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50 things you’d better be grateful for

Just like the pilgrims, we’re grateful that, in troubled times, we have great sushi, hybrid cars, Steve Wynn and 47 other pretty cool things

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1 Lon Kruger Prior to 2007, UNLV’s previous victory in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament came way back in 1991, under Jerry Tarkanian. The past two years under Coach Kruger, the Rebels have won three NCAA tourney games.

2 Good weather A relative texts from Reno: “It’s 26 degrees right now.” And it’s not a dry cold, either. Meanwhile, we’re still thinking about T-shirts (see Page 30).

3 Global warming Pretty soon we’ll be able to share Vegas summers with everyone! All year long!

4 The 215 Beltway, because it works.

5 Bruce Woodbury, for whom the 215 Beltway is named. We miss him already. There’s something to be said for boring politicians who just do their jobs.

6 The Bobbie sandwich, from Capriotti’s Thanksgiving on a bun—chunk turkey (not deli-sliced), stuffing and cranberry sauce. Now that’s America, pal.

7 The hundreds of ethnic food restaurants in this city, from Archie’s Thai to Pepe’s Tacos. Because that’s America, too.

8 That Las Vegas brings some of Rolling Stone’s recent 100 Greatest Singers to town on a regular basis: We’re lucky to see a lot of Smokey Robinson (No. 20), Etta James (No. 22), Elton John (No. 38) and Merle Haggard (No. 77) around here. Because one should sample greatness while it’s available, even if it’s past its prime. (None of this means we endorse the rest of those silly RS rankings—we mean, Kurt Cobain in, Sandy Denny out?!?)

9 Google blog alerts in your own name Because you never know what people are typing about you.

10 Democrats! Everywhere!

11 The perhaps fleeting but still bracing promise of a revised, more centrist Republican party

12 Valley of Fire Or, really, every park and vista that’s easily accessible from the city and reminds us that this is the most beautiful part of the country.

13 Hybrid cars Damn, they’re cool to drive.

14 Solar One the solar plant in Henderson. Hmm, maybe they’re onto something ...

15 Ethical doctors

16 Dedicated teachers

17 Getting junk mail Somehow in this crappy economy, it’s nice to know that someone, somewhere has enough money to send us crap.

18 The Colorado River: dammed, drained, legislated, over-obligated and still, somehow, some way, providing.

19 Desert landscaping

20 The M blimp, which has now opened up the idea of covering the Valley sky with advertising, too! Finally, something to look at up there!

21 The neurological certainty that Gov. Gibbons has a brain, and is therefore (theoretically) capable of keeping an open mind when the 2009 Legislature deals with the state’s budget crisis.

22 Fifth Street School—the most relaxingly, civically inspired space Downtown.

23 Some of the best home prices this side of 2002

24 That crime hasn’t shot up just because the economy was shot down.

25 That a pizza chain would say, “Hey, I know what we’ll do—let’s take our bread sticks, sprinkle them with chocolate and have people dip them in chocolate sauce.” And then deliver them to our door. Thanks, Pizza Hut.

26 For actual pizza: Rosatti’s

27 Steve Wynn In the midst of a recession, he is opening a new casino next month, already full of great restaurants and good jobs.

28 Frank Gehry’s Lou Ruvo building, still going up, still inspirational.

29 Companies who have taken the financial hit and managed to avoid layoffs

30 The volunteers who do a ton of work in this city Like the group gathered at Christ Episcopal Church handing out food. And the Salvation Army and Red Cross and Catholic Charities and Straight from the Streets.

31 Also: The Three Square hunger charity

32 That McCain graciously pledges to work with Obama, setting the tone for cooperation.

33 Criss Angel Someone has to take Cirque down a peg, right?

34 Our dotcom’s own Robin Leach He talks to celebrities so you don’t have to.

35 The suffix -ish This is the -Ish Decade. How ya doing? Okayish. When are we meeting for drinks? Sixish. It’s the perfect modifying suffix for a decade when war, politics and the economy have made it hard to trust any apparent certainty. (Is vacillation the new common sense?) What can’t we be hesitant about these days? Only dupes commit too early: Dinner? How’s Tuesdayish? Because so much can happen between now and then; gotta keep options open. And if you have a black belt in ambivalence, you can even double -ish a query—I’m okayish(ish)—thus underlining the contingent nature of life in this new era. And if there’s a kind of rude downside to -ish—sixish for drinks basically says For you, I’m not gonna promise promptness—it also gives you a quick, easy way to be honest about the uncertainty that suffuses almost everything.

36 Comforting certainties: The R-J will stake out op-ed positions delightfully irrelevant to life in Las Vegas; local band The Bleachers will make terrific music; Oscar will be Oscar.

37 Dawn Gibbons, drug czar

38 Jon Porter, retired

39 East Fremont/East Charleston/East Stewart: The area where the most historic hotels aren’t yet in the boneyard. The Peter Pan Motel: awesome signage. The Blue Angel: She’s still there. Ferguson’s: kitchens!

40 The Boneyard: We’re glad someone’s saving ’em!

41 The best sushi to be found in a desert setting

42 The Springs Preserve’s ginormous lizard crawling over the U.S. 95 wall: It’s sustainable, and it scares off the giant bugs.

43 Blue laws Give us a chance to wander the new-auto-sales lots on Sundays with no salesmen chasing us.

44 Metro cops

45 The end of the Halverson saga Because even the most entertaining soap operas jump the shark sooner or later.

46 Black Mountain Institute, bastion of serious literature in Las Vegas. Who else would bring heavy-duty authors Susan Faludi, Katha Pollitt and Farai Chideya to UNLV on December 3?

47 The RTC Bitch if you must about this city not having enough public transportation; we took a ride across Sahara in a clean, cool double-decker that was never late and never too full to find a seat.

48 O. J. Simpson, who made Nevada’s judicial system look efficient and competent—a feat far harder to achieve than winning a Heisman trophy or getting away with murder.

49 The financial turmoil This may sound a little trite, but maybe the economic slowdown will force us to, you know, slow down, to reexamine how we live our lives, to connect with our thrifty roots, to appreciate what we have.

50 Coupons We get it now.

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