The Sultan of Searchlight

Posted on | August 4, 2011 | No Comments

News reports had fun with the Senate Majority Leader’s sniffled remark that the debt ceiling drama was keeping him from his garden, but Jon Stewart had more fun. It was hard on everyone, Stewart said, but especially hard on senior citizens, one senior citizen particularly. Cue: news footage of Harry Reid.

“I have a home in Nevada that I haven’t seen in months,” said Reid. “My pomegranate trees are, I’m told, blossoming and have pomegranates on them. I have some fig trees and roses that I just haven’t seen.” To this, after a Daily Show-sized pause, an incredulous Stewart responded, “Your pomegranate and fig trees are blooming? What are you? The Sultan of Reno?”  

Adopting a faintly British accent to inhabit said sultan, Stewart continued, “Sometimes the mists of eucalyptus would settle over my fields of pistachios. My harem would prepare me a plate of candied dates and polish my bottomless cup of slot machine tokens.”

Yes, it’s just like that in Searchlight, Nevada, where Reid lives, if you give the Mojave Desert the old developer’s fruit box treatment and paint in pistachios and eucalyptus trees. (Those plants are missed by other politicians who screwed us so they could get back to their respective gardens in the Central Valley of California.)

What Senator Reid is doing growing roses in the Mojave is not clear. Figs could probably stand it. The pomegranates will need water, which the Senator is working on getting, even if it means drying out rural Nevada and the Colorado River to do it.

But what made this Eastern comic’s parody painful for this Westerner to watch was knowing how many people who were enticed to Southern Nevada, Southern California, Arizona and so on by dreams of pomegranates have been screwed. There is the open joke that there was never enough water, at least without wrecking the place, for the explosion of growth that Senator Reid’s land deals allowed to take place in Southern Nevada. But the one way in which the Senator has always seemed authentic, magnificent even, was as a champion of social justice. The Vegas he has spent his adult life building was proud of its unions, of being a place where a waitress could own a home, grow her own pomegranates. As the Sultan returns to Searchlight, may he stop by the waitress’s house and ask how her garden grows.


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