Why do prick politicians get 30-inch obits and sweet, honest and caring people only get an inch?
I thought about this recently, while attending a memorial service for Yolanda Smith (aka “Yo” and “Grandma Yo” and “Numero Uno”). Two other thoughts crossed my mind: There’s nothing sadder than a loving person stretched out lifeless in a wooden box; and some people should live forever.
Shortly after my book came out, I got a card from Yolanda. I called to thank her, and we ended up getting together for lunch. Immediately, I was struck by how smart, kind and funny she was. She was a real cool girl.
After our lunch, Yolanda and I kept in touch. She stopped by book signings, brought me cookies and bought books for friends and family. She mailed me cards. I’d call her and ask about her sons, bowling league and health. (She’d been fighting cancer for a few years.)
The last time we talked, Yolanda and I agreed to go to her bowling league together one Monday night at Sam’s Town. We never got the chance. A few days later, her sister called and told me she’d died.
Yolanda Smith’s obit said she was 76 years old and a homemaker. It said she’s survived by her sons, Mike, Gary and Mark. What it didn’t – and couldn’t – say was how many people she touched with her kindness, generosity and class. Too many to mention, I’m sure.
I miss you, Yo! Thanks for everything.
According to my datebook, I have a book signing March 29 in Pahrump. So, since I don’t argue with my datebook, I guess I’ll climb into my car Saturday morning, drive over the mountains on Highway 160 and visit The Closest City to Las Vegas in Which Prostitution is Legal. The signing, part of the “Author Extravaganza,” is from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Pahrump Community Library (701 East St., 89048).
If you have – um – business to attend to in Pahrump or you’re just looking for an excuse to road trip, drop by and say “howdy.”
Thanks to everyone who e-mailed with suggestions for Billy and his cats. They’ve all found homes. Billy is living in public housing and volunteering at the Las Vegas zoo. The Cat Sanctuary took in three or four of his cats and a local no-kill shelter took in the others.
Activist Linda Lera-Randle El and her crew helped make all this happen. They’ve been amazing.
We’re trying to help one of the guys I met in the drains, Billy, get into housing. Problem is, he’s taking care of six or seven cats and doesn’t want to abandon them. The three-legged momma cat, a 10-month-old and four or five kittens need a home. If you want a cat or know someone who does, please let me know. Also, if you know of a no-kill shelter or someplace we can take them, let me know. The social workers aren’t sure what to do with the cats.
It’s been three weeks since my last day at CityLife, and things are going pretty well. I’ve written an essay for a photo book on Las Vegas (more details later), I’ve finished five stories of a 10-to-12-story collection set in Vegas and I’ve done some freelance writing and editing. I’ve also traveled. (Lake Tahoe is gorgeous this time of year.)
But the coolest thing I’ve done is ride around on my mountain bike. I’ve been riding it (somewhat clumsily) to the gym and coffee shop, and marveling at the simplicity of it. Two sprockets, two pedals, and a chain – da Vinci (if he really did design it) was brilliant! I’ve convinced myself the bike is one of the greatest inventions ever.
Anyway, I should have some news to report in the next two or three weeks. Please check back occasionally.
I recently submitted my resignation at CityLife. My last day will be Jan. 2. There are a lot of reasons I’m resigning, after nearly eight years full time at the paper, but basically it comes down to this: I want to challenge myself more as a “creative” writer. I want to write more books, screenplays, essays, commentaries, book reviews, etc., and less news stories and news briefs. While I really like reporting, I want to use my own voice more. It’s time for new challenges.
I’m leaving with more than a month’s notice, and I plan to continue to write for CityLife. I also plan to freelance for other local and regional publications. But mainly I want to work on a second book, a screenplay based on my first book, Beneath the Neon, and other “creative” projects. I also plan to work out more – I know; I’ve been saying that for years, but this time I’m for real! – travel more and, in general, enjoy life more.
I’m a bit apprehensive, but mostly excited.
My 10 years at CityLife (I freelanced for the paper for two years before I came on staff) have been, by far, the best experience of my life. I’ve learned so much about Las Vegas. I’ve met so many smart and interesting people. I’ve grown a lot as a person and a writer.
Hopefully, I can use the experience to my benefit over the next few years. Thanks for your support!
Saturday’s signing provided yet another weird publishing-world moment. I arrived at B. Dalton to discover two tables in front of the store: one for me and one for another author, who was already there. Store management had double-booked, to borrow a music-industry term. Oh well. No biggie. Except that the other author was a hard-seller, soliciting every mall rat and soccer mom who slinked by the store. His voice is still echoing in my head.
While I cringed at his aggressiveness, I also had to admire his tenacity. And yes, he probably sold more books than I did in that two-hour span. How could he not? Dude was P.T. Fucking Barnum.
Luckily, a few friends dropped by and kept me company at the table: J.P., Mosher, Cathy Scott (who’s already promoting her yet-to-published Katrina pet book), Jim Buckley and others. My new friend Tiffany took some cool pics, which I haven’t quite figured out how to post on this blog.
Anyway, not much going on book-wise through the end of the year. But if anything pops up, I’ll let you all know.
Finally! My last scheduled event of the year. A book signing from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Galleria Mall’s B. Dalton. If you haven’t bought the book or gotten it signed, this will be the most convenient time and place to do it.
Hope to see you there!
The Vegas Valley Book Festival went well, I thought. Interesting authors. Compelling readings and panel discussions. Good crowds. And yes, free food and drinks. Also, the volunteers were extremely helpful.
Geoff Schumacher, Kurt Borchard and I drew a nice crowd to our panel discussion on homelessness in Las Vegas. Brian “Paco” Alvarez, Gail Sacco, Amanda Haymond, Deanna Rilling, Josh Ellis, Elizabeth, Jonathan (sp?) from the Coffee Bean and a lot of people I didn’t recognize showed up … on a Friday morning … at the El Cortez. Thanks, y’all!
The book signing at First Friday also went well, I thought.
As of today, I only have one book signing left this year: 1 p.m.- 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at B. Dalton (in the Galleria Mall). I’ll post more about that as the date approaches.
If you’ve been waiting for something from me other than a book signing, it’s finally here. “Down and Out in Las Vegas: The Struggle to Survive in Sin City” is a panel discussion about homelessness, moderated by author and journalist Geoff Schumacher. Kurt Borchard (The Word on the Street) and I will read from and discuss our books and what we discovered roaming the city’s streets and exploring the storm drains. We will also talk about the unique challenges the homeless face amid the glitz, glamour and high-rolling of Las Vegas.
The panel discussion – which has been funded, in part, by an Artist Fellowship award from the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency – will run from 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, at the El Cortez Hotel (600 E. Fremont St.). I’ll sign books after the discussion and from 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at First Friday (near the Funk House).
The panel discussion is part of the two-day Vegas Valley Book Festival. For more info on the festival, visit www.vegasvalleybookfest.org.