Idiots Are Not an Endangered Species
How can you tell an endangered Atlantic salmon from Paul Bruneau?
There are several methods, but one of the easiest is wine selection. Bruneau, whose current address is the Cumberland County Jail, prefers a nice white wine with his seafood. For the most part, salmon are teetotalers.
OK, it’s probably a little unfair to expect you to have an extensive knowledge of the tastes in drink of such a diverse duo. Let’s try a simpler question. How can you tell an endangered shortnose sturgeon from Bruneau? According to an international panel of ichthyologists, sturgeon almost never leave the refrigerator door open. I could find no similar group of experts willing to say the same for Bruneau.
Still confused? I suppose it’s only to be expected when dealing with somebody like Bruneau, who made the news this past week by allegedly breaking into a Portland restaurant, grabbing a bunch of cash and then settling down for a lobster feast. Hey, a lot of salmon and sturgeon would have done the same.
Well, maybe not stealing the money.
Anyway, Bruneau, who was free on bail at the time of this incident, had the munchies, so he ate 11 prepared lobsters worth $300, complementing his meal with a nice bottle of wine. During his binge, Bruneau neglected to close the refrigerator door, causing $1,000 in food to spoil.
After he was done eating, Bruneau was, understandably, a little sleepy, so, according to police, he stretched out on a bench and took a nap. Which is where workers at the restaurant found him the next morning. That brings up another difference between Bruneau and the aforementioned species of fish: The latter know enough to eat and run.
Which is not to say our finny friends have got it all figured out. If they did, they wouldn’t be close to extinction.
This past week, the federal government declared the Atlantic salmon as an official endangered species, entitling it to protection on three major Maine rivers – the Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin – and designating 12,000 miles of waterways and 300 square miles of lakes as critical habitat. Being an endangered species also entitles the salmon to discounts at many fine restaurants.
The announcement was met with considerable consternation in Maine, where officials had hoped to have the salmon designated as threatened, rather than endangered. That ranking would have put fewer restrictions on development along the rivers and would have limited the restaurant discounts to the early dining, senior-citizen menu.
As for the shortnose sturgeon, it’s been endangered for some time, but no one was too concerned because it rarely ate in restaurants. But recently, scientists studying how anybody could possibly eat 11 lobsters in one sitting discovered a shortnose sturgeon living in the Saco River, where it had never been seen before. This primitive species hasn’t changed in some 40 million years. Or roughly the amount of time new customers have to wait to get a land line installed by FairPoint Communications.
The discovery of the sturgeon is not expected to result in any further inconveniences for people or businesses along the Saco, because that river is already home to other endangered species. Nevertheless, I took it upon myself to spend several hours on Saturday afternoon observing activity along the riverbank from a carefully concealed stand on the outdoor deck at the Run of the Mill Brewpub in Saco. Although I saw nothing happening that might upset the delicate ecosystem of the area, I regret to report that while I was there, the pub’s supply of its excellent best bitter went extinct.
But let’s get back to lobsters. Those of you who like to eat a lot of them (and are not currently remanded to the custody of the Maine Department of Corrections for doing so) might want to keep an eye out for lobstermen selling their catch by the side of the road. Because of low wholesale prices, some boat owners have taken to marketing part of their catch directly to the public at rates so cheap it makes breaking into a restaurant to steal lobsters seem expensive. Although, with the roadside deals, you don’t get free wine. Or room and board at the public’s expense.
If you do decide to have your lobster in a restaurant of the chain variety, you’ll soon be informed about just how many calories you’re ingesting with all that drawn butter, corn on the cob and the brownie-fudge sundae for dessert. A new state law that takes effect in September requires chains to post the calories alongside each menu item. The statute is designed to help combat obesity. It probably won’t have much impact on the waistlines of guys who break into restaurants and eat 11 lobsters.
In another move aimed at making the state’s dining experience more healthful, Gov. John Baldacci has signed legislation banning smoking on restaurants’ outdoor decks and patios. When that measure takes effect this fall, it will mean that smoking in Maine will only be legal in the general vicinity of the MERC incinerator in Biddeford and underwater. The new law is expected to further reduce the percentage of the population that smokes, but there is some concern it could increase the number of drownings.
At Bonny Eagle High School, officials are trying to answer some difficult questions. For starters, who was Bonny Eagle? And what did she do to merit having a high school named after her? Also, what went wrong at the school’s June 12 graduation ceremony, during which two students were denied their diplomas for allegedly being disruptive (one seems to have done nothing more than take a brief bow as he walked onto the stage), one was ejected from the hall, and a giant inflatable rubber duck bounced around in the audience.
In a matter of even graver concern, the duck seems to have received an honorary degree.
Parents have been criticizing the way Superintendent Suzanne (Don’t Call Me George) Lukas handled the incident, as she reportedly chastised the crowd for its behavior, thereby exacerbating the situation. In a slow news week, the incident attracted national media attention and numerous requests to interview the duck.
OK, I exaggerated. It was just one request. But it was from Geraldo.
Finally, there was a report this week on the most remarkable invention in Maine history. According to the Portland Press Herald, a 7-year-old boy from Falmouth has made a shocking discovery. He’s found a way to keep people from breaking into restaurants and eating all the lobsters. He calls his product the Bonny Eagle and is hoping someone will name a high school after it.
Sorry, I was hallucinating. Seafood overdose. I’m better now.
Actually what Quaid Guarino invented is something new you can do with Legos. He got in touch with the Danish company that makes the annoying little thingies, and the top corporate executives were astounded. Or maybe they just seemed astounded because they don’t speak English. In any case, he’s now preparing to negotiate some kind of deal with the Legos Lords.
And just what did Guarino discover? He can’t tell us, because then you’d all start playing with Legos in this new way and he wouldn’t get his cut. If that seems unbelievable – and you could be excused for thinking it does – I’m willing to go back to my original story about the kid inventing an anti-pilfering device for restaurants that serve lobster.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.