Saturday, December 25, 2010

AARP essay

AARP Bulletin—no old jokes please—asked me to write an essay about people 50 and older I’ve encountered in the storm drains, weekly motels and trailer parks of Las Vegas. Here it is:

http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/books/info-12-2010/author_speaks_dark_side_of_retirement_in_las_vegas.html

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas, Rick!

I met Rick about five years ago, on the bank of a dry wash that snakes behind the Budget Suites on Tropicana Avenue near Wynn Road, an underground flood channel yawning in the distance. Typing on my laptop, I was gathering follow-up notes for Beneath the Neon. Rick, scaling a cinderblock wall, dropped down next to me atop the bank. Startled, I turned toward him. He was wearing a baseball cap turned backward, a T-shirt, faded jeans and dirty sneakers (his standard street attire). His leathered face was framed by a scraggly beard and he was thin and muscular. I was convinced he was going to try to snatch my laptop.

Instead, Rick (aka “Iron”) flashed a disarming smile, sat down next to me and asked what I was working on. I explained that I was a journalist researching a book about the tunnels and was taking follow-up notes on this channel, which I’d previously explored. He told me he’d been on the streets for about four years and was living in the nearby tunnel.

Over the next several years, as I returned to the area to check on people I knew in the tunnels, show members of the media the drains and do outreach with HELP of Southern Nevada, I got to know Rick. He was from Oklahoma, had worked in construction as a glazier and had a beautiful daughter. He moved to Las Vegas to work for a pedicab company, which eventually went under. A drug addiction led him to the streets.

For two years, Rich Penksa, Louis Lacey, Macheo Willis and others at HELP of Southern Nevada visited the tunnels and offered housing and other services to Rick—one of the nicest guys on the streets. He declined, explaining that he “wasn’t ready.” But a few weeks ago, he made his way down to HELP’s Flamingo Road office and is now housed in an apartment in central Vegas.

In a text message this morning, Rick marveled at the fact that he won’t be spending Christmas in the tunnels and, half-jokingly, wondered if he’d miss them. I’m hoping he won’t—and that this will be one of many more he’ll spend housed and clean and safe and warm.

Merry Christmas, Rick! And a happy new year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The signing, etc.

Thanks to everyone who attended the book signing Saturday at Barnes & Noble. Pretty good turnout. Attendees included journalists Stacy Willis and T.R. Witcher; authors Jarret Keene and P Moss; Heidi Olson and Anthony Curtis from Huntington Press; my good friends Josh Ellis, Chip Mosher, Becky Bosshart and Adrienne Augustus; a graffiti artist who has painted in the drains; a young and interesting photographer (Nick Leonard); and a few folks, Pj Perez and Warren Wucinich, from the Tales from the Boneyard signing down the street.

Speaking of the Tales from the Boneyard signing: If you haven’t visited the new Alternate Reality Comics location, do so soon. Ralph Mathieu, who’s a really cool dude, has put together a sweet store. Also, Tales from the Boneyard is worth buying for the cause (to raise money for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s support of the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival) and for Keene and Victor Moya’s contribution alone.

For more info on the store, visit http://www.alternaterealitycomics.net/. For more info on the comic-book anthology, visit http://www.talesfromtheboneyard.com/.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reminder

I’ll sign copies of Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel tomorrow (Dec. 11) at 3 p.m. at Barnes & Noble (3860 S. Maryland Parkway, 89119). I’ll be there till at least 4. (This is my last signing before Christmas.)

Also, there’s another signing that day just down the street around the same time. From 12-3 p.m., contributors to Tales from the Boneyard will sign copies at the new Alternate Reality Comics (4110 S. Maryland Parkway, # 8, 89119).

Check that one out, too!

Monday, December 6, 2010

My last signing before Christmas

Huntington Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Huntington Press Author to Sign Copies of New Book at Maryland Parkway Barnes & Noble

Las Vegas—Matthew O’Brien, author of Beneath the Neon, will sign copies of his new title My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas on Saturday December 11 from 3-4 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble store located at 3860 South Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas.

My Week at the Blue Angel ($14.95) is a collection of creative-nonfiction stories that chronicle O’Brien’s forays into the underbelly of Las Vegas and his discovery that beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of places. The stories revolve around the real-life characters of Sin City that are incongruous to the valley’s picture-perfect neon image: a convicted murderer on parole, a missing prostitute, a strip club owner who starts his own church and the downtrodden masses living in the storm drains beneath the Strip.

Matthew O’Brien’s first book, Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas ($19.95, Huntington Press), has been reviewed or covered by more than 100 media outlets, including Publishers Weekly, Le Monde, Wired Magazine, The Sunday Times, The Evening News with Katie Couric, and MTV’s The Buried Life.

FOR MORE INFORMATION or to schedule an interview with Matthew O’Brien, please contact:

Heidi Olson-Barwell
heidi@huntingtonpress.com
702-252-0655

###

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Speaking of different …

Here’s a different perspective on my work, from the Parkersburg (W.Va.) News and Sentinel, my mom’s hometown paper. It’s a refreshing read, I think, in that it focuses more on family and community than a story in a big-city paper would.

http://www.newsandsentinel.com/page/content.detail/id/541811/New-book-shows-gritty-side-of-Las-Vegas.html?nav=5061

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And now for something completely different

A few years ago, I escorted New York City photographer Seth Kushner into the tunnels of Las Vegas, so he could photograph me for an airline magazine that was doing a story about Vegas artists. Recently, Seth got back in touch and interviewed me. He used leftover photos from the storm-drain shoot and snippets from the interview to create this comic, one in a web series he’s doing.

http://activatecomix.com/104-17-1.comic

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving in the tunnels follow-up

Things went well in the tunnels on Thanksgiving. I went down late morning with Josh Ellis (minus the kukri knife), his wife Rosalie, Becky Bosshart and her friend Mary Catharine, bearing hot plates and trash bags full of goods (knit caps, disposable razors, batteries, bar soap, books, etc.). Our first stop was a tunnel near the south Strip, where we encountered four or five camps, which, to our relief, were much warmer than outside. (It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit in Las Vegas that day.) The inhabitants were just stirring and getting ready for another day: panhandling, dumpster diving, credit hustling. There are no holidays in the underground flood channels of Vegas.

Our second stop was a drain just west of the Strip, which housed two camps. We left plates and trash bags for “Stretch” and Vicki, who were hustling aboveground, and chatted with my friend Rick (of “The Buried Life” fame) near the inlet. Despite a broken index finger, he was planning to wash car windows at a gas station that day.

Finally, we parked at a Siegel Suites adjacent to a three-barrel drain north of UNLV. (Is it just me or is this town becoming one big Siegel Suites?) A handful of homeless people sat on the embankment, basking in the early afternoon sun. As rumors of free food and goods spread, more people emerged from the shadows of the tunnels. They appeared tired, cold and hungry—resigned. We gave out our remaining supplies, including blankets and sweatshirts, and the people seemed appreciative. Some of them said they hope to get into HELP of Southern Nevada’s program, but are currently on the waiting list.

Special thanks to Casey, Sam, Tia T.’s mom Cyndi, Enrique and Nic, who donated goods. Also, to Becky for donating and cooking the food and to Josh, Rosalie and Mary Catharine for helping deliver it. The venture was funded, in part, by Alison from Missouri. (Thanks for the check!)

Also, Josh wrote a long and poignant blog about the day. Check it out at http://zenarchery.com.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

HP’s holiday catalog

My publisher, Huntington Press, has released its annual holiday catalog. It includes specials on Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel (and many other products and collectibles). Flip through it here and find something for the Vegas-phile in your life:

http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/images/2010XmasCatalog.pdf

Scheduled book signings

I have three book signings in the Las Vegas area over the next few months, one before Christmas. The basic details are listed below. The signings will run for at least an hour, possibly longer, depending on the busyness of the store, and copies of both Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel will be available. One of the signings is in the central valley, one Henderson and one near Summerlin.

3 p.m. Dec. 11 Barnes & Noble (3860 S. Maryland Parkway, 89119)
3 p.m. Jan. 8 Borders (1445 W. Sunset Road, Henderson, NV 89014)
1 p.m. Feb. 5 Barnes & Noble (8915 W. Charleston Blvd., 89117)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving in the tunnels

I’m taking food and gifts into the tunnels on Thanksgiving, because I’ll probably be out of town for Christmas. If you want to donate some new or gently used gifts and can meet me Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon or evening, preferably in the central valley, please let me know. Looking for quality over quantity, as we’ll probably only visit three or four tunnels. The people who live in the tunnels told me they would like books (self-help, spiritual and thrillers), toiletries (disposable razors, bar soap, shampoo, etc.), laundry detergent, batteries (D, AA and AAA), jugs of water, thick socks, blankets and winter coats.

Thanks!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanks!

Despite threatening weather, there was a pretty good turnout for the Nov. 20 book signing at the Town Square Borders. Lots of familiar faces: Laura, Suzanne, Katherine, James, Downtown Steve, Barry from the tunnels, Slick from the sewage plant, and others. Also, a few former CityLife staffers showed up: Jarret, Meredith, Emmily and Doug. And, typical of a signing, I made a few new friends.

Overall, it was a successful event, I think. Thanks to everyone who dropped by!

If you want a signed copy of Beneath the Neon or My Week at the Blue Angel, you may want to visit that Borders. They should have copies on the shelf through the end of the year.

Also, I have three other local signings scheduled over the next few months. The next one is Saturday, Dec. 11, at 3 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble on Maryland Parkway (near Flamingo Road).

I plan to post the schedule of upcoming signings soon.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reno News & Review feature

And an evenhanded and informative look at My Week at the Blue Angel by Brad Bynum of the Reno News & Review:

http://www.newsreview.com/reno/content?oid=1876766

LV Weekly Q and A

I got together with Las Vegas Weekly staff writer Deanna Rilling at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf across from UNLV. Here’s the result:

http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/news/2010/nov/19/matthew-obrien-hunter-s-thompson-blue/

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reminder

I’ll sign copies of Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel tomorrow (Nov. 20) at 3 p.m. at the Town Square Borders. I’ll be there till at least 4.

Drop by and say hello.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tucson Weekly gift guide

The Tucson Weekly included My Week at the Blue Angel in its eclectic and fun-to-read book gift guide. Good to know there’s still some alternative writing and thinking going on in the alt-weekly world (courtesy of my former co-worker Jarret Keene); this roundup sings and I want to read every book mentioned in it.

http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/santas-book-list/Content?oid=2348874

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nov. 20 book signing at Town Square

Huntington Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Beneath the Neon Author to Reveal New Book and Sign Copies at Borders in Town Square

Las Vegas—Matthew O’Brien, author of the book Beneath the Neon, will sign copies of his new title My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas on Saturday November 20 at 3:00 p.m. at the Borders store in Town Square.

My Week at the Blue Angel ($14.95) is a collection of creative nonfiction stories that chronicle O'Brien’s forays into the underbelly of Las Vegas, and his discovery that beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of places. The stories revolve around the real-life characters of Sin City that are incongruous to the valley’s picture-perfect neon image: A convicted murderer on parole, a missing prostitute, a strip club owner looking to found his own church, and the downtrodden masses living in the storm drains beneath the Strip.

Matthew O’Brien’s first book, Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas ($19.95, Huntington Press), has been reviewed or covered by more than 100 media outlets, including Publisher’s Weekly, Le Monde, Wired Magazine, The Sunday Times, "The Evening News with Katie Couric," and MTV’s "The Buried Life."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, please contact:

Heidi Olson-Barwell
heidi@huntingtonpress.com
702-252-0655

###

Friday, November 12, 2010

KNPR interview

I was recently interviewed by Dave Becker of the local NPR affiliate. He asked me about Hunter S. Thompson, the central sewage plant, the Blue Angel and many other subjects and settings.

To learn more about the interview and to hear it, click on the link below:

http://www.knpr.org/son/archive/detail2.cfm?SegmentID=7317&ProgramID=2091

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Panel discussion post-mortem

I thought the panel discussion and book signing went pretty well. One of the highlights, in my opinion, was the two other panelists, Juan Martinez and Victoria Patterson. (Juan was added a day or two before the discussion.) They were extremely well-spoken and interesting, and I look forward to reading more of their work. Another highlight was the late-arriving and eventually fairly large audience. It included sign designer Betty Willis, Rich Penksa of HELP of Southern Nevada, Marty Flynn of the central sewage plant, Valentino Santiago (my neighbor at the Diplomat apartments), my mom and dad (in from the Atlanta area), a few guys from the tunnels, a handful of former tunnel-dwellers, and quite a few other friends and family members. Indeed, it was an interesting cross section of my life.

Thanks to everyone who attended the discussion, and I’m sorry if you weren’t able to buy a book. However, I’m told that both Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel are available at the Town Square Borders and the Barnes & Noble on Maryland Parkway (near Flamingo). Also, I have a few other local signings scheduled before Christmas.

I’ll keep you updated, of course.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

E-book available

The e-book for My Week at the Blue Angel is now available (in pdf format). If you prefer the Kindle, etc., version, I’m told that will be available in a week or so. Two advantages of the e-book over the hard copy: It’s cheaper ($5.98 versus $11.21 or so, depending on the retailer) and most of the interior photos, which are black and white in the paperback, are in color.

For more info, visit:

http://www.shoplva.com/products/my-week-at-the-blue-angel-ebook

Friday, November 5, 2010

Seven excerpt

Vegas Seven published an excerpt from My Week at the Blue Angel. It’s an abbreviated version of the last story in the collection, “Another Day on Paradise.”

http://www.weeklyseven.com/ae/2010/november/04/another-day-paradise

CityLife review

Tod Goldberg’s review of My Week at the Blue Angel in Las Vegas CityLife:

http://www.lasvegascitylife.com/articles/2010/11/05/news/local_news/iq_39584317.txt

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A reminder

My panel discussion is at 1:45 p.m. this Saturday at the Historic Fifth Street School (401 S. Fourth Street, Las Vegas, 89101). I’ll sign copies of My Week at the Blue Angel and Beneath the Neon from roughly 2:45 to 3:15. (Yes, the books will be available there.)

For more information about the book festival, visit http://vegasvalleybookfestival.org.

Monday, November 1, 2010

R-J’s book fest preview

The Las Vegas Review-Journal published a preview of the Vegas Valley Book Festival. Read it here (for free through Nov. 7):

http://www.lvrj.com/living/vegas-valley-book-festival-offers-author-talks--workshops--children-s-events-106399428.html

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two more days!

Thanks to everyone who took advantage of Huntington Press’ pre-publication special and bought a copy of My Week at the Blue Angel. (Apparently, they’re selling well.) The special runs through Oct. 29. For more info:

http://www.shoplva.com/products/my-week-at-the-blue-angel

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Sunday Times

Christina Lamb of the Sunday Times wrote a story about the tunnels and Nick Kindon cut a cool video clip. Unfortunately, you need to subscribe to the paper to read the story and see the clip. Oh well. Here’s the link:

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/world_news/Americas/article426880.ece

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pre-publication special!

Huntington Press is offering a pre-publication special on My Week at the Blue Angel. Through Oct. 29, they’re selling the book for $7.50 (half off) and shipping it for $3 (regularly $7). Check out the special here:

http://www.shoplva.com/products/my-week-at-the-blue-angel

Monday, October 18, 2010

Huntington Press news release

The book is at the printer, but should ship out soon. Here’s the Huntington Press news release announcing the publishing of the book:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Matthew O'Brien to Release Creative-Nonfiction Collection Revealing Unexpected, Darker Side of Las Vegas

Las Vegas—Matthew O'Brien's creative non-fiction collection My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas (Huntington Press, $14.95) will hit shelves on November 1st. The book chronicles O'Brien's off-the-beaten-path adventures into gritty and surprising Vegas settings, such as the central sewage plant, the blue-collar strip club Larry's Villa, the Blue Angel Motel, and the drainage tunnels under the Strip.

By boldly delving into the broken and disenfranchised side of the city, O'Brien uncovers unexpected beauty in the hidden world beyond the neon facade.

The book also features more than 30 artistic shots from veteran photographer Bill Hughes.

O'Brien's first book, Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas (now in its fifth printing), told the story of the shocking number of people living in the drainage tunnels underneath Las Vegas, garnering attention from more than 100 media outlets, including Publisher's Weekly, Der Spiegel, ABC News, Le Monde, the BBC, CNN, and The New York Times.

Inspired to help the people living in the tunnels, O'Brien founded the Shine a Light community project in 2009. In collaboration with HELP of Southern Nevada, the project provides housing, drug counseling, and other services to the underground homeless. For more information on Matthew O'Brien's books and outreach program, visit www.beneaththeneon.com.

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO OBTAIN AN AUTHOR/COVER PHOTO:

Heidi Olson
702-252-0655
books@huntingtonpress.com

Nevada Magazine mention

Nevada Magazine included My Week at the Blue Angel in its annual roundup of books. Also included in the roundup: Dead Neon, which is co-edited by my friend Jarret Keene; The Making of Modern Nevada by the late Hal Rothman; and Raw Edges by Phyllis Barber (who wrote one of my favorite Las Vegas-related books, How I Got Cultured).

http://www.nevadamagazine.com/issues/read/2010_nevada_books

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The redesign

Yes, my website has been updated and redesigned! Thanks for noticing.

Design Canopy’s Anthony Carcelli and I collaborated—OK, he did most of the work—and this is what we came up with. We’re both pretty happy with it. I especially like the colors, background photo (by Bill Hughes), “Intro” feature (click on the arrow) and My Week at the Blue Angel page. Please surf the site and let me know what you like (or dislike).

Also, someone said the “Matthew O’Brien Author-Journalist” header at the top left of the homepage is not showing up on their computer. Please let me know if it’s not showing up on yours.

Thanks!

MTV mention

The latest episode of MTV’s “The Buried Life” mentions Beneath the Neon. About six minutes into the show, the hosts say they read the book and two of them decide to explore the underground flood channels. They meet Rick (aka “Iron”) and help him reunite with his daughter, whom he’d not seen for several years, and meet his granddaughter.

The tunnels and Rick are only featured briefly (about six minutes in and at the very end), but it’s a touching story, nonetheless.

http://www.mtv.com/videos/the-buried-life-season-2-ep-3-get-married-in-vegas/1649700/playlist.jhtml

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Panel discussion and book launch

Judging by early indications, it looks like we’ll have a decent turnout for the Vegas Valley Book Festival panel discussion and book signing. Several friends and family members are coming to town for the event (and other festivities) and a lot of locals seem interested in attending, as well. I’m starting to get excited.

Again, the festival will be held Nov. 3-7, mostly at the Historic Fifth Street School in downtown Las Vegas. My panel discussion is titled “Storytelling in the Modern Southwest” and will take place at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6, in the school’s auditorium. (Novelist Tod Goldberg is moderating the panel and Southern California short story writer Victoria Patterson is also on it.) I’ll release and sign copies of my latest book, My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas (Huntington Press, November 2010), after the hour-long discussion.

Some of the out-of-towners are staying at Luxor (www.luxor.com) on the south Strip and the Stratosphere (www.stratospherehotel.com) just north of the Strip and convenient to downtown. Other options include (very affordable) the Golden Gate (www.goldengatecasino.com) and El Cortez (www.ecvegas.com), (affordable) the Sahara (www.saharavegas.com) and Riviera (www.rivierahotel.com) and (relatively expensive) Harrah’s (www.harrahs.com) and the Mirage (http://mirage.com).

For more information about the book festival, visit http://vegasvalleybookfestival.org. (Heads up: They’re still updating the site.)

Please let me know if you need any more info. Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Some love from Seven

Vegas Seven included My Week at the Blue Angel in its roundup of Las Vegas-related books being released in the fall, along with books written and/or edited by Pj Perez, Jarret Keene and the late Hal Rothman. It also included the release of My Week at the Blue Angel in the 7 Don’t-Miss Events sidebar.

http://weeklyseven.com/ae/2010/september/09/bumper-crop

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Heads up

I’m participating in the Vegas Valley Book Festival this year. The festival, the largest literary event in Southern Nevada, will be held Nov. 3-7, mostly at the Historic Fifth Street School downtown and is sponsored by the city of Las Vegas, the Review-Journal and others. My panel discussion is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6. It's free and open to the public. I plan to sign copies of my latest book, My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas, after the hour-long discussion.

This event is funded, in part, by an Artist Fellowship from the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency.

I’ll post more info about the festival and panel discussion as the date approaches. Also, I’ll send out formal invites. I’m hoping a lot of locals will attend and that friends and family from out of town will use this event as an excuse to visit Vegas, enjoy the fall weather and football season, and just hang out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Evening News with Katie Couric

CBS Evening News with Katie Couric aired a piece about the tunnels and outreach tonight. I thought reporter Seth Doane and producer Jack Renaud, who were extremely professional during the filming, did an outstanding job with a limited amount of airtime. Judge for yourself:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/08/10/eveningnews/main6761415.shtml?tag=cbsnewsTwoColUpperPromoArea

Thursday, July 29, 2010

News release about my book

Here’s the Huntington Press news release about my story collection. More info on the book to follow over the next few months.

For Immediate Release


Huntington Press Announces Release Date for
My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas
by Matthew O'Brien

Las Vegas – Acclaimed author Matthew O'Brien (Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas) will release his newest title, My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas, on October 25, 2010.

This creative nonfiction story collection boldly explores the disenfranchised and broken side of Las Vegas while highlighting the unexpected beauty in a neon wasteland, forging a path into a hidden world beneath the city, and lending a voice to the voiceless masses rarely seen.

O'Brien, founder of Shine a Light—an organization that aids the many men and women living in the flood channels of Las Vegas—has already gained recognition for one of the stories in the collection, “Another Day on Paradise,” in the form of a fellowship from the Nevada Arts Council.

Beneath the Neon, also published by Huntington Press, is an internationally acclaimed nonfiction book that received rave reviews from numerous publications and media outlets, including E!, Publishers Weekly, and Wired magazine.


FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Heidi Olson
Heidi@HuntingtonPress.com or 702-252-0655


###

Saturday, July 10, 2010

NAC fellowship

One of the stories in my upcoming collection won a fellowship from the Nevada Arts Council. The story, “Another Day on Paradise,” is a personal piece about living in a historic (i.e., old) apartment complex in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip. I’m hoping the fellowship is a good omen for the collection.

My friend Becky was also recognized in the Literary Arts category.

For more information on the fellowship, visit http://nac.nevadaculture.org.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Quick update

I got a book deal for the nonfiction story collection I’ve been working on for the past few years. Don’t want to go into too much detail now (a few things are still being finalized), but it looks like the book will be published in the fall. More details to follow – hopefully soon.

Also, the Shine a Light outreach continues to have success. In a year or so of work in the tunnels, HELP of Southern Nevada has housed about 40 people and helped turn around their lives. (I don’t recognize some of my old friends … out here in the light, back to their normal weight, all cleaned up and decked out in ironed clothes.) Special thanks to Rich Penksa, Macheo Willis and Louis Lacey of HELP, who’ve been fixtures in the tunnels since the outreach launched.

Finally, Beneath the Neon continues to have some life. The first quarter of 2010 was its best-selling quarter to date. (The book’s been out three years). Thanks to everyone who bought the book and helped spread the word.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New kid in town

I should’ve posted something about this awhile back, but I was busy and it slipped my mind: As a consultant, I helped launch a weekly magazine – Vegas Seven. It’s slick, well-produced and covers a variety of subjects, including politics, sports, nightlife, food, fashion and business.

I’m no longer consulting for Seven, but I plan to write for the magazine occasionally. In fact, I have two stories in the latest issue: a CityCenter-related essay and a feature on Michael’s Used Books.

Vegas Seven is free and available at bookstores, libraries, grocery stores, etc., throughout the valley and at www.weeklyseven.com.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Scared straight?

If you read my book Beneath the Neon, you may remember Gary. I interviewed him in Chapter 7 – the Flood Drain – and he had some interesting things to say about being a meth cook, ghosts in the drains and the afterlife. He was also part of the panel discussion at the Arts Factory in July 2008, in affiliation with Brian Paco Alvarez’s exhibit based on the book.

Anyway, a few months after the panel discussion, Gary was caught stealing and sent to prison. He spent a year and a half in the joint and was released about a month ago. Back on the streets – and, once again, considering camping in the drains – he had a heart attack and was taken to UMC, where he had quintuple bypass surgery. Then he was released … with nowhere to go.

I picked up Gary outside of UMC and took him to his friend’s apartment, where he crashed on the couch for a few days. Then HELP of Southern Nevada, once again, came to the rescue. Currently, Gary is living in an apartment in south central Vegas, where he’s resting, recovering and showing signs that he wants to change his lifestyle. (Maybe the heart attack scared him straight?) He’s also getting food stamps, has registered as a felon and has proper ID. (A prison ID doesn’t get you far on the outside.)

So, besides prison, a heart attack, and quintuple bypass surgery, Gary is doing all right. Seriously, we’re hoping he can stay off the streets and the drugs and that he has a speedy recovery.

I’ll keep you updated.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The last review of Beneath the Neon?

Yes, this book review is a little late. And yes, the website (which is dedicated to online casinos) seems to be kind to authors.

Nonetheless, I was flattered by this review of Beneath the Neon:

www.casinoonline.co.uk/book-reviews/beneath-the-neon

Friday, February 5, 2010

More rain

More rain is in the forecast for Las Vegas this weekend. If you live in the tunnels or washes, or know someone who does, please help spread the word.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Flood follow-up

As forecasted by the National Weather Service, Las Vegas got bombed by rain this week – but as far as I know, no one in the tunnels was killed or seriously hurt. However, a lot of people lost their camps (beds, blankets, clothing, toiletries, photos of loved ones, etc.). They’ve been calling and texting me and Rich of HELP of Southern Nevada for assistance. Last I heard, HELP had placed two people in housing and was in process of assisting others.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Jan. 22 coverage of the flooding included some info about the outreach and the people living in the underground channels:

http://www.lvrj.com/news/las-vegas-valley-gets-record-rainfall-82352547.html

Friday, January 15, 2010

A hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Just got this National Weather Service statement, which I’ve edited, from the Clark County Regional Flood Control District:

“Several storm systems will affect the area next week. While the exact timing of these systems is still uncertain, it appears that at least four and possibly as many as five different systems will cross the area next week. The first system will affect the area as early as Sunday night and continue into Monday, before exiting on Tuesday morning.

“Although exact amounts from each system are uncertain at this time, rainfall totals in the Mojave Desert valleys are expected to be at least 1 to 2 inches, with some areas seeing at least 3 inches. It would not be out of the question for many areas to see a significant portion of their normal yearly rainfall within next week.

“The potentially high totals of precipitation could result in flooding, especially if too much rain falls too quickly. At this time, it is way too early to specify what areas could see flooding. However, the potential for flooding or other hydrological impacts will increase as the week progresses, once precipitation starts to fall and totals increase.”

So, if you live in the tunnels or washes, be prepared. Also, if you know someone who lives in the tunnels or washes, give them a heads-up.

These storms sound scary!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Associated Press piece

The Associated Press produced a story, slideshow and video essay about the tunnels, which have been picked up by a lot of media outlets across the world. Here the Yahoo! News version (including the story, slideshow and essay):

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100104/ap_on_re_us/us_tunnel_living_vegas