Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Day 1 in Nevada

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Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Nev, center, is swarmed by the news media while making the first purchase of the morning at The Reef Dispensary.

My dashboard clock displayed 2:10 a.m., and I was stuck in a McDonald’s drive-thru sandwiched between a truck and a car, with shrubbery to my right. I looked to the intercom, where a voice minutes earlier had asked me to “please hold,” and I stared in a tired trance at a hand-written sign taped to it that read: The ONLY sauces we have are: ketchup, mustard and spicy mustard. ONLY.

I wanted to scream. I still had one dispensary left to photograph for my Day 1 coverage assignment for Leafly.com, one of my favorite freelance clients to work for these days. Legal recreational marijuana sales for adults age 21 and over in Nevada had begun at midnight.

After I languished 20 minutes in the drive-thru, an exhausted looking manager finally handed me my Happy Meal and giant cup of water (they were sold out of bottled water, too) with a sigh and a “thank you for being patient.” I thought that it was appropriate that the only place open at 2 a.m. near the dispensaries was short-handed and out of everything.

Hours earlier, I had started my evening at Essence Cannabis, the only dispensary that has a Las Vegas Strip address. There I found a growing line of excited individuals and loads of fellow journalists. I quickly got to work photographing the line outside, then went inside behind the counter to get close-ups of the goods: strains of marijuana in vials that resembled blood-collection tubes; square “sniff jars” – containers that let customers inspect samples at an intimate olfactory level; edibles in the form of cookies and gummies; and even colorful, swirly smoking pipes.

When I tried to leave Essence, my car was blocked by a delivery truck. It felt as though everyone in Las Vegas was right where I was at that exact moment. Eventually, I was able to move on to my next stop: Reef Dispensary.

At Reef, the vibe was quite different. I found myself in the center of a giant party. Characters passed me wearing neon clothes and wildly colored hair while Average Joe types scuffled about in their jeans and sneakers, maneuvering the crowded space, making way for disabled patrons. In addition to a hefty line, there were food trucks, weed-related sponsors with merchandise, and a large, rotating spotlight that screamed for miles: “This is the place to be!”

It was close to midnight, and media chaos ensued. I was trying to stay near the front door and state Sen. Tick Segerblom, whom I needed to photograph, when an unannounced firework show exploded in the dark sky. Of course it did. This beautiful firework shot would be best captured from across the street.

I made a quick decision to skip the firework photo I envisioned and stay close to the senator. Immediately after the fireworks ended, security ushered me and some 25 other members of the media through the door so we could capture the first marijuana purchase of the morning, by the senator. Did I mention Southern Nevada is a pretty cool place to live?

Having calculated carefully in advance, I knew I had roughly 30 minutes to get everything I needed inside the dispensary – shots of the senator, scene setters and a couple interview shots – before I had to edit for my 1:30 a.m. deadline.

I left Reef on schedule and decided that editing photos in my car in a shady, industrial area at 12:30 a.m. was not a good idea. I quickly drove to the nearest open place to set up shop, which happened to be the luxurious Palace State hotel-casino. Google it.

I scurried through the familiar casino to find an area I knew might have an open table and a sandwich shop where I could grab some much-needed water. The tables were there – full; the sandwich shop was there – empty and closed. I was more than disappointed, but then saw I that the nearby Sportsbook was deserted on the one side that contained rows of tables where, during the day, older gentlemen would sit with cigars and scorecards watching the ponies on TV.

I edited marijuana photos, undisturbed, for an hour next to another late-night worker at his computer. It was as good an office as I could have asked for, albeit I longed for a giant glass of water – or something stronger.

After I was content that my initial deadline was fulfilled, I drove from the casino to the Golden Arches across the street, blissfully unaware that I was about to be stranded in drive-thru limbo.

When I finally, graciously accepted my Happy Meal from Mr. Nice Manager, I chugged the entire cup of water, then stuffed a few fries into my mouth as I drove to Oasis, the last dispensary on my list. I sat in the dark parking lot eating nuggets until 2:45 a.m. Leafly needed my entire submits toned and captioned by 6 a.m., so I gave myself a new deadline: Be home by 4 a.m., which left me about 45 minutes at this last destination to make magic happen.

Oasis Medical Cannabis had clearly been a party earlier in the night. Nude models wearing paint wandered around with beers; a taco cart was closing up shop; people were socializing in the spotlights that lit the dark area where a strong line of people waited to get into the dispensary at nearly 3 a.m. In the parking lot later, I ran into an artist friend of mine, who had been painting at the party earlier in the evening. He had a gorgeous body-painted model with him, who was doing all sorts of acrobatics near a spotlight.

I made my way to security and into the dispensary. A first room held an abundance of people who had their ID’s checked and were waiting to get into The Coveted Room, a larger space that had bud specialists and product, where orders were placed on iPads. A waiting area with ATM branched off that room, where customers patiently waited for their orders to be filled. The whole process was a waiting room inside a bigger waiting room with a long waiting line outside. I have never seen so many people jammed into one space, except for perhaps at any Las Vegas branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Oasis’ customers were superbly more calm and friendly than any person I have ever encountered at the DMV. By the time I finished my shots – including some frames of my artist friend and his companion, it was nearing 4 a.m. I still had to do my final edits.

At home, I wearily completed my work. Sunrise was lighting the room as I crawled into bed to snuggle up to my snoozing husband at 5:30 a.m. – a half-hour before deadline.

Life, and news, kept happening. By the time my images were published, my invoice was sent in (including that McDonald’s meal as a write-off) and the valley was embracing its new law, Las Vegas was running out of pot. And during the first week marijuana was legal, The Reef (my second stop), suffered a brief fire caused by static electricity.

When I had accepted the assignment, I was concerned that I would not be able to edit and think clearly in the smoke- and aroma- filled early morning hours because I do not smoke marijuana. My editor, who also doesn’t smoke, assured me that I would be OK. “You’ll be fine. Oh, you’ll definitely smell like it, but you’ll be fine,” I recall her telling me. Her words were true. My car and camera pouches smelled of the sweet Mary Jane for a good time after. We had rain the other day, and I swear the humidity reignited it all again.

Whatever expectations a journalist has before going into an assignment, they are usually wrong. Day 1 wasn’t what I expected at all; it was much more. It was a great night’s work, an experience I will never forget. Also, if my future children have questions about marijuana, I am sure to have a story to tell.

 

* for story in Leafly: https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/las-vegas-live-coverage-nevadas-adult-use-cannabis-debut

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Patrons wait in line shortly before the doors open at midnight at Essence Cannabis Dispensary on the Strip.

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Laura Davidson, who wears body paint, poses near a mural, both painted by artist Dray during a Day One party at Oasis Medical Cannabis.

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Dawn Weir, center left, interviews customer Candace Foshee, center right, on a cell phone for a cannabis-themed radio show while customers wait in line behind them at The Reef Dispensary.

 

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Customers wait for their orders to be filled at Oasis Medical Cannabis.

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Patrons waiting in line take and share personal photographs and video on their cell phones of a firework display at to The Reef Dispensary moments before doors open at midnight.

Gift Shop Opt

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An Asian woman was walking with a small group in front of me near the Strip last week.

Immediately, I noticed her outfit. We all did. She was quite literally a walking advertisement for my town topped with a rhinestone USA hat. Head-to-toe she wore bright colors, patterns and sequins. Her personality matched her outfit. She was bedazzled.

I stopped her and attempted light conversation while we approached a crosswalk. There was clearly a language barrier, and she ushered over her friend to help us communicate. I discovered the fashionista on Paradise Road was from China. She gestured that her entire ensemble was from the nearby gift shop. I gave her a warm smile and in exchange, she let me take her photograph.

Something about this cheery and kind tourist stood out: She was so happy and excited to be here that she bought an entire outfit proclaiming it.

I found myself wishing I felt more like this woman. I wish I could bottle her energy and happiness and drink it. I wish I could go around and give my new Bottled Happy Tourist to grumpy people I encounter in my city constantly: road-raged divers, rude customers, bitter coworkers, and the list goes on.

We parted ways at the crosswalk, and I found my car.

As I type this blog, I can’t help but think what if the woman and I were to swap places and I was a tourist in China. Would I find something fun and crazy in a shop to wear? I doubt there would be a Chinese version of this. Would natives think what I was wearing was different or silly? Would I know that they thought I was different and silly? Would someone be writing a blog about me?

I suppose I would find a traditional Qi Pao, a Chinese silk robe with patterns and piping lining the seams. Something tells me that wearing one wouldn’t have the same effect on the streets in China as wearing the outfit in this photo does in the US. However, I am 5’7″ and clearly not Asian, so perhaps I would cause a stir at a crosswalk.

Well that settles it. I need to visit China.

Thank you to the woman in this photo. You brought cheer to my day  today and to the day I shot the photo– a day I had been walking around for hours toting gear. I can only hope that one day you will stumble across my blog, and I can send you a print. Wouldn’t that be a gem?!

Bling Bling Icing

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Acrylic rhinestones and faux gold embellishments are shown in a case.

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Colorful boas (left) and felt squares (right) are displayed.

It is the perfect stop for all things fun and pretend. The moment you walk through the door and round the corner by the counter, adult worries and everyday life are replaced by the endless possibilities of a child’s fantasy. Creativity comes to life with each touch of a feather, each glimpse of fabrics and trimmings and every peek into case after case of tiny jewels.

Want to be a pirate? Done. Want to be a king? Done, done. Want to be a showgirl? Absolutely done!

Williams Costume Company is the treasure chest; what will be your booty?

If crafting is not a strong point, there is also an entire apartment-sized room stocked with multi-piece and custom-made costumes ready for rent.

The store, which has been a neighborhood anchor for 60 years, receives customers of all kinds. A clerk told me that “anybody and everybody that has a creative side” are clientele. Customers include: theater people; costume and clothing designers; street performers; crafters; jewelry makers and students.

On a rainy Saturday a couple hours before closing, my sisters, husband and I were lost in the store calling out to one another rows apart to come see what we had found in our corn maze of creativity.

With my iPhone only, I started to document my discoveries; I hope you enjoy this little gallery of treasures.

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Miscellaneous metal and acrylic notions are displayed in a case.

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A showgirl headdress, masks (left) and wigs (right) are shown.

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Colorful chains (left) of different sizes available for custom length is shown, Sister Michelle (right) poses for personal photograph with Marilyn Monroe next to funky Elvis painted on store exterior.

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Feminine fancies are displayed in a case.

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A man lies asleep on a pedestrian bridge above Las Vegas Boulevard. It is sunset, and sweat drips down my back on a warm February day.

Tourists pass him. Some look and whisper to their mates. Others do not acknowledge the man that sleeps on a duffle bag and has a sign nearby that reads “Please Help! Homeless vet; cash-food; God bless.”

He wears a clean navy Las Vegas shirt and cap that appears to be a match. I’ve seen such inexpensive T-shift and cap bundles countless times in gift shops on the Strip and downtown. I wonder how he acquired the clothing. I wonder if someone bought them for him.

I take one frame and pass the man hurrying to get on my way. I have an assignment to get to– the third of four shoots that day. I notice the bridge is shaking ever so slightly yet the man sleeps. He is a child in a car seat in a deep slumber on a long night drive.

My shoot is relatively quick and before I know it, I am crossing back over the bridge making my way to my car. As I approach the man for a second time, I see that he is still asleep. The slow rise and decent of his chest are the only indications of movement from him now or in my absence.

The sight of him takes me in once again. I have passed numerous others begging for money while out on the Strip that day, but no one catches my curiosity like this man. I stop because I’m compelled to do so. I wait for passersby and take a few more frames. The bridge is really moving this time, and I am aware of the sporadic crowds of people that notice me. I wish to know more about this man and his story. I do not want to wake him and time is not on my side.

The man seems so calm and peaceful. I speculate: A sleeping man on a busy bridge must be unaware of the chaos around him, or perhaps he is so comfortable with his surroundings that he is able to sleep. His legs are crossed and his shoulders relaxed. He looks as though he could be my friend passed out on my big comfy gray couch at home. But he is not at my home or anyone else’s. His place of rest is the street.

*According the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition’s homeless census there were an estimated 34,397 homeless people in Southern Nevada last year.

XXXcellent people watching

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Ron Terry, center, takes a photo with models Gia Page, from back left, Melissa Moore and Marsha May at the Mofos.com booth during the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo 2016 at Hard Rock hotel-casino Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Las Vegas. The 4-day expo featured adult entertainers, merchandise, and the latest technology in the adult entertainment industry.

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(left) entertainer changes from sneakers into high heels (right) an adult toy designed to look like actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is shown

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People walk through the hallway in outside the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo 2016 at Hard Rock hotel-casino Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Las Vegas.

 

I asked a man for his name after I took his photograph for the newspaper, and I received a very unusual response. Not only did he reply, but also he invited me to participate in an orgy.

“We’d love to have you,” he said overly enthusiastically as he handed me a card to join his local orgy club.

I had my cameras in tow. My jaw was open for sure. This was definitely a first for me.

Today I covered the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, a four-day long event in Sin City that culminates with an adult film awards show, sort of like the GRAMMYs, but for porn.

Every year the expo follows the Consumer Electronics Show, the largest convention in town. In past years, when it’s time for the “porn convention,” as us locals call it, I have either been booked, out of town, or the [porn] stars have not aligned and was unable to cover the show.

This year, I was a kid on her way to Disneyland when my editor granted my request to shoot the big show. It was time I experienced the pull of it all.

It wasn’t that I was excited to cover the show because I would get to see a bunch of scantily-clad porn stars and some, quite frankly pervy sex stuff– I was excited because I had a chance to shoot something weird and wacky in my town. Give me a mailbox in the desert believed to be the portal to the extraterrestrial; a roomful of doctors performing knee replacement surgery on cadavers (some legs only); a massive home museum filled with movie props and exotic flotsam that is open to the public once a year, because I live for this sort of assignment.

(By the way, I have photographed all of those things.)

The Adult Entertainment Expo did not fail to meet my expectations. In fact, it surpassed them. It was the mecca of all weird and wacky. I had no idea that people had fetishes involving dressing up as babies in actual diapers. I didn’t know that there was an entire market that pined for extremely young women of a certain ethnicity or that a person can have the illusion of having grown their own animal tail by inserting a “toy” adorned with long fur up somewhere naughty. I guess to say that I was naïve before entering the show is a bit of an understatement.

My computer is also naïve. Next time I bring in it in to Apple for a check-up or repair, I will certainly clear my browser history and remove some 600 images from the show. I write all of my photo captions and have to check facts and company spellings, which includes performing many Internet searches and firmly closing pop-up windows. I’m afraid I may be on some national watch list after completing this gig.

All and all, I really enjoyed my day of people watching and covering an event that was very foreign to me. I didn’t bring back any souvenirs from my trip to the adult theme park, but I did bring back a lot of cards handed to me by the entertainers I photographed as well as pamphlets from eager vendors. I think it’s time I throw my ThinkTank camera and media pouches into the laundry. Immediately.

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(left) I try out virtual reality porn goggles. (right) my MacBook pro and show loot/notes.

For a link to the Review-Journal story:

http://www.reviewjournal.com/business/porn-pros-put-out-whats-new-las-vegas-convention

Mark Christianson (cq) gives a kiss to Darcy Annie, a 4-month-old buckskin filly, during an adoption event outside the Bureau of Land Management’s Southern Nevada District Office Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. Orphan wild horse foals that were rescued from drought-stricken public lands in Cold Creek near Las Vegas in September were available for purchase in a silent auction. (Ronda Churchill/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Mark Christianson  gives a kiss to Darcy Annie, a 4-month-old buckskin filly, during an adoption event outside the Bureau of Land Management’s Southern Nevada District Office Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. Orphan wild horse foals that were rescued from drought-stricken public lands in Cold Creek near Las Vegas in September were available for purchase in a silent auction. (Ronda Churchill/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

I may be 35 years old, but on Dec. 19, 2015, all I wanted for Christmas was a pony.

After what seemed like the hardest workweek of 2015, which included a very dramatic change-of-ownership with the newspaper I work with looming in the news and minds of myself and my colleagues, I was happy to see that my Saturday assignment was “HORSE_ADOPTION.”

I left my house headed to a silent auction for wild horse foals, 4 fillies to be exact, which were rescued from the Cold Creek area outside of Las Vegas this past summer. The foals had suffered severe malnutrition and had survived by the help of a local husband and wife team along with their fellow equestrian friends and community.

The fact that I know nothing about horses, as my first sentence reveals (ponies are a specific type of small horse and are not the word for a baby horse) or the fact that I live in the suburbs with a pool in my backyard didn’t matter the moment I saw light-haired Darcy Annie.

Darcy Annie, who was named after the woman who found her, was so malnourished that when the veterinarian came to evaluate her there was concern whether she would have to be euthanized. Luckily, she was spared and had to be fed horse formula while other rescues ate hay and supplements.

This morning, Darcy was a bundle of love and energy. She constantly moved about her corral often nudging her stall mate and her water bucket equally. She eagerly wandered over to outstretched hands and offered actual kisses to anyone who put their face near her muzzle.

Clearly, Darcy won the race. She was the only one to earn the coveted ride to her “forever home.”

Soon after the auction ended, the other horses were loaded into a trailer returning to their foster home. Darcy was left standing solo in a once-bustling corral waiting for her new owner. I felt sad and as silly, as my logical/journalist-remain-impartial brain denies it, I felt love towards this horse I had met only 90 minutes prior.

“What is wrong with me?” I thought.

After I sat here typing this; looked through 350 odd images; selected the best; cropped, toned, captioned and sent them on their way, I felt that nothing is wrong with me.

Who wouldn’t want a special animal that made them feel happiness by merely watching it interact with others- and let’s face it, caving to interact with it once there was no one else in line?

Animals have that specialness about them. Anyone who has ever owned one can tell you that. Darcy definitely is a prized one.

* I dedicate this blog post to my friend Veronica Travez, who lost her sweet dog Bella to cancer this summer around the time Darcy Annie almost lost her battle to survive.

Words that made the cut

Working as a photojournalist has made me extremely vigilant. I know that I am more observant, attentive, and perhaps even intuitive than most of my friends and family.

While sitting in a Starbucks editing, I see a woman to my left that is made up head-to-toe. She looks like a walking Photoshop image of what most American women, sadly, wishes they could be. I suspect this young woman has had plastic surgery by observing her facial features that look too angular, too symmetric, too perfect and unflawed. Her makeup looks airbrushed to excellence. She totes a name brand handbag and a gold iPhone. She oozes money.

On the other side of her is a homeless man. He has been here awhile, I presume, and has been here long after the aforementioned women left. He has nervously table-hopped several times. His sneezes have received many, “God bless you”s. He uses rough brown coffee shop napkins as tissues to loudly clear his nose. He is thin and wears many dirty layers including a jacket that has a small patch of rhinestones on them, bright stones that remind me of the woman.

I can not help but think of how often our lives cross such extremes. How everyone has their own agenda and does not see the world around them. How people get wrapped up in themselves and do not really see their community, their peers, or even their loved ones. Every day I am thankful for my gift.

One day, I will write. I hope. Until then, I think I may go buy this guy a sandwich.