The Ascendancy of Dylan Penn and Ireland Baldwin

In the wake of holiday feasts when family and friends gather around the table for coffee and dessert, I'm often intrigued by the subjects that come up, especially when the group digresses into the did-you-hear gossip about celebs.

Last year Ireland Baldwin was the center of attention, but this year's belle of the cream-and-sugar bowl was Dylan Penn. For those who have not been introduced to either one, yet, these women are the exceedingly beautiful progeny of Hollywood couples Sean Penn and Robin Wright and Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. Behold:

Hopper Penn, Robin Wright and Dylan Penn
Dylan Penn

Alec and Ireland Baldwin
Ireland Baldwin

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that we will be seeing and hearing a lot more about Dylan and Ireland in the new year.

Message in a Bottle

It's hard for me to think of a message in a bottle and not hear the high pitched voice of Sting ringing in my ear. Then, of course, there's the man in tattered clothes with a ragged beard stuffing a scroll into a wine bottle that he hopes will one day lead to his rescue. This message adrift at sea, where will it end up and when might that be?

Not long ago I moved to the suburbs where my wife grew up and this past summer her best friend's parents sold their house to move to the California wine country. As such, we inherited many of the things they chose not to take such as an antique clock, a mahogany buffet and a hand-crafted Olhausen pool table, timeless treasures that were immediately put to use.

Every time my wife would send me to their home I went like a kid sliding down the banister on Christmas morning eager with anticipation. On the last trip, there were miscellaneous items set out on the driveway for collection, among them were some unopened bottles of wine and a half-full bottle of scotch, which I thought would be a shame to go to waste, so I took them.

Fast forward through the colorful autumn as the temperature drops and the first snow falls beyond the front door. A chill permeates the house even though the heaters whistle with steam and the balsam fragrance of the Christmas tree warms the heart. I decide to build a fire, which takes me about as long as it did to read that famous short story by Jack London. Coincidentally, I receive a text from my wife's best friend's husband who I have befriended as some men do the husbands of their wives' best friends. Prattling on about football, my feet are starting to warm by the fire and I'm thinking a nip of scotch would be grand. I get up and walk past the empty bottle of Glemorangie sticking out of the sea of items to be recycled and in the dark recesses of the liquor cabinet, I find the half-full bottle of scotch that once washed ashore the asphalt beach of my wife's best friend's driveway. I take it to the table and pour a glass, but something is off.

The label on the bottle reads "Jewels of Speyside" with an antlered deer proudly peering back at me. What could be more fitting in the hunting lodge atmosphere I've created for myself? While I've never heard of it, the label says it's a single-malt scotch aged 27 years, so I give it another try. As I do, my wife joins me on the couch and stares at the bottle and then at me. She likens it to a handle of Jockey gin that we left in the coat closet of her apartment on Bleecker Street when she moved out. It proved to be undrinkable even in the throws of her and her roommates infamous late-night holiday parties. As she studies the label quizzically, her eyes grow wide and she is hit with a revelation: "We used to sneak shots of that back when we were in high school, then we would add water to it so my friend's parents wouldn't know."

The next morning there's the clanging of glass as the bottles roll from the recycling bin into a larger receptacle and through the prism they create, I see the image of the deer staring back at me.

Twitter's IPO Conjures Shining City on the Hill

Bob Pisani and Scott Cutler at the NYSE.
This morning's initial public offering of Twitter's common stock was brilliant in that it allowed a level of transparency that was sorely missed when Facebook debuted in May 2012. CNBC reporter Bob Pisani (@BobPisani) was at the post alongside the New York Stock Exchange's Scott Cutler (@CutlerScott) to allow a level of public access to an event that has long been shrouded in mystery. "Ten million at 35," barked the designated market maker from the pit through every TV tuned in to this historic event as NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer stood nearby Twitter CEO Dick Costolo (@dickc) so that the public was being informed alongside the investment community at the same time, which to me exemplifies what Twitter's all about.

I recall when events unfolded in Tahrir Square and later in Damascus as news organizations and citizens from around the world learned first-hand from eyewitness accounts via Twitter that this social media application had become a legitimate source for breaking news. It's ubiquitous, real-time dissemination of news quickly sparked conversations that led to actions and debates after being parsed through each individual medley of filters and follows. In my mind, it was then that Twitter became the tipping point of the information age by democratizing media and accelerating transparency faster than a bullet. From the starlet who "accidentally" uploads a nude selfie, to the frenzied rebels dragging their wounded to safety while under fire, the parameters of public access fell like the Berlin Wall leaving in its wake the question of not where, but will we ever draw the line again?

At the NYSE this morning, the public watched as Twitter's Costolo and Jack Dorsey walked among the ebullient crowd before positioning themselves on the floor below the dais of the opening bell where among the crew stood none other than Captain Jean-Luc Picard to lead this voyage into the next generation.

Cheryl Fiandaca, Vivienne Harr, Scott Cutler and Patrick Stewart ring opening bell at NYSE for Twitter.

Pencil Skirts

Bryant Park autumn breeze
quaff a half-dozen Long Island iced teas
among a swarm of honey bees
circling burgers smothered in cheese
and girls in pencil skirts above their knees
whose allergies to cats make them sneeze
while handling lobbyists with grace and ease
until happy hour's over and she flees.

Jennifer Aniston

Other poems:

Liz Cho and FDNY Calendar Model Mr. April

For those of you who have seen the movie Tombstone, you may remember the scene where Wyatt Earp, cornered and outnumbered, charges across the river and guns down his nemesis Curly Bill. After the gunfight, Doc Holiday is sitting by a tree when he's asked what he's doing out in the middle of nowhere when clearly he's not well, to which he replies, "Wyatt Earp's my friend."

Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday in Tombstone.
When I think of friendship, one of the ingredients I've come to know is a lack of jealousy at your friend's success, in fact, you're happy when they succeed. In some cases, you're even proud of them. These things have held true with regards to my friend Ralph, that is until the day he met Liz Cho. 

Through hard work and sacrifice, FF Ralph Ciccarelli made the coveted FDNY Calendar that benefits the FDNY Foundation and can be purchased here. The firefighters themselves end up devoting even more of their time to help raise awareness for the foundation through a well-executed public relations campaign. During one of these press junkets, FF Ciccarelli, aka Mr. April, appeared on WABC-TV in New York City with Liz Cho.

FDNY FF Ciccarelli, aka Mr. April, and ABC Anchor Liz Cho.
For anyone familiar with this blog (all three of you!), you know I've had a casual obsession with Liz Cho through the years, so when I saw the pic above, you can bet I turned as green as The Grinch. Luckily it didn't last and the jealousy I felt gave way to pride and I phoned my friend to find out more.

From his eyewitness account, Liz Cho is friendly, gracious and has a good sense of humor. I asked if she was as pretty in person as she appears on TV. Even prettier, I was told. Was she as thin as a rail like most TV personalities? She's in great shape, good definition in her shoulders and arms, she's no stranger to the gym.

And there you have it. Liz Cho is everything she appears to be and more. Of course if you thought it hard to get a glimpse of her before, I wouldn't try it now that the entire FDNY is watching her back.

Happy Birthday, RC! 


Stray Dog

I believe it was James Joyce who once said that he could detect his wife's fart in a room full of farts. To know someone intimately is inevitable when you live with them. So too is the case with dogs.

In the kitchen, coffee poured, dog barks. I heed. It's the urgent, guttural growl to warn off potential invaders, which usually amounts to no more than the delivery man or the occasional skunk. Oh good, my pitching wedge has arrived, I think. (Cut to the image of my former pitching wedge entangled in weeds below the murky water hazard of the golf course where I last played.)

I rush to the front door and see a car and a man who looks vaguely familiar walking up my driveway looking in my and my neighbor's yard. I retreat to the kitchen to cut off his angle when he sees me through the window and rather than explain, he retreats to his vehicle. No sooner my wife shouts, "There it is! There's the dog!"

I race outside with bare feet and pierce through the brambles dividing my driveway from my neighbor's lawn and I see a beautiful yellow lab pup looking a bit confused. It warily approaches as I gesture come here, already imagining the glory I will receive for reuniting it with its owner. It draws within a few feet and then darts through an opening in the bramble and down the road.

I give chase, bare feet on roughly paved street, ooh, ouch, ooh ouch! The dog looks like it's on ice skates compared to me as I struggle to keep it within my sight line. It crosses the street and heads to its home, I am too far behind to take credit, so I turn back. As I do, I see the car that was in my driveway only moments ago and I flag it down as if there's been an accident.

"Looking for your dog?" I said, "I just saw him go back to your house."

My neighbor looks at me, he's younger than I initially give him credit for and he shakes his head the way men do when they're at a loss for words, "What a pain in the ass. Thank you!" I raise my hand to signal all is well and then gingerly walk home as if across a bed of hot coals.

I remember when I was on a business trip in Cleveland and my phone rang during a meeting. I ignored it and then it rang again from the same line, so instinctively I got up and took the call thinking it was an urgent matter.

"Hi. I have your dog, Riley," the man said. I frantically ran through the likely scenarios before deciding that a request for ransom was to follow. "I'm at Grand Army Plaza," and then I hear other concerned voices in the background. The caller breaks away, "I don't know whose dog it is, I just called the number on his collar." I patiently await his return and then I hear a woman say, "There's a woman looking for her dog, she's on her way."

The caller returns to our conversation and says I think someone is coming to get him. I conclude that it's my wife and thank him for his help. He says he has to go as he borrowed the cell phone from a passerby.

My wife describes the scene later and I know it all too well. As was often the case in Prospect Park, dog owners would let their cooped up animals off leash to frolic and play and sometimes tussle with other dogs in the neighborhood before 9 a.m. each morning. Our dog would usually stay within a reasonable distance, but every so often he'd look to the horizon and then put his paw on the gas. The morning he ended up in Grand Army Plaza was the farthest he'd ever roamed. 

There was another time when my wife was unloading him from the car when he leaped over her arms and on to the busy Brooklyn street. She ran out of her sandals leaving the car open with her purse inside. She gave chase, but didn't have to go too far as the dog ran into the local pet food store where the owner subdued him with a treat. Once my wife had him on the leash, she walked back to find one person holding her shoes and another standing watch by our car. 

I wondered then as I wonder now what makes dogs want to stray from the perfectly comfortable and safe environments that we do our best to provide for them.  

As I walked my dog past my neighbor's house later that day, I saw the yellow lab pup pawing at the window of his beautiful home, gazing through it with wonder in its eyes.


My dog, Riley.

Confidence

Confidence is in short supply
even in the wink from a sure ally
Whether pulling a rabbit from a hole in hat
or pulling a tight sweater over a roll of fat
If you got it, you don't have to pretend
The outcome is certain, press play, hit send

Confidence is the antidote for anxiety
as often purchased throughout society
It is the bare leg of Angelina Jolie
and triple sevens, holy moly!
It is the steely gaze of a man who can't be beat
and the polished wingtips that adorn his feet

Confidence is a soaring note in an emotional song
and no need to apologize after it all went wrong
It is a trait we seldom possess
fragile as a liar under duress
It's something we all want to follow
to keep safe from regret that may find us tomorrow

To know the outcome before the event
To be sure of oneself, that's confident.

Angelina Jolie, Oscars 2012.

Other poems:

LP Into The Wild

Laura Pergolizzi, aka LP, has a smash hit, Into The Wild,  that seems to be on constant replay in my home courtesy of Citi's commercial that features a woman climbing up a steep and stony precipice before reaching its pinnacle. This image may well personify LP's career at the moment.

LP


I met LP around the time her second album, Suburban Sprawl and Alcohol, was released. She performed at my cousin's wedding, which was held on a perfectly manicured lawn of an old estate in Huntington, NY. It was a beautifully simple ceremony where she played her guitar and sang while the bride approached among rows of folding chairs with properly attired people like a scene from The Great Gatsby.
When the ceremony concluded, LP played the new couple and their guests off the lawn and in to the manor where a sushi station and well-provisioned bars were propped up in meandering, palatial rooms. It was at one of these bars where I introduced myself to LP as my uncle walked by with an accusatory glance.

LP
I think it was her suggestion to wander the estate and we did as children exploring something for the first time. We discovered the courtyard from a balcony under which a young couple was kissing and then we darted off down a corridor to the master bedroom, which was serving as the bridal suite. There was an open bottle of champagne and another one in reserve, so we helped ourselves. She produced her guitar that had been stored there earlier for safe-keeping and played me one of her songs. I was struck then as I am now with how easy and naturally music emanates from LP. She seems to possess the spirit of Edith Piaf, a songbird of another era. When she finished, she handed her guitar to me and I played her one of my originals, which she said she liked or at least that's how I choose to remember it.

Later, when they were packing up the bars and people were searching for the keys to their cars, I found LP sitting near my mother and my aunt and they asked her to play them a song as if it were a line from Piano Man. She obliged and played the cover song of her knew album, Suburban Sprawl and Alcohol. I had a deeper appreciation of the song having discovered that she and I went to the same high-school earlier in the evening. It was beautifully written and authentic and I was hooked.

When I lived in Park Slope, I would catch her when she and her band played at Southpaw or at Mercury Lounge in the East Village. Her shows were as terrific then as I imagine they are now with a more intimate crowd. During one of her performances, when she engaged the audience, I shouted out our high school name and the year she graduated, which I dare not speak (think Mets). She found me after the performance and asked me not to do that again.

Now I'm a dad living in the suburbs and I still listen to LP's albums on my commutes to and from the city. They're as relevant now as they were before and as timeless as the artist herself who seems to age like Dorian Gray. It's about time the world knows LP. As they say in showbiz, overnight success usually takes about 15 years. Well, dear, to the victor goes the spoils.

LP with girlfriend Tamzin Brown.

LP - Into The Wild (Live):


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, especially when the obligatory YouTube cover is from an American Idol contestant such as this one from Rebekah Devivo Ostro: