Don Bauder 8:42 p.m., May 23
My heart’s pumping, adrenaline is flowing and I am smack dab in the middle of a full-fledged war. A huge bonfire rages, growing larger with each passing moment, and the ground has become littered with perfectly in tact ammunition. I'm being attacked from all sides, taking hits to the cranium, the face, and the back. There’s no escape from the full barrage of ammo that is pelting me, yet I feel no pain. The flying projectiles continue to pass through the flames and into the crowd. From my position, I can't tell the difference between an enemy and a friendly. All I can see is a swirling mass of people surrounding the blaze. It’s only a matter of time before I’m sucked into this battle, and it’s at this point that I realize that it's time for me to join.
My time has come. It's do or die. I look down and see it; it's the perfect sand-covered marshmallow that is needed to join the chaos. I reach down, pick it up and hurl it with full force right into the base of some unsuspecting dudes’ skull. Bam! He's been hit. Bam! I've been hit. Must re-load. It's on. The great Ocean Beach marshmallow fight of 2012 has begun.
"U.S.A, U.S.A," chants drown out the crashing of the waves. “U.S.A., U.S.A.” Old-Glory is raised high and waves proudly in the ocean breeze. The patriotic chants that erupt so suddenly end as abruptly as they began. It's an all out battle. It's me versus the world, and there's no way anyone is escaping before being pelted with a giant, soggy, sandy piece of flying gelatin. Nobody is safe. And I mean nobody. That's right—even the little children who have come to view the fireworks are not safe from the wrath of the mallow.
The sand has now become a blanket of white. I reach down and pick up the largest marshmallow I've ever seen and take aim. I scan the crowd in search of my perfect victim. “Mr. Tough Guy” in the backwards, blue Dodger hat? Nah. I’ve already pegged him a few times. How 'bout the guy with his arms crossed, acting like he's too cool to join? Nah. Already hit him also. Bingo! I've spotted them—three attractive girls posing for photos and laughing. I take aim, cock my arm back, and unleash a Major League fastball directly at the forehead of one of the unsuspecting girls. Direct hit.
The shelling continues. I'm taking hits from all directions and there's no way of escaping it. I hurl marshmallows with so much force and velocity that my arm feels like it's going to disconnect from my socket. Re-living old glory days on the high-school pitching mound may not be the wisest decision, but wisdom has no place in this fiery battle.
"U.S.A., U.S.A." again rises from the crowd. At this point, the ground is covered in thousands of mallows and the hundreds' of participants show no sign of letting up. Boxes and furniture add more fuel to the fire, as the flames stretch higher and higher toward the smoke-filled sky.
I've got to admit—my ‘hit/got hit ratio’ has really sucked so far. I must've pegged at least eighty-five people, but have easily taken on three times that many. It's now time to fall back. Not quit, but step back along the peripheries of the battle. No longer will I engage in face to face combat. I’ll fall back and act as a sniper in the crowd.
I stock up on ammo and make sure my arm-cannon is prepared for more action. I take the high ground, up on a small dirt mound that separates the sand from the grass and begin my search for more victims. From this vantage point, I take aim at specific targets; mostly little kids and amateur photographers.
The photographers become my main target (the young children are later). The joy I get when I strike some guy, knock him off tilt, and keep him from accomplishing his Scorcesse style masterpiece is something that makes me feel like a villain. Sure, he's just standing there minding his own business, but this is war! Collateral damage.
I retreat, slowly stepping further from the bowels of the battle. I’m now out of the crossfire, unharmed, free from injury (besides a throbbing right arm) but still close enough to peg people fleeing the scene. Head-shots are the target. Usually, that seems to get their attention. Believe it or not, the little kids barely out of strollers are some of the most difficult targets. They move in zig-zag formations, flail their arms, and fall to the ground a lot. Come to think of it, they're a lot like the drunkards escaping from the center of the fight.
As the crowd thins, I make a full retreat. I must retire my cannon for the year (which now feels more like a noodle at this point), unleash the rest of my ammo and fall back into the night and celebrate Independence Day. After all, this is America!