In December’s whirlwind of holiday parties, the weirdest thing kept happening, the kind of thing that trips your neck hairs and makes you think some sort of cosmic convergence is afoot. (Or maybe it was just the champagne cocktails that I was, unwisely, drinking from a goblet the size of a toaster oven.)
I kept meeting Las Vegas natives. My standard cry, all neighing and incredulous: “No way! You’re a native too?! Awesome!” And then, all back-slappy and ruddy-cheeked from drink, we’d compare memories and preen ourselves, reveling in our native Las Vegan values, our rubbery sense of Western optimism. We’d joke about forming a gang. One of us would, anyway.
Because I wasn’t joking. I’m totally forming a gang of honorary Las Vegas natives — “honorary” being the key word here. By that I mean it’s a gang you can join without having to have been born and raised here. No arbitrary exclusivity, no cultishness or pride in pure coincidence. Rather, what really defines an honorary native Las Vegan is a fervent engagement with the community, whether that means volunteer work, support of local arts or commitment to a local cause. In short, anyone who’s a considered exception to the prior decade’s unfortunate archetype of an overweening house-flipper baron to whom Las Vegas is site or setting, not a home.
Sure, having a kind and engaged soul is great and all, but any honorary Las Vegas native must have a useful stock of information about the valley. That’s where we came up with The Answers Issue. Think of it as a (completely random) insta-wiki on life in Las Vegas, a (paper and ink) Matrix-style learning module set for instant download into your cortex, a (gloriously haphazard) Swiss army knife that’ll answer both common and uncommon questions about Southern Nevada — and dispatch a few stubborn urban myths along the way. (At the very least, maybe it’ll stop people from yakking about how Bugsy Siegel founded Las Vegas.) With The Answers Issue, you’ll swagger into 2012, ready to fleck party conversations with some truly useful Vegas knowledge.
Speaking of swagger, this is the part where I get to kick the tires on the latest issue and point out what’s new for 2012. The first thing you’ll notice is how Art Director Chris Smith has freshened up our design with an eye toward both beauty and readability. We’ve also added some new departments, including a travel page that highlights both jaunts just down the road and more far-flung excursions in the Southwest and beyond. We also welcome some voices that are new to the pages of Desert Companion but are mainstays on the media scene, such as Las Vegas Sun columnist J. Patrick Coolican, whose “Thought Leaders” (p. 54) story suggests that the MFA is the new MBA. Coolican talks at length with Carol Harter, Jim Murren and Glenn Schaeffer about their surprising liberal arts backgrounds — and how rigorous engagement with the arts was instrumental in their success in academia, business and elsewhere. Others are taking roads less traveled to success, too; Heidi Kyser explores the high ed system’s push to get non-traditional students back in class on p. 30. It seems that the non-traditional student is more traditional than you might think — and it’s another hallmark of our valley’s unique character. Come join the gang.
After initially delisting Dr. Nicola Spirtos as a Top Doctor due to an FDA warning letter he received in 2009, Castle Connolly, the administrator of the Top Doctors survey, has reconsidered the information and reinstated him on its website and regional listings. Dr. Nicola Spirtos was originally named a Top Doctor and profiled in the August 2011 issue of Desert Companion.