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Down-Downs: How Much is Enough?

Every hash kennel has its own down-down tradition, varying from personal and attentive (Seoul HHH), to none (Honolulu HHHH), to full-scale three-hour dog & pony extravaganzas in which everyone present is invited to share in the honors while cattle prod-equipped enforcers work the crowd, tazing anyone who disses the circle (Okinawa HHH). Hey, far be it from me to meddle in tradition. I embrace the traditions of every hash I run with, and enjoy myself at every one, and if you don’t like the traditions of a hash, well . . . start your own, I say.

So please don’t take this as a criticism of the way your hash does things, ’cause it’s not. I’m just sort of thinking out loud, ruminating on how I’d set up down-downs if I were starting a hash from scratch.

If I were starting a hash from scratch, I’d try to keep one thought uppermost in my beer-sodden brain. That thought is that hashing is primarily social. Yes, we like to run, but we’re really there for the camaraderie at the end, swapping BS about the trail and our daring exploits, meeting visitors from other hashes, catching up with news and gossip, hitting on the occasional harrier or harriette (choose your own orientation!), telling jokes, drinking beer.

I’d try to remember those times when, as GM or RA, I’ve let down-downs get too organized, too rule-centric, too oppressive, too military.

Any hash I’d start from scratch would have some sort of down-down ceremony, even if it’s just to honor the hares for their shit trail. But I wouldn’t want the ceremony to go on and on and on, and I’d try to remember that when hashers in the circle start to fidget and talk to one another instead of paying attention to me, it’s a sign that down-downs have gone on long enough. A sign that people are ready to be social now and would welcome an end to formalities so they can schmooze with their friends.

I’d keep in mind that there are always a few rabble-rousers in every circle, hashers who’ll keep introducing breaches of hash etiquette as long as the keg isn’t floating, calling people up for down-downs because they have lips or wore cotton socks or had a birthday within the past year, just to keep down-downs going. I’d try to remember how easy it is to play to the rabble-rousers, forgetting what the pack wants. Watch the many, not the few, I’d tell myself . . . they’ll let you know when they’ve had enough. When you have to start yelling for “hash respect” every two minutes, the Clue Bird is perching on your head. When you have to yell for “hash respect” more than once a minute, the Clue Bird has shat on your head. It’s time to shut the hell up . . . graciously, and with good humor.

Gratuitous Public Service Announcement: One thing GMs and RAs need to watch out for, which I’ve noticed mostly they don’t, is the pack’s tendency . . . and just as often, the GM or RA’s tendency . . . to single out one or two hashers for multiple down-downs. Don’t know why this happens, but it does. All the time. You really don’t want to get one person so drunk he or she has to be carried home. That’s a college fraternity prank, and when you think of the possible consequences, not funny at all. A good GM or RA needs to keep track of who’s done down-downs already and keep this from happening. Anyway, that’s what I’d tell myself if I were starting a hash from scratch.

Lest anyone think I’m picking on them, I’ve hashed with Seoul HHH, and think they had the best down-downs of any kennel I’ve ever run with. They had a special song and ceremony for every regular member and visitor, and down-downs went on forever . . . it was absolutely great! But Seoul’s a small group of like-minded harriers with a strong set of traditions. I’ve also experienced great trails with Honolulu HHHH, where half the time they just blow off down-downs and enjoy themselves drinking beer and talking instead. But in its own Hawaiian laid-back pau hana way, brah, that’s kind of a down-down ceremony in itself. And Okinawa HHH! What can I say? They manage to keep up to 200 hashers entertained during down-downs, so they can’t be doing anything seriously wrong. And where do they get all that ice water?

So like I said, every hash has traditions. But if you should decide to start a new hash, please try to remember that people come to have a good time, not to feel like they have to brace and snap a salute every time someone screams “HASH RESPECT” in their ears. It kinda goes along with “no rules,” which is another thing you shouldn’t forget.

- Flying Booger

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