Thursday, February 1, 2018

Last Man Standing: Help Us Send Our Friend To the Worst Place In the World

Dear Friends,

Come celebrate friendship and electronic instruments with the new Hard Taco song, "All-Friends Jamboree." 

It's comforting to know you have old friends, but it's even more special when you and your friends are legally bound to each other.  

My senior year in college, there were a bunch of guys living in neighboring rentals on Bowen Street. After graduation, we all left Providence and spread out over the world. I moved back to Wisconsin for medical school. Dan moved to India. Ivan moved to Turkey. Most of the rest of them went to New York or California. 

I don't remember exactly how it started, but at some point in the next few years, a subset of us hatched the plan for the Last Man Standing Contest.

The Last Man Standing refers to the last person, of the 11 participants, to get married. As soon as the 10th guy is legally married (or cohabits long enough to constitute a common law marriage), the 11th is declared the Last Man Standing. Here's my favorite part. As soon as this happens, the other 10 participants must purchase an all-expense paid trip for the Last Man Standing to a destination chosen by the non-winning participants. In other words, the losers get to send the winner on a vacation to the worst place in the world. Because that's the kind of people we are. 
Lauren was a law student when we first came up with this idea, and she drew up a contract, which all 11 guys signed. Here is page 1 of 3. (The rest is available upon request.)  

I got married first, and several of the Bowen boys were at our wedding. By then, Dan and one of the Daves were already engaged, but things slowed down after that. When Jody got married in New Orleans in 2015, it was down to Ivan and McCaleb (a.k.a. Bo.)

On January 5 of this year, Bo sent out a group text. "Wait, did Ivan win Last Man Standing?" Apparently, Bo checked Facebook and it told him that he and Sam had been living together for 4 years, one year longer than the common low marriage threshold described in the contract.  

Ivan's victory surprises no one, but it creates a unique challenge for the rest of us. Ivan works as an international correspondent for CNN, and held a similar role with NPR before that. He routinely reports from war zones and natural disasters. In 2008, he was the target of a car bomb attack in Iraq. He reported from Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and from Syria in 2014.  

So what do you get for the man who has everything? More specifically, how do you pick a terrible vacation for someone who purposely works in the most dangerous places in the world? 

After two weeks of research and two rounds of voting, here are the runners-up:

Silent Meditation Retreat. Ivan goes to northern Ontario in December, and spends a week at a camp where talking is prohibited. A sample morning schedule looks like this: 8 am breakfast, 9 am sitting, 10 am break, 11 am sitting. 

Personality Development Course from the Institute of Creative Excellence. This Hyderabad-based school helps Bollywood actors and actresses learn the "art of attraction" so they can appear more charismatic when talking to the media. 

Mexican Sweat Lodge. First, Ivan slathers mud all over his body. He then crawls into the temazcal, a short circular domed structure that is supposed to represent a womb, but much hotter. When he emerges he is, in s symbolic sense, reborn. He is also filthy and screaming, like a newborn. 

Cruise to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a swirling mass of plastic litter the size of Texas. This cruise is unique in that there are no shore excursions.

Video journalism camp for teens. Even if you've had the same job for 20 years, it's a good idea to take a step back every now and then and review the basics, right?

Singles Cruise. We decided this was too mean-spirited. 

I don't want to spoil the surprise for Ivan by revealing the winning vacation, so it is not listed above.  All I can say is that he will make lots of new friends and come home with some wonderful keepsakes! Hopefully, I'll have an update soon. 

It's hard to fathom, but now that we are on the final leg of this journey, a few of the guys are trying to back out of the contract. They want us to give Ivan the option to forego the solo trip in favor of a fun Guys' Weekend with all of us. What? Sure, I'd love to see everyone, but I don't see what's fun about violating contractual obligations.  

If you know Jay Bakhru, McCaleb Burnett, Je' Carr, or Mike Grossman, please be sure to reach out to them and let them know how you feel about seeing things through to the end. Let them know how you feel about honesty, about integrity, and about irrevocable nature of legally binding contracts. 

With warmest regards,