Slinging Hash: Access Denied & Hash-L

In the early 90s, a few years after I got into running trail with the Hash House Harriers, I heard about a Colorado hasher named Zippy who was putting together a hash songbook. I contacted him and we started exchanging songs by email. At some point he mentioned a hash message board hosted on a server at the University of Southern California. I signed up and have been a member of the hash list, called hash-l, ever since, through its move from USC to Pennsylvania State University and eventually to a private server run by a list member, Beaver Bam Bam Balls.*

When I joined hash-l my only away hashing experience had been a short trip to Orlando in a van packed with Tampa hashers to run with one of the groups there. Hash-l was a revelation … not just because its members lived all over the world, but because many of them traveled the world to hash with one another. I didn’t yet have the means or opportunity to join them, but they gave me the itch and in time I too became a traveling hasher.

The biggest draw of hash-l, though, was realizing I could meet and share information, ideas, and stories with hashers anywhere. Hash-l was a bustling place in the 90s. Members were enthusiastic, I think for the same reasons that drew me in. We were just beginning to realize the potential benefits of instant communication with hashers in distant places. Hash-l led to the first generation of international hashing websites, and on to experimentation with different forms of social media tailored to hashers and hashing. Those have mostly died out, beaten down by the colossus of Facebook, but the original message board, hash-l, still exists. Its membership consists largely of the remaining hard core from its 1990s heyday.

The list, generally quiet these days, occasionally stirs back to life. What prompted its most recent awakening was the death of a member, a hasher named Access Denied. AD was a frequent contributor in the 1990s, and not always a pleasant one. For reasons of his own, he adopted a contrarian, combative tone on the list … he liked to pick fights. I’m embarrassed to admit I fell for his act and fought back. Hashers who knew AD in real life say he wasn’t anything like his online persona. I met him once, but didn’t spend enough time with him to see his real self, and now I wish I had. I’m not a fan of posing as something you’re not on the internet, and if you asked me why I’d say it was my experience with AD, rest his soul.

Hash-l has been a busy place in the wake of his passing, with hashers posting memories not just of AD himself, but of the hash list of the 1990s, when everything was new and fresh and exciting. I said as much in a post on Facebook, where you have to force your way through nearly impenetrable thickets of shiggy to find the occasional dollop of hash content, and another hashing friend chimed in with a great observation about hash-l: less is more.

Hash-l, even in its present diminished form, is both less and more. It remains the purest way for hashers to flash points of light to one another in the darkness, a forum free of non-hash content, spam, meaningless graphics, and fucking advertising. I wish more hashers knew about it. Which, I guess, is why I’m writing this post, not just to reminisce about AD and the glory days of hash-l, but to recruit new members to the list.

Click here to learn more about hash-l, and to subscribe. It’s old school, but that’s the beauty of it. Sometimes hash kennels die out as original members age out and leave, but most hashes are wise enough to recruit new members to replace the old, and that’s what hash-l needs today.

*Beaver Bam Bam Balls later came to host my first hashing website, the Half-Mind Catalog, on the same server, which today provides a home for my blogs, Paul’s Thing and Crouton’s Kitchen. He also gave me the straight dope on the early history of hash-l host servers.

© 2020, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.


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