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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Hank And Me On New Year's Eve

To be honest, I don't think about it all that much any more. I mean, it has been fifty-eight years. A lot of other things have happened to me in that time. I've had a successful business. A great family. Decent health. I have no complaints.

Every so often though, my mind drifts back to New Year's Eve, 1953. The coldest, darkest night I ever saw. I got tangled up in it because my dad asked me if I wanted to earn some extra cash. A sound idea. I was eighteen years old, home from my first semester at Auburn. A college man can always use more money in his pocket. So I said yes. I didn't really have much choice since Dad was pals with him. From way back. And all I really had to do was drive him up to Charleston, West Virginia for a New Year's Eve show. Then maybe on to Canton, Ohio for another show the evening of New Year's Day. Simple enough. Except the weather had other plans for us.

I knew who he was, of course. Everyone knew his songs. That he was a hell raiser. That his career was in the shade at the time. But he still had that voice. That made all the difference.

It was cold and cloudy all afternoon as we got ready to leave. Oddly dry for a hard winter day in the deep south. We met and shook hands. He had a whimsical, crooked smile. You immediately liked him. I remember he was a lot quieter than I expected. And a lot thinner. We got in that powder blue Cadillac convertible and headed north. Any other day, I would have killed to drive that car. That night all I could think of was how cold it was going to be under the drop top. I drove in a respectable way until we got out of Montgomery, then he chuckled and told me to get on my right foot and "let her eat". So I did.

It was snowing as we got to Birmingham and spent the night. One of those rare southern snow storms that just fall on you when you least expect it. On the way up there, "Jambalaya" came on the radio and he asked how I liked it. I told him it didn't make any sense. He just laughed and said that was because I didn't know any French. We had dinner that night in a diner and he gave the waiter a $50 tip. He said "that's the best tip you'll ever get!" Nothing much else happened that night. Compared to the rest of the trip, anyhow.

New Year's Eve it was still awful weather but we managed to get to Knoxville. He cancelled the show for that night in Charleston because we were making such slow progress but he actually got on an airplane in Knoxville headed toward Ohio that came back to the airport because of the weather. A little after six in the evening we checked into the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Knoxville and I ordered steaks for us at the restaurant. It was the nicest hotel I had ever seen. The steak was great. He didn't eat much.

Later, he wasn't doing too well. He had been complaining of back pain and who knows what all the whole trip and I thought we should get out of there and drive all night if we had to to get up into West Virginia then over to Ohio for the New Year's Day show. We checked out at 10:30 p.m. and I had to get a couple of the bellmen to help me get him into the back seat of the Cadillac. He seemed really ill by then, but the doctor I called to the hotel said he could go on to the show. The doctor gave him some sort of shot. We hit the road. What did I know? I was just a kid. A car driver. I was no paramedic. It's hard for people to understand now. No cell phones. No OnStar system in the car.

Everybody knows, or thinks they know, the rest of it. I've really tried to forget it. I got a traffic ticket someplace on the way to West Virginia and the weather remained dangerous for driving. He didn't talk much, just lying under the blanket in the back seat. The fact that he said little was of no concern to me since he was known for being quiet when he was off stage. We stopped for gas once or twice and he looked to me like he was resting. He had a real peaceful look on his face. It was eerie, as if we were in a powder blue, leather wrapped space capsule flying through the pitch dark. Snowflakes dashing against the windshield, the headlights plowing ahead into the night.

Finally, he wouldn't respond to anything I said. We were somewhere in the middle of no place in West Virginia and I pulled into a gas station. His arm slipped out from under the blanket and I touched it. I'll never forget how cold he felt. So I found out where the hospital was and I took him there. That was it.

I'm seventy-six now. Like I said before, I don't think about it much. But sometimes, like tonight, when the wind blows cold from the north, the great-grand kids are asleep, and the night is brutally dark, it happens. Brown whiskey finds itself in a crystal rocks glass. The fireplace burns with that low crackle that fights off the cold and the dark places. I put "I'm So Lonesome" on the stereo. And I just look out the back porch window. And I think that, for all his amazing gifts, all his money, all his fame, I am the lucky one. He taught me that. So I raise my glass against the reflected firelight in the windowpane. Here's to you Hank. Happy New Year, buddy.

Background Note: George Carr was an 18 year old college man who drove Hank Williams on the night he died in the back seat of the blue Cadillac shown above. I pieced this together from various stories on line. The first time I read about Mr. Carr's experience, I realized how good my "bad" days really were. I share his story and my realization as Epic New Year gifts for all of you.

Monday, December 27, 2010

An Epic Bond New Year's Eve

My Dad's best friend, A.J.I., was a saloon manager. A real professional partier. He never went out on New Year's Eve. Once I got old enough to care, I asked him why he seemingly ignored what seemed to be a natural night of revelry for him.

Simple kid. New Year's Eve is amateur night, man. Every joker who doesn't drink all year goes out, gets bombed, and then drives his car around. Not my kind of scene.

Sage advice. Just the sort of thing Dean Martin might have said. Every year since I heard Mr. AJI's rule I have adhered to it. This year, however, Holman and Finch Public House and Restaurant Eugene, two of my favorite places in Atlanta, Georgia, have teamed up to host the ultimate James Bond party. Check out the Holman and Finch website for the particulars of what promises to be a truly Epic event.

I will probably not travel to Atlanta for the party. Tedious cost issues may well prevail. But that doesn't mean we can't all enjoy a James Bond New Year's Eve. Put on a DVD of Dr. No or Goldfinger, put on the white dinner jacket, and treat yourself and your favorite Bond or Bond Girl to the best cocktail anywhere...the Vesper:

3 parts gin [Gordon's from the Bond canon]
1 part vodka [brand not specified by JB in the canon; in the movies, Smirnoff usually]
1/2 measure Kina Lillet [a French aperitif, not a vermouth]

Shake vigorously until very cold and serve up. Garnish with a long, thin slice of lemon peel.

Do not even try to make a Vesper without Kina Lillet. Amazingly, I can get it from the only decent liquor store in my town, so you should be able to find some too. No matter where you live. Trust me. But be warned. This is no drink for amateur night. You have to be in training to drink Vespers. With that in mind, have one anyhow. The perfect Bond welcome for 2011! Cheers!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Wish For All

That the friends are close.
The foes few and far away.
Peace surrounding us.

And that the chaos
Comes with a bit of warning
And our own choosing.

It has been a year in these parts that severely tested Epic philosophy and which I am looking forward to closing out on New Year's Eve. With that in mind, I scrawled these lines on a bar napkin last night and I send them out to you with my fervent best wishes for Christmas and for the whole of 2011 as well.


Inspirational and Attribution Note: I never attempted Haiku until I read hers. She knows who she is. I got the photo somewhere on line and will take it down if someone tells me to. ML

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fuzzy Photos From Great Bars

The Drum Room, President Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri. November 2010.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Magic Scarf

I had been waiting all year for the moment. When I would stroll down 60th Street in New York City, on a day so clear and cold the air crackled, dressed in my big-city topcoat of wool and cashmere. Cross Park Avenue. Then turn left into the nondescript doorway. Down the stairs. Into my favorite place. Populated by all the familiar, friendly faces.

Last week as I reached for the brass handle, the door opened toward me and a lovely young woman stepped out into the Manhattan air. She stopped just a moment to peer at my outfit, then, going on her way, she gave me a big grin.

"I LIKE your scarf"!

Nothing like a bright compliment to jump-start lunch. I was already jolly and warm well before the bottle of Bordeaux touched down on the cloth covering my table.

Looking back, the event should not have surprised me. Because, you see, I was wearing my Magic Scarf. I always meet nice people wearing it. I always have fine experiences with it wrapped snugly about the pale Norwegian/Irish skin of my neck. The magic of the garment brings those experiences and people to me.

Consider the time I was on campus at my Alma Mater. It was a brisk autumnal day, not requiring a coat but a day when a scarf was just the thing. Tossed loosely around the neck and shoulder. A nice young couple stopped me and asked if they could bother me for any tips on restaurants in Paris as they were going there on their honeymoon. Amused, I explained that I had never been to Paris and could not help them as a result. They apologized for the imposition on my stroll, but said that they assumed I was familiar with Paris because of the cool way I wore my scarf. Magic.

The first time I visited Kansas City, it was during a brutal Holiday blizzard. When I climbed out of my rental car at the front door of the President Hotel, the doorman looked at my scarf and cheerfully said "Yes! A Chiefs fan!". Later that evening, he got me a table in the apparently booked up hotel restaurant.

My favorite magic scarf experience also took place in Manhattan. I was ambling toward my club after a taste of whisky with a pal at Sir Harry's bar in the Waldorf-Astoria. A dazzlingly cold late afternoon. A group of school children was walking in front of me. Detained at a crosswalk stop light, one small boy of about ten turned and saw my scarf.

"Sir? Is that a Hogwarts house scarf"?

His companions giggled softly at what they considered a silly question to pose to an adult. Immediately recognizing a fellow literary romantic, I peered down at the young Harry Potter fan and knowingly replied...

"Yes it is." Then, leaning forward a bit for added emphasis, I continued in a stronger tone...

"Wingardium Leviosa".

The boy goggled and his pals quit laughing to assume the same astounded look at hearing an adult businessman type utter the famous levitation spell. The light changed and the group of newly energized boys took off, leaving me chuckling all the way to my room. I still feel delighted every time I recall the event.

There is no question that a certain few gifts bear special charming powers. Most people assume that this magical influence stems from the gift's provenance and price. I heartily agree, but not in the way one might imagine. My magic scarf was a gift from my dad. He bought it at a flea market for a couple of dollars on a day when he was not particularly flush with cash. Because he was thinking of me away at school in a place where winter was setting in. It is made from one-hundred percent virgin polyester fiber. But it carries the provenance of a father's love. And his desire, years ago, to help make sure his boy was warm. That is the essence of the magic it contains. A power that never fails.

During this great season of gift giving, it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves that we too can give magical gifts. The trick is to take the time to use our hearts in the selection process rather than other, more earth-bound, influences. The investment of love in the giving of a gift, no matter how humble it may be, is what imbues it with magic. This, then, is my Holiday wish for you. That you give, and receive, all the magic of this wonderful time of year. And that the magical things you receive continue to charm and enchant you. As my inexpensive, plastic fiber, flea market scarf has repeatedly charmed and enchanted me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Epic Listening: More Great Christmas Music

Last year, I wrote about some of my favorite Christmas albums. I always refer to them as "Christmas" albums but many of the tunes are secular in nature. In any event, I am pleased to dip into the Epic stereo cabinet to submit a few more of my favorite seasonal selections for your consideration:

1. Louis Armstrong, The Christmas Collection.

You know, we just do not hear enough of Louis Armstrong any longer. This is a perfect Holiday album. Christmas in New Orleans has a particular poignancy in this post-Katrina era. Winter Wonderland and Cool Yule are also superb. Add in guest appearances by Mel Torme ["The Christmas Song/Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire"], Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington and the incomparable Lena Horne, and you have one memorable listening experience. Here is a recipe for Holiday success...one bottle of your favorite red wine, your favorite sofa, your favorite companion next to you on the favorite sofa, and this album. You can leave a little something in my stocking to thank me.

2. The Beach Boys, Christmas Album.

Because it has a cool cover. Because "Merry Christmas Baby", "Little Saint Nick" and their rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" are classic. Because perfect harmony is always lovely. And because at the beach it is Christmas too. This is a great album for easing back the Holiday stress level, California style.

3. Emmylou Harris, Light of the Stable.

During the rest of the year, there are songs from the Holiday season that can carry you through the dark places. Harris' version of the bluegrass classic "Christmas Time's A Comin' " is one of those songs. The rest of this album is perfect. A marvelous effort from one of the best vocalists ever.

3. John Denver, Rocky Mountain Christmas.

Another one of those songs that carry me through the year is "Aspenglow" from this album. It is easy to forget how great Denver's voice was now that we don't hear it on the radio so often. "Christmas For Cowboys" is another unique and lonesomely lovely song. Denver's rendition of "Jingle Bells" is also rollicking and fun. You can see his big happy grin in your mind when you listen to it. Skip the regrettable "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas" and you have a portal to a little town deep in the sparkling snow of the Rocky Mountains. That you can use all the year around.

4. Brian McKnight, I'll Be Home For Christmas.

In case you are not already familiar with Brian McKnight, he is perhaps the best young R & B voice out there. His album "Superhero" is one of my very favorite of this genre. He has a fine voice and his arrangements are suave. Check out his version of "Silver Bells" [can you tell that it is one of my favorites?] as well as the title track, an impressive cover of "Adeste Fideles" and "Bless This House" sung stunningly with the vocal group Take 6. Slide back up the page to my comments about being on the sofa with that special person and a bottle of wine. Make this album one of your musical choices for the event and you will still be there when Santa arrives.

5. Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas II You.

I tried not to like her. I really did. For years, I resisted her. Then, this year, I just gave in. I like Mariah's songs. There. I said it. Sanction me if you will. I love her rendition of "Christmas Time Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Her original "Oh Santa!" is great fun as well. Yes, some of it is overproduced, but Mariah Carey has a pretty amazing vocal range and when she just sings a quiet song she sounds, well...., ok...., cuddly. There. I said that too. The album winds up strong with "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and a "pre and post midnight" version of "Auld Lang Syne" which is traditional [and cuddly] in the pre-midnight portion then jumps to a pounding club beat for the post-midnight portion. This is my favorite 2010 purchase for Christmas music [I already had the other albums in this post]. Why? Because sometimes you need to put down the Bordeaux and fill up a crystal glass with fizzy pink Champagne. Live it up. It's Christmas!!

Monday, November 29, 2010


He called it "gifting". As in "I'm gifting today". Once in awhile, when the mood struck, he would call in a group of vendors of the best things. Gold lighters. Silk ties. Custom shirts. And he would let all his pallys just pick things for themselves, on his tab.

He didn't have to do it for them to be there. He was Sinatra. They would have been there anyway. He did it out of basic generosity and a sense of fun. To make them feel special.

I love spontaneous "gifting". The other day, I was in the local Brooks Brothers store looking for a shirt. I stumbled upon this beautiful small cut glass bottle of BB cologne for women that comes with a little scented travel candle. Twenty bucks. In a very nice box too. I bought it and gave it to the Irish Redhead that night as a little surprise. She loved it. Even if she had not liked the scent at all, the fact that I was thinking of her was the real gift.

It really is the thought that counts. Pick someone. Do a little gifting. It will make their day that you took the time to think of them. It won't matter what the gift might be. Go ahead. Be your own Chariman of the Board.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Epic Lexicon: Mithridate

Mithridate, mith-ri-deyt, noun;

A confection believed to contain an antidote to every poison.

The emotional poisons anyhow. Kingsley Amis was a firm believer in this notion. Sinatra was too. That's good enough company for me.

Attribution Note: Definition from dictionary.com; Photo taken at China Grill, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Whoever You Were

Whoever you were, last night. At a hopping jazz joint. In the wee small hours.

My age. In your tailored jeans and aubergine long sweater. Your pretty hair a "don't give a damn" length. Drinking martinis with a well turned out man. Laughing and talking.

There was a fellow sitting alone by the band. Nicely dressed. Generally happy. But one day too long and five hundred miles too far away from home. A bit sad despite the verve of the room.

On your way toward the door, you tossed your arms around the fellow sitting alone. A hug and a big smile. The slightest brush of your lips over his cheek. Then you were out the revolving door and into the cold night. Taking all of the fellow's alterity with you.

Thank-you. Whoever you were, last night.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


A crusty Marine Corps Sergeant Major found himself at a gala event hosted by a local liberal arts college. There were many lovely young ladies present, one of whom approached the SM...

Excuse me, Sergeant Major, but you seem to be a very serious man, is something bothering you?

Negative, ma'am, just serious by nature.

The young lady looked at his medals and decorations and said...

It seems like you have seen a lot of action.

Yes, ma'am, a lot of action.

The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said...

You know, you should lighten up. Relax and enjoy yourself.

Without reply, the SM just stared at her in his serious manner.

Finally, the young lady said...

You know, I hope you don't take this he wrong way, but when is the last time you had sex?

1955, ma'am.

Well, there you are. No wonder you are so serious. You really need to chill out! I mean, no sex since 1955!

She took his hand and led him to a private room where she proceeded to "chill out" with him several times. Afterward, panting for breath, she leaned against his chest and said...

Wow, you sure didn't forget much since 1955!

The Sergeant Major said in his serious voice after glancing at his watch...

I hope not, it's only 2130 now...

Attribution Note: Thanks to my pally Big D for sharing this joke. I really needed a laugh today and this arrived out of the blue. I hope it makes you laugh as heartily as I did upon reading it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Fifty years later, they still came back. Old men now. To look at the places they could not have imagined in their worst nightmares. To think of friends. To remember. If you find a copy of Gene Smith's wonderful book, you should buy it. Look at the photos of the battlefields of the "Great War" and the photos of what half a century had done to repair them. Take the Loos Ridge, for example, in 1915 and 1965 (a British war memorial in the new foreground)...

Or the Menin Road in Belgium. Hell Fire Corner. Where the opposing gunners knew the range to a yard. Walking across this intersection was the equivalent of suicide. Smith posits whether the auto drivers in 1965 have any concept that they are driving serenely over a spot where hundreds of thousands of men went to their deaths...Probably not. Fifty years is, after all, a long time. Especially in war years.
Or consider Belleau Wood, where an outfit called the United States Marines first fought for the rest of the world on European soil. They fought so well that France gave the land to us and it is now United States soil, paid for in blood from Wisconsin, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, everywhere...

This map tells it all. The entire Western Front. Each dot signifies a British burial ground...

After, the mothers and widows came. Not so old. But aged. They wanted to see the spot where it happened. Where one particular light was extinguished. They saw, and like the old men, they were never the same...

Once upon a time, they thought there could only be one war like this. A global cataclysm. One horrid set of years and everyone would learn. And not repeat the lesson. Once upon a time, a king would say that America "could never be of significance" in war. A top British general would say that the machine gun was a "greatly overrated" weapon. And a generation would simply vanish into the mud and the mist.

But we cannot let them vanish. Today is Veteran's Day in the U.S.A. When we stop to consider the incredible sacrifices that were made for us. Some still wear the red poppy as an emblem of this consideration. And we go about our daily tasks. And we look at the sky. And we say a quiet thank-you. The people that served for us, and died for us, can never be forgotten. Whether the service was ninety two years ago. Or yesterday. You see, once upon a time, they called it Armistice Day. Signifying "the" armistice, the singular and final end of hostility. Perhaps, one day, it really will be.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Be A Pyrat

Have you ever had one of those waiters? The ones that know everything about the menu. And about everywhere you've ever been. And about how they have been all the places better than your places. And about how this year's number of days of sunlight will just wreak havoc with the Bordeaux. In fifteen years. That sort of waiter. The fellow who feels the need to constantly inject himself into the conversation you are trying to have with your dinner companions.

One evening not long ago, I was attempting to have a fine meal in fine company at one of my favorite Atlanta restaurants. A place where cocktail mastery rules. Where I had not once had anything less than exquisite food. And great service. Until the night in question. I honestly did not know how to handle the intrusive gabbler assigned to our table, so I ignored him as best I could and concentrated instead on the [again] lovely meal and great company.

But, a central Epic principle holds that even negative experiences can result in superb discoveries. Consequently, even the biggest blighter of a waiter can produce a very pleasant surprise. When the cheese course came around, he asked if anyone wanted a companion beverage. Always up for a companion beverage, I voted in the affirmative bracing all the while for yet another exposition on great hotels in Thailand, Aboriginal cheese, or some such other topic. Sayeth the waiter...

I'm going to just bring you something and you can try to tell me what it is.

I mean, really. Had the man no limits? Injecting a game of alcoholic trivial pursuit into my meal? One that I could not possibly win? I considered rejecting the whole notion and sending him away with a pronounced look. But there was this point of the companion beverage, you see, so I checked my wrath. I am told that the checking of one's wrath is a sign of the developed social animal. Except, perhaps, when in the presence of intrusive waiters.

In any event, a snifter soon arrived born by the increasingly smug looking man. Amber. I peered suspiciously into the glass, although the liquid inside smelled very nice. It tasted even better. And it was the perfect compliment to the cheese board. The blighter smiled ever more smugly...

Well? Any guesses? [You Philistine, he was no doubt thinking. I mean, I've never spent a week in a hut on the beach in Bali with a Vogue model...]

I posited an old Calvados. Very old. He smiled benevolently and showed me a bottle of rum. A new bottle. Pyrat was the funny name on it. I was astounded. And overcome with new-found respect. As the warm, Caribbean glow of the rum folded itself around me, I realized that I had totally misjudged the fellow. He was, in fact, a truly fine man and a benefactor to all gourmands fortunate enough to appear in his presence.

I have since become a true lover of fine rum. Pyrat will set you back between $35.00to $50.00 [U.S.] and you will never be sorry you spent the money. Also, I have ordered it neat with a cheese or dessert course in several very nice places, and the servers have consistently stopped, raised an eyebrow, and allowed just the slightest hint of surprise. The sort of thing [like ordering Hendrick's gin on the rocks for that matter] that garners well deserved respect. I, for one, am proud to be spreading the word about this wonderful spirit.

Comparative Imbibery Note: Another very fine rum that I enjoy is Ron Zacapa. Armed with these two choices you are now able to baffle and impress. You are welcome. Just send the bottles of Pyrat and RZ to me at the address listed in the margin. ML

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fuzzy Photos From Great Bars

Trader Vic's. Atlanta, Georgia. 10/10. A total original and a VERY cool place.

Island lighting.

The famous Trader Vic's Mai Tai. The original, and the best.

Crab Rangoon. In an elegant silver tray with its own heating element/candle.

Most excellent glassware.

A fine sentiment.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Epic Treats: Candy Corn

Today is Halloween in the U.S.A. As much fun as Halloween is, what I love best is the appearance of my favorite Halloween (October) to Thanksgiving (November) treat. The Brach's candy company "Autumn Mix" of candy corn. Made with honey. Chocolate tipped. And with lots of big, soft, chewy, candy PUMPKINS. I just love everything about this candy and I eat it until it is all gone. Then I wait for next year when I can get it again.

An inexpensive and simple treat, but a great one. Have a happy, safe and Epic Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Did You? Do You?

"Old Nassau Hall", Princeton University. Great campus. Not my school.

My son, the Future Rock Star, has the greatest smile. At full wattage, it beams his personality and charms crocodiles. Or, on occasion, head waiters in big city temples of gastronomy. Sometimes, he only has half wattage, a curl of the side of his mouth. No matter how many times I see one version of his smile or another, it always catches me by surprise and makes me think "I am his father!". Even when I have been considering smacking him moments before.

Last weekend we took a football trip to my alma mater. Sadly, the first such trip in a couple of years. A fine visit with glorious weather. As we strolled across campus toward the stadium, I was pointing out various historical points of interest. Of interest to me, anyway. At one point, the FRS took it upon himself to catch me unaware with a stealth question. One of those serious ones that teens will throw at you with the off hand.

"Did you like it when you were here?"

I glanced toward him at an oblique angle. With a teen, you have to make full use of the oblique angles since direct looks tend to provoke confrontation.

"Man, I loved it here. My time here was the greatest time of my life up to then."

Silence. Then...

"I would love it here too. I hope I can go to school here."

Hm. How about that? We continued our traverse through mingling throngs of alumni, students and fans. All of a sudden, he threw another curve ball at me...

"Do you like your life now?"

Good grief. We were squarely on the edge of deep water at this point. And not a happy hour in sight. I wondered if he asks his mother things like this.

"Buddy, I love my life now. And you know what? The best part of it is spending time with you like this."

It is a well accepted physiological fact that no human walking the face of the globe can roll their eyes like a teen. I don't care if you go into the heart of the Amazon River jungle. Find yourself a thirteen year old and his parents will also know all about rolling of eyes. My last pronouncement caused an instantaneous, near reflexive, roll of the FRS' hazel irises. A major roll. I peered at him from my oblique angle as we negotiated some seemingly drunken pre-game revelers. Then I saw it, even though he was not looking at me. That sparkling half smile. Flashed obliquely my way.

The game stunk. The day, however, was all sunlight and gold.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prep Time

I am having a routine medical screening procedure tomorrow. Something that almost everyone over fifty endures without blinking an eye.

Not me. I am not happy about it. Not one little bit.

I admit to only one significant medical event in my life. As a result, I am a real diva when it comes to "routine medical screening procedures". Especially when they involve FASTING. For the better part of TWO DAYS. Along with other unmentionable horrors. This particular Epic does not take well to being food and drink deprived. GRRRRR.

Wait. The instructions for today say I have to stay on "clear liquids only".

The last time I looked, Vodka was a liquid. And a clear one at that. Hm. Stay tuned...

Martinis And The Electoral Franchise

This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it.
--Will Rogers

In the good old U.S.A. we are bracing ourselves for another election day in early November. Where I live, they have "early voting" where you can stroll in, weeks ahead of time, and fill out a ballot at your leisure without the press of other citizens about you to increase the stress of the occasion.

As I wandered down the sidewalk the other day toward my local polling place, an odd coincidence caught my eye. My town is not known for good bars, much less for bars that are actually open in the middle of the afternoon. When you might just really need a drink due to some tedious business or social issue. Or due to some civic responsibility. On this particular gorgeous autumn day, however, I saw that one of the bars downtown had taken upon itself to begin happy hour at noon. On a whim? To try and beat out its competitors? For election season?

Regardless, I thought it just the thing in light of the usual dismal electoral choices facing me to effect some lubrication prior to hitting the ballot box. As I sipped a very good Stoli martini [at happy hour prices] I examined the gobbledygook on the sample ballot they spread about before the big day. No inspiration came to me regarding my ultimate electoral choices as I finished the first cocktail. Now, I take this voting thing pretty seriously. That is why I am always pretty disappointed a year or so after every election. It seemed, in light of the weighty responsibility I was undertaking, that only one thing was called for. Another round. After which I had no more insight on the election, although life in general had acquired a certain rosy glow.

Voting accomplished, I toddled out and took a round about walk to enjoy the soft air of the remaining late afternoon. I do not know if a couple of martinis will make my electoral choices any better. One thing is certain. A couple of martinis cannot make my choices turn out any worse than the ones I made sober all those years.

Friday, October 22, 2010

C.D. at 67

Today I indulge myself in my annual ritual of celebration for her birthday. I'll have some bourbon. And raise a toast to Catherine Deneuve. This year she said that when she goes out to the public cinema she "sit[s] in a seat and the lights go down and it really, really excites me." Even now. From a lady who didn't even know if she wanted to be an actress until Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Can you imagine? Going to the movies and glancing about and seeing ...her? I would die.

It is well known that she loves gardening. Here is a small clip of her at a garden show. Brace yourselves for that (no doubt) Bourbon tempered voice...

Here are links to my first two posts celebrating her 65th and 66th birthdays. How wonderful it is to know that, for another year, this lady of a certain age continues to thrive at, and set the standard for, the incredible craft of being a woman. Marvelous.

Attribution Note: Quote from artsbeat.blogs.newyorktimes.com

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I discover them in the oddest places, and always by surprise. My travel kit. My suitcase. My golf bag. My briefcase. My desk drawer. Suit jacket pockets. They feel nice. They often smell very nice. Most important, they have a certain Epic talismanic power.

This power transports me to times and places where laughter, good food and drink prevail. Where the memories (when there are memories) are surrounded by the glow of fellowship and good humor. Times when victories were celebrated. Defeats assuaged. Events memorialized. Deals done. Re-connections established after too many trips away from home. When I finish a bottle of wine at dinner, I always carry off the cork. There are some very pretty frames you can put them in, even a table top under glass. I prefer however to scatter them around my life. To remind me. And to make me smile without warning. Touching an old wine cork provides an instant dose of pleasantness. No matter what the place or time of day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Epic Ads: The Surprise Gift

This store was founded in 1854 and yet I had never heard of it. They do not seem to have a store in Wisconsin. Or in Florida. Or anywhere in America other than Worcester, Massachusetts. Their web site is in French. Exclusively. They seem to sell fine food and wine. Some home accessories I'll bet. Perhaps a nice cork screw or two.

She's walking toward me on the Pont ............. in Paris. Dressed to the nines. She popped by Hediard on the way because she knows what I like. That they have it there. And that only she can give it to me.

You know what I like the best about this ad? That she looks like a real woman, not some overly thin model. Draped in several yards of gray satin. Note to myself...on that first grand trip to Paris, Hediard it is. I'll buy something. Just to thank them for this marvelous ad.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Epic Gentleman Of The Week

Imagine the scene. A young woman bartender. Cute. Friendly. Mixes all the good drinks. A pro, even at her (not) advanced years. Swamped behind a convention hotel lobby bar. Your Epic stationed at one corner of said bar nursing a late night martini. A fellow elbows his way to the rail, asks for a glass of water. Nice looking young man. Blazer and tie. VERY odd attire for this crowd. She hands over the H2O and he slides over a twenty dollar bill. "Here's for all the water you poured for me tonight".

And here's to you sir, whoever you are. Fellows like you give those of us a generation [or two] farther along a glimmer of hope for the future of gentlemanly behavior. Here's to you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Am Honored. I Think.

This arrived in The Epic inbox the other day. There was a note with it that in excited tones clearly seems to say that The Epic has been picked as one of the best blogs in the entire nation of Brazil.

Actually, the note literally says "Seu Blog foi indicado para edicao 2010! Participe do Premio Top Blog!" As I said, the author seems very excited to relay this message to me. There is a slight language issue. I presume that this is written in Portuguese and I don't read Portuguese. So, after a couple of martinis and some pondering of this message, it all became clear to me. I am being given my dream shot. I am going to the web-based Brazilian version of Miramar. Top Blog School. The best of the best. Hand me my leather flight jacket and a new, faster laptop with a battery that actually lasts more than an hour and I am ready to go to Ipanema.

Truly, if I had to bet on it, I would guess that this is an ad trying to get me to buy into a blog directory. But, still...I do not read Portuguese...it could mean anything. So, until corrected by one of my more worldly readers, in Epic fashion I prefer to feel honored. Thank you, Topblog.com.br!! Off to Top Blog School I go. I just wonder if they are ready for a fairly large amount of fiftyish, pale, Norwegian/Irish skin manifesting itself on Ipanema Beach...

...oh yes, I think they are ready. I know I am.

Film Note: My apologies to the writers of the movie Top Gun.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chelada Examined

Jimi Hendrix came to me in a dream the night before the Great Chelada Tasting and he told me not to do it. I didn't listen.

As I promised some weeks ago dear readers, over the recently concluded American holiday weekend I assembled a Blue Ribbon Panel Of Experts to sample and review Bud Light Chelada. This was no lightweight group of people, picked at random from the sidewalk. To the contrary, I hand-picked a group of seasoned imbibers. Big D. Mississippi Queen. Streak. LaLa. Gamers, all. They needed to be.

All proper testing requires background research, a protocol, and the publishing of results. Big D hit the web and determined that the term "chelada" is classically applied to any beer served in a glass, with a salted rim and lime. Ominously, the classical definition of this beverage does not mention tomato juice. Or clams.

My vast liquor research library contained no reference to the term "chelada". On the general subject of beer, however, the profound Alexis Lichine states in his New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits that:

Beer is the general term for all classes of beers--draft, bottled and canned, pale ales, lagers and stouts. It is brewed from malt, sugar, hops and water and is fermented with yeast.

Again, no mention of tomato juice. Or clams. Lichine goes on (again, ominously) to say...

Beer quality is largely dependent on the suitability of these main raw materials for the type of beer being produced.

The folks at Budweiser have apparently not read anything about beer, or about Chelada. The can itself states that light beer, tomato juice, lime, salt and clam juice constitute "la combinacion perfecta". The can also says that the liquid it contains has "certified color". Not labeling that particularly inspires confidence in whatever lurks inside the can.

As for the testing protocol, I prepared a clip board for contemporaneous notes and a list of four categories of comments, viz:

1. General impressions.
2. Would you drink this again for free?
3. Would you drink this again for any reason?
4. Does this beverage have any utility at all?

I also seriously considered making all members of The Epic Blue Ribbon Chelada Panel take a shot or two of tequila before beginning the exercise. As a prophylactic you understand. Against what, I did not know. It was just a feeling I had that a prophylactic of some sort might not be a bad idea. In any event, we opted not to dull our senses with preliminary boozing in favor of plunging in straight away. That was also a mistake.

The tasting occurred at the home of Big D and the Mississippi Queen. A place so Epic in nature that they have a vintage Airstream travel trailer in their back yard as a pool cabana. Thus, the experimental karma was strong. But the location of the test required transport of the Chelada from The Epic bar. Such a delicate and rare brew cannot just be chunked into the glove box of one's auto. Specific protections must be implemented. After considerable thought, I wedged two "blue ice" freezer bars into an old sandwich carrier which afforded just room for the drink of honor...

Not the protection one would provide for a rare single malt, or for a kidney, perhaps, but sufficient for the three block journey from my house to the test site. I also packed in some tasting glasses...

...four ounce mega-shots procured after great effort from Trader Vics in Atlanta. I also took along the key ingredient for Phase Two of the tasting...

...as well a some processed dairy products in case anyone wanted to make the Chelada a complete food grouping...

Luckily, none of the Blue Ribbon Panel chose to consume dairy products during the tasting. Interpersonal and hygienic disaster would have no doubt been the result.

The BRP having assembled at the appointed place and hour, sober as proverbial judges, I made the procession to the testing area with the cosseted and cooled Chelada in its carrier. I had considered handcuffing the rig to my wrist like an international diamond courier, but I couldn't find a pally who would lend me the cuffs. After I placed the carrier on a central table, the members of the BRP eyed it nervously but nobody broke and ran. As I said, gamers all.

Phase One of the testing was to open the Chelada and pour the shot glasses full so we could examine the look, smell and then finally the taste of the beverage. The first question of clarification came from Mississippi Queen...

Say, we don't have to drink the whole glass do we?

After being reassured that there was no such requirement (a ruling that seemed to relieve some tension or another that was in the minds of the entire panel...these Blue Ribbon Panel sorts talk to each other before going to work, don't let them tell you that they don't), I proceeded to open and pour.
The aroma of this drink is weakly tomato and nothing else. What strikes you first about the Chelada, however, is not the aroma but how it looks in the glass. Imagine melted tomato Popsicle with fizz. The taste is, well, like a melted tomato Popsicle with fizz. And clams. The BRP's impressions after the first taste...
MQ: [no verbal comment but an undescribable facial shudder]

BD: This is just wrong...why would they come up with THIS?

S: AAAAagggg...I guess I'm not really AGAINST it...but...

LL: This is like a Bloody Mary that sat a long time and all the ice melted. Except for the clam aftertaste, that is...

We stared at each other a moment. I was afraid that if I made eye contact with anyone I would vomit. Nobody accepted an offer of processed cheese product.
Phase two. Add Tabasco to the glasses of Chelada. The BRP gamely took another taste, but with a LOT more hesitation...

MQ: Well, it kills the aftertaste...

BD: This is 100% better, but still...

S: I'm only having one sip after this...

LL: It tastes like cocktail sauce now, it needs an oyster in it...

After this last comment, more than one of us clapped our hands over our mouths and glanced toward the sink. Or the door. Nobody accepted a renewed offer of processed cheese product. Having gamely recovered its composure, the BRP sallied forth to the third and final phase of the tasting. Clean out the Chelada/Tabasco mixture, rinse and dry the glasses, refill with Chelada. And add vodka. Plenty of it. This was the most horrid mistake of the day...

MQ: [A shudder that made the first shudder look like a minor muscle tremor.] Really, really awful.

BD: This is taking Chelada a step in the wrong direction...


LL: OH this is REALLY bad...

Mississippi Queen then pointed out what we researchers in such matters call The Great Bloody Mary Fallacy. Namely, that although one would be tempted to describe the Chelada as a Bloody Mary made with beer, the analogy fails because while the vodka in a Bloody Mary adds a pleasing and significant layer of fire and potency to the cocktail, the weak beer of the Chelada adds only a sickening fizziness and a whiff of "fraternity house basement floor a week after the party" aroma which hardly compliments the flavor which coils its way out of your glass. Come to think of it, the aroma does not make the flavor any worse either. When I mentioned to the group that one of my commenting Epicurians had noted the use of the Chelada as a hangover cure, a thoughtful silence fell over the room. Then,

MQ: If you drank one of these hung over, you would throw up forever.

She then posited the sensible notion that wide-spread consumption of the Chelada with vodka would be a "quick way to end spring break forever". The preservation of that venerable American collegiate institution was agreed by all to be a worthy goal, especially when the alternative was drinking the Chelada with vodka in it.

The test protocol concluded, the BRP again for some reason refused a polite offer of processed cheese product and we moved to the prepared questions.

Q. Would you drink this for free?
BD: No way.
MQ: UG. No.
S: No.
LL: No.

Q. Would you drink this under any circumstances?
BD: No way.
S: Well, I'd drink it for money...
LL: I would only drink this during a hurricane. If there was nothing else.

Q. Does this beverage have any utility of any sort?
BD: None. It has no redeeming qualities of any sort.
MQ: It would ruin anything.
S: None.
LL: Well, you could probably boil shrimp in it...maybe...[after the horrified looks of the rest of the panel...]...OK well I said MAYBE

Well, there you have it dear readers. The palates of the BRP subjected to possibly permanent damage, just for you. And for drinking science. In summary, there is no reason to drink this stuff, unless you are lost in the desert and have no other hydration option. Or unless you want to put an end to American collegiate spring break trips. Or unless you have a serious drinking/hangover problem and you want a permanent, and very messy, solution.

I already have another project lined up for the Blue Ribbon Panel. It might be some time before I can publish the results, however, since I am having a bit of trouble getting them to take my calls...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years

Every once in awhile it happens without warning. He is looking through his wallet for something. The insurance card. The book store discount coupon. A newspaper photo falls out from amidst his other items. Two men and a little boy. Crinkled and worn after nine years. He stops what he is doing. Gently picks up the photo as he peers at the faded image. Remembering where he was one perfectly clear September morning. And then he starts to cry.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The End Of The Beginning

1968 Oldsmobile F85 Coupe. In about the same condition as mine when I left home for college in 1977. Not my house. Not my hoses.

The last couple of weeks, I have seen several pals displaying the parental version of the Thousand Yard Stare as their children go off to college. My son the Future Rock Star is 13 and flying headlong toward four years of High School. Then...

I remember leaving home for college like it was yesterday afternoon. I was totally consumed with moving out. I packed my limited gear into a 1968 Oldsmobile F85. A car so spartan it lacked power steering. And air conditioning. You opened the hood and there was just an engine sitting there. No frills to block the view. The environmental synergy created by adding the F85's all black vinyl interior to the Florida summer heat was enough to test the endurance of even an otherwise vigorous eighteen year old. I could eat anything I wanted in those days and not have any risk of gaining weight. The metabolic struggle caused by a thirty minute ride in my car burned away any level of caloric intake.

My roommate at Florida State was to be a fine fellow I knew from High School. One of the great pals ever. Our school's unlimited class wrestling champion, he was a mountain of a man who carried around 320 pounds on a light day. He also had the ubiquitous [in 1977] long hair. And a red beard. A gentle character who looked like a Viking raider on a particularly bad day. Our next door neighbors in the dorm were nice fellows who owned a giant bong and had the habit of playing the very same Deep Purple song every morning at about 2:00. My roommate cherished his sleep, and even gentle souls have a rather short lifetime limit for Deep Purple songs played at high volume in the wee small hours. The third night he stomped out in the hallway, resplendent in only his boxer shorts, with fire in his eyes. He pounded on the next door until the scared looking stoners opened it, stomped over to the record player, broke the record in two, and went back to bed. I was immensely proud of him.

After establishing peace and quiet for our dormitory hall, and making an initial reconnaissance of the campus, I told my roommate that I had some shopping to do. A few little items that I had been pondering for quite some time but that I could not procure while living at my parents' home. I felt for some reason that I had to procure a trench coat which I found at a local military surplus store. Then a pack of long, thin cigars in long, thin plastic tubes I saw advertised in a magazine. Then a copy of Playboy. To which I immediately entered a subscription. That magazine subscription made my reputation as a man of style in my dorm once the student who sorted the mail told everyone I was getting it each month. It was 1977 after all. Armed with my trench coat, cigars, and Playboy I sallied forth into college life.

Leaving home for college was the most exciting moment of my life up to that point. It still ranks in the top ten. But I have learned one thing about that most important threshold event. The forward looking compulsion to run straight into living one's own life which enervates the mind of a teen may be tedious and even painful to parents but it is a good and even necessary thing. I had a great relationship with my parents. When the day came for me to go I would not have been able to leave them if the thought had even crossed my mind to look in the rear view mirror of that old car to see the expressions on their faces as I left them standing in the driveway behind me.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chelada Countdown

Light Beer + tomato juice + clam juice + lime juice = ???????

All it lacks is dairy to be a complete food group in one can.
I suppose one could add a cheese stick.
Or a milk chaser.

To be reviewed this [U.S.] holiday weekend. I am delaying the tasting because I am assembling a panel of experts. Any Epicurian wanting to participate can buy a can of their own and send me their impressions. Or not.

Until the weekend, I am in training. Gargling with water from the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Red and White

Last Thursday night, thirty-six years ago, was the night I saw my first High School football game. It was my third school in four years. I didn't know that it would be my third of five schools in six years. It was the best place in the world.

In that locale, football at night in the last week of August was a harbinger of Autumn. The night was clear with a full moon rising over the lights of Lumberjack Stadium. Yes. Lumberjack Stadium. That was the culture of the area where I was born. The temperature was in the crisp mid 50s [F.] and was ideal for one's debut as a High School Man. The combination of cool air and moonlight was the perfect transmission vehicle for the sound of drums from a marching band. And for cheers.

I nervously dressed in my one pair of home-starched and ironed khakis, a long sleeve shirt and sweater, a jacket. I was nervous because of Kim. Kim occupied the hallowed position of Love of My Life that year. The first in a long, glorious, line of holders of that title. I didn't really know her. I just saw her in the school hallways every day between classes. The mere sight of her was enough to tie me in knots. My mom and dad offered to walk with me the eight blocks from our motel apartment to the stadium, but I demurred. What if Kim saw me with an escort? No thanks.

I could see the glow of the lights and the sound of the drums before I got to the stadium. The cold air was thick with the scent of leaves and the oncoming change of season. I showed my Freshman ID card and climbed up the bleachers on the "home team" side until I found a seat by someone I knew. The game got under way to the thunderous cheers of our fans. The Lumberjack faithful. I have only random images from the rest of the evening. Boys clapping each other on the back after our team scored. Hot dogs. The crackle of the stadium announcer's voice. The band. The cheerleaders dancing in their school colors of red and white. Clouds passing by the moon.

I stayed on alert for Kim but did not see her. It was a disappointment. As I walked out of the stadium exit after the end of the game, I rounded a corner and there she was. Talking with girlfriends. I remember the next five seconds like a slow motion sequence. My glance and thrill at seeing her. Then. She caught me looking. And she didn't look away. Black hair. Blue eyes. Pink cheeks. White teeth. Big grin. A cheerful "Go Lumberjacks!!". All I could manage in reply was a sheepish grin and a wave. My life was over. There was nothing more to accomplish. It was all gravy after that.

Last Thursday, we lost the first game of the season. I say "we" because even though I only spent one year at the school I feel like I belonged there. One year as a Lumberjack left me with a rich store of fond memories. Memories that become particularly piquant when August is on the wane and football is in the evening air. Every year when opening night comes around, I feel like I'm cheering for the red and white again. Fifteen years old. Scanning the crowd for a certain pretty face.

Maybe I'll go to a reunion of my class one day. Maybe I won't. But I know this for a fact. In that stadium last Thursday night, there was a shy boy experiencing his first Big High School Moment. I just hope that his first football game was as glorious as mine.