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.
Every man has them. The vestiges of a prior self. Totems of another epoch. We keep them about because we also carry a vision with us through the years. A vision of ourselves in a clearer, brighter light. And we need to prove to ourselves that the person that stood in that light still exists.
This notion occurred to me one day when I was rooting for a beer in the garage refridgerator of a pal of mine. I happened to look upward and saw, carefully strapped into the rafters, a beanbag chair. When I asked him about this artifact, he told me it was the last thing left that he owned before he was married. That I was free to throw it away the day they put him in the ground. The day when it would finally cease to have any meaning.
I think it is a healthy thing to save some reminder of the stages of our lives. To help us recall who we were. And to give us a measuring stick for who we have become. Emotional trophies, if you will.
I have several things that serve that purpose. My Grandpa's over sized bottle opener from a brewery long since lost in the mist of Northern Minnesota history. My Dad's leather and silver shoe horn. A golf cap my Dad got for me when I was a toddler with my nickname embroidered on it. My giant slalom racing skis. My metal detector, in its original shipping carton. Untouched for decades.
One summer, when I was about thirteen, I became obsessed with treasure hunting. I was convinced that, given the proper amount of research and equipment, I would unearth some fabulous hoard of loot. I learned that there were such things as electronic metal detectors used for the purpose of finding treasures under the ground. And that one of these devices could be procured for a modest price.
So, I worked and saved up my money. Until one day I presented my Dad with my grand scheme. To his credit, he didn't blink an eye, although he must have thought spending money on a metal detector was the nuttiest idea ever. A few weeks later, the carton shown above arrived at our little house in the north woods.
Although I avidly radiated all the land I could get to in my town with waves of electrons, I don't recall finding much. Perplexed, I finally realized that it would significantly raise my chances of success if I searched ground that had been populated in the past with more than a hundred people. To that end, I took the device on vacation that summer. To the beach.
The term "beach" is a relative one. The shore to which we travelled that summer was pebbly, not sandy. The residual legacy of some tedious glacier or another. The huge adjacent body of water was not a Gulf, nor an Ocean. Not even a Sea. Rather, a Lake. One called "Superior". The water of this lake is never warm. It is just not quite as cold in summer as in winter. I do not remember a single person actually entering the water at the beach that summer. Luckily, the wonderful and hardy girls of that area wore swim suits to the beach despite the nil chance of a swim. One girl in particular. Long and tall. Tanned [relatively] and lovely. The Lake Superior "Girl From Ipanema". Significantly older and more sophisticated than me. At least eighteen. Maybe even nineteen. One of those women that go through the "feminine" line about six times before they send her down here to confound the rest of us. Wearing the first bikini I ever saw.
Later, when I moved South, I learned the saying "throwing a brick in a bucket of water". This is an apt description of the emotional effect this young woman had on me. As I unpacked my metal detector at the beach. After a bit, I heard someone crunching up behind me on the rocks. Glancing around I found myself within a few feet of her.
"Say, what are you doing?"
"Um. Uh. Um."
A raised eyebrow. A slightly shifted hip. I SO adore how women can just barely shift their weight to make a point. A second brick in the bucket.
"UM....UH....AGG...it's a metal detector!"
She took off a ring that looked suspiciously like an engagement gift.
"So........if I bury this is the sand, you can find it with that?"
Worried nod. My turn to shift weight. Back and forth. Spasmodically. The male of the species just doesn't have this trick.
"OK, let's try it." At this, she turned and walked some distance away from me, leaned down and shoved the sparkler in the sand. Presenting me with my first view of the back of a bikini.
No matter what anyone says, there are times when normal, hard-wired, male lust produces good and even useful results. I knew it was cheating to look at where she was burying that ring. But there was no way that I was not going to watch her leaning over to do it. Not happening. My intense interest in ogling her ultimately saved the day.
I walked a little way off, scanning the ground with my metal detector, until she called for me to start the search. I peered closely at the meter in the top of the detector, looking for a signal as I went over the general vicinity. She was watching intently. Showman even then, I dragged out the "search" a little and then finally waved the head of the detector over the spot where I thought I had seen her put the ring.
Nothing. Not a blip on the meter. I scanned a broader area. Nada. I almost threw up. Either the ring was not metal, or there was something wrong with the detector. Either way, the game was now solidly afoot. She must have sensed my concern because all of a sudden she looked really worried.
"Hey, you ARE going to find it, right?" Not a mean tone, but not the carefree one of about six minutes earlier either.
"Um. Uh. Um. Aggg."
In a panic, wishing I had paid more attention to her hands than to her bikini, I finally guessed at the spot, dropped to my knees, and shoved my hand into the earth.
Believe it or not, I have not always been the extrovert I am now. In fact, during the period of time in question, I was rather prone to locking down around women. In a friendly, noncommunicative, Norwegian sort of way, of course. As my hand vanished into the crushed granite mountain that served as a beach, I had the distinct feeling that if I didn't come up with that ring, my social agenda would be put off at least a decade. Perhaps longer. Better to pitch myself into the freezing mid-July waters and be done with it.
The thing about inexpensive metal detectors is that they have weak signals that project into the ground. The thing about weak metal detector signals is that they do not detect circles of metal that have been pushed into the ground on edge. Not enough metal to target or something. The thing, though, about rings that have been pushed into the ground on edge is that when a bumbling, bikini addled teen boy crams his hand into said ground, once, every hundred years or so, a finger goes right into the circle's center. To allow the bumbling, bikini addled teen boy a glorious triumph as his hand rises from the earth, pebbles scattering, ring dancing on one digit. I admit, it was a miracle, pure and simple. Nothing to do with me. But damn fine theater.
Loud squealing and hand clapping erupted from the bikini sector. As I stood up and handed the nearly-lost-forever ring to her, she grabbed my shoulders and kissed my cheek before running back to her friends. In that bikini. For those few minutes, my biggest fan.
Which is a long way around to explain why that metal detector will remain, dirty and ragged in its old box, in my garage. A relic of the first time I impressed a girl. You can throw it out. The day after they put me under those northern rocks for good.
There used to be one in every town. A clothing store. One location only. With people that worked there for years as a career. Catering to gentlemen. Of all economic strata. Sometimes ladies as well. The "head to toe" crowd. People of style and grace. Almost all of them are gone now. The stores too.
I know where one such place remains, at least. On a corner of two streets long since fashionable. The customers are older now. And fewer. But the idea remains expressed in the sign that has never changed since I first saw it. Dare to be you. Indeed. As the grand lady behind the cash register would say,
"And just who is it you think you would rather be?"
I love Men's Health Magazine. I really do. One of the reasons is the unending entertainment I get from their email updates. A recent one included the ten things I have to eat before I die. Let us review...
1. Steak Tartare.
I agree. I have had it. I loved it. Of course, it was at "21" so how bad could it be?
2. A Lobster You Kill Yourself.
Really? Not happening. I admit it. I used to hunt but now I am just a hypocrite. I have no problem consuming any quantity of game that is killed by others but I am just not looking it in the eye and doing it myself. In my kitchen. Particularly with the well-documented sound track associated with this event. I was at someone's home one time when they did this and it was horrid. Were it not for the copious quantity of very good Champagne involved it would have put me off my feed.
3. A Homegrown Tomato.
Check. Marvelous. Especially when not grown at YOUR home. That effort involves dirt. Fertilizers. Bugs. Bugs that eat tomatos. Praying for rain. Etc.
4. An In-N-Out Hamburger.
What? Never heard of it. Apparently some kind of chain joint. I like to make hamburgers myself. After someone else does the dirtywork. If I want to put a chain joint burger on my bucket list I'll just go have a Whataburger.
5. Handmade Pasta.
Check. Really good. I'll bet it is really, really good if Giada Delorentiis makes it for me. I know, I'll put "pasta made by Giada Delorentiis' hands" on my bucket list.
I am reserving judgment on this. The only snails I have ever seen are of the Southern [U.S.] Appalachian variety. Which look realllllllly slippery to me. And slimy. But, I am headed to Paris soon [have I mentioned that?]. And as a classic Burgundian dish, I am going to give it a try.
7. Bone Marrow.
See 5, above. I will try it when I see it on a Parisian menu. I will say, marrow bones have a long-documeted history of excellence.
8. Kumamoto Oysters.
They may be good. Even great. But when the MH writer says "nothing like the bland, flabby Gulf Coast oysters you are used to..." I shut it down. The MH writer can you know what to my flabby, bland Gulf Coast you know what.
9. Wedge Of Iceberg Lettuce With "Blue" Cheese Dressing.
Check. Excellent. Really so when Giada crumbles bacon strips over it and........
Seriously, if you want to go Old School with this, try Green Goddess. Then the hand crumbled bacon. Dream-like.
The MH list for this fermented bean item contains the following words:
"until they take on a froth"
Anthony Bourdain described eating Natto as akin to "eating out of the spit cup at the dentist".
No way I am eating this. Ever. It should be on the next MH list. The list of "Ten Things To Eat To Make You Die". Where do they get these writers, anyhow?
Leaving the MH list, I submit for your approval The Epic list of things you "must" eat before you die...
1. A Chicago hot dog from Poochie's in Skokie.
2. Tournados Rossini.
3. Fresh Rainbow Trout cooked streamside by your dad with a lot of butter.
4. Anything at Le Veau D'Or in New York.
5. Lobster poached in butter from Cafe 30A in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. With good Champagne or their excellent white Bordeaux.
8. Expensive caviar. With good Champagne.
9. A pulled duck sandwich from One Flew South in the Atlanta airport.
10. As the late, great Chef Justin Wilson would say......anything you dang well want, you!!
Here's to a gastronomic 2012 that perfectly suits each of us! No matter what the list makers say.
In my early 60s, widower, father and itinerant storyteller. I am a putative jazz singer, poet and novelist, dedicated to mining every minute of life for the veins of pleasure they contain. My motto is "Dum Vivimus, Vivamus"..."While we Live--LET US LIVE".