Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s pangs of self-doubt are eased by reconnecting with three friends.
Clouds of self-doubt would seep into my mind early every morning in Hollywood—like the June gloom enveloping the LA Temple outside my window. My body wrestled with time zone confusion as my East Coast early-riser syndrome became certified West Coast insomnia. Why am I here? What am I accomplishing? Is the exhaustion worth it? Can I be successful and make a living as a writer by pursuing this new life storyline? As the clouds quickly dispersed under the warm California sun, I became energized by reconnections with three friends (re)designing themselves on the West Coast.
First up, breakfast with Aimee. Originally from Beverly Hills, Aimee walked onto the Alphabet City set about midway through its original run as Angela’s wisecracking buddy. She was a terrific audience for my tales of celebrity foibles, always encouraging me to write down the tales. This real life Funny Girl’s own storyline took a dramatic turn when she decided to follow her true passion for international relations and entered graduate school in Washington DC. Honestly, the cast of Alphabet City wasn’t accustomed to characters taking such serious roles, and I wondered how it would all play out.
After an internship at the State Department, she began working for an organization that helps rebuild war torn countries and spent many months in Liberia, and now is stationed in Kabul. Through it all, Aimee’s wit and humor comes through in every missive she sends from abroad—and she’s still a serious pop-culture scholar. She’s the first to email me a guess on who’s the subject of the latest blind item in PageSix. It was the makings of a “very special episode” when Aimee happened to be in LA during my book tour stop—she had some time off from Kabul before beginning her next project there. Over breakfast, after she had presented me with outrageous gifts snagged from the bazaar in Afghanistan including the Funny Cock, I had an opportunity to tell her how inspiring it was to follow the journey of a friend who was taking big risks to follow her passion. What I am most impressed with is that the work she is doing is so important and crucial, but Aimee does it with a genuine humbleness and a wry observation that will always make her a terrific guest star on Alphabet City.
Next, lunch with a true designing woman, Mila. In the tween prequel to Alphabet City set in a suburban prep school, Mila would definitely be the mysterious, artsy character with the enviable fashion flare. Much like my friend Kathryn who I wrote previously about reconnecting with in DC, Mila and I weren’t close friends in high school but as in a small class, you pretty much know everyone and I like to think we respected each other’s artistic (dramatic?) sensibilities. When she popped up on last season’s Project Runway, I was instantly intrigued by Mila’s story of using the show as a way to reconnect with her passion of designing clothes—basically reinventing herself as she was approaching 40. Boy, did that sound familiar to my own journey. What a treat then to spend time with Mila, see her holiday collection, and share our various paths. Although we haven’t seen each in other in a decade (or two), we reconnected with the appreciation and understanding of the trials and tribulations that come with following a dream. Mila is one talented, sincere and generous designing woman whom I can’t wait to have on future Alphabet City episodes.
Last, evening soiree hosted by Dana. Alphabet City fans will recognize Dana for the critical role she plays in Episode 16—as a real estate impresario with a life-saving referral to therapy. Dana’s advice, guidance, support and critical eye have played an integral role in the development of this memoir. She has always encouraged me to be a writer giving me terrific assignments at Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appétit. After reading an early draft of Alphabet City I will never forget her telling me that my writing voice was so engaging, like chatting with a best friend. It was that early encouragement that gave me the confidence to pursue my dream. When Dana decided to push forward with her own goal of moving to the West Coast, I was quietly distraught but outwardly supportive. While I would miss Dana’s companionship, I knew that she needed space to grow and LA was where she needed that to happen. What a thrill then to see and experience and appreciate the beautiful life she has made for her family at the base of the Hollywood Hills. Her friends turned out for some Alphabet City fun, and to see how an editor at Bon Appétit would entertain in style.
Lucky me, she pulled out all the stops. The centerpiece was a whole roasted pig—definitely a showstopper and crowd pleaser. I snapped pictures and sent to Chef who was supremely jealous of the experience. Dana took her inspiration for the serving of the meal from the serve yourself buffet at Whole Foods Market 3rd and Fairfax which provided some of the key ingredients. Grab a Chinese food container—start with a cold soba noodle salad with peanut sauce (both can be made from the affordable WFM 365 brand), add in some of the pork, fresh cilantro—stir together and enjoy. Dana paired with a crowd-pleasing Moscow Mule vodka concoction whose secret ingredient was fresh squeezed lemons and limes—organic from WFM, ‘natch.
After the guests departed, Dana and I laid down under the backyard lanterns laughing at her dogs desperate for a taste of pork. And I realized that success of a journey shouldn’t just be measured in tangibles—like number of books sold and amount of money made—but from intangibles like quality connections with readers, and inspiring reconnections with friends.
Funny, the next morning, I opened my windows, and there was no June gloom in the sky, or in my head.