Tag Archives: juan pablo

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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Topless Tennis

Today on Alphabet City: When Jon Paul goes topless on the tennis court, he worries about becoming his father.

Shirtless blogger getting his Vitamin D

I realize it’s a bit of a cliché to talk about becoming more like our parents as we grow older, but nonetheless, here I am, at 41 ½ indulging in that recognition.  Not only do I sport the bulky frame glasses my Dad wore in the 1960s, but I battle his bushy eyebrows and problem toe nails—more successfully than he did I like to think.  With my recent weight loss and improved upper body strength, I’ve pretty much perfected the same stocky German build he had most of his life.

But I knew it had gotten worse a few weekends ago when Chef discovered me pulling weeds in our outdoor patio with my shirt off.

“Hi hunky gardener.  How did I get so lucky?” he teased.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I replied, a tad bit embarrassed.

The thing is that I grew up with a Dad who took his shirt off at almost every outdoor task.  It was the manly thing to do.  And I never quite felt like the man.  When Dad forced me into duty pulling weeds behind the prickly Chinaberry bushes at our house, I certainly didn’t want to take off my shirt for fear of getting scratched.  And when Dad insisted going topless on the tennis court when he played doubles with his friends every weekend, I couldn’t have been more embarrassed.   Why was he such an exhibitionist?  Other men mowed the lawn and played racquet sports fully clothed.  What was his problem?

And then a few weeks ago, it happened to me.  My first summer outing on the NYC courts and I felt compelled to lose my shirt.  It was just way too hot and I didn’t want to wear a tank top dripping sweat on the chilly subway ride home.  One yank later, and it felt liberating.  In short order, my opponent/friend followed suit, as did the much hunkier boys playing on the neighboring courts.  Lucky us!

Back at home, my upper torso continued to bare itself as I completed some necessary yard work.  That’s when Chef caught me.

“I can put a shirt back on if you think it’s too much for the folks at the Church,” I said.

The Baptist Church behind us has a direct view of our garden, and my tattooed pecs.

“No, I was just going to say it’s a good idea.  Great way to get Vitamin D,” Chef said as he tugged off his own shirt and plopped down.

I was astonished since Chef religiously avoids contact with the sun when not wearing sunblock.  But he told me he’d just read a New York Times story on getting 10-15 minutes of sun a day sans Coppertone.

“Now you’ve got a medical excuse to do your chores topless!” Chef announced.

I laughed and thought that after a lifetime of battling weight issues, including a few eating disorders, my willingness to take my shirt off was finally empowering.  It’s not about showing off to others but proving something to myself—that I’m comfortable with and in my skin.  It’s about erasing all those awful moments at camp or in the locker room when I worried what my mates would think of me.

At times, like when those Columbia College boys were pounding serves on the court next to me, I’m sometimes painfully aware I don’t have the six-pack abs of a toned Adonis.  But then I think, neither did my Dad.  And it didn’t seem to bother him.  Now if he’d just worried more about those eyebrows and toenails, I could relax.  Thank god for Vitamin D.

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Kitchen Knightmares: Plum Dessert

Today on Alphabet City: A Bon Appétit recipe helps Jon Paul recover from an altercation at the neighborhood CSA.

Bon Appétit's Vanilla-Scented Plums & Blackberries

Summer in the city is supposed to be more relaxing.  But by mid-June, I start to get anxiety over a Tuesday night routine—picking up goodies from our local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that we’ve come to refer to as “The Share.”  For five years now, we’ve been trendy little urbanites buying into a program supporting Windflower Farms in upstate New York and marveling at whatever produce is on offer each week.  For several years, Chef has enjoyed his own “quick fire” challenge—what to make with all the root vegetables—while I am left to deal with a range of characters at The Share pick-up spot.

Each week, Chef blasts a medley of Cher songs on the iPod while I download him about my latest confrontation at what is supposed to be a lovely, neighborhood bonding ritual.  He rolls his eyes at my antics like he’s Ricky Ricardo to my Gay Love Lucy.  But I can’t help it.  Somehow The Share is never quite the calm experience I would like.  Last year, I wrote about my issue with parents letting their children finger vegetables with their germy hands.  This year, my problem is with line hijackers.  I’m always behind some earthy crunchy women who have decided to split their share—on the spot.  The discussions over who might enjoy more Bok Choy while the rest of us are waiting have become excruciating.

“Ladies, you’re going to need to speed this up!” I shouted from two spots back.

“We’re just discussing who might better put this to use.  See I’m leaving town in two days and not sure I can use it all,” one of them told me.

“And I don’t need to be held hostage by your decision making process.  Take it to the curb!” I huffed.

The ladies pretended they didn’t hear me, so I skipped ahead of them and gave them an evil eye.

I suppose my own tension is enhanced by the stressful new cooking duties I have assumed.  Since Chef often gets home later on Share evenings, I thought it might be nice if I tried my hand at the CSA Quick Fire Challenge.  The results have been, well, mediocre, at best.  I’m very good at whipping up a leafy green salad and roasting some kale.  But staring at just one garlic snape and two beets can flummox me.

Last week, though, I nearly peed my pants when the fruit takeaway was a cornucopia of plums!  The August issue of Bon Appétit had the perfect suggestion for a lazy unimaginative challenged home cook like myself—Vanilla-Scented Plums and Blackberries.  So easy—cut up some plums, add blackberries, 6 T of sugar, ½ vanilla bean split lengthwise and scrape in the seeds, stir and let stand for about an hour.  It makes this delicious topping that can be served over angel food cake.

Later on our patio, while Cher sang out Dark Lady, Chef and I enjoyed my new go-to light summer dessert.  And I made a mental note to consult the rules of CSA membership—I didn’t want to be evicted over poor behavior.  Food that tastes this fresh and delicious will pretty much make me put up with anything.

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Tex and the City: East Side Girls

Today on Alphabet City: Thanks to Frida, Jon Paul celebrates Chef’s 40th Birthday on the Upper East Side.

Schlepping to the East Side

New York City may be the crossroads of the world—practically every ethnicity is represented in the metropolis—but many of Gotham’s residents never venture outside their comfort zone.  For the most part, my days are spent navigating the sidewalks between where I live—the spicy rhythms of Washington Heights—and where I work—the sexy pecs of Chelsea.  But Chef enjoys breaking out of that bubble, especially when food is involved.  He complains I don’t take him to Astoria enough for Greek delicacies, or any number of stops in Jackson Heights.

With Chef’s 40th birthday barreling down the tracks, I figured it was time to break out of our routine, and see what it was like in one of New York’s most storied neighborhoods—the Upper East Side.   Granted, Chef has a glimpse inside this world thanks to his work in the kitchens of some well-to-do-families in this tony ‘hood.  But I thought I’d treat him to something that didn’t require him to walk through a door marked “Service Entrance.”

A few weeks ago, the lovely folks at Loews Hotels reached out to me—well, to Frida, let’s be honest—with an offer to escape the heat of the city by enjoying a “Dog Days of Summer Package” at the Loews Regency Hotel.  From my first days in the Big Apple, I have enjoyed special moments at that property—Angela and I dined often with an important client at the hotel’s famous Power Breakfasts where I was introduced to some of New York’s important players.  Later, they opened an intimate cabaret Feinstein’s at the Regency, and I was lucky enough to interview/drool over its namesake Michael Feinstein.

Looking a little "ruff" at check-in

With the temperature nearing 100 degrees and our poor A/C working overtime, the hotel didn’t have to offer twice.  And despite Chef’s insistence that we do nothing big for his birthday after a fiesta in Mexico, a plan took shape for a mini-break.

When you’re on a budget, it’s not easy to get to the lower Upper East Side from the upper, upper West Side of Manhattan.  So we must have looked like quite a site stepping into the Loews Regency on Sunday, sticky and wet from a late afternoon thunderstorm that soaked us as we dragged our bags and dog across Central Park from the 59th Street subway stop.  But like a caring Aunt welcoming us to her grand apartment, the staff at the Regency didn’t bat an eye, and instead rolled out the red carpet for Frida, including a special gift bag from the cast of Cats and Dogs staying in the hotel.  Frida wagged her tail and added an extra kick in her step as she ran down the hallway to our room.  We’ve raised a spoiled little girl who loves a hotel—much like her Papa.  Once inside, she surveyed the other doggie goodies—special bowls, charms for her collar—demanded one of the Loews supplied treats, then jumped into bed for a well-deserved nap.  Meanwhile, Chef popped open the champagne and started in on the chocolate covered strawberries—this was life on the Upper East, indeed.

For dinner, I chose The Mark Restaurant by Jean Georges, mostly because Sam Sifton’s New York Times review suggested it was a great neighborhood addition, so I thought we’d see the natives in action.  As we walked up Madison Ave towards the hotel, we marveled at how empty the streets were—not a soul in sight.  I wasn’t sure what to make of the crowd at The Mark as we sipped a cocktail before dinner.  Every woman seemed to either be in a black cocktail dress or a dangerously short swimsuit cover-up, and every one was texting and shouting at each other simultaneously.  The conversation at the table next to us:

“Jessica, you look terrific.”

“Right?  Look at my back.  You can see my spine.  Mother thinks I should go to an eating disorder clinic.”

“You should.  I hear they’re a great getaway.”

I’m just going to leave it at that, no comment needed, right?

Through a sleek wine tunnel, the dining room is a world away from the crassness of the bar.  Bathed in shades of red and beige with beautiful lighting, everything looks so elegant and comfortable.  We had read up on the menu before our arrival, and weren’t disappointed by our choices of a Warm Shrimp and Avocado Salad in Champagne Dressing, Black Truffle Pizza, Linguini and Clams.  The “simply” prepared Veal Chop was nicely done but served with a foamy sauce with a fiery kick  that the waiter couldn’t explain.  And therein was the problem.  Although the food was just about up to Jean Georges expectations, the service was not.  An amuse bouche was placed in front of us that no one explained—a particular annoyance to me.  What if I’m allergic to what’s in it?  After flagging down the waiter, he called it a “Lime Gazpacho,” with no explanation.  After we tasted it, he came back to tell us it was a “Honeydew Gazpacho,” which made more sense.  But really?  The sommelier pointed to the most expensive selection on the half-bottle list not offering any alternatives until Chef suggested we needed a few more reasonable choices.  The waiter stumbled through the dessert tray needing a reminder for the word for “kiwi.”  And although they were told of Chef’s birthday, there was no special item or thank-you or best wishes.  All in all, the food scored highly, but unless I’m in the neighborhood, I’m not rushing back.

The next morning, we took advantage of our Upper East Side adopted address for a morning trip to the Guggenheim for Haunted—an exploration of artists have explored memory and thoughts through the use of photography and performance art.  It was an intriguing and thoughtful, if not exactly uplifting, beginning to celebrating Chef’s actual birthday.  Afterwards, we managed to rouse Frida from her lazy slumber in the Loews Regency and convince her our time on the East Side was drawing to an end.  She pranced her way back through the lobby and into Central Park where we paused for a special picnic.

One of Chef’s favorite pastimes is experiencing Central Park and he keeps count every year of how many times I take him there.  Once again, we must have looked like silly tourists as we dragged a rolling bag through gravel and shouted at Frida to keep up.  Once we took up a spot in the Great Lawn, we all relaxed.  And like a teenager who has spent too much time with her parents, Frida laid down as far away from her Papas as she could.  With the skyline of New York as a backdrop, we talked about dreams and goals and what more we wanted to accomplish.  We marveled that 10 years ago, Chef was despondent at turning 30, never believing he’d find true love.  And that less than a month later, an Internet chat changed all that.

Over the years together, life has taken twists and turns, been up and down, and we’ve celebrated Chef’s birthday in fancy restaurants like Alain Ducasse, at concerts by Madonna, in exotic locales like the hills of Portugal, and closer gay getaways like Provincetown and Fire Island.  But at the end of the day, what really matters, is not that we’re traveling the world or staying close to home, but that we’re together.

Happy birthday, Chef.  You’re truly my passport to love.

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40, Love: I Can Hear the Bells

Today on Alphabet City: After a recent trip to Mexico City, Jon Paul’s ears are ringing—with wedding bells!

Swingers in Mexico

My trip down the wedding aisle has been a long time coming.  But after a recent trip to Mexico City, and a groundbreaking decision by a Massachusetts federal judge, I suddenly hear the bells drawing nigh.

Nearly nine years ago, I spontaneously popped the question to Chef on the balcony of our Mykonos hotel room balcony as the sun set over the white washed island landscape.  I knew that I needed to spend the rest of my life with a man who could survive my insistence that we move hotels in the middle of the night because my Condé Nasty snobbery couldn’t handle a gay ghetto dump.  We still reminisce about some of the best times of our lives lounging poolside at the comfortably hip Belvedere Hotel (not associated with the Fire Island “legend.”)

But our sitcom life took some funny detours and hit a few mandatory speed bumps that delayed any nuptials.  Before we knew it, ten years had passed as a couple, and I was left wondering why exactly we should go to the trouble (and expense) of getting “officially” married.  To our friends, we are firmly ensconced as a couple—after all, they refer to us as “The JPs.”

“If I do it, I want some kind of rights.  I want it to actually mean something,” I explained last month to my friend Kathryn.

She knows a thing or two about the complicated feelings around gay marriage as the head of GayWeddings.com, the leading online boutique dedicated to providing resources and information to same-sex couples who seek to affirm their life-long partnerships.

“Understandable.  But keep in mind that gay weddings can also be transformative.  And not just for the couple, but for guests at the event.  Sometimes it’s the first time straight people witness up close the love and commitment of a gay couple.  Often they end up becoming advocates for gay marriage rights,” Kathryn explained.

Indeed, the rights associated with gay marriage seem to be on a fast track for approval.  While I’m not sure Judge Tauro’s recent ruling in Boston that DOMA is unconstitutional will stand (it reminds me of my own father’s historic stance striking down Texas’ sodomy statute), it’s an important step for the United States in the right direction.  And I say U.S. for a reason—guess who’s doing it better?  Our South of the Border neighbor, that’s who.

During our recent trip to Mexico’s capital city, I asked an attorney friend what rights I might acquire should I marry Chef in his hometown.

“You can become a Mexican citizen!” he announced with a flourish.

Despite the fact that this is an incredibly progressive stance from a very Catholic country, I wondered what exactly would be gained from becoming a naturalized Chilango (slang for citizen of MX City).  Chef chimed in immediately.

“Skipping the lines at immigration, and buying property on the beach,” he offered.

“I’m not finding those so persuasive,” I replied.  Chef took a deep breath.

“Well, in case there’s a nuclear catastrophe in the States, it’ll be easier for us to come live in Mexico,” he said ominously.

“Sold!” I laughed.

How could I not marry someone with an overactive imagination fed by watching too many Hollywood apocalyptic movies?

It’s not happening any time soon, but a wedding in Mexico sounds like the makings of a very special episode—possibly a transformative one—for two lovable sitcom characters.  Stay tuned.


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Oh Susannah

Today on Alphabet City: After a rocky start, Jon Paul’s relationship with his Mexican mother-in-law improves.

Chef with his parents

Barely two minutes after my arrival at Chef’s home in Mexico City and already I had lost a bet thanks to his mother.  In the taxi on the way from the airport, Chef and I laid down our wagers.

“I’m thinking she might wait to ask until lunch,” I said.

“Nope, sooner,” Chef replied confidently.

A half hour later, on a sweet street just steps away from Chapultepec Park, my Mexican mother-in-law Susannah embraced me warmly, then eyed me seriously.

“Ay, mi hijo, how come you aren’t staying longer?  5 days isn’t enough for a proper visit!  Now come inside and eat.”

Chef laughed as I handed him 200 pesos.

We’ve come a long way, Susannah and I.  Our first meeting nearly eight years ago filled me with terror.  Chef came out to his Catholic parents when we fell in love and decided to live together.  At first, his mother refused to meet me, but over time as I got to know other members of the family, her defensive barriers wore down.  Chef’s parents make an annual visit to New York City and stay with their son.  Now that we were living together, that meant me, too.

My nerves were fried during the weeks leading up to the encounter.  And my Condé Nast Traveler boss Publisher wasn’t making it any easier.  We were on week-long cross-country trip, traveling back from Los Angeles, when she asked about my apparent agitation.  I gave her the background, and told her that by the time we arrived in New York City, my in-laws would be asleep in my apartment and the first time I would meet them would be in the morning.

“Oh that’s a big deal.  Big, big deal.  What’s your plan?” Publisher asked.

“What do you mean plan?” I replied sheepishly.

“It’s the first time you’re meeting them.  You have to have your game face on.  You don’t want to meet them in your robe and bed head!  Gotta beat them to the punch.  Get up, get ready, get the upper hand.”  She advised ominously.

There was a reason this woman was one of the most successful executives in magazines.  So far, she hadn’t steered me wrong.  Seemed like this was shaping up to be a showdown at the Alphabet City corral.

All was quiet on the East Village front when I arrived home at 1am.  Chef roused from his sleep to say his parents liked the apartment and were looking forward to meeting me.

“What kind of under handed attack is that?  Thanks for making me even more nervous,” I complained.

He rolled over and started to snore.  I laid down and stared at the ceiling, plotting my counter attack.

By 5am, I couldn’t stand it anymore.  Publisher was right—get my game face on.  I showered, got dressed, made coffee, and settled into a seat at the dining room table with a clear view of the guest room door.  I couldn’t hear anything.  6am.  7am.  8am.  I was in full panic.

Chef appeared dressed and ready for work.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.  You’re leaving me here with the enemy?” I whispered loudly.

“Look, there’s no way my mother is getting up before 9.  Just go to work.  You’ll meet her later,” he laughed.

He gave me a peck on the cheek.  But there was no way I was leaving now—I was prepped for battle.

I piddled around the apartment, but by 9:30am, I realized that I couldn’t be late for a morning meeting.  I rushed back downstairs to change my shirt—having nervously sweated through the previous one—and when I re-emerged, there she was.  My mother in law nemesis was barely 5 feet tall, in a house dress, with mussed up hair, sitting at the dining room table—in my spot.

“Buenos dias,” she offered, not moving from the table.  “Is there coffee?  And maybe some cereal with fruit?”

“Absolutely!  Of course!”

I sprung into action bringing to her all the breakfast fixings.  She smiled as I placed the coffee cups, bowls, cut up fruit—the works.  Wait a minute.  What was I doing?  I didn’t do this for my family or Chef for that matter, let alone an enemy combatant.  She touched my hand and smiled.

“You’re going to fit in just fine,” she said.

All together at Chef's citizenship ceremony

In that moment, I knew she had the upper hand and held all the cards.  If my own mother was the unassuming Miss Ellie/Barbara Bel Geddes of TV’s Dallas, my mother-in-law was more Angela Channing/Jane Wyman of Falcon Crest—the undeniable matriarch of her clan.  She wasn’t going to be just an occasional guest star in my sitcom life, I was auditioning to be a regular in her telenovella—and I had just gotten the part.

Over time, we’ve developed an easy rhythm.  While at first I felt like the quirky Gringo character, now I’m just like my fellow sisters-in-law married into this tight knit clan.  I bring her hotel shampoos and soaps from all my travels for her guest bathroom.  She brings me elaborate mirrors, pewter trays and a dramatic Arbol de la Vida on display in my Mexican-themed living room.

This year, we even conspired to throw a 40th birthday fiesta for Chef at the family vacation home outside Mexico City.  Unlike me, Chef prefers to ignore his birthday.  But Susannah and I weren’t having any of that.  And when the two of team up for battle, there’s nothing we can’t do.

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Reading Rainbow

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul and Chef battle a tough crowd of gay boys to sell some books; women save the day.

The JP's tag-teaming an event

Not to get all hot pants about it—but I’m starting to get concerned about literacy in Gay Boy America.  Appearing at a recent men-centric networking event where I was billed as a “celebrity,” here are some rather worrisome nuggets thrown at me after guys willingly approached the Alphabet City display table:

“Oh, I’ve stopped reading.”

Each time I heard this line, I just nodded and grinned my fake PR smile.  I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who made a conscious choice to be illiterate.

“Don’t want to go into too much detail, but I’ve recently had surgery and am not up to reading.”

Already, that’s too much info.  Gone are the days when post-op recovery meant catching up on a pile of trashy novels.

“Maybe I’ll buy it on Amazon.”

It seems online buying habits have so altered consumer behavior that we’re unable to appreciate the beauty of buying something directly from the artist.  The author is standing right there.  Begging for a sale.  Offering to personalize it.

“I’m only into audio books now.  If you recorded one, I might buy it.”

Clever use of a conditional tense—even if I laid down a voice track, I still might not be good enough.

Thankfully, Chef was working the room to bolster my sales.  As a Demo Specialist for Whole Foods, he knows a thing or two about getting customers to sample the goods.  Chef has his own tales of woe about customers taking a bite of his cooking and saying in a deadpan voice, “Not bad, actually.”  As if he’s really going to serve them shit on a stick.  Using the word “actually” indicates that they anticipated the food would be disgusting.  So why did they even try it?

As my personal coach, Chef observed my initial pitch to a couple of gays.

“Hi, I’m the author of Alphabet City, a funny memoir about my life as a gay Mary Tyler Moore.  I moved from Texas to New York, and fell into a job as a publicist for celebrities like Tyra and Whoopi and later at magazine publisher Condé Nast.  It’s a little bit Sex and the City and a little bit Will and Grace.”

Chef offered some hard earned demo strategy tips.

“Good, but watch your audience.  Young guys and immigrants have no idea who Mary Tyler Moore is.  Go right to the celebrities. Also, after the basic pitch, as they look at the book, fill in the silence with a question.”

My next potential victim fan was young hottie, the kind of boy who had a Fire Island summer share.  Per Chef’s advice, I played up Tyra and asked what I thought was a genius question.

“Are you looking for a great beach read?”

“I hate the beach.”

Alrighty, then.  Before I could even deliver my pitch to the next guy, he slammed the book down and yelled.

“Why would I need a guide book to Alphabet City?!  I live in Grammercy just a hop, skip and jump away for God sakes!”

Well of course, how silly of me not to know that.

When I finally did make a sale, it was  like pulling teeth.  Some guys came back to the table multiple times, fondling the book—as if they were purchasing diamonds at Neiman-Marcus.  At $15, the book was less than the Tanqueray and Tonic they’d ordered at the bar.  When a fag finally forked over the cash, I was willing to do anything they asked—including personalizing the book to “Golden Finger Fister.”  Scrawling that gem with my Sharpie, I sealed the door shut on any future political career.

Back in May, when I found myself in a Miami gay bar selling books barstool-to-barstool, I didn’t run into any uncomfortable excuses.  My stereotypical view of those boys had always been they were more interested in working their biceps than brains.  But those hunky Latinos couldn’t have been more welcoming—and I wasn’t even a “celebrity” there.

Maybe Manhattan breeds a quirky, competitive kind of gay accustomed to building defensive coping mechanisms to survive this urban jungle.  Rather than honestly saying, “Good luck with the book, it’s not for me,” they concoct a convoluted excuse like, “My attention span is too short to read anymore.”

But I’m not discouraged.  In Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, the famous comedienne advises never to turn down an opportunity—and I ended up selling 15 books and learning a load.  Who knows, maybe I’ll take Joan’s cue and sign-on to some reality show to raise my profile.  America’s Next Top Novelist, anyone?

My biggest lesson so far on book tour is that WOMEN are my biggest readers and most supportive fans—by far.  From the straight sorority sisters of Texas to the lesbian moms of DC, they all have some nurturing gene that encourages literary endeavors from an emerging artist like me.  Better still, they buy multiple books for friends—no hemming and hawing, no excuses.  Once again, Goddess bless the girls who love the gays.  Gary Tyler Moore would be no where without you.


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Cinco de Mayo

Today on Alphabet City: Fabulous photos of a Cinco de Mayo fiesta courtesy of Jamie, FromMe-ToYou.Tumblr.com

The phenomenally talented fellow Texan Jamie of FromMe-ToYou.Tumblr.com just gave us all a gift—her beautiful photos of this past weekend’s Alphabet City/Cinco de Mayo celebration.  Here is just a taste, but for the full present, head over to her site!

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Kitchen Knightmares: Green Day Edition

Today on Alphabet City: Kitchen Knightmares returns with a special “Green Day” edition of natural remedies. Special Guest Stars: VitaMix 5200, Coach Farm’s Probiotic Yo-Goat

Please pardon the previously unannounced hiatus of Kitchen Knightmares, the spin-off kitchen series about improving my efforts to cook for Chef.  While KK was “off the air,” one episode picked up quite a devoted following in the Middle East—so if you missed Moroccan Halibut with Carrots make sure to check out Kitchen Knightmares: Something Fishy

One of my excuses for falling down on the cooking job is I’ve been doing battle with a nasty bout of flu-cold-allergies-infections for nearly a month.  In my overly dramatic mind, I was convinced I had picked up some exotic bug while on assignment in the tropics for Bon Appétit.  It took several doctors, including my own father-in-law, to dissuade me of that notion.  But it’s taken a couple of all-natural remedies from my Whole Foods peeps Paige & Chef to speed me into recovery.

Whole Foods ingredients to get rid of the whole cough

First problem: chronic cough, often keeping me awake at night, and making me sound like Lauren Bacall.  My sister Paige stepped up with this all natural cough suppressant that works for my niece Hannah—and it did for me.  Who doesn’t love a recipe whose active ingredient is Cayenne Pepper?

Texas-Style Kickin’ the Cough Syrup

1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 TB honey
1 TB apple cider vinegar
2 TB water
**Take about one tsp at a time, but okay to start with 3 tsp. Take as often as needed.

The syrup was super-easy to make.  I accomplished the task even after taking an Ambien when I couldn’t sleep for 48 hours thanks to being hopped up on a dose of steroids.  I imagine it was like crystal meth minus the sex.

Part of the blender looks fresh from a porno

Second problem: struggling intestines after havoc wreaked on them by a couple of rounds of monstrously strong antibiotics.  Chef used my stomach issues as a teaching moment about the power of Probiotics using Coach Farm’s Yo-Goat Cultured Goat Milk.  Although hesitant because I rarely drink milk of any kind, I was encouraged by the May issue of Bon Appetit.  Check out p. 46 for a quick explanation of “good bacteria” that may help regulate lactose digestion (for some reason it’s not online).  Plus, the goat milk packaging was cute, and Chef insisted that I could make a tasty smoothie using, what else, the VitaMix 5200, our newly adopted kitchen child.

Chef Juan Pablo’s VitaMix5200 Probiotic Smoothie Operator

16 oz. Yo-Goat Cultured Goat Milk (strawberry flavored even though Jamie Oliver would have a cow)

1 pint fresh blackberries (or other berry fruit)

1 pint mango sorbet (Chef made some previously in the VitaMix 5200, you could use store bought)

Honey to sweeten if berries not enough

Pour cultured goat milk in first.  Then everything else.  Start VitaMix 5200 on low, gradually increase speed, using special utensil (which looks like a sex toy to me) to mash down.  If you must use a traditional blender, make sure the sorbet is soft or you’ll blow your motor.  Cue product placement commercial for VitaMix 5200 with harried home cook looking exasperated as smoke comes out of a blender with voice over: Are you tired of burning up blenders?

Nothing comes between Chef and his VitaMix

I’ve been enjoying the smoothie for 2 days after refrigerating the extra, and my tummy seems on the mend.  But not my feelings—during my lesson with Chef, I think I caught him rolling his eyes when I got flustered at the controls.  Then, he muscled in and basically took over, clearly worried I might cause injury to his new baby.  I even caught him double checking the gadget after I cleaned it.

That’s okay, because I got my revenge.  My news ears/nose/throat doctor diagnosed me with allergy-induced asthma that is causing my cough.

“Air conditioning is your friend!”  the doctor announced.

“I’m from Texas, you don’t to convince me!” I shrieked in excitement.

The doc explained that running an A/C in the bedroom at night helps filter out the pollen in the air.  I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  You see, Chef pretty much hates the A/C, something I can never understand since he’s from South of the Border.  It’s always a tense weekend in summer when I get out and install the window units.

But this year, Christmas in July comes a couple of months early—courtesy of a doctor’s note.

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Boy Toy

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul has issues when Chef brings home a talented new friend.

This past weekend, Chef insisted on introducing me to his latest obsession—his newest boy toy, if you will.  At least I knew it was coming.  After all, he had emailed me earlier in the day, asking for my blessing on spending the hundreds of dollars a rendez-vous would cost.  After nearly 10 years together, how could I deny Chef such happiness?  So later that night he marched proudly home and beckoned me to the front door to meet his latest triumph.

“Look at the beauty.  The possibilities are endless.  Wait until you taste the juice,” Chef beamed.

He propped his treasure onto the counter, and immediately gave me a demonstration with carrots and celery.  Chef’s face glowed as the vegetables disappeared inside the Vita Mix 5200, a high-end food preparation appliance.

Chef's Latest Boy Toy, the VitaMix 5200

“Oh, it’s a fancy blender,” I said, wondering how it was different than the blender sitting next to it.

“Blender? It’s much more than that.  I’ve wanted one ever since I worked at Per Se.”

When Chef invokes his intern experience at Thomas Keller’s 5-star foodie paradise, I am rarely persuaded.  That’s how we ended up with one of my least favorite gadgets—an expensive and giant “sous vide” machine for the home cook which took up valuable counter space for months without ever getting used.  The moment I banished it to the back of a kitchen storage area we refer to as the “tiendita,” Chef came unglued.

“I was just about to use that!”

A familiar refrain, having heard similar protests about the sorbet maker that takes up vital freezer space in case we “want to make sorbet on the fly.”  Who does that?

I surveyed the counter, readying my argument that he had to at least get rid of one appliance in order to welcome a new one.  What about the dusty bread-making machine bequeathed to us from the house’s previous owner?  Chef headed me off at the pass.

“One of the great features of the Vita-Mix 5200 is that it can grind grains.  I can make whole wheat flour for bread!”

He had me beat, and I smiled.  Sometimes, Chef is just too cute for words.  I laughed, and left him to spend quality time with his new friend.  Almost everything we ate this past weekend came out creamy and soupy—and with a smile on Chef’s face a mile wide.

I guess a little help from mechanical appliances is what keeps our relationship running smoothly.


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