How To Tell If It’s Scenic
There’s a sign on Route 27 in Kingfield informing northbound drivers that this particular roadway has been designated a scenic highway by some powerful government authority with excess time on its hands. Good thing, too. Otherwise, motorists would probably never suspect there was pretty scenery to look at, what with no clues except vistas of the Carrabassett River, Bigelow Range, Sugarloaf, Chain of Ponds and the like. They’d breeze right on through into Canada, texting, talking on cell phones (although there’s not much service in that area), singing along with the radio (although there’s not much of that, either) or watching DVDs on their laptops. Anything but looking out the windows.
Think of all they’d have missed if some bureaucrat hadn’t had the foresight to put up that sign.
In all, Maine has fourteen official scenic byways, as designated by the state or federal governments. None of them is in Lewiston, which is odd because there’s a lot of interesting stuff to look at on Lisbon Street. Bangor gets ignored, as does Augusta. But the Grindstone Scenic Byway runs right through downtown Millinocket, and you really can’t beat the view from there.
Unfortunately, a transportation bill currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives (motto: Sharing Insider Trading Secrets Since Before The Teapot Dome Scandal) eliminates all funding for the National Scenic Byway program, possibly because any idiot can tell when something’s scenic. Unless Maine’s powerful congressional delegation (motto: Not Actually All That Powerful) can reverse the influence of the anti-scenic lobby, the state stands to lose a little less than $300,000 a year that it’s been using to put up those signs and make other prissy little improvements.
The possibilities are dreadful to consider. Tourists may accidentally wander into Rumford. Day trippers may find themselves in Lincoln. Leaf-peepers may swerve through Westbrook. Senior citizen bus tours could end up in Presque Isle. Because without those signs, there is no legally acceptable way to decide what’s scenic.
This is a serious problem, one the Portland City Council has taken a major step toward addressing. Portland likes to think of itself as a ritzy place, even though Congress Square in the middle of downtown has that ugly park on one corner and what looks like the aftermath of a terrorist bombing on another. But those blots on the landscape are nothing when compared to the hideousness associated with what tourism officials say is the number one complaint they receive from visitors to the city.
Gang members? No.
Dog poop on sidewalks? Uh uh.
Absurd prices in Old Port gift shops? Don’t be silly.
Lack of public restrooms? They don’t come here to pee.
The biggest detriment to observing Portland’s beauty is cigarette butts.
To deal with the litter smokers throw on the city’s streets, councilors have enacted an ordinance calling for anyone improperly disposing of such materials to be deported to Millinocket. Also, there’s a $100 fine. People caught spitting tobacco juice in the gutter will be shipped off to Rumford.
Forest Avenue may look like the highway to hell. Bayside may still feature scrap-metal yards. Riverton may continue to decay. But you’ll be able to eat dinner off the pristine paving stones in Monument Square.
Just don’t leave any crumbs. There’s a fine for that, too.
Those concerned that the Portland councilors are meddling too much in the lives of citizens will be relieved to learn that the council also voted to allow the sale of raw milk at its farmers’ markets. That product was previously banned because it didn’t meet federal guidelines for being scenic. But after carefully viewing glasses of pasteurized moo-juice and the unaltered variety, the city fathers and mothers concluded that one looked about the same as the other.
“You can’t actually see the germs,” a councilor said.
As a result, raw milk will be sold without a warning label, making it virtually the only product in the United States that doesn’t require one, including this posting (Warning: This Review Of The Week’s News Is For Recreational Purposes Only. Not Intended To Be A Significant Source Of Real Information).
Which brings us to the next issue of how state government is gearing up to protect the public safety. It’s building a big wall along both sides of Route 202, so drivers won’t have to see how un-scenic Sanford is.
Oops, sorry. Hope I didn’t offend anyone in Sanford with my juvenile attempt at humor. There’s no big wall. The state is instead digging a big hole to put Sanford in.
Also, health officials are on high alert in an attempt to stop tattoo parties, which are parties where people get tattooed. This is illegal, because people with cheap tattoos are ugly, thereby making Maine less scenic. Also, the tattoo artists at these parties are often unlicensed, which means their dogs might have rabies. Or that could be a different license. There are so many, I get confused. In any case, if you must get tattooed, go into one of those dark scary shops full of bikers and dope fiends, where you’ll find clean, friendly and fully legal tattooists prepared to give you something to regret for the rest of your life.
Finally, it’s time for our name of the week, the popular feature I just invented so I can introduce you to Togue Brawn. She’s the first person I’ve ever heard of who was named after a lake trout, but it turned out to be strangely appropriate, because after Mr. and Mrs. Brawn got done saddling her with that moniker, she grew up to be a seafood dealer. And she’s the first one in the state licensed to sell scallops on the half shell.
I think they’re supposed to be a delicacy that way. I don’t know. I admit I mostly just brought this up because her name is Togue. Which is certainly a better name for a girl than, say, Crappie or Hagfish. Kind of pretty, really, when you look at it like that.
Al “Large Mouth Bass” Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.