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Rant #539
(published May 19, 2011)
The Hash House Harriers of Washington, DC
by Milton Gray
It started like any other Thursday night, I pulled my Yamaha VMAX 1200cc monster of a bike into the Forest Glen Metro Station. I'm a Hash House Harrier, a member of a strange group of folks who think it's a good idea to go running around looking for beer. We're literally in every major city, especially if there's military nearby.

Each group is a "kennel" and there is a jargon that goes along with the entire activity. A few members of the kennel lay a trail for us to attempt to find, those guys are called "hares." They're usually fast as fuck. They mess with the "pack," they lay false trails, they put "checks" where there shouldn't be any—in short, they try to get your sorry ass lost.

They lay down their dubious trail in handfuls of flour of different configurations, circles, arrows, crosses. We follow it knowing there will be beer at the end. Simple enough, but it's not why I come.

I come because the run always shows me something new, things I'd never see. The first and most shocking thing is the unleashed id of two hundred to three hundred runners. We sing lewd songs. We have nicknames that are graphic and sophomoric. The best are short and witty—Floral Sex brought me in. Someone always brings you in, you'd never come by yourself. You know that's no fun anyway.

I get there early for once, I change out of my motorcycle gear into running gear, the parking lot of the train station is my living room, perfect for getting dressed. People in suits walk by and give us quizzical looks as with every arriving train we grow from a few misanthropes to a force that will literally stop traffic.

We circle up, we sing songs that include Carlin's 7 Dirty Words, just to get us warmed up and in the mood. I chat up a blonde I've never seen before. It's her first time. She's a "virgin."

The herd runs off in a direction that might be right, no one is ever really sure. We run like buffalo through DC, ignoring traffic rules, darting into alleys and through abandoned lots. Forest Glen, true to its name, is home to acres of wooded area, or "shiggy." We run through culverts that are seven feet around, dank, and dark as a cave, concrete ditches with moss that are as slippery as ice. I get stuck behind an old guy who can't make it up an incline that requires an army style low-crawl. The footing is too soft—we can't walk or run, just crawl. We pass encampments of homeless people, their tarps, garbage, empty liquor bottles, and full piss bottles giving away their position like a beacon. We emerge from the forest into suburbs of million dollar homes. We battle BMWs and Mercedes at every corner as hipsters and douchebags honk and flip us off to my delight.

Our first stop is an abandoned Catholic girls' seminary. Nestled in the woods of Forest Glen is a strange piece of history, it was built in the late 1800s, bought by the Army in the 1930s as an annex to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and abandoned by the Army about twenty years later. It has statues and monuments, strange architecture, paths from 150 years ago, concrete structures that no longer make any sense.

Ice and cans of beer are scattered in front of a statue slowly returning to nature. I grab a PBR since it's better than the MGD. As I catch my breath I scan the group and spot a brunette with a rack that every woman in the world would call fake. Fake or real, she sat by herself. Normally I'd ignore her, assuming that twenty other dudes were pointed in her direction, so why bother? But she seems alone so I make small talk. I tell her about the seminary. She points out that the statue in front of us is blindfolded and appears to be holding a dildo. I must've slipped in the culvert. Maybe I'm in a coma and stuck in a Bukowski style wet dream. Ok, ok, calm down boy. The statue is holding a candle. It's lighting the way but not with its eyes. It's Faith. The brunette accepts this explanation.

We run again, this time it hurts, every step a stabbing pain from the soles of my feet to my spine. I didn't drink enough.

We run along a railroad track to the second beer stop, the track pushed aside by trees and all sorts of vegetation. The blonde from the start says "I've walked in the steps of vagabonds, priests, and gypsies." She claims to have made it up on the spot. I tell her that she's chosen creativity over being able to claim that she's well read. She tells me she's a reading teacher and I feel like a fool.

I get another beer and sit on the railroad tracks. The brunette finds me and we talk about our professions. Her medical field experiences have brought her into intensive care units. I briefly think that she'd make a great 40's pinup in some sort of nurse outfit.

And then I realize—she's smart and no one knows it because they can't get past her tits.

We sit on the tracks and I tell her about the death and sickness that the military has exposed me to. She tells me about the ICU, how hard it can be, how she can't treat kids because it makes her too sad, how she had the epiphany that meant she's doing the right thing.

We run some more. We stop behind a post office, it's almost 10pm. The van with our dry clothes and kegs of beer pulls up. I find my bag and start to change using a towel like I've seen girls do. That's when the cops show up five cars and ten cops deep. They make us leave. I get dressed in my dry clothes as quickly as I can, thankful for the lack of charges like "drunk in public" or "indecent exposure." I can't have another public urination ticket, that's just a bad idea.

The two hundred sweaty, drunk souls ramble their way over to a pirate bar nearby.

Yes, there are pirate bars (who knew? And why didn't you tell me? Yargh!)

There are a group of Freemasons wrapping up a meeting in the pirate bar. The bartender, in full pirate garb, is also a Freemason. I strike up a conversation with them. They buy me shots because I shook their hand the right way.

I bum a cigarette from my ex-girl. I'm getting comfortable seeing her but it was pretty bad since we had the big fight. She'll always have her side of the story but her permanent record will always say "2nd Degree Assault" and I'll always have the scars from her teeth tearing away chunks of my flesh. Not to mention the vision of her on top of me in the brambles, hitting me in the temple as hard as she could. I knew I couldn't hit her back because the cops would show up eventually and they like to arrest people. It's kinda their thing. Good thing she's a smoker. I knew she wouldn't be able to hit me for long.

The Freemasons give me their cards and offer me the tours of every conspiracy theorist's dreams. The older ones leave. The younger ones stay at the pirate bar, enamored by the athletic women. One of them says to me "Are any of them whores?." He seems serious so I tell him that in any large group there are bound to be some people of loose morals. It's basic statistics. I talk near him to a friend on the topic of men of who can't treat women right. I get the feeling he doesn't catch my drift and must not have had any sisters or daughters.

It gets late. The train doesn't run all night. I say my goodbyes and make my way back home.

Another Thursday night in DC.

Milton Gray writes from Washington, DC. He is a frequent contributor to the Almanac(k) and a damn fine saxophonist.

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