So. Saturday morning, I woke up at 6:45 AM, which is the earliest time in the day that a human being has EVER gotten up, much less on a Saturday, to ride my bike to Long Island City, Queens, to participate in a charity event for the Moving Mountains organization, a non-profit youth outreach program founded by Jaime Hector, who played Marlo on the HBO series, The Wire. As it was billed, the event would allow ordinary civilians to play paintball with Jaime and other Wire cast-members, which is easily the scariest way to donate money to charity that I have ever heard of. Also, as it would turn out, the event would actually only allow ordinary civilians to play paintball with each other, in a bracket-style tournament, and then whoever won that would be able to play paintball with the cast of The Wire. This would have been a lot more disappointing if it didn’t turn out that paintball is terrifying, and if it was not always the case that being around “famous” people (even obsessive-nerd niche-programming famous) is awkward and uncomfortable, and if NYC Paintball, New York’s premiere (only) indoor paintball course wasn’t the most disgusting place in the world.

First, let us set the scene:

NYC Paintball is located on an industrial stretch of road just off of Queens Boulevard. Of course, this is not the Queens Boulevard mythologized and rhapsodized by Vincent Chase. This is the section of Queens Boulevard where the bus from Rikers Island unceremoniously drops off released convicts every morning at 5AM. It is a part of town that you don’t necessarily want to be alone in at 7:40 in the morning when you woefully miscalculated your bike ride commute, perhaps because you are awake earlier than any human being has ever been awake (look it up). Not because it is particularly dangerous, but because there is nothing to do. You could go get a donut at the Dunkin Donuts that is also a gas station under the BQE , but you don’t want to. Because gross. Eventually you end up getting an egg sandwich and a coffee at a deli and sitting by yourself and wondering who the other people are in this deli at 7:40 on a Saturday getting egg sandwiches and coffee like you. Are they ALL going to play paintball with the cast of the Wire? Probably! That’s probably why they are wearing coveralls and nurses uniforms. You know, for the paint. And the death.

But, OK, so, finish your sandwich and coffee. Because we have to talk about NYC Paintball: NYC Paintball is one of those rare (although not rare enough) windows into another world, like a Polish nightclub, or a laser tag center. (NYC Paintball also provides laser tag services, although its laser tag guns are refurbished paintball guns with lasers mounted on them?) The thing is: people hang out here. A lot. When I arrived at 8AM on a Saturday morning, the place was crowded with people wearing Official Paintball Gear. Wait, WHAT? I am pretty sure this event is for skinny, nervous, white nerds with crippling social anxiety who just really like the gritty realism and moral ambiguity of a critically successful but criminally underwatched HBO show that has been off the air for two years. Not, you know, PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY KNOW HOW TO PLAY PAINTBALL!

“I have made a terrible mistake.” — Gabe Bluth

We should all be so lucky as to find something that makes us happy in this world. I know that. And I am sure that paintball enthusiasts were popping bottles when it was announced that NYC Paintball would soon be opening in Queens. And perhaps New York’s premiere (and only) paintball facility was exciting when it was untarnished and new. But it is no longer those things. And the idea of spending any amount of time other than a couple of hours one Saturday morning BY ACCIDENT and FOR CHARITY and BECAUSE OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN ON TV THAT YOU WANT TO GET A FACEBOOK PHOTO WITH in this place is to describe a mindset and a way of life that is completely alien to one’s understanding of the world. Because NYC Paintball sounds fun and interesting when you describe it as New York’s premiere (and only) indoor paintball facility. It is less fun and interesting when you describe it like this:

A windowless, airless, abandoned storage shed that smells like kerosene and is lit by the same fluorescent bulbs they used to film Saw. The bathroom seems like something out of Grand Theft Auto. Going to the bathroom feels like a mission to kill a Haitian who betrayed a mob boss and is now hiding in a disused subway tunnel. Every single inch of every single surface (floors, walls, tables, benches, vending machines) is covered in a light-to-thick patina of greasy residue from a million exploded paintballs. Occasionally this environment is pierced by the explosive stutter of GUNS GOING OFF. (Because one thing they do not tell you about paintball guns is that, at least indoors, THEY SOUND AN AWFUL LOT LIKE BULLETBALL GUNS.) It is the type of place that you could definitely fill with dead bodies and nail shut and no one would ever find them, not even Lester Freeman.

Add to that serenity the sound of a dog barking from somewhere inside the building. NO JOKE. We are talking an actual living nightmare now. And it only gets worse an hour later when you discover that the dog actually belongs to Omar*.

Jesus Christ. I know we are all going to die some day, I just did not think we were all going to die at a novelty charity event!!!

Anyway, it turns out that I am exceptionally bad at paintball**. In our first round against a team of nerds (a few did finally show up, although they were showing each other bruises from RECENT PAINTBALL ADVENTURES. I remember a time when nerds used to be nerds!) One girl on our team is shot in the arm at point-blank range, leaving a white-hot welt surrounded by a deep purple bruise that will almost certainly result in a permanent scar. I am eliminated when a 17-year-old SHOOTS ME IN THE NECK. I held my gun and my free hand up in the air to surrender, at which point SOMEONE SHOOTS ME IN THE HEAD. What is this? Where am I? HELL? AM I IN ACTUAL HELL NOW? Because if I knew I was going to go to actual hell, I would have at least SLEPT IN A LITTLE, FIRST. (On that note, and I know that I am a sleepy princess whose diamond pillow is too tight, but the event was scheduled from 8-11AM but none of the event organizers even showed up until 9:30. I’m not actually surprised that a charity paintball event in Queens organized by the guy who played Marlo on The Wire did not follow its publicized schedule with Swiss precision, but if this was a tower it would have been TAKEN BACK.)

It also might be worth pointing out that whoever did go on to win the paintball tournament was going to be pretty good at paintball, because a lot of these people actually seemed to know what they were doing for some reason (where do they find time between all the paintball to watch TV?!!!), but the cast of The Wire, unsurprisingly, don’t spend a lot of time on the paintball field. Because they have better things to do. Like be in the cast of The Wire. And so the final round would just be halfway decent paintball enthusiasts slaughtering the cast of The Wire. Neat?

Being eliminated from the actual paintball part of the paintball event did give me more time to enjoy the “with the cast of The Wire” side of things, although “enjoy” might not be the right word. The thing about being near famous people is that it is really fun and neat and exciting for about 20 minutes, after which you are just in a room with some strangers who do not particularly like you, but at whom you cannot stop staring. Yikes. Add to that the fact that it is usually very hard to disassociate their screen roles from them as human beings, and now you are in a room full of strangers who do not particularly like you and who you think are ACTUAL MURDERERS. But Jaime Hector and Sonia Sohn were very nice. Bodie was there, too, and he was super Bodie the whole time. I’m pretty sure he was for real running a corner during the event. And I won’t get into how embarrassingly me and the people I was with nervously debated and hesitated to actually approach Michael K. Williams and ask him to take a picture with us, but let us just say it was VERY embarrassingly.

Success?

Success!

At 12:45, heading into my fifth hour of hanging around a dilapidated nightmare factory in Queens on a Saturday, ears still ringing with the sound of people shooting at each other’s faces, my neck throbbing with a bright red bruise, surrounded by people who wanted nothing to do with me, I left without getting to meet Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, who was reportedly still on her way (the event was scheduled to begin at 8) but was stuck in traffic. Sure. Hey, remember when she was in jail for real after watching a dude stab another dude to death?! Oh well. Maybe I’ll meet her next time there is a weird, expensive, novelty fringe sport event for charity with the cast of The Wire.

In any case, it was all for a good cause. I think. Probably.

*Michael K. Williams (Omar), incidentally, is made extra scary  by the fact that in addition to BEING OMAR, he does not participate in the event whatsoever. He sits at a (greasy) table in the (greasy) dark talking with his friends and ignoring his barking dog. He does not suit up to play paintball. He does not gladhand with anyone. It makes sense. It also makes yikes.
**I am of the belief that no recreational activity for “fun” should involve a gun with TWO SEPARATE SAFETY MECHANISMS to prevent from ACCIDENTALLY SHOOTING SOMEONE IN THE FACE.
Comments (99)
  1. The guy on the left in both pictures, is that Charlie from Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

  2. Please tell me some yelled “Omar coming!” when Michael K. Williams walked in.

  3. You totally got photo bombed by Ed Grimley’s little brother.

  4. Gabe, I think the reason your neck hurt wasn’t because you were shot with a paintball gun, but because your head is stuck tilted slightly to the left. Maybe use some of that “Hard Times of RJ Berger” money to see a chiropractor?

  5. I guess the important question is:
    “Was there a Starbucks Close by to Suit Your Needs?”

  6. so when you ran out of paintballs, did you have to bounce to the stash to re-up after making a call on a burner? also, other slang terms from the wire that i don’t remember?

  7. OMAR:GABE::GABE:ME

    • Man, tell me about it! I saw Gabe in the audience at a comedy show the other night but didn’t know how to approach a not-so-super-famous blogger I like who was both taller and better dressed than I imagined he’d be. Shrug, there’s always the annual pizza party (that I miss :( )

      • Haha, like that time I saw him at Tumblr Reads with Edith Zimmerman and another dude, and I just kind of looked at them. Well there was one point when I apologized to Gabe for getting in his arm space while we both stood up against the table at the back of Housing Works Bookstore where they put the sugar and stuff for people who order coffee.

        A few nights later I mentioned it in chat and Gabe said, “You should have said hi.”

        • If this is the “awkward Gabe sighting” thread, I’ll add that I thought I saw him on the Staten Island Ferry. I never got around to asking if it was him because it kinda felt like encountering somebody in a porno shop. Nobody is proud of their business in Staten Island.

    • srsly. i was thinking to myself, “wow, gabe’s description of the awkwardness of seeing those actors is basically word for word my description of going to ‘big terrific’ and seeing gabe and max.” SO awkward. needlessly so because they were both really nice and they didn’t point and laugh at me at all. also, i have no history of thinking of them as hardened street thugs who wield shotguns, so that cut the tension a weensy bit, too. BUT STILL. it was scare-barrassing.

  8. Don’t be sad Gabe, I’m sure those paintballers wouldn’t be able to blog about shooting you in the neck this eloquently

  9. I’ve never been paintballing, but whenever I think of paintball, I always think of that Daria episode where they go on a school paintball trip. So to answer your question Gabe, all the nerds were probably at home comparing real life paintball to cartoons featuring paintballing. That’s why you didn’t see any on your trip!

    • I just watched that episode the other day! (I got the box set for my birthday) I loved it. Especially the part where it turns out that Brittany is a tactical genius. That was great.

  10. Not to be an asshole (I am an asshole), but it’s Freamon. Lester Freamon. AKA The Best.

  11. As a person a day away from starting the fifth season of The Wire, we should all be so lucky as to find a blog post such as this that makes us happy in this world.

  12. So you’re telling me paintballing is not like this?

    • In all honesty, paintball is fun! I guess Gabe has an issue with the simulated violence, but then he goes on to reference Grand Theft Auto.

      But seriously, it’s like tag but with projectiles! And so many bruises! Who doesn’t love a nice bruise?

      • Indoor paintball can be a little gross and scary, and I can see where it would be unpleasant to walk into a paintball place alone and have to interact with the dudes that are there EVERYDAY, but still so fun! Going with a group of friends, running around and lightly hurting each other, so great.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

      • I want to downvote you for saying that about an awesome show, but I also don’t want to downvote you in a ‘you-can’t-make-me!’ teenage sort of way.

  13. This is great and all, but you’re not answering one very important question which is WHERE WAS WALLACE, GABE??!!! WHERE THE FUCK WAS WALLACE AT THE PAINTBALL EVENT???!!

    Oh right. Playing football in Dillon, Texas.

  14. Um how do I say “Michael K. Williams is super dark” without sounding racist?

  15. In other news, I finally just realized that Videogum’s twitter avatar is The Wire’s Snoop. Finally, sense is made.

  16. I went to this same paintball place with a group from school, because I heard paintball was fun and I thought “Hey – this might be fun!”

    I was told to not wear fancy clothes so I of course did not. But was still assured that the paint was “water based” and would come out in the wash. But the paint is grease-based. Why would you make paintballs grease-based?

    So fine, I thought as I played (playing = getting shot in the neck) I will obviously have to throw out this pair of pants and this shirt. No biggie, cause.. this is fun?

    But the grease is truly everywhere, which I learned as I returned to my jacket, which was in the “changing area” and nowhere near the actual paintballin’ but was of course covered in paint (grease).

    What an awful, greasy experience. And no pic with Omar, to boot!

  17. A baseball post and a paintball post on the same day? What’s next? World Cup coverage? ESPNgum.

    If you really want to see some interesting characters come out of the woodworks, you should try attending a local karate tournament. T14TT, Joe Mande?

  18. Is it just me or has Gabe been bitching about EVERYTHING lately? Whydontyoucryaboutitgum??

  19. lamenting the oil spill does not classify as “bitching.”

  20. I have been paintballing only once, and it was at that joint. Just too many men angry at the world and taking out their frustration by shooting each other in the balls. Very mixed martial arts vibe. No thanks!

  21. Not to be this guy, but wouldn’t Gabe Bluth say “I’ve made a huge mistake,” not a “terrible mistake?” Fuck, I am that guy now.

  22. Gabe, you’re a very brave boy, but don’t ever go to Baltimore.

  23. I met Bunk (Wendell Pierce) after seeing him in a play one time and he was the nicest. #braggum

  24. When Gabe mentioned “I remember a time when nerds used to be nerds!” in regards to paintball, my immediate thought was: YES, us nerds have finally come up a great revenge for all those dodgeball “games” in HS
    These guys know what I’m talking about


    Suck it non-nerds!

  25. at least you didn’t get shot in the eye, Gabe. fuck prezbo.

  26. Man on a wire.

  27. Remind me, are we pronouncing it “kah-RA-tee” or “kah-ra-TAY” now? Were we all wrong for years and years of High Karate?

  28. Ah shit I’ve been missing this site. Eff real life. Sleepy princess diamond pillow too tight. Good stuff.

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