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, February 28, 2009

Of Pens and Eagles: The Parker Jotter

My cul de sac is a masculinity nightmare. Across the street from me lives a guy that can literally do anything. Build anything. Always has the correct tools. You know the guy. Next door to him is a well to do physician of the old school. A fine fellow also. Next to him an old town man with family money from timber baron days. Huge house, brand new. Then my next door neighbor. A Navy fighter pilot and [really] all around great guy. Then me. Itinerant storyteller. Can't fix anything. Can't shoot down anything. Trust me, whenever I walk out my front door it is a TOTAL manhood crisis.

But I have one thing going for me. I have some nice pens. Thanks to the blogger Heavy Tweed Jacket, listed at the right margin, I learned some time ago about the Parker Jotter. A really magnificent retractable ball point. Inexpensive. Classic design. Well made and dependable. Still. It was noted as being the first pen pilots could use in the air. Check out HTJ's piece on the pen and learn the history of this fine writing instrument.

Immediately upon learning of the Jotter via HTJ, I went out in search of them and bought a few. Six to be exact. Three for me. Three for my son the Future Rock Star. He sometimes likes to have things that I have you see. For now. I knew the pens would be a big hit. The FRS has an artist's eye. And a very good sense of classic design. He loved the Jotters immediately. Keeps them in a special place on his desk. So he and I have a pen bond. I have that going for me anyhow. On my cul de sac.

This pen is a marvel. Perfect for these odd economic times. The pleasure you get when you press the button and hear the hefty click that extends the tip puts you in the mood to don a monogrammed starched white shirt. Then head off for a Martini lunch. Timeless. And a tremendous value for the Jotter's low price. The ink flows well from the tip which rotates a little every time you push the button to help prevent blobbing. Goodness knows we need significantly less blobbing. For a couple of bucks, Parker sells a gel refill for the Jotter which makes the writing incredibly smooth. Just the thing for your latest draft of the Great American Novel. Or for doodling during a business meeting. Plus, the Jotter comes in a variety of cool colors. Trust me when I say that this is an Epic implement.

A few months ago, our wonderful neighbor the pilot gave us tickets to a show put on by the Navy Blue Angels flight team. An amazing show all the way around. I took my son and one of his pals. One of the other demonstrations in the show was an Air Force F-15 Eagle. Flying solo. Going this way and that. With almost NO turn radius. Doing an aerial ballet. Of the deadly sort.

A bit later in the afternoon, we spied the Air Force pilot walking alone. Solitary and unrecognized at a Navy show. My son rushed over with a scrap of paper for him to sign and introduced himself. Mildly amused, the young man turned and took the paper...

"Son, you know I'm not in the Blue Angels?"

Which prompted the FRS to reply...

"Yes sir. You're an Eagle driver! And....isn't that a Parker Jotter in your sleeve pocket?"

Amused, the pilot grinned, ruffled the hair of the FRS and signed his paper.

"Yes it is. We all use em. Son, you know a lot about aircraft AND about great pens. Is your daddy an aviator?"

"No sir. But he has pretty good style."

The Eagle driver threw back his head and laughed.

"Well, give him my best, will you?"

"Yes, sir."

The FRS ran back over to me and gave me a big hug.

Sometimes a small gift of perfect, classic design yields very large rewards. To the recipient. And to the giver. At least that is what I thought later that day. When I returned home. King of my cul de sac.

F-15 Eagle.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


He had no formal education. A big brother that got all the property. Leaving him to dream of military glory...as a British officer. That career path didn't turn out so well.

His initial military career contained at least one large failure and at least one outright miracle. But, oh how he could ride a horse. And how ambitious he was. He swore and fought, loved and lost. Flirted. Courted. Won the hand of a superior woman. Loved her children as his own. In a time when blood REALLY mattered.

Then--a chance for tremendous glory. Or failure and disgrace. No middle ground. Fought and lost and slipped away. Fought again. A surprise on Christmas Day. Held his army by personality and communal experience. When there was no money for food or uniforms. Alone in his tent, by candlelight, he sat and wrote of loneliness, and despair.

He survived the scourge of politicians and intrigue. Enjoyed the blessing of a few great comrades in arms. Henry. Nathaniel. The Baron. The Marquis. Light Horse. Even Benedict. For a time. He finished the race. Won the day. "The world turned upside down".

Afterward, the temptation of ultimate power. A monarchy declined. Stood up for his men and his infant nation. Went to Fraunces' and prevented revolt with one timeless remark. Took the hits. Suffered the loss of privacy. Even ridicule. Ridicule! After all he had given. Of his manners. His deliberate speaking style. And the teeth. Always the damn teeth. Survived more intrigue and political slime.

Finished the job. Walked away. Into our collective memory. Where he remains. Unique. Indispensable.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Oh so long for this night I prayed
That a star would guide you my way
To share with me this special day
Where a ribbon's in the sky for our love
--Stevie Wonder

There have been several phases of my Valentine's Day experience. The first was what I call the "little candy heart with 'kiss me' on it" phase. From about age 6 through 12. When I met and won my first girlfriend. Nell. Gave her a ring from the dime store with a little pink stone in it. She grinned so big I thought she would pop. Those forty years ago.

Then the "my stomach hurts when I see her" phase. From about 13 through, oh, 21. Then the "in a bar in the Blue Ridge Mountains learning about how not to drink vodka while the Valentine's dance is going on" phase. Definately 21 through 23.

Then the halcyon days. Champagne and roses. Barry White and The Manhattans on the stereo. And lots of Valentines. Of the grown up sort. My favorite Valentine song ever is Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky". I send it out today for my first girfriend N, my last girlfriend D, and for all of your Valentines...

This is not a coincidence
And far more than a lucky chance
But what is that was always meant
Is our ribbon in the sky for our love

We cant lose with God on our side
We'll find strength in each tear we cry
From now on it will be you and I
And our ribbon in the sky
Ribbon in the sky
A ribbon in the sky for our love...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Everyday Drinking: The Diet Plan

I previously wrote to introduce the fantastic anthology "Everyday Drinking", comprised of Kingsley Amis' articles on imbibery. Since so many people have a dieting resolution in the early months of this or any year, I will share Amis' sage advice on the subject:

The first, indeed the only, requirement of a diet is that it should lose you weight without reducing your alcoholic intake by the smallest degree.

Now this IS sage advice. He posits that his plan will contain none of the charts, tables, or menus of the typical diet book that inevitably ends with a statement that "of course" there is to be no alcohol. To the point...

Of COURSE? No ALCOHOL? What kind of people do they think we are?

Not trial lawyers, that's for sure. To paraphrase F. Lee Bailey, there may be a great trial lawyer somewhere that doesn't drink, but I never met her. The cocktail is the fuel of courtroom inspiration. Or the balm for it. But I digress...

Amis constructed his diet, many years ago, around the notion that you must omit bread, potatoes and sugar from your intake. Take that, Dr. Atkins. He then transcends the merely mortal dietologist by excluding vegetables and fruit as well. But he reminds us that for these trifling sacrifices we retain DRINK. He sustains life by the allowance of fish in any quantity at any time. Kippers and a martini, anyone?

Dining out is always a tough test for a gourmand on the culinary wagon. I know. Particularly when dining in business company. How does one stick to a diet under the possibly scornful and income diverting gazes of corporate associates? Amis suggests telling your companions that

...your new found aversion to vegetables, fruit, thick sauces and the rest springs from psychiatric advice or a religious conversion, either of which you prefer not to go into now.

Also when dining out, it is recommended that you only attend restaurants where they serve food you hate. If this is not possible, then order a dish you hate. Like Chicken Kiev. Take a few bites to strangle your appetite. Then instruct that it be left before you as your pals down Crepes Suzette, huge steaks and the rest. You should be sufficiently proof to the temptation by then. Another master-stroke. All these years I have been wasting my time by ordering what I actually LIKED and then trying to eat a tiny bit of it. I should have seen that the true path to physical enlightenment was to order things I DETEST.

Ultimately, Amis concludes that

Alcohol science is full of crap. It will tell you, for instance, that drink does not really warm you up, it only makes you feel warm--oh, I see; and it will go on about alcohol being not a stimulant but a depressant, which turns out to mean that it depresses qualities like shyness and self-criticism, and so makes you behave as if you had been stimulated--thanks.

In the end, the Amis Diet Plan is another very amusing romp through one very literate drinking person's day. He shreds the world of diet writing while providing urbane and useful advice to the imbiber who is tired of "zipping up his trousers at 45 degrees instead of vertically". That this wonderful book should accomplish both tasks at once is the heart of its appeal. And that of Kingsley Amis.