03 February 2013

Farrell's? 'Member it?

The Zoo wouldn't distract these two
If you grew up on the West Coast or in one its desperate neighbors (e.g. Arizona, from whence I came) and are of a certain age, and by that I mean middle age, you have to remember Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours. And if you don't, you probably didn't spend a lot of time at that staple of the Mormon youth experience, the Saturday Night Stake Dance.

Stakes (akin to dioceses) in the LDS Church are a collection of wards (akin to parishes) divided by geography and on any given Saturday night, you could find a youth dance hosted by one of the stakes. By and large, these were awkward affairs, held in the Church gym, sometimes festooned with crepe paper, with the boys milling around one side of the gym and the girls on the other, with a volunteer DJ playing the records (yes, records...vinyl...LP's, people. 1979 / 1980 when I made my first appearance at these epic social train wrecks was a long, long time ago) and trying with all his collective will to get the kids to dance or to not shoot himself in the head.

You could start attending these teen soap operas set to bad late 70s / early 80s music when you were 14. Until I could drive, that meant being stuck attending my own stake dances.  My buddies and I determined that as soon as we could drive, we would abandon our stake dances and that we did. Getting involved with anyone from your own stake was akin to the nuclear option and we were having none of it, so we targeted Mesa and Phoenix. On weekends when it was my turn to drive, we'd load up my Mom's boss yellow Suburban, with the then-obligatory metal tinting, throw in an 8-track in the craptastic Chevy stereo and head to Phoenix or Mesa to get our painfully blundering groove on.

If we were at a Phoenix dance, we knew we'd be ending the night at Farrell's. We'd leave the dance a little early and head over, ready to devour The Zoo. It wasn't so much about the ice cream as it was about the ridiculous show associated with ordering said Zoo.  The wait staff all dressed in 1890's stripes and straw hats and when the Zoo was delivered, it was delivered on a stretcher by a slew of the striped staff, accompanied by the screeching of a siren. Like I said, it was ridiculous. We certainly didn't order it every time and I don't recall one ever being finished. But I remember the laughs, I remember the play-by-play recaps of the evening's events (e.g. who got who's number). I remember being surrounded by friends.

It was a simpler time. If that group got together again today and we went to a Farrell's, we'd be challenged by the menu. Some of us would be lactose-intolerant, others would be on cholesterol medicines, and others of us would be trying to get back into shape so that their first grandchild doesn't think their grandpa is Jabba the Hut (guess who that is?). But we'd still laugh. A lot.

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