A pOptimistic Christmas Note

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s Christmas note announces the end of the ABCityblog sitcom as we know it, but the launch of a new pOptimistic network.

2010 Christmas Card Wreath

Receiving Christmas cards is one of my great holiday joys.  I’m not one of those curmudgeons who complain about the cutesy pictures of kids posed in their holiday finest, or roll my eyes at the “year in the life” letters that could have used a deft editing touch.  In the age of Facebook, when you’re only one passive peek away from knowing the latest thought of your 389th best friend, I find Christmas cards wonderfully anachronistic.

Maybe it’s the sense of anticipation that has me addicted to holiday snail mail.  Will I make it back onto the Jewish Billionaire’s Christmas card list having run into him on book tour a couple times this year?  No, but his company sent me an e-greeting with a recipe for a trifle.  Bah-humbug. Will Tyra see her way clear to forgive a little out-of-context PageSix book publicity?  Unfortunately, no.

But then there are the true friends and family on whose cards I can always count.  Frida’s veterinary pet insurance kicks in the season early with a note that arrives right after Thanksgiving.  My 83 year-old Uncle Cleigh typically sends a picture montage card—usually posed with his dogs and sky diving on his last birthday.  My best gay Gareth chooses a homosexually charged fold-over.  Keith mails an artistic and intricate pop-up cut out.  Cathy manages to unearth yet another jokey Mexican theme featuring yet another Chihuahua, this year posed in a sweater with message, “Fleece Navidad.”  Which, by the way, has Chef in stitches—never underestimate the power of homonym humor to a non-native speaker.

Given my love of the card tradition, you’d think I’d get in on the action.  But no, I’m just a greeting voyeur.  And I don’t even feel guilty about it.  I suppose if you get right down to it, that’s what this blog is really: each post one big Christmas card note, a snapshot of my thinking at a certain point in time.

Here then is my (electronic) Christmas card missive:

With Chef in Mexico

Dear friends, family, fans and casual readers—

2010 has been a life-changing year for me, and I couldn’t have done it without the love of Chef, my partner of a decade (yikes!), not to mention all the encouragement and support you’ve given me along the way.  A year ago, the success of this blog in connecting with readers convinced me to muster the courage and independently publish my humorous memoir Alphabet City.  And what a joyous journey—both literal and emotional—with consequences I never anticipated.

On book tour, I had the opportunity to connect personally with so many of you who graciously opened your homes for book parties with friends.  Christine E., Cathy, Mandy and the ladies of Chi Omega in Dallas/Ft. Worth made my hometown welcoming again—and the reconnection with my stepmother Christine C. was an early Christmas gift.

Alphabet City themed cupcakes at sister-in-law Laura's party

My Mexican family—Isabel in S. Florida, and in-laws Laura and Miguel in Boston—thanks for trying to translate Mary Tyler Moore to a Latino audience.  Of course, the coastal gays jumped into action: Bryan K. for the first Manhattan gathering, Larry for LA’s Gay Pride, Chris and Tom for a weekend on Fire Island.  I had the opportunity to see dear friends blossoming in their new homes: Kara in DC, Dana in LA, and Jimmy in Madison.  Old friends like Shannon took me to new places like Lubbock where her sister Colleen charmed the boots off of me!  Even older friends (and family) introduced me to their new friends and family: sister Paige to the Whole Foods gang, Valerie to Austin’s Media Mavens, including Tammy and her gorgeously renovated historic abode.  Not to mention the reconnections along the way: Kathryn, Mila, Julia, and Diana.

The love I felt from you, your friends, and the fans I met along the way, made me truly believe that I have a unique, fun and optimistic voice that is connecting with readers.  And that is what has given me the courage to announce my next journey: following my passion and dream of being a writer, and doing so full-time.

An optimistic attitude, like Mary Tyler Moore

That means I bid a fond farewell to life as a marketing/public relations consultant, and say hello to the life of a writer.  While I anticipate many ups and downs, I’ve learned that my passion, creativity, hard work and optimistic attitude can take me far.  Already, my focus and energy landed me an important story for Condé Nast Traveler (watch for it in March 2011).  And I have many more exciting changes in store, including a complete redesign and relaunch of this blog.  The topics I write about are more than can be captured in a sitcom called Alphabet City.  With favorite shows like Tex and the City (culture), Green Globe Trekker (travel), and 40, Love (life), and soon-to-be-released shows like Service Entrance (food) and Biz Savvy Blogger (technology), I may just need my own network—like Oprah.  As the wise and wealthy media mogul says herself in promos for her OWN channel:

“What if I could take every story that ever moved me?  Every lesson that motivated me?  Every opportunity that was given to me?  All of my most special celebrations?  And shared them with you?”

Some might call that nauseating, others might call that Facebook and Twitter, but I’m calling the new JP network:

Watch for this fresh, frank, fun website-network to launch in the New Year.  I can’t wait to share this next part of the journey with you.  As Oprah says, “Oooh, this is gonna be good!”

Until then, wishing you a

Viewer programming note: To prepare for the Poptimistic programming change and to celebrate the season, ABCityblog will be going on hiatus—except for instances of breaking thoughts/news.



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Green Globe Trekker: Caribbean Goes Organic

This popular post has moved to my new blog PoptimisticCLICK HERE to be taken directly to Caribbean Goes Organic.

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: 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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Destination Taste: Singapore Swing

Today on Destination Taste: Tips on your honeymoon Singapore Swing for GayWeddings.com

If you and your new spouse have a taste for the exotic, make sure to include Asia on your gay honeymoon consideration list. While Thailand traditionally earns accolades for openness to gay and lesbian travelers, other countries in the region are opening up and shouldn’t be overlooked. Singapore is a perfect place to recover from jet lag—and your recent nuptials—before heading to other nearby destinations. My fiancé and I recently returned from our own excursion to the island nation—a bustling multi-ethnic city-state filled delicious food, stunning architecture, and horticultural delights. Here are my tastey tips for your gay honeymoon getaway to Singapore.

CLICK HERE to read more of my Singapore Swing tips at Gayweddings.com

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Green Globe Trekker: Mexico’s Hope

Today on Green Globe Trekker: JP worries about Mexico’s recovery from narco-trafficking violence.

Last year in the Yucatan Peninsula

Last week, I had the rare opportunity to dig a little deeper into someone’s Spit List—the controversial Thanksgiving game of nominating someone you so detest you’d spit at them on a red carpet.  This year, Chef stopped dinner conversation cold with his choice: Recreational Drug Users.  As he explained, their choice is tearing apart his home country of Mexico.  Little did I know at the time that an assignment from Condé Nast Traveler would take me South of the Border to check out the affects of narco-trafficking violence on tourism—for contract reasons, you’ll have to read the full story in the March issue of the magazine.  But here’s what I can say: there’s a spirit of optimism afoot that things will improve in Mexico—but I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

The last time I wrote about Mexico for Condé Nast Traveler was November 2004, and I commented on an excitement about the country shrugging off decades of authoritarian rule and looking forward to enjoying true democracy.  In the intervening years, Mexico has become the notorious site of drug cartel warfare.  Experts like University of Miami’s Bruce Bagley told me that was a direct result of the “success” of the American-backed war on drugs in Colombia that has just shifted the drug trafficking up through Mexico.  He believes that Mexico’s 71 years of one-party rule has left a young democracy’s institutions vulnerable—the courts, the police, and the military are cracking from corruption due to the incredible amounts of profits made from drug trafficking.

Where’s that optimism I mentioned?  Many people I spoke with told me a version of, “It’s safe here for tourists.  Drug traffickers don’t want to hurt North Americans.  They are the source of their profits, after all.  They’re the ones who buy their drugs.”  Yikes.  A forceful crack down on trafficking won’t ever stop the problem—there’s just too much money to be made.  Instead, we need to focus our resources on targeting the cause—Chef’s “spitees.”

The other hopeful note Mexicans sounded was that elections are coming in two years.  The likelihood is that the country will shift back to the PRI party—the same one in charge for 71 years—who will make a quiet deal with the drug cartels, and the violence will go away.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like progress to me, but to many in Mexico it seems like the safer choice.

Bottom line, America’s “war on drugs” is a costly, failing effort that is ripping apart a country so dear to my heart.  After all, Mexico has given me so many gifts—and not just the seven or so nativity scenes that are part of my Christmas decorations.  The country blessed me with Chef, and as I’ve said before, I love being the Tex to his Mex.

Let’s put an end to the spitting, and to the drug war.

Check out StopTheDrugWar.org for more.

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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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Destination Taste: Wedding Dykes

Today on Destination Taste: Tips on Amsterdam nuptials for GayWeddings.com

On my recent trip to Amsterdam, locals were quick to point out to me that they have one marriage law that applies to gays and straights alike. They are rightfully proud of the fact that Holland is on the cutting edge of marriage equality—for Dutch citizens. Unless you are marrying a permanent resident of the Netherlands, don’t expect to hop the next KLM flight and tie the knot the next day. But with a little planning, there’s no reason you can’t pull off a memorable, and tasteful, gay destination wedding in the city of canals.  Click here for some of my tastey tips for gay-friendly wedding planner, locations like Sofitel’s The Grand, even nightclubs for bachelor/ette parties.

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