Category Archives: Background

40, Love: Justice Jo(h)n Paul

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul unearths an old letter from Judge Buchmeyer and pays tribute to Justice John Paul.

As I explain in Alphabet City’s Episode 14: Happy Soul, I have always disliked jokes about my name as it relates to other famous faces.

People making jokes about my name exhausted me.  The next line was usually, “Oh, like John Paul Jones?”  Or John Paul Sartre.  Or John Paul George and Ringo.  It’s just one of those things I’ve heard my whole life and am prickly about.

But one man was always an exception—legendary (and retiring) Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.  It wasn’t often that people conjured up his name when they met me, but when they did it was a pleasure.

Justice JP became an important figure in our house, when in 1986, he opposed the court’s decision in Bowers v. Hardwick—a case challenging Georgia’s law criminalizing homosexuality.  That decision by the Supreme Court to allow such laws to stand effectively reversed my own father’s decision in Baker v. Wade to strike down Texas’ similar law.  My father was crushed, and so was I as a young teenager kid struggling to make sense of my sexuality—and the highest court in the lands opposition to it.

First page of the note my father sent me about Hardwick/Baker v. Wade

At the time of the decision, I was in Brazil as a high school exchange student.  My father broke the news to me in the first letter he wrote me.  I discovered the letter among my father’s papers after his death.  Here’s an excerpt of the hand written note on my father’s judicial letterhead; capitalization is true to Dad’s original:

8 July [1986]

Dear Paul—

First letter. Bad news.

On the day you left the United States, the Supreme Court decided the Hardwick case (the Georgia sodomy case) by a 5-4 vote.  If you remember, my opinion in Baker v. Wade was deliberately written to hold that a state could not condemn sodomy between husband and wife (or unmarried heterosexuals), so therefore a state could not prohibit private, consensual homosexual conduct.

Well, in Hardwick, the Supreme Court held that it was constitutional for a state to condemn sodomy between husband and wife—and that the Georgia statute prohibiting all heterosexual and homosexual conduct was enforceable.  Hell, they even indicated that a state could constitutionally prohibit adultery.  Powell, the swing vote, allowed that it might be O.K. to fine people who engage in sodomy, but you couldn’t put them in jail because that just might be cruel and unusual punishment.

Blackmun and [John Paul] Stevens wrote excellent dissents—which has been described as “his greatest moment on the Court,” and I agree.  Copies of the opinion and the New York Times coverage are enclosed.

Hardwick sounded the death knell for Baker v. Wade.  At first, I was very upset that Baker had not been the first case to the Supreme Court…later, I realized that it would have made no difference—since the majority would have ignored my findings, just like the Fifth Circuit did.

To conclude, Chris [his wife, my stepmother] and I were watching Lawrence Tribe (who handled both Hardwick and Baker in the Supreme Court) debate some Nerd Guy from a Right-Wing Group in Washington, DC, on the McNeil-Lehrer show.  The Nerd made the telling point that, if a state could not condemn sodomy in the bedroom, then it would have no right, “to prohibit two businessmen from agreeing to fix prices in the privacy of their own bedroom.”

Well, Tribe and Chris came Totally Unglued, at the same time and to the same extent.  Tribe nailed the Nerd with a sarcastic point about someone trying to equate private sexual conduct to economic decisions.  Chris cheered “ALRIGHT.”

Later in the show I whispered to Chris: “Would you like to go into our bedroom and fix prices?”  After some delay Chris responded: “I love it when you talk economics to me.”

Better news in letter 2.


Justice JP—thanks for fighting the good fight, and always lending honor to our name.  And for giving my father the opportunity to teach lesson in sex & economics.

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Celebrating a Sitcom Life

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul gets emotional over a celebration with co-stars, friends & family.

Stayed tuned for more pics courtesy of Jamie at

Last night, I once again channeled my inner-Mary Tyler Moore to hold it together as I thanked co-stars, guest stars, featured actors, crew members and, of course, friends and fans at the official Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life Book Launch Party.  I couldn’t have created a better set than the Alphabet City Wine Co.—featured in today’s New York Times.

As I told the group, everyone in the room participated in some way getting me to this moment.  Some in deep ways, like Susan, who has been part of so many stories, and listened and counseled me when to pull back or use pseudonyms.  Others in the room were wearing badges of honor with slogans like “My Part Got Cut from Alphabet City,” “I’ve Been Banned from Alphabet City,” and my favorite, “Who Do I Have to F**K to be on Alphabet City.”

Here’s a little Flip video of my remarks courtesy of co-star Angela.  Or read on below for a summary.

But seriously, everyone there—and reading here—has helped me get to this point because you’ve provided encouragement.  And you can’t underestimate how much encouragement means to an artist and an author.  It’s tough staying true to your work, dedicating time and following your dream.

I’ve had the opportunity to follow my dream three times now.  First, becoming a filmmaker by writing, directing and producing GayTV: The Movie.  Second, living in the city of my dreams—New York City.  And now third, being an author.

This third time has been the sweetest, really.  Because there has been someone there for me supporting me and nurturing me the entire time.  Chef has loved me and loved that I was following my dream.  Thank you, Chef, for being such a great foil and partner—after nearly ten years together, you’re the most amazing co-star I could ever imagine!

And so, a virtual toast to all of you—thank you for being such an important part of my sitcom life and helping me turn the world on with a smile.

See you on book tour!

UPDATE: A few photos courtesy of Jamie at from FromMe-ToYou.  Like a celebrity on the red carpet, folks keep asking me about my outfit.  My super cute navy blazer with the red accents–Brooklyn Industries!  Glasses by Paul Smith.  Shirt & Pants by Parke Ronen.

With my friend Clare in front of the blow-up of the cover that makes me laugh.


Filed under Alphabet City Excerpt, Background, East Village

Caught in Rehab

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul goes to Celebrity Rehab and finds a new boyfriend.

It was just a matter of time before I got caught cheating, again.  This time, I clumsily left the evidence right where Chef could see it.  Usually he doesn’t pay much attention.  But home sick with the flu, Chef was lounging on the couch, and as he picked up the remote, I twitched nervously.  I was about to be found out.  He punched on the TV, called up the list of shows recorded on our DVR, and turned to me suspiciously.

“What’s this Celebrity Rehab?” he questioned.

I gulped.  How to explain it?  He stared in disbelief at the short summary listing down-on-their-luck “celebrities” like Mackenzie Phillips who signed up for a little publicity while getting clean.

“Oh, that?  Believe it or not, my new TV boyfriend is on the show.”

“Dennis Rodman?”

“No, silly, Dr. Drew!”

Immediately, I relaxed.  It felt good to come out and stop hiding.  As much I resist, I can totally get sucked into trash TV, and my first time with Dr. Drew had me hooked.  How could I look away from a train wreck that included Hollywood Madame Heidi Fleiss and country music start Mindy McCready.  Presiding over this hothouse of madness was the serene Dr. Drew with the sexy glasses and compassionate face.  Would he be my Daddy?

“You don’t want to watch that,” I said to Chef, wanting to keep this guilty pleasure to myself.  Then Chef hit play and I watched it happen—he was signed up in a matter of minutes.

I knew that watching the show with Chef was going to be a very different viewing experience—he doesn’t really pay attention to much in the way of pop culture, outside of music divas like Madonna and Lady Gaga.  Thankfully, the program rolls a video mini-bio of each participant as they are introduced, so I knew Chef would be okay.  But I wasn’t prepared for Chef’s confusion over the detox process.

“So in order to get off heroin you have to become addicted to meth?” he asked after listening to Dr. Drew counseling a former member of Alice in Chains.

“What? No, they give you methadone to get off heroin. And it’s highly addictive. Didn’t you just listen to Dr. Drew’s lecture?”

“I thought it was the same thing.  So what does crystal meth stand for if not methadone?”


“The same thing that’s in ecstasy?”

“No, that’s MDMA.”

I realized then that Celebrity Rehab, while a guilty pleasure for me, was going to be a much more educational experience for Chef.  Like a cracked-up Sesame Street.  My boyfriend Dr. Drew and I have our work cut out for us.


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Speed(o) Demon

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul confesses that his love for bikinis has lead to some painful experiences.

Somewhere along the way I developed a deep appreciation for Speedos.  And I don’t just mean tingling excitement from seeing a hunky guy parade down Fire Island letting it (almost) all show.  No, I mean that I, myself, much prefer to don a bikini than baggy board shorts.

It’s not like I can chalk it up to a European upbringing.  In Texas, I was raised to wear much more modest pool attire.  And it’s not like I have a toned torso that I love to show off.  I have battled weight my entire life.

Maybe it started when I was 14, and just coming to terms with my body and sexuality.  I used flip through GQ magazine pulling out pictures of models in revealing swimwear, creating a collage on poster board of my ideal man that I hung in my room.  Remind me again how my Mom was surprised when I came out officially several years later?

In my "couture" bikini going snorkeling in butch

At the time, the only place in town I knew sold actual men’s bikinis was Neiman Marcus—they catered to men with more of a “special” fashion sense.  I saved up my pennies and steeled my courage to purchase one for myself.  When my father and stepmother were away, I’d put it on and lay poolside.  I also doused my hair with special Sun-In to bring out the highlights.  Oh I was a vision.  And felt so sexy and like such a rebel.

My fetish flourished when I took up residence on Alphabet City.  There was no shortage of places catering to men wanting to display their package.  Over the years, I’ve acquired quite the menagerie of swim attire.  Flashy red floral for Puerto Vallarta’s gay beach.  Cheeky green plaid for Provincetown.  Understated deep purple for more family oriented resorts in the Caribbean.

Last year for my 40th birthday, I even had a “couture” suit designed by swimwear designer Keiko—something to show off my Green Lantern tattoo placed high on my thigh.  I needed something with just the right colors, and cut so as not to ride up my butt—I was going to be entertaining friends on a boat in Sydney, after all.  A little modesty was required, after all.

As I’ve aged, it’s taken more work to look “presentable” in a bikini.  I’ve lost weight, pumped up my legs and trimmed the unruly hair on my thighs.  When I started noticing some odd patches of hair growing on my back, I immediately booked my first waxing treatment at men’s spa Nickel.

After disrobing and laying prostate on what looked like a sacrificial alter, Latin American aesthetician Monica gave me a once over.

“Ay papi, it’s not just your back.  That hair on your butt needs to go, too.”

“Why?  It’s mostly covered up.”

“No, no baby.  From looking at your tan line, some of that hair is poking out.  Monica gonna take good care of you.  Just relax.  You want inside as well?”

“Um, I don’t know what that means.”

“Sweetie, you watch porn?  How you think those boys have no hair there?”

Holy Christmas!  Just the thought of it made me writhe in pain.  Turns out, there’s a male equivalent of the female Brazilan wax.  I’ve named it after Monica’s home country—Ecuadorian Torture.

“Well, okay, I’ll try anything once.”

Famous last words.

Yesterday, as I dropped my towel in front of my gym locker, I noticed my tan line fading, along with memories of the warmth of Mexico.  But the cute guy next to me winked, and told me he liked my tattoo—and my tan line.  Nice.  Just the reaction, and boost of self-esteem, I’d been looking for.

Time to book my next trip to a sunny locale.  But what Speedo will I take?


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Feliz (Nervioso) Navidad

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul gets nervous about guest starring on a Mexican tele-novella.

No matter how you slice it, Mexico makes me nervous.  Not the country, mind you.  But my in-laws, Chef’s family.  I should explain that I use the name of the country as an endearing term referring to my in-laws in general, much in the same way that I use the name of my partner’s profession to refer to my beloved Chef.

My nervous condition has a long history.  When Chef and I first became an item, my Catholic mother-in-law refused to meet me.  So the stakes were high once Chef and I were living together and she finally agreed to stay in Alphabet City on one of her twice yearly visits.

On the day of his parents arrival, I was rushing back from a two week cross-country trip for Condé Nast Traveler and was working myself up into a frenzy of anxiety.  My boss Publisher wasn’t helping matters when I confessed to why I was so fidgety.  She leaned across the mini-table separating our First Class seats.

“I certainly hope you have a game plan.  This first meeting is big.  Very big.  You gotta have a game plan,” she said.

“Game plan?”

“You’re not just planning on letting them see you in your robe and slippers are you?  Not to overstate the matter, but this meeting is make it or break it.  You better be ready with your game face on.” Continue reading

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40, Love: Small Packages

Today on Alphabet City: JP learns during his first Christmas in NYC that handsome wrapping can’t make up for small packages.  Viewer Discretion Advised.

My first Christmas in Alphabet City turned out to be rather disappointing.  Although I was alone, I wasn’t sad exactly.  Living thousands of miles away from my Texas family finally provided me with a terrific excuse for not suffering through their dysfunction.  On top of that, I didn’t have any money and someone needed to take care of the menagerie of animals living in our apartment.

While my roommates trotted off to warmer climes, I stayed behind and decided to keep myself busy building new Christmas Eve rituals and memories.  All bundled up, I set out for a big walk filled with iconic New York moments: watching couples ice-skate in Central Park, smirking at Barney’s holiday/pop-culture window displays, pushing through crowds gawking at Rock Center’s Tree.

Everything was going fine until the Titanic.  A tradition I imported from Texas was my Christmas Eve enjoyment of movies with a non-traditional holiday theme—nothing sappy or sweet for me.  I prefer something really off-kilter like Misery or even Monster’s Ball.  But 1997 was in short supply of depressing features and so I thought a movie about hordes killed aboard a huge shipping disaster might be okay.  Boy was I tricked.  The doomed love story brought to life by Leo and Kate sunk me into a sea of loneliness.

As I walked the eerily empty streets of Alphabet City, I decided to drown my sorrow with a few drinks at my go-to dive The Boiler Room.  Surely I wasn’t the only lonely East Village gay boy?  And this seedy joint had always been good for some guaranteed pick-ups.

Let’s just say it was slim pickins’ that night—maybe about 7 sad souls nursing beers and watching the animated version of The Grinch That Stole Christmas on the TV over the bar.  Really?  What kind of cock tease buzz kill is that?  I almost turned around and left when I noticed a handsome Latino fellow at the bar.  I figured I had nothing to lose, and hopped onto a stool next to him.  He smiled and leaned over to me.

“I’m visiting from Argentina and never seen this funny show before.  Can you explain to me?  Is this the way you celebrate Christmas?”

I smiled and gulped my beer.  Things were looking up—if I played my cards right, the night might not end so badly after all. Continue reading

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Filed under 40 Love, Background, East Village

Postal Guilt

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul laments the guilt brought on by the Christmas (card) season

‘Tis the season for guilt—and I’m blaming the US Post Office.  Every day, tucked between the mounds of catalogs and discount Broadway ticket offers are the neatly addressed offenders—Christmas Cards.  Or Holiday Greetings if you prefer the PC term.  I’m not really sure when the feelings of guilt first set in, because I used to be Christmas card person.  I took great pride in picking ornate Crane’s stationery every year and personalizing notes to everyone on my list.  I even saved  the project for my regular late-November cross-country flight to Los Angeles and set up an assembly line in my trusted seat 38A.  My seat companions always looked on in awe of my organizational skills.

But then one season something in me snapped, and I just stopped.  I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a pen or even pick out printed cards.  And that’s when the guilt set in.  Every card that arrives causes a flood of questions to run through my head.  Here’s a sampling brought on by yesterday’s mail:

Who’s this from?  The signature is intelligible.  On Lexington Ave?  Chef and I don’t know anyone who lives on Lex, do we?  Think.  Think.  Think.  Oh, right.  It’s John.  My tennis buddy.  Wait, isn’t he Jewish?  What’s he doing sending me a card with a Christmas Tree?  And that cute dog.  Did he pick this out special for me?  Great.  He’s not even the right religion and he got up the energy to send a card.  What’s he going to think of me?  Am I supposed to send him a clever Hannukah note?  Isn’t it over by now?  Maybe he’ll just think it got lost in the mail.  When do I see him next?  Hope he’s not one of those people who asks, “Did you get my card?”  I hate that.  How am I supposed to respond?  That I was too lame and thoughtless to return the gesture?

You can see how I drive myself crazy.

Sometimes NOT getting a holiday greeting from someone is even worse.  There are people who I know have their assistants prep the cards—like Tyra or the Billionaire I worked for years ago.  I’ve been on their lists forever.  Then one lonely December, nothing.  What did I do to get taken off a list?  Not send a card?  Maybe their staff is cross-referencing received cards in a database and assigning a point system—and I lost.  Great.  Hope I don’t need them for a job reference at some point.

Lots of people complain about those “update” letters that people.  I kind of like them—I’m fascinated by the kind of minutiae that people include in those.  But I am noticing a steep drop off in the number of those special missives.  Maybe there’s no need in the age of Facebook and Twitter since we’re kept in a constant state of personal update.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s a good rationalization for me not sending cards.  Consider this blog post my holiday greeting to you.  I can feel the guilt lessening already—until I open tomorrow’s mailbox.

Oy vey.

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Raising Canine

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul lands an appointment with a much sought after NYC doggie dermatologist.  REMINDER: Take my survey

“New York, where everything is harder than it should be.  And more expensive,” said my dear friend Martin (in a made-up Brooklyn accent) many years ago when he helped me move to the Big Apple.  And boy if the past decade (and a half) hasn’t proved him right.

Take child rearing, for example.  People always talk about the challenges of raising a child in Manhattan.  Now a co-parent of my second Bichon Frise pup, I whole-heartedly agree.

Chef and I have been lucky with our Au Pairs.  In Alphabet City, we had Kasia from Poland who would take Winnie, and later Frida, out for hours and hours at a time.  Since Kasia was a visual artist, I assumed my little ones were assisting in her workshop and learning a third language, since they were already bi-lingual in English and Spanish.  When our family moved to Washington Heights, Kasia moved to Maine, but not before Frida was the guest of honor at Kasia’s gallery opening in Alphabet City.  Frida chose two provocative oil paintings now hanging over the couch in her study.

Frida handing over a check to her artist-Au Pair Kasia at her gallery opening

But as anyone will tell you, it’s health care that’s a killer.  Despite the fact that it takes over an hour by subway to visit trumpet playing Argentine Doc Moscovich in the East Village, I’m loyal to our puppy-pediatrician.  But now he’s referring us to an Allergy-Dermatology Specialist for Frida’s ongoing hot-spots problem.

Just the words “referral” and “specialist” make my heart beat faster.  Not because I worry about the outcome.  But because I know that as a New Yorker those are fighting words.  It means doing battle to score an appointment.

“Let’s see.  The first thing I have is a little over a month away.  How would January 7 work?” said the extremely nice nurse at Animal Allergy and Dermatology.

“Sure, but we’re leaving town for a couple of weeks for the holidays and was hoping for something sooner.”

“That’s understandable.  But unfortunately, January 7 is all I have.”

Seasoned New Yorkers know when faced with a velvet rope rejection that a little name dropping is in order.

“My dear friend’s Chris and Tom just rave about Dr. Peikes.  Say she’s just done wonders for Edie.”

“Oh, you know Edie?”

“Yes, she’s actually Frida’s cousin.  They sort of grew up together.”

“Well, in that case, why don’t I put you on a waiting list in case anything comes up I can call you?”

I’ve played the “waiting list” game before—it’s how I scored a coveted table at the French Laundry in Napa.  Put your name on the list, then call the host every day and flirt, and beg, and plead until something “magically opens” up.

Guess what?  Frida and I are off for our first round of allergy testing today.  But only after I fill out a 4-page Dermatology History Report that is more extensive than the paperwork at my own specialists.  I stopped myself on seemingly simple question like, “Pet’s Name.”  Do I own up to her full gay Dad from Mexico name—Frida Carlota Xochtil Amarilla Buchmeyer Chavez?

New York, where everything is harder than it should be.

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Something’s Coming, Something Good

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul takes matters into his own hands becoming a self-made/published man.

“Blogs are the new books,” a fellow guest said to me this past Saturday night at my friend (and avid reader) Meg’s annual holiday gathering.  The cookbook author was explaining why she wouldn’t necessarily pen a follow-up to her 2005 entry.  “The publishing world is totally different now.”

You can say that again.  Everyday there seems to be another disheartening story about “the end of books.”  Quite a depressing thought for a writer who’s always dreamed of seeing his name in printed letters.  People keep encouraging me to move on from type—and focus online.  No doubt, this blog has given me an enormous boost of confidence about my storytelling prowess connecting with readers.  Believe me, I need that pick-me-up after the number of times I’ve heard from literary agents, “I just don’t find your narrative voice engaging.”  Turns out, hundred of daily readers of this blog are proving them wrong.

The conundrum of print vs. online reminds me of when I was interviewing for a job at Condé Nast in the late ‘90s just as the Internet boom was taking hold.  Friends told me I was crazy to consider going to “old media” when the dot-com boom was all the rage.  But I just couldn’t shake my dream of working for a publishing giant—it seemed like what a Mary Tyler Moore wannabe would do.  I’m glad I followed my MTM gut instinct that time, and I’m going to do the same now.

I’ve never been one to sit back and let others control my artistic development.  When I wanted to get into movies, I made my own film GayTV: The Movie.  So now, I’m publishing my own book—the magic of the Internet allows me to get Alphabet City directly to your hands.

There are a lot of decisions to make, and that’s where I need your help.  Take a few moments to answer some survey questions for me on format and pricing.

CLICK HERE to Take my survey

Now stand by as I make a few finishing touches on the manuscript and cover artwork.  As I round the corner to my 41st birthday, the book will be a gift for me—and hopefully you.

And I think that would make my role model Mary very proud.

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Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul worries that his niece’s Christmas gift might turn her gay.

It’s becoming clear that I hope my niece Hannah will turn into a Gay Man.  Mind you, not in a sex change Chaz Bono kind of way.  But more in terms of her aesthetic.  I blame her mother, my sister Paige, for continually casting me in the role of Uber Gay Uncle—a part I happily play on holidays and birthdays.

This Christmas, Paige encouraged me to burn a CD of some of mine and Chef’s favorite tunes for Hannah’s iPod that we gave her (in pink) a couple of years ago.  Seemed simple and fun at first, until I had to wrest control of the project away from my partner.

“This’ll be fun.  I know exactly what Hannah will like. I’m thinking music from Harry Potter, and maybe that cute new song from Taylor Swift,” Chef said.

“I appreciate that you and Hannah share the same pre-teen sensibility in movies and music, but I think my sister was hoping for something more classic,” I huffed.

I’ll admit that I have a tinge of jealousy about Chef’s relationship with Hannah.  When together, they are inseparable like best girlfriends at a pajama party, gossiping about boys, and movies and books they love, and rolling their eyes at me when I ask for clarification on some mysterious plot point at Hogwarts.

So, when I sat down to collect our gifts of song, I wanted the resulting CD to be educational, and reflective of my taste.  So I set some parameters.  I wanted classic songs that meant something to me, and preferred it be from female vocalists—young girls like Hannah need positive female role models.  After a few hours of serious deliberations, I raced downstairs to share with Chef the results—intent on listening to every song one more time to make sure none of the lyrics were too suggestive.  By the second song, Chef turned to me wide eyed.

“You’re kidding me, right?  Half-Breed?  How is Paige going to explain that to Hannah?” he questioned.

Half Breed is one of Cher’s seminal songs.  And racial discrimination is very much alive and well in this country, mister.”

“What about Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves?”

“A personal favorite.  More of a historical lesson, I’d say.”

“Alright, just balance it out with a little more Madonna.”

“You’re right.  I’m thinking Express Yourself would be good for a girl just developing crushes on boys.”

As we sat listening to the rest of the songs, I began to crack up in hysterics.  Among the highlights were Diana Ross’ I’m Coming Out, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, ABBA’s Dancing Queen, Gloria Estefan’s Turn the Beat Around, Whitney’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody, and Kylie’s Better the Devil You Know.   37 of the gayest dance songs around.

“I think I’ll title this mix DivaNTrainingMegaMix,” I said.

When I called and told my sister laughed how much fun I was having putting together the CD, she laughed.

“This sounds just like you.  Remember the lesson you taught Hannah when you gave her a Barbie?”

Do I?  Hannah and I excitedly played dolls together that Christmas.  I took Barbie’s spectacular sparkly pink chiffon gown and put it on Ken.  Hannah nearly went apoplectic.

“Uncle Paul, boys don’t wear girl’s dresses!”

I grinned.

“Oh Hannah, just wait.”


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