Opening Day: When a Game is Just an Excuse to Tailgate

Today in Buffalo, New York, it's 37 degrees. There's snow on the ground, and more is expected tonight. Who cares, right? Well, Arron Wight does. He's from Buffalo and came to Texas for opening day at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington with his uncle Steve Greis, who lives in Dallas.

So, what does Aaron get for his cross-continental flight? Two chairs and one table with nothing but a bag of chips on it. Oh, and dip. Some nice, store-bought dip.

C'mon Steve! If you're the cool uncle, then play up the frickin' part! Three problems: 1) A tiny cooler of beer; 2) No grill; and 3) No pretty Texas girls. (Why do you think he came here? Baseball?)

On opening day I walked from a parking space from which I could have thrown a rock and hit Interstate 30 (ya, I got an arm), to the farthest part of the southern-most parking lot. And, it was amazing. (Say "amazing" real slow. ... That's how it was). There was truck after truck, grill after grill and more antlers than an Elk's Lodge convention. The music was bouncing through the air.

And the gratification of playing hooky on this day, of all days, was glorious. The sky was clear as a bell; honestly it could not have been a more perfect day.

Except for Aaron from Buffalo. He was probably dehydrated by noon. Poor kid. Hopefully, he'll get some peanuts and water on the flight back.

So, I learned a few things today. First, you can rent port-a-potties for your tailgating parties in Rangers parking lots. They cost about a hundred bucks for a day and a truck will deliver it wherever you want. Some tailgaters bring amenities to enhance their rented, moveable toilet experience. For instance, many had hand made signs that read "PRIVATE!" Whatever. That's so dumb. It's baseball. You're not supposed to be fascist; you're supposed to be democratic. (Name that movie.) Ladies also like to make their "PRIVATE!" port-a-pots homey with wipes, hand sanitizer and Bose iPod docks with surround sound speakers. (Sometimes I lie about things. You get to guess when.)

Something else I learned, other than it sucks to be Steve's nephew from Buffalo, is that they're not "Jell-O Shots," they are actually "shellows shots." See, I walked up to a group of ladies sucking them down and asked if I could take their picture because I'm Annie Leibovitz with Vanity Fair. In excitement, one shouted at me, "Would y'all like some shellows shots?" Alone, I looked over my shoulder for the "y'all" part of me, but then just smiled and rolled with it as she laughed so hard she almost fell off her cooler. These women represent four generations of a Robinson family with Grandma Laura serving as chief matriarch of the shellows shots brigade. I think I'd dig their family reunion.

Another thing I learned, other than Buffalo doesn't even have an MLB team, is that you can grill pizza while tailgating. Just use a pizza stone, set it on top of the grill, put out all the toppings on the table and make individual pizzas.

But, the most fascinating thing I learned was that if you happen to come across Daniel Escalante, Richard Galven and Fernando Luna Jr., they will insist you break bread with them. Typically, when I'm hanging out in parking lots, I make it a rule to not take food from strangers, but their tamales, beans and tablitas beckoned me in the most painful way. Tablitas are ribs cut the other way -- not between the bones, but across the bones.

We all talked at length about the masa in tamales. If a tamale is mostly masa and hardly any meat, then it's almost like eating soggy corn bread, right? But, the meat was gracious in these little babies.

Tailgating transcends all the dumb-stuff we all deal with every day. Race, age, gender, background, money, proprietary signage on your port-o-pot, washers or beanbag tosses... If you can kick back, you can do this. And you should. That's how baseball go!

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.