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Luvvin Lubbock

Today on Alphabet City: When Jon Paul visits Lubbock, he discovers Love Is All Around.

JP on the Buddy Holly trail

One thing I’ve learned as a writer-preneur is never turn down a book signing opportunity.  Granted, not all of them will pan out.  But for every event with guests “who’ve made a decision to stop reading,” there will be the unexpected gem.  So when the offer came up to travel to Lubbock, TX where Colleen, one of my biggest blog fans resides, I knew better than to turn up my nose.  The town turned out to charm me with some surprising connections in unexpected places.

In my mind, I pictured Lubbock like the dusty and depressing West Texas town of Midland—complete with rolling tumbleweeds and conservative neo-cons.  But when my plane glided over green farm pastures I realized tumbleweeds were going to be in short supply.  And then the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal expressed interest in a feature story about me—maybe this place was a little more open-minded than imagined.

And the surprises continued on the ground.  My lodgings at the relatively new Overton Hotel had the hipness factor of a Westin with just the right comfortable Texas accents in the room—like leather club chairs and wrought iron light fixtures.  (an aside: Overton is the name of the town where my father grew up)  The location is stellar: just a few blocks from the Texas Tech campus, which by the way, is way more pulled together and lovely than my alma mater of UT-Austin.

Heart attack breakfast

My friend and fan Colleen works for the Chamber of Commerce, so she was just the gal to give me a tour around town.  Over a heart attack inducing breakfast of biscuits and gravy at The Road House, we read the outstanding story about me in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal by their entertainment editor William Kerns.  Hands down he conducted and wrote one of the best pieces about Alphabet City and me on the tour.  Things seemed to be swinging a little differently in Lubbock than expected.

A little later, we stopped in at McPherson’s Winery set-up in the old Coca-Cola bottling plant.  Naturally, I was super suspect of Texas wine, but the proprietor explained she focuses on grapes that work in a similar dry and hot climate so no Pinots in site.  One taste of the Rosé of Syrah was all it took for me to change my tune and wrap up a bottle as a present for Chef.

Colleen with her sister and my dear friend Shannon at lunch

Lunch across the street at the tapas spot La Diosa Cellars featured soaring ceilings from a warehouse conversion, and elaborate sprinklings of Mexican art.  It was the kind of spot you’d expect to see in Austin.  But Lubbock?  When I mentioned the comparison to the capital city, Colleen ushered me off to Lubbock’s Depot Entertainment District—a collection of historic building made into cafés, galleries and performance venues where on the weekends you can stumble from spot to spot taking in lots of live music.

Just as I was about to ask what draws indie musicians from across the country to Lubbock, Colleen deposited me in front of a giant pair of black framed glasses.  The oversized sculpture of the iconic frames belong to the Buddy Holly Center.  I cringed a little—worried that the town might have gone a little over-the-top tacky pimping out their most famous citizen.  I half-expected something akin to Las Vegas’ Liberace Museum (which I secretly kind of adore).  Not so.  The tasteful displays of Buddy Holly bric-a-brac are presented in a straight forward way that highlights his huge impact on early rock n’ roll including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The iconic frames recovered from the plane wreckage

In fact, the director of the museum told me that the number of music fans from England who visit Lubbock for the Buddy Holly Center is huge.  I can see why.  I’ve always been enamored by his choice of eye wear, obviously, but Buddy was an early proponent of artists’ rights—he insisted on owning his catalogue of music—and used the latest technology to enhance his recordings.  As an independent writer, I took copious notes about his passion for doing his own thing.

I settled in to watch a video filled with interviews of those who worked with Buddy, as well as legends who were affected by his talent.  Sometime after Paul McCartney came up the face of someone with a very familiar name to me—Sonny Curtis, the man behind my anthem—Mary Tyler Moore’s theme song Love Is All Around.  Sonny grew up in a town near Lubbock, and ended up as part of Buddy’s band The Crickets before Buddy’s life ended early and tragically in a plane crash.  Although Buddy died young, with only a year and half of chart hits, his influence on music is tremendous.  And the fact that he touched my life and connected with me in ways I never knew—through Sonny Curtis of all people—sent chills through me.

With my friend, fan and tour guide Colleen

Later that night, the lovely citizens of Lubbock turned up at Identity Ink and Gallery for my book selling and signing.  They howled at the readings about a kid from Texas trying to find his way in the fancy big city.  I felt comfortable and at home—not a bit out of place—and could tell that Love Is All Around.

Thanks Colleen and thanks Lubbock for turning on the charm.  Watch out, I have a sneaking suspicion I might just be back.



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Alphie’s Choice

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s Weight Watchers training comes in handy on book tour when he has to make Alphie’s Choice.

My Weight Watchers training helps me look svelte, and make smart choices! Photo by Jamie Beck

Weight Watchers was excellent training for book tour—and not just shedding pounds to make me look svelte in photos.  The program trained my brain to think in “points”—assigning numeric values to things.  And even though I haven’t actively been on Weight Watchers in a few years, I find my mind evaluating all of my choices when on tour in terms of a number.  One specific number: 15—the cost of an Alphabet City book.  Just like on Weight Watchers when I would ask myself if a food choice was, “Worth the points?”—every time I lay out cash on tour, I think, “Is it worth the book points?”

As a writer-preneur, it all comes down to how many units of Alphabet City I can move in order to cover costs.  A recent dilemma: $75/5 book points car transfer to JFK airport from home vs. $10/less than 1 book point Subway/Long Island RR/Airtrain.  Choice: Extra time on subway worth the 4 book points savings!

The point system has forced me to be strategic.  Take my current trip to Lubbock, Texas.  Rather than an easy connection through Dallas at cost of over 25 book points, I utilized JetBlue’s generous support of the Alphabet City Book Tour, flew to Austin, endured a long layover, and connected to cheaper Southwest Airlines flight for 10 book points round-trip.  To be fair, that decision was made easier by JetBlue’s non-stop service to Austin—one of my favorite routes from the airline—it definitely encourages me to visit the Lone Star capital more.  Getting to catch-up on all my trashy Bravo TV on board is an added bonus.  But saving all those points, made me feel okay about spending 2 book points on the upgrade to an exit row seat—for a 4 hour flight it’s worth the added stretch room for my ailing back (and unlike Continental, they keep folks from moving into the row without paying)!

Rental car in Lubbock: 5 book points per day for 2 days = total of 10 book points!  Yikes!  Priceline.com to the rescue—my accepted bid brought the price down to 4.6 book points for 2 days!  I had never used Priceline.com before and am now a convert.  My bid was even accepted by my preferred company National, and although I wasn’t in the system as an Emerald Member when I went to the counter, as soon as they punched in my i.d. it came up on the screen—scoring me an upgrade!  A good use of book points.

Just like Weight Watchers, I even bank points for future use.  On layover in Austin, I had lunch with my friend Valerie and the host of one of my book parties Tammy, who sweetly paid for my lunch.  Nice!  I saved 2 book points that I cashed in later when my flight to Lubbock was delayed and I needed to buy dinner.  The great thing about the Austin airport is that local choices abound—Salt Lick BBQ or Mexican Food?  Hey, I banked book points at lunch—I can have both!  I’ve started calling those excruciating false choices on the Alphabet City Book Tour—not Sophie’s—but Alphie’s Choice.

As of yet, no real Alphie’s Choices in Lubbock.  The Overton Hotel—a Westin-like hotel infused with Texas charm—is definitely worth the book points.  Especially since they hand out free copies of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal which has a terrific feature on me and the book tour today!  Hand down, it’s one of the best stories of the tour.   The writer William Kerns did a terrific interview, read the book, had great questions—a tremendous interview.  It gives me hope for American newspaper publishing!  Check it out here—the only thing you’ll miss from the online version is the subhead, “Straight women biggest buyers of the book, rather than gay men.”  Which is true—and I just love seeing it in big bold print.

In fact, I like the story so much, I think I’ll splurge a book point and bring home some extra copies.  At 75 cents each, I can get 20!  Totally worth the points.

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