December 11, 2015

Rico's Rules

I remember when I first met Rico; we both stepped onto the same elevator in a Cairo hotel. At the time he was running a nutrition company and I was taking a hiatus from Paleo Treats to work up a grubstake. I’d just quit a “real” job and was diving deeper into ‘trep land.

He was sure of himself, could (and would) spout a steady stream of facts about hormones, vitamins, and supplement benefits, and from the very beginning was the kind of fellow you know will be endlessly interesting to be around.

Opinionated, a talker with lots of travel experience, very intelligent, and with that peculiar sly distaste for the normal that marks out those who simply cannot fit in.

He was, and I say this with absolute fondness for we are still good friends, “my kind of weirdo.”

I'd rather eat a human being than drink a can of V8.

Lee says I’m a weirdo magnet. Wherever I go, they are drawn to me and I to them. To most people my weirdos are a repellent force. They think too oddly to fit in, they question the invisible banal, and (usually) they have no filter between what they think and what they say.

Don Migeul Ruiz (The Four Agreements) would call them “undomesticated”.

Perhaps that’s why I love them so; I am as drawn to wildness as I am to weirdness; the two are intertwined. The world we inhabit seems hell-bent on hammering every aspect of life into ever more efficient straight lines, beating the subtlety out of nuance, providing clear instructions where any fool needs none.

Those unnecessary instructions do not exist in the wild. To our eyes and mind, warped by a life filled with straight lines and streetlights, the wild is a weird place, where the sense we impose on our built spaces reigns no longer. Without constant direction, sweet silence restores.  We refresh ourselves at the unruled well.

There is no silence around Rico unless he is sleeping or eating. His head is filled with ideas, with solutions, with ways to build a better world. A graduate from a well known school with a degree in aerospace engineering, he sees the potential for improvements everywhere he looks.

With that distinguishing lack of filter I love so well in my kind of weirdo, he is always pointing them out. Even when he stops talking with his mouth, his long pianist’s fingers dance on the keyboard of his laptop, typing out endless missives to his network, pointing out errors, offering solutions, questioning givens, and generally gadflying his universe.

As with most, his unconscious time is private to him, and as precious in that privateness as it is to us all. Asleep, he finally calms.  As he relaxes and smiles into slumbrous depths, one can see and love the temporary quietness his parents must have so enjoyed in contrast to the whirlwind of energy his waking moments are.

Unlike his dreams, his eating habits are very public, quite odd, and amongst those of us lucky enough to know him, legendary.

His appetite for chicken waffles, for Mustang Bars (and generally any desserts), and for unending boxes of Chinese takeout is without parallel. With glee he dives in to any meal, and to watch him envelop a dinner that would feed a Midwest family of four and lean back only to give his stomach room to expand those final cubic inches is to watch an engrossing oddity of human evolution.

Rico’s eating habits are a throwback to ancestors who needed to eat a week’s worth of food for sure knowledge of coming hunger. Long ago, that particular genetic switch that clicks over for many of us after the first course of a light meal was permanently stuck in the off position for Rico, overridden only when the digestive tract, from sphincter to tongue, was at capacity.

Truly, it is a wonder to behold. With gusto and smiling abandon, he moves from one plate to the next, knowing that his secret is yet another genetic switch in an odd position, for he has the metabolism of a wolverine.

No matter how much he eats, no matter the unending courses or the dozen desserts, he digests it all in a matter of hours, his brain whirring and clicking away at triple time, a furious burning thinking man’s metabolism bent on fixing and solving the surrounding challenges.

Now, a man of prodigious appetite and chaotic output must have rules in order to keep him on the rails.  Without rules, without dietary steering, he would be forced to face an extra burden of questions regarding what to use as fuel. This pie? That meatloaf? This juice? Even a man with the energy of a Rico needs some boundaries.

Over the course of a month sharing 3 meals a day with him in the small galley of an enormous transport ship I wheedled out of him his guidelines for fueling the endless metabolic firestorm.

Three in number, and encompassing the limits of his culinary territory, they are extraordinary in their general lack of exclusion.

First, “I would rather eat a human being than drink a can of V8.”

Second, “I like my bacon slimy.”

Third, “I don’t eat anything white and creamy.”

That third rule is usually followed with an epithet, spit out with all the wet vehemence of a Catholic priest finding naked fornicaters in the apse: “Disgusting”.

With such a lack of limits, almost anything is fair game for him, though by far the most enjoyable parts of watching him eat come when be butts up against one of his rules.

Crunchy bacon? “My God, man, get this away from me!”

A tall glass of refreshing tomato juice, frosted at the rim? Nearly swept from the table in avoidance terror.

A glorious and dripping camembert or smoothly thick béchamel? The gagging begins almost immediately.

As with all things we humans dislike in our strange and private ways, these mark not the actual deleterious effects of a food, but rather map out our history and experience. In Rico’s case, these three rules came to him early and were a way to demonstrate his absolute and unbending stubbornness, a quality that would serve him well as he navigated through exceptionally difficult training and circumstances in adulthood.

However, by going too much further I run the risk of exposing more than he would perhaps approve of, and as with any friend, I am loathe to present to the world the private underbelly shown only to the trusted.

Suffice to say that Rico stands as a beacon for many of us as someone who has chosen his path, and however odd that stretch of road may appear to those of us outside his frame, it is for him clearly lit and arrow straight. He is a man who has determined the limits within which he thrives, and those limits are three in number.

Remember them, O reader, and question yourself, "What limits have I set on mine own highway?"

Are your own rules far too numerous and restricting?

It is a question that we forget in our endless search for where to go next. Without limits, our energy dissipates quickly and we fail to leave a mark on the world, we do not hammer Jobs’ “dent in the Universe.”

Sit then for a while, and ponder: What are your directive rules? What are your guiding limits? Could you, perhaps, enjoy your bacon slightly more cooked than slimy? With the humanistic hope that you can contribute ever more to this world through focused self-direction, I certainly hope so.

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Nik Hawks


Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!

Too much reading...
How about dessert?

Too Much Reading...How About Dessert?

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