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

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.

Another book signing

I’m taking part in the Big Read Book Festival, Saturday, April 5, at the Clark County Library (1401 E. Flamingo Road). The festival runs from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. and features workshops, a used book sale and book signings. I’ll sell and sign copies of Beneath the Neon from 1 p.m.-3 p.m.

For more info on the Big Read Book Festival, visit

Pahrump postmortem

My car made it to Pahrump and back, so I’m considering Saturday’s book signing a rousing success. I also sold a few books and bought two books I’ve been wanting to buy: H. Lee Barnes’ Minimal Damage: Stories of Veterans and Geoff Schumacher’s Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue. As expected, the townsfolk were friendly. They asked questions about the books, acted interested in the subjects, and mildly criticized Las Vegas, though their disdain for the “Big City” obviously runs deep.

Overall, the drive over the hump to Pahrump and back was well worth it.

A reminder

I have a book signing Saturday, March 29, in Pahrump. 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.”

Miss you, Yo!

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.

Going to Pahrump for a – um – book signing

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.”

Cats found a home

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.

Cats need a home

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.