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.
A boy and his dad on a fishing-trip— There is a glorious fellowship! Father and son and the open sky And the white clouds lazily drifting by, And the laughing stream as it runs along With the clicking reel like a martial song, And the father teaching the youngster gay How to land a fish in the sportsman's way. * * * Which is happier, man or boy? The soul of the father is steeped in joy, For he's finding out, to his heart's delight, That his son is fit for the future fight. He is learning the glorious depths of him, And the thoughts he thinks and his every whim; And he shall discover, when night comes on, How close he has grown to his little son.
A light is on in my father's study. "Still up?" he says, and we are silent, looking at the harbor lights, listening to the surf and the creak of coconut boughs. He is working late on cases.
No impassioned speech! He argues from evidence, actually pacing out and measuring, while the fans revolving on the ceiling winnow the true from the false.
Once he passed a brass curtain rod through a head made out of plaster and showed the jury the angle of fire-- where the murderer must have stood. For years, all through my childhood, if I opened a closet . . . bang! There would be the dead man's head with a black hole in the forehead.
All the arguing in the world will not stay the moon. She has come all the way from Russia to gaze for a while in a mango tree and light the wall of a veranda, before resuming her interrupted journey beyond the harbor and the lighthouse at Port Royal, turning away from land to the open sea.
Yet, nothing in nature changes, from that day to this, she is still the mother of us all. I can see the drifting offshore lights, black posts where the pelicans brood. And the light that used to shine at night in my father's study now shines as late in mine.
In the USA, last Sunday was devoted to the celebration of Fathers. Because everyone in my household was ill last Sunday, we decided to postpone the celebration until today. To be honest, I am in the midst of three very gruelling weeks of work, and I am hardly home one night a week. I am road-weary.
Thirteen years ago I crossed one of life's Great Rubicons when I met my son for the first time in the back room of an adoption agency. Today, I got a great card from him and a very elegant pale blue Polo summer robe and pajama set. Along with a late lunch and a couple of pints of Bass Ale.
The best thing? The just-out-of-bed-hair-sticking-out-in-all-directions-five-minute-hug I got from him at the start of the day. Which erased the weariness. Gave me back the twelve days in the past two weeks I have been away. Making me ever so thankful that this particular Rubicon appeared before me all those years ago. And that I was blessed with the privilege of sailing, blind, across it.
Alexandra was always amazing but especially so in the summer. When the Burmese steam settled thickly over the land. For months on end. After six months he had given up trying to keep his clothes dry during the day and surrendered to a semi-perpetual state of sartorial dampness. Alexandra, however, was one of those women whose elegance included a personal thermostat. She rarely "glowed" as the ladies would say. And when she did, it was only when, for one reason or another, she was most emotionally aroused. Even then, her cheeks would flush to pale pink and her perfect skin would allow a solitary bead of moisture to move slowly down her neck.
That evening he was to be formally presented as the company's new managing director. The London office spared no expense. Double the usual allotment of bottles of Bollinger champagne in their straw filled cases had arrived at the provisions door of the Pegu Club. The club president had allowed them the use of largest suite of rooms for the night.
He put on black linen trousers and what passed for a starched shirt in Rangoon, adjusted his tie, and slipped on his dinner jacket. As he walked into the large alcove off the bedroom he saw her in the mirror of the dressing table as she applied light powder to her skin. As always, he was taken aback at the sight of her, tonight in a pale green gown of raw silk that fell gently off her shoulders.
They made their way to the bar for cocktails. The ladies and gentlemen assembled there applauded enthusiastically when he and Alexandra entered the room. The Pegu Club had its own cocktail, refined for decades. Gin. Bitters. Curacao. Lime. Just the combination for sub-tropical life "out East" as they said in London. After a round or two of drinks, the party was seated for dinner. Fish steamed with coconut in banana leaves. Mango fried rice. Tiger prawns in mustard sauce. Fresh coconut ice cream with a drizzle of melted bitter chocolate. Bottles and bottles of iced Bollinger.
When the last dish was cleared, it was time for his short speech of thanks. Then, he lifted his glass of champagne and, looking only to her, he said
"Thank you for your love. Your constant support. And your elegant, enduring strength."
Her emerald eyes sparkled as she gave the slightest nod of her head in reply.
Later, as they made their way up the stairs to the President's Suite, he noticed a bead of moisture making its way slowly down the center of her back...
Imbibery and Culinary Note:
The Pegu Club Cocktail is a timeless and perfect drink for the deep summer months. The traditional recipe is ...
Added to a mixing glass full of ice:
1 dash of Angostura bitters
1 dash of Orange bitters
1 teaspoon of fresh Lime juice
1 large shot of Curacao
2 large shots of dry Gin
Stir. Pour into a cold cocktail glass and serve with a slice of lime.
If you live in the hinterlands as I do, where nobody has even heard of Orange Bitters, you find yourself in a dilemma. Mrs. ML [the Irish Redhead] came up with a master-stroke, substituting Orange Curacao for the Orange Bitters. Rendering the recipe...
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon of fresh Lime juice
1 large shot of Orange Curacao
2 large shots of dry Gin
A perfect result. Depicted below at the Epic bar...
And the finished product...
If you are a fan of the Trader Vic's cookbook, as I am, then you may wish to add a plate of Crab Rangoon appetizers. Won ton wrappers filled with creme cheese, crab, and scallions, then fried quickly at no more, and no less, than 370 degrees....
Not an authentic Burmese dish, perhaps, but an indulgent and luxurious one in any event. A perfect compliment to your installment as Managing Director. Enjoy.
I was on holiday last week and happened to catch the fights Saturday night on HBO. Was I glad I did. I saw a tremendous bout between Miguel Soto and Yuri Foreman outdoors at the new Yankee Stadium in New York. An historic venue [at least in name] and residence, no doubt, to numerous boxing ghosts.
The ghosts would have been happy with the main event. Soto is a very good fighter with a fine record, coming off a couple of losses in recent fights that indicated to some that his career may have passed its apogee. Foreman was undefeated and the champion in his division. Also, Foreman is perhaps the only Rabbinical student to ever hold a boxing title. The experts at ringside felt that Foreman's rapid punching ability and his constant movement about the ring would work a significant advantage over even the more experienced and successful Soto.
Foreman entered the ring wearing a soft knee brace. The brace was no issue until the seventh round when Foreman's knee simply buckled causing him to fall to the mat in obvious severe pain. Staggering to his feet while pulling at the ropes, a cut already open over one eye, Foreman was asked if he wanted to stop the fight for medical reasons. He refused. The round ended and Foreman limped to his corner where nobody viewing the bout could have thought he would emerge to engage in the eighth round. We were wrong. The eighth round began. Stripped now of his ability to move about the ring, and forced to stand toe to toe with a superior puncher, Foreman gave as good as he got until a towel flew into the ring, traditionally indicating that Foreman's side was capitulating. With only fifteen seconds left in the round, referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. asked Foreman if he wanted to continue, saying "you've fought too hard to lose like this". Foreman agreed, the towel was tossed out of the ring and the round was completed. Foreman again defied the experts by coming out for the ninth round where his knee buckled again. Later, and after catching a hard left hook from Soto, Foreman went down in the first true knockdown of the match and Mercante stopped the fight as was proper. It is the only fight I can recall where the winner came over twice after the final bell to shake the hand of his opponent. I have never seen another boxing match like it. It was unforgettable.
Having the opportunity to view a great sporting performance serves to inspire the mere fan in the course of a non-sporting life. Even unmemorable, ordinary sporting performances, however, can provide fine memories and Epic lessons. Such is the greatest value of sport.
In the summer of 1990, I was thirty-one years old and I decided to take up boxing. Not the sport. The training regimen. Peter DePasquale's marvelous book The Boxer's Workout was my guide. I spent several weeks in my garage working on circuits of skipping rope, shadow boxing, sit-ups and attempting to hit a speed punching bag so I could get into a routine. It was the only workout I have ever done that interested me.
One day I was driving across town on a work errand and saw a sign outside a local warehouse advertising an amateur boxing gym, "open to the public". I was immediately intrigued but it took me two more weeks to get the nerve to go inside the door. I was tremendously intimidated, never having been involved in a contact sport other than one or two horrid experiences with wrestling in a High School gym class which left me mentally scarred for life.
The first afternoon, I entered the "A Street" Gym and, when my eyes grew accustomed to the dim lighting [boxing gyms tend to be low budget affairs and saving on utilities is a priority] I saw a circle of VERY fit and tired looking young men sitting around a wizened old man who was about five feet two inches tall and about 110 pounds soaking wet. Mr. [I kid you not] Johnny Walker. A boxing trainer of many years' experience. Glad that I left my sports coat and tie in the car, I took a seat behind the ring of twenty year-olds and listened to Mr. Walker discuss their sparring sessions. At one point, Mr. Walker said
"You aren't here to be regular boxers, tomato cans, unknown opponents. You are here to be champions. Leather and gold, gentlemen! We are here to win belts made of leather and gold!"
The analysis session finally broke up and the fellows went to different parts of the gym to spar, shadow box, do sit-ups and push-ups, work out on bags--exactly the things I had read about in DePasquale's book. Mr. Walker turned my way...
Can I help you sport?
Yes sir. I was wondering if I could come here to train after work. I would really appreciate the opportunity.
[After a long look at my "physique"] So...are you a boxer, then?
NO SIR. I'm just a guy who loves boxing that wants to work out.
[A quizzical look and a pause, then] Come in when you like. Put your bag over there...
That began a six month period that I can only describe as magical. Early each evening, I would come in, do my circuit of different exercises and drills by myself, and keep out of the way. I got plenty of odd looks, but no malevolent ones. After all, I was the only representative of the overweight, over thirty, jacket and tie wearing crowd I ever saw at the "A Street" Gym. I loved it there. It was a completely different world from that of the workaday, and it taught me a lot about humility. Rapidly. I started getting in pretty good shape too.
After a few days, when some of the younger guys would see me gasping and, soaked with sweat, trying to merely walk from the gym to the car after my solitary workouts, they would give me a nod. Not a chat. Boxers in training aren't much for chatting. They are too tired. After a few weeks of regular attendance, I was shadow boxing--slowly working the "one-two", "one-two-three" [jab-straight; jab-straight-hook] in a corner when I heard Mr. Walker yelling from across the warehouse...
Hey! [ML]! That guy you're shadow boxing? He just knocked you out!
Soft chuckles from around the gym. I was one of the guys.
The "A Street" Gym closed up [as boxing gyms tend to do] after about a year because the owner of the warehouse sold the land to a big company that tore it down. I was heartbroken.
Even though I never saw Mr. Walker or any of the boxers again, I carry my memories of the "A Street" Gym close to my heart. And every now and then, when I see a heroic performance in the ring like that of Yuri Foreman I wonder about my boxing friends and I am very proud to have known them. The tremendous way they worked every day, with little or no chance of ever having a professional bout, made them all heroes to me. No bum knee would have stopped any of them either. Every day, they sweat and hurt and gasped for oxygen. For the love of the sweet science. And for the dream of leather and gold. Yuri Foreman stood for all of them last Saturday night, even though he was ultimately defeated. My wish for Mr. Foreman is that he never loses his champion's spirit. And that all the guys in all the backwater gyms around the world never forget his name.
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".