Archive for the ‘Hash Runs’ Category

Day 365 and Epilogue (One Long Interminable Day)

In Hash Runs, Taipei, Traveling on August 23, 2011 at 2:20 am

What you can do is wake up in the morning and go to work without stopping at home, the hope that your boss will not say anything about your facial hair flashing in and out between pages on the train and steps outside it. You can teach. You can begin to understand that there will be very few minutes in which you be able to pack your things before you leave on your very long trip. You can eat teppanyaki with Inma and she can stay over and you can listen to Mano Negra while you organize items.

In the morning you can teach again.

After which you can hurry to the far west of the city and enjoy fresh tomatoes and basil in sauce on spaghetti and wine, and then beer, in the company of friends whose friendship you only now are getting at the depth of, another reason to regret you are leaving that you have to push out of your mind, positive feelings coming out as gratitude and giving and wine mix at the door at the end of the night.

In the morning you can teach again. For the last time.

Following which you can hurry to the train station and buy a ticket to the beach, and your train can get canceled, and you can sit reading The Savage Detectives fussily until it comes, and read fussily until you walk out into the night and down the boardwalk in the wrong direction, only to make a U-turn back to where the drinking is, and a plate of fried rice, and bottles of Taiwan beer. You can eat the rice and you can drink the beer and listen to the hash legends and when they turn off the air conditioning you can make your way into the night and sit under a useless awning on the north end of the boardwalk down from some kids barbecuing and look out on a moon that is yellow and half, tilted as if hung from a nail, huge above the ocean that is huge, too, and you can keep drinking in the shadow of the crash of the waves against the rocks until the beer runs out.

You can wake up in the morning in the white bed in your hotel to a sort of half-awareness that you should be helping Joe sort out the trail, which is probably what he is doing at this hour, and you can fall back asleep.

You can wake up again two hours later and Joe can tell you that he has done it and you can feel bad and he can tell you you don’t have to and you can all order Chinese breakfast, the four of you, with eggs and bacon and cheese and a square of peanut-buttered toast that you don’t know how it ended up there. You can go to the beach.

In the water you can play until the stern lifeguard tells you no swimming and to keep your area of body-surfing below the thigh, which you can heed only to a nominal extent, catching the waves with your momentum for nanoseconds that hardly seem authentic but yet exist, too, in some corner of your perception with which you are not well-acquainted. You can leave the water only when you and the rest of the swimmers seem to have arrived at the last reasonable moment and you can begin to sort out things for the run. You can buy hot dogs. You can get the flour ready and take a cab to the run start, flouring all the way, and put on your gear to run for the first time in a week.

You can do the run, with Joe, without Joe, conscious that possibly this is not the path you were supposed to take and then relieved and exhilarated when Joe tears around the corner behind you from his section and you are back on and taking care of business. It can occur to you that this is your last China Hash run for a long time. That you are here. That, ok.

You can slow as you get back to the run start and keep dropping flour, compulsively, until the run becomes beers and the beers become crackers and the crackers become sand and a frisbee and the sand becomes a line of people who were lost and more beer and your sunburn aches under the first intimations of dusk and you end up walking back from the rocks splashed by the ocean waves to Arthur’s truck, eating dinner in Toucheng, drinking beer, saying goodbye, trying to give Arthur’s shirt back to him and him giving it to you once again, saying goodbye again, and getting in Arthur’s truck again for the long ride home, during which you have to pee, you have to sleep, you have to push off the urge to want to vomit, twelve kilometers in the longest tunnel in the world, and he drops you off in Nangang and you get back home on the MRT which somehow, at this point in your life, operates, business as usual.

In the morning you can wake up early and start to pack your life into boxes and monetary transactions. You can feel not nearly as bad as you think you ought to feel. You can go to work, say goodbyes there as you pick up your paycheck. You can let the day’s sun disturb your sunburn. You can pack boxes, speak with bank personnel, ride the train, walk on sidewalks, go to Shida. As this series of events occurs you can feel physical withdraw from the alcohol you have been on the last three or however many days, your muscles inversely carbonated, energy sucked from them from the inside, and you can see the days drift together and present themselves as one long continuous one, and they can accordion for you, and you can see that all that is left for you before you leave the country is the continuation of this day, the steady stream of mental force into an investment in a clean cut with the universe you have created for yourself, or, what, the one you have walked into, and stood in for so long.


Day 362 (Shifen)

In Hash Runs on August 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm

We stand outside the restaurant with the remaining bottles of beer distributed among six or seven hands. It should have run dry by now but it does not, miraculously filled, it seems, by the Jesus-like vibrations we’re awash in, spurring us from a haphazard drunkenness to an absorption in the scene we have become a part of: the glow of closing shops and restaurants, the spread-out offerings to the gods that soar about during ghost month in front of every establishment, the noodling of a Chinese horn from the miniature parade that passed minutes ago, the uneven stones of the sidewalk, the train tracks that run down its middle, the tourists that stand on the tracks to light ghost money soaked in lighter fluid beneath their Chinese lanterns, red, yellow, blue, even rainbow-colored.

By which point we have bought our own Chinese lantern, somebody has, and permanent marker is passed around so that each of us can write our wishes on the paper stretched between the lantern’s frame. The tradition makes a person want to be silly but the air of sacredness persists and there is a certain respect and hope invested in the lantern that will represent the drunken wishes of our small but boisterous gang. When every side is covered in black ink, in Chinese, English, and hieroglyphs, whoever is spearheading the initiative sends the money into tongues of flame and lets the lantern inflate with air and fly off into the sky. It flies at a surprising rate, we notice, and eyes that danced with humor and companionship seconds before are slowly gathered into a cluster of solitary rapture, following the lantern in its dance toward the clouds next to three other lanterns set off at the same time, and not straying from it, despite cricks in necks, tiredness, the presence of distractions, levels of intoxication.

Were you to look back at this moment, in fact, you would be bowled over by the number of eyes trained upward at the lantern, not wanting to lose it in its uneven trajectory, the collective absorption in the spot of light that floats up and up. Bowled over too by the investment in the light, the utterances of joy, the declarations that our lantern is doing the best, damnit, look at the thing, it’s going higher than all the others, the fun of it, but also the undercurrent of serious happiness that we have been in a way chosen for a further heightening of our rapture, a further extension of the night, not only forward in time but upward in space, a chance to lose some part of ourselves in the sky and crash down unseen into the mountains somewhere, sowing a patch of our non-biodegradable essence in skyward hills we know nothing about.

Day 355 (Pool Run)

In Hash Runs on August 16, 2011 at 1:19 am

We have run. We have discovered the checks simply by turning our heads. The thrust of our feet in front of each other has barely been interrupted. Until the tennis court, the pool, the calm high-rises.

We have relaxed in the pool for at least an hour and a half, spraying water into the air with the foam pressure-shooter. We have taught a man to dive. We have relaxed in the guiltless aimlessness of the four-foot-deep end. We have eaten Pringles with wrinkly fingers from the side of the pool.

We have sat in the cool air and chatted over the distribution of beer. We have enjoyed the mildness of the day, sponsored by the rain that came for seconds and was gone.

And now—I’m serious, believe me, I’m serious—we have lined up before a crescent spread of hot dogs and buns with potato salad, baked beans, chili, onions, and cheese. I want to tell somebody. I want to declare this. I want to walk up to the hares and say,

— Thank you. You don’t know what this means to me.

But there is no room for this sort of early gratitude. There is room for two hot dogs and two giant scoops of potato salad, and the gratitude will sit atop that, its legs folded uncomfortably.

Which is probably for the better. You don’t want to cry in situations like this. Otherwise people will think you are nuts.

The saddest thing later will be that you cannot eat any more.

Day 334 (Dahu)

In Hash Runs on July 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Yep, that’s the picture.

Walking across stones in a stream helping Don carry boxes of beer. Dan is yelling to only put one of them on ice. Don and I are trying to keep our footing. The puke from the last beer bid (and the one before that) is floating downstream in a scattered mess. People are still standing from watching the puke go from inside woman in victorious stance to mouth and nose to cups of beer and tables to stream. They talk because down-downs go on and on. It’s heroics, a guy with two cases of beer in his arms. I am like Robin, twinkle-toeing across the stones. There’s all of these elements, you can’t hardly separate them.

Or you can and they all point to one thing: beer. No: people. No: leisure in the age of late capitalism.

Compasses spin wildly. Or they don’t. The vomit doesn’t float upstream.

You get up to help a man with his load is what you do. That’s all there is to it.

Day 327 (Xizhi)

In Hash Runs on July 11, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Rapture is being in the front. Rapture is going up and up and up on the Japanese logging trails, where they set the rails they rolled their logs down to fuel their intimations of mastery of Asia, or whatever it was, an incline conquerable by a constant cycling of the legs that never relinquish their running status for walking, an incline never allowing weakness in the ones who won’t allow themselves to be weak. Rapture is shoes that are falling apart at the right time, just near the end, so that on the last run they might die forever, the climax of their life and its termination one and the same in the sand, a final drag of glory over the trails by which they have lived and died, flapping scraped by sticks and stones they were never meant to meet, to heave their last togetherness in the hot open unfamiliar sun. Rapture is a stride, enough water in the system, another stride, an endless series of strides in trails that were never meant to be run but are made for it, that love it dearly, that participate, nearly as much as, maybe more than, you do.

Day 320 (Pinglin for the Third Time)

In Hash Runs on July 4, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Sometimes there are scenes like this, data points, the texture of Einstein’s invisible eternity:

Night has fallen quickly on the deck. It looks out over the darkened mountains, the silhouettes of which can barely be seen against the remaining blue of the sky. Fans with drooping blades whir over the tables. There is more food than anyone can eat. There always is. There is not enough beer.

Between the lights and the tables there are growing swarms of night insects. Nothing malignant: dashing yellow flies that fly into your beer and moths that die in your soup. As the darkness proceeds the swarms grow thick, and the lights begin to be turned off. Diners stand, abandoning the food once and for all, covering their beers with their palms.

Away from the bugs, the night is beautiful. Not silent, for American music plays from the portable CD player in some corner somewhere. But meditative, absorbed in itself however idiosyncratic itself is. This center of swirling energies the more itself because it is surrounded by nothing, a spacious valley whose energy manifests in the course of a far longer time frame. We are like a spike in the blood pressure of the river’s woods, a baffling neon point in their space-time.

Without lights, the bugs have gone away. The people scatter in their own swarms, and for some reason the words that each of us says seem to be background even to us.

Day 313 (Datong Shan)

In Hash Runs on June 27, 2011 at 11:06 pm

The flowers’ yellow coat of pollen has worn off. They have been through so much.

They sit on the sidewalk, now, among a pile of backpacks. Within their own bag, they poke through a small hole cut in the lid of glass jar filled with water. They seem discarded, forgotten.

When their previous owner returns to them, he notes this with alarm. Here they are, unspilled, yet so casually thrown between the sweaty runoff of a long day, to be greeted by a small throng with stomachs full of beer.

The new owner of the flowers arrives. Don, she notices, holds a fruitful stem in his hand. She points out his gaff. He admits it, requests that it be forgiven, and mentions that the flowers reminded him of his mother.

The crowd walks off, regathers, and parts again. The few that remain rumble away on a bus that is nearly empty, for the first time in history. The new owner of the flowers wants to set them to the side so she can relax on the way home, but they will spill, the previous owner is sure of it. So she sets them ticklishly between her legs and the next seat. The two are graced with the undiminished scent the entirety of the trip home.

Day 309 (The Hare)

In Hash Runs on June 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm

As the lone hare, there is:

the snap of the chest strap on your backpack in the first hundred meters of the run, so the thing will bounce on your shoulders for the next 7.5 kilometers;

the realization that the run takes you a lot longer when you are carrying 5 kilograms of flour and that the runners are already off;

the sensation that you’ve gotten lost on your own run, as any course is far different at night than during the day;

and the further realizations that:

the first bag of flour is prematurely empty, and that you’ve got to dip into the second one, and that it’s got to last for the duration;

that you better not dog it, because you will get caught;

that you are over the hump, and as long as there is not disaster you will make it triumphantly in;

that it is done, finished, and all you have to do is write BASH on the ground in flour and sit down, and wait to see how close it was, and god, you are tired.

Day 306 (Dawalun Beach)

In Hash Runs on June 21, 2011 at 12:30 am

The humans stand in a cluster past where the ocean drops off. Their perch is a man-made concrete barricade, underwater where the designated swimming zone ends. It is mossy under their feet. In their hands are beers, between them a white woven sack of same, full and empty.

They can be a metaphor, if you really want.

The humans Ooh and Aah. Beyond them, curiously near the dirty beach, tiny silvery flashes emerge in arcs from the sea. They are a school of miniature flying fish. The humans point and trace their trajectory. They leap out of the water twice, three times, four times. It is magical, fleeting but not fleeting enough not to be believed, and even more magical for it.

Those are not a metaphor, no matter how hard you try.

Day 299 (Muzha)

In Hash Runs on June 14, 2011 at 12:21 am

Yeah I’m so young, my knees are so fresh, I can bomb down this stuff like I’ve never seen a wheelchair before, let my legs go as far as they will go, let the turnover happen, slam the pavement, trust the cushion in my New Balances, bomb, cut the ribbon, not withhold, the finish is soon, the next corner, nothing but space between me and behind me and me and in front of me, it’s a dream, an incline hard enough to be spicy, to give a twinge of what it’d be like if you couldn’t do it, to give the scream of speed a rasp, to hurt your hurt toe so you’re happy to finish, wherever the finish is, hey, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen flour, goddamnit, I missed the turn, I must be an extra kilometer down the mountain.

I sigh and turn to look in the direction from which I came. I sigh again. I put one foot in front of the other once more. The flatness and the compounded quadricep pounding and the broadness of the road and the loneliness conspire, I can’t believe it, what’s wrong with me: up feels almost as nice.