December, 2008

It’s not the ride, it’s the wait

December 21st, 2008
The Deuce rolls down Boulder Highway

The Deuce rolls down Boulder Highway

Call it the cheapest tour in town. You can ride Citizen Area Transit (CAT)’s Route 107 from College and Horizon Drives in Henderson straight into the heart of downtown Las Vegas and back for only $2.50.

The route cruises along Boulder Highway and, according to the transit guide, should only take about an hour. Along with nine other passengers, I paid my fare at 11:50 a.m. and took a front row seat on The Deuce, the gold-colored, double-decker bus that was originally used to pack more people on a single bus for Strip routes. It feels empty now, but before arriving at the Downtown Transportation Center (DTC), only a few seats remained unfilled.

I tried talking to people, but Boulder Highway travelers are not as used to seeing a camera around someone’s neck as are folks on the Strip. It fits the setting: Boulder Highway is a 15-mile long strip mall, complete with fast food joints, gas stations, motels, a smattering of casinos and used car lots.

The driver did his best to arrive at the DTC on time, but the rain, people with incorrect change and a couple wheelchairs added 20 minutes to the journey. I wasn’t in a hurry but the complaining murmurs I overheard—mostly about the wheelchairs—indicated some people did have places to go.

I wandered around Fremont Street for an hour, somehow resisting fried Twinkies, 99-cent daiquiris and the lure of a “free pull.”

At the DTC

At the DTC

Maneuvering through the human flotsam clogging up the sidewalks of the DTC caused me to miss the bus. It’s not their fault; not everyone falls through society’s cracks on purpose. I waited 15 minutes for the next bus, then hit the road again, getting a look at the other side of Boulder Highway. It’s the same. The barren lot that most recently was Castaways (and was once the Showboat) is still empty. The new sign marking the border of Las Vegas and Henderson that first beckoned “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” now reads “Drive Carefully Come Back Soon.”

Then hunger hit. I blame the signs proclaiming “Old Las Vegas Prices” at the Longhorn Casino. Try it sometime. You can get a decent—not fantastic, but better than the price suggests—steak dinner for $4.99. I told you, it’s the cheapest tour in town.

I finished my meal, headed out to the nearest stop … and waited. And waited. I must have once again barely missed one bus and had to wait about 20 minutes for the next.

When I got on, there was a woman asking if anyone had a day pass they wouldn’t be using again. The $2.50 pass is good for unlimited rides for 24 hours (replacing the outdated transfer slips). Hers must have been close to expiring. No one spoke up to offer any assistance and she exited the bus with a look of worry on her face.

I exited the bus at Boulder Highway and Lake Mead Parkway. Route 217 stops there and would get me to within a block of my house. It was 4:02 p.m. when I got off the 107. The 217 passed through this stop at 4:00.

The next time it came by was 5 p.m., proving the one major down point about riding the CAT buses anywhere in town: it isn’t the ride that sucks, it’s the wait.

And wait I did, for an hour. I probably could have walked home in the time it took to wait for the next bus, but my day pass was still valid and I intended to use it to its fullest. Plus, it was raining, and while walking in the rain is great some places, Las Vegas isn’t one of them. I arrived home at 5:15 p.m.

I spent two and a half hours on the bus and more than an hour and a half waiting for the bus. No one exposed themselves to me or smelled bad. Sure, a few people talked too loud, but overall, riding the bus is not as bad as many people make it seem.

Then again, waiting for the bus still sucks.

Lisick and Jepsen bring Bay Area sketch comedy to Sin City

December 11th, 2008
We don't know what to think, either.

We don't know what to think, either.

San Francisco writers Beth Lisick and Tara Jepsen have been performing together on and off since both appearing on the 1999 Sister Spit tour. This weekend, they’re unveiling their comedic alter egos in Las Vegas once again with a sketch-comedy show called “Getting on the Ground Floor and Staying There” at Beauty Bar (517 Fremont St.) tomorrow night, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. In case you’ve been living under a culture-less rock and aren’t aware of these two incredible authors, here’s the righteous skinny:

Lisick has penned two critically acclaimed popular alt-memoirs — Everyone into the Pool: True Tales and Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone. She also spent eight years writing a nightlife column called “Buzz Town” for the San Francisco Chronicle and co-founded the Porchlight Storytelling Series (which has featured Las Vegas’ own spoken-word maestro and NPR commentator Dayvid Figler).

Jepsen, on the other hand, orchestrates the queer slam-poetry night, “K’vetch,” and helped create one of the more notorious rock bands in S.F. called Lesbians. Her work has been published in landmark anthologies such as Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache and It’s So You.

VEGASinsight had a chance to speak with Lisick recently, to get the lowdown on what we can expect from her and Jepsen’s Las Vegas appearance.

VEGASinsight: So what’s “Getting on the Ground Floor and Staying There” all about anyway?

Beth Lisick: The show is a tribute that Tara [Jepsen] and I are throwing for ourselves after working together for 10 years. Carole and Mitzi are lady comediennes who never quite get around to telling their jokes, because they’re easily sidetracked about topics such as what defines one as a lesbian, and how much their tub of pancake mix is going to cost them, and how dirty the steam room at the gay men’s bath house was the other night. They are the janitors there on the night shift, you see.

VI: Wow.

BL: Oh, we’ll also present Cricket and Jinx, two ladies well past 40 who are obsessed with being “rock ’n’ roll” and “edgy.” And also Don and Phil, a couple of gay silver foxes who have been together for more than 30 years and like to kindly educate their audience about art and architecture.

VI: Isn’t there a movie component? We heard there was a film of Tara’s and yours to be screened.

BL: Yes, we will also show our short film Diving for Pearls, which played gay film fests internationally. [Note: Lisick doesn’t like to brag. The film won the “Most Innovative Short” award at the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 2005 and was selected for the “Best of Newfest” screening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.]

VI: You’ve been a comedian for 10 years! What does comedy mean to you?

BL: Well, I don’t consider myself a true comedian, though my character Carole Murphy is certainly one.

VI: So I guess you could say you only play a comedian onstage. Does comedy scratch a different itch for you than the one you scratch with the Porchlight series?

BL: Porchlight is a storytelling series that I curate, but don’t perform at. I just emcee the event with my partner Arline Klatte.

VI: You’ve done everything in Vegas — poetry readings, book festival appearances, dressed up like a banana for promotions, performed music — except for one thing: You’ve never worked in a casino. When can we expect that to happen?

BL: We will work in a casino this weekend if anyone wants to hire us!

Getting shipwrecked in Las Vegas at Frankie’s Tiki Room

December 3rd, 2008

Frankie's Tiki Room
Photos by Erik Kabik | RETNA and courtesy Frankie’s Tiki Room

Double Down Saloon owner P. Moss is a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma. We’ve heard all kinds of wild stories about him — among the most interesting: he wrote screenplays for several B-grade action and exploitation movies produced in the 1980s — but confirmed very few of them. What we can tell you, though: He doesn’t like to brag, but we happen to know he’s an excellent crime fiction writer, and one of the most brilliant bar managers on the planet. Further evidence of the latter can be found at the brand-new Frankie’s Tiki Room (1712 W. Charleston Blvd.).

Last night saw the bar open to invited media and VIP guests, giving us a sneak peek at what Moss has done with the old Frankie’s Bar & Cocktail Lounge. The answer: He’s transformed it into one of the coolest tiki rooms in existence, with an attention to detail that is impressive (no surprise – like everything Moss does, this place is pitch-perfect). If the Double Down masters the art of the punk bar – with its Bacon Martinis and Ass Juice – then Frankie’s perfects the idea of a 1950s-style, Polynesian-themed lounge. Every aspect of the décor (courtesy of renowned tiki designer Bamboo Ben) is pure South Pacific kitsch, from the beautiful cocktail tables and chairs and the bartender’s surf shirts to the bumper pool table and the coin-operated “Vice Tester” game nonchalantly installed in the corner.

P Moss and Bamboo BenBut it’s the mind-blowing drinks themselves that will impress even the most been-there-done-that tiki enthusiast. Every drink is 8 bucks — unless you opt for a $20 souvenir mug, each of which is beautiful. And each drink listed on the menu has a skull rating, letting you how much power (or much of a hangover) you’re getting.

We sampled (OK, downed completely) three from the “Frankie’s Original Tiki Drinks” side of the menu. First was the small-yet-deadly Fink Bomb, a blend of coconut rum, 160-proof rum, melon liqueur and pineapple juice that had us buzzing before we knew it. Second, there was Ninth Island, a mix of gold and silver rums, 151-proof rum and pineapple juice that, because of its larger size, was easier to nurse than the nearly shot-sized Fink. God, we wanted to sip our Ninth Island all night, but we finally had to move on to something even better: the mojito-styled Bearded Clam (light rum, mint leaves, passion fruit). Needless to say, we should’ve called in sick to work this morning, but it was well worth it.

There are also plenty of traditional tiki drinks to be enjoyed, such as the Zombie, a Mai Tai or Lapu Lapu. But we definitely encourage you to try the original drinks. Frankie’s doesn’t serve food, but you can smoke or gamble at the bar.

Frankie’s Tiki Room is less than a mile from the downtown Las Vegas‘ Arts District, giving those who live in and around that area another beautiful place to drink. The Griffin and the Downtown Cocktail Room are wonderful, but sometimes a tad too close to Fremont Street Experience-gazing tourists. Added bonus: Frankie’s is right next to University Medical Center, so if you come down with acute alcohol poisoning, help is just a few feet away.

It looks like we’ll be spending quite a bit of time and money at Frankie’s Tiki Room.