The arrival of my Friday, April 29, 2016, flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Dallas Love Field was scheduled for 10:50 pm. Perfect timing. I could toss out a “FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE” check-in to Love Field after the Southwest Boeing 737 hit the tarmac and the flight attendant announced that we could now use our mobile devices.
But a storm rolled into Baltimore and hovered over the airport. The Southwest gate attendant for my flight held a contest for the passengers to see who could fold a paper airplane that would fly the longest distance. Twenty passengers took up the challenge; two planes tied for the longest distance and went into a sudden death fly-off to decide the winner. The first finalist threw his paper airplane straight up into the ceiling. The second contestant gently tossed his plane in such a way that it glided in a straight line for the win.
Another hour passed after the end of the paper airplane contest before we were allowed to board our flight. The delay pushed our arrival into Dallas close to 1 am on Saturday. Golden social media opportunity missed.
After sleeping over in the airport, I picked up the rental car and drove off toward Fort Worth for breakfast at — where else? — a Whataburger, the ubiquitous fast food chain that can be relied upon because they’re all open 24 hours. I had a Whatburger, then hopped back in the car and continued west to the campus of Texas Christian University. Tim, a friend of mine from high school who moved to Dallas after our freshman year, attended TCU, and settled down in the area. I would be spending the next day with him — our first time hanging out since 2007, when he visited Orlando for Christmas — so I figured that walking the TCU campus and bringing up some observations would make for good conversation. (And for working off two percent of the calories I ingested in that Whataburger breakfast.)
The campus of TCU reminded me of the campus of home, the University of Florida. They’re both big campuses that seem tiny because all the academic buildings and athletic facilities are concentrated near each other. I spent most of my time at Amon G. Carter Stadium, the on-campus football stadium for TCU. (Did Carter’s parents have a sneaky sense of humor? Amon G.? Among?) Again, just like how UF keeps The Swamp open for people who want to run stadiums or tour the facility, TCU left one of the Carter Stadium gates open for visitors. My favorite part of the walk was learning that LaDainian Tomlinson attended TCU after stumbling upon a banner of his image in the stadium.
After I got my fill of Horned Frogs, I drove the hour north to Frisco’s Toyota Stadium, the venue for Edgefest, the 26th edition of alternative radio station KDGE 102.1 FM’s annual music festival. At the ripe old age of over-25-years-old, I don’t have the stamina to joust for position among the crowds of the General Admission pits, so I paid for a cheap seat in the stadium to watch the sets. The Struts turned in an amusing set that was half concert, half audience participation, with the lead singer getting the pit to follow his directions on when to sing, dance, or shout. I liked the tunes that The Joy Formidable and Foals chose for their sets; the volume of their instruments overpowered the microphones of their lead singers and I didn’t hear many lyrics.
I burned under the sun for 1.5 hours listening to these good bands, plus two others I don’t remember because I’m writing this two months after the fact, as the opening acts for the 20-minute set I traveled down to Texas for: Chvrches. Maintaining my three year streak of seeing the Scottish trio live, especially with Clearest Blue — my favorite song from the band — anchoring their setlists this year was the main excuse for visiting Dallas.
The trip was worth it. The sound team for Chvrches has been amazing in every intimate, indoor venue I’ve seen the band play in, but Edgefest was the first time I heard the band in a large setting. The sound crew nailed the acoustics for the open-air environment without a hitch; the synthesizers blasted my ears, but they complemented the voice of lead singer Lauren Mayberry, whose lyrics I could still hear clearly.
On Sunday, the first day of May, I returned to Fort Worth to meet up with Tim and catch up on the last nine years. (That took all day.) Our first stop was turn around and return to Arlington for brunch at Mac’s Bar and Grill, which has the excellent Eggs Point St. George, an Eggs Benedict with crab meat, and the all-you-can-eat cinnamon roll bar. Then we made the short drive to watch the Texas Rangers host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Orange County California United States Earth The Universe… apologies to Owen Meany) at Globe Life Park to knock out ballpark 11/30 on my tour.
The thing I didn’t find out until I arrived at Globe Life Park is that the ballpark sits across the street from Arlington’s second theme park, Jerry World, the behemoth AT&T Stadium that looks more like a grounded unidentified flying object than the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The contrast between the two stadiums is striking and, in a way, apt for how baseball and football have entrenched themselves into American culture. The colossus that is AT&T Stadium is futuristic-looking, a large and out-of-place building in what’s otherwise an office park area of Arlington, while the retro design of Globe Life Park evokes the nostalgia for pre-1960’s ballparks and Texan pride with a pattern of longhorns painted throughout the exterior.
The Rangers tossed out ace Cole Hamels — who threw a no-hitter against my Cubs the last time I saw him — against the Angels’ Opening Day starter, Garrett Richards. Despite two top-of-the-rotation starters pitted against each other, this game was so painful to watch because there was too much offense. The Angels’ 9-6 victory over the Rangers that day came with a combined 28 hits, 17 left on base, and my soul withering away as the game broke the three-hour mark. The game came to a merciful end 33 minutes later.
After the game, Tim and I celebrated our survival of LOB baseball with dinner at Babe’s Chicken House. For the low price of about $13.00 per person, you get four giant pieces of fried chicken and family-style sides of collared greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, salad, and biscuits. And this being Texas, the meal isn’t complete with a glass of sweet tea.
But as great as everything up there sounds — and it is all excellent food — let’s talk about those biscuits. Placed at the center of every table are glass containers of honey and molasses. The honey and molasses are to be poured on those biscuits. This may seem unimportant to everyone else in the world in the face of fried chicken, but for me, this was a dream come true.
Molasses was back in my life.
Thanks to Babe’s, I had molasses in a meal for the first time since fourth grade, when my class had a Little House on the Prairie lunch with venison and molasses and other stuff the Ingalls family ate. I poured molasses on top of the first biscuit and ate the soaked biscuit with a fork and knife. For the second biscuit, I stole an idea from a neighboring table and cut the biscuit in half, so that the bread in the center was exposed, and saturated each half of the open biscuit with molasses. (Turns out that’s the proper way to do things with biscuit and molasses, but Tim and I didn’t know that.) My pairing of the biscuits with the sweet tea would have earned me a scolding from Wilford Brimley.
After we finished our meal, Tim told our waitress that I was visiting Arlington in my trek to watch a game at all 30 MLB ballparks.
“Have you been to Wrigley Field yet?” she asked me.
“Of course! It’s my hometown club. I’m a Cubs fan,” I said.
“So am I!”
No freakin’ way.
She spent part of her childhood south of Rockford, Illinois, then her dad moved the family down to Texas for a job, where she’s lived since. She said she’d return to Wrigley over the summer to play the Rangers and that she wants a Cubs-Rangers World Series this season so that she could try to attend a game.
One tiny dream came true in Babe’s on that May Day when the molasses landed on the biscuits. Based on the Cubs’ NL-leading record of 51-26 and the Rangers’ AL-leading record of 51-28 (as of the morning of June 30, 2016), her dream may also become a reality in the fall. Let’s hope it does.