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.
One of my heroes said long ago that anyone can ski fast on a fast course but it takes a champion to ski fast on a slow course. In many ways the year 2016 was a very slow course for your Epic. A veritable storm of family crises, illnesses and business problems rocked Chez Epic for twelve months without stopping.
Life contains such times. The question up for discussion is how does the dedicated Epic ward off the incoming slings and arrows or at least deflect as many of them as possible while at the same time not allowing the direct hits to permanently damage the Epic view and manner of life? This was my singular challenge for the year just past. For as horrifying as it may seem, I felt at more than one juncture this year that my naturally Epic philosophy was in mortal danger.
Looking back from the comforting arms of a New Year, and having survived the aforementioned danger, I can only recommend to the reader a return to basic principles. The core principle of the Epic Life is to "mine the moment". Every moment of life contains gems of joy. The nature of the gems varies of course upon the individual Epic doing the mining. The key is to not allow the press of undesirable events to obscure your ability to see and appreciate what has always been in those moments. No matter how seemingly dire they may be. With this in mind, I offer my list of tips about how to bring Epic thinking to bear on a year like the one I just escaped...
Remember your faith. If you are a person of faith you can find yourself thinking of faithful things last when you are in crisis. Push your faith up the ladder of your thinking to the top rung where it belongs. You don't have to make a big production number out of it. You merely have to take a single moment to offer up a little prayer for help, calm, healing, or all of the above. For the faithful, use of one or two minutes in this fashion acts to immediately correct your course like a small turn of a ship's rudder while sailing during a moonless night.
See the angels in your midst. If you have read The Epic for long, you know that I absolutely believe in this concept. Even in the hardest time there are people on your path who can and will give you a gem of comfort through an act or just a smile. Like all other Epic gifts, they are there for you if you look. Find them. Accept their help whether it be in the form of a kind word or a cup of coffee in the middle of an Emergency Room in the wee small hours of the morning.
Give to get. Don't forget that you may well be an angel in someone else's path. Your kindness, your smile, your expression of gratitude, given when you are the farthest from feeling angelic can be just what someone else desperately needs. I find that when I am highly stressed an abundance of kind words for or appreciation of others inevitably leads to a reflection of kindness back towards me. Don't be shy. It works that way.
Don't fantasize. For goodness sake, do not begin fantasizing about how some person you know has a life that does not contain difficulties. About how they never stumble or have a bump in the road. There is no such person. All roads share the same features at some point or another. Imagining how smooth someone else's path is just concocts stress and despair out of whole emotional cloth.
Forget the past. Fight the desire to think of bad times in the past which should be jettisoned as soon as possible after their occurrence in any event. That doesn't mean we don't all have our share of emotional scar tissue but re-living undesirable moments from the dead past sure won't take it away. To the contrary, focusing on negative past events just allows the events to scar anew.
Remember the past. The Epic gems you have picked up along the way are always with you and always act to bring you pleasure through the recollection of them. They act as powerful pleasure tonics in lesser times.
Read and listen. A good book or music album works wonders in the midst of crisis. The past year's maelstrom was broken at times by reading some outstanding books such as "A Gentleman of Moscow" by Amor Towles, "Last Days of Night" by Graham Moore, "A Hero of France" by Alan Furst, anything by Mark Pryor, anything by Robert Nathan. Musically, I listened to a lot of Paul Weston & His Orchestra, Charles Trenet, Stacey Kent, Brian McKnight, Roberta Gambarini and Chantal Chamberland. And Frank. Always a lot of Frank.
Be a Child. When you walk out of the hospital at three in the morning look at the Christmas lights and just stare at them because they are pretty. Observe and experience little things merely because they are fun to observe or experience. There is always some kind of fun about, just for fun's sake. If you look through the child's eyes you had not that long ago.
With all these things in mind, when I looked back at 2016 it wasn't all a maelstrom. I had some wonderful trips, including a week driving around a ridiculously long route with my son and more than a few great meals and bottles of wine. I kept up with friends that mean the world to me. I enjoyed the best Chinese restaurant of my experience [pictured above with a very dry martini and shrimp toast]. And, my Irish Redhead is still right here with me after making her way through the darkest of times and weeks in hospital.
So, after all, the year was a total success. We took the blows. Loved strong. Laughed when we could. Mined the moment like crazy. Kept an Epic focus to the end. And I walk into 2017 with more gems than ever on hand. I wish each of you just the same things. For this year. And for every year.
The upstairs bar at Buckhorn Exchange, Denver. Those are real weapons over there. Next to really good whisky. Numerous kinds of wild game on the menu, including a rattlesnake appetizer. Not for the faint of heart. Tremendous.
Great literature is great because it speaks to everyone in some fashion. Across borders. Across generations. World War I ended at 11:11 a.m. today in 1918. British poet Rupert Brook died in 1915 while in the army. My favorite poem of his, "The Soldier", is understood by every soldier in every land who ever walked away from home toward some distant, horrific, place...
If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England's, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Today, lets remember all who fell so we can walk, All who served so we could live. And if you would, please look back to the doughboys of the First World War. Gone now, they had virtually no reason to go and fight "over there". But they went anyhow. Like they always do. Because they loved us and because they wanted to help. Some to die at 27 like Rupert Brooke. Some to die much younger. Some to live to help us remember. God bless them all.
Catherine Deneuve is 73 today. The quintessential French "woman of a certain age". When I was in Paris some years ago my wife texted me that she would know if I went missing the only possible explanation is that C.D. and I had met!! I think that showed a wild over-appreciation of my charms!
She recently said that social media "don't allow people to dream anymore". It certainly doesn't work that way for me. Tonight I will have a bourbon on the rocks [one of her favorites] in her honor.
This is the birthday of A.J. Liebling, author of the book that made me "Paris aware". Please procure a copy of "Between Meals, an Appetite for Paris" and see for yourself. Then have a seven course dinner with appropriate wines to celebrate the life of this tremendous and under appreciated writer.
In my mid 50s, husband, 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".