Down East 2013 ©
I’ve recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Louisiana (my accountant informs me the Internal Revenue Service is more inclined to accept deductions for a trip described as a “fact-finding mission” than the somewhat more accurate depiction as an “alcohol-fueled rampage into wretched excess”).
During my visit, I was able to observe a number of important and potentially significant events (contrary to what you may have heard, I was nowhere near that oil rig that exploded, leaking crude into the Gulf of Mexico, and I have several inebriated witnesses to prove it). For instance, there were the four elderly women, dressed like they just came from their monthly book-club meeting, boogying down in front of the stage at an Amanda Shaw  concert in New Orleans and singing along to a Cajun-country version of the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”
You don’t see that sort of thing with little old ladies in Maine.
They’re more into the Ramones.
There are other significant differences between our state and Lous’iana. Such as the latter’s apparent lack of any meaningful liquor laws (they still have drive-thru bars). And the way nobody thinks it’s weird if you have a mint julep for breakfast (goes great with catfish and beignets). And the off-the-beaten-path music clubs hidden behind ramshackle wine shops in the middle of industrial wastelands (“You’re from where? Maine? Man, how’d y’all find us? We never get tourists out here”).
As wonderful as all these cultural differences can be, that’s not what I intend to discuss this week (mostly because my accountant says there’s no chance the IRS is going to let me write off this trip based on a few paragraphs about boozing it up). Instead, I’d like to direct your attention to a glaring deficiency in Maine law, namely that if you accidentally injure someone by throwing a coconut at them, you can be prosecuted for assault with a fruit.
Or possibly a nut.
I’m no botanist. Or even a lawyer. But I know that as a result, you could be fined or even jailed. Also, the coconut will be confiscated.
That is not the case in Louisiana.
On the bayou, they believe in that fundamental moral truth that if coconut throwing is outlawed, only outlaws will throw coconuts. Well, and monkeys, of course. More than two decades ago, the state Legislature added coconuts to the list of “missiles” that can be thrown from Mardi Gras floats  without liability.
Once I learned this, I never again ventured out on Bourbon Street without a bag of coconuts, which I hurled with impunity at anyone who accosted me and attempted to drag me into clubs with names like “Larry Flynt’s Barely Legal.”
Unfortunately, there was no way I could squeeze forty pounds of coconuts into my carry-on for the plane trip home. Even more unfortunately, I discovered the Louisiana missile defense is of no value when introduced in Maine courts. In fact, you can’t even throw pine cones at people in this state without getting hauled before a judge.
This is wrong and I call on the Legislature to make immediate changes to state law to permit pelting with, among other projectiles, periwinkles, clams, mussels, lobsters, sea urchins, fiddleheads, alewives, blueberries, potatoes, ears of corn (in season only), and autographed Portland Sea Dogs baseballs. Otherwise, who’s going to want to vacation in Maine (or even come here on a fact-finding mission), when the opportunities for litigation-free mayhem are so much greater in Louisiana.
That said, there are other excellent reasons to legalize coconut substitutes as weapons of not-much-mass destruction. The largest of these is:
Two of these dangerous creatures were recently spotted by Maine fishermen in the Georges Banks .
It’s only a matter of time before those black fins of death are slicing through the waters of the Kennebec River, leaping high over its banks and smashing through the dome of the State House, squashing dozens of legislators, many of whom will require weeks – possibly months – to identify (“I think I saw him once at a meeting of the Committee on Bills in the Second Reading”). If you think that can’t happen, you obviously haven’t been watching such important nature documentaries as “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus .”
Rent it before it’s too late.
Once the whales have devastated Augusta, they’ll almost certainly move on to Waterville, a city that hasn’t bothered to put up a stockpile of coconuts because it’s been too busy debating a proposal to rename a natural feature off Front Street. They want to rechristen Head of Falls as Ticonic Falls .
It seems that Waterville hired a consultant to improve its image (“First, let’s teach some little old ladies to sing Clash songs”) by renaming a few local landmarks. The consultant decided the name Head of Falls evoked images of falling on one’s head, so it had to go. In its place, the expert recommended “Riverscape at Two-Cent Crossing.”
Apparently, someone had already fallen on his head.
City officials rejected that name, but also accepted the idea of doing away with Head of Falls. Their choice for a new moniker was “Ticonic Falls.” They said “Ticonic” came from an old Native American word that loosely translated as “place formerly known as Head of Falls.”
After a brief pummeling with coconuts, the officials reconsidered and decided to keep the original name. Shortly afterwards, they were eaten by killer whales.
If only all problems were so easily remedied. Alas, that’s not the case, as an organization called the Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities (hmmm, that place could use a name change – how about the Ticonic Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities) at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire has discovered. CALHC (pronounced as if you were trying to dislodge a coconut stuck in your windpipe) recently announced that people living in rural New England, including most of Maine, don’t get enough exercise .
Little wonder, given that no New England state allows the vigorous hurling of missiles from moving vehicles with intent to do grave bodily injury. This legal limitation often results in rural people hunkering down and sulking. And neither hunkering nor sulking burn many calories.
The center suggested that children walk to school (if you start Saturday morning, you’ll get there in time for lunch on Monday) and encouraging activities such as hiking and rock climbing (there’s nothing better after a hard day at the mill than scaling the dangerous heights of a cliff and getting eaten by a bear).
Obviously, not all the coconuts are being thrown off floats in New Orleans. Some of them have jobs in academia.
Finally, we come to a completely unrelated matter that has long concerned me, namely that no cool famous person was born on my birthday.
This doesn’t seem fair. My granddaughter shares her birthday (Sept. 18)  with Lance Armstrong and Greta Garbo. My friend Ruthie was born on the same day (Nov. 29 ) as Busby Berkley and John Mayall. My younger brother enjoys the festivities (May 27 ) with Wild Bill Hickok, Isadora Duncan, Dashiell Hammett, Vincent Price and Henry Kissinger.
To make matters worse, I hate “American Idol,” I flunked high school physics and live in a place where I can’t listen to “Maine Things Considered .”
That seemed a little excessive, even to me.
Although, I’ve got to admit, I was a little disappointed to find out it wasn’t about me at all. It seems my birthday also marks the anniversary of the death of Edgar Allan Poe .
Well, it beats sharing the date with Edgar Allen Beem .
Skold is currently on a twenty-two-state tour of poets’ graves (leading me to wonder if he’s a couple of coconuts shy of a palm tree) and other significant sites, which will conclude in Baltimore  on my birthday, the day Poe never-mored his way out of this world.
He was eaten by a killer whale.
Al Diamon would be happy to read e-mails sent to email@example.com  while he undergoes detox.