Down East 2013 ©
Few things in life are more likely to incite violence than a greased cod.
In the mid-twentieth century, Britain and Iceland nearly went to war over cod. The conflict was averted only after Iceland discovered its entire navy consisted of four dinghies and an inner tube, and the surplus bombs it had purchased from Luxembourg were actually sausages.
Other incidents of cod-related aggression are splattered across history like fish guts in the wake of a trawler. Everything from the death of Hamlet’s father (“Something is fishy in the state of Denmark”) to the National Football League (ever wonder why the Miami Dolphins, named after a mammal, are referred to as “the Fish”) to the long-held belief among mothers than cod-liver oil should be forcibly thrust down the throats of innocent children, can be traced to a single cause: cod.
And don’t get me started on the accoutrements added to medieval pantaloons. Provocation, plain and simple.
Given this pattern, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone when mayhem erupted in Milbridge  on July 25, during the running of the annual Cod Fish Races.
According to the Bangor Daily News, each year, to celebrate the town’s founding (the town was founded by a cod?), four-person teams dressed in firefighter gear (the town was founded by a firefighter?) attempt to carry a dead, greased twenty-pound cod across a ninety-foot course. To make the task more difficult, real firefighters spray the contestants with water, and town residents of Icelandic heritage hurl sausages at them, while shouting “Ka-boom!”
As if that weren’t enough of a spectacle, this year, an estimated fifty or sixty people got into a big fight, either because of the way somebody was driving (the newspaper’s version) or because it’s always difficult to hold a greased cod in your hands and not be reduced to barbarity (my preferred explanation).
The toll was as chilling as sushi down the back of your shirt. The town’s manager/police chief was injured trying to halt the ichthyo-inspired savagery, as was another person. One man was arrested, several summonsed, and before it was over a dozen police units from the State Police and Washington County Sheriff’s Office were required to restore order.
My advice to Milbridge: Next year, make them guppy races.
Or dump the fish theme altogether, and go with something more tantalizing.
On August 1 in Pittsfield (motto: Maybe It’s Not The Prettiest Name For A Town, But It Beats Being Founded By A Cod), there’ll be an auction of bras.
Really. For once, I’m not making something up just to sneak juvenile, off-color jokes into what had previously been a reasonably respectable Web site. I think I filled my quota on those sorts of comments with the cod piece.
Anyway, a group called Bras 4 The Cause is auctioning off thirty bras  made by artists all across Maine, with the proceeds going to breast cancer research.
A friend of mine made one of the bras out of a wire frame covered in beer-bottle caps. It’s cool to look at, although somewhat uncomfortable to wear (I’m told), particularly on hot days. Other bras include ones constructed of fused glass, welded steel and what the organizer described as “a whimsical bustier floor lamp.”
As you can see for yourself by checking out the event’s Web site , none of them is made of fish.
Very few good things can be said about cod, but one of them is that there is no evidence they have ever harmed Maine’s forests.
At least, not yet.
The same, however, cannot be said of the Asian long-horned beetle and the emerald ash borer. These two invasive species can threaten native trees by sneaking into the state in firewood brought by campers. To publicize this danger, the Maine Forest Service has two interns dressed up as the beetle and the borer  (what does it do – show out-of-focus vacation photos until it bores the trees to death?) traveling to campgrounds to check for signs of the insects in visitors’ bras and codpieces.
Yet another reason I never go camping.
Everyone in Maine is familiar with the catchphrase “Guns don’t kill people. Codfish kill people.” Or something like that.
But in spite of irrefutable proof of the harm done to humanity by Gadus callarias and its relatives, you never hear of anyone going around trying to ban advertising for cod.
Guns are a different matter. The Boston Herald has announced it will no longer distribute the venerable Maine publication Uncle Henry’s Weekly Swap or Sell It Guide in Massachusetts because of indications Bay State gang members use it to find guns  they can buy from private owners without undergoing background checks.
Also, there’s some indication Luxembourg is using Uncle Henry’s to unload its surplus explosives (“See, it says ‘bratwurst’ on the label – that’s Luxembourgian for ‘bomb’”).
Officials at Uncle Henry’s, which is based in Augusta, say they don’t plan to change their advertising policies, but do plan to find a new distributor. To do otherwise, they say, would be coddling their critics.
While I’m on the subject of crime, the number-one threat to public safety in Portland – judging by the amount of uproar it’s created – comes not from guns or cod, but from skateboarding on Exchange Street in the heart of the Old Port. To confound youthful offenders intent on engaging in this activity, City Hall decided to install strips of cobblestones across the roadway. Unfortunately, municipal leaders were unaware of an astonishing fact:
The emerald ash borer and Asian Long-horned beetle live in cobblestones.
But that’s not the point. The real issue is that, as any idiot could have surmised, skateboarders can ride right over cobblestones .
The installation, which will cost about $2,500, has proved effective in tests involving cod fish races (“Those people are just like skateboarders,” said one mythical Portland bigshot), but its usefulness in deterring other activities – artists making weird bras, for instance – is open to question.
At Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, officials have decided to dispense with half-measures like cobblestones and interns dressed up in scary costumes. Henceforth, they will deal with unruly patients in the emergency room by blowing them up with surplus bombs from Luxembourg they bought through Uncle Henry’s.
Also, they’re getting a Taser .
Access to the device will be limited to a Bangor police officer assigned to the hospital and to doctors on occasions when those paddle thingies don’t work.
So how will the cop know when it’s OK to shock somebody’s socks off? According to the Official EMMC Big Book of Rules and Regulations, Taser use is permitted:
Only when things seem fishy.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.