I’ve been working in Pittsburgh for about 6 months now. Over the last few months, I’ve come to find that Pittsburgh is a very friendly city. I often find myself in conversations with complete and random strangers. Usually when people learn I was born, raised and live in Northeast PA they react in horror. “Oh god, you’re not a Philly sports fan are you?”
I’m not a Philly sports fan, but I’ve been to several events in Philly – baseball included. I thought since it’s Thanksgiving and everyone is telling cautionary tales about Turkey Fryers, I would tell mine. The Pittsburghers I’ve talked to love this story because they hate Philly.
It was 7/16/05. The Phillies were playing the Florida Marlins. I was attending a tailgate party with my friend Jeff Lamana who was larger than life in personality and size (may he Rest In Peace). Jeff ran a popular Philly sports community forum called PhilaPhans.
PhilaPhans was hosting the tailgate on this day to bring the online community together offline for a day of fun. I tagged along because it after 6 months with a colicky baby, I needed a day away with human adult interaction. We even made the Jumbotron (or whatever it is).
The website is still up and running to this day though Jeff died of cancer in 2006. I’ve talked about this in past posts.
Anyway… I think it was a later game. I can’t remember for sure exactly what time it started. It had to be a 4pm or 7pm start. We started our day out at the Ikea in Conshohocken and ended up in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park. Jeff had known some of the people from the forums, but not everyone. People started to file in, setup and assemble a cookout near the trees in the front. One by one, we met people from the forums.
There was a grill, coolers and tables being setup. Then some guy arrived with a turkey fryer. Turkey fryers weren’t nearly as popular in the early 2000s as they are now, at least in my opinion.
The guy in the red Phillies shirt is standing in front of where the fryer was setup. If you look closely, you can see he’s opening up a bag of chicken wings. The plan was to deep fry the chicken wings and toss them in hot sauce. Sounds delicious, right? One minuscule problem and minor detail: the wings were still frozen.
I don’t know if this was this man’s first experience with a turkey fryer or if he was just drunk and didn’t care, but let me just tell you, in the 5-10 minutes after this photo was shot, disaster happened. I never got to shoot a picture of it because it was so sudden and shocking. It was one of those fight or flight situations you always hear about. I got the hell out of the vicinity. And quick.
Once red Phillies shirt guy determined the fryer was hot enough, he dropped the wings in. Let me preface this by saying that everyone was drinking and there were no thermometers being used. This wasn’t Alton Brown’s Good Eats by any stretch of the imagination.
A microsecond after the wings hit the hot oil, you can guess what happened next. A huge mushroom cloud fireball shot up out of the deep fryer. There were cars nearby. Cars filled with gasoline. Cars with decent paint jobs. By some miracle, none of them caught on fire or melted. Still a bigger problem: the tree above the fryer. The fireball shot up as high as the tree branches. Then the tree caught on fire. So to recap…here I am, at my first Phillies tailgate ever, and there’s a tree on fire in the parking lot. A security officer or a police officer saw what happened and made their way over. Details are a little sketchy, because this happened over 10 years ago, but I remember thinking “Oh Jesus. Here we go, we haven’t even gotten into the game yet and we’re already getting kicked out.” The fire went out as quickly as it started and the security guard/officer let us get away with a warning to be more careful. *Phew* It ended up drizzling on and off for a little while throughout the afternoon which helped the tree situation, but shut down the fryer situation. I think God was pissed that we burned his tree.
In case you’re wondering, the Phillies ended up winning 10-5 in 9 innings. All in all it was a good day.
…And that my friends is how I almost got ejected from a Phillies tailgate. As I said, the Pittsburghers I meet and talk to get a big kick out of this story because of their vehement hate of Philly sports. The people have spoken, so I have to retell the cautionary tale.
I hope yinz had a happy Thanksgiving. Don’t drink and fry.