Friday, March 27, 2015

The Adventures of Sam and James

Last week was a blast , figuratively speaking, but maybe almost literally too!

Our distant friends Sam Barrett and Jamie Barrier loaded into the “Skate and Destroy” wagon (Dodge Sprinter) and departed Florence, Alabama at about 10:30 am Wednesday March 18th and headed due west. Sam had just arrived from England less than two days prior. The Serious Sam Barrett and James The Fang 2015 Spring tour begins with 3 appearances in Southern Nevada, before moving to the coast and upward toward Seattle.

I think it was around 4:00 ish our time (PST), I decided to call James, to see how things were going and what their ETA would be in Nevada.

He said, in his rather unique Southern drawl,
“I don’t know, man. I’ll have to see where we are in the morning.”

Keep in mind now, that he has driven back and forth across this nation of ours at least a couple of times every year for the past 12 or so plus years.

I said,
“Are you going to stop somewhere tonight?”

He replied in almost the same way except his pitch went up toward the end, as if he was asking himself the same question simultaneously to replying to the question. “I don’t know…?”
Fascinating. Absolutely incredible.

I am a Virgo who would have all of these details ingrained into my brain weeks before setting out on the trail.

The reason I am even asking is because if they arrive at the Hoover Dam and it’s close to 5 pm, I would suggest that they park it in Boulder City for a couple hours and we will meet them at the venue (The Dillinger). If they are going to be here any earlier, they should come on into Las Vegas, unwind, eat some food, maybe skate around a little bit, soaking up our intensely beautiful, blue skies and sunshine.

Essentially, do I need to cook in the morning, so there is a pot of grub ready upon your arrival?

Anyhow, I go to bed that night, rest assured that our friends are en route and tomorrow is going to be awesome.

Thursday morning comes and sometime around 10:30 am, I send a text to find out where the boys are in their journey. I am hoping that they have at least made it into New Mexico.

My phone beeps, a new text has arrived. It reads:
“Eating some breakfast in Flagstaff.”



That is close! Even closer, now, with the Dam overpass to speed things along.
They’re only 4 hours away.

Sure enough, 4 hours later, I get the call.
“We’re in Boulder City.”
Despite having performed here several times in the past 4 years, I give him some quick directions on how to find the Arts Factory.
Exit Downtown, Las Vegas Blvd, turn left.
Right on Charleston.
Right on Art Way.

He repeats the directions aloud so that the others can hear.

30 minutes later, the phone rings again. I answer only half-jokingly, “You’re lost!?
“I think so.” He replies.
Before he can explain what he sees around him, I have quickly deduced that he turned right instead of left on LVB.

“You looking at Cashman Field?” Surprised sounding he answers, “Yeah.”
“You’re going to make a left at Washington and another left onto Main Street.”
We repeat this back to each other a couple of times.

There is one more phone call regarding how to get from Main Street to 1st Street, but in a few short minutes, the gang arrives and everyone is happy.

As we greet one another and hash about the journey, is when I learn that these dudes DID NOT STOP almost at all, save for breakfast in Flagstaff and a pee break or two along the way.

I am flabbergasted. That is so hard core.

10:30 am Alabama, means 8:30 am Las Vegas.

That means that they drove almost nonstop for 30 hours and showed up with 4 hours to spare! Wow.

Of that 30 hours, Sam only drove one 12-13 hour shift.

James has now shifted gears into this other mode of being that can function on coffee and blinking, opposed to sleeping. He is now a machine.

We have a few hours till our departure for Boulder City.

James asks me to point him the direction of the El Cortez , and I do, while Sam would like to grab a shower.
Jamie hails from the very conservative South, but anytime he’s in Las Vegas, he LOVES to play just a little bit of roulette. Aside from $5 back in 2004, I have never seen him win. He doesn’t even really “believe in” gambling, but for some reason, spinning the wheel makes him really happy, even though he loses.

On top of which, ever since Lady Luck closed, he only wants to gamble at El Cortez. I do not know why, it’s just where he wants to go- so he does.

I take Sam to the house. He gets in the shower. I heat up the stew, dash back and forth from the house to the salon and back to ensure that all needs are being met.

Sam grabs a quick nap, I bring Hillary home, we have a quick bite and a brief spruce and we head back to the Factory to meet back up with Jamie and Steve.

Steve is one of Jamie’s friends from Alabama and he’s “just along for the ride” although he is also quietly learning the tools of the trade as a silent passenger on this tour.

In years past, I have driven many notable celebrity musicians to and from their gigs. From Toby Keith to Metallica, Rage Against The Machine to Gretchen Wilson and on and on.

Now, for the first time in the history of our friendship, I drive Jamie in his vehicle to the venue.

It’s only a 35 minute drive, but I know he hasn’t slept and despite being a pro, I know it will be far better if he can just rest a little bit. (Also, I don’t want to him driving us into a collision of some kind). He does not want to rest because he fears that if he goes to sleep, he’ll be done for and unable to perform. Interesting theory.

Regardless of exhaustion or stress, the duo perform two exceptionally polished sets, while the good people of Boulder City came and went throughout the evening.

Now it’s time pack up and head back to town so these guys can finally meet the Sandman. (That means get some sleep).


Every one of us has had a bit to drink except Jamie, (who rarely, if ever, imbibes, and even when he does only has one swallow).

I guess we’re going to have to trust that a sleep-deprived driver is better than an intoxicated one.

I’ll admit that I am tipsy, but I am also quite aware. I’m going to keep a very close eye on our sleepy driver to be certain that we make it home safe and sound.

He’s lethargic but he’s actually quite fine.

Like I said, He is functioning in a completely different mode than most humans are capable of. So long as he knows that he is in not allowed to sleep yet, he will get us through- and he does.

Five people sleeping in our house tonight. One bathroom. Which means a little patience and courtesy must be demonstrated.

In the morning, I rise first.

I want to stay in bed and sleep in, but I know that I have explicit duties to ensure that our morning runs smoothly.

Get the coffee going and the potatoes. The potatoes always take an hour for some reason.

After I’m up, Hillary gets up, followed by Sam, who gets into the shower first. Pretty soon, Jamie is up and wandering about, takes the second shower.

Steve was graciously given the queen mattress last night, while Jamie and Sam each, for some strange reason, preferred to sleep on the floor- so it makes sense that he would be the last to rise.

Jamie and Sam are now showered and dressed, so the four of us sit down to eat breakfast while Steve gets his turn to use the facilities.

Hillary is up next. While Sam reads and Jamie talks to his wife on the phone, I play some records and clean up the mess.

At last, everyone is clean and ready so now I may now hop into the shower for a quick clean up, which does not take me but a few mere minutes.

Unlike most days on any tour, these fellas don’t have to go anywhere today. They have all day to do whatever it is that they like. This is a precious commodity for a touring musician, especially with weather like ours, and sometimes one is so unfamiliar with the concept that they find themselves not sure how to fill those daylight hours.

We unanimously decide to leave the vehicles at the house and walk to the Arts Factory on this gorgeous morning. At the salon, Hillary and I mostly do what we always do except that I, myself, feel quite distracted having our friends visiting.

Having them around makes us want to transform into My First Rodeo , but we have Hillary Salon obligations that we must abide.

After a spell, hanging out with us in the studio/salon, our visitors decide to mosey and wander. Which is completely fine and even encouraged, because we want them to be entertained but we don’t have the time at this moment to do so ourselves.

After an hour or so had passed, I give em a jingle to see how they are faring.

Where are they? Surprise, surprise. All 3 of them are at the El Cortez , just hanging and watching college basketball.
They have two gigs tonight. 5:30 pm at Vintage Bike Night and 8:00 pm around the corner at Container Park, the latter of which is throwing in a hotel room for the night.

It’s 2:30 and their check-in time is 3:00, I suggest they try to check in early, Jamie sounds receptive yet not compulsive.

An hour later, we are wrapping up our salon duties for the day and behold, the guys are hanging out downstairs at HellPop Comics , just shooting the breeze about everything and nothing.
They have not yet gone to the hotel.

It is Friday approaching 4:00 pm and despite everything being very nearby, the traffic is getting pretty hectic, so I rush them over to the hotel for check-in, drop them off and go to grab some gasoline (as the low fuel light was on).

Immediately after, I swing back around to pick them up and then go back to the house so they can take their vehicle and get all of their stuff to the gig. No problem.

Hillary and I get a 20 minute cat nap in before getting dressed for the evening and walking back to the Arts Factory.
Now, this is strange.

Metro has closed off a square block (or two) just North of The Arts Factory.

Allegedly, there was a vehicle with a mysterious note in the window alluding to the idea that there was a bomb inside, so Metro and the Fire Department, bomb squad, etc., had taken over the area and even went so far as to evacuate Art Square (right across the street from us).

Good thing we walked over here. Metro is only allowing motorcycles into the area and turning away cars and trucks.

There are still plenty of people milling about, dining on the patio at BarBistro and looky here, the other band that has been booked for the evening is already loaded in and ready to rock 3 hours before their scheduled set time.

Annnd, there is no P.A..

Well, what do you know. My travel PA that I keep in the salon comes to the rescue once again! Honestly, has to be one the greatest investments ($500), I have ever made in a tool. These two speakers plus mixer have gone just about everywhere with me for the past 9 years and have saved the day on countless occasions.

I do not, however, have mic stands or microphones. Luckily, our brothers at HellPop Comics are also equipped with stage gear for bands, so I am able to quickly assemble the necessary components needed to get this gig underway.

After setting up the system and doing a quick sound check- it doesn’t take much for these seasoned vets, I fetch some beverages and post up in the front row next to Hillary.

This evening is so absolutely pristine! The temperature is perfect and the sun is slowly setting, but the guys are well shaded by the (Arts Factory) building, so there is no blinding light in anyone's faces. Just a slightly cool breeze, motorcycle engines and the disco lights on squad cars blinking in the distance.

The surly men with long grey hair from the “rockin blues” band (that took the liberty of setting up two hours early) quickly lose their edge moments after Sam and James begin to play and their animosity turns to admiration.

That’s right, Effers!

You can drop the attitude already and maybe start taking some notes.

We were originally told to play till 7:30, but the leather and denim blues man insists that his band is starting at 7:00- and after all, they are already set up and sound checked on the main stage before we arrived. Cute.

OK, man. Whatever you say. Gives us more time to get to the next gig anyway.

Sam and James perform a brilliant set consisting of songs from their split LP along with a few requests from the audience, including an excellent version of Pine Hill Haints “Born to Suffer” (requested by yours truly).

They’re on their final songs, so I locate the manager to get them paid promptly so we can get out of there quickly (and over to Container Park). After getting their dough, the manager runs over to thank them both for playing and he hands them his business card, saying in his gruff yet slightly fancy New York sounding accent. “ANY time you want to come back, we would love to have you! ANY time!”

After disassembling the PA, I rally a couple of bodies so we can take all the gear back upstairs in one full swoop. Onward to Container Park!

No bombs went off.

Being a mere seven or so short blocks away, we made it to Container Park in no time.

Must be some more confusion. We were explicitly told to perform 45 minutes of material at 8:00 pm, but this Dwight Yoakam wannabe doesn't even finish his set until 8:00 and then spends nearly 30 minutes getting his crap the eff off stage. You should have seen this guy. Moving like a tortoise, packing each individual piece of equipment into their respective cases and carefully stacking all of them onto his collapsable dolly, then walking back onto the stage while Sam and James are sound checking to walk around and do a “dummy check” in case he left something behind. Diddling in his phone at the same time.

It does not exactly surprise me to see this arrogant musician type of behavior, but it still just blows my mind when I do. Show some freaking courtesy for your fellow musician, guy!

Anyhow, the boys are tuned up, mic’d up and sound checked ready to go and it’s 8:45.

Sound guy asks them to wait till 9:00. What the what?

Container Park is busy. There are kids running about everywhere. Families of all sizes dining and strolling. But the park policy is that it turns 21+ at 9:00 pm.

Come 8:57 pm, park loudspeakers announce that the park is closed to minors and will reopen at 9:00 am. This announcement repeats several times, yet we don’t really see any of these families packing up. Slowly, a parent here, a parent there, they begin to reign in the fun and for some reason the children are oblivious to the fact that they were just told that it’s time to leave. Maybe because so many other families who don’t feel that the rule applies to them are taking their sweet ass time to get going, none of these other kids believe it either.

At last, James The Fang and Serious Sam Barrett take to the stage and they sound better than anywhere we have heard them before. Gotta give the Container Park props on their sound system and engineer. Aside from the children whining as they are being carried away, the sound is crystal clear and their execution is flawless. I don’t think we ever heard an off note throughout all three of these performances.

The audience has now been dramatically reduced, but there are a few mature groups seated in nearby parties who are really responding to their tunes. Big cheers after each song.

Now that the children have left the park, (grown ass) adults have begun playing in the children’s play area, running about on the bridges, play fighting with foam noodles. I felt embarrassed for their spouses. What a bunch of dorks.

After the show, we go back to the hotel.

What a nightmare.
The Gold Spike Hotel is like a really cool frat house having an endless rager. I had no idea it had gotten this bad. Even the hotel room itself is designed like a dorm room with bunk beds and laptop work stations. The walls are booming with bass from downstairs. young adults are playing oversized jenga and bean bag toss. For what it’s worth, it’s likely a really easy place to get laid.

This crew is not on that plain. No worries. I know a place.
We escape the Gold Spike and walk 3 blocks west to the California Hotel. Right inside the door, we hit the Cal Club. Burgers and fries all around. Sam gets some fried chicken and I grab a round of Coronas.

This is where we part ways, at least for today. Steve forgot his coffee apparatus at our house, so we make plans to meet in the morning for a little breakfast before they drive to San Pedro. The fellas walk back to their room. Hillary and I take the long walk home. It’s not a far or unpleasant distance, but tonight our legs are feeling it.

Of the many things I would love to show these guys while they are in town, is one of our skate parks and the Riviera Hotel. One, because these dudes live to skate and two, pretty soon our beloved Riv will be no more.

Well, we were lucky that Steve left his coffee thingy behind, because after we left the California Hotel, Jamie wanted forget about the hotel room and just hit the road. Even after I had explained to him that the Riviera is a piece of Las Vegas history that will not be here the next time he rolls through town. The place where Casino was filmed, for crying out loud! (Sam is a huge fan of the film).

Again, at our house in the morning, Jamie’s suggesting otherwise. I get it. Every dollar he can get by not spending, the better. He’s not on vacation. He’s on tour. It’s a job.

Still, you need to eat. We hop into the van with them and in a few short minutes, we are parked behind the Riv. We take the long walk through the back near the convention center and meander through the halls into the casino, past the floor and the bars and pinball hall of fame, upstairs to the wall of fame. Everybody. Elvis, Liberace, Sinatra, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Joan Rivers, Charro, The Smothers Brothers and on and on. We take the escalator down into the food court and decide on our breakfast options. Sam and James go with a traditional bacon, eggs, toast, coffee combo while Hillary and I opt for Quizno’s flatbread wraps.

One more important thing to do.

Take Sam’s picture in front of the world famous Crazy Girls statue.
“No ifs, ands or…”
That’s all folks. The tour rolls on to California from here.
I grab two tequila/OJs and Hillary and I walk home down Las Vegas Blvd.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Saving Daylight Saving

It saddens me that me so many of my fellow Nevadans are so quick to condemn Daylight Saving Time, simply because within their own minds they cannot immediately see a useful purpose for it in their own lives.

The mere idea that we as a collective society should cast out that which we do not understand rather than investigate, out of our own curiosity, precisely “Why do we do this seemingly useless and painful, life-interrupting exercise twice annually?” is simply not a way to conduct ourselves.

I can open up a smartphone and peak at all of the bewildering doodads and conclude
“I have NO idea how this works.”

When my brain concludes that it does not have enough information to “make sense” of this operation, it does not negate the fact that the device at hand “works”. This would be a ludicrous protocol for human existence.

I may not know how my smartphone works, but I can easily deduce how it might assist me in my daily life.

For example, especially in the more tropical latitudes such as we, the days get longer during the Summer months (and shorter during Winter months), which means that the sun rises earlier. Obviously. Right? Which in turn means that You (or your children) will rise earlier every morning (presumably). In this scenario, turning the clock forward during the longer days actually allows you to preserve your regular sleep/wake schedule- just not on day one.

This is your first benefit. Now that the sun is rising an hour later, naturally, it must also be setting an hour later, which equates to games of basketball, dog walking, bicycle riding, swimming, BBQ’s and so much more which can be accomplished during the more desirable Daylight hours.

Yes. It is a difficult concept to wrap your mind around, but try to stay with me here for just a few more moments and I will leave you to your own disposition.

One of the other original intentions for creating DST was to reduce energy costs. The benefits of which are still highly debated and inconclusive, however, you might recognize some potential benefits of conserving energy in your own life, if you can imagine that you use the lights in your home for one hour less each night. In 18th century Europe, the idea equates to conserving candlesticks by rising an hour later in order to burn fewer candles each night. A concept that I believe translates well into our modern energy production and consumption habits.

Now, here comes Republican State Assemblyman Chris Edwards and he has a proposal in Nevada to keep Daylight Saving Time, as in “spring forward in March” indefinitely and never “fall backward” again.

On the surface, one might see the idea of extending DST to be year round as a positive move.

“No more changing clocks! Woo hoo!”

Imagine for a minute, truly imagine, what this would mean.

The days will continue to get shorter during the Winter. The sun will rise later and set earlier. If we decide to save ourselves the agony of changing the clock, we will set ourselves up for sleeping in too late, starting our days in the dark, sending kids to school in the dark and so on.

More importantly, the majority of the entire English-speaking, Western world will still be practicing DST. Which means that if Nevada were to stop adjusting their clocks in Spring and Fall, then we would spend half of the year in the Pacific time zone (PST)and half of the year in Mountain (MST). Living in the world in which we do, this means you would need to change your smartphone and computer settings from one timezone to the other twice annually. So, in essence, you will still be “changing your clock(s)”, except you will be changing your timezone and not the time itself. An even more bewildering concept, if you ask me.

Along with living in dual time zones comes your programming adjustments. Sure, more and more people these days are getting their entertainment from Netflix , Amazon Prime or their TV’s DVR system, but for a lot of people who still watch traditional television (or listen to radio), whether it be Jeopardy! or Sesame Street , their programs will come on an hour earlier or later depending on the season. Which might equate to adjusting the time that your family sits down to dinner (should they be so lucky to engage in such an evening ritual).

All but two of these United States, Hawaii and Arizona , practice Daylight Saving Time. KEEP IN MIND that the Navajo Nation inside Arizona DO practice DST. All but three European countries ( Iceland, Russia, Belarus ) practice what they call “Summer Time in Europe” , where clocks are moved forward one hour in Spring and Back one hour in Autumn to "make the most of seasonal daylight."

DST is currently observed by Turkey, Iran, Syria, Israel, Azerbaijan and Lebanon.

Unless the rest of the United States of America, Canada and Europe all want to call it quits for Daylight Saving, I think Nevada should keep doing what they’re doing. As it is, the benefits far outweigh the cost.

Friday, February 13, 2015

What I Hate About Men

Dear Friends,
Michael Welsh, here. Do you want to know what I hate about Men? I will go ahead and specify “most men” here, just in case there are exceptions to the rule other than myself even though no person in particular comes to mind at the moment.

What I hate about (most) Men…

They simply do not know how to dish out a compliment.

Guys, if your significant other does something, anything at all, noticeably different, whether it be their clothing, their hair, preparing a meal or just about anything- you compliment them. What is so hard about that?.
I hear these tales all too often and it makes me terribly sad for mankind (and even more so for women everywhere).

Woman gets an amazing new hairstyle and/or color, arrives home to her partner, a man who believes his “opinion” or insipid attempt at humor is valid, comes up with something like,
“You look like a dyke.”
My heart drops and my skin crawls just having to write those words. These men make me so sick to my stomach.

Who do they think are?

I can almost 100% guarantee that these hubbies are not NYC fashionistas in the know of hot trends coming off the red carpet. Do you know what I mean?
Instead, these supposedly loving partners blubber something like,
“I like yer hair better long.”
Do you know what that a-hole is saying when he says this?
“quit spending money cutting yer hair”
which actually translates to:
“If you want to feel good and look pretty, it should just come natural, (like it does to me ).”

These men are oblivious, not only to their own ignorance but also to the damage they are causing in their own relationships, as well as the world at large. Shut up already, Fellas.

Beauty is not a vain waste of money, it is a valuable survival tool and if you sit back and marinate on that concept (for a minute) and the role beauty has played and continues to play in our evolution as human beings, hopefully you might come to realize that you have been wrong all along in every ridiculous, insulting remark you have made to the person that you are supposed to cherish and respect.

There is hope, I believe. For I was once a young man too timid to compliment a girl to her face. THEN SHE WOULD KNOW I LIKED HER!?!?!? THE HORROR!!!?!?

I’m sure we’re all familiar with this schoolyard type of thinking.

I, for one, was so incredibly shy as a youth that I could barely speak to a girl and especially not one that I thought was cute.

I seriously had to teach myself to get over it. As a young adult, I considered myself to be a student of Frank Sinatra, and there it was, right there in black and white in his biography. I forget the question but his reply was “compliment her”. Tell her she looks pretty.

It was October 16, 1999. I know this because it was my brother’s wedding. I was the Best Man and I had a date to the reception. Nothing romantic or serious, but it was a milestone (to say the least) that I had called a girl, asked her to accompany me to a thing and she said Yes.

Gorgeous day, mid-October, downtown Las Vegas, I was walking East down Bridger from the Golden Nugget parking garage to the First Methodist Church on 3rd Street. I had my compliment locked and loaded. I turned to my date, looked her straight in her eyes and said
“You look very pretty.”
She let out a tiny little gasp and replied “ahhh.. you look very handsome yourself.”

And that was that. I did not hurt. My heart did not stop. No one laughed. I could see she was visibly happier through the entire event.

So, Fellas, Guys, Hombres, please.
Could you please, just say it!
Try it with me now.
Say it out loud.




Once you have this down, your next move is to learn how to say it spontaneously to your significant other. Sure, you can start with the obligatory “new haircut” or “getting ready to leave the house together” compliments to get your game up, but soon you will want to use it when She(or He) is least likely expecting it,.,i.e,. stepping out of the shower, waking up in the morning, or for no reason at all in the midst of conversation over lunch.

Most importantly, Fellas, remember that YOU ARE NOT LYING .

She is beautiful morning, noon and night or you wouldn't be together. Right? I certainly hope at least, that the person you are spending your life with truly lights up your world. And guess what? She/He will shine that much brighter and continue to fill your world with love when you learn to silence the “Bro who thinks his opinions are totally valid observations” and simply reply with an honest “You look pretty”, or fabulous, gorgeous, ti amo, whatever works in your case.

On behalf of under-appreciated women around the world, I am Michael Welsh.

(702) 525 1053

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Finding a thing called "beauty".

I have always found our desert city to be beautiful. At least as far back as I can remember recognizing and appreciating such a thing as “beauty”.

Almost every Sunday, growing up, my Dad would be driving my brother and I back to our Mother’s house. There were two common routes to choose from. Eastbound, straight down Washington Avenue from Michael Way to Pecos, or “the expressway”, 95 South from Decatur Boulevard to Eastern Avenue.

Where the freeway rounds the Meadows MalI and peaks at Valley View, I would, and still do, admire the downtown hotels juxtaposed to Frenchmans mountain. The setting sun behind us illuminating the buildings, everything just looks so crisp. I just loved it. Not just that sight but the entire valley for that matter. I love that you can see all the way across the valley on a clear day. There are incredible vantage points for these scenic views hidden all over the city.

As a teenager in this town, working construction, building the suburban neighborhoods which now surround us, I would live for the days where I would be working high on a hill with a commanding view of the city. From Paradise Hills to Horizon Ridge to Sun City and beyond. It does not get much better than looking over Las Vegas the morning after a nice rain storm.

I did not actually see the Las Vegas that others complain about until I was 26, working with a crew of L.A. and New York people for six weeks downtown. I just did not see it. I can see the sunshine and feel the crisp, dry air. I see the lawns of green grass and innumerable species of trees. My co-workers see smoke and smokers and morbidly obese people on “Rascal” scooters. They see the dead stare in the faces of video slot players. They see a town void of charm. All of the sudden, I can see them see me and I am the desert equivalent to a country bumpkin who don’t know no nothing about the cultured life in the big city. I do what I can to share the beauty that I believe my town offers to those who are ignorant of our ways. Nothing makes a dent.

This was quite a large pill to swallow.

Later that year, I began to do some travelling by myself. I drove up Nevada, over into California through Lassen National Forest, past Mount Shasta and into Oregon. My first visit to Oregon was a little overwhelming. Mostly because I did not have any person to really share it with. The intense greens, the flowing water, the air, the trees- each experience triggering the memory of a different person that I wished that I could share it with.

I knew several Oregon folks who lived in Las Vegas as well as many Las Vegans who transplanted to Oregon. What a marvelous coincidence or perhaps pattern, I thought to myself. Kids from the desert crave mountains and rain, while Northwesterners seriously dig the sunshine and arid climate.

After visiting Bend, Oregon in a vain attempt to find some long lost friends, I headed West and made it the coast just in time for sunset. The next morning I proceeded South down the coast, back into California through Eureka, past the mighty redwoods, into some wine country and across the Golden Gate Bridge. Oh my lord, cruising through San Francisco with my windows down on a Summer night with that intoxicating bay breeze cascading through my nostrils- wow. I wish I could afford to stay, but alas, my budget is being devoured by gasoline and I need to make it as far as possible every day.

I post up with my cousins in Morgan Hill and take a day off from travelling. My cousin Pam’s tuna casserole is so unbelievably good. I can’t believe how hungry I actually am. But it’s true, you spend all day driving, not really burning any calories, it’s easy to go without eating. I must have been pretty famished because this tuna casserole is like the best thing I have ever tasted- and we both know that cannot possibly be true.

This is Steinbeck country. Driving through these dusty yellow molehills reminds me of the vivid descriptions put forth in the book East of Eden (and other works from John Steinbeck). It’s really not very pretty. At least in the Summer during yet another famous California drought. Come Spring, if the winter is any good, these hills will green up and burst with wildflowers, but today it is a depressing, dusty, dry earth- the kind that our ancestors moved away from.

I know this path, I have been passenger on this journey more times than I can remember. Just 8 or so little hours and I will back in my humble desert.

It seems that the farther South you travel in California, the scarier the drivers become. By the time I reach Baker, it feels like an all out race for your life. Judging by the speed and intensity of the motorists, I believe the state just might be really falling into the ocean. Cars are passing each other on the shoulder, even.
These people are nuts.

I, on the other hand, am cautious and I allow the speed demons to race ahead. Again, it is just about sunset and the sky is painting the desert in pinks, purples and oranges. This has always been the impossible hour. You are getting so close to Las Vegas, but can’t yet see it. This is the perfect hour to arrive. The sun is almost completely out of sight, yet a solitary beam is splitting the sky and reflecting against the mirrored Strip hotels. The sky is a dimming blue and a plethora of twinkling lights are turning on. This is the moment that my city comes into view and it is positively gorgeous.

Hold on. Wait a minute.

South Point?

When I left here last week that brand new hotel was called South Coast.

Wow. That is Las Vegas for you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Vegas Valley Book Festival

Dear Friends,
It’s almost Saturday already. Are you ready?

As if the weather has not been picturesque enough these last few days,, the weather wizards are predicting an even milder afternoon with partly sunny skies (high of 82 degrees Fahrenheit).

I can hardly imagine greater weather for the 13th annual Vegas Valley Book Festival, October 16-18, 2014, Historic Fifth Street School, 401 S Fourth St.

The festival events take place at a number of locations, check the event schedule for full details.

I, however, will be sitting at table #9 in the poetry courtyard, Saturday October 18th, 2-4 pm.
Do come say “Hi!”
Speaking of my book.

Have you bought my book lately?

I just learned that You can order hardcover versions of the book, either with a dust jacket or image wrap. Yours would be very rare, as I only ever printed softcover books.
The hardcover books do cost substantially more than the softcovers, but I suppose they last longer and are “nicer”. I don’t know. If you’re interested in getting the only hardcover copies of my book (for your collection).
Order here.

Have you heard the buzz?
National resale retailer Buffalo Exchange has opened on Main Street, right here in our very own 18b Las Vegas Arts District. In case you were unaware, Buffalo Exchange buys and sells clothing, so you do not necessarily need to be in the chips to go shopping. Just dig out your old threads that don’t fit or just don’t fit your style anymore and you bring them in for cash or store credit. Be aware, however, that they only buy what they think they can sell, so their buyer may turn down your wares based on their own judgment or opinion. It would be in your best interest to stack the deck, that is, bring in more than you want to get rid of.

Presto. You have a shopping tab.

As their neon in the window proudly states: “FRESH CLOTHES DAILY”

BOOK your next appointment TODAY at Hillary Salon. (702) 525 1053.
Not an appointment for today, mind you. An appointment for next week or the week after. We do appreciate when you give us at least day in advance heads up.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It gets better.

Our first two visits to The Market were less than eventful and perhaps my initial review of the new Fremont Street shop was more than necessarily scathing- I was just calling it as I see it.

Our Sunday morning walk brought us back to The Market for a follow up, as it did not appear that they were completely ready on our first encounters. This morning we are pleasantly surprised. The limited selections of ales and ciders previously on display have been flushed out and varied. There are prices now on display where many were previously lacking, allowing the consumer to comparison shop (for value).

The coffee bar was open, serving Stumptown Coffee (although a printed sign still declared “Coming Soon”), however we are not in the mood for coffee on this particular Sunday morning, if you catch my drift.

Which leads me to our biggest surprise of the morning, much of the booze is competitively priced. I would have bet my left leg that a place such as this, not unlike a Whole Foods or similar, would have their six-packs priced above market average. Here today, we stand stunned to discover that the hopped cider we were eyeballing the other day is a mere $6.00 American. Wait no longer, throw that puppy in the bag.

We are also in need of dish soap and sponges this morning, so we meander over to that aisle and deduce a reasonable brand of organic, zero-waste, environmentally sound, almond scented dish soap and a 3 pack of equally environmentally correct sponges. $3.69 and $3.19 respectively. Not a steal but not the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination either.

On our first visit to The Market, we were 20 minutes early for the ribbon-cutting and learned from a nearby “Ranger” that the store would actually be open to the public thirty minutes after that. We decided to skip the hoopla and return the following morning, which we did.

Wouldn’t you know it, one of our friendly neighborhood friends sees us shopping, gives us a holler and we spend the next 10 or so minutes catching up and chewing the fat.

On our third visit, Sunday morning, before we can even reach the rear of the store, we see a friend and contemporary of ours taking everything in for the first time. A very similar, friendly back and forth ensues and we spend the next several minutes surveying the aisles, hashing about the store, what they have, what they don’t have, etc.,

At the end of the day, still a lot of mixed feelings. There are plenty of reasons for me to shop here from time to time. Still, so much of the store is redundant and priced far out of the realm of reasonable. Juice, for example. There seems to be some kind of organic juice on nearly every aisle. What gives?

Grab and go salads and hummus trays are there for your no-brainer, low cal lunches. Most of them are labeled Mediterranean and many feature a dish called “guacahummus”, although I could not find any dishes with falafel. I am going to go ahead and assume that “guacahummus” is precisely what it sounds like- a combination of guacamole and hummus? I am guessing that it must be pretty good because it is also mighty plentiful around the store.

Another comfortable amenity to The Market are there two, clean, unisex restrooms easily accessible for the public. Not an amazing advancement or anything but I am sure you have been to grocery stores and discovered their toilets under lock and key or hidden down some mysterious hallway. I know I have.

For whatever it’s worth, an empty bladder makes for a more comfortable and leisurely shopping experience. If only record stores could learn to adapt these practices.

So here is the jist. Our friend Josh suggests that the deli and coffee portion of the store is much more useful than the grocery half. An astute observation that I cannot exactly deny, except he does not actually live anywhere near here. My approach would be something more like, I can grab some odds and ends now when I am in this neck of the woods. It does not solve the downtown grocery epidemic, but it is really great to have something of this kind as an option, especially on this block.

Honestly, I stayed at the El Cortez a few times back in 2009 and the lack of these services nearby was very apparent. I still contend that a much more practical location could have been sought for this market, but I will admit that it does do a world of good for the neighborhood.

It’s really quite funny to be standing on the sidewalk there on Fremont Street looking up and down at all the sites, with groceries in tote, waxing on about nothing with a friend you had no expectations of bumping into on such a morning. It’s really quite fun also.

Friday, October 10, 2014

meh.. The (new) Market

So far, so lame.
At least from an urban pedestrian who lives 1.6 miles away perspective. This morning, unlike most mornings, we drove to the new Market on Fremont Street. Yes, right now, for the time being, we are car-sitting for a relative- that story is irrelevant here.

My expectations are not sky high for the new Market, as one could safely assume, the products will be “high end” and the prices will be set to preclude their intended target demographic.

However, I am incredibly eager for the promise of Stumptown Coffee Co. , right here in our desert. Originating in Portland, Oregon, quickly expanding to Seattle and beyond, Stumptown are famous in the world of coffee bean sourcing and roasting. The proof is in the pour. I promise, one cup of Stumptown, whatever your favorite coffee beverage is, and you will become a believer.

Anyhow, we are excited to finally get some of the coveted juice here in Las Vegas.

Along with the coffee bar and fresh sandwich cafe, is the promise of growler fills. A growler is a 64 oz container used to transport draft beer. Very popular in other parts of the country, still mostly just a beer-guy thing in our valley.

My immediate concern on this mornings visit to the new grocery is,
“Where should we park?”

As if downtown (Las Vegas) were not already famed for inadequate parking, nowadays every space on every block and every lot is pay-to-park. New Las Vegas transplants from far and wide accept paying hourly to park their vehicle as normal and everyday behavior. They were broken by their masters long before they moved here.

OK. I’ll play along.

We have Las Vegas’ first grocery store that charges for parking.

I have heard people complaining about the complexity of the new parking meters. To be honest, I thought this was a little silly. “Come on”, I thought. “”It’s not that hard.”

I take it back. The NEW new parking meter boxes have an even more convoluted concept that prevents any person parking from using leftover minutes on the meter. You G-D-Mother-F-ers!


Your tax dollars at work, Fry Man.

After a couple of minutes and attempts, we figure out HOW to pay for the freaking parking.

Upon entry into the market, I think to myself, “Oh geez, I bet a greeting is about to be hurled my way.” Without fail, here it comes. “Hi. Hello. Good morning.”

Before we even get our sunglasses off of our faces, Hillary has breezed right past nearly the entire produce department without so much as a glance. This indicates to me that they are going to need better presentation in that department. It may not often seem like it, but there is a science and art to displaying produce departments in appetizing ways that make you want to buy.

Onward to the coffee and beer! We meander over to the east side of the market where the services are located. After posting up in front of the counter for a minute, taking in the menu and all else to see, we notice a little sign that says “Coming Soon” blah blah blah “Stumptown”.

Right behind the vacant barista counter, we see the beer taps also with a sign which reads: “Coming Soon” blah blah blah “Growler Fills”.

OK. Well, the two things we came for are not here. Let’s look around at the rest of the market.

Spacious and predictable. A few small coolers featuring a limited selection of craft ales and ciders, an equally curated wine collection and mostly higher end, “all natural” and organic products line the aisles. Products that typically make up a small department in a major chain grocery store basically fill the entire Market. So, you can imagine, it does look very nice. There are many essentials that one does struggle to find in or around the single digit street neighborhoods- frozen veggies, potatoes and entrees for example.

I wanted to buy something from The Market this morning, just on G.P. (general principle), yet I could not find a single item that I could actually justify purchasing because I needed it in my kitchen. There were a couple of items, but like half of the store, there were no prices on them.

Sorry, but I am not going to be that sucker. I am not going to bring a 6 pack to the register and hope for the best, but most likely say “Hell No, I’m not paying $__.__ for a six pack of _____!” Or worse still, actually pay the exorbitant price simply because I already brought it to the register and prefer to save face. No sir. No thank you.

Maybe a breakfast sandwich from the counter then?

Whoops. Now there is crowd of 8 or so people at the counter (who have not seemed to order and no person is preparing anything at the moment), so we decide to pursue another option.

A brief conversation of timeliness, our location and time left on the parking meter leads us to O Face Doughnuts.
Two savory breakfast doughnuts and an iced coffee to go, please.

The newly remodeled John E Carson hotel is a real achievement for the highly publicized, often scrutinized, Downtown Project. It stands as a premier example of redefining the downtown landscape while maintaining some historical integrity.

That is another story, however, and today we’re talking about The Market.

Market, I just have to be honest, you have let me down.

#1-WHY be on Fremont Street ? Next to a tavern/entertainment district no less? Grocery stores struggle to maintain a small profit margin and must operate in volume in order to be successful. A more accessible location, yet still downtown, must have been available for a venture of this proportion.

#2- Paying to park. I have been to San Francisco and many other cities where parking is a privilege for the few and even in those “real cities” a person is allowed to park their car at the grocery store where they are shopping. They are quick to tow you if you are abusing their lots but the store itself (usually) allows for parking.

#3- The Market is open yet not ready to be open. Unfortunately, your two big lures that got me in the door, are not yet available. Hopes dashed.

#4- Where are the prices? Products that are not priced lead me to believe that they are “over-priced”.

#5- The Name?!? For an organization that allegedly has a “Director of Imagination”, they don’t display much creativity. “Downtown Container Park”, “Eat”, “Place on 7th” and now “The Market”. Take out your smartphone and ask it to find you anything regarding “The Market” and see how helpful it is.

#6- No Brussels Sprouts. OK, now I am nit-picking. I’m just saying. Frozen brussels sprouts. That’s all.

It is 1.5 miles from my house to Smith’s on Rancho and Charleston. It is 1.6 miles from my house to The Market (on Fremont Street).

What do you have that I actually need?

On the plus side, The Market appears to be a great lunch alternative for any persons who work in the immediate downtown area.

The Market is also be a tremendous addition for guests staying at El Cortez (or Cabana Suites).

I will return when the place is fully up and running, but for the foreseeable future, I will remain a regular at White Cross Market and Su Salud es Primero (Salvadorean bodega on Main Street).