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Posted by on Mar 16, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Personal, Travel | 2 comments

Yes, You Can Still Go Out and Have Fun and Here’s How (Surviving Las Vegas During the Coronavirus Crisis)

 

marieta dalla

 

I don’t know when it will come but at some point during this “social distancing” thing, many of us are going to go stir crazy.

This is especially true if you live in Las Vegas, like me.

We’re used to going out and having fun.  We’re accustomed to casinos, and restaurants, and world-class entertainment within a short drive.  We’re spoiled by instant gratification.

Let me be very clear:  I fully support and encourage following every recommendation and guideline put out by any authority — at least those put out by people not named Donald Trump and Mike Pence.  The draconian measures of social distancing, and in some cases “self-quarantining” are sure to save many lives.  I beg everyone:  Please follow them.

But let’s also be realistic.  Many of us are going to go outdoors.  We will leave our homes and drive places.  Some destinations — such as grocery stores and medical facilities — are mandatory.  Others, such as amusements are optional.

Fortunately, Las Vegas is blessed to have some really cool places closeby.  Everything about these spots is positive.  I think many readers might enjoy them if they can get outside and are willing to try an adventure.

In recent years, I’ve discovered a few amazing places that I want to share.  Each destination is easy to reach from Las Vegas.  So, if you are a local resident, or visiting, these are very doable.  Best of all they are safe and cost next to nothing!

 

OPTION 1:  TAKE A HIKE AT RED ROCK CANYON

Distance from Las Vegas:  5 miles

Time Required:  A few hours (or more is optional)

Don’t be put off by the word “hike.”  I promise — it’s not that difficult.  There are many leisurely walks through the Red Rock Canyon National Park.  Some take no more than an hour.  Others are more challenging and can take up to a full day.  The option is yours.

The main thing is — the views our here are magnificent.  More like breathtaking.  And, since it’s March, the weather should be great this time of year.  The same goes for April and May.  So, even if this health crisis continues for months, Red Rock Canyon will be there waiting to welcome us.

The many times I’ve been to Red Rock Canyon, it’s never been crowded, like a city attraction.  Sure, several hundred people might be at the canyon at one time.  But they are spread out of many miles.  So, there’s virtually no threat going out and doing something that’s fun and good for you — walking and hiking.

Here’s my report of an amazing hike I did a few years ago with a friend, Nick Christenson.  Nick knows these trails very well, so I was glad to have him as my guide.  If you’re interested in learning more, please read this column, and if you really want to find out where to go, share the discussion on Facebook.  Either Nick or I will be glad to address it.  Read:  TAKING A HIKE:  THE OTHER SIDE OF LAS VEGAS

 

OPTION 2:  DRIVE AND VISIT VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK

Distance from Las Vegas:  50 miles

Time Required:  4 to 5 hours (can be done in a half-day)

Valley of Fire is about an hour-long drive to the northeast, about halfway to the Utah border.  It’s a pristine setting with lots of rock formations and natural beauty.

There’s no urban development out here, meaning no hotels or gas stations.  The natural splendor is what makes Valley of Fire so attractive.  The park is located next to an Indian reservation, which has a tobacco shop as the main cut off from the highway onto a single-lane road, which takes another 10 miles, or so.

I’ve visited this park many times, usually with family or out-of-town guests.  Everyone I’ve gone with enjoys the quiet solitude combined with the beauty of the unusual landscape.

Unfortunately, I have not written about the Valley of Fire in the past.  So, instead, I will provide this link to their OFFICIAL WEBSITE.

 

OPTION 3:  DRIVE AND VISIT DEATH VALLEY (DANTE’S VIEW)

Distance from Las Vegas:  120 miles

Time Required:  8-10 hours (full-day)

People hear “Death Valley” and they think of unbearable heat and barren desert.  But it’s not that way, at all.  Or, I should say, it’s much more than that.

One of the park’s best-kept secrets is an amazing landmark that overlooks the vast natural treasure, which is about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas.  This is one of the best day-trips you will ever take from this city.  For reasons inexplicable, I’ve met very few Las Vegas residents (or anyone else) who has done this wonderful mini-vacation.  Don’t be like them!  Do it!

Remember, during this period, we want to be cognizant of social distancing.  Well, a visit to Death Valley is about as socially isolated as it gets.  The closest you will come to other people might be cars on the other side of the highway.

This article I wrote about Dante’s View will give you some idea of what awaits those to make the drive.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  And, once you are there, it’s a nice spot to get out and spend a few hours.  The view never gets old.

Be Warned:  There is no food or services out here, so please make sure you are well-fed and stocked up before heading out.  Oh, the area is totally safe.  You just need to make certain you have plenty of gas and don’t leave hungry.  Because you won’t find a fast-food place around for 50 miles.  And that’s what makes it so wonderful.

Try Dante’s View.  This is an amazing experience.  Read more:  DANTE’S VIEW:  A GREAT LAS VEGAS GETAWAY

 

There are more places to visit than just these.  Utah has some astonishing parks within a reasonable distance.  Of course, it’s also okay just to go outside and take a walk.

I understand these are unusual times.  For everyone.  We’ve never been in a spot like this before.  I encourage those I know and those I haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet to stay safe.  But also — please volunteer and help when and where they can.

Just as important….I also think it’s vital to live a little and enjoy life.

Visiting one of the parks within driving distance is a breath of fresh air and a very responsible way to take advantage of this disruption of our normal lives.

The best way to appreciate Las Vegas right now might be to leave it, if for only a few hours or a day.

Please share with me if you decide to follow any of these recommendations.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Join the Facebook discussion on this topic HERE

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Posted by on Feb 19, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics | 5 comments

Grading Each Candidate in Tonight’s Nevada Democratic Presidential Debate

 

las vegas nevada

 

Here’s what one Nevadan thinks about tonight’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas

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First, let’s get one thing out of the way.  Anyone who says or believes tonight’s debate was bad for Democrats or harmful to party unity simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

That attitude smacks of someone with zero political instinct and no knowledge of American political history.

Fact: Debates are a pressure test and a cleanse.  They are one of the best ways to reveal weaknesses, just as the questions and answers/give and take allows the best candidates to show strength.  Moreover, instead of canned scripts and predictable stump speeches which are all too common nowadays, candidates were forced to engage and think on their feet.  Some Democrats shined in their moment.  At least one candidate melted under the spotlight left a puddle in the middle of the stage.

Party infighting is often good for the party and the eventual nominee. As evidence, I give you the following historical markers

2016 Republicans (won) — 21 candidates began, brutal personal attacks and infighting….resulted in Trump win

2008 Democrats (won) — Clinton, Edwards, and Obama were locked in a three-way dead heat early on. Debates got testy. Eventually, Obama got the nomination and won big.

2000 Republicans (won) — The McCain-Bush primaries got very personal. Things turned ugly. Result? Bush ended up winning a razor-thin victory.

1992 Democrats (won) — Clinton was hammered early on, and thought to be dead in NH. Other candidates piled on, and the party was divided until Clinton’s nomination. End result: Democrats won the election.

1988 Republicans (won) — Jack Kemp and VP Goerge Bush Sr. were in a knock-down-drag-out primary. Kemp forces did not like nor trust the Bush establishment. Outcome? Republicans won big.

1980 Republicans (won) — Reagan initially competed versus a dozen candidates and even had to face a split off wing led by John Anderson (Republican) who ran as an Independent. At one point during a debate, Reagan grabbed the microphone and said, “I paid for this microphone, so I’m going to speak!” Rival George Bush eventually took the VP slot. Divided party? Yes, in February.  Then, they won big in November.

Sure, there have been divided parties that lost presidential elections a number of times. But let’s look at the actual historical record and agree with some balance. Again — tonight’s fierce debate is GOOD for the party and makes eventual nominee tougher. Politics isn’t softball. It’s hardball time. I want serious answers, passion, and pressure testing of candidates. I want to see which candidates can take and throw a punch because a cage fight is what’s going to happen in the general election.

Now, on to my grades for each candidate:

Elizabeth Warren: Grade — A+
I thought Warren might be finished. But she stole the show. Warren was on target all night long, had just the right tone, interjected herself into the debate at the perfect moments, and may have obliterated Michael Bloomberg in a 5-minute stretch that was cringeworthy for the New York billionaire. She destroyed Bloomberg, and that alone keep her in the race. I wish I had seen this fire earlier. Mad props to Warren tonight, the clear winner, by far.

Joe Biden: Grade — B
Biden did well by Biden standards. He didn’t knock anything out of the park, but he hit a clear single and then stole second base. Biden has been lagging on the campaign trail but we saw some fire from him tonight, persuasively arguing he’s been on the right side of many political battles and was there in the trenches with Obama. I didn’t expect much out of Biden, but this was one of his better performances and natural displays of energy. I also thought his command of subject knowledge and experience shined through tonight.

Amy Klobuchar: Grade — C+
Klobuchar needed to perform better but she got tangled up with Buttigieg and others and needed to be rescued by Warren at one point during the exchanges. Again, Klobuchar and/or her staff seem unprepared for questions and controversies certain to be exposed. Why not have a scripted response read to launch? This is the first class of Political Campaigning 101. Klobuchar was semi-effective when talking about her Senate record, but are her votes as a Senator really going to sway any votes? I did not see her connect with the audience tonight in the same way she’s done over the past week, which was effective. I call it a push for Klobuchar. But as the third- or fourth-leading candidate in the race she now needs to take some chances. Playing it safe isn’t a winning strategy.

Bernie Sanders: Grade — C
Since Sanders is the frontrunner, the fact he was only attacked by Bloomberg for the most part, is a win for him. He fought a draw, which is okay when the race remains so fluid. I think Sanders hurt himself somewhat with some fumbling and repetitiveness. Sanders has opportunities to connect with people on a more personal level but often comes across as angry and even militant. I personally like anger and militancy, but that won’t win a nomination or an election. I also think Sanders has to leave some things alone when he’s attacked. Let the desperate attack him, but stay on message. Sanders appears to get flustered on occasion, which is a concern. I tend to watch Sanders more closely for obvious reasons, so perhaps my critique is a bit more sharp towards him.

Pete Buttigieg: Grade — C-
First time we saw Buttigieg attacked repeatedly tonight, and while he remained very much in control, for the most part, we also saw some cracks in the emotional china cabinet. I didn’t think Buttigieg reacted well when pressed by both Warren and Klobuchar, and his anti-Washington bullshit is hick stuff. Buttigieg has been refreshing throughout the campaign, but tonight was his first miss. Nothing catastrophic happened But we might have seen Mayor Pete topping out.

Michael Bloomberg: Grade — F
I cannot fathom a worse more unprepared performance than we saw tonight from Mike Bloomberg. I thought these New York types were supposed to be smart and tough? Bloomberg was horrendous. He was utterly destroyed by Warren during one exchange and then made the controversy (about his background and treatment of women) worse with an answer that made the audience groan. His calling Bernie Sanders “a communist” at one point was straight out of the Republican playbook, and even the other candidates were shocked. The billionaire emporer has no clothes. As I said, thank goodness for debates. They exposed this fraud quick. He’ll be around for a while and might even be a force, but Bloomberg lost everyone’s respect tonight as a serious choice in the race. Just a horrific performance in every way.

Heading into Saturday’s Nevada caucus, my scorecard now reads:

KLOBUCHAR — 45
SANDERS — 45
WARREN — 10

* note: percent chance I will vote for the candidate in the caucus

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Posted by on Feb 16, 2020 in Blog, Essays, General Poker, Las Vegas | 1 comment

Sahara Poker Room (Las Vegas): A Short Review

 

sahara-poker-room

 

SAHARA POKER ROOM (LAS VEGAS) —
A SHORT REVIEW

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Yesterday, I visited the new Sahara Poker Room, which opened the previous day. Sahara management’s bold decision to dedicate considerable space and cost to poker deserves praise. If you are a Las Vegas poker player (or a visitor), it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be supported. At the least, the Sahara Poker Room deserves a visit.

This is the first poker room to open in Las Vegas in ten years. The Las Vegas poker market, which has been flat for quite a long time, has experienced consolidation. The biggest rooms have done fine. Meanwhile, several smaller rooms have been reduced in size or have closed.

Typically, a new poker room opening would not interest me. However, two key attributes attracted my attention.

First, this was my first visit to the new Sahara property since it was rebranded from the (previous) SLS Resort. That failed experiment turned into a half-billion-dollar disaster. Bringing back the classic Sahara name and updating the property is certain to jump-start enthusiasm for the northern area of The Strip, which has been a ghost town for anything north of the Wynn. Once some other properties in the area open up (namely Resorts World across the street), the Sahara should do quite well with both hotel stays and foot traffic.

Second, I’m a big fan of Steven Pique, who is hired as head of poker operations at the Sahara. I worked with Steven for years on the WSOP Circuit traveling around the country. He was always thoroughly professional and knowledgeable. His impact on the new room should be both immediate and long-lasting. I’m glad to support Steven, who deserves every bit of success.

So, what is it that’s special about the Sahara Poker Room. Here are a few observations:

1. Free parking and easy access from the garage. Other casinos charge for parking or require long walks. I was able to get into the parking garage easily (from both Paradise and Las Vegas Blvd.), park on the 4th Floor, and walk to the poker room within 5 minutes.

2. Comps are awarded at $2 per hour, which is a nice perk. Check with the room on exact hours, but during the day shift, the comp rate is $3 an hour.

3. I really like the giant screen television on the wall. Most poker rooms have TVs with sporting events high overhead. It’s not always easy to see the action. For those who enjoy playing poker while watching sports, the giant screen is an attraction (see photo). Whoever made that decision got it right.

4. While I was visiting, a player ordered food inside the room. Imagine that, a cart with a plate and silverware was wheeled up next to the player. So, instead of fast-food garbage brought to tableside, the Sahara offers real food with a wide range of menu items combined from several restaurants. I’m really big on food served at tableside, and this right up there with the Aria (best food service in the city) in terms of poker and dining options.

5. The room is new and will take a little while to develop a loyal fan base. However, I noted they’ve already spread Pot-Limit Omaha and are eager to expand to more games than just Hold’em. Talk to Steven or any of the managers, and I expect they’ll do everything possible to accommodate a request. Once again I stress, these are POKER people running the room, not flunkies assigned from other areas of the casino floor.

6. Tables and chairs are spacious and comfortable. I can’t stand cramped poker rooms where players are sardined into seats. This is common in Las Vegas, where players are treated like chattel. Smoking is banned, of course, and there were no signs of second-hand smoke.

7. The Sahara Poker Room initially was advertised to be a room that would close at 2 am. However, the first night one of the games lasted until 7 am the next morning. Steven noted that no poker game will ever be shut down. So, the room might close overnight during slower times midweek, but so long as a game is going, it will run as long as players want to play.

8. Not really poker-related, but I love the restaurants at Sahara. The steakhouse (Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres) is probably the best in the city. The Italian restaurant is also very good. There are also some burger places, including one inside the race and sportsbook. Again — this is another difference: Most sportsbooks don’t offer food. But Sahara has a full-scale restaurant inside the sportsbook (a carryover from SLS).

9. I love the location of the poker room. It’s right next to the casino floor, but still far enough away not to be bombarded with the noise from slot machines. It’s always a good indication as to how management feels about poker by the placement of a poker room, and it’s obvious this establishment is taking the game and its players seriously.

Let me be clear. I’m difficult to please. I’m opinioned. I don’t do fluff pieces. I blast failure. But I also praise commitment and effort. At the Sahara what I see is exactly that — commitment and effort.

I wish the new Sahara Poker Room well. They’ve spent serious money and have designed a beautiful room. If they build it, let’s hope they come. I recommend making a visit.

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Posted by on Feb 14, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, What's Left | 0 comments

Election 2020: My Experience in the Last Nevada Democratic Caucus (2016)

 

Nevada Democratic Caucus

 

Writer’s Note:  The 2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus is only a week away.  For those unfamiliar with how exactly a caucus works, here’s a detailed, and sometimes humorous account of my last experience, which happened four years ago.

 

The Self-Indulgent, Highly-Detailed, and Occasionally Funny Story of My Nevada Caucus Experience  in February 2016

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This past Saturday morning, I attended the Nevada State Democratic Party caucus for Precinct #6672, which covers The Lakes section of Greater Las Vegas.  I take great pride in boasting I reside in The Lakes.  That means we’re better than everybody else, except for those rich pricks that live in Anthem.

My precinct includes mostly single-family homes, plus some nice condos and a few apartment complexes in the area just north of Desert Inn and west of Durango.  For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, that’s about 7 miles off the Strip, heading west towards Summerlin.

Democracy in action.

 

What’s a Caucus?

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A state caucus is a very different experience from attending either a primary or a general election.  Most of us have participated in both primaries and elections before, in which procedures are familiar:  (1) we check in with a poll worker, (2) enter a voting booth, and then (3) cast a ballot in secret.  On most occasions, voting takes no more than a few minutes if the line isn’t long.  However, caucuses take considerably longer than that and require much more of a commitment.  For this reason, caucuses don’t generate nearly the voter turnout as primaries and elections.  Good.  Keep out the doddering dimwit dirt-dumb masses.  They vote Republican, anyway.

About 80,000 Nevadans caucused this year, which was down from 117,000 the last time there was a real contest back in 2008.  Given the clear decline in statewide turnout, it’s becoming apparent that Barack Obama had a serious impact on overall enthusiasm when he initially ran back in 2008 which this year’s Democratic candidates are not matching.  That could spell trouble for the Democratic nominee, come November 2016. [EDITOR’S NOTE:  Wow, what I right or what?!?]

 

Pros and Cons

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Nevada’s state caucus has both pros and cons.  It brought both good news and bad news for those of us proud to call “the Silver State” our home.

It was good for us because we’re only the third state (on the Democratic side) to hold a primary/caucus.  That means our votes really matter this time, more than in past years, when we voted much later in the primaries, by the time the races had already been decided.  Nevada has a reputation (deserved somewhat) as a state that’s politically indifferent, apathetic even.  Accordingly, there were some valid concerns Nevadans might not be the best voting block to determine party nominees in the privileged spot of early primaries and caucuses.  Nevada’s reputation certainly isn’t enhanced any by its reputation where just about anything goes when it comes to vice.  Fortunately, holding this “first caucus in the West” may have turned a corner, symbolically speaking, as Nevada’s population increasingly becomes more diverse and representative of the nation as a whole.

As for the bad, caucuses can be intimidating for some voters, especially those who aren’t as involved in the political process or up to speed on the issues.  For one thing, participants are required to pledge their support for candidates publicly — in front of friends, neighbors, and others in their local community.  While many of us proudly wear out political stripes on our sleeves and have no hesitation supporting a candidate, others could be less enthusiastic about the process and even dissuaded from attending.

[Another quick note about caucuses:  As an activist, I prefer this option over simple voting because it weeds out some lightweights who aren’t as dedicated or informed (with exceptions — some voters may have legitimate conflicts with work, school, or family and cannot attend a process that takes a few hours).  The downside is losing all privacy in a caucus.  I have serious questions about the biggest unions in the state and membership which turned out heavily for Hillary Clinton.  Were some workers who caucused at polling places such as the big casinos intimidated from possibly supporting Bernie Sanders?  In response to criticism that a Saturday caucus would penalize lots of service industry employees who are at work during the busiest day of the week (many of whom are in unions that support Clinton), local Democratic Party officials set up caucuses as several casinos on The Strip.  That’s fine.  What’s troubling here is the potential for intimidation in a work environment when it comes to pledging public support for candidates.  How many union bosses were dutifully overseeing their flocks making sure their subordinates turned out for Clinton?  Yeah, those are sour grapes — but valid questions.]

 

Standing in Line

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Marieta and I arrived at about 10:45 am.  We heard people that would be allowed in at 11 am.  However, the doors were open and registration had already begun by the time we arrived.  Our precinct caucus was held at a local elementary school — MJ Christensen — who turns out is a local diamond merchant and jeweler.  Only in Las Vegas would you see a public school filled with impressionable children named after a diamond dealer, an end-of-the-line financial empire built on the backs of native Africans laboring away in dangerous mines for less than a dollar an hour and monopolistic practices of the global diamond market-based in Antwerp, which artificially creates the lunacy of allure for these buffed up coal deposits.

But, I digress.  We were discussing the caucus.  Here’s what you would expect to see:

IMAG1822

 

We waited about 10-15 minutes in line before finally clearing registration.  While standing in line, we were surprised to see volunteers from both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns actively engaging those of us waiting to reach the front in order to check-in.  They were polite.  Each volunteer tried to pass out stickers and buttons in support of their respective candidates.  I thought it somewhat odd that campaign workers are allowed to actively engage voters who wait in lines, but this was only a minor annoyance.

Once at the table, we weren’t asked to show any form of identification (voter ID laws are a controversial issue in many states).  Instead, we were asked various personal questions such as name, date of birth, address, and so forth and then once our identity was confirmed, each given a ballot.  The photo above shows the line at check-in, with perhaps 20-30 people lined out the door and standing outside.  Later on, I was told the line reached more than a hundred.

Surprisingly, our local school was the polling place for not just us, but eight precincts on the west side of Las Vegas.  So, the long line was somewhat misleading since it includes a much larger geographic area than I had initially realized.

After some confusion, we were shuffled into a first-grade classroom at the end of the hall.  This was to be the official “caucus” of Precinct #6672.

 

Back to School

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Here’s where the situation turned comical.

No one considered the quirky logistics of large numbers of adults crashing into a classroom tailored entirely for 7-year-olds.  All chairs and tables were tiny, made for little people, raised no more than a foot up off the floor.  Moreover, the seats were made of plastic for bodies that weighed perhaps 70-80 pounds.  Watching 200-plus pound adults, some of whom were over 6-feet-tall trying to scrunch into these uncomfortable chairs with our teeth pressed into hour knees was unbelievable, until we finally decided to grin and bear it….remember, this is basically what flying coach is like.  So, we dutifully took our seats and toughed it out.  Also, seeing lessons posted up on the wall about being good little boys and girls would prove useful once the political debate started.

IMAG1825

 

A Party Divided

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The gathering included some serious drama.

As I said before, we were among the first to arrive.  Once we entered the classroom, a pleasant young man asked us who we intended to support.  When we answered “Sanders,” he insisted that we sit on the opposite side of the room.  This seemed like a strange request since the 10 or so people already in the room had gathered around a large table and were talking like old friends.  It was an odd feeling that we were asked to sit elsewhere until we learned the Hillary Clinton supporters were to caucus over here, and we were supposed to gather over there.

There we went.

Five minutes later, I took a quick headcount and it was 11 lost souls on the side of the room for evil Clinton, versus just 3 with wisdom on the side of good and decency, hardly enough of a quorum to belt out a chorus of “The Internationale.”  I whispered over to Marieta that this was going to be a very long day, insisting that the demographics of clueless old people who tend to reside in The Lakes were within the Clinton sweet spot.  I feared this was a very bad early sign for Sanders in Nevada, even with the ridiculously small sample size.  I’m a fatalist, remember.

But then, the winds of change blew (hey, I’m trying to make this interesting — we’re caucusing inside a first-grade classroom, so cut me some slack….I’m building steam).  The Sanders supporters began to flow in, presumably done with morning Pilates and utterly famished by granola bars.  Perhaps they’d partied too long the previous night and were just waking up.  A few minutes later, it was 16 awful people for Clinton and 14 heroes for Sanders.  We’d closed the gap!  From that moment forward, each time a new person walked into the room, there was a real element of suspense.  With noon approaching and the deadline for new attendees, it was deadlocked even at 23 supporters each.  The drama rose faster than anatomy parts under Bill Clinton’s desk.

Then and there, I realized Sanders was — what we call in sports betting — a mortal lock.  This was the perfect microcosm of a caucus.  The older and more traditional types, the stubborn party loyalists, the old guard — they would mostly tend to arrive EARLIER.  Just like the 5 pm buffets all around town that are packed with blue hairs, Clinton’s loyalists had already shown up and blown their wad.  Sailors the first hour of shore leave.  The druggies, the radicals, and the intellectuals like me who stood with Sanders would stumble in, either lost or late.  Gee, I wish I could have made a bet on this.  I knew my instincts were correct.  We were a lock.

Then, an old bitch walked in and nearly blew it.  An old woman with white hair who looked like she died five years ago doddered in like she’d lost her Social Security check, and we knew instantly that Clinton had taken the lead.  Fuck.  Okay, so that’s me thinking to myself.  I didn’t say it too loud.  Then, a youngish girl with pink hair and a giant nose ring accompanied by a boyfriend with lots of tattoos came in just moments later, and I knew we were back on top.  Rescued.  25-24 for Sanders.  If the blue hair dies while in caucus, we might be 25-23.

Just as the official proceedings were about to begin, three more people popped into the room.  At that instant, there was a deafening silence as they waddled the carpet towards the chalkboard.  Conversations stopped in mid-sentence.  Arguments ended.  We all knew that whichever side of the room they sat on would tip the scales and determine the outcome of our precinct (or so, we thought — ass-ripping spoiler alert ahead).

The three older white angry-looking latecomers walked down the middle of the classroom, seemingly caught inside a parking garage forgetting what level their car was parked.  When the precinct captain finally asked “who” they were supporting, someone mumbled “Bernie,” and 25 people on my side the room suddenly burst into loud applause like the Broncos has just scored the winning touchdown and covered the point spread.  If I had a football, I would have spiked it over the American flag.

Democracy rules.

 

The Caucus Begins

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Oh, wait.  Before I tell the story about the actual caucus (you still with me?), first I have to rant.  Hide the children.  Lock way the knives.  This is going to be ugly.

I love that people are engaged and interested.  I really do.  It’s so Norman Rockwell.  It’s so America-like.  I’m interested in what common people think about the issues.  Sometimes.  Occasionally.  Okay well, never.  But, I digress once again.  Let me continue.

The gibberish that flowed of the mouths of some of these people were gut-busting, bat shit baffling!  One woman, a Clinton supporter, got into an argument with a Sanders supporter.  The woman barked, “I will never support Sanders!  I don’t want to work hard and just give it away to people who don’t want to work!”  I should have retorted with caucus instructions for the next Donald Trump rally taking place this Tuesday night because she must have either gotten lost or she’s clearly in the wrong political party: however, it took me a couple of minutes before I could regain my ability to speak.  She’s bitching about supporting “people who don’t want to work?”  That’s really her biggest issue?  That’s what bother her most — not wars, nor income inequality, nor health care, nor the environment, not any of the other 189 issues that are more important right now?

Fuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccccckkkkkkkk.

Another Clinton supporter brought up the subject of foreign policy.  Well, not those words, exactly.  More like, “Bernie won’t keep us safe!” or something that you might hear at from Ted Cruz.  Somehow, I resisted the temptation to scream out “REMEMBER BENGHAZI!!!!!!”  But that would have Tea-Partied me straight off to Cliven Bundy’s psych ward.

I realize there’s some obvious bias here which is juicy cannon fodder for the haters, but when I chose to, I can speak with some bona fide objectivity when it comes to political discourse.  Without exception, everyone on the Clinton side of the room, particularly those who spoke out were very traditional old-guard Democrats very much used to support the establishment.  It sort of reminded me of what Palm Beach County’s nursing homes must be like on bridge night.  Don’t misunderstand me, these were loyal Democrats.  But they were not voters who thought much about issues or even seemed to have much of a grasp of current affairs.  They were voting for Hillary because Madge and Betsy were doing the same thing and that was the norm.  They hadn’t had an original idea, nor an outside the box thought since trying to decipher the hidden lyrics to The Platters when they were teenagers.

Meanwhile, Sanders’ supporters were far more intellectual, clearly more widely read, talked in far greater detail with facts and statistics about real rather than imaginary issues, and were even in some instances still not fully sold on Sanders, but at least swayed enough by his message of change of political revolution that the idea seemed intriguing and worthy of supporting.  I often judge a person’s intelligence on civic matters and the prospect of wanting to get to know them better (politically speaking) based on whether or not they can see shortcomings within their own philosophical persuasion.  Those who acknowledge a wide spectrum of likes and dislikes and prove themselves capable of POLITICAL INTROSPECTION are far more credible than blind sycophants who fail to see any flaws in their own leanings and favored candidates.  Doubt, and even self-doubt, are virtues, in my political wheelhouse.  Blind faith is the elixir of stupidity, proof of a close mind that desperately needs lubrication.

Yeah, it’s a small sample size.  Many Clinton supporters are very bright people fully capable of arguing a compelling case, I agree.  However, none of them were present at Precinct #6672.

 

The Caucus Really Begins

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Sorry for the caucus prick tease.  Time for action.

A nice woman with a Clinton sticker on her shirt stood in front of the classroom and called the meeting to order.  The first matter of business was to select a caucus precinct captain.  The lady mentioned that she’d attended three training sessions and that was why she was heading up this meeting.  She asked for unanimous consent to be “elected” as captain or chairperson or whatever she wishes to call herself.  I figured this was not the time to throw down the gauntlet and draw a line in the sand, fearing turning the whole room against me, so I too meekly raised my hand and went along with the rest of the crowd, agreeing to vote in a Clinton supporter as our leader.

Next, the vice something or other, the assistant, the second in command was to be chosen.  One never knows if the chairperson might collapse before our very eyes and die on the spot, necessitating a chain of command where the precinct is rescued by a backup.  To ensure against this dire possibility, a young man wearing a Bernie t-shirt offered himself up as the Biden of the group and he too was voted in with unanimous consent.  Now, we were rolling.  Ten minutes into the official caucus, we’d established our leadership.  Had both the chairperson and assistant somehow been wiped out or become disposed of in some kind of disaster, one presumes our caucus would have been suspended since we didn’t have a contingency for a backup to the backup.  Sort of like Grand Poobah in The Mikado, I role I once played by the way.

After that, the lady took out a large manila-style envelope and asked for contributions.  She noted the State Democratic Party mandated that envelope be passed around the room in the event some idiot was gullible enough to donate money someone might be so delusional, they might be inclined to pull out a checkbook.  I saw one lady drop a twenty into the envelope as it was passed around the room.  Too bad that was after it had already passed through my hands — as I might have been tempted to pilfer the loot.

Next, we had to count the number of attendees in the room and determine if we had a quorum, whatever that meant.  We took a headcount, by rattling off numbers one at a time.  Surprisingly, we all discovered we could count to 53, but even with 53 witnesses that weren’t enough clear evidence of an exact count, and so we had to do it all over again.

Really.

So, we started again, this time counting ourselves as we raised our ballots.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  And so on.  Fittingly, this was a first-grade classroom.

 

The Vote

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During the merry go-count-around, we discovered one person was visiting from out of town and had come in as an observer.  I have no idea how someone stumbled in off the street into a caucus (talk about a bad case of getting lost!), but this actually happened.  Since there’s apparently nothing at all to do in Las Vegas, this person declared she was visiting and did not intend to participate in the caucus.  I resisted the temptation to ask where she was headed off to next — the joys of an insurance seminar?

Next, we were shocked to discover two people had been sitting on the wrong side of the room.  When it finally came time to count heads and take ballots, two people in the Clinton camp professed the intended to vote for Sanders.  That created some confusion, but at least we didn’t have to recount the room again.  Turns out, Sanders ended up with 28 votes to 24 for Clinton.  Sanders was the winner!

Of course, one pass through wasn’t enough.  We each raised our ballots once again, one at a time, and (shocker!) the vote turned out the same.  28 to 24.  The Sanders side of the room erupted in applause while the Clinton camp appeared disappointed and dejected.  As I said, democracy works.  Kinda’.

IMAG1827

 

This is Ologharchy Democracy?

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Turns out, our precinct was given 8 delegates to award proportionally, according to the vote (delegates to the county and state convention — not the national).  The chairperson pulled out a calculator and did the math according to her instructions.  Unfortunately, the 28-24 margin wasn’t within the formula to award delegates 5-3 in favor of Sanders.  Even though Clinton lost by 4 votes, the delegate allocation would be split evenly, 4-4.

Someone in our group protested.  Okay, that was me.  Then, another more vocal supporter stood up and demanded to know what it would take to get the delegates to swing 5-3 for Sanders.  Again, the calculator provided the answer.  The chairperson stated that if we could get ONE Clinton supporter to defect, that would tip the scales 5-3.  Since caucuses are different and give us that right, we pounced.

One of the Clinton supporters (to his credit) admitted he was unsure about supporting either candidate, but had made a rather quick decision to do what seemed safe.  The man, perhaps age 60 or so, dangled a carrot by stating he might be swayed to come over to the Bernie side.  That launched a remarkably interesting 15 minutes of dialogue which surprised even me.  The case for Bernie couldn’t have been argued any better than OJ’s lawyer, and I really thought we had a shot at swaying not just the weak link in the chain, but half the room.

Well, the man inexplicably became stubborn, unresponsive to logic and burrowed himself deeper into the Clinton camp like a fat tick on a farm mutt.  Had the ballot been secret, I’m sure he would have defected.  However, peer pressure can be a strong force — again — one of the problems with caucusing.

Final delegate count:  Sanders — 4, Clinton — 4.  

 

This Caucus is Adjourned!

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The final order of business was to select actual delegates to attend county-wide caucuses and register their votes.  Volunteers were taken.  I joined with Leon Trotsky and two others locked arm-in-arm as pledged delegates for Sanders, to be cast in Clark County sometime in April.  One guarantee:  At least I’ll have material for another column.

We departed and went off to lunch.  Even with the annoying quirks and time-wasting, I still felt satisfied with what I’d experienced.  I felt even better about Sanders’ chances of winning Nevada.  If he could carry my precinct, which probably has all of ONE Socialist actually living in the entire neighborhood, and few of the base demographic groups that tend to support Sanders strongest like students and free-spirited artists as you might see in other parts of town, surely he was pulling even bigger numbers elsewhere.  From my vantage point, the Sanders camp was representative of the heart and soul of the left, while Clinton attracted a far more traditional voter.  Then, I realized I’d forgotten about unions and the commotion that was probably taking place on The Strip, where turnout would probably be high since the caucuses were so convenient.

As I was enjoying the first part of my meal I checked my messages.  That’s when I lost my appetite.  Corky Parks, my fellow leftist comrade off of Facebook, messaged me and announced that NBC had called just Nevada for Clinton.  I wanted to punch the phone.

Fuck.

Democracy in action?  I guess I need to go back and repeat first-grade.

 

nolan-dalla

 

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Posted by on Jan 14, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Restaurant Reviews | 0 comments

Restaurant Review: Hafez Persian Cuisine (Las Vegas)

 

 

RESTAURANT REVIEW:
HAFEZ PERSIAN CUISINE (LAS VEGAS)

I’ve enjoyed Persian (Iranian) cuisine for more than 30 years. Ever since I ordered my very first Koobideh, the authentic preparations from that part of the world have me completely hooked.

Persian food often gets miscategorized as Lebanese, Turkish, Armenian, and even Greek. Indeed, some of the dishes and many of the basic ingredients are very similar to other nations in the area. However, Persian food, which dates back many centuries, is distinct for its glorious mix of spices and flavors, meticulous preparation and attention to detail, and a few odd ingredients specific to the land which is now Iran.

Las Vegas has half a dozen or so decent Persian restaurants. Zaytoon’s within walking distance of my home, has been a family staple for more than a decade. Shiraz, on Decatur, is also very good. Now, let’s add Hafez to that list of dependable, delicious, and affordable restaurants.

Owned by a family that immigrated to the US many years ago (their photo hangs on the wall and they work in the restaurant), the location is somewhat the outlier. Hafez is smack dab in the middle of Chinatown, which means it’s easy to miss and not so easy to find. But the search and journey is well worth it.

On Monday, Marieta and I enjoyed the house lunch special which is offered 7 days a week. Koobideh (and other items) are complete and sell for only $9.95. What a steal. Marieta added an Aush soup, as well, and noted it was the best she’s tried since Royal Persis (LV’s first Persian establishment, now closed). The soup was plenty large (easily enough to share).

Hafez, named for a 14th Century Persian poet, is a spotless restaurant. The decor is modern and tastefully done. Large television screens with visuals of nature and animal life compliment a bright room that is open and airy. Modern Middle Eastern music was playing during our visit, which was just the right volume and vibe. There’s also a bakery connected to the restaurant. Everything is made in-house.

Dinner prices are about one expects from the typical Mediterranean establishment in Las Vegas. Main entres are priced in the $12-20 range. This makes the lunch special quite a bargain (same food for essentially half the price, though the portion is smaller).

Hafez deserves a visit, especially if you enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine. And even if you don’t give Hafez a try. They merit a strong recommendation and deserve to succeed.

 

HAFEZ:  WEBSITE AND MENU HERE

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