Ode to the Old Derryfield Country Club

There is only one place in Manchester that has my heart. It’s a place that actually only exists in my heart now that it has been torn down. The old Derryfield Country Club. Oh, yes, a fancier, cleaner and more expansive one has been built in its place. It’s got one of those flashing electronic display signs advertising its prime rib special and Sunday brunch. But it isn’t home.

Let me tell you about my friend, the old DCC.

I started attending reggae Sundays at the deck back in 2002 with my best friends Heather and Stacie. We’d usually be groggy, rolling out of bed after a Saturday night adventure – we’d pull my mattress out to the living room, make some mac ‘n cheese, and flop down and watch the 1 o’clock Pats game on the bed in the living room. Around 4, we would put our hair in pigtails, swap tank tops and make the short drive to the D.

There was something seductive and crystalline about that place. I was thoroughly enchanted. We’d see the motorcycles lining the street when we pulled up and Heather and Stace would squeal. They liked boys with bikes. This year, they’ll both be marrying boys with bikes.

Walk up to the bouncer, pay our $5 and get our hands stamped, and that was it. We were in for the night. Up the short flight of stairs to the deck and it was like being transported. First of all, it’s the only place where I got to see black people in large groups in New Hampshire. You can’t find that many in the entire state, I swear. I only count for half of one, but that’s another blog entry. We had to import them, just for Sundays. And the racial diversity (we had my Haitian and Latino folks up in there, too) wasn’t the only factor stirring up the mix. There were folks in their fifties, married couples looking to get in the groove and then all the young hot things. It was such a nice mix of people, together purely just to have a good time and enjoy the vibe.

Without fail, the sun would be out in full force, giving the guys sunglass lines and sweaty foreheads. Cigars were smoked. Overflowing platters of nachos made their way to the table. The women would be tan, glowing and dressed to kill. For a few hours, you couldn’t find more attractive people than the happy faces gathered at the D.

And then the slow, sweet, sticky notes of the steel drum and guitar would reverberate back to my spine and I would sink further down into my bliss. This is what I came for. We would all be seated at the white plastic tables and chairs, if we could find a free one (and I always did) and at first, the small dance space would be empty. By drink number three, the old men would have taken their ladies by the hand and started dancing cheek to cheek to a rendition of “Destiny,” by Buju Banton. Another drink and, that’s it, everybody is up and swaying. It didn’t matter how hot it was. The big glass pitcher of Stoli Doli was full of fruit and ice and the waitresses were always on time with your beer.

There would be some fine young (or old!) man wanting to talk to you about where you’re from, what’s your name, what are you doing. After the reggae soaked you through completely, there was just no getting away. By the end of the night, the mosquitos are out, the heat lamps are on, and somehow you have become friends with everybody at the next three tables. Everybody would be singing along to the last song of the set and then the party would move, en masse, to Cahoots (now, the illustrious WBs).

There, DJ Roberto would spin some crazy reggae/hip hop/caliente mix and the guys would have breakdancing contests or grab the mic and spit some new lyrics. They would always swear they were the next big thing. Forty would toss you a cold one, for free, and you would all be gathered there in the Sunday madness until last call.

To this day, the only other place that feels like home is my actual home – with my family in Florida. Maybe it’s the sunshine that did it. I’ll never know. But there will never be another experience quite like it. Those days, cast in a golden glow, will always keep me warm and happy.

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