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I stand before bland Mid-City storefronts — dry cleaner, computer repair, abandoned — on Pico Boulevard, the early hour keeping traffic light. I’m here, alone, at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, to rendezvous with a vanful of Communists; my goal is to hitch a ride from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in time for a protest scheduled six hours from now. Something about a massive bomb christened “Divine Strake,” which the Department of Defense plans to blow up momentarily out among the flat planes and jagged peaks of the Nevada Test Site — a vast expanse of barren, blistered land about an hour north of Sin City.

I’m no warmonger, but I’m here more out of professional ambition than political outrage, heeding the forwarded email of my editor — a veteran of anti-whaling clashes and cannabis standoffs — whose connections snagged him an invite to this Communist carpool, which he passed along to me because he had better things to do than spend all of a beautiful Saturday in a van. I try the handle of the address in my editor’s email, but the door is locked tight and the lights off. I wait five, ten minutes for someone to show up, wondering if I’m late by just being on time. After all, I’m engaging with a cohesive philosophy here, a worldwide ideology. I should’ve been early, should’ve been smarter, but this is still pretty new to me, covering hard news for LA’s also-ran alt weekly. I’m a cub reporter at age 29, having retarded my professional development with a half dozen years in reality TV, mostly spent compiling written logs of video footage and transcribing interviews and wishing I was somewhere, anywhere else. My big takeaway from those lost years is that people are weird, and fascinating, and pretty terrible — at least the ones willing to be on, and produce, reality TV (an admittedly skewed sample). Perhaps sensing the toll our time together had taken, reality TV gave me a farewell kiss in the form of a coworker sleeping on the couch of the editor who co-chaired the internship program at the aforementioned also-ran alt weekly (it’s all about who you know). More… “Fallout”

Perry Crowe is a writer and editor living in Carlsbad, California, by way of New York City, Los Angeles, Iowa City, and Mounds View, Minnesota. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesKirkus ReviewsLA CityBeat, and Opium, among others. More at perrycrowe.com.

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Seven years ago, I interviewed architects Robert Venturi and his wife and partner, Denise Scott Brown, for the Drexel InterView. The show, produced out of this University, showcases individuals in all walks of life who have contributed in important ways to our society. Venturi and Brown, who had done some of their major work in Philadelphia and whose practice was located in the city, had long been people I wanted to interview. Venturi had written the groundbreaking Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture in 1966 and, with Brown (and Steven Izenour), the perhaps even more influential Learning from Las Vegas in 1972. They were giants of modern architecture who had managed to oppose both modernism and postmodernism with a singular vision of their own. More… “Learning from Robert Venturi”

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features a half-hour conversation with a nationally known or emerging talent in the arts, culture, science, or business. She is author of five nonfiction books and six bestselling novels, including Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Yale ReviewThe American Scholar, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. Her latest novels are Suzanne Davis Gets a Life and her YA novel, Beatrice Bunson’s Guide to Romeo and Juliet.

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Only six miles from the Strip, taking I-15 northeast of downtown Las Vegas on the way to Apex, you are suddenly surrounded by the Mojave. As if a vast space on the map had yet to be filled in, endless dusty plains nestle beside the Black Mountains with little on the horizon but scrub and yucca, pebbly arroyos, a spare barrel cactus, creosote, and the occasional tumbleweed. The divide between metropolis and wilderness is stark.

Riding through this desert, you pass scrapyards and gravel pits, Nellis Minimum-Security Federal Prison, and shipping warehouses of companies such as Sysco and Amazon. There’s a VA medical center, radio towers, and the Meadow Gold Dairy bottling plant with its shimmering neon sign parodying a casino’s. Billboards advertise personal injury lawyers, topless bars, bail bonds, and machine gun ranges.

More… “Stripped”

Will Cordeiro has work in various genres appearing or forthcoming in over 100 publications, including Best New Poets, Blue Earth Review, Copper Nickel, Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, Fourteen Hills, Nashville Review, National Poetry Review, New Walk, [PANK], Phoebe, Poetry Northwest, Territory, and Zone 3. He is grateful for a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, a scholarship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a Truman Capote Writer’s Fellowship, as well as residencies from ART 342, Blue Mountain Center, Ora Lerman Trust, Petrified Forest National Park, and Risley Residential College. He received his MFA and Ph.D. from Cornell University. He lives in Flagstaff, where he is the faculty in residence and teaches in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University.

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In 1952, a local salesman named Ted Rogich decided that Las Vegas needed a roadside sign that would welcome visitors to the city. In the postwar years of the American Southwest, highways plowed through long open stretches of sand. You could drive right past a town, even Las Vegas, and not know it. Las Vegas had a sign heralding everything, Rogich said. Everything except itself.

When Rogich approached designer Betty Willis with his idea, she was a rare woman in the new industry of neon. The two agreed — a Welcome sign for Las Vegas had to be flashy, glitzy, something that really proclaimed “Vegas.” The eventual design for what would become the city’s great landmark is well known: a 25-foot-high “Googie”-style sign covered in blinking silver dollars and mismatched fonts, lined with yellow lightbulbs that chased each other around, topped with an exploding atomic star that cried out to every car passing north along Highway 91, “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.”
More… “Leaving, and Entering, and Leaving, and Entering Las Vegas”

Stefany Anne Golberg is a writer and multi-media artist. She has written for The Washington Post (Outlook), Lapham’s Quarterly, New England Review, and others. Stefany is currently a columnist for The Smart Set and Critic-in-Residence at Drexel University. A book of Stefany’s selected essays can be found here. She can be reached at stefanyanne@gmail.com.

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