Thanksgiving in the tunnels: Part II

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last post and donated goods. I have plenty of clothes to take into the tunnels, but could use more bottled water, canned goods and blankets. If you can spare any of those things and can meet this week before Thursday, let me know. Thanks.

Thanksgiving in the tunnels of Vegas

A few of you have asked how you can help the people living in the underground flood channels of Vegas. Here’s your chance. I’m going into the storm drains on Thanksgiving to catch up with friends and bring them food, water, blankets and clothing. I try to live sparsely – as a writer, I have no choice – and I don’t have a lot of extra stuff. So if you have canned goods, bottled water, blankets, sweatshirts, sweaters, winter jackets, etc., that you can spare, please let me know. (Mostly men’s clothing is needed, but there are a few women living down there, too.)

You can drop the stuff off at my apartment (I live near Paradise and Desert Inn) or meet me at one of my haunts: the Coffee Bean across from UNLV, Rejavanate (Flamingo and Pecos) or Tea Planet at Chinatown. Or I can pick up the stuff at your work or home, if I’m in the area.

If you’re interested, message me or shoot me an e-mail. Thanks.

Great party!

The Las Vegas Art Museum sure knows how to throw a party. The Vegas 360 book-launch party and photo exhibit opening was well-organized, well-attended and fun as hell. The museum’s staff is professional and really took care of the photographer, writers and attendees. It was an all-around cool event.

Thanks to everyone who showed up!

Vegas 360 book-launch party

Early this year, shortly after resigning from CityLife, I wrote an essay for a book featuring panoramic photos of Las Vegas. The book, Vegas 360 (BrightCity Books), will be available at a launch party and photo-exhibit opening Friday at the Las Vegas Art Museum. Vegas 360 features 64 full-color photos by Thomas R. Schiff and essays by UNLV English professor Douglas Unger, CityLife staff writer David Surratt, Review-Journal special projects editor A.D. Hopkins and others. My essay runs with pictures of Caesars Palace and talks about what’s beneath the historic hotel-casino.

The Vegas 360 book-launch party and photo-exhibit opening will be held Friday, Oct. 24, from 5-7 p.m. at the Las Vegas Art Museum (9600 W. Sahara Ave. ). For more info on the event, call 702-360-8000 or visit www.lvam.org. For more info on the book, visit www.brightcitybooks.com (which is under construction and should be up soon).

‘Food for Thought’ follow-up

As advertised, the “Food for Thought” benefit dinner was a really cool event. A lot of people showed up and I had a smart and inquisitive table. Thanks to Ken, Holly, Tom, Lou Anne, the other Tom, Veronica and my friend Billy (I think I got the names right) for an entertaining evening. Also, the food was outstanding.

The dinner benefited Nevada Humanities, a sponsor of the Vegas Valley Book Festival. This year, the festival will be held from Nov. 6-8 in downtown Las Vegas. For more info, visit www.nevadahumanities.org.

A reminder …

The night of Oct. 12, I’m taking part in a really cool event that will support Nevada Humanities. It’s called “Food for Thought,” and it’s a benefit dinner with an interesting twist: Each table will focus on one topic, with a moderator guiding the conversation. Sample topics include: “The Xs and Os of Success,” moderated by UNLV men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger; “Drought Along the Colorado River,” moderated by Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy; and “Politics in the Silver State,” moderated by author and Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith. I’m moderating a discussion titled “Beneath the Neon,” which will focus on who and what lurks in the underground flood channels of Las Vegas.

For more information on the “Food for Thought” benefit dinner, visit www.nevadahumanities.org.

Just joined Facebook

If you’re on MySpace and not a “friend,” please send me a request. My URL is www.myspace.com/beneaththeneon. Also, I just joined Facebook. Search for “Matthew O’Brien” and add me as a friend.

I know. I’m such a social networking whore!

Let’s do dinner!

The night of Oct. 12, I’m taking part in a really cool event that will support Nevada Humanities. It’s called “Food for Thought,” and it’s a benefit dinner with an interesting twist: Each table will focus on one topic, with a moderator guiding the conversation. Sample topics include: “The Xs and Os of Success,” moderated by UNLV men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger; “Drought Along the Colorado River,” moderated by Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy; and “Politics in the Silver State,” moderated by author and Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith. I’m moderating a discussion titled “Beneath the Neon,” which will focus on who and what lurks in the underground flood channels of Las Vegas.

Admittedly, it’s not the most appetizing topic. And at $150, the dinner isn’t cheap. But the topic is no less appetizing than Nevada politics (thanks for pointing that out, Becky), the dinner is tax-deductible and it’s for a good cause.

For more information on the “Food for Thought” benefit dinner, visit www.nevadahumanities.org.

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.