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.

Quick update

Not a whole lot going on right now. Just continuing to work on the story collection – I’ve finished seven stories and have three to go – and enjoy my free time. Reading, playing some basketball, traveling occasionally. Doing some freelance writing and editing to keep some money coming in.

Hopefully, I’ll have more to report in September.

Now that was cool!

A quick thanks to everyone who was involved in the panel discussion: Paco, Gary, Billy, and Ruckoh. Gary, Billy and Ruckoh, whom I assume don’t do much public speaking, were amazing! I thought they said some really interesting stuff. Also, thanks to Mike Wardle for sharing his space. Finally, thanks to everyone who attended the discussion; there were a lot of familiar faces in the audience: Tia, Laura, Chip, Cathy, Josh, Suzanne, my old CityLife co-workers Mike and Emmily, and many others. It was one of the more memorable events I’ve done in support of the book, right up there with the Decatur Book Festival.

Thanks again!

Panel discussion

If you haven’t checked out the exhibit and you want to, July 17 will be a good day to do it. There will be a panel discussion on life, death and art in the storm drains of Las Vegas and the exhibit will be open to the public after the discussion. It will also be a good day to buy the book. The Contemporary Arts Collective will be selling copies for $17, with part of the proceeds going to the CAC. I’ll be around to sign copies, if anyone wants one signed.

More details below:

As part of the month-long Beneath the Neon: The Exhibition, the Contemporary Arts Collective is hosting a panel discussion about life, death and art in the underground flood channels of Las Vegas.

The discussion will be moderated by local artist Brian Paco Alvarez and panelists will include Matthew O’Brien, author of Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas; “Ruckoh,” a graffiti artist who paints in the tunnels; Gary, a pencil-portrait artist who has lived in the tunnels for several years; and Billy, who moved out recently and is transitioning off the streets.

The panel discussion will start at 6 p.m. July 17 at the Arts Factory. After the discussion, Beneath the Neon: The Exhibition will be open to the public and O’Brien will sign copies of his book. Part of the proceeds from book sales will go to the CAC.

Beneath the Neon: The Exhibition provides locals and tourists the ability to explore the underground flood channels of Vegas through the eyes of Alvarez, who re-created the storm drains in the CAC’s gallery using water elements, gravel, debris and graffiti. The comprehensive exhibit includes artifacts, video with footage from O’Brien’s adventures in the tunnels, and black-and-white photography by Danny Mollohan.

Established in 1989, the Contemporary Arts Collective began as an extension of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Department of Fine Arts, providing a venue for students to share ideas, concepts and to exhibit their work. In 1993, the CAC became a nonprofit organization to further expand the promotion of contemporary art through outstanding exhibitions featuring both local and national artists and educational programs. Located in the heart of the Las Vegas Arts District, the CAC is dedicated to promoting contemporary art through avant-garde exhibitions and educational programs within the local arts community. The CAC is funded in part by the Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Community Foundation, the Arts Factory and benefactors, patrons and CAC members.

The Contemporary Arts Collective is located in the Arts Factory at 101 E. Charleston Blvd., Ste. 101. For membership or additional information, call 702-382-3886 or visit www.lasvegascac.org.

The exhibit

Well. I have to say, I was blown away by the exhibit. Paco went crazy with it. It’s totally insane, in a good way.

Good turnout for the opening reception, too: Tia, Pj, Dahn, Mary Beth, Trinity, Joan, Josh and a bunch of other people. It was a good party.

There are a few other opportunities to check out the exhibit: the pre-First Friday opening (July 3), First Friday (July 4) and the panel discussion and book signing on July 17. Also, the CAC is open from 12 p.m.- 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment (702-382-3886).

Exhibit reminder

Paco has put a lot of work into Beneath the Neon: The Exhibition and it’s coming along nicely. The walls of the gallery have been bombed by graffiti artists who hang out in the drains, a homeless camp has been assembled, and a side room features artifacts, photos and excerpts from the book. Dude’s not messing around.

I hope you all can make it to the opening reception Thursday night and the panel discussion July 17. Details below:

LAS VEGAS – The city’s underground flood channels are the background for Matthew O’Brien’s adventures in his book, “Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas.” Now, the channels are also the inspiration for the Contemporary Art Collective’s latest exhibition opening Tuesday, June 24—Beneath the Neon: The Exhibition.

The month-long exhibit provides locals and tourists the ability to explore the underground channels of Las Vegas through the eyes of local artist Brian “Paco” Alvarez, who has recreated the storm drains in the CAC’s gallery using water, gravel and graffiti.

The comprehensive exhibit includes artifacts as well as a video with footage from O’Brien’s adventures in the tunnels, and black-and-white photography from Danny Mollohan.
The grand opening reception is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 26 and the pre-First Friday reception is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 3.

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 17, O’Brien is scheduled to be on hand for a book signing and panel discussion regarding his experiences in the storm drains. Former drain-dweller Billy will also be on hand for the discussion.

Armed with a flashlight, tape recorder and expandable baton for protection, O’Brien explored the Las Vegas storm drains for more than four years. He discovered bizarre miscellaneous items, art and architecture and—most interestingly—people. His adventures in this uncharted underworld are chronicled in “Beneath the Neon,” which was published by Huntington Press in June 2007.

Established in 1989, the Contemporary Arts Collective began as an extension of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Department of Fine Arts, providing a venue for students to share ideas, concepts and exhibit their work. In 1993, the CAC became a non-profit organization to further expand the promotion of contemporary art through outstanding exhibitions featuring both local and national artists and educational programs. Located in the heart of 18b— the Las Vegas Arts District. Today, the CAC is dedicated to promoting contemporary art through avant-garde exhibitions and educational programs within the Las Vegas arts community. The CAC is funded in part by the Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Community Foundation, The Arts Factory and benefactors, patrons and CAC members. The CAC is located within the Arts Factory at 101 E. Charleston Blvd., Ste. 101. For membership or additional information, call 702-382-3886 or visit www.lasvegascac.org.

Beneath the Neon: The Exhibition

Local artist Brian “Paco” Alvarez is putting together an exhibit based on Beneath the Neon. The exhibit – Beneath the Neon: The Exhibition – will open June 24 at the Arts Factory’s Contemporary Art Collective and run through July 24. The opening reception is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 26.

More info below:

LAS VEGAS — The city’s underground flood channels are the background for Matthew O’Brien’s adventures in his book, “Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas.” Now, the channels are also the inspiration for the Contemporary Art Collective’s latest exhibition opening Tuesday, June 24—Beneath the Neon: The Exhibition.

The month-long exhibit provides locals and tourists the ability to explore the underground channels of Las Vegas through the eyes of local artist Brian “Paco” Alvarez, who has recreated the storm drains in the CAC’s gallery using water, gravel and graffiti.

The comprehensive exhibit includes artifacts as well as a video with footage from O’Brien’s adventures in the tunnels, and black-and-white photography from Danny Mollohan.

The grand opening reception is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 26 and the pre-First Friday reception is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 3.

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 17, O’Brien is scheduled to be on hand for a book signing and panel discussion regarding his experiences in the storm drains. Former drain-dweller William Wieland will also be on hand for the discussion.

Armed with a flashlight, tape recorder and expandable baton for protection, O’Brien explored the Las Vegas storm drains for more than four years. He discovered bizarre miscellaneous items, art and architecture and—most interestingly—people. His adventures in this uncharted underworld are chronicled in “Beneath the Neon,” which was published by Huntington Press in June 2007.

Established in 1989, the Contemporary Arts Collective began as an extension of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Department of Fine Arts, providing a venue for students to share ideas, concepts and exhibit their work. In 1993, the CAC became a non-profit organization to further expand the promotion of contemporary art through outstanding exhibitions featuring both local and national artists and educational programs. Located in the heart of 18b— the Las Vegas Arts District. Today, the CAC is dedicated to promoting contemporary art through avant-garde exhibitions and educational programs within the Las Vegas arts community. The CAC is funded in part by the Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Community Foundation, The Arts Factory and benefactors, patrons and CAC members. The CAC is located within the Arts Factory at 101 E. Charleston Blvd., Ste. 101. For membership or additional information, call 702-382-3886 or visit www.lasvegascac.org.

Update on the second book

I’ve finished six of the nonfiction stories I’m working on for my second book. A theme has materialized: off-the-beaten-path Vegas. The stories are about strippers, prostitutes, social workers, ex-cons and transients and they’re set under Caesars Palace, in prisons, trailer parks, weekly motels and sewage plants.

I’ve written a 10-page proposal that includes a working title, synopsis, outline and bio info and I’ve sent it to a few agents and publishing-company editors. I also sent them a few of the stories.

If you know an agent or editor who may be interested in reading the proposal and some of the stories, please let me know.

A big thanks!

Thanks to everyone who dropped by the Big Read Book Festival on Saturday: Tiffany, Karen, Lisa, Katherine and others. It was slow at times, but I was able to sell a few books and meet some interesting people (as always at local book signings). The most interesting of all may have been Mike Prince, a cowboy poet and writer whom I shared a table with. Prince is author of Toquop, Warrior Station, a young-adult novel set in Nevada, and one hell of a storyteller.

Thanks for keeping me entertained, Mike!

I don’t have anymore scheduled public events for a while. I’ll let you all know if that changes.