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.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

C.D. At 67

Today she is sixty-seven.  Still practicing her craft with passion.  Drinking the occasional bourbon on the rocks or a whisky sour.  Never examining her work once it is complete--she doesn't watch her own films.  Living for the story but never, in the words of her most recent director Francois Ozon, being superior to the part.  The 2011 Deneuve film La Potiche [The Trophy Wife] is a particularly lovely performance of a coddled and subjugated 1970s business wife who comes out of her shell in a marvelous way. She admires Marilyn Monroe and Carole Lombard and it shows in her ability to [again quoting Ozon] be "very elegant in ridiculous situations".  That ability sounds like an Epic triumph.  For, at the end of the day, what better description could any Epic hope for?

I hope all will join me today in a tot of bourbon on the rocks to celebrate a truly original and marvelous lady.

Attribution Note:  The quotes and photo used above come from thewashingtonpost.com dated today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Tale Of Two Hats

I have only tried to wear two real hats in my adult life.  By "real" hats, I mean non-caps.  I also exclude a very sharp wool cap that I wear in deepest winter.  You cannot count a life extending necessity as a sartorial luxury.

My first real hat was purchased in my late twenties.  I was living in the deep American South, had a good job, was dressing well for the first time in my life.  One day I went all in.  I purchased a Brooks Brothers straw boater with a red and navy ribbon band.  Not on sale, either.  I broke it out on Easter Sunday with my double breasted Cable Car Clothiers seersucker suit.  Every woman I met that was over sixty melted for this outfit.  My wife, not so much.  Needless to say I felt rather self-conscious being the only male wearing a hat, a boater nonetheless, and I got more than a little tired of the dagger looks I was getting from the men with the over-sixty crowd of women admirers I had gathered like some form of 1890s Pied Piper.  I wore it the next few years but with dwindling enthusiasm.  My boater now resides in a safe spot in my closet.  On a high shelf.

My second real hat was purchased two weeks ago and is shown above.  A very sharp grey number.  Sort of Frank inspired if I do say so.  I tried it on in the store and loved it right away.  My wife was deeply silent.  Undeterred, I made the purchase, right in front of her, and carried my new treasure home.  I wore it for the first time today.  To work.  With a black turtleneck sweater, charcoal gray gaberdine Paul Stuart trousers, and a wool blazer in even darker gray.  I have to say, I felt fantastic.  I got many compliments.  From those outside my family anyhow.  And I wore it everywhere without a single feeling of uncertainty.

Then it hit me.  This is one of the great Epic gifts of being over fifty.  The freedom to don any headwear you want without any other thought than "I am fifty two years old.  If I want to wear a sharp hat out in public, I will damn well wear it.".  I feel entire habidashorial vistas opening before me.  Ascots.  Akubras. Balmorals. Berets. Bowlers. Chupallas. Cowboys. Fez'. Fedoras. Hombergs and all the rest.  And, on the distant horizon, next summer a reintroduction of the boater!!!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sartorial Save

I am a person who likes to dress.  The typical business day, I am starched and pressed.  Primarily to raise my enjoyment level but also to also give people I meet the right impression. That I may be, for example, a 52 year old professional that knows what he is doing.  Funny how easy it is to fool people.

In any event, some of these days for this Epic have not been amenable to clothing preparation.  Other family issues have been intervening and have pushed my clothes down the priority list.  As a result, on a day like today, when I have ironed nothing and it shows, I go to my sartorial lifesaver rule.  I put on the most expensive blazer I have.  This gorgeous Brioni single breasted number is the one. Perfect fabric.  Buttoning and unbuttoning "surgeon's" cuffs.  A soft, buttery color.  Got it for a couple hundred on Ebay.  It fits me like it was tailored for my "physique".  

This way, when I wrinkle my way into a shop on an errand for my wife on the way home from work, they will at least look at me and think that I knew what I was doing at some point in the not too distant past.  And that I carried a reminder of that time along for the ride.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hangover Tips From Men's Health Magazine

Every so often I get an email from Men's Health magazine with tidbits of information designed to enlighten me.  I am not sure to what age group these emails are directed but one recently caught my eye.

"The Eleven Best Ways To Escape A Hangover". 

I was suspect of the title right off the bat.  Every tippler knows that there are only two ways to "escape" a hangover and that neither of them are acceptable.  Abstinence or moderation.  Abstinence deprives the drinker of one of the most potent weapons he or she can array against the seemingly endless slings and arrows of daily life.  Out of the question.  Moderation is generally accepted as a fine notion in most quarters and also with alcohol of course.  Definitional issues aside regarding what constitutes "moderation", the problem with moderation in this context is that it needlessly limits your intake while providing absolutely no guarantee of "avoidance".  The vagaries of metabolism, diet (another horrid word when taken out of context) and the impact of your psychology of the moment can turn even a "moderate" consumption of alcohol into a personality-rending hangover sixteen hours later.  With all this in mind, I cocked the eyebrow and sat down to examine the "Eleven Best Ways".  After making a martini.

1. Water.

I am no scientist.  Call me an experiential observer if you must.  But it is obvious that hefty consumption of alcohol depletes the little water cells or whatever.  This could be proven empirically (and disgustingly) by measuring the volume of booze intake during any given evening out and comparing it to the measured...um....outgo...during the same period of time.  There is a lot more on the expense side of the ledger.  It has to come from somewhere.  Case closed.  As a result, you have to replenish water.  The issue is when to do it.  Drinking water while cocktailing is absurd and tedious to everyone else.  Also, it violates Sinatra's famous dictum regarding a water back placed by an unsuspecting server near his Jack Daniels..."Take it away. Water is for washing. I'm thirsty, not dirty."  Drinking water in large quantities after you get home and are readying for bed is a grand idea, and as effective as anything else to ward off the next-morning issues, but as Kingsley Amis sagely said if you can remember to drink a gallon of water before bed you probably aren't drunk enough for it to make any difference.  In the tippling context I call this the Prophylactic/Consciousness Paradox.  The only sensible choice remaining is to drink as much water as possible the "morning after".  Of course at this point it is literally impossible to "avoid" the self-brutalizing hangover you already have and the water consumption is only to allow survival to the end of the line.  A wee dram of whisky, particularly Irish whisky, added to the water at this stage is said to help smooth out the turbulence a bit.  I wouldn't know.

2. Sports Drinks.

No.  Please, I will tell you the number of the bank deposit box.  Just do not make me drink one of these.  For one thing, they usually involve sports of the sort that require massive activity levels and are consequently contrary in spirit and practice to sitting on a bar stool for extended periods.  Second, they taste like Hawaiian Punch with a battery acid chaser.  No way I would drink one of these hung over.  Even if it cured me.  Which it won't. 

3. Coffee.

Nope.  I pride myself on having many bartender pals, and one of the best told me "coffee just turns a drunk into a wide awake drunk".  It doesn't even have that effect on me.  Although I love the aroma of coffee at any time and perhaps that may help the hangover a little.  I don't recall ever hearing of someone wanting to vomit after smelling coffee, so that is something of an endorsement.  And, the last time I checked, coffee was all water anyhow.  I am told that a dot of cognac in the coffee might help too.  I wouldn't know.

4. More Alcohol ["Hair of the Dog"].

Yes, the Men's Health author (a lady by the way) put the term in quotation marks.  As if assuming the reader had not heard it before.  Or as if it is not a valid theory perfected over centuries of use by the discriminating drinker.  No other commentary on this is needed.  See the above.  And the following.

5. Toast or Crackers.

What?  Really?  How about a nice plate of spaghetti? This recommendation by the author was for food consumption once the hangover phase sets in.  My dining preferences after a large time out are nonspecific other than for the mandatory inclusion of high levels of salt and grease.  Pizza is good.  So are burgers and tater tots.  It doesn't matter.  As much as you may not want to put anything into your stomach during a hangover, you have to stay vital, if only to allow for deep reflection on all the things you don't like about life.  I refer to this as the Nausea/Survival Conundrum. You have to stay alive until the harpies leave your skull.  No avoiding a hangover here.
If moving your jaws is an overarching effort during this phase, then you can turn to the lore of any one of many ancient and sensible cultures on the planet holding that a beer, particularly dark beer such as stout, is a restorative reaching of the potency of a mystical elixir.  I wouldn't know.

6. Greasy Food.

The author says that this doesn't matter after you drink (patently untrue, see 5 above) but that you should eat greasy food BEFORE settling in at the bar to DELAY the body's absorption of alcohol.  Good heavens.  Final proof that the author may not drink at all and certainly has never had a hangover.  The lunacy of this notion should be immediately apparent to anyone over the age of six.  Delaying absorption only PROLONGS the hangover phase, allowing the theory's stumbling victim to wander headlong into what is commonly known as the Sustained Release Poison Anomaly.  Please. Send us writers with real world experience. Please.

7. Vitamins.

I won't take them when I'm SOBER.  Not happening.  They won't "avoid" a hangover.  Plus, there is the oft-mentioned although somewhat thinly documented green tinting of the countenance which can occur when a person slogs down a hand full of these natural elements and then buries them in booze.  Cocktails are chock full of vitamins.  Ask anyone.  Those are enough.

8. Exercise.

See 7.  I can't imagine anything worse than running a few miles with a hangover, can you?  Exercise is dangerous enough without the conga line dancing in your head and without being blinded by hypersensitivity to light. As a penance perhaps it would do but personally I feel the hangover alone is more than sufficient in that regard.

9. Sex.

Hm.  See my thought about exercise.  I don't recall ever having sex, or wanting to have sex, while hung over but if there was a time when I would have wanted to have sex while hung over I assure you it is long past.  Plus, it would probably require removal of the icy cloth from my eyes...

10. Pain Medication.

Also not a hangover "avoider", merely a symptomatic treatment.  I am not against a few mild analgesics since the hangover intrinsically involves pain and lowering pain is what pain medicine is for.  Personally, however, the well documented dangers of using almost any sort of pain medicine (especially the ones that really work) after substantial consumption of alcohol have put me off the notion.  I would rather suffer through, penance or no.  I earned this hangover.  I want to feel sorry for myself as long as possible. 

All in all, then, this latest list of ways to "avoid" a hangover ia no better nor worse than its many predecessors.  The open point is whether a sure-fire method of avoidance would be a positive thing.  Again, I am no scientist, but it seems to me that any absolute prophylactic for a hangover would of necessity also prevent the imbiber from tipsiness and if that were the case, cocktailing would provide no gaiety, no separation from la vie ordinaire, no release. The effect on raconteurism alone would be devastating.  To say nothing of the production of poetry and song lyrics.  And what then, I would ask (as I gaze into the shaker to see if a refill lurks inside) would be the point?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Haiku For Tessa

Gifted lover of vodka.
Where is she today?

Without a trace or shadow.
My glass now empty.

So fill the shaker.
Prepare a tray of scoffing.
Wait for her return.