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, 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.