Down East 2013 ©
There are certain subjects that cannot be satirized on a respectable Web site such as this one. Religion, for one. Ethnic groups, for another. And, of course, the Farmers’ Almanac. So, if my tone seems unusually respectful this week, it’s not because I’ve lost my edge. It’s just that I don’t want to lose my job.
(Although, maybe I won’t have to clean up my act, after all. I’ve always suspected nobody in management actually reads this blog. Time to find out. If it turns out I’m wrong about that editorial indifference, you’ll know, because this space will be filled next week with adoring little portraits of puffins, fall flowers and Margaret Chase Smith.)
The official religion of the city of Portland is the First Church of Zoning. You want to put a McDonald’s in an historic area? You are cast down into a pit of red tape and litigation. You want to keep a cow in your backyard? You are condemned to drinking store-bought milk filled with growth hormones. You want to hold prayer meetings in a residential neighborhood? Thou shalt not!
Rabbi Moshe Wilansky has been violating this holy commandment about prayer meetings for several years, inviting Orthodox Jews to his house of Craigie Street each Saturday morning to (gasp!) pray. He even mentioned the services on his Web site. He cared not for the laws of Portland, which state that churches in residential areas have to be on two-acre sites to allow parking. He was summoned to face the wrath of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
On Aug. 21, the board met, and, in its infinite wisdom, realized that this whole mess (including a protest by other religious organizations and threats of legal action by the Maine Civil Liberties Union) was making the city look foolish. It rejected complaints from neighbors (too many cars parked on the street) and city staff (trash trucks might have trouble getting through, in the unlikely event trash trucks tried to drive down Craigie Street on a Saturday morning) and ruled that current zoning allows small religious gatherings.
Hallelujah and amen. Although, I think in the First Church of Zoning, the correct exclamation is “Meeting adjourned.”
In Scarborough, no issue, not even religion, is of greater concern than the nickname of the high school sports teams. Some alumni don’t like that moniker.
You could understand their concern if they had to go through life being remembered as a member of the Screamin’ Cooties lacrosse team or the Flatulent Weasels beach volleyball squad. But Scarborough’s nickname is the Red Storm. Elicits glorious images of Soviet tanks rumbling into Prague. Or Russian tanks rumbling into Georgia. Or … well, I can see their point. 
Trouble is, some alums want to go back to the old nickname, which was dumped seven years ago, in a fit of ethnic sensitivity. Until then, the team was called the White Honkys.
Oops, sorry. The name was actually Redskins, a term that one nostalgic ex-jock told the Forecaster was “a tribute” to Native Americans.
No word on whether that person played football without a helmet.
A petition drive is currently underway calling for an advisory referendum on restoring the old name.
“Numb’s the word.” No, that’s not a description of people who can’t quite figure out when they’re being insulting. Nor is the term being employed to describe those who believe in weird methods of predicting the weather. That phrase comes from the annual pronouncement on the coming winter by the Farmers’ Almanac, the 192-year-old publication from Lewiston. 
The 2009 edition claims we’ll have a colder-than-average winter, based on a formula derived from sun spots, liver spots and the Magic Eight Ball. And now for the horoscopes.
I have examined the tea leaves, the entrails of animals and the Portland Press Herald, and I have determined that if you plan to travel across the Gulf of Maine to Nova Scotia after Oct. 6, you will get very wet. That’s because the Cat ferry is ending its service on routes from Portland and Bar Harbor  early due to high fuel costs and a weak year for tourism.
In addition to wrapping things up eight days ahead of schedule, the Cat is reducing its runs from seven a week to five for the remainder of the season.
As noted last week, Mainers (mostly ex-Mainers, really) had won four medals in the Beijing Olympics . As noted this week, the state ended the games still stuck at four.
In fact, the state lost a little Olympic ground when the Press Herald revealed that Josh Muscadin, soccer coach at North Yarmouth Academy,  was relying on methodology somewhat less reliable than the Farmers’ Almanac’s meteorological predictions in claiming to have been a member of the 1984 U.S. men’s soccer team.
After the newspaper was unable to verify Muscadin’s statements about having played in the Los Angeles games, he first said he had been on the practice squad (no evidence of that, either), but later submitted his resignation.
A course reversal for the U.S. Navy, as well. On Aug. 18, naval brass decided – under either intense political pressure or no pressure at all, depending on who you believe – to reconsider its earlier decision to dump the DDG-1000 destroyer program. 
Bath Iron Works will now get to build an extra ship and may have additional DDG-51 destroyer contracts, as well.
If you go hiking at night in Acadia National Park, bring along your doctor. And your lawyer. A group of employees from Jordan Pond House were taking their annual moonlight hike up Day Mountain, when they were detained for two hours by a couple of park rangers  for reasons that aren’t all that clear.
A woman hiker was thrown to the ground, a man hiker was handcuffed and allegedly assaulted, and the rangers refused to call for medical help or let people relieve themselves in the bushes. An investigation of the incident is underway, but in the meantime, I will not be making any jokes about park rangers.
I’ll make jokes about sharks, instead. Because there aren’t any sharks near my house. Nor are there any animal-rights activists. So, I can take a few shots at them, too. And I can do it in just one item. That’s efficiency.
The Humane Society of the United States (motto: Meaner Than Any Park Ranger You’ve Ever Run Into) tried to stop last weekend’s shark tournament in Saco  (motto: Killing Sharks Before Sharks Kill Us – For Charity) by complaining to the city and to nonprofit organizations that benefit from the event.
The society says the tournament is cruel and a threat to the declining shark population. Organizers say the 45 boats that participate raise money for worthy causes, and the half-dozen sharks that get killed are used for scientific research.
Maybe a nice prayer meeting would help resolve the conflict. If Saco zoning allows it.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com .