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.