Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Beer and football IV — training camp

The beer: Green Flash West Coast India Pale Ale
The commentary: My plan was to go Friday morning. On the road by eight, Foxborough by half past nine. But the rain! What happens to the first day of training camp when it rains? I knew of the Dana-Farber Field House, as in "Practice has been moved indoors to the Dana-Farber Field House because it's snowing like a motherfucker out there." But the first day of training camp, which people had circled on their calendars, which I had circled on my calendar? Took the day off, arranged for G. to skip daycare, her little 2T Patriots dress (not yet worn) all set to go. But the rain!

Mike Reiss always says "Be sure to call Gillette Stadium or check Patriots.com in case it's snowing like a motherfucker out there." So that's what I did. Gillette's training camp hotline? "Training camp starts on Friday, July 26 and is open to the public." I've known that for a month! Patriots.com? "Aaron who?" Eventually I decided that if it were to still be held outdoors (which it was) and, thus, open to the public, did I really want to drive an hour and back to stand around in the rain? To have G. stand around in the rain? The answer, of course, was no. It's ridiculous how long it took to realize that.

So the dream of bringing G. to training camp was dead for the second year in a row. Friday was the day, it had to be the day. Who wants to go to training camp on a weekend and deal with all those… people? Monday's session was to be restricted to season ticket-holders and Foxborough residents. Tuesday… Tuesday? Hmm, I'd have to take another day off. And what if it rains again? This Summer has been batshit crazy when it comes to weather.

On second thought, how about Saturday? Sure, the crowd will be enormous. Also, there will be a lot of people (har! har!). But the majority of these enormous people will want to get there right at nine, right when it starts, and for what? I wouldn't even want to stay the whole two-and-a-half hours anyway, what with the logistics of a toddler's survival (breakfast/lunch/nap). So it was "Hey mom, would you like four hours to yourself?" G. and I were on.

(I should clarify that I still took Friday off to spend the day with her. We drove mom to work and when we got home I taped a bunch of newsprint to the hardwood floor and tore open a new pack of "washable" markers. The resulting artwork—pictured—was stunning, as was her desire to use every single color, but the dark blue she used on our red couch sent me into panic mode. Only after several applications of mom's amazing internet-inspired vinegar/Dawn dish soap concoction did it wash out. Seriously though: panic.)

We left the house at nine and though it was later than I'd hoped it actually worked out better. After a stop at Dunkins (where stereotypes came alive and we waited behind a Revere cop at the drive-thru) we cruised all the way to Foxborough. No expected 93 South delays (I will never, ever live south of Boston), no Cape traffic (!). The only hitch occurred upon arrival at Gillette Stadium when I stupidly followed signs that read TRAINING CAMP PARKING. I know! After nearly circumnavigating the entire grounds, no doubt to take in all the shopping and dining it had to offer and determine there was always time for a Victoria's Secret shopping spree followed by a Red Robin burger, we reached LOT 20. Lot 20 was, yes, about the size of twenty football fields. "G., just remember we're near the porta-potties."

We followed the crowd (cautioning her to almost always avoid doing so) toward the stadium, and after a quick stop in the shade of a hotel to lather on the sunscreen we were on our way. Hey, here's that "Fan Zone" I read about! Nothing but lines of people in there—I'm glad the Fan Zone wasn't on our agenda. We followed what remained of the crowd (I can't believe how many of them stopped off at the Lines and Lines of Fans Zone) through a peculiar and unnecessary maze of sorts and arrived at the practice fields, or at least a stretch of pavement behind the aluminum bleachers that overlooked the practice fields. By this point G. had been saying "Football, football!" for about five minutes. She's the best. Her enthusiasm, though, did nothing for my hygiene. I was sweating like a bastard.

To our left was a nice grassy knoll (look out!) that I'd spotted from some point in the maze. A perfect place to settle in, give G. a little breakfast and maybe catch some of the on-field action. I'm no good at describing things unless they are guitar distortion so let's allow pictures to relate our story. (I apologize that some of these are a bit dark. It's difficult to adjust their exposure without washing out the blue sky.)

Ah, some nice shade under a nice tree. "Let's eat!" And look, it's the Dana-Farber Field House! Somewhere it is snowing like a– well, I won't drop that bomb next to her picture.

"Whadat?" I think we should see what's down there. Immediately.


OK, back to the stroller. That was fun! In truth, there wasn't much for us to do as we got closer to the viewing area. Clearly I couldn't just let her run loose amongst the crowd ("Toddler runs onto practice field, injures Danny Amendola") and she refused to be held ("Geddown!"), so I kept directing her toward the knoll (duck!) and asking "Where's the stroller?" Then she would run and find it. I did this like five times and she never tired of the fun of finding it. She's my little detective. Here, after finding it again, she somehow doesn't look like herself (she's in mid-song or something) but it's still quite stunning and precious and beautiful and I love her so much.

Bless you, dear tree, for your dad-cooling shade.
With my milk and his coffee we've both got it made.
No way he pays five for a small lemonade.

I vibrate with joy as I dance in my dress.
All this black mulch will make a fine mess!
To get the stains out, which cycle works best?

Here. Here! This is the coolest cool thing.
Maybe it will fly like a kite on some string.
So many songs and just one voice to sing…

G. is nothing if not a social butterfly but she has her shy moments. Several kids were hanging around this tree but she only opened up after they drifted off. See that woman in the white jersey behind the fence? I'm pretty sure either she or her obscured friend later said "I can't believe he's changing her diaper in front of everyone" when I did exactly that, right there on the grass before leaving. I only suspect as much because I heard one of them say (presumably in response) "What's he supposed to do?" I'm not overly narcissistic and I realize her remark could have been in reference to any other "he," anywhere, doing anything, but I still think it was this guy. So thanks for coming to my defense, white Patriots jersey woman or obscured woman. And go to hell, white Patriots jersey woman or obscured woman.

Time for a series of unprovoked Project Runway-quality poses. Please note that the practice field is in the complete opposite direction from where she is looking. (Gillette nosebleeds at upper left.)

Based on the first two episodes I think the competition is Bradon's to lose. Then again I thought the same thing about Anthony Ryan at this point in his first season a couple of years ago. Ken is my sleeper.

Nice to see Kate got her single win out of the way. She'll keep making the same dress, will get warned by the judges to do something different, then scolded, then yelled at. And she'll be out.

Before finishing the first episode, figuring she was safe (we watched it the day after it aired), I googled Angela to see if I'd heard of any of her bands. Of course the first result was "Last night, Richmond designer Angela Bacskocky was eliminated from the first round of Project Runway." It was my own fault but jeeez.

The two Alexes: Alexander and his ridiculous eyebrows surprised me with their skill and sophistication. Alexandria betrays the genuine (physical) beauty of her youth by aging into a weathered, damaged woman with the personality and warmth of an applied math textbook.

I think it's going to be a good season. Sandro and Helen are clearly insane, which makes for good television, which means they'll stick around awhile. Sue is only a few years older than me but, courtesy of the sun and/or tanning salons, looks significantly older and thus will boost my self-esteem. Timothy is a fruit loop who "cares about the environment" but doesn't consider the ill effects of burning synthetic fabric with a cigarette lighter. His run ends this week.

Just to prove we were actually there. If you look closely you might see Tim Tebow missing his target by twelve yards. On that note, although I failed to capture the scene I'd like to offer a big blank stare to the woman we saw wearing a replica Tebow jersey. Hot off the press! She must—must—be married to the dude who commented, in response to a Mike Reiss blog post about the first day of camp, "How did Tebow look? That's all I care about." These are my fellow fans.

Just before we left I chugged a bomber of the Green Flash IPA. Made for an interesting ride home! No, that can't be right, I only felt drunk after witnessing a handful of idiots try to direct a manageable number of cars exiting the parking lot. We left well ahead of the majority of fans still hanging around for autographs, cheeseburgers and lingerie so I can't imagine how horrible it must have been an hour later. Luckily there was no in-depth tour of the facility on the way out because Route 1 was right there. Wish I'd realized that coming in.

Really, though, I did try the IPA that evening. A new wine and beer shop opened recently in the center of town, ostensibly replacing the one by the train station that closed down a couple of years ago. They do a good job with wine tastings (inexpensive wine tastings) and we've walked out with a bottle every time. Decent craft beers are available as well—sooner or later, I figured, a beer tasting would come along. And it did! Saturday, after the three of us drove to Beverly for some delicious caffeine and cupcakes, G. and I took a walk down to the water and swung by the shop on the way home. Pale ales were on the agenda, one of which was featured by some know-it-all hack in January! I didn't much care for it then but Saturday it tasted alright, possibly because I was sweating like a bastard again. Surprisingly, the best of the batch was the Green Flash. I rarely go for these extra-hoppy west coast styles—I don't think there's much art in trying to outdo everyone or be the most outrageous. That's no way to brew beer, to go through life. Whatever they're doing in this neck of San Diego, though… maybe it transported me to that wonderful seventy-five-degree haven again. Maybe G. squished up her face just so when I showed her the purple label ("Purple!"). Who knows, maybe it just happened to be the last beer I sampled (it was). But I walked out of that store with a goddamn west coast IPA! California love.