Beer, Peanuts, and everything else about the Stadium Experience. Except the game.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Beer on Zorn

About a minute ago, Jim Zorn, appearing on "The Jim Zorn Show," acknowledged that he'd experienced the displeasure of Redskins fans -- in the form of a rain of beer tossed from the stands.

"Have you been hit?" asked Zorn's interlocutor, Dan Heille.

"Absolutely," said Zorn, affable as ever.

As beerman, I'm happy to contribute, Jimbo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beer Vendor in Bathroom at FedEx Field!

A day off from the playoffs in Philly, giving me the chance to rest my sore legs, and then I hear about an incriminating video, which has become a minor sensation in the online echo chamber, featured on sports sites and reposted on blogs, commented upon and ridiculed:

There are a few cardinal rules in alcohol vending: don't sell underage, limit is two beers per customer*, stop selling after the 7th inning/3rd quarter....and no selling in the bathroom. Vendors know that pushing product just outside the bathroom is a recommended sales technique, where from my position just outside the out door I consider it completion of a cycle, just as water evaporates to clouds, then condenses to rain and the cycle begins anew. I am the liquid resupplier. But you just can't go in.

This guy -- #252 -- knew better, but the sales are good when there's no competition. I spend as little of my time in there for any reason, and not at all for selling. I worked that same game, but I'm out of a different supply room, and I don't know the guy at all. And I'm #133 at Redskins games anyway, and I look nothing like this guy. Wasn't me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


  • Nats ------ 1
  • Phillies ---- 6
  • Sold ------- 5 cases beer; 12 soda
The Major League Baseball logo, an elegant silhouette of a batter facing down an approaching ball between flat fields of blue and red, turns 40 today. Good looking, completed in about half an hour by designer Jerry Dior. It has plenty of imitators such as the NBA, which used Jerry West's slim frame as a model:

Golf has also borrowed from the logo:

Baseball's own logo has been parodied:

This one's sorta racist:

Those Riot Grrls at the Women's Flat Track Derby Association have even borrowed the design idea, with girly pink setting off badass black:

And of course, my favorite:

That one comes from the Wrigley Park Vendors; check out their page here. I laugh because their union only negotiated them 8 percent commission, but at least they've set up a good site.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Howard and Kerry

  • Rangers: 4
  • O's: 5
  • Sold: 83 Hotdogs

Howard has an affinity for people, and a soft spot for kids. The other night he befriended a girl in the stands, and spent a bit of time with her and her parents making her laugh during the late innings. He emailed me later about it.

"Some moments are larger than life," he wrote, and attached this photo:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


  • Athletics: 5
  • Orioles: 3
  • Sold: 170 Lemonades
The fun, and risk, at Camden is that you never know until you pick what you're going to sell that day. The board's up there, chalked in with options by vending manager Bruce, and whatever's left over when your number comes up is what you choose from. Now that the new list has come out, with this year's final revision locking us into place through the end of September, I'm now a #43 through the winter. Number 37 looks like a long ways away now that it's slipped through my grasp. Non-attendance has penalties.

At other ballparks you sell the same thing pretty much day after day: Coors in Philly, Beer and peanuts at Nationals. At Camden, though, I've picked three different items in as many days. Monday was most dismal -- I suckered myself into picking peanuts (Peanuts on the stickiest, hottest night of the summer!) and ended up depressed and forlorn after failing to sell two loads.

Tuesday I went with an old reliable: hot dogs. They do them quite the right way at Orioles -- plump Esskay franks out of a hot stainless steamer, plucking them with tongs out of Sterno-boiled water compartment on the right, slipping them into a starchy bun from the left compartment. The middle area holds the serving paper and basic condiments: mustard, ketchup, packets of relish. I've been trying to develop my own slang for serving options of dog:
  • Two dogs: "Twin dogs"
  • With Ketchup: "Sugar dog"
  • With Ketchup and Mustard: "Double dog"
  • Plain, nothing on it: "Raw dog"
Still haven't come up with anything for relish* ("veggie dog"?) or mustard ("yellow dog"?), and it's tough to get this stuff to stick as slang. Hard to imagine other vendors adopting this slang and it becoming a part of Camden Yards culture.** All this order-taking and condiment application, though, is the built-in limitation of hot dog vending. It takes so much time to get it set up that there's no way to put up any really big numbers. Another pitfall: scalding yourself with hot steamer water as it spills out the side. The load-up girl in the back filled me up too high with it and it sloshed onto my stomach, burning and leaving a misshapen welt on my right side like a stigmata. Had to drop the dog carrier, grab some ice out of a beerman's bucket, and try and cool it down somewhat to counter the burn.

"That's happened to me a few times," said a customer in the seats.

You a vendor, too? I asked.

"Gotta hot dog stand outside the post office in Dundalk," he said. "Not bad pay for four hours of work every day. Named the corner I work after me: Canterbery's Corner." He handed me a business card that advertised:

Officially Named "Canterbery's Corner"

And illustrated with a line cartoon of a happy dancing family of anthropomorphized weiners. I have to respect a man in the business, and fortuitous that I should have my mishap right in front of vendor Ken Canterbery***, of all people. I'll have to pay him a visit sometime.

Today I maintained this streak of vendor irregularity by taking lemonade. Not at all a bad thing to have for a day game in the sun. People love that sugarwater when they're baking in the heat.

* Relish is the undervalued weiner condiment. I always root for it to win the video ketchup/mustard/relish race on the stadium's big screen, and I have added respect for the customer who requests it. No love lost for the guy who asks me for cheese and/or onions, though, as if I've got a whole deli counter hidden away in the steamer.

** On the pitfalls of slang invented from whole cloth: Reminds me of a couple of friends who decided they wanted to establish the word "plush" as slang for anything of favorable note, or "sweet." But this went nowhere and 10 years later, plush still refers only to classy accommodations and high-pile carpeting.

*** Even after talking to the other night, I didn't notice until I saw this link that he's blind.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


  • Marlins: 4
  • Phillies: 3
  • Sold: Plenty more than my nemesis.
I admit to a competitive streak. What else is going to keep this daily slog from seeming like a chore, an unending grind? So every time I get chumped by my nemesis in Philly, stockroom 205, I want to come back and take it to him. So after laying an egg last night, losing by a full case of product, I decided I wanted to get over two cases more than him. By the end of the night I'd sold a little more than 9 loads. I scanned the page for J.P.'s numbers, and if I read it right, he was at five. A thorough recovery for me, and I walked out of the stadium smiling. What good is having a nemesis if you can't exact revenge on him from time to time?

I was also smiling because I been relating to the audience a whole lot better. Even apart from last night's kerfuffle with the taunting rabble, I'd felt wrung out and withdrawn, not connecting at all. But this time I went in high tempo, and also remembered that it starts with the crowd for me. Project to the back rows, find quippy things to say, even to people who aren't buying your stuff.* Charm them. Add to their fun. Ignore the insult of the forgone tip (mostly). Let them know you're there, and they'll respond. Draw their energy, get into the postive feedback loop of a good night.

*My favorite conversation: I'm calling out for beer sales and my only response is from an eight-year-old kid, peering up to see what I've got. "Excuse me, sir," I said. "You're way too young. I might have to send the police after you!" And he shrugs his shoulders and says with exasperation, "Aww, I was just looking for wadder. Sheesh!" Actually said 'sheesh' like he could have followed up with 'Gee whiz!' or 'Gee willikers!' like he was the Beaver.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nemesis and Enemies

  • Marlins: 3
  • Phillies: 2
  • Sold: 6 cases of beer
Essayist Chuck Klosterman has done good work to delineate the difference between one's Nemesis, who is a respected counterpart and rival, and one's Enemy -- who deserves nothing but contempt. Everyone should identify theirs, he says, but you have to know how:

You kind of like your nemesis, despite the fact that you despise him. If your nemesis invited you out for cocktails, you would accept the offer. If he died, you would attend his funeral and—privately—you might shed a tear over his passing. But you would never have drinks with your archenemy, unless you were attempting to spike his gin with hemlock.

Tonight, I have properly identified both of mine at Philly's ballpark. This recognition came at the end of a rough and disappointing Friday night, one that leaves me wondering if, despite the continued string of sellouts here, the economy is in fact leading people to tighten the purse strings. If half of life is showing up, these people are doing mostly just that first half, based on their drinking and my recent sales totals.

My nemesis, I have decided, is another vendor I'll call J.P.* He's from Baltimore and spends most of his time working the O's games, but he'll catch a ride from time to time** and show up in Philly. And when he's in Philly, he's working out of my room and selling the same swill as me: Coors Light. Which means that we're fighting over the same customers, and my numbers go down. Significantly. This is enough to ruin my mood from the get-go; when I see his name on the list of arrivals, the scales fall from my eyes and I strap in for a bumpy night.

There are other Coors vendors, of course -- Teo and Alex, good guys both -- but they don't pound the steps quite the way I do so they don't impact me as much. But J.P. can keep up, no doubt. He's burly, and steady when he's working, and has no problem climbing to the extra dollars in the upper reaches. I can usually outsell him, but not always; every now and then he'll match or beat me, and exult over it, and it will crawl under my skin and steam me and absolutely ruin my attitude. Since I respect him but hate seeing him at the ballpark for all the reasons outlined above, I consider him my vending nemesis. Even though he outmaneuvered me by a case tonight, I raise my bottle of Coors to him.

Tonight I also realized exactly who my vending enemies are. My enemies aren't the alcohol awareness employees, who could have my job terminated in a heartbeat for a single lapse in judgment. They are not the upper managers of the concessionaire, who tonight further restricted my profitability by announcing via memo that "vendors will be permitted to begin selling no earlier than 20 minutes prior to game time." My enemies are not the obviously underage kids, who put me in jeopardy by ordering, then claiming they forgot their ID's when I actually employ good judgment and ask for it. Each of these groups are properly performing in their respective roles as crowd-control employees, a profit-seeking corporate interest, and boundary-testing teenagers.

No, my enemies are the loutish, heckling mooks that populate the cheap seats where I work. I had to deal with a small pack of them this game, and I was ready to draw blood. Started when the girl in their group asked how much, then fucked with me in offering $2.25 instead. I did the right thing: threw the bucket back up on my shoulder and raced away from them. But they were driven by some law of the jungle, and they took the non-response as a sign of submission. So when I hit the next row they were shouting over, "Number 78! Yer a bum! You suck, number 78!" And again when I hit the next row after that. And from the row on the other side, and again when I climbed the stairs and they heard me from up there. I couldn't even escape by changing levels.

I was already having a bad night; my nemesis J.P. had showed up and was showing me up, already a case ahead. On top of it, I'd spilled my bucket of ice down a set of steps, evoking a humiliating collective "Ooooohhh!" from the audience. Now I had this to contend with. I was in no mood for a witty response*** or playful back and forth, so departing seemed the better part of valor. Now they had in me found their mark, someone to take their frustrations out on (with the Phillies down 3-0 with no relief in sight, I could have gotten away with, "You might want to focus out there -- your team apparently needs you."). They were big, jowly, beer-bellied bullies, and I realized they were picking on me because I couldn't fight back. There's a big difference between being ejected and losing your ticket, and ejected and losing your job.

Eventually I gave in to the goading. By the time they'd moved to the standing room only and were still heaping abuse on me, I broke and walked right over to them. "All right, how many you want?"

"I don't want none a that shit beer!" said mook number one.

"Oh, yeah? Well why'd you call me over here, jackass?"

Mook number two pipes up. "Hey, you shut up, asshole!"

"Why the hell am I the asshole?"

"Because you called him a jackass!"

Obviously, I was stooping to conquer. And not even really succeeding at that. I cut my end of this blather short when I saw, right over their shoulders,**** that this exchange was drawing the interest of a blue-shirted security team member, and remembered that whatever the provocation, calling a patron a 'jackass' probably isn't part of the employees' protocol. I walked right over to him and told him it was fine, those guys are just giving me a hard time. Then I left again.

That security guard must have talked to them, because the next time I passed they said nothing at all to me. My enemies had been silenced, until another group shows up, at whatever next time I should suffer the misfortune. I realize now that alongside an identified Nemesis and a roster of Enemies, that the security people make for some serious Allies.

*This alias isn't far from his real name, and anyone who knows either of us as vendors will probably be able to guess who it is even without the hint.

**J.P. doesn't have a car, and so relies on rides from other vendors to travel north to Philly or south to D.C. This is a helpful situation for me, he being left to the tender mercies of other traveling vendors, and I'm always quizzing these third-party ride-sharers on their vending plans, with my main interest in the potential of my nemesis' arrival a secret to no-one. Earlier this season, I myself gave him a ride, just two days after he showed up and outsold me, and it burned me, even though he covered the tolls and part of the gas. He doesn't ask for rides from me anymore.

***Dealing with heckler is an art that I've done only some work in mastering; it's tough to come up with the cutting retort that will stop them cold. Sometimes I've addressed the crowd and gotten them to boo the transgressors; "Looks like you're not making yourselves any friends around here," I'll say. This is particularly satisfying. It's definitely better than what I thought of for the girl in this situation: Pause. "What? Oh, sorry, I was confused -- I thought that was your price." Best that I didn't go that far, or who knows what else would have happened.

****Ceasing and desisting from confrontation after seeing an authority figure over my opponents' shoulder this way reminded me, almost to a tee, of the time in 7th grade when Stuart White -- a disturbed childhood provacateur I'd known since kindergarten -- threw my library book across the room at the beginning of history class (I'd thrown his clarinet down the hill on the way to class, but still), prompting me to violently throttle him right there by my desk. It was sweetly satisfying for about two seconds, until I saw the grim face of the otherwise kindly Mr. Link registering surprise and disappointment and I let him go, too late to avoid the reprimand.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Holy Cow!

  • Rockies ---- 0
  • Phillies ----- 7
  • Sold --------7 cases beer, 18 units water
The room managers gifted me with Miller tonight, which added a couple of cases to my total sales. Happy about that. Even happier when I received this photo from a friend, taken at a Nationals-Cubs game last month:

The guy on the left, in blue shirt and clunky, black-framed glass, was Harry Caray; my buddy on the right is dressed as his signature phrase.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Butch Night at the Phillies

Rockies: 8
Phillies: 3
Sold: 5 cases beer

Compared to Gay Pride night in Washington, the Phillies' Gay Community Night is a pretty minor affair. Or maybe it seems so because the Phillies can actually pack a house on Tuesday anyway, and the gays and lesbians there tonight blend in with the regular fans who'd be there whether or not there's a special promotion. Some of the Phillies vendors excitedly took note of improved tips, but I saw no such uptick, and if any factor induced the natual stinginess of the Philadelphians -- gay and straight -- who were there it was that the home team got behind early and stayed there. Maybe that's and example of the difference between DC and Philly: even on gay night, it's not just about the meet and greet -- they still want to see the team win.

The other difference: Philly's gay night is a much....dykier event than D.C.'s. Lots of mullet-short spiky hair and figure-unflattered tee shirts and sapphic hand-holding. I'm not intending to promote stereotypes here, but just reporting what I saw. Somewhere out there, in Philadelphia and beyond, there are beautiful, overtly feminine lesbians, the kind who would break my heart with their patent disinterest in me. But they weren't around the stadium tonight, and one suspects that lipstick lesbians remain a small part of the population (mainly housed in the male mind).*

Near the end of the game I looked down the standing room only aisle and saw a woman in a brightly striped skintight dress and heels, about 6'5" and built like a linebacker, holding hands with another woman. But then I realized that the linebacker was really a man, no doubt about it. He held hands with his woman, each of them seeming to be pretty happy with each other. This was a male-female couple with alternative sartorial choice thrown in the mix. Does Gay Community night really applied to them? I'm not the one to ask.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, every game I work scanning the crowd for sales, I'm thinking that maybe I'll meet the girl of my dreams. She'll look at me in the eye and smile sweetly there in the upper deck will begin a fresh romance. And maybe this will happen and maybe it won't, and maybe I'm kidding myself and my chances are reduced while I'm in manic, sweaty beerman mode. But whether or not it's possible or not, it sure wasn't going to happen tonight.

*On this topic, I will climb the soapbox and declare that most dudes get it exactly wrong when they express disgust at gay men and excitement at lesbian woman. The appropriate response, as I see it, is to be quite pleased that other guys are pairing off and reducing the number of competitors for the available women, and disappointed when they realize that some number of the women out there are pairing off with each other and making themselves unavailable to us.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Bellboy on Tipping

Royals ---- 5
O's -------- 7
Sold ------- only 58 cans of Corona
I'm sick of afternoon traffic up to Baltimore, so today I hit the road just after 3:00, and made it up to Charm City with enough time to stop in at Second Chance Architectural Salvage, a group of warehouses filled with old oak doors, stained glass windows, and dusty decorative ironwork.

One building is stuffed with antique furniture. In one room was an intricately carved dresser, labeled "From the Belvedere Hotel." Inside the top drawer of the dresser was a folder, and inside the folder was a typed, three page essay. The essay was sort of a summary memoir of a guy's recollections of working was a bellboy at the grand hotel in the teens and '20s, when ladies had a separate entrance and lobby, and hansom cabs delivered the glitterati to stay. In between name dropping guests Woodrow Wilson, Jack Dempsey, Mark Twain, Mary Pickford, and Rudy Valentino (who "had the handsomest face that I had ever seen on a man"), the anonymous essayist put in a good bit about the culture of tipping. Some of it still applies:

Tipping then was not as general as it is today. We had to take care of plenty of stiffs. In the language of the bellboy a "stiff" is one who does not tip. And, speaking of tipping, I can remember some my impressions of the tipping habits of the various people. Actors and actresses of the legitimate stage tipped generously enough, but were usually difficult and demanding. You earned what you received from a traveling salesman. The people of the sports world were best tippers. Catholic priests were high on my list. They were not only generous but easy to serve. This is no plug, as I am a Baptist myself.

The ones that I could not figure out were the Japanese of that time. Whenever a good-sized group of people would arrive the bellmen would expect some stiffs. These well-dressed little men would arrive with their baggage, some of which would be imitation leather or straw, and after you showed them to their rooms you would be paid by everyone, usually a quarter or a half-dollar -- a big tip in those days. I figured out that their government had briefed them before coming over to be generous and to leave a good impression on the American people. They sure made a good impression on me. This was, of course, long before there was any talk of war between us.



  • Firpo: 1
  • United: 1
  • Sold: Not enough to justify the time spent.
Another mistake tonight: skipping the Orioles to work a Tuesday night non-MLS D.C. United game. I was suckered in by the siren song of the phrase "El Salvador" humming in my ears, but working at an El Salvadorean national team game at RFK* is plenty different than working a small fill-in club out of the city of Usulutan. I had fooled myself into imagining throngs but this was wrong -- I only poured two cases before surrendering beer and then failing on water. Even the Barra Brava was only half-full.

The latino fans come out of the woodwork for these obscure club teams, and 'Luis Angel Firpo' (the club's full name) is about as off the path as they come. They're a Salvadoran soccer club named after an Argentinian boxer who became a hero after knocking Jack Dempsey out of the ring [see picture]. And then lost. In the 2nd round. By knockout. 63 years later, he's still got a soccer team named after him. To put this in an American context, this would be like the Detroit Pistons being named the Detroit George Chuvalo.

While we're on the subject of Canada, I'll mention that the book "100 Greatest Canadian Sports Moments" has listed at #17: "Big Ben [Johnson] Gallops to Gold in Seoul" and at #18: "Montreal Expos Win Division Title" (italics mine). Number 76 celebrates an Olympic gold in curling, and over half of the entries deal with ice-based events. This should tell you what you need to know about Canada's place in the sporting world.

* Proof of El Salvador's sizable population in the greater Washington, DC area can be found at these national team games, when they fill the stands all the way to the upper deck. One international match against the island nation of Anguilla drew about 22,000 people overall, almost all of whom -- let's estimate an even 20,000 -- were supporters of El Salvador. This is more than the entire nation of Anguilla, which possesses an estimated population of 14,436. Or to put it another way, Anguilla's population is equivalent to only about 50 times the number of ticketless Salvadorans who, late in that same game, overwhelmed a security guard and forced open a no-admission portal. So about 2% of the island of Anguilla, in the form of 300 gate-crashing Salvadorans, were represented as non-paying audience that suddenly crowded the main seating area aisle and made it impossible for a vendor to get through.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Benjamin Franklin

  • Cardinals: 6
  • Phillies: 14
  • Sold: Innumerable beers, waters, and frozen lemonades.
Ultimately, apart from the incidental exercise and entertainment and eccentric beermen and ballpark goofiness that the job of vending provides, it all comes down to making money. Especially when I'm leaving home to work all the way up in Philly to get it. This is has been a plenty solid homestand with only one game to go, and I've been making a decent bit of jingle for my troubles.

I now have a pocketful of tips -- mostly in singles and fives, which accumulate day to day and make me look like either an poor man's ganster, or the most dedicated strip club patron in history -- one of which is a $100 bill. Normally I trade those in to pay back the room for beer sold, but my room manager rejected this one when it didn't pass his special marking pen test. Was I in the possession of a counterfeit bill? Not necessarily. The manager pointed out that it was probably made out of different paper and security features...since it was made in 1950. Upon closer inspection I saw that it did say "SERIES 1950," right below old Ben's oval portrait and the orderly cursive scrawled signature of "John W. Snyder," Secretary of the Treasury.

All the time I see dollar bills with stamped on them, which allows one to track the bill's history as it travels from hand to hand and place to place, but there's no "where's Ben" site. Who knows how this bill survived almost 60 years in circulation, what mattress or shoebox it had lain under or in to preserve it? And what might it be worth?* Not too terribly much; a quick search on the net indicated that a dealer might value it at up to $125 in mint condition, but it was in weathered, rumpled shape when I got it, and it was further drenched by vendor's sweat by the end of the afternoon. So all things considered, it's not too hard to assign a probable collectible value to it: $100. If it's not fake.

Interesting differences between it and a more recent C-note: Treasurer and Treasury Secretary are different, as are the guarantees denoted on the front left side -- the current bill bears the familiar "THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE"; the old bill had added to it: "..., AND IS REDEEMABLE IN LAWFUL MONEY AT THE UNITED STATES TREASURY, OR AT ANY FEDERAL RESERVE BANK." I'd never fully considered that the 'Federal Reserve Notes' we tote around in our pocket are not actually 'lawful money.'

The security features mandated in the 1990's leave the newer bill less symmetrical than the 1950 version, and the off-center, oversize portrait of Ben Franklin on my 1996 bill (which now nests in my wallet next to his older papa version) makes him look more dour and disapproving that the quizzical, inquisitive Ben that mid-century Americans were toting around in their hip pockets. The old Ben looks lively and creative, the kind of guy who might fly a kite in a lightning storm to see what would happen. Our current Benjamin looks ready to rap your knuckles for writing left-handed.

One the reverse, side Philly's Independence Hall is there on both bills in a similar front elevation layout. One significant difference: the familiar "IN GOD WE TRUST" bookending the Hall's central tower. It's there on the 1996 bill, absent on the 1950 bill. US currency apparently didn't carry this motto until Congressional mandate in 1951. One can only determine that Americans have become more religious in the last half-century.

*Last year during Phillies playoff game, another vendor asked me to check out a dollar bill he'd gotten. It looked strange to him, he said, and it looked strange to me too. It was crisp and new-looking, almost perfectly preserved, and it turned out to be a blue-sealed Silver Certificate dollar bill. Collectible probably, and amazing to have been received amid the beery foam and soggy steps of a ballpark, and in such perfect shape. The vendor decided to keep it, then folded it in half -- creasing it down the middle -- and shoved it in his wallet.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trading Up

  • Padres: 4
  • Phillies: 9
  • Sold: 6 cases Bud Light
I had no idea why Santa Hats and Holiday music was all over the stadium until I found out that MLB's partnering with the Salvation Army in a "Christmas in July" toy drive. It went a long way toward explaining why one guy behind home plate was trying his best to get on TV with a bright orange sign that read "All I Want for Christmas in July is a Halladay." He was talking about ace pitcher Matt Halladay, who the Blue Jays have gone through the trouble of developing and are now trading. And though this blog is about everything except the game, here's my theory on how the Beerman is involved in making this trade a potentiality.

Halladay is maybe the best pitcher in baseball right now, which means he'll be expensive, and the Phillies are in the running because (1) they're contenders, and nothing succeeds like success, and (2) they have the money to get him, and nothing makes money like a winning team. The money comes from the fans, and their ticket is just a starter for getting to the rest of the money in their pockets. Plenty of the nosebleeds I spend my time selling to go for as much as $16 per ass, which is only marginally more than the $13.50 a pair of beers will cost them (no wonder they don't want to tip). That doesn't count the $4 water, the $4.50 Frozen Lemonade, their $4.25 soda, their $5 foam finger, a $10 program, and their $15 Phillie Phantic doll. What a racket I'm a cog in!

Anyway, this money having been siphoned out of the fan's pocket, it will after divvying between contractor, subcontractor, maintenance, overhead, etc. end up in the Phillies coffers. The team is a well-lubed, clockwork machine for acquiring this money, and all the promotions and free bobblehead dolls and free T-shirts, and "Italian Heritage Nights" (tomorrow) and Turkey Hill ice cream adverts and buckets of beer being toted to the upper reaches are part of this magnificent machine of many parts. And since we sell loads and loads of beer (lots more than at anemic, over-regulated Camden, and desolate, forlorn Nationals Park), this is no small part of getting the Phillies their cash, enough to be in the running to sign a stud like Halladay, and perpetuate the cycle of success the teams appears to be on. Since I've never really vended for a team so successful, I've never felt part of a financial ecosystem that could entertain so high profile a trade.

So if the Phillies sign Halladay, credit the Phillies for wanting to win, but also your friendly vendor here for helping in his small way to make it possible.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Miller Lite

  • Cubs: 10
  • Philly: 5
  • Sold: 9 cases beer/132 waters
It's understood among Philly vendors that Miller Lite is the thing to sell in the seats up there. Until recently it was pretty much only available from vendors, owing to Bud's sponsorship of the stadium, so while your Coors Lite correspondent here is pounding steps to within an inch of his ligaments to move six cases of the Rocky Mountain stuff, that old Milwaukee stalwart, the original "Light" beer and the first to catch on (after attempts to market "diet" beer failed) is being sold nine cases at a time by vendors who are taking a more casual approach. Frustrating as hell, but I'm the relative newcomer around the stadium of brotherly love, so it goes with the status.

Doesn't keep me from lobbying my commissary manager occasionally to grant it to me, though. There's a rule enumerated in the employee handbook that states that vendors can ask to fill in for absent vendors, and I'm always trying to have it applied. Manager's discretion has kept me from it, until today. Miller Lite it was, and this being a rare thing I wanted to make the most of it. Started early, ran around in the sun willy-nilly, throwing beer and water around as fast as I could, and got the proof I needed: given the right product, I can outsell anyone. Nine cases for me, eight for the next guy, with a couple of sevens right behind. Not a rout, but here's the clincher: while everyone else sold about two cases of water (and on a hot dry day), I sold almost six cases of that pricey flavored processed tap water. No doubt; I made the most of it, which is all I'm looking for on any given night. Back to the usual from here on, quite happily.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


  • Cubs: 1
  • Phillies: 4
  • Sold: 5 cases of beer/12 bottles water
Humid and languid, with the house full but the crowd mellow. My favorite moment came when I saw Neal talking to another vendor at the bottom of a staircase leading to the bloody-nose 400 level seats, so I quietly ran behind him before he could hit the crowd up there. It wasn't 15 seconds before he was up there too, and we locked eyes, and I cut him off to hit the row first, with him trailing right behind, stuck behind a couple of wanderers. I got such a kick out of the petty competition of it that I didn't even mind when an initial order for five bottles got cut to only two once the customer saw he had Millers to sell. At least she didn't cut me out entirely, the doll.

Other snippets of activity tonight:
[Passing the cordoned smoking section]
Me: AnybodyforacoldCoorsLight?
Smoker: I'll take one.
Me: Sure! Double your vices!
Smoker: Thanks for saying that. How much?
1st inning:
Fan: I'll take two. How much?
Me: 13.50. It's 6.75 a bottle.
Fan 2: How 'bout 10 for 10 dollars?
Me: Listen; I'll do the math, you do the drinking.
2nd inning:
Me: IcecoldCoorsLighthere!
Fella: I wanna Miller. Who drinks that stuff?
Me: The outliers, sir. I serve the independent thinkers, the mavericks! You keep doing as the herd does.
3rd inning:
Me: HeyHey -- Coors Light here! Rocky Mountain beer for high altitude seats!
Lady: Hey now, what are you trying to say?
Me: I'm saying that you paid almost as much for that seat as I'm charging for this beer.
4th inning:
Me: AnybodyneedacoldCoors?
Guy: That's not beer.
Me: It's the same swill you got in that bottle there. Just a different label.
5th inning:
Dude: How much is beer?
Me: 6.75.
Dude: How much is one of those waters?
Me: Only four.
Dude: Four bucks for water? Geez.
Me: Yup. You want one?
Dude: Yeah, I'll take one of those.
Me: Look at it this way. You just saved almost three bucks! And for four ounces more fluid, too!
6th inning:
Me: Ice cold Coors!
Mook: Send the Bud man!
Me: I will do no such thing -- he is my mortal enemy!
Bottom of the 7th:
[Finding a group of Cubs people who I'd sold two rounds of 6 to.]
They: Hey you made it! We were just calling down to you!
Me: I didn't even hear you -- I just knew you were here somewhere.
They: We were calling out 'seventy-eight, seventy-eight!' And here you are just seconds later!
Me: I have a sense about these things. How many?
They: Might as well go with 12 because it's last call.
Me: [counting out exactly 12 left in my case] I have exactly that many left. It must be synchronicity.
They: You rule, Beerman! How much?
Me: That's 81 bucks.
They: No problem. Let's see here....
Me: [to gawkers in row right behind] See that? My kind of customers!
They: Here's 91 dollars for your trouble. Thanks, Beerman!
Me: Nice. Very generous of you! You, uh, gonna be here tomorrow?
They: Naw, this is it.
Me: [Registering disappointment.]

Monday, July 20, 2009


  • Cubs: 1
  • Phillies: 10
  • Sold: 7 cases Coors
Every now and then I'll be laboring in the upper deck in Philly when the mood of the crowd will lighten and they'll break out laughing. And I'll look over to the outfield JumboTron and I'll see that The Phillie Phanatic is acting up again. People in Philadelphia love this doofy mascot, a green 6'6", 300 lb. furry whatzit that resembles a cross between an obese chicken and a platypus. Every game he's* involved in another merrisome skit: he rides around the sideline and outfield on an ATV, he shoots wrapped hot dogs into the stands using a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher, he jams on a guitar with colonial-era reenactors to Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way?"** He gets the families into the park (and was in fact developed in 1977 to dilute somewhat the less jolly fanaticism of the drunks who once inhabited the Vet), and he's a source of additional licensing revenue: in addition to the dolls and trading cards and DVDs, the big green muppet is also the subject of a book series that includes the titles The Phillie Phantic's Phantastic Journey, The Phillie Phantic's Moving Day, and The Phillie Phanatic's Christmas Wish.

Tonight Jack Nicholson was watching from behind home plate, the Phanatic taunted the erstwhile Joker:

Nicholson was apparently in town shooting the same James L. Brooks movie that I was part of at Nationals Park a couple of months ago. So I guess he was successful in lobbying Brooks for a part.

On an unrelated note, tonight marks the anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Forty years ago tonight, human beings first touched boot to a non-earth planetary body, the first tremulous step outside the blue cocoon of earth to explore the vast reaches of the universe. Of all the accomplishments of the 20th century, the moon landing (or Gagarin's space walk) might be the one still considered the most significant 1,000 years from now. At least two of the 24 astronauts in the Apollo program went on to found spiritual centers after leaving the space program, and one of them, Edgar Mitchell, had a religious experience during his moonwalk during which he identified a profound connection to the universe. Buzz Aldrin, awed by the airless dusty lunar surface, was moved to describe it poetically as "magnificent desolation." But it's also notable that, of the two dozen Apollo astronauts, three of them (12.5%) -- Stuart Roosa, Alan Shepard, and Charlie Duke -- went on to own beer distributorships in post-NASA life. I do not think this is statistically insignificant.

*And the otherwise asexual Phanatic is in fact a 'he'; his official MLB profile lists 'Phyllis' as his Best Friend, and I'm assuming he's hetero. Speaking of which, by the way, tonight was the 5th annual Gay Pride Night back at Nationals park, which for an evening made the place just about the least hetero spot in professional sports. I remember it being quite a scene: the anthem is sung by the Gay Men's Choir, and the upper deck is packed with lots of dudes with goatees and tight-fitting T-shirts, and a smattering of similar looking women. The place is roiling with a peculiar energy (especially for the weekday nights on which it was scheduled), like a school bus full of excitable kids on a field trip. The last time I vended the upper deck during Gay Night was at RFK in 2007, and my main goal was to avoid too much misleading eye contact, though plenty was coming my way. It was no surprise that tips were particularly good. Plenty of the customers wanted to say their hellos, and -- after plenty of lopsided conversations and at least one indecent proposal (which made me the object of much mirth among the other vendors when I made the mistake of telling them) -- I was left wondering what cruel trick of biology prevents otherwise nubile young women from being so forward, or so randy to begin with.
The Nationals gay night is one of many in MLB, and apparently one of the better-attended, which figures for a gay-friendly town like DC. I'd figured that Philadelphia wouldn't have anything to do with it, but I was wrong, though instead of DC's lively, roiling upper deck, the Phillies' "Gay Community Night" this August 4 is to be a smaller affair, limited to eleven sections of the upper right field seats.

** Most notoriously, during a 1988 gametime skit the Phantic assaulted a doll wearing a 'Lasorda' Dodgers jersey in front of the Dodgers dugout, inciting manager Tommy Lasorda*** to attack the mascot. "There were a lot of kids there, and he's showing them violence," said Lasorda after punching the Phanatic in the face. "He didn't need to do that."

*** Last month Lasorda was sitting with junk bond financier Michael Milkin in the first row behind the Orioles dugout and I served them Lemonade. Lasorda appeared sauced and hadn't much to say, and I had to ask several times for payment, which a handler in the aisle seat eventually provided.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday in the Park, with Owl

  • Cubs: 11
  • Nationals: 3
  • Sold: 5 cases beer/7 cases water/24 nut, Crackerjack
The Nationals try to clutter up their ballpark with as many corporate sponsors' promotional tables, branded confections, t-shirt giveaways (for credit card signup, of course), New Orleans jazz bands, and other distractions as possible. It's all bread and circus there, to draw people to the park who might not care one whit about baseball. Here's something that actually was compelling -- a guy from an environmental advocacy group holding a large owl:

The bird got plenty of attention, and looked pretty suspicious of the whole thing, and probably didn't care at all about the game either. I was with him on that point: the park was well-attended with people baking in the sun and willing to shell out four bucks for the treated tap water Coca-Cola mineralizes and calls 'Dasani.' Dumped almost twice as much of that as I did of the frothy stuff, and ended up with another pleasant surprise of an afternoon. It all kept me so busy I didn't look up to the scoreboard until late in the 6th and saw that it was another Nubs drubbing: 11-2.

Friday, July 17, 2009

RFK Flashback

  • Cubs: 3
  • Nationals: 1
  • Sold: 135 beers/12 waters/12 nut/Crackerjack
Against all expectations, tonight was little better than last night. The Cubs just aren't drawing enough to fill the stadium, and the Nubs are bad enough to rely on them. My tips were up, but overall sales just about the same from Thursday to Friday, which shouldn't happen. What also didn't happen was anything of real interest. I saw some people I know, which happens from time to time, but nothing really stood out. My first instinct is to blame the stadium, and say that it has none of the liveliness of the Gnats old haunt, RFK Stadium. While this is true, it could also be the day-in, day-out rote nature of the full-time beerman in pursuit of over 230 games in a year. I could just be turning into a real vending machine, cold and unfeeling and speeding through this tiring adventure to fast to stop and smell the roses.

So instead of a real entry, let this be a reprint of a golden oldie from Saturday, June 23, 2007, written for a previous, abortive attempt at this blog. I called this one
Saturday Night Kibitzing, in which I stopped too much and smelled far too many roses along the way:

A weird night at the ballpark for me. Saturday night is usually the biggest night of any given week, apart from random midweek holidays or visits from big-name teams. The best practices method I use is to head upstairs for high volume sales, though the tips are weaker up there. Massive tiers of people are waiting to buy beer in that upper deck, in a straight aisle layout that promotes good sales. Tips are plenty weaker – replacing a full roll of quarters is pretty much expected from all the skinflints who don’t even give up the change by way of a tip – but it’s a good position-solidifier on the whole.

But I’ve been making great tip money working downstairs recently (up to $18 a case, before tipping out the stockroom people for reloading me and making change), and I got cold feet when I saw that the upper deck was looking open before the game. So I stuck downstairs. And that was my first mistake.

The tone was set early, when a group of guys sat down and immediately ordered six. A nice haul, but then the usher came down and nabbed them for sitting in the wrong seats. So I was left with only a single sale. The rest of the night was almost all singles and doubles, earning my money the hard way, without hitting a rich vein of the big groups. I was constantly being interrupted by conversational opportunities, which I’m all too welcome to indulge, and too accommodating to cut short. A guy down the third baseline chatted with me about the year he spent vending at Redskins games; another customer who I regularly see showed up, and we both chatted with Jackie, an everyday regular, the next row over. She rolled her eyes when she saw me serve him, which reminded me that he’s the sort of vocal heckler who probably doesn’t need beer to get him started. Then there was a thickly bearded guy who I served, who left me uneasy: obviously old enough to drink, but was he under 30? Hard to tell. In the rush to sell, I’d already taken the money and sent out the swill, so probably too late. And he did mention my name to his buddy, which made me queasy, wondering if he was one of the “secret shoppers” that sometimes lie in wait, hoping for a vendor to slip up and violate the alcohol policies. Some deliberations left me decided: too late, so I let it go.

Section 320 held a row of attractive stewardesses, who were part of a special contract to fly with Cleveland sports teams and were there with the Indians. This was interesting, so I had to follow up. “So who’s the biggest jerk on the team?” was my question.

“They’re all nice,” said one stewardess.

Quite the professional; no dish from her. They all emphatically agreed that the ballplayers were nice guys.

“There’s one of the Cavaliers that’s a real jerk,” another one offered. “Lebron James. Absolutely.” They all agreed on this one too.

Now there’s some dish. “That’s so out of line with his public image!” I said with genuine surprise. “You folks gotta get together and write a sequel to Coffee, Tea, or Me – where you tell tales out of school about all the pampered athletes you see during their travel downtime.”

In the 300s right behind home plate, a couple of other regulars summoned me and revealed a baking tin with brownies in it. I sampled one and found it delicious. I offered compliments and ran along my way.

In the main aisle I ran into Eli, who used to vend before moving into a more theatrical role at the stadium: running in the Presidents’ race. “I’m Jefferson tonight,” he said. He also bagged on me for not updating the blog for weeks, which is certainly a valid complaint. Catching up with him took more time from the limited seven-inning selling schedule.

One of the stadium cameramen exhorted me to sing to the camera during a crowd-wide rendition of “You’ve Gotta Have Heart.” I didn’t know any of the words, but he kept me going, and I felt pretty dopey because my know-nothing version was fed into the big screen over the outfield. No beer sales while I’m singing to a camera.

I was sorely out of rhythm; I’d run out of light beer but still have plenty of the heavy, then reload by only a case at a time when I really prefer to reload doubles. My peanut and Crackerjack sales where rolling, but that also had me blowing time back in the restock room for a peanut-only reload. More time spent.

My last call was a weak effort. A good one has hands popping up everywhere, each wanting a couple, but nothing was happening for me. The seventh-inning stretch came and went without a sale, and then it was over.

Then there were all the little conversations that cropped up; a hundred little bonus quips and bons mots I offer just to entertain: the chatter than pleases the people (and me), and energizes me through the game. Many come up when I’m tossing the peanuts and Crackerjack around in the juggling routine. It all really works as good peanut promotion, and I can sell more of those than the other vendors.

Yet the cost is steep – the brief friendly exchanges add up to death by a thousand cuts. When all was said and done, I’d only sold six cases of beer. And then I recounted my ticket receipts, and realized that it was only five. Five cases of beer on a Saturday night – whether upstairs or down – is a pitiable effort. The top vendors were hitting 11, the good ones 9, and those who I usually beat by a case were at 8. And I was left behind. Only the old guys, who tote around a case and usually last until the 5th or so before tiring and checking out, were selling as little as I did. Even my tips were down; only average for downstairs.

Part of it is, I’ve got to remember that I’m primarily a beerman, not a peanut vendor, and the food is just a sideline. Juggling can came during the 8th and 9th innings as a sort of wind-down exercise; but the main course is dumping buckets of beer on the people. The main culprit was too much palavering, and not enough raw greedy hustle. This is where the question arises: what kind of vendor do I want to be? There was plenty of good cheer and entertainment to be had in those conversations, and the people left happy for it. But I sacrificed my sales for it, and plenty of pride. Five cases. Oh my. Pretty emasculating, really.

There was one unexpected and amusing thing that happened tonight which softens my feelings somewhat. A group of four kids were in a row down the third-base 100s, and they really enjoyed the juggling routine. When I came back during the 8th, they all descended on me, asking for signatures. Before I knew it, I was kneeling in the aisle, Sharpie in hand, signing programs, Nationals ball caps, and foam fingers.

“Beerman!” I wrote on one.

On another: “Beerman says: “Stay in School!”

I got creative on the cover of one of the programs, and drew a cartoon vendor. You can barely see it on the cover of the program the girl is holding in this picture:

I liked it so much I went home and reproduced it; it looked something like this:

Fun stuff. In any event, I’m going to make up for this poor showing tomorrow. It’ll be a Sunday, so not the same sales as a Saturday game, but I’m going to hustle and move product, showing I can compete: Upper deck, double-case, and rolling from row to row. [June 23, 2007]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Back in the Saddle

  • Cubs: 6
  • Nationals: 2
  • Sold: 129 beers, 24 waters, 13 nut/Crackerjack
With three full days of All-Star Break behind me -- having done no exercise whatsoever beyond reading the newspaper on the front porch, and having kept my belly full anyway -- I was tanned, rested, and ready for the second half of the season. For me, the second half began back in the crappy confines of Nationals Park.

Coming off of a very successful concert and three off-the-charts Red Sox games, there was among the vendors an energetic atmosphere that smelled of greed. I'm as prone to this as anyone, but I didn't get caught up in it this time around. Cubs are a good draw, but nothing like the inter-league Sox (or Yankees, either of which might not return to D.C. for a decade or more), and despite the enthusiasm, I never fooled myself into thinking this would be a 10-case night. And it wasn't. The crowd was somewhere in the mid-20,000s, drinking moderately, and I fell short of six. I took Bud instead of my customary Miller, and was turned down by one girl while I served her friends.

"I don't drink beer," she said. "It gives me gas!"

"All right," I told her. "Go and drink your glass of chablis."

Later on I passed her and she had what looked to be a cup of beer in her hand. I called her out on it. "What's all this? I thought beer gave you intestinal distress."

But I was wrong, it turned out. "It's called a Woodchuck," she said of the hard cider in her hand. "I don't drink your shit! Move on, asshole!"

Three more games of Cubs, and it's only going to get worse from there.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

USA Soccer

  • Honduras: 0
  • USA: 2
  • Sold: 10 cases beer
A night for patriotic dress. First, beerman Clarence models his "United States Beer Drinking Team" ball cap. Then, note this tuba-toting Captain America; he doesn't make it to DC United games, he only follows the national team.

The result tonight: USA Soccer beats Hoduras, 2-0, July 8, 2009 at RFK stadium. After the win, this costumed band celebrates a healthy nationalism in dress and song. Hats off while playing video, please.

Monday, June 29, 2009

HowieCast: From the Hart

  • Red Sox: 4
  • Orioles: 0
  • Sold: 115 Corona Lights
Now that I've risen high up on the Camden Yards list (#37 of about 60), I have an outside chance of getting beer during the bigger games. Yesterday I should have taken Heineken, but I made a mistake and took peanuts instead. Which can be the most fun of vends, but it hurt my take-home total for sure. "Listen to me," Shakey energetically told me before tonight's game, starting to amp into his frenetic game-time persona. "The name of the game is beer. Maybe once in a while something else beats it, but nine times out of ten beer's gonna be the thing to take."

So tonight I picked the only downstairs Corona -- $5.75 for 12 ounces, instead of $6.75 for 16 ounces of Bud, Coors, or Miller. Neal snagged the only upstairs Corona ticket, and it wasn't long before he dropped down to my level and nabbed some of my sales.

But neither of us was in the big money: he sold three and a half, I was just short of 5. "Kinda tough on you when you don't find a rhythm," he said.

Yep, I said. Never found a choice spot in the crowd either. All I was doing was running around drilling for core samples -- home plate, outfield, baselines -- and never hit any ore.

After the game, I caught Howard Hart while he was checking out and recorded him discussing one of his favorite books, The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Double Pour

  • Nats -- 5
  • O's ---- 3
  • Sold --- 101 bags of peanuts
Two bad teams, one middling game, and a passel of peanuts pitched to patrons, and just another day at the ballpark. Event 114 is in the books. But there are other things to cover.

After having to pour almost 14 cases of beer at the Kenny Chesney concert yesterday, I think now would be a good time to offer a step-by-step guide to mastering a critical time-saver: The Double Pour. Two cans at once, poured from one hand into two cups held by the other. Tricky at first, but a big help once the beerman gets better at it. You'll need two things. First, a church key; also, some beer. In this case, the King of Beers:

Such an iconic label Budweiser sports!

Beer cans fit into the carrier tops up, like this, with a cup holder sticking up from the side:

Slide the pointed end of church key fully under the tab of the first can:

Turn hand over, popping the tab of the beer:

Using the sharp end of the church key, punch a hole across from the mouth of the can. This will provide aeration, allowing that tasty golden fluid to exit with less turbulence and minimal foam:

Don't forget to push the tab of the beer back down; it can also get in the way and foam up the works:

Set beer down and perform this same set of tasks with a second can. Set second can down next to the first, aligning the mouths in parallel:

With right hand, pinch two cups from the top of the stack:

Press bottom cup into bottom of heel of left hand:

Grip bottom cup with left pinkie, pull top cup out and place diagonally across left hand, centered at the base of the left index finger:

With cups in place, back to the beer. Lightly grip both cans, right index finger in the middle, with right hand:

Raise mouths of cans to the lips of the cups. Remember to tilt the cup, so the frothy treat slides calmly down the sides, limiting foam:

Keep pouring.

Almost there. Cups are now upright, and cans turned upside down to get out every last bit of that amber treasure. Don't Short-Pour.

Turn cans over and replace in beer carrier:

Serve. Subtly beg for tips.

My technique has been adapted from that of the great Sun Trick, and learned from obsessive repeat viewings of this video:

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