Down East 2013 ©
On August 11, the French Press Eatery in Westbrook held a grand reopening to celebrate its renovations, which included a bar and accommodations to serve dinner.
Three days later, the place closed .
The co-owner, James Tranchemontagne, said he didn’t have enough cash to keep the restaurant operating, thereby making himself eligible for the BP-Worst-Advance-Planning-Since-The-Gulf-Oil-Spill Award.
Six days later, Tranchemontagne announced the French Press would be back in business on August 24 .
He said friends and customers had come forward to suggest ways he could survive, and he was close to finding a partner who’d provide additional capital. The French Press was immediately awarded the Brett Favre  Memorial Rapid-Change-of-Mind Medallion for Professional Indecision.
The last I heard, the eatery was open for breakfast and lunch only, with dinner service scheduled to resume in October. But I haven’t been doing constant monitoring, so it could have closed and opened several more times in the past few hours. Best to call ahead.
While you’re doing so, you might want to inquire about the menu. I know the French Press is well known for its doughnuts, but I’m concerned that in constantly revising his business plans, Tranchemontagne might be tempted to start serving Maine’s latest fad food:
Or as most people in the state refer to it: woodchuck.
This brings up a complex culinary conundrum. If groundhog is served as burgers, is the stuff technically called “ground groundhog”? If woodchuck is offered as a roast, would it be proper to call it “woodchuck chuck”?
I leave these distinctions to those better qualified and less occupied with having a life.
As for actually eating the critters, that was the idea of Dave Seward, a hardware store owner from Gouldsboro , who was facing a crisis of such proportions that it would have caused the French Press to open and close half-a-dozen times.
Woodchucks were eating his parsnips.
I’m not sure why this was such a big deal, since I’d much rather eat a groundhog or even a skunk than a parsnip. But Seward apparently doesn’t share my refined tastes. So he shot several of the fat little buggers. And then, he ate all but one of them.
What matters here is not what it tastes like, though, but what Seward did with the remaining woodchuck. He propped it up near his parsnip patch as a suggestion to other woodchucks that if they were hungry they could take their chances with his gun or play the odds that the French Press was open.
This tactic caught the attention of PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – which was annoyed more by Seward’s attitude than his actions. A spokeswoman told Maine Public Radio, “In the interviews that this guy did, it was obvious that he did get a kick out of, not just killing and eating these animals, but out of hanging the body of the third animal up to frighten other groundhogs.”
PETA has a point. There are plenty of less brutal ways to frighten groundhogs. For instance, there’s ugly architecture.
The Web site Maine Observer recently published a posting by Patrick Banks on the five most hideous architectural wonders in Greater Portland .
They include Franklin Towers (“a fine example of Soviet Sentimental architecture”), the Maine Medial Center parking garage (a “simple concrete structure that reminds me of a ziggurat, only not shaped like a pyramid”), the Maine Mall in South Portland (once a pig farm), the Cumberland County Civic Center (a “disco-era behemoth”) and the Wyman power plant in Yarmouth (greatly improved if it fell into ruin and was used for Satanic rituals).
What do all these sites have in common? That’s right, no woodchucks. See, a complete lack of taste in building construction is a non-lethal alternative to firearms in matters of critter control.
Except when it comes to rats. All those places probably have to worry about rats, and I don’t think even eating some of them (on the whole, I’d rather have parsnips) or hanging their little corpses for their comrades to find is likely to solve that problem. When it comes to rats, there has to be death and destruction on a scale that’s never going to meet with PETA approval.
Still, it might be worth trying ersatz explosives  of the type an unsuspecting couple recently found in their new home in Millinocket.
While cleaning out the place (the previous owner had left behind a year’s supply of food and water in the basement, because you never know when all the supermarkets within a day’s drive of Millinocket are going to pull a French Press and announce they’re closing), the purchasers discovered what appeared to be seven sticks of dynamite attached to a timer and an alarm.
For some odd reason, they thought the thing was a bomb.
After the neighborhood was evacuated, police determined two things:
And there wasn’t a rat in sight. Or, for that matter, a groundhog.
Apparently, the device was a fake used in training exercises (the old owner, the one with all the food and water in the basement, had been the police chief in Houlton), but you can’t expect a woodchuck to know that. One look and they’re on the first bus to Gouldsboro.
If you think fakes like that don’t work, consider the case of two 18-year-olds in Falmouth, who went to Walton Park to enjoy the summer weather, get some healthful exercise and – allegedly – to break into cars and steal stuff.
Little did these intrepid fellows suspect that the police were conducting a surveillance operation in the park in an effort to halt a wave of thefts from autos. The cops had placed a “bait car” in the parking lot, a vehicle with valuable items (French Press gift certificates, framed photos of Franklin Towers, a year’s supply of food and water) inside it in plain sight. One officer intended to hide nearby in the woods, while another sat in the van with a one-way window so he could observe the scene.
So, did the two teens fall into the trap?
Instead, they broke into the surveillance van , the one with the cop in it.
They didn’t notice him because he was behind a curtain, but he got an excellent view of them. That’s because after they stole a bottle of water (see, it makes sense to have a year’s supply on hand), they stood in front of the one-way window and smoked some pot in a pipe made from a carrot.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that a pipe made from a carrot is a bad idea because it could easily be eaten by woodchucks.
You’re correct. But before that could happen, the police arrested the pair and charged them with being the dumbest lawbreakers since William Tardif  wandered into the Farmington police station with his shoes stuffed full of cocaine.
Their work done, the officers headed for the French Press for doughnuts. But it was closed.
Al Diamon has tried groundhog, but much prefers doughnuts. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org