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| George Knapp on the vendetta against Daniel


Great Summer


May 2011

From one-tank trips to coastal adventures to urban exploring, your escape plans are here


B t Frieensd raises s the woof

Utahhh! The Beehive State gets busy on a makeover My town Hot spots in cities that rule Coastal notebook Dive into adventure at land’s edge


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editor’s note

The Vegas Golden Rule

S Next Month in Desert Companion

School’s in session with our Learning Curve issue

Sometimes it seems we don’t live in a city so much as some neonclad media specimen, one constantly under the prying gaze of countless authors, columnists, bloggers, tourists and a million grammar-torturing Yelpers. It’s fun enough — until the haters show up. Like me, surely you’ve read some glib, dismissive or baldly inaccurate account of Las Vegas that’s had you clenching your fists in the instinctive posture of hometown defense, muttering through a stiffened jaw: You. Just. Don’t. Get. It. Do. You? We know them well. There’s the Snickering Schadenfreude Piece — a more recent journalistic vintage — that tsk-tsks at New Sodom’s shattered economy and wags a shaming finger at our heedless growth and bad judgment. There’s the Weathervane Story in which the writer trips into Vegas for a passing pulse check, making a few swift compare-and-contrasts to the broader American zeitgeist. Then there’s the “Real Vegas” Travel Article whose writer slips off the Strip a few blocks for some color (if not substance) — respectable efforts, I suppose, that are, in the end, just that: efforts. (You can taste a sampling of these on p. 11). This has everything to do with Carlsbad, New Mexico. Let me explain. Okay, it wasn’t my first choice for spring vacation. (Rome.) But, hey, it’s where my significant other’s mom and dad were, and I had vacation time to burn, and, well, yeah, maybe I was

2 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1

secretly a little bummed that instead of mugging in front of Trevi Fountain or gazing into a reasonable facsimile of God’s face in the Sistine Chapel, I’d be at Carlsbad Caverns taking snapshots of vaguely obscene stalactites and marveling at bat guano — but lemons, lemonade, etc. But the bummer evaporated, because here’s the thing: Living in a tourist fishbowl has helped me be a better tourist. Harboring that faint throb of indignation over a thousand wrongheaded Vegas accounts in my mind, I solemnly applied the Vegas Golden Rule to Carlsbad, treating it like I would want the countless parachuting journalists and bloggers and scribes to treat my hometown: With earnest, aggressive curiosity and a strong desire to engage. I vowed to find the Really Real Carlsbad — and I found it. I found it at the Trinity Hotel, a restored, late19th century bank building converted to a popular lunch spot. (I recommend the bacon-wrapped shrimp over green chiles). I found it at the Blue House Bakery & Cafe, which felt like a tornado had dropped a homey Portland java dive into the middle of a working-class neighborhood. And I found it at — yes — the Carlsbad Caverns, where I marveled all gog-eyed at stalactites and stalagmites while keeping claustrophobia at bay. My girlfriend, who grew up in Carlsbad and had delivered grave warnings about what a monstrously, terrifically, mind-crushingly boring time

I was in for, had this to say: Thanks. Thanks? Yes. Thanks, she said, for opening her eyes with my enthusiasm and curiosity. Thanks for giving her own dawning fondness for her hometown a nudge. Thanks for getting nerdily and infectiously excited about stuff that she’d never really seen or never considered or had pre-emptively dismissed with the jaded eyes of the longtime local. What can I say? I had a good teacher. The trips in these pages — from familiar regional jaunts to more far-flung excursions — make no less a demand. Go forth, Las Vegan, with fresh eyes. We will build a better tourist. Andrew Kiraly, Editor


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Wrong on Red Rock


All Things to All People

Utah: No longer boring



Best Friends puts a paw in Las Vegas By Heidi Kyser



The vendetta against Daniel Bodgen By George Knapp



On the hunt for vegan treats By Jarret Keene

We explore all that beachfront property conveniently to our left. See page 47.


features 37

One tank, endless trips

Lots of quick trips in every direction



Natural beauty and an image makeover transform the Beehive state

4 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1


Coastal notebook

Remember water? Dive into these beachy getaways



From rock to theater to dance, your guide to culture



I missed you, Las Vegas By Gregan Wingert


My Town (away from town)

Our writers on their favorite cities

on the cover Photography: Ryan Weber/Radiant Photography

H o u s e C o u r t e s y H e a r s t C a s t l e 速 / C a l i f o r n i a S tat e Pa r k s ; D o g : J a n a C RU D ER ; S u p e r H e r o c o u r t e s y o f I n s u r g o Th e at r e


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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.

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We’re all adults, and obviously nobody can be forced to enjoy an ice-cold beer if they don’t want one.

Wrong on Red Rock My name is Alan Gegax, and I am the chief of the Las Vegas Hiking & Outdoors Meetup. We are the hiking group that Branch Whitney singled out, without naming, in his essay in Desert Companion’s April 2011 issue (“Twenty-one is a crowd”). I would like to address what he wrote about us, but more importantly, I’d like to bring to your attention some of the misleading facts he claims in the rest of the essay. The bulk of Whitney’s article is about proposed size limits on group hiking in the core area of Red Rock National Conservation Area. I wonder if Whitney has ever read the Bureau of Land Management’s environmental assessment, because I have, and the “magic number” to which he refers does not appear within it. The assessment puts restrictions on groups that apply for special recreation permits, and does the work in advance of assessing the environmental impact of such groups within two areas of Red Rock. However, nowhere in the environmental assessment is a threshold placed on the maximum number of hikers allowed in a group

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8 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M AY 2 0 1 1

above which a special recreation permit would be needed. Unless the final draft of the environmental assessment is markedly different from the first two drafts, the bulk of Whitney’s article is about an issue that does not exist. Furthermore, according to BLM officials, that “magic number” Whitney mentions would be set by an entirely different process, when the BLM determines “use numbers.” That process has not even been started. Whitney also makes a number of accusations about our group, many of which are true — sort of. Whitney writes that we occasionally brought more than 80 hikers on a single hike. He is no doubt referring to our Moonlight Hikes, which were very popular with our members. We did have a number of hikes of that size, but we have never had a hike of that size within the core area of Red Rock, the focus of Whitney’s essay. Large hikes of that sort have occurred only at carefully selected sites with a mind toward minimizing our impact, such as Railroad Tunnels or Anniversary Narrows, where we’re hiking on well-worn trails built to withstand heavy traffic. Additionally, those hikes all occurred at night, when there was nobody else on the trail or in the parking lot, thereby eliminating the possibility of our large group impacting other hikers negatively. Regarding drinking beer on the hikes, I carry a large backpack on those hikes (her name is ALICE) with beer inside. ALICE only holds 36 beers, which is usually less than a beer per person. We’re all adults, and obviously nobody can be forced to enjoy an ice-cold beer if they don’t want one. Further, we have never had a significant injury on any Moonlight Hike, and our locations are carefully chosen with safety in mind.

Finally, on many Moonlight Hikes, we have had rangers waiting for us at the trailhead, and without exception, we have been welcome to hike with their blessing. The only part of Whitney’s accusations that is truly accurate is that we are a big part of why the rangers at Red Rock started looking into limiting group hiking. Our group, now more than 4,500 strong, has been quite successful at our primary objective: getting people outdoors to enjoy the beauty of Southern Nevada and its surrounding areas. For a while, we were victims of our own popularity, in that larger and larger groups were showing up for our posted events. We began voluntarily placing size limits on many of our hikes before we were ever contacted by the rangers. Once the rangers got to know us, it was evident that we were doing good work on behalf of our public lands and providing benefits for our members and the public of the type Whitney mentions in his essay. In addition, we have adopted three trails at Red Rock, and one each at Lake Mead and Mt. Charleston. It is fair to say that we have a cooperative and thriving relationship with all of the land management agencies in Southern Nevada, especially the BLM. Alan Gegax, Chief, Las Vegas Hiking & Outdoors Meetup

Correction The finances of Friends of Southern Nevada Libraries were audited in 2008. This fact was incorrect in a recent article (“Score a rare book, save your library,” February 2011). Desert Companion regrets the error.

What do you think? Desert Companion welcomes your letters. Send them to Letters may be edited for length and clarity.



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The Beehive State is on a major marketing push.



Utah: No longer boring

© i S to c k p h oto . c o m / s k y n e s h e r

Typically seen as the pretty but prudish state, Utah has quietly been working hard to market itself over the last half-decade as a place to … play hard and even party a little? Yes. “Our brand is ‘Life elevated,’” says Clayton Scrivener, spokesperson for the Utah Office of Tourism and Film. “We definitely are trying to market to someone who’s aspiring to be healthier. An outdoor adventurer who’s trying to re-center himself.” On tap in the Beehive State: relaxing of liquor laws, a spate of big benchmark dates, ramped-up investment in tourism and a major rebranding campaign. Consider: When new Managing Director Leigh Von der Esch took her position in the Utah Office of Tourism and Film in 2005, the state had only a paltry $900,000 marketing budget. That changed fast, however. Gov. Jon Huntsman was “very keen on tourism as an economic engine,” she says, and helped pass a bill that created a new tourism board for the state as well as $18 million in funding. Next step: Creating a new brand. Officials embarked on a listening tour in 14 communities across the state. They held focus groups from Los Angeles



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to London. They sent out an “image survey.” “We expected the typical negatives — can’t get a drink, only one religion, nothing to do, no entertainment,” says Von der Esch. Instead, the results came back not negative but neutral. Utah was a blank. Even presumed positives — its stunning natural scenery — came back average to above average. And though some think of Utah as a family state, the survey indicated that people thought there was nothing for families to do. Von der Esch knew that brand launches can be tricky. She notes that in Washington state, tourism officials spent more than half a million dollars and 18 months to come up with the brilliant phrase, “Say Wa?” (It lasted only a few months.) Utah took it slow. Von der Esch explains that there are three types of slogans: descriptive (“Colorful Colorado”), prescriptive (“Find yourself in California”) and aspirational (Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign). Utah went for prescriptive: “Life elevated.” It applied to arts and culture, outdoor recreation, scenic beauty and moments when they all come together. In Utah, the brand appears to have helped. In 2005, the tourism industry generated $5.779 billion; now it’s pulling in $6.2 billion. In 2006, when the brand was being launched, the state attracted 17 million visitors; in 2008-2009 (the most recent figures), the number was 21 million. Elevated indeed. See what highs are on offer on p. 42. — T.R. Witcher


We are welltraveled You can’t have a travel issue without some kind of nod to the curious fact that we ourselves live in Las Vegas — one of the most visited, blogged, reviewed, navel-gazed, philosophized-upon and Facebooked destinations in the solar system. And among those clamoring hordes: Writers! With Important Thoughts! Even in a flatlining economy, Las Vegas continues to be a subject of fascination, commentary and, yes, howling ridicule. In case you missed them, here are some capsule takes on recent high-profile travel pieces about — aw, shucks — little old us. Paul Carr, author, columnist, “The Strip Diary” Premise: Acerbic Brit and fledgling teetotaler spends a month in Vegas — sober. He stays one night in each Strip hotel, from low-end to luxury. Outtake: “The town is the living, breathing embodiment of the phrase ‘only in America.’ Frankly, no other country but the USA would have the solid brass balls required to build the continued on pg. 12

Paul Carr discusses the world’s fascination with Vegas on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 11

N ews

continued from page 11

place; to see a patch of desert and declare ‘what this place needs is a bunch of casinos, hookers and a big, glass, Egyptian-themed pyramid with an American flag suspended from the ceiling!’” Grade: A-minus. Carr takes on the typical tourist institutions with biting candor and a gleeful penchant for exaggeration. On the Trump International Hotel: a “glittering monstrosity.” On his room at the trapped-in-time Riviera: “A phone next to the toilet! Such opulence!” On the escort profession: “It involves fewer old, fat people than you’d think.” Read it: Matt Gross, New York Times travel writer, “Lost in Las Vegas” Premise: Introspective travel scribe, long suspicious of Las Vegas, gives the newly humbled city a shake after the economic collapse. He discovers — surprise! — soul amid the slickness and true community taking root. Outtake: At N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms: “But then I found out that the bartender, A.C., had a daughter a week older than mine; we showed off iPhone photos of our kids, and the thaw began. ... Very cool. Even here, deep in Shays territory, conviviality ruled, stereotypes faltered.” Grade: B. Gross’ sojourn is shoegaze-inflected rummage through the Las Vegas that locals know well: Downtown, the Pinball Hall of Fame, Red Rock. Sure, Gross scores bonus points for getting under our shiny skin, but loses an equal amount for a prose style that’s workaday and vaguely glum. Read it: — Andrew Kiraly 12 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1


Music to your mouth (and ears) andrew kiraly

Imagine Dragons

“It’s Time” EP

Artesia lip balm I’m a lip balm addict. If the thin veneer of civilization we share suddenly disappeared and we all reverted to savage brutes, I’d probably just hoard sticks of balm and continuously apply it to my lips in a never-ending, increasingly glossy and widening circle to eventually encompass my whole head. It turns out I’m doing that because conventional lip balm dehydrates your smackers, encouraging the abject cycle of addiction. That’s what I discovered when I started pressing Boulder City-based Artesia’s lip balm to my mouth. Made with a blend of beeswax, cocoa butter and natural oils, Artesia lip balms also have hints of flavor — such as Raspberry Truffle (chocolatey!), Northern Lights (pepperminty!) and Huckleberry Nectar (huckleberry nectary!). Best of all, I’m not compulsively reapplying it. Well, okay, I am, but only ‘cause it smells and feels so good. It’s my little way of sticking it to Corporate Lip Balm. Take that! (

Imagine Dragons plays gushy anthemic pop with orchestral sweep and heft, the kind of songs that swell through the speakers when the girl runs back into the guy’s arms, the credits scroll and the house lights creep back on and you’re blinking happily and squeezing your date’s hand. The Las Vegas band’s new EP, “It’s Time,” is an exceptionally crafted work that should end the nattering about this act being just a poppier, store-brand version of The Killers. “It’s Time” has a pleasantly burnished, matured feel — perhaps largely courtesy of frontman Dan Reynolds’ voice that has just a touch of husk and smoke. And just when you’re thinking this bunch might be pigeonholed as a Southwestern Coldplay or desert-born Travis, then Imagine Dragons throws you for a loop with a song like “Tokyo,” a jitterer that Double-Dutches sunny radio pop and pleasing quirk. But the band knows well where its power lies: the anthem. Closer “America” is just that — big, rangy and sky-wide. (www.imaginedragonsmusic. com) The Imagine Dragons EP release party is May 13 at the Hard Rock Cafe. Info:

Indie tea selection After the morning’s ration of coffee has me well-launched into a pleasantly manic, OCD-like state of caffeinated productivity, it’s time to ride the plateau. That’s why afternoons are dedicated to the sustaining high of tea. Local blender Indie Tea creates blends with some fanciful names — Lover’s Lane, Moroccan Sunset, and Peace, Love & Happy-Tea — and serious earth-cred: It’s organic and fair-trade and pro-panda and all that. That may soothe the conscience, but how is the tea? Pretty incredible. No wonder Indie Tea just snagged a major prize at the 2011 World Tea Expo. If you like your green tea spiked with a little flavor, these are the leaves to love. The Moroccan Sunset has a nice minty kick, while Peace, Love & Happy-Tea’s is getting its smooth jasmine on. Lover’s Lane, with all its burgeoning orange slices and lavender buds? Loved drinking it, considering bathing in it. (

If you make it, we’ll try it. Send in your music, food, handcrafted doggie sweaters — anything locally produced — for consideration for Meet Your Makers.

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Architect William Snyder is rebuilding a school in Haiti — and helping the country rebuild its future.

‘The images pull at you. I had to go and help.’ Within minutes, paradise became rubble. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake racked the Caribbean island of Haiti on January 12, 2010, leaving utter ruin in its wake. The epicenter struck the small seaside town of Léogâne, 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince. Rebuilding and renewal efforts have been slow, due to failed infrastructure and corruption that siphoned off financial aid. All the more reason to get involved and help rebuild — literally. Architect William Snyder was moved by the devastation. “You donate money and aid, but the images pull at you. I had to go and help,” he says. As the namesake principal behind Tate Snyder Kimsey, a 51-year-old Henderson-based architecture practice, Snyder is now drawing upon three decades of design and development experience to rebuild a Léogâne elementary school. It’s more than a school, though. It’s a lifeline. Schools play a crucial role in Léogâne, where some students walk barefoot four hours a day to attend class. Snyder’s school aims to teach more than just reading and writing. He hopes his design could serve as a prototype model for other school rebuilding efforts. You see, Haiti lacks building codes as well as steel manufacturing and fabricating plants. Most of the country’s concrete is either homemade or bought piecemeal from sidewalk vendors, who often try to make an extra buck by diluting the concrete mix with sand. “Now, we’re teaching them how to build correctly and giving them skills they can use to rebuild their community,” Snyder says. He had a little help from the neighbors. With the support of the Red Cross, Snyder has involved the community in every step of the school rebuilding effort. A steering committee made up of locals is tracking the project’s progress. “It gives them a sense of pride and ownership,” he says. Plans call for a durable, low-cost, sustainable building that uses sunlight for illumination, passive ventilation for cooling and a rainwater collection system. These aren’t just fancy green perks for mere show, though. Such features are vital to Léogâne, which still lacks power and running water. Snyder is showing them how to build better, but they’re teaching him a few lessons too. “I was amazed at how upbeat and resilient the Haitian people are,” says Snyder. “They have nothing, but they are still friendly and inviting. It’s inspiring.” — Tony Illia

14 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1

PHOTOGRAPHY By sabin orr

Sock value


Gear on the go

Camping out? Holing up in a hotel? Our travel gear picks keep you moving in comfort and style

Boldly colored or boldly patterned socks are sensual. So it is no surprise that men avoid them, which is a shame. Wearing bold socks is easy to execute, counterintuively so: Just get a pair of loud socks (orange is good, and Barneys’ orange — more of a mandarin yellow — is best, but just about any bold solid color will do, particularly violet or purple or eggplant or even red). Wear them. Then enjoy the minuscule burst of joy you’ll feel when slipping out of your shoes at the McCarran security checkpoint. It will be the most pointless and brief and unregarded streak of exhibitionism you may engage in, but it will nonetheless be more satisfying than you care to admit. ($38, Barneys New York at the Shoppes at Palazzo) — Juan Martinez

Teas me, please me Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree liquid soap, 4 oz. Though one ounce larger than the maximum allowed by TSA, this travel-sized liquid soap smells terrific: mildly astringent, bitter and leafy. Its ingredients are sourced in ways and places so virtuous you may want to consider compensating by committing a minor felony and sneaking the stuff into your carry-on. If caught, let them know it’s organic! And Fair Trade! (It won’t work.) ($4.25, Sunflower Supermarkets, various locations) — J.M.

Hoodie goes haute Michael Kors waffle-knit cotton/cashmere hoodie in light gray Other than a scarf, no piece of clothing will serve you better when traveling than a hoodie: find one in a light-gauge knit. With lightweight wool, you can layer it under a blazer and even a suit for long cold nights, or you can wear it on its own with jeans, or you can wad it up and use it for a pillow. If you let it rest overnight, and let it hang mildly, you’ll find that it’s mostly unwrinkled and ready to go in the morning. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself in that same state. ($195, Barneys New York at the Shoppes at Palazzo). — J.M

Baggage claim to fame Bottega Veneta Marco Polo luggage set No piece of rubberized canvas and stitched leather should cost this much. Who cares if each piece was hand-made by a single Italian artisan? Or that it took three whole days? Or that it shimmers and ripples like an ocean at night? It’s still a piece of luggage, though it comes with its own protective cover. Get it if you can afford it, but leave the protective cover at home. Stuff — even jaw-droppingly expensive stuff — is meant to be used, and looks best with wear. (Trolley, $3,900; carry-on bag, $1,120, Bottega Veneta at the Shoppes at Palazzo) — J.M.

UPGRADED SOFTWEAR Beige plaid cashmere scarf A scarf will keep you warm, but it can also keep you cool. It can provide a bit of protection. It works beautifully as an improvised pillow or as a way to keep the sun out of your eyes or as a tourniquet. But it’s mostly there to make you look good, and a light one, in light colors, will serve you well in your travels. ($520, Salvatore Ferragamo at the Palazzo) — J.M.

16 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1


When to fold ’em Longchamp Le Pliage tote This tote folds neatly up into a little square to fit into your bag, but it’s big and sturdy enough to carry anywhere from beaches to local markets. Great for filling with last-minute souvenirs and knick-knacks, and then passing it off as a purse while boarding your flight. ($155, Longchamp at the Forum Shops) — S.N. Space: the tiny frontier Tumi Alpha Collection hanging travel kit Jetsetting doesn’t always mean deluxe suites, or so we’ve heard. This space saver hangs conveniently out of the way in even the smallest bathroom. Handy for: storing travel-sized toiletries, zipping up tiny, easily lost objects and protecting things you don’t want getting squished from getting squished. ($135, Tumi Stores at Fashion Show, Forum Shops, Miracle Mile) — Sara Nunn

I call it … mini-mag Travel-size magazines Take a break from stateside tabloids and tuck mini versions of UK edition magazines such as Glamour, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan into your carry-on. Save space in your bag while enjoying fashion news minus the scourge of Kardashians and other U.S. reality stars. ($8, Borders, Barnes & Noble) — S.N.

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Pet project Utah-based animal rescue group Best Friends is getting a stronger foothold in Las Vegas. Here’s what it means for animals — and other animal rescue groups

Q by heidi kyser

Quietly headquartered next door in tiny Kanab, Utah, Best Friends Animal Society is one of the most well-funded, well-organized and, simply put, effective animal welfare organizations in the United States. In 2009, it reported $47.9 million in gross income. It’s got marquee celebrity support from names such as film director Wolfgang Petersen and actor Charlize Theron. It boasts 300,000 members (6,729 of them in Southern Nevada) who donate money and time, subscribe to the organization’s magazine (circulation about 225,000) and sponsor any of the 1,700 or so animals living at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab. And those who aren’t necessarily volunteering or bankrolling love to watch: National Geographic Channel shot a reality TV show titled “DogTown,” focused on the canine sector of the Best Friends sanctuary. It ran for four seasons. But for being just across the border, Best Friends’ presence in Las Vegas been surprisingly low-key. That’s about to change, however, as the tightly organized animal welfare



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Best Friends cofounder Francis Battista, left, and co-founder and CEO Gregory Castle

group is putting a paw squarely in Las Vegas. In 2009, Best Friends hired Tami Simon as campaign coordinator for Las Vegas, a fulltime staff position. She is charged with beefing up Best Friends’ presence in the city. Why? It’s the economy. Simon says the animal health department of Best Friends was getting hundreds of inquiries a week from Las Vegans who needed help. Many had to do with people being unable to keep pets due to economic distress. “One of our greatest concerns is the overcrowding of the shelter and the euthanization that occurs here due to lack of space,” she says. She’s since launched five different initiatives

to help pets — and help people help pets — in the Las Vegas Valley. But will Best Friends get any puppy love from local animal welfare organizations? In the past, the group’s way of thinking and of doing things drove a wedge between it and the animal welfare community in Las Vegas. Shelters that believe they have no choice but to use euthanasia are alienated by Best Friends’ near-religious no-kill stance. David-like rescue organizations facing the Goliath of pet overpopulation don’t appreciate the wealthy outsider sharing its pets with Las Vegans — but keeping its cash at the sanctuary. (Disclosure: I’ve volunteered for Best Friends in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.)

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community Give me sanctuary Many animal activists are mum when asked to comment about Best Friends. “We really don’t work with Best Friends,” says Harold Vosko, president of Heaven Can Wait Society. “We have been doing this 10 years, and never once have we worked together. We are a local group, and I’m not sure what they do here in Las Vegas, for they are a national group.” Doug Duke, executive director of the Nevada SPCA, also said he had no comment, because he hadn’t done much with Best Friends. What gives? Best Friends has stronger relationships with L.A. and Salt Lake City than with Las Vegas next door. As Best Friends cofounder Francis Battista explains, when the fledgling group went looking for donors and members, it hit the road, eventually landing in L.A. and Salt Lake City, where it built relationships with the people who now run community programs there. But when Best Friends drove to or from Las Vegas, it was usually to pick up or deliver animals. “Things that we’ve done in Las Vegas tended to be more connected directly to the sanctuary,” says Judah Battista, interim director of community programs and services, and Francis’ son. “Until very recently, we were more geared toward taking in animals from Las Vegas, and also adopting out animals from the sanctuary there. For instance, through the mobile adoptions.” Mobile adoptions brought dogs and cats from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to Las Vegas, where they were made available to potential adopters during weekend events at PetSmart and other locations. This was fine when there were plenty of people to adopt these pets. Then, the economy soured. Las Vegans didn’t need another mouth to feed, especially the canine or feline kind. As people abandoned their homes, they left their pets behind too. (The practice even gave birth to one local rescue, started by a former realtor, called Foreclosed Upon Pets.) As numbers of abandoned animals rose, numbers of potential adopters fell. Las Vegas rescues were having enough trouble placing Las Vegas dogs and cats; they didn’t need outsiders snatching valuable potential homes.

Retreat and regroup Compounding the tension over mobile adoptions was an event that struck at the core of Best Friends’ beliefs: the 2007 disease outbreak at Lied Animal Shelter resulting in the mass euthanasia of more than 1,000 dogs and cats. The Animal Foundation, a non-

profit group that provides shelter services to Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County, had been trying to run Lied as no-kill. But overcrowding led to squalor, spreading three viruses and an aggressive bacterial infection among the animals. A group of inspectors invited by the foundation uncovered what press reports described as one of the largest animal health disasters on record. Best Friends offered its assistance in the crisis, but the Animal Foundation chose instead to work with the Humane Society of the United States, which had led the inspection. The decision to euthanize the sick animals followed. Judah Battista is cautiously critical of the choice. “I always think that there are ways to find a solution that saves as many lives as possible,” he says. “I’m not saying that wasn’t done, but it certainly wasn’t messaged that it was done.” Around that time, Best Friends was going through its own upheaval. Co-founder and longtime president Michael Mountain stepped down in 2008, and the organization, which had grown too large to manage in its original form, undertook a sweeping structural overhaul. In 2008, mobile dog adoptions from Kanab to Las Vegas stopped. Things got quiet on the animal welfare front in Sin City, at least as far as Best Friends volunteers were concerned.

Keeping the faith Best Friends’ origins perhaps explain why the group is so tightly organized. In the ’80s, a group of friends from the Foundation Faith in northern Arizona pooled their money and looked for a place to build a charitable organization with a spiritual dimension. One of them, Francis Battista, happened on some land for sale outside Kanab, about 80 miles east of St. George, Utah, in an area dubbed Angel Canyon. It was a steal at around $1 million with only a $5,000 down payment required for the 3,800 acres they now own (they lease another 20,000 acres from the Bureau of Land Management). “There were about 25 of us, and most were animal lovers,” Francis Battista recalls, adding that some had been involved in anti-vivisection demonstrations and other animal welfare activities before moving to Kanab. The group had about 200 animals in tow when it arrived. Soon enough, somebody’s dog went missing. When Battista and a couple others headed to town to fetch it, he says, they were horrified to find a tin shed and a wire enclosure in a field behind the small local airport serving as

Over nearly 20 years, this small band of dogooders has morphed into a 490-employee group that is tightly knit and well-organized. Kanab’s dog pound. After recovering their pet, they asked the mayor if they could take over animal control. He said yes. “That’s how it all started,” Battista says. “We were smart people. We figured anything we did would be better than the way it was.” Over nearly 20 years, the small band of dogooders has morphed into a 490-employee organization with a board of directors and distinct divisions for management, operations, communications, development, advocacy and the other usual functions of major nonprofits. During that time, they’ve helped a lot of animals. Best Friends reported that 465 dogs and cats were adopted or placed with fosters at its two 2010 L.A. Super Adoptions, mega-events that Best Friends markets and produces, inviting local rescuers and the city’s animal control to introduce their pets to potential adopters over the course of two days. Best Friends L.A. Programs holds dozens of other events each year, including monthly adoptions. Similar programs in Salt Lake City and New York are equally active. There are no Best Friends Super Adoptions in Las Vegas — at least not since the first and last one in 2007. And it’s not as if we don’t need them. According to statistics on the Clark County Administrative Services website, Animal Control euthanized 12,700 dogs and cats in fiscal ’08-’09, and adopted out 4,596 – a 2.7to-1 ratio. According to L.A. Animal Services, in 2009 it euthanized 93,961 and adopted out 87, 297 – nearly 1-to-1.

Can’t we be friends? To understand why Best Friends would be more active in Los Angeles than right next door in Las Vegas, you first have to understand the group’s modus operandi. Best Friends has many activities. Those directly related to helping animals generally fall into the categories of rescue and community-building. The group may be best known for its emergency response. Best Friends led the

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community rescue of several thousand dogs and cats in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Closer to home, it cooperated with the Nevada Humane Society, United Animal Nation and Humane Society of the U.S. to rescue 145 dogs from a facility in Gabbs, Nev., after the owner died. Best Friends also oversaw the rescue of 1,000 rabbits in Reno – although they multiplied to 1,600 by the time they were all adopted, Battista jokes. Such huge rescues make headlines, but the more mundane activity of communitybuilding may actually save more animals’ lives in the long run. It builds the infrastructure to support day-to-day, grassroots activity, such as pulling adoptable animals from the pound before they’re euthanized, finding foster homes for lost or abandoned pets until they can be placed in permanent homes, and educating the public on the need to spay and neuter pets. “We feel that, in order to address the problem of homeless animals around the country, what communities really need is to be empowered,” says Gregory Castle, co-founder and CEO of Best Friends. “We don’t want to walk into a community and set up even a great program without a real involvement from local people.” This empowerment comes in the form of funds, guidance and tools. A free program called Network Charities offers everything from a DIY website to grant money. Best Friends started the No More Homeless Pets conference as a way for rescuers to get together, network and share good ideas.

Paws-on perspective The hub of all this activity is the sanctuary in Kanab. A sort of last resort for unwanted animals, it takes in pets that have been rescued through Best Friends initiatives and can’t — because they’re too sick or too vicious — be put up for adoption. A staff of trainers and veterinarians rehabilitates as many pets as possible; those that never become adoptable live out their natural lives at the sanctuary. This operational model is unique. “Best Friends has a much more hands-on perspective,” says Doug Favre, editor-in-chief of the Animal Legal & Historical Web Center of the Michigan State College of Law. “There are no others like them.” Then there’s its categorical no-kill stance. In animal welfare, practices fall somewhere on a spectrum between using euthanasia as a solution to overpopulation and using it only as a last resort. At one end of the spectrum, you might find public animal control agen-

22 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M AY 2 0 1 1

cies, which euthanize dogs and cats deemed unadoptable, or that have gone unclaimed by owners after a holding period. Toward the opposite end of the spectrum are most animal rescue groups, with Best Friends at the farthest point. You can’t get into animal welfare without planting yourself somewhere on this spectrum, dubbed “kill” versus “no-kill.” But as Favre explains, it’s more complicated than being for or against killing. “Public animal control agencies only have so many cages, and when they’re full, they have to start killing the animals. Some people fervently believe no animal should be killed; you should work harder to find it a home. But the other side of that is, there are no-kill shelters that are nothing more than prisons. They don’t kill the animals, so they may spend a significant number of years in a cage. So, ‘kill’ can be a quality-of-life decision.” Best Friends is above this debate. It doesn’t have to kill any animals, because it has the resources to keep and care for them, cage-free, for as long as they live. “An animal that gets into Best Friends has gone to heaven,” Favre says. “There’s no better possible outcome.”

Adapt — and adopt Best Friends will have its work cut out for it in Las Vegas. Holly Stoberski, who represented nonprofit humane groups on Clark County’s Animal Advisory Committee through 2010, says, “I think we have some unique challenges that other cities don’t face, because of the transient nature of our population.” Stoberski points to the low-cost spay and neuter program of Heaven Can Wait, for which she is board vice president, as an example of grassroots movement in the right direction. “We certainly appreciate any other group who wants to help, but I’m not aware of what Best Friends has done in Clark County,” she says. “We’d break our backs to have a garage sale and try to raise a couple hundred dollars, whereas they have so many resources.” Jason Smith, director of operations for the Animal Foundation, is happy to take advantage of whatever Best Friends has to offer. “They certainly seem to have the resources to open up new opportunities for collaboration. We are always looking for Read about how one Bonus elderly couple found the perfect pet — with a little help from good karma — at

new and creative ways to positively place animals, and Best Friends’ willingness to coordinate transfers outside our community opens up new doors to us,” Smith says. He’s referring to Pup My Ride, a cooperative effort with the Animal Foundation to move small dogs from Lied, where they are abundant, to adoption events where small dogs are in demand. Best Friends Las Vegas Campaign Coordinator Tami Simon acknowledges there’s a need for more help. Case in point: In March, Adopt A Rescue Pet lost a major donor and had no other resources to pay the $70,000 balloon payment on its five-acre dog sanctuary in the Amargosa Valley. If Adopt A Rescue Pet doesn’t meet its goal of making the payment and keeping its doors open, as many as 300 dogs and cats could be displaced. Simon said Best Friends’ Animal Help department was working with Adopt A Rescue Pet, providing advice on fundraising and reducing the number of dogs in its care. Adopt A Rescue Pet Founder Elizabeth Rubin confirmed Best Friends’ involvement and said her group was halfway to its goal. More help is on the way. Best Friends CEO Castle says Las Vegas is one of four cities — along with Atlanta, Chicago and Jacksonville, Fla. — in the plan for developing tier two programs, having established tier one in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and New York. After assessing each city in the second tier, Best Friends will put together a plan for investment to start in the next two to three years. The local mood seems to be improving, too. Stoberski says, “I think the past couple years have been a very positive change, especially with Chris Giunchigliani (a strong animal welfare advocate) on the County Commission. The Advisory Committee has been taking a stronger, more active role in educating the public. Schools are opening up to rescue groups coming in. The more the merrier, I say.” Asked how he felt about working with Lied again, Judah Battista says, “Any time you’ve had sort of a bumpy relationship, it’s a little awkward again. We’re getting our footing. Everybody’s been receptive to us.” He adds that a new approach to Las Vegas is replacing the old, sanctuary-centered one. “We still have folks in Las Vegas who adopt from Best Friends, but ultimately, we didn’t want those adoptions to be a distraction for the community from the fact there are shelter dogs here that need to be adopted. … New groups have grown up that want to own the solutions here, and we want to complement the work they’re doing.”

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When the bugs bite back Nevada’s U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden has come under recent scrutiny in his handling of a highprofile corruption investigation. Is it part of an inside job to discredit the prosecutor — and derail the case?

F by george knapp

Four lawyers were sipping coffee in a downtown eatery when a fifth attorney walked in and pointed to the morning headline. “Did you read this about Dan Bogden leaking information to Nancy Quon? It says the Department of Justice is pursuing a criminal investigation of Bogden’s office and I heard they are also looking at whether prosecutors Dan Schiess and Steve Myhre are also leaking stuff,” the new arrival said. The four coffee-drinkers looked at each other, cracked smiles, then busted up laughing. Anyone with more than a cursory knowledge of the office of Nevada’s U.S. attorney would likewise find it preposterous that any of the top people are leaking sensitive information. True, the Department of Justice launched an inquiry into an alleged unauthorized release of information concerning high-powered construction defects attorney Nancy Quon, a central figure in a massive, ongoing investigation of political corruption within local homeowner associations — and now a figure under indictment on a felony drug charge related to the alleged scheme. The investigation concerns whether local homeowners association boards were infiltrated and then 24 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M AY 2 0 1 1

manipulated into filing multi-million-dollar construction defects lawsuits against homebuilders, funneling the legal lucre to certain lawyers and the repair work to certain contractors. But recent news reports about the department’s probe of a possible leak were blown completely out of proportion, according to multiple law enforcement sources (none of whom are currently employed by the U.S. attorney.) It’s a lesson in how disgruntled insiders can enlist credulous journalists to push their own agendas. Perhaps you saw the front page story in

the March 2 Review-Journal. It featured sideby-side photos of U.S. Attorney Bogden and the comely Quon, as if to imply that Bogden and Quon might have something else going on the side. The report claimed that “at least one” federal prosecutor had been questioned as part of a “criminal investigation.” Subsequent versions of the story appeared online and exaggerated the facts even more, claiming that “several federal prosecutors” were under criminal investigation for leaks. One story quoted a prominent Washington lawyer

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politics as saying the situation was so unusual in that the lawyer had never before heard of FBI agents and federal prosecutors investigating other prosecutors. (Really? Does this lawyer know what the Public Integrity section of the Department of Justice was created to do? And does the name Alberto Gonzalez ring a bell?) It’s no accident that someone would weave a tale about a supposedly massive criminal investigation into Nevada’s U.S. Attorney’s office. Courthouse observers are well aware of an ongoing effort to embarrass the office in general — and Bogden in particular. The interesting thing is that it’s coming from inside the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s office. Still, it isn’t the first potshot taken at the U.S. Attorney’s office over the past year or so, and more are undoubtedly on the way. “Being U.S. attorney is not an easy job, and is sometimes a thankless one,” Bogden tells me. “We pursue investigations and prosecutions against those who have violated the law, despite who they are, what position they hold, or what their net worth might be. You take on those individuals and they will take shots back, even if untrue.”

A history of blowback Attacking the motives and methods of federal authorities in Nevada did not begin with Bogden. It’s a tradition of sorts in our state, born of mutual suspicions. The headline-seeking mob-busters of the Kefauver Committee helped to put Las Vegas on the map when they came to town in 1950 looking for evidence of organized crime in the casino industry. In the early ’60s, Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department planted bugs in half the casinos on the Strip in an effort to nail the likes of Sam Giancana and Moe Dalitz, but the investigation imploded. In the ’70s and ’80s, the FBI and IRS stepped up their presence in Las Vegas and were, for a time, at war with the power structure here. Joe Yablonsky’s FBI team conducted stings on crooked politicians, hounded mobsters and targeted a federal judge. His IRS counterparts went after casino money-laundering and turned up the heat on tip-earners. In the ’90s, federal agents again went after elected officials willing to sell their offices, this time to the owners of strip clubs. And more recently, agents have targeted everyone and everything from prominent doctors to personal injury lawyers, mortgage companies,

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homeowner associations, nightclub operators and politicians. The fact is, Nevada has always been a target-rich environment for federal law enforcement. It’s little wonder that Bogden’s team of 50 attorneys (about half as many as the thinly stretched Clark County district attorney’s office) are seeing some blowback. “We had a banner year in 2010,” Bogden tells me. “We saw record increases in criminal filings and monetary collections. Our criminal filings were up 39.3 percent over the prior year and 50 percent higher than 2007. Nevada’s U.S. Attorney’s office ranks fifth in the nation for increase in criminal filings. Our appellate division was nearly flawless representing us before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.” You wouldn’t know it, though, from local press reports. Columnists and other journalists have ripped into Bogden’s office on a fairly regular basis over the past few years. The criticism isn’t nearly as pointed and frequent as back during the Yablonsky years, when harsh headlines and editorials helped fuel death threats against federal agents here. Still, the recent anti-fed campaign must wear on prosecutors and agents, and has probably led

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to painful teleconference calls from Department of Justice honchos in Washington curious about whether the things they’ve been reading are remotely true. For the most part, the answer is no. I base this answer on my own knowledge of most of the high-profile cases on the front burner of Bogden’s office. I have covered most of those cases from the beginning, even before some of the investigations were formally launched.

Bugs — big bugs Take the case of the so-called leaks involving Quon. She is perhaps the most successful construction defects attorney in Nevada history. She’s won an estimated $100 million worth of verdicts on behalf of homeowners who were screwed over by shoddy developers. But investigators believe that, somewhere along the way, Quon’s compelling personal narrative became confused and distorted by the waves of dollars that rolled into her coffers. Agents believe Quon conspired with one or more construction defects remediation contractors, that she manipulated her HOA clients to award their lucrative repair work to a firm owned by Leon Benzer, whose company raked in millions for allegedly (and half-heartedly) fixing the defects at the heart of Quon’s lawsuits. Also part of the alleged scheme were prominent property management companies and a network of political operatives and ex-cops who seem to have infiltrated dozens of homeowner associations, got themselves elected to HOA boards through what appear to be rigged elections, then manipulated their HOAs into pursuing defects lawsuits through Quon and Benzer. “Every time we turn over a rock, three more bugs crawl out,” one lawman told me almost two years ago. Big bugs. Among the names that have surfaced — but have not been made public — is that of an elected official who hoped to be living in the governor’s mansion at this moment. Columnists have understandably questioned why the case is taking so long to prosecute. The criticism probably stems from hands-on investigators who submitted their basic case to prosecutors months ago and have been griping to media friends because no indictments have been issued. First of all, it’s not unusual for cops to gripe about prosecutors. In general, cops think every case they submit should be accepted as gospel by prosecutors and should be put on a court calendar immediately. Prosecutors almost always ask the investigators to get more information about a case before indictments are handed down. It takes time. Has it dragged on too long? That’s a judgment call though, given the complexity involved and the wealth and power of some of the targets, it would be prudent for prosecutors to

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Bogden’s recusal was appropriate and routine — but his hidden critics tried to stir the pot and make it appear far more sinister. button down all loose ends before proceeding. It would not be a surprise to learn of an announcement in the case by the time this article is printed. Second, critics of Bogden’s office have almost certainly contributed to the delays. Remember the first conspiracy theory leaked to the media? Dark rumors circulated about why Dan Bogden had to be removed from any connection to the case. It turned out Bogden owned a condo in one of the HOAs that was targeted by the probe. So what? Bogden was never going to personally prosecute the case anyway, so he recused himself. He played no role in the decisions made by his homeowners association. His recusal was appropriate and routine — but his hidden critics tried to stir the pot and make it appear far more sinister. Soon after Bogden’s recusal, the rest of his staff was removed from the HOA matter as well. Rumors again started flying, especially when a fresh team of prosecutors was brought in from Washington to handle the case from that point forward. Media critics assumed something dastardly must be at the root of that drastic change, and Bogden’s internal opponents were happy to fan the flames by whispering in the ears of reporters.

The Bush connection Starting over with a new team of prosecutors certainly contributed to further delays in announcing indictments, but the story of why the change was made has not been told. Here’s what happened. You might recall that Bogden was one of a handful of U.S. attorneys fired by the George W. Bush administration for no apparent reason. After the election of Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid pushed to have Bogden reinstated. A few staffers in the Las Vegas office were not happy about Bogden’s possible return for the simple reason that they were not among his most trusted deputies. The same group didn’t like Bogden’s top assistants and go-to prosecutors Steve Myhre and Dan Schiess. They griped mightily when Myhre was given the job of acting U.S. attorney, started filing complaints with the Department

28 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M AY 2 0 1 1

of Justice about Myhre (and later Bogden), complaints alleging discrimination against minorities and women in hiring and promotions. Many of those complaints made their way into the hands of local journalists, though the griping failed to derail Bogden’s re-appointment. At least one of the unhappy prosecutors found himself smack in the middle of the HOA case but, according to sources familiar with the case, was not up to the job. He made repeated mistakes, had trouble grasping the enormity of the case, and continued to chafe because he was working under the lawyers whose careers he had tried to derail. Months ago, that prosecutor was quietly but unceremoniously dumped from the HOA case. In fact, he was transferred out of the criminal section altogether, assigned instead to civil matters. The federal lawyers who handle civil cases are every bit as important as those who take on criminal matters, but for a hot-shot criminal prosecutor, the transfer was considered an embarrassing demotion. The prosecutor soon quit and went into private practice with another former federal lawyer. But that wasn’t the end of it. Bits and pieces of insider information, nearly all of it meant to be an embarrassment to Bogden and team, made their way into the hands of local reporters, including the story about a leak in the Quon matter. As noted, a formal inquiry into a possible leak was launched under orders from Washington, in part because so many other internal complaints had been filed by a small but vocal group of former (and current) employees. But investigators got to the bottom of the alleged leak in short order. There was never a “criminal investigation of several prosecutors.” One — and only one — federal attorney had a few cocktails and inadvertently let slip a detail about the case to another lawyer. That tidbit of information allegedly traveled through the legal grapevine and made its way to Quon. The leak was not made to Quon directly, and there is no evidence it affected the case in any way such that Quon was able to destroy any evidence that might be used against her.

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‘Absurd’ all around Quon’s very capable attorney Tom Pitaro, no stranger to legal battles with federal prosecutors, said the allegation that Bogden’s office leaks information is “absurd.” Other attorneys share that opinion. Tax lawyer George Kelesis has faced off against federal prosecutors many times, and has also advised some clients to cooperate with the office. He says it is “ludicrous for anyone to suggest Dan Bogden is leaking information about Quon or anything else.” Kelesis added that

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politics Myhre and Schiess are among the best trial lawyers he’s ever seen, in large part because they play by the rules. Yet, the leakers of the story were able to convince local journalists that this was a huge scandal in the making. True to his nature, Bogden will not answer questions about the official inquiry into the leak, or about the changing of the guard in the HOA case. Simply put, he does not talk about cases that are in the pipeline, and will not discuss the internal operation of his office — even when it would be in his own best interests. (Unlike in other government offices, it’s illegal for federal prosecutors to talk about their work for the simple reason that much of what they do is presented to grand juries.) Investigative reporters do not, as a rule, talk about their sources. But I can say this much — after covering federal law enforcement in Las Vegas since the early ’80s, I have never known a government entity less willing to leak stories than Bogden’s office. There are still ways to get such information, but it doesn’t come from Bogden or his top assistants. There are leaks, as we now know, but those leaks are not sanctioned by the office itself and are mostly done to hurt the

30 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M AY 2 0 1 1

guys at the top, not help them. Attorney Kelesis tells me that the local legal community is well aware of the ongoing attempt to smear Bogden’s name — and that most of the lawyers who practice in federal court know who is behind it.

More to come Although Bogden is reluctant to toot his own horn, his office has managed to compile an amazing record in the past few years. In 2010, they filed 646 criminal cases against 806 defendants, which is 24 percent more than in 2009, and almost double the number filed in 2008. Twenty-six percent of those were violent-crime cases, 31 percent were immigration-related and 19 percent were white-collar crime cases. More than 100 people were charged with mortgage fraud. The office conducted 32 criminal trials, 28 of them here in Las Vegas with a conviction rate of 93 percent, despite the fact that they most often face off against the best defense attorneys in the state. Seventy-seven percent of those who were convicted were sentenced to prison. Many of the bad guys they’ve gone after are among the most dangerous elements of society, including the 161 people charged with federal

firearms violations or the 14 slimeballs they busted for trafficking in child pornography. At the same time, the civil division filed 436 cases in 2010 and closed all but 18 of them, an amazing success rate. Included in those were cases of environmental crimes, consumer fraud and employment discrimination. By the time you read this article, there’s a chance we will all know more about the direction of the HOA investigation and who the most important targets are. For some critics, it will never be enough. For disgruntled former employees, none of the accomplishments mentioned above mean diddly. It is much easier to hammer the U.S. Attorney’s office with a wellplaced if specious leak or smear. It’s much harder to tell about the bigger picture of what they are accomplishing, especially since the employees of that office are handcuffed when it comes to talking about themselves. They are not perfect and never claimed to be. But news reports to the contrary, the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s office is alive and well. George Knapp is an investigative reporter for KLAS-TV Channel 8 and a columnist for CityLife.


Khoury’s Mediterranean


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Khoury’s prides itself on excellence in the preparation of food, presentation and quality of service. Serving some of the finest Lebanese cuisine available in Las Vegas, Khoury’s restaurant will stimulate and delight your senses. Close your eyes as you savour this fantastic food and drink, and you’ll feel you’ve stepped into the heart of Beirut.

Award-winning Smashburger serves 100-percent Certified Angus Beef cooked-to-order Smashburgers, as well as Smashchicken sandwiches, Smashdogs, Smashsalads, Häagen-Dazs shakes, and sides like veggie frites and rosemary and garlic-seasoned Smashfries, daily from 10am-10pm.

Featuring Chef Wes Kendricks’ contemporary American cuisine including safe harbor certified fresh fish, wild game, duck, lamb, angus beef, and comfort food classics. Conveniently located off the 215 near the Airport. Dinner tuesday - Saturday 5pm until closing (around 10pm)

6115 S. Fort Apache #100, Las Vegas, NV (702) 671-0005

7541 W. Lake Mead Blvd (702) 982-0009 9101 W. Sahara (702) 462-5500 5655 Centennial Center Blvd. (702) 462-5503 4725 S Maryland Pkwy (702) 385-0043

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experience fine Italian dining at its best! time-honored family recipes - homemade pasta, sausage, exquisitely fresh seafood, and award-winning Osso Buco – and our celebrated wine cellar are part of the magic created by Gino and mimmo Ferraro. Whether your occasion is large or small, mangi, Bevi, Divertiti – eat, Drink, enjoy Yourself!

Giovanni and marcello mauro (the sons of nora mauro) have expanded on a tradition of culinary achievements to bring a non-traditional approach to wine tasting and the dining experience. they create delectable Italian dishes to indulge all of your senses and they feature the first enomatic Wine Dispensers in Las Vegas.

At Your Service Catering has been serving the Las Vegas area with the best in culinary creations and high profile event planning and design since 1991. Our expertise allows us to handle events of all sizes, from simple to extravagant. Fully licensed for both food and liquor service, we are more than caterers we are full-service event planners.

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Dominic and Joseph De Patta 633 N. Decatur Blvd. Suite D Las Vegas, NV 89107 702-870-1502


News Reviews In t e rv i e w s


Chef Aneesha Tolani’s Red Velvet Café has become a hot spot for vegans with a sweet tooth.

Creatureless comforts On the hunt for vegan treats in Vegas? Here are some great graze spots. (No animals were harmed in the chronicling of this deliciousness) by jarret keene


Even in buffet-jammed, steakhouse-stuffed Sin City, there’s growing interest in vegan eating, what with health, environmental and spiritual concerns ever-mounting. So what keeps the merely curious among us from committing to a vegan lifestyle? Admit it: Fear. Fear of losing the good things in life — like, say, pastries. But now we can have yummy cakes and eat them, too, thanks to a couple of vegan hotspots. Over at Red Velvet Café (7875 W. Sahara Ave., 360-1972), Chef Aneesha Tolani works with a simple principle in mind — be aware, offer choice. d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 33

Venturing vegan

Want to try your hand at animalfree baking? Red Velvet Café’s Chef Aneesha Tolani and Ronald’s Donuts owner Janie Kang have advice. Stay moist. “Finding a balance between your wet and dry ingredients is key,” says Chef Tolani. “And yes, that’s certainly easier said than done. But a good rule to remember is, a lot of times, egg or dairy substitutes can overpower your dry mixture. This is where a little math and science comes in handy, in terms of ensuring equilibrium.” And where a little extra flour can go a long way. Measure up. Get a measuring cup. You’ll need it if you’re going to take the vegan-baking plunge, because this is like chemistry class, only with people’s taste buds on the line. Tolani suggests you also consider the fact that substitutes (for example, egg replacers like Ener-G powder or ground flaxseed mixed with water) tend to create a dough or batter that’s more watery than the original. Thus, a one-to-one ratio à la cow’s milk isn’t always ideal. The heat is on. Many vegan desserts aren’t forgiving when it comes to temperature. Make sure your oven temperature is accurate. “Substitutions introduce additional sugars to a recipe,” says Tolani. In other words, the sugars and starches in non-dairy milks and egg replacers require that a attentive vegan baker must adjust “oven temperature and baking time to keep your vegan baked goods from bursting into flames or blackening to a crisp.” Examples: If you bake muffins at 375 degrees for 15 minutes in a traditional recipe, you’ll likely have to bake vegan muffins at (a lower) 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes since, at a higher temperature, any extra sugars will caramelize, burn and attract the interest of local firefighters. Icing on the cake. Owner Janie Kang reveals how you can get pretty close to creating the best icing on the planet — vegan or otherwise. Mix a cup of sugar and six tablespoons cornstarch, then add some salt and cocoa and a teaspoon of vanilla in a pan. Whisk in a cup of water and heat until boiling, and let it boil for no more than two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in two tablespoons of flaxseed or vegetable oil and a half-teaspoon of vanilla. Let it cool before spreading on a cooled cake. — J.K. 34 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1

“I consider myself to be a very health-conscious person,” she says. “I decided to go with a concept that helps people with different lifestyles have a choice about what to eat, whatever the reason, health or otherwise, might be.” From Tolani’s vantage, that reason is often food allergies. She considers Red Velvet Café, which opened in 2008, as a venue that assists kids suffering from allergies and parents who don’t have options when they think of dining out. They’re all vegan: whole wheat cinnamon rolls, tres leches cake, brownies, carrot cake cookies, and Tolani’s signature red velvet cake are all included in the menu, as well as vegan ice creams. I sampled each, and they’re uniformly tasty and don’t leave you feeling sick to your stomach afterward like superprocessed, over-sweet, kiosk-created desserts. (Cinnabon, ahem.)

Variety show “Having variety is what got me interested in creating a menu for everyone,” says Tolani, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, Calif. “Vegan and healthy desserts are designed to complement the experience they have here. “Vegan pastries are a staple of our customers’ diets,” she adds. “We have many customers who enjoy dessert first, and then dinner second—that way they make sure to get their vegan dessert in.” Which brings us to the underlying philosophy of Red Velvet Café: to help people understand the importance of living and eating healthy — while also showing them that vegan options can taste great. Tolani was also inspired by seeing her close family and friends, many of whom are vegan and vegetarian, have a tough time when dining out. Desserts arrived Godzilla-sized, often requiring four people to finish a single plate, so rich and so over-the-top. Healthy desserts? Few choices. Environmentalism is a factor for her, too. “I think we should be focused on and dedicated to improving the direction we’re heading,” she says. “I think every single one of us needs to be aware of what we eat or consume day-to-day. I advise people to at least devote two to three days a week to being vegan or vegetarian. Doing so also helps the environment.” She’s also eager to share her knowledge and

The secret to Ronald’s Donuts’ vegan delights? Well, it’s a secret.

experience about making vegan pastries. And don’t worry — it’s not all about putting tofu into everything. “There are many different ingredient alternatives, not just tofu, although tofu is wonderful,” she says. “There are other choices, like bananas and egg replacer. For dairy substitutes, almond, rice and soy milk are popular.”

Killer frosting Speaking of popular, over at Ronald’s Donuts (4600 Spring Mountain Road), owner Janie Kang has been serving up vegan donuts so good and for so long — about 20 years — people don’t even realize they’re vegan. Indeed, the establishment doesn’t even bother advertising the fact, because it won’t matter. Once you try them, you’ll never settle for a corporate coffee sinker again. But it’s Kang’s killer (but not artery-killing) frosting that makes all the difference. “It’s just sugar and starch,” she says. “I can’t give away our exact recipe, though!” Kang’s vegan customers continue to spread the word. Her husband, Henry, switches on the fryer and begins making icing right at midnight nightly. She shows up at 3 a.m. to brew coffee and get things in order before the doors open at 4 a.m. “We often sell thousands of donuts in a day,” Kang says. “But we put care into every one we make. If we didn’t, people would never come back.” Judging by this morning’s queue, which trails out the door and onto the sidewalk, quality isn’t an issue when it comes to vegan delights.

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Our 2011 Season June 23 — October 22 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Richard III Romeo and Juliet The Music Man The Glass Menagerie Noises Off! The Winter’s Tale Dial M for Murder

800-PLAYTIX 36 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1


How much Southwest can you see on a tank of gas? The answer from our road-trip guru: Plenty — in every direction

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 37

One tank, endless trips

Trip AdvisorY Bring your appetite — for fresh pie. The community of Veyo, Utah is crazy about baking.

38 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1

Utah’s Snow Canyon State Park is a great place for hikes — and lots of photos.


Wild West road trip Heading northbound on I-15 toward Mesquite, take exit 112. The bridge crossing at Riverside is a favorite spot for photographers. Skirt the edge of Mesquite along the Virgin River until you reach the unnamed badlands just north of town. Here — only a mile away from the highway — it’s easy to imagine that a stagecoach might come galloping around the bend. The road rejoins I-15 at Littlefield, but keep on going north. Now you’re on old Highway 91, passing through Joshua Tree National Landmark. You can take the graded dirt road that skirts the Beaver Dam Mountains if you’re driving a high-clearance truck. Otherwise, push north for a picnic at Gunlock State Park and fresh baked bread at Veyo. Snow Canyon State Park is a great place for photography and hikes in late afternoon. (I-15 north to state route 170)

S n o w C a n yo n S tat e pa r k : M a r i a W e r n e r

We may live on an island in the sand, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens of great voyages beckoning you and your land schooner. Tank up and head out on one of these 10 rewarding routes that will have you back in Las Vegas — without a refill.

L e h m a n C av e s C o u r t e s y NP S . G OV/ g r b a ; M u r a ls C o u r t e s y o f P u r c e ll G a ll e r i e s O f F i n e A r t

Rainbow rocks and wild loons To visualize Rainbow Canyon, think Zion National Park — with far fewer people. The canyon’s cool ponds shaded by rustling cottonwoods are great for frog-watching, and Caliente Kershaw-Ryan State Park is a pleasant spot for picnics. Return to Las Vegas on U.S. 93 over Pahroc summit and south to the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge to enjoy sunset to the calls of wild loons. (I-15 north to U.S. 93 north to Kane Springs Road to state route 317)


Murals, burros and Route 66

After passing over the Colorado River Bridge at Hoover Dam on U.S. 93, stop in for a soda at Rosie’s Den. Then turn toward Chloride at Grasshopper Junction to discover a unique desert artists’ enclave and “The Journey,” muralist Roy Purcell’s evocative and colorful series of paintings on boulders just outside of town. The unpaved road to the murals is a bit rough, and a high-clearance vehicle (or a walk) is necessary. At Beale Street in Kingman, turn southwest and travel on historic Route 66 over picturesque Sitgreaves Pass. Bribe the friendly “traffic control assistants” (you’ll recognize them by their pointy gray ears) with carrots to let you pass through historic Oatman before heading to I-40 at Topock for the trip back home. (U.S. 93 south to historic Route 66) Roy Purcell’s mural, “The Journey,” near Chloride

Old Nevada excursion Allow at least two days for a journey to see Ely’s vintage steam trains and get a glimpse of the wonders in Great Basin National Park, including the spectacular Lehman Caves. Consider an overnight stay in a themed (and perhaps haunted!) room at the historic Nevada Hotel in Ely. If you can spend only a day, at least go as far as Pioche and marvel at the ingenious and still-intact “sky-tram” developed to move ore from the steep mining areas in the surrounding mountains to the processing plants in the valley below. (I-15 north to U.S. 93 north to U.S. 50 east)

Lehman Caves

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 39

One tank, endless trips


Railroad trains and singing dunes Exit I-15 at Jean for a Mojave road trip. Pass through Sandy Valley and take the dirt road toward the black tailings pile. Along the narrow canyon walls are remains of mining workers’ dwellings carved into the sandstone walls. Head south through a Joshua tree forest to the ghost town of Cima, Calif., before turning west to follow the railroad tracks. Stop for a sandwich at the lunch counter in the Kelso Train Depot. Drive on to Kelso Dunes. If possible, time your hike so you reach the top of the dunes in time for photogenic vistas at sunset. Then, the big payoff: Run down the dunes and enjoy the unusual harmonic sounds created by the moving sand. Remember to carry water and a flashlight. If hiking up dunes is not for you, you can listen to recordings of the “booming sands” at the Kelso Depot. (I-15 south to state route 161 to Kingston Road to Cima Road)

Petroglyphs and mining history At 5,639 feet, Spirit Mountain, the highest peak in the Newberry range, has long been sacred to the Yuman Indian nations. On the peak’s south side, thousands of petroglyphs adorn the rocks at the mouth of Grapevine Canyon. Returning to U.S. 95 over Christmas Tree Pass, you can stop by Knob Hill, another area with lesser-known petroglyphs. At Nelson, consider asking to see the “surprise” in the freezer at the Techatticup Millsite museum. (U.S. 95 south to state route 163 and then north to Christmas Tree Pass Road to Grandpa’s Road) W EST

Just north of Ridgecrest on U.S. 395, Nine Mile Canyon Road climbs from the desert floor into the Sierra Nevada, gaining remarkable altitude in a very short distance. Grab a bite at the rustic diner in Kennedy Meadows, and then enjoy the southernmost paved highway in the Sierras. On a clear day, you can see the highest peak in the continental United States from the Sherman Pass vista point. Heading south, pass by Lake Isabella and return to Las Vegas through Panamint Valley. (I-15 south to state route 58 west to U.S. 395 north)

Low, high and ancient The historic Kelso Train Depot. The lunch counter is pretty tasty, too.

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Amazingly, a drive from the lowest point in America to the trailhead at the foot of the highest peak in the lower 48 is


Peaks and meadows — in a jiffy

Trip AdvisorY The way to Racetrack Playa is lined with very sharp lava rocks. Consider a set of upgraded tires.

Mysterious sliding stones

S AI L IN G S TONE S : © s a n d m a n

Racetrack playa in Death Valley. Hey, who moved that rock?

a one-tank trip. From Las Vegas, head out to Shoshone and explore the cave houses lived in by miners a century ago — some with two-room parlors! Then drop to 282 feet below sea level at Badwater in Death Valley. Be ready for popping ears as you climb into the Sierras to 8,360 feet above sea level. This trip can be done in one day, but for a more leisurely two-day trip, continue past Lone Pine and stay overnight in Bishop. Drive over Westgard Pass and visit the ancient bristlecone forest before returning to Las Vegas. (I-15 south to state route 160 west to U.S. 178 south)

Roughing It Four-wheel drive is not absolutely necessary for a trip through Titus Canyon, but high clearance is. This narrow, twisty dirt road owes its existence to a well-executed mining swindle in the 1920s. Built to serve Leadville, the boomtown built to exploit what turned out to be a fake gold strike, the road follows a long, twisting gorge with steep drop-offs and sections of deep sand. It’s glorious especially in the spring, when wildflowers add even more color to the canyon’s vivid strata and unusual rock formations. (U.S. 95 to state route 374 west to Titus Canyon Road)

Reaching Death Valley’s legendary Racetrack Playa is a day trip from Las Vegas, as long as you leave home before dawn and realize you’ll be returning after dark. The journey might also require a bit more than one tank of fuel and a high-clearance vehicle. The effort is worth it: Not only will you see the baffling boulders and their puzzling paths up close and personal, you can marvel at Uhehebe Crater and the everchanging jumble of cooking gear at Teakettle Junction along the way. On the way home, Rhyolite ghost town is exceptionally photogenic at sunset. Cruise back down U.S. 95 through historic Beatty. (I-15 south to state route 160 west to Ash Meadows Road to state route 190 to Racetrack Valley Road)

Born on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park, Mark Sedenquist managed to drive nearly a million miles around North America before arriving in Las Vegas — but he’s not done yet. He is the publisher and managing editor of, a site dedicated to planning fun and efficient road trips.


Read these related stories at Summer 2009: “Cool, quick & cheap.” How to escape the Vegas heat — without breaking the bank January/February 2010: “Looking east.” Get a taste of Asia with our photographic tour of Chinatown d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 41

The colors, the colors: Bryce Canyon National Park is just one gem that tourism officials are promoting more heavily than ever. 42 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1

Utahhh! The Beehive State has been busy reinventing itself. Stuffy and staid? Not so much anymore by t.R. Witcher

What a difference a few focus groups — and a major boost in tourism funding and some relaxing of liquor laws — can make. Utah used to be stereotyped as that picturesque but party-allergic state next door. However, it’s become much more aware of its image — and its assets — in recent years. The result: A marketing makeover, new attractions and new travel opportunities for you. Here’s what’s brewing next door.

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

Aw e s o m e s a u r u s r e x Created in 1915 after a paleontologist’s discovery of a trove of plant and animal fossils, the Dinosaur National Monument stretches for 200,000 acres between Utah and Colorado. The jumping-off point on the Utah side is Vernal. Nearby is the centerpiece of the monument, the Quarry Exhibit Hall, a visitors center that holds some 1,500 dinosaur bones. Due to seismic activity in the area, the center has been closed for years; but the building is being refurbished and is due to reopen in October. (But plan accordingly: You can’t see the bones until the building reopens then.)

M u s i c i n t h e Pa r k ( C i t y ) Skip Sundance and get to Park City this summer for the Deer Valley Music Festival. The scenic summer home of both the Utah Symphony and the Utah Opera, the July-to-August festival is filled with the usual crowd-pleasers such as the “1812 Overture,” “The Planets” and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” It also features eclectic performances by artists such as the Trio Voronezh, which plays Russian string instruments, and the Muir String Quartet, the festival’s resident chamber ensemble. (

History in the making Salt Lake City has seen massive investment downtown in the decade following the 2002 Winter Olympics. This fall, in the foothills overlooking downtown, the Utah Museum of Natural History opens a new museum. The museum houses a huge collection of 1.2 million objects, ranging from animal specimens, cast skeletons of dinosaurs unearthed in the state and 750,000 archaeological objects from native cultures. Its new building, a striking collection of angular, copper-sheathed forms, is expected to energize the cultural life of the city. (

44 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1


“The 39 Steps” at the Utah Shakespeare Festival

The Utah Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The troupe has several things in store for 2011, including a June through August exhibit of festival costumes spanning 50 years, a garden tour of Cedar City bed and breakfasts, and the display of a first folio edition of the Bard’s work, on loan from Washington’s Folger Library. (Oh, right, there’ll be some plays, too: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Richard III,” and “Romeo and Juliet,” in addition to “The Music Man,” “The Glass Menagerie,” “Dial M for Murder” and others.) (

Th i s i s r e a l ly s w e l l

The strange shapes of Goblin Valley

If you’re looking for some off-thebeaten- path adventure, head toward the San Rafael Swell. Bisected by Interstate 70, where the arid flatlands of eastern Utah meet the more rugged mountain scenery of the state’s southwest, the swell is one of the most spectacular and unsung regions in the Southwest. It’s a complex of colorful cliffs and canyons, narrow gorges, domes, arches and spires. Two options: Highway 10, which connects with I-70 between Salina and Green River, will take you north into the heart of the region to explore the swell’s many canyons. (They flash-food in the summer, so exercise caution.) Or, about 25 miles south of I-70 off Highway 24 (to the southeast of Highway 10) lies the Mars-like hoodoos of Goblin Valley State Park. ( san_rafael.htm)

G at e way o f S o u n d Everybody knows Zion. But next time you’re in the mood for a hike to the august national park, take some time to explore Springdale, the park’s gateway community — with your eyes and ears. The third annual Zion Canyon Music Festival takes place on two stages in Springdale Sept. 23-24. The free festival continues its tradition of diverse offerings, with everything from rock to blues to global sounds. (

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

Stories by

Monera Mason Sarah Kokernot Heidi Kyser

notebook M i l a Z i n ko va

Remember water? Dive into our writers’ favorite beachy retreats Living and playing in the desert is great. But there’s nothing like a little contrast to liven things up. And to our left just happens to be hundreds of miles of gorgeous coastline, rich in history, culture and wild beauty. Here are our picks for some West Coast getaways to rinse the dust out.

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

Mendocino is a sleepy town, no surprise given that the largest cash crop in the environs is marijuana. Yet, Mendocino and its denizens belie the stoner stereotype with genuinely friendly people, great food, quaint, non-commoditized art and a paucity of cell phone towers (drive to nearby Ft. Bragg if your smartphone jones cannot be sated). Geographically and philosophically, it’s a far cry from the madding crowd, making it the perfect antidote to the desert. Visitors can hike through 130 miles of verdant coastal trails, go fishing for Dungeness crab or salmon, ride llamas on the beach or through redwood groves, and play Frisbee golf while enjoying an Anderson Valley craft beer. The town plays host to many excellent restaurants, including the sustainably conscious MacCallum House, whose awardwinning wine list has been partnered with a piquant collection of local cheeses. In 2011, summer events include the Pinot Noir Festival and art events as well as a county fair and Frontier Days. For a change of pace over the 4th of July, indulge at “The World’s Largest Salmon Barbecue,” which takes place this year on July 2. ( — Monera Mason

o n i c o d Men




M a c c A l l u m H o u s e : J o h n B i r c h a r d ; A n d e r s o n Va l l e y P i n ot N o i r F e s t i va l c o u r t e s y o f A n d e r s o n Va l l e y W i n e g r o w e r s A s s o c i at i o n ; B a r b e q u e C o u t e s y o f Th e W O r l d ’ s L a r g e s t S a l m o n B a r b e q u e ; M e n d o c i n o V i l l a g e c o u r t e s y V i s i t M e n d o c i n o C o u n t y

Natural high: Mendocino



Poienytes R isco

ranc San F From top: M acCallum House, World’s Largest son Sa lmon Barb ecue, Ander Va lley’s Ch arles Vineyard, M endocino Village 48 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1


P o i n t r e y e s L i g h t h o u s e a n d W i l d c at c a mp g o u n d c o u r t e s y N P S . g o v/ p o r e


nt Reyes Lighthouse, Clockwise from upper leftnt: PoiReyes Nationa l Seashore Wildcat Ca mpground, Poi from Chimney Rock






Reyes Aching beauty: Point






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There are places that are beautiful, and then there are places whose beauty eludes photographic depiction. Point Reyes falls into the latter. I distinctly remember a moment when some friends and I pulled over to the edge of a cliff to photograph a sea of clouds that hovered over the ocean for miles. We all realized around the same time that our pocket-sized digital cameras were sad and ineffectual in light of such a vast diorama. Not a shutter was clicked. Point Reyes is surprisingly untamed for a location that’s a mere hour north of San Francisco, and if you decide to camp in the park, prepare yourself for a delight of minor hazards: getting confused in the fog, nocturnal encounters with indeterminate flashing eyes (at night, the gaze of wildcat and a bunny look

amazingly similar), stampeding herds of elk, picnic-stealing raccoons and wistful-looking seals who like to tag along as you walk down the beach. Also, there are droves of pheasants — these are not hazardous, just given to warbling early in the morning. Consider earplugs. Campers who want to visit during the summer should make site reservations at least a few months in advance. The Wildcat Campsite is especially recommended. It sits atop a heather-strewn bluff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. You’ll also be grateful for the toilets, potable water and picnic benches after backpacking the seven-mile route from the parking lot. For those who prefer beds, there are sundry charming bed-and-breakfast inns along Highway 1. Folks love The Osprey in Inverness. ( — Sarah Kokernot d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 49

m top: The Counterclockwise fro Juan, the ruins at M ission SanSan Juan, Churc h at M issionays Festiva l Solvang, Danish D

Less than an hour south of L.A., past the South Bay cafés, ranches balanced on cliffs and Miss America beaches, huddles a clutch of white Spanish buildings, hushed courtyards and stone ruins — the remains of Mission San Juan Capistrano. People know it because of the legend of the swallows, said to return to the mission in large flocks each March 19. That is a lie told by a Catholic priest, a traffic-generating genius before the time of search engines. March 19 might actually have been his birthday. But who cares about birds or story-telling Catholic priests? The best thing about San Juan Capistrano is the ghosts in the halls. Mission San Juan Capistrano was dubbed the “jewel” of the 21 missions built in Southern California during Spain’s 18th-century colonial expansion. That’s because of the Great Stone Church, a marvel of design that modern architects called the “American Acropolis.” Its walls were cemented with the sweat of the 1,000 native people kept captive at the mission after converting to Christianity. It took them nine years to complete the structure — and only a few minutes for nature to tear down during the great earthquake of 1812. Forty people were buried inside, and the church-cum-crypt was left untouched until restoration began in the 20th century. The ghosts have other stories too, about bells gone missing and wildfires and friends taken by smallpox. Sit quietly, and they’ll whisper them to you through the leaves of the pepper trees — gone now too. (www.missionsjc. com) — Heidi Kyser

Solvang: My own private Denmark While Las Vegas is many things to many people, few would characterize its vibe as transcendental. For that, California — in particular, a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway and beyond — beckons as a wending journey that leaves smoggy L.A. for coastal splendors to be found not in wellworn destinations like Santa Barbara and San Francisco, but in a few singular small towns: places where the beauty of the Coast and the mien of the locals become experiences, not just observations. Consider Solvang, the inspiration for Duloc, the fictional city in “Shrek.” Settled by Danes in the early 20th century, this town in the Santa Ynez Mountains is a living anachronism where you can traipse through

50 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1

M i s s i o n S a n J u a n C a p i s t r a n o : Ch r i S to ph e r Sm i t h ; S o lva n g a n d D a n IS H DAYS COURTESY SOLVANGUSA . CO M

Birds and bells: Mission San Juan Capistrano


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Cambria: Best of the Hearst









Mission San Juan Capistrano

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atop a precariously perched bluff, to the romance of Victoria’s Last Resort where, undoubtedly, the Queen would not approve. The largest Cambrian draw, indubitably, is Hearst Castle, famously known as the inspiration of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, in turn the inspiration behind “Citizen Kane.” The castle’s opulent yet reserved beauty is a reminder of life before The Depression (the one that happened in the 1930s, for the younger readers). The truly lucky and/ or the hippotigrine-obsessed may catch a glimpse of the descendants of the zebras that once comprised Hearst’s menagerie. ( — M.M.


Just 100 miles North of Solvang, our very own Denmark, is Cambria, featuring a spectacular seaside and San Simeon, the Hearst Castle. Not to miss in between is Harmony, literally a one-street town that could be swallowed whole by the Hearst’s Grand Ballroom, but where you can indulge your inner bohemian with glass-blowing, pottery and other classes. Cambria features miles of beachfront and is home to a burgeoning population of elephant seals, as well as to uber-art galleries, farm-fresh dining and myriad B&Bs. These range from Her Castle (with woodland orchards that make you forget about the catcall-inspiring pun), to the Blue Whale Inn, which sits


Las Ve

medieval parks, sample a smorgasbord of Danish delights, and ride a horse-drawn carriage throughout. You’ll see not just fairytale windmills but, in a bow to modernity and the many local wineries, au courant wine bars. Lead your own children through the forest, past Nojoqui Falls, but do remember to take bread crumbs so you can find your way back. If you want a great reason to plan a fairytale getaway (although you should be warned that the hotel prices are not child’s play), Solvang’s annual Danish Days Festival runs Sept. 16-18. ( — M.M.


H e a r s t c a s t l e a n d H o u s e at s u n s e t C o u r t e s y H e a r s t C a s t l e ® / C a l i f o r n i a S tat e Pa r k s ; Pat i o C o u r t e s y V i c to r i a’ s L a s t R e s o r t

Hearst Castle, House at Sunset (Hearst Castle), Victoria’s Last Resort

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

nsula Middle earth: Olympic Peni

Shi Shi Beach and the mo ssy Ho

h Ra inforest



Lake Ozette



Olympic Penninsula


Olympic National Park


101 Seattle

Olympic National Forest

90 Tacoma



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In most places, summertime is heralded by typical warm weather preparations, like washing that chlorine smell out of your old swimsuit, or rinsing off the old slip-n-slide. But in Southern Nevada, summer means that we’ll be dreaming for months of a kinder sun — one that does not wish us dead. For those of you who turn into heliophobes during the month of June, consider the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, a place whose stormy gloom welcomes over-baked Nevadans, and also vampires, who chose the area for its fortress of cloud cover. In the last five years, the area has been besieged by adolescent Twihard girls who make pilgrimages to eat at the same diner as Bella and Edward. Despite this setback (or asset), the place brims with haunted charm. Hike the moss-covered trails of the Hoh Rainforest, a place so verdant and lush that you’ll want to pour all that green into a glass and drink it. Nearby Lake Ozette is also a great spot for encountering the forest primeval. An elevated wooden walkway will take you across the marshy rainforest floor and onto a beach adorned with tide pools and littered with fascinating detritus — flame-colored starfish, oceanmade walls of timber, and the occasional Japanese aluminum can that drifted its way across the Pacific. Strangely, the Olympic Peninsula reminds me a little of the Nevada desert. There is something very post-apocalyptic about both places that’s conducive to imagining what the world would look like without people (if you ignore the Japanese aluminum can). After a day of imagining an unpeopled world, you’ll probably want to be someplace warm and snug. Stay at the Sequim Lodge and enjoy the finer things humanity has to offer: kitchenettes, Jacuzzis and ocean views. ( — S.K.

H O H R a i n f o r e s t c o u r t e s y V i s i t t h e o ly mp i c s /J o d i R i v e r s to n e


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The Garment District

It’s like: Savers + Fremont Street – booze Traveling to vastly different climes inevitably means forgetting some vital piece of clothing. For those who partake in the Savers scene in Sin City, a trip to The Garment District is a must. Maybe it’s the persistent retro aesthetic or the scavenger mentality, but for whatever reason, Las Vegas has more active advocates than anywhere else — and they always seem to be sporting unique finds as evidence. Even if you don’t thrift shop, you can keep up your gambling spirit with The Garment District’s by-the-pound clothes (you don’t know what you’re getting until you fork over the cash).

54 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1

For the less adventurous, upstairs offers try-before-you-buy nearly new threads at secondhand prices. It’s strange that one of the cheapest things to do in Boston is shopping for clothes. (200 Broadway, Boston, 617-876-5230, — Molly O’Donnell W AS H IN G TON D . C .

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café

It’s like: The Beat ÷ Congress + Borders Books at Town Square Everyone knows the nation’s capital doesn’t fool around when it comes to culture, but rather than brave the hordes at the Smithsonian, why not head over to Kramerbooks? Located in

DuPont Circle, D.C.’s most cosmopolitan district, Kramer’s selection is exhaustive. Speaking of exhaustive: You won’t find a better store for books on politics. It more than compensates for the wonkery: Kramer’s also doubles as a café, a restaurant, a bar and an after-hours joint with live music. (1517 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, D.C., 202-387-1462, www.kramers. com) — T.R. Witcher Ph i l a d e l p h i a

Village Whiskey and Tinto restaurants

It’s like: Firefly + Downtown Cocktail Room - Carl Icahn The Strip was supposed to get a taste of

B L o u s e s C O u r t e s y T h e G a r m e n t D i s t r i c t; V i ll a g e W h i s k e y : Fa n n Y All i e ; T i n to D i n i n g r o o m C o u r t e s y G a r c e s r e s ta u r a n t g r o u p

(away from town)

Our well-traveled Las Vegans share their top stops and hot spots in their favorite cities (after Las Vegas, of course)


Clockwise from top left: Boston’s Garment District; Philadelphia’s Village Whiskey and Tinto Restaurants

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


The Oriental Institute Museum

It’s like: (The Luxor + Mob Museum) x Indiana Jones Big history, small space: One of the country’s premier collections of artifacts from the near East (including Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia and Syria) is housed in a small, historic building on the campus of the University of Chicago. Fifteen minutes south of downtown via commuter train or bus (skip the El), the Oriental is a dusty and (refreshingly) non-interactive gem. The OI is unsung even among Chicagoans, so there’s a good chance crowds will be small. The museum is free — but suggested donation is $7. (1155 East 58th St., Chicago, 773-702-9514, — T.W.

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C.C. Club

It’s like: (Double Down - live music) + (Crown & Anchor - Euro kitsch) Within the last couple years, Minneapolis’s metrosexual legions got progressively smellier, tattooier and hairier. And all those traits got stuffed into a pair of work pants and pedaled down to the C.C. Club, the premier locals dive in the limbo between hip Uptown and the dirty cusp of Downtown. The red vinyl booths are mostly missing their stuffing, you’ll probably stick to the floors (which you can’t see in the dim light anyway), and the door guy looks like he got kicked off a Viking longship for roughhousing. But still, even the scariest of the bunch are just there to relax, and it’s the best place to go to escape the party bus-clobbered meat-marketification of the once proudly mohawk-infested neighborhood. Plus, they have Surly, the best microbrew in Minnesota, on tap. (2600 South Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis, 612-874-7226) — Max Plenke


The Flying Star

It’s like: The Liberace Museum + Denny’s – rhinestones There are much better restaurants in Albuquerque and Santa Fe than the Flying Star, but none with a better slogan: “When you’ve got an itch for made from scratch.” For one thing, the food is really good, and pretty cheap. A breakfast burrito the size of a human infant runs you less than 10 bucks. For another thing, Flying Star epitomizes the down-home weirdness that makes Albuquerque one of the last great bastions of independent joints (one location features ’80s toys as décor). A little corny with my coffee? Why yes, thank you. And keep it coming. (Multiple locations in Albuquerque) — Heidi Kyser D EN V ER

El Chapultapec

It’s like: Black Door + Los Antojos x Ornette Coleman Denver’s not a city that comes to mind when

M u s e u m c o u r t e s y o f T h e O r i e n ta l i n s t i t u t e m u s e u m ; B UI L D IN G E X TERIOR C OU r t e s y t h e flyi n g s ta r ; Ell i ot b ay b o o k c o m pa n y c o u r t e s y W G C l a r k C o n s t r u c t i o n

rising-star restaurateur and champion “Iron Chef ” Jose Garces at the Fontainebleau. For the time being, impatient epicures can get an appetizer where Garces got his start. His side-by-side Philadelphia restaurants show off a famously eclectic style: Village Whiskey offers stepped-up pub grub (like a steak burger sizzled in duck fat) alongside labor-intensive, Prohibition-era cocktails; neighboring Tinto dishes out Spanish tapas so authentic it’s not “tapas,” but the Basque variation, “pintxos.” Tucked away in historic Rittenhouse Square, they’ll be worth the trip even when Garces finally gets cooking in Vegas. (114 & 118 S. 20th St., Philadelphia, Village Whiskey: 215-6651088,, Tinto: 215665-9150, — Joe Langdon

Clockwise from top left: Chicago’s Oriental Institute Museum; Albuquerque’s Flying Star; Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company

you think of grit — but that’s only because you haven’t been to the tiny, shacky, utterly magnificent El Chapultapec jazz club. Across the street from mighty Coors Field, on the outside, the Pec looks like a nondescript Mexican taqueria. Inside it’s standing room only for some of the best no-nonsense jazz in the country. No pretense here: The joint’s a lovely dive, the Mexican menu is basic, the pool tables in the side room are coin-operated, and the patrons know good music when they hear it. (1962 Market St., Denver, 303-295-9126) — T.W. LOS AN G ELES

HMS Bounty

It’s like: (Dino’s + Champagne’s + Crown & Anchor)2 You thought all of the neighborhood bars in L.A. were gone. Lucky for you, the H.M.S. Bounty is ready to wrap you in its cozy embrace. Here, the walls are adorned with images of the seafaring life, and when you

sidle up to the bar, you’d expect the regulars to launch into nostalgic tales of the vessels they worked and the catches that got away. Hipsters, wannabe actors and regular joes make their way in to kvetch with the friendly bar staff, knock back some brews and partake of the best comfort food around. (3357 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-385-7275, — Jennifer Prosser S e at t l e

Elliott Bay Book Company

It’s like: (Amber Unicorn + Ikea) x indie cred If you value Pablo Neruda as much

as graphic comics, swing through the creaking doors of this legendary Seattle bookstore. Grab a read, then exit into the edgy neighborhood of Capitol Hill — a mad fray of gay bars, Ethiopian food, indie film festivals and fancy-schmancy cupcake stores. Grab a palm-sized cookie from Oddfellows next door, or turn the corner to scan Everyday’s CD collection and sample balsamic strawberry ice cream at Molly Moon’s. Then plug your laptop into any local coffee shop, and let the IV caffeine drip begin. (1521 10th Ave., Seattle, 206-624-6600, — Irene Noguchi

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 57

Re: Reinvent Supporting Role From: Dream To: Reality

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts’ dream of taking center stage of Las Vegas’ cultural scene is coming true thanks in part to a $500,000 commitment by Lewis and Roca. As this organization’s inaugural corporate sponsor, Lewis and Roca is proud to take the lead in presenting the world of performing arts to Southern Nevada through a variety of inspiring programs. LAS VEGAS RENO PHOENIX TUCSON ALBUQUERQUE SILICON VALLEy LRLAW.COM


A rt

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

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



If there was ever a reason to forgive someone for wearing bright blue tights, it’s “Superhero Diaries II,” Insurgo Theater Movement’s festival of 10-minute plays about caped crusaders and masked vigilantes in bizarre situations at 10:30 p.m. May 6, 7, 11, 13 and 14. Tickets $15. Info:


Superhero Diaries II

Before humans, a fidgety bunch, started sitting still enough to be captured on canvas, artists painted landscapes. Convenient, inexpensive and unlikely to suddenly start scratching its nose and totally ruining everything, the landscape has proven a popular subject for artists since the very invention of dirt, which Neil Welliver’s is the main ingredient in land. “Gould’s Hill,” 1972 See for yourself at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art’s latest exhibit, “A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney,” on exhibit through Jan. 12. Admission $10-$15. Info:

4 A C h o r e o g r a p h e r s ’ S h o w ca s e : J e r r y M e t e l l u s

A Choreographers’ Showcase


CRASH! “You got your ballet in my clown!” “You got your clown in my ballet!” From this happy accident was born “A Choreographers’ Showcase,” an annual collaboration between Nevada Ballet Theatre and Cirque du Soleil that happens this year 1 p.m. May 15 and May 22 at the VIVA Elvis Theater in Aria at CityCenter. Artists from resident Cirque shows join with NBT dancers for 10 original choreographed pieces. BOOM! (That’s the sound of the resulting dancesplosion.) Tickets $20-$30. Info:

Fact: When not writing novels, Jane Austen was a dancing fiend, tiring out genteel menfolk, roistering blades and impudent blackguards alike with her deceptively dainty English feet. Locals carry on the tradition 6:30 p.m. May 21 at the third annual Jane Austen Dance, featuring live music by The English Roses. Tickets $15. Info:

Taste of the Nation


Millions of kids go to bed hungry each night — and not because they refused to eat mom’s Creamed Corn ’n’ Lima Bean Delight. Childhood hunger is a serious problem you can help fight at Taste of the Nation, Las Vegas at 6:30 p.m. May 19 at Rain Nightclub in the Palms hotel-casino. The annual fundraiser boasts amazing food from top chefs, cocktails and live music, all to benefit groups such as Three Square Food Bank, Catholic Charities of Las Vegas, UNC Chefs for Kids and Project MANA. Tickets $75$100. Info: d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 59

ART Poem Cycle Through May 14. New work by artist and art professor Dan Scott explores the traditional still-life genre. Charleston Heights Art Center

Those We Call Century Through May 20. Painter and sculptor Chad Brown explores kinetic work in this exhibit. Clark County Government Center Rotunda

Judy Blankenship Through May 27. A display that reflects Blankenship’s love of animals and nature. Free. The Gallery at the Henderson Multigenerational Center, 250 S. Green Valley Parkway, 267-2171

Kreloff: Made in Las Vegas Through June 3. Pop artist Kreloff’s colorful samurai, celebrities and portraits are on display. Winchester Cultural Center Gallery

Pueblo Indian Art: Ongoing Traditions Through June 3. The exhibit includes examples of both historic and contemporary traditions, including katsina dolls, fetishes, clothing, baskets, pottery and jewelry from Hopi, Zuni and Rio Grande Pueblo artists. $1-$2. Clark County Museum, 1830 S. Boulder Highway, 455-7955

Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, www.

Visions of Peru Through May 7. Features photographs taken by participants on the Fall 2010 Explore the Amazon and Machu Picchu trip that was offered by UNLV Continuing Education. Free. UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum

Contemporary Art Center Las Vegas 22nd Annual Juried Show

CSN Concert band May 10, 7:30 p.m. The 55-piece CSN Concert Band explores 20th century bandmasters, including Ron Nelson, Alfred Reed and Samuel Barber. $5$8. CSN’s Nicholas J. Horn Theatre

CSN Big Bands May 11, 7:30 p.m. Walter Blanton and Matt Taylor lead CSN’s two big bands in a tribute to the Swing Era. $5-$8. CSN’s Nicholas J. Horn Theatre

May 5-June 18. This exhibition highlights the work of national and international emerging artists in all media. Contemporary Art Center, 107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 120, 382-3886

Spring Choral Concert

First Friday

Sean Kingston

May 6, 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. 384-0092, www.firstfriday-lasvegas. org

May 13, 9 p.m. Sean Kingston performs his mix of hip-hop and dancehall

May 12, 7:30 p.m. CSN’s College Singers, Chamber Chorale, Jazz Singers and students of the Voice Classes perform. $5-$8. CSN’s Nicholas J. Horn Theatre

CountyCenter by Justin Favela May 23-July 22. Emerging artist Justin Favela incorporates humor and art history into this site-specific installation of sculptures. Reception June 2, 6 p.m. Clark County Government Center Rotunda Gallery

MUSIC Las Vegas Kaminari Taiko

Kaleidoscope: Visual Inspirations Through June 12. Longtime UNLV instructor Mary Warner’s work is showcased with a variety of her former students’ work. Springs Preserve Big Springs Gallery

Asian Contemporary Art Exhibition Through June 19. Painting, photography and works on paper from artists from China, Japan and Korea. CENTERpiece Gallery

A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney Through January 12. A stylistically diverse celebration of landscape painting and other art from celebrated artists such as David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein as well as contemporary masters such as Roman Lispki and Torben Giehler. $10-$15.

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May 1, 2 p.m. The Las Vegas Kaminari Taiko drum corps performs on the Main Theater stage to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Free. Clark County Library

Dusty Sunshine and Dreaming of Lions May 7, 7 p.m. Two indie folk bands on the rise perform in concert. $7- $10. Winchester Community Center

CSN Jazz Combos May 8, 2 p.m. Matt Taylor leads CSN’s student jazz ensembles through some jazz standards. $5-$8. CSN’s BackStage Theatre

CSN Orchestra May 9, 7:30 p.m. CSN Orchestra is joined by CSN’s College Singers and Chamber Chorale. $5-$8. CSN’s Nicholas J. Horn Theatre

Chef Sam DeMarco of FIRST Food & Bar

Bite ideas It’s bound to happen: You will want seconds. But trust us: Resist. Do not go for seconds! Not that any of the fine Strip chefs at the Las Vegas Epicurean Affair May 26 at The Palazzo don’t deserve the honor of you sidling up for a second helping. It’s just that there’s so much amazing, innovative and just plain nommy cuisine here, it’s vitally important to judiciously apportion your stomach room for maximum breadth of culinary appreciation. Well, okay. Maybe one more smoked kobe slider. Tickets $100-$150. Information: www.

reggae. $30. Red Rock Resort, www.

The Moody Blues May 13, 9 p.m. The band celebrates a four-decade legacy of hits. $55.50$339. The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel

Mr. Gone: The music of Wayne Shorter May 14, 2 p.m. The Shapiro Project presents the compositions of one of the world’s great saxophonists, Wayne Shorter, who played six years with trumpeter Miles Davis and recorded with Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell and Santana. $7-$10. Winchester Community Center

Yanni May 14, 7:30 p.m. Yanni returns to his roots with a live performance that will deliver old and new fans the very best of his music. $38- $78. Orleans Arena

It Doesn’t Even Look Like Vegas!

May 19 and 20, 7 p.m.; May 21, 3 p.m. Winchester’s youth ensemble sings, dances and acts “This Is How We Roll,” a rock ‘n’ roll story, and “Bye Bye Birdie,” the revue. $7. Winchester Cultural Center

Echo & The Bunnymen May 20, 9 p.m. British post-punk legends Echo & The Bunnymen perform their hits and more. $30. Red Rock Resort,

Kayla Huntsman May 20, 12 p.m. Through stories, song and a variety of instruments, Kayla explores the ups and down of life. Free. Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse

Two faces of elegance: Mozart and Mahler May 21, 8 p.m. The Las Vegas Philharmonic features guest artists Alexander Viazovtsev on flute and Kim Glennie on harp. $31.50-$75. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall

Glee Live! In Concert! May 21, 8 p.m. “Glee Live! In Concert!” features 13 members of the acclaimed show’s cast. $75.15 - $139.30. Mandalay Bay

System of a Down May 22, 8 p.m. System of a Down per-

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The Winchester Players

forms its brainy thrash-metal. $59. Pearl at the Palms

Bulgarian Rhythm May 25, 7 p.m. Angel Gadzhev, master of the gadulka, a bowed instrument with an exotic sound, performs with three dancers for a traditional Bulgarian performance. $10-$12. Winchester Community Center

Memorial Day Weekend Concert May 27, 7:30 p.m. The Desert Chorale, accompanied by the Nevada Pops, will feature a host of American patriotic standards and classic choral works. Free. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall

Barenaked Ladies

May 27, 9 p.m. Canada’s Barenaked Ladies perform such hits such as “One Week” and “Pinch Me.” $30. Red Rock Resort

Mother’s Day Lunch & Dance The Script May 28, 6:30 p.m. The Script performs its alternative Irish pop rock. $29.50$34.50. House of Blues

May 8, 12 p.m. A catered lunch complements a dance with music by Walt Boenig’s Big Band. $20, advance purchase only. Charleston Heights Arts Center

My Chemical Romance

A Choreographers’ Showcase

May 29, 6 p.m. My Chemical Romance performs as part of their World Contamination Tour. $33.50. House of Blues

May 15 and 22, 1 p.m. Nevada Ballet Theatre and Cirque du Soleil present their 4th annual collaboration, A Choreographers’ Showcase. $20$40. Viva ELVIS Theatre in ARIA at CityCenter,

DANCE Modern Romance May 6-7, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The CSN Dance Ensemble, the Concert Dance Company and Las Vegas’ Nevada


Charleston Heights Arts Center 800 S. Brush St., 229-6383 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, Historic Fifth Street School 401 S. Fourth St., 229-6469 House of Blues Inside Mandalay Bay 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.,

Jane Austen Dance May 21, 6:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Enjoy English Country dances from the Regency Era when Jane Austen lived and wrote her novels. $15. Charleston Heights Arts Center. www.lasvegascountrydance. org

THEATER Noises Off

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

Repertory Dance Theatre celebrate the CSN dance program’s 15th season. $8-$10. CSN’s Nicholas J. Horn Theatre

CSN’s Spring Dance Concert marks the program’s 15th season May 6-7 at the campus’s Nicholas J.

May 1 and 8, 2 p.m.; May 5-7, 8 p.m. Called the funniest farce ever written, “Noises Off,” is a play-within-aplay about a cast of itinerant actors rehearsing a flop called “Nothing On.” $17-$30. UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre

Horn Theatre. Information: 651-5483

CSN’s Spring Dance Concert marks the programs 15th season May 6-7 at the campus’s Nicholas J. Horn Theatre. Information: 651-5483

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

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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, 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, 895-2787, Winchester Cultural Center 3130 S. McLeod Dr. 455-7340

“Superhero Diaries II” May 6, 7, 13, 14, 10:30 p.m.; May 11, 10:30 p.m. Enter the four-color world of the comic book in Insurgo’s “Superhero Diaries II.” $15. Bastard Theater,

FESTIVALS AND FAMILY EVENTS Mother’s Day Brunch at the Springs Cafe May 8, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Celebrate Mother’s Day with savory dining and special beverages from the Springs Cafe by Wolfgang Puck, featuring live jazz. 12.50-$29.95. Springs Preserve

Ice Cream Festival May 14, 11 a.m. The Springs Preserve kicks off summer with unlimited ice cream cones, sweet sundaes, root beer floats and other delights. $6$7.50. Springs Preserve

In the Dark Through May 15, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Explore caves, the depths of the sea, a nighttime swamp and other mysteries in this new interactive exhibit. Included with general admission; free for members. Origen Experience at Springs Preserve

I don’t like sugar in my

It’s A Gas! The Bright Side of Science

David Rexing makes sure southern Nevada’s water is ahead of the game when it comes to federal drinking water standards. A nationally recognized leader in the American Water Works Association, David’s a sought-after expert in water safety. He’s also the SNWA’s Research and Development Manager.

Through May 15. Learn about neon, argon, hydrogen and other gases on the periodic table. $4-$6. Galleria at Sunset, 1400 W. Sunset Road, 267-2171

Las Vegas Helldorado Days Through May 15. A host of events at various locations and venues to celebrate Helldorado this month, leading up to a fireworks display and parade downtown on May 14 at 7 p.m. Prices vary. 870-1221

$125,000 Las Vegas Barbecue Championship May 21, 11 a.m.; May 22, 10 a.m. More than 100 teams compete in one of the largest BBQ Championships in the U.S. Features live music, food and kids’ events. Free. Orleans Arena northwest lot,

Tails & Trails May 21, 11 a.m. The Springs Preserve hosts its first Tails & Trails event, a day of canine-friendly fun. Free. Springs Preserve

LECTURES, READINGS AND PANELS Poets’ Corner May 20, 7:30 p.m. Keith Brantley hosts a forum for established poets and open-mic participants. Free. West Las Vegas Arts Center

FUNDRAISERS Moms Rock May 7, 11 a.m. Child Focus hosts Mother’s Day tea, including a silent auction, raffle and activities for kids. $40-$80. Springs Preserve, 436-1624 or

coffee, or contaminants in my water.

As manager of one of the largest municipal water quality research centers in the West, his job is to track down and quash both regulated and unregulated contaminants. And he’s been at it for 30 years. If you have questions about water quality – or if you’re looking for a supplemental water treatment system – contact the SNWA. Because no one knows more about water quality than your local water agency. Go to, or call 258-3930.

Taste of the Nation May 19, 6:30 p.m. A fundraiser to end childhood hunger in Nevada with food, cocktails and auctions. $75$100. Palms hotel-casino, www.

SNWA_Dave_DC_5x10.indd 1

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n4/13/11 . c o m 3:29:14 63 PM


Missing you Everyone said I’d hate coming back to Las Vegas after my San Francisco vacation. Uh, right


by gregan wingert

I wasn’t missing Las Vegas when I climbed aboard the red and gold trolley chugging up Powell Street. (There was just room for three, so my sister, my mother and I squeezed on board among two dozen other passengers. I inhaled as if trying to slide into a dress I swore looked big enough on the hanger.) And I wasn’t missing Las Vegas when I was enjoying a temperature that hovered in the mid50s. (It felt as if the city of more than 800,000 had secretly decided that, if they just left their refrigerator doors open and the AC on all night, it would stop global warming.) And I certainly wasn’t missing Las Vegas amid the chorus of frantic car horns and ghostly trolley bells. (They were a welcome replacement for the sweet and romantic melodies of slot machines.) I wasn’t missing Las Vegas at all. It was my last spring break of college, and my first trip to San Francisco. While gallivanting around the city in trolleys and taxis, I kept comparing this strange land with home. It was almost a sort of test. I was looking to be convinced of what my friends — and even my own mother — had told me: That I’d want to leave Vegas for Frisco. I couldn’t help but look for what my friends knew I’d find: That somethin’ somethin’ that made the city alluring, sexy and unique. I found plenty of that somethin’ somethin’ here: They honk more in San Fran, they like their shoes, history and parks (complete with buffalo herds and unicorns). And they like their hills. The sightseeing bus’s pre-recorded audio tour voice claimed that San Franciscans think their hills are charming. (Lies! They’re steep, feet-bleeding paths of death.) The Victorian-style houses are charming, though, as are the men. Maybe they were right — those friends and

64 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M ay 2 0 1 1

relatives whose predictions blared in my ears like a “Bohemian Rhapsody” chorus that was nearly unanimous: You’ll never want to come back. You’re gonna hate Vegas when you return. Oh mama mia, mama mia! But that never happened. Sure, I noticed the differences. I saw why everyone would say I’d want to stay there. But my heart belongs in Vegas. We took a late flight back. Frankly, I was relieved. I thought of all the characteristics that make Vegas wonderful. How the theme of Vegas is themes, and how no one really understands the city like locals do. How Vegas bottles up its real charm. Sure, the Strip is big and magnificent, like a porn star’s breast implants, but only locals know that around that four-mile stretch of cleavage there’s real personality. San Francisco, on the other hand, knows it’s brainy and beautiful, but it’s far too self-absorbed in its awesomeness. In all the glorification of the city, it kind of lost itself in trying to be taken too seriously. Vegas, though, has always been lost — and has never been serious. It’s carefree by nature.

(Which, judging by our voter turnout, isn’t always a good thing.) There’s no sense of immediacy or ownership. Because the majority of people in Vegas came from somewhere else, their hearts belong somewhere else. That means any culture that develops here is almost an accident — and if you care about Vegas and culture, you have to be daring enough to find it. Maybe it’s that challenge that makes the city worthwhile. As the plane descended into McCarran, I laughed under my breath at the group of twentysomethings blasting music from a cell phone and getting warmed up Dixie cups of in-flight booze. They were excited for all the reasons I wasn’t. I had my own reasons for excitement. I looked over the shoulder of my sister, who was holding the window seat hostage with her butt. The city sparkled. I said to her, “Vegas is the prettiest city.” But I was probably saying it more to myself. Gregan Wingert is the Desert Companion intern and a UNLV journalism major. Next spring break: Cancun!

Illustration BY christopher smith

Weddings… Hotel College Catering University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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David Hockney, Garrowby Hill, 1998, Oil on canvas, 60 x 76 inches, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Juliana Cheney Edwards Collection, Seth K. Sweetser Fund, and Tompkins Collection—Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund, © David Hockney. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

A SENSE landscapes from OF PLACE: Monet to Hockney

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Desert Companion - May 2011  
Desert Companion - May 2011  

Your guide to living in Southern Nevada.