Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New chapter

I recently submitted my resignation at CityLife. My last day will be Jan. 2. There are a lot of reasons I’m resigning, after nearly eight years full time at the paper, but basically it comes down to this: I want to challenge myself more as a “creative” writer. I want to write more books, screenplays, essays, commentaries, book reviews, etc., and less news stories and news briefs. While I really like reporting, I want to use my own voice more. It’s time for new challenges.

I’m leaving with more than a month’s notice, and I plan to continue to write for CityLife. I also plan to freelance for other local and regional publications. But mainly I want to work on a second book, a screenplay based on my first book, Beneath the Neon, and other “creative” projects. I also plan to work out more – I know; I’ve been saying that for years, but this time I’m for real! – travel more and, in general, enjoy life more.

I’m a bit apprehensive, but mostly excited.

My 10 years at CityLife (I freelanced for the paper for two years before I came on staff) have been, by far, the best experience of my life. I’ve learned so much about Las Vegas. I’ve met so many smart and interesting people. I’ve grown a lot as a person and a writer.

Hopefully, I can use the experience to my benefit over the next few years. Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mall rats and soccer moms

Saturday’s signing provided yet another weird publishing-world moment. I arrived at B. Dalton to discover two tables in front of the store: one for me and one for another author, who was already there. Store management had double-booked, to borrow a music-industry term. Oh well. No biggie. Except that the other author was a hard-seller, soliciting every mall rat and soccer mom who slinked by the store. His voice is still echoing in my head.

While I cringed at his aggressiveness, I also had to admire his tenacity. And yes, he probably sold more books than I did in that two-hour span. How could he not? Dude was P.T. Fucking Barnum.

Luckily, a few friends dropped by and kept me company at the table: J.P., Mosher, Cathy Scott (who’s already promoting her yet-to-published Katrina pet book), Jim Buckley and others. My new friend Tiffany took some cool pics, which I haven’t quite figured out how to post on this blog.

Anyway, not much going on book-wise through the end of the year. But if anything pops up, I’ll let you all know.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Last signing of the year!

Finally! My last scheduled event of the year. A book signing from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Galleria Mall’s B. Dalton. If you haven’t bought the book or gotten it signed, this will be the most convenient time and place to do it.

Hope to see you there!


Sunday, November 4, 2007

I survived another book festival

The Vegas Valley Book Festival went well, I thought. Interesting authors. Compelling readings and panel discussions. Good crowds. And yes, free food and drinks. Also, the volunteers were extremely helpful.

Geoff Schumacher, Kurt Borchard and I drew a nice crowd to our panel discussion on homelessness in Las Vegas. Brian “Paco” Alvarez, Gail Sacco, Amanda Haymond, Deanna Rilling, Josh Ellis, Elizabeth, Jonathan (sp?) from the Coffee Bean and a lot of people I didn’t recognize showed up … on a Friday morning … at the El Cortez. Thanks, y’all!

The book signing at First Friday also went well, I thought.

As of today, I only have one book signing left this year: 1 p.m.- 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at B. Dalton (in the Galleria Mall). I’ll post more about that as the date approaches.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Panel discussion on homelessness

If you’ve been waiting for something from me other than a book signing, it’s finally here. “Down and Out in Las Vegas: The Struggle to Survive in Sin City” is a panel discussion about homelessness, moderated by author and journalist Geoff Schumacher. Kurt Borchard (The Word on the Street) and I will read from and discuss our books and what we discovered roaming the city’s streets and exploring the storm drains. We will also talk about the unique challenges the homeless face amid the glitz, glamour and high-rolling of Las Vegas.

The panel discussion – which has been funded, in part, by an Artist Fellowship award from the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency – will run from 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, at the El Cortez Hotel (600 E. Fremont St.). I’ll sign books after the discussion and from 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at First Friday (near the Funk House).

The panel discussion is part of the two-day Vegas Valley Book Festival. For more info on the festival, visit www.vegasvalleybookfest.org.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Book fair post-mortem

Thanks to Yolanda and her friend Tammy, Elizabeth and her brother Matthew, Shelley, Jim Palombo and others who stopped by the Local Authors Book Fair yesterday. It was nice to have some friends show up, because otherwise it was slow. The festival was held in a remote area of the Clark County Library, and didn’t seem to attract many of the patrons. Oh well. Bethany Coffey and I had a good time at the Huntington Press table, despite being blinded by the sun shining through the windows.

The next event is a panel discussion and reading at 11:45 a.m. Nov. 2 at the El Cortez (for the Vegas Valley Book Festival). I’ll write more about the discussion later this week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Local Authors Book Fair

I’m taking part in the inaugural Local Authors Book Fair Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Clark County Library (1401 E. Flamingo Road). I’ll be signing copies of Beneath the Neon from 1 p.m.-3 p.m., but there’s stuff – signings, workshops, discussions – going on from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. A lot of authors, publishing houses, book clubs and writers groups are expected to attend.

Best of all: It’s open to the public and free!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reading Room signing

I just got back from the book signing. Nice early rush, then things slowed down. Overall, though, it was a good night.

Thanks to Nick, Daria, Bob Massi, Angela, Kate and others for dropping by. Also, thanks to Debra at the Reading Room. She and her staff really know how to put on a good event.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Book signing

As you can see on the schedule below, I have a book signing from 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 11 at the Reading Room (in Mandalay Place). Hope to see you there.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Updated schedule

Here’s my updated book schedule. I may add a few things before the end of the year, but probably not much. If any of the dates, times and locations work for you, drop by and say hello.

• Book signing from 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Reading Room (in Mandalay Place)

• Book fair from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Clark County Library (1401 E. Flamingo Road)

• Vegas Valley Book Festival from 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Nov. 2 at the El Cortez (600 Fremont St.)

• Book signing from 1 p.m.- 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at B. Dalton (in the Galleria Mall)

Monday, October 1, 2007

And the Rebels lost, too

I got back from Reno Sunday afternoon. The newspaper contest went well – CityLife kicked ass! – the book signing not so well. Only a few people showed up. Of course, they included Reno News & Review Editor Brian Burghart, Tucson Weekly Editor Jimmy Boegle (who was in town visiting family) and Huntington Press Editor Deke Castleman. Also, Krystal from the Nevada Sagebrush – UNR’s student newspaper – dropped by , hung out and asked some really informed questions. Indeed, I was impressed.

The main lesson I learned from this book signing is to at least glance at a community events schedule before setting up a signing. It turns out the signing was the same day and time as the UNR/UNLV football game, which was played just down the street and seemed to captivate the interest of the locals. In case you haven’t heard, the Rebels got punked, 27-20.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reno book signing

My first book signing in Reno is this weekend: 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at Sundance Bookstore. I’m looking forward to it. Sundance is an independent bookstore that has been around for more than 20 years. Just browsing its shelves will be well worth the trip, I imagine.

It’s a quick trip, no doubt. I’m leaving Saturday morning and coming back Sunday morning. (Travel arrangements were made by Stephens Media, as some CityLife folks – myself included – are attending the Nevada Press Association awards banquet Saturday night.) I’ll have just enough time to sign some books, dip my feet in the Truckee River and look longingly at the Sierra Nevada mountains to the west.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RIP Capozzoli's

And now I see that Capozzoli’s Italian restaurant is a pile of ashes. What next? Komol? Lotus of Siam? The Mediterranean Café?

RIP Center Stage

The corporate Mob has carried out another hit, this one particularly brutal and personal.

Center Stage was a steak and seafood restaurant on the second floor of the Plaza hotel-casino that featured horseshoe-shaped booths, a glass dome and a shotgun-barrel view of the Fremont Street Experience. (You may remember it from Casino and other movies.) It was dark, dingy and strangely romantic. The food was good. The service was good. The prices were fair.

So it had to go. And it's been replaced by a – blush, blush – sports bar. Christ. A keno lounge would’ve been more merciful. Or even slot machines.

The only good thing about Center Stage closing, as far as I’m concerned, is my last night at the restaurant was a memorable one. After my book-launch party June 1 at the Arts Factory, about 30 friends and family members got together there and drank and ate and talked. My mom and dad were there. My sisters and brother. My sister-in-law. Ingrid. Joey. Mark. And a whole lot of other folks I care about – a lot.

So, it sometimes seems, that’s all you can ask for in Las Vegas: When a person, place or thing leaves you, it leaves you with good memories.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Some post-signing thoughts

When signing at a bookstore, an author encounters three kinds of people: those who won’t even look at him, for fear of turning to stone; those who nod or quietly say hello; and those who actually approach the signing table and ask about the book. (This last group includes many fellow authors, who know the naked loneliness of the table.)

I made this observation at some point during my latest book signing, held Sept. 15 at the Henderson Barnes & Noble. It was quite interesting, actually, watching people stream into the store and seeing how they reacted to the author – wide-eyed and hopeful – stationed just off to the side. A lot of people stopped, which means I’m closer to perfecting my I’ll-jump-off-the-Stratosphere-if-you-don’t-buy-my-book look. And no one asked me where the restrooms are, which is also an improvement.

A few familiar faces came beaming through the double-doors: Linda Lera-Randle El, Angela, Jim, Randy Shelden, and Yolanda. (Thanks, y’all.) I made some new friends. And I had to fend off one or two crazies.

It’s all in a day’s work at a Las Vegas book signing.

My next book signing is Sept. 29 at Reno’s Sundance Bookstore. It’ll be interesting to compare a Reno signing to a Vegas signing … and to see who walks through the doors, what their body language is saying and how they react to the author at the table.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Book signing Saturday

If you live in the southeast valley, drop by the Henderson Barnes & Noble on Saturday, Sept. 15, and say hello. From 1 p.m. till around 3 p.m., I’ll be signing copies of Beneath the Neon at the bookstore, which is located at 567 N. Stephanie St. (between Sunset and Warm Springs roads). Second-print copies of the book, which are a little cleaner and leaner than the first, should be available.

See you Saturday!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Majestic trip

I just returned from the South – Decatur and Atlanta, Ga., specifically – where I walked in the footsteps of my youth. I shopped in Little Five Points, spending some time in A Cappella Books. And I ate an early morning, bad-for-your-heart-but-good-for-your-soul breakfast at the Majestic.

I was in the area for the Decatur Book Festival, which ran from Aug. 31-Sept. 2. The festival was cool. I met a lot of authors, bought a lot of books and drank a lot of beer, which was much needed after several months of near-sobriety. The panel discussion went well, I think. To recap: I rambled about myself and my book; Karen Abbott rambled (most eloquently, I should note) about herself and her book, Sin in the Second City; and then we took questions from the audience.

There were two disappointments: Several people weren’t allowed into the venue, because of limited space; and the bookseller was only able to scrounge up 15 copies of the book, two of which came from my mom. If you weren’t allowed into the venue, I apologize (except to that fool Ned, who would’ve heckled me mercilessly). If you weren’t able to get a signed copy of the book, we can take care of that: Simply e-mail sales@huntingtonpress.com, let them know how many copies you want and the full names of the people you want them signed to. I’ll drop by the office and sign the books. Then they will be mailed to you, with no sales tax or shipping and handling fees.

OK. That’s all for now. Back to reality: work, promoting the book and trying to avoid that mean Mojave sun. He’s out there waiting for me, glaring down like a prison guard in a watchtower, making me miss the soft dew and cloud cover of the South all the more.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

See you soon, Atlanta!

The Decatur Book Festival schedule is posted at www.decaturbookfestival.com. From 1:15-2 p.m. Sept. 2 at the City Hall stage (next to Eddie’s Attic), I’ll participate in a panel discussion with Sin in the Second City author and Atlanta resident Karen Abbott. The discussion, titled Chicago and Las Vegas from Below, will be moderated by Southern playwright and novelist Joshilyn Jackson. I’ll sign copies of my book immediately afterward.

I fly into Atlanta the morning of Aug. 29 and leave the night of Sept. 2. A nice long stay, with lots of free time (and very much needed, though the temperatures in Atlanta are rivaling Las Vegas). I’d like to catch up with everyone. So call me at my parents’ house, on my cell phone or drop by the festival and say hello.

See you soon!

Friday, August 17, 2007

B&N focuses on BTN

Quarterly, Barnes & Noble picks a book to focus on in each sales district. This quarter, which runs into November, the local district picked Beneath the Neon.

What does this mean? I don’t know exactly. But apparently, it means better placement in the four local Barnes & Noble stores and staff recommendations.

It also means if you’re looking for the book, B&N is the place to find it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New sergeant in town

Independent American Party patriarch Christopher Hansen, dressed in an American flag shirt, working up a sweat talking about the Communist Manifesto and silver coins. Personal injury attorney Richard Harris telling me about his Ticket Busters business. PRmeister and b-baller George McCabe showing up with his little boy Casey.

Yes, my book signing Aug. 11 at Barnes & Noble had some highlights. There were also lowlights.

Some half-blind woman, mistaking me for a B&N employee, asking me where she could find the calendars. Ten-minute stretches of no one dropping by the table. Rereading my book for the millionth time. (Nice pictures, Danny!)

Indeed, four hours may be a bit long for a book signing. Another lesson learned.

Note to authors: If you want to do a book signing, you should contact Community Relations Manager Tracy Shouse at the West Charleston Barnes & Noble. She’s remarkably professional. Promotional posters and newsletters, great table placement and presentation, attentiveness to the author – Tracy does it all.

The slow moments on Saturday weren’t her or the bookstore’s fault.

Finally, congrats to cop-poet Harry Fagel. He showed up Saturday, flashing a new sergeant’s badge.

Now if we can just get him to run for sheriff.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

R-J commentary

The Las Vegas Review-Journal published a commentary I wrote about flood season and life in the storm drains. Here’s the commentary, which is a combination of stuff from Beneath the Neon, the media materials and original writing:

It’s flood season in Las Vegas, the time of year when sidewalks become streams, streets rivers and intersections lakes.

Despite its aridity – only 4.5 inches of rain a year – Las Vegas has a long and ugly history of flooding. In July 1905, two months after the city was founded, a thunderstorm soaked the dirt roads and wooden storefronts and sprawling ranches. A series of floods swamped stores and homes, shorted out phone and power lines and shut down roads and railroads in the summer of 1955. And a July 1975 flood swept hundreds of cars from the parking lot of Caesars Palace, closed down a section of the Strip and claimed at least two lives.

Between 1982 and 2002, at least 19 lives were lost to floods in Las Vegas.

The city’s most destructive modern-day flood occurred in July 1999, when three inches of rain fell in an hour and a half. The Las Vegas and Clark County fire departments performed more than 200 swift-water rescues and the water caused $20 million in property damage. A week after the flood, President Clinton declared the county a disaster area.

An August 2003 flood crippled northwest Vegas, causing millions of dollars of damage.

But when the lightning flashes, the thunder volleys and the rain begins to fall this flood season, I won’t be thinking about street closures and property damage. I’ll be thinking about Lawrence, Eddie, Ernie, Mike, Harold, Gary and the hundreds of other people who live in the storm drains.
Armed with a flashlight, tape recorder and expandable baton for protection, I’ve been exploring the storm drains for more than five years. It all started in the summer of 2002, when I explored a handful of drains with freelance writer Joshua Ellis. It culminated in the summer of 2004, when I surveyed the system in full. It continues today, as I return to explore virgin tunnels and escort friends and journalists through the black maze.

In the system – an intricate web that spans from mountain range to mountain range – I’ve discovered art, architecture and wildlife (crawfish, mosquito fish, stray cats and dogs). I’ve discovered access to the hotel-casinos and airports. And I’ve discovered a bunch of weird miscellaneous items, including a bowling bowl, safe and burned-out car.

But the most surprising thing I’ve discovered in the storm drains are people.

Lawrence, a Vietnam vet with a harelip and lisp, lived in a wet drain south of the Tropicana hotel-casino. Supported by bungee cords and baling wire, his camp was suspended at least 3 feet above a stream of urban runoff. He told me he lived in the drain because he enjoyed his privacy.

A former jockey with ears as big as detention basins, Ernie lived in a 3-feet-in-diameter lateral pipe for 11 years. He slept in the midsection of the pipe and painted it beige, so he could detect black widows (which really give him the creeps). A piece of cardboard served as his mattress, a candle as his reading light. When I met him, he was washing a T-shirt in a stream of runoff.

Bob and Jona (pronounced John-a), married 17 years and hopelessly addicted to heroin, lived in an open-air channel near Tropicana and Eastern avenues in the saddest little home I’d seen in my life. A box spring served as the outside wall and a bedsheet, weighed down by books, as the roof. A piece of cardboard somehow pinned the sheet against the channel wall. Garbage bags bulging with food, clothing, books, toiletries and trash surrounded the hut, like rusted cars around a mobile home.

And there are many others. Teens, baby boomers and senior citizens. Poets, artists and madmen. Hustlers, whores and Vietnam vets. Most addicted to alcohol, drugs or gambling. Some dying of diseases, including cancer and AIDS. All in danger of getting washed away during the next flood.

One of the reasons I explored the storm drains was to draw attention to the plight of the people living in them and get them some help. I hoped Metro would sweep the drains. The city and county would make outreach workers available to the displaced. And they would be placed in hospitals, rehab centers, temporary or permanent housing, whatever’s appropriate.

But, of course, things are never that simple in Las Vegas. Metro barely has the staff to investigate murder cases thoroughly, so sweeping the storm drains isn’t a priority. The city and county don’t have enough outreach workers to handle the aboveground homeless – much less the additional 200 to 300 people in the drains. There’s a shortage of hospital, rehab center and shelter beds. Affordable housing? Maybe five years ago … in Pahrump, Mesquite or Laughlin.

Additionally, politicians and hotel-casino executives don’t seem to want to acknowledge the problem.

So when the lightning flashes, the thunder volleys and the rain begins to fall on Las Vegas, I’m going to have to settle for thinking about the people in the storm drains. And hope that eventually someone else will think about them, too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Book signing

If you live on the west side – or you need to make a Whole Foods run – drop by the West Charleston Barnes & Noble and say hello. From 12 p.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, I’ll be signing copies of Beneath the Neon at the bookstore, which is located at 8915 W. Charleston Blvd. 12 p.m.-4 p.m. seems like a long time. But that’s what they suggested, so someone please bring me a snack. Also, don’t feel obligated to buy my book. Just do what Las Vegans do best: hang out and look pretty. Plus, if you’re one of the five people in the world who hasn’t bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Halitosis, you’ll most certainly want to do that.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Thanks, Yo!

I’ve tried to stay away from acknowledging or posting reviews and stories about Beneath the Neon on this website. It just seems a little gratuitous. And if I acknowledge or post one, I’d feel obligated to acknowledge or post them all. Plus, Huntington Press keeps track of that stuff on its website, www.huntingtonpress.com.

But I want to thank Yolanda Smith, secretary of the Wild Bunch bowling league at Sam’s Town, for recommending the book in the league’s newsletter. In the newsletter, Yolanda called the book a “must read.” She went on to say it would make a “great gift” for any bookworms on your Christmas list – and it’s never too early to start shopping for Christmas.

Also in the newsletter: “Big Bob” bowled a 252 to win the first game of league play the week of July 24. “Shaggy” won game two, with a respectable 249.

I wonder if Josh still has that bowling ball we found in the depths of the Cappadocia Drain. If so, we may have to head out to Sam’s Town and show the Wild Bunch what’s up.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Summer and fall schedule

Here’s a rundown of my summer and fall book schedule. I may be adding a few things here or there, but it’s pretty much set. If any of the dates, times and locations work for you, come by and say hello.

• Book signing from 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 11 at Barnes & Noble (8915 W. Charleston Blvd.)

• Decatur (Ga.) Book Festival from Aug. 31-Sept. 2 on and around the town square

• Book signing from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 15 at Barnes & Noble (567 N. Stephanie St.)

• Book signing from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 29 at Sundance Bookstore (in Reno)

• Book signing from 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Reading Room (in Mandalay Place)

• Book fair from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Clark County Library (1401 E. Flamingo Rd.)

• Vegas Valley Book Festival on Nov. 2 and 3 in downtown Las Vegas (tentative)

• Book signing from 1 p.m.- 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at B. Dalton (in the Galleria Mall)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Second press run

I didn't really have any goals when I began researching and writing Beneath the Neon -- well, other than emerging from the drains with at least three of my four limbs. I did, however, hope the book would have a second press run. Thanks to you, it will.

Sales have been steady and we need more copies of the book. So I turned a corrected copy into Huntington Press, Editor Deke Castleman looked over the changes and Production Coordinator Laurie Shaw made the changes to the master copy. It'll be sent to the printer soon and, hopefully, be back in a few weeks.

This isn't officially a second edition; it won't include a foreword by a famous author or any other major additions. It's a reprint. However, it will be cleaner and leaner than the first print run.

And it will sit proudly on my bookshelf for many years to come.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What I Learned in the Las Vegas Storm Drains

High Country News, a respected environmental paper based in Paonia, Co., published an essay of mine about my experiences in the Las Vegas storm drains. Here’s the original version of the essay, for the initiated, which is a combination of stuff from Beneath the Neon, the media materials and original writing:

The catacombs of ancient Rome served as houses of worship for Jews and Christians. When surveyed by Pierre-Emmanuel Bruneseau in the early 1800s, the sewers of Paris yielded gold, jewels and relics of the revolution. And thousands of people lived in the subway and train tunnels of New York City in the 1980s and ’90s.

What secrets do the Las Vegas storm drains keep? What discoveries wait in the dark? What’s beneath the neon?

Armed with a flashlight, tape recorder and expandable baton for protection, I sought to answer these questions.

It all started in the summer of 2002, when I explored five storm drains with freelance writer Joshua Ellis. It culminated in the summer of 2004, when I explored the flood-control system in full. It continued through 2006, as I returned to the drains for follow-up notes and to explore virgin tunnels.

When I came up with the idea of exploring the storm drains, after reading about a fugitive who used a drain to elude the police, I didn’t consider that they might be inhabited. I couldn’t make that connection; it was too remote for a boy from the middle-class South. I expected to find concrete, darkness and water – miscellaneous items (a wallet or a wig – ha, ha, ha), graffiti and maybe a stray animal. But I did not expect to find people. People sleep in houses, condos and apartments. They sleep in hotels, motels and – a local favorite – trailers. They sleep in shelters, parks and under bridges.

But they do not sleep in dark concrete boxes that run for miles and miles. They do not sleep in concrete boxes that fill with floodwater.

Exploring the storm drains with Josh, I found out that they do. And as we interviewed the inhabitants, it almost began to make sense. The drains are ready-made reliable shanties – a floor, two walls and a ceiling. They provide shelter from the intense Mojave heat and wind. (Remember, most desert animals live underground.) Some of the drains are dry for weeks, even months. And cops, security guards and business owners don’t dare roust anyone beyond the shade line.

But ultimately, the drains are deathtraps. They’re disorienting and sometimes dangerously long. Many of them run under streets and contain pockets of carbon monoxide. They can be difficult to exit, particularly in a hurry. They’re not patrolled. (Who would work that beat for $50,000 a year?) They’re not monitored. There are no rules. There are no heroes. And, oh yeah, they can fill a foot per minute with floodwater.

Walking into a storm drain is like walking into a casino: You never know what’s going to happen, but chances are it isn’t going to be good.

But the flood-control system wasn’t all bad. I learned a lot about Las Vegas, Las Vegans and myself down there in the dark. While walking straightaways that felt like concrete treadmills, I thought about the ephemeral nature of Vegas: old bungalows being bulldozed; friends who appear, then disappear; the Dunes, Sands and Desert Inn collapsing in clouds of dust. This city eats its children, I thought. Everything here is as disposable as a razor blade – except for the storm drains. They’re our preservation areas. Our art galleries. Our time capsules.

For me, they were also a classroom.

I followed the footsteps of a psycho killer. I two-stepped under the MGM Grand at 3 in the morning. I chased the ghosts of Benny Binion, Bugsy Siegel, Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Howard Hughes.

I discovered that a manhole can feel a lot like heaven. That in some ways, I prefer underground Las Vegas to aboveground Vegas: It’s cooler, quieter and there’s a hell of a lot less traffic. That maybe the afterlife is just a matter of trading in your body for a new-and-improved model.

I learned how to make meth. That art is most beautiful where it’s least expected. And that there are no pots of gold under the neon rainbow.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Coming home

It’s official. I’m taking part in the Decatur (Ga.) Book Festival, which will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 2 on and around the town square. I’ll participate in a panel discussion from 1:15 p.m-2 p.m. on Sept. 2 and sign copies of Beneath the Neon immediately afterward.

If you’re in the Atlanta area that weekend, drop by the festival and say hello. Also, please spread the word to anyone else who may be interested in attending. (Sandwiches on me at Sensational Subs – or has it closed, too?)

For more info on the Decatur Book Festival, visit www.decaturbookfestival.com.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Summer reading

Local glossy 944 included Beneath the Neon in its summer reading list. Very cool and very much appreciated.

But the most interesting thing about the list, in my opinion, was the photo that accompanied it: a model in a bikini and Jackie O. shades tanning by a pool, reading Beneath the Neon. It’s a jarring image, really, and wet with irony. I couldn’t help but wonder if this seemingly oblivious beauty was at the Hard Rock pool, above its triple-barrel storm drain – one of the meanest skid rows in town. Or at the MGM Grand pool, above madmen roaming in the dark with no light sources.

Unfortunately, 944’s website is somewhat sparse and doesn’t appear to include the summer reading list and photo. But if you live in Las Vegas, pick up a copy. The photo alone will be worth it, I think.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Thanks!

The last two weeks have been insane, with the book-launch party and all. I finally have a few minutes to blog about the party. Yes, a few minutes.

The party went really, really well. A lot of close friends and family members showed up. Deke Castleman, who edited Beneath the Neon, flew in from the Reno area and the designer Kat Topaz flew in from Portland, Ore., with her baby girl Odessa. Very cool.

Also, a lot of local writers attended: John L. Smith, Joshua Ellis, Brian Rouff, Cathy Scott, Bill Branon, H. Lee Barnes, Chip Mosher, Andrew Kiraly and others. Yes, very cool.

I want to thank Becki Davis of Huntington Press, Evette Jensen of the Arts Factory and Paymon Raouf of Paymon’s Mediterranean Café for helping make the party happen. Thanks, y’all!

Finally, some of Danny Mollohan’s black-and-white prints are left over from the party. If anyone wants a print, contact Danny at 702-807-9386 or killerbeard@priest.com. He can make prints of any photos from the book or from his Flickr.com page, www.flickr.com/photos/dannymollohanphotography.

Check 'em out!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Book-launch party

We’ve finalized the details of my book-launch party. The party will be held from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. June 1 at the Arts Factory in Suite 202. About 20 close friends and family members are flying in to celebrate the book and to hang out. I’ve also invited a few local friends.

Suite 202 of the Arts Factory is relatively small, about 20 feet by 15 feet. But there’s a neighboring common area, where people can hang out. I’ll sign copies of the book in the suite, and hors d’oeuvres from Paymon’s Mediterranean Cafe and refreshments will be served in the common area.

I’m encouraging friends and family to arrive early. The Arts Factory gets slammed on First Friday after 7 p.m. and the hordes are sure to smell the free food.

See you there!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

All apologies

What the world needs now is not another blog. Nonetheless, here it is. All apologies.

But don't worry. I do not plan to pontificate about current events, pop culture, politics, homelessness and the environment. We do enough of that at CityLife. (See for yourself at www.lasvegascitylife.com.)

This blog -- and I want you to hold me to this -- will focus on my first book, Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas, and things related to the book and my career. In other words, it will be more professional than personal. I'll post articles here. (If I can figure out how to do that.) I'll reflect on book signings, festivals and the publishing world, which from early indications seems every bit as dark and nasty and vicious as the storm drains. And I'll make announcements. For example:

Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas is now available through Stephens Press at 702-387-5260 or www.stephenspress.com. It's also available at www.amazon.com.

Anyway, I'll probably post on a semi-regular basis (about once a week) and try to avoid shameless self-promotions. I'll also try to keep the posts short.

So there you have it. Just what the world does not need. Another blog. Another lunatic screaming in an empty alley. Another voice that will probably never escape this black hole in cyberspace.