Matthew O'Brien

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

CrowdRise follow-up

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


We have 24 hours to raise $10,000 for the people who live in the underground flood channels of Vegas. Please donate (if you’re so inclined) and share the link! Thanks!
Posted: 1/20/2016 at 10:27:00 AM | Updated: 1/20/2016 at 10:28:00 AM | Add Comments | More Options

LVA's holiday catalog

The Las Vegas Advisor's holiday catalog always contains a few unique Vegas- and gambling-related gifts:
Posted: 12/8/2015 at 2:09:00 PM | Updated: 12/8/2015 at 2:10:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

Vegas scams

A German TV crew is interested in exposing Vegas “scams” that target tourists: shell games (which I have posted about previously), timeshare promotions, VIP club passes, long-hauling by cabbies, etc. If you know of any other Vegas scams that should be explored or you have any contacts for the aforementioned scams, please let me know. Thanks!

Posted: 11/10/2015 at 1:59:00 PM | Updated: 11/10/2015 at 1:59:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

R-J video

A brief look inside one of the most fascinating minds I have encountered:
Posted: 10/24/2015 at 10:35:00 PM | Updated: 10/24/2015 at 10:35:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

Nightlife story

We know about the obscene amount of money DJs make and the lavish lifestyles of the club owners and operators. What about workers in the Vegas nightlife industry who are struggling and just getting by: aspiring DJs, low-level promoters, bar backs, dancers, etc.? We want to share their stories. If you know anyone who may fit this description, please email me ( Thanks!

Posted: 6/12/2015 at 2:39:00 PM | Updated: 6/12/2015 at 2:39:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

MFA update

As some of you may recall, about four years ago I applied to MFA creative-writing programs. I ended up enrolling at UNLV. Recently, I graduated and the overall experience—teaching, traveling, workshopping my novel, etc.—proved extremely worthwhile. Thanks to everyone who helped me achieve this longtime goal!

The obvious question, and one I have been asked often, is: “What now?” Well, I’d like to land a fulltime job writing/editing or teaching. Of course, quality gigs in those fields are scarce, so I’m planning to teach at CSN and UNLV in the fall and to write. (I’m already scheduled to teach a creative-writing class at CSN; more on this later.)

If there are any updates or changes to this plan, you all will be the first to know. Thanks again for your support! 

Posted: 5/27/2015 at 4:08:00 PM | Updated: 5/27/2015 at 4:08:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

Children of Las Vegas

Tim is a smart guy and a good writer. Any support you offer this book should be well worth it.

Posted: 5/26/2015 at 12:54:00 PM | Updated: 5/26/2015 at 12:55:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

RIP, Steve

If you read my story “My Week at the Blue Angel,” you may recall Steve and his dog Dot. Steve, who was staying in room 133, was a Vietnam vet with a litany of health problems and a predilection for crack. He was also one of the nicest and funniest people I’ve met.

I got a call Sunday morning from a Colorado number. It was Steve’s brother Ken, whom I’ve never met, informing me that Steve died a few weeks ago in a Las Vegas hospital. Though this was not a surprise—Steve had been in and out of as many hospitals as weekly motels—it was saddening. He and I had managed to stay in touch over the years and I’ll always remember him as a kind and welcoming presence in a place (the Blue Angel) that could be cold and intimidating.

Here’s an excerpt from a conversation Steve and I had at the motel:

“What does she (the Blue Angel sculpture) mean to you?”

“She’s sort of like a helping hand. I look up and know that God’s put her there for a reason: to watch over the people here, who are wayward, who are like ships in a storm. They dock in the harbor to get out of the weather and then they’re off again. This place is like a port in a storm. Sometimes you stay overnight. Sometimes you stay a long, long time.”

“How long are you going to stay?”

“Long enough to get healthy and then I’m moving on. I want to get out of this town. I don’t really like it here.”

“When you leave, what will you remember about the Blue Angel?”

“It was a stepping stone in the direction I wanted to go in, but I won’t miss it. The only thing I’ll miss is the angel.

“But God will have one watching over me wherever I go.”

Posted: 4/7/2015 at 12:26:00 PM | Updated: 4/7/2015 at 12:37:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

Seeker Stories follow-up

The Seeker Stories video (below) has more than 115,000 views on YouTube. Thanks to everyone who shared it, spread the word and watched it!
Posted: 4/2/2015 at 1:05:00 PM | Updated: 4/2/2015 at 1:06:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

Discovery Digital Networks

Laura Ling and Paige Hansen of Discovery Digital Networks were kind enough to let me host a program on the underground flood channels of Vegas. Their crew followed me into the tunnels and met a few of my friends. It was fun and they did a great job of producing the piece, but I should probably keep my day job.

Posted: 3/26/2015 at 12:13:00 PM | Updated: 3/26/2015 at 12:13:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

La Rambla

Here’s the poem I contributed to Western, the arts journal published in association with Life Is Beautiful. The poem was inspired by my trip to Barcelona this summer. Special thanks to Shaun Christensen, Jarret Keene, Don Revell, Olivia Clare and my dad for reading it and providing feedback and to Sam Mc Mackin for publishing it.

La Rambla

How many storms
(Arabs, Franks, fellow Spaniards)
Can a stronghold weather
Before opening wide its wooden gates,
Scarred by spears and arrows,
And falling at the feet
Of its latest sovereign?

Cultures coalesce,
Become difficult to distinguish.
Trueloves are like this,
Which is why I occasionally
Confuse you with her.

Or her.

Love is not the Po, Nile, or Ebro,
But Mediterranean Sea.

Another argument
Across the Atlantic.
High, mud-swirl ceiling.
Duffel bag buried beneath clothes.
I slip into my sneakers
And stagger out onto the streets.
Mute, impotent, invisible
I know how you felt
When you moved to the Meadows.

Nàpols and Mallorca.
Sant Joan and València.
Bailén and Gran Vía,
Where Gaudí was run over
By a cable car.
Assuming he was homeless,
They left him sprawled on the street.
He’s still there.
I hear him bleating,
As I cross against the light
And continue south.

Drifting down the Door of the Angel,
Alone amid the crush,
I spill onto the shore.
The rising sun
Silhouettes a family of four
Frolicking in the surf.
Perched on a cloud,
Columbus points toward the Gold Coast.
The tourists stand in the sand
And applaud,
As the Santa María
Appears on the horizon.

Like a mythic mortal,
I leered at beauty
And sacrificed my sight.
My marooned senses sharpen,
As I navigate the side streets

Sea salt on my lips;
The bakery, soap shop, smoke shop;
A Catalan flag flaps in the wind.

Approaching La Rambla,
I reclaim my perspective.

As I’m waking,
You’re falling asleep.

Posted: 10/27/2014 at 1:55:00 PM | Updated: 10/27/2014 at 1:58:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

Life Is Beautiful

If you’re going to Life Is Beautiful this weekend, drop by the old Western hotel-casino. It will house a handful of art exhibits, including a collaboration between writers and artists that I contributed to. (Photographer Marshall Scheuttle and I worked together.) I don’t know if the text and images will be displayed, but I believe a journal featuring the work will be for sale, with part of the proceeds going to charity. Other contributors to this particular project include Molly O’Donnell, Scott Dickensheets, Brent Holmes and Danielle Kelly.   

Posted: 10/24/2014 at 11:54:00 AM | Updated: 10/24/2014 at 11:55:00 AM | Add Comments | More Options

Homeless 101

I hope those interested in the issue of homelessness will attend and participate in this discussion. Here are the details:

While it is hard not to recognize homelessness across our urban landscape, few truly understand this growing epidemic. On Monday, September 8, 7-8:30 p.m., at The Window, the Downtown Rangers Homeless Outreach Program will be hosting a public forum designed to provide a first-hand perspective on one of the most important social challenges of our time. The program will include an insider’s look into homelessness from David Sweetland. David was a highly educated, junior college instructor when a “perfect storm” of alcoholism, clinical depression, and personal loss took his life in a very different direction. Now in recovery, David offers a personal view into the mindset and culture of life on the streets.  

The evening will conclude with a panel discussion from local experts, sharing additional perspectives and ideas on how everyone can help. The group includes:
* Matthew O’Brien, author of “Beneath the Neon” and founder of Shine a Light
* Timothy Burch, Director of Clark County Social Services
* Rosie Brown, Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, psychiatric caseworker

Please note: The Window is located at 150 N. Las Vegas Blvd, Suite 140, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101 (at the Ogden, between Rachel’s Kitchen and WILD). Parking is available on the street or in the lot located on the northeast corner of Ogden Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 

David L. Gould
Downtown Project
Director of Imagination

Posted: 9/5/2014 at 10:09:00 AM | Updated: 9/5/2014 at 10:09:00 AM | Add Comments | More Options

French translation update

Stealing from a homeless person is the lowest thing you can do. Stealing from an artist is the second lowest.

This thought crossed my mind a few years ago, when a French publisher translated both of my books, actively promoted and sold them and didn’t pay me or my American publisher any of the advance or royalties promised in the contract. We looked into legal action, but the possibilities seemed limited (since the contract wasn’t worth millions and the publisher was based in a foreign country). So I learned to live with the fact that someone had stolen my work and was selling itand there was nothing I could do about it.

However, finding myself in Spain and en route to Paris, I decided to email the publisher and see if he cared to get coffee and explain in more detail why he never paid us. (Previously, he’d only indicated that his company was struggling financially.) To my surprise, he responded. He said that he wasn’t going to be in town while I was there, but a package would be at my hotel when I arrived. Entering my room and opening the cardboard box, I found 500 euros (about $670) and a translated copy of each book.  

The publisher explained that he hoped to make additional payments, and we’re in the process of mending our relationship. (We’re Facebook friends again!) Perhaps this will be a rare and unexpected happy ending in the publishing world. We shall see.

Posted: 8/16/2014 at 5:47:00 PM | Updated: 8/16/2014 at 5:48:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

Homeless Fonts

I found the Arrels Foundation’s Homeless Fonts initiative, which allows people to buy the handwriting of their clients, particularly interesting.

Posted: 8/5/2014 at 3:30:00 AM | Updated: 8/5/2014 at 3:31:00 AM | Add Comments | More Options

The Arrels Foundation (Barcelona)

Marta Olaria and Juan Lemus of the Arrels Foundation were kind enough to meet with me and give me a tour of the facility. They’re doing an incredible job of helping the 3,000 or so homeless people of Barcelona! Please surf their site (English version) when you have time.

Posted: 8/5/2014 at 3:24:00 AM | Updated: 8/5/2014 at 3:26:00 AM | Add Comments | More Options

‘State of Nevada’

I went on KNPR recently to discuss whether Las Vegas is a “smart” city. Here’s the link!

Posted: 8/5/2014 at 3:11:00 AM | Updated: 8/5/2014 at 3:12:00 AM | Add Comments | More Options

Another poem

“Almost all good poems are perilously close to being bad country songs.” OK, Dr. Revell. I’ll take that as a compliment.

Long Haul

It’s as if I’m standing still
and everything else is moving.
The signs:
Mercury, Beatty, Tonopah.
What are the Joshua trees
running from?
The road reflectors wink.
When hauling these loads
I’m headed in one of two directions—
closer to you or farther away.

Posted: 3/27/2014 at 5:01:00 PM | Updated: 3/27/2014 at 5:01:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

Lost Vegas

If you want to learn more about the tunnels and the people who live in them, skip “CSI” and “Criminal Minds” and watch this short documentary. It’s extremely moving, I think, and features two of the nicest and most interesting people I’ve met in the drains (Mike and Ned).

Posted: 3/19/2014 at 1:25:00 PM | Updated: 3/21/2014 at 12:03:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

Panel discussion and book signing

I’m participating in a panel discussion related to Vegas and writing on Saturday, March 8, at the Paseo Verde Library. The discussion will take place from roughly 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and then I’ll sign copies of my books (sold at a discounted rate). Please drop by and support local authors! Here’s the news release about the event: 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           Contact: Tiffannie Bond/Melissa Biernacinski

COPY FOR PROOF                                               Imagine Communications


Henderson Libraries to launch Local Author Showcase
More than 40 local authors to attend launch party, publishing workshop March 8

HENDERSON, Nev.  Henderson Libraries will host the Local Author Showcase Launch Party from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at the Paseo Verde Library, 280 S. Green Valley Parkway, near the 215 Beltway. The Local Author Showcase will include a book publishing workshop, an author meet-and-greet, a discussion panel, and the unveiling of the new Local Author Collection.

More than 40 authors will be present at the March 8 event for a meet-and-greet as well as a local author panel at 12:30 p.m., hosted by Brian Rouff, author of “Dice Angel” and managing partner of Imagine Communications. The panel will include local authors Matt O'Brien, Deborah Coonts, David Schwartz and Gerard de Marigny.

At 2:30 p.m. budding authors can also attend “How Do I Publish My Book?,” a workshop led by Roger DeBlanck and Jonathan Sturak, who will discuss the changing face of modern publishing. Additionally, they will provide strategies for marketing books and establishing an online presence.

In celebration of the new Local Author Collection, refreshments provided by Whole Foods will be served at noon.

“Ultimately, the entire program is meant to inspire, encourage and empower the audience with tools and information needed to successfully publish a book,” said Gayle Hornaday, interim executive director of Henderson Libraries.

Established in 1943 as a single library in Downtown Henderson, Henderson Libraries operates four locations throughout Henderson. Henderson Libraries cooperates with other public libraries in Southern Nevada, the Nevada System of Higher Education, the Clark County School District and all other libraries around the state to provide quality service for Nevada’s residents.

For additional information on Henderson Libraries, visit or call 702-492-6581.

Posted: 3/2/2014 at 1:38:00 PM | Updated: 3/2/2014 at 1:41:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options

First poem in 15 years

This is the first poem I’ve written in more than 15 years. I wrote it for a poetry workshop I’m taking at UNLV, as a graduate assistant in the MFA creative writing program. (My concentration is fiction, but we have to take some poetry classes, too.) The theme of the workshop is the “immediately accessible sublime” or, as I simply interpret it, that which is near and dear.

This is the second draft. The teacher Donald Revell and my remarkably talented classmates provided plenty of feedback, a lot of which I incorporated into the poem.

Breaking and Entering

Standing on the sidewalk
Half English, half Farsi

Her refuge
Interior lights on
Porch light off
The door splintered and ajar
Faceplate and screws
Sprawled across the floor

The scene is secured
Doors and drawers dusted
She enters
Past a palm print black on white

In the squad car
The officer asks questions
Despondent she responds
He pecks an antiquated computer
While reading aloud
“The victim stated that the jewelry
Was given to her
By her grandmother in Iran”

They leave us alone
Noticing a painting
She no longer likes
She observes
They never take what you want them to

With ink-stained hands
We push the suddenly mobile
Media center
Against the door
Drag the mattress into the living room
Everyone’s a suspect
The neighbor, the FedEx guy, the security guard
Finally a kiss good night
Then with all the lights on
We lie down and act like we’re asleep

Posted: 2/14/2014 at 5:56:00 PM | Updated: 2/15/2014 at 1:00:00 PM | Add Comments | More Options