The evolution of tailgating continued after I became a Dad. What originally started as an underground subculture, had pushed it’s way into the mainstream.
In high school, for me, tailgating was a couple of guys huddled around the tailgate of my ’85 Ford Ranger at the Hosensack railroad tracks, shotgunning a case of Natural Lights we stole from someone’s open garage in the dead of summer. We’d toss the empties in the fire, hit a couple sprays of Binaca and head to the Coopersburg Diner for a drunken midnight breakfast with the rest of the senior class. In retrospect, this remains nostalgic, but it was truly amateur hour.
Things continued to evolve once I went to college. If it was a sporting event, instead of car keys jabbed into a pounder, we upgraded to bottles with monogrammed fraternity koozies. We had the aluminum Weber, an American classic with the porcelain-enameled bowl and rustproof ash catcher. We feasted on big fatty steaks, Jersey sweet corn and hobo packs. You could almost count on the grillmaster to show up with the novelty penis apron.
The ‘concert tailgate’ was a different animal though, specifically Phish shows in the mid-90’s. Tepid Sierra Nevada Pale Ales were the Holy Grail and did a good job washing down the hash brownies. The Coleman 2-burner was the weapon of choice because propane was cheaper than charcoal. I loved exploring the parking lot in my crusty corduroys, trading hemp necklaces and hugs for a grilled cheese or veggie burrito.
After college, I entered the young professional step on the evolutionary chart. It was all about microbrews and 21 year-old single malt whiskey. We graduated to the Viking ultra-premium TRUsear infrared burner that was so sexy, it may as well have torched the pants off of the women. We experimented on filets with homemade dry rubs and like true assclowns, we sipped out of the cherished yard glasses that you brought back from your trip to Denmark.
But now, after becoming a Dad, it’s taken on a new meaning. My first experience was about 6 months ago. It wasn’t at Veterans Stadium or in the sunbaked fields of Loring Air Force Base, but rather a parking lot of the Babies ‘R Us. There were no hooter shooters, no tossing of the frisbees or smell of hickory smoke. Instead there was a blown out shit diaper, stained onesie and a panicked new father.
I set up shop on the fly and used the back of my car as some sort of triage staging area, while other parents drove by, smiling from within the confines of their air-conditioned SUVs. The wind picked up and I had a mini-tornado of antiseptic wipes swirling around me like the bus stop feather in Forrest Gump. The casualties of the moment were a sucker (aka pacifier) that bounced under the car and the last shred of my pride.
I began my tailgating journey as a chimpanzee in high school and evolved into a neanderthal man by college. Cromagnon took over after college and by the time I hit my late 20’s, modern man had consumed me. It’s amazing how quickly the evolutionary cycle had come full circle that day in the Babies ‘R Us parking lot. Here I was, once again, dancing around like a chimp, but instead of Natty Lights, it was a screaming baby.
Serenity now. Dignity later.