Interview: Nicholas Oliva, Author of Finding God: To Believe or Not To Believe

November 8, 2010

Please tell us a bit about your book: Finding God: To Believe or Not To BelieveFinding God: To Believe or Not to Believe is merely one human’s perspective and life experiences I am sure will mirror many other beings on this planet. To answer the question “why?” we must begin to understand who we are and what our limitations are. To be so arrogant as to have all the answers is the beginning of any normal human exclusionary, and possibly violent, action against those who would do harm in order to force others to believe as they do. No sword or bullet will convince any fanatic to change their mind. However, the defining point for a fanatic is a relative term in this world. Those who do nothing to stop this behavior can be just as guilty as the fanatic they allow to perpetuate such violence by tacit approval.

I waited a long time to begin writing this book. The incidents contained within occurred in October 2004, while at a hospital in Nevada. There are a few reasons why I chose to wait this long to tell my story. The first and most influential was the reasoning that by taking a stand on what I experienced and believe, I would have many detractors and people who would attack me in order to perpetuate and bolster their own beliefs and/or lack of beliefs and use me as an example. In order to fully explain what I’ve gone through, I will have to touch upon religion, morality, and ethics. My eschatological theme is actually non-religious and promotes the energy within as Godly, not the looking outward, by seeing with the eyes of the world. I always have been skeptical of near-death experiences or NDE. So it was with much skepticism I examined the empirical evidence of charts confirming the flat-line of my heart while in intensive care.

Much of what I think goes back to a search for meaning I have been drawn to throughout my life, beginning at a very early age. I was an altar boy, studied Latin, and planned to become a priest until the Pastor I adored, and everyone in the parish loved, committed multiple acts of sexual abuse to me and others over a period of four years. Those acts changed my thought process about the sanctity of the Church and the real questioning began in earnest for me. The idea of such a tidy and pious devotion to a religion containing more holes than Swiss cheese, as well as a whole horde of other accepted dogma of Catholicism, brought me to a silent, but pervasive, pensiveness.

All of this being said on such a heady subject, I have tried to write this in a non-scholarly, at times humorous and hopefully interesting, but easily digestible way. I’m sure there will be some indigestion occurring with those who will remain opposed to logical thought, irrational fear, and immovable theology. Bon appétit to those of diverse palates.

Do you have any particular habits that you do while writing? Places you write the best, foods, drinks, etc that help set your “writing mood”?

I need to be away from any stimulus that will distract me. I can take notes anywhere but I need to be in an initial Zen state in order for my imagination to really flow. Then I usually have to write by hand because my hands cannot keep up with my thoughts. I have a sort of shorthand to jot things down quickly so I will not forget phrasing and ideas.

What are you reading right now?

Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond and The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?

Ken Kesey, Ernest Hemingway, Sun Tzu, Katherine Neville, Henry Miller, Dalton Trumbo, Frederich Nietzsche, Camille Paglia, Kurt Vonnegut

If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Dalton Trumbo, a man who was blacklisted by the “commie scare” of the McCarthy Era, was an incredible writer. His ability to place characters in “damned if you, damned if you don’t” situations mirrored real life dramas. He was the master of the bittersweet. The script for the movie The Sandpiper best represents that. Johnny Got His Gun was written in 1938 about WWI but was picked up during the Vietnam War by college students as the relevancy remained. That is a chilling novel. It is ironic that Trumbo was able to direct the movie in 1971. Kirk Douglas in his courageousness forced the studio to give Mr. Trumbo credit for writing Spartacus that, in my opinion, helped the beginning of an end to a bitter and embarrassing episode in our modern history.

Okay, here are a few “get to know you better” questions:

Please share with us a favorite memory.

That’s a difficult question. I have no favorite memory, I have many great memories… way too many to single-out one particular moment. The best memories are those that bring joy to others, to make others laugh. I love clever double and triple meanings in phrases and sometimes I’m on the crest of a wave able to surf that Ethernet of the mind and come up with things that even I am surprised that pop up without warning. Laughter is the best medicine and makes for the best memories.

Please describe a perfect meal – including menu and those present.

Would that be lunch or dinner? It makes a big difference. For lunch a huge corned-beef sandwich from the Carnegie Deli (sorry vegans, I was once one but this sandwich is way too incredible) with spicy mustard. For dinner, a table at Sutro’s at the Cliff House in San Francisco with many great friends of the present and past. Dinner would consist of Ahi Tuna Tartare with pine nuts and Asian pears, Dungeness Crab Cakes, and Seared Herb Marinated Sea Scallops and then Pumpkin Bread Pudding for dessert. All while over top of the Pacific watching the sun set.

What are some of your favorite ways to relax?

I love to travel to new places and meet people from all walks of life. I am a movie buff and have a huge collection of DVD’s. I love photography and poetry as well. Playing music is the most fun.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

One of two places come to mind; in the redwoods near Santa Cruz or a hacienda on the beaches of the Baja. I love being around young minds and the University of California is in Santa Cruz and the deep forest smells and beauty are so close to the ocean. It is wonderful. The fog cools things down and there is so much to do there and many places to play music. It has a gestalt that appeals to who I am. A Mexican beach is just as lovely but with much more solitude and I like quiet uninterrupted spaces and Mexico is more affordable so it’s a toss-up.

If you could only read books by one author, who would it be? *I know, this is an inconceivable thought, lol.

That is really a question that takes some logic. If I could only read one author and I had a lifetime to read then I would logically read someone who has voluminous output so I wouldn’t get bored. If it was only one book the answer would probably be War and Peace but one author? For the sake of something to read it would have to be Stephen King or Sue Grafton, just on the principle of having something to last without having to re-read something a thousand times.

Share with us a few of your dreams. Also whether they have been fulfilled or are still a work in progress.

As Jean Rostand has said, “A man is not old as long as he is seeking something.” And one of my favorite authors writes, “Dreams are the substance of reality” (Henry Miller). Dreaming is what gets me through to tomorrow. They can take hold with little things and it is the little things that add up to the big things that can happen. I’ve learned long ago that what happens sometimes is beyond one’s control, but how one reacts is the true measure of whether happiness exists after the dream is reached. After all a dream is no longer a dream if it is now reality. One should always watch for what one dreams. They may come true. Keep rowing that boat down the stream, merrily.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

Guilty? As charged your honor. I’m a diabetic but I have a sweet tooth so walking by a Godiva Chocolate Shoppe takes maximum discipline that doesn’t always work.

If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?

People should take good wishes from anyone and whatever sources that may be based on illusions of what anyone may think “God” is. Those good wishes are still good deeds and not a road to hell as many atheists want to believe. They do not want to believe it because they do not want to validate anyone’s religion because they think that if they allow any piece of that religion then they are acknowledging all of it. And atheists have a point in that they are highly discriminated against by those of religion. They have a tougher road to hoe than Wiccans. I think they should be called naturalists, not atheists, as it is closer to what they ascribe. They believe in the natural order of things. There are also different levels of what constitutes atheism. I think that many become hostile as a result of the backlash that is given to the negative connotations of the word atheist and what it implies to most people.

I think that good thoughts are good deeds and a prayer is hopefully also a good thought. I seriously doubt most even know what god they’re praying to as members of the same faith have different mindsets of what that deity is in their minds. My point in all this is that love in all aspects trump any and all dogma, non-believing, or any “Word of God” that tell you to hurt anyone else in the name of that religion. As far as I’m concerned in my book (literally) caring for a human being without conditions is a wonderful thing and far supersedes any and all other beliefs or actions. Too bad few do exactly that, but there are people out there trying. Hope should replace faith and perhaps we’d be on the higher road.

I know of many people who will not have an opportunity to enjoy family and close friends because of petty bickering. I know of others whose pride allowed the opportunity to be lost, probably forever, over nothing but misconceived and misdirected anger. Life is not like the movies with the sun-setting, happy ending, and all being well. It is tough and hard to swallow at times, but hope is the only answer there is regardless of what you believe and what god you pray to, if at all. Try to never assume, always give the benefit of the doubt to all, in order to live the life of a real human being. It can be the beginning of a new beginning. Scattering love and happiness is worth the effort, those seeds will grow, I assure you. One must have love for one’s self to be able to spread love unconditionally.

Nicholas Oliva resides in the quiet mountains of Nevada.  Readers can learn more about Mr. Oliva at any of the following sites:

www.tobelieveornot.com  OnlyMoments  Only Moments by Nick Oliva  Facebook | Finding God: To Believe or Not To Believe or his home page  http://www.facebook.com/noliva.



May 22, 2010

 The original Moog Synth

Many moons ago when vinyl reigned and concerts cost $6.50 for a ticket that included at least one opening act, a complex fusion of classical, jazz, rock, and modern mash-ups emerged that sold out stadiums and arenas. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer were back there in the late sixties merging Bartok, Bernstein, Brubeck, and Beethoven into a style of rock that few could come close to duplicating. They were considered one of the ultimate “supergroups” selling over 40 million albums.

The concert at the Las Vegas Hilton tonight was in an intimate setting of less than 800 seats and billed as Emerson and Lake-no Palmer would be present. As many know Greg Lake was also a member of King Crimson in its heyday with Robert Fripp and Bill Bruford, but that’s another story. The monstrous nine foot stack of oscillators complete with old rotary potentiometers from the “Apollo 8” era stood tall beside a Hammond B-3 with hundreds of 1/4 phone patch cords to audio adaptations such as now defunct terms as envelopes, sawtooth waveforms, graphic filters, porting and expansion controls, and others too obscure to mention. Unlike the relics usually brought onstage just for show by other bands, this monstrosity was fully functional and used to palpitate your aorta and buzz your sphincter as Keith Emerson dialed his way to the sounds of yesteryear that encompassed the lowest lows and the highest highs.

The stage setting was at “Manticore” recording studio with just the two of them playing to tracks already laid down, talking about each piece, how it was conceived and the little bits of trivia surrounding each. With the “unplugged” atmosphere the talents of these men became more than apparent as each note could be heard precisely without the echoing of a vast stadium turning magnificent runs into a dopplerish muck of indistinguishable muddiness.

“From the Beginning,” was the first song. It was clear Lake (62 years-old) was up to the task. Emerson’s different arrangements kept it all fresh. They wasted no time going into King Crimson’s “I Talk To The Wind,” which was a beautiful rendition. After a chat about Lake throwing stones across a lake drawing inspiration for the next song “Take A Pebble” began and morphed into what amounted to the first side of Tarkus. There was one point in the show when Emerson (65 years-old) paid tribute to Brubeck’s Rondo from his old group “The Nice” years but changed the 9/8 time signature to 4/4 and included “America” from West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera theme-played backwards from the other side of his keyboards, Rondo of course, and then slid into a the sound of the legendary organist Jimmy Smith’s B-3 groove.

They opened up the concert for questions from the audience and there were more than a few chuckles about their breakups and egos. For the record, Lake declared, “to be passionate about one’s music requires strength of conviction and the band never argued about anything but the music, which if we all are passionate is a healthy thing. Don’t forget we were together constantly over ten years and needed to take a break from the touring and recording together. There was no ill will, ever.”

The “studio engineer” mixed the drum, bass, percussion, and layered tracks from a “recording booth” behind them and all in all it was a magical evening. Would Carl Palmer have made a big difference? Yes, but then the entire show would have been louder, less intimate, and the showcasing of these incredible musicians would not have been in the forefront.

They ended the show and came back for an encore with “What A Lucky Man He Was.” I was the lucky one to be there to hear their top ten hit that blared through the radio speakers of my car while driving through the youthful nights. The backstory on that song was that Lake had written it when he was 13 years-old and when they recorded their first album they needed one last song to finish it. Lake played it for Emerson who wasn’t impressed with it but told Lake to go ahead a lay some tracks down. When Emerson returned, the brand new monstrous Moog had been setup in the studio and Emerson began to improvise to “Lucky Man” not knowing that Lake had the recording button on….hence the infamous solo captured on the first take and forever associated with that old folksy song electrifying it and propelling it into the top ten.

The most amazing thing is that they have yet to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “When I look at some of the other people who’ve been inducted, there should be a place for the contribution that ELP and King Crimson made to the world of modern music,” Lake said. “Why ignore that absolutely stark reality, you know?”


Las Vegas-CitiCenter Design

February 11, 2010

CitiCenter in Las Vegas is an 8 billion dollar sprawing complex that has and is still under construction. Three towers opened by New Year’s 2010 and I toured the area that is banking on the futuristic architecture and design to draw a new generation of tourists. Here are some pictures taken one afternoon. The above shot is a picture of a tiled floor from a balcony.

The spired entrance to Aria.

The monorail between towers.

Reflection of a tower within a tower.

Part of a massive waterfall.

A full wall advertisement in the Crystals Mall.

Crystals in the Crystals Mall

Steps detail

Partial front view as it is impossible to get all of CitiCenter in one picture.

Claes Olderburg’s Eraser

Ceiling detail.

Floral strip in Crystals Mall

Mandarin Tower

Showroom detail.

Water tornado garden.

Underside Restaurant detail.



January 12, 2010


Ash Meadows is located on the Nevada side just in the shadow of Death Valley and administered by the same Park Service. It is an immense valley of water that is just below the surface and shows itself in the many springs that dot the landscape in a valley located next to the driest place in the nation, the middle of the Mohave Desert. In 1978, the Supreme Court ordered that no one could utilize this water mainly due to the handful of tiny pupfish that were found in Devil’s Hole, a subterranean, thermal-fed spring, and thus declared an endangered species. At one time, 10,000 years ago, this was a vast lake and through those thousands of years the water evaporated. The only evidence of that water are these visible springs that remain and the water just below the surface that is part of an immense ancient aquifier. (All photos by Nick)


The Ash Meadows

The blue shift from the setting sun.

Prehistoric veins of a time long gone.

Granite crumbling creating a cave.

The Sentinels keep watch

A lava outcropping.

A can dating from the 30’s originally from India.

A dry desert mountainside looms above the aquifier.

A bush gives evidence to water just below it.

Nature’s upthrust millions of years ago.

The sun sets on a lovely afternoon………..



March 24, 2009



















Death Valley 20 Mule Team Day Trip

February 23, 2009


The Yaga Labyrinth is named in honor of the indigenous Paiute people who inhabited the area near Death Valley, now known as Tecopa, California. The labyrinth is built on an elevated space offering spectacular views of mountains, deposits of glacial Lake Tecopa, and a riparian habitat of the Amargosa River, which is a stopping place for migratory birds, and home to the endangered Amargosa vole. -Tecopa Website  http://www.tecopahotsprings.org/


The new GM bailout model coming to your dealership soon………


And here’s the new Jeep bailout model…….


On the Road to Furnace Creek………….


Near Furnace Creek


Everybody Must Get Stoned



January 4, 2009

Dedicated to the memory of Frank Peteani – January 4, 1925 to  August 31, 1995

Look out of any window any morning, any evening, any day.
Maybe the sun is shining birds are winging or
rain is falling from a heavy sky…
What do you want me to do,
to do for you, to see you through?
This is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago.


Look into any eyes you find by you, you can see clear through to another day. I know it’s been seen before, through other eyes on other days while going home —    What do you want me to do, to do for you to see you through?   It’s all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago.

Walk into splintered sunlight.  Inch your way through dead dreams to another land.  Maybe you’re tired and broken. Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken and thoughts unclear. What do you want me to do… to do for you to see you through?  A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through.


Just a box of rain….wind and water.  Believe it if you need it, if you don’t just pass it on… Sun and shower… Wind and rain… in and out the window, like a moth before a flame.


It’s just a box of rain, I don’t know who put it there. Believe it if you need it or leave it if you dare… But it’s just a box of rain, or a ribbon for your hair.  Such a long, long time to be gone, and a short time to be there………

Photos by Nick Oliva (looking out my window) 

Lyrics by Robert Hunter-1971



December 15, 2008












October 10, 2008



We here in Las Vegas are in the top five areas of foreclosure, sub-prime, and abandonment of what was high-priced housing.  It looked like we might dodge a bullet with the employment opportunities of the new construction of MGM-Mirage’s City Center, Boyd Gaming’s Echelon, and Steve Wynn’s Encore among other large projects.  MGM’s project got snagged-up in a financing problem but is now on track and Encore is getting ready to open as well.  Boyd Gaming cancelled Echelon until further notice and the unemployment rate is now over 8% here-a record never seen in Vegas before. 

These problems resonate beyond Vegas-throughout the country and the world.  The deleveraging of trillons of dollars locked up in real estate losses sends stock sales scorching the indexes as the cash needed to unwind and divest indiscriminately throws out both the baby and the bath water.  So you ask, “Why bring this up, Nick, don’t you think we are already depressed enough for the next 20 years?”  Well, here comes the back end of the problem that no one has addressed yet.

If the government sets up a mortgage relief fund to bail out homeowners, the government is the holder of the note or mortgage.  If the people who are obligated to pay that mortgage lose their jobs or simply walk away from the home, unlike a normal foreclosure where the city and state still assess taxes (and the new buyer or mortgage holder must pay them)-Uncle Sam does not pay taxes.  Let me repeat that: Uncle Sam does not pay taxes, no way no how, zilch, zero, verkact, nada, nothing.  Ergo, if this phenomena continues in a downward spiral, tax bases will erode even further than they have now and less money will flow into state and city government, and even at the federal level as people lose jobs. 

I hope we don’t get to that point, but if we do, Newton’s Third Law of action and reaction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton’s_laws_of_motion) will show itself in full force.  Printing money will go into hyperdrive (Not that is hasn’t now) and it could take many years to heal these wounds.  Hopefully, it will not get that far, and my red flag isn’t relevant, but right now…………

I am a part of it, as you are, as we are all together………………..see how they fly like pigs in the sky see how they run. 

We will get through this as well!



September 27, 2008

On the 56th floor of The Palms Casino on Flamingo Road, the Ghostbar has become the ultra-slick social spot for celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Ashlee Simpson, the Kardashian family, Mario Andretti, Kid Rock or Pam (never at the same time), Avril Lavigne and more.  The modern furniture outside and the incredible view of the city from all points is breathtaking.  If that’s not enough, walk over and stand on the glass floor and look 55 stories straight down.  It’s a rush whether you’ve had a few or not.  The fun part is you, yes little old you, can go there and hang with your friends and enjoy yourselves drinking the special “Ghostini” to prepare you for an enchanting experience. 

The name of the joint derives from the ceiling over the lounge by the bar, that has an intended ghostly appearance.  You might see Bruce Willis or Halley Joel Osment without a ‘sixth sense.’  It’s a hip place that fills up on the weekend so if you are not into crowds go during the week, however the ‘stars’ come out at night and one will never know who you will see.  Across the street, the Rio’s Voodoo lounge was the hotspot years ago, but the change in ownership years ago turned a hot property with many firsts (first dance club, first wine bar, first ‘Show in the Sky,’ and many others) into a ho-hum sorta place.  The Palms is the new hot spot, but no matter where you go here in Vegas, there are so many deals with vouchers for food, gaming, and hundreds of dollars for return trips, the time to come here is now while they are discounting everything because of the credit crunch.  Just go online to Vegas.com and they are all there. If you’re in for a vacation no matter what the economy is doing, this is the place for value for your dollar.  And one last word; if it really is the end of the world, well this is the place to party into oblivion.  Hopefully, it will just be fun and worth the trip without the angst of reality.

It the words of Jeff Spicoli;   Party on, Dudes!