Just over a month ago, my wife Heron and I returned from our first trip to Hawaii. We stayed on the island of Kauai, which is the fourth largest of the islands on the archipelago, and it’s nicknamed the “Gardens Isle” because it’s filled with rain forest, beautiful hibiscus, and incredible birds, including the Brazilian Cardinal. It rains quite a bit, but the weather is pleasant (I’m sure some entrepreneur could bottle the air and sell it to snowbirds), and the ocean is refreshing. If you look at a weather report or the North Shore, then you’ll probably see that it’s supposed to rain all week, but it rains somewhat like Florida: on and off. Kauai also has an extensive cinematic history. Jurassic Park and a scene from Indiana Jones were filmed here. According to local legend, Ben Stiller lives in Kauai and runs around the island, and Peter, Paul, and Mary wrote “Puff the Magic Dragon,” when they came and visited the “Garden Isle.” Because I loved the place so much, I decided to write a top 10 list of things to do with you wife before you die. Since I’ve had such fun experiences with lists and dying, I thought I would try it again. Here we go.
The Na Pali Coast is considered one of the deadliest hikes in the world, and we ventured about two miles along the path. The photo above is taken from a spot on a ledge. The wind was blowing so hard that I lost the cap to my lens. I did not venture down the ledge to find it. The hike is actually slippery and, at times, treacherous. But don’t let fear stop you from witnessing all the beauty out there.
Paddle Boarding in Hanalei
In Hanalei, which is on the North Side of the island, there is a river that runs into an animal sanctuary. We rented a paddle board right near the center of Hanalei and paddled into the animal sanctuary. We saw a family of turtles resting on a log and heard countless birds that we could not name. If you think of the word animal sanctuary and you’re worried about being in the wild, then keep in mind that Hawaii has no predatory species. (Nothing that will hurt you.) At least, according to Erik, our hike guide.
The Prime Rib Night at the Westin
We stayed at the Westin Hotel on the North Shore the first two nights, and I took the photo above from our balcony. Our room overlooked the golf course. It was pleasant. The best part about the stay, however, was their prime rib night. I believe it was Thursday, and it was probably the best prime rib I have ever had.
Friday Night Festival in Hanapepe
On Friday nights in Hanapepe, the home of the most western bookstore in the United States (you’ll have to buy a book if you have to take a piss), the town closes down the main street for a fair. They have incredible food, including hot dogs with lechon, and many other delicacies served from food trucks and carts. They have music and are so friendly. This is on the south side of the Island, so I suggest pairing it up with a trip to Waimea Canyon if you’re staying on the north.
9. Waimea Canyon
On the south side of the island, the landscape changes, and you will find what Mark Twain called “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It’s a far drive to the south side from the north side, but you’ll be grateful you made the trip to see the site above.
While there is a lot to see in Kauai, just make sure you find some time to reflect with your wife. You only have one life, so I suggest you take the time to be in the moment before it’s gone. Breathe in the fresh air from the top of a fucking mountain and be in love. Do it!
I took the months of May and June off from the blog to put the most energy into my novel, The Working Poet Radio Show, and, well, just finding some time to enjoy the family. To the progress of my novel, it’s been instrumental to add Scrivener and Aeon Timeline, which has helped me organize my writing, drafting, and timelines.
For the last two months, I tried to sketch the characters (pages and pages of learning), until they started to come alive a bit on the page, and flesh out the plot. I think I’m at the point where some of the characters have autonomy and the plot holds together, so I can start blogging again.
I’m still a while away from a completed draft, but I’m trying not to take on many new projects until it’s finished.
I heard something the other day (well, I actually read it the other day) in some essay on helping aspiring writers. I usually think these types of posts are complete bullshit, but I read this piece because I respected the writer. I can’t remember the author’s name, but the message was important…not the name. “Don’t start writing your next project until your current one is complete.” I’m not changing creative projects until this draft is finished. My shoulder is to the wheel.
But I’ll start blogging again this week and release a post on my recent trip to Kauai. Here is a sneak peek. Thanks for sticking around.
Last week I had my essay, “How to Get Your Paranoid Mother into the Poisonous Ambulance,” published at Narratively — considered a top 50 website by Time Magazine. Besides having the capability to tell my story on such an incredible platform, I was lucky enough to have the piece accompanied by illustrations from Danielle Chenette, an animator, illustrator, and printmaker originally from Millbury, Massachusetts, living and working in Chicago. I love her illustrations, and it really helped capture the theme of Mommy Dearest, which was the editorial focus of Narratively for the week leading up to Mother’s Day.
This publication was special for many reasons, but it ultimately marked a completion of a difficult journey within my writing. If you haven’t read the piece, then let me fill you in a bit. It’s the story of when I hard to return home when my mother was off her medicine and missing in Massachusetts. She has bipolar, and for most of my life, our family has had to handle the ups and downs of the disorder. It was November, 2013, and I flew home to try to convince my mother (with the of my brother) to voluntarily head into a hospital with a higher level of care to help her find equilibrium.
Well, writing this essay — and even that above paragraph — is truly monumental for me, because it marks a major transition artistically and personally. For most of my life, I’ve kept my mother’s illness a secret, but I have often felt the need to write about it. In fact, it’s almost been a compulsion, and I’ve told versions of this story before, but I’ve never told it in the memoir form and put the stamp of truth upon the pages…until now. The story of dealing with mental illness is so important because most people keep it a secret. But why is it such a secret? Why are we so embarrassed with the imbalance of the mind? How do we tell the stories we so desperately need to tell?
But even a harder question: How do we tell those stories without hurting the people we love? That question has always stopped me from truly writing the way I needed to write. I always felt that I was going to hurt someone when I told these stories, but in the piece, I didn’t hold back. I had a wonderful editor during this process who pushed me to tell the truth in a way that was authentic and real.
In the end, I wasn’t just afraid of what my mother would think about the stories — or other members of my family — and I wasn’t afraid that people would judge my mother and think of her in a negative way. To provide a bit more insight, here is what I wrote on Facebook when I shared the story:
I almost didn’t share my essay that was published on Narratively yesterday to my personal Facebook page, because it’s a personal story and ultimately people will recognize the individuals involved…potentially judging them negatively. So I asked my brother what he thought (since he is in the story), and he pointed out that hopefully more good will come from sharing it than bad. Well, I hope that’s the case. Mental health shouldn’t be something we hide and ignore. I hope it’s something we can embrace while learning to empathize with the individuals who are suffering.
Only one person (at least that I’m aware of) criticized me for sharing this story, and this person was actual a member of my family. I don’t really talk to her anymore because of her attitude toward mental health, but she wrote on the Facebook post with the intention of shaming me for sharing a story about my family that she deemed personal. But there were so many other people who wrote to me either on the Facebook post or through a private message expressing how much they valued my courage in sharing the story. In fact, someone I greatly respect wrote: “Silence killed my mom. Thanks for sharing, Joseph Lapin.” So I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who read the piece without judgement and with compassion. It means the world.
Why is mental illness still such a stigma? Why are we scared to share that our minds can become just as sick as our lungs or our cells? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I’m suddenly more confident than ever to tell my stories. Hopefully I’ll find a way to answer some of the above questions along the way.
Every Sunday (sometimes Saturday), my wife and I head down to the farmers’ market in Hillcrest — a neighborhood in San Diego northwest of Balboa Park (one of my favorite places in the world) where a rainbow flag waves at the corner of University Avenue and Normal Street — or in Little Italy — a section of downtown that was once the Italian fisherman’s neighborhood. These neighborhoods are some of my favorite places to visit in San Diego because of their restaurants and general vibrancy, but my wife and I also consider their farmers’ markets two of the best we’ve ever been to in Southern California, even though we love the L.A. markets, too.
(My brother in law always tells a funny story of seeing Lauren Conrad pretending to shop at the farmers’ market in LA for the paparazzi. He said her assistant was holding the bags from the farmers to show she was shopping organic, and as soon as the cameras started snapping, she took the bags out of her assistants hands and started to pretend that she was holding them.)
Honestly, my wife and I really enjoy our weekend trips to either Little Italy or Hillcrest. It’s become a routine for us. We walk in Balboa Park, and then we head to grab food for the week. Before we leave, we grab the reusable bags from underneath the counter, and we drive over to the Hillcrest Market, park a couple blocks away near our favorite breakfast place The Great Maple, and start walking down the the center of the white tents as if we were walking through a bazaar in Game of Thrones.
There really is something about the farmers’ markets that just gets you. I’m not sure if it’s the fresh air, or listening to the desperate food hockers who start yelling to sway you away from the other vendors. (I always go to the people who aren’t yelling at me to try their food.) That strange and exciting tone could also be due to the fact that the vendors all give you free food. Shit, by the time my wife and I go home to cook breakfast (usually a scramble made with some fresh eggs and mushrooms) we’re already full. We filled up on the free samples of the vegan hummus, or the organic guacamole, or the dates from the old red-headed lady who never talks to you just sits in front of her plate of fresh dates, which are precisely sliced, set with toothpicks, and arranged in a perfect circle as if her fruit was just too good not to be eaten (I love that lady, and her dates), or the granola from the grannie who sells her bars with more genuine spunk than Goldie Hawn’s character in Wildcats. (Literally, the other day she told me she would sell me a granola bar any time, any place — even before the market opens or anytime I catch her on the street.)
But even though I love the characters at the farmers’ market, and their delicious pierogis, gourmet local peanut butter, fresh kale and swiss chard, infused salts, goat’s milk gelato, and cold pressed juices, I have to admit something very difficult. I love feeling that I’m healthy, supporting local farmers, and eating organic. I love know that I’m eating straight from the farm to the table, as they say, but I’ve realized something: The farmers’ market is way over priced, and it needs to change in order to create a realistic alternative to the grocery store.
I’m all about buying straight my farmer, and I know that they’re some of the hardest working people in the country, and their hands know strength that my keyboard-striking fingers will never know, but you’re really going to charge me $8 for a dozen eggs? At any grocery store, I can buy a dozen eggs that are organic and cage free for around $4. Why is it double at the farmers’ market? Some of these vendors and business owners charge reasonable prices, but when you’re selling at the farmers’ market, you don’t need to give the grocery store a cut. Perhaps I’m wrong: maybe the farmers’ market takes a cut. But why are the prices higher when there is no middle man? Yes, I get that it’s hard to grow organic crops, but if we’re ever going to be a society that eats healthier and values the lives of animals, then shouldn’t our farmers’ markets be, at least, the same price as the grocery stores who sell organic foods?
In 2011, The Atlantic ran a story that seems to contradict my frustration with farmers’ markets:
“A report released earlier this year by Jake Robert Claro, a graduate student at Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy who did the study for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, found that prices at farmers’ markets for conventionally grown produce items were lower than they were at supermarkets.”
Clearly this study is old, but it helps contextualize that people have often thought that organic food was more expensive than the conventional farming produce found in many grocery stores. In 2011, The Atlantic said I would be wrong, but I just can’t imagine that same study working today. Perhaps there is just so much demand that farmers have to charge higher prices? Here is what I found: “A January report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that while more farmers are selling directly to consumers, local food sales at farmers markets, farm stands and through community supported agriculture have lost some momentum,” according to NPR.
So the expensive prices in the San Diego farmers’ markets can’t relate to the rising demand, unless San Diego does not correlate with the rest of the country. I still can’t figure it out, and I’m not the only one. Just look no further than celebrity chef Jay Rayner. As reported by the Daily Mail, “The MasterChef star, who also works as a critic for BBC One programme The One Show, said that the overpriced fare sold at local markets is nothing more than a ‘status symbol’ for wealthy shoppers.” The article shows that Rayner went on a tirade because he had to pay £15 for a chicken.
What’s even more shocking is that Pacific Standard Magazine pointed me toward “a study of every farmers’ market in the Bronx [that] finds they are basically boutiques, offering produce that is more exotic, and more expensive, than the grocery stores located nearby. What’s more, their merchandise includes “many items not optimal for good health.” So, it’s more expensive and not even healthy. Okay, something is wrong.
But maybe I’m wrong. And I could be. I could be missing something about the industrial farming complex or something really elaborate behind the scenes, but I am committed to eating healthier and buying directly from farmers. I have bought into the farm-to-table movement, but I’m also done falling for a marketing scheme. I’m done falling for the idea that organic produce, meats, and eggs have to be double the price of grocery stores. In order for our world to be more sustainable and to create a community that supports farmers growing healthy products, there needs to be an economic shift in these white-tent bazaars that we flock to on the weekends.
I would love to hear your comments and insight. These are just observations I had from really looking at what I’m spending at the farmer’s market compared to the food I actually bring home, and I’m just not happy with my analysis. Let me know how you feel about farmers’ markets in the comment section. Also, hope you enjoyed the photos from my recent trip to LACMA. Please take the poll below.
It had started out like any other night in North Park, San Diego. I had just finished a long day of work, and it was still dark outside. We were a couple of weeks away from daylight saving time, so the longer days of summer were still in the future. I was craving those longer days and the extra amount of light, and by looking so far into the future, I wasn’t thinking about how life can change on a dime.
I had just taken my dog Hendrix on a walk around the neighborhood. He was panting a bit from the exercise. He’s in good shape, and he’s about 70 pounds of muscle. While he looks like he could rip out someone’s throat, he’s a sweetheart and wants to cuddle way more than fight, unless he feels that his family is unsafe. Then he can be a terror. He was a bit on edge when I approached the house. It was almost as if he could tell something strange was about to happen.
As I approached the house, I was wondering what to cook for dinner (my wife was at work function), and I was even thinking about just saying screw it and driving to Downtown North Park and grabbing some sushi. My thoughts were normal, and it’s funny how the moments that lead up to something important can feel so ordinary.
When I opened the screen door, I heard the creak of the wooden door, and I didn’t think much about it, until I could see Hendrix staring at something on the door. Sure enough, clinging to inside of the screen was the biggest lizard I had ever seen. I wasn’t sure what kind of lizard it was at first, but I just kept staring at it, because it was almost shockingly large. It wasn’t an iguana, and it wasn’t a snake either. I have only lived in San Diego for a few months, and my guess isn’t that good. But if I had to take a guess, I would say it was the San Diego Alligator Lizard.
I hate to disappoint you if you were expecting something more monstrous or even poisonous, but the San Diego Alligator Lizard isn’t as dangerous as the black widow, which I’ve seen in my home, or a rattlesnake. In fact, when this particular lizard wants to defend itself, it sometimes releases its tail, knowing that it will grow back, according to California Herps. They are known to bite, but I knew right away (despite the lizard’s size), it wasn’t going to be dangerous or threatening.
Hendrix was still scared, and because the lizard was on the inside of my screen door, I knew I had to get on the other side. I didn’t want the lizard crawling into bed with me at night. So I grabbed a Time magazine, rolled it up, and gently nudged the San Diego Alligator Lizard off the screen door and onto the front porch. When the lizard hit the ground, Hendrix freaked out as if he was Scooby Doo and just saw a ghost. He was backing away and barking. I’ve never seen Hendrix back away from anything before.
I didn’t want him to kill the lizard, so I brought him closer and told him the lizard didn’t want any trouble. I told him to relax and stroked his back. Calm down, Hendrix. Calm down. The lizard and Hendrix just kind of sat there looking at each other, wondering what they hell they were. I let Hendrix go inside, left the lizard alone, and cooked dinner.
The next morning I wasn’t thinking about the lizard at all. I was thinking about the same routines that I think about every day. Did I feed Hendrix? Do I have time to shower? Should I cook fried eggs again for breakfast or try that new yogurt my wife is always raving about?
Without thinking, I grabbed Hendrix’s leash, roped the leash around his neck, and opened the door to witness the sun shining so bright I had to cover my eyes from the rays. I went to shut the door behind me, but it was stuck for some reason. We have a heavy wooden door, and sometimes the welcome mat gets stuck underneath. So I moved the mat aside and tried to shut the door again. Still no luck. I slammed it perhaps four more times without the door shutting. I was confused and frustrated.
That’s when I looked into the corner of the door, and to my great horror, I saw the San Diego Alligator Lizard. It’s hard for me to say (you might think I’m crazy to give this much thought to a lizard), but when I saw the lizard in the crevice of the door, I felt like a brick had just fallen down my throat and decided to push up against the lining of my stomach. It was an awful site. Just the head of the lizard was stuck in the corner of the door, and as I was slamming the door to try to make sure it was shut, I had literally flattened the head of the San Diego Alligator Lizard.
I’m not sure how this is possible with a completely flattened skull, but the lizard was still moving. It was almost walking. I thought about trying to save it, but when you unintentionally bash the head of a 12-inch lizard, you don’t really know what course of action to take. I quickly realized there was no coming back for this reptile, and I had to bury the body. I took a rock and finished the job.
In our front yard, we have this area where there is mulch and some sculptures. We share it with our upstairs neighbor, but I wasn’t sure if he ever messed with the area that had mulch. It seemed untouched, and I figured no one would ever think twice to look there. So I took the lizard’s body, picked it up by the tail, and began to bury it under mulch and rocks.
Yes, I had just buried a body, and I felt awful. I wasn’t sure if anyone else would feel that pain. In fact, I thought that anyone else would probably poke fun at my sensitivity, but I hated the fact that I had unintentionally killed something. I told my brother-in-law when I arrived at work, and then I told my wife later. But I still felt shitty about it.
Over the next couple weeks, I would look and see if the lizard was still there. Sure enough, the lizard was still there. I probably could have buried him better, but I went about my routines, and the San Diego Alligator Lizard eventually left my thoughts.
Honestly, I didn’t think again about the lizard until a few weeks later. I was out with my neighbors, and we were talking about gardening. I started to tell the story of how I killed the lizard, and then they looked at me and started to laugh. “That explains it,” my neighbor said. “It was you.” Yes, I was caught. They finally found me. It turned out the lizard’s body had started to smell, and they uncovered the lizard under the mulch. They thought some kid had killed the thing in some cruel example of torture and wanted to hide the evidence, but in reality, it was only a grown man who felt terrible about squashing its head in a door.
I know this blog post is super dramatic (perhaps misleading), but at the same time, I actually did feel guilty for killing this creature. Would you? So I’ll put a poll question out there: Would you feel bad for killing the lizard? Answer below:
You want to know how to evaluate the bond of a life-long love? Well, like most great aspects of life, it can be found in a book. Let me explain.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve read Richard Price’s “The Whites,” Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train,” William Gibson’s, “Peripheral,” and David Sedaris’ “When You’re Engulfed in Flames,” and I’m also listening to a Stephen King book. But if you want to know about how to evaluate love, then you need to read Kazoo Ishiguro’s “The Buried Giant.” I want to focus on Isighuro’s book, because something took place in the novel that has stuck with me since I came across it.
The novel is set in a period of English history that would have been associated with King Arthur. It’s a magical world that blends myth, fantasy, and pieces of history into a journey about a married couple who are looking for their son. In the novel, everyone has a difficult time remembering aspects of their own lives. There is a mist (an almost memory-stealing fog) that pervades the land.
As the married couple is trying to find their son, they encounter a terrible storm. They need to seek shelter. The story structure follows the “hero’s journey” that was made famous by Christopher Vogler in his book, “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers.” It’s a guide for screenwriters, and it was influenced by the works of Joseph Campbell. If you’ve ever seen any movie, or heard a fascinating tale told over a campfire, then you would recognize the structure Vogler presents.
What is amazing about Ishiguro’s books is not the structure itself, but it’s the way that the structure becomes a vehicle for the voice to tap into a mythic and fantastic world, where dragons, knights, and Sir Gaiwan still exist. But it’s achieved with such artful and tasteful strokes, as if he had found a way to make King Arthur seem more like Game of Thrones…minus the sex and random killings.
So this married couple comes to a shelter in the rain, and inside the shelter, they find a boatman inside. He is on a holiday from his job, which is to take people across the lake to an incredible island. On the island, people walk alone for years. They can hear other people, but they can never find each other. They are doomed to be alone. But certain couples are brought to the island together, and they are allowed to walk in peace and harmony for the rest of their lives. The boatman only brings couples over to the island who actually have true bonds of love, and if they fail his test, then he brings just one person at a time, and they are doomed to never see each other again. You can see how this has a fairy tale feel to it.
What was so interesting to me was how the boatman decides whether the couple actually has a strong bond of love. The boatmen simply ask the couple to tell him their fondest memory with each other.
“Besides when travelers speak of their most cherished memories, it’s impossible for them disguise the truth. A couple may claim to be bonded by love, but we boatmen may see instead resentment, anger, even hatred. Or a great barrenness. Sometimes a fear of loneliness and nothing more. Abiding love that has endured the years–that we see only rarely. When we do, we’re only too glad to ferry the couple together…”
I thought this passage was memorable, and it’s an interesting way to evaluate love. When you ask your partner what is the fondest memory, what will they say? What does their answer reveal about the quality of love? What does that say about the very nature of memory? Can a memory define love?
I dare you to ask your wife or your husband this very question tonight. Make sure to check out this new novel by Ishiguro.