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, December 28, 2013

A Young Man And A Trip: Wisconsin Chapter 3

Two years ago, my then 14 year old son The Future Rock Star, astounded me by asking if he and I could take a winter trip to Wisconsin so he could learn about where I grew up.  It was a tremendous trip.  We did it again last year.  I am now addicted to this event and I look forward to it from the time of our return after a week up North each year.

Due to the vicissitudes of public school calendars, the week before Christmas that was listed as vacation for the FRS when I booked this trip in August had to my dismay become exams week by Thanksgiving.  The FRS was crushed, at least as much as a young man of 16 will allow himself to show.  We went anyway, staying for three nights.  At least that was the plan.

We had surprisingly easy flying, enjoying a typically fine meal at One Flew South in the Atlanta airport before landing at O'Hare in Chicago late Friday evening.  It was snowing when we landed and it continued the entire trip.  When we checked into our hotel in Wisconsin, the photo above was the general look of things.  We couldn't have been more excited about our prospects for the weekend. In our room we found evidence of what I consider a nice trend in some hotels....a little seasonal toy to brighten up the evening...

A touching item in the opinion of this seasoned traveler anyway.  When we are in Wausau, Wisconsin we always go to the Great Dane brew pub for dinner.  They make superb beers at the Great Dane and the food is amazing also.  I had a seasonal Pumpkin Ale and a German Sausage Platter while the FRS had a "light" appetizer of fried cheddar cheese curds followed by a great looking Jagerschnitzel platter.  Oh for a teen metabolism!!!

I sprung a surprise on the FRS at dinner that evening...that we were going to his first-ever Green Bay Packer game at legendary Lambeau Field the next day!!  He was astounded and very excited.  It would be my first Packer home game since I was younger than he is.

Here is the view out the window on Sunday morning...

Time to hit the road for the hour and twenty minute drive to Green Bay.  Here is a tip.  Line up stadium parking in advance.  This web site was really great and we got parking a block from Lambeau Field with a very nice fellow helping us out when we got there.  We donned all the cold weather Packer gear we owned...

...then we bought some more.  With proper equipment, the weather made the trip.  Without proper gear, disaster would have ensued.  But I knew this from growing up in the area so we were well prepared.  We rounded the corner and ...

...a snowy Vince Lombardi greeted us at the stadium atrium entrance.  We wandered around the tailgate area for a while but the wind began to whip the snowflakes into a blizzard so we decided to seek refuge inside the atrium...

...an excellent spot with the huge Packer gift shop, several places to get food and drink, and a bluegrass band.  We were watched over by a pantheon of Packers...

...until it was time for the pregame gates to open and we went to our seats.  It was a little over ten degrees [F] when we went into the stadium proper with snow and a howling wind.  The "frozen tundra" indeed.

The glamour of being an NFL cheerleader loses something in a blizzard...and in a snow-suit...

We procured souvenir programs...

...and funny stick-masks of Aaron Rodgers' face...[he didn't play]...

The stick-masks helped block the wind.  A little.  Balaclava masks made from micro-fleece did a MUCH better job.  The big scoreboard televisions showed a perfect picture for replays and reminded us of our glorious history as thirteen time champions...

As I said, we lost a close game that we should have won.  It was so cold that I didn't even try to take a photo during the game because that would have entailed removing my gloves. All in all though we were very comfortable during the game.  Let me say again, long underwear and those balaclavas were essential.

The hour-plus drive back to Wausau in the dark after the game was over a snowy highway with only two tire tracks in one lane open.  Luckily lots of Packer fans were making the drive in a long caravan so the tracks stayed open and nobody was speeding or trying to pass.  Sketchy driving for Dad, even with my Norwegian genetics and [long unused] winter driving skills.  Safely back at our hotel, the FRS hit the shower and declared that he was not going out for dinner so I sallied forth for take-out.  Which, luckily, landed me at Treu's Tic Toc Club, one of the great Wisconsin bars you will ever find...

There was a lot of snow outside the night in question.  The inside of Treu's is a warm shelter from even the most significant Wisconsin storm...

Treu's even has festive holiday décor...

And great hot beef sandwiches and of course Bratwurst.  But on this blizzard of a night, the best thing was that the bartender was featuring Tom and Jerry cocktails, my favorite winter defroster.  One of those and I was ready to carry food back to the FRS.  A perfect trip completed [other than the football loss of course].  Or so I thought.

At the airport the next morning this was the view outside the concourse window...

This was the BEST it got all morning...as flights were cancelled and delayed and delayed and cancelled.  All for good reason I might add. I have never understood the anger of fellow travelers when an airline refuses to launch them off into a hurricane, thunderhead or blizzard.  In the event, it became increasingly obvious that if we stuck to the plan of flying home [it was December 23] we stood a serious chance of not being able to fly on our appointed day, nor on the worst flying day of any year, Christmas Eve.  As a result, we stood a significant chance of not being home for Christmas. 

I looked at him.  He looked at me.  Two words formed simultaneously for each of us.  Just like the classic scene in Animal House. 


We abandoned the airport before the rest of the stranded hoard [who were soon hot on our tails] and rented a superb SUV.  Then we drove it all the long way home.  Well, I drove it.  Along with my excellent little $100 GPS unit. The FRS provided in-flight entertainment with sports trivia and by using the Shazam app to identify obscure songs on the radio when we couldn't guess what they were.  That happened quite a bit actually.


Twenty hours.  We did have to spend the night of the 23d in deep downstate Illinois because of our late start leaving Wisconsin.  By all accounts, a grueling drive.  But it was tremendous fun.  An unexpected two days of extra dad/son bonding.  An Epic gift of the highest order.  We arrived home at 9:30pm on December 24.  The condition of the truck told it all...

But we made it, safe and sound.  Possessed of memories we both will cherish the rest of our lives.  A superb Christmas present.  I can't wait to do it all over again next year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Irish, Please

Like many places, the weather here in the provinces has been awful this week. This morning it was very cold and overcast with a misty rain.  It stayed that way all the long day.  But it provided me an excellent opportunity to try out my fantastic new Irish knit sweater.  A special garment because it was a gift from my Irish Redhead. The brand is Kilronan.  The cable knits are substantial.  The color, of course, is a DEEP green.  What with the brass zipper up top, putting it on makes one feel like some sort of Irish commando.  Which was just what this day required.  

When I walked outside, into the mist and wind and cold, I could almost feel this sweater responding.  "It's IRELAND"....

I was warm and dry all morning and ready for just a tot of Powers Whiskey upon my return.  Some garments, Irish sweaters and Harris tweed jackets for example, take inclement weather and turn it to an outward course.  Which is why they have been around so long. And so well...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Epic Cellar: Another Coppola Winner

I admit that I bought it because it was beautiful.  And like all of us, I have been fooled by beauty before.  Succumbing to form over substance.  Part of the human condition, it seems. Particularly among the Edwardian Romantic crowd. Certain catastrophic dates long ago.  Driving a Peugeot 505 for several years.  But despite the lessons of the past, when I saw this bottle of Coppola Sofia Rose I gave in once again.  Because it was deep into a tropical summer when Rose is the best.  And because I couldn't find a bottle of my favorite Tavel out in the provinces.

Then I forgot about it.  Tedious business issues and appointments intervened, truncating the summer tippling hours. The bottle lingered in my cellar, all alone.  Two seasons passed.  Until it was time for our traditional Thanksgiving Day feast.  At which I am the only one drinking wine.  I peered into the cellar and saw that lovely bottle.  A great compliment to our meal of turkey and ham with all the accompaniments. If it was any good.

I am very pleased to report that this is another really nice wine from the Coppola vineyards.  It was a joy to drink with our meal, and equally wonderful just for sipping afterward.  This wine has enough character and subtlety to pair with most foods.  It will never remove Tavel from the top of my rose list but Coppola Sofia Rose (at around $15 a bottle) is a gem very worthy of your time.  Cheers!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Four Epic Holiday Treats

Great tunes....

GREAT Pearse Lyons Whiskey....

GREAT snacks....

....and to cap the evening.....GREAT NOG.....

To keep the Season bright baby.....

Monday, November 11, 2013

Poppies In A Field--Armistice Day

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
--Rupert Brooke "The Soldier"

Retreat?? Retreat hell--we just got here!!
--American Marine, Bellau Wood (1918)

In 1914, most of the world went to war. For the first time. As usual, they thought it would be over by Christmas. As usual, they were wrong. Men and boys in almost all countries began training...

They were sent to quiet, out of the way places like Passchendaele...

Some actually survived. Some survivors looked like this...
Private Hugh McWhirter was the first Newfoundlander killed in the First World War...
Private Hugh McWhirter mounted no gallant attack. He uttered no brave last words. He had simply been standing, deafened by the screech and explosion of artillery--a terrified boy in an ill fitting uniform in a front line trench near the ridge of Karakol Dagh. Then, from out of nowhere, he had been blasted...by a Turkish shell. Suddenly he was gone, and those beside him in the shallow firing trench were stunned. Sprayed by bits...they knew just as suddenly what this war was going to be about.
--David Macfarlane, quoted in The First World War, A Complete History, by Martin Gilbert

His father's name was Hugh. His mother's name was Lottie. He was twenty-one.
In 1922, a group of World War veterans celebrated their day...

Except that it was "Armistice Day" then. You see, they thought there would not, could not, be another war. Nobody could have wanted another war after what they had been through. After what they had seen. Nobody, that is, except a newly mustered-out Austrian corporal named Adolph. He decided to get into politics. The "final armistice" lasted all of twenty-one years.
I have mentioned before on Armistice Day that almost nobody thinks of the First World War and its veterans any longer. Both have slipped beneath the tide of onrushing history. As is the natural way. The poem "In Flanders' Fields" is perhaps the most famous of all the great literary efforts of the First World War. When I was young, everyone wore poppies on their clothing on Veteran's Day. Even then, few knew that the poppies symbolized the red of the flowers in Flanders' Fields...

...and that the red of the poppies stood for all the life-lights that were extinguished there.

Do me a favor. If you can find a poppy today, put one on. If you can't, a little scrap of red paper will do. Think of all veterans and ponder what they gave for us, as is proper. But if you look just a bit, I'll bet your town has a monument of sorts or a public list of veterans of the First World War. If you can find your way there, read the names. There probably won't be many. They paved a portion of what unfortunately has been a very long road. One that stretches off into the future. Whether we remember them, or not.

P.S.  This is a reworking of my most popular Armistice Day piece. I hope you enjoy it again.  ML

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fuzzy Photos From Great Bars

Sportsman's Lodge, Brentwood, Tennessee.  This is one amazing place. They built a Northwoods hunting lodge authentic to every detail.  Hewn logs.  Big stone fireplace. But better. A great bar.  Get the BBQ with corn johnnycakes and a double bourbon on the rocks.  Thank me later.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cadillac Day

I did something today that I have never done.  I bought myself a brand new car.  Not just a car.  A Cadillac.  With all the toys.  The first new car of my life.  Why not?  I'm old enough.  And I have worked very hard for this day.  Why not?

My Dad was born in 1925.  Unlike me, a real car guy.  As I drove off the sales lot, I couldn't help but think............

Dad would have been SO excited.  His eldest son going to buy a brand new Cadillac. 

He has been gone ten years now.

My long kept bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape is being broken out tonight.  It is a very special day.  Why not? 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Epic Kitchen: One Great Gadget

The pineapple is not the gadget.  The pineapple corer in the second photo is.  I was watching television way too late at night and saw a presentation on a shopping channel for this thing and I just gave in and bought it.  I love fresh cut pineapple but I hate fooling around with the raw item.  This gadget was not too expensive and works PERFECTLY as advertised.  All you have to do is to cut the top off the pineapple with a knife.  Then you put the business end of the gadget on top of it and twist it down as far as you can.  This is the business end...

Then you pull out the pineapple fruit like a cork from a wine bottle.  The pineapple is cut into rings and the core of the fruit is left inside the husk!!

You just push the red button, the handle comes off, and you tip it over and slide the rings off the gadget...

If you cut out the core, the husk is perfect for use as a wild Tiki glass, or you can use it as a centerpiece and put 50s style tooth picks into the outside with cocktail sausages on them and fill the inside with sauce....your imagination is your only limit!

I don't go for many kitchen gadgets but this one is Epic!!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Epic Bookshelf: Lessons From Madame Chic

What are you reading THAT for?

It is a great book.  A classic.

It is JANE AUSTEN.  It is a GIRL'S book.

Such was a discussion from years ago.  I still love Pride and Prejudice. Because it teaches the reader valuable lessons for a happy life.  Lessons of the value of humility and the danger of blind assumption to name a few. In other words, it teaches principles that everyone should learn and practice every day.  That is one reason why Pride and Prejudice has endured.

There are no such things as "girl books".  Well.  Perhaps there are.  The ones with Fabio on the covers.  But some books that seem to be written for the lady audience have a lot of wisdom for gentlemen as well.  Such a book is Jennifer Scott's lovely and hugely necessary book, Lessons From Madame Chic, The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris (Simon & Shuster, 2012).

Writing in an easy, conversational style, Ms. Scott relates vignettes of her student days in Paris and her piquant observations of the way one Parisian lady made a point of taking joy from the moments of every day.  From breakfast.  Décor.  Dress. Small rituals. Manners. Things that go largely ignored in our culture.  Or, worse, which are often disdained as "counterproductive" or "elitist".

The Epic view is that there is absolutely nothing "counterproductive" or "elitist" in making the most you possibly can from every moment of the life you are given. In fact, embracing a life of vibrant simplicity is a most Epic notion and the essence of what Ms. Scott teaches in Lessons From Madame Chic. The Epicurean would submit that paying no attention to your attire or to how you look, not taking care of your body or living space, considering food as only "body fuel", slouching through the days of your life without paying attention that they are running through your fingers, or giving in to the culture of rampant consumerism are the most "counterproductive" and "elitist" ways to live.  Because they detract from the nobility and fun of your limited time on the globe no matter what your economic circumstances may be and they elevate yourself in a selfish manner.

Consider the practice of good manners.  A proper use of manners is not the affectation of airs in order to elevate oneself but rather the appreciation of the gentility and worth of the other person and a recognition of those things. The appreciation of all of life and of life's short and uncertain span are the core of the Epicurean life. As for the charge of elitism, the Epic would contend that the essence of elitism is selfishness.  In this light, what can be more personally "elitist" than wasting what economic resources you do have gobbling up random items at the mall, or gobbling up snacks when you aren't hungry, just because they appear before you like video game targets?  These are all notions that Ms. Scott provides simple and clear techniques to avoid, or to defeat in our daily lives.  A richer life is better than a less rich life. A richer life has nothing to do with mere riches.  It has to do with one's dedication to mining the limited moments of life for the non-monetary riches they contain.  Lessons From Madam Chic is a road map to accomplishing this very thing.

The book is divided into three Parts, Diet and Exercise, Style and Beauty, and How to Live Well.  Each chapter in a Part concludes with "Le Recap", a useful summary that the reader would do well to photocopy and carry about in the purse or briefcase. I admit that starting "Diet and Exercise" made me quail since I do not like to do either thing.  But the focus of this section of the book is on things even I can eagerly embrace.  For example, eating thoughtfully, appreciatively and well.  Developing a personal style.  Taking care of yourself.  Having a chic and useful but limited wardrobe. The idea of including some sort of exercise in every day will admittedly be a challenge for me as will seriously looking at and pruning my wardrobe.  Developing the "no makeup look", won't be as much of a challenge. The tips on how to dine have significantly increased my enjoyment at table.  And I significantly enjoyed my time at table before reading this book.

Part Two of Lessons From Madame Chic is "Style and Beauty".  Fellows, take heed.  Skin care is important.  Your skin is the largest organ in your body, no matter what you say about the majesty of other organs. You must protect your skin from the sun and from undue deterioration. Especially if you like late nights at smoky jazz clubs and other boites as I do.  "Look Presentable Always" is a lesson that has absolutely nothing to do with gender or with spending a lot on clothes but rather on taking time to show your self-value by making the most of yourself in any circumstance. "The Art of Femininity" is more accurately seen as "The Art of Sexiness" and teaches the reader to adopt a simple, clean-cut approach to grooming and posture that rejects any attempt to recreate yourself as someone in a magazine ad.  Rather, the chapter inspires the reader to project himself in the most unaffected, positive and straightforward manner.

Part Three is titled "How To Live Well" and it is the culmination of the preceding Parts.  Chapters showing how and why to "Use The Best Things You Have", (inside you or inside your kitchen cabinet), have "The Best You Can Afford", "Cultivate Your Mind", "Reject The New Materialism", "Life As A Formal Affair" and "Cultivate An Air of Mystery" all build to one final chapter.  Titled "Live A Passionate Life".  And this, dear readers, is what Epic life comes down to. I hope that parents read this book with their children.  That friends and lovers read it to each other.  And that Ms. Scott receives all the accolades she so well deserves for writing it.

Anyone will benefit from reading this book.  That said, I send a Clarion Call to the male Epic.  Set aside your Pride.  Ignore your Prejudice. Especially against books with beautiful but feminine cover art. Obtain a copy of Lessons From Madame Chic and study it.  Jennifer Scott has provided a unique map along a path through the jungle of crassness and low esteem which closes in on us daily.  Follow the map.  At the end of these Lessons lies a satisfying and vastly Epic life.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Epic Closet: One Great Belt

Woven cotton with all the great Salmon and Trout flies on it.  The best thing is that the buckle is also a bottle opener!!  Just the thing for a Friday outfit with my Brooks Brothers cashmere blend tweed jacket.  Belt by Bison.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Epic At Home

After this whole Epic thing breaks for me, I want to spend my decline in a gorgeous urban townhouse.  Like the one above that I swiped from The Inimitable Phillips.   Or, to me, the mother of all great townhouses....the Delancey Street address in Philadelphia used as Winthorp's home in the hilarious movie Trading Places...

...which was subsequently given a total redo as recorded in Architectural Digest.  Of course the butler has to be a part of the fantasy.  Any Jeeves will do.  Once I move in and get settled, you are all welcome to pop by for a snifter of something or other...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Favorite Poem

If you love Paris, as I do, please read this lovely poem.  I feel like it was written for me.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fuzzy Photos From Great Bars

Churchill Grounds Jazz Club, Atlanta, Georgia.  Also home of The Whisper Room.  A really superb jazz joint with great folks around the bar.  You can have dinner at the wonderful restaurant Livingston across the street and then wander over for a few hours of great music and great conversation.  Can't beat it.  Tell Sam the owner hello for me.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

An Epic "Invention": The Rusty Bob

I woke up yesterday morning to an almost Autumnal day here in the sub-tropics.  Which set a fellow's mind to thoughts of  Scotch.  And of Scotch-based cocktails.  And of the finest Scotch-based cocktail, the Bobby Burns.  Harry Craddock in the iconic Savoy Cocktail Book calls the Bobby Burns "one of the very best" Scotch cocktails and lists the recipe as the classic equal parts Italian Vermouth and Scotch with three dashes of Benedictine.  The latter ingredient converts the august Rob Roy into the sublime Bobby Burns. 

More recent recipes for the Bobby Burns basically make a Scotch based Manhattan, including a dash or two of Angostura Bitters, and add Benedictine.  Also a good drink.

Walking along to my favorite watering hole, I considered other Scotch based cocktails.  Rob Roy, Bobby Burns, Rusty Nail...and then I had an epiphany.  Why not substitute Drambuie for the Benedictine in a Bobby Burns and create a new cocktail?  What to call it? A Rusty Roy? A Rusty Bobby? No. The Rusty Bob!!!  A perfect play on the Rusty Nail/Drambuie connection.

I stormed into the bar just at opening time and announced my creation.  The first run at it was a bit too sweet.  The regular bitters could not hold up to the sweetness of the Drambuie.  The great and lovely mixologist Melissa then suggested using three drops of Boston Bitters.  This made the drink superb.  Apparently this Boston Bitters is nothing to be trifled with since it comes in a distinctly apothecary looking bottle with its own eye dropper built in.

A triumph! My first cocktail invention! I announced it to one and all and actually got a few other imbibers to try it, all with positive reports. 

But I believe it was Saint Augustine who said that humility is good for our souls.  In an abundance of caution, I searched for Bobby Burns recipes this morning and discovered a variation of the Bobby Burns using Drambuie instead of Benedictine discussed on the superb blog The Cocktail Chronicles.  In 2005. 

It seems that everything old is indeed new again.  At least I came up with a dandy name for the drink.  And I upped my humility quotient.  The mixology game is a tough one.  Back to the drawing board.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cartier Collection Short Films: Nouvelle Vague

I have always been a film nut. Actually took a minor degree in film studies long ago. Short films in particular have always fascinated me.  In the commercial world, I am not sure that there are any short films that speak to me in quite the way of the ones produced by Cartier.  The new set of "Nouvelle Vague" short films are whimsical, Parisian, fantastique!!  Here are two for your enjoyment if you find yourself in a Paris deprived state.  As I almost always do.  Bon weekend!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Roi Soleil

From the beginning, he was the Center.  Of an empire. Of the finest city.  His was absolute power, but only in theory.  In the beginning.  He chafed under the custody of an old man for twenty-three years.  Then, he ascended.  Napoleon, no fan of kings, said he was "the only King of France worthy of the name."  This was his house...

His front gate...

His Hall...

His reflecting pool and his canal...

In the frame of one of his portraits...this quotation...

"The King Rules Alone".  Sad, but how very true.  And rule he did, for over 72 years.  Longer than any monarch in the history of the major kingdoms.  He famously said "Apres moi, Le deluge".  And he was right.  He could have coined the phrase "go big or go home".

Today is his birthday.  I was looking for a perfect libation for the occasion.  An unimpeachable and irresistible source suggested the new Bastille Whisky, neat or over one super-frozen piece of ice.  As it should be. 

Hand crafted in France.  Already a winner of prestigious awards.  Had my source not been unimpeachable, and irresistible, I admit I would have been suspect of it.  But I would have been wrong.  This is a very fine, smoky, contemplative spirit.  Just like his. 

On his deathbed, he reportedly told his successor:

"Do not follow the bad example which I have set you; I have often undertaken war too lightly and have sustained it for vanity. Do not imitate me, but be a peaceful prince, and may you apply yourself principally to the alleviation of the burdens of your subjects."

A worthy thought for modern times, no?