Friday, September 26, 2008

Date Farm Day

I was in Arizona for a few days recently, watching a pool drain and flood my mother's front yard. We also went on a short trip to a date farm that she had recently been to, only, once we were in the car and on our way, Mom forgot how to get there. We took a few wrong turns and she stopped and asked some workmen for directions, though in the heat they didn't seem very enthusiastic about helping out. They gave a kind of reply, indicating we should have turned at the previous road. We were now on dirt, an unpaved place with two little dogs sitting close together in the shade of some crazy weed-like plants at the side of the road. The little dogs did not look in much distress, but they didn't move at all, they just sat there, unmotivated, not wanting anything at all. Not a sound came from them and they were unchained. I pointed them out to Mom. "They must belong to the house there," she said. There was something that could have been a house that sat behind all the vegetation, but I noticed a closed and locked gate in the drive. "I don't know whose dogs they are," I replied. But Mom was now no longer interested in the dogs. She wanted to see her date farm and get a date shake. She turned back to the workmen and their big truck. "I guess I have to turn around. Are you going?" she asked them. "Yeah, yeah," one of them said. They then jumped in the truck and drove off, leaving a cloud of dust behind them. "Now I can turn around," Mom said. She made a tight u-turn and drove back the way we had come.

As we headed who knows where, past schools and abandoned general stores and run down little bars, we began to see more and more date palms, including great clusters of trees standing as mini forests in the desert.
"Those are date farms!" declared Mom happily.
I saw the groves with the fruit of the trees bagged (while still on the trees). It looked strange but logical. We stopped and pulled into the gravel drive of a date farm building, a structure that looked completely industrial, if nothing else. We parked and got out of the car, then entered a large room through the glass doors in front of us. Inside we were the only customers, indeed probably the only customers the place had seen all day. Not that they need the tourist types, although they sure had the merchandise everywhere. Long rows of in-house packaged food, including dried fruit and candy. Plus trinkets and books and a lot of postcards (5 for a dollar). Behind a counter stood a bored looking young woman. Behind her was a menu board; it offered date shakes large and small, hot dogs and something else, I can't remember. The wieners were rotating inside of one of those glass enclosed hot dog machines. How long they'd been there was anyones guess. Then Mom asked the girl how much a hot dog was and that she was hungry so she should most likely have something to eat now. It reminded me of the scene from Seinfeld where Kramer eats an ancient movie theater hot dog so his friend won't feel crazy for wanting it. "Let's wait," I told her. I could see disappointment in her face, but she agreed we have tacos at a little Mexican restaurant in town later.

It was take a date shake time and Mom ordered only one. "They're big", she said, "we'll split it. Besides I'm on a diet anyway". Mom has been on a diet for the past thirty years, though she's never lost any weight. While the woman was reluctantly preparing our shake, I took a glance at the postcard rack. There were an awful lot of Saguaro cactus photos, some with lightning flashes, amongst the not too varied choices. I actually picked out a couple, and paid more for them, as the postcards were 25 cents each unless you bought five. Meanwhile the finished date shake with actual pieces of date in it was presented, along with an extra paper cup. The extra cup was about half the size of the main cup with the shake in it. Mom took the matter of dividing it up upon herself. When she was done she gave me the smaller cup. "I think there's more in that one," she said about my tiny cup, "I gave you most of it, and besides I'm on a diet." It didn't look that way to me, and a few straw sips later my shake was all gone, while Mom was still happily sipping it up miles later. That night, after our folded taco meal in a little converted house Mexican restaurant, I took a walk down to the local Food City to buy some plums, a regular ritual of mine when I'm in town. After entering the store and bagging my plums in the lovely produce section, I found myself pulled in the direction of the frozen dessert aisle, right to the ice cream, the kind I could use for making a shake. I bought a half-gallon of vanilla.

It was of course dark outside as I left the store, and I saw several lightning flashes in the distance. I panicked for just a moment, imagining myself forced to walk home in dangerous THE POOR BASTARD WAS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING WALKING HOME FROM THE STORE conditions. Instead I enjoyed myself, as the lightning was obviously quite far away and unaccompanied by thunder. My light show followed me home, in the cooler temperatures of the evening, and so my day ended with a pleasant, refreshing walk. And a large home-made shake.


  1. hello that was a nice little story< aging parents (are they not like childern ?)

  2. Hello anonymous. Thanks for the comment (and the compliment) And yes, in many ways they are, aren't they?

  3. A DATE FARM??? WHAT THE? I NEVER EVEN HAD A DATE BEFORE, THERE'S FARMS? What a great story I mean I thought I was reading a book, your so great with details. Sounds like your mom can drive you crazy sometimes and the hot dog part was hilarious !! that's true I wonder how long they were going round and round for just waiting to be bought. your mom could of gotten sick if she had one, hope the Mexican food was good though yummy! that sounds like something I could have right now. It sounded like those horror movies where your lost and then somebody directs you to the wrong road on purpose.


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