Nina In New York: Take Me Out To The Ball Game. Buy Me Artisanal Spare Ribs, And A Cocktail And Crackerjacks…
A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune to have a friend who had the good fortune to get her hands on Yankee-Mets tickets at Citi Field. I rooted a little bit for the Mets and a lot for the parmesan-garlic fries.
Citi Field is pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Shea. For someone who doesn’t care a whole lot about who actually wins a baseball game, I genuinely love the ritual of going to watch one. And the old, rickety stadiums are my favorite. The dinged and scratched up seats, the floors mottled with countless games worth of spills and scuffs. Walking into a place like that feels right. It’s one of the few things we do now that hasn’t really changed since our grandparents did it. You know, except for the astronomical ticket and concession prices, the constant, screaming presence of the Jumbotron. Still, no matter how many times they make people awkwardly embrace for the Kiss Cam, there will always be something sacred about an ancient ballfield.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a shiny, sparkly, spanking new stadium either. Especially the kind filled with the most unexpected and amazing food and drinks that a person would never expect to have at a sports stadium. My friend Clare and I were running around the main concession area like two kids let loose at Six Flags or Willy Wonka’s or whatever the kids are into these days. Us, we’re into eating. There was pizza and tacos and ice cream and the aforementioned frites. Shake Shack and Blue Smoke and specialty beers and rum-based drinks! It was a carnival of deliciousness, and we didn’t even know where to start. Okay, we started with the fries.
Our initial strategy was to share one item at a time so as to maximize the number of different meals we could sample. Unfortunately, once the fries were over, Clare was ready for ice cream, and I had my sights aimed high. So I wandered around the food court looking at all my options. The boys went directly the Blue Smoke, and I almost followed. I love that place! Pulled pork! Ribs! Cole slaw. How could I go wrong? But something wasn’t speaking to me, and I only splurge on calories when the food is practically serenading me with a sweet siren song. I moved on to the pizza place. I mean, come on. My love for pizza is deep and abiding and unhealthy in the ways both pizza and love can be. Except, meh. Then I found it. I heard it calling my name. “Nina, Nina, come eat me!” Coming, lobster roll!
I stood in line at Catch of the Day staring at my $17 lunch prospect on the menu board, I realized that something wasn’t sitting right. I no longer felt the courage of my conviction. (By the way, I’m really, sadly not exaggerating any of this—I approach most “important” meals in this manner). I tried to get myself excited. I kept thinking, “lobster roll lobster roll lobster roll mmmmmm lobster roll!” My lobster roll was silent in my head. Not so much as a tra la la. As I got up to the front of the line, I began to feel nervous. Was I going to blow $17 on something I didn’t really want? Was I going to pressure order something I really didn’t want and blow the whole opportunity? Clare stood behind me, assuring me that I’d make a strong gametime decision. And then it hit me. I knew what I had to do.
“One hot dog and a Bud Lite, please.”
I took my Nathan’s box and strolled past all the fancy stands without a wisp of regret. We returned to our seats just in time for the Macarena Dance Cam. As I happily watched a bunch of strangers happily shaking their tushes in front of thousands of people, I ate the hot dog as slowly as I could, savoring each bite. This is what being at a baseball game is supposed to taste like, I thought. Some things can never, ever change, no matter how much they seem to.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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