Friday, July 16, 2004

Write up: Back to Basics Hash

I haven't written up the hash yet, but I found a relevant Terry Gross interview: 
Terry Gross: This is Fresh Aiiiiiir. I'm Terry Gross. In the middle 1990'sa new kind of sport called "hashing" spread across the US. While today wemight see it televised on public access occasionally, back then it wasunknown, unruly, and exciting to those who participated. Our guest today is Edgar Allen Poo-diddle, an active "hasher" who's justwritten a book describing the history of hashing. He's been playing thesport for about 6 years, starting at just about the time it transformedinto the regulated play we see today. I asked him to describe the sport ofhashing: 
Edgar Allen Poo-diddle: Well, the leaders of two teams are given a startpoint and a destination by a referee, and then each leader lays a trailfor his team to follow from the start to the end. Whichever team gets tothe end first is the winner. The thing that makes it difficult is that theleaders will cross each other's path during the trail laying to make ithard for the other team to follow their own trail. They'll also layalcohol on the other team's trail to distract them. 
TG: How many people are on a team? 
EAPd: That's up to the team leaders. If there are too many then it takestoo long to get them to the end, and if there aren't enough then theycan't adequately search out the trails. They decide before each game howmany they are going to have. It's usually between 4 and 30. 
TG: That seems like a pretty wide range. 
EAPd: It depends on the situation. 
TG: What sort of things affect the number? 
EAPd: Opposing leaders who are good at confusing the trail may cause yourleader to bring in different players to make things less confusing. Alsothe type of terrain that you're on will be better for some players thanothers. 
EAPd: Where are the trails located and how long are they? 
TG: They usually put them on the borders of developed and undevelopedareas, but they can be anywhere. Sometimes they're exclusively in the cityor a developed area, and other times they're completely in the woods. Butthey like to have the players move in and out between those two kindsareas. They're usually 2 to 6 miles long. 
TG: I would think with hashers training to play competitively, they wouldlearn to ignore the alcohol that's laid on the trail. I mean, most playersin other sports can ignore all kinds of distractions. 
EAPd: Well, the quality of the alcohol laid on the trail is exceedinglyhigh. Heh, it's almost been a sort of arms race the last few years. We'restarting to see 40 year French wine in some of the championships, as wellas exotic beers and liquors from obscure parts of the world. 
TG: Can't the team leaders just buy those wines for their own teams andpromise them after the race? 
EAPd: No. The play rules dictate that all alcohol left on the course is tobe destroyed after the on-in. It's sad really when some team getsaggressive and ignores all the alcohol on the course just to come out infront. The destruction that occurs can be traumatic. 
TG: I think I can see why they stop then. 
EAPd: We had ... I'm a little drunk ... You'll edit that out? 
TG: [laughs] Yeah, right. 
EAPd: Really? 
TG: No. [pause] Why are you a little drunk? 
EAPd: Before ... We decided to do an old-style hash in celebration of ourinterview today. We started yesterday but I still seem to be drunk. 
TG: Uh-huh. What's an old-style hash like? 
EAPd: It's probably best to describe an example from history. Let's see... The one I'm going to use is a hash that occurred on June 26th, 2004 inNewark, Delaware. This particular hash started in a business parking lot.Afternoon I think. I should mention that hashers at that time had apractice of declaring an "on-sec" who would write-up the happenings of thehash afterward, however the on-sec for this hash never apparently gotaround to writing it. So, I've just had to cobble the information togetherfrom wherever I could. 
TG: This wouldn't make a very good example then, would it? 
EAPd: No. 
TG: Is there another one then that might be better?
 EAPd: No. 
TG: Who was the on-sec for this particular hash then? 
EAPd: Uh, it was He Needed the Money. 
TG: Ok. So what happened then on this hash? 
EAPd: Well, like I said, it started out in a business parking lot.  "Kojack Sack" was haring (laying the trail), and about 6 or 15 peopleshowed up. There was very little competition towards completing the trail.People were happy to be there but not particularly aggressive inexercising themselves. Uh, the starters were "I'll Respect You in theMorning", "Toxic Waste", "Slippery Pole Bunion", "Troma Queen", "SleepyHead", and "Butthead". "Fart", "Water Foul", "Mathematical Impossibility,She was 8 Before She was 7", "Turkey Baster", "Just Derya", and "VaselineAlley" may or may not have been there. 
TG: He Needed the Money would have been there as well, since he wasassigned to write the trail up, right? 
EAPd: Oh, uh, yeah, right. 
TG: Ok. 
EAPd: They waited around a bit to see if anyone else showed up and thenthey were off. They followed trail around the edge of the buildings, theninto a natural drainage area with a bit of shiggy. Then they hit a lot ofshiggy. Then a little bit again, and then a lot. They cleared out, thenafter a check and false trail or two near some more buildings they came toa rail crossing. This was a bit of a problem since one of the lines was ahigh speed Amtrak line and there was also slow engine activity nearby. 
TG: Why was that a problem? 
EAPd: They were afraid of being run over or caught for trespassing. Beforethis Water Foul shortcutted along the tracks to avoid the shiggy and cameup just before an Amtrak passed. They waited around and tried to decidewhat to do. They poked their heads around a shed they were hiding behindto analyze the situation, made noise about the danger, figured how likelythey were to be caught by the nearby engine, complained to Kojack Sackabout illegalities, waited a bit more, tentatively nosed towards thetracks, then ran back and watched as a second Amtrak passed. Finally theydetermined that Amtraks only come in twos, and off they went running overthe tracks with exaggerated arm movements and down a rough wooded hill onthe other side, ignoring the trail laid for some distance along the otherside of the tracks to keep out of sight. They made their way alongoff-trail and hit their first unintentional water crossing, beside thetunnel of the rail bridge, over which they would have gone, should havegone, yes, where their trail was supposed to go, where the trail was evenas they stood there, below the bridge, afraid to get sucked into anotherAmtrak. 
TG: What?
 EAPd: They pondered the water for a bit, then crossed it in moderately wetfashion and made their way under a tree marked above with flour,indicating that they were maybe on trail again. Up a small water runoff,and then a BN! where all was forgiven. Yuengling Traditional Lager foreveryone. They moved out of the runoff and into the sun next to a propanedistribution center. Vaseline Alley was penalized for receiving a cellcall while on trail, Water Foul had a smoke and then they were off. They moved into an older neighborhood, had a check, moved off along amajor road for a short distance and back into a newer neighborhood. Alongthe road, a check back, and into an even newer neighborhood. There werehills here and pensive admiration of the price of the houses. Plenty ofchecks to take advantage of the hills. Eventually they summited one hillto discover something rarely seen in Delaware: a distant horizon. 
TG: I've noticed something: when you get going, you talk like you write.  Why is that? 
EAPd: Soon after that, near the top of the development, a check next to aconstruction site. Clearly the most difficult check, with people startingto get a little tired, and no one really desiring to look for flour in thefield of dry mud in the construction site. Math Imp quickly surveyed theconstruction site entrance and didn't find anything. Fart, having to pee,went straight down the road to discover a false. Others tagged along invarious directions finding falses or nothing. Eventually on the way backto the check someone called on-on in the construction site and off theywent across the field. At the edge of the field, the On-In was discoveredin a small tree line next to a road. Kojack Sack's car was there, where heprovided a lovely assortment of food: fresh fruits, cheese, meat, Italianbread, chips, water and Yuengling Premium. 
TG: Are we still in the interview? 
EAPd: They circled up, awards and penalties were given, on-out was called,and food was eaten. Fart took the opportunity to relieve herself as closeto the circle as possible. Eventually they decided to crash He Needed theMoney's house, hot tub, and grill for the second time in two weeks so theyall crammed into Kojack Sack's car to get back to their own cars, andonward to Needed's house. 
TG: How can they crash He Needed the Money's house if he was with them? 
EAPd: This was a hash. 
TG: And so? 
EAPd: They had ... a lot of logical inconsistencies built in. 
TG: Is your book better researched than this -- I mean, why give a crummyexample when you've clearly spent so much time researching this book? 
EAPd: The research was difficult and confusing. There are many conflictingviewpoints on what happened. 
TG: Clearly you've made all this up. 
EAPd: Yeah -- no! ... 
TG: There's a tradition of hashers giving each other unusual nicknames.Can you tell us about that? 
EAPd: Sure, yeah, it's kind of crazy. I haven't been able to find out whyor when the tradition started but currently people are generally named inhonor of an embarrassing, insulting, or strange incident that would havehappened on the trail, or perhaps in reference to a strange personalitytrait. 
TG: Can you give us some examples? 
EAPd: Well, back to the hash I was describing ... I'm not sure about"Kojack Sack", but I can imagine with the frequency of nudity he was knownfor having, someone must have discovered him shaved or something. 
TG: So did you have an "accident" on the trail? 
EAPd: What? 
TG: Your name. 
EAPd: I didn't have any accidents. 
TG: So how did you get named Edgar Allen Poo-diddle? 
EAPd: That's my birth name. 
TG: Oh, so Edgar Allen Poo-diddle isn't your hash name? 
EAPd: No. 
TG: What is your hash name? 
EAPd: On Me. 
TG: What does that refer to? 
EAPd: I don't think I can say it on the air. 
TG: Can you -- maybe make a round way of saying it? 
EAPd: I'm not sure. Uh ... I don't know. 
TG: Alright. [Laughs] I guess this describes hash naming pretty well. 
EAPd: Certainly. 
TG: Do you expect hashing to grow in the future? 
EAPd: Yes, we're definitely seeing league play expand as it gets moreexposure. There's also been a small retro-interest developing, with peoplewanting to do old style hashes, but we're not sure if that's good or bad.We'd rather funnel those people into regular hashing. 
TG: Have any hashers turned professional yet? 
EAPd: We don't currently know of any paid sponsors, and we don't feel wedraw enough attendance to charge -- mostly it's just family and friendsshowing up to hashes. We have some teams that have had some of theirequipment sponsored, which is a good sign. 
TG: "Edgar Allen Poo-diddle" On Me, I want to thank you for being here. 
EAPd: Thank you. 
TG: Edgar Allen Poo-diddle has just written a book on the sport ofhashing. After the break we talk to one of the people whose job it is todestroy unclaimed hash alcohol after each race. Later, our wine reviewerreviews the typical wines laid out today in competitive hashing. This is Terry Gross and you're listening to Fresh Air.  


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