Down East 2013 ©
Contrary to popular opinion, I have nothing against water.
This naturally occurring substance, in both its solid and liquid forms, is essential for making a decent highball. It’s also useful for extinguishing inadvertent fires. And I’m certain the season on delicious Maine shrimp would be greatly curtailed without an ocean full of it.
So, put me down as cheerfully admitting to carrying the water for, um, water.
That stated, I confess to not being much of a connoisseur of the stuff. I’ve noticed the municipal water in Saco is awful, mostly because it eats through paper cups. I’ve had sludgy-tasting swallows in places as diverse as Rumford, Belfast, and Bangor. And I find the taste of Portland’s water is greatly improved after it’s been treated by a process that turns it into beer.
Other than that, I’m content to use the stuff from my well or other convenient sources for personal hygiene, laundry, food preparation, and removing unpleasant odors from the dogs (“Ugh, you smell like Saco tastes”).
When it comes to drinking it straight, however, that just seems wasteful and unnecessary.
There are, however, those who are fixated on the taste of water. This odd obsession sometimes takes the form of annual contests to determine which locale in Maine will be honored as having the finest source, a prize that must be worth dozens of dollars in additional tourist trade.
Awards were given in two categories: treated and untreated. I briefly considered entering the treated competition, since my well water, mixed with a hefty slug of Scotch, is both microbe-free and invigorating. But it turns out the treated water is supposed to have chlorine in it. Seemed pointless.
In case you’re wondering, the Alfred Water District  has the best treated water, according to this year’s judges. And you know they must be right, because, according to the Portland Press Herald, it’s “served at the York County Jail.”
Before you decide to get yourself incarcerated in order to sample this most exalted of thirst quenchers, keep in mind that the water from Alfred was beaten out for the grand prize by the untreated nectar that flows from wells in Solon .
One judge described it as “Smooth.” Another said it was “crisper” than its competition. Had a lovely hue – no hints of yellow – as well as a rich bouquet and a pleasant lingering aftertaste with hints of pine needles, smelt scales, and bear poop.
I’m making that last batch of stuff up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the judges quoted above are, too. But if it keeps these kooks happy and as far as possible from places I drink the liquids of my choice, this contest thing is certainly a worthwhile enterprise.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t all there was to say about water in the week just concluded. For one group in the state, contact with the frozen form of the compound has proved to be little short of disastrous.
The last time the Lewiston Maineiacs hockey team  won a game most people still thought Tiger Woods was a faithful husband. They believed the New England Patriots were a lock for the playoffs and a likely Super Bowl contender. They figured there was no way the Boston Red Sox would let shortstop Alex Gonzalez slip away.
It’s been fourteen games since Lewiston has tasted victory  (a taste that most athletes prefer to water), and, after a promising start to the season, the team has slipped into the dregs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League , an organization with a name that may seem less oxymoronic in French. Or perhaps not.
I’m about as much of an expert on hockey as I am on judging water-tasting contests, but it appears the Maineiacs’ problems hinge on defense (bad), offense (poor), and luck (cursed). On the bright side, the team is nowhere near the league record for consecutive losses, which is twenty-seven. By the time Lewiston gets there, Tiger may be back in everyone’s good graces.
The Maine Red Claws  made their home debut  on Dec. 4 before a packed house at the Portland Expo, and it turns out the rumors they’re some kind of synchronized swim team were false. This is disappointing, because it means there’s no way to work a reference to water into this item. Spit, maybe. Sweat for sure. But water, no.
The NBA Development League expansion team rolled to an easy victory over the Springfield Armor (somebody should have told those guys that uniforms made of Kevlar with titanium-steel cups were going to be a problem).
Enough about contests of one sort or another. It’s time to think about your next vacation. Why not consider taking a little jaunt into outer space? A Portland travel agency  is offering seats on Virgin Galactic’s recently unveiled SpaceShipTwo .
The 2.5-hour suborbital flight, scheduled to lift off in 2011 costs a mere $200,000 per person. For that price, I don’t imagine you’ll have to pay extra for bottled water, and you ought to be offered a choice of Alfred or Solon.
Finally, we come to the important issue of diversifying Maine’s agricultural production. Blueberries and potatoes are all very well, but this state needs more than that to boost an economy hard hit by recession. We need a crop that would be what cotton was to the Old South. What rice is to southeast Asia. What spinach is to Popeye.
Hey, how about marijuana?
Well, actually pot is probably already Maine’s most profitable harvest, seeing as how it can be grown indoors year-round. But the minor inconvenience of its illegality has always been something of a drag on the industry’s growth.
That could be about to change.
Since voters in November approved a referendum creating a medical marijuana distribution system for patients with certain serious illnesses, the state has been getting inquiries from greenhouses  interested in producing the drug under controlled conditions.
Officials are somewhat skeptical of the idea, possibly because such legally sanctioned operations would put a terrible dent in the profits of existing growers, thereby dealing a crushing blow to one of the few bright spots in the economy.
But if the powers that be stop to think about this idea carefully, I’m sure they’ll see that letting your local landscaping company grow cannabis along with the ornamental shrubs and poinsettias makes at least as much sense as … well,
Al Diamon is thirsty after all this writing. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org , while he’s busy mixing up a cocktail he calls the Solon Aquifer Polluter.