Visiting Dresden? Bring Scuba Gear
I’m not a big believer in GPS. My wife, who wears one of those medical alert bracelets that notifies rescue workers that she’s “Directionally Impaired,” recently used her son’s GPS to navigate from Fryeburg to Bethel. Apparently, no one told the device that Route 113 is partially closed in the winter. Because not only is that the road the authoritative voice sent her on, it’s also the one it kept trying to return her to after she discovered the way blocked.
She only made it home after the unusually early spring melt.
My friend from New Jersey insists on using GPS whenever he visits Portland. I get occasional emails from him (“I’m parked next to a big statue of Paul Bunyan”), but he hasn’t been seen since December.
It’s not just GPS that’s prone to misdirection. Google Earth currently shows a couple of streets in my neighborhood that don’t connect to anything else. The only access property owners of those isolated byways have to their camps is by swimming up the Carrabassett River from Kingfield.
Until now, I thought it was just me and my immediate circle that had doubts about space-based navigational systems. But the entire town of Dresden recently discovered that, according to Google Earth, it’s not only in the wrong place, it’s also underwater.
The citizens of Dresden had been under, not water, but the impression they lived in on mostly dry land in Lincoln County. Sure, there were some hints that might not be correct, such as the number of local babies born with fully functioning gills or the fact that half the board of selectmen was composed of perch. And Dresden was one of the few municipalities in the state that had to regularly dredge its schools for invasive milfoil.
But, in general, the townspeople though they were where they were supposed to be. Until somebody checked online. Google Earth showed Dresden was thirty miles off course and was actually located deep in Lake Auburn.
That can’t be good for water quality.
Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time a Maine municipality has found itself in this damp situation. Since 1950, Flagstaff has experienced unusually high tides, even though it’s nowhere near the coast. In part, this may be due to the big dam built by Central Maine Power to harness the Dead River (motto: Not A Great Name For A River, But A Heck Of A Name For An Oil Company) while also creating Flagstaff Lake. In any case, Flagstaff’s situation can’t be blamed on Google Earth.
So far, Dresden has taken the news in stride. The town has ordered several truckloads of sump pumps, a gross of hip waders and a dehumidifier the size of that Paul Bunyan statue. Residents no longer need to pay excise tax on their cars, but several have been cited for failing to register their submarines. And the local well-drilling business has fallen off sharply.
Speaking of watercraft, Joshua Prokey of Westbrook was not about to be caught unprepared if his city ended up on Google Earth’s list of places where the water table exceeded the available solid ground. For some time, Prokey has been constructing a pontoon boat out of odd bits and pieces. In his original design, the boat used old oil drums for flotation, but after he expanded it, something larger was required.
Such as propane tanks.
On March 2, Prokey was stopped by an army of police as he was transporting a truckload of those very items through Windham. The cops were concerned that he might be building some sort of weapon of mass destruction. Their suspicions were further raised when they spotted a bumpersticker on his truck that read, “Death To American Capitalist Enterprises Such As Google Earth.”
It turned out he was telling the truth about the pontoon boat, and the bumpersticker proved to be something some blogger named Al Diamon made up. Unfortunately for Prokey, though, one of the tanks he had was listed as stolen, so he was arrested, and the law enforcement community could feel justified in having assembled a force capable of invading a medium-sized Middle Eastern nation, because they’d successfully cleared up a crime.
As for Prokey’s boat project, it currently floats about as well as Dresden.
The public safety was further protected in Bar Harbor, where local law enforcement arrested Batman. Actually, he calls himself the Bar Harbor Batman, apparently to avoid confusion with the Dark Knight of Gotham City. In reality, he’s Christopher Schwartz, just your average guy who likes to dress up as the Caped Crusader and do weird things. Such as posting a message on Facebook on April Fools’ Day in which he threatened to blow up the local hospital if he wasn’t given a million bucks. Just a joke, he insisted. His taste in jokes is, well, who am I to criticize other people’s taste. (Although, to date, I haven’t been taken into custody on any taste-related charges, which is more than I can say for him. Also, I don’t dress up like a superhero. I’m more into the slovenly ne’er-do-well look of a guy who might steal your propane tank.)
On the subject of tasteful guys, there’s Freeman Anthony, formerly of Jackson. Anthony now lives in Washington (the state, not the president) and makes sidewalk slabs out of old toilets. He calls the product Poticrete, and it’s a big hit in Washington (the state, not the baseball team), where he says the locals describe it as “cute and great.” The locals in Washington (the state, not the Maine county) are apparently easily amused.
Finally, there’s the complex legal matter of whether two businesses in Bangor can market sandwiches based on those sold at the Coffee Pot, a now-defunct local landmark. One of these places has filed a ten-count civil complaint against the other because Bangor isn’t big enough for two sandwiches both using the word “Deluxe” in their names.
I had intended to visit both places this past week to try their versions and make a determination as to which deserved to carry on the legacy of the original. But when I punched in my destination on the GPS, it took me someplace else. I’m not sure where, but I can see some guy dressed like Batman in a homemade pontoon boat floating above me. He appears to be dredging for old toilet parts.
Al Diamon would be lost without email. His address is firstname.lastname@example.org.