Tag: travel writing

10 Things to do in Kauai, Hawaii, with Your Wife Before You Die

Credit Joseph Lapin
Credit Joseph Lapin
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.

Credit Joseph Lapin
Credit Joseph Lapin

Hike Kauai with Erik

We wanted to hike, but we wanted a guided tour — someone to walk us through hidden spots and tell us about local culture — and we were lucky to find a great guide (Hike Kauai with Erik) on travel advisor who brought us to some interesting locations that most tourists probably wouldn’t get to see. He took the photo above.

Credit Joseph Lapin
Credit Joseph Lapin

Zipline at Koala

Before Hawaii, I had never been zipling, and it’s something I have wanted to cross off the bucket list for years. I finally convinced my wife to join me, and we ziplined on the property of Steve Case, one of the founders of AOL. The property was also used for filming the newest Jurassic Park. It was a rainy day, but the rain doesn’t stop you from zipling. As the guide said: “It’s a Hawaiian blessing.”

Credit Joseph Lapin
Credit Joseph Lapin

Rainbow Joes

Wonderful food truck. Definitely off the beaten path. It’s kind of in an industrial complex. The owner is crazy energetic, and the food is unique and fresh. Don’t miss.

Credit Joseph Lapin
Credit Joseph Lapin

St. Regis

The photo above is the view from the St. Regis. It’s expensive to stay there, but I recommend at least stopping in for a drink and watching the sunset. By the way, would you say the mountain looks like a dragon? That might actually be puff.

Credit Joseph Lapin
Credit Joseph Lapin

Na Pali Coast

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.

Photo Credit Joseph Lapin
Photo Credit Joseph Lapin

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.

Photo Credit Joseph Lapin
Photo Credit Joseph Lapin

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.

Credit Joseph Lapin
Credit Joseph Lapin

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.

Waimea Canyon

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.

Bianca on top of the mountain


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!

Big Kahuna

Wine and Photography in Walla Walla, Washington

Walla Walla farm house 2

This weekend, I fled Los Angeles, work, and all my responsibilities and jumped on a jet plane to Walla Walla, Washington. I have never been to Walla Walla — or really ever heard about the place — but my family, who do enjoy wine tastings, raved about the town that is five hours outside of Seattle and closer to the Oregon border than you might expect. Honestly, I needed to get away. I’ve been anxious, trying to find the balance between my professional and creative life, and I thought spending time in a town where the only thing to do was farm or drink wine would provide the cure. So I went there with the idea that I would eat, drink, and take photographs. You’ll see some shots below.

Photo Credit Joseph Lapin
Photo Credit Joseph Lapin

We stayed at a winery called Abeja, and we had the most fantastic rooms and the most incredible breakfast. I remember the last breakfast most distinctly. They brought over a baked egg seasoned with a bit of thyme, parmesan cheese, sea salt, and some light cream. Then they brought out bacon with sourdough waffles covered in fresh apples with a dollop of whipped cream. We drank their wine, too, which was good, but I have to be honest with you: I don’t know anything about wine. I wish that I did, but when I taste four or five different wines it’s really hard for me to tell the difference. I’m trying to learn and respect the craft, but one thing that I have learned from my family and friends is that all you have to do is say something descriptive like “minerality,” “apricot,” or any other floral or fruit taste, and people might actually think you know what you’re talking about. The people I was with knew wine, and it was fun to learn, but I was more interested in the sights in Walla Walla. And of course, the company.

Photo credit Joseph Lapin
Photo credit Joseph Lapin

What I loved most about Walla Walla was that everywhere I looked there was a different landscape photo opportunity. It was close to the high plains desert, and every piece of land was used to grow crops. It reminded me of a place Jack Kerouac would have loved to wander through, and he would have written about the people who worked the land. Because it was farmlands and they were growing different crops, the colors of the Earth altered as much as the contours of the landscape. Continue reading “Wine and Photography in Walla Walla, Washington”

A Trip to San Francisco: Prison, Napa and more

On Friday, Heron and I flew into San Francisco to meet up with our family. I wanted to see San Francisco again. I haven’t been there since I read at Lip Service West, and it’s a city that reminds me so much of Boston…a place I once sort of called home. So below you will find  a documentation of that trip, and it’s my first attempt at writing in the BuzzFeed blog format.

Pumped to head to San Francisco tonight.

Our first stop in San Francisco was a walking tour in North Beach — the former stomping ground of one of my favorite writers…Jack Kerouac. We stopped at a bunch of Italian bakeries on the walking tour and ate pizza, linguini, homemade bread and macaroons and drank espresso. Our tour guide was Italian and grew up in North Beach. He told us the Italian flag is all over North Beach…but he said it’s hardly called Little Italy.

San Francisco 1

San Francisco 2

San Francisco 3

North Beach church


While I was in North Beach, I knew I had to stop at City Lights, but I wasn’t sure if we would have time. We had to meet Heron’s father at Pier 33 for a tour, and I led us off the trail to the bookstore. Of course, I ended up getting us lost and walking to Market Street, but that’s another story I will hear for the rest of my life…lol.

Then after North Beach…

I love all movies and books about prison — Shawshank, Green Mile, Oz, The Fixer. By examining prison life, it forces me to look at my freedom, and it causes me to wonder: With prison always looming in the background of our lives, can we ever be free?

Alcatraz 1

Alcatraz 2

What’s amazing about the tour is that they give you a pair of headphones and an audio version of a former guard walks you through the prison. It’s amazing to hear   stories of the prisoners. On certain summer nights, the prisoners ould hear the sounds of freedom — laughter, girls and music —  wafting over from the San Francisco Yacht Club. Freedom was so close and so far.

I also didn’t realize that Native Americans, after the prison closed in 1963 , took to The Rock to occupy and protest their rights to land.

Native Americans

We had a great time in San Francisco, but then on Sunday, we drove out to Napa Valley. I didn’t realize how close Napa was to the city, and the drive was stunning. We stopped for some cherries on the side of the road. On a recommendation, we visited  Mumm Napa for some champagne.

Napa 1

Then we stopped at St. Supery and played a little bocce ball.

Napa 3

Napa 4

In  the end, it was an amazing weekend. I picked up a book by Williams Gibson and Kenneth Rexroth, and I even got some writing in during the plane rides. The book is coming along. It’s nice to remember to be a part of the world, while I’m trying to create one in an office on a Mac computer. Let me know what you think of the new blog form. Your comments are always welcome. Photos were taken by my beautiful wife, Bianca Lapin.

Five Reasons Why My First Trip to Vegas Won’t Be My Last


Las Vegas was my honeymoon — a lune de miel — except it wasn’t. Unfortunately, Heron and I didn’t leave for Europe or Cambodia immediately after our wedding, and we went back to work. I was exhausted after the wedding — we sure smoked it to the filter — and I was still sore from our family football game at the beach (my best man did elbow me, accidentally, in the face). And on the way to Vegas, driving through the Mojave Dessert, I was married and young and alive. It was exhilarating, and it was my first time to Vegas. Before the trip, I balked at the thought of the Sin City; the image of men and women popping quarters into slot machines depressed me almost as much as that dog commercial with Sarah McLaughlin. But I decided to give it a shot, and what I found was I absolutely loved Vegas. Let me explain.

5. The Beatles’ Love


If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know I’m a huge Beatles fan — like most of the world. Ever since I heard there was a show in Vegas built around the Beatles’ music, I’ve almost wanted to go to the city in the middle of the desert just for that. Well, Heron and I stayed at The Mirage, and we splurged and bought some tickets. Well, it was a great show, and there was a moment during “Within and Without you” where a large tarp was flowing over the crowd, and it became clear that the director was trying to realize a deep spiritual understanding, a global consciousness, a Jungian harmony of epic proportions, that I understood how special this show was; it was something more than just a dance or performance; it tried to express the underlying themes of my favorite albums.


4. Buffets


Well, people who go to Vegas always talk about the buffets. And I’m not really the biggest fan of buffets; all that food just sitting there, rotting and wasting away in the neon lights and glassed by sneeze bars. So in an attempt to try something new, Heronand I went for it, and we ate the buffet at The Mirage. It was amazing. I ate eggs Benedict, sushi, crab legs, barbeque, pho, wonton; basically I feel like I tasted a little bit of the world. Surprisingly, the food was fresh, and the dessert bar was one of the most unreal displays of gluttony I have ever seen. It was nice to let go after a few weeks of a crazy wedding diet.

3. Opulence, vainglorious, grandiosity, absurd swagger


Honestly, before I went to Vegas, I thought it was just a soul-sucking world where people threw money around like they were making it rain in a strip club; I thought that it was a stain on the country so obsessed with all that was anti-soul, anti-knowledge, anti-enlightenment. Ah, I was so serious. But when I arrived in Vegas, I just started to laugh. All of the opulence and mosaics and sculptures, well, it seemed like a joke. Instead of over thinking the superficiality of Vegas, I just kind of became a part of the joke, the theme, the grand gestures that signified nothing. I let loose and laughed at the computerized murals of Michelangelo. I laughed at the vainglorious attempt to bring joy to the adult world. And I wondered, what the hell would future generations think of this place? Would they call Caesar’s Palace a monument? Would they see beauty in our vanity?

2. Blackjack


What surprised me — and sort of scared Heron — was how much I loved blackjack. I sucked at blackjack, but I started to read about the game and when to bet. So at one point I was down 60 bucks, and I started to play the game differently. I ended up winning 10 bucks, but I started to enjoy the chances, the calculated risk. And then I started applying these lessons to economics. I began to wonder if the stock market was like gambling. The house always wins in blackjack, but does the house always win in stocks and investment? I’m starting to see myself as more of a businessman, strangely, and somehow blackjack just encouraged a deep hunger of mine — an almost need to put my chips on the table and succeed.

1. Vegas is a science-fiction novel


Of course, Hunter S. Thompson pointed out the absurdity of the city in Fear and Loathing, but I feel like the appeal of Vegas is deeper than drugs and the search for the American Dream. It’s a place that Vonnegut would have imagined for one of his characters; it’s a place where time and location exist in its own world; and it’s absurdity runs so deep that the week before we showed up, a huge gun battle happened on the streets. Think about it: you can head to the Venetian and see Gondolas; you can see a pyramid next to the Eiffel Tower; and no one seems to pay attention to time — as if the city existed outside of any Earthly moment. It’s a place so unique in its wonder and nonsense that it seems to make perfect sense for the setting of a science-fiction novel. And that awesome strangeness is fascinating.


The Ending and Beginning of a Journey — Into the City

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer.  And when I first started thinking about this idea, “writer,” in correlation with my life, I really didn’t quite have a grasp of the image of what made a person a writer — or how the hell I could become one.  The one thing I thought I knew from reading my heroes (Hemingway, Twain, and Kerouac) was that I had to live my life, in some shape or form, as if I was living in a book.


Now, when I was younger, to try and fulfill this prophesy, I would travel and move as much as possible.  In fact, I thought that if I didn’t travel widely, I wasn’t really actually traveling like a writer.  Destination is death!  I was hungry for experience to write about, searching for it in Guatemala, Prague, Detroit — places that have become as much a part of my identity as my childhood.  And while that idea has changed — experiences come in all forms — the aspect that I still hold true about living my life like a book is the idea of structure.  For example, like the old cliché goes, there are chapters to one’s life, closing a book, beginning a new, a personal renaissance — all that bullshit. Each year, each period, each section of my life plays a larger part in the whole, and I have begun to expect the dramatic changes — almost yearn for them.  Because in a certain sense, saying goodbye is the ultimate freedom.

What I’m trying to say is that a chapter has ended; I am no longer a full-time freelance writer.


I’ve been looking back over this blog, and it’s been six months since I wrote my first real post about quitting my job, pursuing my career as a freelance writer, stopping the soul-sucking commute, and beginning to write, write, write.  And I did.  I wrote for some great publications — Salon, LA Weekly, OC Weekly, The Village Voice — and I told some great stories.  I wrote about the ports, the closing of a fish market, Jack Kerouac, truckers, books, poets/actors.  I even wrote a cover story.  And it’s been wonderful.  I worked with some great people who helped me out along the way down in the LBC and Orange County. (Sarah Bennett, Gustavo Arellano, Nate Jackson are incredible people!)

Fish Tacos at Berth 55
Fish Tacos at Berth 55

But in the end, I just felt that I couldn’t make enough of a living.  My student loans, my rent, and my medical insurance bills were always speaking to me — “Hey, you know you’ve got to pay me, right?” — and I found that I wasn’t happy waking up and hustling for pieces that paid very little — though some paid much better than the others.  And writing for me isn’t initially about the money, unless that’s your income — then, yes, it’s about the money.  I do like security.  I do like a steady paycheck, but I also love writing.  If an opportunity comes up to be a full-time writer, of course, I’m going to consider it.

And I’m going to still freelance on the side and pitch the stories I want to pitch. Meantime, an opportunity came up that I couldn’t refuse. As of last week, I have started a job as a Writer and Social Media Specialist at a public relations firm in Westwood.  From my window, I can see the Pacific Ocean, The Getty, and Westwood.  I moved to West L.A., and I’ll be working 2 miles from where Heron will be working in July.  It’s an opportunity that I feel lucky to have.

Red Berth

But there’s something else I’ve had to confront about working full-time as a freelance writer — besides the struggle to afford basic living requirements — is that I haven’t had enough time to work on my memoir.

I don’t know if you remember, dear reader, but a few months back, I wrote a post about revising my novel.  Six months ago, an agent at an amazing literary agency asked for some revisions.  The biggest revision: turning my novel into a memoir.  Well, because I have been so focused on writing to make money to survive, well, I haven’t really worked on the memoir.  I have pieces.  But I don’t have a manuscript.  And out of all the writing I’ve done, this is the most important to me, because it’s my story, my town’s story, my family’s story — the story I must tell before I can really write any other stories that I have in the back of my mind.  And in order to write this book, I need some consistency in my life.  I need to be able to come home from work and work.


So, I begin again a new but the same journey.  So from now on when you read my blog, you’ll still see me sharing stories I’ve written for some magazines, but you’ll be following the longer journey of me trying to publish my book — plus, just what it’s like to live in L.A.  And I’m no longer chasing being a writer, because, well, I am one.  Nothing can take that away anymore.

I will share everything along the way.  I hope you’ll stay around to see how this story develops.  Really appreciate you being a part of this.

So let’s see what happens in the next chapter — Into the City.