Down East 2013 ©
Each year at this time, the same thing happens.
With the impending arrival of summer, all news in the state of Maine officially comes to a halt. The Legislature goes home. 
A sizable portion of the population goes on vacation.
Those who don’t take off for the seashore, the mountains or the nearest “American Idol” tryout are busy with projects, like repairing the deck, tending to the garden, drinking surreptitiously in public places and flying helicopters over wooded sections of the state in search of illicit marijuana farms. Nobody has time to call a news conference or schedule a demonstration. And even if somebody did, the rest of the populace wouldn’t be much inclined to pay attention.
If some creative genius decides to spend a sunny June day discovering the meaning of life, a steamy July afternoon developing a process for turning lead into gold or a beautiful August evening working out a method for making daily newspapers profitable, there’s no point in even trying to publicize those breakthroughs until after Labor Day.
Voice mail has nothing further to say.
E-mail is taking it e-zee.
Blackberries are strictly for picking.
And use of the I-Phone is limited to ordering I-scream.
None of which is to say that summer is a season devoid of interesting topics.
Such as the wood-burning airplane.
A few weeks ago, there were reports of a pickup truck that ran on logs. But it’s a major step from that relatively primitive machine to fueling a jet with forest products. For one thing, there’s only so many cord you can stack in the aisles before it starts to interfere with beverage service.
Nevertheless, a University of Maine scientist has proposed using wood byproducts to produce jet fuel.
Dr. Hemant Pendse says, after many experiments, he’s succeeded in extracting a type of cellulose from wood that might be used to make fuel for planes. Since the Pendse method uses only scrap wood, it doesn’t divert valuable land or lumber from normal uses. It’s estimated that a jet could fly from Portland to San Francisco just using the branches in my yard that I haven’t gotten around to cleaning up after all the spring storms. Representatives of major airlines are welcome to help themselves.
Still, you never know when a shortage of wood for fuel might occur. It could happen in mid-flight, which is no doubt why former President George H.W. Bush keeps his skydiving skills sharp. To celebrate his 85th birthday on June 12, Bush jumped out of plane over Kennebunkport and floated gently to earth in tandem with a member of the Army’s Golden Eagles parachute team.
During the dive, Bush spotted two suspected pot farms and a guy drinking beer in the town park.
Let’s suppose you had to move a plane, but you didn’t have so much as stick of wood for fuel. No problem. Just call up the airplane pulling team from Pratt & Whitney in No. Berwick. These 20 muscular fellows won the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s plane-pulling contest at the Portland International Jetport on June 13. 
The annual event attracted 100 participants and raised about $12,000. The winners moved a Boeing 727 12 feet in 5.7 seconds. Which would get it to San Francisco by 2026. Or just about the time I finally get my yard cleaned up.
It will take more than the effort I normally put into yard maintenance to make Edward Little High School in Auburn presentable. The school needs millions in repairs and improvements, and nobody seems quite sure where the money is going to come from. To commemorate this sad state of affairs art students at EL erected a 15-foot-tall statue of an alligator with scales of dollar bills near the building’s main entrance. 
The gator is holding a cell phone out toward a statue of the school’s namesake, Dr. Hemant Pendse, the inventor of wood-fuel airplanes.
Oops, my mistake. The statue is actually of Edward Little, the inventor of summer vacation.
In any case, the students say the artwork is designed to convey the message that money controls their school’s destiny. Which, I suppose, it better than having its destiny controlled by alligators.
Speaking of education, there’s nothing more important for the development of young minds than seeing their school’s coach and administrators making idiots of themselves in a national magazine. Sports Illustrated’s “Sign of the Apocalypse” for the July 15 issue is:
“A jury in Maine will decide if a high school softball coach was fired because she’s a lesbian (the coach’s claim) or because she made her players walk through sheep manure at a team picnic (the school’s stated reason).”
While I’m on the topic of healthy athletic activity, it’s worth noting that three Maine players were taken in the Major League Baseball’s annual draft.
University of Southern Maine shortstop Chris Burleson went to the Cincinnati Reds, Deering High School’s Regan Flaherty of Portland was chosen by the Seattle Mariners and former Deering catcher Matt Watson of Portland was picked by the Houston Astros  (not quite as bad as walking through sheep poop, but still …).
If any of that trio signs a lucrative contract with a big league club, he won’t have to worry about paying quite as much state income tax in Maine. Before the Legislature went home, it approved a tax overhaul that lowers the top rate from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent for people making up to $250,000 per year.
Those who make more than a quarter-million a year will still see a reduction, from 8.5 to 6.85 percent. If you’re A-Rod, that’s a lot of dough.
The catch is Maine’s meals and lodging tax will increase from 7 to 8.5 percent and the 5-percent sales tax is being expanded to cover car repairs and a host of other items. However, airplane fuel made from wood continues to be exempt.
No tax break for the film industry, though.
The Legislature passed a bill authorizing $3 million to fund the credits, but the powerful Appropriations Committee refused to include it in the budget, so the proposal died. The movie will now likely be made in some other state that offers bigger kickbacks. But I think the filmmakers should be asking themselves this question:
Wouldn’t we save more if we did our shooting in Maine, where we can run our jets off scrap wood?
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .