Category Archives: 40 Love

40, Love: 2010 POPtimistic Sign-Off

Today on 40, Love: Jon Paul scores himself on how well he kept 2010 Resolutions.

Things are winding down for the year, and despite the post-blizzard sludge piling up outside my door, I’m feeling, well, POPtimistic.  What a tremendous journey it has been—much of it tracked, and commented, and sponsored right here.  About this time last year, I posted my resolutions for the year (I’m a planner and a Capricorn and love that stuff).  And so, as we all engage in a little navel gazing this time of year (I’ve literally done pretty well in that department losing more weight)—thought I’d take a few moments to complete a score card.

2010 Resolutions:

Alphabet City—Publish & Sell 300 Copies. Report: Hooray! Not only did this happen, but I blew that goal out of the water—that’s the genius of setting attainable goals.  At last count, about 1200 copies were sold, and even better, I got to meet many of you personally this past year.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everyone who helped me.  And I even picked up an agent along the way—a bonus!

Sell 4 stories this year. Report: Done.  Highlights: check out the current feature in Bon Appétit on Caribbean resorts and organic gardening, and coming up in that publication an interview with designer Adam Tihany.  Keep your eyes peeled for Condé Nast Traveler’s March issue with my story on drug-trafficking crime’s affect on tourism.  Special kudos to Dana, the best friend and editor a guy could have.

Find blog rhythm—3 posts/week? Report: Pretty good.  This time last year I was posting every day and got a little tired.  But things hit a pretty even rhythm with the development of some new branded columns like Tex and the City (culture) and Green Globe Trekker (travel).

SPANISH! SPANISH! SPANISH! Report: Bad! Bad! Bad!  It all started so well with my daily use of Rosetta stone.  And then the book tour happened…and well, I could blame a lot of things.  But no one’s perfect—this one goes back on the list, and I’ll keep trying.

Two proud papas

WEIGHT—break the 140s barrier—25 pounds?! Report: Good.  Okay, I’m nowhere near getting into the 140s.  But at soon to be 42, that may just be impossible for me.  We’ll see.  Many of you worried that was way too much—but it was a goal.  One thing the resolution did was push me to start running—and that leaned out my body more than anything.  So I’ll keep that up, and see what happens.  I’m proud of my body right now—and that’s what counts, right?

Adapt Alphabet City—performance, play, MUSICAL!! Report: Whoa, slow down, fella.  That’s one of those “what was I thinking?” resolutions.  I still like the idea, so I’ll keep it in the mix.  But maybe for the future.

NEW PROJECT: new blog 40, Love or Kids Book. Report: All systems go.  This one is well underway.  40, Love as a book is happening.  But even more exciting right now is a project with Chef called Service Entrance—the crazy stories about life as a personal chef for NY’s wealthiest and craziest families.  Stay tuned.

KEEP ON COOKINReport: Reasonably well.  I haven’t checked in with Chef on this one yet.  But I definitely didn’t STOP cooking.  So I think I earn some points.

PAY OFF DEBT—Student Loans?! Report: Mediocre, at best.  But again, I’m working on it.  Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions (like the collapse of income from your PR/marketing business) that makes things tough.  But it’s on my radar screen.

FOCUS ON FUN: Improv & Tennis. Report: OUTSTANDING.  And this goes WAY beyond Improv (2 classes, and just signed up for another) & Tennis.  This year’s journey was indescribably fun.

So, much love to all of you for helping me tackle these resolutions.  And thank you for sticking with me, giving me the courage to pursue my dream of a being a full-time writer and blogger.  Here’s to a fresh, frank, fun POPtimistic life in the new year!

POPtimistically yours,

JP

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40, Love: Skyping Aunts

Today on 40, Love: After Skyping with Afghanistan, Jon Paul ends up with some adopted Aunts.

With my adopted Aunts at New Leaf Café

Lately, my world seems to be colliding with Oprah.  Not just because she’s finally following my lead and taking a whole posse of fans to Australia.  Please, call me when she gets a tattoo of the Sydney Opera House.  And I’m not even talking about the legion of brands lining up to be part of JP’s Favorite Things.  No, just like on Oprah, I got the chance to “Skype” a guest into my show in a kind of semi-reunion with loved ones stationed in Afghanistan.  Talk about a holiday tearjerker.

A few weeks back, I got word from my dear friend Aimee, currently an international aid worker in Afghanistan, that her mother Arlene and best friend Suzanne were traveling from L.A. to New York City and could I give them a behind-the-scenes tour of the studio (a.k.a. my Washington Heights brownstone).  The last time I had seen Arlene, who works for a rabbi at her temple, was probably ten years ago when Easter and Passover coincided, and she was invited to a very special episode of Alphabet City featuring dyed eggs and matzo.  Any guest star that can survive that schmaltz is welcome back anytime.

Not only did Arlene and Suzanne come bearing gifts, but also they fawned over the house and insisted it must have risen in value despite the real estate crisis.  From their lips to God’s ears.  Once we Skyped in Aimee, Arlene asked that her daughter move the camera around so we could see her living quarters, and took special note of the curtains.  But what really brought tears to my eyes was Arlene gently stroking the image of Aimee on the screen because she missed her so much.  You don’t ever see that on Oprah.

Later over lunch at my go-to impress the out-of-towners neighborhood spot New Leaf Café, I marveled at Arlene and Suzanne’s fun loving, sweet and open outlook on not only their trip, but also life.  There were no tales of airport woes, crowds at Macy’s, or the bitter cold.  Instead, they were filled with tales of anonymously buying the lunch of a group of strangers who had been with them on a tour of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum because, “Those girls asked such good questions.  They were sweet.”  Trying to ignore the fact that Dr. Ruth was sitting at the next table, I remarked how refreshing it was to be with such optimistic ladies, Arlene shrugged and replied, “My rabbi always says, unless someone died, what’s the big deal?”  Words to live by.

As I escorted them to The Cloisters museum just a five-minute walk away, a brisk wind kicked up and Suzanne decided she was too cold in just her Burberry wrap.  Now a true New Yorker, I rolled my eyes wondering, “Who comes to the Big Apple in winter without a coat?”  Slightly embarrassed, I popped back into the restaurant and asked them to call a car, for the all of two-minute drive to the museum.  The hostess laughed.

As we waited, a young lady with a couple of puggles fresh from the dog run around the corner showed up, and wondered if the restaurant had a bottle of water—the dogs were thirsty and there was no water in the park.  The hostess grabbed one from the bar and asked for $3.  The dog owner hoped she could use her credit card, she didn’t have the cash.  The hostess shook her head, and as the little pups jumped at my feet, I fished out my wallet and handed over the money.  Arlene and Suzanne beamed.  The young woman thanked me profusely.

“No problem,” I said. “My Aunts here taught me to be generous.”

My just-adopted relatives gave me big hugs and kisses as I dropped them off.

“We love being your Aunts,” Arlene said.  “Now when are you coming to visit?”

Arlene and Suzanne affected me the rest of the day.  Most of my life, I’ve not had a true maternal influence in my life.  So when one shows up and does simple, and typical, mothering things like fawning over my apartment, I get kind of emotional.  It’s the same response I now have with my mother-in-law who insisted that I come for dinner at the family home in Mexico City when I was there recently by myself on business, “Ay, it’s your home.  Of course you’re coming for dinner!”

So thanks Aimee, not only for your amazing work in a conflict ridden part of the world, but also taking time to serve up a little holiday slice of your Mom.  Add that to my favorite things list.  And top that Oprah.

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40, Love: Collected Works of Playboy

Today on 40, Love: Jon Paul ponders the consequences of early exposure to his father’s complete Playboy collection.

It’s probably a good thing that my father didn’t live to see this day, since all of his hard work has been undone by a technological flip of a button.  I’m not talking about the WikiLeaks or his well-publicized judicial decisions for the underdogs—advancing gay rights, guaranteeing equitable elections.  No, this is much more personal: his blood, sweat and tears building a complete collection of Playboy magazines.  What took my father nearly a decade to acquire is now available in a snazzy electronic version.  As reported in today’s New York Times, Bondi Digital—the same company that electronically packaged 80 years of my father’s other favorite publication, the New Yorker—has downloaded every issue of Playboy onto a hard drive costing just $300.  Judge Jerry Buchmeyer wouldn’t be pleased.

From 1969 through 1984, in his efforts to build the collection, my father maintained a spirited and private correspondence with a man he never met named Murray Zuckerman, a rare book dealer from Southern California.  Reading the carbon copy of the letters now, I realize that my father’s emotional relationship with Murray was the deepest and longest of his life.  The letters read like a ‘70s-mod 84 Charing Cross Road.

My father ended up with 3 original Marilyn Monroe 1953 editions

The resulting Playboy collection was an odd fixture in our family.  It held a very mysterious place—physically, it was off-limits, kept behind closed doors in our father’s study, high up on out-of-reach shelves with labels for the various years.  Each treasure was protected by a plastic sleeve.  The day a new one arrived in the mail via subscription hidden by brown paper wrapping, my father would disappear for hours, and when finished, put it into the protective shield and place out of our reach.

When asked, my mother rather defensively told people that my father read Playboy for the articles.  And I believed her.  I imagined the magazines articles held secrets, that if revealed, might be too much for my pre-adolescent brain.  When you’re a kid, you generally take whatever is in your house as the norm.  Since I was pretty isolated from other families, I didn’t have much to go on.  It wasn’t until I was nine, when other boys came over to the house, and I told them about the Playboy magazines, that I began to suspect something else was up.  My friends acted shocked and amazed, and so of course we would sneak a peek.  My play date card began filling up rather quickly.

Funny though, I was more curious than aroused looking at the pictures of the nubile young women.  They didn’t look like my sisters or mother.  For one thing, there was no hair down there.  I don’t think I even knew what to call it.  But I had seen my mother after showers, and my sisters, and knew there was something odd about how these women had almost no hair below their waist.  And the boobs!  Bigger than the teased hair on top!

As I snuck more peeks, I began critiquing the art direction.  I preferred outdoor locations to interior shots—studio pictures seemed too easy.  But spreading out on a rock formation with those enormous boobs—now that was some kind of talent.  I think now that my introduction to Playboy lead to my life long appreciation of the female bosom—for a gay guy, I comment on them a lot.

Occasionally, I’d glance through the rest of the publication.  There did seem to be some articles about vaguely familiar current events topics that didn’t interest me.  And there was a sex advice column and some fantasy fiction that I read and tried hard to understand, but lacked any of the basic vocabulary of sex.

For years, I just took it as a badge of honor that my father had a complete collection of Playboys.  He was cool and interesting.  The first time my father ever gave any hint of shame was when the FBI came knocking.  They were conducting a background investigation for his nomination to the federal judiciary.  Before their arrival, my father persuaded a friend to house the collection, no questions asked.  At least not at his Senate hearing.

Somehow Jeff Stryker doesn't live up to Marilyn Monroe

Later, as an out gay teenager, I lost interest in perusing pictures of women.  I needed to see men.  So sweating nervously at Dallas’ gay bookstore Crossroads Market, I placed The Advocate newsmagazine on top of an Advocate Men porn publication—as if that was going to fool the cashier.  I handed them over to the cute guy behind the counter and blushed.

“I read them for the articles,” I stammered.

He smiled at me and winked.

“Don’t we all, honey?”

When I rushed home and got my first glance of the male gaze, I was comforted.  Not so different from Playboy, really.  Same come hither look.  Pecs as big as boobs.  And little hair down there.

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40, Love: Twice in a Queen’s Life

Today on 40, Love: A royal engagement reminds Jon Paul of his mother’s flare for the dramatic.

A January 1981 London trip solidified my Anglophile credentials

My mother instilled in me a love—and, well, let’s face it, a flare—for the dramatic.  She could take almost any occasion and infuse it with an intensified sense of purpose.  When I went with her as a kid on a Rhine riverboat tour through Germany, we didn’t just go eat at a castle like the others in our group.  No, mother insisted we purchase and wear authentic Bavarian outfits including lederhosen.  I’ll pause here and blame her for my later infatuation with kinky Berlin boys.

But in July 1981, mother really took things to new heights the day Princess Diana was married to Prince Charles.  Others might have been content to watch the glass carriage procession from the comfort of their living rooms, but not us.  The royal nuptials—“an event so special you might only see it once in your lifetime,” mother told me—deserved to be watched from something grander than our mustard yellow living room in our Dallas ranch style home.

So we packed an overnight bag and checked into the newish Le Meridien Hotel on the edge of downtown.  “It’s more ‘continental’ than British,” mother told me.  “But it’s the closest Dallas has to a Four Seasons.  Which is Canadian.  Practically the same thing.”

I’m not sure the desk clerk quite knew how to respond to my mother when she announced we were there for a special viewing of the Royal wedding.  When she asked that tea and scones arrive at the room by 5am, the attendant frowned.

“Well, ma’am, the kitchen isn’t open that early.  Maybe I could round up some coffee and a muffin?”

Safely ensconced in our room, mother unpacked a bag filled with provisions.  A recent convert to the wonders of the Franklin Mint, she set out a series of commemorative coffee mugs and plates.  But the item that fascinated me the most was the first day cover of stamps issued and a cameo portrait of Diana and Charles in profile.  Ahh, to be immortalized in Wedgewood.  A queen’s dream.  This one’s at least.  Surprising now to think my mother was shocked—shocked—when I officially came out to her in high school.

To this day, I still carry around the stamp & cameo

 

Turns out, mother was wrong.  I am going to experience another British royal wedding in my lifetime—Kate Middleton to Diana’s son Prince William.  And lucky me, I now live in a city filled with British-infused hospitality options.  All I need now is the official date and I’ll be packing up Chef and Frida for a night at The Dorchester Collection’s New York Palace Hotel for guaranteed tea and scones.  Fingers crossed for a new commemorative stamp to add to my collection.

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40, Love: Glee Bargain

This popular post has moved to my new blog PoptimisticCLICK HERE to be taken directly to Glee Bargain.

Please join me at my new blog Poptimistic—the fresh, frank, fun outlook on life. Like Oprah, my life has grown from a single TV show into an entire network.  Thanks to the success of Alphabet City, my award-winning humorous book and blog about my sitcom life, I’m thrilled to launch a new online network called Poptimisitic.  With that charming gay Mary Tyler Moore spirit you know and love, Poptimistic has even more room to explore a fun, fresh, frank approach to life.  So check out my line-up of shows about relationships, food, travel and culture, and start living a Poptimisitic life!

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40, Love: Paws for Reflection

Today on Alphabet City: JP rediscovers Maybe the Moon on an end-of-season Fire Island getaway with Frida and Chef.

A walk with Frida on the beaches of Fire Island has become one of my life’s greatest pleasures.  Although we have now been lucky enough to prance on those sands dozens of times, each time for her is almost like the first—her puppy dog eyes lit up with excitement, a smile on her snout a mile wide, and a kick her in back legs like a rodeo bronco.  She runs the length of her extendable leash until it pops its limit, then she rushes back to me with a look of amazement, “What’s better than this?” she seems to bark.  Frida is unencumbered by the stress of the commute from the city—do we change in Babylon or Jamaica and will we make the ferry?  Unlike me, she’s not saddened by the thought that this may be the last bath of sunshine on our exposed skin until next May, at the earliest.  Her antics on the beach are a reminder of the unexpected joy that can come with living life in the moment, in the here and now.

Chef and I are blessed with friends like Chris and Tom who willingly open their beautiful home to us on Fire Island’s Cherry Grove.  While it’s fun to visit them in the height of the summer, especially this year when they hosted an Alphabet City book party, I do enjoy an end-of-the-season getaway.  At that time, like this past weekend, the island is filled with folks trying to squeeze out every last bit of pleasure—they aren’t taking anything for granted.  Flyers around “town” announce everything as the “last of the season”—the final Middle Tea dance extravaganza, the final Underwear Party.  Even venerable Cherry’s gets creative with a “Christmas Party”—why not celebrate the holiday with your island friends?

One of my little pleasures at a vacation home is perusing the bookshelf.  I enjoy perusing and commenting upon books left behind.  I was guessing the same gay boy who read Eat, Pray, Love probably didn’t also enjoy Larry Kramer’s Faggots.  Since I’ve visited the house many times, I’ve developed pretty good command of the in-house library, but this weekend, for the first time I noticed on the shelf a book I adored when I initially read it, Armistead Maupin’s Maybe the Moon.  At first, I recommended the book to Chef, but he was too busy enjoying Kyle Thomas Smith’s 85A—the debut book by my friend that is fantastic—a full review later.

I go so excited telling Chef about my love of Maybe the Moon, that I put aside Anthony Bourdain’s latest and cracked it open myself.  Within moments, I was once again mesmerized by Maupin’s flowing, storytelling genius about the struggles of being a dwarf in Hollywood who played an ET-like character.  The book was based on the life of his friend Tamara de Treaux who played the actual ET, and Maupin claims it might have been the last book that Jackie Kennedy Onassis ever read.  What I love about Maupin is ability to create captivating characters and seamlessly situate them in a specific time and place—this one resonating with me as it is set firmly in the recession of the late ‘80s.  The 31-inch tall main character Cadence Roth has an outsized personality and work ethic that carries her far—certainly into my heart.

Normally, the trip back to the city exhausts me listening to the unfortunate conversations of jaded queens.  Case in point, overheard on the shuttle to the train, “You know how when you play with a pretty dog, and an ugly dog, and you reach down to pet the pretty dog, but the ugly dog lays its head on your lap, and you’re like, gross.  That’s how it is with Randy and Elliott.  I just want to party with pretty Randy, but ugly Elliott is always around.”  Thankfully, I had convinced myself it was okay to temporarily borrow Maybe the Moon, so Maupin carried me away from all that.

Frida slept in her carrying case all the way home, only rousing herself once we were back on land in Washington Heights.  While Chef and I dragged our feet a little, sad that we couldn’t linger in the sun a few more days, Frida had the same spring in her step that she had on the beach.  She was living in the now—and now was good.  We were home.

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40, Love: I Can Hear the Bells

Today on Alphabet City: After a recent trip to Mexico City, Jon Paul’s ears are ringing—with wedding bells!

Swingers in Mexico

My trip down the wedding aisle has been a long time coming.  But after a recent trip to Mexico City, and a groundbreaking decision by a Massachusetts federal judge, I suddenly hear the bells drawing nigh.

Nearly nine years ago, I spontaneously popped the question to Chef on the balcony of our Mykonos hotel room balcony as the sun set over the white washed island landscape.  I knew that I needed to spend the rest of my life with a man who could survive my insistence that we move hotels in the middle of the night because my Condé Nasty snobbery couldn’t handle a gay ghetto dump.  We still reminisce about some of the best times of our lives lounging poolside at the comfortably hip Belvedere Hotel (not associated with the Fire Island “legend.”)

But our sitcom life took some funny detours and hit a few mandatory speed bumps that delayed any nuptials.  Before we knew it, ten years had passed as a couple, and I was left wondering why exactly we should go to the trouble (and expense) of getting “officially” married.  To our friends, we are firmly ensconced as a couple—after all, they refer to us as “The JPs.”

“If I do it, I want some kind of rights.  I want it to actually mean something,” I explained last month to my friend Kathryn.

She knows a thing or two about the complicated feelings around gay marriage as the head of GayWeddings.com, the leading online boutique dedicated to providing resources and information to same-sex couples who seek to affirm their life-long partnerships.

“Understandable.  But keep in mind that gay weddings can also be transformative.  And not just for the couple, but for guests at the event.  Sometimes it’s the first time straight people witness up close the love and commitment of a gay couple.  Often they end up becoming advocates for gay marriage rights,” Kathryn explained.

Indeed, the rights associated with gay marriage seem to be on a fast track for approval.  While I’m not sure Judge Tauro’s recent ruling in Boston that DOMA is unconstitutional will stand (it reminds me of my own father’s historic stance striking down Texas’ sodomy statute), it’s an important step for the United States in the right direction.  And I say U.S. for a reason—guess who’s doing it better?  Our South of the Border neighbor, that’s who.

During our recent trip to Mexico’s capital city, I asked an attorney friend what rights I might acquire should I marry Chef in his hometown.

“You can become a Mexican citizen!” he announced with a flourish.

Despite the fact that this is an incredibly progressive stance from a very Catholic country, I wondered what exactly would be gained from becoming a naturalized Chilango (slang for citizen of MX City).  Chef chimed in immediately.

“Skipping the lines at immigration, and buying property on the beach,” he offered.

“I’m not finding those so persuasive,” I replied.  Chef took a deep breath.

“Well, in case there’s a nuclear catastrophe in the States, it’ll be easier for us to come live in Mexico,” he said ominously.

“Sold!” I laughed.

How could I not marry someone with an overactive imagination fed by watching too many Hollywood apocalyptic movies?

It’s not happening any time soon, but a wedding in Mexico sounds like the makings of a very special episode—possibly a transformative one—for two lovable sitcom characters.  Stay tuned.

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