I’m sitting on the side of the highway in a small formation of trees with a group of complete strangers, sweating my balls off, listening to them argue about whether or not people should receive Hash Names by default.
“It should be organic; I didn’t get mine until I’d been hashing for over a year,” says Trickle-Down Dickonomics.
“We’ve always named after their fifth hash, though,” Mr. Giggles interjected. “That’s the way it’s always gone.”
I’m drinking on my third beer at circle, where everyone meets up after a hash to… well, there’s a lot to it.
Shit, where do I friggin’ start?
“Hashing” stems from a movement known as the Hash House Harriers. An organization comprised of over two thousand different branches all over the world, essentially it is a non-competitive running, social club.
But don’t let them hear you say “running”. As I quickly learned, running is an activity that revolves around exercise. Hashing is an activity that revolves around drinking.
I had heard all about this from Trickle-Down, who moved here from Boston a few weeks ago and routinely participated in the Boston hash scene. But I quickly wrote it off as something I’d hate. Most people hear “running + drinking” and finish the equation with “= vomit”. Yeah, that happens, but you get accolades for blowing chunks or bloodshed. Badge of honor, if you will.
Anyway, I was at my apartment and asked my old friend (“Just”) Ian if he wanted to have a few beers that evening. He said “I can’t, I’ve got a hash later.” Immediately, my ears perked up.
“You’re in on that shit, too? Is it really that friggin’ awesome? ‘Cause [Trickle-Down] never shuts up about it,” I said, half annoyed, half intrigued.
“Dude, it’s the one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life.”
I value his opinion, and so I said “fuck it” and told Ian that I’d meet him at the starting point. I needed to see this with my own eyes. If there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s coming up with a ridiculous costume for every occasion. I’d heard rumors of wild outfits, so I packed up my best gear and it was off to the origin point: Mama’s Crowbar. (NOTE: The origin point changes from hash to hash)
I arrived early, and there were a few runne— …erm, hashers sitting at the bar (though I didn’t know that yet). More started to filter in, and Ian arrives with his girlfriend (“Just”) Nessa. Finally it’s time to get into gear. Everyone meets outside, and Cuma Cuma Cumanda steps into the middle of the circle. He starts speaking quickly and people are firing back with an almost-Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque call and response act.
I was instantly confused, but attentive. They break down the structure of a hash. There are different markings that you must keep track of throughout your hash, set by the hares. They will jet ahead of everyone and set the markers, and all of them have a different task involved.
The arrows point to the proper trail, and these trails lead to, for instance, a song check, where everyone has to sing a dirty drinking song. Another is a tit/dick check, where you must stop and flash your goods until the members of the opposite sex have had their fill looking at them/it. These would eventually end up at a drink check, where we stop and drink for about 20 minutes.
The briefing was complete.
“Virgin, please step into the circle,” Cumanda instructed me. I followed orders and stepped into the middle of the group.
“Why are you here?”
“To get drunk.” A resounding hooray.
“What is your name?”
“Virgin Conor.” I had been given a quick rundown of the proper answers for this moment.
“Who brought you here?”
“Just Ian,” I said, as I pointed at him with my elbow. (Hashers don’t point with fingers, but rather their elbows because pointing at people is rude).
“Where are you from?”
“South Portland.” At least I grew up there.
That’s all I had to do. We were off after that. I didn’t really know where we were heading or what to expect. We started seeing the markings and people were breaking up to locate the true trail. Once someone did, they yelled “ON ONE!!” which means that they’re on the beginnings of the true trail.
The hares are supposed to make it really difficult for you to find your way, almost like a scavenger hunt. We got turned around a number of times. It sucked. It was extremely hot and all we wanted was to have a friggin’ beer, but we couldn’t find them. It was fun, but goddamn.
The first drink check finally came about in the middle of a park, tucked into some trees. Were we supposed to be drinking there? Nope! Were we anyway? Yup! A mixture of orange Gatorade, some kind of whipped cream flavored vodka and orange juice concentrate. Delish. We also had a regular old Gatorade that we were passing out. Gotta stay hydrated.
The whole experience lasted about two hours before Circle. Since we’ve accomplished the hash, there is a ceremony at the end. Beers aplenty, which are extremely refreshing and cold. Everyone is circled up, and Cumanda sends me to the middle once more.
What happens to virgins in Circle stays in Circle, so you’re gonna hafta go on a hash to get that experience, but I came out of it without any scars, physical or emotional. I am no longer known as Virgin Conor, but have instead adopted Just Conor status until my name is given to me.
People are shitting on each other's hashing form; be it alcohol abuse, or skipping parts of the trail, or using their cell phone on the trail. All of these offenses have a mean song attached to them, followed by beer chugging as a punishment (nobody seemed like their arms were being twisted).
Okay, so the beer is gone. Done, right? Nope.
Just Ian invites everyone to his place for more beer and debauchery. That probably looked a lot like this when we stopped for more beer:
After Circle, everyone’s allowed to call each other by their birth names, but nobody does. I attempt to refer to Trickle-Down Dickonomics as Myles a few times, but nobody knows whom I’m talking about. There’s no point.
It’s like a family. They all know each other’s personal lives as well as their hashing stories, and there’s a comradery attached to the whole experience. They’re all friends. They’re a part of a special fraternity that has structure, rules, games, songs and growing relationships. And they welcome people from all walks of life. It’s quite fascinating to watch, especially since I always wanted to join a frat and there weren’t any at my college.
Doctors, lawyers, musicians, finance analysts and everyone in between meet once a week to hash. It’s a beautiful thing. I may very well have found my people. After all, they're the only folks I know that can keep up with my drinking abilities.
Want in? Find a friend who is already involved, and ask to be their virgin. I bet you know somebody and just don't know it.