Steve Brett and I have known each other for getting on for twenty years. Starting out as colleagues, we have led roughly parallel existences over that time, moving to this country at more or less the same time, experiencing thousands of pints, hundreds of women and numerous dead-end jobs, getting divorced and re-married (no nit-picking, please) our lives finally coinciding again in our current positions on the NYCH3 committee. Apart from the fact that my experiences have taken place a foot or so above Steve’s, the main thing we failed to have in common was the fact that I was 40 and he was 39. This was rectified last Sunday, when, for reasons only his gerontologist could understand, he chose to celebrate his passage to the next level of senility by setting a trail for the New York City Hash.
And not just any trail. There are not many Hashes where the start is harder to find than the solution to any checks. Having woefully underestimated, as usual, the time it takes to get from my semi-suburban idyll into the smoke, I found myself in the warren of Sutton Place in the company of an equally tardy Pierre, staring down in panic at First Avenue some twenty feet below. Fortunately, my powers of deductive reasoning led us a couple of blocks north to the staircase down, where the Hare and his charming paramour, Sung-Hee, were waiting with sadistic grins on their faces. "If I’m going to have a fucking miserable day, then so are you" quoth our Hare in reaction to my protest at the inaccessibility of the location. The recruiters for the DMV should check out this boy.
The trail, after this inauspicious start, followed fairly predictable territory through Midtown and up into Central Park, aping some of the recent Croft cleverness involving trails through lakes and over hillocks. One glorious golden opportunity was missed, however, much to my anarchist’s chagrin. At the corner of 5th Avenue and 50th Street, I believe, the trail ran into one of those sets of barriers erected by the Guiliani junta to allow vehicles to make right turns on to the avenue without worrying about pedestrians. This, of course, is exactly what they do at all other intersections anyway, so the only purpose served is to remind walkers that they are now second-class citizens under a regime obsessed with the smooth flow of commerce and thus campaign contributions. Anyhow, Steve missed a fine opportunity to blow the pack straight through the barriers and into immortality as an example of mass civil disobedience. Of course, I, never being one to defy authority, obeyed my Hare’s instructions and made a right turn instead. But it would have been nice to have the chance to get my name in the papers.
So, through the Park and to the only difficult check, by my recollection in mid-block somewhere near 79th Street. Fortunately, enough time had elapsed at this point for there to be a good chance of the Hotline’s having been set, and, sure enough, the distinguished voice of the birthday boy led one On-In to Ship of Fools on 2nd Avenue. A bit of brain power on my part could have saved me the quarter, since this aforementioned emporium is owned by a chum of Steve’s, formerly the proprietor of a fine place on 45th Street which is the greatest AGM venue never used, since it went out of business before an AGM ever came by. Anyway, Ship of Fools did a fine job with keeping the beer coming and providing food of indeterminate origin, which was nonetheless pleasant – there’s nothing like plastic knives and forks to enhance the taste.
Joint Master Croft conducted an interminable set of Down-Downs for almost everybody in the relatively small pack. He was flying solo once again, although the recent departure of Steve Kurtzer led to one of those interesting tableaux one used to see when a key figure in the old Soviet Union was rumored to be ailing or dead. The survivors would jockey for position in group photographs, perhaps trying to catch the eye of the Supreme Leader in the hope of a promotion. Or maybe Vince was just caught in the wrong place when the ceremonies started. Anyhow, somebody should tell the JM that there is in fact more than one song; the same one gets mighty tedious when sung twenty times in a row. Among those feted were visiting ex-Joint Master Guiley, scouring the New York region for children to stuff up chimneys, and a couple of virgins, including one who adopted that classic expression of horror found among those who intend never to come along again and also intend to eviscerate the former friend who persuaded them to come in the first place. Star of the proceedings by far, however, was Barry, given a Down-Down for disentangling himself from a set of aggressive tree branches, and then running straight into the trunk of the same tree. Bruised and battered, he took his punishment in a sporting manner, providing a good example for the Hare to follow as he moves on into his twilight years.
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