Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tailgatin' and such

Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble--"Scuttle Buttin'" (mp3)
Lou Reed--"Coney Island Baby" (mp3)

"Y'all tailgatin' this week?"

I don't have much experience as a tailgater, just a few Vols games here and there with varying degrees of sophistication, but since I am now a season ticket holder for our local college team, we have already tailgated for the first two games and expect to continue that streak this weekend. Your basic fallback tailgate is to get some kind of fire going and cook some hot dogs on it. Check that. The real fallback tailgate is to get a bunch of chicken strips and fries from Sawyer's or some such and eat those off the back of your car, sharing a quickly-warming six-pack of beer because you don't even have a cooler. Done those, yes, but moved beyond 'em, too.

First game of the season this year, we did it right: actual grill (though small, it had feet), three different kinds of hot dogs, including Nathan's, homemade cole slaw, pickled shrimp, homemade dip and vegetables, chips, homemade cheese spread and crackers, artichoke dip, homemade chow chow, all the requisite toppings for a Chicago hot dog (chopped tomato, diced onions, sport peppers, mustard, no ketchup, etc.), chocolate cake, iced-down coolers of beer and water.

Still, it only took one tailgate (or watching a lot of TV on Sunday) for me to realize that I am a tailgating amateur, a mere pretender. For starters, I have no team-specific tailgating gear. Heck, one of my folding chairs is aquamarine! Maybe it could work at a Dolphins game, but nowhere in the red-blooded South.

I remember one outing in particular where we were very much in a makeshift mode, using a disposable aluminum pan, self-lighting charcoal, and a cookie rack stolen from the kitchen as our alleged grill. Around us were the behemoth grills of real tailgaters, team color-coordinated beasts that needed to be pulled on trailers behind team color-coordinated cars. As I knelt, trying to get the charcoal to light, a team color-coordinated boy, about 5 years old, wandered over to watch. He didn't say a word. He just stared, probably glancing back at his dad's grill and then again at ours. A staring child requires a response, so I looked at him and said, "I know." Then added, "Your dad probably tailgates all the time." He walked away.

'At least,' I was thinking in my head, 'we're the ones with the kicking tunes. Your dad is listening to the pre-game show. Yawn.' However, it was not long after that that however I was playing music (probably left the air-conditioning on) completely sapped the power in the car, which then died. It was the little guy's dad who gave us the jump start.

The unspoken mystery of tailgating, which veterans have no doubt solved to their own satisfaction, is where are you supposed to pee? I mean, you are drinking beer like a madman trying to preload some kind of a buzz that will carry you through the first half of an alcohol-less collegiate football game, when all of a sudden you realize that your bladder feels like you are carrying a watermelon in your abdomen and there is no bathroom anywhere in sight. It's at that moment that it dawns on you: wait a minute, I'm having a party in and around my car. I'm like camping. In an urban setting. But not staying the night. And without a forest. Or a tent. Or any kind of privacy for bodily functions.

Before you get too philosophical about what tailgating really means, the need-to-pee pain becomes so intense that all rational thought dissipates and is replaced with William Shatner-style thoughts: 'Must urinate. Getting dizzy. Blacking out. Must get control of pain. Need release.' At that point, all rules of civilization go out the window. The first one is, if there is a Port-O-Potty nearby that exists only for the exclusive use of particular customers who are parked in a parking garage, you are getting in that line, no matter what. And when the guard comes around, you will tell a lie, any lie, to hold your place in that line. If that fails, you will beg.

The second rule that becomes suddenly meaningless is this concept of public urination. Is that really so bad? I mean, if you're discreet, if you're polite about it? I guess I'm talking about a continuum--there is private, sweet-smelling bathroom private urination at one end and there is piss in somebody's gas tank in broad daylight at the other end. But what about the middle? What about "only kind of public" urination. It's a shade of gray, I know. But the tailgater in need will get down on his knees between cars in the corner of a parking lot and let loose secure that any vantage point of naked wangs and thangs is pretty much blocked, the only telltale sign a frothy, perhaps steaming if the weather is cold enough, yellow puddle running and spreading along the wall towards the entrance.

It's then that you remember when you got caught drinking by your parents in high school and, to scare you, your mother told you that you were going to end up someday on the floor of a concrete parking garage, wallowing in your own urine. Maybe that isn't exactly what she said, but you still think of it, especially when you put your hand on the cold concrete to push yourself up, the cold and dry concrete that was once wet with fluids from other bodies.

Which takes me to my final point: tailgating is, or should be, a coed activity. A bunch of guys are going to burn a rack of weiners and pee in the corners of parking garages and watch other guys get into fights or near fights with fans from the other team. They'll be in their element, to be sure. They'll be having a blast, no doubt. But add women and you get a vegetable tray with dip, a tablecloth, garbage bags. You get civilization. And there is something civilized about the tailgate. It descends, with a slight detour through the backyard barbecue, from the picnic far out in the country, a journey taken with horse and buggy on a sunny day.

Invite women to tailgate with you often enough, and you'll get all of the team-themed gear you can handle, from the pom-poms on down. And, I promise you, women will solve the mystery of peeing at a tailgate. Not only do they have a sense of dignity, but it probably only involves asking someone.

Lou and Stevie Ray are at Itunes.


Daisy said...

You have plenty of empty beer bottles right? Then what's the problem? If that requires too much aim you can always borrow a training potty from one of your friends with kids (yes, I have seen this used at more than one tailgate.) This is usually a more suitable solution for the lady folk than the beer bottle.

troutking said...

What's killing the slugs---the barbecuing or the urinating?

Jason said...

I have a friend who owns a bar called "Beer O Clock".

My first introduction to tailgating was one of the most enjoyable experiences known to this simplistic thinking man. Going to a Ohio State Michigan Football game with a previous girlfriend playing football in the parking lot before the game between two rivals families, then all kinds of food on the bbq (oh how I miss real good Peaches n Cream corn on the cob), beers and a great game. It all made the 6:30am departure time all that more worth it.

Randy said...

At the big schools, you'll see all the food and drink you need, and also TVs and satellites to watch the other games. I love tailgating, and I love watching football. But I'm sort of on the fence about watching football while tailgating.

Too often the event then becomes about what's on the screen, instead of about the people around you. But it's also nice, when you are on your sixth beer, to have a distraction that makes conversation unnecessary.

jed said...

i prefer housegating.