How Buying a Grill Led to an Extraordinary Moment

Over the weekend, I thought I was taking an ordinary trip to Ace Hardware to buy a new grill. As I walked into the store, I was thinking about work and how to overcome a certain obstacle. What happened next was an extraordinary moment that certainly put those obstacles in perspective. 

I had been considering buying a green egg grill, so I asked the employee in the grill aisle his opinion.

“I wouldn’t buy a green egg,” he said. “Not worth it.”

I guessed he was about 72, and he had shoulder-length gray hair, tattoos on his forearm, and a goatee that looked almost as faded as the ink on his arms.

He pointed to a red Weber and convinced me to save the money. He stooped down and removed the price tag, and that’s when I noticed something was wrong.

He began to stumble, and it almost seemed like the computer program that helped him walk had been full of bugs. He lost consciousness and couldn’t stand.

That’s when I held him up, struggling under his weight. The grill hit the ground and sounded like a cymbal crashing. After a few moments of fighting to keep him from hitting the ground, his legs began to operate again. 

As if nothing had just happened, he started talking about the grill. I stopped him and asked him if he was all right, and he said he was fine, but I implored him to take a break.

He was about to respond, but he stopped abruptly. His eye contact became intense, and he was standing taller than I remembered. That’s when his eyes rolled into the back of his head, his body went rigid, and he began to fall backward. It was like watching a Jenga tower fall. I wanted to try and stop him, but there was just too much momentum.

I ended up grabbing him just enough to slow down the impact, but when shoulders hit the ground, his head whipped against the floor, and all I could think about was someone trying to crack an egg against a bowl. 

Now I was holding him in my arms, and I was sure that I had just watched a man die.

Everyone in the store was watching. I pointed at someone and yelled: “You, in the red shirt, call 911.”

I was considering whether or not to conduct CPR. Other employees were rushing over. It was a grim moment. 

Then the man just woke up.

The next few moments went by quickly, and other Ace employees rushed over to carry him into a seat. Later the paramedics burst into the store. Ace employees began to check on me. I watched all of this in slow motion.

As I was about to leave, the man thanked me and said: “I can’t help but go out of the way to get you a discount on the grill.”

Everyone laughed. And he was right. They gave me $75 dollars off. 

But the lesson was priceless. 

It’s funny how the universe can take the most ordinary moments and make them unforgettable, teaching us lessons at the precise time we need to see it. It was a great reminder that marketing is marketing. Business is business. An obstacle is just an obstacle. But being alive and healthy, well, that is everything.

Joseph Lapin and the Creative Journey: Updates on Publications and Media

Over the last month or so, I have had some excited opportunities come my way, and I wanted to take a minute to update my readers. As you all know, I’m constantly on the hunt to publish stories, essays, and novels, and I’m extremely passionate about the creative journey in whatever form that takes. My updates relate to both of these aspects.

Publication News

Over the course of the last six months, I have been working on a new type of memoir piece that was inspired by a short story by Lettie Prell. Her story made “The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018,” and it was called Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel. I loved this story because it’s form was extraordinary. It imagines a person in prison and what that same prison would be like in different parallel universes. Brilliant story. Def recommend reading.

Basically, I was inspired by that structural technique applied to the justice system, and I began to explore how that technique could apply to how our country treats mental health. As you may know, I have written many times about growing up with a mother with a severe mental illness, and I have helped her many times get in and out of mental hospitals.

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5 Ways to Find Writing Motivation: Beyond the Obvious Recommendations

Credit: Joseph Lapin, The Man Who Walks Through Walls, Paris, France.

I graduated from my Master of Fine Arts program from Florida International University at 25-years old, which seemed like an impressive feat at the time. When I finished my MFA, I moved from Miami to Los Angeles, and I thought I was a pretty hot-shit writer about to head to one of the most creative cities in the world. In fact, I thought I was moments away from turning my thesis into a best-selling book, and I wasn’t worried about finding writing motivation to finish countless drafts while working long days at many different jobs. Honestly, it felt like I had already arrived.

In fact, I look back on that version of myself, a totally delusional version of myself, and realize that it’s kind of embarrassing. I remember asking one of my professors how long it took her to publish her first book after graduation, and she said, four years. At the time, four years after graduate school felt like such a long time to publish a book.

Now, I just turned 35-years old, and it’s 10 years since I graduated from my MFA program, and I don’t have a book. I have published a decent amount of non fiction and some fiction, and I have a great career where I practice my craft every day, but I know I still have a long way to go to accomplish my life goal: Filling an entire shelf with books I have written, and those books have to be worth the trees that were sacrificed. I want people to actually read the books, not just let them sit there and collect dust.

And even though so much time has passed since I graduated, I know I need to dig deep to still make my dreams come true. It’s hard to stay motivated though, especially with all that is happening in the world.

That’s why I put together a list of ways to find writing motivation. When I was researching for this blog, I read a lot of the other posts about finding writing motivation, and I realized the advice was terrible. They give trite advice like “set deadlines” and “commit to writing.” It’s time to actually hear some real advice. Let me keep it real with you.

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Thoughts on Being a Dad on My First Father’s Day

Today is my first father’s day as a Dad, and while it was a marvelous occasion so far, I realized I was spending a lot of time thinking about being a dad and what it means, somewhat taking me out of the moment. While the day was incredible, there was something at the back of my mind, some darkness, that I couldn’t shake. I’ll try and explain.

Of course, father’s day is a special time for a first time Dad, and my wife made sure we celebrated in the ways only I would have wanted. For instance, I drove to Coronado and brought Remy to the beach. We walked close to the shore, and he felt how cold the Pacific Ocean is even in the summer. I pointed out the Sand Dollars on the beach, and I let him put his feet in the sand.

He looked perplexed by the heaving, gun-metal blob making a tremendous amount of noise in front of him. Part of me thought he was terrified by the immensity of the Pacific. He held onto me tightly. The other part of me thought he wanted to swim.

On the way back to the car, I carried him in my arms, and he laughed the entire way as if he already knew the secret to life and found it hilarious that no one else could see it. The Tao of Remy.

Remy fell asleep in the car. To let him continue napping, we drove aimlessly throughout the city, into Sherman Heights and Barrio Logan, and we drove past Chicano Park and gazed at the murals. When we came home, I read him books and watched him crawl around his room, and then my wife made me scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls. Then I played guitar as loud as I did before becoming a Dad. It was the best day.

But there was something else there. Something that was just beyond my ability to articulate. I couldn’t quite see it, but I knew it was dark. It was hanging at the back of my mind.

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How to Waste Time: An Ultimate Survival Guide for COVID-19 and the Future

Yesterday at work (over Zoom of course) my colleague told me that I should take a vacation. He basically sees me sending emails late at night, the green dot next to my Slack name on at all hours of the day, and I’m constantly juggling different responsibilities. He is right. I should take a break and remember how to waste time, but the truth is: I don’t know what else I would do with myself except work if I took a vacation.

During COVID-19, we’re all (hopefully) stuck inside, and while there are many substantial challenges–from financial to mental health to physical health–there is a minor challenge that feels exponential difficult: How do I spend my time?

Let’s be real: When there is so much uncertainty about the world, work, in all of its glory and the dull moments, can be satisfying. Since I can do everything I could do at home as I could in the office, I am very busy, and knocking things off my to-do list was a form of control over the unpredictable. Being able to focus on clear, tangible tasks was a way for me to forget the viruses flying around my community like modern-day plagues.

But now that we’re almost seven weeks into quarantine, I have come to feel that the time we have inside our homes can be used in wonderful ways, and the only way to really take advantage of this moment is to figure out how to waste time with passion.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Blaise Pascal

Being alone in our room with our thoughts is challenging for many reasons. So, stop doing that. You don’t need to embrace the existential crisis of humanity during COVID-19. I recommend wasting time and enjoy the seconds tick by, because, truthfully, that is really all we have. In my ultimate guide to wasting time, I’ll share tips on the following aspects that span streaming to reading to music:

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