Tag: Dogs

How I Ended Up Burying a Body in My Front Yard

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 (read more about Hendrix’s epic life) 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.

Photo Credit, Bianca Lapin
Photo Credit, Bianca Lapin

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:

How to Find a Home: 5 Lessons from Finding a Place to Live

house blog-02 This weekend I drove down to San Diego to start looking for a place to live, and I thought about how every city I’ve ever moved to has its own renting culture. Los Angeles apartments usually don’t come with a refrigerator; Boston you sometimes have to pay an extra moth of rent to the realtor; South Beach you can move into a place the day you start looking; and Long Beach you better not have a Pit Bull. Each city has its own way of navigating the renting process, so when we drove down to San Diego, I expected there to be a learning curve. I also didn’t expect to find a place on the first day. I remember when I moved to Long Beach  my wife and I were looking for a month, and we were driving up and down the streets, trying to locate “For Rent” signs in front yards, and it felt like we would never find a place. I understood the struggle of finding the right place, and I expected to have to haggle with landlords. I expected to be forced to choose between our budget and what we wanted. And I expected to have enough tension and controversy to write an interesting blog post. But after looking at four places, Heron and I found a place we loved. We told the landlord how much we wanted to live there, sent over the credit check, paid the deposit, and we now have a rental. King of killed my blog idea. It was incredibly easy, this time, to find a place to live, and we’re actually thrilled with the results. So this started me thinking about all the times that I’ve moved across the country, and I thought about what it’s been like to look for a home, for a place to belong. I thought about all that I’ve learned by just looking for places to live. Here are five lessons I’ve learned over the years.

Design by Joseph Lapin
Design by Joseph Lapin

5. Watch Out for Desperation

When we were looking for places to live over the weekend, we came across a home close to North Park, San Diego. It was a single family home, but another tenant was living in the basement. The front yard had mulch instead of grass. There would have been plenty of room for my dog, but as soon as I knocked on the door and met the people living there, I was instantly suspicious. In turned out the current tenants were looking for someone to take over their lease. They had their three dogs locked in cages, and the dogs looked like they were trying to be on their best behavior, but if someone had opened their cages, then I would have regretted stepping foot in that home. The current tenants told us that they were moving out because they wanted to live closer to the beach. They had just moved from Kansas city. Four months were left on the lease. Now I couldn’t figure out why they would be in such a rush to get out of their apartment if they had four months left on their lease, and I could understand this idea if they were buying a home instead of renting — perhaps they landed a great deal — but breaking a lease or trying to sublet an apartment to live near the water, which is only ten minutes, sounded suspicious. I could smell the desperation to find a way out of a situation, and I didn’t want to be stuck in someone else’s trap. When I’m looking at places to live, I realize I’m being sold on a product, on a life, on a home, and like Odysseus on his way back to his wife, there are many detours and islands along the journey that are illusory when trying to find the place you belong, but you have to learn to separate false homes, false journeys, from the authentic ones. Continue reading “How to Find a Home: 5 Lessons from Finding a Place to Live”

The story of Hendrix and Detroit

The path to becoming a writer has been — and still is — filled with surprises, twists and turns, and entirely new cities. In 2007, my wife, Heron, and I moved to Detroit for her work, but we picked the city together because I thought it would serve for great writing experiences. Well, I could probably write a whole book about my experience in Detroit — fights in the YMCA, wandering around Detroit and rotting buildings, my downstairs neighbors who were victims of the languishing economy, my search for work and fulfillment during the beginning of The Great Recession — and I’m thankful for those memories. In the end, though, the greatest thing that came out of Detroit was Hendrix.

Hendrix Noodle Gif

The story I’m about to tell you is probably not the Hendrix you were envisioning. In fact, the Hendrix I’m talking about isn’t even human. It’s my dog. And he’s traveled the country with my wife and me several times, sticking his head out of the car as we drove through West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and into California. Or the times we drove back and forth from Detroit to Florida — through the hills in West Virginia and the flat lands of Ohio. He’s been with us through rejection and the first couple months of freelancing; he’s been there in the hottest days in Miami when we didn’t have air conditioning; he’s been there during our wedding planning; he’s been there for the last six years, serving as my writing buddy.

When I first met Hendrix, Heron and I were living in the top floor of a house in between Royal Oak and Ferndale in Metro Detroit. We had a little backyard that we shared with the downstairs neighbors. I had just moved to Michigan after traveling in Europe for two months, and I was looking for work. It was tough. So one day to get a break, I drove into Downtown Detroit and stopped at the  Michigan Humane Society.

For some reason, I thought getting a cat would make Heron happy. She had grown up with cats, and I could tell she missed home in Florida. I wanted to get her a present to make her feel more at home. So I decided on a cat — even though I was allergic to cats.

So I walked inside the pound, and there were a bunch of people standing around the reception area. There was a woman, and her three-year old boy was standing next to her. On the counter of the reception area, she had placed a pit bull puppy. Man, it was the cutest thing you would ever see in the world, and I knew, then, that a puppy would be the thing that made Heron the happiest. I changed my mind on this quickly.


What I learned was that the woman at the counter was trying to give the puppy up for adoption. But what they were telling her at the desk was that they can’t accept pit bulls. I deduced that the dog would be put down if it was turned into the pound.

“Are you giving the dog away?” I asked.

The woman looked at me and then down at her son. “Trying to. You interested?”

“How does it work here?” I looked down at the young kid, and he looked up at me with the saddest eyes I had ever seen. It was worse than the puppy.

“Twenty dollars and he’s all yours.”

“Let me think about it,” I said. “I probably will take him. I will let you know.”

Something about her asking for money weirded me out. So I sat down on the chair and watched the puppy playing with the boy. The boy’s shorts were too big for him, and he seemed to trip over them when we walked.

That’s when the door burst open to the pound, and I saw something that I would never forget. A woman was holding a leash, and on the end of that leash, there was a dog who ran right towards me and jumped in my arms. His tail was wagging; his tongue was hanging out; and he gave me a kiss. He jumped off my lap, and then he rolled over and presented his belly for a rubbing. I rubbed his belly, and when I stopped, he popped up and went to say hello to everyone else in the place.

I talked to the lady with the dog, and she was saying that she had to drop him off for adoption. She said she was moving out of town, and she had to give him away. She felt awful about it.

“You want him?” she asked.

“So you’re just leaving,” I asked, “that’s why you’re getting rid of him?”

“He’s mostly been in the basement. Never had any attention.”

I looked down at the dog — whose name was Ed — and I swear to god he was smiling at me. A freaking smile.

“How much?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said. “I would have to pay to drop him off here.”

Suddenly I had the dog’s leash in my hands, and I had a dog. I brought him outside, and his tail was wagging like crazy, and I put him inside my Buick LeSabre. And I was about to drive away when I remembered the kid and the pit bull.

They were standing outside with the pit bull puppy. The kid was crying.

“I’m sorry,” I said to the mom. “I can’t take your dog.”

That’s when the strangest thing happened. The little boy reached back his hand, and what seemed to take place in slow motion, he punched me in the leg. A little kid, seriously, punched me in the leg. He was crying.

“I hate you,” he said. “I want puppy. I want puppy.”

I always felt bad about not taking that puppy. I always felt bad for that kid. But there was something else going on there — what type of kid knows how to punch at that age? — and I couldn’t have more than one dog. I wish I could adopt them all and give them all good homes.

Detroit 5

I drove away with Hendrix, still called Ed at the time, in my Buick Lesabre. I don’t know if it’s fate; I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence; but sometimes I think the whole reason I was in Detroit, besides learning some hard lessons about life and America,  was Hendrix. I never saw it coming.