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Twenty-One Questions: Pillsbury Blow Boy

The United States trails Australia in hashers per capita, but we’re catching up, largely due to Southern California. In fact, if it were its own country, SoCal would probably top Oz. With that in mind, it’s time we interview yet another SoCal hasher, Emmett “Pillsbury Blow Boy” Rahl.

pillsbury bb

Pillsbury Blow Boy & friend

Pillsbury Blow Boy is a native Southern Californian who lives and hashes in Long Beach. He hashes, of course, with Long Beach HHH, but also with Los Angeles, Get a Life, Foothill, PMS, Full Moon, Chapter 13, and Signal Hill. He’s been hashing since 1988, and is the founder and original GM of the Signal Hill Hash. More about that, in PBB’s own words:

I founded Signal Hill Hash in 2004. Two of my hashing buddies from Long Beach, 4H (Homo Homo Homo Homo) and Gives Good Head & Shoulders; and I, used to carpool regularly to Los Angeles on Monday evenings. Sometimes the drive would be 35 miles in rush hour traffic. We made a decision that whenever a run was north of the I-10 freeway (about 25 miles), we would have our own pick-up hash locally.

On one particular occasion, I posted a Special Event Run (what you post in Southern California when it doesn’t have an official name) and I said that the beer would be way better than LA (it was a pick-up; each brought his/her own), and I signed the e-mail posting as:

Pillsbury, Assistant Trailmaster;
4H, Assistant Brewmeister;
Head & Shoulders, Smokemeister.

Clearly, a joke.

Well, the hare for L.A. that evening called me at home and proceeded to lambaste me. How dare I post a run and take away from their run! (Though we were essentially the three who ever drove that far, so he was really losing just us.) He went on and on, so I hung up on him and then wandered away from the phone (because I knew he’d call back). The message he left on my machine was quite flowery: basically, that he was banning me from the LA hash, and if I tried to show up, he’d make sure that I didn’t get any of their sh*tty beer!

So, the following week, we held a pick-up run and christened it the “Banned From Los Angeles Long Beach Pick Up Hash,” or BFLALBPUH (pronounced “Buff-lulb-puh”), and I avoided LA Hash for a while. Eventually, we got sick of posting ‘Special Event,’ and since 90% of the runs were in Signal Hill, we decided to call it the Signal Hill Hash, regardless if it was in Signal Hill or not (Signal Hill In Town H3 or Signal Hill Out Of Town (so, SH*T or SHOOT).

It was always a no-frills hash (usually pick-up) until one hare posted that hashers should bring money (and I have been responsible for the beer and munchies ever since).

SH4 had its first run in September 2004, and had our first analversary run in May 2006 and our second analversary run in September 2007 (well, technically our second AND third).

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PBB, what hash tradition do you come from? Mixed or single-sex? Live hare or dead hare? A-to-A trails or A-to-B trails? Singing at the circle or not?

Always been mixed, though PMS has harriette-only check-breaking. I always hare live. A to A is easier, while A to B forces people to run the trail. Singing at the circle if the crowd is not too big. Or, maybe you are referring to songs, rather than down-downs. Most people don’t know any songs. They hardly know the down-down stuff and they have “private parties” during circle (so don’t learn them, either).

When & where was your first hash?

My first hash was in Hong Kong (I assume HKH3) in August 1988.

How did you find the hash, or did the hash find you?

In 1979, my family traveled around the world for one year (literally, around the world). We stayed short periods of time in most places, but had a few longer stays: two months in Sanur, Bali, three months in Moraira, Spain, and six weeks in Hong Kong. We happened to be in Hong Kong at the same time as one of my father’s friends (on a six-month business trip). He had hashed previously (perhaps in the US) and that was his hobby in Hong Kong, to keep from getting bored. Most of the connections we made in Hong Kong were with British ex-pats (i.e., hashers) and when I returned in 1988 (someone in my family seems to be in HK every other year or so), one of our friends, Graeme Large, a lecturer at a Hong Kong University, convinced us to try a hash. It was 100 degrees out, I wore jeans (because I didn’t EVER wear shorts back then) and we climbed through three or four hedges. I was the only one who didn’t get cut up. My father and Graeme did all of our down-downs.

When my sister and I traveled to Hong Kong in 1995, we did a ladies’ hash (Graeme introduced me to shortcutting), and in 1998, we did a Boxing Day hash trip to an outlying island.

When I moved to Long Beach in 1998, I knew somewhat about hashing, but was not interested, especially because I probably consumed 3 beers per YEAR. In 2000, my neighbor, Dawn, convinced me to skip a running workout and try the hash, because it was two blocks from our condo complex. I didn’t really like it much, but about a month later, the run was nearby again. Dawn had run her (first and) last hash, but I figured, I’d give it another go. A lot of my regular running friends were hashers, too. Two would have probably been it, but I got carpool ride offers for something like six weeks straight, and then I was hooked.

How did you get your hash name?

There are a lot of factors about me that I wanted to avoid getting named on, like being a classically trained countertenor or being unemployed a lot (technical computer guy, can’t always help that). Most of the people who knew me in “regular running,” ran with my Wednesday night A Running Experience Club (AREC) group (we get a lot of crossover from the hashers who would like to get in more running than hashing affords them). Something that I started when I first started running with AREC was bringing bread or baked goods every week. I have done that every week for almost ten years, except when I’m out of town. Since Long Beach H3 has ‘naming committees,’ many of my AREC friends were on it and they opted for something similar to my AREC nickname – “Bread Man.”

Who taught you the most about hashing?

I don’t think there was anyone who taught me anything particular about hashing. You sorta pick up lessons along the way. Buttsy Ross taught me how to draw pack arrows appropriately (by chastising me on trail and then nominating me for hash*tt). Alouette gave me the basis for good haring techniques (how often to throw, how often to throw after a check, and how to mess with everybody). Hung Like a Bug and Gives Good Head & Shoulders helped me get an eye for what would make a great trail and WHERE would make a great trail.

When & where was your first away hash?

I suppose my first away hash was my first hash, in Hong Kong, in 1988. Otherwise, I have never traveled to interhashes or other out-of-the-area events, mostly due to lack of funds. I have made attempts to hash in areas that I visited family in or on business trips, but the runs never coincide with my visit. My sister and I tried to hash in Bali, and no one could tell us where the run was.

Where would you like to hash?

I think it would be fascinating to hash in K.L. (I’ve been there) or Okinawa, only because I’ve heard stories, and the terrain is different than here. And, of course, I would like to hash in Bali . . . if I can find the dang start!

Is there anyplace where you wouldn’t like to hash?

Not particularly. There are places in the world I will probably never go, due to safety concerns, but if everywhere was safe, I’d like to try a hash everywhere.

What are some of your favorite haring techniques?

Gosh. I’m willing to try just about anything. I like the fake-out on a check, where I try and guess where the pack thinks I’ll go, and then I go that direction, because the pack thinks, “That’s too obvious.”

When I hared with Hung Like a Bug, we did a Turkey/Eagle false . . . meaning we had a check and then the pack found a Turkey/Eagle split, but both directions were false.

Anything unusual is my bag. I’ve tried a “quiz” hash, where there were pre-marked directions off the check and a quiz sheet. If you got the answer correct, you followed the appropriate arrow for 200 yards (If you didn’t follow the quiz, the checks were almost impossible to break). Unfortunately, I mislabeled some of the questions. Fortunately, they were all opinion questions (i.e. What’s Pillsbury’s favorite reality TV show?).

What’s the best thing that ever happened to you at a hash?

On one particular trail, about five FRBs snared me, and when I asked for five minutes, they said, “We’re having a great time, and we want to hare with you to the end.” On another trail, I took the pack on a great big circle, ending about 100 yards away from the start . . . but the pack had no idea where they were, and everyone asked for directions to the cars.

What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you at a hash?

I got banned for haring four Long Beach trails in four weeks. Not because the trails were bad, but because the trailmaster was angry that he didn’t sign up different people for each week. A few weeks later, someone hared a bad trail and I got back into the good graces.

On another run, it was raining so hard the night before that my co-hare (Leaning Hard) and I had to meet at 7am to re-route our trail. Everything was fine (except for having to place flour strategically, so it wouldn’t wash away. When we got down to the street, the ENTIRE street was six inches under water. Luckily, I had pink surveyor’s tape, which I tied to trees. Then we got to our beer check, but no one was there (the road had been closed between when we started and this point). There was a point where I spotted the pack running on the other side of the road, but the rain was coming down so hard, they didn’t see us. I came back with a bag full of muck, because the flour completely soaked through.

What’s the most dangerous trail you’ve done?

Hung Like a Bug and I hared a trail in Palos Verdes. It was a great Sunday morning run that was probably eight miles long and had lots of great shiggy. When we scouted, the end section was about 1 1/2 miles of straightaway. I noted that there was a more interesting way, if we skirted the coastline. Bug brought a rope to make it easier to get down to the beach, but we never “practiced” the run at a time similar to the actual run time. Because of the way we laid the trail (leapfrogging using Bug’s car), I had some time to lay the “beach” portion of the trail. I did notice that there seemed to be less beach than last time I was there. Also, there was a rotting sea lion corpse on the “beach” (er . . . rocks). I followed our prescribed plan and I got to a point where I would have to get wet and get smacked by waves into a sea wall. I basically held my flour bag over my head and the waves crashed over my head (I am 6’6″, so this is pretty bad.). By the time I got somewhere safe, I had nothing I could mark trail with (soggy toilet paper, paste (aka flour) and waterlogged chalk). When I got to the trail end, I called Bug on his cellphone (which he has always used in case our beer check gets lost) and said that he might want to direct people around it, because it was super dangerous when I traversed it, but the tide was coming in. We decided that hashers were adults and could make the determination themselves. Maybe five or six people attempted it, including a guy carrying his dog! I honestly worried for people’s safety, but no one was maimed too badly.

If you could pick the location of a future Interhash, where would it be, and why?

I would love to have an Interhash in Long Beach, or at least Southern California, because there is so much variety in where we could do the runs, but the insurance and liability issues are too much. The Long Beach crowd always puts on a great event!

For other places in the world, I would love Yogjakarta (a place I have been) because it is a different kind of place to go (sightseeing-wise) and probably would have some great trails to do. I think a good location should be both conducive to fun trails and also have some area that you would want to sightsee at.

What do you most love about hashing?

I have always loved the variety of runs. I do a lot of other running and we tend to run the same courses over and over again. Of course, after 700 runs in Southern California, I do tend to see the same stuff again and again . . . just in different order.

What don’t you love about hashing?

The whining. There are a bunch of walkers. They want to leave early. They want the trail to be a certain distance. They want down-downs to wait until they are in. I don’t have any expectations on a trail. I’m just hoping that my life isn’t endangered and I don’t hurt myself too badly.

Have your attitudes toward hashing or hashers changed over the years?

I didn’t think it was the group for me. I used to drink one to two beers PER YEAR! Now I’m up to two to three per run. Most of the people in the group are awesome and you know some of their idiosyncrasies, and then you make some connection in the nerd world and realize, wow, you don’t know them at all. So and so is an engineer, and another guy is unemployed, and this gal’s a masseuse. Also, as much as hashers will talk down racing and running, we have a lot of overlap between the hash and our local running clubs. It makes for a funny situation because people call me my hash and civilian name interchangeably between both groups.

How has hashing affected your personal or professional life?

I think hashing has definitely affected both my personal and professional life. Based on a conversation, I got a hasher a job at my workplace (where, we of course, called each other by our hash names (the nice parts)). I have also made work connections through the hash. On a personal level, there are a number of people that I am friends with outside of the hash (wait, IS there an outside of the hash?), and someday, I hope to make an even more personal connection . . . with just the right harriette. . . .

Do you tell everyone you meet about the hash, or only people you think might become good hashers?

Eventually, I tell everyone about the hash. I don’t tell everyone that they should go to the hash, because I don’t think it is for everyone. There are just so many fun aspects to the hash, that I think everyone oughta try it once and then decide if they want to continue.

Are there certain fundamentals you believe all hashers should embrace?

Nothing should be taken seriously. People get offended at certain comments (enough with the “virgin hare” comments, guys), but it’s all in fun. What happens at the hash, stays at the hash. It doesn’t mean that you can’t tell people about what happened at the hash, but you can’t let it affect your everyday life.

Follow the trail. I really don’t care for the people who are trying to guess where the hares are going and then don’t run any of the trail. They can do whatever the heck they want, and I often plan my trail so that the shortcutters (i.e., non-trail runners) will never find trail, but if the hare spent a bunch of time trying to figure out the course, why d’ya want to thwart that?

What do you think you’ve contributed to hashing?

I’ve actually made a number of contributions, at least to Long Beach. If you don’t know how anal our hash is, well, they actually have accurate record counts for check-in dating to our first run. Hashers are given patches when they reach 25, 50, 69, 100, 169, 200, 269 runs, ad infinitum. The silliness of the situation is that there are people who have done 400 runs with LBH3 and hared maybe twice. To me, it seemed ludicrous to celebrate that someone paid for their run (the stats don’t show if they ran or not), but nothing special to the hares. I learned that they gave a special notification to the hares once they reached 50 hares (in 20 years, that’s 5% of all runs!). I came up with the Hare Patch (yes, I’ve heard the joke) which is awarded every five runs (except for 69). For most hares, that’s five years of haring before they get their first patch. For others, it’s a patch around once a year (which would be a similar frequency to the run patches). The fun part was giving out retroactive patches to LBH3 hashers who hared frequently in the 80s and 90s (I’m currently at 34 hares).

Also, less than a year after I started hashing with LBH3, I got picked to take over the website (the webmaster left the hash for six to seven months). I figured out a way to post our weekly Snoozeletter online in color (previously, it was scanned and very low quality). Because of this, we were able to cut our costs somewhat in printing, because more people get their Snooze from the website than just pick it up at the run. I’m always trying to get more information up – like Haberdashery items or an extended Hareline.

I wrote two songs for the Hash Hymnal – but I am unsure if anyone sings them.

Last September, I attended the Humpin’ Hashathon – four trails in one day, in Carlsbad (near San Diego). We really liked the event, and attempted our own, with an additional trail – five different hash groups (each with a separate trail) in one day, and called the Hashtravaganza!

What’s in your hashing future?

Just finished the Hashtravaganza event. We will definitely have another one next year. There is a good chance that I will be haring my 100th trail in the next few weeks.

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