Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Deer Park

My parents sent me off to college certain that I would return home after a single semester in academic ruin. Admittedly, I had done nothing up to that point to prove them otherwise, so they were pleasantly surprised (shocked) when I returned on the dean's list.  My education leading up to college was free, but mom and dad were footing the bill for university, so I gave it my best.  I worked hard.  I never skipped class.  I studied Monday through Friday.
However, when Friday afternoon rolled around and I was dismissed from the afternoon lecture, my best friend and I met at the Deer Park Tavern toot sweet for our personal stress seminar.
The Deer Park was on the edge of town on Main Street next to the railroad tracks.  The place has been around for a couple of hundred of years and was a magnet for every freak this side of the Mason Dixon line.  Talk about eclectic - bikers, hippies, frat brothers, preps, academics, goths - you name it - they would be there come Friday afternoon, and they were all there for one thing - import night.
We were all kindred spirits that congregated at this watering hole based upon one idea - good beer for a low price.  When 7:00 PM struck on Friday, all ales made outside of the USA were a dollar a bottle.  My  compadre and I would both show up with an extra fifteen bucks and were ready for a good six hours of entertainment.
The evening always started quiet and slow.  We were usually the first ones there and liked to grab a corner table out of harm's way.  Pleasantries would turn to long discussions as the evening waitstaff started filtering in.  Slowly the top of our table would clutter with empty bottles (New Castle Ale, Guinness, Heineken) as our talk went from the mundane (how was class...I have a term paper) to more serious matters (Could there be aliens so ugly that we would die when we look at them?).
Soon the sun would begin to set, darkness took over, and the place would be wall to wall people.  It would get hot and muggy.  The noise of talk and movement would rise to alarming decibels as those left standing would eye our chairs with contempt and jealousy.  I often wished we had set up a time elapsed video camera on us for a Friday evening seated there.  My guess would be that we would have remained relatively still in our corner as the world warped by around us.  It seemed only an instant before it was 12:30 am, time to meander through the crowd to find out where the late-night party was being held.  No other haunt seemed to fit us like the Deer Park did - sort of like a comfortable pair of slippers to throw on after a hard day's work.
On a whim, my friend and I returned to the place about ten years after we had graduated.  The DP had changed hands and it was quite evident.  The place was no longer grimy and smokey, but clean and fresh-scented.  No more side bar, no more freaks, and most importantly, no more import night.  We ordered a few sandwiches, but my friend demanded we leave when he noticed his burger came with a side slice of cantaloupe.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that the beers cost five bucks a piece.


  1. I miss the old days at the Deer Park too. When Ashby bought the DP, a friend of mine who worked for him at the Pike Creek McGlynn's she told me that there was a ton of old DP stuff upstairs in the office of the joint. I asked, but she never had the guts to bring any of the old DP gear home for me. At least we have the memories of what it used to be.

  2. My friend this is one area where I cannot relate a similar experience. In ninth grade my Mother told me "We're not paying for you to go to college so you better take a course where you can earn a living when you get out of high school."
    I wanted to chose the college preparatory academic course in high school along with my friends but since I wasn't going to college my second choice was the commercial course. My friend Nitewrite was told the same thing by his parents. Coincidentally both of our fathers were truck drivers.
    Thus, there was no Deer Park for me or my friend Nitewrite. We both hit the ground running out of high school. Me the Army and Nitewrite a series of clerical jobs since his Mother refused to let him join the Army with me on a buddy basis. After the Army, I went to college at night on the GI Bill. Peirce Junior College in Philadelphia. There was no Deer Park at Broad and Spruce Streets. I've often wondered how my life would have evolved if I was a Fortunate Son whose parents paid for my college education. You were one of the lucky young folk.

  3. Brian-
    If you had told me you acquired the stuffed raven, you would have been my hero.

    Fortunately I can type this message because it is tough to talk with this silver spoon in my mouth. My Great Uncle Bill went to the University of Delaware on the GI Bill and he too spent many a night at the Deer Park.

  4. Colby,
    I do not begrudge my friends gagging on their silver spoons. I had several of them (friends with silver spoons.) Good for you guys! I didn't have time for my Deer Park because I went to school at night after working at the bank during the day. Four years of three nights a week. Don't sheet a tear for me though. I made up for lost good times (and drinking) on the weekends. I hit the center city bars, usually the Westbury and the Allegro. I had my time. I didn't miss much.

  5. "Shed a tear." I should really spell check. :)