By eight o'clock, the tailgate party
has begun. We gather at the window of the hotel room, staring down
into the the parking lot. A few men, shrugged into heavy coats of black and gold, weave through the lot, looking for tickets to the
A black pickup pulls into the lot. The
driver shells out thirty-five dollars and and backs into his space.
There's only one row of parking here and a six foot space behind each
truck to set up shop. Further down the row, there's a man wearing a gold apron around his waist and a Steelers jersey bearing number 94
He has five eight-foot tables covered in white plastic. Gigantic
coolers—red and blue and yellow and black, of course, littler the
ground. Number 94 stirs a pot of chili; offers a spoonful to number
83 for a taste. Other men and one women mill about, hands jammed into
pockets, watching. Number 94 dishes up five aluminum containers with
chilli, places lids on them, and carries them to the lot attendant's
booth, stacking them in the window before shaking the attendent's
hand and returning to his pot of chili. Someone asks for a picture.
Numbers 94 and 83 lean in, arms around each other, hold the pose for
A man wearing a baseball hat
backwards sits on the guardrail dividing the parking lot from the
sidewalk. He digs his iPod from his pocket and snaps a few pictures
of himself before repocketing the iPod. I wonder: Is he waiting for a
friend? Is he waiting to be invited to a party?
A fat woman in a yellow slicker walking
through the parking lot pushing a dolly loaded with boxes, a thin man
walking beside her.
At the side nearest us, a man in grey
hatchback had set up a small table, a black garbage affixed to one
end. He sets upon his modest table a tiny red grill. He pours in
charcoal, squirts on lighter fluid. The charcoal catches: foot high
flames dance upon the grill. The man seems not to notice. He smoothes
a piece of foil beneath the grill and sets his tongs on the table. He
lays four fat brats upon the grill and stands watching, hands in
pockets. I look in the front seat of his car—the passenger side—to
see if he's got a friend with him, waiting in the car.
The front seat is empty.
A man walks around the lot, smashing
cans beneath his feet and picking them up for his plastic bag.
The brat man opens his front door,
reaches onto his dashboard, backs out, holding a jar. He returns to
his brats, pinches into his jar and sprinkles spices onto a brat.
Pinch and sprinkle. Pinch and sprinkle. Four times he pinches and
sprinkles before putting the lid on his grill, and standing back,
hands in pockets, his job done.
He reaches into the back of the car;
brings out a bun. He selects a brat and places it in the bun. He
folds up his aluminum foil. He moves his grill beneath his table. He
sits in the front seat of his car and eats his brat. I glance at my
watch. It's not yet 9:30.
The lot attendants have set up cones to
prevent access to the premium parking spaces. A yellow and black mini
cooper with a Terrible Towel affixed to the hood is directed towards
the back of the lot. A pickup pulls in and the attendant moves the
cones to let the truck pass. A young couple gets out of the truck and
head for the park.
A group of Redskin fans walks past,
staying on the other side of the street. Five coach busses escorted
by three police cars pull up to PNC Park. More Redskin fans emerge
from the busses and head south to Heinz Field.
Another truck. The cones are moved. The
truck parks beside the man with the brats. The driver gets out,
folds down the gate. The brat man emerges from his hatchback, wiping
his hands on his jeans. He and the man embrace. A woman gets out of
the passenger side, also hugs the brat man. The three of them unload
the truck; an impressive grill on a folding silver stand; food;
A man carrying a plastic shopping bag
enters the parking lot on foot. He sets down the bag, removes his
coat and hangs it on the guardrail. He approaches the PortaPotty;
sees that it is occupied; slips back into his leather coat and walks
away, forgetting his bag.
Another truck. Four doors open in
unison. Five people struggle from the truck, wiggling legs and
bottoms to work their way out.
I look back to the PortaPotty: The
plastic bag is gone.
Reluctantly I pull away from the
It's time to check out.
Labels: Creative non-fiction