The toughest part of writing a weekly column is the “What the hell am I going to write about” syndrome. Usually, this involves staring for hours at a blank screen thinking, “Hmmm ... cellophane. Could I say something about cellophane?” This is not nearly as much fun as it sounds.
A good column topic is intriguing, timely and, most of all, not likely to elicit reader email with the subject line “Why don’t you get a real job?” Sometimes I don’t manage it.
But today finding a topic is easy. It’s March 15. Which means it’s the Ides of March. Which means it’s also the International Association of Hash House Harriers’ Roman Toga Race. This is a really big day.
Some readers may now be asking, “What’s this Ides stuff?” “The Hash House who?” or “Why don’t you get a real job?” (Mom, stop sending me these emails).
The Ides of March is the day Roman emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by a group of his closest colleagues. “Ides” denoted the 15th day of any month with 31 days. In months of only 30 days the 15th was called ... um ... likely, the 15th.
In modern times, the Ides of March is known for: 1. It being difficult to convince a politician to go for lunch; and 2. The Hash House Harriers’ toga race.
The Hash House Harriers society began in 1938 when some young British soldiers decided they needed a physical fitness regime that would: a) help them get rid of their hangovers from the weekend before; and b) help them acquire a good thirst so they could hit the beer again.
They started weekly harrier races. I looked up “harrier” in the dictionary and it said “to be harried.” Excellent.
The rules of harrier racing go: One person starts running. Everyone else tries to catch them. There is no designated finish line. Basically, the game ends when someone says, “Right then. Who’s for a drink?”
On March 15, global Hash House Harrier societies gather in Rome, put on togas and run past the spot where Caesar was stabbed. Then they all go out for a drink. Their motto is, “I mean, why not?”
So, fellow citizens, let us, too, honour Caesar. Let us don bed sheets (mine are plaid flannel but I think it still counts) and runneth past city hall. Or maybe just hoist a glass with friends. Your choice.
Happy Ides of March!