Tag Archives: fire island

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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Cherry Popped

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s pops his (book tour) cherry on Fire Island.

As a young gay in Texas, my first brush with Fire Island was the 1989 Oscar-nominated movie Longtime Companion about the early days of the AIDS epidemic.  The movie’s powerful last scene of three surviving friends walking on a deserted Fire Island beach was (and still is) breathtaking.  At the time, I assumed the idyllic homo holiday community was a Hollywood story telling invention.

That changed the sophomore summer of my New York sitcom life when I found myself dating a doctor with a house in The Pines.  During the drive in his Saab convertible with his Corgie sitting in my lap, I fretted that I had been cast as some boy toy and was expected to put out in exchange for my weekend accommodations.  I wasn’t necessarily averse to that, just wanted to be clear on the expectations.

Doc put my mind at ease when he showed me to my own room, and then gave me a tour up and down the boardwalk dotted with charming red wagons (no cars allowed).  He provided a brief tutorial over the rules of engagement on the island—cocktails and dancing at something called Low Tea ended promptly at 7pm with a mass migration to High Tea and depending on day of the week ending hours later at Middle Tea.  If you still hadn’t successfully hooked up after all that, a trip through the wooded Meat Rack was in order.

Although those rules have changed much over time, I have been lucky enough to get to know Fire Island much better and understand the not-so-subtle differences between the two gay communities of The Pines and Cherry Grove.  My doctor friend was the perfect specimen of life in The Pines—fantastically decorated house, impossibly toned abs, finely tuned regimen.  In the Grove, things are more shabby chic, anything goes and devil may care.  Everything’s just a little looser—in so many ways, including bathing suit tops and bottoms that seem to loose themselves on the beach.  Turns out, I’m pretty much a Grove Boy who enjoys an occasional Meat Rack meander to drink in some Low Tea.

Neighbors on the left, with party hosts Chris and Tom on the right

Lucky for me, dear friends Chris and Tom purchased a home in the Grove nearly seven-years ago and began welcoming their city friends with open arms.  Over the years, they’ve renovated the original pillbox house into a charming cottage perfect for Coastal Living.  The couple met at the very first Condé Nast Traveler Hot List party, and I suppose as a sign of appreciation they let me steal out to the house and pound out pages on Alphabet City.

So this weekend was a homecoming of sorts for the book when they hosted the Fire Island stop on the book tour.  Frankly, I was a little nervous given my recent experience with self-professed non-reading gays at a NYC event.  But it turns out summering folk appreciate when the perfect beach read comes to them.  The guests listened to my reading with rapt attention and an audible gasp was heard during the excerpt about meeting Tyra Banks.  Two-dozen sales later and it was the most successful home book party yet.

JP with Chris

The next morning, Chef and I continued our Cherry Grove tradition of walking around the “town” taking in the new seasonal stores—last year’s ice cream shop, this year’s liquor store—as well as the perennial standbys—Floyd’s muffins, the everything-is-$5-grocery store.  We play the game “Where Would You Work” followed by “What’s Missing?”  Usually we debate the merits of starting a fine dining establishment.  But this year, given the voracious reading appetite of Chris and Tom’s friends, we’re thinking maybe a summer Book Nook.  That means I need to get cranking on 40, Love to have it in stock for Summer 2011.

Even Edie enjoys Alphabet City

Frida, on the other hand...

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Seven Year Itch

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul realizes Frida has reached middle age, and that Chef may have got bitten by the seven-year itch.

Our little one soon after her birth

Our little goose turns 7 today, which effectively means that our incurably cute Bichon Frise Frida has reached middle age.  Chef and I have begun noticing the telltale signs of aging (early dementia?) that runs in our family—restless sleeping, irritability around children.  Then there are the mysterious new habits like randomly removing kibble from the bowl and leaving uneaten bits on carpets and stairways throughout the house.

It’s funny to think back now that exactly this time 7 years ago I had forged Chef’s name on the breeder’s adoption application and was plying him with wine to lessen the impact of the news that we were starting a family (Alphabet City’s Episode 15 And Baby Makes Three).  At the time, Chef claimed he wasn’t a dog person thanks a particularly unfortunate childhood experience with the family Weimaraner.

Chef and Frida on the ferry to Fire Island

Soon enough though Frida Carlota Xochtil Amarilla Buchmeyer-Chavez (her full Mexican birthright name) had charmed the pants off Chef, and those two have been in love ever since.

Sure, I’m still Alpha Dad—the one she relies on for food and walks and treats.  But Frida has a special bond with her Papa Chef.  His legs are the ones she curls up inside at night.  I’m the one she forces out of bed in the morning so she can snuggle next to him.  She’ll sit with him and watch World Cup matches no matter the time of day, no complaints.  Both of them share a love of True Blood, Smallville and Dexter.  They’re easy companions, through and through—like Father and Daughter.

The family in Provincetown

Meanwhile, I have classic Working Mother Syndrome.  I arrange the childcare, and interview the au pairs/dog walkers (all of ours have a painting background which we’re sure is a good influence on Frida).  I take her to the allergy specialist and dole out the meds.  I feel guilty when traveling, and get punished and ignored for a day upon my return.

In the early years, Frida traveled with me.  She was a regular on the West Coast prancing through the lobby of the L’Ermitage Beverly Hills and exploring the grounds of Montage Laguna Beach.  She took in the Cherry Blossoms in the nation’s capital and ran the corridors of Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco.  She lounged poolside in Puerto Vallarta.  She even went to New Orleans for Susan’s birthday and enjoyed beignets at Café du Monde.

At Montage Laguna Beach

Cherry blossoms in DC

Lounging in Puerto Vallarta

Beignets in New Orleans

The mad pumpkin

But middle age has brought on a bout of persnicketiness.  The girl likes a set schedule.  Up at 6am to look out the front window.  6:30am return to bed to push Papa (me) out of the way.  7am visit Papa downstairs and lay on couch.  7:30am back patio to chase stray cats.  8am check on Papa at his computer.  8:30am stretch and whine for walk.  8:45am walk.  9:00am Papa departs.  Any switch in schedule is cause for much concern, pitiful looks, cries and opportunities for lap sitting.  Except Friday, that day, she somehow knows is Papa-Often-Works-From-Home-Day when anything goes.

This week is National Take Your Dog to Work Week.  And so, Frida is right here in my lap, looking at me with her big saucer eyes—sensing that I am writing something about her, no doubt.

Lately, Chef has mentioned the possibility of getting Frida a sister.  He must have the seven-year itch.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ve got my hands full with this one—especially as she moves into her twilight years.  I start to get nervous remembering the searing pain when my last little goose Winnie passed away.  And I hug Frida a little too close.

Then she winks, doles out a round of wet kisses, and I smile, knowing Chef and I have raised quite the little charmer.  Happy Birthday, goose.

Two proud papas

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