Saving Alcohol Mary and Other Maine Icons
I don’t like boring street names. Particularly boring street names that are also misleading.
For years, I lived on Pine Street in Portland.
Spruce Street in the same city.
I moved across town to Prospect Street, but it didn’t result in any noticeable improvement in my prospects.
I also lived on Park Avenue in the same city. While Deering Oaks was right across the street, there was no place for residents to park their cars during snow storms, so that name was only half-accurate.
And what’s with Portland’s main thoroughfare, Congress Street. Congress doesn’t meet there, and sexual congress on its sidewalks is illegal.
Things improved when I moved to the mountains of western Maine. On the way through Augusta, I passed Whiskey Way, which strikes me as the sort of place that doesn’t attract many teetotalers. In Belgrade, there’s Harm’s Way and in Rome, Breakdown Lane. I took both of them at their word and didn’t explore further.
In Carrabassett Valley, I first lived on Double A Drive, a name I learned had been a compromise after the town refused to let residents name it Alcohol Alley, even though that designation would have been entirely fitting. I then moved to Hernia Hill, so christened in the days before four-wheel drive when male neighbors had to push each other’s cars up the steep incline on icy evenings (women were required to climb in the trunks for added traction), thereby placing them in danger of unpleasant strains.
And if I ever move to Minot, I’ll live on Jackass Annie Road.
This is not to say that I only appreciate street names with negative connotations. On Mount Desert, there’s a Primrose Path that never fails to evoke fantasies of Shakespearian dalliances.
But I draw the line at cutesy. If I had to live on Buttercup Lane near the Freeport-Durham line, I’d have to become a serial killer just for the ironic value.
Come to think of it, maybe the cops should take a closer look at the Buttercup residents in case I’m not the only one with that idea.
All this is to say that I appreciate eccentricity, which probably explains why I find Paul LePage so entertaining. If there was a Paul LePage Avenue, I’d steal the street sign and put it on my office wall.
Alas, others do not share my enthusiasm for the offbeat and peculiar. They prefer to live on Maple Street in Anytown U.S.A., where nobody engages in sign stealing, serial killing, or sexual congress.
They seek to rid life of any hint of impropriety, every sign of wretched excess, all the indications that somebody might be having fun.
Welcome to Alcohol Mary Road in Greenwood.
This small thoroughfare was apparently named for a Prohibition-era bootlegger, fondly remembered by those whose thirsts she slaked. But to the Hertell family, former residents of the Alcohol Mary’s old address, that reminder of the past is offensive. They want the town to change the name to something less provocative.
Nothing with “congress” in it, of course.
Arthur Hertell told local officials that he had a grandmother named Mary, who wasn’t the road’s namesake, but everyone thinks she was. He’s upset whenever people make that erroneous connection. His solution to that problem is to whitewash Greenwood’s history of any mention of Alcohol Mary and her still, and replace it with another interchangeable avenue named in honor of some species of tree or flower or adorable little animal.
Rabid Raccoon Road, anyone?
Keep in mind that Hertell no longer lives on Alcohol Mary Road, and the people who do don’t seem particularly upset about their addresses. Municipal officers have scheduled a meeting with the Hertells on June 21 to attempt to find some common ground.
Among the possibilities: a second sign to be located under the official street name that reads, “Not affiliated in any way with Arthur Hertell’s grandmother, Mary, who did not approve of bootlegging or other sinful pursuits best left to those who choose to tread the primrose path of dalliance, which seems to be somewhere near Bar Harbor.”
Another suggestion, one that removes some of the stigma associated with illegal distilling and excessive imbibing while still commemorating the historical record, is to rename the street “Recovering Alcoholic Mary Road.”
I hope this opens the door to a compromise, which I’d be happy to mediate. Just meet me at my secret clubhouse on Chainsaw Massacre Lane (formerly Buttercup Lane).
It’s easy to find. Just follow the trail of blood through the graveyard next to the old hanging tree. But hurry. The town is planning to rename the street again in the not-too-distant future.
The leading candidate is Move-Along-Folks-Nothing-To-See-Here Road.
Before I close, I have to clarify some previous comments in this space.
Last week, I was a little hard on the Portland Sea Dogs minor league baseball team.
I said they stunk. I said they were the worst team in the Double-A Eastern League. I suggested the attitude of many of the players was rank indifference. And I threatened to switch my sports loyalty from baseball to soccer.
Just kidding about that last one. I’d sooner live on Shady Oak Lane. Or have sexual congress on Congress Street.
No sooner did my posting on the Dogs’ miserable play in May appear than the team was transformed as if by magic. They ran off a six-game winning streak, equaling the number of wins they managed in the entire previous month. And they’re no longer the worst team in the league.
They’re the second-worst.
It’s been suggested (if comments that end in the words “or else” can be classified as suggestions) that I amend my remarks to reflect this remarkable turnaround.
I’m more than willing to do so.
It’s obvious that I misjudged the Sea Dogs. When I wrote last week’s posting, I thought they were beyond help. That’s clearly not the case.
All they needed was to be called out for their lousy play.
I did that, and I take full credit for the team’s revival.
They should name a street after me.
Al Diamon has taken another wrong turn on the road to redemption, but you can still reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.