Down East 2013 ©
Otisfield is not the sort of community that lets a huge federal bureaucracy trample on its rights. Portland may fold whenever the feds show up. Bangor may bow down to Washington’s authority. Even Lewiston has been known to grovel before the government. But in Otisfield, the spirit that made this country great still survives.
In a weirdly mutated form.
It seems the U.S. Postal Service (motto: Big. But Evil) has instituted a money-saving scheme whereby it’s been removing mailboxes  in locations that don’t get much use.
Otisfield is one of those underutilized sites. The town’s sole blue box gets about six pieces of mail deposited in it each day, far below the national standard of at least twenty-five items. Apparently, people in Otisfield don’t send as many anonymous threatening letters to federal agencies as do residents of most other parts of the country. The post office figured it wasn’t worth the cost of maintaining a box for so apathetic a population and announced last month it would be removing the receptacle in early July.
Shows what the P.O. knows about Little O. Because this particular mailbox was more than just a place to toss deranged rants against autocratic authority. Otisfield’s mailbox is in many ways the center of community life.
In summer, residents use the roomy box as a screen house. In fall, with a coat of camo paint, it serves as a hunting blind. In winter, they flood the center of town, let the area freeze, and employ the mailbox as a warming shed for skaters. In spring, the entire population sometimes hides there from the black flies.
No wonder one woman threatened to chain herself to the box if black helicopters started circling overhead.
The protest has attracted nationwide attention. The mailbox has been invited to appear on Letterman. A book and movie deal is said to be in the offing (Keanu Reeves is rumored to be interested in playing the box, although that’d be quite an emotional stretch for him). The United Nations has offered to send a mediator (“We’ve got one who did a great job in Sudan”).
And the Postal Service has, at least temporarily, backed off. At last report, the box was still in place.
However, the price of a stamp in Otisfield has increased to $1.88.
Meanwhile, things have gotten ugly in the world of lobstering. On Matinicus – a small, barbaric island so distant from the Maine coast that it’s practically in Europe – one lobsterman allegedly shot another one , apparently in a dispute over who was going to put his traps where.
I may never be able to read another Eva Murray posting  without getting a cold shiver down my spine.
The wounded man survived, although he’s still hospitalized. State officials have shut down the fishery around the island  until tensions dissipate.
If that doesn’t defuse the situation, they plan to take away Matinicus’ mailbox.
But even in parts of the Maine coast where there’s no violence and plenty of mail service, lobstermen aren’t happy. Perhaps it’s because they’re called “lobstermen,” which makes it seem like they’re half human and half crustacean. Or maybe it has something to do with prices being so low, they’re considering a work stoppage .
Not all the lobster-related news is quite so grim. The Maine Red Claws, Portland’s new NBA Development League team (its mascot is a red, cooked lobster, except it also appears to be alive, so that’s kinda creepy) announced it has hired its first coach .
He’s Austin Ainge, son of Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. The Red Claws are affiliated with the Celtics, but team officials said that wasn’t a factor in the hiring. The younger Ainge got the job because he was the only candidate who didn’t make fun of the mascot.
Enough with lobsters, violence and government intrusions. Let’s talk about art.
Giacomo’s is a nice Italian café in Bangor, the kind of place you’d expect to find works by local painters on the walls. Recently, Giacomo’s has been displaying a huge piece called “Brady in Bangor,”  which depicts New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady holding yet another wedding celebration, this time by the Paul Bunyan statue.
Sorry, wrong Brady. The artwork by the late Leon Treadwell recalls the day in the 1930s when federal agents gunned down gangster Al Brady and another member of his gang in downtown Bangor. Brady was wanted for inhibiting the removal of a receptacle belonging to the U.S. Postal Service. Also, for murder, racketeering, and short lobsters.
Treadwell’s painting has drawn some negative reaction. It shows Brady taking a bullet, complete with blood splatter.
On second thought, hold the red sauce.
It also features a rendition of Brady’s corpse on the morgue table.
Giacomo’s owner polled his customers and over three-quarters of them approved of the artwork, so for now, it’s staying. I suppose a portrayal of historic mayhem goes well with lobster fettuccine.
What it won’t go well with is any dish with clams in it. But that’s not the painting’s fault. Maine is currently in the midst of an unprecedented attack of red tide , a toxic algae that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning. It makes clams and most similar critters unfit to eat. Almost the only shelled entities it doesn’t affect are lobsters and mailboxes.
Speaking of shells, First District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree came out of hers recently by taping an appearance for airing on “The Colbert Report. ”
Among the hot topics Pingree dealt with, under withering questioning from host Stephen Colbert, was whether Mainers have running water and something to do with chickens wearing sweaters. Pingree said she put herself in that absurd situation, segments of which are supposed to air on the Comedy Central network in the next few weeks, because it’s important for members of Congress to be accessible.
If the congresswoman really wanted to be accessible, she wouldn’t have wasted her time on national television. She’d have just promised to buy every one of her constituents a beer. Beer makes everyone convivial, even burglars.
Take for instance Scott Cote of Ellsworth, who allegedly broke into a house in Bar Harbor recently. The owner was asleep at the time, but woke up to find the intruder in his bedroom. But to defend himself, did the victim reach for a gun? For a poisonous clam? For a sweater-wearing chicken?
He offered the thief a beer  if he’d agree to leave.
It worked. Cote was arrested shortly thereafter, at which time police discovered the beer he’d been given was the non-alcoholic kind. Talk about a double cross.
I don’t recommend Pingree try that trick.
I’ve put my idea for a district-wide, federally funded beer fest in a letter, and I’ll be forwarding it to her congressional office as soon as I can find a mailbox. The one I usually use seems to be missing.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.