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Friday, February 18, 2011

Ride to Hell

You think you know tenacity? You do not know tenacity until you are acquainted with the Hands On A Hard Body competition and men like Benny Perkins and Philip Calhoun. I do hold tenacity in high regard (see my story Perfect Attendance here) - but the Hands on a Hard Body competition is horrifying and extreme.

In 1997, a documentary film was made about this annual endurance contest in at a Nissan dealership in Longview, Texas, where 24 contestants see who can keep one hand on a Nissan pickup truck for the longest time. No leaning, no crouching. There are five minute breaks every hour and fifteen minute breaks every six hours. The last one standing wins the truck. There are many repercussions including hallucinations and worse.* The record was 92 hours and 40 minutes in 1998 by Calhoun.

Benny Perkins won in 1992. I first heard of Benny and this contest in a radio program and interview. A person that wins a contest like this is much more than just tenacious, perhaps a little frightening. This is best illustrated by Benny's remark to one remaining competitor:

"I told Dan, the guy I was with, I said 'You're standing next to the devil and this is the ride to hell. I'll stand here 'til the day you die, so you might as well drop out now."

When I heard him say this in his own voice, along with things like “You go slowly insane. Your mind has got to rest – the body can work 24 hours a day, but your mind has got to rest”, I had many thoughts including - just give him that truck.

If I had the tenacity of Perkins or Calhoun, perhaps I could have waited outside 125 Thompson Street with my hands on the door until someone came or left. For decades I have walked by this large nondescript building in SoHo, hoping for some human activity but only seeing the small brass plaque: 125 Thompson Street. Franciscan Friars. Province of the Immaculate Conception.

Some, who love a good mystery or conspiracy, might imagine something like the Illuminati, with a covert masterplan for a New World Order. Others, like my mother, would feel I am wasting my time and There's Nothing Here (see story here). A phone call confirmed the more reasonable - that 125 Thompson Street serves as a monastery and offices for the local Franciscan congregation, who have been in the area for 150 years. The Franciscan Brothers are a tenacious group, working hard and quietly, living a life in the manner of Francis of Assisi to bring their ministry around the world and, like Benny's admonition, trying to save others from the ride to hell...

*The contest was discontinued in 2005 because one contestant, Richard Thomas Vega II, crossed a street, broke into a Kmart store, took a gun from a case and shot himself. His wife sued and settled in 2008 with Patterson Nissan of Longview. His wife alleged that the dealership was negligent in organizing and conducting the contest and likened the stress and sleep deprivation to "brainwashing." She said the Nissan dealership failed to provide a safe environment for contestants who "temporarily lost their sanity."


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Anonymous said...

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