Page 1

Shelley Berkley unleashed: On dirty campaign tactics — and her future in politics



ord f s r o H n e




e d by v ie w in t e r Ralston Jon

Be true to your school

A guide to getting involved A legacy of hope

The amazing woman who stops suicide


ouestIONS funny,



& P ro b i n g

we just had to ask from

politicians to prison wardens to poker dealers, interviews with the people who make Las Vegas tick

On Sunday, January 20, you can take a stand for all of your friends, family and community members who are affected by cystic fibrosis, now and for generations to come. With your generous contribution, you will experience the passion and emotion of Celine Dion’s critically acclaimed Las Vegas show and enjoy a special VIP dinner and more while bringing hope and adding tomorrows. Special Vip packageS are aVailable and include:

• Two tickets to: - Reserved front orchestra seating to the show - Exclusive pre-show reception and soundcheck with Celine - VIP dinner at Old Homestead and after-party at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill

• One-night stay at Caesars Palace • Round-trip ground transportation between the airport and Caesars Palace

Package price: $4,000 (an estimated $2,635 is tax-deductible) For more detailS and to reSerVe your SeatS please email: or call 1-800-FIGHT-CF, extension 730

Tickets for the benefit performance may also be purchased by visiting

editor’s note


Straight from the source There are a lot of pious, chest-

Next Month in Desert Companion

Our most superlative issue yet! It’s Best of the City!

2 | Desert

thumping definitions of journalism, but mine is pretty simple: Journalism is curiosity guided by a sense of mission. It’s about getting the facts, yes, but it’s also about seeing how those facts line up, where they point. Sometimes, though, it’s fun, interesting and instructive to make it even simpler — to forget the road signs for a while, let curiosity take the wheel and get utterly, giddily lost. That pure curiosity is the engine powering our feature, “We just had to ask,” a mix of interviews with everyone from Strip concierges to prison wardens to Zen wise men. What did we talk about? Indulge me as I deploy caps lock for a sec: EVERYTHING. In these wide-ranging Q&As that begin on page 41, we ask big questions — about the proper way to live, about justice, death, karma — and small questions too: Are window-washers scared of heights? How do you make vegan chocolate taste good? Do casino card dealers like math? How do you drive a Zamboni? (Okay, maybe those are big questions, too.) No softball celebrity fluff: The stars here are the everyday — but hardly ordinary — people who make Southern Nevada such a fascinating place to live. And with election season behind us (are you still having attack-ad nightmares with phantom-floating newspaper headlines and grainy, sinister-looking candidate mugshots? Me too!), we survey the politiscape

Companion | JANUARY 2013

with two special interviews: Political columnist Jon Ralston sits down with freshman Congressman Steven Horsford, who discusses his plans to represent Nevada in Washington; and veteran journalist Steve Friess quizzes Shelley Berkley on life after politics. Horsford is Nevada’s first AfricanAmerican congressman and, just as significantly, he’s joining a Congress that is the most diverse in history. Berkley’s loss to Sen. Dean Heller in a high-profile senate race inspired gales and gusts of analysis by pundits and politicos; now you can hear her own take. Meanwhile, it’s a new year and — did you notice? — happily, none of us have been swallowed by some yawning transdimensional vortex spinning out of the Yucatan. If a bit of spiritual housekeeping or self-improvement is among your New Year’s resolutions, consider achieving it by improving your community — by getting directly involved with the schools in your neighborhood. Our “Be True to Your School” feature is a hand-picked guide to some of the valley’s best educational causes, from helping teachers supply kids with notebooks and backpacks to support groups that ensure at-risk high-schoolers graduate. The 2013 Legislature is on the horizon, and we’re surely in for another season of stormy talk about the importance of education; here’s hoping it’s not all lightning and no heat. Don’t forget there’s a time-tested way to make

our schools better: by lending a hand yourself. Find out how on page 26. Finally, we’re curious about one more thing — lemme hit caps lock again: YOU. Take our Best of the City Readers’ Poll online at and give us the dish on your bests, from pizza to parks to places to hike. You’ll be entered to win gift certificates to some great restaurants. But best of all, as a savvy, engaged Desert Companion reader, you’ll be sharing your insider tips with other Las Vegans hungry for quality experiences. Don’t wait — the poll closes Jan. 12. We’ll publish results in our February Best of the City issue. Sound good? Sounds best. Andrew Kiraly Editor

the will is strong, the results are

WONDROUS Since 2002, the Caesars Foundation has directed millions of dollars in support to social service organizations nationwide, from groups that help older individuals live healthier, more fulfilling lives to those that make higher education accessible to students from all backgrounds. In every case, we’re guided by the values of fairness, inclusion and equal opportunity – qualities that truly represent the best our nation has to offer. Changing lives. Transforming communities. Creating a brighter future for all. That’s what our will to do wonders™ is all about.

® The will to do wonders®

contents desert companion magazine //



All Things to All People Pay it forward By Andrew Kiraly



‘I have absolutely no regrets’ By Steve Friess



Be true to your school By Chantal Corcoran



A legacy of hope By Linda J. Simpson



Top of the crops By Julie Hession



From rock to theater to dance, your guide to culture


Stage fraught By Andrew Kiraly Shelley Berkley unleaShed: On dirty campaign tactics — and her future in politics


JAnuARY 2013

ssm an

St ev en ho

Con gre

rS fo rd

by wed ton inte rvie Jon rals

Be true to your school

A guide to getting involved A legacy of hope

the AmAzing womAn who stops suicide

41 We just had to ask

54 ‘Get the job done’

We had some questions on our mind. So we asked.

Steven Horsford on his historic election to Congress — and the road ahead

4 | Desert

Companion | January 2013


ouestIoNs funny,



& Probin g

we just had to ask from

politicians to prison wardens to poker dealers, interviews with the people who make Las vegas tick

on the cover Photography Christopher Smith

C h e f : S a b i n O r r ; S h e l l e y B e r k l e y : C HRI S TO P HER S M I T H ; F r u i t: b r e n t h o l m e s

End note

upcoming shows T i c k e T s sTa r T i n g aT $2 2

VOcaLese featuring The Joffrey Ballet The Manhattan Transfer, One of the most revered dance experiences in the world new York Voices and special guest Jon Hendricks tuesday, 1/22 & wednesday, 1/23 – 7:30pm thursday, 1/17 – 7:30pm

kODO A thunderous performance from the legendary taiko drummers Friday, 2/1 – 7:30pm



70 2 . 74 9 . 2 0 0 0

ray kurzweil: How to create a Mind

natalie Merchant – in concert with Orchestra

The #1 best-selling author discusses the secrets of the human mind Sunday, 1/27 – 7:30pm

A symphonic concert of new works from the singer of 10,000 Maniacs. tuesday, 1/29 – 7:30pm

a Tribute to ella, Joe and Basie featuring Janis siegel, kevin Mahogany and the count Basie Orchestra with special guests nikki Yanofsky and nicole Henry Sunday, 2/3 — 7:30pm

T h e s m i t h c e n t e r. co m

anything goes

BBc concert Orchestra

Winner of three 2011 An evening of Walton, Haydn and Tony Awards® including Mendelssohn conducted by Keith Best Musical Revival Lockhart of the Boston Pops. tuesday, 2/5 - Sunday, 2/10 monday, 2/11 – 7:30pm tuesday thru Friday – 7:30pm Saturday & Sunday - 2:00pm & 7:30pm

Upcoming ShowS at

Tom Wopat - “Love swings” Friday, 1/11 - 7:00pm & 9:30pm

Michael cavanaugh: The Billy Joel songbook

Friday, 1/25 - 7:00pm Saturday, 1/26 - 3:00pm & 7:00pm

Visit to see the full lineup today. 361 Symphony park avenue, Las Vegas, nV 89106 ttY: 800.326.6868 or dial 711

SeaSon partnerS

clint Holmes

Friday, 2/1 & Saturday, 2/2 – 8:30pm Sunday, 2/3 – 2:00pm

kurt elling Quartet

Friday, 2/8 & Saturday, 2/9 7:00pm & 9:30pm

p u blish e D B y n e vada p u blic radio

Mission Statement

Desert Companion is the premier city magazine that celebrates the pursuits, passions and aspirations of Southern Nevadans. With award-winning lifestyle journalism and design, Desert Companion does more than inform and entertain. We spark dialogue, engage people and define the spirit of the Las Vegas Valley. Publisher Melanie Cannon Editor Andrew Kiraly Art Director Christopher Smith Graphic Designer Brent Holmes Sales and marketing manager Christine Kiely National account manager Laura Alcaraz Account executives Sharon Clifton, Robyn Mathis, Carol Skerlich, Markus Van’t Hul Marketing Associate Lisa Kelly Subscription manager Chris Bitonti Web administrator Danielle Branton Contributing writers Chantal Corcoran, Cybele, Steve Friess, Julie Hession, Damon Hodge, MÊlanie Hope, Joseph Langdon, Debbie Lee, Christie Moeller, Helen Moore, Pj Perez, Jennifer Prosser, Brock Radke, Jon Ralston, Norm Schilling, Linda J. Simpson Contributing artists Sabin Orr

Editorial: Andrew Kiraly, (702) 259-7856;

Fax: (702) 258-5646 Advertising: Christine Kiely, (702) 259-7813;

Subscriptions: Chris Bitonti, (702) 259-7810;

Website: Desert Companion is published 12 times a year by Nevada Public Radio, 1289 S. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89146. It is available by subscription at, or as part of Nevada Public Radio membership. It is also distributed free of charge at select locations in the Las Vegas Valley. All photographs, artwork and ad designs printed are the sole property of Desert Companion and may not be duplicated or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. The views of Desert Companion contributing writers are not necessarily the views of Desert Companion or Nevada Public Radio. Contact Chris Bitonti for back issues, which are available for purchase for $7.95.

ISSN 2157-8389 (print) ISSN 2157-8397 (online)

6 | Desert

Companion | January 2013

You Can Live Greener Than You Think! You can make a difference on the environment and on your wallet when you think Smarter Greener BetterŽ! Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home but with high-efficiency appliances you can lower your energy use, making a big difference on your energy costs and the environment. You’ll save money and help protect our natural resources. Think Smarter Greener Better. Want to learn more about energy-efficient appliance rebates? Visit us at or call our Energy Specialists at 1-800-654-2765.

Scan this with your mobile device.

Color in Every Season Golden Dyssodia (Thymophylla pentachaeta)

p u blish e D B y n e vada p u blic radio

Desert Companion Board of Directors Officers

Susan Brennan, chair Brennan Consulting Group, LLC cynthia alexander, ESQ. vice chair Snell & Wilmer TIM WONG, treasurer Arcata Associates Florence M.E. Rogers, Secretary Nevada Public Radio


shamoon ahmad, m.d., mba, facp Louis Castle, Director emeritus Patrick N. Chapin, Esq., Director Emeritus KIRK V. CLAUSEN Wells Fargo Elizabeth FRETWELL, Director emeritus City of Las Vegas sherri gilligan jan L. jones Caesars Entertainment Corporation

A landscape should be beautiful throughout the year. Some plants love to bloom in the middle of winter. Others have eye-popping leaf color (think silver, blue and gold). Still others have bold, stunning forms. Whether you’re looking for a new landscape or want to enhance your existing one, we’d love to make your 2007 garden beautiful in every season.

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Norm’s Garden Tip: Golden Dyssodia is a small (~12”), desert perennial that can bloom throughout the year. Individual plants are relatively short-lived but reseed easily, creating pops and swaths of golden flowers. In the driest parts of the garden, they bloom their little hearts out all winter!

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John R. Klai II Klai Juba Architects

Peter O’Neill R&R Partners William J. “Bill” Noonan, Director Emeritus Boyd Gaming Corporation kathe nylen PBTK Consulting Anthony j. pearl, esq. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas MARK RICCiARDI, Esq., director emeritus Fisher & Phillips, LLP Mickey Roemer, Director Emeritus Roemer Gaming

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Pay it forward Pop quiz, everyone! True or false: Nevada is known as a bastion of affordable higher education. Okay, it’s a trick question. Answer: It used to be cheap, but that’s changing fast. Over the last five years, college tuition in Nevada crept up an average of 8 percent annually — well above the national average. For example, students enrolling in UNLV this spring will pay $191 a credit, up from $171 per credit for the 2012 fall semester. That’s $20 that could have gone toward study aids, like a case of Corona. The good news is that Nevada is one of a dwindling handful of about a dozen states that have a prepaid tuition program, which allows parents and grandparents to lock in cheaper tuition prices for future college grads who are currently toddling around in Huggies. “This can’t completely solve the problem of the rising costs of college, but it’s part of the answer,” says state Treasurer Kate Marshall. The enrollment period is open through Feb. 28, but this particular window of opportunity has a few perks thrown in: First, enrollees will pay 2012 rates instead of 2013 tuitions, which are already expected to be nearly 12 percent higher; second, enrollees can enter a contest to win a full year of paid tuition at a university or two years at a community college. (Info at There’s a poster parent for the Nevada Prepaid Tuition Program, not surprisingly, right at UNLV: Diane Sessions, who works in the invoicing department at the university. “I’ve been working here since 1987, when tuition was $36 a credit, so I’ve seen (tuition costs rise) up close. It’s gone up 375 percent since then.” She enrolled three of her grandchildren in the program in five-year payment plans.

Hear more

3-D 101

If you want to catch the next big 3-D blockbuster, forget the local cineplex. Instead, you might want to enroll in Nevada State College’s Biology 189 course. This year, the class will feature a new learning tool straight out of science fiction: a 3-D imaging system whose rich, floating, interactive holograms will give students an unprecedented look at the building blocks of life. “It will blow you away,” says Andy Kuniyuki, dean of NSC’s school of liberal arts — and he doesn’t strike you as the kind of guy who drops that phrase often. “But this goes way beyond the ‘wow’

“I feel wonderful about it, because you can take a lot of things away from people, but it’s hard to take an education away. I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, so as long as I’m alive and can afford it, I want to give my grandchildren a decent chance at an education.” Of course, would-be enrollees should do their homework. Because this is an investment, it’s neither guaranteed nor insured by the state or federal government. That said, while many states shuttered their prepaid programs after their investments took a dive during the Great Recession, Marshall says Nevada’s took only a slight dip to 97 percent funded. Keep up with Desert (Today, it’s 105 percent funded.) “There ultiCompanion events, news mately needs to be a comprehensive answer and bonus features at to the issue of rising college costs,” Marshall says. Until tuition reform happens, this may be one of Nevada’s few smart bets. — Andrew Kiraly

continued on pg. 12

Learn how tuition hikes will affect students on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at | 11

factor. Can you imagine talking about neural circuitry, and have a brain floating in front of you, where you can go in and see how the neurons are attached to various clusters?” Better yet, this technology that calls to mind the Starship Enterprise’s holodeck was developed by a local firm, 360BrandVision. Its President and CEO Ruben Moreno could have probably partnered with any university in the nation, but chose NSC. “They’re small, hungry and growing, and they’ve got a very talented staff,” he syas. “We knew we’d have their full attention, versus going to an institution such as MIT, where we might have been lost in the shuffle.” And no blockbuster fees for students: NSC gets to showcase the tech for free, while 360BrandVision hunts for investors and licensing opportunities inside and outside the classroom. — Andrew Kiraly

ON THE TOWN Here’s some leaping, low-tech fun for all ages: Circus Oz. These daring and devilish stunt jumpers perform Feb. 21-21 at The Smith Center. $24-$79. Info:

12 | Desert


Refill, please: Don Watkins hopes people flock to his Pundit in flight: Jon Henderson coffee shop. Ralston is taking his brand solo.


Good coffee — with a splash of community Outside The Coffee House in Old Town Henderson, owner Don Watkins sits at a table on the sidewalk patio, smoking a cigarette and chatting with a customer. It’s a warm autumn weekday, and on any other downtown Main Street, the sidewalks would likely be filled with people making their way to shops, restaurants and offices. But here on Water Street, The Coffee House (117 Water Street, 7523199) is the only sign of life on the otherwise dead street. When Watkins walks in, he chats with a few older locals about topics of the day, including — perhaps ironically — First Friday in downtown Las Vegas. It’s ironic because this coffee shop, which Watkins hopes to turn into a hub for arts and culture in downtown Henderson, is on a street rife with vacant storefronts and boarded-up windows. Add to that the fact that Watkins took over the shop from a former owner who tried to make a go of slinging coffee. Watkins, a concrete contractor by trade, raised $20,000 to get things up and running. What will make a difference this time? “The art, the music and the coffee. I think I’ve got the best coffee in town,” he says. “That’s what makes a place work — when you come in, you always get consistently good coffee.” Downtown Las Vegas seems to be on an effortless winning streak. Entrepreneurs build the bars, cafés and hangouts, and the urbanites come. It’s a decidedly different story in downtown Henderson, which serves as a reminder that not everywhere in Southern Nevada is urban pioneering such a sure thing.

Companion | JANUARY 2013

But Watkins is making some promising moves. While his coffee is tasty (the beans are Lavazza and the syrups are Monin), it’s more likely the other two facets of that trifecta responsible for The Coffee House’s growing success. From the start, Watkins has aggressively recruited local artists not only to fill the red walls in his cozy space, but to also do live painting in the shop. The venue hosts open-mic nights on Wednesdays and Fridays, poetry on Tuesdays, a United States Chess Federation-certified chess club meeting on Mondays, and even the occasional acting class during the day. After dark, The Coffee House’s bohemian atmosphere comes out in full force, table lamps and track lights accenting the crimson walls and vintage furniture, old hippies, young punks and middle-aged writers comfortably commingling. (If clove smoke started filling the room, you’d swear you were on Maryland Parkway circa 1996.) Based on the lack of coffee spotted in people’s hands at a recent Wednesday night jam session, however, nightly entertainment won’t pay the bills. Water Street needs more vital businesses surrounding The Coffee House for it to survive. Watkins says he’d like to see more art in Old Town, or even just “shops that have art.” He mentions a few friends who have shown interest in opening a restaurant or maybe a crystals store down there. But for now, despite the rash of empty storefronts and boarded-up windows, Watkins remains optimistic. “I know the location sucks,” he says, “but with the art, music and coffee, people will come.” — Pj Perez

C o f f e e H o u s e p h oto b y : B r e n t H o l m e s

continued from pg. 11


* $1 50 Of fer

2T ic k Li et m s ite F d r Ti o m m e

Las Vegas Locals 2 Tickets For $99*









For Tickets Visit: CIRQUEDUSOLEIL.COM/VEGASLOCALS *Management reserves all rights. Offers are subject to change and based on availability. Zumanity was created for guests 18 years and older. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Must present Nevada State ID at box office at time of pick up.


Jeff Grindley • Grindley started the Las Vegas Zine Library with 40 zines — his personal collection. Located at The Beat Coffeehouse, around 700 zines are on the shelves now, with an additional 1,500 in the process of being catalogued. “It grows on its own,” says the library’s curator. “I told myself once I got over 500 that I’d figure out some kind of check-out system, but, it’s still working like this.” • Zines, short for fanzines, originated in the science fiction community. Ray Bradbury’s first published piece, Hollerbochen’s Dilemma, appeared in the sci-fi zine Imagination! in 1938. Riot grrls, gutter punks, anarchists, and countless other subcultures use these handmade, selfpublished magazines to share art, promote ideas, and educate one another. • Grindley credits his girlfriend, Stevie, as the reason the zine library exists. He had the big idea, and she supported him through the details. The two are working on a zine together, which will be added to the library once it is completed. Grindley’s other zines are up on the shelves, including his 24-hour zine project ( entitled Sticky Fingers, Heavy Lids. • “Growing up, my dad always had computers around, and he would show me the art programs, and then I’d get into it and I’d come up with a cover for a magazine, and then that would be as far as I’d ever get. When I came across zines, it was just like, oh yeah. So I could just photocopy something ... duh. It just opened up a door.” • On any given Monday night, you will find Grindley co-hosting weekly open mic event The Human Experience. He might ask you to perform an interpretive dance, but don’t worry; that’s just his tried and true icebreaker. “As much as I’m hosting, and doing all this stuff, really I’m a shy person. I gotta make sure that when someone new walks

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Companion | JANUARY 2013

Curator of the Las Vegas Zine Library

in, they’re not feeling like, ‘Uh ... run away,’ ’cause that’s my first instinct when I walk into a room and I don’t know anybody.” • A Zine Library satellite location was recently added at Hillary Salon, and both sites work much like a resource library: Readers are free to take any zine from the shelves, and they are trusted to return it before they leave. • “Zines are powerful. They can lead to really positive things. Not only can you make something, but it’s worth something just because you made it. It’s a self-affirmation.” • “It can be a launching point for people. There’s nothing wrong with being published professionally or writing professionally, but it’s kinda like fashion or beauty; there are standards that a lot of people live by, but they’re not the only standards. They’re not the final, defining thing.” • “The zine library belongs to Las Vegas, and it’s a resource for Las Vegas. I have this high ideal of how I think it should operate. I place it against the background that zines come from, a punk-rock kind of ethos, free sharing for everybody. You know, put your trust in other people, and know that they’re not always gonna do the right thing, but hope that they do it right enough.” • Submissions to the Las Vegas Zine Library can be dropped off at The Beat Coffeehouse, or — in true, old-school zine style — sent to Las Vegas Zine Library, c/o Jeff Grindley, Po Box 72071, Las Vegas NV, 89170. • “I have ten fingers, but I’ve got twenty pieces of pie I want to put them in. I want to see my community grow.” — Jasmine Fouts


The event is free. But the rewards are priceless. Join us as we celebrate World Wetlands Day at the Clark County Wetlands Park. We’ll spruce up the ponds near the newly constructed Nature Center and we’ll take in the beauty of the Park and its native species with a special Wetlands walk. Explore exhibits from local groups working to enhance the wetlands and bring your children for some fun activities.

World Wetlands Day at the Clark County Wetlands Park Thursday, January 31 • 10 am – 2 pm 7050 Wetlands Park Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89122 Please RSVP at by Thursday, January 24

Wetlands Park Ln


Br t












Visitors Center

Sponsored by the Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee.


the browser

Room for improvement

Make those New Year’s resolutions stick — with a little help

by Christie Moeller The promises we make ourselves are often the most difficult to keep — especially when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. Sure, on Jan. 1, it’s all salads and gym trips, but by the time February rolls around, it’s back to cupcakes and couch-lounging. Resolve to make 2013 a great year — with a little help.

1. Get fit. Keep a grip on your new year’s Namaste with The Mat from Lululemon, which will stay grippy no matter how much of a sweat you work up. $68, Lululemon in the Fashion Show Mall

6. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Repurposing is the chic way to go green. These light bottles use 100 percent recycled elements — from right here in Las Vegas. Price upon request, Artifact in The Market LV at Tivoli Village

2. Fall in love. If you spray it, they will come — or at least they’ll compliment your romantic signature scent, courtesy of Philosophy Falling in Love Spray Fragrance. $42, Sephora, various locations

3. Give back. Help give the gift of vision with a purchase that has purpose. Buying eyewear in the TOMS One for One program — such as these TOMS Sandela Eyewear in tortoise and light blue — supports vision services for the underprivileged. $119, Nordstrom in the Fashion Show Mall

4. Smile more. It takes fewer muscles to smile than frown. Another motivator: To show off your bright white teeth. Supersmile Quikee is a pocketsize, no-brush, no-rinse whitening polish perfect for smiles on the go. $18, ULTA beauty.

5. Take a trip. Broaden your horizons — and trip in style this year. The TegraLite medium trip packing case from Tumi is durable and lightweight — plus, it just looks cool. $795, Tumi Forum Shops at Caesars

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Companion | JANUARY 2013

7. Eat healthy. Forget those fast-food lunches that give you the afternoon groggies at your desk. Pack up healthy eats in the Divided Lunch-to-Go. Its silicone seal means it’s airtight and leak-proof; it’s also microwave- and dishwasher-safe. $19.99, The Container Store in Town Square

8. Be punctual. Keep track of time in style with the Michael Kors Rose Golden Oversized Chronograph Watch. $275, Neiman Marcus in the Fashion Show Mall

9. Manage stress. When stress hits, don’t reach for the chocolate. Instead, grab the Aveda Stress Fix Concentrate aromatherapy rollerball, packed full of essences of lavender, lavandin and clary sage. $22, Aveda Fashion Show Mall

10. Walk in someone else’s shoes. This season, French powerhouse Bensimon and American design icon DKNY walk together with limitededition, tennis-inspired sneakers. $65, DKNY Forum Shops at Caesars


What a bunch of tools February is just around the corner, and that means it’s pruning time. Of all the tools in your garden arsenal, hand pruners are the most important investment. Don’t skimp on these; a good pair can last a lifetime -- and a cheap pair will make your hand ache and hurt the plants you’re trying to help. Get by-pass pruners, the kind with a scissor-type action, where the blades move past each other to make a clean cut. Avoid anvil types, which have a straight blade that comes down on a flat anvil and stops, “bruising” the wood along the way. Felco used to be my favorite hand-pruners, though I switched to a Bahco hand pruner a couple of years ago, as it fit me well and took less pressure to make the same cut. Tip: Keep the blade sharp. Use a fine file to lightly run it across the cutting knife, in line with the face of the blade that is angled in. Don’t run it across the backside of the cutting knife, nor on the other, thicker blade. Also clean and lube them periodically. Pocket saws. If my hand pruners can’t handle the cut, the saw comes out. I use mine for all cuts greater than ½ - ¾

Love your bugs

Loppers. While I don’t use them to prune my plants and trees, loppers are still an important part of my arsenal. They’re handy for cutting up larger branches already removed to stuff them into garbage cans or to take the weight off of a branch prior to making a final cut with the saw. When choosing loppers, I want the same scissorstype cutting action; I also seek out longer handles, which give more torque and power. I have loppers built by a company called Fred Marvin I bought for more than $40 several years ago. Solidly engineered, they do an amazing job of slicing through fresh wood up to 1½inch diameter. Bahco also makes very good loppers and other pruning equipment. Remember, though, quality counts, but so does care: With proper maintenance and sharpening, they’ll last a lifetime – Norm Schilling Norm Schilling is owner of Schilling Horticulture Group in Las Vegas. He also gives gardening advice in his “Desert Bloom” segments on News 88.9 KNPR.

There’s an adage, “The only good bug is a dead bug.” I couldn’t disagree more. There are lots of good bugs I want in my garden, and I want them alive and well. Biological diversity creates biological balance. In fact, I’ve learned that the less I use pest control, the fewer pest problems I have. Of course, sometimes you have to go into battle. Here are some typical cases — and some low-impact, earth-friendly methods I recommend. Caterpillars: If there are too many to pick off and feed to the chickens, I use BT, a naturally occurring bacteria that mostly only affects caterpillars, and is available at nurseries and hardware stores. Spider mites: These tiny pests weave small webs and give a plant a dusty look. To control, I use blasts of pressurized water (just a nozzle on my hose). The wet, humid conditions also discourage mating. On more severe infestations, I spray soapy water. This is even more effective, but also kills any predators it might hit.

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Companion | JANUARY 2013

Can you dig it? Over the years I’ve gone through cheap hand trowels, breaking or bending the cutting blade on all of them but one. That one unbroken hand-digging tool is my Lesche digging knife. I believe the Lesche was developed for geologists and other rock-hounds. It’s made of a strong steel blade with one side serrated. The steel blade bends 90 degrees at the top to create a shield that protects the hand. The handle is a continuation of that same piece of steel, so it will never break. It feels solid and comfortable, and the angle and position of the tool allows great force to be naturally applied to the tip of the shovel/knife. The one part of the Lesche digging tool that DID break down, after about five years of nearly daily wear and use, is the sheath. I hopped online and easily found a site where I could order just the sheath for $12.25. Whatever kind of trowel you get, avoid the common pot-metal or thin-steel varieties of digging trowels. The pot-metal breaks easily and the thin steel bends in our rocky and hard soils, rendering them both almost useless. — N.S.

Agave weevil: Here’s where I bring out the heavy artillery. These insects eat the root systems of my agaves and by the time I can see the signs of damage, it’s usually too late! So, I treat proactively, using a systemic insecticide called Bayer Tree and Shrub Insecticide. Leaf-footed bugs: These bugs are especially well-known for damaging pomegranates. To control, apply a food-grade diatomaceous earth (available under the brand name “Die-Bug”) when you see signs of the insect. Aphids: Don’t treat! Most plants can handle lots. Think of them as welcome treats for the predators. Plants like yuccas and red yucca can have their entire flowers covered in them, without the plant suffering any significant ill-effect. Aphids are the meat and potatoes of the bug world — so leave the feast for the good bugs in your yard. — N.S.



inch. A quality pocket saw can handle cutting branches up to 3 or 4 inches in diameter and can even prune through wood as much as 6 inches around. Why a saw and not a lopper, which many people prefer? Because every cut made on living tissue is a wound and, just like you’d want a doctor to make precise cuts if he were to operate on you, the same holds true for your “patient.” A saw makes such a cut by removing wood in small, precise quantities with each stroke. Loppers use brute force to push the blade through tissue, bruising and damaging it. A good pocket saw will run you about $24-$30. I’ve used a Felco 600 folding saw for many years, but other brands are just as good. Tips: Make sure the saw has a mechanism that locks the blade in place. To keep the blade sharp, keep your saw-blade out of the dirt. Nothing dulls a saw quicker that running it through soil. For rootpruning, keep an old saw or saw-blade around, or use hand-pruners for smaller cuts.


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‘I have absolutely no regrets’ After losing her Senate bid, a reflective Shelley Berkley speaks her mind on dirty campaigns, a distinguished career in Congress — and her future in politics Interview by Steve Friess | Photography Christopher smith

Shelley Berkley came within a percentage point of becoming Nevada’s junior senator, a fact that she has spent the past two months digesting. She was defeated by Sen. Dean Heller after a brutal campaign in which Heller and a Sheldon Adelson-funded SuperPAC attacked her relentlessly for an Ethics Committee probe into her conduct surrounding the federal rescue of Las Vegas’ only kidney transplant clinic. During the 2012 campaign, the normally ebullient, outspoken New York native was muzzled by handlers. Now, as evidenced by this sit-down interview in the living room of the townhouse near Capitol Hill that was suddenly for sale, she’s been liberated to speak her mind once more. And does she ever. Steve Friess: So, this is a bummer, huh? Shelley Berkley: I am heartbroken but I have absolutely no regrets. I loved every minute of it. I gave it my all and it would have been much more difficult for me if I hadn’t run and spent the rest of my life thinking I would’ve, should’ve, could’ve. SF: Are you prepared for what it will feel like for you in January? SB: Oh sure. You have to know going into these races that you could lose. I loved being a congresswoman and I loved public service. It is a part of my life, it is not my life. I’m going home to my life. I feel really good about that in a really sad sort of way. SF: Really? SB: Look, I’m the granddaughter of immigrants who came to this country who couldn’t speak English. They had no money, they had no skills. What they had was a dream that their children and their children’s children would have a better life in the United States. I’m my grandparents’ American dream. If they hadn’t gotten out of Europe when they did, they would’ve died in the Holocaust. I have always thought of public service as my way of giving something back to this country for taking my family in and giving us a chance to survive, which we did, and thrive, which we have. I think I have paid my family’s debt to this country. I’ve earned my rest right now. SF: Now, I’ve known you since before you were in Congress and you were always the most accessible public figure I’d ever dealt with. So

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Companion | January 2013

Campaign tale: Shelley Berkley reflects on her political career.

I was baffled during the campaign at how hard it was to reach you. SB: Yes. I enjoy my interaction with the press. You’re usually dealing with very smart people. When we started our Senate campaign and the big guns came in, they were astonished and appalled at the lack of filter and the accessibility that the press had to me. They thought that was not in my best interest and there needed to be some responsible behavior on my part when it comes to interacting with the press. I understood what they were saying and I agreed to it, but it was very, very difficult to me because

I just have a natural inclination to be very open. SF: Coming on the heels of the ethics issue, the perception was that you were avoiding certain questions that you did answer here and there. SB: It was just a decision on the part of the campaign strategists that we needed to control the flow of communication with the press. SF: Do you think that was a good decision in retrospect? SB: I couldn’t tell you if it was good or bad. I lost by a point. Maybe that proves the strategy was right because we came so close, or maybe it proved that it was a big mistake and I would’ve won by 10 points. But I think once the ethics complaint by the Republican party was filed, they started using it to beat me up, I started appreciating the need to not be as open and candid and frankly — as many times as we explained these issues to our members of the press — they were still reporting it wrong. After a while, I just stopped trying. Even at the very final days of the campaign, I was still reading articles that my husband had a financial interest in the kidney transplant program. How do you have a financial interest in a county program? I mean, he had a contract with UMC to deliver kidney care to the hospital. It didn’t matter if the kidney transplant program expanded, which it has, or closed. Larry’s contract remained the same. That was something we never quite were able to communicate with the press, and after a while it became the mantra and that became the question — Should she have intervened? Of course I should have intervened. I saved the program. SF: Can you name three things you’re most proud of accomplishing in Congress? SB: First and foremost is the new V.A. hospital. It’s just a remarkable facility. I moved heaven and earth for that. That’s probably my proudest accomplishment and will remain so for generations to come, because it’s going to be servicing the veterans of our state forever. The second thing is my constituent services. When somebody called with a problem, they knew they were going to be taken care of. We never turned anyone away. If we couldn’t help, we made sure they knew who it was at the county or state level who could help them with their issue. SF: Is there a third? SB: Well, one of the things that’s not complete is I worked very hard to make sure that Nevadans were able to deduct their sales tax from their

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politics federal income tax. There’s only seven states that don’t have a state income tax, so you can’t deduct that. But what we do have is a sales tax. What I was working on now was making that deduction permanent. We never quite got there. We kept renewing it every couple of years, but I think this year and if I had been in the Senate, I think I could have made that permanent. SF: Do you feel like in this long-running grudge match between you and Sheldon Adelson that he has now won? SB: Let me say this. I am very comfortable with where I am and what I do. There are two issues that nobody is better than me that he professes to care about. One of them is gaming and one of them is Israel. So who’s the loser in this election? I’m going to be fine. SF: You think Sheldon’s not going to be fine? SB: I wouldn’t trade places with him, not for all his money.

SF: You’ve said the deciding factor in the election was all the money spent against you by SuperPACs. But the president survived them. Several Democratic incumbents survived them. I think you were the only one who lost who was really targeted that way. SB: Yes, I was. Look, the Republicans had a brilliant strategy. They couldn’t beat me on the issues. They knew it. That’s why they filed the ethics complaint against me. And then they spent a year or more banging me over the head with the fact that there’s an ethics complaint filed against me. Yeah,

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Companion | January 2013

“I couldn’t tell you if it was good or bad. I lost by a point. Maybe that proves the strategy was right because we came so close, or maybe it proved that it was a big mistake and I would’ve won by 10 points.”

they filed it! At the end of early voting, we were up 1.5 points. And that last weekend I think turned it around. I didn’t realize how virulent and how constant those attacks were on me. Monday night, after a whole day of campaigning, I turned on the TV and was flipping channels. And that’s when I came to realize how constant and ugly they were. I said to myself, “If I didn’t know me, I wouldn’t vote for me either.” If there had been no ethics complaint, I would have won that election. If it was Sheldon’s money and Karl Rove’s strategy that did it, that’s just the way it is.

SF: I know you’ve discussed the details of the controversy about the nephrology center and all that business, but a couple things: You said it was the Republicans filing a complaint following what you said was an inaccurate front-page article in The New York Times, but a bipartisan House committee decided not to end that probe. (On Dec. 20, the committee concluded Berkley violated House rules and the government’s code of conduct when she used her office to benefit her husband’s medical practice, but said she made no attempt to profit from it.) SB: The reason it went forward was because I sent a letter to the Ethics Committee asking them to move forward to clear my name.


SF: Wouldn’t it have been easier for them to clear it before the election got going? SB: Well, we understood that they would. I was hoping the letter would kickstart the process and they would completely exonerate me. We were hoping it would happen before the election, I am hoping it will happen before time runs out. (At press time, it was unclear whether that occurred.) SF: Speaking of Israel, you were in Congress since 1999. Has the situation gotten any better? SB: It’s gotten much worse. You cannot sit down and negotiate when the people you are negotiating with do not recognize your right to exist as a Jewish state. So I could never figure out how, unless the rest of the Arab world recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, you could negotiate because what are we negotiating for? The right to exist for 10 more years? Twenty? Fifty more years? I’m afraid that Israel is more isolated than they had been in decades, and that worries me a great deal.

The Contest is back!

SF: Two years ago, I overheard you saying President Obama had “blown it with the Jews.” You also told me you just didn’t feel he has it in his kishkas (Yiddish for “guts”). Does he have it in his kishkas now? SB: He may not have it in his kishkas, but I have to tell you. I disagreed with this settlement policy. I disagreed with his statements on the ’67 borders. But if we take what he has done in total, he supported and we have paid for Iron Dome, the missile defense system that pretty well protected Israel in this past month. That came from Obama. When the Palestinians went to the United Nations the first time and asked for a unilateral declaration of statehood, there was one | 23


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Companion | January 2013

country in the Security Council that stood with Israel. That would not have happened without the full support of the president of the United States. When the UN issued the Goldstone Report, which condemned Israel for using disproportionate force during the first Gaza War, they did everything they could at the UN to lessen the impact of that very one-sided, very unfair report. He was a full partner in that. And again, this latest stunt by the Palestinians at the UN. Eight countries out of 193 voted for Israel. It was United States that stood in staunch defense of Israel. For my money, that makes him a very, very strong president for Israel. SF: What were some of the things that happened as a congresswoman that you never would have imagined would happen to you? SB: If my mother was alive and she were soothing me after my loss, this is what she would have said. (High-pitched voice) “Shelley, do you realize what you have lived through and served during, how remarkable this is?” I came in during the Clinton impeachment. There was 9/11. There was the anthrax scare. There was the Iraq War. There was the Afghan War. SF: Gosh, did anything good happen? SB: (Laughs) It was the change of the millennium. I was on the cutting edge of American foreign policy when it comes to Israel. I chaired the Trans-Atlantic Dialogue which gave me tremendous access to the European leadership. I chaired the Taiwan Caucus in a delicate time in the relationship between China and Taiwan. I chaired the Kazakh Caucus. I became very familiar with Central Asia. How would I have ever done that? And then Cyprus and Greece. Those were the areas I had the most impact. There were major forces at work here in Washington, throughout the United States and internationally. And I played a role in all the monumental things that were taking place. I was serving at the perfect time. It was a thrill, it still is. That’s a good way to lose. SF: What’s your impression of how Gov. Sandoval has done? SB: Um, I like Brian. We’ve never had a harsh word between us. I think he’s, um, (long pause) is a very nice person. SF: Are you thinking of running against him ... SB: No!

SF: ... because that’s what you told me about Dean before you ran. SB: No, no, no, no, no. (Laughs) No, I’m not interested in that position. SF: Do you expect Sen. Reid to run again in 2016? SB: I would hope so, yes, unless there is an impairment that would keep him from representing the people of Nevada, he should continue. The longer he stays, the more clout he has. I can’t imagine the state without his steady hand and I don’t think the folks back home fully appreciate what he’s done for the people who call Nevada home. I’ve seen it up close and personal, and it’s astonishing. SF: During the campaign, Jon Ralston claimed that Sen. Reid didn’t help you as much as he should have and he didn’t want you to run for Senate. SB: Jon misread that completely. I can’t imagine what more Sen. Reid could have done. I would not have done this without Harry’s not only agreeing to it but wholeheartedly supporting me. I never quite understood why Jon kept pushing that. Remember, early on there was a good-faith belief that whoever won Nevada would control the Senate. Once I decided to run, Harry never wavered, never blinked, never took a step back until the last vote was counted and I conceded. SF: Regarding what you might do next, what about getting an ambassadorship or something like that? SB: Luckily I’m in a position where I don’t have to get a job to pay the rent next month. That gives me the ability to take a step back. Whatever I do in the future, it has to be personally fulfilling to me, something I care about and that I believe I could add value to. I’m not looking for a title, I’m not interested in fluff. I’m not interested in an honorary title or a nonsense position. SF: What will the odds be that you’ll be on a ballot someday again? SB: I would give that a 50-50. SF: Really? SB: Look, this did not poison me to public service. There isn’t anything I covet, there isn’t any office I aspire to right now, there isn’t anything I’m thinking about. But if you ask me if it’s outside the realm of possibility, the answer is no. Steve Friess is a technology reporter for POLITICO Pro in Washington, D.C.

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What makes a five-star school? Hear a discussion on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at desertcompanion/hearmore


Be true to your school


Learning doesn’t stop when the bell rings. These school resource programs ensure hungry young minds are well-fed By Chantal Corcoran

A f t e r-Sc hool Al l- Stars L as Vegas | What they do: After-School All-Stars offers free after-school programs in six middle schools and eight elementary schools that feed into them. So, when the bell rings at the end of the day at a school like Cashman Middle, about half the kids (450) stay. Their first after-school hour is educational — and each school’s All-Stars curriculum is tailored to that school’s needs. Some have tutoring; others have math or reading classes taught by school district teachers volunteering their time. The second hour is dedicated to sports, fitness or enrichment activities. There might be cooking classes, orchestra, dance with a teacher from Nevada Ballet Theatre, or sports clinics through UNLV’s outreach program. For After-School All-Stars elementary students, this even means a spring soccer league. The hook: Students must attend school, and the academic hour, to participate in the fun. The difference: Through its partnership with Three Square, AllStars’ 6,000 kids receive nutritious after-school meals five days a week. Furthermore, these students go to school more often, have fewer behavioral problems, and score 16 percent higher on achievement tests than their classmates. Participating schools are also showing improvement overall: Eight years ago, 13 percent of Martinez Elementary students met or exceeded math standards; today 46 percent are at mastery. Rex Bell was also at 13 percent; now it’s a five-star school. B i g B rother s Bi g Sist ers of S o u ther n Nevada | What they do: Bigs regularly tutor Littles in eight highneed elementary schools. School district counselors identify students, typically from at-risk environments, who are in need of wise, adult, caring friends. Then Big Brothers finds compatible mentors to meet with these students in a classroom pull-out program when the Bigs work one-on-one with the Littles. Thirty minutes each week are dedicated to school work; another half-hour is committed to relationship-building — playing games, doing sports or just talking. Big Brothers Big Sisters has

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Companion | JANUARY 2013

Minds at play: After-School All-Stars

a similar after-school program at Boys & Girls Clubs. The difference: According to their own survey, 53 percent of Littles have improved confidence at school; 65 percent have better peer relationships; and there was a 29 percent decrease in school absences from the first to third trimester last year. But the true measure of success comes straight from the mouths of Littles: “I know that I get to stay in a regular school and classroom because of my Big Brother. He helps me learn to calm down and focus,” says Henry, a fourth-grader. Co m m u ni ti e s i n Sc ho o l s | ci s n e va da .o r g What they do: Part of the nation’s leading dropout-prevention organization, Communities in Schools delivers community resources to students. On-campus site coordinators — in 12 high-risk schools in Southern Nevada and three in northeastern Nevada — work to help struggling students through intensive case-management. Collaboration is at the heart of the mission: If a student needs food, Communities will partner with Three Square; medical attention might be sought from Positively Kids; UNLV’s Counseling Department provides mental counseling. Whether a student needs tutoring, clothing, eyeglasses or even help with the family’s utility bills, Communities seeks to connect them with the community support they need. The difference: Through the collaborative efforts of Communities and the school district, Nevada’s student dropout rate — although still the worst in the nation — is decreasing: In 2010, 120 students dropped

Backpack it in: the Communities in Schools resource center

out every day; this year, we’re only losing 94 students daily. For every dollar donated, Communities estimates an $11.60 return on investment, considering the financial contributions that high school graduates will inevitably make to the community versus the social welfare costs associated with dropouts.

C o m m u n i t i e s i n s c h o o l s : D e n i s e T r u s c e ll o

L as Vegas-Clark Coun ty Library District | What they do: So much, and for all ages. The district’s Children’s Services Department has weekly story times for preschoolers, with the objective of school readiness. Family literacy programs teach parents how to read with kids, modeling techniques to nurture an early love of reading and learning. The Homework Help initiative offers free tutoring in seven branches, as well as several online resources including online tutors, practice tests, and skills building exercises — all through the library’s website. Computers are available for students to use after school. Basic reading, English language, and citizenship classes are also offered for adults. The difference: Today’s library services include so much more than just book lending, although they still do that, too — and ebooks are even available for downloading to e-readers. All that is required is a library card — free with proof of address. (Students require a parent’s permission.) P os i tively Ki ds p os i t ive ly k ids .org What they do: Since 1999, this charity has been serving medically fragile children, but now Positively Kids is also working to keep at-risk students healthy — because sick kids don’t perform well in class. In November 2012, Positively Kids stepped in to manage the Casey Jones Health Center, built several years ago on the Elaine Wynn Elementary School campus, but never used. The clinic is now open yearround to offer wellness and dental services | 27

education to families, insured or not, from Wynn and surrounding schools, at half off or for free if necessary. Some patients have appointments; others walk in; and still others run straight from the playground with skinned knees. (Positively Kids is due to begin managing a clinic at Cunningham School in 2013.) The difference: Typically, underprivileged children don’t regularly visit the doctor’s unless they are terribly sick. Through these clinics in schools, Positively Kids will see that students have access to regular physicals and vaccinations. A social worker on staff is available to assist families to get Medicaid or Nevada Check Up. T h e Pu bli c Ed u cat ion F o u ndation | t h What they do: Since 1991, The Public Education Foundation has been building bridges between businesses, community leaders, government and public education — with innovation being a top priority. Leadership Institute of Nevada is The Public Education Foundation’s leadership

development initiative, newly designed to create real solutions for Nevada education issues. Experts from across the country are being sought to advise school administrators on cutting-edge practices. Teacher EXCHANGE is its green initiative, whereby 1 million pounds of electronic hardware, paper and other materials have been collected for teachers to reuse. Promoting literacy is another priority. Through Clark County READS, students get books and volunteers are trained to teach struggling readers. As part of Artists 4 Kidz, an initiative to educate children in the arts, local musicians, instructors and music students recently performed together at The Smith Center, in the first of an orchestral concert series. The difference: Through Clark County READS’ Library Enhancement program, 85,000 new nonfiction books were donated to nine elementary schools. The Public Education Foundation also offers annual grant opportunities to teachers and has awarded 3,000 scholarships to high school seniors, totaling $7 million, since 2004.

Sc h o o l-Co m m u ni ty Pa r tne r s h i p P r o g ram | cc sd. n e t/com m un i t y/ pa rtn er shi p/ What they do: This unique branch of the Clark County School District facilitates partnership opportunities between schools and the community in almost every way imaginable. For instance: The Focus School project matches high-risk schools with businesses or organizations willing to connect them with resources through Adopta-School. Support-a-School publishes online school wish lists for anybody to fulfill — some schools need pencils and paper, others want smart boards. The Stay in School Mentoring Project provides adult mentors to students at risk of dropping out. Safe Routes to School helps ensure exactly that. These are only a few of the projects going on here. The program also seeks volunteers, speakers and school event sponsors. The difference: Businesses are able to connect with the schools in an easier way, making scholarships, grant money and essay contests more accessible to teachers and


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Companion | JANUARY 2013

students. Students and teachers are also thrilled with various donations and the outside-theclassroom opportunities that the partnership program affords them, such as excursions to The Smith Center.

Lending a hand: United Way of Southern Nevada

U n i t e d way : G e r i Ko d e y

U n i t ed Way of Sout hern N e va da | uws What they do: United Way starts with preschoolers: Because studies show that kids who are succeeding by third grade are likely to stay in school and earn a diploma, United Way has partnered with 21 Child Development Centers to offer 350 scholarships annually for economically challenged families to secure strong starts for wee ones. It also provides the early childhood curriculum and professional development scholarships to teachers. Plus, it supports Family Engagement and Resource Centers across the valley to engage parents in their children’s education, and it has implemented engagement offices in five underperforming high schools to deliver academic and social support to at-risk students. To prevent

school interruptions caused by health or financial problems, United Way also supports programs such as Shots for Tots, a vaccination program; medical clinics for uninsured or underinsured families; free income tax E-readers: The preparation for qualifying Clark County Library District families; and with the school district, United Way is beta-testing a webbased interactive training program whereby students learn about credit, student loans, mortgages and 596 other financially related topics to teach them how to manage their financial futures. The difference: Three years into FERC, high school attendance is better; the GPA is increasing; and national test scores are higher— all indicators that next year’s graduating class (comprised of the first students who’ve been benefitting from the program through the full course of their high school years) will have a higher graduation rate. | 29


How should the media report on suicides? Hear a discussion on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at desertcompanion/hearmore


A legacy of hope State suicide prevention expert Linda Flatt retired this month. She leaves a legacy of hope for others — and still harbors the private grief that powers her cause


By Linda J. Simpson Photography Christopher smith

Linda Flatt tried to help Paul. She tried to help him with a budget, with counseling, with loans — anything to help stave off the gambling addiction that was taking over his life. When Paul defaulted on a bank loan that Flatt had co-signed, she’d had enough. She declared herself finished with bailing him out of his gambling debts. One week later, Paul — her only son — took his own life. Growing up, Paul Tillander had been a sweet but challenging kid. Tall, rail-thin and often flashing a goofy smile, he struggled with the structured environment of school. Today, he might have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, but back in the ’70s, he was just considered a mischief-maker and rule-breaker. Flatt would miss the man he could have become — and blame herself for the loss. Maybe I could have done more to help him. Maybe I should have loaned him more money. Maybe the divorce pushed him over the edge. Maybe I could have saved him. These were the thoughts that troubled Flatt for years after Paul’s suicide. “I had this internal thing that said I was a bad mom,” she says today. It would take years to overcome the guilt and self-recrimination, but it was through this struggle — and because of this struggle —  that Flatt would become one of the state’s most significant forces in addressing the state’s suicide rate. She retired Jan. 1 as Southern Nevada’s suicide prevention trainer and networking facilitator, capping a 20-year career of activism. Over those two decades, Flatt helped take Nevada — which has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation — from having no government apparatus to dealing with suicide to a statewide program credited with raising awareness and prevention of suicide in schools and communities across the state. The seed of Flatt’s desire to share, help and comfort came from a need to heal herself — and prevent this tragedy from happening to others. T h e l esson of Paul Linda Flatt was raised in a military family. She lived a structured life. She followed the rules, was self-reliant and colored inside

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Life preserver: Linda Flatt with a portrait of her son — and her inspiration — Paul

the lines. She married an Air Force pilot, earned a business degree in college and became an office manager for a dental specialty practice. Softspoken yet firm, Flatt often chided the younger female dental staff on their appearance and punctuality. Reserved politeness and decorum were paramount. Her proper life, however, was shattered when her husband of 26 years divorced her. She was still reeling from that blow to her reality when one year later, in 1993, her 25-year-old son, Paul, committed suicide. In that moment, a storm of self-recrimination, guilt, anger, shame and incredible grief entered her life. She was mad at Paul, mad at herself, mad at her ex-husband — and even mad at God. This prim, disciplined woman kept it all inside. How could she feel so much rage at someone who took his life? Why did he consider this the only solution? She felt guilty for being so

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issues angry at her only son. “I didn’t go out of my bedroom for a week,” she says. “The first time I went to the grocery store, I can remember standing in front of the Ragú spaghetti sauce and having a panic attack.” Like many adult children are prone to do when they’re young and broke, Paul used to come to her house and leave with her Ragú. “You feel so fragile, initially. I felt like I would break if anyone bumped up against me and that I’d fall apart.” There were red flags — the warning signs — she felt she overlooked. “I wasn’t educated enough to recognize them,” says Flatt. For instance, after some girlfriend problems, Paul had threatened to kill himself. “I confronted him,” she says. “Twenty years later, I can almost hear him, ‘Ah, Mom, I was just kidding. You know I would never do that.’” She believed him — because she wanted to believe him. Eventually, her stalwart military upbringing kicked in, but her edges and boundaries were forever softened. It was not an easy process for someone with an emotional life shaped by military discipline. “The whole trajectory of my life changed,” says Flatt. “I learned in the aftermath of (my) divorce that I couldn’t do it by myself. I needed to start connecting. I needed to start trusting people. I needed to start opening up and letting people in and letting people help.” How do I s u rv i v e? “My M.O. after Paul died was to educate myself about how I was going to survive,” she says. She looked for a support group to help her deal with her son’s suicide — and found none. After three years of what she characterizes as “leaning into the grief,” she formed a survivors’ support group at her church. She attended out-of-state workshops and conferences to learn more and help the people in her group. In addition to the absence of resources near at hand, there were cultural and generational barriers to contend with as well. “My mother thought that I shouldn’t be ‘airing my dirty laundry’ in terms of my kid committing suicide,” she says. “There was such a stigma attached to suicide back then.” At a conference in Colorado Springs in 1997, the co-founder of an organization called Suicide Prevention Action Network USA spoke about the efforts taking place in Washington, D.C. to increase suicide prevention funding. Petitions were passing from hand to hand; people were becoming community organizers. They needed volunteers to go to Washington

to talk to their representatives and advocate for suicide prevention. Flatt had no intention of getting into the prevention arena. The very idea fueled her guilt. “I really didn’t want to hear it. In fact, I got angry because (they) said most suicides are preventable,” she says. She learned that research showed that 70 to 80 percent of people who commit suicide have given some kind of clue and have communicated their intent. The change came when she stopped clinging to the past and embraced the future. Flatt remembers thinking, “I didn’t prevent Paul’s suicide. Now there is nothing I can do for him, but there is something I can do for somebody else out there.” She became a community organizer for Suicide Prevention Action Network USA and made six trips to D.C., using her own money to finance what gradually became a passion — and a crusade. B r i ng i ng i t h o m e An early supporter of Flatt’s efforts was U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. Because his father had committed suicide, he understood the issue from a very personal perspective. In May 1997, Reid sponsored a resolution in Congress to recognize suicide as a national problem and encouraged prevention and support. Reid became her champion at the federal level and he acknowledged her contributions to the effort. “Countless Nevadans have benefited from Linda’s important efforts over the years,” Reid writes in an email. “Linda has worked hard to ensure Nevadans receive the care they need, and our state and our communities are stronger because of her leadership, expertise, and dedication to suicide prevention.” But there was a complicating wrinkle to Reid’s support. With federal money earmarked for suicide prevention, Flatt knew that only states that had existing suicide prevention programs would receive the monies. “We (Nevada) had nothing — and I mean nothing — so I came back from D.C. and started working on Carson City,” she says. She found an ally in former state Sen. Ann O’Connell. Together they crafted a resolution that mirrored Reid’s federal proposal. In 1999, the Nevada Legislature passed a resolution “expressing support in the State of Nevada to develop more effective suicide prevention programs.” In the final days of the session, unexpected state funding went to the Crisis Call Center in Reno to manage a statewide suicide prevention hotline. The center still receives state and federal funding for managing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255, The center’s Lifeline is the only crisis hotline in Nevada with a large percentage of their calls coming from Clark County. “Linda personifies the saying, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’’’ says O’Connell. “It just goes to show that one person in this state can make a difference.” After commissioning a study, the legislature created a statewide program for suicide prevention in the 2003 session — but without any funding. Finally, in 2005, Gov. Kenny Guinn fully funded the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention. Coordinator Misty Vaughan Allen was hired in northern Nevada, and Flatt was hired in 2006 as the Suicide Prevention Trainer and Networking Facilitator in Southern Nevada. H i g h s and lows In 2007, a year of highs and lows, Flatt lost her father in January and her mother in March. Her second husband, Jerry, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in May. In the same year, the national conference of the American Association of Suicidology recognized her work with the Survivor Services

Award for her “tireless efforts and tremendous accomplishments to improve suicide prevention in Nevada.” The conference stated, “a tireless advocate whose mission has been to educate people about suicide prevention measures and assist with support for family members who experience a suicide, Flatt played an instrumental role in passing legislation that led to the creation of a certified statewide suicide prevention hotline, and eventually the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention.” She hopes that even in a time of a tight state budget and economic uncertainty — perhaps especially in such a time — the state office continues to expand, add more staff and reach more people. “This office exists in huge part due to Linda’s grassroots efforts,” says Vaughan Allen. “(With her) support, knowledge and tenacity to improve circumstances in Nevada, she has been a national force for advocacy.” Nevada has the 4th highest suicide rate in the nation, according to the American Association of Suicidology. More Nevadans die by suicide than by homicide, HIV/AIDS or au-

tomobile accidents. In 2010-2011, there was almost one suicide a day reported in Clark County. However, there is gradual but solid progress: In 1993, the year Paul died, Nevada was ranked No. 1 in the nation for suicides. Flatt has come full circle. She began as a survivor of suicide, formed a survivors support group, sought state and national recognition for suicide prevention, and trained teachers, police and others in prevention techniques. And now that she’s retired? Well, she’s hardly retiring. Flatt will continue to lead her Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss, which meets on the first and third Tuesdays at the Barbara Greenspun WomensCare Center ( For Flatt, her work has brought her satisfaction knowing there has been a seismic shift in the perception of suicide prevention. “People are more vulnerable, more willing to talk about this and bring it out into the light,” she says. As for what she’ll do with all her new free time, her answer isn’t surprising, given her passion for connecting with people: She plans to spend a lot of that free time with her daughter, Tracy, and her grandchildren.

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Tuesday December 4th, 2012


News Reviews Interviews anomymous O n t h e P l at e


The dish

Top of the crops


at first Bite

Honey Salt gets fresh

Fruit loop: The Downtown3rd farmers market

PHOTOGRAPH BY brent holmes | 35


The Dish

Top of the crops Shopping your local farmers market can be an affair of needles and haystacks. Here are our fresh picks for perfect produce


By Julie Hession Photography brent holmes

Local. Organic. Sustainable. These are hot-button words in today’s culinary community. Sure, everyone likes the idea of eating locally and supporting the small specialty farmer, but when you live in Las Vegas, is that even possible? It is, with a little bit of effort — and some loose interpretation of the word “local.” In many cities across the U.S., farmers markets boast vendors who produce within a 25mile radius. If you’ve driven 25 miles in any given direction from Las Vegas, well … you get the idea. It’s not that we don’t have outstanding local vendors; we just don’t have enough local growers to supply a bustling farmers market with fresh fruit and vegetables. So, in exchange for trucks bearing a rainbow of seasonal produce, we’ve stretched our “local” descriptor a bit further to California and other neighboring states, bringing their farms to our tables. In the past few years, the Las Vegas farmers market community has gone from non-existent to relatively impressive. Relatively. Those who’ve shopped at New York’s Union Square Greenmarket or the Santa Monica Farmers Market might brush ours aside as too small or inconvenient. But give us a break. Our markets may be small, but the quality and the variety

36 | Desert

Companion | January 2013

are solid — and you’ll find an energetic vibe and passionate vendors who are proud of their products. But when it comes time to break open your wallet, what do you buy? Here are our recommendations for the freshest, most flavorful eats, no matter the market.

B et on th e Fa rm Fa r mers Ma rk e t Started by dynamo restaurant partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (B&B Bistro, Carnevino), Bet on the Farm Farmers Market has had a tough time finding a permanent home in Las Vegas. Their current location, requiring a bit of a meander through the Springs Preserve, is a good fit, linking farming communities and small producers with the Springs Preserve’s emphasis on sustain-

ability and education. I’ve long lamented that Las Vegas has no options for those interested in a community-supported agriculture program, so I was excited to meet the owners of Quail Hollow Farm, which offers customers a share of their local, organic and sustainable harvest. Starting Jan. 3 (perfect timing for that “healthy eating resolution” you intend to keep!), you get a weekly basket of seasonal produce, everything from buttercrunch lettuce to heirloom melon, delivered to eight locations around Las Vegas or picked up directly from the farm. China Ranch is a family-owned and operated small date farm, located about 75 miles west of Las Vegas in the southern end of Death Valley. While tempted, I decided against their moist date nut bread and cookies in lieu of their specialty hybrid “China Ranch” dates, one

Left, fresh faces from Zuckerman’s Farm at Fresh52 in Tivoli Village; above, fruit from Bet on the Farm at the Springs Preserve; below, goods from Downtown3rd Farmers Market.

of several varieties they sell. Plump, chewy and sweet, these dates begged to be wrapped in bacon and baked. (I regret purchasing only one container.) Bloomin Desert Herb Farm specializes in 50 kinds of organic and medicinal herbs and edible flowers. After chatting and sampling with owner Randy Gibson, I opted for their alder-smoked sea salt, which adds the perfect finishing touch to grilled fish, and their potent habañero sugar, which I sprinkle (sparingly) into hot cocoa. (Thu 10a-1p, Springs Preserve,

Dine in Style

D ow n town3rd Fa r mer s Ma rk e t Downtown 3rd is the newest addition to the Las Vegas farmers market community. Although its location in a bus station is certainly unconventional, somehow it works perfectly for Las Vegas. Its well-lit, domed interior is perfect for displaying vibrant fruits and veggies, and its long hallway accommodates both local vendors and sample-hungry customers. My favorite find here was not a “what” but a “who.” As I took it all in — fleshy red, yellow and green heirloom tomatoes, delicate salad greens, fragrant herbs, fresh berries — Kerry Clasby, aka the Intuitive Forager (, approached and enthusiastically pointed out her top picks. “Try this persimmon — isn’t it fantastic?” (It was.) “Have you ever tried a Mountain Rose Pink Apple?” (She cut me a slice; I bought three.) Kerry is the number one advocate for bringing produce she gathers from California family farms to Las Vegas, and she spends a good part of each week sourcing items for an impressive roster of discerning chefs on and off the Strip. (In other words, arrive early, or those shishito peppers you plan to grill will be gone.) I have vowed to someday learn to make my own linguini, but after bringing home Parma by Chef Marc’s wild mushroom and butternut squash artisan pastas that he sells at the market, I think I’ll leave the task up to him. Make it a meal with his homemade sauces and meatballs, also for sale. I rarely admit to finding a pesto better than my homemade version, but I have no problem giving Hydro Greens Fresh Hydroponic Herbs this accolade. Rather than

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being overpowered with garlic, basil takes the lead in their arrestingly fresh-tasting pesto. Bunches of the herb on display are as fragrant as they are bright green, reinforcing the importance of quality ingredients when creating a recipe. (Fri 9a-2p, 300 North Casino Center Blvd.,

Fre sh 52 Fa rme rs Market Held on weekends at three convenient spots, Fresh 52 outdoor markets offer an array of products not limited to local and “semi-local” produce. Not only can you grab your strawberries and Gilcrease cider, but you’ll find handmade aprons, zucchini bread and kettle corn to keep the kids happy while you shop. Described as the “Hummus King of Las Vegas,” Jarod Upham of 86’d Eats prepares a variety of dips in small batches for his growing legion of “hummus heads.” Flavors range from roasted garlic and herb to sun-dried tomato with cracked black pepper to the less common roasted red beet, which is quickly developing a cult following. Upham is more than willing to take ideas for innovative new flavors, but don’t suggest peanut butter and cookie dough — they were discontinued after lack of demand. (For the record, I would gone for the peanut butter.) I happen to love jerky, but it wasn’t until I tried a buffet of Jo Jo’s Jerky samples that I realized I had eaten a lot of bad jerky. Varieties from mild Turkey Teriyaki to try-it-if-youdare spicy “Hell on Earth” and (my personal favorite) carne asada are vacuum-sealed, ensuring a moist and very flavorful product. Buy at least two bags — you’ll go through it quickly. The goods offered at Zuckerman’s Farm Fresh Produce (of Stockton, Calif.) are always picked the day before being offered for sale. Perhaps this was the key to their flawless selection of green beans, which tasted so delicious raw I almost felt like it was an insult to cook them. Be sure to visit their booth from February to the middle of May, when their popular green, purple and white asparagus are in season. (Starting Jan. 11, Fri 9a-2p, Whole Foods Parking Lot, 6689 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; Sat 8a-1p, Tivoli Village, 302 S. Rampart; Sun 8:30a-1p, Sansone Park Place, 9480 S. Eastern;


Turn that farm-fresh produce into dinner with two recipes from Julie Hession at


Honey Salt By Debbie Lee | Photography Christopher Smith One of my closest friends, a chef on the East Coast, groans whenever he hears the term “farm-to-table.” “I hate it but I have to use it because diners want things spelled out for them,” he says. “When people ask what kind of restaurant I run, they’re confused if I don’t say Italian, Chinese, or French. I just want to say, ‘One that makes delicious food.’” Kim Canteenwalla (formerly of Society Café at Encore) is a chef in the same bind. At Honey Salt, his new restaurant in Summerlin, he and his wife Elizabeth Blau present local diners with a menu that defies classification. One can evoke summers in Hyannis Port with the New England Fry — a tangle of crumb-coated calamari, clams, and blistered green peppers — or channel the Andes with a Peruvian yellowtail crudo. Kecap manis, an Indonesian sweet soy sauce, is added to steak tartare, and an entrée called Nana’s Tiffin Chicken Curry is unexpectedly listed between the roast chicken and burger. The only tie that binds these disparate dishes is the farm-fresh ethos that informs Canteenwalla’s cooking. Not unlike the acknowledgment page that precedes a novel, the bottom of Honey Salt’s menu gives

shout-outs to the various growers responsible for your meal. But for a restaurant that celebrates sustainability and seasonality, it’s unfortunate that not one business on the list is from Nevada. Also lamentable is the fact that the chef’s work is hit-or-miss. A dish inaccurately described as turkey Bolognese with farro did not feature the actual grain, but boxed pasta made with spelt flour. Although the menu was corrected shortly after my first visit, this didn’t make up for the fact that the noodles were cold and tasted as if they had been shocked in ice water just before they hit the plate. On a separate visit, the Backyard Burger — ordered medium — arrived rare and with a side of fries that seemed to come from a frozen bag. Batter up: Honey Salt’s fried chicken sandwich Canteenwalla walks a fine line between resourcefulness and redundancy. The Bolognese is basically the restaurant’s turkey meatball appetizer, repurposed as a sauce. Quinoa is used in three separate dishes, and kale — despite its status as the It vegetable of the moment — becomes tiresome after making appearances in a Caesar salad, soup, and side dish of mac and cheese. But for these few missteps, there are definite highlights. The mac and cheese may not be enhanced by the addition of leafy greens, but the rich béchamel sauce and crunchy breadcrumb topping is solid and satisfying. And the filet mignon — a cut I consider overrated — is perfect when paired with a smoky bacon and potato hash. Guests will fare even better at lunch. A simple grilled cheese, infused with truffle oil, is outstanding, and the last bite of a fried chicken sandwich with “Durkee’s dressing” (a kind of honey mustard sauce) almost incited a riot at my table. Even a small bowl of chopped salad, chock full of colorful vegetables (including more kale), is an inspiring side that I immediately recreated at home. The transition to dessert is seamless, thanks to pastry chef Justin Nilson’s comforting creations. A warm cookie plate and mile-high chocolate layer cake both cry for a glass of cold milk. And an apple pie served in a brown paper bag is a flawless seasonal dish, even if its aesthetics are too precious for my taste. Give Honey Salt some time to find its groove before you try it. If your dining companion asks where you’re eating, you’ll only have to say, “A place that serves delicious stuff.”

Honey Salt 1031 S. Rampart Blvd., 445-6100,; 11:30a-10:30p daily | 39

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hat does it mean to be the first AfricanAmerican congressman from Nevada? 1 What’s it like being a blackjack dealer on the Strip?2 Are high-rise window washers scared of heights? 3 What’s the strangest request a hotel concierge has ever received? 4 What do undertakers talk about at parties? 5 Does a dog have Buddha nature? 6 We were wondering, too — so we asked. In the pages that follow, you’ll read frank and eye-opening interviews with everyone from politicians to poker dealers to prison wardens about, well, everything. They’re not only the Southern Nevadans who make Las Vegas tick. They’re also the people who make it such a fascinating place to live. Now, a question for you: What are you waiting for?


We just had to

It reflects the surprising diversity of Congress.


Strip’s best restaurants.



It’s a lot like acting.

Yes, if said height happens to be on a rollercoaster.


Anything. If only someone would talk to them.


Woof! Woof! Maybe.



D esert Co m panion


It involves a roll-away bed and one of the



“I like to think of us as the MacGyvers of guest service. We figure it out.” Nancy Nitsche, director of concierge services at Aria

Desert Companion: How would you explain to a kid what you do for a living? Nancy Nitsche: I have had to do that. I went to my kid’s class at school to do exactly that, and I wore my keys, my gold cross keys, that mean I am a member of Les Clefs d’Or. It’s an international concierge association and it’s a pretty difficult process to become a member. You have to be a professional concierge for five years before you can even apply. But when I wear those keys on my lapel, it’s a sign to guests that they can expect a consistently high level of service. DC: Did the kids at school understand that symbol? NN: I explained that it was kind of like being in the military. If you become a colonel or a general, you get more of these stripes or pins, and so I had moved up and earned my gold keys. DC: And did they understand what it is to be a concierge? NN: You know, nobody ever says they want to be a concierge. Even in college, you don’t know. You kind of have to stumble upon it. But I told them: What I do is everything. If you come to stay with me, I will help you deal with whatever you need, a show, a car, some flowers, a special game to play on your Wii, anything. I’m the person you come to. DC: So did you know you wanted to be a concierge? NN: I never thought I was going to do this. I was a financial management major, although

growing up I wanted to be on TV. The next Connie Chung. But I got into this because I needed to network. Like everyone else, I was broke after college, and no one wanted to trust me to run their financial portfolio. You have to grow your natural market, and when I found out that as a concierge you get to work with every facet of a hotel — and knowing there are thousands of workers at these hotels — I thought, there’s my natural market. DC: How did you decide this was the job for you? NN: It’s a powerful thing, to make people happy. I get to make a difference for someone every day. There’s a very sentimental side to this job, a personal connection that people don’t realize. You get to do such unique things. I’ve helped many guys propose to their girlfriends, helped them when they were very nervous and wondering if she was going to like the ring. It’s going to be okay. We’ll do this together. DC: Sounds like that happens a lot. NN: It does. I remember one guest had a medical condition and he couldn’t eat sitting up, he had to kind of lie down on an incline. He was calling and asking for menus for in-room dining, because he was with a large group of guys and they were getting ready to go out to different restaurants that he couldn’t go to because of this condition. We started calling around to find some restaurants that had places to accommodate him, like, maybe at Julian Serrano he could lie down a bit in one of the banquettes? We ended up getting a roll-away bed for him and putting his group in some private dining rooms at some of our restaurants, so he could be with his friends and still have the experience they were having. It was over-the-top for him. He was grateful, and it’s not something he specifically asked for, but you know ... if you hear something like that, you want to do something. DC: Are there really as many unusual requests as we think?


NN: Pretty much every day you get one that stumps you, one that makes you think, I don’t know about that, but I’m about to find out. I love to learn. It’s amazing what people ask for and it’s amazing what you can get. I like to think of us as the MacGyvers of guest service. We figure it out. DC: You’ve been doing this for 15 years. At this point, are you still figuring things out, or are you mostly drawing on your experience? NN: I do a lot of figuring out because, at my position, everything filters up to me. Our staff is amazing, really selfmotivated and sincere people that will do whatever it takes. But when they get stumped, it comes to me. Unless it’s illegal or immoral, we’ll figure it out. DC: These days, we all have a super information machine at our fingertips at all times. Has technology decreased the demand for concierge services? NN: I get asked that a lot. Do we really need a concierge anymore? We need to offer things they can’t find themselves, that’s what makes us valuable. An app on your phone can’t talk to the guest and find out what they like. If you haven’t done anything extra, you haven’t serviced that guest. And our volume is so high, still. We’re getting 600 to 800 phone calls a day just at Aria, plus people calling prior to their stay. DC: What is the biggest misconception about your job? NN: Well, it’s not “con-seeair.” (Laughs.) Other than that, the biggest misconception is the $100 handshakes. That’s not normal and not expected. Anything we get above our salary is gravy, but people think it’s all about kickbacks, and it’s not like that. In Las Vegas there’s such a stigma about that, cab drivers and bellmen, but perhaps because of that stigma, we’re probably more straight-laced than other cities. DC: Tips are nice, but your job


D esert Co m panion


has other amazing perks. NN: Yes. Being local, growing up here, you kind of take things for granted. It’s like people who live in California and never go to the beach. How many locals have been race car driving at the NASCAR track? There are so many things people don’t think to do, and through this job I’ve been able to do many of them. I really became addicted to experiencing Las Vegas, and it made me fall in love with this city all over again. — Brock Radke

Zamboni driver

“If you stay in this business long enough, you’ll see it all — from rated-G comedies to NC-17 and beyond.” Jeremy Keenan, events manager, Orleans Arena

Desert Companion: When did your fascination with the ice and sports begin? Jeremy Keenan: I’m from Lake Orion, Michigan. Our house was on the lake. Every year when the lake froze over, I’d skate. DC: When did you move to Las Vegas? JK: In 2007, I accepted the conversion coordinator position at the Orleans Arena. In that role, I managed the team who performs all the physical building set-ups, ice operations and our cleaning crew. DC: When did you start driving the Zamboni? JK: Driving and maintaining the Zamboni was an added perk of the job. Not only for our hockey team, but for exhibition games, figure skating and ice shows. During the beginning years, we only implemented one ice resurfacer. Now we use two, following the NHL model, cutting down the time it takes for the cut and producing a better cut as well.

The ice man cometh: Zamboni driver Jeremy Keenan



D esert Co m panion


DC: What does it take to drive the Zamboni? JK: It’s a job of multi-tasking. You’re doing a lot at the same time. Maintaining the correct blade height to shave the ice, laying the correct amount of water, operating pumps and brushes, making sure the augers are picking up the right amount of shaved ice, all while physically driving the machine in a certain pattern. For game cuts this is also accompanied by answering a lot of ice-related questions to whatever rider we may have. DC: Do fans respond differently to hockey in Las Vegas? JK: Fans here love their hockey, and support their team without question. Being that we’re in the desert it seems to have a certain awe factor. The fact that we’re in Las Vegas just makes it cool. We draw a very diverse crowd because of this and get people from all over the country — even other countries — to every game. It is very satisfying to interact with these folks. It’s all about the customer service here. Las Vegas entertainment is some of the best in the world, and coming in from a different venue, I saw the uniqueness and hip factor right away. A lot of people see great shows out here all the time, but many may not know all that goes into them behind the scenes, or what a Zamboni does ... or what it’s doing out here. DC: Do fans ever try to get out on the ice — to get to the Zamboni or at any other time? JK: They usually don’t, unless it’s for a promotion or a photo op of some sorts, although we do host post-game skates on certain occasions. DC: What is the strangest thing you’ve seen a fan do at a hockey game or at any other event? JK: Crazy things? That’s like asking what’s my favorite movie ... there’s just too many to name one instance. But if you stay in this business long enough, you’ll see it all — from rated G comedies to NC17 and beyond. — Jennifer Prosser

open. I realized it wasn’t about me. It was never about me. There is no I. The Heart Sutra says, “No attainment with nothing to attain.” What is this attaining no attainment? Just being present to each moment. So, indeed, my original gesture toward it helping me was efficacious, but it was like a back door. Most people come to Zen wanting to approach it in the linear way we do with all education, but when we completely put down all of our ideas and concepts about becoming something here, that’s when you can really help people.

Zen teacher

“I realized it wasn’t about me. It was never about me. There is no I.” Thom Pastor, master dharma teacher, founder and abbot of the Zen Center of Las Vegas

Desert Companion: If there is such a thing as a typical path to becoming a Zen teacher, I’m guessing that yours wasn’t exactly it. Could you describe how you came to be here? Thom Pastor: I’ll go off on a tangent to begin with, because it just immediately came to mind. When Suzuki Roshi became a dharma heir — in other words a Zen master — he was being interviewed like this. The interviewer said, “It is my understanding that when you first started practicing there were 300 monks in the temple. Out of those 300 monks, how many became a Zen master?” Suzuki Roshi’s wife was sitting there and before he could answer she said, “Oh, out of all the monks, only Shunryu — that’s his first name — got transmission.” And the interviewer said, “Wow! Out of 300 monks only you got transmission?” To which Suzuki Roshi said, “Yeah, because everybody else left!” It’s funny, but apropos. Originally, when I was a professional musician, I felt that meditation could help me focus on the music and not be distracted about acceptance and how I was playing—to transcend all that and just become the music. So it started with a very mundane outlook that this can help me. The more I practiced and the more I did interviews with teachers, the more I came away perplexed. I had my mind hit, and with each hit it became wider and more


DC: In the modern world, and in this city especially, we seem to celebrate distraction. Do you think that makes Las Vegas a difficult place to practice Zen? TP: It makes it a better place to practice. When my teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, died, 20,000 people went to his funeral in Korea — he was a beloved master; wisdom from every pore. And he loved Las Vegas. He came here many times. His take on it was that it’s easy for anyone to go to a mountain setting and put a cushion down in nature and become very quiet, but if you can do that practice in the midst of all of these distractions — still body, still breath, still mind — then no matter where you go, your center will not be lost. DC: I was at the Vegas Valley Book Festival recently and on a panel they were talking about the relationship between art and attention, when the poet Donald Revell said, “Despair is the worst kind of inattention.” TP: That’s wonderful! Tell him I bowed when I heard that. DC: Yes, but when I ran into him in the bathroom and said I liked that idea, and he said, “I hope it’s true!” Is it? TP: (Laughs.) You have to have a sense of humor. You cannot be tight and morose in this practice. Some people try to do it and I think it’s all the worse for it. We have to celebrate this


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R e p ly a l l Quick answers to big questions by fascinating people

What happens when we die? “This wonderful ride is over, and you are a memory for the people who have loved you and learned from you.” — Penn Gillette, magician, author of “Every Day is an Atheist Holiday”

“It was God who brought us to this life — to God we return to give an account of how we lived in this life.” — Rev. Innocent Anyanwu, hospital chaplain

“Our Spirit crosses over into the non-physical realm so that we may review our life through others’ perspectives, and our monad splits and a fragment of the life we completed combines with all previous lives to create a new spiritual experience to be born into a new body.” — Kileen K, psychic,

space-time grid and the time we have together. So I agree with the poet. I love it! Despair is the worst kind of inattention. DC: Even as a Zen teacher, is there still something that just bugs the heck out of you? TP: Just one? … You know who you should talk to about that? Talk to my wife. We’ve been married 40 years, she’ll tell you exactly! … The point is, what you see, hear, taste, touch, smell — don’t embellish it, but be present to all of it. So when you stub your toe, you stub your toe. That’s the better answer anyway: Owwww! DC: In order to become a Ji Do Poep Sa Nim, or master dharma teacher, you had to survive “dharma combat.” What’s that like? TP: Before you can become a teacher you need to pass muster

Funeral director

“Some people probably think, ‘Ugh, you work with dead people?’ But for me it’s an honor.” Laura Sussman, Kraft-Sussman Funeral Services

Enlighten up already: Zen teacher Thom Pastor

with five Zen masters. If even one of the teachers feels you’re not ready, you’re not. They will ask you kong-ans — in Japanese they call them koans — like, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” They’re all designed with hooks in them, like fishing hooks, and the hooks are language-based. If you take the hook, you get caught in the questions. But if

you can cut-and-throw-away and rely on these skandhas (senses) then something will appear. It’s about not losing your center and responding. If even one of the teachers feels you’re not ready, you’re not.

Buddha nature? How would you respond?

DC: So … does a dog have Buddha nature? TP: I ask you: Does a dog have

DC: Ahhhh … ? TP: So that’s homework. — Joseph Langdon


DC: I don’t know. Pet the dog? TP: That’s good direction. You pet the dog. But what about the dog? What would the dog’s answer be?


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Desert Companion: Is being a funeral director something you ever saw yourself doing? Laura Sussman: No, I never saw myself doing this. Actually, when I was a child our neighbor was a mortician and it was very scary for me. I never talked to him about what he did or anything. He was sort of an anomaly. This was a working-class neighborhood, so nobody went to work in a suit except him. He had the typical look: tall, thin, long face, dark suit. He was a nice guy, but I knew he worked with, you know — at a funeral home. It was just so foreign to me. I went to Ohio State, got my master’s in education and was in nonprofits for 30 years. I never dreamed I would be doing this, but my partner, Wendy, helped start something called the chevra kadisha within the conservative Jewish movement here. That’s a group from the synagogue that would go in and care for a Jewish person when they pass away and prepare them for burial. I grew very sensitive to the whole process of how people are cared for when they have a loved one who passes away, by going into different mortuaries, seeing the process, and hearing from families that weren’t necessarily happy with the services they were given. Most of the funeral homes in Las Vegas are big corporate chains. It’s a lot of pressure; there are a lot of commission sales people that try to push things. DC: I was surprised to learn that many funeral homes are part of publicly traded corporations. Is there a funeralindustrial complex?

This mortal toil: funeral director Laura Sussman



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LS: There is. We just felt there needed to be another way — back to the way it used to be. … So we decided to open up a funeral home, which is sort of unheard of. Most people don’t just wake up and say, “Okay, let’s open a funeral home!” DC: Are there certain “rookie mistakes” in this line of work? LS: This is a really silly thing, but one of the hardest things for me is that I get lost in the hospitals. I still have to call someone to go with me because it’s like a maze. I don’t want to be disrespectful and take someone who’s passed away through the main areas, and in the back of the house you have to know where you’re going. I know it’s a silly thing, but it’s my biggest challenge. DC: Death, so I’m told, waits for no one. Does that make it a 24/7 job?

R e p ly a l l Quick answers to big questions by fascinating people

What makes a good meal? “Using the best ingredients possible and then finding the perfect balance between them is not only what makes a good meal, it is crucial to making a good meal great.” — Matthew Silverman, executive chef, Vintner Grill

“In an ideal world, a good meal would be enjoyed in the company of family and friends, offer flavor and nutrition, while reducing hunger.” — John Hilton, executive chef, Three Square Food Bank

“Any good meal can be made better by devoting part of your plate to a serving of fruits or vegetables at the cost of higher-calorie items.” — Heather Avila, leader, Weight Watchers

LS: I didn’t think about that when we decided, “Let’s do this!” Most of my friends were starting to retire. It is 24/7, and the first couple years we didn’t have an answering service; we didn’t even have any staff. We took every call. It could be four in the morning and we would go out and bring the person into our care. We could sit for maybe two weeks with no calls and then be working around the clock for days. DC: Is it difficult finding good help? LS: We looked for a long time. That said, every week people come in seeing if they can work for us. There are a lot of people, which I never realized, who always wanted to work in this industry. DC: Are any of the people who show up kind of strange? LS: Oh, yeah. Oh my gosh, we’ve had some really weird people. They scare us! I can’t imagine how a family would feel. So … yeah … DC: Do you ever get the creeps, aside from certain job-seekers? LS: No. My friends ask me that. My friends get the creeps. They’ve become more sensitive to what we do, but at first even the UPS guy wouldn’t even walk in the door. And we tried to create something that’s not a typical funeral home, something that’s a little more welcoming and comfortable, like any professional office environment. We don’t use a hearse, we use an Escalade, things like that. We don’t dress in suits except for services. We want people to feel comfortable. DC: What happens at cocktail parties when someone asks what you do for a living? LS: It’s a real conversation-stopper. Sometimes people are intrigued, but often it’s like, “Oooh … thank you,” and walk away. DC: Do they assume you’re morbid? LS: They don’t really tell us. They just sort of leave. … You know, I was in India last year and one


of the things I wanted to do was explore the Hindu death culture. In India, the lowest, lowest-caste are the people that take care of the cremations, the ones who keep the fires going and bring the wood. And I sort of wonder if people here look at funeral people as a low-caste. I feel like it’s such a wonderful gift to be able to do this, but I’ve never really thought about what other people think. I imagine some people probably think, “Ugh, you work with dead people?” But for me it’s an honor. When a family comes to us and says, will you care for our loved one, it’s like, “Wow, thank you for giving us the honor of doing that.” DC: Is there something you’ve learned through this work that has changed the way you look at the world? LS: The fact that everybody has a story. I’ve really learned to listen a lot more than I used to. That’s part of our job, to listen. Everyone’s got something that makes them special. It makes me appreciate life more, and appreciate my family and my friends. I call my kids a lot. DC: Okay, maybe I’m the morbid one, but do you ever find yourself walking around thinking, you know, that person would make a really attractive corpse? LS: Never! — Joseph Langdon

Natural chocolatier

“The chocolate I make has a purpose.” Louise Gormley, founder of Weezie Chocolates

Desert Companion: So, I take it you didn’t start out to become a chocolatier? Louise Gormley: No. It came about because of the need to live a healthier life, and it became a creative outlet for me.


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DC: What was wrong with your way of life? LG: In 2006, I was diagnosed with type II diabetes. My cardiologist advised me that unless I completely changed my lifestyle, resolved some issues that were causing severe stress, and totally changed my diet, I would not be alive much longer. DC: So what had your diet been like? Was it that bad? LG: (Laughs.) I didn’t think so; it was a typical American, diet — pizza, pasta, some chicken and fish — that kind of thing. First, I went vegetarian, and I did lose about 35 pounds, but it wasn’t enough. My numbers weren’t decreasing by much, and my doctor still wasn’t happy with my progress. Neither was I. I was on about seven medications. My goal was to get off as many medications as possible. DC: What goes into your chocolates? LG: Organic raw cacao, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, goji berries and raw agave instead of sugar. No dairy products or waxes of any kind. And of course, they’re locally made, with lots of love. DC: What would you say to someone who says chocolate was meant be indulgent and unhealthy rather than nutritious? Isn’t candy supposed to be sinful? Aren’t you taking the fun out of it? LG: I cater to what I can eat as a diabetic and a vegan/vegetarian. As a diabetic, it’s important to maintain healthy balance in blood sugar. “Indulgent,” that could still be said, and it still is fun. The chocolate I make has a purpose — to be a little sinful without consequence to diabetics. DC: Is working with vegan ingredients challenging? Limiting? Freeing? LG: Vegan ingredients are expensive but readily available anywhere, really! So no challenge there. Not really limiting, and

my chocolate is free from waxes, which is very important. DC: Did you have to experiment a lot to get the right taste? LG: Yes, I did experiment quite a bit. Especially when it came down to three varieties of dark chocolate, and I also made a “milk” chocolate (milk from nuts). I easily found guinea pigs from vegetarian, vegan, and meat-eating lifestyles to understand palate differences. DC: What’s the hardest part of making chocolate? LG: The time to pour and wrap each piece is challenging when making over 300 pieces at a sitting. DC: How long does it take to make a batch? LG: About nine hours with two people, of whom my dear friend Kat is one; she works for chocolate and little pay when she assists me. DC: Since you changed your diet, is your palate different? LG: I believe my palate is cleaner. I have eaten different foods when no other choice remains, only to feel a coat of whatever I had eaten cover my tongue. Flavors are so much more defined. DC: Do you have a guilty pleasure? LG: I do, and lately I make raw vegan almond cookies and dip them in my chocolate. Or I eat my chocolate, or I eat chocolate banana raw ice cream (made with almond milk). DC: Do you miss cheeseburgers, pizza, milkshakes, that kind of stuff? LG: Sure, but I try to replicate them in other healthy ways. A milkshake is easy raw, using my homemade almond milk with any kind of fruit, or just using vanilla beans in a high-speed blender. I make my own pizza, because at this stage regular pizza makes me very ill. And I made a raw (veggie) burger not too long ago — that even my most carnivorous friend enjoyed. — Helen Moore

King of the kitchen: executive chef Eric Klein

The perception of who you work for, people want to label you sometimes. “Oh, you work at a fancy place on the Strip.” I came to Las Vegas to work with Wolfgang Puck, and I left for a while and have done other things. But when Wolfgang called me to ask me to come back to Spago, I didn’t think too long about it. It’s the best thing I could have ever done. I don’t work for Wolfgang, I work with Wolfgang, and all these people. We’re partners. We work together, and we are the restaurant.

Executive chef

“It’s like being a mason, building a house in one day, and then overnight someone comes and blows it up and you have to start from scratch the next day.” Eric Klein, executive chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago

Desert Companion: When you meet someone for the first time and tell them you’re a chef, what’s the reaction? Eric Klein: They say, “Where are you working?” DC: And you say, “Wolfgang Puck’s Spago.” Then what? EK: They say, “Oh my god, you must be good.” DC: Is that strange to you? EK: You know, “chef” is a big word. At the end of the day, I love cooking. I’m very humble.


DC: What was your first job like? EK: I was 13 and it was a small restaurant in Alsace. You see, I’m a farmer, in my heart. A country boy. My mother asked me what I wanted to be when I was young. I thought, I can be a farmer, I can be a butcher like you, but my mom said no. She wanted something better for me. She wanted me to learn something, to travel the world and see things, and have a better life. Of course, she didn’t understand what she was saying because the restaurant business is even more like a farmer, hard work! But she wanted me to experience things and I appreciate that.


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DC: So you were always cooking? EK: Well, sometimes when you make a decision for your life, everything is already in front of you but you don’t know how to use it. I grew up on a farm next to a coven full of nuns. Every Sunday I’d go to help and I spent all my time in the kitchen. It felt very comfortable. I loved to help and to make people happy but I didn’t know what I was doing. So my mother said I should be like my cousin and work in a restaurant, and that lead to an apprenticeship at a restaurant called ... oh, I can’t remember, it’s been a long time. DC: How is being a chef different in Europe than in the United States? EK: It’s very different. In Austria or Germany or France, if you’re the chef, people expect to see you all the time. In America, people are more open, more flexible with their dining. And they’re not doing three, four, five turns at dinner like we do in Vegas. This restaurant is an animal. Also in Vegas, you have to constantly adapt in order to understand what your customer likes.

You’re constantly evaluating and adjusting. It’s the only way to be consistent. DC: What is your least favorite part of the job? EK: I wish I could spend more time with my family. Honestly, I don’t have any dislikes being a chef, but sometimes I am frustrated because people have no patience. It’s like being a mason, building a house in one day, and then overnight someone comes and blows it up and you have to start from scratch the next day. We know it can be expensive to dine out sometimes, but it’s not just food, right? You sit in a custom chair. There’s fine china and silverware from France. The tablecloth has been pressed for you. You have a wine glass, great table service, your bread was baked fresh this morning, and then you come in and say, “Twenty-five dollars for a pasta?” It’s not only pasta. It’s 26 egg yolks, a pound of flour, cooked to order and not sitting in a steam table. I say take your time and appreciate it, because someone spent six hours preparing it for you. Sometimes it can feel a bit under-appreciated. DC: What is your favorite part of the job? EK: I’ll share something with you: When I was growing up on top of the mountain, I didn’t have many friends. When I grew up and started discovering all these things, that was always something I wanted. And now I want to have people coming in and saying, “Hey Chef Eric, come here.” It’s personal to me, I want to do that, I love to find out what you like or even just ask how you’re doing. But a lot of people, they’re not used to the social part of it, so they just come in and order from the menu. But at the end of the day, I love to be able to share and to teach and talk about our philosophy, and I’m passionate about it. I’m excited to say I do something I love. — Brock Radke


“In no other business can you take people’s money and not technically give them anything in return — and then have them come back for more.” Anonymous, Strip casino employee who deals blackjack, craps, roulette and some poker games

Desert Companion: What made you want to become a card dealer? Dealer: Just money. To me, it was just a job that paid decent money, that paid more than it should. Here I am with a college degree, feeling the degree was a complete waste of time. DC: Do you enjoy being a card dealer? D: I do. I do still enjoy it. It’s an easy job. It’s entertaining. It’s fun. But it’s still work. It’s still get up and go and make your living. One thing I discovered upon becoming a dealer is that you are technically in the entertainment business. You are there to provide that service, to entertain people. In no other business can you take people’s money and not technically give them anything in return — and then have them come back for more. But I didn’t realize how difficult it was to be a dealer in the sense that you’re “on” all the time. It is partly an entertainment job, so to get up and get dressed, go to work every day and then have to be entertaining — it’s exhausting. Because you might not be in that mood, you can try to convince yourself to get in that mood, or psych yourself into the right attitude, but if you’re having a hard day, it might be a little difficult. But it’s so difficult to wake up and go to work and be “on” all the time. DC: Do you have any pet peeves? D: One of the pet peeves dealers have is players coming up saying,


“Hey, you gonna treat me well today?” Why would I not treat you well? Have you wronged me in some way? I want you to win. Because if you win, I get tipped. But that doesn’t mean I have any power or control over the cards, and yet the expectation is I’m gonna somehow let you win. Nobody else is gonna. Just you, because you’re special. It creates pressure. That’s just one of those things dealers don’t like. “Hey, you gonna let me win today?” “No, you’re a jackass, get out of here.” That’s what we wanna say. If you really think I have power over that, don’t you think I’d have really rich friends, and then I’d quit? DC: Does anyone ever go off on you when they lose? D: Absolutely. Yesterday morning was a prime example. I was dealing roulette. There were two people on the game. One lady — she had a Southern drawl, she was very sweet — she’s playing $20 a spin, nothing eccentric, very common. Then another gentleman who was probably playing $2,000 a spin. And he was just angry at the world, cursing me out, wishing me “Merry effing Christmas.” And she’s shocked that he’s even allowed to say these things to me. And there’s this awkward pressure … you don’t want to piss him off, because then you’re gonna get in trouble, but yet you can’t say anything, even though you know he’s so out of line. But the casinos let money get away with whatever they want to get away with. That’s an extreme disappointment. They handcuff you in the sense that you can’t do anything. You can’t do what’s right. You have to shut up and take it. But it wasn’t a matter of five minutes before I took the rest of his money, which was probably close to $15,000. That was absolutely poetic justice. And I’m someone who doesn’t believe in karma. DC: What’s your favorite part of the job? D: The social environment. I enjoy talking to people, and giving them


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that illusion of a good time. That’s what it feels like. It feels like an illusion. Which is strange to me, because I’ve always thought of myself as introverted. So to try to get people to come to my table and have a good time, there are many days I feel like I’m outside myself. I’m entertaining, so I’m going to put on this mask and try to have a good time. Which, if you asked me what I’d want to be doing, dream-job-wise, it would probably be something in the entertainment industry, like act. It’s just … I feel like I lie every day. And an actor is just a professional liar. DC: What’s your least favorite thing about the job? D: Smoking. I don’t smoke. I never have. I’ve never picked it up, and yeah ... I can’t stand the smoke. Second-least favorite thing would be standing for eight hours. That will take a toll. I know a lot of dealers and pit bosses and managers, and everybody’s got back problems, knee problems, elbow problems. I had no clue how heavily medicated the industry was. It’s a hard job physically, and not just from standing and bending. You’re in a smoky environment. You’re touching chips and money and hands and you have all these germs on you. I’ve never been more sick in my life until I started dealing. Because of everything you touch, because all the money, the transactions and hey, guess what, you have an itch in your eye and all of a sudden you’re rubbing it and three days later you have to call out because you got the flu. DC: Do you have a favorite game to deal? D: Roulette, because I can set the tone and pace of the game. I can control how quickly the game moves along, and I like the numbers. If it’s a game where people are betting, five, 10, 15 dollars, it bores me. But if it’s a game where chips are everywhere — just stacked up! — and in the back of the mind you’re thinking, “Oh, don’t hit that big-ass stack!” No. I’m the guy who wants that to hit — just so I can do the math on

the payout. It’s now interesting to me. Personally, I view it as a competition. I’m gonna come up with the answer before anybody else — before the boss, before the dealer who might be helping me. That’s my game and I’m gonna own it. DC: Has being a dealer influenced your view of the world? D: I don’t believe in karma. Like so many other things in Vegas, it feels like an illusion. It’s something we’ve created to make us feel better about an unfortunate situation. Like having to pay the guy blowing smoke in your face, not tipping the cocktail waitress, being rude to the other patrons — and yet here you’re giving him money, rewarding his negative and shitty behavior. And here’s a nice couple that comes in that’s pleasant. They’re just here for a little vacation. They don’t have a lot of money. They just want to see Vegas and have a good time. These are the people you generally want to entertain. And yet, you’re killing them. And even though they’re losing, they’re still tipping you because they know how difficult it is to earn a dollar. And yet here they are losing. It makes you feel like there’s no such thing as karma. DC: What about your view of human nature? D: Unfortunately, yes. It’s not a good view anymore. Human beings are kind of crappy. We’re mean to each other. We’re selfish in so many ways. And not to say we can’t rise to the occasion and help each other in truly desperate times — like in car accidents or natural disasters. I think being a dealer has brought that view to the surface. You see it on a daily basis. We’re selfish, and we want what we want, and we don’t care about the consequences. I realize that view might be tainted because of the environment I live in, that everything is so heightened because of the temptation. “I want to sleep with a prostitute.” You can do that here. You can get everything you want in this city,

so it brings up this more carnal human nature. And then you occasionally run into a nice person from some small city and you realize, that’s how things should be. That’s how we should treat each other. But unfortunately, my view has been skewed, probably permanently. But I think my view is correct. — Andrew Kiraly

reasons — the customers don’t want us bothering them. South Point, they want us to start at nine. Well, in the middle of summer the sun’s already out, and it’s already hot, but we do our best. We improvise. We put ice in our water and that cools down the glass and gives us that extra half second to be able to swipe it with the squeegee, so you get a nice clean finish. DC: How do you contend with the wind? RR: I’m always monitoring the wind days ahead of time. Anything over 15 miles per hour, we just don’t go up. I’ll have them schedule us on the ground for those days, so we don’t lose out on work.

Strip window washer

“Ironically, I’m terrified of roller coasters.” Ruben Rodriguez Red Rock Window Cleaning

DC: What other dangers might you encounter 600 feet up? RR: We have hawks nesting on some of the buildings.

Desert Companion: Did you always want to be a window washer? Ruben Rodriguez: Nobody ever says, "I want to be a high rise window washer when I grow up." My advice to kids is: Stay in school, earn a degree. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, I make good money — it’s got its ups and downs, literally (laughs) — but I wouldn’t recommend it to my kids. It’s hard work. DC: What’s the worst thing about it? RR: It gets really hot. Sometimes I’m reading reflections off the glass up to 125 degrees. There’s a casino in CityCenter, and we were doing the windows and the tower had a certain tint — they were calling it the Death Ray because it was reflecting into cars and melting dashboards. When you go clean a window and it’s a hot window, there’s steam coming out of it. There’s less time to swipe it with your squeegee because it’s drying — then you have smears all over the window. DC: How do you handle that? RR: It’s just something we got to deal with. A lot of the casinos, we can’t start too early for obvious


DC: How do you handle them? RR: You just don’t piss them off. You try to go around them. They’re really territorial. They had a problem at Trump Towers where a hawk kept landing on the sign and pooping all over the windows where the main suites are. So, my company sent me to a pest control company to get trained on how to install spikes in order for the hawks not to land on the sign. We installed the spikes and that stopped the problem. The hawks were actually from the Mirage, but they made their rounds from Trump Tower to Palace Station. The Mirage — it might just be a story, but as far as I know, they released the birds. They were trained to stay at the Mirage because they had a pigeon problem. Hawks are territorial and they’ll kill the pigeons, so having two or three hawks flying around versus hundreds of pigeons, well, the answer is simple. DC: Do you have a favorite building to clean? RR: MGM would probably one of my favorites. The way the building is set up, it’s really easy to rig and you’re right up against the glass. Some buildings are more difficult,


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like the Aria because they put in planks of metal to create shade, and you have to reach over, or use a small pole or something. The East Cannery, they actually have steel beams in front of their glass — that’s one that’s difficult. DC: How has this work influenced your perspective on life? RR: It makes me more attentive in everything. You need to pay attention to detail because you’re up 60 stories in the sky. I’m talking about the actual rigging of the building. A lot of people think all you do is clean the glass. They don’t understand that we have to go up to the roofs of these buildings, and we’ve got to set up the devices that we're going to actually hang off of. You need to pay attention to your knots, the davits, the condition of the equipment, the motors. We do safety checks every day to make sure our emergency descending devices are working. You’ve got

R e p ly a l l Quick answers to big questions by fascinating people

What makes good entertainment? “Good entertainment makes you forget everything else … at least momentarily.” — Paul S. Beard, chief operating officer, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

“Good entertainment is anything that takes you away from the grind of daily life — and, of course, doesn’t unwillingly hurt anyone else.” — Randy Couture, former UFC Champion and Hall of Fame member

“When you can tell the entertainer loves what they do.” — Ken Henderson, CEO, BestAgency

No pane, no gain: window washer Ruben Rodriguez

Prison warden

“We can put a policy or procedure in to stop something and it will work for a little while, and the inmates will find the loopholes in it, then it’s like a cat-andmouse game.” Brian Williams Warden, Southern Desert Correctional Center Desert Companion: How did you get into corrections? Brian Williams: It’s kind of weird. I received my degree in economics from the University of Illinois in 1990. When I was coming out of school, there weren’t many jobs anywhere. I met the deputy director of county probation and court services. He had me fill out an application. In two to three months, I got a call and an interview and was selected. I started my career at the juvenile detention center in Springfield, Ill.

to pay attention to a lot of small things that could be real big things. God forbid. DC: How important is it to trust your coworkers? RR: You’re rigging one side and your partner is rigging the other side, and you’ve got to be able to depend that your partner is doing the right thing. Not only that, but in an emergency situation, you want to be able to have faith that he’s going to do the right thing, because there ain’t no breaking legs in this — usually, when you have an accident, it’s tragedy. DC: Does it frighten you to be up so high?

RR: I was terrified the first time, but you get used to it. Next thing you know, it’s like you’re walking on the ground but you’re actually way up there. Ironically, I’m terrified of roller coasters. DC: Do you see things up there that we can’t see from down here? RR: Unfortunately, we see some things we’d rather not see. People come to Vegas and they’re here to have fun. The girls are all crazy — they’ll flash us, stuff like that. You know what I’m saying? They think that’s fun. I mean, you can’t let things like that distract you. You can’t because it’s so many


floors, and so many windows, and you have to be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on. It would extend your job by hours.

DC: How’d you wind up in Vegas? BW: One of my old bosses in Illinois, who was a deputy prisons director in Nevada, asked if I was interested in coming out here because it would put me close to California, where my parents were. I came here as an associate warden of programs in March 2005.

DC: How long can you do this job? RR: That’s the thing. It’s really physically demanding: You have to be able to lift heavy things, withstand the heat. I figure that I got another good 10 years in me.

DC: What does a warden do? BW: Being a warden is like being a mayor of a city. You oversee everything. I walk the yard continuously. I interact with inmates and with staff. I identify any issues, problems or deficiencies that we may have at the facility.

DC: How clean are the windows at your house? RR: They’re filthy (laughs). I’ve been cleaning windows all day, I don’t want to go home and clean windows. – Chantal Corcoran

DC: What do you do that the public doesn’t know about? BW: We were recently audited by the health department. A couple of months prior to that audit, I was making sure we


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R e p ly a l l Quick answers to big questions by fascinating people

What’s the worst thing that could happen to America? “Washington’s monetary policy could lead to rampant inflation and the kind of civil unrest that we’ve never seen in this country.” — Bob Beers, Las Vegas city councilman

“To see American society self-destruct from within by the forces of selfishness and the orgy of greed posing as prosperity for the few!” — Johnathan L. Abbinett, columnist, Veterans Reporter

“There are so many bad things that could happen: If global warming made the ice caps melt and the whole world gets covered in water; or another world war maybe; or a plague.” — Drew Harris, 6th grade student, Sig Rogich Middle School

were ready for inspection. People don’t know much about Southern Desert. It was built in 1982, so it’s a pretty old facility. Our culinary unit was designed for 750 inmates. Our population is now more than 2,000, so there are three times more inmates than what we were built for. So I do a lot of communicating with my supervisors, asking, “What do you need? How is everything going? How is your staffing?” DC: Is there such a thing as a normal day at work? BW: That’s the greatest thing about the job. Every day is different. We can put a policy or procedure in to stop something and it will work for a little while, and the inmates will find the loopholes in it, then it’s like a cat-and-mouse game. DC: I bet you’ve met some smart inmates?

BW: We have attorneys, doctors, etc. We try to put them in positions to help the department, as far as developing software and rehab programs. DC: From your job, what have you learned about human behavior? BW: Treat people fairly and keep a balance. I have good racial balance — 38 percent white, 32 black, low-20 percent Hispanic. I don’t have many issues. When I do have issues, they’re normally on their own — Hispanic-onHispanic assaults, black-on-black assaults, white-on-white assaults. DC: That your biggest concern — racial violence? BW: Whenever a black and Hispanic or a black and a white get it, normally that continues and you can have a full-fledged race riot. So, race riots and escapes. DC: Your pet peeves? BW: Inmates that write grievances just to write grievances. Some are legit and I deal with them. Some are just so that inmates can sue the state and get some money. DC: The funniest thing you’ve seen? BW: Inmates do some stupid things. I wouldn’t classify them as funny, but if they used those skills on the street, they wouldn’t have to commit crimes. DC: What programming is available for inmates? BW: It’s taken a hit with the economy, but we have private organizations that set up their shops in the prison through what’s called Prison Industries. We had stain glass creations, card-sorting, woodshop, auto body and auto mechanic — those were the major jobs. Inmates would earn minimum wage and a percentage of their minimum wage would go back to the state to pay for housing, as well as the buildings they were leasing. We have victim empathy, substance abuse and re-entry programs, six or seven education classes taught by psychologists, WE JUST HAD TO ASK

through which inmates can earn work or merit credits which can take time off their sentences. We don’t have enough programs. Almost 80 percent of inmates who go to prison are coming back out. If we don’t give them some type of program to help rehabilitate them, they’re going to come back out and more than likely re-offend. You don’t want your family or loved ones to be a victim of that offense. DC: Are you on call 24/7? BW: Yes. If something is serious, I’m on my way out to the facility. When we had those hard rains about a month ago, it washed everything out — part of my fence line, water flooding my infirmary and two housing units and some power knocked out. I had maintenance come in with the bulldozers. We locked the yard down, filled in my fence line and filled in all the ruts that the water runoff created. It took two days but we got everything back in order. DC: Do you have generations of the same family in your facility? BW: We have boot camps for juvenile offenders. Some of these juveniles don’t want to complete the boot camp and get their charges reduced. They say, “My dad, my unwcle, my brother, they’re all locked up and I want to be with them.” It’s like a badge of honor. DC: Any success stories? BW: One guy did auto body for two years, then started his own company. You do have success stories. DC: What’s the first thing you do when you get to work? BW: I check all the incident reports and find out if there’s anything that needs to be turned into investigation or that I need to talk about my associate wardens with. DC: What’s the last thing you do before you leave work? BW: I go on the yard at 4 p.m., and talk to staff and inmates. We got a place called Times Square, where all the inmate services are, so all the inmates — gym, education, chapel, laundry, culinary, inmate


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store, all in the same area. You get to see a lot during that time. DC: Do you take work home with you? BW: When you’ve got some issues at your facility and you can’t figure them out, you go home and you’re wracking your brain to figure out how to deal with these problems. I reach out to my peers. The average life expectancy for my position is 66 to 67. So I try to have fun at work and break the monotony. DC: How has the job influenced your view of human nature – how you see people? BW: I see people as individuals, but also as products of their environments. At the start of my career, when I was working with juvenile offenders, I learned that whatever they’re introduced to, that’s what they know. When we visit adult parolees, we see the environments they grew up in — everything was filthy, there was glass on the basketball court, no nets on the basketball rims, the buildings where they lived smelled like urine and they were surrounded by prostitution and drug-dealing. That’s what they thought life was.   DC: Are these prisoners lost souls, inherently bad, a product of nature, nurture? BW: When inmates get into the system, we introduce them to life skills programs and give them new experiences. Some of these inmates didn’t know anything about animals. They didn’t even know what a turtle was. But once you introduce them to new things, it opens their eyes. I don’t think anybody is a lost soul. You do the crime, you do the time. But while they’re in prison, I try to do my best to rehabilitate them and give them new skills. And we don’t want them to be lost souls: Eighty-five percent to 90 percent of inmates are going to get out at some point in time. They can end up being your nextdoor neighbor. So do you want us to rehabilitate them or just lock them up, then let them out? — Damon Hodge



Inside man: prison warden Brian Williams

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‘Get the job done’

Newly elected Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford talks about his historic victory, the changing complexion of Congress and his evolution from faithful party firebreather to bipartisan negotiator Interview by Jon Ralston

Newly elected Congressman Steven Horsford is used to being first. He was the first African-American to ascend to state Senate majority leader. He was the youngest upper house leader in Nevada history. And now he has two more firsts — the inaugural congressman from Nevada’s new 4th District and the first African-American to serve the state in Congress. I’ve known Horsford for decades, all the way back to when he worked for legendary Nevada lobbyist Lee Smith through his tenure at R&R Partners and his legislative career. He has always been precocious and driven, perhaps the product of a hardscrabble upbringing that included an addict mother and a father who was murdered. Now, at age 39, he will become a member of a populous freshman House class after a drubbing of perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian. I sat down with him in late November at a North Las Vegas Starbucks in the heart of the urban part of his diverse district, which also includes parts or all of six rural counties. Horsford had just returned from Washington and a week of orientation, during which he met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, including House Brahmin John Dingell. He had not yet decided whether he will move his family to Washington, saying that decision would be left to his wife, Sonya. I got the sense the ceding of that decision to his impressive, scholar wife was not a first. In a chat over coffee, Horsford talked about his latest first, perhaps another (being the only African-African on the House Natural Resources panel), paying attention to rural Nevada, his transformation from partisan fire-breather to bipartisanship advocate, the chance to work with the first African-American president (who called from Air Force One to congratulate him), lingering bitterness toward Karl Rove and Sheldon Adelson and much more. WE JUST HAD TO ASK


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Jon Ralston: What does it mean to you to be the first African-American congressman from Nevada? Steven Horsford: What I find as consequential as me being the first in Nevada is the historic first in Congress: This is the first majorityminority House of Representatives ever elected. Fifty-six percent of the people that will be in the 113th Congress are women and people of color. And so to be the first African-American from Nevada, joining the most historic, diverse caucus ever to be elected to the Congress, I think speaks to the diversity of the constituents we serve. This district, Congressional District 4, is now 16 percent African-American, in population about 25 percent Latino, 8 percent Asian. So it’s very diverse, and they elected someone who reflects them and their voice in the United States House of Representatives. I think also — and I had to go back and run this number because someone during orientation was talking about only 12,000 people have ever been elected to Congress — prior to the 113th Congress, only 122 African-Americans had ever been elected to the Congress, to the House of Representatives. There are others who have been elected to the Senate. There are five new African-Americans coming in, so it will go up to 127. That, to me, speaks to the progress that we still have to make — 127 out of 12,000. I’m proud to be in that number, and I’m proud to represent the district that I serve that’s diverse, but there is so much we need to do to make sure our Congress, which is the people’s House, reflects the America that we all serve. JR: A lot of people know your life story (a hard life), and you ran an ad driving through your old neighborhood. You came from a tough situation. What does it mean to you to come this far? SH: Obviously, my upbringing has shaped everything about how I approach public service. And, no, I don’t think back in the day that I could have predicted, many people could have predicted — I think you did back in the day, by the way … JR: Really? Am I that good?

SH: You didn’t say Congress. But you did say he could be a state leader. So you saw it early. My story is not unlike a lot of other people who have overcome great odds to accomplish things when you work hard and set your mind to doing big things. There are people who I have grown up with. They may not be in public service. They may be in the private sector. They may be running nonprofits. But they’re making an impact despite the challenging times or the struggles they experienced growing up. Now for me, it’s humbling because it’s a constant reminder of whom I’m here to serve. It’s the people who are struggling every day, the people who want a job, the people worried about their housing, the parents and grandparents like my grandmother who didn’t know how they were going to have access to health care that keep me grounded in what this is about. Look, I don’t want to get a big head and just talk about what it means for me. It’s about every person in my district who is struggling right now who needs someone to fight for them. And that’s the honor and the privilege and the opportunity that I have. JR: I remember you told me at that dinner (an Anti-Defamation League dinner on Oct. 18) when all the polls showed you were losing and there was a lot of talk like, “Oh my God, he’s going to lose this race.” And you said to me, “Nothing’s ever come easy for me. Why should this?” Is that really how you feel about yourself? SH: Yeah. I’ve worked hard. You know, despite great challenges, I never gave up. I believe in when you work hard and you stay focused you can accomplish things. I didn’t expect this to be easy. I knew that we would need a strong ground game and we had to build a broad coalition and appeal to all the voters of Congressional District 4 in order to be elected to this new district because it’s very diverse. It’s seven counties. The historic West Las Vegas is only a part of the district. It’s growing Latino and Asian and working white families who wanted to make sure whoever they elected WE JUST HAD TO ASK

was going to fight for them and be their voice. JR: But shouldn’t it have been easy? A 13 percent Democratic edge? Didn’t you essentially ignore the rural counties and concentrate on the center of the district? SH: Look, the Democratic registration advantage was a clear advantage. But my opponent’s near-universal name recognition and the fact that these anonymous billionaires that weren’t so anonymous in the end were willing to pour over $3.2 million, not talking about my opponent and why he was better, but straightout lying and misrepresenting my positions and record speaks to why this ended up being close, according to the polls. Now, I’m proud that we stayed focused on what was happening on the ground with the help of labor, with the help of grass-roots volunteers, activists who were focused on getting people registered, making sure everyone who was eligible to vote turned out to vote and actually having historic turnout. We had, in some areas, higher turnout in 2012 than in 2008. So we elected a president and made history. But we made history as well by sending him, in my case, a representative in District 4 who is going to work with him and that’s what the people of District 4 decided. JR: What do you say to the rurals, who might say this guy is just going to represent the urban folks? SH: I say my job is to represent everyone, regardless of whether they are Democrats, Republicans or independents, regardless of whether they live in a small, rural town in central Nevada or in the urban parts of Clark County. I’m here to represent everybody. And it’s what I did in the state Senate. When I was working on the state budget and they were working on proposals to cut state conservation camps, I was a voice to say, “No, this is something they need in those small counties.” When the governor tried to sweep money from three school districts in White Pine County, the $3 million they needed to repair the roof at


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White Pine Middle School, which I visited, it became crystal clear to me why it was needed. And, remember, I didn’t know what the district lines were going to be. That was before I ever decided to run for Congress. So it was doing what I believe we need to do as elected officials. Once the campaigns are over, we need to govern. And we need to do that in a bipartisan way. It’s not about partisanship; it’s about getting things done that need to get done. I’m going to work to represent everybody. JR: How often were you out there during the campaign? SH: We traveled throughout every part of the district many times. My family and I, for example, went out to the White Pine County fair, went to the air races, spent several days in Ely getting to know voters there, talking about ideas. I spoke at the high school graduation for White Pine High School. More than 1,000 people turned out for the graduation — 90 graduates from that class. People afterwards talked to me about the same things I care about for my kids, which is being able to go off to college, becoming a success, hopefully coming back to the community so they can work, find a job or open a business. We were out to Yerington several times — Mayor Dini and Speaker Dini have been great friends of mine, great supporters. We were there for the Nevada Copper Mine, for which I have already been on record that I support that project and am actually working with Congressman Amodei and did, again, before I was ever elected to that position, talk about how this would create close to 2,000 jobs for a county in Lyon that desperately needs employment. I’m looking to help everybody. This district has three military bases: Hawthorne Army Depot, we have Creech and Nellis Air Force base. We have several tribal communities. I have gone to meet the tribal leaders on their land to talk about the partnership between the federal government and their tribal governments. Again, those are unique opportunities because of the diversity of this district. I

respect that diversity and look forward to working with leaders from throughout the district as I take my position in this new seat. JR: The opposition’s ads presented a slightly different view of your record than you presented. They essentially portrayed you as corrupt, not being fit for office. Did that surprise you? What was your reaction? SH: I’ve made some missteps along the way, and I’ve always taken responsibility for those actions and worked to correct them. What I’ve learned along the way is don’t make the same mistake again. So I recognize the fact that there were some of those missteps that they would use against us. But look, there were also straight-up lies and misrepresentations. The Millennium Scholarships, which was the basis of the Crossroads buy (Karl Rove’s group used information from a conservative think tank, the Nevada Policy Research Institute, in a spot). In fact, people like Hugh (Jackson) and Elizabeth Crum (of KSNV Channel 3’s “The Agenda”) and even, ultimately, Jim Rogers (the TV station mogul who initially excoriated Horsford almost daily on Twitter but then came to support him), all reviewed it and said it was a straight-up lie. … Look, I’ve been a champion for fighting for education, for protecting education funding, so when you start saying I somehow affected college students’ ability to stay in the Millennium Scholarship when I’ve worked across party lines with Governor Guinn, Dema Guinn, Ben Kieckhefer to preserve the life of the Millennium Scholarship, yeah, I take objection to that. It’s a complete misrepresentation. It’s unfortunate that our politics in this country now with Citizens United allow these anonymous billionaires to literally come in and buy a seat. These weren’t local businesspeople concerned about the future of Congressional District 4. They were not concerned really about me or my opponent. They’re concerned really about keeping their stronghold in Washington so they

Horsford is joining the most diverse Congress in history.

can keep getting their special deals. And they see my record in the Legislature of challenging the status quo, of closing corporate tax loopholes, of fighting for the middle class. And they know I’m going to do the same thing in Washington, and they tried to stop us from getting there. But because of the people, the people in this district seeing through those ads and coming out in historic ways, we actually ended up winning by eight, which I felt we had the potential all along to win by that much, but clearly no public poll showed us ahead. JR: You were one of the earlier supporters of Barack Obama. Tell me what it means to you now that he is re-elected to go to Washington to help him with his agenda? SH: It is (here he hesitates, and he has been emotional before about Obama) very exciting. It is … words can’t even describe it at some level. One of the reasons I decided to run for Congress, is that I, like so many people, am very frustrated with the gridlock and there is an unwillingness among certain factions in Congress to WE JUST HAD TO ASK

work with the president. I’m looking forward to working with him. I support the president’s approach in fighting for the middle class and getting things done and getting people back to work. I have ideas and plans for how we can do that, working across the aisle to get it done. The president called me the other day from Air Force One. He said, “Congratulations. I’m glad you’re here. I’m proud of you and I’m looking forward to serving with you.” You know, that’s the president of the United States. And regardless of what people say about him or certain positions, the voters of this country have decisively given him four more years to move our country forward, and I’m looking forward to working with him to do that. JR: What are these ideas and plans you refer to? SH: One of the things that I am very interested in is, obviously, jobs and getting people to work. Specifically, we have this Interstate 11 project from Las Vegas to Phoenix. This is something that Governor Sandoval and I, along with the vision group we put together, identified as a major


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project to diversify the economy, get people back to work and help businesses, particularly contractors, get business. When I look at our unemployment rate, we still have … 150,000 people who are unemployed. Sixty (thousand) to 70,000 of them are in the construction sector, engineering and architecture. Unless we address that segment, our unemployment rate will remain higher than it should for longer than it should. So that project, to me, is one that we should fasttrack and move. It’s going to be one of my top priorities. I’m hopeful that with the committee requests that I’ve submitted that I’ll be in position to help on the jobs issue because it’s what I’ve done all my life. It’s where my focus is and I know how desperately we need to address that for the people of this district. JR: What committees did you ask for? SH: I put in requests for Transportation and Infrastructure and, actually Natural Resources. JR: You do care about the rurals! SH: The outlying part of my

Horsford speaks at a press conference during his congressional campaign.

If you want to be a Tea Party ideologue and don’t want to govern, I have no time for that. The people have no time for that. district, I’ve got counties where more than 90 percent of their county is controlled by the federal government. Most projects, whether it’s renewable energy or just industrial development projects, can’t be built without coordination with BLM, Forest, Wildlife and so that is an important area for me. Those are the top two committees I submitted. We’ll see what leadership decides. I would be the only African-American in Congress serving on the Natural Resources Committee. JR: You mentioned the partisan gridlock. Let’s face it: You were a fire-breathing partisan when you were up there last session. You had Republicans lamenting you

wouldn’t talk to them. Why should we believe you’re going to be anything different in Washington? SH: Let me first, though, challenge the premise. I worked with those who were willing to work with me to get an alternative done. I was very clear from the beginning that I was not going to cut education more than was reasonable and necessary. And I didn’t. I said I would work with anybody to come up with an alternative. And I did. Those certain Republicans who said I wouldn’t talk to them? Those were certain Republicans who said I wouldn’t talk to them. I didn’t talk to them because they weren’t part of offering any solution to the budget. You know, if you want to be a Tea Party ideologue and don’t want to govern, I have no time for that. The people have no time for that. But I did work with people like Sen. Joe Hardy to get legislation passed that he needed — the toll road project, legislation with the Regional Transportation Commission and other bills because he was someone who was willing to work and understood that it’s compromise. That you have to work across party lines, and you’re not always going to get what you want and I’m not always going to get what I want, but working together we can accomplish our job. … Had the Supreme Court not stepped in, you’re right, we probably would have gone in to special session, several of them, because I was not WE JUST HAD TO ASK

going to approve a budget that decimated funding for education. But the moment the governor came forward and said, “All right, my budget isn’t going to work. It’s not constitutional. I’m willing to negotiate on revenues,” I was in his office that same day, working together to get it done, and in 10 days, we passed a budget and got done and avoided a special session. In 2009, I worked with the late Bill Raggio, Randolph Townsend and others to override Gov. Gibbons’ vetoing the budget. We were able to override that budget, the first time in history that has ever been done. If you look at my history, I am willing to work in a bipartisan manner to get the job done. But what I am not willing to do is to compromise my principles to sell my constituents short or to cut in ways that hurt our future. JR: You have used that rhetoric before — Tea Party ideologues, Tea Party extremists. Aren’t some of them truly just concerned about the fiscal cliff? SH: No. JR: You really don’t think so? SH: No. Because I would ask them: Do any of your companies get any funding from any public contracts? And if so, why are those contracts okay? And if so, do they support increased funding for defense beyond what even the military is asking for? There’s hypocrisy for some of these individuals where they want to grow government that benefits themselves or their special interests. Are they against corporate subsidies for big banks or big oil companies? Those cost taxpayers billions of dollars. But they’re willing to protect those things, so it’s a hypocrisy that I have an objection to, not a willingness to be fair and to work in an approach that reaches an agreement that is fair for everybody. JR: Where do you think the room might be on fiscal issues and on immigration? Where’s the room to move on those issues? SH: In our Democratic caucus for the 113th Congress, it’s the largest freshman class that’s been elected.


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Fifty of the freshmen account for 25 percent of the Democratic caucus in the House. We’re a bloc. What I’ve found during the first week of orientation, talking to freshmen on both sides of the aisle, we’ve heard the message loud and clear from voters: Stop playing politics. Stop with the partisanship. Go and get the job done. Work together to solve the challenges we face. I heard that from Democrats in this freshman class and I heard it from Republicans. So that gives me hope that the dynamic will be different, that there will be willingness. Specifically on the fiscal cliff, that’s something that the current Congress in the lame duck will have to address before the end of the year. Whether they will or not, I’m sure there will be issues that we will have to take on in the 113th Congress because it’s the long-term effects of those decisions that will have to be managed. I do believe that we can get to an agreement on immigration, comprehensive immigration reform. I’m looking forward to that because that is something that a lot of people in my district care about. JR: What does that agreement look like? SH: It has a pathway to citizenship. It has a provision around protecting and enhancing our border security. It has provisions around some rules, whether it’s going to work, learning English, if you’re young enough and under 30, going to college or serving in the military. But it has the necessary components that allow for all individuals to have a pathway to citizenship that is the right thing to do. I’ve said this on panels and I believe this: This is our civil rights issue. This is the human rights issue of our time. This is not an issue the Latino community should fight alone. This is an issue that affects all of us and the future of our great country. Political columnist Jon Ralston hosts “Ralston Reports” 7:30 p.m. weeknights on KSNV Channel 3 and blogs at his website,

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Surely you remember “Feliz Navidad,” that modern holiday classic that played so frequently during the Christmases of your youth that by season’s end your frontal cortex was soaked like a sponge with that irrepressibly jaunty refrain — from the bottom of my heeeaarrt! Now you can hear it straight from the Jose’s mouth. Jose Feliciano performs 8 p.m. Jan. 19 at Club Madrid in Sunset Station. Tickets $29-$49. Info:


A R T S + E N T E R TA I N M E N T Inventor, thinker and futurist Ray Kurzweil is perhaps best known as a zealous proponent of “The Singularity,” the coming era when we’ll have sufficiently advanced technology to completely digitize our minds into living software and never die. Love the idea! Just make sure we’re not on a Windows server. Kurzweil speaks on “How to Create a Mind” 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets $24-$59.

Sure, you can risk a grievous urinary infection by watching the bladder-burstingly long “The Hobbit” while elbow-scrapping over the armrest with grown men who believe orcs are real — or you can catch clever, touching and engaging short films like “Seeing Other People” (pictured) with real actual adults at the legendary Dam Short Film Festival . Your bladder can thank me later. The 9th annual Dam Short Film Festival takes place Feb. 6-9 at the Boulder Theatre in Boulder City. Tickets $7-$75. Info:

Praised for his seemingly effortless, vibrant interpretations of classics, Jon Kimura Parker performs with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in a night of musical celebration so magical, sparkling and wondrous you’ll cry tears of YUM EVERYBODY THEY’RE TEARS OF CHAMPAGNE IT’S A MIRACLE. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra featuring pianist Jon Kimura Parker performs 8 p.m. Jan. 25 at the UNLV Performing Arts Center. Ticket $35-$75. Info:

What do Blue Man Group members do in their off-hours? As you might guess, they play krazy mesmerizing experimental jammy ambient space funktronica in the middle of the night at sketchy dive bars under the name of Überschall. In this rare engagement, Überschall performs at a normal hour at a venue where you don’t run the risk of getting your face shivved. Überschall performs 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Jan. 20 at Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center. Tickets $24. Info:

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ART HOW TO’S BY JEVIJOE VITUG Through Jan. 4. This Filipino artist presents new paintings that document the immigrant experience and everyday struggle to seek a better life in the city of neon. His works serve as instruction manuals of sorts, illustrating how to survive potential future Las Vegas disasters (both natural and man-made). Winchester Cultural Center Gallery GNOT THE PROPER GNOMENCLATURE BY JESSE SMIGEL Through Jan. 17, Mon.-Thu. 7a-5:30p. E  njoy two whimsical garden gnome sculptures by this Las Vegas artist, on display for viewing, photos and videos. Carved from dense foam, the standing gnome is nine feet tall and the reclining gnome is nine feet long. No sitting or standing on the sculptures, please! Las Vegas City Hall, 495 S. Main St., second-floor outside patio, 229-4631 DA VINCI – THE GENIUS Through Jan. 27, 10a-8p daily; New Year’s Day noon-8p. This multi-dimensional interactive exhibit realizes the creations of Leonardo da Vinci’s imaginations in their three-dimensional functionality. The collection has more than 200 original da Vinci pieces, 75 to-scale machine inventions and 11 themed areas showcasing the many realms of his work. $17-$25, 12 and under free. The Imagine Exhibitions Gallery inside The Venetian CELEBRATIONS GROUP SHOW Through Jan. 31, Mon.-Thu. 7a-5:30p. This invitational features images that reflect cultural holidays, with works by Linda Alterwitz, Michael Stillman Clark, Nathan Coté, Matthew Couper, Carlos de las Heras, Marylou Evans, Justin Favela, Bobbie Ann Howell, Darren Johnson, KD Matheson, Emily Phelan and Jevijoe Vitug. Las Vegas City Hall Chamber Gallery, 495 S. Main St., Second floor, LOOKING THE OTHER WAY, A JURIED ART EXHIBITION Jan. 2 through March 2, Tue.–Fri. 12p–5p & Sat. 10a–3p; Reception Jan. 12, noon-3p.Local artists highlight themes such as tolerance, multicultural understanding, hunger and homelessness, immigration reform, peace and justice, working conditions, health care, and the environment. Left of Center Art Gallery and Studio, 2207 W. Gowan Road, North Las Vegas, FIRST FRIDAY Jan. 4 & Feb. 1, 5p-10p.Downtown’s monthly arts and culture event continues to grow, featuring art exhibits, open galleries, live music and DJs, food trucks, performances and more. Arts District and Fremont East in the Get Back Alley,

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BUY KINGDOM BY ERI KING Jan. 15 through March 8; reception Jan. 18, time TBA. T  his artist works with repurposed materials such as discarded clothing and outdated electronics to make sculptures and installations, in a critique of consumer culture. The sheer volumes of material and their physical transformation speak to production, consumption and waste. Winchester Cultural Center Gallery JOSE BELLVER: RECENT WORK Jan. 24 through Feb. 23.In this body of paintings both large and small, the artist exhibits a series that pushes the use of encaustic and added materials with his characteristic bold, colorful, and abstract investigations. Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery at UNLV KLEVEN & RAMERIZ Jan. 24 through March 8.UNLV alumni Jen Kleven (BFA ’09) and Krystal Ramirez (BFA ’09) present a two-person show of new color photographs, using the medium as evidence of human interactions, but without the figures. Jessie Metcalf Gallery, Richard Tam Alumni Center at UNLV NEW AGAIN Jan. 24 through May 20.The Las Vegas Art Museum collection continues to grow! This new installation features the most recent acquisitions, as well as pieces not previously shown. Marjorie Barrick Museum at UNLV NARRATIVES OF PROGRESS BY ARMIN MÜHSAM Jan. 28 through March 16, Wed.-Fri. 12:30p-9 p & Sat. 9a-6p. This artist’s paintings focus on the relationship between the natural and the human-built; the absence of humans, but not of humanity. He imagines the land after technology has rendered it nearly uninhabitable, despite its promises to create a better world. Charleston Heights Art Center, 800 S Brush St., BEYOND SUNRISE MOUNTAIN BY DAVID SANCHEZ BURR Jan. 28 through March 22; Feb. 27 reception 6p-8p, artist talk 6:30p. This installation references the historical significance of Southern Nevada with an emphasis on mining and geography, examining notions of community, exploring the desert as a potential site of utopia or dystopia dependent on man’s relationship to the landscape, technology and other human beings. Clark County Government Center Rotunda Gallery WARHOL OUT WEST Feb. 8 through Oct. 27, 10a-8p; complimentary docent tours 2p daily. The only comprehensive Andy Warhol collection in the United States outside of his namesake museum in Pittsburgh,

showcasing 59 of the iconic artist’s works and focusing on his depiction of all things Western in paintings, sculptures, photographs, screen prints and wallpaper. $11-$16 includes audio tours; free for 12 and younger. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art,

DANCE THE JOFFREY BALLET Jan. 22-23, 7:30p.Proudly reflecting the diversity of America with its varied repertoire, one of the most revered and recognizable arts organizations in the world will bring a world-class dance experience to Las Vegas, performing unique pieces ranging from a rare classic to a modern masterpiece, even a Jane Austen-inspired ballet. $22-$102. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center

MUSIC LAS VEGAS PHILHARMONIC – MASTERWORKS III Jan. 12, 8p; pre-concert conversation 7:15p.  Each season the LV Phil dedicates one of its Masterworks Series concerts to showcasing an up-and-coming star of the national and international classical music scene. This year’s Rising Star is violinist Elena Urioste, a two-time winner of the Sphinx Competition held annually to encourage, develop and recognize classical music talent in the black and Latino communities. $46-$94. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center, JAZZ ROOTS: VOCALESE Jan. 17, 7:30p. For the first time ever, Jon Hendricks, living legend and originator of the Vocalese style, will perform with eight-time Grammy Award-winning vocal group The Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices, treating some of the best-known, most complex and sophisticated instrumental solos in jazz as melodies with swinging, poetic lyrics. $26-$99. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center DRUMLINE LIVE Jan. 18-19, 7:30p.This versatile and energetic cast of musicians and dancers brings explosive beats and athleticism to the stage, expanding the marching band experience to audiences across the country. Now on its fourth U.S. tour, the group awes with contemporary hip-hop, R&B, classic Motown and brass tradition. $24$59. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center JAZZ WORKSHOP IN CONCERT Jan. 19, 7p.Honoring the spirit of the music of Charles Mingus and fresh from weekly Monday performances at the Bunkhouse Saloon are Mike Gonzalez on trumpet and flugelhorn, Julian Tanaka on clarinet and saxophones, Justin Peterson on upright bass and Eric Schauer on drums. $10 advance, $12 door. Winchester Cultural Center Theater SPECTRUM’S MOTOWN TRIBUTE Jan. 19, 7p.This internationally acclaimed vocal

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

quartet brings its award-winning show back to Cabaret Jazz for the third time since The Smith Center’s opening less than a year ago. Featuring classics from the Temps, Tops, Miracles, Stylistics and others, the performance includes Spectrum’s fabulous harmonies and deft choreography. $30-$33. Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center PRESIDIO BRASS PRESENTS SOUNDS OF THE CINEMA Jan. 25, 7p. Hailing from San Diego, Calif., this group will celebrate the music of Hollywood, including exciting jazz and classical music used in movies, plus great selections from film soundtracks. $10 advance, $15 door. Historic Fifth Street School, 229-3515 FIDDLER IN THE LOOP Jan. 26, 2p.Brilliant Italian jazz violinist Luca Ciarla creates audio loops, then plays against them on violin, melodica, baritone violin and ocarina. Behind him runs amazing original video animation and scenography by Keziat. Ciarla plays original compositions and works by Fiorenzo Carpi, Richard Rogers and Thelonious Monk, plus ethnic and folk tunes. The music is unpredictable

and never the same. $10 advance, $12 door. Winchester Cultural Center Theater DOUG MACLEOD IN CONCERT Jan. 26, 7:30p.Known for his superb songwriting, guitar wizardry, warm soulful vocals and wit, this singer-songwriter gives unforgettable live performances in the American tradition. $10 advance, $15 door. Jeanne Roberts Theatre at Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St., NATALIE MERCHANT - IN CONCERT WITH ORCHESTRA Jan. 29, 7:30p.This prolific songwriter with a compelling artistic vision and a unique and captivating performance style has earned a distinguished place among America’s most respected recording artists. Going Platinum as the lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs, she is now on a world symphonic tour featuring songs from her latest solo album, “Leave Your Sleep.” $29-$99. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center KODO Feb. 1, 7:30p.These legendary Taiko drummers from Japan bring the latest iteration of their ever-evolving “One Earth Tour,” created under


the direction of Japanese Living National Treasure Tamasaburo Bando. $29-$89. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center THE BEST OF THE CAMERATA Feb. 2, 2p.Oscar Carrescia’s Las Vegas Camerata Youth Orchestra presents Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major for Guitar and String Orchestra with Marcelino Chavez on guitar; Astor Piazzola’s “Oblivion” with Szandor Ladu on solo violin; José Bragatto’s “Malambo” and “Graciela Y Buenos Aires,” a suite for solo cello and string orchestra; and Carlos Guastavino’s “La Rose el Sauce.” $10 advance, $12 door. Winchester Cultural Center Theater JAZZ ROOTS: A TRIBUTE TO ELLA, JOE & BASIE Feb. 3, 7:30p.Janis Siegel, Kevin Mahogany and the Count Basie Orchestra with special guests Nikki Yanofsky and Nicole Henry Celebrate Black History Month with Count Basie’s blues-steeped jumping beat and contrapuntal piano accents, honoring two great singers whose performances with the Count have reached legendary proportions. $26-$99. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center

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THEATER THIS MAN’S SON FEATURING ALEXANDER MERVIN Jan. 26, 3p.A dramatic presentation of a man’s struggle to cope with the realization that the son he raised is now in communication with his biological father, who has just been released from prison. An original monologue written by Ms. China, for mature audiences. Free, with advance tickets required. West Las Vegas Arts Center, 947 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 229-4800

TELL US WHAT’S BEST! Who serves the best pizza in the valley? What’s the best gym? The best local band? The best clothing boutique? Tell us. Take the Desert Companion 2013 Best of the City Readers’ Poll online at It’s fun, easy and three lucky voters in our readers’ poll will be randomly selected to win dining certificates to El Segundo/Strip Burger/Mon Ami Gabi. Take the poll now at The results will be featured in our February Best of the City issue. Hurry! Poll ends Jan. 12!

GEMINI BY ALBERT INNAURATO Feb. 1-2 & 7-9, 8p; Feb. 3 & 10, 2p.On the eve of his 21st birthday, Francis is paid a surprise visit from two of his college friends, whose elevated social background contrasts painfully with his own humble circumstances. During the visit, an unsettling discovery leads to a series of amusing, heart-warming and revealing incidents until the final, joyous moments of the play. $18.25-$31.25. Judy Bayley Theatre at UNLV

LECTURES, SPEAKERS AND PANELS WHEN THE MOB RAN VEGAS Jan. 8, 7p; wristbands 6p.Life in Las Vegas during the Mob’s heyday, discussed by columnist and former Las Vegas city councilman Steve Miller, journalist and author Cathy Scott (Murder of a Mafia Daughter: The Life and Tragic Death of Susan Berman), married-to-the-Mob author Wendy Mazaros (Vegas Rag Doll) and others. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3458 THE IRS VS. THE CHICAGO OUTFIT Jan. 15, 7p; wristbands 6p.A panel including notorious Chicago mob associates Frank Cullotta and Tony Montana, mob author Dennis Griffin (Cullotta, Surviving the Mob and The Battle for Las Vegas) and current and retired agents from the IRS Criminal Investigation division will talk about what really happened and how Hollywood got it wrong. Las Vegas journalist and author John L. Smith will moderate. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3458 REMEMBERING HENRY HILL Jan. 22, 7p; wristbands 6p.Ex-mobster turned author, actor and film producer Sal Polisi will reminisce with special guests about the late Henry Hill, whose criminal life was portrayed in the movie “GoodFellas”. Included is a screening of a never-beforeseen interview Sal conducted with Henry just days before his untimely death. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3458 WHEN THE LAW KICKED THE MOB OUT OF VEGAS Jan. 29, 7p; wristbands 6p.Along with special

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guests, former Clark County Sheriff Ralph Lamb will share stories of his time in office, his involvement as technical advisor on the CBS television series “Vegas” and memorable encounters with the notorious Hells Angels and Chicago gangster Johnny Rosselli. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3458

FAMILY & FESTIVALS DR. ENTOMO’S PALACE OF EXOTIC WONDERS Through Jan. 13, 10a-6p.Freakish, bewildering marvels of the insect world are on display in this exhibit resembling an old-fashioned circus sideshow. Explore the truth, myths and mysteries surrounding some of nature’s most curious creatures from Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches to the Giant Sonoran Centipede. Free for members or included with paid general admission. Springs Preserve AMERICAN GYPSY: AN AFTERNOON OF MUSIC, DANCE, ARTWORK AND WORDS Jan. 12, 2p.Oksana Marafioti, author of American Gypsy: A Memoir, offers an afternoon of Gypsy culture, shedding light on the fascinating and often secretive world of the Roma people with music and dance performances by Valeria Sokolova, Zarina Standridge and Coral Citron, and artwork by Elena Pisnaya Wherry. $10 advance, $12 door. Winchester Cultural Center Theater

FUNDRAISERS 14TH ANNUAL DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER GALA Jan. 18, 6:30p.This glittering social event includes a cocktail party with silent auction, a live auction, dinner, a fashion presentation by Saks Fifth Avenue and a special Viennese-themed performance by members of the Las Vegas Philharmonic. The money raised benefits the orchestra’s programs, enabling it to foster participation in music and the arts by children and young adults throughout Southern Nevada. $500-$10,000. Augustus Ballroom at Caesars Palace, BLACK & WHITE BALL HONORING MITZI GAYNOR Jan. 26, 6p.This legendary dancer, singer and actress, whose achievements and legacy have reached beyond the stage and screen, will be honored by Nevada Ballet Theatre as its 2013 Woman of the Year. The annual star-studded gala enables professional company dance productions, quality dance instruction and exposes students in at-risk communities to dance through its outreach program, Future Dance. $600-$25,000. Bellagio Ballroom, 243-2623 x230

S p l e n d o r

i n

t h e G l a s s

Southern Nevada Public Television

24th Annual

Enjoy the taste of more than 60 wineries and breweries courtesy of

Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada live wine auction, silent auction and jazz ensemble.

LVH - Las Vegas Hotel & Casino Paradise North Convention Room

Saturday, February 9, 2013 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. $75 Advance Reservation • $90 At the Door Ti c k e t s Av a i l a b l e a t :

Lee’s Discount Liquor, Whole Foods Market, Total Wine & More and Vegas PBS or online at Fo r M o re I n fo r m a t i o n

call 799-1010 ext.5361

Sponsors Chardonnay: NV Energy, Wells Fargo, Irene Vogel Aperitif: Marydean Martin & Charlie Silvestri Printing Courtesy of Southwest Gas Corporation Special Thanks to CenturyLink


Total Wine & More

Lee’s Discount Liquor

Fleur Burger Bar

Must be 21 years of age or older to attend. To B e n e f i t

Guest Appearance by Chef Hubert Keller

end note

Stage fraught The recent history of the Huntridge is a loud one — and we’re not talking about the countless acts, from the Beastie Boys to Dimmu Borgir to Lindsey Buckingham, that have scoured the venue’s walls (and the ears of concertgoers) over the years. Rather, we’re talking about the shouts, moans and curses inspired by the long-shuttered venue of late: Tear down this eyesore! Restore this historic treasure! Let the owners do what they want! Reopen it as a concert hall! Can’t someone convince Tony Hsieh to buy the damn thing already? Sometimes it seems like The Huntridge is no longer a building. Instead, it’s more like a rag doll in a tug-of-war between dreamers and realists, protectors of history and urban pragmatists. Most

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recently, in July, the city council gave the owners, the Mizrachi family, permission to carry out secondhand sales on the property. Whether that takes the form of a junk shop or funky boutique is anyone’s guess. In this July 1996 photo provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, the marquee trumpets the venue’s imminent comeback after the roof collapsed a year earlier in July 1995 — an event increasingly remembered as the beginning of the theater’s phoenix-from-the-ashes mythology. Let’s not forget that myths often serve to teach and inspire. With that in mind, we ask: If the Huntridge Theater could make a rebound from that, what’s preventing a rousing third act? — Andrew Kiraly

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Desert Companion - January 2013  
Desert Companion - January 2013  

our guide to living in southern Nevada