Down East 2013 ©
The pharmaceutical industry may be trying to change its image. After years of putting out miracle drugs with names that sounded like they were stolen from comic-book villains (“End the curse of restless cuticle syndrome with new Volterannz. See your doctor if your fingers stiffen for more than four hours, as this may be a sign of a rare-but-serious side effect for which you will need prescription-strength Glactophantec, which should not be used if you are sleepy, intend to become sleepy or have friends who get sleepy, particularly when you are describing your various aliments and the multitude of drugs you have to take to deal with them, which ought to include reformulated Xorbitrexxor because it may reduce your chances of severe running off at the mouth by as much as 40 percent, although it doesn’t seem to be helping me all that much, right at the moment”), the drug makers seem to be undergoing an extreme makeover. (“Become a completely different person. Ask your doctor if Nitropheramonik is right for you.”)
Instead of putting out more medicines with creepy names and even creepier side effects (“do not take Kraackenonium if you believe you were a 1950s child-TV star named after an aquatic rodent – no, not a muskrat, you idiot”), Big Pharma has hired Jerry Mathers, the actor who played the title role in “Leave It To Beaver,” to hop on a bus called the “Help is Here Express” and travel through Maine offering free or nearly free drugs to low-income patients. 
By the time you read this, Mathers, who has diabetes, will already have visited Fort Kent, Presque Isle and Houlton, but there’s still time to catch him on Tuesday in Bangor and Lewiston. The bus – without Mathers – hits Rumford and Bridgton on Wednesday. (“If your town was ignored by a minor celebrity and it’s caused you to sink into depression, you may benefit from Masochismanoa, now without inadvertent additives from poorly supervised Chinese production facilities.”)
But what happens if the pharmaceutical people can’t provide you with all the drugs you need? You probably won’t find help from the state-run Dirigo Health program, where enrollments are currently frozen and future funding is in doubt. On Nov. 4, voters soundly rejected a plan passed by the Legislature to pay for Dirigo with proceeds from a new tax on beer, wine, soda and insurance premiums. Now Gov. John Baldacci is looking to the feds to bail the health plan out,  while the Maine State Chamber of Commerce wants to discuss Dirigo’s future with the business community. 
I suppose this might be a good time to recommend everyone take a chill pill.
Well, enough of making fun of sick people. Let’s make fun of funny people.
“Bert and I” turns 50 years old this year, and Bob Bryan – the less famous of the duo, which also included the late Marshall Dodge – and a host of friends are planning a free celebration of the Maine humor icon at L.L. Bean’s in Freeport on Dec. 13. 
The original album filled with all the familiar catch phrases (“Come to think of it, you can’t get there from here”) has now sold about a million copies and inspired everyone from Garrison Keillor to Penn and Teller.
It inspired me, too. The minute I heard it, I asked my family doctor to put me on Voxizarge, which suppresses my Maine accent.
Has it worked my whole life?
I’m sure this has nothing to do with medications, but the University of Maine football and hockey teams have gotten awfully good lately. On Nov. 8, the Black Bears nipped nationally ranked Massachusetts 21-20 on the Minutemen’s gridiron. 
A day later U-Maine skated to a 2-1 win over defending national champion Boston College.
Other big winners this past week: Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for a third term, as well as Democratic 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and Dem 1st District congressional candidate Chellie Pingree. 
Big losers at the polls: legislative Republicans (“got any anti-vanishing cream?”) and gambling interests, which lost a statewide vote on establishing a casino in Oxford County and a local election in Scarborough on setting up a racino with slot machines at Scarborough Downs racetrack. 
Gamblers may be reaching for something stronger than aspirin (like a book that explains the law of averages), after getting the word that Maine’s only operating racino, Hollywood Slots in Bangor, is undergoing a “reallocation of staff” – I think that means layoffs – due to declining business. 
Slots that were once ringing up $3,500 a week in revenue are now taking in just $1,800.
So, what are people spending their money on if not games of chance or the kinds of drugs Jerry Mathers isn’t handing out?
According to the Bangor Daily News, gun sales have shown a big increase, particularly for so-called assault weapons, in the wake of the Democratic sweep in Washington, which some people claim will lead to more federal restrictions on firearms. 
It also doesn’t appear that Mainers will be spending a lot of extra cash on sex. The state attorney general is cracking down on ads for prostitutes at the online Craigslist site,  requiring everyone who places a suggestive message to give up information that could be used to track them down.
Are Viagra sales down, too? Somebody should check.
Maybe nobody in the state has any money left. Gov. Baldacci announced on Nov. 5 that state tax collections were so anemic (“paging Dr. Mathers to the economic emergency room”), he was ordering the budget for the current fiscal year cut by $150 million. 
And it’s easy to figure out why two of the three people who jumped naked into Moosehead Lake last summer to win a free sandwich from a Greenville restaurant are suffering from empty-wallet syndrome (“Lucretorvix has proven effective in reinvigorating wallets – particularly doctor’s wallets”). On Nov. 3, the two men involved were fined $250 each for indecent exposure. 
A judge found the woman who also skinny-dipped not guilty, because state law says indecent exposure only occurs when one knowingly shows off his or her genitals. Since nobody could see the female equipment involved, the noted jurist proclaimed, no crime was committed.
Laws like that are enough to make you sick.
Oh, Mr. Mathers, you’re just in time.
Al Diamon will be on vacation next week, but will catch up on two weeks worth of news when he returns Nov. 24. In the meantime, he can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.