Many years ago, I read a Sunset article about date shakes. The farm stands purveying this happy marriage of fruit and cream are dotted along I-10, the highway that runs through the date growing capital of the world. And can we pause here to say that dates are a fruit, (healthy!) yet they taste, and sort of look, like caramel? We can pause, and while we do, I will eat some dates.
After reading the article, I was inspired to make a shake. It was delicious, though I didn’t know how to keep the sticky dates from caking into the bottom of my blender. So I made one of my famous “I will eat it!” food vows, that someday I would have a shake made by the experts in Coachella Valley.
When I found out my husband had a convention to attend in Palm Springs, I saw my chance. Not long after we touched down, I began scoping out the shake situation. I honed in on Great Shakes, but hesitated, so close to consummation, because I was afraid that it would be too sweet.
Well, it was quite sweet, but it was also the creamy culmination of this date-lover’s most cherished hopes. And please, note the wee cake encircling the straw. That’s right: a cake garnish! That idea definitely has more legs than parsley and a twisted orange wedge.
Not only was my shake yummy, but the service at Great Shakes was attentive and warm. The shake maker (shaker?) informed me that date shakes used to be served at the local sanitariums. I don’t know if they ever cured anyone’s tuberculosis, but given their silky-sweet spirit-elevating properties, I bet they didn’t hurt. If I ever return, I plan to rent a car to tour the Hadley and Shields date farms.
I love the sunshine, and the mountainous backdrop, but the town felt a little eerie to me. Partly I am never sure if we are supposed to live in the desert. Is it really for us? Marylin Monroe lived here, (don’t ask me how she kept her skin so dewy) and I sense a collective mourning for all she represents, shellacked over in vibrant, nostalgic furnishings. I too, felt wistful for a bygone era (while simultaneously reminding myself that said era was before women’s/gay/civil rights).
It’s hard to describe the vibe, but people are definitely here to party. The bulk of eateries seem geared toward a city-wide, perpetual hangover. I walked by Oscar’s Bar, where the Sunday night dance party was revving up, complete with DJ. For a full five seconds I considered going, before I remembered I am crowd averse, noisephobic, and generally skeptical of public merriment.
As I turned away in relief from my brief mental foray into extroversion, I was nearly toppled by a gaggle of human females on bicycles, clad in “Team Bride” shirts. Holy Matrimony! I fled to my hotel room before Team Bride devolved into Gorgeous (Drunk) Ladies of Wrestling, complete with teary rivulets of mascara.
The hike to Tahquitz Canyon Falls was more in keeping with my passions, especially since a dunk in the falls pool was on my list, next to the date shake. I also recommend the hike into Murray Canyon, where I discovered my own private swimming hole.
I lounged by the pool *of course, but any poolside sloth took place in the shade, since I am the fairest of them all. A dermatologist once looked me over, sighed, and shrugged, “Wear sunscreen, and just try to enjoy your life.” I think he knew that for me, that would be a challenge (both the laborious slathering, and the enjoying). But oddly, it gets easier with every decade. The loss of collagen tends to concentrate the mind. And though my mind often concentrates on chasing down catastrophic scenarios, I do eventually perform a screeching, dusty, U-turn back toward a place of appreciation. Now I mostly enjoy my life, and mostly wear sunscreen.
On a hot and hilly hike up the North Lykken trail, I observed this plaque. I treasure these sorts of trail surprises, and preferred this over the group of 92 (I confirmed the number) seventh graders, and a rattlesnake I met in Murray Canyon (though the snake and I parted as friends).
Did Carl Rose, who is so simply and evocatively memorialized here, love that rock? The trail? The mountain? The city? Or the whole shebang, this whole place? I just know that I want someone to think that about me: that I loved this place, enjoyed this life (and wore sunscreen).
To Carl Rose, and those who miss him in this strange, (but brightly hued) desolate (but effervescent) place, thank you for the reminder.
*The pool made me itchy and on our last day it was closed due to a “public health hazard”- probably a coincidence.