Thursday, December 3, 2009
To Live, or to Live: That is the Question!
With all respect to the Prince of Denmark, I do think of similarities between, "to be, or not to be," and living, or living.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
In Shakespeare's Hamlet one of the options given, and some read that both of the options given, will result in death.
So, the question I ask of myself, and perhaps you should too is, do we want to LIVE as long as naturally possible, or do we want to LIVE and enjoy life until the good Lord takes us, however short lived?
The popular phrase, "Live a little," is a perfect example. Do we live a little, i.e. throw caution to the side and enjoy your impulse (which presupposes doing something generally considered unhealthy - that extra drink, or a decadent dessert, or worse - something that results in driving over a fire hydrant at 2:30 AM)?
Is it better to live a life of guilty pleasure that is sure to be shortened, or live as long as humanly possible through good clean living?
What it boils down to is this: is it more fun to enjoy life's vices, or is it more fun to enjoy life - healthy mind, spirit and soul?
I was moved to think about this while watching a documentary about the famous Hollywood eatery, Chasen's. In this documentary made months before it closed 15 years ago, famous patrons bragged about Chasen's being the last stop before Cedars-Sinai Hospital because of their fat-laden food encased in butter. Some were all too happy to die of hardened arteries before their peers because they enjoyed life, they lived.
Well, I come firmly down on the side of living - living as long as you can a good clean life, and, AND, once in a while, really LIVE.
It all comes back to that illusive little term - moderation.
Yesterday I had lunch with clients at the Capital Grill on 42nd Street. The spacious eatery for businessmen stabbing thick steaks and gurgling scotch is a slice of Heaven for me. We were there before our guests, so I said to the waiter, "Look, for the time being I am a vegan, and I don't want you making a fuss in front of my guests when we order, so what do you recommend?" I venture that most well-known restaurants in NYC will have the same answer nowadays: "No problem, we have a vegan steak and vegetables off the menu." Perfect.
Not wanting to be "that guy," I was able to lock up my vegan dish before my guests arrived in this bastion of red meat and butter. However, no good story going untold, I spilled the beans on the whole 'what, when and why' of this new diet which sparked a lively and hilarious discussion.
The vegan steak: you know what, it's tofu, bean curd, a soft white food made by coagulating soy milk, and then pressing the resulting curds into blocks. It is not mouth wateringly delectable! But, Tofu is low in calories, contains a relatively large amount of iron and little fat. And it tasted fine...it tasted just like those tiny blocks of tofu in your miso soup. Add a whole bunch of salt and pepper and I was good. OK, I was pretty hungry 10 minutes later, but all told, it was a fun experience, and I ate healthfully in a great steak joint.
Still I could not get Chasen's off my mind. The visual of cooking a meal near your table with a block of butter trumpeted old school American dining decadence. At the very least, I needed the ambiance!
There is a brand new restaurant (1 week old) near my apartment on 51st Street called the East Side Social Club. Resplendent in wood and red leather with waitresses adorned in something Bob Mackey created in 1954, the ESSC made me feel normal again - American - like at any moment Sinatra, or Martin would walk in with their entourage.
The broccoli rabe was excellent, and the spaghetti and tomato sauce was the best I've ever had.
So, here's to Living, and Living, but make sure the later is once in a long while so you truly appreciate the rarity of such pleasure. My problem for the last decade was that I was Living every waking hour of the day!
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.