Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Let’s do dinner!

The night of Oct. 12, I’m taking part in a really cool event that will support Nevada Humanities. It’s called “Food for Thought,” and it’s a benefit dinner with an interesting twist: Each table will focus on one topic, with a moderator guiding the conversation. Sample topics include: “The Xs and Os of Success,” moderated by UNLV men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger; “Drought Along the Colorado River,” moderated by Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy; and “Politics in the Silver State,” moderated by author and Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith. I’m moderating a discussion titled “Beneath the Neon,” which will focus on who and what lurks in the underground flood channels of Las Vegas.

Admittedly, it’s not the most appetizing topic. And at $150, the dinner isn’t cheap. But the topic is no less appetizing than Nevada politics (thanks for pointing that out, Becky), the dinner is tax-deductible and it’s for a good cause.

For more information on the “Food for Thought” benefit dinner, visit www.nevadahumanities.org.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In case you were wondering ...

Occasionally, I’m asked if it’s safe and easy to visit the art gallery under Caesars Palace. I recently answered this question for the Las Vegas Advisor, a newsletter put out by Huntington Press (which published Beneath the Neon). I’m posting the answer here, in case anyone is curious.

A: I’m asked this question regularly, but it doesn’t get any easier to answer. If I discourage people from visiting the art gallery under Caesars Palace, I feel like a hypocrite (since I still visit the gallery occasionally). If I encourage them to visit it and something bad happens – they harass the homeless, they get jumped, they drowned in a flood – I’d feel somewhat responsible. It’s kind of a trick question.

So I typically tell people to read Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas. Photographer Danny Mollohan and I explored the storm drains – spider webs, shin-high runoff, blinding darkness – so they don’t have to. Danny’s photos capture the grit, desperation and hidden beauty of the tunnels and I detail who and what is in them and why. It’s the next best thing to exploring the tunnels – and you won’t ruin your shoes.

If people have read the book and are still curious about the tunnels and art gallery, I refer them to Danny’s Flickr.com page (www.flickr.com/photos/dannymollohanphotography). It has more than 50 photos from the tunnels, many of which weren’t in the book. Also, in May, the Las Vegas Sun ran a story on the gallery; its website (www.lasvegassun.com) features pictures and videos, including an amazing panoramic pic.

Still, I realize, this isn’t enough for some people. They’ll want to see the colors come alive in person, hear their boots crunch in the gravel, smell the aerosol fumes, feel the coarse concrete canvas and taste the mildew on their tongue. That, of course, is their choice; flood-control maps are available online and Beneath the Neon doesn’t disguise tunnel locations. Just don’t tell the graffiti crews, cops, maintenance workers and madmen that I sent you.