63 things you should be thankful for

Our annual list

1. That this is still a city in which a thoughtful starlet like Pamela Anderson, of The Beauty of Magic at Planet Hollywood, can put this time of year in perspective: “The holiday season can be especially hard for those who find themselves homeless,” she said gravely. “And it’s murder on turkeys.”

(She said this in connection with a PETA-sponsored event in which she would feed local homeless people vegetarian turkey.)

2. A wider U.S. 95, yes. More widening to come (beginning in a few months), no.

3. Sin City Roller Girls—our way of saying, don’t stereotype Las Vegas women.

4. Nevada’s new early caucuses—you gotta love all the national attention. (Bill Richardson has formed a “Nevada small towns and rural communities” advisory board, for cryin’ out loud.)

5. That Nevada doesn’t have early caucuses every year—because we’re getting sick of all the national attention.

6. Town Square!

On Day 1, the place is mobbed. Baby strollers. Dogs! Families, tourists, locals weighed down with shopping bags, a line out the door of the Apple store. On Day 1. More than half of the stores aren’t even open at this outdoor shopping/dining/walking/playing village on the south Strip, dubbed “1.5 million-square-foot super regional lifestyle center” by builder Turnberry & Associates, but it’s covered in people who were apparently in great, urgent need of a destination.

Here, we can shop at a jillion stores, but we can also stroll in vaguely European faux streets, and we can take our children to a central playground where they can climb a rock wall and slide down a pole, and we can—and are, on Day 1!—lie in the fake grass at a central park with a fountain, under a 40-foot Christmas tree, next to “Norman Rockwell’s house,” and take butterscotch lollipops from a See’s Candy lady handing them out for free. If lost, we can consult our maps, which are handed out the way they’re handed out at Disneyland, or we can ask one of the concierges, wearing matching brown Oxfords, or some of the dozens of security guards ambling around, keeping a watchful eye on the insta-village. But (and here’s why we’re thankful even more, because with each designed community destination we get a little closer to The Truman Show) there’s a sign with the rules: “Loud and boisterous behavior will not be permitted. Running, inappropriate behavior will be grounds for ejection.” What?! What the—? A little un-Vegas in such a Vegas way, right on the Strip. Thankful for that.

7. The simple joy of cheap irony, in this case, the fact that the nastiest fight in town involves businesses called A Las Vegas Garden of Love and Heavenly Bliss.

8. Unflagging population growth carrying us through a mild real-estate season.

9. Homes selling despite the mild real-estate season.

10. Choice, optimistic euphemisms and spin-jobs in the face of a mild real-estate season!

11. The Don W. Reynolds Foundation’s $175 million in grants for the Smith Performing Arts Center.

12. A fine response to the opening of the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.

13. That someone wanted to buy the Las Vegas 51s and, in his zeal, alluded to building them a new stadium.

14. New stadium mania!

15. The poignant irony that we lost a team whose mascot begs for a stadium—the Gladiators!—in the midst of new stadium mania.

16. The gladiator-like battle of the stadiums: Downtown vs. the Strip.

17. Successfully Vegoosed again! That Daft Punk set blew us away.

18. That someone still enjoys the Fremont Street Experience.

19. World Market buildings: big, bold, solid, strong.

20. Watching the Frank Gehry-designed Lou Ruvo Brain Institute being built—who knew they could do that with beams of steel?—and never mind the recent lawsuit against Gehry for building MIT a leaky building.

21. That 2008 promises to be a year in which the Ruvo Center gets some company and Union Park becomes something more than unfulfilled potential.

22. The Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada: www.volunteercentersn.org. Sign in, get busy.

23. That some guy sits in a little booth in the middle of the desert handing out brochures and taking fees to drive into Valley of Fire.

24. Homeless advocates: Southern Nevada Homeless Coalition; Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth; the guy who fed the homeless in the park despite Oscar’s warnings; Linda Lera Randle-El; Project Homeless Connect; Pamela Anderson (see item No. 1).

25. Tool (December 13-14, The Pearl), yes. Spice Girls (December 8-9, 11, Mandalay Bay), no.

26. 75-degree weather throughout November. We suspect there will be a string attached, something to do with global warming and catastrophes, but until then, 75-degree weather in November!

27. Walking in the wash in Valley of Fire: nobody—nobody!—for miles. Surreal trip without drugs.

28. George Maloof.

29. Walking in the Palms: Nobody ugly—nobody!—for miles. Surreal trip without drugs.

30. Viva Laughlin—canceled!

31. Las Vegas, the series—not canceled! And you said it wouldn’t last.

32. Wayne Newton. Not for ironic, campy reasons, either.

33. That Las Vegas is going to smoke Liverpool, England’s record this year in the Great Santa Run, December 1, at the Fremont Street Experience. Last year, we were close. This year, we need 3,742 runners to beat Liverpool’s 3,741. Proceeds benefit Opportunity Village, and you get to keep your Santa suit.

34. Dubai: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

35. The Las Vegas ego.

36. That this is only the 58th most dangerous city in America, according to a new report by CQ Press. One more reason to be grateful every morning you wake up not in Detroit (this year’s No. 1).

37. That this is still a town to which lovesick twentysomethings on the lam—the so-called “newlywed bandits,” from California—are drawn. And then captured. Taking notes, Detroit?

38. That MGM Mirage boss Terry Lanni risked peeving his peeps by advocating a broad tax.

39. The effort to amp up East Fremont. It’s about time.

40. Health District inspections. The Coffee Pub had 53 infractions?! And we were gonna eat there! Thank you, health inspectors!

41. The simple joy of a 16-course meal at Joel Robuchon in the MGM, which, should we ever find ourselves on death row (falsely convicted, of course), we will order as our last meal.

42. The spicily authentic Chinese food at Yunnan Garden, which we will order as our last meal if chintzy prison officials balk at Joel Robuchon.

43. That we live in a city where you can bump into Siegfried and Roy at the gym. (We can’t guarantee that everyone will be thankful for this.)

44.Mount Charleston Coffee—there’s a little something potent in this coffee­—at the Mount Charleston Lodge, sipped by the fire in the middle of the restaurant.

45. The beloved El Cortez.

46. Shopping in Vegas: In just a few years, we’ve gotten virtually every retail offering on the planet, twice.

47. Rita Rudner. Why? Hey, you tell us at [email protected]. See your name in print, multitudinous Rudner fans!

48. Trails around Boulder City: well-groomed, ready for hiking, biking and walking with no traffic.

49.T hat Boulder City is slot machine-free and only a short drive away.

50. That the world is still interested in playing slot machines! Whew!

51. Bette Midler: On her way!

52. Celine Dion: Thanks for the years!

53.T he neck-breaking rollercoaster at New York-New York.

54. A book from a local author: Minimal Damage: Stories of Veterans, by Las Vegas’ own H. Lee Barnes (“... understated compassion and unexpected flashes of humor.” –Publishers Weekly).

55. Local books from nonlocal authors. Next month: Joe McGinnis Jr.’s The Delivery Man (“... flashy, fast-moving ...” –Publishers Weekly). In January: Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children, (“A wide-ranging portrait of an almost mythically depraved Las Vegas ...” –Publishers Weekly).

56. An on-Strip nightclub that has poetry slams. (Poetry, in the Forum Shops.)

57. Plans to move the Las Vegas Art Museum to a bigger facility on Sunset and the Strip—a location where people might find it.

58. That giant Carpet Giant statute on Charleston.

59. Oh, and the Blue Angel is still hovering over her eponymous hotel on East Fremont.

60. The Happi Inn across from Mandalay Bay. Because sometimes, damn it, simple happy decrepitude is enough.

61. The shaping-up of the Lied Animal Shelter.

62. The quizzical new CAT buses: Brown? Or gold?

63. The flocks of construction cranes. It means Vegas is still Vegas, baby.

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