Hello!

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.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My Kind Of Town

I have a long and wonderful love affair with Chicago. My first trip to a big city. My first airplane ride. My first great meal. My first major league baseball game. My first....well, you get the idea. I have never had a bad time there. My most recent trip was no exception.

I am a habitue of the Drake and the Knickerbocker hotels. And I like them both, a lot. I've enjoyed the Conrad Hilton and the Palmer House. Even the House of Blues Hotel. But the one thing missing from my Chicago experience has been a hotel that I can really call home. One that I look forward to seeing again on my next trip. I solved that puzzle this time. By returning to a place I had never been. That I had only read about. The fabled Ambassador East Hotel...


Home of movie stars. Jazz folk. Frank. This hotel has everything I love. A lovely, tree lined street just right for leisurely strolling in this most walkable city. Just a couple of short blocks from the original Mortons, Gibsons, Rosebud, the Chicago location of P.J. Clarke's and a very cute little French place, Bistrot Zinc. A more ambitious but worthwhile walk to my favorite Italian place in town, Volare and to one of my favorite hangouts Harry Caray's. Just a perfect location. The Ambassador has very courteous staff who welcome you as an old friend. Even on your first visit. A lobby that makes you feel like a railroad baron. Nice, comfortable rooms. And, of course, a bar. Not just any bar. One of the great bars of all time. The Pump Room...


The photo says it all. Just look at the place. There have been more deals signed, rendezvous accomplished, lyrics revised, looks exchanged, room keys pressed into palms in this room than you can imagine. The vibe is perfect. As are the ghosts. These two were captured on film in the Pump Room...

I had to take her photo when she looked at me that way. I am just thankful he was distracted and didn't notice.

Did I mention that the Pump Room is also a very good restaurant? Right now it is only open for breakfast and lunch but the food is superb. Take a glance around the dining portion of the room which is lower than the level of the bar...


Fresh flowers. Check. Heavy silver. Check. Chandeliers. Check. Comfortable chairs and starched table cloths. Check and check. And banquettes. I am of the firm opinion that no great restaurant can exist without banquettes. At least not a restaurant I will call great. How would you like to snuggle into one of those cafe au lait banquettes and plan the rest of your weekend getaway over a bottle of champagne and a little dessert? The group below was no doubt having an Epic time at the Pump Room some years ago, but I am not sure if I would order whatever it is the waiter has just poured in the host's lap...


The last night of my trip, I was at the Pump Room bar just before midnight. Sipping a very good martini. The place had been hopping an hour or so before, but now was in that lovely eventide that settles into a good bar just before the Wee Small Hours are soon to begin. A duo of distinguished looking men walked in and sat down across the bar. Very nice suits and ties. Tie bars. Shirts with double cuffs and links, of course. Well turned out men. The bartender put certain drinks in front of these gents without even a word from them. To dress like that AND to be a regular at a place like the Pump Room...now there is a goal to which one can aspire. I was lost in a reverie but glanced up to notice that one of the men was Tony Bennett. Or a man that looked just like him. I mean a dead RINGER. If it was not him. In any event, it didn't matter. A core Epic principle is to seek out the magic that presents itself to us every day. Whether or not the fellow was Mr. Bennett became irrelevant. The fact that he was there, whoever he was, made the evening perfect.

Chicago was, is, always will be, my kind of town. I could not have been more pleased with my stay at the Ambassador East and I look forward very much to my return. Any time you want to go, let me know. You know where to reach me. Here with Mr. Bennett at the corner of the bar...

Chicago, Chicago Ill show you around , I love it
Bet your bottom dollar you'll lose the blues in Chicago
The town that Billy Sunday could not shut down...

13 comments:

longwing said...

Good piece. I'm ready to go.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Looks like you found a new home. Love the post love the writing love the pictures. My trip to Chicago was Decidedly Disappointing. But it wasn't Her fault.

Ben said...

Wonderful words about Chicago. I am embarrassed to admit that, though I lived 2 hours away in South Bend, I never really took advantage of Chicago. Wish I had.

David V said...

I hate to be the one to break it to you.

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/article.pl?articleId=32131

M.Lane said...

Longwing, we had better go fast. See below...

Mrs. Scoffs, thank you so much! What a nice compliment.

Ben, I found that going places in college [if you were like me and had NO money] wasn't as much fun as now anyway.

David, thanks for the visit and the comment! BUT oh man. If/when Ian Schrager takes over the AE, brace yourself for Euro/techno music and weird cocktails. MAYBE he will keep the Pump Room intact. If he does, I may forgive any number of other hotelier sins. But I am hedging my bet. I know of another little old hotel not far from there...

Thanks everybody!
ML

David V said...

There's always the Talbotts.

mustangmelatl said...

alas, if only we could gather $25M to puchase the Ambassador ourselves. I happen to like the Schrager hotels I've been to - the Royalton in NYC (best gin & tonic I've ever had - and I've had a few) and the Delano in Miami. But I'm afraid of what he might do to the Pump Room...so I may need to hurry on up there before its demise.

Dad said...

Your mentioning the Drake takes me back to my first stab at sophistication, staying across the street at the Playboy Club in the 70's. After reading about the clubs in the magazine I thought there could be no more elegant and stylish way to travel.
Stayed for four days had my first lobster for dinner, saw Rodney Dangerfield in the nightclub, and fell in love with some beautiful bunnies. Damn I miss those days.

M.Lane said...

Mustang, I trust your judgment completely. So I'll reserve mine and hold my breath that the Pump Room will be preserved. I sure hope so.

Dad, you are my HERO. What a blast that would have been!

Thanks for the visits and comments!

ML

tintin said...

The Coq d'Or bar in the Drake was (is?)home to the Executive Martini. At least three served in a small pitcher and a real butt kicker on an empty stomach.

On your next trip -- check out a restaurant even the locals don't know about. Le Petit Paris (the old Zavens)at 260 E Chestut (just off Lake Shore Dr) is hidden an a condo lobby and it's amazing. Alain Sitbon, the owner, will treat you like a star and the early 60's decor (unchanged) will flash you back to the Chicago of Hefner and Vic Lownes trolling in Lamplight Clubs for, you know, stuff.

M.Lane said...

Tintin, GREAT tips! The bar is still there and you are right about the martini...but I've never had it on an empty stomach!!

I will go to LPP as soon as I return. Thanks, as always.

ML

Tickled Pink And Green said...

I love the Palmer House. I remember staying there the night the first Gulf War started. I stayed up and watched it unfold on TV from my hotel room.

By the way, we both share the distinction of having dined with Petunia this summer. We were in Palm Beach in early July and my daughter and I had lunch with her and her adorable daughter. :)

M.Lane said...

TPG, thanks for coming by!! The Palmer House had a Trader Vics in it also. And it was the first place in Chicago to serve Chocolate Ice Cream!! The hotel, not Traders.

I really do love that town.

ML