Pursuit of Perfection.

ImageFor the past 25 days, I have greeted the sunrise with the same short prayer– that those I am fortunate to have in my life will enjoy a glorious day.  And, assuming that same glowing ember dips beneath the horizon tonight, I will have graciously thanked 25 sunsets as well.

Thinking about nothing but yourself over two consecutive 6-hour stretches isn’t as easy as you think, even if you are a Flemish Belgian with a gorgeous head of hair and a slightly inflated sense of self-worth.  I spent the bulk of last weekend penetrating an arboreal tunnel that splits scrubbed limestone bluffs from the alluvial plains that follow the Missouri River.  Superman’s Fortress of Solitude would be my Katy Trail– a 146 mile sojourn connecting Columbia, MO with historic downtown St. Charles.  I split it up over two days, with a stop for the night near Rhineland at a B&B, where I had planned on doing little more than eating a meal in Hermann and crashing for some Zs in a small room with my family.  Little did I know that this anticipated mere distraction would serve as one of my family’s biggest summer surprises.  Les Lavandes (http://www.leslavandesbandb.com/) is an exquisite B&B experiences.  I HIGHLY recommend it.  I may even blog an extensive review about it next week. 

The isolation and monotony of the trail was even more glorious than expected.  I travelled light, with just a credit card, some cash, tubes, air, water, my Nano and some amazing headphones (Shure SE215.)  My playlist was assembled with the specific intention of being light, yet thought-provoking.  It worked.  One song I managed to listen to for the entire McBaine-to-North Jefferson leg.  I don’t care what anyone says:  You simply CANNOT pay too much for a good pair of headphones.  If you’re still using the “white” headphones, stop now.  You are cheating yourself out of a superior music experience.  I credit them, coupled with the serenity of the trail and the ebullience of my own spirit for deriving within me a new decree.  That my life will now be devoted to the tireless pursuit of perfection:  Of not settling for what is possible, but striving, instead, for the impossible.  And learning how to cope with the disappointment for when it inevitably falls short.  Because this process will require me to transfer the focus of my energies elsewhere (nerd alert– the concept of enthalpy demands it!)  something must go.

This is why I bid you farewell, old friend, pal of mine for over 24 years. We’ve had great, great times.  Birthdays, weddings, holidays, bachelor parties.  Mmmmm, wineries.  Awesomeness.  But you got greedy.  In the past couple of years, you’ve been consuming an unfair share of my time and resources. And I’ve taken on some fantastic new responsibilities that are way too important to allow you to interfere.  Sorry bro, but you gotta go.  And should you return, you will be treated as an unwanted guest.  And I should warn you that things between us will get really shitty if you try to come back for even just a few days.  Oh, I don’t doubt for a second that you will shoot for the occasional pop ‘n stop.  We have waaay too much history for me to deny this reality.  So I’ll have a little surprise waiting for you for when this eventually happens.  Also, I am putting you on notice:  You have officially been replaced.  And her curves and angles have succeeded in captivating my imagination.  And my new addictions, muscle fatigue and figuratively kicking any and all types of asses, permit me to actually like myself in the morning.  Ha!  Can you imagine that shit!  Hasta luego, mi amigo borracho!

There are other areas of my life affected by this pursuit of perfection.  Most notably, I’m going to be more frank and direct.  And I won’t filter myself any more either.  I should warn you:  I’m going to be a terrible baseball player, as I will be swinging for the fences on every pitch. Know now that I am feeling better today than I have ever before and that if you want to booze it up in front of me, I strongly encourage you to do so.  I know I would!  Just don’t treat me any differently.  And as a reward for your indifference, I promise you the sort of good friend that I have always been.  Except this one won’t try to stick you with a bar tab and will be glad to give you a ride home.  Peace.

Have a great Fourth of July!  Happy Birthday America!

 

Living by your own rules, Part 2.

Handsome Devils.

Sears and Roebuck cutoffs never looked more at home than when they were loosely hanging from Emil Joseph Lycke’s narrow hips. Their innate comedy was not lost upon my brother and I one fated night, in Central Ontario, with the old man standing confused and akimbo at the end of our fishing lodge’s front deck.  No one but God could possibly understand the complex cocktail of emotions he must have endured, having just suffered the mother ass-chewing of all ass-chewings ever administered by an irate Canadian (t’s a wonder he still had enough ass to keep those cutoffs up!)  My brother and I rarely agree upon anything.  But it only took the flash of a glance between our young eyes to mutually understand that a chuckle at the old man’s expense right now would be a cataclysmic mistake.

When we were much younger, my brother and I used to spend a few weeks of every summer fishing with Dad on Lac Seul, near Sioux Lookout, Ontario.  Priceless memories.  We’d spend our days fishing and our evenings feasting on our quarry and then playing spades.  And this Rockwellian depiction was pretty much dejure, until the Lycke men descended upon a new fishing lodge, one reputed to be THE hottest destination for anglers eager to fill their live wells with trophy walleye and northern pike– Fisherman’s Cove. 

Before we move on, I should probably add a lil wrinkle to the plot– on these fishing trips we were usually drinking.  A lot.  A fact not appreciated by some of your upper echelons within the fishing community.  And these fishing lodges had rules– some enforced more than others.  At Fisherman’s Cove these rules were clearly enumerated, anywhere you looked.  They even laminated a rule sheet and conveniently placed it on our dining room table back at our lodge.  Helen Keller would have known what this lodge’s rules were.  Below you will find an abbreviated list of these rules and their respective level of importance:

1.  Consumption of alcohol while operating boating equipment owned by Fisherman’s Cove is strictly forbidden.  The lodge was actually pretty lenient on this one.  And even though a small avalanche of empty Natural Light cans would spill upon the marina as we unloaded our rented boat, this would not be catalyst for the aforsaid ass chewing.

2.  Any fish caught within the slot size (appx 12 to 18 inches) must be immediately released without injury.  Okay, this is a pretty important one.  A slot-sized fish is a fish species’ ideal mating size, and releasing them ensures that the fish populations remain plentiful.  So when we unloaded a slot-sized fish no fewer then six inches from the boot of the lodge owner’s son, we rightfully caught a little hell for that one.  And yet still, this would not be the bee sting that would drive Ferdinand the Bull into a fit of rage.

3.  All fish must be cleaned in the lodge fish house, properly labelled and must be stored in the lodge’s community freezer.  This is a big one.  Because Canadian fish and wildlife agents routinely check on their licensed fishing lodges to make sure they are complying with catch limits, they require that all guests keep their fish in a centralized location.  This is the rule that we will be elaborating upon shortly.

As you can imagine, three drunkards trying to pilot a small bass boat through a narrow marina after ten hours of quaffing strong Canadian beer can create quite a cacophony.  There was some dispute as to who the guilty party was, but Dad and I agree it was Curt, as he was at the helm when our first international crisis occured.  Curt Lycke ran that boat up on a metal piling and beat the hell out of it in a manner that would have made Chris Brown envious.  I should add, that this scene unfolded during the lodge’s meet and greet BBQ, so the entire Fisherman’s Cove community was made privy to our piloting prowess on day #1.  After having suffered the awkward stares of a least two dozen fisherman, the three of us ambled our way to our lodge, where we shuttered ourselves in our lodge and prepared for our fried fish frenzy.  Meal prep was pretty much the only chore of EJ’s boys, so while Curt and I set about battering fish and dicing potatoes, Dad busied himself with packing the day’s loot into our own freezer (remember rule #3?)Immediately,my brother and I protested: “But Dad, it says right here that all caught fish must be kept in the community freezer!”  One of us even held up and pointed to the aforesaid handy laminated card as a point of reference.  Dad’s response, CLASSIC EJ, still resonates clearly in my mind: “Well, that’s for the ROOKIES!”  The insinuation couldn’t have been more obvious– That playing by someone else’s rules other than your own was a foolhardy waste of time.  At the end of our week’s stay, we would find out that someone else strenuously disagreed.

The last night spent on a fishing trip is a mixed bag of emotions:  Part joy, because you’ve had enough of smelling bad and sleeping on a lumpy bed.  Part sadness, because fishing (when fish are plentiful) is one the greatest gifts given by Mother Nature.  That evening we made our final walk from the marina and into our lodge.  Instantly, my brother and I recognized that that handy laminated card, previously discarded into some dark corner, was now resting ominously in the center of our table.  Apparently the cleaning crew had come through, noticed the fish in our freezer, returned the rules card to the center of our table and even took the time to circle Rule #3 with a bright red marker.  ONCE AGAIN, my brother and I beseeched my Dad to recognize the fact that obviously this fishing lodge wanted him to adhere to Rule #3.  ONCE AGAIN, EJ responded with “Meh, that’s for the rookies!”  Shortly afterwards we heard a knock at our front door.  My Dad opened it to find a red, squatty man who identified himself as the owner of the lodge.  He wasted no time in inflicting upon my father the death of a 1000 verbal cuts.  Booze, beating the hell out of his boats, potentially getting him fined $30K for an illegal fish and yes, finally, for keeping his fish in his own freezer.  And then he was gone quicker than he had appeared. 

Good or bad, Dad lived by his own rules. And I’m glad he did, because it allowed us to have the sort of memories that I take joy in sharing, again and again.  They never get old.  And it is in the telling these stories that allows me to keep a part of his spirit alive.  As an interesting footnote, as much as they disdained EJ, Fisherman’s Cove’s website for the longest time feature a picture of my Dad on it.   Hey, if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend them as a fishing lodge.  Check them out at http://www.lacseulfishermanscove.com/index.html  For the helluva it– TELL ‘EM EJ SENT YA!

Living by your own rules. (By guest blogger, Curt Lycke.)

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One of the greatest lessons I learned from my dad was the importance of not giving a shit what other people thought of you. This really is a great thing to be able to do if you can master it. It’s very liberating to do what you want without caring what someone might think about you. And my dad was able to do it with perfection.

One time when we were kids we were at a fancy restaurant (the kind of place where you have to leave a tip.) We waited to be seated in the smoking section of the restaurant because the old man bought a cigar there. The maitre de probably didn’t think too much of EJ or his attire. My dad was wearing a particularly vile pair of cutoff jean shorts and his favorite Belle-Clair Soccer League t-shirt. We took our table and had a fine dinner. We got the all-you-can-eat meal, and EJ was happy because we went through three rounds of fish.

He finished off his meal by lighting up that stogie he bought in the restaurant gift shop. Two minutes later the waitress kindly asked my dad if he’d put out his cigar. She said there was a table that was requesting it because it was affecting the enjoyment of their meal. My dad quickly replied “This is the smoking section, right?” The waitress politely agreed, but was asking as a courtesy to another table. We could see the people at that table, and they didn’t look very happy. My dad wasn’t one to give up. His “peace offering” was that he’d put out the cigar if they guy at the other table bought his dinner.

EJ sat and smoked that cigar for another half-hour before he put it out, and he only put it out because he got tired of it. He may have even smoked it a little more than he usually did.
Well played, old man.

Fuzzy Sweaters

The secret to getting ready for work in six minutes is synergy.  God gave you four limbs (he gave a few lucky bastards five) so their collaboration is key in order to achieve an egress that is expeditious.  We all know how hectic morning rituals can be:  You get up early enough to stretch a few muscles at the gym, head home to make your coffee and watch some birds frolic in your backyard and maybe catch up on some “The People’s Court” “Tosh.0” and “Workaholics” on your DVR, and suddenly, before you know it, you’re expected to be at work in ten minutes.  I have assembled an itemization of helpful tips that, assuming you don’t accidentally blaze it past a speed trap, should get you to work within the normal 15 minimum grace period afforded by most US-based sweatshops.

Minute #1:  Coffee is key to kicking off this process–  1.  It has caffeine. D’uh.  2.  It invariably gets the poopworks brewing which becomes crucially important in minute one of six.  In order to poop, you have to sit down, which leaves your left arm free to continue sipping coffee, and your right arm free to update your Facebook status.  Yes, this is true. Chances are, if I post an AM Facebook update, there is an extreme likelihood that it has been accompanied by a clearing of my colon.  Some claim this is source upon which I draw my literary inspiration.  I believe Hemingway was the same.  As a matter of fact, I believe he wrote “A Moveable Feast” after the removal of several feasts.  Now, before you move on to the next phase of the process, DO NOT OVERLOOK THE PAPERWORK!  Because the necessary short time you are about to spend in the shower is contingent upon you filling out the proper paperwork.  The Nazis were able to commit terrible atrocities because they kept great documentation.  So I would imagine their post-poopal paper work would have amazed us.  (Email me if you need a clearer explanation on this.) Next, turn the shower on and go pick out your outfit.  Dudes, this should take twenty seconds.  Chicks, you may need to double this.  Remember, you’re just going to work.  And it isn’t an effin’ fashion show.

Minute #2:  In the world of speed dressing, the shower stage can make or break you.  I recommend that no more than three pirouettes with a liquid soap circumnavigating your physique should be entirely sufficient.  Also, ALWAYS use Pantene– shampoo AND conditioner.  This should not require explanation.  Also, the “repeat as needed” suggestion provided in the instructions is bullshit.  Ignore it.

Minute #3:  By this point, you’re pretty much half way to work.  Toweling off with your left while brushing your teeth with your right can be a tricky task, as it requires more coordination than some of us have been blessed with, but it must be done.  Also, if you are looking to shave 20 seconds off of minute #3, you can always chew gum and skip the brushing altogether.  Be warned:  You’ll spend the day contending with a fuzzy sweater on your teeth if you select the gum alternative.  Application of deodorant (in the event that you are the sort of the disgusting beast that should need such a thing) can be sidestepped with a generous portion of cologne/perfume.  Gentleman, I highly recommend D&G’s Light Blue, as it has a fresh, yet lightly overpowering aroma.  Some have been known to call this shortcut “the Puerto Rican” but I will not, as that is possibly racist.  Dope your hair with whatever crap you use.  Don’t worry about spending too much time on it, because you can always fix it up better on the drive in to work. And shaving is for suckers.  Skip it.  Besides, shaving is women’s work.  And for the ladies:  Shave on the weekends, when you can afford to give this step adequate time.  That I might be skipping some of the necessary female hygenic steps, BTW, is not unintentional. Chicks do gross stuff.  And this will NEVER be discussed on www.straffelycke.com.  Ever.

Minute #4:  Time to get dressed.  You can shave twenty seconds off of minute #4 by going commando.  I made this sagacious decision twelve years ago, and have never looked back. Lincoln freed the slaves. I freed my boys.  And, strangely, my boys are still asking me for reparations too.  If you select the commando shortcut, you have to double, no, TRIPLE CHECK your barn door.  A public commando with an open barn door can be a life altering event.  The extra two seconds you spend ensuring your fly is up is a valuable investment.  Slip on shoes and a half zip shirt are also obvious time savers.  However, should you chose to leverage the velcro shortcut, please let me know your name so that I may publicly ridicule you.  The half zip is handy because, in my world, it can still look cool untucked.  You can cinch things up with a belt on the way down the stairs.  Hopefully at the bottom of said stairs you have a full-length mirror, so that you can check your zipper a fourth time. 

Minute #5:  Check your iPhone for any text messages that need responding to, or friend’s Facebook status updates that demand your witty responses.  Take a minute of your time this morning to give such important details attention.  Your friends deserve it.  And they need you to help make their lives interesting. 

Minute #6:  You’re in the car now.  Check your brow for any beads of sweat  You’ve had a rigorous five minutes which has likely consumed more calories than the hour you spent earlier in the gym.  Fasten your seatbelt.  They save lives.  Also, good music selection will help you kick off the day right.  I recommend anything that is not Maroon 5.  Engage the car in reverse, and don’t hit the garage or wandering small children on your way out. 

You remaining drive time is indirectly proportional to the number of accreditations appearing on your business card.  For example, Craig Lycke, CBAMF nets you about eleven minutes. Contrastingly, if you are Joe Smith, CPA, MBA, MD, HUA, ESAD, FOAD cut that total roughly in half.  Use your own judgment on this.  I’d hate to be the reason you lost your job.  Lastly, check your zipper on your way in to the office.  Failure to keep it secured will result in a very awkward discussion with your company’s HR depart.

Now–TAKE ON THE DAY!

Too good to not share.

theCHIVE

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Donate right here.

If you feel like mailing a check, a $5 bill, or even a letter of encouragement:

Sid and Alvira Morris
5026 Sage Rd
Cedar Falls, IA  50613

I’ll be bringing you updates every hour on the donation amounts as they come in so check back.

I know Taylor is reading this, theCHIVERS will be making a company donation of $1,000 as well as personal donations to get this started. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.

Chivers, you know what to do.

UPDATE #1: $27,814.00 in less than 45 minutes. Chivers, this is amazing.

Update #2: 12:15 PM PST: $36,442 Goal exceeded! The family told me the donations appear to be coming in even faster right now.

Update #3: 12:35 PST: $48,170

Update #4: After crossing the $50,000 mark I spoke to Taylor, Danielle, and the Morris family. They are gathered…

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