My first thought is a very simple one. I WANT TO GO BACK TO COLLEGE!!! Seriously, this is totally freaking unfair. How come my son gets to go to college and I don’t? Why can’t I go back to the days of partying 7 days a week, growing my hair long (or even having hair), and generally having no cares or responsibilities, other than where the next case of Milwaukee’s Best was going to come from? I’ve worked very hard; I deserve it! Did we have any idea how good we had it in college? Well, I guess I did because I did it two more times after undergrad.
My first observation was one my son made soon after I did. The women at the University of Delaware are still incredibly hot. I admit it was a little unnerving when he caught me staring at the arse of a 21 year old with short shorts and a green tee-shirt that showed her belly button. But, in the spirit of this boys trip he said, “don’t worry, dad, I won’t tell mom.” Did I mention I want to go back to college?
On our walk down Main Street, a classic small town commercial hub of activity, what surprised me most was that the more things changed, the more things changed. I counted only three or four businesses in the entire commercial district of Main Street that remained from my days at UD in the mid-80s. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great additions, including Starbucks (of course), Cosi, Panera Bread (much better coffee than the putrid crap Starbucks passes off as coffee), Grottos Pizza (think Rehoboth Beach), a fantastic gelato place, and a microbrew pub. That’s all great stuff. I was kinda bummed out at what had disappeared. Most notably, the Stone Balloon is gone – a great bar that had live bands every weekend and at least a few good fights every night. Oh yeah, and the Sbarro’s Pizza was gone and replaced by the much trendier “Peace of Pizza,” complete with peace sign logo.
But, in the end, what was most amazing was the places that had survived the test of time. I mean a lot has changed since the 80s. We’ve gone from a beloved president we all respected to a total hack (OK, I’ll stop). Mullets have given way to more conservative haircuts (or no hair at all). The Redskins have gone from world domination to perennially sucking. It’s a very different world. Maybe that’s why the places that survived the test of time on Main Street had survived it before.
The first two spots are just classic Americana. The National 5 & 10 Store and the Post House Diner. The 5 & 10 was selling useless crap in 1985 and is apparently still doing a robust business selling worthless crap in 2011. I guess we all need worthless crap at a reasonable price. I looked it up and turns out they’ve been selling worthless crap on the exact same site since well before I graced Newark with my presence. In fact, it’s been there since 1931. They should have a new motto: “Worthless Crap at Reasonable Prices Since 1931.”
The Post House is what every small town needs – a diner to ensure atherosclerotic arteries for everyone. I can’t say it was a spot I frequented as a student, but I certainly had a few hungover breakfasts of eggs and bacon with extra grease. If I thought I could get my son out of bed early enough tomorrow, we’d go there. Upon further research, the Post House was also there long before I was – 1957 to be exact.
Last, and closest to my heart, is the Deer Park Tavern. Not only did I imbibe cheap beer and eat nachos there several times a week for my entire UD tenure, I also met my wife there. The interior was different, a result of a major remodeling effort 15 years ago, but when we went there for dinner tonight, I was still able to take my son over to the booth where Terri and I met and say, “I met your mom right there; if I hadn’t come in here to drink that night, you wouldn’t be standing here tonight.” “Uh, yeah, whatever dad.” OK, you try getting sentimental with a 17 year old boy!
Not only does the Deer Park have the deepest history for the Robertsons, it has the longest history on Main Street. The original tavern, called St. Patrick’s Inn, was built on the same site in 1747. It burned down and wasn’t replaced until the current Deer Park was constructed in 1851. So, it was there for a long time before I started stumbling out of it late night in 1984. I look forward to sharing a beer there with my boy someday if he goes to Delaware.
Next up: Muhlenberg College. I’ve never been there, never gotten drunk there, don’t know any of the buildings, and can’t imagine what I might have to write about it.