Desert Companion
 
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SEPTEMBER 2014
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Take 5
Sep. 21, 3p. The author talks about his new book, Gangsterland: A Novel, a dark and funny page-turning crime story in which a former hit man,...   
Anna and Claire are two bantering, scheming “women of fashion” who have long lived together on the fringes of upper-class society. Anna...   
Sep. 21, 2p. This performance will feature Flamenco music in the nuevo and puro traditions interpreted by Flamenco dance. Griego will perform...   
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Food & Drink

Art & Culture

Leisure, Family & Fun

Outtakes

Best place to get away from it all

23rd Floor Lobby at Mandarin Oriental Hotel

A feeling of serenity settles over you once you’ve ensconced yourself in the 23rd floor lobby (that’s right) of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. From far above the Strip, you can enjoy its vistas yet feel comfortably removed from its hurly-burly, and the staff is the essence of solicitude. The afternoon tea service (starting at $36) will hit the spot. Chase a couple of finger sandwiches, some truffles and a few sweets with a voluminous pot of tea. We guarantee it will take you to your happy place. DM (3752 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-590-8888)

 

Best novelty shop

Zombie Apocalypse

This niche retail store is where paranoid preppers and "Walking Dead" fans collide. Casual enthusiasts can peruse a selection of T-shirts, books and posters, while those who mean business can head to a back room to survey weapons and ammo. If the commingling of machetes and cutesy (and bloody) Hello Kitty tees sounds peculiar, you’re right. But you never know when the survival bug will bite. Come with your curiosity and you might just leave with a fully loaded bug-out bag. DL (3420 Spring Mountain Road, 702-784-7882, zombieapocalypsestore.com)

 

Best home store

The Container Store

Sometimes we stop at Container Store just to look — although that idea never lasts long once we come across bins of must-have items such as magnetic organizers, pen lights and bag clips. What’s best, though, is that we can organize our kitchen without breaking the budget, find hangers we can’t break and keep the clutter at bay with attractive organizers that really do work. Pack rats, take heart. JP (Town Square, 6521 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-712-4801, containerstore.com)

 

Best Quality thrift store

Assistance LeagueAssistance League

The finds uncovered here literally look like they’ve come off the racks at the most coveted stores in town. A recent visit saw half off all men’s and ladies coats, many of which still had original tags on them, and shoes and purses literally don’t have a scuff or marking to be found. Don’t forget to look in the case up front for jewelry, gloves and specialty items you’ll drool over. Best yet, when you check out you’re automatically entered in a drawing for a monthly gift certificate — but you’ll be back whether or not you win it. JP (6446 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-870-1991, allv.org)

 

Best Quirky accessories store

Kate Spade

This former Mademoiselle accessories editor launched her own brand after her quest to find the perfect handbag fell short — now, she has 180 stores worldwide. Quirky and cool, her bags let women everywhere show off what they love best: their favorite book, a bag of jelly beans, a cruise on the high seas — in every color under the rainbow. JP (Multiple locations, katespade.com)

 

Best high-end designer

Tory Burch

Her designs are undeniably iconic, but what we’re inspired by most about Tory Burch is her need to give back — the Tory Burch
Foundation empowers women entrepreneurs to go after their dreams, through small business loans and a mentorship program
that matches them up with leaders in their fields. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “feel-good fashion.” JP
(Multiple locations, toryburch.com)

 

Best plant nursery

Cactus Joe’s Blue Diamond Nursery

Take locavorism beyond the plate and into the garden. This hidden gem, located near Red Rock Canyon, is home to the area’s largest selection of native plants. Some items may give you sticker shock, but consider it a trade-off for admission to our city’s very own mini-Eden. Guests can spend hours strolling through fields of mile-high cacti, Joshua trees and candy-colored glass. For those without a green thumb, a selection of low-maintenance succulents and outdoor decorations are also available. DL (12740 Blue Diamond Road, 702-875-1968, cactusjoeslasvegas.com)

 

Best veterinarians

Mountain Vista Animal Hospital

If you’re calling Mountain Vista Animal Hospital for an appointment, they’re liable to ask, “What are your babies’ names?” The doctors and staff understand the intense bond that forms between animals and their human companions, and that knowledge shapes the quiet, kindly atmosphere found in the red A-frame on Flamingo Road. There’s even a memorial to the late Wilbur, a huge and gregarious cat who once called the hospital home. DM (4675 E. Flamingo Road, 702-458-8808)

 

Best DVD bargains

Zia Record Exchange

Prices for brand-new DVDs and Blu-Ray discs still are at a premium at Zia Record Exchange. But if you’re willing to do some extra looking, there’s many a bargain to be had. Economics have swung in the collector’s favor: Zia has so many second-hand DVDs in stock that, if it’s used, chances are it’s dirt cheap. Even Blu-Ray titles are going for $7.99 or less. There goes your excuse for holding off purchasing "Ronin" or — if you’re really into esoterica — Tony Curtis waxing medieval in "The Black Shield of Falworth." DM (4225 S. Eastern Ave., 702-735-4942; 4503 W. Sahara Ave., 702-233-4942)

 

Best vinyl record store

Moondog Records

The best place right now to purchase old records is Vegas’ newest vinyl store. Moondog will have your inner audiophile howling with delight over rare goodies from every era and genre. From a German-only press of ’70s British hard-rock group Trapeze’s “Running” to a scarce copy of ’90s Swedish death-doom band Therion’s “Of Darkness …,” owner Clint McKean’s record collection inspires awe. It’s not just vinyl, either. Check out the Pink Floyd-tour comic book, the limited-edition Misfits tour poster signed by the whole band, plus a selection of vintage guitars and amps, old-school turntables and ready-to-go boom boxes. JK (4440 S. Maryland Parkway #112, 702-802-3333)

 

Best increasingly aspirational shopping

Main Street, Downtown

Main Street’s ever-increasing array of antique and furniture shops range from pocket change to six months’ rent, from the memories of childhood comforts and oddities to the most sophisticated of grownup dreams. Start out at Armstrong’s Emporium (1230 S. Main St., 702-366-1995, armstrongsemporium.com), where you can dig out relics of long-ago, cookbooks of recipes from the Carter administration — c’mon, deviled ham or molded salads could be the next comfort food throwback — and didn’t you used to have that Cameo 45? Regardless, you’ve got enough in your wallet for all of it and a few margaritas afterward. Take a stroll toward the Stratosphere, look in the windows and — Oh. My. God. A KISS pinball machine! Didn’t you promise yourself you’d buy one of those when you got a “real” job? Meander on to the expansive storefront of neighborhood stalwarts Retro Vegas (1131 S. Main St., 702-384-2700, retro-vegas.com), a loft-like space of mid-century marvelous. Sit in the big armchair at the “brutalist” Flintstones goth dining room set, twirl the stirrer in a gilt-trimmed Mad Men martini set — yes, yes, this is how you imagined yourself at this point in your life, part intimidating entrepreneur, part lighthearted bon vivant. LTR

 

Best candy shop for kids

Sweet spotSweet Spot

Some of you health-conscious hard-liners may say sugar’s bad for little ones. In mass quantities, yes. But here’s a decidedly non-corporate store with a mid-century aesthetic and a commitment to slinging hard-to-find candy bars, retro taffies, yummy gummies and premium chocolates, all displayed in old-fashioned glass jars. The sodas and root beers come in bottles, too, everything evoking a modern update on the mom-and-pop neighborhood candy shop. It’s a nice, bright, colorful place to stop in with the family, all sleek and modern, with neon-pink flourishes and stainless-steel furniture. JK
(616. Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-815-1277,
sweetspotcandylasvegas.com)

 

GEEK OUT

Best comic book store

Maximum Comics

Maximum Comics is Starbucks of the local comic book scene; it seems their stores are everywhere. Actually, there are only three locations — but that sense of ubiquity is a testament to the love these guys spread around. With a staff who loves comics as much as their customers, frequent parties and book signings, and a wildly diverse selection, Maximum Comics owner Jay Bosworth has assembled a store that offers something for everyone. JB (Multiple locations, maximumcomics.com)

 

Best tabletop games shop and gaming hangout

Little Shop of Magic

Little Shop of Magic

Sick of your kids staring into brain-deadening tablets all day? Here’s the top spot to get them and your whole family involved in something unplugged and communal. Whether you’re eager to lead a squad of Space Marines against warp-spawned aliens in the 41st Millennium (Warhammer 40K) or to simply learn how to strategically cast wizard-spells (Magic: The Gathering), this brick-and-mortar store houses all kinds of tactile, fantasy-based, indoor fun—collectible trading cards, role-playing adventures (Dungeons & Dragons), board games (Settlers of Catan) and tabletop miniatures. Little Shop of Magic seeks to grow the gaming community by recruiting players, so check their online calendar and drop in for a casual game, demo or tournament. Jarret Keene (4160 S. Durango Drive # 120, 702-307-6127, shopofmagic.com)

 

URBS VS. ’BURBS: BEST PLACE TO SHOP

 

Fashion ShowOn the Strip — Fashion Show Mall

The perfect combination of affordable and high-end shopping, this powerhouse shopping center boasts the most stores in Nevada, a retractable runway used to showcase designers’ latest collections and a grouping of the most eclectic anchor stores we’ve ever seen — from Neiman Marcus to Forever 21. A number of boutiques, such as Banana Republic and Express, have introduced their new flagships here, and the mall is continually updating and expanding its offerings. Wear comfortable shoes — there’s lots to explore. JP (3200 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-369-8382, thefashionshow.com)

 

Stephanie StreetOff the Strip — Stephanie Street in Henderson

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a focus when you start your shopping marathon on Stephanie Street between Warm Springs and Sunset Roads in Henderson — you’ll quickly discover one. Perhaps it’s Las Vegas’ only Nordstrom Rack, the nicest Toys R Us in town or the Salvation Army thrift store, where you can find deals such as a pair of shoes for 50 cents or a couple of bucks for an eclectic piece of wall art. All this before you even get to the Galleria at Sunset. And, should you get hungry along the way, you can find everything from Mexican to sushi to frozen yogurt and then some. JP

 

AN ODE TO … THE SPORTS BOOK

Sunday morning. A day of worship and prayer. We rush to our sacred space, full of optimism and faith. It’s a new beginning. We have learned from last week’s transgressions and developed a new strategy and plan. We seek more than salvation. We want growth; we want gain. The promised bounty awaits … as long as we choose wisely. We just have to get there on time. It is not the disapproving looks of parishioners we are trying to avoid if we are late — we have to get our bets in on time. The church forgives; the sportsbook doesn’t.

Inside, a bouquet of cigarettes, cologne and simmering hot dogs envelops us. We scan the others gathered here today. Based on the held glances and nods, we know it is more than the financial allure of parlaying an entertainment source into an income supplement or a life-changing windfall that brought us here. It is the opportunity to make connections and build rapport with friends, colleagues and even strangers, to be in a congregation where everyone is accepted and all opinions are heard.

The monitors stare back at us. They are windows to our future and will show us our fate. We stand aghast before the twinkling board. The letters and numbers blur together, flashing like stars. Our adrenalin surges. Sweat pushes through, adding to the scent swirling around us. We dig out our play sheet, deciphering our notes to match the patterns gleaming from above.

At the counter, the indifferent stare of the ticket writer shakes our resolve. We lower our eyes to our wrinkled play sheet and speak the language of this hallowed place. His fingers dance over the keys, culminating in a dollar total. We remove the sweat-damp wad of bills buried in our pocket and straighten the requested total, pushing it forward like an offering. In return we receive a solitary slip of white paper. Satisfaction shoots through us. We nod in appreciation. This is the one. With a single wager we are no longer just a spectator. We have a role in the drama about to unfold.

The game starts. We savor each play. Every twist and turn is an affirmation of our choice or a conspiracy to steal our boon. Of course we want the money, but more than anything we want to be right, to watch the scenario we professed come to fruition, to puff our chest out and say, “I told you so.” Only seconds remain. We move closer to the screen, as if we could help if needed. A sudden reversal transpires. Our probability plummets. The monitor confirms the unfortunate outcome. Our head slumps forward in defeat. We steady ourselves and rise with humility and grace. The cheers of those who only moments ago were losers remind us that one person’s bad beat is another’s luck box cover. We raise our eyes to the heavens and search the board.

What’s the next game? — Douglas Cooper

 

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