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November 23, 2014

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Joe Downtown: In downtown Las Vegas, every day is a balancing act

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Joe Schoenmann

Metro Sgt. Andre Bates helps a woman jump-start her car at the corner of Sixth and Fremont streets July 5, 2013.

Life is a balancing act, even in downtown Las Vegas.

The day after the Fourth of July, I'm walking west on Ogden Avenue in 95-degree heat before 8:45 a.m., and sudden screaming echoes from the parking garage of a casino.

Unable at first to tell whether they are cries of joy, I keep walking. Then I hear the expletives and the crying of a woman, so I turn around and walk toward the sound.

“You’ve been that way since the day we met!” a man is yelling.

He’s meth-thin, wearing a black T-shirt that he lifts to expose his emaciated stomach. He wears dirty clam digger pants, which expose a tattoo on his lower leg that spells out a name in old English letters.

She’s normal weight, wearing shorts, dark-rimmed glasses and a sweater and looks like a poor-man’s Dana Delaney.

He’s strutting down the ramp, grumbling, “How the hell do we get out of here?” She trails 8 feet behind, trembling, crying, covering her eyes, a white purse dangling from her fingers. I want her to turn around and walk away, but she won’t. Or can’t.

They make it out of the garage and wander down Fremont Street before heading south.

The day after the Fourth has an immediate dark feel.

Moments later, through the pane glass of the Beat coffeehouse, I see a Metro officer stop his cruiser, lights flashing, behind a car at Sixth and Fremont streets. It would be generous to call the car, a 20-year-old Infinity, a beater.

By the time Sgt. Andre Bates get out of his car, a woman is already standing outside the driver’s side door.

Does she want to get pepper sprayed? Or worse? Get back in the car and do a LeVar Burton — take the keys out of the ignition and stick your hands out the window.

But then Bates drives and parks his car facing hers.

Then I see the jumper cables come out of the woman’s car. Bates unhinges the hood of his car; the woman unhinges hers, and they link with the cables.

She tries a few minutes later, the car starts, and she lets out a whoop of joy.

Downtown’s delicate balance.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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