Today on Alphabet City: In Chicago, Jon Paul celebrates 10 years with Chef with a possibly illegal act of Inception inspired by Erma Bombeck.
Chef at the spot we first met at World Financial Center
It’s hard to put into words all of the things that I have come to love about my partner Chef over the past 10 years. But on the dawn of our anniversary last Thursday, before I even poured my first cup of coffee, my morning surly disposition turned sunny just recounting some of his lovable quirks.
I love that when I am trying to get his attention when he walks around with his earphones in he’s not listening to the latest Lady Gaga but to a news podcast in French.
I love that after years of complaining about his snoring that he never complains about his Darth Vader breathing machine that travels around the globe.
I love that he puts up with my ribbing whenever he jumps onto the latest Whole Foods endorsed diet fad including becoming a vegan for a week.
I love that despite telling me he was never a “dog person” he has become one of the most doting puppy fathers imaginable.
I love that he is so supportive of my writing that he never batted an eye when I wanted to share with the world the most intimate details of our meeting.
Self-portrait 10 years later
It’s one of the greatest joys of the Alphabet City Book Tour to have him along at some of the events. So when our 10th Anniversary coincided with the Chicago stop on the tour, unlike many partners who might have complained, he signed up enthusiastically for a trip to the Windy City. Truthfully, a few weeks before the event, we recreated our famous (to us) first date—a meeting at the World Financial Center, stroll up the river on the West Side, and dinner at Pastis. Pretty much the only thing that had changed in a decade was us—our backs were killing us and our feet hurt.
We’ve always had a soft spot for the Second City. It was our first trip together a couple of months after we started dating. I remember being in my cave like bedroom at the Alphabet City apartment telling him I’d like to buy him a plane ticket to accompany me on a business trip to Chicago—and nervously admitting to him for the first time that I had this butterfly feeling in my stomach that I was in love. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he gave me a huge hug, and said, “Me too!” We’ve never looked back.
Ten years later, we stayed in one of Chicago’s newest and most buzzed about establishments, Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar. Traveling to various Kimpton Hotels over the course of the book tour (honestly, their sponsorship is golden, please give them your business) I love seeing how different the hotels are in each market, and how consistent they are. And not just in the service or the amenities (the 6am coffee in the lobby is a god send for a coffee addict). It’s the fellow guests that I love. At the sleek and modern Hotel Palomar Chicago, Chef and I showed up at guest wine hour. Sometimes I set up a little display of books and encourage guests to attend my one-hour book event later at the hotel. While I was feeling shy this particular evening, Chef was not. His Whole Foods Demo Specialist training kicked in and the next thing I knew he was scattering the lobby area with book displays and talking to a couple encouraging them to come to the reading. I rolled my eyes—why was Chef ignoring the cute boys at the back of the room in favor of this straight couple? I could see the woman nod her head and smile politely at Chef when he walked away.
Visiting Kimpton couple!
We headed upstairs to the gorgeous reception room overlooking Chicago’s bustling State Street. As I welcomed several area friends to the reception, the visiting couple from downstairs showed up. They looked a little hesitant, somewhat shell shocked, but I walked them over to the bar for a glass of wine and found out they were visiting on vacation from Philadelphia. Chef smiled at me and pulled me aside.
“See, you never know, right?”
“Yeah, but I’m a little worried they don’t know what they’re in for. I am reading the chapter about our first date—it’s a little racy.”
“It’ll just be part of their experience.”
The couple found a spot on the couch, and laughed along with my friends at all the right places. Chef was the only person in the room who looked embarrassed when I read from the chapter about our Internet hook-up. First in line to buy a book? The couple, of course.
“I’m buying it for my boss. He recently came out. I think he’ll really enjoy it,” the woman smiled as she posed for a picture with me.
And that’s what I love about Kimpton. Their guests—no matter their background—are smack dab my target audience. Thanks Kimpton for sharing them with me.
Back in our suite, Chef and I were recounting how lucky we are to have such wonderful friends who turned out for the party. I stared at a small bookshelf that had various novels all covered in brown butcher paper.
“Don’t you think this is odd how they wrapped the books?” I asked.
“Maybe it’s a design thing. They’re probably fake,” Chef said.
The site of Inception
I pulled one off the shelf, opened to the title page and did a comic double take.
“You’re not going to believe this. It’s Erma Bombeck’s If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries What Am I Doing in the Pits?”
The famous humor columnist’s book makes a cameo appearance in Alphabet City in the episode where my mother comes to visit. I read that excerpt at practically every book tour stop. Chef perked up.
“Oooh, it’s like a scene in Inception. Maybe this is a dream and someone put it there.”
Another thing I love about Chef—his application of fictional plot lines to real life scenarios. At least he was positing something Star Wars related.
“That’s fun. I like that idea. Why don’t we pull a reverse Inception?” I laughed.
I carefully tore off the butcher paper around Erma’s book, and wrapped it around a copy of Alphabet City—they are the exact same size. Inside my memoir, I scrawled a note to the next Hotel Palomar Chicago Room 1004 occupant brave enough to look inside the book on the shelf saying they could keep the book, and to email me when they found it. After all, Kimpton guests are my target market.
I crawled under the covers and snuggled with Chef, glad that ten years later, I have such a wonderful partner in crime.
At Chicago's Purple Pig