Cocktail Of The Week: The Rubicon
Today in 49 B.C., Gaius Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, sparking a civil war and leaving him the master of the Roman world. The Rubicon (or Rubicone in Italian) is a small river in Northern Italy notable in Roman law as a boundary point to protect the Republic from internal military threat. As Caesar crossed the water (leading to the inevitable armed conflict,) he is reported to have said, “Alea iacta est,” or “The die is cast.” Since that time “crossing the Rubicon,” or just “rubicon” has fallen into popular idiom as meaning “passing a point of no return, ” by committing yourself to a risky course of action.
This makes me think of Emily Dickinson’s brother. Do you want to know that story? The cocktail? Ok, cocktail first then back to the Dickinson’s…
The Rubicon Cocktail consists of:
½ ounce Bourbon
½ ounce Triple Sec
1 ounce Lemon Juice
½ ounce Grenadine
Pour all ingredients over ice, shake and serve in a martini glass with appropriate garnish. I was in a bar, so I used what was at hand which was a cherry and lemon peel. My very clever (and art trained) bartender decided to form the peel into the shape of a “C” for Caesar. I ordered a Caesar salad on the side to go with it.
And now I feel a poem coming on:
Gaius Julius Caesar
The Rubicon did cross
The die was cast
His salad, tossed
I started thinking about the staffs Roman soldiers carried in war, and garnishes...
...and can someone tell me why restaurants dump ice in urinals?
May fall through Caesar’s ice, and lose my way.
I will act with haste; I shall not falter.
This great city depends on my triumph."
Did you know that Caesar was the first living man to appear on a coin? What a way to leave a tip.
Austin Dickinson and Rubicon? Ok. Let’s see. Emily Dickinson and her family were well known in their community of Amherst, Massachusetts. Daddy Edward was a well-known lawyer and community leader. The children were brother Austin, sister Lavinia and Emily. Austin was a handsome boy and dutiful son. He went to Harvard, and following his graduation he wanted to go live with family members out West, but his father pressured him to study law and join him in the family law firm, which he did. He married an impoverished girl from a nice family, and Daddy D built them a house (Evergreens) next door to the Dickinson Homestead, so he always lived next door to his parents. I always felt rather sorry for Austin in that he towed the line (against his own impulses) and did what he was supposed to do by kowtowing to societal and parental pressures. He grew to be a known community leader himself, had a passion for landscaping, using Frederick Law Olmsted for many of his projects.
However. Further along in his life, Austin met a young woman named Mabel Loomis Todd. Mabel moved to Amherst after her husband, David, was hired by Amherst College as an astronomer. David shouldn’t have had his head turned to the skies, as we shall see. Mabel soon fell in with the Dickinson “set” and was part of their picnics, Sunday socials and card evenings. It was on a rainy September 11 night while escorting Mrs. Todd to one of his whist parties that Austin and Mabel admitted to each other that they were in love. That night in his diary, Austin wrote “Rubicon.”
It was his Emily’s enthusiastic reception toward Mrs. Todd (Lavinia could never stomach Mabel) that caused Austin to make this irrevocable change in his life. The two ladies never met, but Emily would send Mabel notes, and Mabel would visit the home to play the piano downstairs while Emily listened from her hiding place. Austin and Mabel starting hooking up everywhere they could find a nook to hide out in: a carriage drive in the woods and empty rooms, including the Homestead dining room. As I said, “Rubicon” was entered into his diary, but Austin also wrote the word on a slip of paper, and he carried it in his wallet until his death. He also wrote out alternate letters to spell their names, and those slips were carried in Austin’s wallet and Mabel’s diary, tucked into the date December 13, 1883 which is believed to be the date they consummated their affair. Susan, Austin’s wife, knew of the affair, as did Mabel’s husband. David Todd took it in stride. He had his own thang going on with other women, but Susan suffered from this alliance and felt its effects and repercussions until the end of her life. I always wondered how she felt, following Austin’s death, to go through his personal effects and find his love letters and these cryptic slips of paper. Having cleared out relative’s homes following their death, and finding their pornography collection in a purple velvet Crown Royal bag in the work bench, all I can say is, “think about what you save.” You never know.
But life, being weary of these worldly bars,
Never lacks power to dismiss itself.
If I know this, know all the world besides,
That part of tyranny I do bear
I can shake off at pleasure.