Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.
I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.
It had been a very trying week. At the start of it I was in full-on work mode, engaged in another of the competitive micro-elections for money in which I have been performing for the past thirty seven rather marvelous years.
But then, through no fault of either mine nor my competitor, it all just ....stopped. The proceedings halted and ultimately nullified. Only to be replayed at some future date. This sort of thing is deflating in the extreme. You have nowhere to expend all of the build up energy and focus that were fueling you for the event. Well, I suppose if one were a runner, or an exerciser, but I have sterling credentials as neither of those.
What to do? To quote one of my favorite characters from a movie long ago, "ROAD TRIP". My favorite casino happens to be a modest drive away and I rapidly claimed a complimentary room, booked dinner at the excellent hotel restaurant, threw a small Italian leather bag into my trunk and drove west. Feeling none the best for wear I might say. I almost talked myself out of the trip. But the dedicated Epic learns to follow his inner voice in such matters.
Upon arrival I got settled into my room and considered soaking in the large hot tub. Apparently someone in the booking office was under the impression I was planning a much more complicated escapade that was the case. Avoiding a bath that would have probably put me to sleep, I straightened my tie and headed downstairs to the caisse to exchange some money for chips.
It should surprise no returning Epic that I was the only person on display on the casino floor wearing a coat and tie. Nor should it surprise anyone that the feel of casino chips in my hand and the distinctive clacking noise they make when you riffle them against a green baize surface is a soothing influence to the my heart and soul.
It had been some time since I last played Roulette but my weariness from the week's events and a three visit losing streak at Blackjack prompted me to a simple plan of action at the table of the spinning wheel based upon James Bond's system. Which was based on John Scarne's system I believe. A solid notion. With that firmly in mind I had a "half and half" martini in the cocktail lounge and headed to the steakhouse for dinner to further fortify myself for the evening ahead.
I don't always have steak when I dine out but when I do I have steak au poivre. It is another sad feature of the current era how difficult it is to find a great steak, crusted in peppercorns, with a brandy cream sauce. A French bistro classic now relegated to the novelty list. On one less than memorable occasion, I asked a waiter why the "steak au poivre" that had been perfectly cooked and delivered to my table had no flavor. The horrifying answer was "People kept sending it back because it was peppery". Good lord. Why on earth would someone order steak AU POIVRE and object to it being steak au poivre? I digress. The casino steakhouse in question makes the dish perfectly. I suspect that from the great beyond James Beard weeps with joy every time someone makes it there. A large wonderful filet [I know, I know, the classic should be a strip steak but I occasionally allow myself a slight turn away from tradition] cooked medium rare, with a significant peppercorn crust and a perfect and silky pan sauce which served to slightly soften the heat of the pepper in the way the first chef to make the dish certainly planned. Magnificent...
With a glass or two of a very good Pinot Noir the old life compass was slowly swinging to the proper course. After that outstanding steak I celebrated the existence of at least a few chefs who can still prepare it properly by ordering what in that locale has come to be known as the M****** Sundae. Simple but the perfect sequent to my entree....
Fully bucked for the remainder of the evening, I sauntered back to the main Roulette table where I whiled away several hours in the company of a couple of nice croupiers and a very attentive cocktail waitress. I ended the evening happily ahead of the house.
Somewhat later, relaxing in that tub with a snifter of cognac, I considered the word "languid". One of my favorite adjectives. I love the way the word sounds. It is one of those words which immediately conjures up just the sort of evening I had experienced. Or the look in the eyes of certain women at certain times. It shouldn't surprise me that the primary definitions of languid are pejorative but I put this down to a cultural variant in the U.S. where the lack of "proper" [i.e. energy and goal driven] activities are usually looked at with a cocked eyebrow. I prefer the alternative definition of languid which is "leisurely". Sensual leisure. The Epicurean definition of the word. And of a superior evening.
Every so often I come across someone who so exemplifies the Epic spirit that it stops me in my tracks. Like the fellow on the corner.
I have certain work obligations which at times can only be described as tedious. When these obligations call, I am required to sally forth from the friendly confines of my office to a nearby building. Which in turn requires me to walk right past him.
The fellow on the corner is about my age, perhaps a bit older. He is dressed nicely and doesn't appear in need of food or shelter. He never asks for anything. He just gives to others. In every season, not just the Christmas season, he is on the corner wearing a yellow reflective vest that makes him look quasi-official. The last week or two he has been sporting a Santa hat.
Every day I walk past him he gives a cheerful grin and says good morning or good afternoon. Often he will give a compliment too. "That is a nice looking suit you have on today!" "You are having a great day, I can tell by that smile!"
Think of the energy this fellow expends in this Epic venture. He has made it his quest through this part of his life to give happiness and light to everyone he sees and he obviously loves what he does. This year in particular I am in need of this sort of gift. And he provides it to everyone, at no cost to themselves other than a return smile or greeting. Which everyone I have seen gives. Funny how a genuine pleasantry draws a pleasant response.
I would love to know his story but I don't really need to. He exemplifies the Epic life. Mining joy from the ordinary and letting others see it. A Christmas gift indeed.
It may be recorded elsewhere in these chronicles but St. Augustine was oft want to say that humility assures our salvation as it is the foundation of all the other virtues. He also said that pride turned angels into devils. As it turned out, this year I was the recipient of an Epic gift from the venerable Saint on, of all days, Nouveau Day.
To refresh, Nouveau Day, which has been described as one of the most important days of the French cultural calendar, is celebrated in France and in all other sentient places on the third Thursday of November when the new vintage of Beaujolais is released for public consumption. The barrels are rolled out and tapped at midnight to the ringing of a bell and then something of a wine based Oktoberfest breaks out with partying and drinking [and appropriate dining of course] carrying on for at least three days. The festival coincides nicely with our American Thanksgiving holiday.
I adore Nouveau Day because it is so essentially French, it involves wine, and it is a festival of good cheer. It is also a dandy way to kick off the American holiday season. Critics, of course, abound. The quality of this inexpensive and jovial wine is vociferously attacked by the vino-intellectual complex, and certain members of that complex turn their noses wayyy up upon the mere mention of Nouveau Day. That Beaujolais in general, and Nouveau Day in particular is such a burr under the saddle of some wine folk only adds to my general satisfaction with the event. I mean, in Japan they love Nouveau Day so much that they drink Nouveau while collectively bathing in it. Until hearing this report of wine filled tubs I hadn't thought much about Japan to be honest but now I have firmly placed the nation in the record as Just My Sort Of Place.
On the day in question, I left the office early in search of a couple of bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau. As is my custom and my Francophillic privilege. There is a nice small wine shop across the street from my office where I do regular, if modest, business. I was, if I may say so, dressed up even more so than usual in anticipation of the event and of a date I had that evening. Upon entering the place I sensed that dark forces were at work. Instead of my usual sales clerk, behind the counter were two fellows I didn't recognize and they were in deep conversation with a very attractive lady who was a wine sales representative. It turned out that the two fellows were the owners of the shop which made the ensuing horrid events even more sorry.
Not wanting to interrupt the conversation I made my way about looking for a case or two of Nouveau which I was certain had to be on display. I didn't see any. Finally one of the two owners asked me if he could help me find something. I jovially replied "Yes! NOUVEAU"! At which the two men looked at each other. And burst out laughing.
"We don't have THAT here"! Ha HA Ha Ha Ha.
"God no, we had a couple of cases of Nouveau from 2016 around somewhere but I put them in the garbage"! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
" I had a Nouveau tie once and I used it to tie my suitcase together so I could see it on the airport carousel"! HA HA HA HA HA
"He wants that THIN, AWFUL stuff!" HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAAA
I just stared at them. I mean I know these are low times for manners and for civility in general but the nature of the comments and the tone in which they were said were widely out of bounds in my opinion. My nice sales clerk manifested himself and seemed disturbed.
"Um......ahhh......can I show you a very nice Beaujolais instead.......we have it at a good price..."
I politely replied that I appreciated the offer but that it was Nouveau Day and I was hunting for a bottle of Nouveau. The logic of this seemingly escaped his bosses who upon hearing this broke out in a new round of raucous hooting. This time joined by the lady wine salesperson.
My adorable and deeply missed wife, The Irish Redhead, used to say that at certain times I was way too tolerant of people. Her corollary was that I should handle situations such as this the way she would handle them. Fire. Brimstone. Going to guns as the first option. The Irish Redhead way. Alas, some of us lack that gift, usually those of us with Norwegian fathers. As a result, I gave them what could only be described as a fishy look and I strode out the door never to return. And when I say I strode I do not employ the term loosely. If there was ever a time for fishy looks and striding, that was the time.
I am happy to report that upon entering a competing shop they were more than happy, excited even, to point me in the direction of a nice bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. I bought two.
Where does St. Augustine factor into this you may fairly ask. Well as I was striding out of the shop I felt pretty low. I mean they had made abject fun of me. In public. In front of a lady. In less allegedly civilized times I would have had no choice but to demand satisfaction on the field of honor under the Code Duello.
Now THERE would be a place where a boy with Viking blood in his veins might capture the day. Especially against an obnoxious wine merchant or two. In the event, it finally occurred to me that being humbled in this fashion ultimately stoked my humility rating a notch or two up the scale. And that as a result I have that much a better shot at salvation and a place at the heavenly table when they celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau each year. I have it on good authority that Nouveau Day is a pretty big deal in heaven. I hear that they allow bathing in it too.
I have recently remembered two of my favorite songs and realized in the process that they are so very applicable to my life now. In the New Era. SDJ sings the truth in "I've Got A Lot of Livin' To Do" from 1963. I do. And I'm doing my best.
Then, The Boss singing Glory Days....
Every man relates to this song. When we get together most fellows go deep into memory mode and talk about high school or college days and all the tremendous times they had then. The wine. The women. The song. I realized just yesterday that I have received an Epic gift of the highest order. When I am [God willing] 80 years old, I will look back over a pretty outstanding life experience and THESE will be my Glory Days. My Halcyon. I doubt that many people will be able to do that. Of course, Epic philosophy holds that this should be the case in every time of your life. We just don't often reach out and take what life holds out for us at every turn.
I'm so glad my Epics are still out there. I'll be more in touch from now on.
In my early 60s, widower, father and itinerant storyteller. I am a putative jazz singer, poet and novelist, dedicated to mining every minute of life for the veins of pleasure they contain. My motto is "Dum Vivimus, Vivamus"..."While we Live--LET US LIVE".