Nevada in 2042

Nevada had always been a magnet for kooks. Misfits, outcasts, miscreants, mavericks–the malcontents, the fantasists, the seekers of shortcuts. Born of mining boom and bust, the economy was founded on vice: prizefighting, loose women, drunkenness, gambling, and marital fecklessness. Even before going it alone, the state was an outlier, making it all too easy to get married, easier still to divorce. Alcohol was plied twenty-four hours a day. A lenient relationship to prostitution well predated the era in which Savannah was able to earn an accredited community college degree in stimulation therapy. Real cigarettes–or giant, smelly cigars. for that matter–were legal in casinos. A prohibition against state income tax was enshrined in its constitution. In 2042, Nevadans had merely formalized that they were a people apart. 

–Lionel Shriver, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, page 382

My Speech To The School Board

At our school board’s meeting on Thursday, the controversial sex ed opt-in/opt-out issue was on the agenda, and I went there to speak. My remarks actually elicited a surprisingly mixed reaction from the room, but I’m proud of it. As soon as I heard about this meeting, I felt compelled to say this, and I stand by it:

Good evening. I’d like to thank the school board, district leaders, and every parent and community member here for all their service and sacrifice for the good of our community’s children. Everyone here works hard, and even if I disagree with some of you, you all deserve appreciation and respect.

I’m both a parent and teacher myself. I’ve been with CCSD for 16 years now. I also have a child who has graduated from CCSD, four more who are currently enrolled, and two others who will be here in a few years. I might be one of the most most invested stakeholders here tonight, and I do have thoughts about the sex education issue, but I’m not here to argue for or against any position being discussed.

My message tonight isn’t about the issues, it’s about us. There will be a lot of serious disagreement here tonight, and that’s OK, but if we’re really going to help the youth of this community, we need to show them that we can be united despite our differences. Too often, these discussions are hindered by hostility. My plea is to all who will speak or listen tonight—let’s be civil to those who disagree with us. Everybody here is trying to help, everybody here is doing the best they can, everybody here has the interests of children at heart. Let’s not assume the worst of each other.

Imagine if we all tried to understand before being understood. Whatever the best decision here is, civility and empathy are the most likely ways to find it and actually get it enacted—kindness is in everyone’s best interest. I’d like to ask everyone here tonight to refrain from insulting anyone whose opinion differs from theirs, either verbally or just mentally. We can disagree, and we can and should debate, but we shouldn’t debase anyone’s humanity while doing so. Thank you.

Remembering The Huntridge

We took the kids to the Nevada State Museum this summer, and one area was dedicated to remembering the Huntridge theater. It really had a fascinating history. I saw plenty of concerts there in the 90’s, including Nine Inch Nails just as The Downward Spiral came out. I had to take some pictures of these displays, as they brought back some great memories. Strange that I never think of this stuff–I work only a block from there and drive by it all the time.

IMG_20160630_153123685

Look at all these forgotten 90’s bands! Hemlock, Dinosaur Jr., Suicidal Tendencies, The Ataris, Dance Hall Crashers, KMFDM, Save Ferris, Voodoo Glow Skulls! I used to save these little fliers and put them on the wall of my bedroom. I wish I still had them–there were dozens just plastering the whole thing.

 

IMG_20160630_154746525

I used to have that exact KUNV shirt in high school! I just checked eBay, and nothing, sadly. The “Rock Avenue” slogan on the right refers to the legendary overnight show that radio station used to play–the DJs there knew everything and played the most amazing range of stuff.

Stolen From The Library

I was just looking at my library district’s web page to see which branches have copies of some movies I’m looking to check out over the long weekend. One of them is The Expendables 3. Below is a screen shot of part of the results page for that one.

This is hilarious. Look how many copies were checked out and never returned! (Those are the ones marked “billed.”) Between this and the other branches shown on the rest of that page, there are dozens of copies borrowed and kept forever.

I’ve seen this note on other movies before, but never in quantities like this.

So, what is it about The Expendables 3 that makes so many people check it out and keep it?

library

Twin Lakes Memories: Mr. Bass

This is the first in an occasional series of memories about my elementary school in the 1980’s. 

Mr. Bass was principal for all but the last of my elementary school years. He was a wonderful man: friendly to us kids, committed to the positive environment of the school.

I say he “was” wonderful because as I look him up for details now, I find that he died in 1999. Reading there about how race was a major factor in his life reminds me of a comment my 4th grade teacher once made about him to our class. She said that when she first met him she was surprised to see that he was black. When she’d spoken to him on the phone before, she’d assumed he was white. She told us this as a compliment about his speaking. Nobody thought anything of it. This was in the mid 1980’s. I don’t suppose such a comment would pass innocently today.

My main memory of him now is from one random day during recess. All the kids were running around and I was in the big sandy area with the swings and monkey bars. Suddenly a girl screamed. She had fallen off the monkey bars and gotten hurt–it turned out later that she had broken her arm. As she wailed and cried, someone went to the office for help.

Mr. Bass came running out and went right to that girl. Quickly and calmly, he took off his suit coat and wrapped her in it, then gently picked her up to carry her to the nurse. It’s not just what he did that day, but how confidently and caringly he did it–that was a lesson in real leadership.

An elementary school named after him opened here in 2001. That’s also wonderful.

Vegas Skies

Some more recent local sky views:

IMG_20160330_063010381

Sunrise just started touching the mountains to the west.

IMG_20160411_190201561_HDR

Sunset 4.11.16 part 1 of 5. Thomas Cole could have painted this.

IMG_20160411_190150067_HDR

2 of 5

IMG_20160411_190346277

3 of 5

IMG_20160411_190556283

4 of 5

IMG_20160411_190951533

5 of 5

IMG_20160404_182401939_HDR

A sunset last week, by Aliante Station

IMG_20160331_180422479

Heading east on Cheyenne, late afternoon sun catches one small mountain.

IMG_20160330_183425301_HDR

Darn you, Savers sign! This was almost epic.

Continue reading

African Wisdom Statue

These are photos of one of my favorite wood carvings.  It’s a statue from Africa, and it’s on display at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.

I love how wise this figure looks!  He pulls on a little beard and frowns like Yoda with a migraine.  Clearly, this is an elder shaman deep in thought.  It’s a perfectly-rendered image of a very specific human condition: vigorous contemplation of some somber vexation.

Sadly, it’s hardly on prominent display there.  It’s actually in a small hallway in the lowest level, right next to a vending machine and an elevator.  Alas.

20130730_151147

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20130730_151158

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closed Bookstores

The Barnes and Noble on South Maryland Parkway shut its doors earlier this year.  That means that every major bookstore that was open in Las Vegas when I was in college, a mere fifteen years ago, is now closed.

The Borders on Sahara and Decatur, where I worked my freshman year, closed several years ago, just as the recession was starting.  The space is still vacant.

When I was in high school, there was a little Barnes and Noble affiliate called Bookstar just down the street from it.  They closed before I even graduated.  It’s a linen shop now.

The Borders on Lake Mead and Rainbow opened while I was in college.  They closed last year.

There used to be two bookstores in the Meadows Mall.  Both are long since closed, that mall now bereft of books.

There are just two Barnes and Noble stores left to service all of Las Vegas.  Both are in the same part of town: out west in the Summerlin area.

There is not, nor has there even been, a major bookstore in the northernmost part of the city, where I live.  I remember a little independent one in the strip mall at Rancho and Craig, but that was as close as it got, and they closed before any of these others.  A raggedy used book store on Ann closed a few years ago.  Other than the Barnes and Noble I started off writing about, I don’t think the easternmost part of town has ever had a big bookstore, either.

There are, however, still several fine used book stores in Las Vegas.  Thank goodness for that.

 

Hiking to the Top of Mt. Charleston

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest son and I tried hiking to the top of Mt. Charleston, which is 20 miles northwest of Las Vegas and at nearly 12,000 feet is the highest peak in southern Nevada.  We only made it halfway, but a few days ago I went back and did the whole thing.

I went up the south trail, and down the north trail.  Those are about eight miles each, and with the short hike up the highway to get back to my car, the whole trip was 17 miles.  That took me ten hours (5.5 hours to get up, 4.5 hours to get back down).  I drank seven water bottles during the hike, FYI.  Here are some pictures I took along the way:

I took this picture just to capture that blue sky. The sky never gets that deep of a hue down here in the valley. This is in a meadow at about 10,000 feet.

Looking southwest over rural Nevada from 10,000 feet.

Continue reading

Desert Dusk

We’ve long since reached that point where the days are so long that the sun no longer rises in the east and sets in the west; it rises in the north and sets in the north.  Daylight Saving Time notwithstanding, I spend the last month or so of each school year driving to work in daylight so bright it might as well be high noon.

Las Vegas in the summer can be frightful.  Nothing illustrates the parched environment here better than the summer sky.  It isn’t blue.  It’s white.  The parts of the sky farthest from the sun–the horizon, for most of the day–are a pale, robin’s egg blue, but most of the sky is a dead albino.

You know how a sign or book left in the sun for months or years will get all the color sucked away, leaving a washed out shell of what it was?  The sky itself gets like that here.

But then the sun sets.  And life gets amazing.  The temperature instantly drops ten degrees.  Color returns to a world blinded by too much light.  A landscape that has been holding its breath all day gets to relax.

For that one hour that starts right after the sun goes down, the world is a milder, dimmer, calmer place.  It’s still hot, and it’s still bright, but within reason–the insanity of the last fifteen hours is over.

People often say that everybody seems nicer during the holiday season; that as they Christmas shop, strangers are more likely to nod your way and smile.  Summer dusk is like that.  There’s a camaraderie.  We made it through another day, together.

It’s worth enduring the day to enjoy the twilight.