Gainesville Ramblings

This is a blog, and thus it barely qualifies as writing, let alone formal writing, so I'd not let it bother you.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Of Togas, Habits, and Dehydration

Last night, I was leaning against a railing outside a bar at the Jacksonville Landing, looking down on the river. There were boats, both large and small, tied up to the docks. It was a clear night with the stars and the moon shining down, and a cool, pleasant breeze was blowing off the water. I was a bit tipsy, I had a beer in my hand, and I was wearing a toga.

Well, I thought, this is a change.

Its sad, really. Three weeks out of OCS, and everything still comes back to that time I spent there. I find myself saying 'Aye, sir' when someone asks me to do something. And if I don't actually say it, that's only because I've managed to barely suppress the urge. I occasionally find myself pivoting my corners, and I always feel weird walking around in my civies and not having a hat on when I go outside. But that's OK. These things will die down. Instead, what's worst is the disconnect I feel.

When I got out, I threw myself back in my old life with abandon. Oh sure, I wore my uniform a lot, but that's just because I think I look good in it, plus I worked damn hard to earn the privilege of wearing it. But I reconnected with my old friends, went to where ever they were, and did all the old things I did before with them. But it soon dawned on me: I'm not who I used to be. And its taking me a while to figure out exactly who this new Matt is. I have a feeling I won't know this new me very well until I get up to Virginia and start doing real work, not the make work I'm stuck with now. But in a effort to find something this new Matt may like, I checked out a new club.

I first heard about the Hash House Harriers, like most things involving drinking, from Travis. I heard him talk about it off and on in Gainesville, and they sounded vaguely interesting. I mean, its a drinking club, with occasional exercise. But I became busy and exercise dropped way way way off my lists of priorities. I didn't think about them again until I was at National Convention in New Orleans.

Early one oppressively humid morning, as I stumbled down Bourbon Street, drinking water in a effort to stave off dehydration and fix the pounding hangover I was suffering from, I saw a man walk by in a red dress. Well, its New Orleans. Its a wierd place, I thought. Then I saw another. And another. Then a dozen. Then a a few score walked by. I started chugging out of my Nalgene, thinking was may been a hallucination caused by my brain swelling from lack of liquid.

Travis saw this too, and started getting really excited. "Its the Red Dress Run!" he shouted. He ran up to a group and started talking to them. He talked about trying to find a red dress of his own, but nothing ever came of that. And then he told us that these were Hashers, and they have an annual run where everyone, even all the guys, wear red dresses. I resolved to check out if there was a group of these people in Jacksonville when I got back. I promptly forgot this.

So I spent seven months in Jacksonville complaining that I hated running by myself and hating that I really didn't know anyone in town. I wish I hadn't forgotten that the Hashers existed.

I finally made it to one of their runs this past Wednesday. It was a fun trail through Riverside and Five Points, with beer at the beginning, beer at the end, and beer in the middle. The people were weird, but in a way I enjoy, and they had strange and often hilarious rituals that made me want to learn everything, even as I stood there confused about what, exactly, was going on.

And I found out there was a fairly big weekend long event happening starting on Friday. So I figured, why the hell not. I might as well dive right in. I reserved the hotel room, paid the registration fee, and boom: I was participating in Sex ON ON.

There were two pub crawls. There were kegs in the tubs of hotel rooms. I had a small bar stocked in my room. There was an 8+ mile run/walk through downtown Jacksonville (and some of the finer ghetto around). There was a chance of dehydration and heat exhaustion, as the run happened in mid afternoon, and I was already fighting a hangover from the previous night. There were attractive girls, one of whom I spent most of both nights dancing with (and actual dancing, mind you. Like with spins and everything). And there was a toga party.

And all I can think while all this is happening is Well, this is a change.

The past two years of my life have been a long series of transitional periods. The transition from school to work, from engagement to singleness, from home to living on my own to home again, from civilian to military, from OCS to the real world. But in all this time, I think the feeling I have, the frustration I live with, is that I'm not moving on. I'm not meeting new people who I want to be friends with (and I need a little time and space away from my friends in OCS to know what's going on with most of them). I'm not doing what I want to do with life. I'm not seeing new things. I'm not doing anything that means anything in the long run, not even for me.

Hashing doesn't mean anything, but its something new. Something fun. And full of surprises and interesting people (really, really interesting people). And for right now, that's good enough. Plus its fun, and that's something I've come to treasure.