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MARCH 2015
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Take 5
You may have seen them as finalists on “America’s Got Talent.” Watch as these feathered friends perform amazing feats, learn more...   
This regional competition features the art and literary works from local students (grades 7 to 12) in a variety of media, in categories from...   
FEB. 13-MARCH 1, THU-SAT 8P; SUN AND 2ND SAT 2P It’s Germany on the verge of World War II and Prof. Erik Maxwell is on a mission to free...   
Dry idea
by Andrew Kiraly | posted January 13, 2015

It was New Year’s Day 2014 — I believe I was trying to outflank an inchoate hangover migraine with flat lukewarm last-night champagne — when my girlfriend proposed Dry January. Dry wha? You know, a month without drinking alcohol. I went all Gollum on her, hissing and spitting, frog-eyed about how dare she try to take away my precious — my casually therapeutic glass of wine, my martinis that put satisfying punctuation at the end of a ragged, run-on sentence of a day. I think I had a bit of a conniption. Which meant, yeah, Dry January: probably a good idea.

Oh, it was dry, alright. My mind felt like a piece of chalk — hard, crumbly, a strangely primitive tool. (Turns out that was the return of a fugitive mental clarity that I didn’t know what to do with.) Most valuably, though, that month served as a sort of on ramp to (er, mostly) a more judicious and aware and consciously moderated approach to the party juice, mindful of things like school nights, big weekends, busy tomorrows at work. More fundamentally, Dry January became a kind of networking cocktail mixer (ha!) in which I got reintroduced to parts of my mind that were hiding behind the thickening pellicle of a drink here, a drink there.

This year — to even my surprise — I proposed Dry January. It almost felt like a seasonal urge, which I guess explains why, I’ve discovered, it’s a thing: a post-holidays period of alco-fasting to allow body and mind to regroup, to force a reckoning distance between you and your habits to consider anew the cost/value relationship. Last year, I was feeling Dry January every day; the phantom limb of a coveted habit pricked and shocked at every turn: This bad day is missing the fuzzy redemption of an Old Fashioned; this great dinner would be excellent with a glass of wine. The decision umbrellaed over the entire month felt like a sentence to get through; ironically, that comparison-born dissatisfaction had the same displacing effect of a drink (but not as fun.)

This year, this month, however, the decision feels more like a liberation from all that minor-key fretting and fussing over what to drink, when to drink, how much — the questions of pacing, motive and intent that start to abrade and erode your mental energies. And with those reserves freed up from both drink and all its shadows, I like to think I’ve been sleeping better, waking wakier, and maybe even penning a higher breed of meandering, diaristic blog posts. None of this is some endorsement of the teetotaling lifestyle — ugh, that feels to me stonily final, and seems to hide in its heart a skulking puritanical suspicion of pleasure — but right now, hey man, let’s party.


Lost swans
by James Joseph Brown | posted August 13, 2014


At the baccarat table




         into paper swans

                       cranes, airplanes, exquisite origami sculptures

one delicate, deliberate fold at a time before tossing

them back with disgust at the dealer, as if they

were spoiled meat or unwanted girl children.


James Joseph Brown is a former ESL teacher, Peace Corps volunteer, National Park Ranger and go-go dancer. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he currently performs stand-up comedy and works as a casino dealer on the Las Vegas Strip.



Things we love right now: Utah, ancient tech
by Staff | posted August 11, 2014

Cedar City 

It’s not just the Shakespeare Festival — although that was the central reason why five friends and I planned a three-day excursion there weekend-before-last — it’s all the other coolness that surrounds the festival like a comfy cultural blanket. On Saturday morning, we rode bikes from our rental house north through town and out highway 130 to the Parowan Gap, where we drank our Gatorades beside huge panels of petroglyphs, most likely etched into the stone by Fremont Indians more than 1,000 years ago. Coming back to town, we were passed by teams of cyclists, who were there acclimating to the elevation and warming up for the Tour of Utah bicycle race, which was to begin the following day. Our own region’s personal Tour de France, the race offers the chance for cycling enthusiasts to see superstars like Cadel Evans and Chris Horner up-close, without having to pay for airfare to Paris. In between seeing three Shakespeare plays, Measure for Measure, Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night, my group and I took in some delicious Mexican food at Lupita’s restaurant (bonus: real beer served in frosty mugs) and lounged around barefoot in the back yard of our downtown rental house snacking on apricots fresh off the tree, reading books and chatting — which we could do, because the high temperature there was 20 degrees south of the 110 in August that weekend. But perhaps most telling is that Richard LInklater’s film Boyhood, which I’ve been dying to see, was already showing when we were there, at the Historic Cedar Theater on Main Street. In other words, this town of 30,000, with only three movie theaters total, had the film during its limited release, a good two weeks before its arrival in our major metropolis of 2.5 million. You gotta love a town that has that much gravitational pull for the arts. — Heidi Kyser

Just my type

I'd never seen a round typewriter before last Thursday. Years ago, seeking totems of writerliness, I collected manual typewriters, maybe a dozen in all, but the oddest one I have — a small, spidery dude with a fold-over carriage — can't match the novelty of the circular one displayed in the Nevada State Museum's exhibit Every Age Is an Information Age: 150 Years of Communication in Nevada. (The show chronicles changes in communications, from the Pony Express to the smartphone.) "I would have to relearn how to type," I marveled when I saw that the keys are arrayed in one long line around the machine's front edge. Or maybe not — that arrangement might actually facilitate my fumbling, gotta-watch-my-fingers hunting and pecking. Although I was at the museum on other business, I did get a look at its back-room stockpile of old typers, a long shelf of heavy, blocky obsolescence notable for lacking the sleekness we take for granted in communications gear. Indeed, in no way do these machines fit our contemporary definition of the word "gear." (Thought exercise: What if Apple had gotten into manual typewriters?) Some of the machines are awesomely slab-like in size, weight and ambition — bunkered behind one of these beauts and throwing some serious arm action into it, a curmudgeon could pound out one hell of a screed against the glib, corporate shine of our modern life. Or maybe just a cranky letter to the editor. — Scott Dickensheets


"Lewis Avenue"  a poem by Gregory Crosby
by Gregory Crosby | posted April 3, 2014

Lewis Avenue


Everything fades except its representation.
I’m a river of gin flowing in search of a still, sour ocean of tonic.
Someone is asleep on the long shot.
The homeless are secure in their homeland.
I am so far from home that I am home.
Wherever my hat is, is (that’s why I wear it).

Across the way, the Duke in his fur collar breaks the spine of a paperback.
The Patriot beneath his star-spangled bandanna cradles a burning Parliament.
St. Jerome annotates his Bible in between sips from forty days, forty nights.
In stained red sweatpants, the Wandering Jew holds forth his coffee cup, as if in search
of the Wandering Waitress.
Salieri contorts his nut-brown face and conducts his crushed can oratorio.
Virginia Dare draws her knees to her chin, huddled against the chill of sunlight.
In the stone’s throw, the bankrupts sort their failures, vendors setting out their wares.
The parade passes in honor of suits, sack lunches.
Here and there, a silent messenger.

The courthouse is a miracle.

I am down to a sunless sea. I am calm, and out of order.
Yes, and you’re out of order, and you’re out of order.
We’re all out of order.
Who else did they think would sit here when they built it?

Every waiting room is painted robin’s egg blue.
Have you ever seen a robin’s egg?
You’ll have to take my word for it.

It’s the middle of the day.
It’s home.
Here comes the judge.

(Previously published in Unshod Quills;


Valley of Fire
by Alan Gegax | posted February 13, 2014

Desert Companion's 2014 Best of the City issue is out now! Included among the blurbs on the best food, culture, shopping and lifestyle amenities are a few writerly odes to superlative aspects of Las Vegas. In fact, we had so much ode-age, we couldn't fit them all in! Here's a bonus ode to the under-appreciated Valley of Fire -- featuring a cameo by Captain Kirk!

Let the tourists throng west and overrun the paltry pile of Red Rock, for I know where the heart of Southern Nevada truly beats in all its crimson glory. Valley of Fire, your expansive playground of sand and stone, painted not only in rust but cascading hues of purple, yellow and white, calls to me.

You are where I fell in love with the outdoors -- where I fell in love with adventure and exploration -- as a young boy hiking with my dad, climbing through a maze of scarlet monoliths. Now I take others, helping them to bond with you as I did.

I know I was not the first to recognize your charms. Countless petroglyphs, carefully etched into your desert patina, tell tales of bighorn sheep, hunting parties and mystical rituals. As you once sheltered the Southern Paiutes, so you welcome me with some of the finest camping in the desert Southwest. Campsites nestle amid the rocks, while the group sites are isolated enough to let folks make merry while others sleep.

Even the nerd in me has reason to love, because you played host to one of the biggest events in sci-fi history: In Star Trek Generations, Captain Kirk met his end crushed under a bridge at Silica Dome, with views of Lake Mead glistening in the distance. That bridge is still in use, complete with occasional shrines, along the Arrowhead Loop trail.

Let the nation have Red Rock. For me, and for Las Vegas, we’ll take its bigger, redder cousin to the north: Valley of Fire. 


Ode to the Vegas lady
by Lissa Townsend Rodgers | posted January 30, 2014

Desert Companion's 2014 Best of the City issue is on its way! Included among the blurbs on the best food, culture, shopping and lifestyle amenities are a few writerly odes to superlative aspects of Las Vegas. Until the February edition arrives, here's a bonus ode to whet your appetite.

Perhaps your first thoughts when contemplating the women of Las Vegas are of barely 21 tourist babes tugging at their miniskirts and teetering on their platforms. Or the cocktail waitresses of the high-end casinos, with their push-up bras and eternal quest for a pair of comfortable high heels. Or the trophy wives with their whipped-up hair and worked-out glutes. But the most exalted figure in our female pantheon is what the French might call une femme d’un certain age, and whom I have always called The Vegas Lady. Somewhere past 50, probably even 60, but still maintaining her aura of mystery and style, she embodies the mixture of glamour, independence and can-do/gotta-do spirit that it takes for a woman to survive and thrive in Sin City.

She could be sitting in a lounge in North Las Vegas, wearing a tailored jacket and discreetly glittering jewelry, a fedora tipped over one eye, the gloss of her perfectly manicured nails shining in the glow of a straight flush on her video poker screen. Or perhaps she’s walking to a bus stop downtown, a bit of sashay and a hint of spring still in her step, dressed in a snappy leopard-print trenchcoat and Jackie Onassis sunglasses.

But even more than a fabulous outfit, the Vegas Lady has a backstory. That old dame with the blue rinse and bedazzled jogging suit may well have a few tales that will enchant and amaze you. She could be the first lady dealer or the last surviving showgirl, perhaps a made-man’s moll or a senator’s ex-wife — maybe a businesswoman who went from bootlegger to restaurateur, keno runner to casino owner. Next time you see a group of older ladies at the casino coffee shop, clustered over a round of pie and light ’n’ sweet coffees, give them a smile — and slow down as you pass, in case you can catch a story about the days of Frank or Elvis. 




Ode to the Bellagio fountains
by Brock Radke | posted January 29, 2014
Desert Companion's 2014 Best of the City issue is on its way. Included among the blurbs on the best food, culture, shopping and lifestyle amenities are a few writerly odes to superlative aspects of Las Vegas. Until the February edition arrives, here's a bonus ode to whet your appetite.
The only thing that makes the 2001 Clooney-Pitt-Damon remake of Ocean’s Eleven a respectable piece of Vegas art is the post-robbery scene in which all the bandits marvel at the greatness of Bellagio’s dancing fountains. The Debussy strings wash in as Casey Affleck and his homies share looks of peaceful wonder, and, yes, this is actually how it feels to watch these fountains, even if you’re not making out with millions. You’ve been gifted. It doesn’t matter if your relatives have forced you to take them to see this, the top landmark in the country according to Trip Advisor, on each visit for the last 15 years. It’s still an enchanting experience every time, a thunderous and whimsical representation of the healthiest part of the Vegas spirit. The Bellagio fountains offer perspective, an artfully aquatic reminder that no matter how much the Strip struggles and changes, there will always be this very singular, nonsensical beauty. These few glowing miles in the desert are, of course, all about money, but there is plenty of captivating byproduct for us all to admire. The fountains are an irresistible portal, maybe even a tractor beam sucking us into the Death Star of Vegas. They make me want to drop some money at the tables, indulge in an over-the-top dinner and drift into the night with multiple martinis, saturated in swank, celebrating for no reason. I’ve seen this show maybe 75 times, lived here more than 25 years, but it always makes feel like I’m someone else from some other place, just visiting, just having a great time.


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