Cover image for The real Las Vegas : life beyond the strip
Title:
The real Las Vegas : life beyond the strip
Author:
Littlejohn, David, 1937-2015.
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford Unviersity Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
306 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1230 Lexile.
ISBN:
9780195130706
Format :
Book

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F849.L35 R38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

What images come to mind when you think of Las Vegas? Mobsters and showgirls, magicians and tigers, multimillion-dollar poker games and prizefights; towering signboards that light up the night in front of ever more spectacular casino hotels. But real people live here, too--over a million today, two million tomorrow. Greater Las Vegas has long been the fastest growing metropolitan area in America. And almost every aspect of its citizens' lives is influenced by the almighty power of the gambling industry. A team of fifteen reporters led by David Littlejohn, together with prize winning photo-journalist Eric Gran, studied the "real" Las Vegas--the city beyond the Strip and Downtown--for the better part of a year. They talked to teenagers (whose suicide and dropout rates frighten parents),senior citizens (many of whom spend their days playing bingo and the slots), Mexican immigrants (who build the new houses and clean the hotels), homeless people and angry blacks, as well as local police, active Christians, city officials, and prostitutes. They looked into the local churches, thepowerful labor unions, pawn shops, the real estate boom, defiant ranchers to the north, and dire predictions that the city is about to run out of water. Proud Las Vegans claim that theirs is just a friendly southwestern boomtown--"the finest community I have ever lived in," says Bishop Daniel Walsh, who comes from San Francisco. But their picture of Las Vegas as a vibrant, civic-minded metropolis conflicts with evidence of transiency,rootlessness, political impotence, and social dysfunction. In this close-up investigation of the real lives being led in America's most tourist-jammed, gambling-driven city, readers will discover a Las Vegas very different from the one they may have seen or imagined.


Author Notes

David Littlejohn is Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written or edited eleven previous books, and is the West Coast arts correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. He lives in Kensington, California.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Las Vegas deserves a deeper lookÄand this book makes a good start. As Littlejohn, Professor Emeritus of journalism at the UC-Berkeley, points out in his introduction, not only is Las Vegas the fastest growing urban area in the country, it is the number one tourist and convention destination, despite its disturbingly high rates of crime, bankruptcy, divorce and high school dropouts. The shadow behind those statistics, of course, is the gambling industry on the Strip, which Littlejohn's writing team of Berkeley graduate students have kept firmly in mind. A social worker says the "24-hour town" aspect furthers gambling and alcohol problems among the poor, while a family therapist contends that it frays marriages. For the elderly, casino bingo halls have become de facto social centers, while the growth of megachurches seems to mirror the bigger-is-better casino entertainment. Specific chapters focus on black Las Vegas, water policy and the sex trade. Some of the writing is awkward, and the transitions between chapters are not always smooth, but Littlejohn's cautionary conclusion rings true: some trends visible in Las Vegas portend an America of unplanned growth, but the city will remain sui generis. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Down and Out in Vegas Malcolm Garcia                   I follow Alan to the park. We emerge from the soup kitchen and cross the parking lot to the corner of Owens Avenue and Main Street. The afternoon glare of the Las Vegas sun hurts my eyes, and the dry air constricts my throat. Alan squints at the ground, stopping from time to time to inspect sudden flashes of light. Loose change or an aluminum-foil gum wrapper? He carries a plastic shopping bag steaming with wet clothes. We wade through sheaths of heat in what was once a shopping mall but now resembles a reservation for outcasts.     Weary-looking men and women trudge past us, accompanied by their children wedged into overstuffed shopping carts. Plastic trash bags filled with donated pastry turning green inside cellophane wrappers molder under the hot sun. Arms and legs stick out the windows of parked cars, the temporary refuge of the unemployed.     Lines of heat shimmer above the slumped bodies at rest beneath the one sign identifying this outpost: "St. Vincent's Plaza. Catholic Charities." Alan and I pause in the narrow shadow provided by the sign before we continue toward the intersection. The four corners, he calls this place: the nonprofit Strip of Las Vegas.     Most of the city's homeless services stretch around this barren township, and Alan and I join the estimated eighteen thousand homeless Las Vegans who eventually gravitate to this desolate spot. The Salvation Army operates a shelter one block up on Owens. Its motto (An Inner Voice Tells You Not To Drink Or Use Other Drugs) hangs on the wall. The MASH Crisis Center bumps against St. Vincent's men's shelter (No Shaving Or Bathing In Bathroom Sink. If Caught You'll Be 86 For The Night). The Key Foundation, a veterans' organization, opens its doors across the hall from St. Vincent's employment project (Look In The Mirror: Would You Hire This Man?), and tucked away at the intersection of Owens and Main stands Shade Tree, a women's shelter.     Traffic passes us heading south to Downtown. Most people in Las Vegas regard a car as a necessity, but with these services so centralized, we have no need for a vehicle: no reason to go anywhere but right here. * * * Seven years ago, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police made sure homeless people stayed away from the Strip by routinely arresting them for offenses such as standing in front of casinos or refusing to show identification. When the city built a new library on North Las Vegas Boulevard in 1990, administrators instituted an anti-smell policy to eject homeless people hanging out in the library whose body odor was considered offensive.     You didn't need to be homeless, though, to be hassled by Las Vegas city officials, as John Farrell learned in 1989. Farrell was then working for Catholic Charities as a mental-health counselor at St. Vincent's. One weekend he and a group of friends decided to play basketball at a public court outside town.     "One of the guys went to the library and asked for a cigarette," Farrell recalled. "That's what triggered it. Someone complained and the next thing we know the police lined us up against the wall and asked for I.D.'s. They didn't take us in, but we were told to call ahead the next time we wanted to play.     "But you didn't have to go outside of Las Vegas to know what was going on. Every Friday afternoon along Fremont Street, Metro would stop homeless people. No I.D., you went to jail. You were held Friday night through Sunday to avoid the weekend tourist crowd. It was amazing."     That was then. Now, the city has translated its overt hostility into a tightly controlled containment policy. The homeless bounce between agencies within a limited geographic area far from the Strip and Glitter Gulch.     "Listen," said Steven Switzer, a homeless advocate who worked in Las Vegas in the early 1990s, "Las Vegas is first and foremost a tourist town. They want to create a fantasy; and they don't want any reality creeping into it."     In 1989, the ACLU brought in a dose of reality. The organization challenged the city's loitering and vagrancy laws with a lawsuit claiming they were unconstitutional. The test case involved three Franciscan friars and a lawyer, who were arrested and convicted of loitering after they questioned police officers who had arrested several homeless people in a Las Vegas city park. A federal judge struck down the loitering law as unconstitutional.     "They came in bulldozers to get rid of homeless camps," recalled Louis Vitalie, one of the Franciscan friars who was arrested. "We sat down in front of the bulldozers and were arrested. And then everybody who got arrested and charged with loitering would bring in their citation and challenge the city in court. Once we overwhelmed the court system they stopped citing people, and negotiated with us so the problem wouldn't get too much publicity."     But to some advocates, these victories were only tentative first steps, taken grudgingly by a city that remains antagonistic toward the homeless.     "For all practical purposes Las Vegas does nothing," said Terry Whitacker, director of the Community Health Center. "People are just warehoused. We're twenty years behind the times just in terms of dignity. Everything is based on tourism. There can be nothing wrong here."     Emboldened by their successful lawsuits, about 180 homeless people led by Switzer and other advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall in the fall of 1991 and confronted newly elected mayor Jan Laverty Jones at her first council meeting.     The San Diego Union reported at the time that "suddenly the homeless are getting more headlines than Engelbert, Wayne and other entertainers who have been canonized here with first name only treatment."     "All they wanted was someone to listen to them," Mayor Jones recalled. "The marshals came in and said there are all these people outside and they want to see you. You can't go out there. Of course I can, I said. Two marshals and a councilman accompanied me."     The upshot of the mayor's impromptu meeting with the homeless was the Mobile Assistance and Shelter for the Homeless program, called MASH for short. MASH Crisis Center opened in 1992 and MASH Village, a transitional-housing program, opened in 1994 with much fanfare and one significant stipulation: MASH was for people who "wanted help." So what of the continuing presence of homeless people on the street five years later?     "They're the chronic," Jones said matter-of-factly. "They want to be homeless. Hobos, bums, they want to be bums. We have to question how much responsibility we have to them."     MASH critics think differently. "Everyone really pushed for MASH," recalled Michael Powlack, director of the Economic Opportunity Board, a nonprofit agency based in West Las Vegas. "It was supposed to be a state-of-the-art emergency shelter, but they shifted focus to transitional housing. So, we're still back to the problem of the need for emergency shelter.     "What they need is a general, spartan facility. The homeless are not going away and they're not going into programs. We need to be prepared to maintain people, and we're not." * * * The light turns green, and Alan and I cross over to a pebble-strewn lot where an abandoned station wagon sags over a narrow trench. Empty liquor bottles clutter the ripped seats and lizards scramble over the rusted wheel hubs.     "How's your stomach holding?" Alan asks.     "Fine," I say.     Earlier, I had thrown up after two spoonfuls of St. Vincent's soup. My throat tightened, my stomach lunged, and I stumbled to the bathroom and vomited into a toilet that appeared not to have been flushed for months. I walked back unsteadily to my table and sat down.     Small circular tables and cracked plastic chairs filled the dank, yellow dining hall. A collage of dried swirls scarred the brown-tiled floor, marking an intersecting trail walked nightly by volunteer janitors enrolled in the organization's work program.     Two men sat at my table. One, a younger guy in jeans and a stylish orange shirt, glanced at me, picked up his tray, and moved to another table. The other man, who later introduced himself as Alan ("Don't call me Al. I'm not hip to abbreviations"), eyed me for a moment and then asked how I was.     "Not very well. I got sick."     "Soup'll do it to you the first time," he said.     He looked about fifty and his voice ground like gravel. He sat slouched over his bowl of soup, sipping slowly. He had on a gray windbreaker partially zipped over his bowling ball-shaped stomach. His face was darkly tanned, and his gray hair slicked hard to one side.     "It's like the first drink in the morning," he said over his bowl. "You get sick, but then you can finish the rest. Get yourself another bowl of soup, son."     I did. The bowl was much like the previous one. Floating globs of congealing grease mixed with noodles, carrots, and lukewarm water. Two women tugged on elastic hospital gloves and served the soup with a slice of white bread. I sat back down and sipped at it slowly. My throat constricted, but I swallowed. I kept working at it sip by sip. I closed my eyes. It stayed down. I looked across at Alan. He stared at a noodle dangling off his spoon and nodded his head slowly without looking at me.     "Hold your breath, son. You don't want to taste it."     Alan pushed his tray to the center of the table and relaxed in his chair.     "So where you from?" he asked.     "California. You?"     "Out east. Boston. Came out here four years ago and ran out of money like everybody else."     "Is this the only place that serves food?"     "Salvation Army, but I wouldn't recommend it. The Rescue Mission has good food. Beans, but it's good. If you get there early enough you can get a whole fruit pie. I ate there last night, but I missed the pie."     "How's about a place to stay?"     "I got a camp. I got a good place that I store my blankets. St. Vincent's is all right, but they got critters. If you get a shower and not too many bugs dig in you can make out all right there. You can go to Sallie's [Salvation Army] at ten and the nurse there'll give you something to get rid of them. Sallie's is a good place to sleep. You'll have to shower. They don't turn away first-timers."     "What about jobbing?"     "There are day-labor joints up here on Bonanza if you want work. You about done there? There's a park near here where you can crap out. Figure you need it." * * * The park sprawls around a housing project down the street from the Salvation Army shelter. We follow a narrow dirt path, stepping over dark splashes of dirt stinking with urine.     A man defecates ahead of us. He leans forward and scrapes his butt back and forth against the wall of an abandoned building--a rough substitute, I can only suppose, for toilet paper. We walk past without comment.     The park teems with people crowding picnic tables or sitting in small groups on the grass. A family camped near the path has grouped three shopping carts loaded with clothes and blankets into a U shape. Two small children play in the center of the U, restraining a third from sneaking off. We wind our way through the mix of bodies, backpacks, and bedrolls to a row of dumpsters.     ("I've been here five days and live in my camper. To find myself in this position, I never dreamed of it. I'm fifty-five years old. Mechanic. I can do three to four sets of fifty push-ups. Three sets of five three-hundred-fifteen bench presses. See what I looked like?")     ("I'm from Council Bluffs, Iowa. Just a farmer's wife. My husband had a brain tumor and died. My daughter lives in San Antonio. I stopped here on the way down to see her. My husband and I used to come here. Got into a poker game and just didn't give a damn.")     Alan removes a stash of cardboard tucked into the branches of a tree and arranges the pieces on the grass. He spreads the wet shirts from his plastic bag out on the ground and lies down. He washed the shirts when he showered at St. Vincent's. He figures they'll dry in an hour in the afternoon heat.     "Grab yourself some cardboard," he says. "Behind the dumpster there're always boxes you can break up."     I sit on the grass.     A brown Volkswagen van with JESUS IS SWEET painted across it parks on the street, and three women emerge and start serving the homeless beans and cornbread. Ten teenage girls tumble out the side doors and adjust stereo speakers on the hood. Loud rap music competes with static as a tape plays "Space Jam." The girls dance in unison, rolling their hips in wide circles as they drag their hands slowly across their chests and stomachs.     "Shake it girls, oh, shake it!" shouts one of the dancers. "You all smooth!"     None of this makes an impression on Alan, or on anyone else, for that matter. When the song ends the girls look at each other and smile, and one of them flips the cassette. The homeless, their faces flecked with cornbread, concentrate on their bowls of beans. * * * I didn't know it at the time, but the police were planning a homeless "sweep." A fire in an abandoned house one block away would prompt Metro to clear the park two weeks after I met Alan.     Even without the fire, it was only a matter of time before this "squat" attracted the attention of developers, who push the homeless out even as they meet the housing demands of the more than five thousand people who move here each month.     "With growth, more and more homeless areas are being done away with," says Michael Powlack, the Economic Opportunity Board director. "The housing authority wants to develop the park. My bet is that in another year there'll be an apartment complex or a senior center here."     I looked out the window of Powlack's Jeep Cherokee and stared at the vacant park. I glanced over at the tree where Alan stored his cardboard. Its branches were empty.     "It's a tough town," Powlack said. "Very little public space, and what there is tends to get overused. No once accepts that these people are here. No one asks what can we do to make their and our lives better." * * * The homeless certainly have no expectations.     "This is just like any other city." Alan folds his knees under his chin and closes his eyes. "You'll do all right. It's not ideal. It's a matter of working your way out of it. A lot of guys feel stranded. Everyone's always going back home. I'm going back, they'll tell you, but they're trapped. They never seem to get it together. There's always that possibility: I've got twenty dollars burning a hole in my pocket. I'm going to get lucky, I'm going to get out of here.     "And then they blow it."     He rolls over onto his stomach and jams his arms under his head. I wait until I hear him snore, and then I get up. I walk back toward the path and dig into my pocket for my watch. A wad of bills and a credit card emerge along with it.     I didn't want to tell Alan, but I had a room. * * * My room, one of several I had found listed on a housing-referral sheet tacked to the office wall of MASH case worker José Sanchez, looks out at the Strip through mildewed curtains. The Motel Regency: one hundred dollars a week. The toilet runs continually and dried urine rots the chipped tiles. A single light bulb on the ceiling casts a pale hepatitis yellow over the cracked walls.     I know of four alternative shelters not on José's housing list: the Gold Spike, Union Plaza, Western, and El Cortez casinos. Long on odds but easy on the pocket, these casinos boast penny slot machines and serve 24-hour breakfasts that offer three eggs, sausage, and toast for as little as case-management services: drug counseling, job placement, and remedial education, among other things.     My guide, Mary, is fifty-two. A native of Nevada, she lived briefly in California until she suffered a back injury at a restaurant in Santa Monica and lost her job. "I really didn't know anyone in California," she explains. "But I knew people here. I knew the system."     She lives in a large, crowded dormitory where she and another woman share a bunk bed. Clothing stuffed into their narrow quarters spills onto the floor. Wrapped in a bathrobe, her barefoot bunkmate pushes past us, jostling rows of stuffed animals perched on a divider. Body odor permeates the room, as it does other shelters I've visited. Despite the availability of showers, deodorant, mouthwash, clean cloth and laundered linens, the sheer volume of people squeezed into one cramped space creates a noticeable funk.     Groaning loudly, Mary raises her arms and stretches. She explains that she worked at her job at a printing company until 5:30 this morning.     "I got in at six AM, just as they turned the lights on for wake-up," she says stifling one of many yawns. "I've made all my important calls, I'll go out for recreation. They don't want you out gambling, but the reality of the thing is this is Las Vegas. If you play a game of bingo that doesn't make you addictive. Three or four times a month I play one session of bingo for three dollars."     As Mary walks me through the quiet halls, I notice cameras in the ceiling. She explains that staff observe the residents around the clock.     "Private time is real scarce around here," she says. * * * "José!"     José and I enter Greg Abernathy's office and sit down. Abernathy, a bald, heavy-set black man wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans, rests his elbows on his desk and looks at José. He wants to hear from him before he offers his opinion on Gloria's case. "She says she tested positive because she was around people with crack," José says.     Abernathy shakes his head. "She knows she smoked it, and is just coming up with an excuse," he says.     "She's got one dirty urine analysis already," José says. "Two UA's and you're out of there."     "Can she stay if she goes into a program?"     "We can't advocate for them. She'll have to advocate for herself."     "Can't advocate for your client? What is that? Change number forty-five?"     "They say: `You're Crisis now. We're the Village. Hands off.'"     "She has been in the program since February," says Abernathy, protesting.     "She can't reapply for sixty days if she's thrown out."     "She'll have to bounce around a little bit. Shade Tree, Salvation Army, Rescue Mission."     Abernathy examines Gloria's file. Diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from what Abernathy suspects was a sexual assault, her clinical history suggests another option.     "She could go through the Salvation Army alcohol program or get into their mental-health project with the PTSD and into alcohol treatment through the mental-health program. Or the Key Foundation; they have housing for vets," says Abernathy.     José nods, thinking. * * * Gloria folds her arms and rolls her head against the waiting-room wall as the two men debate her fate. Her black hair falls evenly over her shoulders, and her pressed jeans and white blouse contrast sharply with the worn thrift-store apparel of her peers.     Half a dozen people wait silently for their case managers in the dimly lighted room. The pea-green walls, cluttered with faded flyers of missing persons, absorb what little light shines from the stuttering bulbs in the ceiling. Ron, a pleasant but bored security guard in an ill-fitting brown uniform, slouches carelessly at a metal desk. He wakens a man asleep in a chair.     "No sleeping," he says.     A door leads from the waiting room to the crowded reception area. In a cubicle similar to a bank teller's, a woman stands behind a window grill and faces a line of men and women standing unevenly in front of her.     "You can try Catholic Charities," I overhear her say through the wall.     "I was told to come here," a man complains.     "We're not a financial-aid agency."     "I need a health card, too."     "Try Salvation Army."     "But I was told ..."     "We're strictly a referral agency. We screen, assess need, and refer out."     A mouse scrambles across the floor, interrupting my eavesdropping.     "Damn!" a man shouts. Half a dozen people swing their legs up and cock their heads to one side.     "Wait till the whole family runs through," Ron deadpans.     Gloria smiles briefly before her face resumes its hard expression. She has just finished seeing Marta Valenzuela, an alcoholism counselor from the Community Health Center who works at MASH Crisis Center on Tuesday mornings. Her session, she says, was unproductive.     "Whenever people first meet me, they jump to conclusions and want to lecture me," she complains. "The last thing I needed was a lecture. She had to lecture me: `One day at a time.' I don't want to hear her lecture. She didn't care."     She repeats this to José when he calls her back into his office.     "Is that the impression you got?" José says.     She nods.     "Well, what about the Key Foundation? They work with veterans."     Gloria rests her head against José's desk.     "Anything," she whispers. "Where's it at?"     José tells her and she leaves. I watch her go and hear José say, "That's sad."     I turn around. He has already picked up another file. * * * That afternoon, back at her office in the Health Center, Marta Valenzuela won't comment on Gloria's case directly. Instead, she explains the difficulties she faces working with addicts in a "twenty-four-hour town."     "Ninety percent of my clients have gambling and alcohol problems. Drugs, meth, cocaine. Heroin is starting to come back. Gambling is one of the ways to raise money for this. Just being around casinos, they have access to free alcohol. They'll be talking about their drinking and then they'll say, `I was dropping some quarters.' Today I had a man drop eleven hundred dollars worth of quarters. It comes up in conversation.     "This town is Disneyland. They want people to come. Any vice you want you can do here. There's got to be some ethics in this. There is a nothingness coming over this city. We are fighting nothingness." * * * Marta suggests I see Julia Occhiogrosso, who works full-time for Catholic Worker, a lay Roman Catholic activist movement. Julia, Marta says, "unconditionally" loves homeless people. I jot her name down, then hurry out of Marta's office to beat the line for the Salvation Army shelter.     I arrive at Sallie's at four in the afternoon. Although the shelter opens at five, the line for beds begins much earlier. Women can stay at the shelter indefinitely, but men, restricted to a seven-day stay every six months, move in and out constantly. Divided into two sections, the shelter separates not only the sexes, but children from their parents as well; when his week is up, even a father with children on the premises must find shelter elsewhere.     ("We're from Chicago. My wife and my kids are at Shade Tree. We recently got married and moved out here to make a new start, but my wife's purse was stolen at Lady Luck with twelve hundred dollars in it. It wasn't a regular purse, it was a planner, a calculator. We'll never do that again. I be like sleeping in the park. Things have not been working out right.")     We gather outside on benches surrounded by our bundles of clothing, rolled blankets, suitcases, and backpacks. A large, outdoor storage area provides a place for us to toss our things, but a sign saying STORE AT YOUR OWN RISK suggests what could happen if we used it. The Salvation Army rents sixty lockers at five dollars a month, but the long waiting list prevents all but the most determined applicants from getting one.     Glen, a member of the shelter staff, holds a clipboard marked "Extended Shelter Stay Registration." For three dollars a night, men can reserve one of forty-two bunkbeds in the T Dorm. Originally, these beds were for homeless men who had recently gotten jobs and needed temporary (T) inexpensive lodging until they earned enough to rent a room; now, T Dorm provides indefinite shelter year-round for anyone who can pay for it.     Glen stands outside and calls the names on the clipboard. A thick coating of dust covers the hair, face, and patterned dress of a five-year-old girl watching him. She sits beside her parents, both dressed in overalls and huddled over two suitcases held together with twine.     "Kennedy!" Glen bellows.     The girl jumps up imitating Glen's stance and shouts, "Kennedy!"     "Franklin!"     "Franklin!" the girl pipes up.     "Miller!"     "Miller!"     The girl's father grabs her hand, sits her down, and orders her to stay put.     Her face crumbles, but she does not cry. Her expression withdraws into a blank poker face. Dull-eyed, she looks at Glen, mouthing softly the names he continues to call.     Back inside, Glen tells his coworker John that none of the people on the waiting list showed up for the T Dorm. Glen drops the clipboard on a desk, grabs a fistful of "lodging cards," and walks back outside.     First-timers get priority in the shelter. Glen punches the number one on a card, hands it to a new client, and lets him inside. The man stops at a desk staffed by a volunteer and blows into a breathalyzer. A family follows behind him; the children beg to blow into it too. When the man tests negative, John issues him a mat.     The line moves rapidly. John types into a computer each person's name and the number of nights they have stayed in the shelter.     "Kennedy! You were called for T Dorm."     "Yes, sir."     "You still want it?"     "Yes, sir."     "See the man outside," he says pointing toward Glen. "Next in line!"     A couple steps forward with a small boy.     "How many kids you got?"     "One."     "Who's watching them?"     The couple hesitates.     "Paul," the mother says to her son, "Stay with me unless you want to stay with Poppa."     The boy holds his father's hand but reaches for his mother.     "I need to know," John says, "so I can put a family mat down for one of you."     The boy stays with his mother.     Another couple with a baby stand next in line. "Hey John, we switching," the woman says. "I'm taking the baby for a change."     A man tries to slip in without stopping. John yells at him to stop at the desk.     "I like it," John says to me as he types the man's name into the computer. "This job's a hundred miles an hour for me. That's what I like. I was selling condos in Florida, but I blew my money. I came out here and blew more money on drugs and gambling. When I got to this shelter I heard about day-labor jobs and signed up. The next day I break my arm in a construction job. So, I'm in T Dorm with a busted arm and I talk to Glen. He's from Daytona, so we had Florida in common. He says, Can you use a computer? And I get this job."     The shelter fills to capacity, with seventy men and fifty women. People watch television or shuffle cards. Two women sit by themselves and play video poker on pocket calculators next to a makeshift nursery where couples juggle crying infants, plastic bottles, soiled baby clothes, and dirty diapers. (Continues...)

Table of Contents

Introduction The Ultimate Company Townp. 1
Down and Out in Vegasp. 41
Bingop. 63
Growing Up in Las Vegasp. 75
El Pueblo De Las Vegasp. 97
A View from West Las Vegasp. 109
Water for the Desert Miraclep. 133
For Sale: Thirty Thousand Homes a Yearp. 147
Houses of the Holyp. 167
Organizing Las Vegasp. 181
Pawnshops Lenders of Last Resortp. 201
Skin Cityp. 217
Law and Disorder Heather Worldp. 243
Why They'Re Mad: Southern Nevada Versus the United Statesp. 259
Epilogue: Learning More from Las Vegasp. 281
List of Illustrationsp. 291
Notes on Contributorsp. 293
Indexp. 297