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Las Vegas

The Review Issue

In these troubled times, what could be more important than what we think about stuff?

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Illustration by Travis Jackson

People (and animals)

Dave Berns

Four stars

Is there any interviewer in town more prepared than Dave Berns, reedy-voiced host of KNPR’s State of Nevada? I mean, whatever’s going on in town, in politics, in the economy, Berns has got it on lockdown. For journalists this is bad, because he always gets to the good stories before we do. For everyone else, it’s great, because he helps keep Southern Nevada on top of events. –T.R. Witcher

Mr. Bamboo

Five stars

Who is Mr. Bamboo? My cat. He is from a shelter, and has dark patches, but is mostly white. He purrs every time he is picked up. And so why is the Mister (as he is called in an insincere tribute to the Bronte sisters) more worthy of five stars than your cat (or, my other cat) or your car or toe? He isn’t. Just take a look around, and you may be surprised at how much perfection you find in your life. –Richard Abowitz

Miss Jenny

Four stars

The instructor of my daughter’s “ballet” class at the Henderson Multigenerational Center is a true saint, dealing with a horde of 3-year-olds without ever dropping the smile from her face. She keeps the 45-minute Saturday sessions fun and light, allowing the children to gallop about freely to the tunes on her iPod while interjecting just a hint of real dance instruction. Now, if only she’d discover Daft Punk. –Spencer Patterson

Dog owners in my neighborhood

Two stars

First of all, kudos for at least having your dogs on leashes. But come on, I’m standing right there as your 200-pound hellbeast pours his scat all over the nice, grassy community area while you just casually glance at the “Dogi-Dogi” disposable-waste-bag dispenser, perhaps believing it to be a community sculpture instead of the solution to widespread dog shit it’s intended to be. I’d say something, but that’s not my job—my job is to be a worried, upside-down homeowner who talks to the other residents through his HOA. Now behave. –Ken Miller

Norm Clarke’s Twitter stream

Three stars

Norm has the column thing down, but he is fairly new to Twitter. “DEVELOPING: Was tiger tethered during Siegfried and Roy after exiting enclosure during farewell show?” Yes, it was. Some adrenaline will be wasted getting gossip this way. But with fewer than 300 followers, you can still win bets on what will be in Clarke’s widely read Review-Journal column the next day. –RA

Places

Red Rock scenic loop

Five stars

Five dollars for the best ride in the city? Take a Sunday jaunt, drink in the Wilson Cliffs, the most gorgeous mountains in the Vegas Valley. Get out and take a walk. Red Rock Canyon is still the best place to get out of town completely, and then, when you’re ready, to get right back in. –TRW

The traffic flyover at Town Square

Three stars

While it’s brilliant to somehow get the necessary parties on board to build a giant ramp diverting traffic from the Strip directly into the mouth of your businesses, there are still a few problems with the traffic situation at Las Vegas Boulevard and the 215 surrounding Town Square. If you’re exiting the 215 from the east, you’re stuck in a ridiculous one-lane turn lane waiting many light changes to get onto that ramp, or to go north to the Boulevard. So the traffic jam the flyover is meant to prevent is just pushed back onto the freeway off-ramp. So, points for moxie, and for the fun of hopping on the flyover and zooming into shopping land, but not for solving traffic problems. –Stacy J. Willis

The merry-go-round next to Whole Foods across from Green Valley Ranch

Three stars

At first this seems like a very random place for a carousel. But there is a frozen-dessert place a few feet away, and Whole Foods. One reason the location seems random is that the area behind one side has yet to be developed. But this adds the charm of the unexpected when you chance upon this child-magnet. But why, this being the only amusement ride on offer, do you need to buy tokens to take a spin on a horse and a giraffe? –RA

Henderson’s I-95/I-215 interchange flyover

Three stars

The view is spectacular. Getting there? Not so much. Traveling from the 215 eastbound to the 95 northbound means funneling into one lane, with a giant concrete wall staring those who miss the merge right in the face. Only other option, bailing and heading south, exiting and flipping around. And then, on top of everything, you miss out on the view. –SP

Flamingo exit on 95

Four stars

First off, it is Exit 69. Second, it leaves you at a convenient spot on Flamingo for getting a straight shot to the Strip (or to slink parallel along Koval), UNLV or Boulder Station and its environs. The exit isn’t unique. You could get off, for example, at Exit 68 (though it isn’t nearly as fun to say, “Get off at 68”) with many of the same benefits. But then you would have to deal with far worse traffic driving Tropicana to the Strip. One drawback: On the right days, when you get off at 69, the beggars waiting at the light, the one keeping you from reaching Flamingo, tend to have paragraphs-long signs requesting your funds before the light changes. They know what highway exit to be at, and that is a drawback, because that light is in no rush to change. -RA

Clark County public libraries

Three and a half stars

It starts with the bulletin boards in the entryway—fascinating stuff. Where else can you find information on transcendental meditation alongside a resource for doing your taxes? (Except, possibly, on the Internets, but the Internets lack the smell of clammy library-day bodies and stale books.) And then there’s the stacks. Row on row of books, canyons of words. And the imposed quiet! Shushing! Points for nostalgia. Points for the hideaway quotient. Points for no-cost borrowing. Minus for lack of the new releases you really want to read. -SJW

Broadacres Swap Meet

Four stars

Holy crap. This place is a nation unto itself. It sits on 41 acres in North Las Vegas with more than a thousand vendor spaces and four beer stands. If you’re looking for a mop, a soccer ball, an imitation designer purse, questionable brand-name toiletries or a ski mask, this is the fiesta for you. I give it points for transporting you right out of Vegas into an otherworldly flea market adventure. Wait, how is that different from Vegas? –SJW

The Beauty Bar’s backyard patio

Four stars

Live music venues don’t get much quirkier than this. An unhitched green trailer on standby. Christmas lights, year-round. Worn-out, yet surprisingly comfortable, couches. A constantly rotating stage area. An overheard street light that flips on/off throughout the night, at seemingly random intervals. No better place to see bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Hold Steady, especially now that the sound system has been dramatically upgraded. –SP

Food

7-Eleven Slurpee

Five stars

Because one of the first things I do when I move to a new town is find out whether there’s a 7-Eleven, and if so, where. Because it costs less than two bucks. Because the domed plastic cap gives you about 15 percent more Slurpee at the same price. Because Coke Slurpee tastes better than Coke. Because the Slurpee is just foamy, cold, sweet and perfect, and way better than all the other foamy, cold, sweet, phony drinks out there. (Because this is the only issue in which the bosses will let me give it a shout-out.) –TRW

Two opinions about Fresh & Easy

Two stars

Can I lodge my one real complaint with Fresh & Easy, just to get it out of the way? The produce needs an overhaul. I love prepackaged goodness as much as the next shopper, but still … I can’t buy a single onion? I gotta buy a four-pack? Really? Come on, guys. (The other complaint—since it’s all check-yourself-out—is that I need a clerk to punch in my birthdate every time I buy a bottle of wine.) But otherwise? Few people, no lines. You can get from one end of the store to the other in 15 seconds. And the best part: a solid and affordable selection of just the things you need. aaaac –TRW

I’m all for easy, but maybe I’m just not enough of a proponent of fresh to get much out of this popular minimalist grocery store. Only one or two brands of most items? Half the things on my pretty basic list unavailable? No Kraft mac n’ cheese in a box? Okay, I suppose I would feel more at home shopping at a store called Processed & Simplistic. –Josh Bell

Lunch at the Cracked Egg

Five stars

The lines out the door in the morning already speak to this place’s instant-classic status as one of Green Valley’s only breakfast places, but the lunches are superb in their simplicity. (We’re huge fans of both the burger and the cheesesteak.) And the crowds are less voluminous, too, which means that quick business lunch is actually doable. –KM

New In-N-Out Burger at Tropicana & Fort Apache

Four and a half stars

By default, In-N-Out deserves five stars, for its wonderfully delicious burgers, fries and milk shakes, and its dedication to old-fashioned simplicity and service. And this new location right near my house means I no longer have to drive to Sahara and Rancho to get my In-N-Out fix. But for the sake of objectivity, I feel I must deduct half a star for the poorly laid-out drive-through and occasional extremely long lines, the latter no doubt a byproduct of the restaurant’s sheer awesomeness. –JB

Albertson’s mini-muffin offerings

Two stars

Why, oh why, must I buy a 12-piece variety pack in order to bring home four apple-cinnamon mini-muffins? They’re easily the best in the batch, yet unlike the blueberry and banana-nut, they’re not available on their own. Good muffins, but hardly worth the hassle. –SP

The breakfast burritos at Pepe’s Tacos

Four and a half stars

Three a.m. Done drinking Downtown and in need of some quick, cheap eats? Head toward the three-street intersection of Fremont/Eastern/Charleston and pop into Pepe’s. Their breakfast burrito is packed with eggs, cheese, diced steak, beans and just enough sauce to moisten it all up without drenching the thing. The lone downside? They also offer a chorizo version, which isn’t quite as good, and they frequently mix up the two. –SP

Trying to get a quick cup of coffee at Starbucks

Three stars

Why exactly did they close all those stores? Because as far as we can see, the crowds are still as ridiculous as ever. A recent sojourn for a venti cup of Pike’s Place Roast took us to not one, not two, but three SBs until we found one that didn’t involve notifying our employer that we’d be two hours late to work. The economy may ebb and flow, but those coffee-withdrawal tremors are here to stay. –KM

Experiences

Looking up middle-school crushes on Facebook

Three and a half stars

If nothing else, this proves I had pretty good taste in women as a 12-year-old. Marcy Parco: Amazingly hot in the one picture Facebook allows me access to. Marie-Christine Wright: Sophisticated and vaguely European-looking, and apparently a graduate student in something. Aurelia D’Antonio: Also a graduate student (in art history), wears extremely attractive indie-girl glasses, and is Facebook friends with an old college classmate of mine (who declares Aurelia “the cutest thing ever”). Actually contacting middle-school crushes on Facebook: Rating pending. –JB

Finally throwing away that pair of old running shoes and rugby boots—and flip-flops—and …

Five stars

So it’s not exactly spring yet, but who cares what season it is when grimy old former footwear is staring you in the face? I thought about donating them, but let’s face it, even the less fortunate have standards! The smell emanating from the running shoes alone brought out the humanitarian in me—saving the human race one discarded pair of filth at a time. –KM

Buying decongestants

One star

Okay, we don’t want kids making methamphetamine with industrial-sized purchases of Sudafed. But it should not be harder to get a nonprescription medication than one that requires a prescription. But buying even a 30-day supply of 24-hour Sudafed makes treating your allergies feel criminal. And an entire month’s supply (30 pills) is more than most pharmacies will sell an individual. So this process requires multiple trips to the pharmacy, each transaction recorded after presenting a driver’s license for copying to the pharmacist and accompanying the purchase with a signature. –RA

Overhearing conversations at Urgent Care

Two stars

The assumption when you enter one of these places is that everyone is not only sick, but they are also trying to keep their distance from others and keep motions and words to a minimum. But one guy wasn’t having it. After hogging the registration window more out of stubbornness than anything that resembled human comprehension, he got on his cell phone (oh, it barked, by the way!) and proceeded to tell the patient soul on the other end how he had just been to another clinic, and “wanted to punch the woman in the face, but I didn’t want to get arrested!” Here’s hoping he went in for an emergency attitude adjustment. –KM

Home ownership

Half stars

The Great American Trick of the 21st century. Sure, your parents made a boatload of equity every time they moved from one house to another, sure. Sure they did. Sure, investing in a house is the best investment you’ll ever make. Of course it is. Sure, you’ll never regret buying a home. Real estate is solid. Uh-huh. Home ownership gives you pride! And this place is really booming. You’ll double your money! –SJW

Watching everyone around you get laid off No stars

Yes, I fully admit to having full-blown attacks of schadenfreude, but that was during far heartier economic times, when such a feeling was affordable. Now, I need a full psychological bailout to deal with the incredible toll this economy is taking on my family, my relatives, my friends, their friends and their friends’ families, not to mention the survivor’s guilt that only intensifies with each crushing wave. –KM

Things

Recession

Four stars

Obviously, it’s no Great Depression, since the quality of that one is right there in its name. Still, with its potentially sweeping changes to American economic structure, fomenting of feuds between basic-cable personalities and comeuppance delivered to smarmy bankers, this financial disaster has certainly provided its share of excitement and entertainment. If we’re all going to get screwed, it might as well be in a grand, fascinating and unpredictable way. Or at least that’s what I’ve learned from a steady diet of dystopian comic books and sci-fi novels. –JB

Weeds in my neighborhood

Two stars

My neighborhood is one of the epicenters of foreclosures in the country; we’ve got the signs to prove it. We’ve also got the weeds. The weeds are pissing me off. Because everyone’s lawn out here is rocks, how hard can it be to spot weeds and get rid of them? Yeah, it’s about the curb appeal, but mostly it’s about putting the work in to keep some sense of pride in the neighborhood. To everyone who’s not picking their weeds, get to it! –TRW

Road repair

Two stars

Cones, damn cones, everywhere. The crews spent a week paving a two-lane stretch of Fort Apache, near my home, and when they were done, they had added a left-turn lane which literally turned left into a road that didn’t exist in the middle of the desert. So they came back and painted over the left-turn lane. Yet they didn’t do what they should have done, which would be to leave the left-turn lane as a through lane, and add a right-turn-only to the existing lane. –TRW

Coupons

One star

Why can’t they just lower the prices out of pity for those of us incapable of clip-n-save or print-n-bring? Times are tough, man. Why can’t they just take 20 cents off or whatever it is, instead of insisting you carry around some file full of 40-cent discounts on Betty Crocker brownies? Who really does that? Or who saves the receipt from last week’s visit to the grocery store, on the back of which a two-for-one coupon for cans of tomato sauce is stamped? Just lower the prices, be a team player. –SJW

New desk chair

Three stars

It’s definitely an improvement over the old chair I had, a beat-up maroon seat passed down from my mom. For one, it has arms, and for two, it offers actual lower-back support, crucial when you sit at the computer for 27 hours a day letting your muscles atrophy. And it’s much better than the cool, modern-looking (but deeply uncomfortable) chair I initially bought at West Elm (and then returned). It’ll take some breaking in and getting used to, but for now, Office Depot comes out ahead. –JB

Cox DVR boxes

Two stars

They seem like a genius idea … right up until the moment they don’t. Honestly, what good is being able to save up old TV favorites if, at any moment, the box can crap out and turn into a plastic brick? Counting on these things is like storing up food for the apocalypse inside a refurbished refrigerator from the 1970s. Good luck with that. –SP

Green Valley going un-green

Five stars

All along Paseo Verde they’re ripping out the water-sucking sod and replacing it with desert landscaping. Yay, suburbia! We realize it’s more about saving money and less about saving water, but it works. –SJW

Consumerism

One and a half stars

It’s just not as fun as it was a decade go. Send out the government cheese. –SJW

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