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.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Esquire Man Batting Averages

Many a stolen Epic hour has been spent with a good magazine. Just lying about. On a raft. In the pool. Or a hammock. Great magazines have a special part in the Epic routine. The problem is finding one these days.

Return readers will know that I have a love-hate relationship with Esquire. My continuing disappointment with the 2009 era magazine is in large part a reflection of the depth of my love for the Esquire of the 1960s and even the 1970s. I grew up as a magazine reader with old copies of Esquire. Through the mid 1970s, I eagerly awaited each copy that would arrive at my parents' home. Later in that decidedly odd decade I watched for my monthly issue to arrive at my college dorm. All the magic of Esquire is gone now that I am apparently beyond the boundary of its age demographic. Now I buy vintage copies on Ebay and pretend they are new. Call me a romantic.

But I love a list. So when I saw in an email recently that Esquire had posted lists of the seventy five albums a man has to have, the seventy-five books he has to read and the seventy-five things he has to do before he dies, I was lured into an immediate examination. Certainly, I thought, this would confirm that deep within the current magazine there was a faintly beating heart of the classic that almost single handedly made American men's publishing noteworthy throughout the world. Certainly, these lists would confirm that a man like me still had something in common with the magazine I had loved so long ago...

I have hundreds of albums of music from many genres. I love music. That in mind, I cannot say how amazed I was at the Esquire list of albums a man "must have" before floating off on the evening tide. Not one by Elvis Presley. I had not even heard of many of the artists. Of the seventy-five albums no doubt selected after hours and days of editorial office debate, I own exactly...four. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours", the Buena Vista Social Club and the Traveling Wilburys, Volume I. An Esquire Man musical batting average of 0.053. The crowning piece of evidence that Esquire has abandoned men of my vintage and interests is that my eleven year old son has two of the albums on this list. His Esquire Man musical batting average is therefore 0.026. Not bad for someone THIRTY EIGHT years younger than I am. If I sneak into his room tonight and lift his copy of Guns N Roses' Appetite for Destruction [an album I really, really like] I will raise my average to the heights of 0.066. Not worth the effort really. No wonder Frank has that lost, sad look on his face on the cover of Wee Small Hours...

He saw the writing on the wall.

Speaking of writing. If I love music, I TRULY love writing. I read a lot. All sorts of things. And I have been known to scribble a bit. In hope of a rebound, I turned expectantly to the Esquire list of seventy-five books a man must read before the clouds close in on him for good. Eight books. EIGHT lousy books. Has my intellectual life been so wasted? So un-Esquireish? Rabbit Run by Updike, For Whom The Bell Tolls, Tropic of Cancer, Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, Master and Commander by O'Brian, Moby Dick, The Right Stuff by my fellow Washington and Lee alumni Tom Wolfe, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. An Esquire Man batting average of 0.11. I rounded that upward. If you remove the books that someone MADE me read, my average falls to 0.08. Pathetic. I cannot even raise my average by theft in this category. At least I had heard of SOME of the other authors. I felt a literary fog descending upon me. Did I mention that I went to the same school as Tom Wolfe?

Desperate for redemption at this point, I rapidly scanned the list of seventy-five things an Esquire Man MUST do before he shuffles off the mortal coil. Make a perfect omelet. Can do. Recognize the accomplishments of others. One of my fundamental principles. Cultivate a reputation. I've devoted my adult life to it. Learn three or four chords on the guitar and play a song with them. Check. Throw a real party. Done it. Do something that scares you. I did. Once. Overspend. Oh, RATHER. Sing in public. At AJ's in Vegas. With a pianist, not karaoke. Check. Give up your seat. How sad that this should be so rare as to be on the list. Just good manners. Take a vow and keep it. Marriage for twenty-two years. check. Spend time working for tips. Did it. Almost starved. Give a panhandler all your money. Yes. Raise a dog. What? THIS is a "must" to do before I die? Only a dog? Not any other species? Well, all right, check. At least in the experiential category I raised my Esquire Man average to a double digit apogee of 0.17. Still pretty lame.

The conclusions I drew from this exercise were:

1. The people running Esquire are totally disconnected from men like me.

2. I am proud of my musical and literary tastes, and very satisfied with my life experience this far down the road...no matter what they say. And no matter how far down my Esquire Man averages may sink.

Oh happy day!! I just won a new copy of Esquire on Ebay. June 1965. Now THIS looks like a magazine for a man of my tastes...

Forget the grunge/fusion/groaner albums, the mystico-coming of age-in-a-bathtub stories and the "thrill" of living nude for a year at high altitude with a dog you raised yourself. I am going to put on Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" [not on the list], read a chapter of The Great Gatsby [not on the list] and make a perfect cocktail [not on the list]. It is the Wee Small Hours and it is time for a martini...


Zingiber said...

What a terrific post. I once loved Esquire, though it was in the early to mid '80s, when it was starting to decline. The "Man at His best" columns were still terrific, though, at that time.

I will definitely procure a copy, I need to know what my batting average is. I'm sure it will be equally low. These lists always suffer from the "recency effect," i.e. the overemphasis/overestimation of recent events or ones that can easily be remembered.

Turling said...

Unfortunately, my good man, my copy has not yet arrived. Perhaps us on the west coast are the last to receive it, being so far away. I wish I had it, so I could do the same comparison.

And, I plan on cheating. I'm going to give myself extra credit for having read all 21 books by O'Brian, not just Master & Commander. I'm concerned about the lack of The Great Gatsby. I'll try and remain the gentleman and not begin listing books they should not have on there, but probably do.

Unfortunately, I'm not much of the music man, but I would hope out of shear luck, I would have several. I do have Appetite for Destruction, so I won't get shut out.

Tucker said...

.253 on albums, .293 on books and .267 on things to do. I've eaten mussels in Bruges (with a bottle of Chimay Cinq Cents) and can recommend it, but there are at least 75 other "things to do" to which I'd assign a higher priority. Excellent post, M.

CashmereLibrarian said...

Hahaha! Tears are running down my face--this is so funny.

My favorite (among many):
"If I sneak into his room tonight and lift his copy of Guns N Roses' Appetite for Destruction [an album I really, really like] I will raise my average to the heights of 0.066. Not worth the effort really. No wonder Frank has that lost, sad look on his face on the cover of Wee Small Hours..."

Have a great weekend, Epic!

heavy tweed jacket said...

Excellent musings. I often run into the problem at the airport of looking for a magazine to read, and going away from the booksellers greatly disappointed. More often than not I purchase Vanity Fair. Esquire has become a disappointment. You're right the vintage issues are much more entertaining. 1930s and 40s Esquire issues are brilliant.

Petunia said...

Wow! Sounds like Esquire has changed to reach a "broader" audience. How strange that The Great Gatsby is not on the list. I find that many things today are watered down in order to be more palatable to a broader audience. How sad.
I hope that at least you procured your Esquire subscription for a mere 5 dollars! ;-)

Toad said...

I clearly remember the day Esquire and I divorced. It was like a right of passage.

Esquire, at one time was a magazine for men. Now its something else entirely.

M.Lane said...

Sartre, I can't wait to hear your averages. The "recency effect" is a great thought. I am overly attached to the "primacy effect" it seems...

Turling, cheating [and as I recognized, theft] under these limited circumstances is perfectly appropriate. We are up against a generational divide my friend...

Tucker, great averages in my view. I LOVE Chimay.

Cashmere, I'm glad I made you laugh. It was a great weekend. And you still have the best name in all of the blogosphere...

HTJ, VF is fun and I also enjoy it. Maybe Men's Vogue will return. I'm not holding my breath.

Petunia, I am honored that you took the time to read The Epic [and to do such a lovely post yourself] during a trip to Islemorada!!! "Watered down" is EXACTLY correct. The $5 subscription is just the thing and thanks for letting us in on it!

Toad, Isn't it SAD?

Thanks everyone for your visits and great comments!


Ben said...

Kind of Blue NOT on the list? Sweet Jumping Judas on a Pogo Stick! That's pathetic.

dandy nihilism said...

As a young man who prides himself on culture I'm a bit bemused by Esquire's selection. Some of the choices are indeed inspired and others not so much. I feel as if their lists were compiled not as the seventy five best choices, but along the lines of seventy five choices which brush the broadest cultural strokes. That being said it was nice to see Mahler and Beethoven make an appearance along side Miles Davis and the Velvet Underground.

Music .227
Books .040 (a shame)
Things .280

p.s. Thank goodness cultivating a reputation doesn't necessarily mean a flattering one!

tintin said...

It's all BS. You know that. So does Esquire. I just feel sorry for the kids (and grown men) who don't. Their job is to convince some boob to go out and buy a lotta crap they don't need. That's it.

I have April 1960 and December 1961. Purchased in 1990 at the Kane County market for a buck a piece. There was advertsing and product placement to be sure but there was great writing, restaurant reviews, record reviews...I mean I dare any staff at Esquire to read an old issue and say they're not total hacks.

M.Lane said...

Ben, that is some reaction!

Dandy, oh I entirely agree about the reputation. As they say where I live..."I don't want anyone putting a pattern on me"..

Tintin, as usual you tell it like it is. But what a shame it is that way. When did the perception arise that men didn't read or have any style? I know, right about the time when a lot of men quit reading and having any style.

Thanks everyone for your visits and comments!


Petunia said...

What a fantastic post! And that June 1965 Esquire looks much more appealing than the more recent one, even though I suppose I'm technically in the age range they are targeting. (Who cares that I'm not a man!)

Was "Win a bid on Ebay" on the new Esquire "things" list? You might want to check, you could have just increased your batting average!

M.Lane said...

Petunia, thanks! You just can't beat Connery in his Prime. He probably still is.

And, a VERY funny idea about winning on ebay being on the list. I wish it were. I have been a crazed ebay buyer for a long time now.

Thanks for stopping by! Good luck on all your adventures shortly to come!


~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Mr. Lane, I'm confused. Wasn't Tropic of Cancer written by Henry Miller, not Arthur Miller? Or did I miss a joke or something? As I am not completely up to snuff on all things Esquire, that is altogether possible.
Respectfully yours,
Mrs. Scoffs.

M.Lane said...

Tessa, you are exactly correct. I mistook the two men. Thanks for pointing this out...I'm going to correct the post now.