Sunday, July 3, 2011

I've got a secret... in a rather odd place

Apparently it rained in Seoul for practically the whole two weeks I was in California. (More on that anon.) Just so I wouldn't feel left out, the Monsoon Goddess decided to make it rain for practically the whole ten days I've been back. It's been indecently gloomy and wet nearly every single day and the Yangjae Cheon-- the stream that runs near my house-- has risen and risen and risen some more.
 For illustrative purposes only... may not actually be in Korea. But it should be.

On a seemingly desultory note, my friend LesBalls flew to Jeju Island to take part in her first Ironman Triathlon. She's the hare-raiser (that is, the person in charge of recruiting people to lay the trails) for the regular Sunday hash group, Southside. She recruited me to fill in the schedule for today, July 3. I'd only ever co-hared once, following Les herself and laying down marks at her direction; I'd certainly never been the lead, or only, hare.

I took my duties seriously, spending two or three hours this week, during breaks in the rain, walking the mountain and backstreets between Yangjae subway station and my neighborhood, also called Yangjae. I filled three pages of my little notebook with block-by-block directions of where to lead them, where to turn, where to lay down a "checkpoint" (where the pack would have to check in all directions for the trail's continuation) and where to mark a "true trail".

(You guys don't have any idea what I'm talking about do you? No, you don't.... you're normals.)

I found an Independence Day doodle through Google Images, with a flag, a hot dog-- it's a veggie dog, though it takes a trained eye to tell-- and an ear of corn. (I'm Corndog, remember?) I came up with a snappy name for today's run (Yangjae Doodle Dandy) and had 25 patches made combining the picture and the name. (Many hashes-- like next week's 1300th weekly session of my home hash, Yongsan Kimchi, garner patches, which can be sewn on our club happi coats or stuck in a drawer, whatever... my happi sports 40 patches I've accumulated in eight months, but this is the first one I've commissioned.)


Yongsan Kimchi avoided the rain yesterday, we had a good hash, and I had some vague hope that it would be fair today.

I woke up at 4:30 to the sound of buckets, 55-gallon drums, Olympic pools of water pounding down. The animals were lined up two-by-two outside, even the ducks, which if you think about it was kind of dumb.

Needless to say, I lay there fretting about whether anyone would show up and how in the world I could make marks that wouldn't wash away. I finally got up and spent the next three or four hours pathetically sipping coffee and muttering imprecations.

After 8, almost three hours before the hash's meeting time, I set out to pre-lay as much of the trail as possible... I'm pretty slow, and if I didn't set a large part of the trail down in advance, the pack would probably snare me very quickly, despite the hare's traditional 15-minute head start.

I rode my bike a mile (wet to the bone within three minutes) to the huge church...

 (It's considerably less sunny today; who called it "Sunday"?)

...just over the hill from Yangjae Station, parked it, and started to lay trail.

The three common ways of setting a trail here are with chalk (which washes away), flour (which washes away), and "secret" (paper shredded into plankton-sized pieces by the machines the military uses to destroy classified documents). Oh, that washes away too, a little more slowly.

I hope you read that "secret" bit carefully... otherwise the punchline of this entry will make even less sense than usual.

I found out quickly that the eight pounds of flour I had in my bag was completely useless. So I chalked, as much as I could on vertical surfaces, and laid down clumps of "secret". I quickly found that my meticulously laid-out route wasn't going to work; I'd planned to lead the pack for quite a distance alongside the Yangjae Cheon and through the three parks alongside its south bank. Well, the paths along the Cheon were completely submerged...

 ...and the miserable conditions demanded that the trail be cut a bit short, so there went my park plan.

And then, halfway through, covered in a paste of chalk, flour, and secret, wetter than a frog's butt, water still pouring from the sky, I ran out of chalk. And secret. And had no way to tell the pack where to go from there.

So I called my friend Booty, Southside's leader, who said she'd bring more chalk and secret from home, and hiked back to the start point by Yangjae Station. Once everyone was there-- despite the liquid atmosphere, we had 20 people, some from as far as 30 miles away-- I took off again, laying the same trail again, half-sliding down the muddy trail over the hill to the church, then re-marking the same spots I'd done before, which had nearly washed away already. Then I had to completely abandon all plans and just zigzag my way back through the side streets.

Somehow I managed to stay ahead of the pack... Fahr, whose name I won't repeat in this family-friendly venue (but it's based on the Volkswagen slogan), missed snaring me by two or three minutes. People said many nice things about my trail as we gathered under the canopy in front of Seocho-gu District Office. (Not surprisingly-- we hashers always say "Things in Korea aren't... quite... right"-- the canopy was a foot too narrow to protect the benches from the rain.)

So, you know, hooray for me.

Everyone had a good time despite the incessant pounding rain; thanks to Booty's rescue package (I ran out of secret just 100 yards from the finish), the trail, improvised and truncated as it was, was a great success, as were my patches. Singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain...

And, covered again. face to knees, in chalk and secret, I went into the Seocho-gu Office men's room... and found secret in my personal area.

And I'm planning another haring adventure for my birthday, this time with Yongsan Kimchi and without a monsoon. Or anything unexpected in my shorts.

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