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Y o u r G u i d e t o L i v i n g i n s o u t h e r n N e va d a

J ANUAR Y/ F E B RUAR Y 2 0 1 0

a man of many visions

Why there wouldn’t be a CityCenter without Sven Van Assche

is your garden truly ‘green’?

A Preview of the Decade Ahead

(Essays by John L. Smith, Kim Russell, Timothy O’Grady, Kurt Andersen, H. Lee Barnes and 10 others)

Long-range advice for sustainable living

home tips from the pros How to get your house ready for the long haul

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Since 2002, the Harrah’s Foundation has directed millions of dollars in support to social-service organizations nationwide, from groups that help America’s seniors 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.

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Our Next Chapter What can we expect before the “teens” decade of the 21st century is done? We asked 15 interesting people to ruminate on our brand-new decade, and what did we get? Some big ideas, fanciful scenarios, sincere wishes, earnest resolutions and a couple of snarky predictions about the next 10 years. Our “2020 Visions” package, which begins on Page 25, also includes a Desert Companion first: new fiction from H. Lee Barnes. You’d hope that a new decade would provide 10 times the inspiration for sticking to our resolutions. In this edition of Desert Companion, local health writer Kimberley McGee finds inspiration in the form of the latest fitness trends. Meantime, we help you improve your homestead for the long haul, with Matt Jacob’s timely to-do list for getting your house in shape and KNPR gardening expert Norm Schilling’s tips on creating a more sustainable yard. To underline this return to simplicity, Valentino chef Luciano Pellegrini offers a hearty recipe to help at-home cooks through the cool season. We also asked photographer Aaron Mayes to survey one of our most fascinating and fastestevolving thoroughfares: Spring Mountain Road. His photo essay provides tempting hints of the stories and experiences to be discovered between the Strip and the western suburbs. No matter what the economic indicators are, one thing is constant: We love to divine what this place means to us. To the rest of the world, it’s all “Vegas” with no regard for municipalities, districts or neighborhoods. For most of us, Las Vegas is a journey’s destination, an address that opened a new chapter, resulting in an epic case of mixed emotions about thriving in a boomtown. Whether we’re growing or shrinking in population, our capacity to project our hopes, fears, dreams and nightmares onto our iconic city shows no signs of receding. We hear so much talk about returning to our old boomtown selves. That’s not what I envision for the next decade. Sure, Frank Sinatra, George Foreman and Elvis 2  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n J A N U AR Y - F E B R U AR Y 2 0 1 0

found Las Vegas a useful stop along the way to a comeback. Our painful pause is the reality check we need in order to resolve to work on what our commentators propose in their visions for 2020. I believe we will continue to defy the odds as we race into this new decade, this new version of our future. Just don’t call it a comeback.

Florence M.E. Rogers President & General Manager, Nevada Public Radio

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To submit your organization’s cultural event listings for the Desert Companion March-April edition, go to and submit the form by Jan. 15. Send feedback and story ideas to Office: (702) 258-9895 (outside Clark County 1-888-258-9895) Fax: (702) 258-5646 Advertising: Christine Kiely, (702) 258-9895; KNPR’s “State of Nevada” call-in line: (702) 258-3552 Pledge: (702) 258-0505 (toll free 1-866-895-5677) Websites:, Desert Companion is published six times a year by Nevada Public Radio, 1289 S. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89146. It is distributed free of charge to NVPR members, supporters, underwriters and the community. All photographs, artwork and ad designs printed are the sole property of Nevada Public Radio and may not be duplicated or reproduced without the express written permission of Nevada Public Radio. The views of the Desert Companion contributing writers are not necessarily the views of Nevada Public Radio.

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departments 08






Meet the unheralded visionary behind CityCenter’s good looks: Sven Van Assche. {By AMY SCHMIDT}

Can’t afford a personal trainer? Join the group! That’s one of the hottesttrends in fitness. {By KIMBERLEY McGEE}

J acob Snow answers tough questions about the future of regional transporation. {By DAVE BERNS}

features 25

2020 VISIONS  hat’s in the cards for Las Vegas in W the next 10 years? We offer 15 unique perspectives.




Looking east

 or your planning purposes, here’s F a year-to-year summary of upcoming events, projects, milestones and, of course, economic checkpoints. [BY PHIL HAGEN]







The best of January and February, from a new chamber music series downtown to a “48-Hour Dance Competition.”

 alentino’s star chef, V Luciano Pellegrini, shows how to prepare a favorite cold-weather fish dish. {By MAX JACOBSON}


HOME  eeling stuck with that F old house? Experts offer myriad ideas on how to revive its appeal and improve its efficiency. {By MATT JACOB}


essay Las Vegas’ new kind of growth changes a man’s mind-set about his adopted home. {By steven kalas}

KNPR’s “Desert Bloom” commentator shares his secrets for a “greener” landscape in the long run. {By NORM SCHILLING}


 e turn a photographer loose on Spring W Mountain Road to capture the essence of one of our city’s most intriguing districts: Chinatown. [BY AARON MAYES]

6  D e s e r t C om p anion J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0

Wit h T he S mit h Center for t he Per fo r ming A r ts und er co ns t r uc t io n, a luxur y b out ique hotel by Char lie Palm er in t he wo r ks , and t he Cleveland Clinic Lou Ru vo Center for B rain H ealt h now s eeing p at ients , Sy mp ho ny Par k is t rans for ming dow ntow n Las Veg as into a co mmunit y of ar ts , id e as and wor ld - c las s m edicine.

w w m p ho ny p a r k .c o m Š2009 Actual development may vary from developer’s vision. No guarantee can be made that development will proceed as described.


s t o ry by a m y s c h m i d t

Dream Interpreter

Meet Sven Van Assche, the designer who led CityCenter’s team of famous architects and translated its grand visions. Clad in hard hats, safety goggles and fluorescent yellow vests, Sven Van Assche and I are sitting in a golf cart outside his office on Frank Sinatra Drive, about to embark on a sneak-preview design tour of CityCenter. Just one small problem: The cart won’t start. As the seconds tick away and we’re going nowhere, I think, This can’t be a good omen for the enormous undertaking that Las Vegas so desperately needs to succeed. And this is the Rolls-Royce of MGM Mirage golf carts, too. “This is Bobby’s cart,” Van Assche says, referring to Bobby Baldwin, CityCenter’s president and CEO. He turns the key again, it starts and then suddenly stops. “Bobby usually has somebody warm it up for him,” he quips. “He has a golf-cart fluffer.” I’m glad that Van Assche’s sense of humor is still intact just a few short pressurefilled weeks before the grand opening. And it seems to help our cause, because on that light note, he turns the key again and the cart starts. He smiles like there was never any doubt, and away we go. Van Assche is the MGM Mirage design team’s version of the golf-cart fluffer. He’s the behind-the-scenes guarantee that CityCenter is going to succeed from the first turn of the key. It’s a high-level job, of course, but unless you read trade magazines such as Hospital8  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0


ity Style and Hotel Design, you’ve probably never heard of him. For the past 14 years, he has helped designed MGM Mirage properties in Mississippi, Michigan and on the Las Vegas Strip, including Bellagio (1998) and Bellagio’s Spa Tower (2004). Overall, he has been responsible for the design, implementation and completion of more than $1 billion in capital improvement projects for the company. But this is the big one—the $8.5 billion mini city, the largest private construction project in U.S. history. Before it opened in mid-December, Van Assche oversaw all aspects of CityCenter’s architecture and interior design, including managing the seven superstar architects whose disparate and—thanks, in part, to Van Assche—harmonious visions of this city’s future are being played out in grand scale on the Las Vegas Strip. Van Assche parks the cart at the top of CityCenter Place, the heart of the project. Look west and the Cesar Pelli-designed, 4,004-room Aria stands elegantly before you. Look east and you’ll see CityCenter’s main entrance off Las Vegas Boulevard, flanked by Daniel Libeskind’s Crystals retail and entertainment district and Helmut Jahn’s Veer Towers on the left, and the Mandarin Oriental, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, on the right. “This project is three times as dense as any other we’ve done,” says the Belgiumborn Van Assche over the construction din. “We very quickly realized that we were building something unique here. So we couldn’t assume we knew everything; we had to teach ourselves. Once we realized we wanted to do something urban in its context, we had to learn what exactly makes a great city great.” With a handful of MGM Mirage executives, Van Assche traveled the world (Seattle, Chicago, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, London, Barcelona, Florence) and brought back ideas about what makes an urban destination great. “We discovered that in each of those cities there was a direct connection between people and place-making,” Van Assche says. The idea was not to do what had been done here before, but to hire designers who could execute a new vision of our future: a contemporary urban center built on real art and architecture. His first step was to make a list of 30 architects who could fill that bill. A few were eliminated during the first phone

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Fanfare Fanfare Fanfare Fanfare for for for the for the the the New New New New Year Year Year Year

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For For For For the the the the Love Love Love Love ofofof Music of Music Music Music

The The The Nevada The Nevada Nevada Nevada Chamber Chamber Chamber Chamber Symphony Symphony Symphony Symphony introduces introduces introduces introduces young young young young people people people people totoclassical toclassical toclassical classical music music music music and and and the and the the orchestra. the orchestra. orchestra. orchestra. A Agreat Agreat Agreat great way way way toway tospend tospend tospend spend time time time time with with with with kids kids kids and kids and and grandchildren. and grandchildren. grandchildren. grandchildren. February February February February 6, 6,36,p.m. 36,3p.m. p.m. 3 p.m. Clark Clark Clark Clark County County County County Library Library Library Library

The entrance to CityCenter Place (above), the heart of CityCenter, and the Crystals Tree House

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10  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n

conversation, thanks to the old Sin City reputation: What do you want with me in Vegas? But Van Assche found that most minds were open. “I was totally intrigued by the story behind CityCenter and what they were going to do,” says Libeskind, a world-renowned New York-based architect. “It was so ambitious, so awesome. I thought they were either completely insane or that it was going to be an amazing project.” In all, Van Assche shared the CityCenter vision 25 times, visiting each architect’s studio in order to get a better sense of their work environment and creative process. By the 25th time, he knew exactly what he wanted to do, and with whom he wanted to do it. “We would never say we’ve chosen seven of the best architects in the world,” Van Assche says. “All of the architects we interviewed are superb, but it was about

creating a team—were they right for the individual piece of the project, but also did they have the right personality to be a part of the team?” After about a 90-minute conversation at CityCenter Place, Van Assche pauses to speak to a crew member who is putting the finishing touches on the retail promenade that visually connects Crystals to the Mandarin Oriental. The space is going to be ready for the tenant sooner than expected. Everyone is working seven days a week now. “Thank God it’s Friday,” Van Assche says. “Only two more days in the workweek.” He has thought of little else since 2005, except for a brief respite in Costa Rica, where he sat on the beach with no steel or glass in sight and counted all of the various shades of green he could see. He talks about his role as if he were an orchestra conductor. “If I did it right,” he says, “I was simply in the background making sure that it all fit.” But all the talent involved knew who was in charge. “Sven was the ringleader of an enormous team of architects, engineers, designers—all taking on a project that has been unequaled in our lifetime,” says David Rockwell, who designed the interiors for Crystals. “There are very few people who could have filled that role.”  I think there would not be a CityCenter without Sven,” Libeskind says. “He really has a long-term vision for Las Vegas.”

C o ur t esy C i t y C E N T E R

(left), one of the property’s many dramatic scenes.

Coming 2012


up close & personal Van Assche also had a hand in developing CityCenter’s public art, which includes Nancy Rubins’ “Big Edge.”

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12  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n

It’s a surprisingly modern vision. “I never had a doubt from the minute Sven started speaking,” Libeskind adds. “He didn’t want sentimental, nostalgic buildings; he’s a person of the 21st century.” Van Assche’s imprint is on everything from CityCenter’s carefully integrated $40 million fine-art collection to the purposefully chosen landscaping outside the Mandarin Oriental. “You see the Oldenburg sculpture just over there,” he says. “Note its exaggerated scale. It’s why we chose to plant trees nearby that were sculpted to look like miniature bonsai trees. We could’ve chosen any sort of tree, but we wanted to play off the scale of the sculpture, play off the Asian influence of the Mandarin. CityCenter is in its details.” As we begin to walk around the project, first inside the capacious Aria and then inside the quieter but equally as glamorous Vdara, Van Assche shares with me a chief concern: Chef Martin Heierling’s Silk Road restaurant, designed by friend of Van Assche’s, Karim Rashid. “I’m the most nervous about this space; it’s so subjective.” And he takes me to his favorite spot: the park behind the registration desk at Aria—what he refers to as a dramatic collision of architecture, art and a reflecting pond. When I ask if there’s one space within CityCenter that represents it as a whole, he pauses and then answers definitively: “If I could say that, then we failed. Every experience, every space, every detail is balanced so that one doesn’t override another. You won’t like everything about CityCenter, but you’ll like something. As long as you have one favorite spot,

“I think there would not be a CityCenter without Sven,” Libeskind says. “He really has a long-term vision for Las Vegas.” everything else is a close second.” When we stop to watch a crew of 10 construction workers and professional art handlers lower an Antony Gormley sculpture into the space in which it will be suspended, I ask him what he’ll do next, maybe head back to that quiet stretch of beach in Costa Rica? “We’ll spend the next year fine-tuning—once operations get in and start using these buildings, there will be issues that will need to be addressed.” CityCenter, says Van Assche, is Las Vegas’ response to past criticisms of its derivative or knock-off architecture. It is as uniquely Vegas as any of the wellknown iconology—the gambling halls, the neon—associated with our fair city. “I was given a huge opportunity by Bobby, the board and others to run with it—really dream with this project,” Van Assche says. “CityCenter is not about bricks and mortar, it’s about people. We were able to create a sense of community and culture. To me, that’s success in a very ethereal way, but that’s what we were after, whether it’s Main Street in Green Bay or Times Square in New York City or a centuries-old plaza in Rome. CityCenter is as representative of Las Vegas as much as it is the world.” DC

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A Zumba class at the Las Vegas Athletic Club.

How ’10 Is Shaping Up

This year’s fitness trends include more group personal training, thanks to the economy and a distinctive beat. Laurie Smith saw the signs. They were on the walls of her young daughters’ dance studio. They were on the brightly colored fliers tucked under her car windshield wipers. And they were in the thundering Latin drumbeats she could not ignore when walking by a local yoga studio. Eventually she followed them to Zumba, a group dance exercise class led by a personal trainer, and one of the hottest trends in the fitness world. “My girls were so always excited when they came home from tap dance,” Smith says. “I wanted something that lit me up that way and would make me thinner.” She is now a self-described Zumba addict, jumping into $15 classes at two dance studios when her schedule permits. For the New Year, she is considering joining a gym that offers a greater variety of Zumba class times. It would also be a cost-benefit for her family, which has been facing financial strains. “We’ve cut back a lot and are getting better [financially],” she says. “We look forward to working out now and are going to join a club together. It’s an activity that’s good for our family.” Using exercise as entertainment and squeezing out funds from already tight budgets are also nationwide trends, says Walter Thompson, lead author of the fourth annual American College of Sports Medicine’s worldwide fitness survey. What surprised him most was that group personal training landed at number 10 on the trends list. 14  D e s e r t Co m p a n i o n j a n u a r y - f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 0

“Though we saw a tendency last year toward group personal training—which is two or more people trained by a personal trainer rather than one-on-one—we didn’t expect it to get this big,” Thompson says. “I think it’s related to the economy, with personal trainers giving a significant discount to two or more people.” A personal trainer may charge $100 an hour for one session but give two people a 25 percent discount if they train together. Bret Fitzgerald, a certified trainer and Las Vegas Athletic Club vice president for corporate communications, says group training has “blown up,” and he expects it is here to stay. “It’s good for the personal trainer’s business and good for the client,” Thompson says. “It’s an interesting trend.” Two trends that have been firmly rooted in the Top 10 since 2005 relate to children and baby boomers. There is an increasing market demand for programs tailored to overweight children, he says, while at the other end of the spectrum, clubs and personal trainers are tailoring age-appropriate workouts to keep the boomer population healthy and happy in its golden years. Economy aside, Thompson says, there’s a trend toward people using the gym to network and expand their circle of friends and acquaintances. Kimberly Ann Dunkley, a certified Zumba instructor at the Las Vegas Athletic Club, has been watching the trend toward

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Health social exercise programs take off in the last few years. “I see people come in a little tense and quiet, and by the end of [a Zumba] class they are smiling and look like they could kiss the world,” she says. Zumba is not a typical aerobic class. It might be the high-spirited beat, she says, or the adrenaline rush that peaks at the end of class that gets the exhausted dancers talking to each other. “We have groups of girls at the gym who go have coffee after a class or meet up before,” says Michele Chovan-Taylor, Divisional Group X manager for 24 Hour Fitness. “They have had a Zumba nighttime party with wine instead of going and dancing at a club. They form a bond that they take into their personal lives.” That’s also true for more masculine forms of working out, she says, such as boot-camp workouts. These programs use weights, kettlebells, the basketball court, gym and just about every inch of the club in three-minute intervals for a total body workout. “Interval classes are attracting more men,” she says. “It’s more macho. It’s like gym class wants to be, and it’s the kind of thing you see athletes doing when training.” Many gym members come together on social networking websites. This helps them stay focused on their health goals as well as networking for business. “We’ve seen groups of people find each other on Facebook and business deals being made by people who have gotten to know each other through group fitness,” Chovan-Taylor says. “One of the reasons people stop working out is boredom. Group fitness and training changes that. And it keeps you accountable.” A new class at 24 Hour Fitness, “WillPower & Grace,” offers a blend of yoga, Pilates and dance plyometric exercises done in bare feet that focuses on the lower body. “Pilates is finally coming into its own,” she says. “That’s the big push: easy, simplified classes.” Membership continues to hold fast, Chovan-Taylor says, despite the upward climb in local unemployment and foreclosure rates. “It’s the pill that everyone is looking for,” she says. “People aren’t going out to dinner as much, but they are keeping their gym membership because they have that camaraderie here. It makes them feel good.” DC 16  D e s e r t Co m p a n i o n

Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2010 According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual worldwide fitness survey. 1. More educated and experienced fitness professionals, such as those accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. 2. Strength training, such as “boot-camp” programs. 3. Programs addressing the growing problem of childhood obesity. Dance studios often offer these. 4. Use of personal trainers. 5. Core training, which emphasizes middle-body muscle groups that provide support for the spine. It’s popular among baby boomers. 6. Special fitness programs for older adults. 7. Functional fitness, which improves balance and daily living mobility. These are often tied to special fitness programs for older adults. 8. Sport-specific training, which is popular among high school athletes. 9. Pilates, which combines core training with flexibility and posture. 10. Group personal training.








American Red Cross s Boy Scouts s Catholic Charities s Community Counseling Center s Emergency Aid of Boulder City s Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow s HELP of Southern Nevada s Huntridge Teen Clinic Jewish Family Services s Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth s S.A.F.E. House Safe Nest s The Salvation Army s The Shade Tree s Variety Early Learning Center



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story by dave berns

p h o t o g r a p h b y SAB I N O RR

Breaking the Mode

We ask transportation boss Jacob Snow for answers about our city’s auto addiction, his ACE enthusiasm and why we’re behind the curve on rail. Jacob Snow has headed the Regional Transportation Commission for a decade, pushing a bus-driven mass-transit system rather than the light rail that’s found in Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon. He argues for more walkable streets with narrower roadways. He says this region’s planners failed to design roads and neighborhoods that encourage safe driving. Snow has seen RTC ridership jump to 65 million trips through the end of the 2008 budget year. That was up from 59 million two years earlier. But those numbers were boosted by tourists, not locals, and that figure is expected to drop this year, as the tourism industry’s troubles continue amid the deep recession. Meantime, the car culture of the West finds most of us still driving to work, the store and the gym no matter how “green” we proclaim to be. Snow, a married father of three and a native of Southern Nevada, argues that we can do better through mass transit. But the question remains: How do we get Las Vegans to give up the convenience of 18  D e s e r t C o m p a n io n j a n u a r y - f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 0

the automobile for a bus ride? And will Valley residents learn to alter the aggressive driving that intimidates many and endangers others? I recently talked to Snow about these and other concerns about our transportation future. You’re a fit guy. You cycle all the time. Part of the frustration many people have in Las Vegas is that there’s just not much respect for the cyclist or pedestrian because he or she isn’t in a car. So how do we change that mind-set in this community and make it more walkable, more bikeable? What we need to do is pick certain corridors we think are going to be safer for people to walk and people to bike and make an investment in those corridors. If you’ve been to Portland, they’ve selected those corridors, and they now have a sizable [portion] of their workforce that bikes to work across the bridges every day. In their downtown they have these green

Interview boxes where the cyclists can come up to the front of the intersection, and when the light is red they get priority over the cars. It’s an experiment they started a few years ago, and in those corridors where we can do it, I think it makes sense. I was out on Rancho Drive at Decatur Boulevard with Councilman Ricki Barlow just the other day, looking at how difficult it is for senior citizens and people in wheelchairs to cross Rancho to get on the bus. We have designed and built this community for one mode of transportation, and that is the car. And in the future we’re going to see more and more demands from the public for us to calm traffic and change the ways experts in past decades have said it’s the way to go. Do you think people in the community would go for slower streets, narrower streets, considering that many of us believe it’s our birthright to drive 55 miles per hour on Sahara Avenue? The people who write about design in the Southwest, particularly in Las Vegas, are spot on. The roads are too wide, the lanes are too wide, and every physical design cue that is coming into our brains from our physical environment is telling us, “Go fast.” And that’s not just on the arterial roads, that’s on standard streets . The fire departments say, “We need to have enough space for three or four fire trucks to go parallel to each other for public safety and to save lives.” Well, is that true? A lot of people are saying, “No.” And in many of the new smart-growth developments around the world, they are cutting down the width of streets. So we really need to rethink these standards and to be doing what we call “complete streets.” That means we design them for all modes of transportation. We actually have a very ambitious program with some funding to do that. Alta Drive was wide and we cut down its width significantly [between Valley View and Rancho], added some curb extensions, some landscaping, and that has calmed the traffic through there. Has it affected the capacity significantly? No, it hasn’t. Do you find that there are fewer accidents on Alta Drive, particularly involving bicycles and pedestrians, since the changes were made? That would be a good study to do. We have not done that. 20  D e s e r t C o m p a n io n j a n u a r y - f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 0

“It’s important for people to know There was a story on CBS News that looked at a community in the Netherlands that replaced four-way stop signs with roundabouts. They’ve minimized the use of street signage as well, and drivers have slowed down. Social psychologists have found that if you have a great deal of signage, people tend to go faster and rely on the signs rather than on their driving skills and personal experience. A good part of the book called Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us), by Tom Vanderbilt, addresses that. I think those people are on to something. Roundabouts have been shown to be demonstrably safer, cost about the same as a traffic signal, and they minimize the points of conflict. I think they’re fantastic, and we’ve done probably half a dozen conversions here, some with

“We really need to rethink these standards and to be doing what we call ‘complete streets.’” the city of Henderson, some with the city of North Las Vegas, some with the city of Las Vegas, where we’re taking out stop signs and traffic signals and replacing them with roundabouts. We need to view our streets as our most ubiquitous form of public space, and as such we need to treat them as assets, instead of these blighted areas that have all these signs and garish information that compete for our attention. We need to go back to a minimalist design and rely on the natural cues that we could put into the physical environment to get people to slow down. Grow some trees overhead. Have a landscaped median instead of these center left-turn lanes. That would slow things down and give people a much more pleasant travel experience. Las Vegas has been called a 21st-century international city, one that will mesh with emerging cities in Asia and South America. What sort of mass-transit system should a city like that have? Our history has dictated a different approach than most. We have a community where the gaming industry has not supported a rail-type system or a

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Interview ACE: our light-rail substitute.

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fixed guideway system that would have a dedicated right-of-way down the middle of the Strip. You compare and contrast that to other cities that have these types of systems serving their central business district. In absence of these, we’ve had to make incremental improvements. I think the Deuce [the double-decker bus] has been a big success for us. Every time we put that service in the neighborhoods, ridership increases on those routes. We have the ACE bus system, which has everything a light-rail system has except rails. It’s going to debut in March. It has been said that ACE, despite its use of separate lanes, won’t be a longterm answer to the mass-transit needs of a modern western city, that light rail makes more sense, that there are other alternatives as well. When you look at what the ACE system will provide, people who make those arguments don’t have anything to base them on. They don’t have evidence to say that this type of a bus rapid-transit system, which is less expensive and more flexible, is going to leave the community worse. They don’t have any evidence to say why that’s the case. They just say it. They don’t look at cities, like Brisbane, Australia, that have a bus-based rapidtransit system that exceeds the ridership of cities that have rail. Portland and Phoenix have a light-rail system. Chicago has the El. New York has the subway. Is part of the challenge that those systems are iconic and a fixed guideway system isn’t? There is something to be said for that, except I think the [fixed bus line on Grand Central Parkway] is going to be iconic. I think the vehicles themselves are very iconic because they look like rail cars. The argument could be made that North

22  D e s e r t C o m p a n io n

Americans have a bias against buses and a cultural bias in favor of trains. I’ve heard that argument before. I’ve never seen any evidence to back it up. Think about when you were a kid. What you would gravitate toward—a Lionel bus set or a Lionel train set? I don’t think they make Lionel bus sets. That may be the point right there. But you’re saying the ACE is cheaper. Absolutely. You can’t find any transportation forecasting model that any consultant in the world has that will show you a difference in ridership if you go with a fixed bus system versus a fixed rail system. It doesn’t exist. So let’s turn to a recent poll that found that most people in this region say they don’t want a high-speed rail line to Southern California. What do you make of that? I haven’t seen that poll, but I can tell you about my anecdotal experience. Any time the RTC goes out to a public meeting, inevitably there are questions about the maglev or the DesertXpress. It never fails. I would say it is one of the top three issues. And I’ve gone to a lot of meetings—just meetings on general stuff—but it never fails that people ask about the train, because everybody I know has had a bad experience traveling to and from Southern California on I-15. So how is the RTC doing? The agency’s suffering financial hard times like everyone else. Ridership’s down. Revenue’s down a lot—24 percent. That is a record. So that’s hard on everybody. It just seems counterintuitive. You would think that in tough times people

would ride the bus more. We do have a lot of people riding the bus because times are tough, but most of our ridership is people going to work, and when the unemployment rate is so high, that really hits us. With fewer people riding the bus, are you worried that it doesn’t become as much of a community priority? We view it as an opportunity to restructure our system in a way that is even more efficient. We’re the most cost efficient in the country, and this is going to force us into some moves that will focus on just the premium routes that pay for themselves and generate a revenue surplus, and we’re trying to move to more of those routes with this ACE system. We think it’s going to pay for itself just like the Deuce does, and if it does, we can continue to do some of the things out in the neighborhoods that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. You look around this Valley and you see one person, one car. The average Southern Nevadan probably doesn’t know what bus fare is. I’m sure you’re right about that. The fare is $1.75 one way. We just raised it because of the economy, and that is one reason we have seen a decline in the ridership. Every time we raise fares we see a decline, except for one unique situation. Last January we raised the fare on the Deuce on the Strip from $2 to $3, which is a huge increase, and we expected ridership to go down. But ridership went up. The only thing we can think of when we know there are fewer people in town is that the tourists are really looking for a value, and they aren’t taking other forms of ground transportation that they did previously. Not renting cars, not taking cabs. Exactly. Are you doing a market survey to determine if that’s the case? No, we’re not. We’re pleased as punch about it. We think we know the answer, and we don’t want to spend money we don’t have in tough times to tell us something that we think we’re pretty sure about. DC Dave Berns is a journalist and former host of KNPR’s State of Nevada on News 88.9 KNPR. j a n u a r y - f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 0 DESERT C O MPAN I O N  2 3

Spring 2010 Readings & Panels reading: Luljeta Lleshanaku The award-winning Albanian poet and former BMI fellow reads from her new collection, Child of Nature. thursday, january 21, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. unlv barrick museum auditorium

About BMI Founded in 2006, Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is an international center dedicated to advancing literary and cross-cultural dialogue. Through public programs, residential fellowships, and publishing initiatives, BMI provides a cultural lens for evaluating and addressing today’s most pressing issues. Learn more about us and sign up for our e-newsletter at

Recent News Video of recent readings now online Visit our web site to watch video of readings by E.L. Doctorow, Kay Ryan, and Er Tai Gao.

panel: “The Future of American Conservatism” with Richard Brookhiser, David Frum, and Sam Tanenhaus Brookhiser, senior editor at National Review, Frum, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush and founder of, and Tanenhaus, editor of the New York Times Book Review, discuss what it means to be a conservative in America today and how that will shape the Republican party of tomorrow. wednesday, february 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. unlv student union theatre

performance: “I Could Read the Sky” I Could Read the Sky, a collaborative novel by writer Timothy O’Grady and photographer Steven Pyke, is brought to life in a unique St. Patrick’s Day performance: O’Grady’s reading from the book is interspersed with music from world-renowned fiddleand-guitar duo Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill and the singing of Aine Meenaghan, with Pkye’s arresting images projected throughout the show. tuesday, march 17, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. unlv beam music center recital hall

panel: “Blurring Borders” with Junot Diaz, Yiyun Li, and Pablo Medina

The 2010 issue of BMI’s acclaimed literary magazine will be published in February. Pre-order a copy on our web site today.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Dominican-American writer Diaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, PEN/Hemingway Award-winning Chinese-American writer Li, author of The Vagrants, and Cuban-American poet, novelist, and translator Medina explore the blurred borders between identity, nationality, and culture in their work.

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tuesday, april 6, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. unlv student union theatre

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For more information about our programs and events, visit Event details are subject to change; please check our web site for updates.

reading: Maile Chapman and Vu Tran UNLV Schaeffer Fellows Chapman, author of Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto, and Tran, winner of a 2009 Whiting Writers’ Award, read from their work. thursday, april 15, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. unlv barrick museum auditorium Generous support for BMI’s public programming is provided by Nevada Public Radio, The Harrah’s Foundation, Las Vegas CityLife, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve come to a new decade and found ourselves at a major crossroads. Which way do we turn? Does anybody know where Las Vegas is headed? Here are 15 educated guesses from a variety of vantage points.

J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n â&#x20AC;&#x192; 25

The Deeper Reality After 30 years of living in Europe, I drove back and forth across America, where I’d been born and raised, and wrote a book called Divine Magnetic Lands about how it looked to me after being away so long. Between Barstow and Flagstaff I stopped on the Las Vegas Strip to have lunch and look around. It seemed the most foolish place I’d seen—a Disneyland

Below the city’s thin veneer, an author finds the secret to its staying power. By Timothy O’Grady

for immature adults, a place of frivolity and fantasy where all the games are rigged against you, where the masses obey, in unison, commands to leave their money behind and where the casino patrons stationed before the acres of slot machines have vacant, depressed, cancer-ward looks. Where was the fun? I’d had more in Glendo, Wyoming.


Urban Opportunity


The time is right to dream of the Strip’s next evolution. Now I live here, thanks to a fellowship at the Black Mountain Institute. I arrived in August from Poland via London, and the jet lag woke me my first morning at 4:30. What matter? This is the authentic 24-hour city, where all is available all the time. I watched the rising sun throw rose light on the mountains. Vast wildernesses full of fantastical shapes lay beyond the city limits like a collective unconscious. The big Western skies looked full of possibility. It seemed, and still does, a place where you have the time and the room to make up your life as you live it. I liked it immediately. I am not alone in this, of course. People have come and stayed for work, but also for the dry air, the dream that a few seconds can forever change your fortunes, the simple ease of living in a full-service city with daily sunshine and the full range of what Puritan America loathes and withholds. As Simone de Beauvoir said, “No bourgeoisie, no bourgeois morality.” What will become of this fantasyland in the desert? The flimsiness of its foundations invites conjecture about its future. I’ve heard it said that ghost towns in Nevada outnumber functioning ones by a ratio of 20 to 1 and that Las Vegas will become one of the former. What could make it so? Lack of water. Continuing economic catastrophe. The streets becoming meaner, more predatory. This is a city that panders to every human weakness and then spits out those who succumb to them. Some fall to the pavements, others all the way into the storm drains. Add to this the colossal number of mortgage foreclosures and a quadrupling of the unemployment rate. These are facts that lead to social disintegration, to illness, to rage and to the rise of gangs. And it is a city that has never entirely cohered. What I’ve noticed here more than anything is how ephemeral is the concept of citizenship or collective regional identity. The city has no professional sports team or central focus. It has the worst public transport system I’ve seen, and I imagine the social services infrastructure is not much better. This does not matter greatly in boom times, but a sense of community is a salvation when things become more harsh. A place has a better chance of surviving if those living in it think it is right and natural to look after each other. As it is, if Las Vegas starts to look like a desert Detroit, many will walk away without looking back. But the dream of a fresh start in the West still pulls in America. It is still big and open here. And Las Vegas has changed in the last decade. The university has grown. Corporations have arrived. The city no longer feeds exclusively on the bounty provided by the Strip. And increasing numbers of its people have been born, raised, educated and employed here. They have a stake in it in terms of their identities. They are the kinds of people who start bands, flower shops, political action groups, factories, theaters and all the other things that make cities cohere and develop. Guessing the future is a game of chance of little consequence. I’d be reluctant to put all my chips on either the future abandonment or prosperity of Las Vegas, but since this is the game I’ve agreed to play I will make a cautious bet on more random financial imploding, followed by slow growth into a more stable and ethnically and economically diverse city, with some surprising and innovative intellectual and cultural additions to the menu of services it provides.

By Alan Hess

Calamities can be good for you. The Chicago fire in 1871 spurred that raw, upstart city to invent the skyscraper and cultivate great architects such as Louis Sullivan. In rebuilding, Chicago blazed a trail into the 20th century. So the Crash of 2008 offers Las Vegas a chance over the next 10 years to step back, take a breath and concentrate on its strengths as the most innovative suburban metropolis in the country. Let’s focus on one aspect: the public spaces where people stroll, mingle and gather. Venice has Piazza San Marco. Manhattan has Fifth Avenue. Paris has the ChampsElysées. Over the past two decades the Strip’s intricate urban fabric of sidewalks, fountains, shopping arcades, monorails, pleasure gardens and sidewalk cafés, set against a backdrop of stunning vistas by day and night, has become the most original, organic and appealing promenade in the world. The Strip has reinvented public space for the 21st century. It is Las Vegas’ true downtown—but it has a ways to go. The Strip is so far ahead of all the planning experts and their conventional theories that it’s often

Instead of building more monstrous high-rises, the Strip could complete its vision as an urban district over the next 10 years. not recognized for what it has achieved. No one predicted that the auto-oriented Strip of 1960 would be thronged with pedestrians in 2010. Still, the responses to this evolution have been a bit hit and miss so far; to tell the truth, many Las Vegas architects may not entirely realize what they have been creating. The best examples are the piazza and terraces in front of the Venetian, the lakeside restaurants at Bellagio and

the sidewalk cafés at Paris. These imaginative solutions contrast with the congested sidewalks in front of the Flamingo and the Imperial Palace, and the narrow, precarious walkways along the looming cliffs of Planet Hollywood and CityCenter. So here’s the potential silver lining in the current economic lull: Instead of building more monstrous high-rises, the Strip could complete its vision as an urban district over the next 10 years. The bleaching skeleton of the Echelon, for example, could be revamped by adding a generous suburban plaza that advances the lessons taught by the Venetian, Bellagio and Paris. That would reactivate the declining north end of the Strip by attracting crowds with the simple urban delights of people-watching and taking in the view—and draw them into the casinos, restaurants and shops for some business. Of course, this will take a renewal of Las Vegas’ self-confidence. But Las Vegas at its best has always been ahead of its time. Until recent years it never followed other cities’ leads. From neon signs to hotel-casinos, from Billy Wilkerson to Steve Wynn, Las Vegas’ best ideas have been bred locally, not imported. That’s where the Strip’s future greatness will come from, too.   Alan Hess is a Los Angeles-based architecture critic, lecturer and author whose books include Viva Las Vegas: After-Hours Architecture.

Timothy O’Grady is the author of six books, including the recently published Divine Magnetic Lands. J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n   27


Mending Racial Fences

Shared ISSUES will bring minority groups together. By Patricia Cunningham

The election of Barack Obama has empowered the black community to improve race relations. There is a new sense of citizenship that leaves no choice but to be considerate of other minority groups. The trick in the decade ahead is getting all African-Americans to understand this and to keep moving forward.

As it stands, the “old guard” of the civil rights movement has not warmed up to the immigration movement. Many still feel politically threatened by the rising number of Hispanics moving into their districts, and low wages and job losses have been attributed to the employment of undocumented workers. The result is a growing divide between the two communities. Tensions may have peaked in the last decade when former Clark County School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia used a racial slur while addressing a group of black students. The black community called for his firing, and the relationship never really healed during his tenure, with black educators accusing him of promoting less-qualified Hispanics into administrative positions. The “minority majority” school district continues to be the epicenter of tensions, which are exacerbated by everything from black and Hispanic gang conflicts to the disproportionate placement of minority children in special education programs. And the bottom line is not good: Minority students in Clark County have higher dropout rates, lower graduation rates and tend to score lower on standardized tests. Because of these and other challenges, it’s possible that the school district will be split by 2020. Tensions between the black and Jewish communities have been more subtle, with a few exceptions. Anti-Jewish sentiments and racist comments boiled over when UNLV regent Linda Howard accused fellow regent Mark Alden of making a racial insult. When the City Council voted to close F Street for the I-15 expansion in 2006, West Las Vegas residents accused Mayor Oscar Goodman of attempting to “wall off” the black

community from downtown redevelopment. Local synagogues and black churches have not had a coalition on any major issue. But there was a small breakthrough recently when the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League hosted a community lecture on “Hitler’s Black Victims.” The distribution of racial groups across the Valley will change dramatically by 2020. This, coupled with a generational shift in the black political arena, will continue to change racial attitudes. Diversified housing, schools and places of worship will lead to more inclusive thinking. Politicians will have to reach out to all minority voters, black elected officials will no longer be able to appeal to a blackonly constituency, and those who run public meetings will no longer be able to ignore the community’s smaller voices.  The slowly evolving relationship between blacks and Hispanics will result in a recognition that—from education to unemployment— they often share the same problems, and those groups will start voting together, thus building clout for their communities. In fact, some blacks today believe they actually have a stake in the success of the movement for immigration rights. Overall, more blacks will find themselves aligned with other racial groups on issues that are important to them. And as they engage in community conversations about education, the economy, health care and unemployment, race will fade from the conversation.   Patricia Cunningham is a radio talk-show host and political commentator on 88.1 KCEP.

History Needs to Repeat Itself

G R E E N : S ab i n O rr

In our past, the present included hard work on the future. By Michael Green Las Vegas is America’s youngest big city, meaning its population has grown too fast to keep up with its needs. That’s obvious, but what may be less obvious are two key problems: its lack of a sense of history, and the belief that we do not yet need to confront the problems facing older cities. Actually, we have aged quickly. Las Vegas may indeed be “the last Detroit”: We relied on one economic engine, ignored warning signs of a bubble, and now are paying dearly for it. Las Vegas will recover as the rest of the country does, but it will recover even faster if we realize how Las Vegas survived and progressed through transitions in the past. Those who say Las Vegas has no history, or argue, also mistakenly, that we blow it up, should consider evidence from our past. In the town’s early days, floods washed out the railroad tracks, all but cutting off Las Vegas during an economic downturn. Local business leaders kept investing, improving, inventing and imagining. When the railroad moved

its repair shops in the 1920s, it largely eliminated the town’s economic engine. Las Vegans pushed for Hoover Dam, daily air service and ways to promote Las Vegas as a tourist destination. In the 1940s, Las Vegans, hoping to attract visitors, created a fund for promoting the town, and out of that grew the Las Vegas News Bureau. In the 1950s and 1960s, bankers and supposed mobsters provided land, funds and furniture for a university, and the result was UNLV. As we turn the corner into a new decade, the closest ties to those farsighted achievements of our past are the emerging references to alternative energy resources. And money from Kirk Kerkorian and Brian Greenspun is bringing us a higher level of community service and a western branch of the Brookings Institution to offer information and resolutions to some of our problems. The wise businessmen and casino operators of our decades past would

tell us to run with our freshest ideas. As history proves over and over, the ultimate success of a community is not all about the present. Michael Green is a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada. He also writes the “Nevada Yesterdays” essays heard regularly on News 88.9 KNPR.

J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n   29

Reporter’s Notebook, 2020 A slightly jaded R-J columnist predicts the news. By John L. Smith

Like the guy who buys Playboy for the articles, I tell people I love lusty Las Vegas for its stories. I’ve told a few thousand as a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.


C O U R T E S T Y J E R E M Y A . A guero

The great Herb Caen called his San Francisco “Baghdad by the Bay.” I like to think of Las Vegas as “Sodom on a Sea of Sand.” It’s not an image the Chamber of Commerce would appreciate, but these days it almost sounds like the latest salacious slogan to emanate from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Here are a few of the topics that will keep me busy in the next decade as the newspaper is reduced to the size of a sheet of Kleenex and reader attention spans are measured in milliseconds. I’d like to tell you the next 10 years will bring a philosophical sea change of sorts to Southern Nevada, but my mama taught me not to lie. Water Conservation, Las Vegas Style: With Lake Mead reduced to the world’s largest dune-buggy course, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is once again getting serious about conservation by asking customers to stop ordering water with their Scotch. When the region’s largest aquifer is tapped under the Nevada Test Site, developers will tell residents the new source of water is sure to give them a healthy glow. A Better Class of Criminal: Local government has long been wracked by corruption scandals, and Sheriff Michael McDonald has been scheming to find a way to get his new jail built. So the plan was set to cut out the middleman, so to speak, and build the new jail around the Clark County Government Center so convicted commissioners could serve the public while simultaneously serving their sentences. The Controversial Plastic Surgery Tax: Also known as the “Fiscal Face-Lift,” the “Ta-Ta Tax” and the “Lipo Levy,” this revenue-enhancer was the brainchild of a dedicated legislator after a date with an exotic dancer. “It just popped into my mind,” the dedicated public servant tells me. “Do you think the ‘Fiscal Face-Lift’ will pass?” I’d say it’s a stretch, but it’s the closest thing to changing the tax structure our elected officials can muster. Sun City National Park: Back in 2009, there was talk of a “fossil-rich area” in Southern Nevada that would be a natural for a National Park designation. By 2020, that “fossil-rich” designation defines Sun City, where visitors are admonished not to feed the endangered and irascible Blue Hairs. They can get ornery and vote “no” on things like school bond issues. Wayne Newton’s “I Swear I’m Leaving, But Just Once More Before I Go” Show: After filling every showroom ever built in Strip history, “The Midnight Idol” is so old he has to be home before sundown. But that doesn’t stop him from fourwalling the Atomic Liquor Store at 917 Fremont Street. The Great Elvis Impersonator Shortage of 2019: Now that CityCenter has finally fully opened, its Elvis-themed Cirque du Soleil show has sucked up all the great pretenders to Presleydom. Calls go out far and wide for Elvii of every station. In the middle of it all, a broken-down newspaper columnist decides to change careers and join the burgeoning battalion of Elvis impersonators. In his final, forgettable essay, he has the audacity to write that the more things change in Las Vegas, the more they stay the same.

An Economist’s Crystal Ball

How possibility will add up to prosperity. By Jeremy A. Aguero

I spend a great deal of time trying to see into the future. The uncertainty of events and the evershrinking space between ideas and innovations tend to make this a Sisyphean task. Perhaps that is the lesson itself: Tomorrow is less about probability and more about possibility. So what is possible for Las Vegas’ next decade? The next building boom for our main industry may well be virtual, with the major hotel-casino operators taking the global lead in highly regulated Internet-based gaming. Health care will become our second-largest industry by 2020, followed by government. Nevada will once again lead the nation in population growth, but that growth will not be in Clark County. Renewable energy economies will emerge in rural communities across the state, creating new jobs, new households and new challenges. Housing prices will be double what they are today; gas prices will be triple. Education will become a priority in more than name only.

The Clark County School District will be replaced by several smaller districts, some of which will be privatized. Voters will approve property tax increases to fund schools. School days and years will be made longer. Teachers will be paid more, but also be required to work more as summer and “track” breaks come to an end. The next decade will redefine the Hispanic community. The 2020 census will show that Hispanics are the largest single population group and the second-largest voting bloc (behind seniors). Minorities will be the majority not only in the community but in the Nevada Legislature and the state’s national delegation. Overall, the uncertainty of the future is not something to fear but to embrace. With possibility comes opportunity, and with opportunity comes prosperity. Jeremy Aguero, a local economist and UNLV graduate, is a principal at Applied Analysis, an information resource for the public and private sectors.

John L. Smith is an author and award-winning columnist at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n   31


Artful Education “Knuckleheads, every one of ’em,” the preschool teacher says as she affectionately points to her classroom of “almost 4-year-olds.” She shares a high-five with everyone in the circle but one child. He is lying on his back, quietly using his

HOW Creativity can open doors to learning and exploring— for kids and adults. By Kim Russell

hands to conduct an imaginary orchestra. “The butterfly touches my nose, the butterfly touches my ear,” the teacher sings. The children follow by touching their nose and their ears. All except The Conductor. He is in another world.

theater. This year I am celebrating 15 years of performing at in-school The teacher leads her classroom into a musical imagination land, assemblies across Nevada. My performance tells the story of Sojourner where letters have personalities and colors have voices. All the children Truth, a 19th-century freed slave who recounts her trials with equality, participate in a call-and-response fashion. All except The Conductor, who finds his shoes more interesting. freedom and democracy. Children ask brave and funny questions The teacher concludes the lesson by putting the letters away one by indicating their interest and desire to learn. one, singing a goodbye melody to each. Then she asks each student what My school visits have exposed me to talented young people making he or she liked about the lesson, and they each answer their way in our community of arts. One young man is her. All except The Conductor. Dan Hevor, a radio broadcaster, music entrepreneur The lesson is that Then, abruptly and out of turn, he recalls the and Christian concert promoter. When I first met songs where letters have personalities and colors have him he was barely 21, but using his own money every child is voices. He has all the right answers—in sequence and in he formed a network of rappers and spoken-word intelligent, just not artists to reach kids with positive messages of selfcomplete sentences. This from the child who appeared disinterested and distracted. determination. Through the power of radio and his in the same way. This instructional format, which integrates online show, he attracts audiences from other states, music and preschool lessons, is the outcome of a and they are continually growing and learning partnership among The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, United through the musical arts. Way of Southern Nevada, Success By 6 and Citi in Nevada. Its intent is to Perhaps in this new decade our cultural institutions will educate provide early-childhood teachers an innovative arts-based curriculum us in ways to use the arts to learn and to explore. Perhaps in greater with results that can be measured—results similar to those exhibited numbers we will support our struggling arts organizations. Just by The Conductor. as children imagine letters with personalities, perhaps the adult The lesson is that every child is intelligent, just not in the same knuckleheads will find new and creative ways to see and learn. way. And the arts are a way to reach different learners with different learning styles. Kim Russell is the education program coordinator for The Smith Center I have had the privilege of reaching out to schoolchildren through for the Performing Arts.

Breaking the Cycle

D eacon : S ab i n O rr

Las Vegas can finally balance individual rights with community responsibilities. By James E. Deacon In the interest of political correctness, let’s pretend that the best way to ensure Southern Nevada’s brightest future is to improve upon the pro-growth policies of the past 100 years—low taxes, minimum regulation, friendly business environment, minimal environmental protections, aggressive expansion of water rights, etc. They’ve worked well so far, haven’t they? At the turn of the decade, we’re a community that consistently scores near the bottom of most qualityof-life indicators. And we can continue to implement those policies, too—if we want to achieve a collapse as spectacular as those of Easter Island, the Roman Empire and Nevada mining towns. Or instead, we could try policies that emphasize our community responsibilities to develop top-notch, well-integrated public education, health and other social services, as well as public safety systems. This kind of community would encourage an active lifestyle with a network of safe, interconnected bicycle paths, hiking trails, mass transit, municipal parks, peripheral

open spaces, regional parks and wilderness areas, with consequent uncongested roads and freeways. It would emphasize a creative variety of cheaper crime prevention and intervention techniques to replace our expensive current focus on enforcement, punishment and incarceration. Water, energy, sewage and garbage systems would emphasize renewable energy, efficient resource use and recycling technologies. We could lead the national transition to a new era of population and economic stability based on a shift to locally available renewable energy and sustainable resource use. Adopting these kinds of policies over the next 10 years would help us avoid another boom-and-bust cycle, not to mention the capital expenditure of $3.5 billion to $30 billion for the eastern Nevada groundwater pipeline project (plus unknown millions for litigation). Otherwise, in addition to destroying the economy, the next bust could bring down Nevada’s eastern waterdependent recreational opportunities, biodiversity and rural livelihoods.

Fortunately, we still have a choice. We don’t need to continue making the same mistakes. And this time around, we’ll have a guidebook to a better future: the soonto-be-published Creating Place: Remaking America Green by Nevada Public Radio’s very own urban planning commentator, Robert A. Fielden. James Deacon is a UNLV distinguished emeritus professor of environmental studies and biology.

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The author (center) and his Neon Reverb partners, Thirry Harlin and Jason Aragon.

Creative Class

A professor/promoter explains why the art and music scenes are set up for success. By James Woodbridge

A bad economy helps no one, but there is some sense that it has a less direct impact on the â&#x20AC;&#x153;creative classâ&#x20AC;? and its artistic endeavors. Its goal is to create, and it remains so even in challenging economic conditions. Plus, one potentially positive economic consideration is that the greater comparative affordability of Las Vegas might inspire more artists

from more expensive cities to move here (think of Tim Bavington andâ&#x20AC;ŻDavid Ryan). Such growth in our creative community could become a magnet for still more artists, followed by an influx of people drawn to a cultured locale. This pattern of development has enriched artistic enclaves in many cities, thereby enriching the cities more broadly.


C O U R T E S Y R andy S no w

Perhaps even more significant, the next decade will see a major increase in the number of born-and-bred Las Vegans in their 20s. This not only raises the likelihood of homegrown artists of note coming forward, but a decent percentage of these young people will have become proto art consumers via the efforts of institutions such as “First Friday” and The Arts Factory downtown and the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery at UNLV. Combine this with the continued development of new art spaces such as the Brett Wesley Gallery, and the demographic change will have a huge impact on the arts scene as a larger population with a personal investment in its city’s cultural dimension emerges. Actually, this personal investment in local culture is already developing. As an organizer of the Neon Reverb Music Festival (along with my partners Thirry Harlin and Jason Aragon), my main connection to the arts community in Las Vegas is with the scene. Something now frequently noted about that scene is the resurgence of a high level of community and ownership. Moreover, the Las Vegas music scene is breaking free of the cultural (and tour-routing) isolation that long separated it from the regional and national scenes. We see evidence of this firsthand in the large number of up-and-coming regional bands, from SoCal to Seattle, that now contact us about playing at Neon Reverb, and in the festival’s ability to attract national acts who previously would have skipped Las Vegas. In the other direction, Las Vegas bands coming up now aspire not just to play locally but to tour. As this trend continues, with the population changes occurring, an even greater number of high-quality bands will likely emerge over the next decade. This will spread recognition of the Vegas music scene beyond the city as well as build it up locally, by attracting more Las Vegans to come out to hear our bands play. More local music venues are also on the horizon, which will further boost the music scene. The City of Las Vegas is working on passing ordinances that will cut or waive initial license fees for bars and nightclubs in the Arts District and Fremont East. This will lead to more venues dedicated to live music opening in concentrated areas, in turn creating more opportunities for people to see shows at smaller local venues (rather than at just larger venues such as House of Blues and The Joint), getting them invested in the local cultural scene as they discover the more engaging aspects of these smaller clubs. All of these factors point to the possibility of a bright future for the local music scene and, by extension, the whole cultural and artistic dimensions of Las Vegas. Of course, this is contingent on the city and its people getting involved and invested in developing an artistically rich urban culture. As always, creating the cultural future we want is largely up to us.   James Woodbridge is an assistant professor in the UNLV philosophy department. Thirry Harlin and Jason Aragon contributed some of the thoughts expressed in this piece. The three of them are organizing the fourth Neon Reverb Music Festival, featuring more than 100 local and touring bands playing in seven locations on March 11-14 (

Value-Added Vegas

An ad whiz foresees a destination that’s more practical than frivolous. By Randy Snow

In 2020, Las Vegas will look a lot like it does today. We won’t have built or developed as much as in the past 20 years, and that’s not a bad thing. Properties such as Encore and CityCenter will be hitting their strides with the markets and customers they’ve developed. The others that are here will be operating because they emerged from the Great Recession smarter and better. To paraphrase Nietzsche, what did not kill them will have made them stronger. Las Vegas by 2020 will have done what it always does: adapt, evolve and change to fit a new reality. What will be that new reality? Tourists will still come by the tens of millions. An economic downturn, even a severe one, won’t completely alter the human need to rest, relax and get away from daily reality. Las Vegas will still be the best place to do that, but value will be a chief reason people choose to visit. People today have learned the hard way to get more for their money. This lesson will keep. Visitors of every economic level—even the highest—will seek value. That doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, but visitors will demand a solid return on their investment. Success will belong to those who deliver it. The nature of the experience will change, too. Mobile technology and real-time social media will allow resorts to communicate with their customers—and customers to

communicate with one another—on a minute-by-minute basis. Visitors will plan their activities on the go as they receive updated information on what’s happening and what’s hot. Las Vegas can use this to create more citywide events and move visitors from one venue to the next. Some resorts are already doing this. In 2020, the entire city will. The city in which they are moving around will feature more familiar brand names as resorts lease space to restaurants, hotel companies and other franchises, giving resort operators the ability to spread the risk and overhead of these areas as they concentrate on their core hotel-casino operations. Again, this trend is already visible in many properties. Finally, value, infrastructure and entertainment will bring businessmen here to meet, market and sell. The so-called stigma of meeting in a gaming destination will have faded, because conducting a meeting or trade show here will have proved to be more efficient, more successful, less costly and better attended. Las Vegas will again become a logical choice for a business community that wants the most for its money. Randy Snow is R&R Partners’ corporate creative director. He hopes that his team’s legendary catchphrase, “What happens here stays here,” will still apply in 2020.

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our next moves As I contemplate 2020, I cannot help but reflect on Las Vegasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; last century and the unlikely story of a sleepy railroad stop of only a few hundred residents that transformed itself into one of the most iconic cities in the world. It was a hardscrabble life in this remote village surrounded by thousands of acres of desert. And yet, out of sand, dreams coupled with innovation

commerce will be driveN by innovation and determination. By KARA KELLEY

and determination created this internationally renowned metropolis. Economic times are tough, but we are again laying the foundation for our future and the next exciting chapter of our unique history. Although the possibilities are numerous, three areas have captured my imagination about what this new decade will bring.

Imagine when the seeds of redevelopment in downtown take root. With the construction of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, all of Symphony Park and the new City Hall, we are making great strides in transforming downtown into a vibrant center of community. We are creating a neighborhood that belongs to each of us, where the traditional mom-and-pop coffee shop intersects with the young entrepreneur who, with her laptop, runs her empire from a bench in Symphony Park. Imagine Las Vegas as a center for education and research in the New West. Through collaborative partnerships between institutions of higher education, new centers of research and the business community, we can develop symbiotic relationships that not only prepare the next generation of workforce, but also develop the technology and resources necessary to help the private sector flourish.

Imagine the development of new industries that rival gaming. As our country moves toward more renewable energy usage, Southern Nevada is well-positioned to become a center of new energy sources and exportable technology. Thousands of Nevadans will be employed in this new industry, and even more will work for small businesses borne out of this dynamic sector. Although our resources are limited, history has proved that our imagination and spirit are not. By making choices today to maximize our assets, by lifting the burdens on entrepreneurs to spur innovation and business growth, and by building upon the strengths of our community to maximize our existing assets, we are well on our way toward 2020 and realizing this dream. Kara Kelley has been president and CEO of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce since 2002.

Rational Exuberance

C ourtesty K urt A ndersen

After a cycle of retraining, the good times will roll again. By Kurt Andersen In my book Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America, I explain our bipolar American character in terms of “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” Aesop’s fable in which the ant is sober, prudent and hard-working, and the grasshopper plays and parties as if the good times will never end. We Americans are, for better and worse, a sui generis crossbreed of both species. And our history consists of cyclical swings—back and forth, maybe 15 times so far—between periods when either the ant or the grasshopper dominated. Starting in the 1980s, America was in full-bore grasshopper mode, indulging our wild and crazy go-go side, impatient prospectors and speculators with a weakness for blue smoke and mirrors, dreaming of overnight fortunes, partying hearty and living large. Buying houses and stock market investing became forms of gambling, and actual gambling became ubiquitous. In other words, as I wrote in a 1994 Time cover story, “America has become Las Vegasized.” Sociologically and economically speaking, what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas, but spread all over the country. And instead of lasting a decade or so, as these spikes in the zeitgeist usually do, this one went on and on. “The ’80s spirit endured,” I write in Reset, “like an awesome winning streak in Las Vegas.” Winning streaks always come to an end. And given that Vegas was the boomingest, most emblematically American place during our recent long boom, it seems

inevitable—poetic justice? karmic payback? economic history 101?—that it now has more foreclosures and a higher unemployment rate than any other big-time American city. But as Las Vegas gets over its hangover and begins figuring out the next civic iteration— Vegas 5.0, if you will—the empty shopping malls and half-finished mega-projects look to me like valuable reminders of the folly of irrational exuberance. Going forward, rational exuberance is key: Las Vegans, like all Americans, need to retrain themselves to think more like casino owners than casino players, to be realistic and disciplined instead of finger-crossing, magical-thinking suckers. It also looks to me as if the Southern Nevada Water Authority has been exemplary in this regard, having managed to eliminate thousands of acres of water-hogging lawns and reduce per-capita water use by a quarter. Faced with an obvious and undeniable crisis, the political and technocratic will was summoned to start dealing with it. As the nation at large considers how to respond to its current inflection points and looming crises (energy policy, health care), would that we reset as sensibly. But what happens now to Vegas as a tourist destination and entertainment brand? It survives, I think, but perhaps more as the outlier it used to be. Because if Americans revert for a while to their pre-’80s attitudes and habits—thinking longer term, living reasonably—a lot of us will still crave escape and carnival spectacle of the kind unavailable in Des Moines. As we become more like

ants in our everyday lives, we’ll want to act up occasionally and unleash our inner grasshoppers. Since Mad Men has made early-’60s style the epitome of cool, maybe the Fontainebleau, when it finally opens, can realize what I imagined in my novel Turn of the Century—a themed Strip resort devoted to evoking nostalgic Rat Pack fantasy. For that matter, now there’ll be a whole new opportunity for Vegas theming, a nostalgic evocation of the good old days of the ’80s and ’90s and early ’00s, when we partied like it was 1999. History keeps moving, and the American pendulum will keep swinging, so I’m betting that yet another period of wild and crazy American self-indulgence will kick off right around 2020, the Roaring ’20s Redux, for which Las Vegas will once again be the in-sync epicenter. Kurt Andersen is a best-selling author and host of Studio 360, a weekly Public Radio International show about culture and the arts.

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Opportunity Knocks Again Asian-Americans will make the leap from commercial success to community involvement. By James Yu (As told to Catherine Kim)

James Yu is part-owner of the new Korea Town Plaza on Spring Mountain Road and a board member of the Asian Chamber of Commerce and the First Asian Bank.

commodities or communities? Hopefully homeowners will make the right choice. By Adam Burke It’s evening in northwest Las Vegas. I’m standing with a couple in their front yard. And they’re telling me about the time, 10 years ago, they decided that this was the place they would raise a family. They laugh and recount how they had driven out to the construction site each evening to check the progress on their home. How they’d seen the neighborhood being carved from raw desert, lot by lot. Just then a police helicopter appears overhead, circling the neighborhood like a shark. The whirling blades drown out our conversation; the searchlight slices across rooftops and parked cars. This is part of the couple’s new reality. In addition to the waves of foreclosures and vanishing neighbors, they’re dealing with a rising tide of vandalism and crime. Ten years ago if you had asked them to peer into the future, they could not have seen this coming. Their initial response was to retreat behind locked doors. To install an alarm system. To put bars on the doors and windows. To stop talking to the people living around them. They felt powerless and alone. When things didn’t get any better, though, they realized that their retreat was only hastening of the decline of their neighborhood. So they began knocking on doors. Now they’re reaching out to others, they’re organizing, they’re retaking ownership of their neighborhood. They’re taking responsibility for a collective future. Many other Las Vegans have reached this fork in the road. When you walk their blocks, parks and malls, when you talk to them as I have over the past year, it becomes clear that community engagement will mark a tipping point in many Las Vegas neighborhoods. Some will become the slums and ghost towns of 2020; others will grow into vibrant places where people know each other, take care of each other and commit to their investment. The definition of that last word is the key. Will our neighborhoods continue to be commodities or will we start thinking of them as communities? Once they’d looked in the mirror, this particular couple regained a sense of hope. Standing with them that night, listening growling blades of the helicopter, a small reward came to us on the breeze: the faint sound of tinkling wind chimes. Audible proof that this couple is not alone. Reporter Adam Burke is heard on News 88.9 KNPR and regularly contributes to NPR programs, including All Things Considered. Tell your story of a changing community at the website created by Burke,

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Y U : S A B I N O R R ; burke : chr i sto p her sm i th

Asian immigrants have long found Las Vegas to be the land of opportunity, mostly because it has provided wellpaying jobs for those who are not proficient in English. As the Asian population has grown in our community, so has the number of Asian-owned businesses. So, we have had success here, and we have helped this community to grow and mature. And we will continue to do so through our emerging force of professionals—doctors, lawyers, engineers. But in the coming decade we will be taking on a new and more vital role as community leaders. To take the Asian community to the next level, we will have to participate in the political process. Not only should we register to vote, we need to run for office and work in the government sector. This is an area in which our community has been lagging. On Spring Mountain Road, the Asian influence will continue—beyond Chinatown, beyond our new Korea Town. Some day there will be a Vietnamese Town, a Thai Town and a Japan Town, forming a true business district and a worthy tourist attraction. This will be great for Las Vegas. But at the same time, I encourage Asian-Americans to be not just a part of these “little” communities; we need to live in mainstream America. This country has given Asian immigrants a comfortable life, and we need to share our blessings with the rest of the community. We need to do our best to learn English, enabling us to take of advantage of the many opportunities ahead. And most of all, especially in Las Vegas, which will continue to be our land of opportunity, we need to help plan the future.

Spinning the Future

B arnes : S ab i n O R R

A novelist offers insight to the 2020 mayoral race. By H. Lee Barnes Grace opened her top drawer, took out an antacid, unscrewed the cap on her water bottle and washed the pill down. She stood and walked to the window. Five stories up, she could see much of the Strip to the north and the unfinished developments to the southwest. Even though the recession had officially ended in 2016, a 15-story condo project sat across the road in the same skeletal form it was in when she came to work for G&G Advertising seven years ago. She took another sip of water, capped the bottle and returned to her desk. She had her own immediate concerns. She sat down at her computer, scrolled through the favorites menu to Summerlin sales figures and clicked. The repossessed houses on her block—seven, down from nine—were vacant and much of the neighborhood was in shambles. There it was: $208,000. Sunk another 12 grand. One-third of the home’s original value. So upside-down that the furniture wouldn’t “You’re the one, baby. You can do fall off the ceiling. it. Look what you pulled off with the She looked at the pile of paperwork on competition between Trump and Wynn. Two her desk. Sometimes she imagined that the septuagenarians parachuting off their hotel memos bred in dark corners after the office roofs. What a howler!” closed. She picked the file Norman had Grace looked on her wall handed her and thumbed at the picture of Steve Wynn through it. Sweet Jesus, she thought. Michael Galardi. “Norman, he gives dressed like Evel Knievel. He’d made the jump, but Impossible. me the creeps. had to be catapulted off the She looked through the Imagine how top of Encore. Trump, on the potential publicity photos, voters will react.” other hand, went down with set them aside and speedhis chute hooked to a cable. dialed Norman’s phone. Still, it was a magnificent PR It rang four times stunt, both of them claiming to be the one who before he answered. “Grace, baby, I was about rescued Las Vegas from falling further into the to call you.” Great Eight-Year Recession that nearly wiped “I beat you to it. Look, I’ve been going out the Strip. over the Galardi file and . . . You know what “Norman, he gives me the creeps. Imagine we’re up against.” how voters will react.” “A strip-club mogul who bribed politicians “Hey, baby. This is the city of second acts. and did time in federal prison. So what’s the Besides, we got the contract.” problem?” “I thought Los Angeles was the city of She leaned back in her chair and stared second acts.” out at the unfinished condo, its windows as “Never mind that. Guy’s still loaded. Look empty as the eyes of a spurned lover. at it this way: Half of Vegas is Californians “The problem is he wants to be mayor, who moved here. They buy any image, right? and you expect me to rehabilitate his image.”

Push ’im like he’s a middle-aged surfer. We’re image people and you’re the image queen.” “Fine, I’ll study the file. Maybe he donated to Toys for Tots or cancer research.” “Give it some spin, like he helped clean up the county commission. Make him the hero and the victim.” “Yeah. OK, OK. I’ll set up an event and find some glowing endorsements. I’ll get him on Facebook. Bye.” She picked up her cell phone and thumbed the speed dial. As the connection buzzed, she thought of the dual love affair she’d had—Kenny and Las Vegas. Weekends up from L.A. Clubs, blackjack, gourmet dinners. He’d insisted that the future was here. They moved. Then construction flopped. No work. He’d lived off of anger, booze and her money until she insisted he leave. Then she went broke. Tried to get back into cocktails. But she wasn’t 23. Food and beverage managers said they had no openings. Their eyes said too old. Tony answered. “Hello, Tonio here. What’s up?” “It’s Grace. I know it’s short notice, but I need a favor.” (continued on Page 78)

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The Decade Do you remember when Las Vegas’ growth was so outrageous that even those of us who witnessed it couldn’t believe the numbers? What city hires 1,300 teachers and builds 13 schools in one year? Our school district had to hire people just to hire people. Now, with the boom a distant rumble, our once-staggering stats are shriveling beyond recognition. Look no farther than the Strip. After resorts spent $30 billion on expansions in the first decade of the century, the next 10 years may feature more new museums than hotel projects. Welcome to the “teens”—our decade of reality. At first it will feature pacing economists, scared consumers and the smell of mothballs, but the eventual payoff will be growth in new areas for Las Vegas, such as mass transit, renewable energy and normalcy. So it won’t be all bad. Just very different. Here’s a year-by-year sampling.* * Note: All project completion dates are estimates and—given the economic mess—subject to drastic change.


The decade begins with all eyes on the Strip’s billiondollar babies. If CityCenter has opened with bang (or at least an audible pop), perhaps somebody will be motivated to adopt the orphaned Fontainebleau project—the tallest building on Las Vegas Boulevard—and finish it. If those two events transpire without too much trauma, and the Cosmopolitan, under the parental guidance of Deutsche Bank, does open in September, Las Vegas should be good in the one category we can afford: free publicity. Occupancy … well, now that’s another matter. It looks to be another down year at the airport, and we’ll continue to wait for jobless numbers and gaming revenues to hit bottom. The worst may finally be over for the housing meltdown, with the median home value wearily settling near $100,0001—a 68 percent plunge from the Valley’s market peak just four years earlier. The bottom of the commercial real estate market may not be far behind, as defaults finally start leveling off.2 40  D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0

With all due respect to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who envisioned 13 large-scale commercial solar plants under construction in the West by year-end (along with 50,000 jobs), our best short-term bet for economic diversity is the World Market Center. Maybe it will fall a bit short of its goal to become the hub of the worldwide furniture industry by 2015, but WMC is one visitorbased business with forward progress. In addition to its two annual markets, this year it adds three new shows: InspiredDesign (for the hospitality industry), Gift + Home (decorative and seasonal industries) and Vegas Kids (youth furniture, apparel and toys). On an even healthier note, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health fully opens, followed by the debut of the Nevada Cancer Institute’s much-needed clinic at University Medical Center. As a bonus, by year-end NVCI announces plans to build a cancer specialty hospital.3 More good news: We don’t have to pay to drive on the 95, thanks to the ’09 Legislature’s rejection of the tollbooth idea. In fact, it’s a decent year to get places cheaply and efficiently with the ACE Gold Line linking Downtown and the Strip. Then the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opens (after a decade of construction) over the Colorado River in the summer, just in time for the 75th birthday of Hoover Dam (which was built in five years). In sports, the Las Vegas 51s unveil a new name (could it be the Stars again?). And speaking of odd numbers, the city stands to benefit from tourists who bet 10/10/10 is a lucky date. (If all goes well, perhaps they’ll be back for 11/11/11 and 12/12/12.)


A time line for the ‘teen’ YEARS rolls out our best-laid plans (or what’s left of them). By Phil Hagen


You better like history reruns, because the city of Las Vegas celebrates its centennial again, in March (this time it’s the anniversary of our incorporation; the one in 2005 had to do with the original land auction). Two months later, Mayor Oscar Goodman is termed out of office. Too bad he won’t be able to take in the view from the new City Hall, which might be completed later in the year. The mayor does, however, get to christen his cultural legacy: the Mob Museum. And assuming he was not elected governor last November, he can spend his leisurely retirement at the new Neon Museum on Las Vegas Boulevard or the Nevada State Museum, which moves into its new, ecofriendly building at the Springs Preserve. Some economists had predicted that the economic recovery would begin about now, but don’t expect miracles. Our city of more than 142,000 hotel rooms adds only 225 this year, thanks to the new Aloft Las Vegas (at Paradise and Flamingo). Remember when times were good and we could add 225 rooms in our sleep? Mass transit gets a boost from the ACE Green Line, which runs from Downtown to Henderson via Boulder Highway. If you prefer a more scenic route, the county’s 10mile Flamingo Arroyo Trail fully opens with the completion of artist-designed bridges over Boulder Highway and Desert Inn Road. Mesquite, meantime, takes a step toward becoming “America’s Sports and Outdoor Recreation Destination” with the opening of the Desert Falls International Sports Resort, a tournament, training, practice and championship facility designed to accommodate a variety of athletic interests.


Think the recession has become a real drag? The Mayan calendar predicts the apocalypse will happen this year. And we were so close to opening a world-class performing arts center! But let’s assume the ancient sages misinterpreted their data (perhaps they merely foresaw the 2012 expiration of Donny & Marie’s contract at the Flamingo) and The Smith Center for the Performing Arts does open, along with neighboring Symphony Park, which has been renamed by now because it is in Symphony Park, the 61-acre development. The grand performance hall will achieve LEED certification, and that will be no surprise as Las Vegas is well into the “green” era. A special power line running north to Ely should be up, allowing for our first leg of renewable energy transmission. Thanks in part to a federal grant, “smart grid” infrastructure is in place, too. (Consumer warning: NV Energy also needs to come up with $160 million of its own money for the project.)

Since we’re on a roll, having cheated mass extinction, let’s say the monorail finally reaches the airport, doubling the length of the fourmile system. More certain is the midyear opening of Terminal 3, a 14-gate facility. This means McCarran International Airport is officially built-out, with a capacity of 53 million passengers per year. Because at decade’s turn the head count was down to 44 million, the much-discussed Ivanpah auxiliary airport probably won’t get off the drawing board till 2020 or later. A fresh boost to our tourism comes from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, which has relocated its annual meeting here from Chicago, where it brought in $55 million.


Apparently the recession still isn’t over. “Hundreds of thousands” of Nevadans require public assistance, with “nearly one in five” on food stamps by summer.4 On the side of human progress, the Nevada Public Education Foundation’s Ready for Life initiative intends to raise high school graduation rates 10 percent by this year.5

J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n   41

to do with people dying of thirst than our metropolis’ growth approaching the national average. That’s right. We’re normalizing, maybe even maturing. And like a grown-up 151-year-old state should, Nevada requires that 20 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources (and not less than 6 percent of that energy must be solar-powered).


At Symphony Park, residences begin opening and will continue to do so through 2021. The new urbanites will appreciate the value of Intake No. 3 at Lake Mead, installed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to ensure that Las Vegas has water when lake levels fall low enough to put Intake No. 1 out of service. Meantime, to generate electricity at its Renewable Resources Campus, the city of Henderson begins harnessing the power of reclaimed water that runs downhill through pipes. But the $20 million facility’s main renewable-energy feature is solar power, enough to produce four megawatts. Las Vegas expects the return of the U.S. Bowling Congress Open Championship, which was a hit here in 2009, having brought in 213,000 visitors and $120 million.6 And Greg Maddux, who had an amazing 23-year roll in the majors, becomes the first Las Vegan to be enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame.


Is this the year Vegas bounces back? It’s the earliest that McCarran International Airport will start getting back up to speed, an aviation expert says,7 and yet the total enplanements will still fall short of the total six years ago. Maybe the brand-new DesertXpress will pick up the tourism slack. The $4 billion train, hitting speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, will get visitors from Victorville, California, to Las Vegas in 80 minutes.

Here’s some needed economic confidence: The Nevada Workforce Informer8 expects there to be 41 percent more construction workers than 10 years ago. They’ll be building houses for all the new hospitality industry workers, whose numbers are up 42 percent. If you like birthdays, Nevada has a big one on October 31: It’s the date the state joined the union 150 years ago. You’ll be able to celebrate the sesquicentennial with dinner at super-chef Charlie Palmer’s new boutique hotel downtown. (Roasted mountain bluebird, anyone?) Not to spoil the party, but researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography give Vegas a 1-in-10 chance of running out of water by now.9


Given that last projection, maybe a blogger named Miles10 was right: “By 2015 the city itself will have been reclaimed by the desert.” Coincidently, this is the year Carrot Top’s time expires at Luxor. Undaunted, the Southern Nevada Water Authority begins importing 134,000 acre-feet per year of groundwater from White Pine County. And our growth rate—2.6 percent, down from 3.4 in 2009—continues to decline, but the county demographer says it has less

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Let’s hope the Legislature is mature enough to replenish the Millennium Scholarship fund, which is expected to run dry this year. Perhaps some of our next generation’s graduates will be agriculture majors: It was suggested during an architecture workshop on “a post-peak oil Las Vegas”11 that, by now, strip malls could be converted “into open spaces for agriculture for biofueling.” Too bad Los Angeles didn’t get to host the 2016 Olympic Games, because in its proposal the city indicated that Las Vegas’ 200,000 hotel rooms would come in handy. It would have been interesting to see where those rooms would have come from (there were 141,000 rooms as of mid-2009) and how many Olympic-goers would have commuted by high-speed train.

Probably not too many if the train only made it to Victorville. But what about the $12 billion maglev? If it beats out the DesertXpress, it will take passengers from Anaheim to Las Vegas in just 87 minutes.


Don’t expect another big sesquicentennial bash, but it is worth noting that the land we now call Clark County left the Arizona Territory to become part of Nevada 150 years ago. A more significant anniversary is that it’s been 10 years since the quagga mussel was discovered in Lake Mead. Just think: The invasive species costs the Great Lakes millions of dollars each year, and in our warmer waters, quagga lay eggs about three times as frequently.12

If the World Series of Poker’s popularity expands at its turn-of-the-decade pace, ESPN will no doubt renew its contract to televise the event beyond this year’s tournament. Meantime, Boulder City—where residents pay half the rate of Las Vegans due to its deal with federal hydropower plants—must work out a new contract with Hoover Power. If Yucca Mountain is still alive, it could accept nuclear waste this year. But that seems unlikely since the grand opening has been pushed back repeatedly for 20 years. Speaking of Nevada traditions, our collection of prisoners has grown 61 percent in 10 years.13


The prison population could be reduced by one if O.J. Simpson gets paroled. But as O.J. knows, not everything goes as planned. In 2005, some experts thought Clark County’s

student population would nearly double in size by now, to 528,000,14 but the audacious projections ceased at the end of the last decade, when enrollment actually declined for the first time in more than 25 years.15 Other milestones that are not happening this year, thanks to losing bids: Reno won’t host the Winter Olympics, and Las Vegas will not host the World Cup. On the economic upside, the 47-story Forest City Hotel opens its doors in Symphony Park, giving downtown its first new casino in nearly 40 years. Joining it is an interesting attempt at diversification: the World Jewelry Center.


Unless you care about the special 50-year-old liquor license expiring at the Palomino—the only gentleman’s club to allow full alcohol service and all-nude women—it’s a very quiet year. Perhaps we’re all saving it up for 2020.


Our population growth rate continues its march to maturity, dropping to 1.8 percent (down from 8 percent 20 years ago) and heading for the national average (1 percent). Still, that’s 2.7 million Las Vegans, and what a collection of people we are. For starters, more than half of us are minorities, with 32 percent of the population Hispanic. About 200,000 of us could call ourselves Summerlinites, as that community’s number of villages doubles to 30.

Assuming Nevada hits its renewable energy target of 30 percent, about 10,000 of us work in the solar-energy industry.16 And if the annual visitor count does indeed get to 60 million per year, there’s a chance the Ivanpah Airport will be hiring. Where will most of those fresh tourists come from? Perhaps China, given one of its outrageous growth goals for the decade ahead: building 100 new airports.17 DC

Endnotes 1. Moody’s, as reported by InBusiness Las Vegas on November 6. 2. John Restrepo’s Economic Insight newsletter.

Henderson four times throughout the school year, where they are exposed to college life and its possibilities.”

11. A workshop about life with a dwindling resource, held at UNLV last January. 12. The Las Vegas Water District estimates that it costs about $1 million per year to chemically treat the two current intakes for the quaggas, and they will need to treat the new intake as well.

3. It will likely be a joint venture with another organization in town, according to NVCI.

6. Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson, as reported in the Las Vegas Sun, November 9.

4. Projections by the state Health and Human Services Department, reported in the September 27 Las Vegas Sun.

7. Mike Boyd, president of Colorado-based Boyd Group International.

5. As described in the August 29 Las Vegas Sun: “Project Crossroads attempts to get students excited about their education by bringing them to Nevada State’s campus in

9. And a 50 percent chance by 2021 (if no significant cutbacks in water usage are made).

13. The prison population is projected to grow 13,186 to 22,141, according to a report released by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.


14. Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2005.

8., mid 2008.

15. According to the Clark County School District, the student population decreased from 311,240 in 2008-09 to 309,480 in 200910. The last decrease was in 1983, and before that was during World War II. 16. Based on analysis from the Vote Solar Initiative. 17. According to

J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n   43

LookIng East In 15 years Chinatown Plaza has evolved from a strip mall to a legitimate Chinatown, a place within a city where the Asian community gathers, concentrates its commerce and showcases its cultures. And the twomile stretch of Spring Mountain Road recently had another growth spurt, with the new Korea Town extending the district a mile, to Rainbow Boulevard. Someday, as James Yu speculates on Page 38, other “towns” will either fill in or further expand it. For now, Chinatown is a sprawling collection of strip malls, each a unique cluster of delightful (and delightfully inexpensive) bakeries, markets, restaurants and tea shops, plus the gamut of trades, from acupuncturist to Realtor. Mix in some amusingly anomalous businesses (the Quartermaster shop, Ron’s Donuts) and a few cultural hybrid concepts (the Little Macau Ultra Tavern Nightclub) and you have the type of setting that gets a photographer’s attention. But what truly inspired Aaron Mayes beyond the obvious colors and contrasts is the dynamic daily vibrancy of this town. There may be generation gaps and ethnic differences amid the populace, but, as Mayes concludes, “In Chinatown the attitude is, it’s all Asian culture, and it’s all good.” Photography by Aaron Mayes

44  D e s e r t C o mpa n i o n

46â&#x20AC;&#x192; D e s e r t C o mpa n i o n J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0

Food is a big part of the Chinatown experience. Everyone knows about the tasty variety of Far East restaurants, such as the Hong Kong-style Sam Woo’s Barbecue in Chinatown Plaza (opposite, below), but the markets are pretty fresh, too, as SF Supermarket regular Rattiya Huff (opposite, left) can attest. Social life along Spring Mountain Road ranges from out-of-town friends Dennis Hou of Los Angeles and Allen Liu of New York getting together for laid-back conversation (left) to the high-energy karaoke scene, starring Vietnamese singer Hong Lién at the Kim Long Restaurant and Lounge (below).

J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 D e s e r t C o mpa n i o n   47

Business as usual in Chinatown: Baoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;tique shopkeeper Alex Leong brings 5-year-old son Benjamin to his jewelry stand every workday (above left), while his wife, Mayabelle Zhang (not pictured), runs Fortune Decor down the mall at Chinatown Plaza. Another 5-year-old, Aaron Luyen, leads a family crab-finding mission at the LV Supermarket (opposite). Teenage friends Aravee Kruaboonraj and Nualphan Pinich talk outside the Volcano Tea House (above).

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A spectrum of faces in the Chinatown crowd (opposite: clockwise from top left): Leonardo Vinluan, a shopper at SF Supermarket; Meggy Chen, a waitress at Chinatown Express; Tommy Lau, a lunch customer; and Amy Zhang, the shopkeeper at Silky Smooth Lingerie. At night, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a whole new set of Chinatown activities, such as Sing Sing Sign Company employee Ice Kong working amid the neon glow of the next-door massage parlor (above).

J A N U A R Y - F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 D e s e r t C o mpa n i o n â&#x20AC;&#x192; 51

Chinatown has a dynamic sense of style. Queens Berry, a yogurt and coffee shop (opposite, left), has hip appeal, as teens Richie Liu, Jonathan Kim and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Mariaâ&#x20AC;? will attest. Hairstylist Sophia Tran gives a Eddie Yan a cutting-edge look (opposite, below). And Susan Wee does her own thing at La Mode, a clothing and accessory store (left). The more traditional visuals still come out for special occasions, such as the Chinese Culture Tour at the Chinatown Plaza, where Clark County students gain insights to the Eastern way of life, from using an abacus to appreciating the ancient dragon ceremony (below).

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Calendar January-February 2010 Teetering on the Brink

The Moscow Ballet

From Vegas With Love

Art FIRST FRIDAY Feb. 5, 6-10 p.m. The Arts District’s monthly festival features more than 100 artists displaying their works downtown, plus a variety of entertainment. $2. 384-0092, Winchester Cultural Center Gallery Through Feb. 5: Flick of the Wrist, in which Michael Baker imagines the future of video games. Free. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tues.-Fri. and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat. and Sun.

Marie Osmond

as the window through which he views contemporary life. “First Friday” artist receptions 5-7 p.m. Feb. 5 and March 5. Free. Clark County Government Center. Gallery hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. CHARLESTON HEIGHTS GALLERY Through Feb. 11: Undressed, images by Aimee Koch that call attention to how clothing and fashion sway female attitudes and understanding. Free. Gallery hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

The Art of Daniel Pearson Works on a variety of subjects, from love to health care. By appointment or 6-10 p.m. on “First Friday” (Feb. 5). Free. Circadian Galleries, 1551 S. Commerce St., 525-2850.

BELLAGIO GALLERY OF FINE ART Through April 4: 12 + 7: Artists and Architects of CityCenter. $12; $10 for military, teachers and students; children 12 and under are free. 693-7871. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Rotunda Gallery Feb. 1-March 12: Teetering on the Brink, an exhibit in which John Bissonnette uses greeting cards

Trifecta Gallery Jan. 1-29, Partners in “Acme Illustrators” Freda and Zollinger produce work seen in Time, Esquire,

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Playboy and Business Week, National Geographic. Feb. 4-26: New small paintings by Angela Kallus. Free. Inside the Arts Factory, Gallery hours: noon-4 p.m. Wed.-Fri.; noon-2 p.m. Sat.; and noon-10 p.m. on “First Fridays.” Brett Wesley Gallery Through Jan. 28: Feminine Mystique, art and photography by Julian Opie, Marilyn Minter, Frank Horvat and others. Free. Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

Music UNLV Jazz Concert Series Second Wednesday of each month, 7 p.m. This series highlights the best student musicians in UNLV’s Jazz Studies Program. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Ali Spuck—Here I Am Sundays, 2:30 p.m. The Los Angeles Ovation-nominated

Calendar singer and actress offers a journey of music and comedy inspired by her experiences, family and friends. $15. Liberace Museum, 798-5595, Ext. 14, LIBERACE AND ME Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1 p.m. Philip Fortenberry, cast member of Jersey Boys, gives a cabaret-style piano performance. $17.50. Liberace Museum, 798-5595, Nevada Chamber Symphony’s Fanfare for the New Year Jan. 10, 3 p.m. This musical salute to the New Year brings the past to the present as the Nevada Chamber Symphony explores the world of classical music. To reserve a ticket to this free concert, call 507-3459. Clark County Library, Nomad Jan. 15, noon. The Downtown Cultural Series presents a trio consisting of Jonathon Troy, principal clarinetist of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, plus trumpeter Daniel Beck and pianist Voltair Verzosa. Free. Lloyd D. George United States Courthouse, 229-3515, Tribute to Miles Davis Jan. 17, 2 p.m. Walt Blanton (trumpet), Dave Stambaugh (saxophone), Tony Branco (piano and keyboards), Jeff Davis (bass) and John Nasshan (drums) perform works from the jazz legend’s revolutionary acoustic and electric periods. $12; $10 seniors and Jazz and Guitar Society members. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. Meshugginah Klezmorim Jan. 24, 2 p.m. The name of the band means “crazy musicians,” and its members play wild, animated, festive klezmer music, which has been called Jewish jazz. $10; $7 students and seniors. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. From Vegas with Love Jan. 30, 2 p.m. This string quartet—consisting of Lenka Hajkova and Laraine Kaizer-Viazovtsev on violins, Tianna Heppner Harjo on viola, and Zoe Ley on cello—will perform Prokofiev’s Quartet No. 2, Op. 92, Debussy’s Quartet in G minor Op 10, and “Eight Hitchhikers’ Inscriptions From a Highway Railing at Barstow, California” by avant-garde American composer Harry Partch. $12; $10 seniors. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. 58  D e s e r t Com p a n i o n janua r y - f e b r ua r y 2 0 1 0

an irresistable combo A freestanding high-end gallery built from scratch was daring for downtown. Now, just a few months after opening, owner Brett Wesley Sperry is rolling the dice again with wine and chamber music. For him, though, it’s a natural progression—a theory backed by ticket sales to the Brett Wesley Gallery’s new Chamber Music Series. “The combination of great music played along side great art was irresistible,” Sperry says. “We limited seating to 45, and we sold out in two days, which confirmed there are many appreciative fans here. Events like this are part of my larger desire to add cultural choices to the Arts District and expand the art gallery experience even further.” The series takes place at 7 p.m. the third Thursday each month and features classical music paired with contemporary art and fine wine. The current act is the Nekochan String Quartet (pictured). Tickets are $15. RSVP by calling 433-4433.

The Best Sounds of Rodgers and Hammerstein: Broadway in Concert Jan. 30, 8 p.m. Three of Broadway brightest stars perform songs from hit musicals such as South Pacific, The King and I, Carousel, The Sound of Music and Oklahoma! $40-$85. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 895-2787, Nevada Jazz Orchestra Feb. 13, 2 p.m. Barry Ross leads this fiery orchestra, which includes soloists Phil Wigfall, Dave Loeb and Dave Stambaugh. $12; $10 seniors and Jazz and Guitar Society members. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. Brazilian Rhythm Feb. 20, 2 p.m. Cristiani Ripari and her dancers bring the unrestrained rhythms and celebration of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval to Winchester Theater in a World Steps

concert. $10; $7 seniors and students. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. Tony De Augustine Quartet Feb. 27, 2 p.m. The band leader, who is also its drummer and chief composer, has a style reminiscent of Spiro Gyra and the Yellow Jackets. $12; $10 seniors, Jazz and Guitar Society members. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. Bhoutalow Feb. 6, 2 p.m. Led by master kora player Toumany Kouyate, this group performs traditional African songs and original compositions that are accompanied by dancers. $10; $7 for seniors and students. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. Nevada Chamber Symphony’s “For the Love of Music” Feb. 7, 3 p.m. This special children’s concert, which

features the Ronzone Kindergarten Dance Ensemble, introduces young people to the fascinating world of classical music. The Nevada Chamber Symphony uses narratives about composers, illustrations of their music and audience participation. Free, but tickets required. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Romeo & Juliet Feb. 12, 8 p.m. The Henderson Symphony Orchestra explores the sounds of this famous romance, with works by Prokofiev and Berlioz and the premiere of a composition created exclusively for the orchestra by Jorge Grossman and featuring soprano Arsenia Soto. Preshow discussion at 7:15 p.m. Free. Henderson Convention Center, 2672171, USAF Band of the Golden West Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m. The 45 Air Force musicians have performed for millions worldwide via recordings and broadcasts. College of Southern Nevada’s Nicholas Horn Theatre, 6515483, Honor Mariachi Concert Feb. 19, 7 p.m. This musical program features the best students from the Clark County School District’s award-winning mariachi program, which involves more than 2,000 students. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Woody Woods’ Big band Feb. 20, 8 p.m. The City of Las Vegas presents Woody Woods and his 16-piece band. Free. Historic Fifth Street School auditorium, 229-3515, Organ Recital Series Three performances presented by the Southern Nevada Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.: Dr. David C. Pickering of Graceland University in Iowa. April 26, 7:30 p.m.: Heather Hernandez, of the Lutheran Church of the Master in Phoenix. May 16, 4 p.m.: “Organ Plus,” which includes Marcel Dupre’s “Variations on Two Themes,” Op.35 for organ and piano, performed by Dorothy Young Riess and Voltaire Verzosa. All recitals are free. UNLV’s Doc Rando Hall, 431-4061, Brahms Double Concerto with Las Vegas’ Own Feb. 27, 8 p.m. In this

2009-2010 Season

All concerts performed at Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall on the UNLV campus September 12, 2009 / 8pm

Masterworks I

Presenting works from Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven Gioria Schmidt-Violin

November 21, 2009 / 8pm

Masterworks II

Presenting works from Bartok and Gershwin Joel Fan-Piano

February 27, 2010 / 8pm

Masterworks III

Presenting works from Brahms and Franck DeAnn Letourneau-Violin and Andrew Smith-Cello

April 3, 2010 / 8pm

Masterworks IV

Presenting works from Debussy, Chopin and Grieg

Valentina Lisitsa-Piano

May 8, 2010 / 8pm

Masterworks V

“A Night at the Opera (for people who think they hate Opera)” Patricia Johnson-Soprano, Eugenie Gruenwald-Mezzo Soprano, Arnold Rawls-Tenor, Tod Fitzpatrick-Baritone, Las Vegas Master Singers

October 3, 2009 / 8pm

Pops I

A Night at the Movies 20 th Century Jazz meets Classical Interactive Trivia with Audience, Music by John Williams

December 12, 2009, 2pm and 8pm

Pops IIͮA CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION Kick off the holiday season with a special performance that will delight the entire family! Joan Sobel-Soprano, Matt Newman-Tenor, Tod Fitzpatrick-Baritone, Las Vegas Master Singers

March 6, 2010 / 8pm


An Unforgettable Musical Journey with music from “Les Miserables”, “Hello Dolly”, “Evita” and “South Pacific” Mary Ann Robinson-Soprano, Kristi Tingle-Mezzo Soprano, Elly Brown-Mezzo Soprano, Bruce Ewing-Tenor and Kevin Sherrell, Baritone For further information visit our website at or call the Las Vegas Philharmonic office at (702) 258-5438 To purchase tickets, please call the box office at 895-ARTS (2787)

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Calendar masterworks concert, the Las Vegas Philharmonic performs Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello and Franck’s Symphony in D minor, with solos by Philharmonic concertmaster DeAnn Letourneau and principal cellist Andrew Smith. The pre-concert lecture begins at 7:15 p.m. $35-$75. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 895-2787,

An untitled new work by R.C. Wonderly III.

The Band of the Irish Guards with the Pipes, Drums and Dancers of the Royal Regiment of Scotland Feb. 28, 4 p.m. Formed more than 100 years ago, the band tours worldwide, but its main duty is to play for the Mounting of the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace and for ceremonial occasions. $35-$80. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 895-2787, Tommy Sands March 6, 2 p.m. The Irish singer, guitarist and peace activist has performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Moscow’s Olympic Stadium. $10; $7 for seniors and students. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340.

Theater Don’t Dress for Dinner Jan. 9-25, 8 p.m. (Thu.-Sat.) and 2 p.m. (Sun.). Las Vegas Little Theatre performs a play by Marc Camoletti. $22; $19 for students and seniors. Las Vegas Little Theatre, Antigone Jan. 28-30 and Feb. 4-6, 7 p.m. Las Vegas Academy drama students perform this modernized retelling of a Sophocles classic about a family’s struggle for survival, with teens rebelling against authority, parental figures battling to find a balance between logic and emotion, families in crisis, selfish pride bringing about the downfall of all involved. $10. LVA’s Theatre Black Box, 10th Street and Lewis Avenue, All My Sons Jan. 29-Feb. 7, 8 p.m. (Thu.-Sat.) and 2 p.m. (Sun.). Nevada Conservatory Theatre performs Arthur Miller’s play about Joe Keller and Herbert Deever, who ran a machine shop that made airplane parts during World War II. Deever was sent to prison because those parts were defective, causing the deaths of many men. Keller went free and made a lot of money. UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre, 895-2787, The Taming of the Shrew Feb. 5, 60  D e s e r t Com p a n i o n janua r y - f e b r ua r y 2 0 1 0

Reduced to something Local sculptors and painters R.C. Wonderly and Daniel Habegger present a two-man show at two different venues. For the exhibit, which deals with scarcity and minimalism, the artists chose humble materials, humble colors and humble appearances to reduce objects to their basic elements. Part One of the show begins February 23 (with an artists reception at 5:30 p.m. February 26) at Winchester Gallery and runs until April 9. Part Two runs March 22 through May 7 (with receptions April 2 and May 7) at the Government Center Rotunda Gallery. Admission is free at both sites.

8 p.m., and Feb. 6, 2 p.m. The Utah Shakespearean Festival Touring Company presents one of the Bard’s most popular plays, filled with lively, colorful characters who engage in a battle of the sexes and a feverish battle of wills. $12; $10 for students and seniors. College of Southern Nevada’s Nicholas Horn Theatre, 651-5483, Two One-Man Plays Feb. 5, 7 p.m. Why I Catch the Night Train and My Father My Son are one-man plays

written by Rick Davenport and starring Lanyard A. Williams and Alexander Mervin. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Unsung Characters of Nevada’s Past Feb. 5, 6 and 11-13, 7 p.m.; Feb. 7, 13 and 14, 2 p.m. The Rainbow Company Youth Theatre continues its “Nevada Series” with a new production featuring colorful characters and original music. $7; $5 seniors and teens; $3 for children. Reed Whipple Cultural

Center, Studio Theatre, 229-6211, BUG Feb. 12-21, 8 p.m. (Thu.-Sat.) and 2 p.m. (Sun.). The Las Vegas Little Theatre performs a play by Tracy Letts. $12; $11 for students and seniors. Las Vegas Little Theatre, When You Cominâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Back, Red Ryder? Feb. 19-28, 7:30 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.); 2 p.m. (Sun.). The College of Southern Nevada performs the classic play about a little New Mexico diner that goes from boring to torturous when the employees and an upscale couple become helpless victims of a deranged Vietnam War veteran and his hippie girlfriend. $12; $10 for students and seniors. BackStage Theatre, 651-5483, The Shadow Box Feb. 19-March 7, 8 p.m. (Thu.-Sat.) and 2 p.m. (Sun.). A Las Vegas Little Theatre production. $22; $19 for students and seniors. Las Vegas Little Theatre, The Little Dog Laughed Feb. 26-

March 7, 8 p.m. (Thu.-Sat.) and 2 p.m. (Sun.). Nevada Conservatory Theatre performs a play about Mitchell Green, who might hit it big in Hollywood if his agent can keep him in the â&#x20AC;&#x153;closet.â&#x20AC;? She does all she can to keep Mitchell away from the boy whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s caught his eyeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and the boyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s girlfriend. Judy Bayley Theatre, 895-2787,

Film NOTBAD Film Series Tuesdays at 7 p.m. The series focuses on foreign and independent films. Januaryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s theme is â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Film Movement Collection,â&#x20AC;? featuring Munyurangabo (Jan. 5), The Drummer (Jan. 12), Somers Town (Jan. 19) and Gigante (Jan. 16). Februaryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s theme is â&#x20AC;&#x153;Blood Ties,â&#x20AC;? featuring Wonderland (Feb. 2), Rabbit-Proof Fence (Feb. 9), Ushpizin (Feb. 16) and Volver (Feb. 23). Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival Jan. 14-31. The ninth annual event, presented by the Jewish Family Service Agency, takes place at venues across the Valley.

Information about screenings, ticket prices and locations can be obtained by visiting or by calling 732-0304.

Dance 48-Hour Dance Competition Jan. 10, 6:30 p.m. In this county-wide event, dancers have 48 hours to create choreography for the climactic Sunday performance in Winchester Theater. $5. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. Moscow Festival Ballet performs CoppĂŠlia Feb. 4, 8 p.m. Legendary Bolshoi principal Sergei Radchenko founded this company of dancers from the Bolshoi and Kirov ballets. They perform the classic comic ballet about a life-size dancing doll invented by the mysterious Dr. CoppĂŠlius. $35-$80. UNLVâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 895-2787, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo Feb. 6, 8 p.m. The worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s foremost all-male comic ballet company returns to Las Vegas. $40-$85. UNLVâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 895-2787,




janua r y - f e b r ua r y 2 0 1 0 â&#x20AC;&#x201A; D e s e r T Com p a n i o n â&#x20AC;&#x192; 61

Calendar Lectures, Readings and Panels A Reading by Luljeta Lleshanaku Jan. 21, 7 p.m. The Black Mountain Institute presents the award-winning Albanian poet and former BMI fellow, who will read from her new collection, Child of Nature. Free. UNLV Barrick Museum, The Future of American Conservatism Feb. 10, 7 p.m. In this panel presented by the Black Mountain Institute, Richard Brookhiser of the National Review, Sam Tanenhaus of The New York Times Book Review and David Frum, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush, discuss what it means to be a conservative in America. Free. UNLV Student Union Theatre, Winning the Heart of a Reluctant Dog: Steven Winn Feb. 27, 11 a.m. Award-winning journalist and fiction writer Steven Winn discusses and reads from his memoir, Come Back, Como. A book signing will follow the talk. Free. Rainbow Library, 507-3459, Master Cheat: How Joe the Gambler Scams the Big Casinos Feb. 24, 6:30 p.m. Jack Miller, a former enforcement agent for the Nevada Gaming Control Board and special investigator for the Clark County D.A.’s office, has used eyewitness accounts from his most memorable criminal cases in his third novel, Master Cheat. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Local Authors Book Fair Feb. 27, 1 p.m. Meet and greet more than 30 of our city’s talented authors representing dozens of literary genres, writers groups and book clubs at our local authors book fair. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, An Evening with Goodfellas: Las Vegas and the Mob Jan. 28, 7 p.m. Mobster and FBI informant Henry Hill, immortalized in the movie Goodfellas, discusses his experiences. Other guests include authors Dennis Griffin (The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. The Mob), Vito Colucci (Inside The Private Eyes of a PI) and mob-movie technician Tim Redsull. A special screening of the film takes place at 2 p.m. that day, and a book signing and reception will follow the presentation. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459. 62  D e s e r t Com p a n i o n janua r y - f e b r ua r y 2 0 1 0

VENUE GUIDE THE ARTS FACTORY 101-107 E. Charleston Blvd., 676-1111, Boulder City Art Guild Gallery Boulder Dam Hotel, 1305 Arizona St., 293-2138, Brett Wesley Gallery 1112 Casino Center Blvd., 4334433, Bridge Gallery City Hall, second floor, 400 Stewart Ave., 229-1012, CHARLESTON HEIGHTS ARTS CENTER 800 S. Brush St., 229-6383. Clark County Library 1401 E. Flamingo Rd., 507-3400. Clark County Government Center 500 Grand Central Pkwy., 455-8239. Clark County Museum 1830 S. Boulder Hwy., Henderson, 455-7955, College of southern nevada (Performing Arts Center, BackStage Theatre, Fine Arts

Gallery and Nicholas Horn Theatre), 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave., North Las Vegas, 651-5483,

Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse 333 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 229-3515.

Contemporary Arts CENTER 107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 120, 382-3886,

Reed Whipple Cultural Center 821 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 229-6211.


Springs Preserve 333 S. Valley View Blvd. (near U.S. 95 and Alta Drive), 8227700,

GREEN VALLEY LIBRARY 2797 N. Green Valley Pkwy., 507-3790, Henderson Convention Center and Events Plaza Amphitheatre 200 S. Water St., 267-4055. Henderson Multigenerational Center 250 S. Green Valley Pkwy., 267-4055 or 267-5800. Las Vegas little theatre 3920 Schiff Dr., 362-7996, Las Vegas Natural History Museum 900 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 384-3466, Lied Discovery Children’s Museum 833 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 382-3445.

Career Builders: Finding and Landing Your Dream Job Jan. 27, 6:30 p.m. This panel of authors and human resources professionals includes Scott Linklater (How to Land a Job in Las Vegas—Don’t Gamble With Your Career), Robin Jay (The Art of the Business Lunch) and human resources consultant Mark Spiroff of Free. Clark County Library, 507.3459,

Ethnic Events A Scottish Céilidh Jan. 30, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. January is Nevada Scottish Heritage Month, and this celebration features an afternoon of dance by the Las Vegas Highland Dancers, music by the Desert Skye Pipes and Drums, and Laura Jumper playing the fiddle. Enjoy a return dance performance by Kimberlee Couper, the 2001 World Junior Champion. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Chinese New Year and Food Festival Feb. 21, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The annual tradition celebrates the Year of the Tiger with an Asian food festival and a variety

Summerlin Library and performing Arts Center 1771 Inner Circle Dr., 507-3860, UNLV (Artemus Ham Concert Hall, Black Box Theatre, Beam Music Center, Doc Rando Hall, Donna Beam Gallery, Barrick Museum, Fine Art Gallery, Judy Bayley Theatre, White Hall) 4505 S. Maryland Pkwy., 895-2787, West Charleston Library 6301 W. Charleston Blvd., 507-3964, Winchester Cultural Center 3130 S. McLeod Dr., 455-7340, Theater_and_Gallery.htm.

of performances. Free. Chinatown Plaza.

Fundraisers The Black & White Ball HONORS MARIA OSMOND Jan. 23, 6:30 p.m. The annual fundraiser for Nevada Ballet Theatre features a black-tie evening of cocktails, dinner and entertainment. This year’s special honoree is Marie Osmond. Paris hotel-casino’s Champagne Ballroom, 243-2623, Vegas PBS Wine & Beer Tasting Feb. 13, 3-7 p.m. Enjoy the products of 65 wineries and breweries, a wine auction and a jazz combo at this benefit for public televsion. Las Vegas Hilton, 799-1010, Ext 5352, Power of Love Gala Feb. 27, 7 p.m. The 14th annual Keep Memory Alive event, featuring dinner by renowned chefs, benefits the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Bellagio Casino Resort, 263-9797,

In 2009, Las Vegas welcomed approximately 36 million visitors for a total economic impact of over $25 billion. Tourism provides our community with thousands of jobs and millions of dollars that help fund schools, roads and parks. What happens here really does stay here, and the beneďŹ ts extend well beyond our fabulous resorts. Everyone wins. Tourism. It works for Southern Nevada.

Sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority â&#x20AC;˘


story by Max jacobson

P h o t o g r a p h y BY C H R I S T O P H E R S M I T H

Chef Luciano Pellegrini and one of his favorite winter dishes: swordfish and eggplant bracioline.

Photo caption goes here

Delicious Simplicity

Valentino’s award-winning chef shares a favorite fish dish that’s so easy even a food writer can make it. “Put that chef ’s jacket on,” Luciano Pellegrini tells me, “so you actually look as if you know what you’re doing.” I am in his kitchen at Valentino to learn to prepare swordfish and eggplant bracioline (stuffed swordfish rolls), which he serves on top of a chunky roasted tomato sauce. The James Beard Award-winning chef chose this dish because it is simple, elegant and delicious. It’s hearty winter fare that goes down easy. To say that Pellegrini considers me a cooking upstart would be an understatement. After I don the jacket, I am instructed to put on rubber gloves. “No touching the ingredients,” he admonishes. “And no double-dipping with your tasting spoon.” 64  D e s ert C o mp a n i o n J A N U ARY - F E BR U ARY 2 0 1 0

My first task, after closely watching him demonstrate, is to put four pieces of swordfish inside a plastic bag and pound them with the flat of a chef ’s knife. “Do it this way and the fish flattens more uniformly,” he says, whacking the widest part of the blade with an open hand. It is one of many little tricks I pick up during what amounted to an hourlong cooking class—that’s all the time it takes to prepare this dish. I first met “Looch”—as everyone calls this easygoing Italian—when he was a fresh-faced 19-year-old who had just stepped off a plane from Milan. At the time, the only thing he knew how to say in English was “Good afternoon.” He’d come to Los Angeles to work with the legendary Piero Selvaggio at the original Valentino in Santa Monica, California. The chef adapted quickly, honing his craft and practicing his English. Today, 24 years later, he is part owner of Valentino Las Vegas at the Venetian and one of the best chefs in America. The first thing I notice about his extraordinary skill is how he uses a knife. After pounding the swordfish, I


Samosa Factory


Khoury’s Mediterranean

You’re invited to embark on a culinary excursion that will excite your taste buds with authentic northern Indian cuisine. Samosa Factory, located at Sahara and Decatur, offers a unique and modern rendition of the traditional Indian restaurant.

Rosemary’s combines great food, drink and service with uncommon value and dining diversity. The Jordans draw from a variety of culinary influences to create a unique American cuisine with regional twists from New Orleans, the Deep South and the Midwest.

4604 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV (702) 258-9196

8125 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV (702) 869-2251

Khoury’s prides itself on excellence in the preparation of food, presentation and quality of service. Serving some of the finest Lebanese cuisine available in Las Vegas, Khoury’s restaurant will stimulate and delight your senses. Close your eyes as you savour this fantastic food and drink, and you’ll feel you’ve stepped into the heart of Beirut. 6115 S. Fort Apache #100, Las Vegas, NV (702) 671-0005


Porchlight Grille

Café Deia

Brio Tuscan Grille

Rave reviews from the day they opened. The best in steaks, burgers, pastas, salads and killer appetizers. Comfort food in an upscale setting and some original artwork or enjoy the bar with its 10 HD plasmas and 10’ HD projection screen

Café Deia is a magical place with a warm atmosphere and a relaxing international feel. Offering an eclectic menu for lunch and dinner with contemporary tapas and paellas, as well as affordable entrees and wines. Authentic recipes from Spain, France and Italy join classic pizzas, steak frites and American favorites.

In Tuscany the food is everything. Tuscan Culinary Creations are mastered at Brio using the finest and freshest ingredients. Brio brings the pleasures of the Tuscan country villa to the American City.

8416 W Desert Inn Road, Las Vegas, NV (702) 562-3991

4165 S. Grand Canyon Dr, Las Vegas, NV (702) 222-3342

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


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66â&#x20AC;&#x192; D e s ert C o mp a n i o n

the ingredients begin to caramelize (about 10 to 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Pour into a blender and combine for 1 minute. Add the remaining olive oil and blend until the sauce is the desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Swordfish and Eggplant Bracioline With roasted tomato sauce Serves 4 TOMATO SAUCE ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided 2 medium tomatoes, stemmed and quartered 1 shallot, chopped 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon chopped olives (any kind) 1 teaspoon capers Salt and pepper, to taste BRACIOLINE Ÿ cup olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzling 1 eggplant, cut into 12 slices, each about 1/8inch thick and 4 inches

in diameter 1 pound of swordfish, cut into 12 slices about the same thickness and diameter 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic Salt and pepper 12 basil leaves FOR THE SAUCE Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large ovenproof sauce pan, pour in half the olive oil and add the tomatoes, shallot, garlic, olives and capers. Place in the oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until

watch him slice uniform rounds from an eggplant, then four perfect mezzaluna (half-moon shapes) from the fish. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t replicate these quick, precise movements in a hundred tries. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Obviously, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s better if you have a slicer at home,â&#x20AC;? Pellegrini says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;But if you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, then donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t try too hard to make them all uniform. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s OK if someone has a thicker slice.â&#x20AC;? Pellegrini lightly sautĂŠes the eggplant slices in olive oil just long enough to let them soften and absorb some of the liquid. He then places each slice on top of a fish slice, adding a sprig of

FOR THE BRACIOLINE Add half of the olive oil to a large ovenproof skillet and fry the eggplant over medium-high heat (you may need to do this in batches). Remove from the heat when both sides of the eggplant are lightly browned. Season the swordfish with the garlic, salt and pepper. Put a slice of eggplant and a basil leaf on top of each slice of swordfish. Roll up each slice and secure with a toothpick. Heat the remaining olive oil in the same skillet. When itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hot, add the swordfish rolls and brown on all sides until lightly colored. Finish in the oven (450 degrees) for about 5 minutes. TO SERVE Spoon some sauce onto the middle of each plate. Place three rolls on top of the sauce and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

sweet basil and a kiss of sea salt. He leaves it to me to roll them up. As I do, I notice how the eggplant inside keeps everything together. Meantime, the chef tends to his sauce, a blend of olive oil, blackened tomatoes, capers, garlic and olives thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so simple only a gifted chef could think of it. Valentinoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s broiler oven does wonders for blackening a tomato, but the typical home kitchen doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have one, so youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have to be resourceful. At our house, my wife blackens tomatoes over a gas flame, and the chef says a tomato will

DEC 19, 2009—APR 18, 2010

Max Jacobson rolls the swordfish while Chef Pellegrini prepares the roasted tomato sauce.

blacken in a conventional oven, too. The trick is to turn up the temperature, as high as most ovens can go. Then you stem and quarter each tomato and put them in a pan, roasting them until they’re nearly black (about 10 to 12 minutes). When whirled in an ordinary blender for a minute, the ingredients become a chunky sauce with a seductive reddish-brown hue. If the tomato mixture is too thick, the chef suggests adding a little olive oil, which is what he has me do. But when I pour too tentatively, drop by drop, he takes charge, rapidly adding an ounce or two. The last step, sautéing the fish rolls, is so easy he lets me do it. As soon as the fish starts turning a light golden brown, I remove it and place three rolls on each waiting mound of sauce Pellegrini has spooned onto plates. When finally allowed to bite in, I can’t believe how terrific the dish tastes. The eggplant gives the fish a fluffy, mouth-filling richness, and blackening the tomatoes adds an ethereal, mysterious dimension to the sauce. In cooking, simplicity is truly the goal. “Did I cook this?” I say. “Don’t quit your day job,” Pellegrini replies, giving me an impish wink as he retreats to his office. DC Max Jacobson, along with fellow food writer John Curtas, are featured regularly as guest hosts on KNPR’s State of Nevada, heard on News 88.9 KNPR.

Cartier came to fame as the “king of jewelers” during the Belle Époque for his beautifully made diamond and platinum jewelry. Marking Cartier’s 100 years in the U.S., this spectacular array of over 200 objects concentrates on pieces owned by Americans including jewelry from celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace of Monaco.

Lincoln Park, 34th Ave. & Clement St. Tue–Sun, 9:30am–5:15pm 415.750.3600 HOTEL & VIP TICKET PACKAGE Taj Campton Place, San Francisco Includes two nights in Deluxe Room, breakfast for two and a pair of VIP tickets to the exhibition. 415.781.5555, or Reference: JEWELS AND THE CROWN PACKAGE GROUPS OF 15 OR MORE RECEIVE SPECIAL PRICING Contact 415.750.2636 or Cartier and America is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in partnership with Cartier. Major Patron: Lonna Wais. Patron: Diane B. Wilsey. Lead Sponsor support is provided by BNP Paribas and Dr. Alan R. Malouf. Cartier Circle support is provided by Mr. and Mrs. Adolphus Andrews, Jr., Mitchell Benjamin and Ricky Serbin, Mrs. Newton A. Cope, Troy and Angelique Griepp, Ms. Patricia Mozart, Arlene and Harold Schnitzer, Georges C. and Eleanor C. St. Laurent, Ms. Christine Suppes, and SUSAN/The Grocery Store. Generous support is also provided by the Dorothy and Thelma Carson Trust. British Motor Cars of San Francisco presents the Jaguar XJ as the official vehicle of Cartier and America. Emirates is the official airline, and Taj Campton Place is the official hotel partner of the exhibition.

Image: Cartier, New York, Pendant Brooch, 1928. Emeralds, diamonds, platinum and enamel. Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens; bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973. Photo by Edward Owen.

J A N U ARY - F E BR U ARY 2 0 1 0 D E S E RT C O M P A N I O N   6 7


story by norm schilling

In our climate, not only do desert plants save water, they can give incredibly long and spectacular flower shows.

Sustainable Landscapes

Smart, long-term and delicious gardening advice for the post-boom homeowner. One crisp morning in November, I was out in my garden planting a few fragrant perennials and ornamental grasses when I took a quick break to step back and reflect on all that I had created. As I walked around, marveling at how my garden had grown and become more beautiful through so many seasons, I thought back to when I moved in. I remembered being excited by the prospect of converting my raw piece of desert into a lush landscape, but I never imagined that I’d still be tending it 16 years later. It’s strange how the vast majority of us viewed our homes during those boomtown days: as investments with guaranteed returns, not as places in which to live, grow and enjoy. And too many of us treated our gardens as temporary. Sure, we invested money in them, but little else. In the post-boom, the way we view our homes, and the landscape around them, is changing for the better. We’ve heard a lot lately about sustainability and its many applications, but perhaps there is no more important “green” place than our gardens, where this newly rediscovered ancient concept can offer such vast rewards—especially in this climate. Good, sustainable gardening means eco-friendly functionality, such as using little water and offering shade. It means planning ahead when you plant, envisioning your whole garden five, 10 68  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n j a n u a r y - f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 0

and 20 years from now. And it means caring for what is still our greatest investment: the home in which we live. I was fortunate 16 years ago that I’d made a garden that could be sustained even after I left it. I did so because, besides being an environmentalist from way back, I recognized the short-term gains, too. A good garden is an important, inspiring extension of your living space. I truly believe that as we grow our gardens, our gardens grow us. Call that sustainability or whatever you want, but I hope you feel this way, too. If so, I have some advice on how to get your garden to grow with you.

Plant Them Young When planning a landscape, visualize the mature size of a plant, regardless of its size when it’s purchased. I usually choose a younger, smaller plant because it costs less, there’s less work involved in planting it and, in many cases, you end up with a bigger and healthier plant. How so? Well, in the case of woody perennials, especially trees, the younger and smaller the plant is when it hits the ground, the quicker it establishes and grows. My rule of thumb is that a 15-gallon plant will catch up to and surpass one in a 24-inch crate in one to three years—and it will save you about $100, not to mention the cost of labor (either time or money). Not only that, but because of the crowded

Garden conditions and sometimes less-thanideal growing practices in production nurseries, a young tree is more likely to have better branch structure and fewer root problems. So, not only is it a better investment to buy smaller, it’s better for the planet, too, because fewer resources are used in producing, packaging and shipping that plant. And here’s another bonus: From personal experience, I can tell you it is more delightful to watch the little guys grow!



Choose Desert Species

The vast majority of plants in my landscape are desert species. I choose them not only to be environmentally responsible and to reduce my water bill but also because of how beautiful and interesting they are. Desert species are more likely to have longer and stronger flower shows—some even bloom year-round. They also have a greater range of foliage color, such as wonderful hues of blue, silver and purple. The boldest forms, such as agaves, aloes and yuccas, serve beautifully as strong accent plants. And desert species require less care, less fertilization and are less susceptible to disease and stress in our tough environment. I do have non-desert species in my garden, but they are in separate irrigation zones so I don’t overwater my desert plants. The net result is less drain on our water resources, less money spent on the monthly bill, and a more beautiful garden.

Use Mulch





70  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n j a n u a r y - f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 0

Mulch is any material laid on top of the soil’s surface. It reduces the amount of water lost through evaporation, especially from heat and wind. For desert plants I favor inorganic mulch such as rock. I especially like what’s called “quarter-inch minus decomposed granite,” a finer material that looks much like soil itself. It stays put in the wind and appears less harsh than larger rock. For my non-desert species I use organic wood-chip mulch. After putting the chips down, I water them a few times so they stay in place when the wind kicks up. Over time, they decompose into the soil, so once every five or so years I add more. Organically enriched soils are better at holding water, air and nutrients. This, in turn, makes the soil’s “web of life” more vibrant, and many of the resulting organisms benefit your plants’ root systems. Where I first put organic

The pomegranate: an edible tree that does well here.

mulch in my yard beneath my almond trees some 12 years ago, the top eight inches are rich and dark brown. It even smells like good soil!

Give Them Room to Grow It seems obvious, but this is one of the most violated principles of sustainable gardening. Before choosing a plant for a location, or a location for a plant, find out what that plant likes and how big it will get. Some species need some shade to survive here, while others perform much better with lots of sun. Once you know this, make sure the plant won’t outgrow its space. My favorite example is the Texas ranger (Leucophyllum), which ranges from three to eight feet tall, depending on the variety. I have often seen the large type planted near windows or doorways, where it’s fine for a year or two but soon outgrows its space—and out come the hedge shears, turning a beautiful form into boxes or balls. It takes gas to run those shears, which spew fumes. And harsh trimming hurts the plant. It’s particularly important to give trees room to grow. Don’t plant large trees next to walls, foundations or other hardscape that could be damaged by root systems. And keep in mind that if your tree is next to a wall, it’ll eventually grow into your neighbor’s yard, which can create problems, such as an unneighborly pruning job. If you want to cover your wall, use vines or plant small trees or large shrubs. So, how does that all tie into sustainability? It’s that simple idea again: Plant something where it’ll be happy and have room to grow, and you won’t need power

tools to whack it back or have to replace it in a few years, thus eliminating the resources needed to grow, ship, purchase and plant. Oh, and you spend less money and time, and end up with a plant that requires less care and is healthy and beautiful.

Eat Your Yard  Many fruit and nut trees can thrive in Southern Nevada (especially when you use organic mulch!), including apricot, almond, peach, pomegranate, fig, lemon, orange, lime, apple, pear and plum. Some exotic species, such as loquat and pineapple guava, even do well here. These trees provide an ornamental effect and you can eat fresh, delicious produce while reducing the environmental impact of shipping. On my half-acre property, I have 14 species of fruit and nut trees as well as an arbor full of grapevines (which also do well here). As a result, I have homegrown produce about nine months of the year. Another way to eat from your yard is to build a raised vegetable bed. This should be built of sturdy material such as brick or cement block and filled with an organic soil. The bed requires its own irrigation system, because vegetables have different needs from the rest of your landscape. The best type of irrigation system for such beds is called “in-line” drip irrigation (tubing with built-in emitters). Such a system provides a uniform, efficient application of water to the bed without the eventual problem of plants blocking the sprinkler head. More information on irrigation, soils and which crops to plant is available through the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program (257-5555). D ESERT COM P ANION  7 1

Garden If you don’t have the patience for a raised planter, you can plant a few peppers, tomatoes and artichokes in moderate water-use areas of your landscape. They probably won’t do as well as in a raised planter, but they’re cheap and can be beautiful.

Don’t Ever Mow Again No discussion of sustainability in our climate is complete without touching on the issue of grass lawns. While I concede that if you use your lawn quite a bit, it may make sense to have some turf. But most of it is for looks only, and a garden full of trees, shrubs, succulents, groundcovers and perennials can be much more beautiful and interesting. A densely planted desert landscape will use less than half the water a lawn requires, so your water bill is lower. I can also tell you from experience that lawn-type landscapes take more time and money to maintain. And there are costs to the environment, whether you’re using a gas mower or paying someone to drive out each week to care for your lawn. So, get rid of the grass and you’ll have more time and money to devote to your garden.

Bring in the Shade

Go Back to Get Ahead… Are you rethinking your career choices? The UNLV Division of Educational Outreach will work with you to create new opportunities through professional certification, skill enhancement, and personal enrichment. We also offer online academic credit courses so you can take a step toward a college degree. Get your copy of the Spring 2010 Continuing Education Catalog to find out what new opportunities are available to you. Look in your mailbox for your free copy of The Catalog, call 895-3394 to have one mailed to you, or visit to view it online.

Finally, select good species of trees to bring shade to your garden and home. The canopies of trees work like low-efficiency evaporative coolers, dropping the air temperature around your landscape and home. That will make your yard more comfortable during the summer and reduce your home’s power bills. Growing larger deciduous trees on the west and south sides of your home will provide shade when you need it, but also will let the sun through in the winter when it’s welcome. To the surprise of some, many evergreen trees, such as pines and African sumacs, are much messier than trees that drop their leaves in the fall. Again, just make sure your yard can handle the trees’ roots and canopies. When selecting species, research the mature spread of the canopy and make sure you have enough room for the tree to grow. Because you could be living with it for 16 years. You never know. DC Norm Schilling, owner of Schilling Horticulture Group, hosts (along with Angela O’Callaghan) Desert Bloom, which airs on News 89.9 KNPR at 5:33 and 7:33 a.m. Tuesdays during Morning Edition.

72  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n j a n u a r y - f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 0

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story by matt jacob

Photo caption goes here

Many Las Vegans are feathering their nests, adding such features as a wine cellar.

Ever So Humbled?

Expert tips on how to save money, prevent headaches and put some sweetness back in that aging home you’re stuck with. House-hopping used to be a way of life for Southern Nevadans. A home’s odometer would reach a certain point, the for-sale sign would go up, and as fast as you could pack the truck, you’d be in the next new subdivision in a brand-new home under full warranty.  Then the real estate market … Well, you know the story. Bottom line: You’re not going anywhere. And the home you thought you would’ve ditched by now is aging in dog years. There’s a broken roof tile here, cracked stucco there, and a draft coming from the windows that seems to get worse with each passing winter. On top of that, your once shiny new home has become merely functional— dull inside and out.  And so the time has come not only to tackle the maintenance issues you once thought would fall to the next owner, but to put some character back into your toohumble abode. Where to begin? Read on. 74  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n j a n u a r y - f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 0

Inspect the unexpected Bob Knauff has been an independent home inspector for 10 years, most recently with his company, Beacon Inspection Services. Any dwelling five years old and up is a good candidate for his services, which run about $300 for a 2,000-square-foot home. But he also believes a home’s first inspector should be the owner. “Every fall you should walk around the entire house, inside and out, and look carefully for trouble signs, especially cracks and crevices. It’s pretty amazing what you’ll find if you pay attention to what you’re looking at.” Because moisture is a home’s worst enemy, if you see a crack that water can penetrate, you should tend to it immediately. “Try to think like water,” Knauff says. “When it rains, where’s the water going to run? Is it going to go into that crack or not?” So the best time to do a personal inspection of your home’s exterior? After a heavy rain. Knauff notes that horizontal cracks of any size in stucco should be fixed immediately, as they create a “shelf” for water to seep through and cause problems. If this is your predicament, go to the nearest home-improvement store and ask someone knowledgeable about stucco cracks to recommend the sealant needed to fix the problem. It’s a do-it-yourself job: Take a screwdriver and lightly scrape out the crack, seal it and repaint. The handyman can The caulking around the tub is cracking. The toilet base has been loose for months. And the dang faucet in the kitchen won’t stop leaking. You swear you’re going to fix it, but deep down you know you never will—mainly because you don’t know a monkey wrench from a monkey bar. Thing is, if these problems go unfixed, they could cost you more eventually—in more ways than one. “A lot of people are ashamed to call me initially. They wait till it’s a problem,” says Billy Haas, a contractor/handyman and owner of Amazing Creations Inc. “Then I have to say things like, ‘If you had called me a year ago about this loose tile, we wouldn’t be tearing out your entire shower wall.’” Haas’ do-it-yourself list starts with an often overlooked tip: Trim plants, bushes and trees so they’re away from the house. Otherwise, their roots and branches can cause cracks in the stucco and foundation.

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76  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n

Inside, replace worn weatherstripping on windows and doors (even garage doors, though this should be done professionally). “If you can see daylight coming through the frame around doors or windows, they need to be sealed up,” Haas says. “The best way to determine problem areas is to run your hand near doors and windows on a very windy day.” Replacing weatherstripping helps save on utility bills, and so will fixing water leaks. The best way to know if you have one is to turn off all water sources inside and out, then use a screwdriver to pop open the lid on your water meter (in the sidewalk in front of the house). “You’ll see a red triangle on the meter, and if it’s moving even slightly you have a leak somewhere,” Haas says. The source of most leaks? A faulty flapper inside the toilet tank, which is cheap and easy to replace. Flush the toilet—permanently! Speaking of toilets, that porcelain throne you’ve been sitting on since the day you moved in can be a huge water-waster. It also might be downright disgusting by now. Steve Esken, a professional plumber for more than 20 years, says swapping it out for a newer, more technologically advanced toilet will give your bathroom a bit of a new look and can conserve water. The latest toilets use 1.3 gallons of water per flush, as opposed to the 1.6 gallons per flush of older models. “There are even models with a dual mode, where you flush ‘up’ with the handle to dispose of urine and it uses a gallon of water,” he says.

Esken suggests replacing chrome faucet fixtures with those that have brushed nickel or bronze finishes. “You can totally modernize a sink just by doing this, and the newer faucets now have an ‘ever-shine’ feature with a lifetime new-finish warranty.” He also says to replace showerheads every few years, not only for aesthetic purposes but for health reasons. “Showerheads are bacteria breeders,” Esken says. And replace your water heater every seven years, even if it works fine. “It’s just good preventive maintenance. Yes, it’s expensive (an $800-$850 job) but it’s a smart thing to do because when your old one does go—and it will—the menace and expense is not something you want to deal with.” Floor me If you’ve been in your home for more than five years, odds are you hate your flooring, be it dingy carpet, scuffed linoleum or that cheap builder-installed tile that never gets clean no matter how hard you scrub. The upgrading options are endless, from hardwood to slate. But one of the least expensive answers is to rip out the flooring, then seal and stain (or polish) your home’s concrete slab. The benefit is twofold: It gives your home a natural look, and it’s another energy saver, especially in the summer, as concrete is cooler than any other flooring. Although not cheap, you can’t go wrong replacing those old, high-maintenance ceramic-tile kitchen countertops, vanities and bathroom shower stalls with granite, marble or Corian. “Any of these eliminates grout joints, which bother a

lot of people, and you also eliminate the germs that get caught in the grout joints,” says Joe Catello of Catello Tile, a Las Vegas-based company since 1967. “With counters, it gives them one continuous look—nice, smooth, natural, easy to clean and you no longer have to worry about tiles cracking. Plus, it’s a strong selling point when it does come time to move.”   Be a cellar dweller “I’m seeing an increase in people remodeling and what I call feathering their nests,” says Durette Candito, a 25year veteran of the interior design field who opened Durette Studio downtown in 2004. “And they’re trending toward comfort things.” One example: the conversion of a small space, such as a coat closet or pantry, into a wine or Scotch cellar. “It’s something fun you can do for yourself, and it’s a novelty that’s not that expensive,” Candito says. “It has a nice bang for your buck and it gives you a real ‘wow’ factor.” With stress levels increasing in a down economy, master bedrooms and bathrooms are also prime areas for homeowners considering makeovers. “People are stressed out and they want their home back to being their sanctuary—their spa, if you will. So master suites are becoming more spa-like with nice, big tubs with such options as steam units in an enclosed shower.”   A little change goes a long way Not everybody can afford that topof-the-line granite sink or alder-wood cabinetry. So if your budget is limited, consider minor do-it-yourself upgrades. Instead of installing new cabinets, reface existing ones, and then replace the knobs. And while you’re at it, ditch those cheap, tacky, brass door handles that were installed by the builder in favor of hardware with a brushed nickel or stainless-steel finish. “New hardware always gives you an instant updated look,” Candito says. Finally, as anyone who has ever tuned into a home-redecorating TV show can attest, something as simple as a fresh coat of paint can make a world of difference—so long as you’re willing to channel your inner Extreme Makeover and take some chances with the color. “Paint is cheap,” Candito says. “And people are starting to get a little more aggressive, a little more bold with their paint, which is good. Anything is better than the old beige and white.” DC


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Spinning (Continued from Page 39) “Name it, you got it, Gracie.” “I need reservations for a private party of nine at Flesh next Saturday. Reporters and a client who’s announcing his candidacy for mayor. Is the Paris Hilton look-alike there that night?” “Yeah. You want her to perk up the party?” “No. Just maybe get a picture of her with my client, so I can get him in a gossip column.” “Who’s your client?” “You’ll keep it under wraps?” she asked, knowing he would channel it to the media for a few bucks. “Unquestionably.” “Michael Galardi.” “You’re kidding. Why not the Zodiac Killer? What, does your agency love losing?” “It’s a payday. Say, Tony, would you be interested in upgrading your house?” “You back to sellin’ real estate?” “Just my place.” “If I could only get out of mine. You know what $5-a-gallon prices have done to business, not to mention the staff here. People are desperate. I’ve got waitresses who look like Britney Spears beggin’ to come to work. I mean, a 20-year-old Britney, not the 40-year-old version. Anyhow, a party of nine. What time?” “Seven.” “Say, I been meanin’ to ask. How’d you get those geezers to jump off their hotels?” “Nothing much to it. Steve said Trump didn’t have enough guts to sit up that high. Donald said not only would he sit atop his tower, he’d parachute off it. Steve said if Trump jumped, he’d jump. How could it not play out? I gotta go. Thanks.” She looked at the files in the inbox awaiting her—the power company wanting PR to push for another rate hike; a state senator facing an ethics hearing and claiming frame-up; casinos fighting to keep a smoking ban bill from going to the Legislature. All hers. All of it. Life had been flower petals opening for her as the millennium turned. She’d passed her real estate test on the first try, got a spot with Prospero Realty and quit her job slinging cocktails in the slot area at Harrah’s. The boom came and she rode it. Thirty-two years old and she’d owned five houses, two

million in equity. She’d driven a paidfor Mercedes thanks to a home-equity loan. Then it was gone. At least she wasn’t indicted and convicted as were nine in her office, not to mention the three mortgage brokers who were in collusion with them. She pictured the FBI agents walking into the office with warrants in hand, her colleagues leaving in handcuffs. She scrolled the favorites menu and clicked on her profile. Though she knew nothing would come of it, she’d joined. Just two winks in

“Donald said not only would he sit atop his tower, he’d parachute off it. Steve said if Trump jumped, he’d jump. How could it not play out?” a week? One photo looked as if he’d crawled out of a frying pan. He claimed an income of $150,000. Not likely, she thought. The other, in his 50s, liked going to see Shakespeare and had two teenagers living at home. Is this what happens to a woman at 44? She knew the answer to that. The files, the computer, the house— let them wait. She picked up the phone and dialed the number written in the file. “Hello.” “Hello, Mr. Galardi. This is Grace from G&G. I’ll be handling your account.” “A broad? They gave me a broad?” She swallowed and said, “Yes, sir. I’ve been looking at your headshots. You’re a very handsome man. I think you’ll appeal to the women voters. You know, they now outnumber men in Las Vegas. I’ve got some figures if you’re interested.” She knew she could make up any figures and he’d believe her. “You really think I’m handsome?” “Very handsome,” she said. H. Lee Barnes is an award-winning novelist and a professor at the College of Southern Nevada. In 2009 he was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.

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story by steven kalas

I L L U STR A T I O N b y C H R I ST O P H E R S M I T H

Are We Finding Each Other?

Yes, says a former short-timer who’s learned the difference between living here and being here. As I chugged along the highway in late 1996, Phoenix fading in my rearview mirror, I couldn’t believe the direction my life was going—toward Las Vegas, the place I said I would never live. But what do The Fates and little children have in common? The most provocative thing you can say to either of them is “never.” I told my friends and family that I’d never stay, that I’d be there maybe three years. Las Vegas was merely a way station, a transitional crossroads of learning and experiences that would serve to launch me on my “real” path. To my appointed destiny. Last Thanksgiving, I celebrated my 14th year in Las Vegas. I’m thriving. My children are thriving. It’s a delightful surprise, like getting a Christmas present you didn’t know you wanted or needed but you open it and find yourself glad. Not that my acceptance of this new hometown was easy. The geography depressed me. Yes, I grew up in the desert, but the Sonoran has those majestic saguaros and a more lush, colorful collection of flora. The Mojave initially struck my soul as barren and empty, with its inhospitable hardpan and sparse vegetation. And in the city, the architecture was hodgepodge and dull. I quickly developed the idea that the Great American Ethos of rugged individualism had found both its zenith and its ultimate distortion in Southern Nevada. Here was a libertarianism so strident that an idea such as human interdependence seemed antithetical to the way of life. Not unfriendly, mind you, just an individualism so fierce that it seemed ultimately to yield not liberty but isolation. On my way to thriving here, I had to labor through a few years of ambivalence and antipathy. Now, standing at the doorway of a new decade, in the midst of the city’s worst economic collapse, I sense something new: I tell myself Las Vegas is growing up. No longer in an exponential, mind-boggling growth pattern, Las Vegas has turned its attention inward, toward a new kind of growth: fostering community. I don’t mean “community” as a geographical reference. I mean community as a happening. Las Vegas has become increasingly proactive in offering opportunities for togetherness to emerge—to 80  D e s e r t C omp a n io n J A N U A R Y - F E BR U A R Y 2 0 1 0

erupt. Town Square. Fremont East. Arts festivals. Live music festivals. Philanthropy. The NBA Summer League. NASCAR. The Springs Preserve. Suburban horticulture. More parks. Conservation. The list is longer, and it has real momentum. The momentum, in turn, extends a new invitation for us to live here. To be here. See, living here is not the same as being here. Being here means participating. Availing ourselves of the mutual trust and interdependence of real community. Coaxing real neighborhoods from behind fences, security gates, walls and blinds. Learning to be actual neighbors, as opposed to geographic ones. Taking turns in the merge lane. Lending a hand. Bantering with strangers who, standing next to you, are suffering the purgatory of the DMV, Wal-Mart or the post office. I was wrong to believe that Las Vegas was the most transient city I’d ever known. The reality was this: I was transient. My entire way of life had always been transient, always with one restless foot pointed toward my not-yet-arrived “real life.” You can miss a lot living that way. The current economic hardships are pregnant with the opportunity to replace idolatrous individualism and distorted independence with the happy obligation of interdependence. Join me. Take a deep breath, and be here now. Say it: “I live in Las Vegas.” It’s no surprise that, as I’ve learned to put both feet in Las Vegas, I’ve made peace with the landscape, too. The barren emptiness that once reminded me of my restlessness is now my solace. A majesty, even. A desire to live in harmony with the Mojave, instead of the absurd obsession to plant fescue lawns and turn the desert into Minnesota. My fear of staying was more about the barren emptiness in me, for barren emptiness is the only possible consequence for people who live isolated lives hidden by the banners of individualism, independence and privacy. Las Vegas is growing up. Maybe I am, too. DC Steven Kalas, a local behavioral health consultant, writes the “Human Matters” column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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Desert Companion January 2010  

Your guide to living in southern Nevada. A preview of the decade ahead with essays by John L. Smith, Kim Russell Timothy O'Grady, Jurt Ander...

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