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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thank You

From the first five at Boston Common:

Crispus Attucks
Samuel Gray
James Caldwell
Samuel Maverick
Patrick Carr

To the five most recent:

Staff Sgt. Esau Gonzalez
Sgt. Ralph Mena
Sgt. Keith Coe
Sgt. Anthony Magee
Staff Sgt. Christopher Worrell

From all the rest of us. Thanks. Today. And always.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Summer's Here! Bossa Nova Baby!!

Man, do I love this

1. Song
2. Movie
3. Scene.
4. White linen jacket outfit on The KING...

Bossa Nova BABY!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


...and the livin' is easy. Memorial Day holiday is fast approaching in the U.S.A. and it of course signifies the "official" start of summer. Just the time to roll out some new togs. Return readers know that, due to certain life-principles, I do not dress "casually" for Fridays at work. But one can dress as if one is toddling off to the Hamptons or Cape Cod or a beach home on [what used to be known as] the Gulf of Mexico [now the Gulf of B.P.] and get something of a lift from the effort. It is especially important to maintain this fantasy when your Epic is facing a work schedule over the summer "vacation" that can only be described as barbarian. Thus, some new props and accessories were in order.

Depicted here are three new pairs of trousers I managed to procure during the "off season" for summer clothes...

From the left, pale lemon golf trousers in silk by Canadian haberdasher Daniel Cremieux. I have always desired a pair of yellow pants and now I have them! The center is my authentic pair of Nantucket Reds from Murray's Toggery Shop. Just the thing for a low stress Friday evening cookout. Finally, Brooks Brothers blue seersucker trousers in a perfect weight for summer wandering.

New trousers call for new socks, right? Oh, I think so...

Pale blue with navy anchors, pale yellow with crimson lobsters, stark white with America's Cup Yachts. Brooks Brothers [twice] and Nautica, respectively. But the piece de resistance...

For summer 2010 I return to the double breasted blazer game in a BIG way with a Brooks Brothers classic in navy with PLENTY of gold buttons. It goes perfectly with all of my sporty summer trousers and cool new socks. Paired with a crisp white button-down shirt in oxford cloth and a repp tie in navy/red, navy/gold, pink/blue or red/white, I can put together great combinations for many summer outings to come! I may even tot out my greatest summer tie ever...navy with a diagonal pattern of gold anchors. Or I may not. I may want to keep something in reserve. In case an invitation arrives to some swank affair on board a big yacht in Ft. Lauderdale or Palm Beach. On the other hand, perhaps I had better just wear it to happy hour.

In any event, because of pesky fiscal austerity issues, I hunted for my summer wardrobe throughout the winter months at sales and on Ebay. I am proud to say that the cost of the entire kit shown here was less than $175.00. Which leaves plenty of jack to spend on other important summer accessories. Like the makings of the perfect "Dark and Stormy" cocktail...

Saturday, May 22, 2010


My son, The Future Rock Star, is now 13.

He had a very difficult time in school this year but has flown through to bluer skies. That million-dollar smile intact.

Some time ago, my wife arose from slumber during the wee small hours and discovered me watching video from when the FRS was a month old.

"What are you watching that for?"

"Because I can't remember what he looked like"

Just last Tuesday, I swear, he was eight. And so proud of the fact.

So much time has passed in so little time.

I am, of course, immensely proud of him.

I just wish he still wanted to dress like me.

Is there, perhaps, a "Son Growing Up Too Fast Cocktail?" Please let me know. The sooner the better.

Attitude Adjustment Note: In the event that the cocktail requested above is not forthcoming, I offer...

The Prince's Smile Cocktail
1 Dash Lemon Juice
1/4 Apricot Brandy
1/4 Calvados
1/2 Dry Gin

Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
I'm going to have one.
It can't hurt.

From: The Savoy Cocktail Book

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Epic Dictionary: "Tipple"

Tipple [TIP-uhl], verb:

1. To drink intoxicating liquor, habitually or to some excess.
2. To drink intoxicating liquor, repeatedly, in small quantities.


1. Intoxicating liquor.
2. A device that tilts or overturns a freight car to dump its contents.

All tipplers recognize these definitions as absolutely true by strict application of the scientific method and reliance upon (perhaps somewhat fuzzy) historical memory. When one begins, with best intentions, to tipple under verb 2 but (usually stimulated by certain lounge songs, less than inhibited company or a tropical locale) has sallied forth well into verb 1, one can discover, completely to one's surprise mind you, that one has encountered a literal or metaphysical version of noun 2. Which has come coasting up rather rapidly from behind.

Perhaps the same publication provides a useful definition of "hangover cure"?

From the Word of the Day, May 18, 2010.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Epic Bookshelf: Bartle Bull

As an avid reader, I find it very rare that the cover art of a novel has anything significantly to do with the book's content. I find it even more rare when the cover art perfectly evokes both the period and the style put forth by the author. Such is the case with the marvelous works of fiction written by New York attorney, former Village Voice publisher and Explorers Club member Bartle Bull. I really don't have to write about these books. The covers tell you all you need to know.

Bull's work is in the form of five historical novels, with slightly overlapping characters. The first set of books is a trilogy beginning with The White Rhino Hotel, a story about British expatriate Anton Rider who, as a young man, leaves an orphaned childhood to make a life for himself in Africa as a big game hunter and guide. In Africa, Ryder collects an exotic group of friends, falls in love, faces exotic dangers, and learns that there is perhaps more to the remainder of his life than stalking the wild places. The characterization and settings of The White Rhino Hotel are lush and striking. The plotting is sophisticated and captivating. Even Bull's description of the meals his characters eat is perfect. Not to mention his "I want to go there" bars. And the sparingly utilized but vivid sex scenes. When the Great War breaks out at the end of White Rhino, the reader cannot wait to see what will become of Ryder and his friends.

Luckily, the reader does not have long to wait. Bull followed up his strong debut in White Rhino Hotel with A Cafe On The Nile and The Devil's Oasis which complete the Ryder saga in a fast paced, engrossing and fulfilling manner. Reading the Ryder trilogy is akin to having a fine meal late at night in a far away place with a gorgeous and exotic stranger you will never see again. A unique experience that you never forget.

Except that with Bartle Bull, you get another chance to experience his richly crafted adventures, this time in China after the fall of Imperial Russia. His fourth book, Shanghai Station, introduces us to White Russian Count Alex Karlov. Karlov escapes the fall of the Czar as a young man with only the clothes on his back, a strong sense of family and national history, and his little sister in tow. While trying to keep himself and his sister alive, Karlov, like Ryder, manages to learn and captivate a foreign land. The difference is that Karlov has this little problem with Communist assassins that complicate his efforts a bit. The equally fine volume China Star completes the Karlov story.

These are escapist adventures for grown-ups. With grown-up characters, issues and themes. Set in worlds where violence, evil and sadness are not only present, but lurking just outside the fire light. Worlds where honor, loyalty and character provide an edge by which the just eventually prevail. Just the antidote for the pablum which is foisted upon us as adult fiction by most of the media world today. Just the antidote also for the news broadcasts one sees every day.

I cannot say enough about the quality of these five books or about how much enjoyment they brought me when I read them. The first time. I have read them more than once. Imagine my delight when I learned that Bull had also written a grand history of Safari hunting which is recognized as the modern classic on the subject. Merely titled Safari, A Chronicle Of Adventure, this book teaches the reader about the glory and tragedy of the Safari era. The marvelous illustrations are worth the price of the book alone.

Summer vacations to exotic places may be difficult to come by this year. Ditto for dangerous adventures. But all is not lost. Put on a bit of khaki or faded linen. Pour yourself a stiff gin and tonic. Very cold, in a tall glass. As it should be. Then sit down, preferably in a deep, worn leather chair with a copy of The White Rhino Hotel. Drift off into the world that Bartle Bull has created for you. You will find yourself becoming a fan of his. That, at least, I can promise you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Plumber Within

A man who undertakes to represent himself has a fool for a client.--Anon.
A lawyer who undertakes to do plumbing work has a fool for a plumber.--ML

I should know better. I really should. One of the very odd things I have noticed after turning fifty is that I now jump into doing things that I would not have even considered doing when I was thirty. In other words, when I was actually physically able to do them. I am not sure what the reason for this is but it is surely psychological. Perhaps something to do with reinforcing notions of youth, manliness, that sort of thing. I suspect that the annals of men over fifty are replete with events ranging from folly to fiasco and even outright disaster that were motivated by the desire to reinforce notions of youth, manliness and that sort of thing. Ladies reading this are chuckling. Ladies all know of this phenomena.

All my adult life, I considered my Norwegian blood proof to the male version of a "mid-life crisis". My gene pool is severely slanted toward reason and calm. Except for one little fact. I am only half Norwegian. My mother is Irish. Giving me the itinerant storyteller skills I use to feed my family. And, perhaps, making me subject to odd behavior over fifty.

Take, for example, the issue of work about the home. I generally loathe it. I spent my life from the age of ten to, oh, forty-nine, crafting stratagems and ploys to avoid it. Home projects tend to require that one [as my beloved Irish Redhead is oft wont to say] "get off your butt and do something". Come to think of it, my father was oft wont to say the same thing during the era of age ten to eighteen. In the past eighteen months, however, I have redecorated [with precise creative direction--I have no eye for decor] a bathroom, hung drywall in a pantry, spray washed the outside of my house and assembled a television stand [from a kit]. All without major disaster. Thus reaffirming my notions of youth, manliness, etc. All of which allowed me to set myself up for downfall and physical travails of the highest order.

Consider, then, my mood when I saw around midnight a few weeks ago a rather decent reproduction of the Old Faithful geyser [depicted in the photo above] erupting from the middle of my front yard. "Ah-ha!", I said to myself, "another opportunity for some useful and vigorous labor on the home front". Or words to that effect. I had a couple of brandy and sodas on board at the time. My diagnosis was immediate and accurate: a ruptured sprinkler line.

My first warning of the things to come should have been when I was unable to find the water cut off valve serving the sprinkler lines. In my behalf, it was a very dark night and I really had no idea where the valve was. I've only lived in this house seventeen years. These things take time. The result was that Old Faithful rendered its glories on my property for a few more hours until it was light and I was awake enough to tackle the job at hand.

Actually, my father in law told me where the cut off valve was. Fine man that he is, he told me without a hint of a snicker. He mildly suggested that I call the plumber. I replied a bit coldly that I had seen him repair sprinkler lines many times and I felt that my period as an apprentice had come to an end. I was ready for my journeyman card. I mean, these are plastic pipes buried at shallow depth in a subdivision yard. Not a major plumbing challenge requiring service vans, augurs and other implements of the master plumber's craft. I stalked to the tool shed, procured the necessary pipe pieces, glues, and a shovel, and set to work.

My second clue that all was not well with this project was when I dug a small hole where the broken pipe had been spewing only to find that the broken line had been caused by a huge oak tree root that had, with time, bent the pipe until it snapped. The general situation is shown in this photo:

The root that caused the break is not the one you can see. It is a lot larger and lies underneath the lines.

This finding resulted in the conclusion that I could not merely repair the pipe where it was deformed by the root. Nor could I move or obliterate the root. The only thing to do was to reroute the [two] water lines. To direct them out of the root-inflicted death zone. A mere three by four foot rectangular extension of the two lines would be just the thing. Easily accomplished in time for a breezy luncheon.

The problem with this theory was that in order to reroute the two lines in my desired fashion I had to dig more than a little hole. I had to dig what turned out to be a more or less regulation sized grave...

The dimensions of the hole were apropos, as it turned out, because for much of the next twelve hours of chain gang inspired labor I was pretty much convinced that I was going to need burial in that hole after someone else finally repaired the broken pipes. My chain gang reference is perfectly accurate since it turned out that the earth of my front yard is laced with tree roots of various dimensions. Trying to dig my own grave in this yard defeated my sturdy shovel at about hour four and a half. At this point, I did something I rarely do. I got really stubborn. Flinging my gloves and [defeated] shovel to the turf, I stomped to the tool shed to retrieve an axe and a hand saw. Yes, "stomped" is the only applicable term. I don't do that often either.

The next several hours were cheerily occupied with what can only be described as trying to chop through ground that was more like plywood impregnated with steel wire. Without causing further damage to the water lines and associated electrical wires of course. At one point, the IR manifested on the front porch to remind me that I had already experienced one heart attack [but, really, this was YEARS ago, ancient history really] and that perhaps I should call a plumber. My reply can only be described as guttural and somewhat resembling Old Norse. Now, the IR truly loves me. And she is not known for making a point and walking off. But she is the most intelligent person I've ever known. An intelligent person faced with a fifty one year old spouse, covered head to toe in dirt, holding an axe and gutturally speaking Old Norse has really only one option. A return to within the walls.

Hour twelve dawned despite the appearance of what the poet Burns no doubt called "the gloaming" of the day. The grave complete. The piping redone, viz...

I could not take a good, complete photo of the job because my arms were exhibiting a disconcerting degree of muscle spasticity that kept me from operating my phonecam very well. The project was a success at least! And well before nightfall at that! Only a reinstitution of the water flow remained. From my kneeling position in another part of the front yard (a tip to you, my readers, the forces in charge of water lines always put the cut off valve pretty close to your front curb near the street--no need to send me money, this is a gift to you) I opened the water valve and glanced expectantly toward the grave. Only to see...

Perhaps a tad larger than twelve hours before. I didn't stare. It is more accurate to say that I goggled. It appeared that, in my ultimate attention to detail, I had failed to cement one of the pipe joints. Understandable as that may be as an explanation for the renewed eruption, I admit struggling with a bout of Old Norse sobbing. I felt like howling a Wagnerian chorus, but I am a better neighbor than that. Instead, I shut the water off and staggered into the house for a drink, a bath, and sleep. In precisely that order.

I fixed the stupid thing the next morning, filled the grave, replaced the sod, and all has been well since. Admittedly I feel a distinct sense of accomplishment. The sort of accomplishment that will, and should, never be repeated. But a sense of youthfulness? Of manliness? Of renewed vigor? Not close. I felt like a one-hundred year old man for about ten days. I did gain a renewed sense of humility, which is essential. But the mere fact that the IR knows that I am still capable of (what a character in Animal House called) a "big stupid gesture" of love for her made all of it worth while. Because it dawned on me that this was what I was about the whole time. The next one won't hurt so much. I hope.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Finally! A Politician I Can Be Excited About!

Almost enough to get me to move to Alabama to vote. Almost. I may go get a bumper sticker though!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flowers And Mass Discount Shopping

I usually like shopping for groceries. Gives one sort of an hunter-gatherer charge. At least as much of an H-G C as I currently seem able to get. Yet, there are those days. The days when you would rather be someplace else rather than shopping. Anywhere else. It was in such a tepid frame of mind that I found myself a day or two ago upon my mid-afternoon arrival at the Giant Discount Store to provender the home. My wife ill. Not feeling too dandy myself. Exhausted is the word I am looking for. Just definitely not in the mood. For anything.

My typical path into the GDS is through the garden department because it is close to where I always park. Norwegian boys are nothing if not habitual. As I navigated my psychic fog en route to the pet food section, I came across the huge display of newly arrived flowers depicted above. I stopped still. And I thought of my grandmother.

If you look up Swedish grandmother in the encyclopedia, my grandma Emily has her photo there. She was born in 1900 and grew up on a farm in northeast Minnesota, second of fourteen siblings. Some lived to adolescence, some didn't. As soon as she was of age, she ran off to the nearest city to become a domestic servant for a wealthy [Swedish] family. She lived in the basement of their home.

My grandma dispelled me of what I now call my First Walden Pond Phase. At the wise age of eleven, I was outdoors helping her hang up laundry on a rope clothes line to dry. Swedish grandmothers do not acknowledge any other valid method of drying clothes. It has something to do with the Nordic breezes and all that. I took it upon myself to ask her how on Earth she could have left the pastoral heaven of a dairy farm to work as a [gasp] maid in someones home. Grandma Emily never even glanced my way before saying:

Have you ever lived on a farm?
No, mam.


Well, when you live on a farm, you have to get up at dawn every day and start work. And you work all day long. Every day. And you never get to keep one cent of the money. When I got the chance to be a maid, live in a mansion, do dusting and laundry, and have money of my own to keep, I got off that farm and I never went back.

She picked up the laundry basket and strode away. Swedish grandmothers stride. That is what they do. My grandma Emily was a fantastic baker. She made the best potato dumplings with bacon inside, draped with melted butter. She had a [Swedish] crystal bowl on the table in her shotgun home in Duluth full of wax fruit. The furnishings and draperies of her little house were of the highest quality. Because she scrimped and saved and then bought exactly what she saw in the home of her employer. The [Swedish] best. My grandma loved professional wrestling and used to become VERY aggravated with my [Norwegian] grandfather when he would mumble that it was "rigged". She served tomato aspic [gelatin] with little shrimp and chopped celery to honored guests and thought it the height of elegance. She loved picking berries in the woods and once came face to face with a black bear while doing so. She walked away. I'm not sure what happened to the bear.

But most of all, my grandma loved flowers. The back yard of the small home she shared with my grandfather for fifty years was resplendent with flowers. Not an easy trick in Minnesota. She loved any sort of flower, any color, any size. She never once cut any of them from their stems to bring them inside the house. I never asked her why.

Grandma Emily went home ahead of me many years ago. I hadn't thought of her in a while. Until I walked into the garden department of the GDS and saw the towering display of new, blooming flowers. Hundreds of kinds. Hundreds of colors. I stopped moping in my fog to gaze in wonder at the beauty of it all. For a moment I was a six year old boy in that tiny, arboreal back yard in Duluth. And I realized what a marvel it was to see a sight like this. How amazed my grandmother would have been to see this many varieties of pretty flowers all in one place. The fog immediately lifted from my spirit. I strolled off to spend three hours in the provendering process. You know, being an Hunter-Gatherer. Leaving Grandma Emily in the garden section. Admiring the view.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fuzzy Photos From Great Bars

The Brazilian Court Hotel, Palm Beach, Florida.

Personal Health Note: I have not been well for several weeks and my writing and other activities have necessarily been limited. Thankfully I am feeling better now and I have several new posts in the works. Thanks to all who sent "get well" thoughts. ML