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, May 16, 2012


That the Edwardian era has always been a favorite of mine should come as no real surprise.  A time of great dining and fancy clothing.  The time of the vest and watch chain.  The top hat.  The walking stick.  Gentlemen.  Ladies.  All of which had, of course, existed before but reached their glory from 1900 to 1914.  In Paris, they called it "La Belle Epoque".  The Beautiful Era.

Other than the grand dining, perhaps my favorite part of the Beautiful Age was the men's vest.  It allowed for another sartorial element a gentleman could deploy to set himself off from the crowd when adorned with lapels or a bold chain, as above.

After years of being relegated to the dust bin of investmentbankwear, my recent travels delighted me with the realization that men of all ages are wearing vests again and stores are selling all sorts of dressy and casual vests from which to choose.  For example, a large selection can be found here.

Now, I admit, the current trend is aimed at the fit, slender sorts.  The return reader will know that I am more of the....Edwardian...build.  Not to worry.  Just make sure that the vest fits you.  Nothing looks worse than an ill fitting garment, vests in particular.  Most off the rack vests adjust to a degree, you just have to take advantage of the adjustment.  I recommend tailoring.  For the young and fit, your tailor should have an easy task of taking in the vest a bit.  For the rest of us, well, the tailor does what must be done. 

Times have certainly changed and vests can now be worn in very casual outfits as well as with your best.  Maybe next we will see a return of the walking stick.  We can only hope.  There is an Edwardian hidden somewhere in every Epic.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Paris: Arrival Day.

This was my first view of France after about nine hours of night flying.  Atlanta to Newfoundland then a hard right turn.  Under Greenland.  Under Iceland.  Down the English Channel.  Then here.  It was very cloudy all the way so you could not see anything until we broke the ceiling shown at the back of the photo. 
I slept well all night.  Not surprising after the marvelous treatment in Air France's Business Class.  I should have anticipated what was in store about a minute after settling into a huge seat [later a bed] when a pretty blond attendant offered me a glass of Champagne. I didn't want to hurt the poor woman's feelings.  I accepted a glass.  Then another. A happy glow effused the cabin.  I noticed the glow becoming even warmer after we got to altitude, a couple of hours had passed, it was time for....

...the printed dinner menu.  As a cart came around with aperitifs (make mine Ricard) 

I nibbled on extraordinary little crepe biscuits filled with cheese...

as I studied the menu and made my first dining choices of the trip.  The amuse-bouche was shrimp with guacamole and pink grapefruit.  I made short work of that...

...and the spoon was tres elegant.  Then an appetizer course of Serrano ham, fish terrine and creme mayonnaise with herbs along with a salad...

which was just lovely.  You may have noticed the Bordeaux in the photo.  They had several nice bottles to choose from.  The one shown is an Haut-Medoc Chateau Cantermerle Grand Cru Classe 2006. 

At this point, I am getting VERY used to flying on Air France Business Class.  The main course I selected was beef tournados au poivre with sauteed potatoes and green beans.  The dish was perfectly seasoned and prepared and the green peppercorn sauce added just the right amount of underlying fire to compliment the Chateau Cantermerle...

Yes, that is a [temporarily] empty wine glass.  The flight staff was very attentive and a lot of wine was poured during the flight.  Even to passengers other than moi.  After the main course, it was on to the cheese course...

...scrumptious.  More Chateau Cantermerle.  Oh, and a trio of desserts...

...lemon square, triple chocolate cake, raspberry macaron.  Really great coffee.  You can see the heavy silver in the photos.  That was a nice aesthetic addition also.  As the attendant cleared the linen table cloth and the [empty] dessert plate, I sank back into the big leather seat with a snifter of Calvados and I fell into a deep luxury coma.  Another Calvados [or two] later and I pushed the buttons that converted my seat into a comfortable bed.  I slept a dreamless, deep sleep.

I was gently awakened for breakfast which was marvelous also but which I need not describe in more detail.  I was pretty diverted by the map display which showed we were nearing Europe.  My second view of France appeared a hour later...

and shortly afterward we had landed at CDG and I was wandering down toward customs.

After slipping through the checkpoint unimpeded, I collected my bags with surprising ease and met the young man assigned to collect me and take me to my hotel on the Ile Saint-Louis.  I walked up and introduced myself in French, he did the same, and he asked me how many days I was staying in Paris.  I told him [now on thinner linguistic ice] and I apologized and said that my French was very bad.  He replied that his English was "mauvais".  I had survived my first conversation on the ground in France!

I have written before about how heartily I adopt von Clausewitz' first principle of securing one's home base while travelling.  The Hotel Saint-Louis en L'Isle was the perfect home in Paris for a man of my tastes.  Twenty Rooms.  Wonderful staff.  And the coziest room imaginable. 

The photos above are of my home in Paris, my perfect room [in some tourist disarray] and the main street of the island outside the front door of the hotel facing the Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame Cathedral.  The weather the first day was cold and overcast at first with the sun breaking through optimistically at times.  After checking in, I decided to explore Notre Dame and the surrounding areas. 

This was the view on the foot bridge spanning the Seine between the Ile Saint-Louis and the Ile de la Cite.  Pretty weather, no?  Little did I know this would be the best day of the trip.

Notre Dame is 850 years old this year.  It is breathtaking and inspiring.  I admit sitting a few moments and saying thanks for my incredible opportunity to make this trip.  You could probably spend an entire day inside Notre Dame...

[organ loft]...

[one of the small chapels surrounding the main Nave]

Saint Joan D'Arc.

A sober reminder of World War I. 

You walk out of a place like Notre Dame in sensory overload.  A feeling that I would have many more times on the trip.  But all this history makes a fellow hungry.  And thirsty.  So I crossed the Isle de Cite and moved to the Right Bank to scout the lay of the land for my first planned dining adventure the following day.  And to look for my first cafe meal.  What my great pal Colonel Joe might call a "recon in force".  I bought a pack of French cigarettes with filters and a lighter with a picture of Marilyn Monroe holding down her dress on it.  Not for smoking but because I had read somewhere that having cigarettes and a lighter in your pocket is an entree into cafe society.  One has to be prepared in such things.  I saw the Paris City Hall...

...and the famous Metro subway entrance art...

I know.  I didn't see that other sign until after I looked at the photo in my phone.  Insidious forces are lurking even in Paris.  It is the nature of our time. 

You can tell that a city is dedicated to dining and drinking when there are a dozen cafes and bistros on every block.  Even a person with my special ESP for good places becomes jangled when the green light is going off in his head every fifty yards.  It started to drizzle and then rain.  Hard.  I saw a cafe before me with a lot of customers, a few open tables, and an intriguing name...

L'Amazonial.  Just the place for me.  I sat where the fellows in blue are in the photo and ordered my first cafe meal of roasted duck, mashed potatoes, and raisin/cognac sauce.

The duck was very tender and the sauce perfect. I also had a carafe of the house Bordeaux [which was exceptional and fairly priced] and a nice slice of Camembert along with my coffee.  This was my first meal in Paris and the best duck I have ever had.  One notices immediately that the food tastes much better than at home.  Much, much fresher.  Things actually have flavor.  Admittedly some of this perception was due to emotional involvement on my part, but I think it is actually true.  With one exception, every morsel of food I ate on the trip was very, very good.  As I sat and sipped my wine, I looked out of the covered terrace of L'Amazonial at the drizzling rain.  I sat there comfortably for a long time.  I wrote some notes in one of my new notebooks.  I could have sat there the rest of the trip.  This is why I had come.  To sit for hours at a cafe table, watching the world pass by, scribbling occasional notes, drinking good wine after a superb meal. Nothing in particular to do.

Eventually, I realized that I was either going to order another meal or drink wine until I fell over or I would have to continue my first day as a Parisian flaneur.  The rain stopped and I headed for the Palais Royal and its reportedly pretty and secluded interior park right across from the Louvre.

I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting by this fountain reading Dutourd in the afterglow of a perfect day.  I may have dozed.  The sun retreated again behind clouds.  The wind picked up.  Rain began.  The day was sliding into dusk.  All of a sudden, I felt heavy fatigue.  The dreaded jet lag.  I had been warned not to succumb to the temptation of sleeping as soon as I arrived.  There was only one thing left to do.  I had to follow von Clausewitz again and secure a home bar. 

Back on the Isle Saint-Louis, my ESP went off strongly when I passed the Pledge Bar a couple of blocks from my hotel.  The sign was welcoming...

...as was the view into the walk-down bar from the sidewalk through the front window.  A small, narrow joint with a tray of different sausages and cheese on the bar.  And bowls of potato chips. Friendly people.  Great barman.  Good Calvados for five Euros.  For a double.  A.J. Liebling held circa 1949 that drinking post-war Calvados was akin to stabbing yourself in the hand with a pen knife.  I did detailed and hefty exploration of this dilemma during the entire trip and I can happily report that the situation has righted itself considerably.  Good Calvados is plentiful in Paris and fairly priced.  Having secured a home bar, befriended [in French] the bartender and totted a little Calvados along with some wickedly hot, marvelously flavorful sausage from Provence or Spain or somewhere, I strolled out into the Parisian wee small morning hours.  Rain was tumbling down.  I turned up the collar of my L.L. Bean all weather jacket, felt the warm fuzzy lining all around my neck and chin, and turned the corner for my hotel and a warm bed.  Day one.  A triumph.   

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Paris 1: Come Fly With Me

The week before I boarded this huge airplane, I found myself traveling through the Atlanta, Georgia airport with a long layover that stretched into evening.  After a typically satisfying meal with my friends at One Flew South on the "E" concourse, I realized that the gate was only a few hundred feet away.  My gate.  The one through which, in a week's time, I would be striding to begin the Grand Adventure.  How could I resist? I walked down the concourse and gazed at the people boarding Air France, incredulous at their nonchalance.  Was I really going to be one of them? Was the trip actually going to occur?  Seven days to go...

I admit that, the last week, I had a focus problem at the office.  I would be in the middle of something and just stare out the window.  I would thumb through one of the many books about Paris I have collected over the years, or the very good travel guide my wife gave me for Christmas.  It was bristling with "sticky" notes at critical spots.  I realized with four days to go that I had over-prepared.  I was saturated with information. When my father was playing the PGA Tour, he used to say you hit a point where you just cannot practice any longer because you start to lose your edge and you actually get worse.  In college, my [one] economics professor used to refer to the point of diminishing returns.  In my work, you get to the point where you have prepared so much for a trial you quit thinking.  All of these examples adequately describe my mindset four days before departure.  It was time to take a step back.  I found the perfect tools to be a martini and a big book of Leroy Neiman paintings of Parisian scenes that usually resides on a credenza in my office.  The big colorful paintings were just the thing to calm my overstimulated senses.

The only other European trip I had ever seriously considered was years ago, before the Era of The Irish Redhead.  A pal of mine from school wanted to take a golf tour of Scotland.  I had the time and the money.  Just never went.  Frankly, I was pretty intimidated by the whole notion of traveling abroad by myself and meeting him in London.  Fool.

A million miles of flying later, I lack the apprehension about logistics I had back then.  Still...I had this nagging doubt that I could pull it off for some reason.  Luckily, after booking the flight and a hotel, getting one advance restaurant reservation [months in advance], booking a guided tour of Versailles, a walking foodie tour of Montmarte, and procuring a few hundred Euros in cash, the trip had developed a life of its own.  At four days, it reached critical mass.  Barring some horrid medical event, there was no way it was not going to happen.

I couldn't sleep the night before departure.  I spent the night packing, drinking and playing French music.  My travel satchel contained blank notebooks, pens, the sticky note bristled guidebook, a plasticized folding map of Paris, cash, daily medicines, MP3 player, my new Kindle Fire, and the copy of my hero A. J. Liebling's opus "Between Meals, An Appetite For Paris" which raised my desire for this trip to a fever pitch so many years ago.  I also threw in a copy of A Dog's Head by my current favorite writer, Jean Dutourd, for good luck and to show off with while reading in some Parisian park or another.

I chose my travel attire carefully, even more so than usual.  Black Brooks Brothers blazer with black buttons. Tan wide wale corduroys. Wine colored long sleeve merino wool knit shirt. Pink and wine patterned pocket square.  I was influenced by two factors in these choices. That we had to fly to Newfoundland before turning east toward Europe.  And that the weather in Paris for several weeks prior to my trip had been nothing short of awful.  That led me to also pack a light trench coat, a black lightweight waterproof shell, and the L.L. Bean weatherproof lined ski jacket that I bought for my Wisconsin trip last December.  All choices that turned out to be providential.

Morning came.  Departure day.  The Irish Redhead took our son out of school so they could go into the airport and see me off. I was really touched. We sat around outside security for awhile and looked at each other.  Breaking the ice, my son the Future Rock Star made gentle fun of my "Euro looking" carry bag. Then a photo, hugs, an au revoir and I was through security and on my way.  I've always been awful at saying good bye.

I had a couple of hours in Atlanta before my flight to Paris, so I slid into a bar stool at One Flew South which happens to be about a hundred yards from the Air France gate.  It was late Friday afternoon and most of the international concourse bar patrons were in a festive mood. My pals Tiffany the bartender and Terrence the head waiter were very excited that I was off to Paris.  Terrence told me to make sure one day to be on a river boat on the Seine at nightfall. After a couple of perfect Vesper cocktails and best wishes all around, it was time to head down to the boarding area.

At the gate I looked at my fellow travellers.  Some tired.  Some bored.  But most...most looked...excited.  Happy.  I wondered if I were seeing my reflection in their faces.  I have been at a thousand boarding gates.  I never saw faces with excitement in them.  A sort of glow.

The thing about airport gates is that unless you just walk away sooner or later they call for you to board. Then the game is on.  Minutes passed. I could feel my heart rate going up. I was triple checking my boarding pass when they called for first class boarding. In a French accent. The scanner at the gate bleeped and a green light came on indicating that I was not barred from entry into the gangway.  This was it.  I took a deep breath, tried for the hundredth time to recall my catalog of basic French phrases, and walked down the collapsible tunnel to the waiting jumbo jet.  I was on my way.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Back But Not Returned

I'm home. I have a lot to write and a lot of photos. But I can't write just now. You see, despite being home and being very, very happy, my mind is still wandering somewhere in Paris.  Still in flaneur mode. Where it may remain forever. Suffice to say, my nine day trip was many things. All of them a hundred times better than I expected.

I'll start telling you the story when I come back down to Earth a bit more.