It seemed a little unimportant; when he told me, I smiled
Picture jewels being handed to an innocent child...
Promised if I have a seed, I'mma guide him right
Dear Lord, don't let me die tonight...
Part I -- Part II
1:05 PM - We've walked through the auxiliary parking lot and made it halfway through the regular parking lot when I hear the first Diamondbacks batter introduced from what seems like five miles away. Right on cue, Jalen reminds me, "You said we wouldn't miss the first pitch!" Fatherhood is a lot like having two wives, guys.
1:08 PM - We reach the overpass and Jalen acts as if he's just laid eyes on Mount Everest. "My legs are too little to walk all that way!" (In Jalen's defense, that might've been my 4'8" wife whining. My focus was solely on getting inside the stadium and to my seat. Quite frankly, the rest of the family's attendance was optional at this point.)
1:10 PM - Against my better judgment -- and my bony legs and that asthma thing -- I offer Jalen a ride on my shoulders across the overpass. Not surprisingly, this endorsement of Jalen's laziness is met with his all-of-a-sudden energetic approval. My emaciated frame holds around 167 lbs. depending on what I've eaten during any given day. Jalen is 55 lbs. I'm not sure I'm built to absorb a sudden 33% increase in my body mass. Hell, I'd have to drop Jalen to even reach my inhaler. I'm interpreting those last two points from the sideways look Mrs. Bootleg is giving me.
1:13 PM - Considering I had to put up with my son's immature antics and my wife's indifference, we made pretty good time to the main stadium entrance. It'd be nice if there were NO MORE distractions of selfishness on their parts, though. I've been able to maintain my focus throughout this...hey, it's the 2010 Oakland A's media guide! Ten dollars for career biographies on every A's player and franchise factoids like every Opening Day lineup since 1968 and the name of every player who's suited up for the A's and Giants? Sold!
1:15 PM - And, we've reached our seats. Just in time for the bottom of the first inning to begin. This is the third year I've done spring training and I finally realized that seats in the shade, right above first base are just as good as the seats behind home plate that I usually get...plus, they're in the shade. If 2011 Aaron is reading this in an attempt to remember where these seats were -- upper box, $18.
1:35 PM - A typically uneventful exhibition game is unfolding in front of us. A's starter pitcher Gio Gonzalez -- at the time, fighting for a spot in the Oakland rotation -- is already in midseason form: walking too many hitters, flashing infrequent moments of filthy brilliance and getting overtly worked up over a few ball/strike calls that didn't go his way. This kid's "Oliver Perez" antics never get old.
1:45 PM - Mrs. Bootleg sends me on the first food run of the afternoon. She's been seeing a holistic practitioner in recent weeks to address her assortment of psychosomatic symptoms and acute hypochondria. Consequently, she's been put on an odd elimination diet. This leads to the following food order from her: "See if you can find some fries. But, ask them if they coat the fries in flour first. I can't eat flour." The wife's also given up alcohol, caffeine and wheat; among other things. In summary, flour is out, but recycled week-old frying oil is perfectly acceptable.
1:55 PM - I bring back one of those Super Big Gulp-sized cup o' fries that the morbidly obese, adolescent version of me would have sold his Transformers for. The classic Generation One Transformers line. This would've been a BIG deal in 1985, people! Grimlock! Remember the Dinobots? They preceded Jurassic Park and the dinosaur renaissance by almost TEN years! Megatron! Back then, kids could have toys that looked like real guns! This would've been a BIG deal! BIG!
1:56 PM - With a disgusted suck of her of teeth, Mrs. Bootleg b*tches, "You put ketchup on my fries. You know I can eat ketchup." With a delicious sip of my beer, I reply, "I didn't 'know' that. Besides, you've been violating the rules of your 'life-diet' about five times a week, since you started." Mrs. Bootleg silently eats her ketchup-covered fries...that may have been coated in flour. I forgot to ask.
2:15 PM - On our way back from the restrooms, Jalen and I notice an area set up on the concourse called "The Kids' Zone Radar Gun Station". Three throws for one dollar, with recognition of the top throwers by age group crudely scrawled on an old whiteboard. The speed to beat in Jalen's six-year-old category: 35 mph. The speed to beat in Aaron's "13 and over" category: 73 mph. One of these records is in
3:40 PM - On the strength of a sixth-inning, three-run double by Eric Patterson, the A's cruise to a 7-3 win. 22-year-old pitcher Tyson Ross -- who'd never pitched above Double-A -- stamped his ticket to the opening day roster by striking out seven D'Backs in three innings of relief. Jalen imitated the A's subdued postgame handshakes with the fans around us -- 90% of whom were rooting for Arizona. This boy's unintentional trash talk is better than any of the overtly obnoxious behavior regularly on display anywhere on the east coast. Eat it, Montpelier.
5:00 PM - It takes an unexpectedly long time to get from Phoenix Municipal Stadium to our room in Scottsdale. Mrs. Bootleg used her cell phone's GPS application to take us on a scenic tour of surface streets and red lights. As a result, I'm wound nice and tight for the return call to my boss. Here's a synopsis of the office crisis: my single worst nonresponsive Government customer was irate because she couldn't reach me, for a change. My boss suggested I call her back on Friday -- while still on my vacation. Hope I don't forget.
6:15 PM - It had already been a very long day for That Bootleg Family. Admittedly, I was probably pushing my luck by insisting we roll out to a soul food spot called Lo Lo's Chicken & Waffles after an early-morning flight, a glacial drive to the ballpark, a spring training game and an even lengthier drive to our hotel. But, my family has always supported my blog folly and has no problem playing the pawns in one of my "TBG Eats" features.
6:45 PM - Christ, I could've killed both Mrs. Bootleg and the boy. Jalen complained the whole way, most of the time as his torso was parallel to the bottom of the back seat. Meanwhile, Mrs. Bootleg's non-responsiveness to Jalen's whining was a tacit "I told you so" to me for trying to squeeze one more adventure into the first day of our vacation. Thankfully, for everyone involved, we finally reached the restaurant.
Lo Lo's is an unapologetic knockoff of the iconic Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles brand. The Scottsdale location is part of an otherwise uninteresting strip mall with a wide-open seating area that belies the compact appearance of its exterior. I ordered the "Sheedah's Special" with sides of collard greens and macaroni and cheese. You know the drill:
Fried Chicken: Overcooked and overbreaded. It was like biting through the Earth's crust to get to the meat. Turns out we got there 15 minutes before closing time, so I'll give 'em a hall pass for the expedited fry job and measly seasonings. Grade: 2 (out of 5)
Waffle: Wonderful. While it looks like an Eggo, it's much more substantial with a flavor that hinted at buckwheat flour in the recipe. Yup...I brought a "buckwheat" reference to a soul food restaurant review. This is like "blog Yahtzee" for those of us over the age of 35. Grade: 4.5
Macaroni and Cheese: How could something that looked so tasty...taste like nothing? I've been spoiled by my mom's and Mrs. Bootleg's macaroni, but that's no excuse for the invisible side dish I was served. Jalen ate my entire order, but considering Kraft is his mac & cheese standard... Grade: 1
Collard Greens: Firm, wet and spicy...I don't ask for much from my greens and these delivered. They lacked the smokiness that a big ol' ham hock in the pot provides, but that's only a half-point demerit in the grand scheme of my plate. Grade: 4
Red Beans and Rice: I didn't have any, but Mrs. Bootleg put a pretty good dent in the bowl. There's not much middle ground with her (she either likes it or she doesn't), but I'll hedge a bit on her behalf. Grade: 4
Kool-Aid: Red, naturally. I grew up on this stuff, but like most tasty beverages from my youth, I'd forgotten how sickeningly sweet Kool-Aid could be. Grade: 2
Next: Swimming! Drinking! Shrieking?!