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Moment of Truth: Fruit of the Poison Tree

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Up here in Antrim County, MI, there’s a rumor afoot that the founder of the Friske family orchards was a real live runaway Nazi. Well, not really a rumor at this point. He was a pilot for Hitler’s Luftwaffe.

But for a long time, it’s said, he used to refer to himself merely as a WWII veteran. Maybe to avoid the bad association some folks have with those who fought on behalf of the Third Reich. And I don’t blame the guy for concealing it. US citizens – those who call themselves “Americans”—are a bigoted bunch. There was a time when resentment of Germans was so strong here, people changed the word “sauerkraut” to “liberty cabbage” in casual conversation. And what could be more casual than talking about fermented shredded cabbage?

So, somehow, Richard Friske, who arrived in the US with his wife, Olga, in 1952, figured that in order to better disguise his German Nazi fliegendermann background, he could do worse than to don the mantle of US neo-Nazi, so he joined the John Birch Society, supported George Wallace for president in ’68, and got his entire family to be rabid nativists. The Friskes donate to David Duke, Rick Santorum and a number of other brainless spewers of hate against immigrants, homosexuals, and uppity city slickers like yours truly.

People up here still tell about the Friske’s no-mask policy during the pandemic lockdown. One letter to the editor of The Petoskey News-Review vowed never to return after seeing the workers in the kitchen handling food unmasked during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was part of Friske’s policy “of allowing staff and customers to make personal choices regarding their health.” It sounds like they want us to be able to pick our own doctors, or maybe get an abortion should we choose one, but really they just want to give everyone the freedom to spread whatever infections they might be harboring.

The letter-writer concludes by mourning that they will never again enjoy the taste of Friske’s cherry doughnuts. The ones in the brown paper bag with grease stains indicating freshness.

Friske’s wasn’t just a passive spreader of the virus. They’ve held a couple super-spreader events in their parking lot, to bawl and whinge about the tyranny of the face mask mandate and how Democrats were out to turn the white man extinct. Last month The MyPillow guy was there for a mass viral load sharing, along with the famous crazy lady who testified drunkenly to the Michigan state legislature next to Rudy Giuliani, and a few hundred other brainwashed foot soldiers of the Trump regime. They were big supporters of a lawsuit to try to get the county’s votes in the last presidential election recounted, Arizona-style. The suit was dismissed because even the Republican judge found that the count had been properly reviewed already.

And, Friske’s, whose motto is, “Not Your Average Fruit Stand,” they do walk the walk, goose- step the goose-step, sometimes even backwards. Even their proud associations with David Duke, the NRA, the John Birch society, and other anti-foreigner organizations, don’t prevent their field labor staff from being admirably diverse. In fact, they were recently raided for employing undocumented immigrants.

Last August, a helpful, neighborly fascist started a fundraiser to stave off “the potential forced closing of our business for refusing to submit to Governor Witmer's unlawful executive orders.” To date, eleven months later, it has yet to reach even half its monetary goal. Apparently, fellow fascists up here are taking up the cause of exercising the free choice to keep their dollars in their wallets.

Friske’s counterpart closer to the reasonable end of the spectrum is King Orchards. They have always been liberal Democrat leaners, not particularly revolutionary, but neither are they overtly supportive of a nativist populism that might make one think of the Ku Klux Klan. They have honored mask requirements and avoided shows of militia-like rebellion against guidelines for businesses to avoid spreading dangerous viruses.

But one needn’t be as radically left as King Orchards is ridiculously considered to be by those insulated within a fascist news bubble, like the listeners to multiple felon “Trucker” Randy Bishop, Antrim County’s white rural version of Tokyo Rose. Most businesses have found it in their non-radical hearts to honor restrictions intended to curtail the spread of Covid-19.

In Charlevoix, about fifteen minutes north of fascist Friske’s, is John Cross Fisheries, where we in the Dorchen family acquire our fish, including salmon, whitefish, and trout, smoked right there on the Cross premises. In fact, my sister and I bought about sixty bucks worth on Monday for consumption by our extended family of Jews, mixed race Catholics, a lapsed Baptist, and a first-generation Cambodian of no declared cosmological belief so far.

When my sister and I entered the establishment to purchase our freshwater delicacies, we honored the sign that said we could enter maskless if we’d been fully vaccinated, and we added our number of customer bodies to the two already inside, bringing the number to four, the highest number allowable. As we were communicating and awaiting our order, the other two patrons left and two newcomers came in to replace them, but a third buzzardlike crone attempted to enter as well. The Paul Bunyan-esque blonde woman at the counter wasn’t having it: “Only four allowed in at a time.”

“But I’m with them,” insisted the weirding woman, as if that declaration somehow altered the mathematical nature of reality. Which is why I snickered cruelly, which sound, I believe, sent the hag scampering.

John Cross III, the owner of the joint, is no innocent, however. It’s just that associating with seccessionistas is not his style, which style showed itself in April, 2019, when he was sentenced to a year in federal custody after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to his acquisition and sales of illegally caught lake trout. Cross would be allowed to serve his time “in the offseason,” it was reported, which I thought was a nod to Cross’s otherwise decent behavior as a businessman, and the seventy-year legacy of Cross Fisheries in general. Ancient listeners might remember an essay of mine entitled “Thomas Friedman vs The Methodist Fish Fry.” Spoiler alert: the fish fry wins. And the titular fish in that story was indeed provided by John Cross Fisheries.

There was an agreement between tribal fishing nations and the US government that the tribespeople would change over from using gill nets to trap nets, in order not to maim the fish they caught. And, in order to replenish the lake trout population in the Great Lakes, they would release lake trout caught in the new nets, keeping only less threatened species such as perch, pike, and whitefish, for consumption and sale. In exchange for releasing the lake trout, the government was giving the tribal fisherfolk subsidies of up to $200,000.

But one particular tribal go-getter wanted to augment their subsidy by selling their catch wholesale to John Cross, who went on to sell it himself to restaurants and the general public. Whether Cross knew he was committing a felony is unknown, but the onus was on him to verify the legal source of his product. It was only his and his business’s standing in the community, I believe, that allowed him to negotiate the felony charge down to a misdemeanor pleading.

And, hey, I once negotiated a B&E with larcenous intent charge down to an illegal entry and larceny under $100 charge, so, like, I know how that goes. John III and I are the same age, too, so even though I think a fishmonger owes it to the earth and water to take extra-good care of the sustainability of his source of livelihood, all-in-all I’m glad he negotiated a lenient punishment, as long as he promises never to do it again.

And at least he’s not a fascist, as far as I know.

It’s almost impossible for any business to avoid legal problems at some point in their existence. I don’t know what clandestine shenanigans King Orchards is up to, but at least they don’t rile up the populace and invite out-of-state seditious riot-inciters to bounce around in their parking lot. At least they don’t act as boosters for twisted conspiracy propaganda, not of the rightwing variety, anyway.

My dad was coming home from the dump, which is only open on Saturday, on 88, and as he was heading back, came across a whole police and sheriff presence gathered around the King Orchards roadside store. He thought maybe they were there to greet the new pickers for the big surge in the cherry season. He stopped and asked a sheriff’s deputy.

It seems that, for taking the trouble to be all nice and antifa, King Orchards received a visit from none other than Simple Joe Malarkey Biden, the current president of the US. Probably influenced by the recent NYT article about the political split among roadside fruit farms in Antrim County, which has been reposted and reprinted a lot in local news outlets, Joe gave fascist Friske’s on 31, “Not Your Average Fruit Stand,” the cold shoulder, preferring to tool down Mancelona highway 88 to procure a baker’s dozen cherry pies from King Orchards over the July 4 weekend.

And that’s all the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the fascists have guns, all the guns are good-looking, and all the fruit stands are above average. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth


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