I was always reluctant to buy into this notion of Las Vegas as a place of second chances and new starts. It seemed too easy. The proposition of renewal amid the neon had the flavor of a consolation prize. It prompted indignant questions: But what about first chances? What about just starts?
Now I'm throwing my hallelujahs into the chorus. This time, it seems like our renewal is real and sustained. Renewal? What renewal? A-ha. That's what makes me suspect it's real: It is slow, unglamorous and not readily apparent - decidedly un-Vegas. Still, there is an unerring sense that in subtle but crucial ways, Las Vegas is shaking off a limp that, for so long, has made us hobble, one lurch forward, two stumbles back.
To be sure, in some cases, it's a desert-style renewal of the soul-scouring, tough-love variety. I would be callous to cheerlead the bursting of the housing bubble and its aftermath, but you can't deny that it has helped reframe the discussion of what Las Vegas is supposed to be. At the very least, I hope we've all dispensed with the rabid fantasy that had us in its grip for more than a decade: that Las Vegas can exist as some ever-spreading stucco supernova rolling into the desert, hosting house-flippers and couch-to-cubicle commuters instead of truly engaged citizens. That certainly marks the start of a renewed vision of what Southern Nevada can be.
Meanwhile, the renewal of downtown continues to percolate, with a few joyous sputters in the mix - such as the announcement that shoe giant Zappos will move into the old City Hall in 2012. This development does much more than inject money and energy into the heart of the city. A billion-dollar company rooting itself downtown is also a sweeping confirmation of the hope and sweat of countless artists, creatives and entrepreneurs who've been quietly working for years to perform CPR on the city's core. Isn't that how true renewal is supposed to work: from the inside out? Even on the Strip, The Cosmopolitan is sparking murmurs among our most critical observers that there's something new at work here, some third way that forgoes the usual Strip bombast for more oblique aesthetics and boutique virtues.
Every morning, I run (and, yes, sometimes wheeze and limp) along a portion of the Las Vegas Wash. It's near the same place where I used to wade into the trash-clogged waters to snag mutant crawdads and flirt with who knows what kind of flesh-eating bacteria. Today, thanks to an ongoing rehab effort by a coalition of volunteers and government agencies, the Las Vegas Wash hosts an improbable array of wildlife. It's a bit of fiction, sure: The wash is an urban river that flows back into the artificial lake that supplies our water. But to see sandpipers scuttling just feet away from the whoosh of traffic on Boulder Highway speaks of our versatility.
Whether you're an urban runner, a yoganaut or even a baffled but curious newbie, this issue is sure to offer plenty of prospects for renewal, whether it's through our tour of exotic day spas (page 36) or a crazy new exercise that just might burn off calories in great steaming gusts. We should know: Our intrepid team of writers samples a host of diet and fitness trends starting on page 39. And for those of you just toeing the waters in the fountain of youth (or at least delayed aging), take heart in the everyman tale of Scott Dickensheets, whose initiation into the world of yoga is both entertaining and enlightening (or, to borrow a bit of Scott's verbal dexterity, enlightertaining). And we did some in-house renewal as well. You'll notice our crisp and lively new look, thanks to Desert Companion Art Director Christopher Smith, to mark our shift to Southern Nevada's premier monthly city magazine. Countless pundits have dubbed today's cloudy economic reality as "The New Now." From the city whose obsession with the new certainly has its upsides, I propose a brighter alternative to call our own: "The Renewed Now."