Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Feeding People in Las Vegas

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My friends are part of the Las Vegas Catholic Worker community, although neither of them identify as Catholic. I think it’s unusual to be a non-Catholic Catholic Worker, but I can’t say I’ve surveyed any other Catholic Workers about their beliefs or religious affiliations.

One of the Catholic Worker activities my friends participate in is serving food to hungry people. (My friends  also do peace work focused on the elimination of nuclear weapons development, production, and testing. In addition, they also cook and serve with Food Not Bombs once or twice a month.)

When I mention I’m heading to Las Vegas to visit friends, the person I’m speaking with tends to get a knowing look, all wink wink nudge nudge. People say things to me like Have fun! or Be careful. Although I do have fun with my friends, I try to explain to people that my trips to Vegas are not what they’re thinking. My first visits to Vegas, the three nights I spent there with Sweet L and Mr. Carolina, eating and drinking out of trash can and wondering at the sights of the Strip, those night were maybe a little closer to what people think Las Vegas is about. (Read about those nights in the first part of this post: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/20/the-other-las-vegas/.) But since I’ve been visiting The Poet and The Activist, my visits to Las Vegas have not involved one foot touching the Strip or casino property.

The Activist participates in the Catholic Worker food service several times a week. The Poet serves food and helps with washing dishes once a week. Whenever I’m visiting, I volunteer with one or both of them.

Las Vegas Catholic Work house surrounded by a circle of people holding hands.

This photo shows the Las Vegas Catholic Worker house. Image from http://lvcw.org/

The serving of food starts at 6:30 in the morning. I’m not usually out and about so early, but other people are accustomed to it. When we arrive at the Catholic Worker House to meet up with the other volunteers, the food is cooked and people are bustling around, loading everything on the trailer to transport it to the empty lot where the food is served. People have been in the kitchen since 4am, preparing the meal.

The kitchen is warm when we walk in, always a contrast with coolness of the desert morning,but especially pronounced in early December. The people inside are warm too, although they must be wondering who I am and if I’ll be back. I’m sure they see many volunteers who help once to fulfill some sort of obligation and never return. In any case, people say hello to me, tell me their names, shake my hand. If The Poet or The Activist is standing next to me, I’m introduced as a friend.

When we arrive, people are typically sitting around a table in the next room, finishing their prayer meeting. I usually hear some portion of the Lord’s Prayer drift from the room. While the prayer meeting is wrapping up, other people are carrying industrial-size metal pots outside to load them on the trailer which an SUV will pull to the site of the serving.

After all the food and tea and paper bowls and plastic utensils and folding tables and condiments and cups are loaded and the prayer group has dispersed, all the volunteers circle around the wooden counter in the middle of the kitchen to join hands and pray together. I hold the hands of the people on either side of me and bow my head respectfully, but I don’t pray. Other folks recite aloud a prayer, often the following one by Samuel F. Pugh:

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Amen.

The food is served in a vacant lot at G & McWilliams Streets , far enough away from the Catholic Worker house so it makes sense to go in a car. I ride with The Activist (and The Poet too, if it’s Saturday). We always arrive a few minutes before the SUV and trailer.

When we arrive, the hungry people are lined up and waiting. Most people would probably say those people standing in line are homeless. I’m sure some of them are homeless. Maybe even a majority of them live on the streets, but I’m not willing to lump the whole bunch into one category. I know every single one of those people has a unique life, an individual story that’s brought each of them to a vacant lot in Las Vegas, NV on any particular morning.

The vast majority waiting to eat are men. Out of a couple hundred people there to eat, I’d be surprised to see more than five women. Where are all the poor, hungry, and/or homeless women? I feel confident they are somewhere in Las Vegas. I hope they are getting their needs met by some other organization(s).

When the trailer arrives, volunteers scurry to set up. Two tables are unfolded, condiments and utensils set out on them. Plastic milk crates are placed at the head of each line, and giant pots of steaming food are set on top of them. Another table is set up with the day’s side dish and is staffed by two volunteers. Someone else prepares to distribute jalapeño peppers from a large plastic tub to folks who want to spice up their food.

Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg – mural outside the Catholic Worker Houses – painted by Q, photo by Tami Yaron. Image from http://lvcw.org/

The Catholic Worker group also provides warm, damp towels to the folks they serve. I’ve never seen another group provide this service. I think it’s a great idea. A volunteer distributes the warm towels from a 5-gallon bucket. Folks use the towels to wash their face and/or hands, then deposit the used ones in a second bucket. The dirty towels are taken back tot he Catholic Worker house where they are laundered for reuse.

When I volunteer, I usually help hand out bread. (One time I helped hand out the hot main dish.) After putting on gloves, The Activist or The Poet and I take bread out of a 5-gallon bucket and set a variety of choices on the inside of one of the lids, which we use as a tray. The available bread can vary, but I’ve seen it include bagels, sliced wheat bread, hamburger buns, raisin bread, and chunks of baguettes.

I try to be really friendly to people who come up for bread. Good morning! I’ll say with a big smile. Can I get you some bread?

Some people know exactly what they want and how many slices. Others seem confused by the choices. Some seem grateful for whatever they’re handed. I do my best to give folks the kind of bread they want, then sincerely say, Have a nice day! before they leave. I like to think a friendly face and voice and word are as important as the food, but maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel good.

I wonder what the other people in that vacant lot see when they look at me. Do they assume I have a house to return to? Do they think I’m financially secure? Do I seem comfortable and complacent? Do they realize I’m closer economically to the the people there to eat than to the other people serving? Does anyone look at me and imagine I once lived on the streets, that I’m only one step out of my van away from homeless again? But for the grace of the Universe (or God or the Higher Power or Goddess or whatever one chooses to call it), I’d be lined up to receive food instead of serving it.

Squashing Pennies

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I have a friend who collects squashed pennies. Well, I think she collects them. At some point she collected them, but I didn’t ask her if she still did before I went to Las Vegas. She might be over the squashed pennies while I am still blissfully mailing them off to her.

What’s a squashed penny, you may ask? According to Wikipiedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elongated_coin) squashed pennies (aka squished pennies, aka pressed pennies, aka elongated coins)

are coins that have been elongated (flattened or stretched) and embossed with a new design with the purpose of creating a commemorative or souvenir token.

Do you know what I’m talking about now? If you don’t, have a look at the two pressed pennies in the photo below to get an idea of what I mean.

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According to the Penny Collector website (http://www.pennycollector.com/history.html), elongated coins have been around for over 100 years.

Although an example of an elongated coin is rumored to have been produced some years earlier, it is generally accepted that these tokens were first made during the 1892-1893 World’s Columbian Exposition that was held in Chicago, Illinois to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. There were four different designs utilized during that event.

If you’ve never seen a pressed penny before, you probably don’t know how they are made. First of all, the penny pressing machines I’ve seen require 51 cents: two quarters (to pay for the pressing process) and the penny that will be pressed. Again, from the Penny Collector website:

An elongated coin is made by a coin, token, medal or metal blank being forced between two steel rollers. An engraving is on one or both of the rollers and as the coin passes through the rollers it is squeezed or elongated under tremendous pressure from the original round shape to one of an oval and the engraved design impressed into the coin at the same time.

On my way to Vegas, I stopped at the Alien Fresh Jerky store in Baker, CA store because I’d read online about a penny squashing machine there. However, I found the store devoid of penny pressing machinery. So sad! No pennies pressed with an alien theme for my friend!

When I got to Vegas and told my friends about my failure to squish a penny for my pal, they too got into the coin pressing spirit. It was The Activist who found the Penny Collector page listing the locations of pressing machines across the U.S. and around the world. (Start your search for a penny presser near you here: http://www.pennycollector.com/AreaList.aspx.)

Penny pressing machine at the Ethel M. chocolate factory.

Penny pressing machine at the Ethel M. chocolate factory.

Before we headed off to the Ethel M. chocolate factory in Henderson, NV, I said I hoped there was a penny

presser there. The Poet said it would be nice if there was a machine there, but I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up. But guess what! The Ethel M. factory does have a penny squishing machine. I quick put my two quarters and one penny in the appropriate slots and turned, turned, turned the crank. It wasn’t long before the Ethel M. elongated coin clinked and rattled out of the machine’s innards and into the retrieval cup.

As we headed back to West Las Vegas, The Activist announced we were going to pass the Bonanza (World’s Largest) Gift Shop. He remembered from looking at the Penny Collector location page for Nevada that there was a penny presser there. He asked me if I wanted to stop.

Hell yeah! I said. The more pressed pennies, the merrier. Besides, that penny portrait of Ethel M. is a little bit boring. I thought my friend needed something with a little more pizzazz to represent Las Vegas.

This photo shows the penny presser outside the Bonanza (World's Largest) Gift Shop.

This photo shows the penny presser outside the Bonanza (World’s Largest) Gift Shop.

The Activist parked the car and I said, Now the problem is going to be figuring out which door I should go in, since the Bonanza has multiple entrances. Then I saw it! The penny presser was outside the store. I didn’t even have to go inside to squish my penny. Quick, quick, I put my coins in the slots and turned, turned, turned the crank. After a clink and a rattle, I had a squashed penny featuring the Welcome to Las Vegas sign in my hand.

You may be wondering if this whole business of squashing pennies is legal. The answer is YES (in the United States)! The Penny collector website gives the following information in it’s FAQ:

The United States Codes under Title 18, Chapter 17, and Section 331, “prohibits the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States coinage.” However, it has been the opinion of some individual officers at the Treasury Department, though without any indication of approval, the foregoing statute does not prohibit the mutiliation of coins if done without fraudulent intent or if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently.

You didn’t think I was out there breaking the law in Las Vegas, did you?

Pinball Hall of Fame

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img_7801When I was planning my third trip to Las Vegas to visit The Poet and The Activist, I asked The Poet what fun things we should do. She knows I live frugally, so she and The Activist always try to think of free and cheap activities for us to do together. For this visit, she suggested we go to the Pinball Hall of Fame, which has no admission fee.

According to the Hall of Fame’s webpage (http://www.pinballmuseum.org/),

The Pinball Hall of Fame is an attempt by the members of the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club to house and display the world’s largest pinball collection, open to the public. A not-for-profit corporation was established to further this cause. The games belong to one club member (Tim Arnold), and range img_7802from 1950s up to 1990s pinball machines. Since it is a non-profit museum, older games from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are the prevelant [sic], as this was the ‘heyday’ of pinball.

The Pinball Hall of Fame is located at 1610 E. Tropicana, which I guess isn’t too far from the Strip. In my last three visits to Vegas, I’ve only been on the Strip if the car was crossing it to go somewhere else, so I don’t have a very good idea where the Hall of Fame is in relation to the rest of the city.

The Poet, The Activist, and I went to the Pinball Hall of Fame after dark one evening. I highly recommend visiting at night. The folks who run the place keep the overhead lights down low in the evenings, so the lights on the machines really pop! With all the flashing lights and bells and music and other sounds from the games, being in the Pinball Hall of Fame was a lot like how I imagine being in a pinball machine would be, but without giant metal balls trying to flatten folks.

img_7804The museum is set up with several wide aisles with pinball machines on each side. A few machines were out of order, but the ones that were working were available for play. The aforementioned website says,

All machines are available for play, so not only can you see them, you can actually play your old favorites. The pinball machines are all restored to like-new playing condition by people that love pinball and understand how a machine should work. All older pinballs are set to 25 cents per play, and newer 1990s models are set to 50 cents per play.

Although the website claims to have

pinball and nothing but pinball for 10,000 square feet,

After sliding a quarter in the slot, folks can make this clown "dance" by pressing buttons on the machine.

After sliding a quarter in the slot, folks can make this clown “dance” by pressing buttons on the machine.

we saw 80s era arcade-style video games, as well a few other older novelty games. One machine housed a clown. I put in a quarter and The Poet and I banged buttons to move the clowns arms and legs so it could “dance” to the theme song from The Jetsons. It was a ridiculous use of 25 cents, but The Poet and I laughed uproariously, so I guess it was money well spent.

Another non-pinball game at the Hall of Fame approximated bowling. The Activist bowled his ten frames and seemed to have a good time.

The Hall of Fame also boasts a photo booth. For $3 folks get two copies of a four pose, black and white strip of pix. I didn’t partake of the photo booth, but The Activist and The Poet got in there and had some pictures made.

There are several claw machines at the Hall of Fame. I had no interest in any of them, so I didn’t take any photos. I’m not sure what seemingly modern claw machines have to do with pinball, but whatever. It was easy to ignore them in favor of the stars of the show.

Pinball wizard, I am not. I’ve never been very good at keeping those metal balls going, probably because I never practiced very much. When I was a kid, the only place I went with pinball machines was the skating rink, and my visits there were few and far between. My parents were never the type to give me a handful of quarters and drop me off at the arcade in the mall. However, even though I’m not good at pinball, I find playing really fun.

img_7816I tried a few different machines at the Pinball Hall of Fall, and mostly lost immediately. I did the best with a Gilligan’s Island machine. Oh, Gilligan, my first true love! I was happy to see him immortalized by pinball.

The Hall of Fame’s website says,

The Pinball Hall of Fame is a registered 501c3 non-profit. It relies on visitors stopping by to play these games, restored pinball machine sales, and ‘This Old Pinball’ repair dvd videos (available for sale at the museum)…[A]fter the PHoF covers its monthly expenses for rent, electricity, insurance, endowment savings, the remainder of the money goes to the Salvation Army.

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This photo shows the Pinball Hall of Fame repair shop.

Speaking of pinball repair, the service area for the machines is at the back of the museum. Although no one was making repairs when we visited, we could see the whole shop.

For only $2, I had an hour’s worth of fun with my friend at the Pinball Hall of Fame. What a bargain! I highly recommend a visit to the Pinball Hall of Fame to anyone looking for a good time in Vegas. Don’t worry if you don’t have quarters in your pocket; there are change machines on site to hook you up and get you playing right away!

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

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Yarn

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I thought I was done with the business of making hats. That’s what I told the world on December 1.

I’m not making any more hats for a long time…Yarn takes up storage space…The completed hats take up up space too…Yarn cost money…I’m not really selling enough hats to make creating them worth the effort.

(Read all about it here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/12/01/the-last-of-the-hats/.)

Less than a month later (less than two weeks later, actually), I went to the Las Vegas Goodwill Clearance Center on what must have been yarn clearance day. I found so much yarn, in many great colors. Yarn doesn’t weigh much, right? So yarn sold by the pound is cheap. I couldn’t pass up cheap yarn in good colors. I threw all the yarn I found into my basket. Some of it was all tangled up in other items, and I had to cut the yarn to get it in my basket. (Good thing I found some scissors being sold off by the pound.)

This photo shows the yarn I got at the Goodwill Clearance Center in Las Vegas, NV.

This photo shows some of the yarn I got at the Goodwill Clearance Center in Las Vegas, NV.

I actually didn’t buy all the yarn I found that day. I went through the yarn before I took my selections to the register for purchase and put back the colors I didn’t like so much. I got rid of a couple skeins of a dark green that made my head hurt. I left behind some dingy looking white. I only kept the yarn I thought would make really nice hats.

Why do I have such a hard time walking away from yarn? I guess I’m going to have to face it: I’m addicted to yarn.

Also, I just like making hats. I like the ways the colors come together…or how they don’t come together when I make poor color combo choices. I like starting from a couple balls of yarn and ending up with a hat. I get great satisfaction from creating.

As soon as I bought the yarn, I could barely wait to start making hats again. I’ve already made several, and yesterday I loaded up my phone with podcasts to listen to while I work with my new yarn.

I guess I’m back in the hat business. Let me know if you want to buy one. I’ve got plenty.

These large hats were made from yarn bought by the pound at the Goodwill Clearance Center. All three have rolled edges and cost $13 each, including postage.

These large hats were made from yarn bought by the pound at the Goodwill Clearance Center. All three have rolled edges and cost $13 each, including postage.

 

These are two more hats I made from yarn I got at the Goodwill Clearance Center. Both are large, both have a finished edge, both have sparkle white yarn in them, and both cost $13 each, including postage.

These are two more hats I made from yarn I got at the Goodwill Clearance Center. Both are large, both have a finished edge, both have sparkle white yarn in them, and both cost $13 each, including postage.

 

This green and grey hat is extra large. It has a rolled edge and costs $13, including shipping. The yarn came from the Goodwill Clearance Center windfall.

This green and grey hat is extra large. It has a rolled edge and costs $13, including shipping. The yarn came from the Goodwill Clearance Center windfall.

 

I made this hat before I left the forest in October, but it just resurfaced when I cleaned the van. It is an extra large and has a rolled edge. It costs $13, including postage.

I made this hat before I left the forest in October, but it just resurfaced when I cleaned the van. It is an extra large and has a rolled edge. It costs $13, including postage.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

(Guest Post) Three Vignettes by Laura-Marie

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Today it is my great honor to present as a guest blogger my friend Laura-Marie. Laura-Marie is a sweet person and an awesome poet and writer of personal prose. Today she is sharing with us three vignettes that are part of a forthcoming zine called lost child 2.

eclipse
We were in Reno visiting a crazy friend, the one who kept broken mirror fragments in his pockets and read difficult books.  He found things on his late night walks, looking in dumpsters.

His sister, the house they shared, a meal made with dumpstered veggies.

We woke up and I needed to pee, so we walked to the In & Out but it was closed.

Later that day there was an eclipse.  We went back to the In & Out and people were in the parking lot looking at the sun.  We ate grilled cheese sandwiches.  It got dark for a moment then light again.

manic

When I had my first manic episode, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I thought I’d have a lot more manic episodes.  So I took a ziplock bag and stole a lot of Benedryl from my mom.  The pills were hot pink.  Then I put that bag into a tin, like a tin for mints.

I thought when I started having another manic episode, I would take some Benedryl and it would help me sleep.

This was ten years ago.  I still have the Benedryl, bright enough to burn your eyes.  I never took any of it.

soap

Mom had a glass jar in her bathroom with pink soaps in it.  The soaps were shaped like seashells.  I wanted to wash my hands with them so badly.  But they were for decoration only.  They smelled perfumey, and my longing for them was mixed up with my longing for all the childhood things I was denied.

Lite brite.  A certain kind of bedside lamp the neighbor kids had.  When my brother was being potty trained and I was banished to other rooms.

I feel sure that color of pink will always be with me.  The soaps got dusty.  She must have thrown them away when we moved.

Laura-Marie is a zinester and peace activist living in Las Vegas, Nevada.  She likes cold brew tea, writing letters, and visiting friends.

The Rainbow Gathering That Wasn’t

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When I first talked to Sweet L, he told me that he and the crew (Mr. Carolina. Robbie, and the Fighting Couple), as well as Buttons and his mom and her guy were heading to a Rainbow Gathering in Nevada. Buttons (who was in this mid-30s) was riding with his mom (who was in her late 50s) and her guy (who was in his mid-40s) in a car that could seat one more person, but the other folks had no ride. I told Sweet L they could ride with me until I got to my stopping point.

I found the group the next morning, and we loaded up. Robbie got in the car with Buttons and his family, which meant I had Mr. Carolina riding shotgun, Sweet L and Mr. Fighting Couple in the middle seats, Ms. Fighting Couple and all the packs on my bed, and the Fighting Couple’s two dogs on the floor.

Fast-forward through me having so much fun I decided to go to the Rainbow Gathering too and offered my van as our means of transportation. Fast-forward through (literal) rainbows and hot springs, sign flying and gas jugging, Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, and Robbie moving into the van in Flagstaff. Fast-forward through all of that, and we were in the small Nevada town closest to the area where the Rainbow Gathering was to be held.

Sweet L was doing most of the internet research to get us to the gathering. He wanted to be at the gathering because he had been told it would be a jumping off point for folks traveling to Guatemala for an intergalactic Rainbow Gathering peaking on 12-21-12. Buttons was talking about caravans driving through drug-runner tunnels stretching across the U.S./Mexico border and on to Guatemala. This Nevada Rainbow Gathering was supposed to be the place to meet the people making such transportation happen.

Sweet L had been in touch with one of the gathering’s focalizers, a man staying in a small, locally owned motel. The man invited us to come to his motel room, take showers, and hang out.

The man—George, I’ll call him—was probably between 55 and 65 years old and friendly enough. I was glad for the chance to take a shower and took him up on his offer right away. Robbie and Sweet L jumped at the chance to use his laptop, as they were trying to figure out how to get to Guatemala if the drug tunnel plan didn’t work out.

When I got out of the shower, I started picking up clues that George was a little strange and there were some problems with the Rainbow Gathering. First, although seven adults (and two dogs) were crammed into a small motel room, George had the television on with the volume turned up. The TV rendered communication quite difficult. It think it’s rude to have a TV on when folks are visiting, but it seemed strange to have it turned on when we were trying to talk to the guy about a Rainbow Gathering he was helping to organize.

From what Sweet L had said about what he’d read on the internet, I’d understood the Rainbow Gathering was about to begin and ten or so people were already on site. Upon talking to George, we realized the six of us had been counted among the people on site. And the site? It hadn’t been chosen yet! George wanted us to go out scouting for potential locations.

I’ve never been scouting for a Rainbow Gathering site, but I know certain things are desirable, like flat ground, trees, and a source of water. I knew nothing about the Nevada desert. I certainly had no idea where to find trees and water.

While we had food (and toilet paper) to contribute to a gathering, we were by no means prepared to provide for our own six selves (much less anyone who might join us) in the wilderness. We thought we’d be going into a gathering with an infrastructure in place. We’d had no idea we’d be expected to set up the infrastructure of a seed camp.

A few days after the gathering was scheduled to begin, Furthur would be playing in nearby Las Vegas. Those of us traveling in my van had already decided we’d leave the gathering and go to Vegas on the night of the Furthur show. We knew that even if we didn’t get into the show, we could have a lot of fun hanging out. After Furthur, we planned to go back for the duration of the gathering.

When one of us mentioned our plan to George, he said he was going to Vegas for Furthur too. He said he’d planned to pay a shuttle van to drive him to Vegas and back, but said he’d rather ride with us and give us the money. He then said he had a hotel room booked for the night of the show, and all of us could stay with him. I didn’t say it in front of George, but the last thing I wanted to do in Vegas was get stuck in some stranger’s hotel room.

Around 4:30, George got really weird. He said he was going to have to kick us out at five o’clock. He said he didn’t want us to wait until dark to find a place to make our camp. His attitude was strange for a couple of reasons. First, although it was fall, the time hadn’t changed yet, so at five o’clock there were still a couple of hours of daylight left. Second, he didn’t even know how great the kids were at finding places to sleep at night. Third, we were surrounded by public land where we could camp for free.

In the following days, we had much discussion about what we thought had really been going on with George. Why had he really kicked us out at five o’clock? Was he afraid we were going to try to take over his motel room and spend the night there? I thought he had a 5:30 appointment with either a drug dealer or a prostitute and wanted us out of there ahead of time.

As we were gathering our things in preparation for our exit, George pulled out his sleeping bag and said he wanted us to take it with us so it would already be in the van when we gave him the ride to Vegas. By this point I was getting paranoid and was more than half convinced that George had dealings with the FBI and there was a bug or a tracking device in his sleeping bag. I was cool though, and said we really didn’t have room for it in the van. Although the sleeping bag was rolled up quite small, I wasn’t really lying about there being no room for it. Where were we going to fit in a stranger’s (possibly bugged) sleeping bag in a van crowded with six people, all their possessions, jugs of water, two dogs, and only four seat belt? (Sweet L thought George wanted us to take his sleeping bad so we’d be obligated to come back for him later.)

We did find a place to camp well before dark. We also decided a few things. We decided we were not scouting for this sketchy Rainbow Gathering or helping with seed camp. In fact, we decided the Rainbow Gathering sounded as if it had too many problems, and we’d rather stay in Vegas. We also decided George would not be riding with us.

The job of calling George and breaking the news fell to me since I was the van owner. I felt awkward, but not as awkward as I’d have felt being stuck with an unwanted passenger. It was a good thing we hadn’t taken his sleeping bag.

 

The Food I Ate (Las Vegas Edition)

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I love to eat, but I hate to cook. So I love to eat in restaurants, but I hate to spend a lot of money. You see my dilemma.

I did eat some really good food in Las Vegas, although I didn’t go to any upscale restaurants. (In my whole life, I haven’t eaten in upscale restaurants more than a few times.)

My first night in town, my hosts, The Poet and her husband the Activist, invited me to join their community dinner. Organizers from the Las Vegas Catholic Worker community shared their delicious meal of spicy black beans and rice with me. (Baked chicken was on the table too, but I stuck with the vegetarian option.) I enjoyed eating a tasty meal with nice people.

The next morning my hosts and I awoke early to help the Catholic Worker group serve breakfast to hungry homeless and poor folks. (Read about my experiences with “The Other Las Vegas” here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/20/the-other-las-vegas/.) I wasn’t hungry for toast before we left the house, and I didn’t care to try the breakfast dish (rice and beans with chorizo) being served. After the meal, we returned to my friends’ house; then I went to a credit union where I deposited my last paycheck. From there I stumbled upon the Las Vegas Goodwill Clearance Center and got distracted.

I was supposed to meet The Poet and The Activist at 11:25 so I could ride with them to the Catholic Worker House to help serve (then eat!) lunch. I shopped at the Goodwill Clearance Center until the last possible moment, then was slowed down by the one-way streets in West Las Vegas. By the time I got to my friends’ house, it was 11:15, I was super hungry, and their car wasn’t in the driveway. I was afraid I’d missed them (and lunch!) and texted The Poet in a panic. She texted right back to say they were on the way to pick me up. Sigh of relief!

When we got to the Catholic Worker House, I saw the lunch crew was as efficient as the breakfast crew. It was taco day, and everything was prepped and ready to go. The taco shells were filled with meat at one end of the line. A volunteer would serve the tacos while the person next to him offered beans. Someone else spooned out guacamole. The Activist was next, offering lettuce and tomatoes. I stood to his right. My job was to serve shredded cheese. The young man by my side passed out tortilla chips, and The Poet was at the end of the line dishing out salsa.

According to the Las Vegas Catholic Worker website (http://www.lvcw.org/), every Wednesday is

Hospitality Day, [and they] invite 20 homeless men home for showers, to wash clothes, & to have a great lunch.….

(On the day I was there, a couple of women lined up with the men.)

The serving went fast; then the servers were welcome to make themselves a plate. I made mine taco salad style with corn chips, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and a generous dollop of guacamole. I joined The Poet and The Activist at the umbrella shaded table on the backyard patio. It was a great lunch! As we were relaxing after our meal, one of the cooks brought us freshly baked cookies, and we didn’t even have to wash the dishes!

On the third day of my visit, we were up early again to serve breakfast, this time macaroni and cheese. I served bread alone while The Poet handed out jalapeños. Back at the Catholic Worker house, we helped with dish washing. The Poet rinsed while I gave the pots and pans a quick dip in the sanitizing water. The man doing the washing was quick and thorough, and we were out of there in no time.

Next on the day’s itinerary was the 11am peace vigil in front of the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse at 333 Las Vegas Blvd. We arrived early, so The Activist suggested we grab doughnuts at the O Face doughnut shop (http://www.ofacedoughnuts.com/) a couple of blocks away. Although I just referred to O Face as a doughnut shop, it is more like a doughnut boutique.

 

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I took this photo of the door to the O Face Doughnut Shop. Can you see my reflection in the glass?

First of all, you don’t pick your doughnuts by looking at racks with rows and rows of doughnuts of each variety. Oh no. The doughnuts here are artfully displayed, in small bunches. Customers see only one sample of each variety.

The doughnuts are lovely to behold. Love-a-lee! Each doughnut is good looking. Each doughnut looks delicious. Each doughnut appears to be begging to be eaten. These factors make choosing a doughnut difficult.

Some doughnuts are rings and easier to eat by hand. These are called “in hand” doughnuts. Others doughnuts have fillings that are made in-house and are easier to eat with utensils. These are called “fork and knife” doughnuts and are more expensive than “in hand” doughnuts.

I ended up picking out a banana-flavored sort of cake doughnut/fritter hybrid with dark chocolate frosting. SO GOOD! I’m not even a huge fan of bananas, but for some reason that doughnut was calling to me; I was not disappointed. The fried doughnut was the perfect degree of greasy. The banana-ness was from real bananas, as far as I could tell, not from some artificial banana flavor, and the dark chocolate frosting was sweet perfection. This was a seriously good doughnut.

My friends got vegan doughnuts. When we all tried bites of each other’s doughnuts, I can’t say I was too excited about theirs. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of traditional doughnuts. Give me the cake kind, or I’ll usually just pass. The vegan doughnuts were even more dough-y than regular doughnuts, and I thought they tasted quite like bread. However, since I’ve never been vegan, I don’t really know what a good vegan doughnut tastes like. Maybe vegans would really appreciate and enjoy the O Face vegan doughnuts. After all, my friends voiced no complaints.

O Face doughnut shop is small, but does have limited seating. But my friends and I didn’t eat inside. We took our doughnuts outside and ate them standing on the sidewalk right near the door.

The O Face doughnut I scarfed down was probably the best doughnut I’ve had in my entire middle-age life.

After the peace vigil, The Activist and I walked down to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, home of The History Channel program Pawn Stars. (Read about my tourist experiences here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/23/tourist-day-in-las-vegas/.) About an hour later when we met The Poet at The Beat Coffeehouse and Records (http://www.thebeatlv.com/), where she had been writing while waiting for us, we were ready for lunch.

In thanks for their hospitality, I’d offered to treat The Poet and The Activist to lunch. The Poet immediately suggested an East Indian restaurant they really like called Mount Everest (http://www.everestcuisine.net/). She said out of the several East Indian restaurants in Las Vegas they’d tried, this was their favorite.

To be fair, I am not an expert on Indian food. But I have eaten at Indian restaurants in San Francisco and New Orleans and Philadelphia and Penang, Malaysia and probably some other places I don’t remember, so I’m not a complete novice either. The food I ate at Mount Everest was the best Indian food I have ever eaten.

We had the lunch buffet, and almost everything I tried was so good. The rice was perfectly cooked, and all of the sauces were hot and delicious. I loved the potato and squash dish, but I thought the samosas were a bit tough. They were barely warm; I think a huge batch had been made for the lunch rush and had maybe been sitting around too long. The naan, delivered promptly to our table, was fresh, hot, and tasty.

All of the employees we encountered were smiling and friendly, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating at Mount Everest. I’ll eat there again, next time I’m in Vegas, if I can spare the cost of the buffet.

On Friday morning, The Activist drove us 45 miles north of town to the Temple of Goddess Spirituality. (To read about our trip to the Goddess Temple, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/21/the-temple-of-goddess-spirituality/.) After we visited to Goddess Temple, we stopped at the Desert National Wildlife Range (http://www.fws.gov/refuge/desert/), where we walked around for a while on well-maintained desert trails. Luckily, it was a cool and overcast day, so walking in the desert was unusually pleasant.

We were all hungry by the time we got back to Vegas, so The Poet suggested we eat breakfast at The Omelet House on Charleston Blvd (http://www.omelethouse.net/Locations/Charleston.htm). We arrived midmorning and were seated immediately.

The first thing I noticed about the place was the weird decor. The dark walls and heavy furniture gave the place a fancy cabin feel, but there were also lots of breakable knick-knacks scattered about. I felt as if I were eating in the living room of some old lady’s cabin/ski lodge. I wondered how often those knick-knacks are cleaned and definitely saw dust on an artificial plant.

The table my friends and I were led to was tucked in a corner. I sat across from The Poet, and The Activist sat to her right. A wooden knick-knack display about two feet tall with three shelves and a drawer stretching across the bottom was hung on the wall to my right. After we placed our orders, we looked closely at the items displayed next to us. They were kitchy, breakable salt and pepper shakers. (Why, oh, why did I not take a photo of this monstrosity?) I was quite intrigued with the drawer and slid it open to inspect its contents. Empty! I decided I would leave little notes for the next curious diner who inspected the drawer. The Poet and I wrote some words on little slips of paper and tucked them away to be found by future guests.

The menu offered many options including omelets and pancakes and sandwiches.

I had the Health Nut omelet (so named, perhaps, because it includes lots of veggies) with spuds and pumpkin bread. The pumpkin bread, delivered before the entrée, was served warm with butter on the side. The omelet was made with three eggs, although a six egg omelet was also an option. The spuds were thinly sliced, deep fried potatoes. They were essentially potato chips prepared in small batches. I was surprised and delighted by them. Everything on my plate was delicious.

That omelet was my last big meal in Vegas. On Saturday morning, I was back on the road and back on a budget, eating cheap burritos at Del Taco and Dairy Queen and longing for my next chance to indulge.