Once a month I drive an old lady to Super Wal-Mart in the border town of Douglas, AZ. I hang around and wait while she shops, then I take her home and help her with her groceries. For this she pays me $30 and buys me lunch at McDonald’s, where we meet when she’s finished shopping. I don’t ask for the food, she orders for me before I get there (I’m usually late) so I say thank you and eat it. We both like to check out the Mexican guys and compare notes. The lady is a 70-year-old widow, but she still likes having boyfriends. She’s actually a tough old bird and I’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to date 70-year-old men who still haven’t grown up and never will!
My trips to Douglas Wal-Mart are always an adventure, even if I don’t leave the store. I did leave today though, because I’m broke at the moment and Wal-Mart’s Health & Beauty Aids section is a dangerous magnet for girlie longings. Before I left I passed by the lard department. I am fascinated by the amount of lard sold around here. Lard comes from the fatty tissue of pigs and is used in Mexican and many other types of cooking. Some stores arrange the lard packages in enormous pyramids in special displays not even in the lard aisle. Back in Connecticut, no store manager would dare make a lard pyramid, no matter how much fun. Lard comes in 1 lb., 4 lb., and 8 lb. containers. The 4 lb. size is packaged two ways, your choice of cardboard box or handy plastic tub.
Then I headed downtown. Douglas is a US/Mexico port of entry, and like most border towns, it’s gritty and bedraggled and you don’t hear much English. Some of the stores are bright spots though, even if many of them don’t bother to put their signs up in English. Douglas was established in 1901 as a smelter site for the Bisbee copper mines and it has a colorful past. The jewel of Douglas is the historic Gadsden Hotel, still in operation, still grand—but one lovely hotel can’t save a town. The city keeps trying to revitalize the downtown area, but it always looks the same, dusty and depressing. The people who work in the stores are nice though.