Monday, May 23, 2011

A Paintball Perception


Yes, this is a food-inspired blog, but we're taking a moment to look into the world of Paintballing, because rather than spend last Sunday cooking, as I usually might, I spent it getting a glimpse into this subculture.  Maybe you are all paintballing pros, but it was a sort of an awakening for me.  All these years I definitely knew that it existed, and even had friends in high school that would go, but I never really knew what it was all about.  Brian had a strong desire to play.  He got some old cardboard box out of the closet, that I didn't even know existed, and pulled out his camouflage. Pants, jacket, head to toe.  Knee pads and a black knit ski mask.  I wanted to say "You are only going paintballing, not on a sniper mission into the Colombian jungle, right?"...but what do I know?  He dragged me out of the house so that I could see what it was all about, and since the sun was shining and the temperature was reaching 80 degrees for once, I was more than happy to go.  
After a long ride out of the city and into the countryside, while I was sure that we were going off in the wrong direction, we arrived at a dirt (pot hole covered) road with a large sign pointing us towards the woods.  Well, we had come this far... Luckily it was not a mean trick and we reached the dirt, roped-in, parking lot where there were just a few other cars.  We walked in from the lot, into a muddy area of old picnic tables, where there were a few large groups of kids (boys and teenagers) and some adults, who we could tell had already played a few games, and were taking a break to reload their stomachs and their guns.  One group was organized by an older mother who had provided her "team" with an array of cold beverages and snacks.  She sat in a comfortable lawn chair in the minimal shade, while her boys ate and gushed with excitement about their last game, as they sweated through their muddy t-shirts in the bright sunshine.  
We headed over to the office, which was actually an old freight truck container with a service window. Although this was probably just one of the cheapest methods they could use to create an "office", it actually worked nicely in adding to the atmosphere of disguise.  A sweet, mom-like, middle-aged woman greeted us and got Brian set up for battle.  He then loaded his paintball gun, and quickly made friends with a few teenagers and their dads that were also playing. They quickly began giving Brian tips on how to load his gun and which sharp shooters to avoid.  I was suddenly feeling like my mother, like when she would take us ice-skating when we were kids.  She would get us our skates, and make sure we were set up, and then we would run off and play with the other kids in the rink, while she would sit in the stands, and read a book.   Our only occasional interaction would be when we would run over to her and yell "Watch this?" or "Did you see what I did?"...so I felt I knew what to expect.
I took a sunny spot on an old wooden bench that was still damp from last night's rain and watched as he pulled his mask down over his face and ran off, behind his team, into his first game.  The way that he pushed his mask on, dressed in body-covering fatigues, and held his gun across his body, as he ran through the mud and into the woods... made me see him in a whole different light.  This was not the Brian in the dress shirt and tie and lab coat that I see everyday on his way to work.  This was a small piece of that Brian in the lab coat, that never gets to come out.
It was at this point that I realized many men have this small, but very potent piece of them hidden away, mostly because we all try to live in a civilized society.  (And yes we know there are some women we can include here and some men we can not) And we all notice how some can hide it better than others.  Those that let it out can choose to foster it (as positively as possible) in the military, or police, firefighter, etc., while still others can't control it, sometimes leading a life of violence.
When Brian asked me why I didn't want to play, he assumed that I was afraid of getting hit.  I explained that it is definitely not that I am afraid of getting hit with a little plastic paintball, (little boys play this game), it is more that I am just not interested in running around in the woods while shooting at people.  I understand that there is an adrenaline factor, and I am sure that it would kick in for me as well...but I honestly would really just prefer to sit under the few shade trees and read my cookbooks. Which I did.


I could hear the "click, click, click" of the paintball guns as I read an article about the Sriracha empire (admittedly one of my favorite condiments).  As each game would finish, a sweaty group of boys would stagger out of the woods. They would surround me as they were looking for hydration and shade, but I took the only shady spot that was not accompanied by mosquitoes.  While these boys could shoot their big guns and get filthy dirty in stinking mud, not one of them was brave enough to ask to share my shady spot.  After almost three hours of reading and researching... how to cook pigeon peas, Bahamian coconut rice, summer BBQ quinoa main courses, peanut butter chocolate chip muffins, and rhubarb tarts, I was exhausted and starving.  At that very moment Brian came walking out of the woods, with his new buddies.  He looked overheated, worn, and very happy.  As he reached me, he put up his paint stained hand and in his tired, breathless voice said, "Give me five, lets go home, we won."

2 comments:

  1. I wish all wife beaters would play paintball instead.or at least beat on people that could actually defend themselves.

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  2. we should so do this while you guys are here. our p date isn't for awhile but we could move it up.

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