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[whitespace] Paintball
Robert Barrett D'Elia

Hardcore Combat: One day the National Guard came to the American Canyon Paintball Jungle field to participate in the games with their HumVee.

In the trenches with the paintball shooters

By Millie

When millie reluctantly agreed to participate in this bachelor party, he was expecting strippers and cigars, maybe even a prostitute. But the best man had other ideas. Now Millie stands side by side with his fellow celebrants--three research scientists, an event planner, a transportation planner (the groom) and a political cartoonist--all getting instructions in the ancient warfare sport of paintball.

A pimply preteen decked out in camouflage waves his gun and shouts at the various participants scattered around the gravel parking lot. "Huddle up!" he yells.

The American Canyon Paintball Jungle in Vallejo is run by Ted Kaczynski look-alike Magic Carpet Bob. Dressed in all black with a web of utility belts and holsters, Magic Carpet Bob has been playing paintball for close to 12 years. American Canyon offers prizes to anyone who nails Bob during the game--an iron-on or shooter's patch and 10 lucky numbers for the raffle that is held during the lunch break.

Bob barks out the rules of the game, which is very similar to capture the flag. He says, "When you're hit, you stand up and yell 'Hit!,' then walk off of the field. Paintballs sometimes bounce, so check before yelling anything. Wear your face mask at all times. Also, this is not laser tag! Paintballs hurt."

Bob quickly identifies Millie's group as a bunch of paintball virgins. Dressed in old jeans and T-shirts, they look as if they've gathered to clean up the neighborhood. The rest of the players--decked out in a range of camouflage military styles--look as if they're about to clean up Iraq.

Ages range from early teens to mid-30s. Many of the participants brought their own weapons: big guns with attachments, scopes with little red, blinking lights and paint grenades. The two women in attendance would prove to be ruthless. About one-fourth of the participants wear T-shirts or flak jackets with San Francisco Hornets scrawled across their backs. Every weekend, the Hornets play against paying customers to practice and to recruit qualified players. "Hornets are recruited because of their good sportsmanship, not their marksmanship!" Magic Carpet Bob explains.

Magic Carpet Bob splits the group--about 60--into two teams and sends them off to separate forts in the dense eucalyptus grove. Each game lasts 30 minutes. There will be eight games during the day with a lunch break. Millie's group rents guns and ammo. "Is this enough ammo for the whole day?" Millie asks. "Depends on your death wish," the woman behind the counter replies. For $20, participants get 500 paintballs, which can easily last one person a day. For another $20, you also get the use of a spider gun.

At the paint-splattered fort on one edge of the thickly forested playing field, the ragtag white team--lots of testosterone-pumped 13-year-olds, a few brooding, totally decked out Hornets and Millie's group of mid-management technocrats--waits for the game to start. The whole thing is made even more ridiculous by the absolute lack of irony on behalf of most of the players. One of the Hornets surveys Millie's group. We're dead, Millie thinks. But maybe not. Just before the game begins, Magic Carpet Bob bounds through the woods and up to the edge of the fort. He's got a white armband on, which makes him leader of the team. "There goes my 10 lucky numbers for the raffle game," thinks Millie.

The white team wins the first round. Millie's out in the first 10 minutes--hit on his right thigh. It stings, but doesn't hurt. In the next game, Millie takes out two reds defending their fort, grabs the flag and hands it off to a Hornet before getting hit.

As far as bachelor parties go, this one turns out to be a great time. Millie will take paintball over Mitchell Brothers any day of the week.

For more information on Paintball Jungle, call 707/552-2426 or visit its Web site.

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From the October 5-18, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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