Hey! Remember last month when I went on a road trip and visited Minor League stadiums in Oklahoma City, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee?
No? That’s okay. No hard feelings or anything.
But the trip did happen, and one only needs to scroll through the recent archives of this blog for proof. And, and is always the case, when I went on this trip I accumulated content above and beyond what occurred at the stadiums in question. So, starting today, I’ll “Return to the Road” with a series of blog posts highlighting some of my non-baseball “adventures” while on this trip.
It all started in Oklahoma City, home of the Pacific Coast League’s RedHawks. But before traveling to the “Bricktown” entertainment district where both my hotel and the ballpark were located, I stopped here:
I didn’t spend any time at the Stockyards proper, but the area surrounding them couldn’t have been any more evocative of the cattleman’s lifestyle. Some shots of the neighborhood:
It’s a sign!
But Flipper-referencing storefront tomfoolery was not the reason I visited the stockyards. It was lunchtime, and I was there to get a meal at the iconic Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. Somehow I failed to get a shot of this establishment’s exterior, but here’s the view from the inside.
Just so we’re all clear on the chronology here: this trip occurred after I was diagnosed with celiac disease, but before I went public with it in a professional context. My decision on this trip was to keep it under wraps and eat whatever I wanted to. It was, in effect, my final week of enjoying an unrestricted diet. So why not go all out?
I ordered the euphemistically-named “Lamb Fries,” but let’s identify them for what they really are: fried lamb testicles.
I ordered these out of curiosity, and you know what? They were good! The lemon and cocktail sauce gave the whole platter a seafood sort of feel, and the taste was relatively mild. I can understand why people might be repulsed by such a dish, but my take on it is that if you’re going to slaughter an animal for food then you really should make use of as much of it as possible.
Still, in giving the final word on the dish I have to defer to this far more eloquent write-up that I came across on roadfood.com:
They are earthy-tasting inside their golden crust, the exquisite organ meat quivery and moist, with nut-sweet savor.
I didn’t want to over-do it on this, my first meal of the trip, so I paired the lamb fries with a simple bowl of steak soup. Gluten-free? Probably not, as wheat flour was likely used as a thickener for the broth.
So long, steak soup, it was nice knowing you:
After lunch I made my way to the Brickyard, and that experience is already chronicled (and linked to above). But the next day, before heading onward to Tulsa, I made a stop at a location that was imminently worthwhile and exceedingly well-done: the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial to the 168 victims of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
This was one of the most thoughtful, tasteful and deeply moving public spaces that I have ever been to, and an absolute must for anyone visiting Oklahoma City. The outdoor memorial is adjacent to a museum that offered a thorough multi-floor interactive tour, and I would have loved to visit that as well if time had allowed.
But, as it was, I still had plenty to take in. The outdoor memorial is framed by the “gates of time,” which are described in the memorial brochure thusly: “These monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction — 9:02 a.m. — and mark the formal entrances to the memorial. The East Gate represents 9:01 a.m. on April 19 and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03 a.m., the moment we were changed forever, and the hope that came from the horror in the moments and days following the bombing.”
In between is the reflecting pool — the brochure explains that a “shallow depth of gently flowing water helps soothe wounds, with calming sounds providing a peaceful setting for quiet thoughts.”
Over 60,000 personal tokens have been left on this fence through the years, in remembrance of the victims. It’s just heartbreaking.
Graffiti left by a rescue worker in the immediate aftermath of the bombing.
A park ranger speaks to a tour group about the “Survivor Tree,” a 90-year-old American Elm whose message to visitors reads “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”
Again, I want to say that this memorial was phenomenal. I was deeply affected by it, and will not forget my visit. I hope to one day return and devote a full afternoon to it and the museum.
I apologize for the abrupt tonal shifts in this post, but what is life if not a series of abrupt tonal shifts? After visiting the memorial, my final task in Oklahoma City was to get some lunch. The night before, RedHawks corporate marketing manager Gary Olsen had recommend I check out a BBQ joint named “Leo’s.” I decided to follow this recommendation.
At first I ended up at a defunct location:
But if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again!
For future reference — Leo’s is located right across the street from Happy Foods.
Leo’s was, in a word, great. And, in another word, unassuming.
I got a small sampler platter, but in this case “small” was a relative term. Buried in here are brisket, ribs, sausage and fried bologna, with fried okra and cole slaw as sides. (And, yes, the plate is atop the Mad magazine that I was reading at the time. Old habits die hard.)
The ribs and the brisket were the standouts here, and coming in a distant last was the fried bologna (the version served at the Jackson Generals game turned out to be far superior). And as for my new $1,000,000 question — no, this meal was not gluten-free. But in the future I think I could still have meals here — no white bread or fried okra, obviously, but hopefully most of the meats would still be good to go. I’ll figure it out eventually.
Definitely not gluten-free, but definitely awesome, is the free cake that comes with each and every meal.
And with free cake I shall end this post. Perhaps I can make that some sort of new Ben’s Biz Blog tradition?
Minor League ballparks are hospitable places, rolling out the red carpet for sitcom stars, sexagenarian wrestlers and eccentric hurlers alike.
Today’s edition of “Promo Year in Review” features my top six celebrity appearances of the year, highlighting a half-dozen bold-faced names who graced the ballpark with their presence. But, as always, I need YOU to tell me who I’ve missed. Get in touch via email or Twitter and let me know, as suggestions for this and previous categories will be accepted through 10 a.m. Monday.
My six nominees, in ever-so-sensible alphabetical order. Click on each individual’s name to see how his ballpark visit was originally covered (and, yes, they are all men. Don’t shoot the messenger).
Fresno Grizzlies — Alfonso “Carlton” Ribiero (as part of “Mad Tight ’90s Night”)
Lakewood BlueClaws — Jeff “Chunk” Cohen (as part of “Goonies Night”)
Oklahoma City RedHawks — Peter Mayhew (aka “Chewbacca”)
Reading Phillies — Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins
Round Rock Express — Rojo Johnson (aka Will Ferrell)
Vermont Lake Monsters — Bill “Spaceman” Lee/Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd (on the same night!)
I don’t have a picture from this picture, but here are their respective Wikipedia photos:
Duty compels me to once again mention that I need your input. What celebrities caused a sensation at YOUR Minor League ballpark this year. And — hey! — I know you’re reading. There’s no escape. Get in touch. Are you going to let my complete neglect of sexagenarian wrestlers go uncriticized?
Or do they?
As many of my readers are no doubt aware, the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics franchise is relocating to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season. And with the move comes a new name: the Oklahoma City Thunder.
That’s all it took for the great minds of the Trenton Thunder front office staff to swing into action:
“The Trenton Thunder are now offering a complimentary ticket to any
Seattle Supersonic fan.
To receive a free ticket, fans must stop by the
box office at Waterfront Park and be wearing their Seattle Supersonic
hat, jersey, t-shirt or other merchandise. Each Seattle fan will
receive one free ticket based on availability.
‘We just want to help ease the pain for Sonics fans worldwide and offer
them a night of fun with the Thunder here in Trenton,’ said Thunder
General Manager Brad Taylor. ‘We can’t blame Oklahoma City for choosing
the best nickname in all of sports and certainly wish them well.'”
The Thunder win some creativity points here, but I’m not really sure how these Sonics fans will have their pain eased by watching another team named “The Thunder.” Wouldn’t this be the exact sort of thing these fans would wish to avoid?
After all, if your girlfriend ran off with a guy named “Joe”, you wouldn’t go to “Joe’s Pub” to drown your sorrows, or try to distract yourself by watching the 1996 serio-comedy classic “Joe’s Apartment“. No! You’d avoid all Joe-related cultural ephemera like the plague. That’s what you’d do!
I think it would make more sense if the Thunder offered ticket discounts to everyone with Oklahoma drivers licenses, and/or to fans wearing the apparel of Oklahoma City sports teams. After all, it is these individuals who will be most receptive to watching the Trenton Thunder as they prepare for the inaugural season of a Thunder of their very own.
Perhaps I am mistaken in these views. If any of my usually non-commenting cadre of loyal readers would like to weigh in with their opinions, I would very much like to hear them.
And, regardless, kudos to the Thunder for a creative, attention-grabbing promo.