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23 Reasons to Love My Readers

Today on Alphabet City: As the countdown to the new Poptimistic blog begins, Jon Paul looks back at the 23 Most Popular Alphabet City Posts of 2010.

Thank you to the thousands of readers from around the globe who have spent time in Alphabet City.  You’re a diverse bunch with varied tastes—from eco-friendly travel to gay hook-up apps—there’s been a little bit of something for everyone in 2010.  And you’re always surprising me—I mean who knew there were so many Glee fans in Brunei?  In case you’ve missed some of the favorites, I’ve pulled together the Top 23 for you—a little primer on what your fellow Alphabet Citizens have enjoyed.  Why 23?  Because it’s a funny number.  Let me know—did your favorites make the cut?

#1 40, Love: Glee Bargain I’d like to think that my take on Fox TV’s hit show Glee and the producer’s difficulty in portraying Kurt in a more realistic light hit a nerve with the blog-o-sphere.  But judging from the Google searches that linked to the post, I honestly think folks were searching for pictures of cute gay high school student Blaine.  Maybe a channel dedicated to my thoughts on the show is in order?  I think I’d call it KurtiousGLEE.

#2 40, Love: Hello, Meat Grindr No surprise that sex sells, especially to gay boys on the prowl.  My humorous take using the hook-up site during jury duty is one of ABCityblog’s perennial favorites.

A chance encounter with photographer Jamie Beck lead to my favorite Alphabet City publicity shot!

#3 BizSavvyBlogger’s Peek-A-Blog: From Me To You Out of a chance encounter in the blogosphere—courtesy of Whole Foods—blossomed a fun friendship with phenomenal photographer.  The result has been spectacular pictures of me, Chef and our home.  This post gives a peek behind her stylish blog.

#4 Alphabet City’s Episode 1: Whoopi A crazy cat and a mishap with her Oscar, make my encounter with Whoopi a perennial favorite—and the perfect opening to Alphabet City.

#5 BizSavvyBlogger’s Peek-A-Blog: PerrinPost.truth.travel For years travelers have been religiously following the advice of Condé Nast Traveler’s Wendy Perrin.  In this post, I get my longtime friend to dish about how her print job keeps her from blogging 24/7 and what that means for PR folks.

Another Jamie Beck captured moment

#6 40, Love: Tattoo Police I’m an exhibitionist at heart, so I take every chance to show off my tattoos—even on the blog.  According to Google, many people are worried about being “booked” in this tattoo database.

#7 Alphabet City’s: One Night in Bangkok Okay, I’ll admit that I was pandering to my readers with, shall we say, more prurient interests by posting this scandalous excerpt from Alphabet City about a gay sex palace in Bangkok.  But it has one of my favorite comic lines, ever.

#8 Green Globe Trekker: Blue Bahama Mama Thankfully, my readers have rather diverse tastes—especially for eco-travel.  In advance of my panel at Condé Nast Traveler’s World Savers Congress in Singapore, I get the green scoop on The Atlantis.

#9 Kitchen Knightmares: Something Fishy Moroccan Halibut and Carrots from a Bon Appétit recipe is the star of this post—the top viewed recipe related story.

#10 Alphabet City’s Alpha-Beltway This entry is the most-read post related to the Alphabet City Book Tour. While in DC, I get an insider perspective courtesy of old friends, have nauseating John Boehner sighting, and wonder what happened to my favorite Rosalynn Carter outfit.

#11(tie) Tex and the City: Lela & BA Café MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts makes a guest appearance in this post, sharing a picture of his taxi driver’s name Ram Amandeep.  Read it aloud.  That name has become the #2 Google search directing traffic my way.  The first?  “Glee Blaine.”  There’s a joke there, but for now, I’m going to refrain.

AND

40, Love: Virgin Queen My first time with a woman—first time getting a tattoo, of course.  Next to sex, tattoos sells.  I guess they are related in a way.

#13 Kitchen Knightmares: Kiss My Grits After meeting Chef Marcus Samuelsson at a Kraft-sponsored event, I’ll admit developing a little crush.  Will his next restaurant be in Washington Heights?

#14(tie) Alphabet City’s Even Jesus Had a Publicist A rejection from a literary agent who thinks the general public won’t know what a “publicist” does provides an opportunity to excerpt from Alphabet City.

AND

Alphabet City’s Episode 4: Tyra, And Nothing But the Truth Before she was America’s next top media mogul, she was grazing the breakfast buffet and quizzing me about my sexuality.

#16 Alphabet City’s First Excerpt from Episode 13: Happy Soul The online encounter that changed my life.

#17 40, Love: Justice Jo(h)n Paul Unearthing a letter from his father’s papers, I pay tribute to Supreme Court Justice John Paul.

#18 Alphabet City’s First Excerpt from Episode 14: And Baby Makes Three A heartbreaking farewell to a special cast member.  Pet lovers won’t be able to read without crying.

Outside Hanoi's Golden Cock

#19 Green Globe Trekker: iPho Vietnam—Motorbikes & Golden Cock While I’d like to think it’s my lovely description of Viet Nam that makes this post a standout, I believe the name of Hanoi’s gay bar is what calls out to many in their Google searches.

#20(tie) 40, Love: Share, and Cher alike AND Kitchen Knightmares: The Premiere The launch of my cooking show with a nightmare of rancid pork is as compelling to readers as my fighting with neighbors and their kids at the local CSA food pick-up spot.

#22 Tex and the City: The Parent Trap Confronting the question of “are you guys going to have kids?,” I turn to theater reviews for help.

#23 Green Globe Trekker: Costa Rican Eco-Luxe Many of the travel industry’s most pressing sustainability questions have been answered by the Costa Rican trendsetting company Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality.

Jicaro property

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Green Globe Trekker: iPho Vietnam—Motorbikes & Golden Cock

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul relives memories of Vietnam through his traveling outfits.  Filmed on location: Saigon, Hanoi and Halong Bay.

The days after returning from vacation, I find myself wearing some of the same items I had packed for the trip.  The American Apparel v-neck yellow t-shirt may be freshly laundered, but it transports me back to sunrise over Vietnam’s Halong Bay.  Despite a much needed washing, that short sleeve Lucky Jeans western shirt still has faint whiffs of noodles and mysterious herbs from a Saigon pho shop.  Paired with a cup of coffee made with beans transported from Vietnam (“it’s a country, not a war” was my favorite slogan), I ease myself back into life at home with Frida and Chef.  Alas, no stunning breakfast buffet from Hanoi’s Sofitel Metropole restored to its colonial grandeur.  Not even a welcoming smile from Trung or Tuan, our guides from trusted gay-friendly tour operator Purple Dragon.

Here then, favorite memories—and outfits—from our recent Southeast Asia voyage.  If you spot me this week, you can tell by my clothes my feelings and dreams.

Halong Bay, Vietnam.  An overnight trip on a private boat through some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever experienced—truly.  This was a last minute addition to our itinerary thanks to the strong recommendation of our Purple Dragon guides Trung and Tuan—the latter moved last minute heaven and earth to make it happen for us.  Photographs from this collection of 2000 rock formations appear in everything from guide books to the movie Indochine—seeing them up close and personal is indescribable.  Reason enough alone to make your way to Vietnam as soon as possible.  Did I mention there was spectacular fresh seafood and karaoke onboard at night?  Outfit: yellow v-neck t-shirt pops in pictures; Parke and Ronen swimming shorts less risqué than Speedo for early morning swim.


Pho & Banh Mi.  Let’s face it, when write about food and travel with (a) Chef, eating is pretty much the centerpiece of a journey.  And boy did Vietnam deliver.  The traditional dish Pho—a traditional noodle soup, often with chicken or beef—differs in flavor and spices from Saigon to Hanoi—so we tried them all, and loved them all.  Don’t miss Pho 2000 in Saigon made famous by a Bill Clinton visit or Hanoi’s Mai Anh near Metropole.  Our guide Trung had a lot of rules about when we could eat Banh Mi (pretty much only in the morning), but ultimately took pity on us and let us buy a couple at Saigon’s Nhu Lan (run by an “old lesbian couple” he told us) and eat with our Pho.  Outfit: red American Apparel v-neck or H&M white t-shirt.

Motorbikes & Golden Cock(s). Every trip, Chef and I latch onto something that we comment upon endlessly.  Summer in Scandinavia, it was the never setting sun.  In Vietnam, it was the motorbikes.  No one walks here, everyone is on a scooter, ignoring any semblance of traffic regulation or laws of gravity—the amount that can be balanced and carried on one was awe-inspiring.  Crossing the street seemed life threatening, but we followed the advice of our guide Trung, “Keep moving, don’t stop, don’t run”—sage advice applicable to many situations really.  All those motorbikes just made the men seem sexier driving up to Hanoi’s gay hot spot Golden Cock—a bar that wouldn’t be out of place in New York’s East Village.  Outfit: Penguin graphic TV t-shirt.


Old Quarter, Hanoi.  This warren of streets, each featuring a specialized vendor—from locksmiths to shoes to fresh meat (frog legs)—was endlessly fascinating and mesmerizing.  Also the perfect spot for Chef to pick-up a Vietnam communist-inspired cap.  For me, an addictive Vietnamese coffee got me amped up for the chaos.  Outfit: Lucky Brand short sleeve Western shirt.

Sofitel Metropole, Hanoi.  One of those classic grand dame Southeast Asia hotels on par in colonial splendor and history with Grand Raffles in Siem Reap and Raffles Singapore—the latter Chef and I were asked to leave the lobby because we were not dressed appropriately in shorts.  Never mind that I was trying to give them a copy of Alphabet City that features the hotel in a scene of getting locked out on the Presidential Suite’s balcony.  It was one of those “my how the might have fallen” moments.  Sofitel has done a meticulous job of restoring the Metropole—the dark hard wood floors made me feel like Catherine Deneuve in Indochine.  Chef had a thing for the outfit worn by the lobby attendant—the hat in particular.  Outfit: linen plaid short sleeve from Penguin, paired with floppy hat from Saigon’s Chinatown market.


Coffee & Bia with Purple Dragon Guides.  Although it’s totally possible to navigate through Vietnam independently, Chef and I had limited time—and we wanted an insight into the developing gay scene in this burgeoning country.  Gay (and gay friendly) tour operator Purple Dragon was the perfect solution.  Trung in Saigon and Tuan in Hanoi were welcoming, willing to share details of life and struggles as gay men in Vietnam, flexible in our itinerary, chose outstanding restaurants and food stalls, and were the perfect companions for breaks over coffee and beer.  I became addicted to the Vietnamese strong coffee sweetened with condensed milk (yum), while Chef became enamored by Bia Hoi—a draft beer made in small batches delivered that day to the establishment.  When Trung found out how much we missed and adore Frida, he brought his own puppy Boy to see us off at the airport.  Outfit: H&M green t-shirt and striped sailor top.


Chef.  My lifetime traveling companion never ceases to amaze me with his enthusiastic embrace of all things travel.  There’s not a jaded, complaining bone in this boy’s body who literally eats up all travel experiences.  From the Asian menu in Japan Airlines business class (special thanks to Platinum American Express’ 2-4-1 deals) to the mysterious sausages somewhere on the road from Halong Bay, Chef dives right in with a smile.  Ten years of traveling together, and he still makes me laugh and smile and try new things.  We’re constantly amazed at other couples traveling together—sniping at each other, frowning.  Sure, travel these days is far from glamorous and can be a bitch—but no matter how tired I am—one look at Chef’s smile is all it takes for me to see the wonders of the world through his eyes.

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