Going-away present

Yesterday in the tunnels, one of the residents, Steve, gave me a going-away present: a compass. He said he hoped it would come in handy in Central America. #touched

Sunday Assembly follow-up

I was honored to share the stage at the Sunday Assembly with Paul Vautrinot. We had a blast and met some really interesting people—thanks to everyone who came out!—then headed into the tunnels to check on some folks down there. I’m hoping Paul (and others) will help keep Shine a Light going while I’m in Central America. With his experience, knowledge and charisma, I’m confident he could positively impact hundreds of lives in the drains. No pressure, Paul!

How an Author’s Mind Works

My publisher: “We can’t print the second edition of Beneath the Neon until we reduce the stock of the first edition. We need to sell a few more hundred copies.”

My mind: I’ll buy a few hundred copies myself.

What I’ve learned writing about the homeless in Vegas

“Call the homeless what you will, but don’t call them lazy. (You’re the one using UberEATS and sitting on the couch watching TV.) They’re the toughest, most industrious people I’ve met. Their survival depends on it.”

This is an excerpt from my commentary about what I’ve learned in 20 years of writing about and working with the homeless in Las Vegas. Many of my social-networking friends know a lot about homelessness—more than I ever will—and I’m curious how your experience aligns with mine or doesn’t. Please share your thoughts.

Discovering the drains

I’ve interviewed about 30 former tunnel residents and asked them all, “How’d you discover the drains?” This answer, courtesy of 24-year-old Szmauz, might be the most interesting so far:

“I was giving this other homeless guy hot dogs I’d found in a dumpster and out of the corner of my eye I see this big guy come over and deck me. The hot dogs go flying. I was stunned. It took me a second to realize I just got hit in the face. He starts wailing on me and I fight back. I’m not a small guy, so he took off. I had this meat cleaver on me and I’m chasing him down the street. The dealers that lived in the shitty apartments nearby knew me; I was a good customer of theirs. They were like, ‘Dude, what’s up?’ I said, ‘Get that guy!’ We’re all chasing him and he dipped through a hole in the fence and went down into a wash and into a tunnel. I stopped. I’m like, I’m not going in there. And that’s how I found the tunnel.”

Neon photo essay

Dtlv.com just posted the photo essay of people who are helping, in some way, preserve neon in Las Vegas. A lot of folks provided guidance on this essay, not all of whom I was able to acknowledge in the piece. They include Brian Paco Alvarez, Richard Hooker, Lynn Zook, Danielle Marie Kelly, Maggie Mary and Steve Evans. A special shout-out to Rachel Bellinksy, whose photos are simply amazing!