The center of the Las Vegas universe is not the Bellagio fountains. It's not the marbled entrance to Caesars Palace. It's not even any part of my beloved Cosmopolitan, despite many of its unsettling changes under new ownership (UFC-style fights in The Chelsea? It worked better solely as a classy music venue).
To find the center of the Las Vegas universe, you have to enter the Miracle Mile Shops just outside the parking garage entrance nearest to the doors that open onto the hallway that leads to the Saxe Theater. Just past the eggshell-colored shutters, on the left side, you'll find an unusual sight, a calm oasis. You'll find Street Corner News.
At this tiny hole-in-the-wall, with just enough room to walk past the racks of snacks up to the refrigerated cases full of whatever bottled concoction you want, there are some magazines as well, and when I was there a few months ago, the proprietor said that they used to sell books, but no one was buying, so they stopped selling. The two most popular places to buy books in Southern Nevada are still the Barnes & Noble on Stephanie Street here in Henderson, and Hudson News in Concourse D at McCarran International Airport. The former because once in a while, you discover a book that you need right then and there, that you just have to pay full price for just to have it (On October 21, when the USA Today was published with the Back to the Future Part II wraparound cover, and I'd reserved a copy at that Barnes & Noble, I found Out on the Wire: Uncovering the Secrets of Radio's New Masters of Story with Ira Glass by Jessica Abel), and the latter because some people like to browse and find a magazine or a book that can help them ignore their flight. The last time I went to McCarran, I was impressed by the sheer quality of magazines, and the books, too. Hudson News really respects readers.
The most important feature at Street Corner News at the Miracle Mile Shops, what makes it the center of the Las Vegas universe is an iced tea dispenser called Miami Iced Tea. I'm a Florida native, but it wasn't the Miami part that drew me to it. I always seek great iced tea. I hope for it. I crave it. And just like the water dispensers in the MGM Grand hotel lobby toward the beginning of the summer, this one also had lemon slices and orange slices pressed against the glass, holding back the onslaught of iced tea absorbing their flavors.
If you're feeling overwhelmed in Las Vegas and you need a breather, this is where you go. Vegas barely allows these moments, and should be treasured even more than some of the awesome sights here, such as....that Walgreens! And that one over there! And that one being built as the largest one ever in the history of the Las Vegas universe! And of course the one downtown!
Of course, there's more than that. But that iced tea dispenser, and a peaceful, slow stroll around the Miracle Mile Shops--returning to Street Corner News for refills at various intervals--can do wonders in restoring the equilibrium of frazzled tourists. Residents, too. I want to go back there some time soon.