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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Ball In The Weeds

My Dad was a golf professional. A caddy before that. He always used to say that when you were looking for your ball in the rough you had to expect to see it everywhere you looked. If you did that, the chances were you would discover it. A very Epic attitude now that I think about it.

So it is with dining. It is fairly easy to find a great meal in most major cities. You look. Listen. Use your instincts. Voila. I find that in small places however I am often overcome by the pastoral vibe. I have to remind myself to "look for the ball." Failure to do this often produces a boring dining experience. Or a horrid one. The important thing is to use the same Epic tools to look for fun and good things no matter where you are or no matter how bleak the landscape may appear to be. Do not fall prey to the "can't be anything here" trap. Because the truth is, there usually is something delightful just waiting to be discovered. With the correct attitude, the search is half the fun.

Recently, I found myself in Kingsport, Tennessee. My nerves somewhat jangled. By the airplane which delivered me there. That boarded from the aft. WAY aft. Picture where the tail attaches to the fuselage. With the wing over the TOP of the cabin. Like this:

I felt like a paratrooper. Which for me is not a happy feeling. Anyhow, having survived the flight I discovered that the area of northeast Tennessee is just gorgeous. Reminiscent of my beloved Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. But certainly not urban. Not a whole lot happening. Apparently not an Epic-worthy restaurant in sight. And when I have an experience like a paratrooper flight I get HUNGRY. Consider it the need to re-celebrate life if you will. Or the re-entry into life. With no place to conduct the culinary celebration.

I pondered this dilemma as I waited for my suitcase to appear at the baggage carousel. When it appeared and circled toward me it passed under one of those airport signs for a restaurant. Glancing at the sign my gourmand radar lit up. I was in this manner introduced to The Troutdale restaurant of Bristol, Tennessee. A rather convincing piece of evidence to add to my argument against carrying on luggage. Had I carried on my suitcase you see I would never have seen the sign and would have probably been at Waffle House that evening. After attempting to find a liquor store. And a dining love affair would have been forever missed.

I admit I was fighting an irrational prejudice. As all prejudice is. I could not imagine that a marvelous restaurant could be found in a town known mainly for NASCAR events. But I was wrong. Happily so. The Troutdale occupies a beautiful restored mansion. You get a feeling of comfort, ease and serenity when you ascend to the front porch. You can dine al fresco on the porch, but it was full of diners both nights I went there on my most recent trip.

A very successful man I am privileged to know says that to make it in business you have to "live over the store." Meet Ben Zandi, proprietor of The Troutdale:

Mr. Zandi is a most amiable host. And an ubiquitous one. I have been back to The Troutdale several times since my first visit and he has been there every single night. To visit the table. Give the personal greeting. Remember who you are. The gentleman is a one-man masters degree in Hospitality Management. A recent example makes my point. It was (of course) NASCAR race week. The town flooded with people. The Troutdale overrun with diners. I arrived (typically) alone. When you go to a fine restaurant, full of patrons, and the owner takes the time to make it to your table in an unhurried way and greet you, THAT is "living over the store". A sure bet that the food will be wonderful as well. As it is.

Mr. Zandi behind the bar.

But first. A word about cocktails. So my dedicated readers will know I have not deserted them. Or been kidnapped by aliens and someone else is writing this piece. I love a martini. A real one. No colors. No additives. Gin or vodka. Vermouth. Olive or lemon twist. Served up. Period. In fact, I have a long-public stand against "martinis" that are nothing of the sort. Against this backdrop, may I present The Troutdale Martini. Proof that some places are so good, you can try anything on the menu. With success. The formula is pretty simple, yet devastating. The put ice in the shaker. Pour SCOTCH over the ice and get it all nice and cozy. Pour out the scotch into a liquor glass. Mix a martini as usual. Serve it up. With the glass of scotch as a chaser. Folks, this is an imbiber's drink. Not for the beginner. Or for the once-a-year-on-New-Year's-Eve crowd. A drink like this requires PRACTICE. But trust me, do not have two of these. In fact, if you feel inclined to order one of The Troutdale's excellent wine flights with dinner, book a room in advance. Within crawling distance. Here is a picture of my lovely nemesis:

The quality of the photo should not surprise anyone who has read The Epic before. Suffice to say your vision will be like this soon enough with this concoction. Take my advice, it is best to drink the martini and save the "chaser" for later. Much later. Alternating sips is NOT the way to go. Trust me.

But at The Troutdale, the food is the thing. And it is superb. The specialty of the house is of course trout. One of my very favorite dishes. Which has always been fabulous here. Simply broiled, sauteed or as a roulade. Mr. Zandi is dedicated to locally grown fruit and vegetables so the accompaniments are always perfectly fresh and not overly wrought which would risk obscuring the fine natural flavors. Bread is baked on site and accompanied by a trio dish of specialty butter, olive oil with balsamic and (my favorite) home made apple butter.

This report is based on two consecutive nights' dining. I am nothing if not a loyal customer. You may accurately assume that I had The Troutdale Martini both nights. I also had chilled cucumber soup with fresh dill both nights that was made of the aforementioned local goods and was so fresh and crisp that the flavors popped in your mouth like that sparkly candy we used to eat as children. This followed on night one by a whimsical amuse bouche of "shrimp cocktail" consisting of minute dabs of horseradish sauce and chopped shrimp with lemon zest and on night two by a perfect little piece of seared ahi tuna scattered with scallions and a dot of peanut sauce. The appetizer on night one was pesto stuffed scallops and on night two smoked duck over mushrooms and roasted spaghetti squash. For an entree, I had Chilean Sea Bass on night one. This is another testament to my regard for Mr. Zandi and his chef. I have not liked Sea Bass on prior occasions. Not at all. But this dish was fantastic. On night two I had trout.

Desserts are not really my typical domain, but I did invade the personal space of a fellow singular diner on night two. She was having TWO desserts. One was a grape tarte tatin with peanut ice cream and peanut brittle. The other was a dessert sampler:

She CLAIMED she was writing an article for a newspaper. I didn't believe her. She was not only gracious enough to allow me to photograph her sampler, but she reported that all of her choices were "divine". Which was good enough for me.

The final word on The Troutdale comes from no less a personage than Mr. King, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member and the man who wrote "Sweet Home Alabama" for Lynyrd Skynyrd:

Despite my unfounded prejudice, I remembered my Dad's advice. Put it into practice in an unlikely context. And found a culinary golf ball in the rough. To great ends. Keep looking for the ball even when you are in the weeds. And get to The Troutdale if you can. You won't be sorry.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mookish Friday Night

The dictionary defines a "mook" as an insignificant person. You want to find the mother land of all mooks? Come join me and the rest. At the Atlanta airport late on a Friday night. Lousy weather all day. All flights delayed. By HOURS. A run on the bar at the Crown Room Club. Looks like Wall Street. Or your local bank.

But then a sculpture gallery broke out. When least expected. If you get the chance to come through the ATL, try to take the tunnel to the "T" concourse. You will go by a magnificent display of African sculpture. I'll bet millions of people pass right by it without really noticing. Like I did. Until Mook Friday Night. Look at these lovely pieces..Mother and child...

A lonely traveler...

The joy of play...

The glory of the Family...

And my personal favorite...

...a family clasped firmly in the hand of....a Higher Power. Safe as can be.

I MAY get home tonight. But it is a great thing to know that on the many occasions when I am away, the Irish Redhead and the Future Rock Star have that great big hand about them. And that the Crown Room Club has not [yet] run out of bourbon....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Catherine at Sixty-Five

I clearly remember the moment I became Catherine Deneuve aware. Watching Belle de Jour in film school. That face. That dress. That walk. That face. From that time onward, Catherine Deneuve set the standard for sophisticated femininity. Hell, for any sort of femininity. As my wife would say, "If Catherine Deneuve wants your husband there is nothing you OR he can do about it." My favorite Deneuve films are Indochine, My Favorite Season and Color of Night. Actually, I do not really care. I just like to watch her move about. And talk. And breathe.

A brief biography. Born in Paris. Of course. The third of four daughters. Ladies, how would you like to have HER for a little sister? She speaks four languages. Likes doing her own gardening. Her favorite season is summer. She is involved with many international charitable organizations, including UNESCO, Handicap International and Children of Africa. Muse to Yves Saint Laurent. 106 film and television roles. So far. Accessory designer. She has been in some magnificent ad campaigns, including Chanel and this one for Louis Vuitton:

From last year. When she was sixty-four. She reportedly lives in the Place des Voges in Paris:

Which looks just about right. My favorite quote from her is "I allow myself my excesses."

In honor of Miss Deneuve's sixty-fifth birthday today, I set out to determine whether anyone has ever created a cocktail in her honor. There is no such libation listed in any of my many reference works on the subject. In past years I have taken to celebrating Miss Deneuve's birthday with a Kir, which seems very apropos. 1/4 oz Creme de Cassis, 2 1/4oz dry white wine. Or a glass of good Champagne. The only cocktail I have discovered named for Catherine Deneuve is the "Catherine", created by the author of the excellent Cocktailians blog, listed at the right margin. The formula is:

3/4 oz Chambord + 3/4 oz Gin + 3/4 oz Lillet Blanc + 1/4 oz lime juice + 2 dashes peach bitters

Shaken and served up. It looks like this (also from Cocktailians):

Perhaps a bit of lemon peel for garnish only. As delicious as this cocktail sounds, I was thrown by the reference to "peach bitters". As any reader of the Epic will testify, I am pretty well versed in things of this sort. I practice at it a lot. But peach bitters mystified me. A couple of pretty good barmen I know had not heard of it either. So I went to the mountain. To a mixological guru. Greg Best of Atlanta is to my thinking the finest barman in America. He reigned at the bar of Restaurant Eugene for years before opening his own place, the Holeman and Finch Public House at 2277 Peachtree Road. Greg not only took my call about this dilemma but told me that if I wanted good peach bitters I could easily get some....in New York. It is not easy to get even in Atlanta. And I live a long way from Atlanta. In a lot of ways.

Even without peach bitters, an alternative created by the exemplary bar staff of the Hotel Maison Dupuy in New Orleans is the French Kiss:

3/4 oz Chambord + 3/4 oz peach schnapps + 3/4 oz vodka with a splash of orange juice, pineapple juice and cranberry juice.

I have reservations about whether Miss Deneuve would drink anything with schnapps in it, but it is a very good cocktail. While drinking it, you must keep notions of French kissing and Catherine Deneuve from entering your mind at the same time or you will spill the cocktail on your arm. I have. A man who actually had the chance to have drinks with Catherine Deneuve is Alan Riding of the New York Times. Blighter. He reported that she ordered a bourbon sour. Lord, she really IS perfect.

Catherine Deneuve has not performed in many American films. A shame, but probably as it should be. I just can't see her shooting at a mummy or running from a dinosaur. Hearing her in French with subtitles is just the thing. See for yourself:

The essence of Deneuve. Gentlemen, it is all right. You can play the clip over and over. I certainly won't tell anyone.

Asked once about her lack of notice by American studios, she replied to the effect that she would have liked more work in America but that it wasn't her style to sit about and mope about things in the past that did not go her way. Her goal is to live fully in the present moment. An Epic attitude for an Epic lady.

I don't know who coined the phrase "a woman of a certain age" but to me it implies a woman who has lived well. And gained knowledge from the experience. Knowledge of her own femininity and its power. Knowledge of her strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge of who she is. And is not. Knowledge that she has, in the words of another author, "earned the right to be completely herself". To me, there is no better woman than a Woman of a Certain Age. And no better Woman of a Certain Age than Catherine Deneuve.

I will close this birthday tribute with a video clip from last year's Vuitton ad campaign:

Happy Birthday, Miss Deneuve. Tonight I'll have a Catherine cocktail, or a bourbon sour, or both. In your very distinct honor. And may there be many, many more birthdays to come.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New York, Part Three: Gourmet, April 1952

After a very hectic work schedule, the final free moments during my recent trip to New York were devoted to a scavenger hunt. Self imposed. Gustatorial. Solo, typically. A scavenger hunt for past spots of dining glory. Good times. High living. Cabs rolling up to the front door of little Manhattan restaurants and discharging swell couples dressed for an evening out on THE town. No concerns about cholesterol. Or sodium. Or saturated fats. Looking forward to casting off the workaday week and getting just a wee bit hammered in the same place together. Following Sinatra's dictum of two martinis before dinner, no more. And no less. A scavenger hunt for Gourmet Magazine dining. Circa April 1952.

A treasure trove had come into my hands you see. An antique dealer friend of my wife's had given her several vintage issues of Gourmet like the one pictured here. I love magazines from the 1950s and 1960s. Especially ones devoted to what then was really considered the art of living. An art I considered pretty much dead. Buried under the crushing social weight of the period 1975-1995. Exemplified by the content of this issue from seven years before my birth.

Take the idea of the back yard grill party. How would you like to be invited to one like this:

Look at the size of those steaks! They even had better beef in 1952...
How about an after dinner cordial...

This ad text is classic:

I've cleared up the clouds of a few business days myself in just the same manner. So I knew I was onto something. My favorite part of any issue of Gourmet is the part at the back where there are little ads for restaurants. The page in 1952 looked like this:

The heading exhorts all fans of great dining

Inspired, I thought it would be interesting to pick a couple of the restaurants listed in the April 1952 version of "Let's Eat Out" and see if they were still around. If so, to dine. 1952 style. Thus, the scavenger hunt.

Waverly Root held that there were only three great cuisines. French. Italian. Chinese. As open to debate as this may be, he knew a hell of a lot more than I do. I adopted this paradigm for my hunt. Villa Camillo was noted as a wonder of classical Italian cuisine in 1952. Now it is...

A shoe store. Or, what would look like a shoe store if your Epic could work a darn camera. Trust me, a shoe store. Not a temple of gastronomy. Giovanni in 1952 was hailed as about as close to Italy as one could come. Diners lined the sidewalk waiting for a table. I was in a state of high gustatory anticipation but...

Who needs great Italian dining? We have to have more DELIVERY access. Getting hungry now, I moved to another hemisphere and to the realm of Chinese delicacies. The restaurant HoHo listed two features (beside the rather alluring name) that drew me like a moth to a porch light. Cocktails until FIVE in the morning. Classic Mandarin cuisine. I don't even want to tell you what is there now. Suffice to say, if you need a self-destructing suitcase or a really good looking but nonfunctional electronic camera it is the place for you. They don't even have a bar.

Desperate now, I turned to the French to save me. The Coq Rouge was a noted place where many high livers used to start the evening. Or end the outside-the-hotel portion of the evening. I could almost taste the escargot until...

Of course we need another high rise in midtown. Scurrying to Chateaubriand's former location near Park Avenue...a car dealer. A VERY nice car dealer. But still....

In a state of almost total collapse, close to looking for a hot dog cart, I remembered my final French place from Gourmet, 1952. Way down at the lower left segment of one of the Let's Eat Out pages:Le Veau d'Or. Sixtieth Street. 1952. It wasn't fortuitous that LVD was my ace in the hole. The great blogger Tintin (The Trad, listed at the right margin) had done a piece on this restaurant some months back. I could not believe that it could still be in business. In the same location. As amply demonstrated above, this is New York. Not New Orleans. In the Big Easy, great places like Antoines and Arnauds have been in the same spot for generations. New York of course is another story. Or so I assumed. I ambled wearily down 6oth and to my delight saw

Right where it was supposed to be. The exact spot. I was getting a very, very good vibe.

To digress, my past experience with trying to locate classic 1950s high dining (outside of New Orleans) has not been spotless. I found a Chicago joint one time that had been well known back in the day. A place my Dad used to frequent. Right downtown. The fellow even had a second location. In another country. I found the place. Right where it had always been. I was glad that my Dad was not there. And that I had backup plans for dinner. Indescribably horrid. Visualize PETS. Lots of them. You need to know no more. I ran from the place. Right to a disinfectant vendor.

My meal at LVD could not have been more different or more pleasant. Visualize a small rectangular walk down space. Perfect little bar on the left. Minute coat check on the right. Eclectic art on the walls. The owner sitting in black tie reading at one banquette. A young couple very close together in a corner booth. A French lady on the stereo singing love songs the way only French ladies can sing them. Probably not Carla Bruni but who was I to ask for perfection? One waiter, Marcel, who was a good bit older than me. Who took my coat, made my martini (perfectly) and then took my order. The wine list is nice and very reasonably priced. The Saucisson Chaud appetizer was perfect. As was the special of the day, Boeuf Bourguignon. And the Bordeaux I had with it. I made friends with a nice couple at the next table who dine there a lot. When I ordered Rhum Parfait for dessert they told me not to. Not because it wasn't very good, you see. But because...... I plunged ahead.

The "parfait" was a little silver bud vase with coffee ice cream in it. A small amount. With a hole drilled in the center of it (making the actual volume of ice cream even less....a VERY small amount if any of my medical team is reading this). As I peered at the hole in my dessert, Marcel appeared with a bottle of white rum in one hand and a bottle of dark rum in his left hand. He plunked them down on the table next to my coffee and said I could pour one, or both, into the hole if I so desired.

My readers should know what happened next. Rum went into the parfait. And just a touch in the coffee also. Because balance in all things is very important to the maintenance of harmony. Which I would have considered essential had I not been occupied at the time by peering about the room, CONVINCED that Carla Bruni was in there somewhere. Alas. The parfait turned into something of a silver encased rum shooter. Which was fine too. When Marcel offered me an Armagnac, I could hardly refuse. My new friends watched on from the next table in mild amusement. A party of ten came in. After close inspection from a distance (as best my somewhat cloudy vision would allow at that point) I am pretty sure that Carla Bruni was not with them either.

I really did not want to leave this place. Even without the impact of the drinks. I would have finished dinner and then started all over again. But, no. Eventually the thought of an early flight the next morning impelled me past the perfect little bar and out onto 60th street. Perfectly delighted. I made plans for dinner there on my next trip with my new friends from the next table. I think Carla Bruni was following me as I strolled happily back to my rooms. I glanced at a newspaper stand en route. It could have been my eyes playing tricks on me. Or the effect of the parfait. But I swear the date on the magazine that caught my eye was April, 1952.

The New York Times once said that Le Veau d'Or continues to exist without any apparent reason. Ridiculous. Go. Dine. You'll know the reason.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Manifesto in Defense of Kitchens and Spice Cabinets

There is a young lady I know. Well, I know of her. Primarily from her blog, which I enjoy rather a lot. She writes entertaining pieces about her adventures and experiences. Seems to have a lovely attitude. Takes pleasure in everything. Like riding a bicycle. Caring for her dog. Cleaning her home and making it more pretty. Helping people in need. Things that are, or should be, fundamental sources of satisfaction to all of us.

Recently, this young lady wrote a nice bit about reorganizing her kitchen in general and her spice cabinet in particular. I found it an Epic notion that someone could spend six hours in that sort of endeavor and take so much joy and pride from it. An inspiration actually to a fellow like me, who would have to REALLY push my philosophical limits to squeeze enjoyment from a spice cabinet. Even an organized one. Which mine certainly is not. As you can see.

What I did not realize was how dangerous a topic kitchen reorganization can be. How socially oppressive. Due I suppose to my lack of insight, I missed the deeper and more insidious message in making little jars and pots and pans more ergonomic and efficiently useful. Pity.

More pitiful is that someone took it upon themselves to squander a few minutes of their precious life to post a vitriolic comment to this little story. An objection apparently to ownership of kitchens in general and spices in particular. In light of current social, financial and world calamities. A very personal attack. Unprovoked. Of course anonymous. The lady is a better person than me. I would have deleted the comment.

Which, whether out of rank jealousy or mere misplaced passion, of course completely missed the point. Lots of us actually have a separate room in which to cook our food. Many of us even have spices used in the task, for better or worse. And you know what? No matter how nice the cooking room or how precious the spices we may have, we all have various additional blessings of one sort or another, many of which go unused. I know lots of people that have had their kitchens redone. But I do not know many people with this particular young lady's gift. A gift I admire very much. The ability to make a joyful event out of a mundane chore. Combined with the ability and desire to write a story about it that can transfer some of that joy to another person. And inspire them to create happy pride in a similar accomplishment. As well as a usable bit of storage. There is nothing more aggravating than pulling out the sixth or seventh bottle of sage when marjoram is what is needed. This, I know.

To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie: "if one person does it you have a statement but if two people do it you've got yourself a grass roots movement". Rather than misuse our short supply of life-hours in silly and mean spirited commentary I say we all take action. Rich or poor, organized or disorganized, tall or short, old or young, fully tressed or [gulp] balding. Read Melissa Morris' nice story of reorganizing her kitchen. Ignore the foolish comment to which I refer. Be inspired. Then go DO something. Ride a bike. Care for an animal. Help those in need. For goodness sake, whatever it is take JOY from it. Like she does. Me, I'm heading for the spice cabinet.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My First Time

I have never been blogtagged before, but thanks to Becs [http://becsbohemia.com/] for being my first...and thanks as well for her visits to The Epic and her nice comments. If you have not checked out her blog, you should. It is great fun. Her piece in August about the business man on the Segway was priceless!

When you ask a fellow like me for seven "random and/or weird facts about yourself" there is no telling what will come of it. But, here goes...

1. I am a religious man. But in the words of Gregg Allman, "I'm no angel...".

2. I am a complete Parisophile [is that a real word?], have read many books about it, but have yet to visit the City of Light. I will be very well prepared when I do arrive there, I assure you.

3. When I got my first apartment I was addicted to the Playboy Channel. Now I am addicted to the Food Network. Of course, there was no Food Network back then...

4. I love to work crossword puzzles [early in the week], and the New York Times puzzle in particular..

5. I once participated in my state's High School ski racing championship and chess championship the same month. I won neither.

6. I think that "One for My Baby" by Sinatra is the greatest song ever recorded.

7. Autumn is my favorite season. Even when you live someplace where the trees do not change colors, I can still remember...

AND A BONUS FACTOID....I have been an Ian Fleming nut since the age of ten.

But enough about me. I am now supposed to "tag" seven other bloggers. I am not sure about that. For simplicity's sake, I tag the first seven blogs on the "Epic Blogs" list found at the right margin. Other than Becs. And other than Habitually Chic because she was just tagged by someone else a day or two ago.

Becs, Becs, I will always remember my first time being tagged!!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New York, Part Two: Flaneur Morning

Moving in silent desperation.
Keeping an eye on the Holy Land.
A hypothetical destination.
Say, who is this walkin' man?
--James Taylor

I was born to be a flaneur. An ambler. Particularly in a city like New York. On every trip to a favorite place I try and steal some time to wander about. Look at things. Absorb the vibe. Make the scene.

On my recent trip to New York I spent a very pleasurable morning strolling mainly down Lexington Avenue, from about 75th Street down to 45th Street. My plan was to begin with the book stalls along Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, but threatening weather had them locked up tight. On I went, new micro-camera in hand.

The first thing I happened upon was the World War I monument to the 7th Regiment, 107th Infantry. I recall an article I read recently about the WWI monuments scattered about New York, but this is the grandest and most visible. My first attempt with my new camera was a miserable failure:
What a disservice to a great monument. Although this is a fair representation of what I would have seen after happy hour some time later. With the help of the Central Park 2000 website, this is what the shot SHOULD look like:

This monument always takes my breath away. Read of Ypres or the Somme and it will have the same effect on you. A fine place to launch a contemplative wander.

A good ambling session must include multiple stops for refreshment. The occasional nibble, sip or outright quaff. Flaneurs must have their sustenance. Just like mountain climbers. Well, not just like mountain climbers. Forbid. In any event, after cutting over to Lexington Avenue, I came upon a marvelous diner called Neils at the corner of 70th Street. As it was still the morning, a bit of nourishment was required in the form of coffee (in those GREAT diner china cups with the single stripe of brown around the rim), a scrambled egg, and toast. Great food at low prices. Even for Manhattan. Restored, I regained the sidewalk but not without a fond view of Neil's sign:

If you have a feel for these things as I do, this sign tells you all you need to know.

After popping in and out of some little shops and purchasing the random trinket, I found myself right in front of the actual armory of the 7th Regiment. This is a fabled building. Suitably inspiring...

Now THAT is an armory. As I stood there I wondered about generations of swells that went off to duty from that building. A block or two later, I was delighted to discover a corner completely overrun with..."Punkins"!! According to the sign stating the price. And according to the way my Dad used to say it. Eight bucks each. Decently sized, too. Imagine my surprise when, upon returning to my home town, I discovered that the same size of punkin was just the same price. Except, of course, that when you buy them at home you don't have to discuss the matter of your prized flaneur punkin with airport security when you try and carry it on the airplane. Trust me, they do not understand flaneurs. Or punkins.

The punkin patch made me hungry. Luckily, I happened across another lovely little place called Mon Petit Cafe on the corner of 62d Street. I deposited myself in this tiny, welcoming place for pain au chocolate and cafe au lait. And a dose of the amazing French accent emanating from the pretty young woman bringing these essentials to my table:

I know. Another pretty marginal shot. This is intended to depict the pain au chocolate in the upper left, the cafe au lait lower left, and the menu from Mon Petit Cafe. The young lady did not seem that pleased about a photo opportunity. Ah, the French. I meant to return to Mon Petit Cafe for lunch or dinner but I never made it. Next time.

More shops beckoned. The dedicated flaneur exerts. Puts a hoof under it. Not speedily. Just continuously. Which creates an occasional need for rest. Even without food and drink. Thus, the need to explore furniture. One of the things that amazes me about New York is the furniture that is for sale. How about this little thing in your living room...

I do not make a habit out of entering a store and inflicting myself upon a defenseless piece of furniture that I have no intention (or means) of purchasing. But I had to sit on this. Plus, my feet were tired. The sales fellow did not have a sense of humor about it at all. Wouldn't take my picture. Sort of ran me off, no doubt on his way to a job in airport security. But, man what a swanky sofa! Or this...

Another place of respite. More hospitable sales staff as well.

After a long stroll with many pleasant detours, I was astounded to find myself considering the entrance of

an iconic New York steak joint. I was astounded to find myself there, I tell you. What else could be done? Lunch called to me...

Wandering back to my club some time later, I saw this very pretty flower bed on.......Park Avenue:

There is something about beautiful flowers in the midst of automotive traffic that speaks to me. And makes me thirsty. An about turn took me to a well deserved rest at the bar of my friend Jerry at

Clarke's. Just the thing to take the edge off a few hours of exertion. The thing about being a flaneur is that it constitutes perfect individualism. Go where you want. When you like. Make the scene. Soak up what is about you that you never noticed before. Some amblers look like this:

At least in Munich. Some look more like me...

I blocked out my head to remain incognito. The point is that no matter what we look like or where we are, if we will just go out and wander aimlessly about--anywhere--we will see and hear and notice and experience. And live. That is what Epic life is all about.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Everyone has a memory store of things that make them happy. Some newly found. Some from long ago. The problem is that as time passes it can be difficult to dust off the old pleasures and enjoy them again. I find that if I think about what pleased me back when I was much easier to please and then trot out one of those things the enjoyment produced by the experience is multiplied by a factor of the intervening years. I call this effect a time-driven pleasure accelerator. Like finding a toy in the back of your closet that you had forgotten you owned.

I love picnics. I always have. This love has its genesis in stream side fish fries with my dad. My mom making an al fresco lunch in the yard for me and my friends. Except no one in my part of Northern Wisconsin would have used the term "al fresco" back in the 1960s. There is just something about taking a meal in the open air that enhances the fun. As long as there are not squadrons of mosquitos about. As in the Wisconsin of my youth. It probably stems from prehistoric times when every meal was al fresco. Whether you liked it or not.

Yesterday morning I was in a great hurry leaving home for a business trip by car. I did not think I would have time for lunch so I made a peanut butter sandwich, grabbed a banana and a drink [no, I was driving, not a GOOD drink] and hit the road. I planned to eat in the car. Until I saw a very retro roadside picnic spot. It looked like this:

Seeing this picnic shelter inspired me to stop and eat my lunch outdoors. It was a gorgeous day. Mid 70s. Clear as a bell. I took it all in, breathed deeply of the roadside pre-autumnal air, and set out my victuals:

Despite the humble food [and drink that cannot be defined as a "drink" by any civilized gentleman's lexicon] I had a marvelous time. Later that night, I enjoyed dinner and a martini [FINALLY] at Morton's. But lunch was my best meal all day long.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


The Epic hit 1000 visitors today!!!!!!!

Thank you so very much for your interest and your visits and comments. This has been a very exciting undertaking for me and I will continue to work hard to earn your support.

Onward and upward!!!!!