Sunday, January 20, 2013

the day the tv production company from brooklyn, new york, telephoned pea pickle farm

So when the television production company from Brooklyn, New York, called the other day, I was cleaning the bathroom and mulling over some statements my congressman, Dan Benishek, had sent out in a press release regarding gun control. My thoughts were nascent, knee-jerk, unfocussed, and influenced in part by a local news report that offered several opinions on that same issue from folks attending a gun show.

Benishek’s press release begins with a vague defense of our Second Amendment rights. Surely people will be claiming that the intent of that amendment is one thing or another, whatever suits their viewpoint, for as long as this debate over gun control continues, and that Benishek uses it to bolster his view of the issue is predictable, but strange. The current gun control proposal does not take away anyone’s right to bear arms. Nonetheless, my congressman states: I don’t think the President’s plan to take guns out of the hands of responsible people is the answer. Sometimes, when I have a knee-jerk reaction to something, like I did to this press release, I wonder if that wasn’t the intent—to make people react without thinking. It works, but it’s wrong. And by playing to that, if he is, Benishek does us all a disservice. I want those searching for a solution to the violence in this country to be free to consider all aspects of the problem without that consideration being used to attack them with a discussion-ending, inflammatory statement like they’re taking away our guns!

My congressman has a further argument: “Guns are not the problem, evil people are.” That’s quite a statement. At first, I must confess, until I started writing about it, I read and remembered this sentence as “Guns do not kill, people do.” I attribute the misreading to my overall knee-jerk reaction and marvel that such a reaction can last so long.

Here’s the thing. If a person believes guns are not the problem when it comes to everyday shootings as well as mass shootings, then that person, when searching for a way to minimize the number of everyday and mass shootings, will not be taking into account one of the factors that is present in every shooting, namely, the gun. To me, that seems reckless. Benishek says he believes that “we need to have a national conversation about violence,” yet how do we do that without discussing the weapons of violence? I truly do not see how it is possible to discuss a shooting, any shooting, in such a way that tries to pick it apart in hopes of preventing its recurrence without including the weapon.

Guns are not the problem, evil people are.

If evil people are the problem, does that mean the problem is paranormal, beyond our control? When have we, as mere humans, ever been able to control or combat evil? Should we just give up? Or is it like in the movies, the TV shows, the video games, and even the wars near and far where evil is conquered with firepower, with guns and more guns and bigger and better guns. As long as our arsenal is bigger than evil’s arsenal, will we be OK? Is that it? Is that what my congressman is trying to tell me?

So this is what was beginning to happen in my head when the woman from the TV production company in Brooklyn, New York, telephoned. The phone rang, and I was in the middle of cleaning the bathroom so I answered the phone with damp, vinegary hands lightly coated in baking soda. She said something about my blog and Pea Pickle Farm and the Upper Peninsula and beeswax and interesting characters. This is just an idea we’re tossing around the office, she said, and meanwhile I’m trying to figure out what kind of scam this might be. But, as she talked, and as I began telling her to slow down and back up and asked some questions, I decided she might be legit. Her name was Blake. The company is Punched in the Head Productions. I talked to her.

One of the things we talked about was culture shock. She wanted to know if I experienced culture shock moving from Chicago to the U.P. Well, yes. And I still do. It’s no longer a shock, per se, but almost every day I feel as if I am walking on a balance beam, surefooted, yet on a narrow track. I feel at home here in the U.P., have from the start, but I do not have that innate knowledge of life and culture that is particular to a place and maybe especially to a place that is sparsely populated, somewhat isolated, and itself strongly rooted in other cultures. Although I left Chicago in part because I felt I did not belong there, I knew Chicago and its northern suburbs in a way I will never know the U.P.

I mentioned to Blake the gun issue as an example of this culture shock. And it is a good one. I remember attending an Evanston City Council meeting many years ago when a ban on handguns was being discussed. I supported the ban. I did not know anyone who owned a gun, and at the time, to me, guns seemed unnecessary and dangerous. But in the U.P., it’s possible that everyone I know owns a gun. They are a huge part of the culture and are, in a way, necessary to the culture because of hunting. I know people who hunt deer, bear, geese and ducks, quail and turkey, and everyone, it seems, takes potshots at rabbits. Most will eat what they kill, and I find myself not having a problem with it. I hear gun shots every now and then, when I’m out walking, and it does not bother me. If I had heard gun shots in Evanston, however, well, that’s another story.

But mostly, Blake and I talked of other things. I think the TV show, if it happens, is to be a documentary, a history of sorts, but once again my mind knee-jerks, and I think of The Andy Griffith Show. Remember that episode when the TV folks (or were they movie folk?) came to Mayberry, fell in love with the setting and the people, and then bam-zoom Floyd’s barber shop became a “tonsorial parlor” and Aunt Bee dressed Opie in short pants and a funny hat and Barney masqueraded as some kind of storm trooper? It seemed like all the time in Mayberry Hollywood Hotshots were coming in to bamboozle people, to rob the bank while  townsfolk let tinsel go to their heads. All except Andy, of course. Remember “Sheriff Without a Gun”? That’s the kind of show I’d like to see.
“Woman Without a Gun” Woman defends her right to remain unarmed in a world increasingly cocked and ready to fire. Until somebody shoots her. Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Benji, and a cat.

Meanwhile, winter has returned. It's a beautiful thing.


  1. Really liked this, Leslie. Maybe "liked" isn't exactly the right word...the gun violence discussion has gotten so weird, but anyway, thanks for writing it. Though I would differ in one respect, I think you do "get" living in the U.P.

  2. Maybe I get it ... This morning at 2 below zero with snow and a brisk west wind it's about staying warm. More logs on the fire, three pairs of socks, get out the blankets, keep the dog and cat close.

  3. And them what happened? Are they going to make a documentary about Pea Pickle Farm?

    1. Well, that would be a snoozer! If anything else happens, I'll report. I gave them some leads on people who might know better some of the history of the area.