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.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Whatever the topic, a lot of little children had that one book that they would drag about and push into the hands of any adult that happened to be in their path. For a little read. The one in the photo was mine. From WAY back. Before even Ian Fleming. Or Playboy. This is a story of a traveling salesman who sells caps. All sorts of caps. He keeps them in a stack on his head as he walks about calling "caps for sale...fifty cents a cap". All is well until one day he takes a well deserved siesta under a tree. Not just any tree. A tree that is inexplicably full of monkeys. That take all his caps. The rest of the story circles around the man's efforts to retrieve his caps. He gets them back. That's it.
The real story isn't about the man with the caps. It is about a little boy and his Norwegian grandpa. A man who worked on a loading dock all his life. Who had a photographic memory for numbers. Wanted to go to college. Never made it. Who had one child, a boy. That boy gave him two grandsons. I was the first. And for some period of time that I do not recall, I pestered the living daylights out of that man, making him read "Caps for Sale" over and over. Hundreds of times. He never refused. Never even sighed.
A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to read "Caps for Sale" to a boy. Several times. Reading aloud is magical. It lets you directly transfer not only a story but some karma, or love energy, or just plain old good feeling to another human being. And, in the immortal words of Dee Snyder "when you throw the energy out at the audience they throw it all right back to you". It is a great thing. Try it and see.
My grandpa has been gone a few years now and I've been missing him a lot lately. When I read "Caps for Sale", he is right there with me. Even when I read it to myself.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
My son, the Future Rock Star, was eight. A Florida boy who had never seen snow until that trip. A blizzard of sorts the day before blanketed Manhattan, providing the perfect opportunity for Epic play while mom was shopping. FRS discovered a little plot of ground near the Plaza fountain under six inches of new snow. A flower bed in summer. He thought he had all the snow in the world. A hectic snowball fight broke out.
One of the things I adore about New York is that you can have a snowball fight in a public place and nobody seems to mind. Nobody even demanded that we procure a permit. The only miscue occurred when the FRS overshot his favorite target (my head), pelting the backside of a Fifth Avenue Doyenne who was strolling by. I gave FRS the fatherly death-ray look and turned to beg the pardon of the 5AD. Who wheeled about. Snatched up the errant projectile. And pelted the FRS right back. Smiling, she said she had not thrown a snowball in thirty years. Went on her way. She had a good arm too for being seventy if she was a day. My kind of lady.
We eventually used up our patch of snow by the fountain and moved across 59th street just over the Central Park fence where an entire field of similarly untouched snow provided ample opportunity for more warfare, snowman building and snow angel flopping. Not another person entered that field all day. Sustained by regular trips to one of the ubiquitous hot dog carts, we spent a sparkling, cloudless day until FRS's lips turned a tad blue and he demanded an immediate hot bath. I carried him back to the hotel. He was almost too big for me. Two months of growing later the carrying days were over.
All of this played through my mind last night as I stood by the small flower bed before the Plaza. Thousands of people pass by it every day and take no notice. But I won't be one of them. You see, that little spot is Epic ground.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I was occupying my time in the only even remotely fun activity I could find. Washing the car. A neighborhood tot was in the driveway and wanted to fiddle with the Future Rock Star's new ($15.00) tennis racket. The following exchange...
FRS: No, you can't mess with my racket. It's NEW.
NT: Oh yeah? Well, my dad could take that thing and hit a ball out of the atmosphere...past the moon!
FRS: So? He's about fifty years older than me, that's why he can do that...
NT: No it's not. It's because HE IS A DAD.
FRS: So what? I have a dad too. He's right there, washing my mom's car.
NT: [Peering at me from a distance] Hmph. Yeah? Well my dad is HAIRIER!!! That's right! They all call him HAIRY HENRY!!
"Hairy Henry" is a VERY respectable neurosurgeon. And now I know his secret identity. I almost burst keeping myself from laughing aloud. I guess that even a mundane chore like washing the car can provide an Epic moment and (later) a loud laugh.
Dr. H. Henry.
Monday, September 15, 2008
The "Joy of Baking" website (http://joyofbaking.com) states that "cakes started in ancient Egypt as round flat unleavened breads cooked on a hot stone." Sounds like tortillas to me. In any case, the three cake layers produced by the FRS and me were a long sight better than the Egyptians' version.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
The military strategist von Clausewitz held that the first thing is to secure your home base. The Epic traveler MUST secure a good hotel. I love old downtown hotels. When they are kept up. There is a sense of grandeur when you enter. A sense of place. That you have a part in the grand scheme. Hearing Duke Ellington music in the lobby when you walk in is a good clue that you have found a superb home base. I'm not sure von Clausewitz would agree, but I'm betting on him. He looks like a swinging sort of cat.
This is the scene presented to you as you enter the lobby from Baltimore Street. Needless to say, the service and rooms are top notch. The dining room in which you can linger over a large breakfast and some very good coffee doesn't detract from the star treatment either...
But my favorite place of all in the President is the gym. Just kidding. My favorite place is the Drum Room. The lounge is small and classic. Pam, the queen of the bar, is a young woman possessed of an old school mixology. When a friend asked if he could have a mere single-pour vodka tonic, he was informed that at the Drum Room they do not serve singles. Only doubles. Definitely my kind of bar. The Drum Room restaurant is a level down from the lounge and has one of the best hotel menus I have encountered. There is a combo playing there at the end of the week also. The staff were superb and I made several friends among them during my stay. Years ago, in the first incarnation of the Drum Room, many of the great stars of music played the room. Sinatra. Davis. Benny Goodman. Glenn Miller. Patsy Cline. So the ghosts are good. As is the food. And the drinks. Take a look into the Drum Room from the lounge steps..
Another view looking from the stage area toward the lounge....
The day in any city is for me takes second place to the night, but in Kansas City you have plenty to occupy your time until Happy Hour. The American Jazz Museum (http://americanjazzmuseum.com/) and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (http://nlbm.com/) are both worth the trip by themselves and can take an entire day to view. Get a combo admission ticket from one of the helpful ladies in the lobby and see them both. The National World War I Museum (http://libertymemorialmuseum.org/) is one of the finest museum collections devoted to a single subject I have ever seen and is another day of exploration. And then there is Union Station.
As you can see, it is railway travel of the highest fashion. Pierpont's Restaurant inside the terminal has a fabulous Kansas City strip steak with a bleu cheese crust. And macaroni and cheese with truffles. And large martinis. If you don't try Pierpont's, don't blame me. I'll be on the next train into town, pally.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The experienced Epic business traveler knows that sanity on the road depends upon the presence of a few essentials. A local hangout. A touch of home. A small personal luxury item or two. A vintage travel cocktail set doesn't hurt. Leisure time that allows the weary traveler to detach from the workaday world is probably the most important thing of all.
For some, leisure time while traveling involves a good stout workout. Not me. I like my taste of daily exercise, but for real relaxation I prefer a lounge with soft music and a good martini. Or two. Sometimes, I just like to flop on the hotel bed with a good book. When I'm in a flopping and reading mood. On the Connie-swiping trip, I was aimlessly looking about the hotel room pondering something to do when I found a book that had been left there. Way back in the nightstand drawer. A core principle of the Epic traveler is that you make your own fun out of the raw materials made available to you. I propped up my pillows and opened the cover.
What I found was a classic American movie script of a book. A fascinating story of a fellow who dreamed of doing what had never been done before. Let his dream become his passion. Worked like crazy. Sacrificed a lot. Made extraordinary friends. Made his dream a reality. Lost everything. Prayed hard. Worked harder. Became world famous and married a movie star. Built a mansion in Beverly Hills. Never looked back.
The book is titled "Be My Guest". The fellow's name was Conrad Hilton. A really extraordinary man. A man that dreamed his dream, kept the faith, believed in himself, stayed true to his friends. Who lost everything material but never lost anything spiritual. Who won the race.
There is a difference between being stone broke and being stone broke and having everyone know about it. Hilton built a hotel empire, then lost it during the Depression. Everyone knew. Some, of course, said they always knew he would fail. During the whole ordeal, Hilton kept a photo of the finest hotel in America pinned to the wall beside his desk, vowing that he would someday own it. His belief, his dream and his charisma were so strong that people flocked to his aid. A gas station attendant revealed that he was paying for Hilton's fill-ups for a month out of his own pocket because his boss had refused credit. A bellman at one of his last remaining hotels gave Hilton the three hundred dollar total of his life savings. So Conrad Hilton could have "eating money". Both men were very well taken care of when Hilton got back on his feet. A rhetorical question. How many modern CEOs would receive that sort of devotion? I bet that the answer is none. But then, I don't have an MBA. What do I know?
What I know is that after losing an empire, Hilton rebounded stronger than ever, eclipsing his former successes. Bought the hotel in the yellowing photograph by his desk but kept its name intact. The Waldorf-Astoria.
Forget all the nattering nabobs of modern business. Read "Be My Guest" and learn what it really takes to be a success. Even if you never make a dime. Notions like style. Loyalty. Keeping your word. Looking after people. Never quitting. Being honest to and about yourself. Being bigger than the moment.
If you do not read any other part of the book, read the final chapter in which Hilton sets out his principles for success. Not in business. In life. In case you are very lazy, I will set them out for you here:
1. Find your talent.
2. Be big-think big-act big-dream big.
3. Be honest.
4. Live with enthusiasm.
5. Don't let possessions own you.
6. Don't worry about problems.
7. Don't cling to the past.
8. Look down on nobody and up when you can.
9. Pray constantly.
Somehow, I don't think that any of Hilton's extant relatives have ever read any of this. Pity. I have these principles written on slips of paper that I put in all my luggage, scatter into my books, place anywhere I can be reminded of them on a regular basis. Goodness knows what the TSA folks think at airports when they see them fluttering out of my suitcase.
I was so taken with Conrad Hilton after reading "Be My Guest" that, over the following days at the hotel I became obsessed with procuring the bust of him in the lobby. I never really intended to purloin it but it made a good running joke with the desk clerk when I returned each evening. What I wanted was to put the bust in my office as an inspiration. And as a reminder. Of a life very well lived. Dream big. Think big. Act big. Be big. Indeed. If anyone knows where I can legally procure a bust of Conrad Hilton, you know where to find me.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
This morning, I saw a gentleman of about 70, dressed to the nines. Perfect vintage Oxxford suit in mid-gray, white shirt starched so hard a thrown knife would bounce off of it. Of course, a maroon tie with very small pin dots of white. A pocket handkerchief of white. Folded square. And on top of all of this splendor:
A perfect gray fedora!!! I almost "fell out" as they say where I live. It was HOT outside too. What a man. I couldn't decide whether to hug him or buy him a drink. In the event, I did neither but I walked away smiling.
Then. My son, the Future Rock Star, and his mother were shopping for some new clothes and he arrived home sporting:
this very cool pinch crown! With no input from me, subliminal or otherwise.
Gentlemen, the wave is rolling. Will you be on the crest? The quality of companionship provided by our brothers in hats will be top drawer from what I can see.