From Sin City to the Savior
Somewhat to my surprise, my trip to El Salvador turned into a job interview at a prep school. I toured the campus, talked to the director and dean of faculty and met a few teachers and students. Before I left the country they offered me a job teaching 12th grade English. After returning to the States and giving it some thought, I accepted the offer.
There were simply too many positives for me to turn it down: I can save money, learn Spanish (though it’s an English-language school), see more of Central and South America, etc. Also, after nearly 20 years in Vegas, things feel stagnant. I’ve felt, at times, like a poker player who’s sure he has a full house, but everyone else seems to think he’s bluffing. Perhaps I’ve played this hand a little too long.
I won’t leave Las Vegas until late July, which gives me time to tie up loose ends, work on a few local projects (which you will hear more about), visit one or two state and national parks and get coffee or a drink with friends. Also, I hope to maintain my relationship with Vegas and return once or twice a year.
I’ll post more thoughts on this dramatic change—from Sin City to the Savior (Salvador)—as the date approaches. With love and respect for everyone who has supported my Vegas adventure …
Posted: 2/6/2017 at 4:21:00 PM | Updated: 2/6/2017 at 4:24:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Fun while it lasted
I helped deliver the last issue of Downtown ZEN. Apparently the magazine is not going to be re-funded for the New Year. The timing seems odd, as we had put out additional newsracks, the pick-up rate was increasing, we had hired a proper sales staff, and the editorial product was strong (and getting stronger), but this was out of my control. Who knows? Maybe it will be revived in some form at some point or folded into an existing product, etc. There was, after all, a rainbow above downtown as I made my final rounds.
Posted: 12/31/2016 at 4:32:00 PM | Updated: 12/31/2016 at 4:32:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
After four years on the board of the Nevada Homeless Alliance (http://nevadahomelessalliance.org/), I recently resigned. I want to focus on my own Shine a Light community project, book projects, etc., and I thought the board could use some new blood. If you’re interested in being a board member of the NHA, which, among many other things, puts on the annual Project Homeless Connect, please email me. Thanks!
Posted: 12/15/2016 at 4:00:00 PM | Updated: 12/15/2016 at 4:01:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Crazy Good Turns
The fledgling podcast Crazy Good Turns was kind enough to dedicate an episode to me and my work in the underground flood channels. They also interviewed former tunnel resident Billy Richardson, who, as usual, stole the show. (The feature stands on its own, but also serves as a follow-up to the CrowdRise fundraiser.) I gave shout-outs to Mark Danner, Joshua Ellis, Michelle Neffke, Jason’s Deli, CityLife, U.S. Vets and HELP of Southern Nevada. I think I also said “ascribe” instead of “subscribe” at one point.
Posted: 11/25/2016 at 11:35:00 PM | Updated: 11/25/2016 at 11:35:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
We’re working on a second edition of my book Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas. The plan is to clean up the writing a bit and add an extended epilogue and an “extras” photo album at the end.
We hope to release the second edition next year on the 10-year anniversary of the book. I’ll keep you updated. And thanks again for your continued support!
Posted: 9/24/2016 at 12:40:00 PM | Updated: 9/24/2016 at 12:43:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Here is the KNPR interview. Jazz shares his tale and I try to provide some perspective at the end.
Posted: 8/3/2016 at 1:41:00 PM | Updated: 8/3/2016 at 1:41:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
“Nelson’s Landing,” the poem I posted a few weeks ago, is going to be included in an interesting, mixed-media exhibit sponsored by Nevada Humanities. I’ll let you all know more about the exhibit as the Sept. 1 reception date approaches.
Posted: 7/30/2016 at 10:47:00 AM | Updated: 7/30/2016 at 10:47:00 AM | Add Comments | More Options
George (“Jazz”) and I just visited KNPR’s studio and were interviewed by host Joe Schoenmann about the tunnels and last month’s deadly flood. Jazz shared his harrowing tale of being swept down the channels and losing his girlfriend Sharon. The interview should air next week. Keep you all updated.
Posted: 7/27/2016 at 3:44:00 PM | Updated: 7/27/2016 at 3:44:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Joseph Watson and I have finished the “final” draft of the fictional memoir/art project we have been working on, off and on, for several years. We think it is now, finally, a very unique and publishable Vegas-related book. We think it is special.
We are more confident than ever about shopping around the book and are in the process of doing so. However, we are not sure we have reached out to the right people. If you know a literary agent, or a publishing house outside of Nevada, who may be interested in this combined art and literature project, please let me know.
Posted: 7/25/2016 at 11:58:00 AM | Updated: 7/25/2016 at 12:21:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
A poem I wrote that was partly inspired by a visit to Nelson’s Landing:
Volcanic rock claws
at my feet.
Behind me on the bank
On top of it our clothes,
a bottle of wine.
The sky burgundy.
Five fathoms below,
the Colorado River
creeps toward oblivion.
The Spanish found gold here.
A Civil War deserter
beaten to death
with a shovel
for a yellow stone.
The veins dried up
A flood flashed
through the canyon,
carrying them away.
A rusted water tank
and bandaged mines
Reaching the bend in the river
John Wesley Powell said,
“We are ready to start into
the Great Unknown.”
Atop the cliff
everything comes clear.
The beginning of this relationship
betrays how the last ended.
I can’t see her,
but hear her treading water.
“You scared, old man?”
close my eyes.
Posted: 7/25/2016 at 11:58:00 AM | Updated: 7/25/2016 at 12:17:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
At least three homeless people died in the latest flood and hardly anyone is talking about it:
Posted: 7/25/2016 at 11:58:00 AM | Updated: 7/25/2016 at 12:11:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
More death in the drains
A man’s body was recently pulled from a wash near Decatur and Russell. If he was a victim of the flood—and I suspect he was, as that area was hit hard—that would bring the body count to at least three. And the monsoon season is just underway.
Posted: 7/25/2016 at 11:58:00 AM | Updated: 7/25/2016 at 12:05:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Flood death update
Jazz, Sharon’s longtime boyfriend, who was also carried away by the flood, is slowly recovering, mentally and physically, in a motel just off the Strip. He says he feels like a motorcyclist who fell off his bike. But his spirits, I could tell, are rising.
Sharon’s family is preparing to have her cremated. They will most likely, her youngest daughter told me, have a viewing here in Las Vegas, before having a memorial service in the L.A. area (where much of her family is from). I will keep you updated on all of this, as best as I can.
Those of you who have contributed to my Shine a Light project, through CrowdRise or otherwise, please know that your contributions have provided shelter for a broken man and will assure that Sharon gets a proper sendoff. Thanks again for your generosity!
Posted: 7/25/2016 at 11:58:00 AM | Updated: 7/25/2016 at 12:03:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
The coroner hasn’t spoken, but the streets have. RIP, Sharon.
Posted: 7/25/2016 at 11:58:00 AM | Updated: 7/25/2016 at 12:01:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
It’s a work in progress, but the website for the new Downtown Zen is up. Please give it a look. Cross training on the downtown streets, a memoir of an open-mic night, a photo essay of weekly motel desk clerks, a sketch by Joseph Watson, a downtown-set short story (Prose & Cons)—it’s certainly something to build on.
Also, we are looking for writers, photographers and illustrators who know and get downtown Vegas and urban living. Please let us know if you’re interested in contributing. (Yes, we pay.)
Posted: 6/7/2016 at 1:51:00 PM | Updated: 6/7/2016 at 1:52:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Off the Ranch
I haven’t done much local print journalism in the past few years, but I shook off the cobwebs for Downtown Zen’s Off the Ranch column (which highlights worthy things—in this case the jazz night at The Dispensary—outside of downtown Vegas).
Posted: 6/6/2016 at 3:08:00 PM | Updated: 6/6/2016 at 3:08:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
A poignant photo essay of weekly motel desk clerks, courtesy of Marshall Scheuttle.
Posted: 6/6/2016 at 2:36:00 PM | Updated: 6/6/2016 at 2:46:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
We are still tweaking the homepage, but I can’t resist sharing a few pieces from the new Downtown Zen magazine. Here’s a wonderful story by Chris Molnar, former co-host of The Beat’s open-mic night, with beautiful pics by Danny Mollohan (who shot my book Beneath the Neon).
Posted: 6/6/2016 at 2:27:00 PM | Updated: 6/6/2016 at 2:27:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Las Vegas squatters
I’m working with a national TV crew on a story about squatters in Las Vegas. We are hoping to interview people who squat in abandoned homes, buildings, underground flood channels, etc. We are also interested in interviewing former squatters. Part of our goal is to get the perspective of the squatters, which has been largely absent from this whole story.
If you have any leads or suggestions, please let me know ASAP. (Filming starts Thursday.) Thanks!
Posted: 6/6/2016 at 1:35:00 PM | Updated: 6/6/2016 at 1:36:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
As some of you may recall, in January I collaborated with CrowdRise to raise money for my Shine a Light community project. The fundraiser, thanks to many of you, was a wild success. Here is a wonderful retrospective of the campaign, replete with backstory, progress reports, photos, videos and updates.
Posted: 5/21/2016 at 11:11:00 AM | Updated: 5/21/2016 at 11:15:00 AM | Add Comments | More Options
A touching piece by Bryan Branly of the Fusion network. He’s one of the few journalists who was willing to spend the night in the tunnels.
Posted: 5/11/2016 at 1:59:00 PM | Updated: 5/11/2016 at 2:01:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Rick and Cyndi
Caught up with my good friend Rick yesterday. Rick and I met about five years ago in a storm drain near Eastern and Trop. We worked with a few TV crews, one of which (“Dr. Phil”) helped him and his significant other, Cyndi, get out of the drains. They have been clean and housed for three years and now help others through the recovery process.
Congrats, Rick and Cyndi, on all of your success!
Posted: 4/23/2016 at 2:57:00 PM | Updated: 4/23/2016 at 2:57:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
You all may recall Billy, who was featured in the CrowdRise video a few months ago. He said he wanted to get a job and reunite with his family. It appears both of those things will happen. Billy’s ex-wife saw the CrowdRise video and recently offered him a place to live, a car and a job in Houston, Texas, Billy’s home state, where many of his family members still live.
Using money from the CrowdRise fundraiser, we took Billy to Walmart (his choice) and bought him clothes, snacks and toiletries. We then put him up in a hotel. The next day, we bought him a one-way bus ticket to Houston (he doesn’t have an ID, so he cannot fly) and saw him off the station.
Thanks again to everyone who donated to the fundraiser! I'll continue to keep you updated on his progress.
Posted: 4/19/2016 at 11:34:00 PM | Updated: 4/19/2016 at 11:34:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Josh Ellis’ podcast
You’d think that my Vegas muse would be a beautiful and broken woman, but, in some ways, it’s Joshua Ellis. He’s featured in Beneath the Neon, co-wrote two stories in My Week at the Blue Angel, and one of the characters in my (in-the-works) fictional memoir is based on him. He’s among the more interesting and brilliant people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting … and now he has a podcast.
Check it out—I found the last seven or so minutes particularly poignant—and, if so inclined, leave him a tip.
Posted: 2/5/2016 at 3:09:00 PM | Updated: 2/5/2016 at 3:10:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options
Thanks to everyone who donated to the CrowdRise campaign! We raised more than $13,000 in the first 24 hours and have currently raised more than $14,500. We put some of that money to use immediately. Visit the CrowdRise website for more info:
Posted: 1/23/2016 at 4:23:00 PM | Updated: 1/23/2016 at 4:23:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options