There are many ways to get your creative juices flowing, but rarely do you have the chance to squeeze the juice out of life… and then throw it at hundreds of strangers literally.
On Saturday, July 20th, I braved three Subway trains and a bus: voyaging all the way from the Isle of Manhattan to the deep heart of Flatbush for New York’s first-ever Tomato Battle; amidst war cries and battle calls, white T-shirts became stained with gooey red-soaked juices. New Yorkers amassed like a frantic, panting, pulsating group of frenzied Gladiators, primed and ecstatic: ready to pummel each other with the plump juices of sweet overly ripe tomatoes. And so it began.
Here I am, sharing with you some of the SPLAT! I’d always wanted to attend one of these events. I imagined it to be like a Roman orgy of smooshy, primal fruit-chucking fun. And I was right. Like warm, oozing mush, tomatoes went SPLAT and POW! through the air, soon becoming trampled and soft, like the slippery stuff we’d slide on, accidentally, on a cafeteria floor. Now imagine hundreds of people’s warm bodies surrounding yours, kind of like crowd surfing; but also being surrounded—engulfed and totally covered—in warm, constantly flowing and splattering, tomato smoosh. Warm, ever-moving tomato paste enters every crevice of your being and just allows you to feel like a little worm sliding through a soft waterfall of thick smoothie-like tomato sauce that you let drizzle and explode all over your face, in your hair, down your cheeks, and all over your fully clothed body. I writhed through the crowd among other merry revelers.
The sweet red color of passion dripped down our faces - gliding down our bodies and squishing into our sneakers as we raised our hands in celebration, heathens of the present day, writhing in rhythm as though possessed by the spirits past, dancing like Banchees around a flame as we giddily splashed and stomped through the gooey, sloppy red tomatoes in glee.
Everyone came to the event with the same purpose in mind: to CHARGE on the battlefield! To revel and to escape their usual regime by literally leaving their normal state of being and smother their bodies head-to-toe in a foreign substance. We all came to escape (… and immerse oneself in a group-experience—a joyous, athletic, primal, nearly sensual experience! ). As the battle began and the tomatoes broke the silence, the “Battle” became a celebration. As the tomatoes softened, so too did the crowd’s energy. There was a release.
There was a lightness of being. We let our juices flow. We lost our noodles and enjoyed the sauce! We transformed into modern-day Gladiators, legends, and heroines. We allowed strangers to touch us and ourselves to touch others. We made memories that we could seal in molasses: they were visceral and momentous. Someone pouring a stream of tomato juice over my head felt reflective. A joy began in the core of the stadium and permeated through the crowd, growing and radiating, like a buzzing, pulsating energy.
It was an experience of exuberance and radiance. …The most difficult and awkward part? Taking those three Subway rides and bus-ride back home!