Are You Prepared For a Walrus Attack?
Lewis Carroll had it right. “The time has come,” he wrote in “Through the Looking-Glass,” “to speak of many things.”
The character Carroll had making that comment was not some cute little girl who had fallen down a rabbit hole, only to end up in a Tim Burton movie.
It was none other than the Walrus, as fiendish a fictional creation as anything this side of Hannibal Lecter.
Consider the Walrus’ list of topics for conversation. In addition to the usually cited “shoes – and ships – and sealing wax,” as well as “cabbages and kings,” they include “why the sea is boiling hot” and “whether pigs have wings.”
Global warming! Genetic modifications! Sealing wax that will gum up the processing equipment of the U.S. Postal Service!
How can you not feel the terror in every syllable?
That these lines are spoken by a walrus only adds to their ominous nature. For, as everyone knows, there is no more fiendish beast upon the planet than Odobenus rosmarus, which is Latin for “tooth-walking sea horse."
Really. For once, I’m not making up something that sounds completely idiotic.
Walruses are blubbery, grizzled, and smell of seafood that’s been left in the sun too long. Sort of like lobstermen. Except walruses can weigh more than a ton and grow longer than 10 feet. Males are aggressive during mating season (sort of like lobstermen), and being males, it’s pretty much always mating season.
And a messy time that is, too, if Carroll is to be believed:
“’If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,’ the Walrus said,
‘That they could get it clear?’”
Given the tender sensibilities of my readers (not to mention the censorious nature of my editors), I hesitate to delve too deeply into interpreting those lines. I’ll only say that we can all be thankful there are no amorous walruses in Maine.
Or are there?
According to the Bangor Daily News, an Orono man has discovered a piece of walrus tusk near the Stillwater River. That can only mean the beasts are coming for the University of Maine coeds.
In an effort to head off a sea-mammal panty raid, a UMaine professor sent the fragment to the Illinois State Museum, the world’s foremost repository of information … on freshwater mussels.
Scientists there quickly ruled out the object being a mussel, because mollusks don’t have huge teeth. But they were able to confirm it was a tooth, because it had a primitive whitening strip still attached to it. They estimated the tusk was about 12,000 years old, meaning it had been deposited on the riverbank around the last time the Maine women’s basketball team had a winning season.
But an archeologist at the Maine Historic Preservation Commission disputed that, saying that because of the type of soil the tooth was found in, it was probably only a few hundred years old, placing it in the era when state Rep. John Martin was first elected to the Legislature.
Martin, who is sometimes described as getting “a little long in the tooth,” denied the tusk was his.
Nevertheless, the possibility that walruses once roamed the area has prompted concern from state emergency management personnel, who fear that with the melting of the polar ice cap, the beasts will soon be back. They’ve already written grant requests seeking federal funding for anti-walrus weapons and Tim Burton DVDs.
In the meantime, the Hudson Museum at UMaine is preparing an exhibit about what Maine was like right after the last ice age (pretty much like your average mud season, only with walruses). The tooth may be included, which will give everyone the opportunity to do some threat assessing of their own. I suspect many people will come to the same conclusion as Lewis Carroll:
“It’s as large as life, and twice as natural!”
That about exhausts my annual supply of exclamation marks, so I suppose I’ll have to move on to more mundane subjects. And surely nothing fits that description better than the University of Southern Maine’s recently announced plan to reorganize its academic departments.
Instead of eight schools and colleges, USM is proposing to have five, although the change will not result in any loss of verbiage. For instance, the School of Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology will be transformed into the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Congestion, Ergonomics, Lingerie and Looking-Glasses (STEMCELL). There’d also be a Muskie School of Public Service, although now it’ll be called the Muskie College of Public Service, Management, Society, Walruses and Transgendered Restrooms.
The plan will save a lot of money because all the people who helped think up those names will be fired.
Just kidding. Those folks will get tenure, so USM can be assured they’ll be around to help with a new round of names after everything gets merged. For instance, the proposed College of Communications, Culture and the Arts could be transformed into the School for Advanced Tutorials on Filling Out Unemployment Applications.
Can any of this be true? Alas, no.
“’Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be: but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’”
Which brings to the matter of whether the Portland Pirates minor-league hockey team
will leave Maine for Albany, N.Y.
It’s like Buffalo, only with worse weather, a tulip festival, and lots of disgraced governors wandering around trying to get on “Oprah” to confess their sins. Albany also probably has walruses roaming the city streets, strong-arming local fishmongers. Sound like the perfect place for a sport that has a position called “goon.”
Let us turn once more to Lewis Carroll for some sign that Portland won’t lose its American Hockey League franchise:
“But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
That the ship would not travel due West!”
Oops, I’m over my limit on exclamations. Off with my head!
Al Diamon is more worried about the Jabberwock than the walrus. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org