My Cup Runneth
From the June 6-12, 1996 issue
Metro Santa Cruz
By Robert Scheer
Acid Hash Back:Two hashers chug along the
flour-strewn trail of a South Bay hash. Participants
pursue their crazed sport in every corner of the
planet, including Antarctica.
beer-soaked truth about life in the "hash"
By Amy Adams
On a drizzly Sunday afternoon
last month in the hills off Highway 17, I found
myself covered in mud, thoroughly wet, busily
following little blobs of flour back to my car.
Twenty or so similarly bedraggled people--going by
names like Divining Rod and Nasty Ditch--accompanied
me on this muddy adventure.
Divining Rod--a tall, dimpled
Welsh man--briefly led the pack. The back of his
sweatshirt read "Will Run 4 Beer."
"Hey, Divining Rod, you
on?" asked a fellow hasher. "On," for
this crowd, means "do you see a flour
"Better than that, I see
'beer near,' " called Divining Rod, pointing to
the ground. Sure enough, slightly blurred flour
letters spelled out the words "Beer Near."
The prospect of tepid beer lifted our spirits and
warmed our hearts, encouraging us to pick up the
Around the next muddy corner
was the blue beer truck. In the middle of a run,
miles from the cars, all the sweaty erstwhile
health-conscious runners popped tops of slightly
chilled beers. That's what you do in a drinking club
with a running problem.
Percent Beefcake Hash:Beer-swilling Monterey Bay
hashers don their party best for a bash following the
Teddy Ford Clinic Hash in Palm Springs last year.
It's not just a local
phenomenon. This group is following a more than
50-year-old international tradition of
"hashing." Not really a sport and more than
just a hobby, hashes are run on every continent, even
Hashers come in all shapes and
sizes and from all walks of life. They range in
running skill from race winners to non-runners, but
they all share the same desire--to have a good time.
And a good time they have every other Sunday at
locations from Santa Cruz to Monterey. Four other
hashes also run in the Greater Bay Area: two in San
Francisco, one in Silicon Valley, and one in the East
Bay. They run on trails, along roads and straight
through buildings following the age-old rules of
hashing--the first one being that there are no rules.
Today's run had a small turnout
of about 15 runners. We huddled around the beer truck
finishing off the last of our sustenance before
heading off into the drizzle. Wet Job and Swallow,
working as "beer check hostesses," stayed
warm and dry in the car while we contemplated the
rest of our soggy run.
We had run about two miles to
find ourselves a mile from where we parked, and we
were at the base of a very big, very muddy hill. It
was no great surprise when our guiding flour blobs
pointed us into the wooded hills. Our Monterey Bay
hash and the East Bay hash both run a fair amount of
trails, but San Francisco and Silicon Valley hashers
are geographically limited to roads.
While each hash is a little
different, there are a few constants. One or two
"hares"--the leaders of the run--start out
ahead of the pack, laying a trail of flour as they
go. Today's hare was Swallow's husband, dBased. When
the trail changes direction the hare lays a
"check point"--a circle with an
"X" in it. Many trails emanate from this
check, but only one of them is "true."
False trails have two flour blobs and then three
short, parallel dashes. If a "hound"--one
of the people chasing the hare--sees a third blob,
then the group is on trail and that runner yells,
"On, on, on, on, on!" to alert the other
Runs cover anywhere from three
to seven miles, depending on the motivation of a
hash, with most being around four miles.
At the conclusion of a run,
hashers drink more beer and celebrate the misdeeds
and misadventures from the hash. Any hasher accused
of just about anything is serenaded with an off-color
song, then "down downs" a beer. For a down
down, recipients drink a beer until it is either gone
or poured over their heads.
Your Day Job
Sound like some fraternity
shenanigans? Actually, most hashers are over 30 and
gainfully employed. Some are even respected by their
peers. Each hash has its own character and
composition. My mother's hash in Ithaca, N.Y., is
almost entirely Cornell graduate students, while the
one in Monterey is largely professionals. Silicon
Valley hosts computer types, and the San Francisco
hash has recently been taken over by the medical
But your day job doesn't matter
to the hash. We have a bevy of nurses, an engineer, a
chimney sweep, an optometrist and everything in
between. A new hasher can go months without learning
a fellow hasher's real name or occupation. Whether or
not you are fun to be around is far more critical
than your job.
What lures people to this
unusual activity? As we slipped and slided up a
never-ending muddy hill, Butt Balls--a slender,
athletic engineer at a local computer company--told
me how he came to hashing.
"Anal got me into
it," he said. Little Anal Annie is his wife. She
had hashed in Taiwan, then searched for a local hash
when she returned to Santa Cruz. "She had them
over one day, but I thought I was way above that sort
of behavior. I mowed the lawn the whole time they
were over." Eventually, he met a few of the
hashers and has been a regular ever since. "I
felt pretty stupid when I admitted to Anal I had
fun," he said.
Nasty Ditch, an immunology
postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, was a more
willing convert. "I did a local [Charleston] run
and noticed the same group of people were repeatedly
returning to the beer truck. I spoke to one of them,
then he said he had to introduce me to the hashers,
since I liked drinking and running. I was hooked. I
can't remember why I missed the hash that first
Sunday, but I haven't missed a week since."
Nasty Ditch refers to races as
"r's" when she talks because the word
"race" is off limits at a hash, and is
punishable with beer. Reward and punishment are very
Our current rules are nearly
identical to those of the early hashers. Hashing
originated with a handful of British expatriates
stationed in Malaysia during the 1930s. These drunken
souls missed their native England, and they missed
hunting. With few opportunities to hunt in Malaysia,
they created their own hunt using each other as the
"hares." The rest of the pack played the
role of both hunters and beagles, carrying bugles and
horns just like the real thing.
One proto-hasher would set out
ahead of the pack, leaving a trail of paper bits or
flour in his wake for the "hounds" to
follow. In the attempt to confuse his friends and
prevent capture, the hare left a convoluted path of
false and real trails winding through the rubber
trees and backwoods. After the run, hashers retired
to their favorite pub--called the "hash
house" because of the monotonously poor food.
Since hunters are traditionally called harriers, this
pack of inebriated runners dubbed themselves the hash
Barring several years of
illegal running, a few run-ins with the law, and one
or two minor skirmishes with the natives in Kuala
Lumpur, hashing has been on the rise ever since.
As I waited at a check for the
front runners to find the true trail, Anal Annie told
me about some hash-related adventures from before I
joined this hash. "One hare was arrested at an
A's game." she said. Police picked him up for
littering and not carrying ID. The rest of the pack
had no idea where the trail disappeared to. Another
time, a citizen called the bomb squad about a
mysterious blob of flour in the street. When the pack
came along, the whole block was closed off and bomb
experts were analyzing the flour.
"On one!" yelled
Wiener from behind some bushes. This means he has
seen one flour mark. Wiener, wearing yellow running
shorts emblazoned with the words "ON ON"
across the back, got his name at a road race in
Mexico. He was announced the "winner,"
which, in a Mexican accent, sounded like
Divining Rod slogged through
the mud beside me. A radiation safety officer at the
Stanford Synchrotron during the week, he jumped into
hashing a year ago. Now he's a regular. "I had
heard about the hash in Switzerland," he said,
"but didn't run one until I got here. They were
a fun bunch of people without any preconceived ideas
of who you are or could be. They don't care where you
come from, just whether or not you can laugh at
yourself and have fun. We have everything from CEOs
to lowly writers."
RC Mounter, a marine biologist
at Hopkins Marine Station, ran along behind Divining
Rod and me. When I first met RC, he had just stepped
off a plane from South Carolina. His wife, Nasty
Ditch, moved here several months ahead of him and had
already found them a hash.
Although we had never hashed in
the same state, it turned out that RC and I knew a
few hashers in common from big hash weekends.
Throughout the year different hashes will sponsor a
weekend event, with three days of hashing, dancing
and moral turpitude guaranteed.
One famous weekend takes place
during the Santa Cruz "Wharf to Wharf" run
("Wharf to Barf" for hashers), in which
hashers carry a 40-foot condom throughout the race.
"Two years in a row we did it in 69
minutes," Anal Annie says. "We had to jog
in place just before the finish line for a few
minutes to get that."
As RC Mounter and I talked, he
jumped in every mud puddle he came across, dowsing me
in cold, slimy ooze. We were near the end, and the
hash had gotten spread out, straggling along in
groups of two or three. Others had shortcutted back
to the cars when they either lost the trail or got
too wet to continue.
After two hours of running
through mud, puddles, brambles and wet leaves--known
collectively as "shiggy"--our hash ended
where it started, back by the cars. Hashers took off
wet clothes and changed into warmer layers before the
"Gather 'round for a
prayer," called Mr. Mooshmullah to the crowd.
"It's time for religion." Beer in hand,
hashers sang a prayer never heard in
church--religious ceremonies vary only slightly from
hash to hash. A "religious adviser," or RA,
recounts tales of embarrassment and misadventure from
the trail. Then the hash sings one of many off-color
songs and chants "down, down, down, down"
while the culprit does his or her down down. While
traditionally done with beer, most hashes will allow
a down down of water or soda. Non-drinking hashers
may also pour their beer on the RA, other hashers or
"I always pour mine down
my shorts," Anal Annie said.
At these ceremonies, recent
newcomers also get their names. They usually have to
hash a few times before they do something to inspire
a naming, at which time a "naming
committee" assembles. This consists of any
hasher with a good idea. They meet briefly, take a
vote, then doom a new hasher with his or her name.
These are flexible and often change a few times
before the perfect one comes along.
When the down downs were
completed, names given and stomachs beginning to
rumble, we packed up our muddy belongings and headed
back to our usual lives, shedding hash names and
hashing personae until the next weekend of hashing