A Semi-Regular Mix of Written and Video Documentation of My Travels

NV Day 5 - Flat Tires, Funky Art, and Fiesta Buffets

Today started with the less than ideal discovery that I had two flat tires. I had actually probably had them since I drove up that mesa to see Double Negative, because the rocky roads (literal, not ice cream) and prickly brush probably wasn’t the friendliest to my wheels, but I had stupidly assumed the temperature change from SLC to Vegas accounted for the low tire pressure. Luckily my uncle had more common sense, took one look at my tires, and said “We’re getting new tires”. Together we went to Discount Tire in Henderson, and everyone there was incredibly friendly and helpful. I had anticipated that at some point in this road trip something like this would happen, so when I was getting car #2 I pushed for tire and wheel coverage added to my warranty. Unfortunately, because this was an add on it wasn’t written on my warranty paperwork I had thought to put in my glove box so there was no proof that I had this coverage when it came time to settle the bill. This led to some frantic calling and emailing both the car dealership where I bought my car and my parents to try to find somebody who actually had a copy of the paper work. While this was all very frustrating, I have to admit the people at the Discount Tire were super understanding even offering me a slightly better deal on the tires if the warranty didn’t pan out. My uncle also offered to just pay for the tires as a gift so I could just go and start my day, but after over 40 minutes of dealing with phone calls it had become a matter of foolish pride that I actually get my dang warranty. Plus I (correctly as it turned out) assumed that this could easily happen again in the remaining states so it would be good to have that paper work handy for the future. As it actually turned out, there were limits to my pride and I did eventually buckle and let my uncle buy the tires for me. Fortunately for me though, three time zones away my mother was a much more patient and quietly ferocious defender of all deals she and her family are entitled to and she was able to bully the car dealership into actually producing the documentation just a little bit later so my uncle was able to get reimbursed and I was personally vindicated. This dull, inane sage just goes to show that even on an often-surreal cross country comedy road trip the mundane frustrations of everyday life are able to creep in from time to time and also every Saturday morning cartoon representation of Used Car Salesmen is entirely correct.

With full robust tires, I set out to begin the day in earnest. My friend Genevieve recommended that I check out the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art so that’s where I went. The Barrick is free, and though it’s fairly small it packs quite the punch bringing together one wing of cutting edge contemporary art and one wing of Mesoamerican Antiquities to capture a uniquely broad overview of the region’s creative heritage.

I started with the contemporary wing which brought together artists using both non-traditional media and artists using traditional media non-traditionally. Highlights for me included: Almond Zigmund’s massive abstract wooden sculpture, Interruptions Repeated, that juxtaposes one intricately carved out structure with one starkly flat one (I’m not sure what it means exactly but the more you look at the more impressive and oddly mesmerizing that juxtaposition becomes); a multimedia piece by Brent Holmes that uses spray paint, careful staging, and whimsical tinsel placement to turn a discarded shopping cart into a thing of mysterious beauty; an unnerving painting by Fay Ku that combines acrylic, watercolor, ink, and even metallic coloring to create an enigmatic portrait of someone (I can only assume) taking the Chicken Dance far too seriously; a simple and stunning surrealist photograph by Mikayla Whitmore that very subtly disrupts a desert landscape with a carefully placed mirror that brings a little bit of the sky into a cactus (I love this one because it would have been a pretty great photograph anyways but that mischievous artistic intervention really puts it over the top for me); an intricate fiberglass sculpture by Laurens Tan of a three-wheeled taxi from Beijing called a Beng Beng riding on top of the Chinese characters for “Beng Beng” for a fun little semiotic twist; a deceptive optical illusion of a sculpture by Tom Pfannerstill that looks like just a discarded 30 rack of PBR but is actually a very carefully carved wooden sculptured OF a discarded 30 rack of PBR (a lot of incredibly detailed work to make something that looks like junk which I kind of love); and a really cool series of pieces by Noelle Garcia who used traditional Native American beading and weaving techniques to make beautiful renderings of commonplace (and sort of ugly) symbols of western commercialism namely cigarettes, Doritos, and Cheerios (the three horsemen of the apocalypse).

My favorite pieces here was a homemade Mermaid costume by Aaron Sheppard (who certainly found that happy medium between maiden and manatee) that was part of a sublimely ridiculous performance piece documented by photographer Mikayla Whitmore where Sheppard and his friends, all also wearing home made mermaid costumes had a parade through Joshua Tree National Park. The gaudy costumes in the brush and sand of the Park is such an unusual and fascinating mix of campiness, natural beauty, and some genuinely impressive (if goofy) costume art. I would love to have seen the faces of other park visitors when this processional came by. In the more traditional media front, my favorite piece was called The Eternal Struggle (4ever21) by Eri King. This deceptively simple piece involving a mix of drawing and painting initially looks sort of unfinished and easy to over look, but the more you look at the more you realize the artist has layered in dozens of different figures and images combining such different aesthetics as architectural drawings, portraiture, silhouetting, and cartooning. What started as a piece I almost walked right by became something I couldn’t stop staring at, noticing and uncovering new hidden pieces (see if you catch the Mickey Mouse tucked in the swirl of human figures. It was so dreamlike and required such a weird range of skills, that I was totally blown away.

The next wing brought things back a couple thousand years and focused on the evolution of drinking vessels in early Mexican culture. The exhibit is a collaboration between the UNLV Art and Anthropology departments, and it was a really incredible display of art, craft, and history. Many of the vessels were pre-Columbian and while they were all functional drinking and storage vessels they were also very ceremonial taking all sorts of shapes of animals, people, and gods. I was very impressed by the diversity of shapes and figures, and the fact they’ve survived this long at all. I don’t think I could make anything ceramic that would last a day let alone over a thousand years.

After art-ing it up, I got some lunch at ReBar that hip bar/antique store where Tuesday night’s open mic was. I figured since I won a gift card there, I had to use it while I could and I read online that they had really hot dogs and sausages. This was one instance of the internet not leading me astray as I was delighted by the positively massive hot dog they gave me on a perfectly toasted pretzel bun. It made for a great light lunch. Normally I would have gone the baseball game route and had a beer with my dog, but it turns out that all the bar’s cocktail sales contribute to different local charities, so I thought it best to be a good Samaritan while getting classily sloshed. I got the house old fashioned, which featured bourbon, bitters, cherry, orange, and a splash of soda water, and the proceeds from that drink went to help saving the historic Huntridge Theater in Vegas. It was fantastic, if a bit fancier than a hot dog necessarily requires. I still had some money left on my gift card even after all that, so I guess that’s some additional incentive to go back.

After my boozy brunch, I cleaned myself up a bit by getting some coffee at Vesta Coffee Roasters. They made a real good strong cold brew, and they had a fun aesthetic blending urban and earthy with a combination of uncovered ducts from their warehouse past and rustic burlap bags filled with their organically sourced coffee beans. They also had this really great art on the walls that featured prints of classic impressionist works boldly painted over in single colors for a dash off abstract expressionism.


After refueling, I met up with my uncle at my cousin Shannon’s softball game. Shannon’s the second to last of my 10 cousins to still be in high school so she was basically gone to school by the time I woke up and in bed by the time I got back from open mics so up until this point this week we had been ships in the night. It was nice to see her in her element, but I’ll be honest I didn’t totally follow the softball game I just ended up chatting and joking around with my uncle but I’m sure she was great.. If I’m being more honest, I think I may have dozed off a bit, not because of the game, but just because it’s so rare for me to sit not in a car for so long my body saw its opportunity to reboot and seized it.

After the game, we swung back to the house to pick up my cousin Siobhan, and together we all went all to partake in the great Vegas tradition: The Casino Buffet. I think Vegas might have the highest buffet density of any city, because every casino has one, and many of the other restaurants have them too just to keep up. We went to the Fiesta Casino in Henderson because it was the closest to their home. It’s not as ginormous as some of the casinos in Vegas proper, but it was still pretty grand in its own right. Case in point: check out that huge tree in the middle of the buffet:


The food itself was actually quite good and I got a hodge podge of different cuisines from around the world including: mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, veggies, a spring roll, pizza, fried rice, cajun crawfish, a chicken wing, a taco loaded to the gills with guacamole (they made the mistake of trusting me to self serve the guac), and ice cream and pastries for dessert. Individually every element was great, but I’ll be honest looking at it all on one plate I’m a little disgusted but more at myself than at the food. I’ll just tell myself that I was being eco-friendly by only using one plate rather than that I am undiscerning trash compactor of a person.


After dinner, we went back to the house and hung out for a bit as a family before I seized a rare opportunity for an early night. I went to bed, and worked on getting some writing done while watching The Killing of a Sacred Deer on Amazon Prime. The movie reunites Colin Farrell with Greek genius/weirdo Yorgos Lanthimos, and while I preferred The Lobster (their previous collaboration) for pure creative weirdness, I think this one did a great job using comedy and horror to elevate each other for a truly chilling climax. I really liked it, but it might be a bit too odd to recommend to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the director or similar surrealist oddballs like David Lynch and Todd Solondz.

Favorite Random Sightings: Dead People’s Junk and Cool Crap (a wildly honest antique store); Modern Mantique (a fascinating portmanteau); “This isn’t a museum, this shit’s for sale!” (again, very honest); Jazz Cabbage (a whimsically named dispensary)

Regional Observations: The gambling in the casinos is very extravagant and flashy, like you would see in movies, but there’s also slot machines in just about every gas station and convenience store which are a lot smaller and sadder (unless you win).

Albums Listened To: Slackness by Chris Murray and the Slackers (a nice reggae team up); Sleep is for the Week by Frank Turner

People’s Favorite Jokes: none today so here’s one from the internet-

What happens when you throw a green stone in the red sea?
It gets wet

Songs of the Day:

a cool video for a sweet song

a bit of a downer but there’s something very cool about seeing just one guy and a guitar in front of a crowd that big

Joseph PalanaComment