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, March 29, 2013

Best Easter Suit EVER

Paul Stuart. Seersucker. Palest pink and palest Lime Green.  The EPIC suit of all Easter time!!!!!

I am rocking this come Sunday!!!  Just the thing to defeat the sub-tropical summer. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Drink To Me!

This is my day because today I celebrate 54 birthdays.  I am taking the day off from work and playing a round of golf with a pal.  By tonight, after golf, dinner, presents, and some good wine, I will probably resemble the gentleman at the right of this wonderful painting by Jean Beraud [1911]. 

The past year had Paris and many other memorable events which I have tried to share with you here.  My son The Future Rock Star has become a VERY fit young man of nearly 16. He is taller than me. My wife The Irish Redhead has enjoyed her best health in many years.  I am eight years Post Heart Attack. In a month, I will be attending my thirtieth school reunion at a place I love very much. I am feeling pretty good about my writing and I have some really interesting ideas in my head fighting each other to get to paper.  I have 68 followers of The Epic and I am so thankful for each and every one of you who take valuable time to come and visit.  Even better, I have made some superb friends here and I look forward to making many more.  

I have a very good feeling about things as I enter my 54th year.  Let's see what happens next!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Celebrating Saint Patrick!

My favorite movie ever, The Quiet Man.  Nothing short of a dream of Ireland.  Another one of my favorites is Waking Ned Devine...

A fine St. Patrick's Day to you!  If you can't get to a great bar or Irish pub today pour some Guinness with a Powers chaser [neat] and settle in with these two movies.  Erin go Bragh!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Hotel Del Norte Paragraphs 1: Ending

After two hours, it was apparent she wasn't going to show.  I was sitting on the upper pool deck shaded by a thatched umbrella where she would have to see me when she walked out from the lobby.  I was drinking dark rum out of a glass that had the faint red outline of a woman's mouth on the rim. It was blazing hot outside, even in the shade, the steady breeze from the Bahia de Amatique doing little to dry the dampness of my linen shirt. Enrico the barman had left me a pack of firecrackers. I lit one when I needed another round. By the time I knew she had read the letter and made her decision, the remains of most of the firecrackers lay about the feet of my plastic chair. I stared at the lipstick on my glass.  Then at some birds fishing lazily on the water.  Then at the lipstick again.  I would have bet a million dollars she would walk through that door wearing her polka dot dress and her big straw hat with the grosgrain ribbon. I suppose she did.  Just in the other direction. Out to the port cochere in front where he met her in a hired car. Ultimately it must have been something I said. Or something I didn't say. Or both. We never really know.

Sure, I could have killed him before she read the letter.  I had plenty of chances and I was as good at my business as he was at his.  In Puerto Barrios nobody would have noticed or cared.  But that wasn't the reason I made the trip.  And I wanted her to come to me straight up, without any influence, due or undue.  

After a while the light got soft.  I could hear the three-man combo tuning up in the corner of the dining room across the swimming pool.  No customers this evening but me.  An easy night for Enrico.  I would make a simple meal of it.  An avocado salad.  Pompano grilled over wood with fresh limes.  Perhaps papaya for dessert.  And a bottle or two of the flinty Tavel Enrico kept ice cold.  That would at least salvage something of the day. I kissed the lips on my empty glass.  Then I lit the whole pack of firecrackers with my battered gold Zippo and threw them into the air. The pops and flashes danced over my head and a little cloud of paper scraps drifted out to the sea alongside the hopes I had held some hours before.

Post-Script:  I am celebrating my 54th birthday next week. I spent a memorable time once at the Hotel Del Norte.  Perhaps it is time to return.  ML

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fuzzy Photos From Great Bars

The bar at Cafe Boulud, Brazilian Court Hotel, Palm Beach.  A reprise from last evening of a favorite over the years.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Saddest Song I Ever Heard

When they finished writing it, co-author and country music legend Bill Anderson told Jon Randall "that's the saddest song I ever heard, nobody will want to listen to it".   I guess somebody did. When Brad Paisley and Alison Krause recorded "Whiskey Lullaby" it went to #2 and won song of the year.  They were good, but hearing the phenomenally talented Randall sing it with his wife Jessi Alexander at a tribute to Anderson is as good, and as sad, as it gets. 

In a genre where sad songs are woven into the fabric of the art, Whiskey Lullaby stands alone.  You should not listen to this song drunk.  Or perhaps you should only listen to it drunk.  Either way, if this one doesn't make you cry, nothing will. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Paris: The Last Day

I woke up on Saturday morning in a lazy mood.  I had no real desire to go anywhere or to do anything in particular.  No museums.  No tours. I lay in bed letting my mind wander over all the incredible things that had happened to me over the past week.  And today was my last day.  Eventually, I got out of bed, packed my things and set out to do some gift shopping. Some clothes for my son the Future Rock Star, some souvenirs. 

I decided to return to Benoit for a long lunch to bookend the trip with a Liebling-esque finish where it began.  This time I had no reservation and was lucky to get a spot in the little back dining room.  It was full of customers when I arrived but I stayed until it was empty...

My waiter Michel was a very nice man whose daughter was in school in California.  As the cold rain poured down outside, I lingered over the fabulous smoked salmon, rillettes lapin, gigot d'agneau, a couple of selections of cheese, and a bottle of the same Bordeaux I had enjoyed the prior Sunday....

Basically the same menu I had enjoyed the first luncheon except for the lamb, which was served in an aromatic cloud of herb roasted fragrances surrounded on its plate by baby vegetables and a good portion of pan sauce.  The dish was perfect in every way.  Of course, the dessert course was preordained.  A reprise of the noble Savarin d'Armagnac...

Michel commented quietly that most Americans didn't seem to enjoy dining the way I did.  I said I had been dreaming of this sort of meal for a very long time.  He smiled warmly and gave a little salute, perhaps another example of my passion for being in that place and time striking a note in the Parisian heart. The room was deserted now but for me, the waiter and the ghost of Liebling (smiling no doubt at my trencherman's fortitude in offing this long and lovely meal), and I had a coffee along with the plate of small sweets Michel brought me.  A touch more Armagnac, monsieur?  Yes, I believe I will...

I found myself staring out the lace curtained window at the rain.  Absolutely, completely happy.  My new friend Michel asked if I had an umbrella and when I said no he rooted about in a closet and produced a gorgeous English made umbrella from the Ritz hotel.  So much for the coldness of Parisian waiters.  I turned up the collar on my trench coat and stepped out into the deluge,  headed for my cozy room and a nap.  The trip was over.  And it could not have ended on a better note.  Or so I thought.

I think it was the cessation of the rain against my two floor to ceiling windows which caused me to wake from my post-Benoit slumber.  It was mid-evening.  I looked out and lights of the Isle Saint-Louis we sparkling in the moisture that still floated in the night air.  Fog had replaced rain.  There was no way I was not going for a long walk along the Seine.

I donned my trench coat and picked up my unused pack of cigarettes and lighter.  I had purchased them on a tip from an article which said that having cigarettes and a lighter was an entree to many conversations in Parisian cafes.  I never got to try out the theory because the weather was so horrid that I never got to loll as I had planned at outdoor cafe tables, sipping wine or a Calvados and waiting for someone to ask me for a light.  In any event, by this final evening in Paris, carrying the pack of Gauloises and lighter was something of a talisman for me...

I left the hotel, turning left on the Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile and crossing the bridge to Notre Dame and then left again to the Quai de la Tournelle.  The air was crisp and fine, with a high fog that only made the famous Parisian lights twinkle all the more.  After walking awhile, I realized that I was standing across the street from another Liebling haunt that had completely fallen off my radar.  The Cafe Beaux Arts!!  Liebling wrote very warmly of this cafe, and of the cheap wonderful food and wine you could get there when you had blown the rest of your monthly stipend at Benoit and other higher end places.  It did appear very inviting...

It was quite busy, and again I was lucky to get a small table by the wonderful bar.  To my left was a much more hospitable version of a lady I had seen earlier that week...

I ordered the plat de jour which was Toulouse sausage with a black pepper cream sauce and a side dish of Aligot.  Aligot is a magical mixture of potato puree, Tomme cheese and garlic from the Auvergne region of France which has a nutty flavor and almost the consistency of a fondue.  Very hearty and perfect for a cold night.  Accompanied by a glass of Burgundy this was a very fine meal...

After this, only a slice of superb apple tart would do...
...and, finally, one last Calvados...
As I was sipping my Calvados, a family came in and was seated at the table directly in front of me.  This group contained the most beautiful girl I saw in Paris.  Mid twenties, thick chestnut colored hair, big brown eyes.  Simply striking.  And that is saying something in Paris where beautiful and stylish women of all ages really do abound.  Really, it was all I could do not to just openly stare at her in rude fashion.  Her date looked English, like that pale blond kid in the Harry Potter movies, grown up.  I wanted to sit there all night, sipping Calvados, but I knew I had an early day on Sunday so I decided, finally, to end the trip.
Having crossed over from the Beaux Arts to the Quai Malaquais, I was leaning on the sidewalk wall looking at the fog filtered moonlight on the Seine one last time when I heard an argument behind me.  The beautiful young woman and the pale blond guy were having a heated discussion in rapid French.  From what I could make of it, she wanted to step out for a cigarette and he did not want her to smoke.  Something of a mistake it would seem, taking the temperment of a highly spirited beautiful Parisian woman into the mix.  In the event, as I turned to casually take this all in, my hand happened to close around the open but unused pack of Gauloises in my pocket lying next to the unfired lighter. 
We were the only people on the Quai at the moment.  The young woman looked at me, and I elegantly [Calvados fueled no doubt] pulled the pack from my pocket and made to open the top as if smoking on the Quai Malaquais was what I did every night after dinner.  She walked over, leaving Harry Potter boy standing fuming outside the cafe,  and with a toss of her hair and a mischievous look from those big brown eyes asked me if she could have a cigarette.  I gave her my best Bogart inspired "I'm in my fifties, I've been around, I'm wearing a trench coat, I have cigarettes, and isn't your date a dweeb" look and I did what I think I saw Cary Grant do once.  I flicked the now open pack just a bit with my wrist.  Guess what? A solitary cigarette actually slid up, away from its mates. A miracle.  It was one of the coolest things I have ever done.  She leaned toward me, her hair forming a shining brown curtain, and took the cigarette from the pack with her lips.  I was now praying that my untried lighter would actually work.  One flick.  One flame.  The smoke from the Gauloises floated out and up into the midnight Parisian sky.  She gave me a grin and a wink and turned, walking back to the Cafe Beaux Arts and the pale man.
It had been a short love affair, but a fine one.  Driven primarily by my role as a tobacco enabler.  I turned and sauntered down the Quai in the direction I had come hours before.  Ready for any new adventure that might present itself along the way.  I was ready to go home.

Closing Interlude

My last night in New Orleans for this trip ended here.  Patrick's Bar Vin on Rue Bienville right across from the Royal Sonesta Hotel.  I have taken my nightcap here for a few trips now.  Patrick is a very amiable host in this intimate bar, having become famous in these parts as maitre' of the now [sadly] departed Bistro restaurant at the Maison DeVille Hotel.  Patrick's has it all. A great little bar. Nice bartenders. Deep chairs. Interesting people.  And...Chimay Tripel on tap...

And, all sorts of wine by the glass.  And, really great Cognac...

At the end of a hectic business day, in the wee small hours, I seek out the quiet places. Should you find yourself in the Crescent City, I hope you will try some of my favorites and make them yours as well.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Another New Orleans Interlude

One of my favorite cocktails is the Bobby Burns.  There are a few bars around the country where the bartender reaches for the scotch and the shaker as soon as I walk in.  Because it seems that nobody but me drinks this cocktail any more.  So when a barman tells me he has "improved" the BB I couldn't be criticized for raising the skeptical eyebrow.

Unless the barman is Chris Hannah.  And the bar is the legendary French 75 in New Orleans.  Another of the greatest bars anywhere.  I am proud to know a lot of great bartenders.  But only two titans of mixology.  Mr. Hannah is one of them, a gentleman and a true student of his craft. When he told me of his new BB version I ordered it immediately and with complete trust.  I have no idea what he put into this cocktail to tweak it but it is magnificent.  A triumph.  Accompanied by a crackly white paper cone full of perfect gougieres the bar makes perfectly, my stop at the French 75 afforded a perfect quiet interlude on a blustery winter evening.