I’m proud to report that Shine a Light has housed its first client in its fledgling partnership with Freedom House. We can’t reveal too much about him, because of confidentiality concerns, but he’s originally from California and had been living in the tunnels off and on for about three years. He emerged from a double-barrel drain we know well near the south Strip. Eight to 10 other people—all of whom we have made contact with and many of whom I consider friends—currently reside in the drain. The client now has access to several services, including drug counseling, case management, job training and a GED program.
A hearty congrats to the Shine a Light staff and to the client! May he be the first of many!
“I tell these guys all the time as long as a man draws breath there’s hope for recovery. It’s never too late; there’s no bottom too low; there’s no hole you can’t climb out of. When I see a man in a hole I jump in with him. He says, ‘Dude, now we’re both stuck here.’ And I tell him, ‘It’s OK, brother. I know the way out.’”
—Rick, in the drains from 2010 to 2013
My 12th grade AP Lit class is currently covering metaphysical poetry. These cats (John Donne, Andrew Marvell et al.) were next level, and Donne’s intricate poem/puzzle “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” provided me some strange solace following a long, confusing week. (You’re in my thoughts, Las Vegas!) I hope it provides you some, too.
“As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No: …”
Thanks to everyone who reached out to me following the tragic events in Las Vegas. I’m fine physically; as many of you know, I’m teaching in Central America and have not been in Vegas since late July. However, I’m shaken mentally.
My thoughts are with everyone directly affected by this unspeakable tragedy and with my friends who live in an underground flood channel in the area. They often use the sidewalk between Mandalay Bay and the outdoor concert hall, pausing to enjoy a song or two from the far side of the fence. From second-hand sources, I heard they were cleared out of the drain as a precautionary measure. But I haven’t heard if they are all OK.
If you know any of these fine folks and you’ve heard from them, please let me know. I’ll do the same for you.
With love and sympathy from San Salvador …
Got my name in the paper. Special thanks to John Glionna for the wonderful story and Rachel Aston for the revealing video and pics. I’m honored.
Man who shined light on Las Vegas’ tunnel dwellers moving on
Here’s a KNPR interview Paul Vautrinot and I did a week or so ago. It’s an exit interview of sorts with me, and Paul and I discuss the future of Shine a Light.
Out Of The Darkness: Escaping The Las Vegas Tunnels
I found a home for my Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel notes and memorabilia: Special Collections at UNLV’s Lied Library. They plan to sort through the boxes—handwritten notes, taped interviews, email correspondence with editors, edited drafts, etc.—and eventually make the contents available to the public. (If you ever want to hear me splashing through a storm drain, babbling to myself in a nervous stutter, you know where to go.)
The best part of the experience was I got to spend some time with two warm and talented longtime Las Vegans, Aaron Mayes and Su Kim Chung. Thanks, Aaron and Su Kim!
I’m excited to announce that my Shine a Light community project, which was founded in 2009 to help the people who live in the underground flood channels of Vegas, will be folded into Freedom House’s programming. This will allow Shine a Light to more directly provide housing, counseling and other services to the people in the drains. I will remain involved in the program as much as possible from San Salvador, but Paul Vautrinot, who once lived in the tunnels, will be the point person.
More details on the collaboration will be available in the days to come. In the meantime, please like Freedom House Sober Living’s Facebook page, visit its website (http://www.freedomhousesoberliving.com/
) and consider donating to it. Thanks!
Big things are brewing with my community project Shine a Light. Sometimes you have to let go (a little) of the things you love for them to reach their full potential. More on this soon.
My interview with a bike thief: