In Portland, It’s Best to Stand Up
Comedian: Where does a guy from Portland sit down?
Sucker: I dunno. Where?
Comedian: On his butt, of course.
Sucker (picking up blunt object): This is gonna hurt you almost as much as that hurt me.
All joking aside (consumer alert: author is lying), there isn’t much humor in the question of where Portlanders will plunk their derrieres when they tire of walking on the city’s new Bayside Trail.
Unless you happen to think artists are funny.
Which I do.
For months, Portland’s Public Art Committee (motto: Ugly Is Not An Impediment) has been trying to select a design for benches to place along the pathway, which runs from the Eastern Prom to Elm Street, a stretch of the city where people often grow weary and have to sit down. The committee rejected the first round of designs because the sight of them caused passers-by to throw up. A second group of submissions produced three finalists, none of which is earning much praise from experienced bench sitters, such as J.D. Drew.
One design is a wavy concoction of wooden slats that doesn’t take into account the fact that a certain percentage of walkers on the trail are likely to be intoxicated. To them ordinary benches already seem to undulate. They’re likely to lose their balance just looking at this concept.
The second is a series of granite pieces designed to look nothing like benches. They also appear to have features that could cause serious injury if someone actually tried to sit on them.
The third is intentionally crafted to look like a pile of packing crates, except instead of being made of wood, they’re concrete. Homeless people will be allowed to sleep inside them.
The committee has $42,500 to spend on this project. That would allow them to buy anywhere from ten to one hundred reasonably attractive but entirely ordinary benches, because there’s a big savings if you leave out the arty-farty stuff. Tree stumps are even cheaper and have the advantage of being replaceable whenever land is being cleared. Likewise, packing crates – wooden ones – are ridiculously inexpensive when you buy in quantity. And the homeless will feel right at home. Or whatever the equivalent expression might be for what homeless people feel when they’re not at the home but feel like they are.
I’m really sorry I got into that.
Having gotten Portland seated at last, let’s move on to other conundrums. Such as the idiots who claim that steaming lobsters is cruel and unusual punishment. I like to eat lobster about as much as anything except drinking beer, so my position on this allegation has always been simple:
Who cares? I’m going to steam them anyway. I’ll take my chances on the possibility of lobsters someday rising up and becoming the dominant species on the planet, after which they’ll hold war crimes trials to convict people like me for our savagery.
“Before you are sentenced, Mr. Diamon,” the lobster judge would announce, “do you have anything to say in your defense?”
“Yes, your honor, I do,” I’d reply. “If I could just approach the bench with this container of drawn butter, this large pot of water and these shell-shattering nutcrackers, I’ll demonstrate the mitigating circumstances that led to my depravity.”
Anyway, there’s a new book out that explodes the myth of lobsters screaming when they’re boiled. To no one’s surprise, it’s called “Lobsters Scream When You Boil Them: And 100 Other Myths About Food and Cooking.” Authors Mark Scarborough and Bruce Weinstein have approached this matter in a scientific manner that I’d be happy to tell you about if I’d read the damned thing. But I haven’t and probably won’t because I don’t boil lobsters. As noted above, I steam them slowly and lovingly. OK, not lovingly.
Moving along to another maritime issue, it seems that of late charter boats in Portland Harbor have been running aground at an alarming rate. Some summer days, so many charters are hung up on something or other lurking below the surface that the Fore River can’t flow properly and backs up, turning Scarborough into a mosquito-infested swamp upon which people with more money than good sense have built homes that cost more than a dozen artsy Portland trail benches and which will soon be seized by the advance forces of the lobster revolution and turned into “re-education camps” for errant humans.
Oops, sorry, none of that has anything to do with the Fore River backing up. Scarborough was already like that.
Anyway, back to the groundings. Investigators from the Portland Harbor Commission (motto: Contains No Members Of The Portland Public Art Committee) have been checking into why these tourist-laden sightseeing boats have been wandering off course at a record pace. Among the group’s findings:
No, not like on cop cars and fire engines. Like in Greek mythology, where legends claim they lured sailors to their deaths with their seductive appearance, their alluring songs and their fifty-percent-off coupons for lobster dinners.
This possibility was dismissed by the commission, which concluded that no one can stay in business offering half off on lobster.
The second possible cause was pirates.
This idea was also rejected. As one commissioner put it, “What we charge unsuspecting tourists for lobster dinners already amounts to piracy. We’ve taken all their booty. Why bother harassing them on boats?”
Having rejected these two possible causes of the groundings, the commission was left with only one possibility (besides ineptness): Someone had been filling previously navigable portions of the harbor with illegally dumped material.
Water samples were checked for hazardous chemicals and toxic waste and came up negative.
An investigation of the Mob indicated there’d been no unusual increases in the number of people being fitted for cement overshoes.
It wasn’t until the commission conducted one final test that they learned the ghastly answer. The areas near the groundings came up positive for art.
Somebody had thrown all those oddball designs for benches overboard.
Al Diamon is not one to sit down on the job. Lie down, maybe. Nap, possibly. But he typed this entire posting standing up. Congratulations (and hemorrhoid cures) may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.