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Three hours later, Unreal is crammed into the Cat's Meow watching sheets of rain sail past and listening as a soaked pack of drunks sing to the tune of "Meet the Flintstones" "Meet the Hashers."
Hashing, as it is known today, began in the early 1930s in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when a group of British civil servants and businessmen stationed there sought respite from boredom. They took up playing "Hares and Hounds," a venerable schoolchildren's game in which a designated "hare" gets a head start in a race. The "hare" leaves a trail of paper scraps for the pack of "hounds" trying to catch him.
The game was christened "Hash House Harriers" in 1938, with the arrival in Kuala Lumpur of an English accountant named Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert. Harriers are rabbit-hunting dogs, and "Hash House" was the slang sobriquet for the Selangor Club, a social club where "G" as Gispert was called and his cohorts let off steam over post-run plates of ground beef and pints of beer.
"G" and many of his original hashing compatriots died in World War II, but their pastime persisted, surfacing at military bases and in the hometowns of retired civil servants across the globe. Last summer came news that the Malaysian government conceded to the Kuala Lumpur-based Hash Heritage Foundation's twelve-year effort to build an International Hash House and replace the Selangor Club, which had been torn down circa 1964. Reportedly the new home base will house a hashing museum, meeting rooms and (of course) a members-only area and bar.
For Hashers who relocate or like to travel, the benefits of membership are fairly simple to cash in. Time was, a quick search for "Harry Hasher" in the Yellow Pages of any city turned up a phone number to call for information on the local chapter's next run. With the Internet, clubs from Baghdad to Boise, Honolulu to Helsinki, are just a Google away.
"Postage and I travel a lot, and we always stay with hashers," says the Big Hump's leader, Purple Muffin Stuffin' (yep, that's PMS; a veteran of 231 prior runs, thank you very much), referring to her partner, a mail carrier who goes by Postage Tramp (222 Hashes). "We've never stayed in a hotel. Hashers are so welcoming of new people."
Hashers have an array of worldwide events to plan their vacations around. Between PanAsia Hash, EuroHash, InterAmericas Hash and scads of regional Hashes, somewhere there's a race nearly every weekend. Members of the Big Hump will represent their local chapter this October at InterHash 2006, the biannual world Hash being held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and co-sponsored by clubs in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and China.
"There'll be thousands of us taking a train to Chiang Mai," says Shiggy Stomper, a 64-year-old from Collinsville who hashes with his wife, McWhiz, most of the time in the Belleville area. "We'll start in Singapore. It's a seven-day trip and we'll stop seven times and drink and party at each one. It's a whole week's worth of partying just to get ready for the big party in Thailand."
Part of the fun in Hash-roving comes from learning the sport's various provincial traditions. At least one club is said to host a naked Hash; many feature an annual dash in dresses. San Diego inaugurated that shtick in 1988 as a homage to a Virgin i.e., newbie Hasher who ran the trail in heels and a red dress, then finished the night hot-tubbing with her new pals.
St. Louis' Big Hump honors its founding on St. Patrick's Day 1999 with an annual Green Dress Run. The club rents out rooms and meeting halls in a downtown hotel for the event, which usually draws 75 to 90 participants from the local contingent and across the nation.
"You know you're a pathetic Hasher when you know what dress size you are and you're a male," cracks 43-year-old Duzzy Cum (size 16; Hashes: 269). "I go to Famous-Barr every year now and buy my hosiery. Fishnets. And they just look at me, like, 'What the ?'"
Perhaps the more apt question is: Why?
"We don't care who anybody is, or what they do for work," Hasher Bama Mate, a thirtysomething brunette, patiently explains. "We just try to relax. That's what the Hash is all about: blowing off steam and not being judged."
In fact, most members of the Big Hump know little about one another, right down to their last names. (Most did not want their identities printed in this story either.) During a Virgin's first five runs, fellow Hashers refer to him or her as "Just [First Name]" as in "Just Unreal."
After the fifth run, the club positions the member-to-be in the center of a circle and asks an array of bizarre questions, including: "What's your favorite farm animal? Sexual position? Strangest place you've had sex?" The Hashers formulate the wittiest Hash Name they can muster based on the inductee's answers, or on a memorable episode that occurred during a run.
Everybody knows Famous Anus, for example, as the guy who had intercourse in the parking lot of Famous-Barr and professed to be homophobic. Purple Muffin Stuffin', the future Grand Master (GM), or chapter president, got her moniker after she gave Bama Mate a purple vibrator on her birthday.