Columns

Dear Rose


Dear Rosé,

I’m writing this letter late at night after many drinks and a long think about our future together. What I have to say is going to hurt your feelings. But, I’m certain it won’t harm you permanently.

I love you, yet I despise what you’ve become, and therein lies the rub.

For quite some time, I’ve been trying to convince myself things will change. But they haven’t. Frankly, my dear, you’ve changed, and not for the better. Now I feel I have no choice but to pull the plug on our relationship.

When we met you had such an understated personality and an almost dry sense of humor. You were interesting to hang out with. Remember the times we spent together lounging on the beach in the late afternoon, reading the New Yorker and then sharing a simple supper of steamed mussels and French bread on the screened porch? You were authentic. You were sublime. You sneered at the socialites and laughed at the snobs.

When the Great Recession hit, the trendy wine-drinking crowd started noticing your very reasonable price point. You got invited to a couple of swank parties in the Hamptons where you caught the eye of the New York Post and the imaginations of a few social media style influencers looking for a reason to exist. Flash, bam, alacazam, you were suddenly summer’s “it girl,” perched like an angel atop the social pyramid.

You’ve become so popular I’ve even heard you referred to as a “lifestyle.” Today your devotees can purchase rosé-flavored chocolates, gummy bears, candles, and even clothing all touting your virtues. Practically every winery now feels obligated to produce a rosé. And why not? They’re easy and cheap to produce and, frankly, does anyone really care what they taste like so long as they are pretty and pink and look good on Instagram?

And don’t get me started on the new group of girls you hang out with: Skinny Girl, White Girl, Happy Bitch, and Notorious Pink. Real classy.…

Your guy pals aren’t much better. If I hear one more of your gays scream out “rosé all day” while twirling and swirling his glass of pink, I might just puke. It’s trendy now for straight guys to drink pink too, but only if it comes in a manly bottle with a screwcap and has a butch name like 40 Ounce Rosé. “Brosé” is what they’re calling it now. Gimme a fist bump.

My dear Rosé, you may think you’re still A-list, but you’re not. What you are is overexposed. You’ve jumped the shark and you’re on the slippery slope towards common. I understand some bars now don’t even bother with a wine glass. They serve you up in a plastic cup.

You’ve been spotted in boxes and cans. You frequent Walmart. I hear you’ve gone from hanging out in multi-million dollar homes in East Hampton to something called the Rosé Mansion in Manhattan where for $48 enthusiasts can taste over 120 wines, pose for photos, and swing from a chandelier all the while screaming out how much they love you.

Could it get any better? Most definitely. Paris Hilton has created a perfume inspired by you.

My dear, you are selling yourself cheap and if you don’t watch it you will become just like your Auntie White Zin. Remember her? She drove a white Pontiac Trans Am and married the same man twice. Now she’s bitter and broke and living in Reno.

I know you don’t want to hear this and you definitely won’t agree with me because you’re surrounded by sycophants who all whisper into your ear how “rosé is here to stay.” Be careful what you believe. It’s true you are the fastest growing sector of the wine industry and everyone points to vodka’s staying power as a harbinger of your future. But here’s the thing about vodka. Vodka is a serious player. Vodka creates alcoholics. You, my dear, inspire shopaholics.

Alas, the morning light of the new day will soon be upon us, my dear Rosé, so I must bring this letter to an end. While I very much hope you will take this as the wake up call it is meant to be and that you will understand why I must break up with you, I’m not holding my breath.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate for the record that it’s not me, it’s you. I hope we can still be friends.

Yours truly,

Rich

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Columns

Me and My Good Ideas

I drove to Milton one sunny Saturday morning to explore Peppers, a popular family-owned garden center known for its diverse selection of plants. There wasn’t anything in particular on my wish list that day and nothing I really needed. My garden is in great shape this summer, but like a scab I can’t keep from picking at it. Some of you who like to play in the yard know what I mean.

I was lazily pushing my cart up and down aisles waiting for something to catch my eye when I suddenly came upon a young guy squatting down among several dozen rose plants. His green Eagles baseball cap was on backwards and he was reading the names and the colors of the different roses to an attractive pregnant woman I could only assume was his wife. His t-shirt had risen up in the back and his jeans had slipped a bit. Naturally, I had to stop my cart to, um, check out the merchandise.

In order not to appear conspicuous, I too began looking at roses and soon found myself entangled in the thorny embrace of a New Dawn climbing rose, which, as luck would have it, is one of my favorites. It’s a very fragrant pale pink rose with double blooms that can climb as high as 20 feet.

The New Dawn in my garden is more than 20 years old. I planted it in 1997, the year it was named the most popular rose in the world. The young one, clinging to my clothing and licking my bare forearms and legs, was like a puppy at a rescue shelter. It wouldn’t leave me alone.

Forty-five minutes later I arrived home in Rehoboth, legs bleeding, with the young rose in my arms. “I wasn’t looking, it just happened.”

My partner Michael shook his head. “Another good idea I’m gonna have to rip out in a couple of years.” The sarcasm was so thick I could cut it with a knife.

“Rest assured I’ll keep it well trained and trimmed,” I responded tit for tat.

Then he laughed. “Remember Mr. Jefferson’s strawberries?”

I was at the plant store at Monticello, hell bent on bringing home a garden souvenir. I figured if Mr. Jefferson grew Alpine strawberries then I could too. And I had the perfect spot in one of my big wooden planting boxes that received semi-shade.

Well, in less than a year the plant took over the box. Strawberry runners were parachuting out into the yard like Marines on a mission. It is, however, nowhere near as invasive as the English ivy I planted as a groundcover in a couple of shady areas. Twice a year I pull it out by the bushel from my fence, off the pine trees, from around the hydrangeas, and even from my basement. Yes, you read that correctly. The goddamn ivy actually grew through the dryer vent!

Are you familiar with sweet autumn clematis? You’ve probably seen and smelled it around town in the fall. It’s a vine that covers bushes and trees in blankets of small sweet-smelling flowers. Like kudzu, it was brought over from Asia in the 1880s and has since run rampant. I dug some up and planted it in the back yard. Now, despite a weekly pruning, our fence is starting to sag under its weight. But the scent is heavenly.

There’s more, a lot more. And not all of them appear on Delaware Natural Resources invasive species list. Who knew crepe myrtle blossoms and berries could clog a car’s air conditioner or that figs attract wasps and mice love cherry tomatoes? I didn’t know until after I planted several hundred naturalizing daffodils that I was highly allergic to them.

Okay, so maybe my great garden ideas don’t all work out. “The New Dawn rose has been nothing but spectacular over the decades,” I reminded my skeptical companion.

“It almost killed you!”

Hmm, that’s not exactly how I remember it. But at one point I was training the rose to climb up the side of the cottage and onto the roof. The little white house looked positively Nantucket quaint when hundreds of pink flowers were in bloom. The rest of the time the rose destroyed my shingles and sliced up my awnings.

One afternoon I was on my knees up on the roof giving it a good prune when an awkward reach for my Bloody Mary caused me to lose my balance. I’m convinced I would have slid off the roof but for that rose. I grabbed its thorny canes and steadied myself. Barehanded I might add. It’s since been hacked back to a more manageable size.

As I slipped on my gardening flip flops and grabbed my shovel to go plant the new rose, I reminded myself there are no bad ideas when it comes to gardening, only good ideas that go horribly wrong. And if that happens you can always dig it up. 

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Amazon’s Alexa: Friend or Foe?

Alexa column photo copyThe first time I met Alexa she was perched seductively on a granite countertop beside an oozy Brie, some smoked oysters, and a bottle of white wine. She was belting out a selection of Helen Reddy songs I was embarrassed to admit I knew the words to but hadn’t heard since the ‘70s. Frankly, I hadn’t realized Helen Reddy was still alive.

Though mildly impressed with this new smart device, I didn’t give her much thought. I didn’t use Siri on my iPhone and I surely wasn’t going to invest in another talking personal assistant. Then Alexa showed up on my front porch one Friday in a cardboard box, a gift from my stepmother Betty.

I’ll admit it; she charmed me pretty darn quickly. As a writer, I enjoyed having a quirky librarian at my side to provide definitions and spellings and to search Wikipedia for facts and information. As a music lover, I was excited about my own personal deejay creating playlists of my favorite acts like James Brown and the Rolling Stones. On these tasks Alexa did not disappoint. Heck, she even shuffled up a fine mix of songs by Bobby Lounge, a piano player who writes salacious story songs about the South.

My infatuation began to wane, however, when I asked if she thought Donald Trump would be impeached and she refused to answer, telling me instead that he would make a decision soon on whether or not he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord. Hmm… I already knew that. Alexa then claimed she couldn’t suggest cocktail recipes for a leftover bottle of cheap tequila, yet proffered up 55 recipes for a Bloody Mary—advice I most definitely did not need. When I inquired if Jared Kushner might enjoy a good spanking for his Russia dealings, she coyly replied she’d rather not answer that. Alexa was pivoting, deflecting, and feigning ignorance like the best of the Trump cabal.

Then it came to my attention that Alexa isn’t just a chanteuse singing my favorite songs or providing synonyms for words I overuse. Au contraire. Alexa nefariously listens and records what you ask of her and then reports it to her real owner—Amazon.com—where it is all stored away in some big cloud.
This kind of eavesdropping is how Alexa got entangled in an Arkansas murder case involving two men who spent a night together drinking vodka and watching college football. One ended up dead in a hot tub the next morning with a blood-alcohol content level of .32. A tragic accident said the defense attorney. Foul play claimed the prosecutor, pointing to signs like body injuries, a broken shot glass, dried blood, and indications the patio and hot tub had been hosed down before police arrived. Seems Alexa had been there the whole time.

The Arkansas prosecutor wanted access to Alexa’s recordings. Amazon said no way, citing protection under the First Amendment, and claiming voice-activated listening devices always on in one’s home raised a different set of privacy issues than computers and cell phones, which are regularly confiscated in criminal investigations. Before this interesting new Constitutional argument could be tested in the courts, the defendant gave Amazon permission to release the data Alexa had recorded. The case is still pending.

Supposedly, Alexa only records what you ask her, but who really knows. She lights up and blinks every time the ice rattles in my cocktail glass. But she’s not the only one. Google records each search you make and each email you send. Security cameras track your every move and most of the time you aren’t even aware of it. Drug stores remember what we buy and offer us coupons. Intuit helps you file your taxes. Facebook analytics combine my likes and my friends’ likes in order to promote products like shorts that won’t require me to wear underwear. I could go on, but I’ll end by reminding everyone that for the most part we readily give up our privacy for convenience. Former FBI Director James Comey said it best when he announced there is no such thing as absolute privacy in America.

When I stop and think about the possibilities, it does sort of remind me of that scene from 1984 where Winston stops performing his morning calisthenics for a little daydreaming and is snapped back to reality by a sharp voice yelling out to him out from the telescreen to pay attention and touch his toes. Freedom is slavery! Big Brother is watching! Maybe crazy Kellyanne Conway isn’t so crazy after all. I mean, if a plastic cylinder named Alexa can be designed to spy on you why not a microwave oven?

 

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