Thursday, June 18, 2009
10 Thoughts: My Trip to Dodger Stadium
Ten years ago, I was motivated to leave for Los Angeles as early as I possibly could so that I would not get caught in the county's glacial-paced rush hour traffic. On Tuesday, my goal was to be out of the house before my son came home from preschool and bear-hugged my leg crying, "I wanna see the A's, too!" Odd that I look forward to spending the rest of my life with the boy, but the thought of a two-hour car ride with a 5-year-old is enough to make me run out of the house half-dressed – with the car's engine already running – dive through the window "Dukes of Hazard" style and peel away from the curb.
Dear, Sirius XM: I'm one of your 400 or so remaining subscribers. I'd like to thank your satellite service for providing the soundtrack during my drive up Interstate 5. Based on your current playlist, I would like to respectfully request the following songs be removed from the rotation of Backspin – your old-school hip hop channel: "King of Rock" by Run-DMC, "Walk This Way" by Run-DMC and anything else by Run-DMC. Look, I get it. They were insanely influential and – arguably – were the first rap act to bring the genre to the suburbs. They were also a product of the 1980s with a way dated sound that hasn't aged well. Why does no one remember that they were d-o-n-e just three years into their 10-year run and lived solely off their reputation before they faded away?
Los Angeles is the second largest city in America, in a state where everyone has – and needs – a car. Yet, getting to Dodger Stadium involves the absolute worst stretches of narrow freeways (three lanes, LA...?!) and surface streets imaginable. I'm fine with the city's rampant blight and crumbling infrastructure – after all, what would the west coast's five or six surviving rappers talk about without it? – but, I've got to believe that the team or the city could buy up the liquor stores, strip clubs and tenements that serve as landmarks leading into the Stadium and put in an Applebee's or something.
I went to the game with m'man Smitty and his kid brother, who actually had the ticket "connection" for the evening. Admittedly, I wasn't expecting much as many of my youthful summer days were spent at Smitty's house laughing as he made his brother cry after applying assorted WWF finishing moves. Today, however, Smitty's brother knows someone with the team who scored us seats just off home plate and a dozen or so rows back on the field level. Meanwhile, my top "connection" is the executive secretary upstairs who fills her candy dish with mini Twix bars. (And, if anyone reading this works within the walls of the Unnamed Defense Contractor, let me know. I got your hook-up!)
Dodger Stadium doesn't get mentioned in the pantheon of great baseball stadiums, for some reason. It's certainly an odd mix of old and new. The park's showing her age on the outside and in parts of the interior cement and supports. But, the concession stands and signage have been completely refurbished, while the concourse includes those season-ticket holder exclusive bars and restaurants that the Yankees have been getting killed on in the press since their new ballpark opened. I've never been to Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, but I did see a game at "historic" Yankee Stadium in 2007. While it was one of my all-time favorite baseball experiences, the place was a public toilet and couldn't compare to Dodger Stadium on its worst day.
One of the parks' too-enthusiastic ushers politely asked to check our tickets the moment we sat down. I don't know why this always p*sses me off, but it does. It's like legalized profiling – and, before you start rolling your eyes, I'm not playing "that card" as two-thirds of our party were of the Caucasian persuasion. Then, she gently chastised Smitty's brother for absent-mindedly dropping the "damn" word ("You're not allowed to say that word here."). Throughout the game, she came back to check on fans by making awkward small talk ("This guy [me, in an A's jersey] looks like trouble!"). By the end, I wanted subsidize an "usher exchange program" just to see how her act would play in a place like Philadelphia.
I bought a Dodger Dog and a large Budweiser American Ale. As always, I loaded my dog with a single line of mustard, a triple line of ketchup and one metric ton of onions. I got all the way back to my seat, before I realized that I only received $3.25 in change back from my $20 bill. Turns out the hot dog was $5.75 and beer was $11.00. Now, believe me…I never complain about the price of ballpark food. (M'man, Nicka went to new Yankee Stadium last weekend and dropped $23 for a chicken parmesan sandwich – which, according to him, came without sauce or breading – and a beer.) Still, though…damn.
Speaking of grub…if you're a fan of garlic fries, the stinky spuds at Dodger Stadium are the best I've ever had. Hot, crispy and loaded with clumps of chopped garlic cloves. Easily achieves my coveted "500 (out of 5)" score. And, the grilled Dodger Dog lived up to the hype. By the sixth inning, most of the concessionaires had sold out of them. Sold out of hot dogs at baseball game!
Dodger fans are something else. There were entire families still arriving at the ballpark, trickling into our section and trying to find their seats in the bottom of the fifth inning. Whenever ANY Dodger hit a ball to the outfield, the fans stood and cheered in anticipation of a certain home run. 250-foot cans-of-corn to centerfield and the idiots around me were losing their minds. Even their heckling was pathetic. Not ONE reference to Kirk Gibson and 1988? It was three hours of "A's suck" and "Gay Area". Stay classy, a-holes.
The A's lost in 10 innings and we left the ballpark around 10:15 PM. I didn't get home until 1:15 AM. I'd like to thank the good people at CALTRANS for closing entire sections of assorted freeways and forcing those of us on the road to detour on congested, poorly lit neighborhood streets for miles on end. How does this happen under Governor Schwarzenegger's watchful eye and visionary leadership?