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.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Paris: Touring and Shopping Before Taillevent


After a night filled with the glories of Burgundian food and wine and late hour Calvados drinking, I had to get moving earlier than usual Thursday morning for a very important meeting.  A tete a tete.  If, that is, you can have a tete a tete with a person you have not met before.  I was heading to a cafe on the Rue Soufflot near the Pantheon to meet a young woman I would recognize only by her long red hair.  As she put it in an email, I could not miss noticing her because red hair stands out in Paris.  She was certainly right. I recognized her immediately as she strolled toward my outdoor table and gave me a bright grin...

Before my readers think my day was turning strongly toward the louche, a bit of background may be in order.

About a month before my departure for Paris, I was having cocktails in celebration of my birthday with one of my best pals and his daughter.  These two are multi-generational Epic material without question.  They arrived at the bar already pretty well aglow from another event. The best sort of pals.  I have referred to dad before in these annals as Streak.  He calls his grad student daughter LuLu. I don't know if she likes that or not.  In any event, the upcoming trip to Paris was discussed in detail. At some point, LuLu asked if I would mind her giving my contact information to a friend of hers who was going to school in Paris, just in case I needed anything while I was there. I thought the idea a sound one. The voyageur never knows when he will be in need of a medical referral, posting of bail, or some other essential.  When I arrived in France I was armed with the email address and cell number for AH and we had made a date to meet after she finished her term exams so she could show me around the Latin Quarter from the student/resident perspective. The day was one of the best times of my trip.

We hit it off right away as AH is a delightful young woman, well travelled and fluent in French.  We had a wonderful morning as she showed me around her Paris.  The very first place we visited was the church of Saint Etienne Du Mont, near by the Pantheon.  This was quite a thrill for me since it is a very beautiful church...


...but it is also the site of the steps where Owen Wilson's character is picked up by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda in the vintage limousine in Midnight In Paris...


...since as I have related before, Midnight In Paris was the genesis of my trip, seeing the steps was a special treat.  We also accidentally wandered by another M.I.P. location...


...the Duluc detective agency that Wilson's awful putative father in law visits in order to hire a spy.  I actually did not recognize this sign from the movie until after I returned home, I just took the photo because the sign looked so cool and Bogartian.  In any event, AH and I went by Laduree for a bag of macarons which we ate while sitting on the Pont des Arts [the first photo above shows them just before consumption!]...


My favorite was the pistachio/violet macaron. We went to the Place des Voges looking for Catherine Deneuve.  She didn't appear but it is a lovely place to sit...


We saw some very odd store windows... 



One or two classic galleries...


...some really great vintage shops...


Fountains and plazas...


Stylish recycling bins...


And the craziest public toilet I have ever seen...


...totally Star Trek.  When you get inside this thing the door slides shut behind you.  You fear that some form of launching is imminent. After you are finished, a voice tells you to wash your hands and the water starts running in the sink!  Then the door slides open and you leave.  The door closes after you exit and the entire inside of the hut is subjected to some form of steaming or cleansing.  In any event, these things are a great invention.  They work perfectly, are sparkling clean, and are a mile above the "portapotties" you see in the U.S.  I got a good laugh out of my guide when I said the toilet reminded me of the "orgasmatron" in Woody Allen's classic movie "Sleeper". 

After all this excitement and adventure, we realized it was time for lunch and I treated my new friend to a bottle of Bordeaux and roasted duck at the cafe with the green awning shown below in the Marais district...


I had a light lunch of a salad and an excellent omelet aux fines herbs.  This was necessary because I had a nine p.m. dinner reservation that evening at Taillevent and I was anticipating an Edwardian feed.  Over luncheon talk of exams, careers, marriage and children, I asked AH if she could help me on a special mission.  Being a true Epic, she was immediately intrigued.  As I explained the details, she became more and more interested in the project...

This was my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary year.  Since I have known the Irish Redhead, she has wanted a modestly sized quilted black leather Chanel purse.  I vowed to myself that I was not coming back from Paris without one.  Being a romantic, I wanted a vintage one, something a Parisian lady of the 1960's would have carried.  The Marais and its extensive collection of vintage boutiques was just the spot to search.  AH was to play the role of the spoiled young woman.  My role was as the bored older fellow paying the bill.  Stoked with very good wine and a long lunch we strolled the Marais and eventually found the perfect shop displaying several vintage Chanel purses in the window. We pushed open the shop door and encountered the young man who was apparently the proprietor. 

It didn't seem strange to the shop owner that a 53 year old man would come into the shop with a well dressed, attractive 25 year old woman.  Odd.  In any event, this was a really great little store, crammed front to back with vintage designer gowns and accessories.  AH wandered the single aisle poking a finger at a dress or two.  I gazed disinterestedly out the window.  Eventually, AH asked in her fluent French for a purse from the window which was not the one she knew I wanted.  The fellow procured the decoy purse and she looked at it with disdain.  A very rapid exchange in French followed which from its tone seemed centered around how insulted my friend was to have been presented with such an item.  AH finally stopped speaking and stared at the man, then fluttered her fingers in a gesture that could only mean she wanted the offending purse removed from her sight for all time.  I tell you, this young woman was GOOD.  If her career in international relations doesn't suit her for whatever reason, she has a fine career on the stage to fall back upon.  Eventually, she gave out a deep sigh and summoned the man again.  Another exchange in French brought her the purse I had my eye on.  The shopkeeper seemed much more wary of AH by now.  Smart guy.  He was probably thinking of the line from the movie The Quiet Man: "that red hair is no lie".  Another barrage of French, too fast for me to understand.  AH seemingly weary and losing interest.  The owner retreated to the rear of the store.  I turned to hear the verdict.  AH whispered "this is authentic and it is PERFECT.  It can't have been used very much.  If he has the Chanel registration card for it, this is the one."  The card was produced and haggling ensued.  We left the shop, the ultimate Parisian gift in hand.

This all happened in April.  My plan was to keep the purse under wraps until our anniversary in September.  When I got home, I walked into the house and immediately handed it to the I.R., who gave an uncharacteristic squeal. She was beside herself with glee.       

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fuzzy Photos From Great Bars


Sylvain, New Orleans.  November 2012.  A great bar with a hidden outdoor courtyard.  Very good food as well.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Great Bars: P.J. Clarke's

 

I love this place.  Frank loved this place.  You will too.  Since 1884, located at Third Avenue and 55th Street, NYC. Open until four in the morning. Every day.  It is so great to see an old photo like this one and think that I have been right where the fellow in the bow tie is sitting. Many times. I think the barman may be a different guy now. Maybe.

Also, yesterday was the birthday of P.J. Clarke!  Let's all raise a glass to his memory and to the enduring greatness of his bar...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Paris: Burgundian Hospitality and a Father's Plan.


After a long, wet, blustery day at Versailles, I was ready for some hearty food.  Wandering through the Marais a day or so before, I was sitting at a cafe on the Rue de Rivoli drinking a glass of wine and watching the passers by when I saw a restaurant across the street in what appeared to be a cul de sac.  My dining senses went to full alert and I made a note to come back to check it out.


The rains abated a bit after my soggy return from Versailles so after a change of clothes I sauntered out through the damp evening air, across the Seine and past the Hotel de Ville.  Turned right onto the Rue de Rivoli, headed toward another superb night of dining.  My sixth sense for restaurants tingling more and more, I approached Au Bourguignon Du Marais.

The actual truth is that it wasn't the sixth sense that finally tipped the scale for me to go inside.  Nor the really nice daily menu printed on the chalk boards by the door.  It was a girl.  A young woman actually. A waiter at the restaurant who happened to be standing in the doorway.  Glossy black hair with eyes to match.  An older couple passed by in front of me and they received a big smile from her with an earnest invitation to come in for dinner. "You will love our food".  The older couple hesitated a moment then went inside.  The girl seemed genuinely delighted.  Intriguing since she was too young to be an owner of the place and too unoppressed looking to be a daughter of an owner.  Her enthusiasm transported me. From Paris back to my town.  To the drive-through window of a franchise burger joint...

When you are raising a teen who is your gender, you feel at least some responsibility to set his compass bearings. To give direction.  Some fathers very much believe that they need to set a course for a son with detailed instruction on all facets of their future.

My focus, through insight or perhaps mere lethargy, has been more narrow.  I am perfectly comfortable with The Future Rock Star's goodness as a person.  Beyond that, I have no concern for where he takes his life but I have great concern for the manner in which he does so.  I want him to live with enthusiasm.  I want him to find something that he would do for nothing.  Just for the joy of it.  To be invested in what he does.  Every once in a while, fate helps me out with a prime example.

We never go into the burger joint.  There is no time to go inside.  The FRS hates sitting at a restaurant table waiting for food.  It slows his progress toward whatever unknown port is on the horizon.  Consequently, we get the food at drive-through and he wolfs it down en route. 

I hate to say so, but the typical person you meet in a burger joint drive-through window is not too interesting.  Drone-like is more accurate. Zombie-ish.  The job plays a large part in this to be sure.  But on one occasion, we rolled up to the same window we had visited dozens of times before and met a genuinely great young man.  Enthusiastic. Engaging. Friendly.  Either a really superior guy or a really superior new class of drone.  Luckily, he turned out to be the former.  A fellow really glad to be standing there handing out food and making change.  Excited about the opportunity.  And it showed.  As it will.

After getting our food along with a sincere wish for a great evening from the young man behind the window, the FRS and I looked at each other.  I decided to try for a really quick father message.  They have to be really quick because the storm shutters drop over those hazel eyes after about ninety seconds of father message.  I came out of the gate strong...

That was a really nice guy wasn't it?

Wow, yes.  Really nice.

My dad would have said that a guy like that is "going places".

That's true.

A guy like that, with that sort of enthusiasm at a drive through window, he will do anything he wants to do in life, don't you think?

Absolutely.  Yes.

Seventy-two seconds.  A direct hit on the bulls-eye of fifteen year old awareness.  That night I went out into the garage and pulled the burger joint bag out of the garbage.  So I could get the email address of the company that owns the hundred or so locations around me.  I sent a note saying how great this young man was and how lucky they are to have a fellow like that working for them. It is the only email of that sort I have ever felt compelled to send.  Then, five months later, I found myself standing on a sidewalk in the Marais listening to the young burger impresario's spiritual sister radiating the same sort of happy energy.  On the other side of the world...

I walked up and asked those ink-black eyes if there was a table for one.  For some reason, my limited French locked up a bit when she looked at me and grinned.  I may in fact have requested a grouse for one or a barrel for one.  In any case she understood what I wanted and seemed delighted that I wanted to have dinner.  In her restaurant.  It was a bit early in the evening but the place was pretty busy.  As luck would have it, the young woman was my waiter also.  I began with a bottle of Burgundy.  The only one I had during the trip.  A marvelous chicken terrine.  Cheese.  And then, what else could I possibly have for my main course?  Well, yes.  I could have had escargot which Root says is particularly Burgundian because the best snails come from the region.  We all know, don't we, that "the most favored snails are those which feed on grape leaves...?"  How could Burgundian snails be anything but sublime? 

My introduction to snail eating was some twelve hours away, so I decided upon the Boeuf Bourguignon.  Root, again, describes the classic version as "...beef cooked in a red wine sauce accompanied with mushrooms, tiny onions, and small pieces of bacon...the meat is braised in Burgundy red wine and when it is three quarters cooked, the wine is strained... and returned to the pot along with the other ingredients...to simmer together".  In other words, just about the perfect dish for a cold, rainy evening. 

Although most people have probably had some variety of Boeuf Bourguignon before, I can say that I had never really had it until that night at Au Bourguignon Du Marais.  The dish arrived in a crock and when the lid was removed the aroma was simply unforgettable.  It was like breathing burgundy wine.  Which in some fashion I suppose I was.  Although the content of the crock was classic and according the the Root described recipe, the flavor of this dish was unlike anything I had experienced before.  Wine, beef, onions, herbs.  Rich, complex flavors in an oh so simple dish. Unforgettable. 

In fact, when the crock was first opened, an older couple at the table next to me also caught the scent and exclaimed how delightful it was.  They immediately ordered a crock each.  My sort of couple.  In the charming fashion of my Parisian dining experiences, we began talking and got to know each other.  They were retired teachers from the San Francisco area on what sounded to me like a world tour.  Just lovely people.  Somewhat Calvados deprived, however.  As I ordered Baba au Rhum for dessert I decided to rectify that deficiency and ordered them each a Calvados which they looked at suspiciously then tried and declared "strong but delicious".  Two new converts to the school of Calvados.   A fine ending of yet another great meal "en Paris".

After wishing my new friends a good evening and bonne chance on their trip, I headed back to the Isl Saint Louis and the Pledge Bar for a late nightcap.  Calvados of course.  As I walked down the narrow stair into the bar, the young barman reached for the bottle and waved.  This Paris thing was getting better and better.  That said, the following day was to be a special one even for this trip.  A day without rain filled with a pretty new friend, a walking tour of the Latin Quarter, Chanel shopping, and....my introduction to the temple of gastronomy known only as...Taillevent.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Armistice 2012


Vonnegut said that men who were on the battlefield at eleven that morning reported silence so deafening they were convinced it was the voice of God.  A voice that said "enough".

Enough of what Siegfried Sassoon described as "faces trodden deeper in the mud".  Enough of the new war machines...


Enough of trenches...



Just, enough.  Time for parades on 5th Avenue and kisses and prayers and hugs...


War was made illegal in 1938.  A year later it started again.  Here, everything is fast and new.  We mainly forget or ignore the old things.  The old ways.  Armistice Day was created to make sure we never forgot the very first World Soldiers.  And the millions that died.  Now, we merge them into the honor of more recent veterans, living and dead.  And the old ones have have faded in the effort.  Other countries whose boundaries encompass the bloody soil have longer memories...


Shock someone.  Wear a poppy today.  Or a red ribbon.  Be thankful for those first overseas veterans.  And all the others who sacrificed after war became illegal.  Try to  hear God's voice.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mo For Less


As you have no doubt read many places, we are now firmly into MOVEMBER!  A celebration by men of facial hair to remind people of male health issues such as testicular and prostate cancer. Epic friend Suburban Princess has come up with a very clever fund raiser for the cause that you can see, and support, here

In case you go MO for the next few weeks and decide to take the plunge and keep your new hirsute persona, you can develop a handlebar moustache and join the club dedicated since 1947 to this distinctive style.  In any event, thanks to everyone who raises awareness of all cancer issues the year long and in particular to those behind MOVEMBER for this very special effort.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Dream Of Winter


Winter Park, Florida. October 28, 2012.  They had to be ninety if they were a day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Joyeux Anniversaire!!



Catherine Deneuve is 69 today!! There is an amazing collection of her photos here.  Everyone who appreciates a true icon and an Epic of a Certain Age should raise a bourbon sour in her honor. Vive La Catherine!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Paris: Road Trip Part 2


After our wonderful lunch, the rain still driving down, we got into the Mercedes van and toured the Grand Trianon palace.  It was Napoleon's headquarters as well.  The furnishings were a continuing delight...




As were the chandeliers...


The bed chamber of a King...and an Emperor...


The Emperor's map table...


One of many parlours...


Napoleon's desk...


Then off to the Petite Trianon, the preserve of Marie Antoinette...


Herself...


The music room...


One of many very nice chairs...


Marie Antoinette's china...


At her personal Austrian farm direct descendants of her personal flock of sheep...


Where she would make court ladies wear plain white dresses and work the farm...



The end of a long, wet, cold day full of comradeship and very interesting sights.  A trip to Versailles is not to be missed during any Parisian adventure.  A fine road trip indeed.  Upon my return to Paris, I was ready for a hot shower, a change of clothes, and some hearty cuisine.  I discovered just the thing.  Burgundian hospitality...

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Epic Gallery: Presidents At Rest


I was working today at the offices of a competitor firm.  Nothing particularly noteworthy, but I noticed that they had art on their conference room wall unusual for a law office.  I just love this painting.  It shows Democratic presidents at ease, having a drink and a laugh, stress free.  In a better time and place.  Being a law office, the other wall of the conference room had the Republican version...


I have my preference, of course.  But I would join either of these tables.  And what a jolly time it would be.

PS. These must have been created some years ago. Over the past weekend, I saw a Democratic version for sale that also included President Obama. 


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Paris: Road Trip Part 1


People in the know told me that if I were to leave Paris for one excursion, it should be to Versailles.  I love history so it seemed a good choice to me. Also, the Irish Redhead really loves history and there was no way I could come within an hour of Versailles and not have a visit to report upon my return.

I toyed with the idea of taking the train out to Versailles and making the excursion solo, but I finally opted for a small group guided tour where the guide picked me up at my hotel and delivered me home at the end of the day.  It turned out a saving choice. Also, there was the strong likelihood that if I found myself in a large train station with my passport I would wind up in Barcelona or Vienna or some such place.  Better to avoid the temptation.

My guide, Chloe, was at the hotel exactly on time, a tres chic woman in her forties driving a Mercedes minivan.  It is one of my life principles that one should never refuse a ride in a Mercedes minivan when a tres chic woman named Chloe appears in Paris and offers one.  So off we went.

After collecting the other four members of our group, we headed out of the metropolitan Paris area for Versailles.  The weather was the worst of the entire trip.  What we call "hurricane rain" where I come from.  Horizontal precipitation.  Fortunately, I was equipped with my [now] tested L.L. Bean weatherproof jacket and very good shoes that stayed dry.


This shot is taken facing away from the main gates of the Nobles' Courtyard.  The buildings in the background are stables.  The person recommending this trip was spot on.  There is really nothing like Versailles in my experience.  The gate to the Nobles' Courtyard...


You have to hand it to the Sun King.  He came up with the idea of making all his nobles reside at court with him where he could keep them closely watched.  And where he could charge massive fees for everything.  And where they would be required to engage in huge wagers on a daily basis.  Thus keeping the most dangerous people in his kingdom on a short leash and financially tenuous.  And ever more dependent.  Sounds like a good kingly business plan to me.


Once you get inside the building, the Palace is one wonder after another.  Grander to me than The Louvre because of its preserved residential status.  A random ceiling...

 
 

The hall you have always heard about...

 
"The King Rules On His Own"...
 

The Royal Bed...




The royal silver service...


Marie Antoinette's jewel cabinet...


The weather outside was frightful...


But the gardens were delightful...



The rear of the palace...


The long walk through the gardens of Versailles, toward the Venetian canals...


Our lovely guide Chloe said that she was not walking through the gardens in this horrible rain.  She would take the Mercedes and drive to meet us at the restaurant where we were to have a wonderful lunch.  We were welcome to ride along.  It was never really a choice.  I had come way too far, in too many ways, to miss the gardens of Versailles.  Even in a downpour.  I zipped up my L.L. Bean jacket, tucked in my scarf, and trudged off into the wind.  The gardens were magnificent but I admit I did not dawdle in my inspection of them.  The thought of carafes of wine and roasted chicken were pulling me onward...






I admit, I was getting pretty cold at this point and my face was wet and freezing.  I was very happy to see the entrance to Le Petite Venise restaurant and to meet up with Chloe and the rest of the group...



A very welcome respite from the rain and cold.  Wine on the table, wonderful roasted chicken with potatoes, chocolate cake, hot coffee.  We all wanted to linger at this very nice restaurant but we had to go to the rest of Versailles.  Fully recharged and happy our little group headed off to the Grand Trianon, the Petite Trianon, and the German Village.  The rain continued unabated but inside our van, camaraderie and spirits were high.