To Portland, One of America’s Drunkest Cities
Moderation is a beautiful thing. Restraint is to be admired. Even abstinence has its place.
I practice them all – in moderation, of course.
When it comes to eating vegetables, I strive for the middle ground. Yes to corn on the cob, BLTs and baked beans. No to everything else that’s green, unless it’s a bottle of Ballantine Ale.
I summon up my willpower whenever I’m tempted to exercise or engage in house-cleaning-related activities. I’m told that once the endorphins kick in, you can become as addicted to that stuff as heroin.
And the list of items from which I totally abstain is lengthy and includes hagus, invitations to go shopping with Lindsay Lohan, body piercing, ovulation, cosmopolitans, movies starring any of the Baldwin brothers, soccer, trench mouth, “American Idol,” Feng Shui, Dr. Phil, low-fat desserts, and political donations from the Portland Press Herald.
None of this is easy. Every morning I must gird my loins to do battle with my inner demons (not to mention my wife, who complains that she could sleep another hour if it wasn’t for all the noise the loin-girding makes). Given this extensive history of taking things one day at a time, I’m probably the perfect person to discuss whether Portland has been treated fairly in two recent polls, both of which named it one of America’s drunkest cities.
I did a good deal of investigating into this phenomenon – visiting a selection of the city’s clubs, dive bars, fern bars, saloons, taverns, watering holes, honky-tonks, gin mills, and tap houses – and I discovered there are three main reasons why people in Portland regularly get loaded. They are …
Well, I can’t precisely recall any of them, but suffice it to say that this overindulgence in alcohol isn’t some scheme perpetrated by the city’s public-relations staff in a desperate attempt to generate national publicity, thereby attracting more boozer convention business.
Or maybe it is. Like I said, I’m a little fuzzy on the details.
But in my soberer moments (generally when I’m asleep or loin-girding), I’m also a bit skeptical about the methodology behind these kinds of polls. In my drinking experience, Portland isn’t even the drunkest municipality in Maine, so it’s doubtful it’s one of the most inebriated in the nation. How come Belfast didn’t make the list? What about Hallowell? Carrabassett Valley or Bethel on a ski weekend? Old Orchard Beach on a summer night? Or any mill town on payday?
Speaking of Bethel (notice how smoothly these transitions occur, now that I’ve completed my class work in the course for bloggers called “Disguising The Awkward Shift In Subject Matter”), there’s a very good reason for residents and visitors to that scenic western-Maine town to indulge in an extra snootful of hooch. Bizarre events there would be enough to cause even stalwart members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union to rush to the bar and demand a beer and a shot. And, bartender, make it a double.
I’m referring, of course, to the Grisly Owl of Death, which has lately plagued the skies and barns of Bethel. The GO of D was finally captured last weekend, but not before it had swooped down and decapitated several chickens, who were returning to their coops after an evening spent in binge drinking.
The creepy part is the owl flew off with the chickens’ heads, leaving behind all the good parts. Plus a suitcase of cheap beer and half a bottle of bottom-shelf vodka.
Clearly, this owl isn’t the swiftest bird in the flock. Or whatever group owls hang out in. Given his propensity for beheading, maybe it’s properly referred to as a guillotine of owls.
Anyway, just like in monster movies, scientists were summoned and quickly concluded the owl was ripping the cluckers’ heads off either because it had a hankering for chicken brains, or because it had been injected with an experimental serum designed to turn it into a killing machine to be employed by a secret government agency (I’m guessing the Central Ornithology Agency) in the war on terror.
Or that could just be the low-end vodka talking.
Regardless, the experts were able to capture the owl by making chicken noises. When the infamous bird of prey swooped down to grab what it thought was a tasty fowl head, it was shocked to find a scientist’s noggin, instead. After eating one of those, it was sedated by all the boring knowledge stored inside, and was easy to trap.
Now, here’s where it gets even weirder.
Rather than just throwing the offending bird in a pot of boiling water (which would have fit the theme of this posting, because “boiled as an owl” is late nineteenth-century slang for drunk), the owl’s captors took it to a wildlife rehabilitator. There, it is undergoing intensive treatment in hopes that it can be cured of its addiction to chicken heads. I’ve heard it’s in the same group therapy sessions as Charlie Sheen.
But back to Portland and its alleged drinking problem. This past week brought signs of municipal sobering up.
On Feb. 7, the City Council (motto: You Don’t Have To Be Drunk To Listen To Us, But It Helps) voted unanimously
to remove the controversial artwork called “Tracing the Fore” from Boothby Square, and rejected efforts to relocate it elsewhere (such as North Korea).
The first time I saw the jagged metal fangs sticking out of weed patches that make up “Tracing the Fore,” I was coming out of an Old Port bar. I stopped and looked carefully at the artwork. Then, I turned around and went back inside to get a couple more stiff drinks.
Once it’s gone, I expect the alcohol business in the immediate vicinity to fall off dramatically.
Al Diamon wouldn’t be quitting for this week if you were buying the next round, but since it’s obvious you’re not, he’s off to happy hour. If you change your mind, e-mail him at email@example.com.