquite Club members sponsor the city’s first fashion show

1953

Members are instrumental in bringing “Carmen” to Las Vegas, the first grand opera to ever play here. Afterwards, they throw the city’s first opera ball

1962

Club members build the garden court at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital

1969

The Mesquite Club raises $10,000 for a new center for the performing arts at UNLV

1977

A l l P h oto s C o u r t e s y U N LV S P E C I A L C OLLE C T I O N S

The club launches the Neighborhood Watch program

ings and quotations from great literature. One of the club’s first official acts was to ask the Legislature to fund a public library. When nothing came of that, members took it upon themselves to start their own. The club acquired the core of the library when mining magnate and land developer James Givens and his wife left town in 1913, their financial hopes dashed by natural calamity and railroad strikes. He had been the first president of the local chamber of commerce; she, the first president of the Mesquite Club. Rather than pay to ship the heavy volumes across the

country, they donated their personal library to the club. Combined with other donations from club members and the public, it wasn’t long before the library needed a bigger home. When the new courthouse was built in 1914, the City Commission gave the Mesquite Club a room in the old courthouse, where they could hold meetings and host a free lending library, the first one in Southern Nevada. After 12 years of nurturing by the club, the city took over the library in 1926, setting aside “Klatch” continued on page 62

1978

The group establishes the city’s first Secret Witness program

1988

The club publishes “A Way Out: A Las Vegas Substance Abuse Directory.” Copies go to every school, library and church in Las Vegas

2009

City officials confer historic status on the Mesquite Club building downtown

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 53


January2011

A rt

a r t s + e n t e r ta i n m e n t

Music T h e at r e Dance FA M I LY

1

take

Performed correctly, a tango can spark your deepest passions, igniting your soul into a volcano of explosive hyperbole such as the mind-blowing one contained in this unforgettable sentence. Tango Buenos Aires knows how it’s done. The renowned Argentine dance troupe is celebrated for offering the most pure, passionate and raw version of tango. Gird your loins with flame-retardant gel 8 p.m. Jan. 22 when they perform at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall. Tickets $40-$85. Info: 895-2787

2

In this age of despair and uncertainty, the fresh-faced optimism of Social Distortion continues to comfort a troubled world. In fact, the uncompromising cheeriness of their latest album, “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes,” is already rumored to cure both rickets and halitosis, but only if you have both. Social D is joined by Lucero and Chuck Ragan when they perform 8 p.m. on Jan. 20 and 21 at the House of Blues. $30-$34. Info: www.hob.com

3

Ever wanted to row a boat indoors to power LEDs? Me too! Now you can at Maria Michails’ interactive art exhibit Emergy, on exhibit through Feb. 17. Besides having a lot of fun, Michails hopes that people leave the exhibit with a renewed respect for water, energy and rowing in our arid region. Charleston Heights Art Center. Info: 229-1012

4

Pepe Romero is a knight in the Order of Isabel la Catolica, but don’t worry. That doesn’t mean he’s going to bust a crusade on your home and steal all your holy grails. It’s just one of the honors he’s earned from being a consummate master of classical guitar. Little wonder. Romero’s got guitar hero in his DNA: His father, Celedonio Romero, is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Watch Romero carry on the legacy 7 p.m. Jan. 8 at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall. Tickets $27-$65. Info: 895-2787

5

If you like paintings that terrify your sleep with twisted cartoon visions of melting, fleshy homunculi pierced by hellforged harpoons, you’ll love the work of Salt Lake City artist Sri Whipple in “Wild at Heart.” Along with artists Trent Call and Juan Muniz, his work is on exhibit at Brett Wesley Gallery through Jan. 29. 1112 S. Casino Center, www.brettwesleygallery.com

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 55


ART Sugar Confection Recollection Through Jan. 2. This exhibit features artists such as Justin Favela, Andreana Donahue and Montana Black relating images of their favorite childhood desserts. Historic Fifth Street School Gallery

What You Left Me: Creating Dad Through Artifact Through Jan. 7. Artist Noelle Garcia uses artifacts to explore memories of her Native American father’s troubled life. Winchester Cultural Center Gallery

First Friday Jan. 7, 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. The Arts District’s monthly cultural event features artists, music and more in a street festival atmosphere. $2 suggested donation. 3840092, www.firstfriday-lasvegas.org

Decade Jan. 7-March 13. Curator Erin Stellmon exhibits the last decade of change in downtown Las Vegas through photographs. Historic Fifth Street School Gallery

Tina Benko and Cheyenne Jackson in the short film “Photo Op”

Integrity | Transparency | Results Since 1980

2300 W. Sahara Ave. Suite 1200, Las Vegas, NV 89102 702.227.7031 | 800.203.2487 | Fax 702.425.9405 www.fa.ml.com/anderson_delutri

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Dam, that’s short What kind of cinematic goodness will shine at the 2011 Dam Short Film Festival in Boulder City? One thing’s for sure: The films will be short. Like this blurb. The Dam Short Film Festival takes place Feb. 9-12 at the Boulder Theatre and the Boulder Dam Hotel. Info: www.damshortfilm.org


Figuratively Speaking: A Survey of the Human Form Through Jan. 9. This show features more than 40 works from the masters, including Picasso, Renoir, Lichtenstein, Hockney and more. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, 693-7871

Nevada Camera Club Members Show Through Jan. 11. The Nevada Camera Club displays select photographs from its members. Spring Valley Library

Size and Scale: 3D Objects Through Jan. 14. Modern artists explore the limitations of space and line in this exhibit mixing sculpture and other media. CENTERpiece Gallery

Periphery (36 12’N x 115 19’W) Through Jan. 16. Emily Silver employs paint and mixed media to explore the connection between the physical, spiritual and atmospheric aspects of the desert that has come to be a home for many. Big Springs Gallery in the Springs Preserve

Getting Close to the Event Horizon Jan. 19-Mar. 20. Andreana Donahue defies the dimensions through her innovative use of paper constructions that jump out of the frame. Winchester Center Cultural Gallery

The Bridge at Hoover Dam Through Jan. 23. Jamey Stillings’ photographs contrast the bridge over the dam at night and during the day to show man’s determination to carve his notch into nature. Patio Gallery in the Springs Preserve

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Be the Man You Want to Marry Jan. 24-Mar. 11. Danielle Kelly’s art ensures that viewers have no idea what to expect as her work evolves from abstract to frightening and crude to precise and modern. Clark County Government Center Rotunda

Artists of Guatemala Through Jan. 25. The Honorary Vice Consul of Guatemala hosts this cultural exhibit featuring the artists of Guatemala. West Las Vegas Library

Employee Art Exhibit Through Jan. 28. This third annual art exhibit features artwork from city employees who find the time to be creative outside of work. Bridge Gallery, City Hall

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Wild at Heart Through Jan. 29. Trent Call, Sri Whipple and Juan Muniz exhibit their work that ranges from contemporary realism to pop surrealism. Brett Wesley Gallery, 1112 S. Casino Center Blvd., www.brettwesleygallery.com

Emergy Through Feb. 17. Maria Michails’ interactive

exhibit aims to inspire an awareness of water and energy in our desert region. Charleston Heights Art Center

Cubism Juxtaposed Through Apr. 30. Nigerian native Day Adelaja has won numerous awards for his Summerlin floats, oil paintings and his continued exploration of cubism. West Las Vegas Arts Center Community Gallery

Motel hell Matthew O’Brien’s first book, “Beneath the Neon,” took him into the sewers that run below Las Vegas. His latest, “My Week at the Blue Angel,” introduces us to another kind of underground: life at a dilapidated hotel on East Charleston Boulevard. Sure, “My Week at the Blue Angel” has its share of shady characters and sketchy dudes, but it’s also filled with hardworking, hard-luck folks who haven’t given up hope. O’Brien signs books 3 p.m. Jan. 8 at Borders Books on 1445 W. Sunset Road, and 1 p.m. Feb. 5 at Barnes & Noble at 8915 W. Charleston Blvd. Info: www.beneaththeneon.com

GEOLOCATION Jan. 14-Feb. 19 Artists Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman explored the geolocated sites of public Tweets to lend life to otherwise anonymous-seeming posts. Contemporary Arts Center, 107 E. Charleston Blvd. #120, www.lasvegascac.org

Year of the Rabbit Feb. 3-April 15. Numerous artists from a variety of different cultural backgrounds present their versions of Chinese New Year in celebration of the year of the rabbit. Bridge Gallery, City Hall

MUSIC Pepe Romero Jan. 8, 8 p.m. The renowned guitarist blends classical guitar and flamenco stylings into songs that the New York Times calls “spontaneous and virtuosic.” $27-$65, UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall

UNLV Jazz Concert Series: Liberace Jazz Quartet Jan. 12, 7 p.m. The award-winning Liberace Jazz Quartet performs classics and

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lesser-known works. Free, Clark County Library Theater

whose Yiddish name means “crazy musicians,” performs in this World Vibration Concert. $7-10, Winchester Cultural Center

Ohi’a Lehua Jan. 15, 3 p.m. The Halau Hula ‘O Kaleimomi hula school tells stories through dance and the music of the Kawili trio, featuring slack key guitarist and singer Gary Haleamau. $7-10, Winchester Cultural Center Gallery

Foghat The Wailers Jan. 23 The Wailers perform with Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds and Duane Stephenson. The first 50 customers who show valid state I.D. get $10 tickets. $28-$32, House of Blues

Jan. 29-30, 8 p.m. This British band ventures across the pond to perform the hits that have made them famous since the 1970s. From $19.95, The Orleans Showroom

Firenze Sextet Count Basie Salutes Marlena Shaw

Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell

performs with special guest Marlena Shaw. $30-$65, UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre

Jan. 27, 8 p.m. The Count Basie Big Band

Feb. 5, 2 p.m. This group of string musicians presents classics by Schubert

Jan. 14-16, 8 p.m. The former teen idols will be performing their most popular hits such as “Volare” and “De De Dinah.” $29.95, The Orleans Showroom

Las Vegas Philharmonic: Masterworks III Jan. 15, 8 p.m. Child prodigy pianist Fabio Bidini played his first recital at five years old, and is one of the youngest graduates of the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome. His concert will include works by Brahms and Mendelssohn. $35-$75, UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall

An Evening with Styx Jan. 16, 8 p.m. The renowned high-concept rock band performs its greatest hits and more. $50-$75. House of Blues

Shall We Dance? Jan. 16, 3 p.m. The Nevada Chamber Symphony performs a musical salute to the New Year with guest appearances by members of M&M American Dance Theater. Free, Clark County Library

Social Distortion Jan. 20-21, 8 p.m. The classic punk band performs from its celebrated catalog. With Lucero and Chuck Ragan. $30$34, House of Blues

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Coastwest Unrest Jan. 21, 7 p.m. This Young Originals Concert showcases the talent of this Las Vegas trio with Noah Dickie on strings, Josh Dickie on percussion and Alex Barnes on vocals. $5, Winchester Cultural Center

Have Mercer on Me: The Great Songs of Johnny Mercer Jan. 22, 2 p.m. Singer Laura Taylor and four of her musical friends pull out all the stops for this jazz performance. $10-12, Winchester Theater

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Meshuggina Klezmorim Jan. 23, 2 p.m. This “Jewish Jazz” favorite,

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 59


and Brahms. $7-$10, Winchester Cultural Center

George Strait

DANCE

Erotic Shakespeare: Twelfth Night

The Fire and Passion of Tango: Tango Buenos Aires

Jan. 7, 8 p.m. Insurgo’s spicy interpretation of this Shakespeare mainstay. Price TBA, Insurgo’s Bastard Theater

Feb. 5, 6:30 p.m. Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack appear alongside country king George Strait in this cowboy concert. $73.50-$125. MGM Grand Garden Arena

Jan. 22, 8 p.m. One of Argentina’s greatest cultural exports, Tango Buenos Aires, dances its way through the history of tango from its beginnings to the present. $40-$85, UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall

Dos Tenores y una Rosa

Choipiniana and Romeo and Juliet

Feb. 12, 7 p.m. Two Tenors and a Rose pay tribute to St. Valentine with a variety of love songs in English, and arias in both Italian and Spanish. $10-$12, Winchester Cultural Center

Feb. 3, 8 p.m. Love — and sacrifice — are in the air when the Russian National Ballet performs. $35-$70, UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall

Las Vegas Philharmonic Masterworks: Rising Star

The Improvious Bastards

Feb. 12, 8 p.m. Young composer and conductor Alexander Prior leads the Las Vegas Philharmonic. $35-$75, UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall

THEATER Jan. 2, 8 p.m. This long-form, theaterbased improv team leaves no topic unturned in their show. $7, Insurgo’s Bastard Theater

Clark County Government Center 500 Grand Central Parkway, 455-8239 College of Southern Nevada BackStage Theater, Nicholas J. Horn Theater, Recital Hall, 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave., North Las Vegas, 6515483, www.csn.edu Historic Fifth Street School 401 S. Fourth St., 229-6469 House of Blues Inside Mandlay Bay 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., www.hob.com

The Little Prince Jan. 8-29, 8 p.m. This stage adaptation of the renowned book follows a traveler who happens upon a young alien prince who helps him learn to love again. Price TBA. Insurgo’s Bastard Theater

Jan. 14-22, 27-29, 8 p.m.; Jan. 22-23, 30, 2 p.m. This humorous play about marriage takes place in three different couples’ bedrooms. $21-$24, Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Drive, www. lvlt.org

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Bridge Gallery On the second floor of City Hall and along the breezeway connecting City Hall to the Stewart Avenue parking garage. 400 E. Stewart Ave.

Charleston Heights Arts Center 800 S. Brush St., 229-6383

Jan. 8, 8 p.m., Jan. 9, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jake Ehrenreich’s musical comedy explores the American Dream, from coping with his parents’ survival of the Holocaust to baseball and pop music. $25-$45, Suncoast Showroom

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CENTERpiece Gallery In CityCenter 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 736-8790, www.centerpiece.com

A Jew Grows in Brooklyn

Jan. 21-22, 27-29, Feb. 3-5, 8 p.m.; Jan. 23, 30, Feb. 6, 2 p.m. A funny and touching play about the relationship between two eccentric friends. $14-$15, Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Drive, www.lvlt.org Insurgo Theater puts on its unique

The Fantasticks

adaption of “The Little Prince” Jan. 8-29.

Jan. 28-29, Feb. 3-5, 8 p.m.; Jan. 30, Feb. 6, 2 p.m. This off-Broadway classic is about teens falling in love — despite their parents being all for it. $17-$30, UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theater

Insurgo’s Bastard Theater 900 E. Karen Ave. D114, www.insurgotheater.org Las Vegas-Clark County Library District Centennial Hills, Clark County, Enterprise, Rainbow, Sahara West, Summerlin, Sunrise, West Charleston and Whitney libraries, 734READ, www.lvccld.org MGM Grand Garden Arena In the MGM Grand 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S., www.mgmgrand.com The Orleans Showroom Inside The Orleans 4500 W. Tropicana Ave., www.orleanscasino.com

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Reed Whipple Cultural Center 821 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 229-1012 The Springs Preserve 333 S. Valley View Blvd., 822-7700, www.springspreserve.org UNLV Artemus Ham Hall, Judy Bayley Theater, Beam Music Center Recital Hall, Barrick Museum Auditorium, Black Box Theater, Greenspun Hall Auditorium, Paul Harris Theater, Student Union Theatre. 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, 8952787, unlv.edu Winchester Cultural Center 3130 S. McLeod Dr. 455-7340

Macbeth Feb. 4, 8 p.m., Feb. 5, 2 p.m. The Utah Shakespeare Festival Touring Company performs this bard classic. $10-$12, CSN’s Nicholas J. Horn Theatre

FAMILY EVENTS Circus Spectacular Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m. This classic circus promises fun (and terrifying clowns) for all ages. $12-$45, Orleans Arena

Sagebrush Stories Feb. 4-5, 10-12, 7 p.m., Feb. 6, 12-13, 2 p.m. The Rainbow Company Youth Theatre presents these musical tales of Old Nevada history and how the


West was won. $3-$7, Reed Whipple Cultural Center

LECTURES, READINGS AND PANELS The Law vs. the Mob Jan. 4, 7 p.m. Mob experts and insiders, including retired FBI special agent Dennis Arnoldy and ex-mobster Salvatore “Fat Sal” Mangiavillano, discuss the world of organized crime. Free. Clark County Library

New York and Chicago Invade Las Vegas and Hollywood Jan. 18, 7 p.m. Former mobsters, including Frank Cullotta and Andrew DiDonato, discuss mob life, along with actor Craig Vincent. Free. Clark County Library

Post-Midterm America: Where do we go from here?

Four Years in a Row! Last June, for the fourth year in a row, Schilling Horticulture won first place at the SNWA Landscape Awards for Residential Design by a Professional. In fact, over the past 4 years, we’ve won more awards in this category than all of our competition put together. We’re looking forward to what 2011 will bring. What can we say… we do beautiful landscapes!

Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m. Political strategist James Carville and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush discuss the implications of the recent election. Free, UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall

Education in the Developing World: Helping to Solve the World’s Big Problems? Feb. 10, 5:30 p.m. Rebecca Winthrop of the Center for Universal Education discusses how education can and cannot help address climate change and global health. A Brookings Mountain West lecture. Free, UNLV’s Greenspun Hall Auditorium

Climate Change and Development Feb. 15, 5:30 p.m. Katherine Sierra discusses how the least developed countries will suffer most from global warming. A Brookings Mountain West lecture. Free, UNLV’s Greenspun Hall Auditorium

FUNDRAISERS Golden Apple Gala Jan. 27, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. This second annual ball benefits the non-profit organization Clinics in Schools. The program offers free health care to children. $125-200, Gold Lounge inside Aria Resort and Casino, 696-1999

2011 Black and White Ball Jan. 29. This gala hosted by Cartier commends Priscilla Presley for her work in the media. Proceeds benefit Nevada Ballet Theatre. Aria Resort and Casino, 243-2623

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continued “Let us in” continued from page 30 A recent search of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors’ MLS yields 51 homes marked as having “handicapped” interior features. The descriptions generally lack specifics. Most of them have separate showers (though pictures confirmed these were not roll-in showers) and a master bedroom/bathroom that is somehow on ground level. Only a couple specify how they are accessible. “That’s all we had on our MLS,” says O’Donnell. “It took forever to find appropriate homes to show Jennifer.” Longdon decided not to sell her home. She became a Realtor, partnering with O’Donnell. Together they petitioned the Arizona Regional MLS to create 21 searchable, mandatory fields with specific handicapped features. As of July 2010, 2,064 residentials and rentals with at least one accessibility feature are listed in the Greater Phoenix area, according to ARMLS’s Wave. (By contrast, there are no current plans to change the Las Vegas MLS and no Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors task forces addressing the issue.) After creating searchable fields to highlight homes’ visitable features, O’Donnell and Longdon faced some good news and bad news. The good news: The demand for visitability is higher than they thought. The bad news: There aren’t enough homes to meet this demand.

Built-in visitability That disconnect between supply and demand may be changing for the better. Arizona Bridge to Independent Living’s Christenson believes we’re changing the way we build homes. “As a society, are we building homes the way we did in 1960? Of course not. We have upgraded wiring, water-efficient toilets, sprinkler systems for our lawns. In 2010, we should be building homes that are safe, energy efficient, convenient, protect us from the weather and let us age in place.” Realtor O’Donnell suggests the evolution includes how people perceive disability. “Jennifer tells me that I am just ‘temporarily ablebodied.’ At some point, most people will more than likely experience disability.” That shift also includes how to view a house. According to a 2008 study in the Journal of the American Planning Association, the chances that in the lifetime of a house an occupant will be disabled is about 60 percent (if a person with a disability using the house temporarily is taken into consideration, it’s about 91 percent).

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“We do not occupy our homes forever,” says Smith of Concrete Change, “and we do not occupy our homes alone. People who think that because only 20 percent of the population need this housing that means it only serves 20 percent of the population are missing that most persons with disabilities live with other people. If one person in a five-person household needs accessible features, the household needs accessible features.” Bennett is optimistic that things can change locally as well. “Nevada has come a long way. I think it is just a matter of education. Once people see that these options give you more bang for your buck, I think you will see builders embracing the concept.”

“Klatch” continued from page 53 $60 a month to pay a librarian. The library was out of the club’s hands, but members would sit on the board for years afterward. Their support continues through a memorial fund that donates money to the Clark County libraries and an endowment to the UNLV Library to buy children’s literature. By the time the library was passed on to the city, the club had already done countless other good things for Las Vegas. Mesquite members knitted for the Red Cross during World War I. They started a USO club in World War II. They met troop trains and gave hot meals to soldiers during both wars. Every Christmas until 1953, Mesquite Club members canvassed the city to make sure that each family had a proper holiday.

Mission: relevance “Here’s to the ladies, God bless them! If it had not been for the determined efforts of the Mesquite Club, Vegas would have remained the same sun-scorched child of the desert as her sister towns in Nevada; were it not for the ladies we would not give a whoop in Iceland whether we had any trees or not, for we wouldn’t any of us have been here.” — Las Vegas Age newspaper, February 19, 1912. Joan Powell is the current President of the Mesquite Club. She says the litany of good works continues today. Club members are behind the scenes at many local charities, collect-


ing food for the Salvation Army, toiletries for Safe Nest and various items for the Veterans Home in Boulder City. The club also fulfills requests for supplies from local elementary schools, and Powell notes that this year’s requests reflect the economic times. “We’re seeing more requests for simple things like socks and underwear,” she says. “It’s those everyday things that we never think about other people being in need of.” Members collect items at the club house, repackage them and give them to the schools to distribute. The Mesquite Club’s century-long commitment to improving Las Vegas has turned into a struggle to stay relevant. It’s no longer necessary, or even possible, for a single group to wield such influence in local culture. The decline of most fraternal organizations since the 1960s has stolen a bit of the club’s glamour, and the club’s function of knitting friends together doesn’t seem as crucial when Facebook is just a Blackberry away. Powell hopes the anniversary attention will swell the membership rolls. As is the club’s tradition, the women plan to celebrate in high style, with two events in February to commemorate the anniversary. The highlight is an evening gala celebration at Spanish Trails Country Club Feb. 26. “That’s the night we get to put on the dog and dress up and look real spiffy,” Powell says of the event where club members dress in 1911-period clothing. “We are hoping to see an upsurge as information gets out. … For so long, people knew the Mesquite Club was around — kind of. Then we had an influx of new people coming in who had never heard of the club, had no idea what it was about.” Changing priorities in local media over the years made it hard to get the word out, says Powell, and as the membership aged, their work became more behind-the-scenes. “We don’t go out and dig holes and plant trees anymore, but we do continue to aid other charities and raise funds for them.” And Powell says they’re rapidly making their way into the next frontier as well. “We are coming into the 21st century,” says Powell. “We have a website, which isn’t totally up and running as it should be, but we are working on it. We’re using e-mail as often as we can to communicate with our members, and to let the community know what we’re doing.” It’s only a matter of time before they’re on Twitter. For more information, visit www.mesquiteclublasvegas.com.

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 63


essay

Welcome to the Republic of Southern Nevada

N

E

V

A

D

A

If the new governor wants local government to pay for local needs, fine. Let’s secede!

D by hugh jackson

Did you know that Nevada has the smallest state government per capita in the whole United States of America? It’s true! It’s still too darned big, of course (it was on the news), so Nevada legislators and a new governor will soon be cutting public employee salaries and benefits, curtailing services for the mentally ill, slashing education funding and taking other steps to make state government even smaller. But can it ever be small enough to satisfy the loudest voices shouting down everyone else in what passes for today’s public dialogue? Clearly, the answer is no. So the time has come to dispense with halfmeasures and deal a conclusive, unrecoverable blow to the botched experiment that is the state of Nevada. Albeit unwittingly, Brian Sandoval suggested as much while on the campaign trail last fall. Acknowledging that Nevada has pretty much failed at the whole governance thing and can’t function like, you know, an actual state, Sandoval suggested that if people want something from government — something that costs money and might need new taxes — they’ll just have to get local government to do it. The Las Vegas metropolitan area should take Sandoval’s policy prescription to its logical conclusion and do something we probably should have done long ago: secede.

64 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1

All the gambling, sales and room tax revenues generated in the newly created Republic of Southern Nevada will stay in the Republic of Southern Nevada. The rest of Nevada can keep the name “Nevada.” But don’t worry. “Nevada” will still have all the tax revenue paid by the mining industry. Thanks to record gold prices, mining taxes for most of the last decade have roughly equaled the amount earned from the car rental tax in Las Vegas (another revenue stream which the Republic of Southern Nevada will keep, by the way). That should be more than enough money to operate an adult education outreach program in mine equipment maintenance at the University of Nevada Reno. Sadly, faculty in other disciplines at UNR will likely be cast out to face a tough job market. On the bright side, maybe UNLV will be hiring. Community colleges and K-12 education, a safety net, roads and other services that modern states typically tax their businesses and residents to provide shouldn’t be a problem for “Nevada,” anyway. With the exception of some precincts in the Reno area, inhabitants north of The Republic of Southern Nevada have made it abundantly clear at the ballot box time and again that the last thing they want is a nanny state doing a bunch of stuff that isn’t in

the Constitution. Instead of reducing already inadequate services and institutions as part of the relentless march into debilitating backwardness and irremediable decay, i.e., current state policy, Las Vegasless, Nevada can just axe all that Big Government once and for all. For instance, officials in Texas have considered getting rid of Medicaid, one of the most expensive programs in any state. That sounds like exactly the sort of thing “real” Nevada will want to do. Of course, old timey Nevada must be careful not to go too far in emulating Texas. That state imposed a gross receipts tax on business a few years ago. Dang socialists. But what the rump state does is its own affair. In the Republic of Southern Nevada, meantime, we’ll be free to write a new state constitution, preferably one that will allow a tax on the personal income of the likes of Steve Wynn, that Wal-Mart heiress who lives in Henderson and John Ensign’s parents. As for Ensign himself, “Nevada” is welcome to him. Let it never be said that the Republic of Southern Nevada isn’t generous. Hugh Jackson blogs at www.lasvegasgleaner.com and writes a column for Las Vegas CityLife.

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Desert Companion - January 2011