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.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

End Of The Affair

I wanted this suit for years. Every summer edition of the J. Peterman catalog, there it was. Pale tan seersucker. Much more subtle than the blue seersucker suits of my past. I could not imagine any summer suit more elegant. But, rather expensive. So every year I would plan my courtship. Wait until the end of summer sale with its huge reductions. Every year, it sold out before I could make it mine.

Until this year. I took possession of my dream summer suit two days ago. The fabric is marvelous. The tailoring impeccable. The jacket fit me like bespoke. But. When I put on the trousers, there was....well.....just too many stripes. All over me. I gaped at myself in the mirror. How could this happen? This was my ultimate summer suit!

Then an awful epiphany. There apparently comes a time where one is neither young nor old enough to wear seersucker. The brashness of youth is past. The solid confidence of golden years yet to come. With a sigh I took off my long-pursued summer tans. Placed them reverently back in the container. And shipped them right back to Kentucky.

Sometimes, the chase is the thing. Not the capture. At least I have a very dapper black linen suit which remains to carry the Epic sartorial flag until Labor Day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Epic Travel Accessories

The road, the road. Always the road. How does the Epic traveller cope? I find that a small set of indispensable accessories make the hotel de jour, no matter how humble, a bit more elegant and much more a home. Photos of your loved ones in a fine leather travel frame...

Not my loved ones depicted, and I do NOT backpack, but you get the idea. Having ones ties safe and sound in a travel case is a nice touch...

If you are going to spend decent money on good ties, why not give them their own protective covering? Another thing which lends a touch of style and helps to relieve pre-meeting stress is a good shoe shine. Performed by you. Gives a person pride in ones work, a sense of hardy individualism, the feeling of a leg up on the competition, that sort of thing. For this, a basic shoe shine set is mandatory...

After you return from knocking them dead in that meeting, you need a safe and comfy bed for your watch, money clip, keys, cuff links, and all. A snap-cornered travel valet is just the thing...

And for celebrating your procurement of the Popsicle account, there is NOTHING like starting the evening off with a tot of your OWN booze, cradled from the vicissitudes of traveling by a shearling lined bottle safe...

Of course, it is universally recognized that you do not forfeit happy hour at a good bar by having a starter tot upstairs. That rule pertains in every civilized place. But for the wildly successful day, the crushing victory, the decimation of those who oppose us, there is only one accessory to which to turn. The ultimate. The ne plus ultra. The crowning glory. The top of the line. THE PERSONAL TRAVEL BAR...In my parents' travel day, everyone had one of these. Of course, it would be rather hard to check at the airport these days. Perhaps best saved for the longish driving trip. But OH, how they goggle today when you trot out the leather case, unsnap the clasps and...

Martini, perhaps? I always think mixing the first drink oneself sets the tone for the evening, don't you?

The panel on the left opens up to reveal space for two bottles. Who needs any more?

Any one of these items is guaranteed by me to make your travel day brighter. Some brighter than others. Take them all along....you are Epic and Unstoppable.

Procurement Note: Photo frame from Aspinal; Tie Case from Brooks Brothers; Shoe Shine Kit from Gifts for Professionals; Travel Valet from Brookstone; Travel Bar Set from Kegworks.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Unexpected Road Trip

When I was a boy, my Dad would receive the J. C. Whitney Automotive catalog in the mail. My brother and I would go through it page by page, ogling the shifters, carbs, and other parts with which one could "soup up" a car. If one actually OWNED a car, that is. It will come as no surprise to the reader that my favorite part of the catalog was the portion offering windbreaker jackets with sports car logos embroidered on the left chest. The one I dreamed of was the black jacket bearing the crossed racing flags of the Chevrolet Corvette. I had never seen a Corvette. But, those crossed flags. My brother and I would sit and talk of what cars we would have and the places [other than the middle of the North Woods] where we would drive them. And, wherever we drove, we would wear manufacturer's logo Whitney jackets. If we could ever save up the twelve dollars to buy one. We never did. Years passed by. In the usual fashion.

But, once in a while, what appears to be a travel fiasco morphs into an Epic break. Take last week. A bit late arriving in Orlando. The rental company fouled up my reservation. So there was no nondescript microsedan wating pour moi. Which is a bit of a problem when you have to travel three hours round trip for a meeting out in a rural area. The rental clerk made me promise to return the car in one day, not a moment later. And handed me the keys to this car...

My first Corvette. Actually, the car given to me was a little different than this 2009 model. My car was a convertible. With 1000 miles on it. And the color is "Velocity Yellow". Fancy that. My road trip the next day had turned into a Road Trip.

As I have admitted, my previous experience with Corvettes was limited. That means I had none. So to say that I was delighted to have the chance to spend a few hours on the road in this iconic American sports car was an understatement. The fun began immediately. When I left the restaurant after dinner and discovered that they had parked my car right up front. Right next to the cars the sports stars and other celebrities were driving. Had there been any in town. The young man handling the valet desk that night said "That is one great car". Taking a line from James Bond referring to a Thunderbird in the book "The Spy Who Loved Me", I replied drolly "It's a rental".

The next morning, I found myself roaring down the Interstate until it connected with State Highway 27 bearing south-southeast past Cypress Gardens toward Miami. The Old Route. Perfect for trying out a car of this sort. I say "roaring" because the engine in the Corvette fairly begs to be turned loose and then snarls at you when you do not accede to its demands. I found the 'Vette (all of us Corvette men say "Vette", it's what we do) more quiet than I had expected (especially for a convertible) but it was not quiet. It rode more smoothly than I had expected, but it was not a smooth ride. All as it should be. The seats were very comfortable. The trunk just enough for a short business trip. Or a long non-business trip with that one small leather case you save for such occasions.

The weather was gloriously sunny and hot. I found myself driving through a large orange grove. The scent of the fruit trees was lovely. Even at speed. Because, you see, when John Mellencamp's version of "I Fight Authority" came on the stereo there was only one thing to do. As they say where I live, it was time to "let 'er eat". So I did. Now, I have no basis for comparison among sports cars, but this car was MORE than fast enough for me. It felt like it was flying. At very low altitude. The stereo was superb. They put the bass speakers down in the leg wells, and when one cranks the volume WAY up (as I did), the slight bit of slack in a well tailored pair of trousers down by your calves moves from the bass vibration. Not a little movement. A LOT of movement. In short, the stereo ROCKS.

The only thing I did not care for about this car is, I suppose, typical of the fifty year old driver. Getting in and out of it is a drag. I know, play the violin a little louder please. You have to sort of make a controlled fall into the driver's seat. This takes considerable effort BEFORE cocktail hour and dinner, but afterwards it is a personal dignity challenge of high order. Trust me. When exiting the 'Vette (all of us Corvette men....oh I mentioned that) you find, happy hour or no, that you are a living demonstrative of the principles of inertia. When you get yourself at rest in a Corvette driver seat, you tend to remain at rest. Overcoming inertia to get yourself up and out of the car to a (hopefully) standing position, while wearing a suit, requires a considerable amount of force. Supplied, of course, by only your left arm. One finds oneself making (in the words of Bill Cosby) "your father's noise" when he would get up from his arm chair for dinner. Consequently, the careful, fiftyish 'Vette driver must watch carefully once parked to make sure there is NOBODY who can see, or hear, you trying to get out of it. Or all is lost.

Actually, I loved my time with this car. In fact, when I left my appointment, I checked the map and saw that I was only 168 miles from Miami. I REALLY wanted to drive the rest of the way down that highway. Take it to the Atlantic. Park it there. Gaze out. See what happened next. But, no. Duty called me back to Orlando and then to Chicago. The end of one Epic Road Trip. The beginning of another...

I did not rush out and buy a Corvette windbreaker upon my return. But now, at least, I am qualified to wear it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Saloon Friday Night

Frank Sinatra said that the purpose of a lounge singer is to sell drinks. The sadder you make 'em, the more they drink. The raison d'etre.

Tonight, I am just too far away from home to get home. Feeling the strain ACUTELY. Only Beverly Hills, Chicago or New York can make a Friday night away painless. Or mildly so.

So, I go to my favorite place in this town. Not B.H., Chicago or NYC. And they have a young lady singing in the lounge. Playing the piano. No doubt a student at the local (acclaimed) music school. I was all right until she leveled a murderer's row of tunes, including

Moon River
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
You Were Always On My Mind
Fire And Rain
You Don't Know Me
Goin To Carolina (In My Mind)
I Want To Go Home

She drove me to the (singerless) bar of the Hilton. Frank would have been proud.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quite A Year

A man sits at a cafe table enjoying a leisurely repast. Entering his fifties, he revels in the knowledge that a new venture has been more stimulating than he could have imagined. He gazes about and winks at a lady writing in a notebook at a nearby table. She gives him a look that has more than a hint of a scoff to it. Turning to his lunch guest, a well dressed Tradly man, he raises his glass to toast the success of the venture. As he savors his Calvados, the man sees a charming young woman dressed in Petunia Pink Lily Pulitzer talking excitedly with her extremely bright and well-mannered daughter at another table while just beyond them an artist and baker takes a break from his exhausting day to share a glass of Bordeaux with a large group of friends while they plot creative bedlam.

A barely warm breeze drifts across the table dappled with shade as the man considers a bite of dessert. He can hear the happy tones of a librarian dressed in cashmere as she talks to another young woman, heading for graduate school, who is on holiday from her demanding humanitarian work in Africa. Profiteroles arrive accompanied by strong black coffee. A gentleman in a heavy tweed jacket strolls into the cafe and takes an open spot at the bar, where he is joined in conversation of the merits of Brooks Brothers by a dapper man with an easy and elegant air about him. At the other end of the bar, a friendly debate occurs between a man from Nashville transplanted to New York and a former bachelor from Hawaii about which Miles Davis album was the most significant. Observing all these marvelous people, the fifty-ish man feels humbled and very fortunate to be in their company. Anticipating a lingering and hefty afternoon, he orders a another Calvados and ponders where he might have dinner. His Tradly companion suggests one of a seemingly endless catalog of perfect restaurants, then rises and strolls off in the company of a beautiful and strikingly tall woman. The man sips his brandy and smiles...

One year ago I took a table in this cyber-cafe to see what, if anything, I would find here. What I found was an amazing current of creativity flowing from other writers in the blogosphere. This current refreshes, inspires and stimulates me artistically every day. I found a diversion from, and a stimulant to, my workday life. And, if I may be so bold, I found many wonderful new friends. Thanks for stopping by day by day. Your visits and comments mean a tremendous amount to me.

I cannot wait to see what is on the menu for the next twelve months. I hope that every one of you comes along for the ride...

P.S. I apologize to all of my blogfriends that I could not work into the narrative. I had to stop and get this posted on time! ML

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Epic Ads: The Dashing Couple

I love this ad. And everything about the lady. Is she whispering a secret formula? The combination to a safe? A little joke? Her room number? That she will have her driver beat him senseless if he touches her arm with the cigar ash? What do you think?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Epic Bookshelf: Daylight Noir

We go west,” she said, “through the Beverly Hills and then father on.”
I let the clutch in and drifted around the corner to go south to Sunset.
Dolores got one of her long brown cigarettes out.
“Did you bring a gun?” she asked.

I have always had a thing for Los Angeles. Not modern L.A. Old school, Raymond Chandler era L.A. Especially Beverly Hills. Which I like a LOT, even now. Particularly when I am dining at La Dolce Vita or drinking in the lobby bar of the almost inordinately swanky Beverly Hilton. Or doing both at Morton's on Melrose, while it lived.

I have never placed a volume on the Epic Bookshelf without having read it, but I am doing so now. Photographer Catherine Corman has put together what appears to be a marvelous selection of black and white photos of L.A. based upon Chandler's books. The Paris Review currently has an Epic piece by Jonathan Lethem integrating Corman's photos with Chandler's text. A sample from Lethem's article is found above. Ms. Corman's web site for the book has a wide selection of samples of what we will find when it is released on October 31. I plan on having my own copy of Daylight Noir on that very day. You will find me reading it at the Beverly Hilton bar. Bring a gun.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Epic Dentistry

This is one of the most hilarious bits from one of the most hilarious film series of all time. My Dad did not like movies much and he REALLY did not like comedians. But he would sit and watch Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther movies and laugh until he cried.

My contacts with dentistry caused me to cry for years for other reasons. No need to go into the horrific details here. Suffice to say, a visit to my latest dentist yesterday was a stout test for even a devoted Epic. And they don't even have a little tank of laughing gas to share like "Dr. Schultz" in the video clip. Not even a Martini. Not even a shot of Cuervo. Nada.

I mention all this only to say that if you keep yourself focused on the correct things, you can dredge up Epic gifts in the most unlikely places. Like the dentist chair. The first thing I realized is that I really LIKE this dentist. Dr. J exudes such an aura of competence and concern that the hapless patient cannot help but feel at ease. Laughing gas or no. Also, my dentist seems absolutely thrilled when she finishes working on your tooth and you tell her it feels great. I mean, she just BEAMS. Almost like she would do this every day for (gasp) nothing. Frankly, I cannot imagine working as a dentist all day, peering into the mouths of people like me. This lady is a very good example to me in my professional dealings with others. If only she had a bar in the office...

The second gift I found while in the chair was a little sign I saw when I managed to swivel my skull at an oblique angle for some purpose. No, I was not flinching or retching. In any event, the little chrome bar sat on a side table and read...

"What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail"?

I put the quote in a sort of peach tone because all of these dentist's offices today are adopting a "Tooth Spa" ambiance with pale pastel colors and the sort of music you would expect to hear in a surf-side massage tent in Tahiti. Without the nice lady cranking a tooth out of your jaw, of course. After reading this little sign, I was struck by its simple and powerful message. If the effort and target of the attempt are the same, then the only thing holding us back is fear of failing. So pick up the bat. Swing it. Hit or miss. Go there. Write it. Sing. Paint. Blog. Carve. Do the best darn expense ledger ever written. Whatever YOU love to do. Forget the failure part. Swing the bat.

Later, I learned that my new dentist was a dental file clerk in her first job. Then put herself through school to be a dental hygienist. She was so into the work, had such aptitude, and did such a fine job that the dentist she worked for paid for her to go to dental school. And look at her now. Absolutely in love with her profession. And passing that excitement along to all of us that come her way. Good for the older dentist that sent her on her path. And so very good for her.

"What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?". What would you?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Drum Room Nocturne

Late night, Kansas City. Last week, I was strolling through the Drum Room bar at the President Hotel one evening en route to dinner. My progress was arrested by fine music being produced by a jazz trio set up in a corner of the room. I knew as soon as I saw them that they were my sort of combo. Experienced players with some years of service. In tuxedos. With a single, fairly worn, band stand bearing the leader's name. Skip Hawkins. Playing with a keyboardist and a base. Mr. Hawkins played flute, sax AND clarinet. Very well.

Sometimes, great music can alter your entire plan. Especially when it is not expected. I had seen nothing to indicate that there would be live music in the Drum Room that night. I just sort of walked out in front of it, as it were. But the sound was so good, it caused me to do something I rarely do. I ate dinner at the bar and sat there the rest of the evening. Typical for a bar show, there was at times a pretty full house and at times nobody there but me. I think the combo played five sets and I was the audience for two of them. During one of those two sets, I sipped my martini and wondered...who is more of a romantic, the musicians playing so well to an empty room, or the one guy at the bar listening all night?

I never did reach a conclusion. The evening was summed up by another patron of the bar who said to his date at one point "This is great music. These guys don't just PLAY music, they MAKE music." A rather valid distinction it seemed to me. Of people plying a craft. In a room at times occupied only by an itinerant storyteller. As the night grew longer and more indigo. Illuminated by the Drum Room sign just above the corner window.

Mr. Hawkins playing another room in 2002. From IATUL.org.