In January, my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers announced that they were turning Dodger Stadium's right-field bleachers into an all-you-can-eat pavilion. Tickets would cost $35 in advance and $40 on game days. In return, fans could gorge like George Kennedy in The Naked Gun. The menu would include nachos, hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, and soft drinks, what one Dodger PR flack called "basic ballpark fare that most fans enjoy."
Dodger management has obviously not geared the pavilion toward food yuppies like myself. Before many games last season I bought a tray of cheese, sausage, pâté, olives, and fruit from a gourmet store in Silver Lake. I took some ribbing in the stands, sure. But my food tasted a lot better than the crap they serve up at the stadium, and it cost me a lot less. The only stadium food I'll touch is a soft pretzel, a malt cup, and a bottle of water. I don't drink beer at the park, preferring the more legally risky but cost-effective strategy of intoxicating myself in the parking lot. And If I must consume sausage, I skip the flaccidly overrated Dodger Dog and get myself a solid bratwurst at the Gordon Biersch stand.
Still, I'm an American, and am therefore genetically engineered to appreciate the prospect of unlimited food consumption. So, I set forth toward the pavilion Saturday night with a friend who I will refer to here as The Rabbi. Unlike me, The Rabbi isn't a food snob or a cheap-ass. He is, however, a vegetarian. But that didn't mean he took our mission any less seriously. "I'm planning to eat a lot of nachos tonight," The Rabbi said.
The food is available 90 minutes before game time, and the stands close up two hours after the first pitch. Because of these restrictions, The Rabbi and I arrived early, parking our car just off Sunset and hiking a mile up the hill to the stadium. We felt this demonstrated our commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
As we passed through the pavilion gates, The Rabbi's dream was fully realized. We beheld an incredible panorama of cardboard containers stacked 10 high, all of them full to the brim with nacho chips. It was the Great Wall of Nachos.
The Rabbi stepped up to the plate.
"Can I help you guys?" asked the highly trained and generously compensated Levy Restaurants concessions employee.
"Nachos," said The Rabbi. "Lots of them."
We took two orders each and headed to the condiments table, where vats of recently uncanned jalapeno peppers and flavorless salsa awaited us. The table served as a gathering place for awe-struck men of all ethnic backgrounds. "I might as well not wake up tomorrow. It's not going to get any better than this," a guy next to me said. "Wait about seven hours," the guy next to him said, and they both headed off toward their gastrointestinal demise.
Next, I visited the self-serve soda dispensary. This involved being pressed up against a ballpark girder by a dozen farting, 250-pound men as they filled up enough 12-ounce cups to keep a family of five caffeinated for a week. I got a Sprite, a Diet Coke, and a golden, piss-hued liquid that called itself lemonade but contained 0 percent actual juice. The Dodgers, in the spirit of mercy, also offer free bottles of water, and I got one of those as well.
A half-hour after arriving at the park, we headed for our seats. I swallowed four Walgreens-brand antacids with a gulp of Sprite and prepared to eat. But The Rabbi had already begun. He held up an empty nacho container.
"What's my time?" he asked.
"About two minutes," I said.
Then he let out a tremendous belch.
"Oh God," he said. "It burns!"
"Tonight," I wrote in my notebook, "represents everything that's wrong with America. Then again, this is one of the most multicultural experiences of my life. All branches of the human family are slowly poisoning themselves happily, together, communal. I'm privileged to be witnessing the mass suicide of a species."
During the national anthem, which was sung by a representative from Countrywide Insurance, The Rabbi returned to our seats with something very special.
"The Nacho Dog is born," he said.
This was not an unplanned birth. The Rabbi had come to the game intending to create the Nacho Dog. For some reason, he'd long dreamed of a hot dog bun slathered with nacho cheese and topped with jalapeños and salsa.