I can still remember the crispness in the air when my family would pile into the station wagon and drive out beyond the suburbs into the country at apple-picking time. Sometimes, we'd be able to pull the car right out into the orchard, and borrow ladders to get the really high ones off the trees. We'd spend a few hours just picking apples, filling up four or five bags with them, and then going to the front of the orchard to pay for them, and maybe have a few fresh, hot donuts, a glass of hot cider, or a little peanut brittle. Sometimes there'd be a barn with pumpkins and ornamental squash, or some bad folk art for my mother to look over. Then, we'd go back home, and we'd have enough apples for a whole month. Not only did we have a fun day in the outdoors, we got a good deal on healthful food!
Those sweet memories of childhood were ass-raped by my visit to an area "orchard" yesterday. I probably should mention the name of the Orchard, but I think it's not difficult to figure out if you really research it. It started pretty well, with a pleasant drive to the environs of Ypsilanti. But when we saw how parked up the lot was, I smelled trouble. The "cider mill" was really just a store selling donuts and cider. In order to get in, though, we were treated like cattle. They told us to go into one building, walk all the way through a gauntlet of cheap Chinese crap toys, then to the end to pay the cashier. We were then asked to walk to another building to get the "hot donuts." The donuts were warm (perhaps microwaved?), but were oddly put into a rigid plastic tray as if they were going to be shipped to parts distant. What happened to a grease-stained paper bag?
We had to pay $14 a head, just to get into the "fair" area. We walked through a midway of very low-level attractions. Garden-variety bouncy castle. Garden-variety bouncy slide. Children's petting zoo with dazed-looking goats. Pay-to-play pony ride. The main orchard, off in the distance, was closed. And in the midst of this low-rent carnival was a line of apple trees with apples on them and nobody interested in picking them. Instead, all around, all the children were picking was their noses.
By the time we left, about $50 poorer, I was filled with a kind of simmering anger that this place was even called an orchard. It was a rip-off, essentially a total scam. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the cider, apples, and pumpkins at this attraction came from Meijer. What an outrage. It's perfectly awful to gouge people, or to use their children to extort every last dollar from them, but to do it when city dwellers are trying to relive some of the sweet bucolic memories of their youth seems even more awful. In a just world, lightning would strike this "orchard" and it would burn to the ground, simultaneously incinerating the shitty, dollar-grubbing assholes who run it.