Mainers, Eat Your Pine Needles To Ward Off the Flu
Perhaps you’ve wondered why the insects that live in white pine trees never get the flu.
I know I have. I’d be gazing out the window in my bedroom, where I’d been confined for three days suffering from the swine flu or the avian variety or whatever kind you get from bedbugs, and I’d see this little booger crawling around in the pines, seemingly without a care. He didn’t get a flu shot. He probably doesn’t even have a primary-care physician. He certainly can’t afford health insurance. Yet, he feels fine, and I, who took all those precautions, feel like crap.
It’s not fair, I’d cry. What’s he got — besides six legs, wings and an exoskeleton — that I don’t have?
Now, I know the answer.
According to researchers at the University of Maine (motto: No Bug Is Gonna Beat Us At Being Healthy), the needles of white pine trees are full of shikimic acid, which happens to be the stuff they use to make Tamiflu, the drug that keeps people — except me — from getting the flu.
Until now, most of the world’s supply of shikimic acid came from the star anise, which is located light years away in the constellation Orion. It was costly to transport it the roughly one zillion miles to Earth, a journey that was complicated by meteor showers, black holes, and attacks by warships of the Zorg Federation.
It’s possible I made up most of that last paragraph, due to confusion caused by the flu.
In reality, the star anise is a spice grown in a remote part of China. I once had an excellent cocktail made by world-class bartender Chris Hannah of Arnaud’s French 75 in New Orleans that had a star anise floating in it. I mention that not because it has anything to do with flu vaccine, but just to show that I do know the difference between that kind of star anise and the home sun of the evil Zorgs.
Anyway, because of the demand for star anises to make Tamiflu and cocktails, the price has risen dramatically, until a single anise costs more than a Cadillac Escalade. If the same chemical can be extracted from Maine pine trees, you know what that means. It means the pine trees in my yard are worth more than a Cadillac Escalade.
This discovery could provide the state with an important new industry: Cadillac Escalade dealerships.
Also, shikimic acid refining factories.
Plus, now that I’m emulating my little pal the bug by munching down a handful of white pine needles every day, I’m assured of never getting the flu again. I feel great, except I’ve come down with some kind of plant fungus.
If you’d like to raise my spirits and speed my recuperation, you could get me a gift. What I’d like is a stuffed duiker.
The duiker is an African animal the Bangor Daily News described as resembling “a cross between a deer, a goat and a rabbit.”
Sort of like a jackalope, only with more class. Or more goat.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, there’s no way I could ever locate a stuffed duiker here in Maine and even less chance I could correctly pronounce its name if I did find the thing.
Wrong on both counts. It’s DIE-ker. And there’s one available for free in Newport.
Nokomis Regional High School science teacher Howard Whitten has over two dozen stuffed animals he got from the Smithsonian Institution (he must know some important people there, because whenever I’ve visited, they’ve arrested me for trying to carry off the exhibits), but he has no permanent place to display them. So, he’s offering them for free to anyone with the space for a duiker or a lion or a Zorgian shikimic-acid-spewing hellbeast. If I clean out the bedroom closet where my wife keeps her wardrobe, there’d be plenty of room for a mutant rabbit/goat/antelope creature to be properly housed. I’ll take a lion, too. It’ll look good where the dining room table used to be.
Speaking of unusual decorating ideas, the city of Portland is currently seeking public comment on proposed designs for new benches that will be placed alongside the recently opened Bayside Trail.
Based on the photos I’ve seen, the benches have been carefully crafted to comfortably accommodate the posteriors of duikers, jackalopes and members of the Zorgian Imperial Guard. People butts? Not so much.
One has metal sculptures of cormorants on it. Another looks like children’s playground equipment gone horribly wrong. None of them look much like benches.
A couple of the designs even bear an unsettling resemblance to “Tracing the Fore,” a controversial work of public sculpture located — at least for now — in Portland’s Boothby Square.
The Portland Public Art Committee (motto: Spreading Art Like A Flu Epidemic) is currently considering ripping that piece from its place on a traffic island and relocating it to a more appropriate site.
Such as Iran.
That’s because many people find what looks like a bunch of metal saw blades sticking out of the ground to be ugly, dangerous and a provocation to the mole people who live beneath Earth’s surface awaiting the glorious day when their allies in the Zorg Federation attack and destroy the puny human race.
Sorry, flu relapse.
In any case, it seems that if the Bayside Trail is already scheduled to be blighted by benches on which no one will ever dare to sit, it might also be a good location for “Tracing the Fore,” where the unwanted spiky thing can, at last, feel at home among other hideous objects d’art.
While I’m on the subject of feeling at home in unusual places, I’m reminded of a report from the state police in Newport (strangely enough, the current home of Maine’s only stuffed duiker — coincidence or conspiracy, you be the judge).
A trooper patrolling Interstate 95 was notified of complaints about a vehicle that was driving erratically and exceeding the speed limit. The cop eventually pulled over the offending driver, only to discover the woman wasn’t drunk. She was just distracted from operating her car because she was busy pumping breast milk into a container.
The police shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, most accidents are caused by boobs.
Shouldn’t she be fortifying that breast milk with Maine-produced shikimic acid? E-mail opinions to me at email@example.com