Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Walkin' Wilmington and Walt's Fried Chicken

On a day like today, in a city like this, you gotta get out and do your wander round. I hung out with Raymond and discussed the function of the Pineal gland. I hung out with Karl and discussed the greatest all-time franchise players in MLB history. I played the Ramones with Todd and Ally. I checked out the poling places for the local Democratic Primary, like the Boys and Girls Club and P.S. duPont school. I know what you're thinking, "Democratic primary day! You must be so excited!" Well, I am and I'm not... see, when I originally registered to vote, it was like 1998, and we didn't know what was about to go down political-party wise in America. Things were so righteous that I was in a position to think very broadly and assume that the two-party system was a system for simple-minded cave dudes and we're really close to expanding this joint. I didn't know the perversion Republicans were about to reveal, or that the Democratic party would once again stand in strong opposition to elitism (whilst being accused of it). I held the luxary, at that time, of registering "independant." Let me say, in my defense, that I didn't realize the value of primary elections at the time. And what's more, I live in Delaware, which will always and forever be Democrat-heavy, a "blue state" I believe it's called. We are very unique, a state once divided by the Mason-Dixon line, and the northern, much more populated New Castle county is highly urban and always favors Democrats. So, I was safe to, in 2000, vote for the much more vibrant, progressive, marijuana law-reformin', and equally environmentally-minded Ralph Nader, rather than the (seemingly) bland Al Gore. I new Gore would carry Delaware, which he did, and I got to happily support my third party candidate. Now, in 2004, there was no futzin' around to be done, so I bellied up to the bar and voted for John F. Kerry (or rather voted against George W. Bush), as did more than half of American voters. Then things got fuzzy and, well, time makes fools of us all and I forgot to ever freakin' re-register as a Democrat. I know, I know... so anyway, luckily (I assume) my pick won the presidential primary, but here we are with my precious local elections and I'm stymied. I wished to support a gubanatorial candidate! Well, I can't wait for November 4th...

Anyway, after Toddy's house I hopped into my car and tried to start 'er up, but the thing wouldn't go... outta gas, as usual. Well, I am in a rare open-parking zone on Van Buren and Gilpin, so I figured I'll get a can o' gas later and walk on home, from Happy Valley to 7th and Greenhill, right outside Wawaset Park. I started up Shallcross towards Trolly Square and passed by all those old-folks apartments and hipster apartments in the Delaware Avenue neighborhood, all around ten to fifteen story jobs. I swear all those grandma's musta been fryin' chicken at once because the whole neighborhood smelled like a church picnic! I knew right then and there what I wanted, nay, needed for dinner: Walt's Flavor Crisp Chicken. If you don't know, Walt's is a Wilmington institution and the best soul-food style fried chicken in the world not made by my Grandmom Robinson. Their two thighs and fries deals are legendary, and also necessities like mac and cheese and collard greens, biscuits and fountain Mountain Dew, and oddly-placed but really good trendy desserts. Walt's is known for (at least) two things: their mystical secret recipe originated by founder Harry Sheppard, who I assume is Walt, into which they dip their plump, juicy chicken, and their technique. Walt's chicken expert scientists claim, "The secret to Walt's savory chicken lies in the patented pressure frying process. Pressure frying seals the juices and the flavor inside the chicken, while providing a crispy, golden-brown coating on the outside." They ain't kiddin'! The first Walt's has been at 527 Vandever Avenue off of N. Market for twenty-seven years. From the Headies-Cave on Harrison, you'd go down a block and over the Van Buren Street bridge, and go right past the Brandywine Zoo, emus and llamas on your left, the creek on your right (don't go up Monkey Hill on your left), go past mc Ben and James' house and make a left onto Market, Vandever will be on your right. But that's in the opposite direction and it was gettin' dark out, and I'm not tough enough to roll over there on foot after dark.

Walt's has experienced nothing but the success it deserves, if not monetarily, their tradition of quantum fried chicken art stands apart from all competition. After years of wedded bliss, Walt got divorced and it came to light that the elusive secret recipe was actually his wife, Miz Walt's. She went out on her own, opening a store on Union Street right off of PA Ave, where my video rental store used to be, and where the Union Street Tavern is now. Initially, Miz Walt was so sucessful, she teamed up with cajun man Fat Rick and opened a joint effort "Fat Rick BBQ featuring Miz Walt's Flavor Crisp Chicken" in the upscale North Brandywine Hundred. On the last day of our junior year, me, Brendan "Huffer" Huffman, and Mike Gallagher went over to Fat Rick's and got down on crawdads and fried chicken and cherry cokes. As Miz Walt's came and went, Walt kept it real on Vandever and eventually sold the store and recipe to Larry Fletcher. Fletcher opened another Walt's franchise at 103 N. Lincoln off Lancaster Ave, just two blocks out of my way on my walk home.

I walked towards Trolley Square past affluent family's beautiful homes with fountains in the yards and tea gardens that smell amazing, looking inside at bookcases and glowing flatscreens. I walked through Trolley Quare and past Gaudiello's, home of "the Nigerian" sub and ribeye cheeseteaks, and the incomparable Ciao Pizza, best in Wilmington, and the Hollywood Tan that used to be the Smoke Shop with a carved piece of Bethany Beach driftwood out front and a wooden Indian where I bought my '87 Topps and Batman and Ghostbusters 2 cards, and my old barber shop, where my barber Vinny would cut the Archbishop Bevalaqua's hair and sell jewelry out of the shop. I walked up Dupont Street across Eleventh into Little Italy and the smell of garlic bread filled the air, distracting me only for a second from my true goal, remembering all the chicken I can get with five bucks, as opposed to ten plus for spaghetti and meatballs from Mrs. Robino's. Past Fourth Street and out of Little Italy past the rim shops and like three new Metro PCs stores and a bunch of dudes demonstrating who has the best jump shot without a ball and into sweet, sweet Walt's where I promptly ordered up the three-piece dinner box, with a thigh, a leg, and wing, and fries. I practically flew home up Fourth past Bancroft and then past Roberto Clemente field where pee-wee football practice was just letting out and I juked and jived around all these little dudes in their pads, holding my chicken box like the pigskin. I hustled across the Flats between Lancaster Ave. and 7th, where huge boxwoods and thirty foot pines line the streets and mechanics' garages shine bright listening to radio hip-hop. I bust up the three flights of stairs into my apartment and crack an ice cold Pepsi, eat my chicken (the thigh was the best), watch the Phillies, the election results, and wait for my girlfriend to get home from cheerleading practice.


Jamesage said...

I was in the same boat as you, dude. I walked up to Forwood Elementary and got to the dudes with the index cards when I remembered that I couldn't vote in primaries. To quote Stan Marsh, "I THOUGHT THIS WAS AMERICA!!!"

Dan said...

Stan Marsh is a true patriot... everybody I wanted to win did though, so... democracy works? Nah, that can't be right!