One night this week I skipped a launch party for composer Hilary Tann's new CD to go play the recorder alone on a bridge on the edge of town, high over the Erie Canal. Fish were jumping, swallows were skimming the water, it was impossibly beautiful and quiet, and I couldn’t resist. So I walked up a hill to the bridge with my son’s primary school recorder and The Daily Ukulele and flipped through it, sending flute-y strains of Shenandoah and The Erie Canal Song (and plenty of sour notes) into the twilight. In the middle of Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, a fisherman popped up like a troll from under the bridge and gave me a big grin and two thumbs up.
I was happy and occupied and in my own world until I saw them.
They appeared in the distance, jogging toward me on the towpath alongside the water, cheering and panting and inexplicably carrying coolers. They were runners, dozens of them, and they passed under the bridge and into a nearby park.
Then I heard them through the trees, singing Old McDonald at the tops of their lungs, clapping and shouting and chanting. Curious, I closed The Daily Ukulele and trotted off the bridge and into the park to find them.
They were standing in a circle, drinking cheap beer and radiating tribal happiness. A sweaty, dark-haired woman holding a can of Genesee Light explained they were the Flour City Hash House Harriers.
“Basically, we run for beer,” she said, tilting her head and swishing her ponytail. She had to shout over the din.
The Harriers, she explained, are members of a social drinking and running group that runs together and then forms a circle to "call each other out for bad behavior on the trail."
“Come join us!” reads their website. “Even if the sound of running three miles makes you want to vomit, I guarantee you will enjoy the hash.”
As an experienced choral singer, I must point out that they were off-key and suffering serious rhythmic deficiencies. They were not together.
But of course, they were wonderfully in synch, basking in sweat, endorphins, beer, and song.