Jerry Tarkanian’s biggest mistake ever

A few years ago, right around this time of year, I had the chance to interview former UNLV Runnin’ Rebels Coach Jerry Tarkanian, who died today at 84.

I was working on a Valentine’s Day story about couples in the spotlight, how local Vegas celebrities manage the ups and downs of a relationship in the public sphere. So photographer Leila Navidi and I showed up to talk with Tark and his wife Lois, a city councilwoman, at their Las Vegas home. While we waited for Lois to arrive, I sat in the kitchen with Tark, trying to make small talk while he grumbled about Lois the way old married couples do. He wasn’t really in the mood for an interview, but he mostly tolerated us anyway. And when we got around to the early days in his relationship with Lois he lit up a bit, and told this wonderfully endearing story:

“We didn’t have a big wedding because we didn’t have a lot of money. I was the assistant football coach at a Catholic high school and it was football season. We had a game on Friday night and we got married on Saturday. I took her to the Fresno State/Idaho football game [for our honeymoon], and she’s never forgiven me for that. That was the biggest mistake I ever made, but in reality there was nowhere to go.”

Click here to read Tark’s obituary on the Las Vegas Sun, and click here for the rest of our 2011 story on “Love in the limelight.”

I resolve: Four things I maybe probably won’t do in 2015

Red cabbage salad with fennel, orange and pepitas (a new recipe for 2014, not from one of my cookbooks).

Red cabbage salad with fennel, orange and pepitas (a new recipe for 2014, not from one of my cookbooks).

New Year’s resolutions don’t work. You know this. I know this. It is fact.

Take my 2014 resolution—to listen to, and delete, my voicemails. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, there are currently four unplayed voicemails on my iPhone, but that’s because I ditched my old phone (and its 90ish unplayed messages) a couple of weeks ago.

Or take my 2013 resolution—to floss. I think I’ve made that one four or five times now. Never works. I’m an avid brusher, but as my dentist will tell you, I just don’t floss.

New Year’s resolutions don’t work because we resolve to do things we don’t really want to do. Sure, they’re often things we should do, things that the imaginary miniature mother living on our shoulders would nag us to do (in between scolding us to put on a sweater and asking if we want some tea). But unless you actually want to complete your New Year’s resolutions they won’t stick. Just ask the packet of floss in my bathroom drawer.

So, this year I’m going to try making promises I want to keep. Now, let’s see how I do in 2015.

I resolve …

• … to train for and run my first marathon. I’ve been running for a few years now, half-marathons, relays, trails. I even completed a goal to run 1,000 miles in 2014. And two weeks ago, I did my longest run ever, a 16-miler on McCullough Hills Trail that felt shockingly good, despite the 1,500-plus feet of elevation gain. So it feels like this is the year to step up to the next level. Plus, I’m unemployed, so I should have plenty of time to train.

• … to read more books. I don’t read enough books, and I’m self-conscious about it. I read on vacation, but at home picking up a book just isn’t part of my routine. I read the newspaper, I read magazines, I read way too much stupid crap online, but in 2015 I’m going to read more books—starting with the stack that’s been sitting at the bottom of my bed for months.

• … to cook new recipes. The thing about having a cookbook collection is that people expect you to, like, cook from them, and not just, like, find all your recipes on Epicurious and make the same things over and over. This can be a problem for me. But this is the year I actually bring my cookbooks into the kitchen, which is probably where they belong, right?

• … to have more weekend adventures. This falls firmly into the category of things-I-really-want-to-do-but-am-too-lazy-to-plan. So this will serve as my little self pep talk: Self, don’t be a lazy bum this year. Plan hiking trips and camping weekends. Scout out awesome cabins and cool places to kayak, and then find people who would also like to have fun and not just sit on the couch and go do these amazing, memorable things. Got it? Okay. Ready? Break!

There it is, folks. Four resolutions for 2015, which I’ll start, ya know, tomorrow.

So this is wedding planning

My perfect wedding venue: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They don't do weddings.

My perfect wedding venue: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They don’t do weddings.

I have made a spreadsheet. In fact, by now the spreadsheet is color-coded, with 14 fields, and 21 venues, and all kinds of lingo I didn’t even know a couple of months ago.

Among the preferred vendors and BYOs, hopefully there is my future wedding. I swear it’s there, but it’s sorta tough to see that sketch right now. Maybe it’s the dozens of “real wedding” photo galleries I’ve clicked through or all the delightfully vague venue descriptors—”rustic chic,” “industrial glam,” “contemporary country.” I’m sure there’s a meaningful difference, but they all seem to include string lights and wood. When wedding vendor contact forms leave a text box for “your event vision,” I’ve taken to just leaving it blank. Who can form a complete, original vision among all those Mason jars and burlap table runners?

Next month, Tovin and I are heading to the Bay Area to scout wedding venues. The planner we recently interviewed (the lovely Stacy Hillstead of Wink! Weddings) promised me that once the when and the where are settled everything will come into focus. Let’s hope she’s right. Until then, I’ll be watching 27 Dresses and working on my spreadsheet.

 

This is seal potato

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Looks can be deceiving. Take this guy. Is he a potato? Is he a clay sculpture? Is he an itsy bitsy seal that lacks eyes, a nose, a mouth and a tale?

He’s seal potato. And you know what, he ain’t mad about it.

Here goes nothing

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It’s official. On November 14 I shoveled my desk decor into boxes, recycled hundreds of old magazines, cried over office cake and said goodbye to four great years as editor of Las Vegas Weekly.

Then I drank—heavily. Major life decisions should always be chased with a cocktail.

Which is not to say I’m unhappy with my choice. While I’ll miss the newsroom debates, inspiring brainstorms and the Wednesday deadline rush of the Weekly, I was simply ready for a change. There are few moments in life when you can forsake regular paychecks and the security of full-time employment for a here-goes-nothing leap into the unknown. My fiancé and I saw our window narrowing, so we held hands, closed our eyes and stepped right off the ledge.

Now, it’s time for Part 2: getting down to the business of freelancing. Already I’m growing accustomed to a new routine—pitching, waiting, reporting, writing and pitching some more. It feels like poetic justice to sit on the couch, fretting over my inbox the way I’m sure many of my former contributors did when I was their editor. I’ve even published my first two stories as a full-time freelancer: an account of endurance obstacle race World’s Toughest Mudder’s final hours with the winning team and an interview with Vegas-based home renovation masters the Property Brothers, both appropriately published in the Weekly.

And so I’m off on a new adventure. If you need a story from Las Vegas, I’m your girl.

 

148 miles to go! Let’s run

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On the way to my first podium in the Henderson Trail Classic “half marathon” (which was actually 14.3 miles).

 

Holy shit. It’s October 3, and I have only 148 miles to go to complete my 1,000-Mile Year Challenge. Holy shit.

If 148 sounds like a lot, it’s not. It’s nothing. Ten months ago it would’ve sounded impossible. One hundred and forty-eight miles? That’s 5.64 marathons. That’s far, like, really far. Today, it seems like cake. I’ve already run 852 miles, what’s another 148?

And the closer I get to zero, the more excited I am to run. I already ran today’s mileage, and I want to go run right now. I still have energy. I can do more. Let’s go!

I’m not sure what it will feel like when I hit the finish line in 55 days. But I do know this: I can’t wait to get there.

One great screenshot

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This week, I had the totally insane experience of flying in a Red Bull Air Race aerobatic plane with pilot Kirby Chambliss. I’ll be editing together some killer GoPro footage from my flight (note: The G forces do gnarly things to my face.) and writing about the experience, of course, but for now I just want to share this incredible screengrab that does a little bit to capture the total awe and wonder I was feeling while Kirby made his plane flip and dance in the sky over Jean, Nevada.

Yes, that’s the horizon above my head. No, I didn’t get sick. Yes, I did have to wear a parachute. The whole thing might be best summed up by the word I couldn’t help repeating after every trick during my flight: “Whoa.”

Best. Hair Day. Ever.

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My dad got an Apple TV recently and found a bunch of old videos on his computer, including the gem where I got this screenshot. It features me, almost age 4, having a dance party with my neighbor Kyra in my parents’ living room. (Thanks to Mom and Dad for that awesome haircut. Now you know where Amelie got her signature look.)

Generally, I find home videos of small children pretty useless—including those starring yours truly—but this one reminded me of the kind of uninhibited dancing that generally ends sometime before middle school (and only resumes after the fifth vodka soda). Let’s all break it down a little more often—looming hangover not required.

 

Market moments in Vietnam

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I like this photo perhaps a little more than I should.

To me, that chicken is more than today’s lunch, destined for a last swim in some rich, bubbling broth. Its outstretched feet seem to punctuate the whole scene, shouting, “Hey! Wait! A little help here?!”

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