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Signed, sealed and delivered: Our annual mail drop of open letters

<p>To my suburban neighbor</p>

To my suburban neighbor

<p>To my friends in the Republican Party</p>

To my friends in the Republican Party


Greetings, Mighty and Exalted Conglomerate of Outdoor Thrill Ride Emporiums! Remember us, Las Vegas? You bought, closed and then gave up Star Trek: The Experience at the Hilton a few years back. Hey, no hard feelings, I’d have ditched that shit, too.

So, maybe you noticed at the time, or more recently while strategizing over the huge Risk board of North American theme parks in your corporate offices near Cedar Point (by the way, greatest non-Disney park evaaaar — do you ride coasters on your breaks, and if so, got any job openings?), that Southern Nevada is seriously lacking in the amusement park department, despite having a visitor base of, oh, 40 million.

Sure, we have that giant glass titty at Circus Circus, whose lone coaster causes more headbanging than a Pantera concert, and a scattering of disparate scream machines elsewhere. But they’re all old hat, and having to do them a la carte is cost-prohibitive.

So I’m just going to put it out there: Enough with acquiring other companies’ thrill parks. It’s your time to go back to your roots and build a world-class one of your own — right here in Clark County, Nevada.

No lie, it’s kind of about us. Our people — which includes giant pools of construction and service professionals — could use the work. We continue to bemoan the lack of diversions for minors and families. The upshot: A lot of season passes could be sold in a ’burb of two mil.

But it’s about everyone else, too. As you well know, coaster nuts will travel across the country to scale giant steel parabolas and slalom through serpentine raceways, all designed to jumble their organs like Yahtzee dice. Having a new coaster Mecca in a city with an incomparable tourism infrastructure only makes such a pilgrimage even more appealing to your national guest base.

And with the nearby metropolises filing into the city every week, always looking for a Sin City adventure that differs from the one three months ago, you’ve got a regional draw your other parks would bomb a crowded Disneyland for.

Don’t even sweat cannibalizing your own Knott’s Berry Farm in SoCal. Your highest-grossing park is the domain of tourists who can’t find Anaheim and the insular zombie province that is Orange County.

Finally, this is Las Vegas, a bragging-rights city that could appreciate the dick-measuring contest that is the roller coaster industry. We need a playground worthy of our extreme reputation, and you need to stick it to Six Flags Magic Mountain in L.A. So scoop up some abandoned housing developments, stockpile some steel and show us desert rats a thing or two about physics.




Merciful crap, alley dumpsters, what did you eat? Who’s planning your meals these days? You don’t even smell like garbage any more. It’s something worse. Something darker. You can almost see your cartoonish stinky green waves roll over the Beauty Bar fence and slowly down the other side, ruining concerts by attaching themselves to inner nostrils with barbs of something that smells like either rabid possum or burning mold on top of an old cup of Greek yogurt. And why are there three of you full at a time? Is no one watching you? Is no one in charge of what goes in you and how long it stays? We understand that trash pickup gets expensive, but nothing is that expensive. No amount of money under four figures justifies your swampy abortions left to sizzle in that hot downtown alley. You’ve become a biohazard. The ground zero of a hundred new super villains, putrid and glowing and implying an ominous, sinister soundtrack, something Michael Giacchino originally composed for Lost and then thought it might be overdoing it, then throwing that score inside you, along with a rotten half-gutted catfish in a bag of sulphur. One day, when Science invents the most powerful stick of gum known to man, gum that will make a mouth minty long beyond that mouth’s lifespan, gum that will destroy bad smells the way an atomic bomb destroys civilizations, I’ll make sure you get two pieces.




I’m sorry.

Every six months, you release a campus crime log — a list of calls for service responded to and reported.

You are very patient people. Perhaps you are also masochists.

I mean, how many times can those golf carts be stolen? Actually, we know the answer: About once a month, sometimes more. And that doesn’t count the incident from last October, when some geniuses stole just the golf cart chargers. Have you considered speaking with the grounds crew about maybe not leaving the carts unattended? I know you always get them in the end, but we’re talking about the crown jewels of campus prankery, here.

In the last crime log reporting period — October 2012 though April 2013 — there were 355 calls for service.

Can we agree that at least three-fourths of your day is deeply soul-taxing?

Light bulbs stolen from dorm elevators. A bulletin board and posters set on fire. A laundry room set on fire. Money stolen from the donation box at the Barrick Museum? The cars hit while parked in the parking lot. The skateboarders hit by cars. The clowns that kept breaking into vending machines? I mean, how stealthy a getaway can someone really make with 75 mini-bags of potato chips and $65 in change? Of course, you know the answer.

People are the worst.

I’m not overlooking those fleeting moments of intrigue. Those 10 pairs of underwear stolen from a dorm room in January have my interest, at least. And the band uniform reported borrowed and never returned — I see you categorized that call under “fraud.” Nice. And I see you responded to an employee-on-employee crime. I’m choosing to believe it was a fistfight between university regents, a scandal being buried deep in the crime log under this innocuous description: “report taken regarding one employee intimidating another.” Your secret is safe with me.

But cripes, all the stolen bikes! Must get mental taking those reports over and over again. And that’s saying nothing of the hours you spend dealing with theft: wallets, purses, laptops, iPhones, iPads, textbooks, fancy headphones, credit cards. Items people leave, you’re always careful to note, UNATTENDED AND UNSECURED, just about everywhere: the library, a classroom, outside on a bench, in a dining hall. Not just students, I know, but teachers, too. Maybe these calls become Zen after a while: laptop left on lawn is stolen. A thing is here, then gone. Only impermanence is permanent, right? Or maybe not.

Sporting events clearly bring out the best in people. For you, football games mean fights in the stands and drivers squealing out donuts in the parking lot. Or some “lewd or dissolute conduct.” That is, urinating in public. And then those people cited for scalping tickets — one at the National Finals Rodeo, and another at Disney on Ice. Scalpers at Disney on Ice! The filth of it.

And who knew so many students had outstanding warrants? When you make the arrests, alone or with help from Metro police, I wonder: Were they in class? In a quiet study room? Or were they running across the lawn, breakneck, with you behind them, neck and neck until the takedown and tumble? Don’t tell me the answer.

But do tell me this: When someone reported that single live round, lying in the hallway on the second floor of the Rodman dorms, did you wince? Did you wonder what would come next? Do you think we really should let teachers take up arms? Or did you just move on to the next call: stolen bike, backpack, golf cart.

On February 15, someone snitched on students throwing a kegger in the architecture building and vomiting in a nearby faculty parking lot. Happy Belated Valentine’s. And sorry.

So, so sorry.




Dear Bros,

I assume I can call you that; that’s what you all call each other … and everyone else. We’ve met before, many times. I believe that many of my friends and associates are also familiar with you. Whenever we fly home to Las Vegas, there you are. Wherever we come from — New York, Detroit, San Diego — you’re coming from there, too. On your way to Las Vegas.

Or, as you would say, “Woo-hoo! Vegas! Vegaaaas! VEGAS! VEGAS! VEGAS!” Slamming the seat back as far as it’ll go, pumping one fist in the air, the other repeatedly punching the call button to summon the flight attendant to bring another round of Budweisers. And we haven’t even left the ground.

You have been whipped into a frenzy by the myriad promises of “Vegas, baby!” Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Every TV show has its Vegas episode. And, holy mother of all that makes me doubt humanity, The Hangover. You think you’re supposed to come to town acting like a pack of baboons on crack and the city will open her glittering splendor to you. You’re going to win 10 grand at craps! You’re going to eat steak in the Jacuzzi in a penthouse suite! You’re going to hang out in Kim and Kanye’s VIP booth! You’re gonna rob a liquor store! You’re gonna ride a killer shark! You’re gonna motorboat Holly Madison!

But these things that you think are going to happen: They will not happen. You will wait in line for two hours and pay 50 bucks to stand around listening to Ke$ha in a room full of dental hygienists from Ohio. Who will not talk to you. You will lose a month’s rent at video poker. You will drink high-priced, low-alcohol cocktails. You will get food poisoning from bad shrimp cocktail. You will come in your pants. Probably with another dude passed out next to you.

But, for now, you stand in the aisle, hunched over your buddy’s seat, exhaling a cloud of Captain Morgan and babbling incoherently about Texas Hold ‘Em and boob jobs, blocking both the beverage cart and the way to the lavatory. The way other people dread the sight of toddlers in the boarding line, I dread you. Do us all a favor and check the douchebag-on-a-rampage act with your luggage. You can unpack it once you get to the Strip, where you can blend in with a few thousand identical trips-of-a-lifetime and we can avoid you all.




I love you. I love that nearly every morning, while I’m at my desk by the front window, I see you get into your silver Toyota Camry to go to work. I love that you do not have a man bun or ironic sideburns. I love that you wear slacks and a button-down shirt and occasionally a tie. I love that we occasionally chat on the curb but never crash on each other’s couches. I love that I don’t even know how the inside of your home is decorated, but that there’s a strong possibility it involves beige and a country kitchen and an overstuffed sectional with absolutely no mid-century modern pieces, which is to say it’s embarrassing. I love that you often smile, flat-out ignoring that you are considered by many to be the enemy of progress and culture and the reason practically no one wants to move their business to Las Vegas. It’s as if you don’t recognize that if you were a writer or an artist or a mixologist, if you grew your own arugula or maintained a bee colony or at least strapped your ironic kickball onto the back of a 1952 Schwinn Phantom, you’d be a part of the solution. I find it intriguing that your steady job doesn’t require you to be more weird. I find it odd that you weren’t put off by the homosexuals living next door, and that after we somehow left our garage door wide open when we went on vacation, you closed it for us, jumping over the little sensor on your way out. (Maybe you perceived that our friends would satirize us behind our backs if they knew we had a garage?) I love that your “normalcy” included the thoughtless assumption that we observe any sort of winter holiday, prompting you and your wife to put an actual Hallmark “Happy Holidays” card on our front door — I know, right? — and without any absurd fruitcake or amazing artisanal parsnip and apple muffins. I love that because you are not in my ravenous diet of online scholarship, I do not know whether you’re obsessively Instagramming sepia faces of the homeless or were inspired by a New Yorker piece to spend the last four months rethinking bourbon. I love how you soldier on, even though you shoulder the blame for the entire desert metropolis’ environmental crimes. Yes, you. Not everyone else. Just you. I love that you can live this inauthentic, templated life — all the houses look alike! — and go on your merry way. Without even a wink or a nod. Best,


To the Nevada Legislature,

Why, in miserly fashion, do you allow the perpetuation of mistreatment of the mentally ill in our state? Those at emotional risk have to sign away their rights for 72 hours … except that The Powers That Be can keep going to court and having one’s incarceration, er, hospitalization extended indefinitely. Our hospitals lack dedicated psychiatric units, so take heed: People will be stored like a slab of meat in an “observation unit.” It’s not so much being “observed” as being on display. Nothing to read or watch or do. Just lie there — and woe betide those without insurance, because they’ll keep getting shoved to the back of the queue for outpatient treatment. Our hospitals are set up to funnel mental inpatients to privately run satellite treatment facilities around the valley. Funny, that. Even those are mainly for the benefit of drug addicts and alcoholics, so forget about receiving intensive psychotherapy. I don’t know what Nevada’s state motto is, but it ought to be, “Every man for himself and devil take the hindmost.” Like disordered gambling, other forms of mental illness are our secret shame, and we’d evidently like to keep it that way. Is it because state-funded treatment would require that mining and non-casino businesses pay their share of the freight around here? Can’t have that, can we? Sincerely,



I would like to say that I respect and admire the Republican Party. I would like to say that, but, frankly, I’m finding it really difficult.

It’s not just one thing. It’s the whole shitload of crazy the party brings to the party. Last week, a klavern of the North Carolina Republican Party introduced legislation to make Good Old Protestant Jesus the One True Religion for their state. It’s like they took out a copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (see that First Amendment? Wonder why it’s the First Amendment?) and used it for toilet paper.

Of course, there are the icky parts of our Constitution that they want to dump, like the separation of church and state, while selectively keeping the parts that they deliberately misinterpret on an industrial scale, such as the Second Amendment, which allows citizens to bear arms as part of “a well-regulated militia.” How many psychotic gun nuts are members of a state-regulated and maintained militia? And why would you want psychotic gun nuts to be your electoral base?

Now comes the Republican effort to be a warmer, gentler party and stop scaring the youngsters. An admirable attempt at rebranding, but somewhat undercut by, for example, the Virginia attorney general, a man with an eye on higher office, who is pushing laws to stop people from putting their sexy parts together with mouths or hands or other places where he, as a leading Republican scholar of the law, has decided THEY. JUST. DON’T. BELONG.

Because that’s where I want my state’s chief law enforcement officer — in my bedroom, telling me where my penis goes. Party of small government? I can’t think of anything more intrusive than that.

Last week, of course, also saw a leading Republican introduce national legislation to stop the federal government from using any language but English. Because when this nation was founded — a time when we brought together people speaking German, Spanish, French, Native American along with English — those silly ducks couldn’t envision the rage some would feel when they heard fry cooks speaking Spanish at Burger King.

Good luck with that whole “big tent” thing.

I have to admit that there are Republicans with whom I sometimes may disagree, but whom I respect. Even admire. Last month, I saw Republicans on the Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee thoughtfully weighing in on issues of access to medical marijuana, which is guaranteed by our state Constitution for people with legitimate medical needs.

Also in the state Senate, Michael Roberson is making waves for supporting, with actual dollars, English-language learning in our public schools and gay marriage rights.

But the GOP is far better known for candidates, like one from 2010 here in Nevada, who suggest that if Republicans lose at the ballot box, why, just pick up a gun and kill those elected by the people. (By the way, the technical term for that rejection of law and democracy is “treason.”) Forgive those of us who note that the Republican position on race relations and firearms safety seems to be lifted wholesale from The Turner Diaries, the same racist, anti-government polemic that animated Timothy McVeigh and the Aryan Nation.

And one other thing: I am sick of fighting the Scopes monkey trial. Physics and biology are real. Stop demonizing people who want to base public policy on scientific reality.

Seriously, GOP? These are your policies? Poop all over young people, brown people, people who talk funny, people who study the universe around us, let the sick die, deny benefits for veterans and then expect to cobble together some sort of working majority? Without the farcical gerrymandering and efforts to suppress the votes of those your party has deemed undesirable, you would not have any power at all on the federal level. And that scenario is coming soon unless you can get your act together.

And I hope you do. I really do. I do not believe it is good for any one party to have a monopoly on power. If the Republican Party continues on the path it has taken for the last three decades, the Democratic Party will only grow stronger and the GOP will look even more like an irrelevant bag of nuts consigned to regional backwaters. That’s not good. Democrats are not angels. We need an effective opposition if only to ensure that our government doesn’t sink into a wallow of corruption.

So for very selfish reasons, I’m urging my Republican friends to fix their ailment. My advice is to stop, take a look around, and consider the great things and great people that the Republican Party has contributed to this country. You could be that party again.