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A Surprising Wellness Center; The View From Above

Margot switches on the fans, cranks up the music and — right off the bat — has us stand up on our pedals. “All right, let’s get going with a hill-climb!” she yells, smiling. It’s only 6 in the morning, but I’m game. Who can resist an energetic Canadian swim team member who plays French disco for spin class? Not me, that’s for sure. Maybe it’s the endorphins talking, but I love everything about UNLV’s  Student Recreation and Wellness Center, the humongous gym and health clinic on the south side of campus near the Thomas and Mack. Most people I tell this didn’t realize it before: For $25 a month (no signup fee, no contract) nonstudent community members can get a membership that gives them unlimited access to the SRWC’s recreational facilities, like the natatorium where I swim once a week, and classes, like Margot’s 6 a.m. indoor cycling. I’ve belonged to several gyms in my life, including the two main corporate-owned ones here in Vegas, and none has come close to UNLV’s on size (184,000 square feet), amenities, cleanliness and variety of classes, equipment and facilities (racquetball courts, indoor running track, relaxation room!). It’s almost enough to make a person want to enroll, in which case, he'd get all that wellness for free. C’est pas vrai! —  Heidi Kyser
I love a good cautionary note — it’s the wary optimist in me — and so, amid recent hagiographic RJ headlines about upswings in homebuilding, and a general belief that the real-estate biz is coming back, I sometimes dial up the work of  photographer Michael Light ( Specifically, the portfolios of aerial shots titled “Lake Las Vegas” and “Black Mountain.” Both were sites of frenzied, environmentally destructive, upscale homebuilding — stalled by the recession “at exactly the point where (Las Vegas’) aspirational excesses were most baroque and unfettered.” And  ugly. If the tacky McMansions of Lake Las Vegas appear grotesquely out of place, thanks to an eye-in-the-sky perspective that puts the development in its larger environmental context, the Black Mountain sites are worse. The desert mountainsides there look  injured — scraped, pummeled, terraformed — the lack of any built housing making the damage that much starker. To his credit as an artist, Light “finds beauty and empathy amid a visual vertigo of speculation, overreach and environmental delusion.” It’s something to keep in mind as the metronome of growth begins to pick up again. As it happens, Light’s work will make for an even handier reminder come Oct. 31, when it these portfolios will appear in  book formLake Las Vegas/Black Mountain (the quotes above are drawn from descriptions of the book). A great coffee-table gift for the wary optimist in your life.  — Scott Dickensheets 
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(Editor's note: Scott Dickensheets no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)
Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.