Down East 2013 ©
Carrabassett Valley resident Seth Wescott won an Olympic gold medal this week  at the winter games in Vancouver, British Columbia. Wescott triumphed in a sport called snowboardcross, which is one of those odd Olympic events that combines two seemingly unrelated activities.
Like the traditional Finnish sport, the biathlon , which involves both cross-country skiing and shooting as many members of the invading Russian Army as possible, snowboardcross calls for a diverse set of skills. Participants must be adept snowboard riders, as well as world-class experts at solving crossword puzzles.
Wescott just slipped by Mike Robertson of Canada by correctly filling in “X Games” in response to a clue that read “important snowboardcross event Seth Wescott has never won.”
In doing so, Wescott narrowly avoided bruising his ego, an injury that almost certainly would have prevented him from repeating as champion. He also took gold at the Turin Olympics four years ago, when he astonished the world by winning a competition many of the game’s organizers were unaware existed.
Wescott said then that he owed his success to training in Maine, which leads the world in the development of pens that will write at very low temperatures. (Elite snowboardcross athletes are prohibited, on pain of disqualification from international competition, from using pencils.)
Immediately after Wescott’s victory, Gov. John Baldacci announced that Maine’s insulated pen factories were gearing up production in order to meet what was expected to be heavy demand. Not only has a demoralized Canadian snowboardcross team announced it’s switching to American pens, but there are indications the writing instruments might also be purchased by the Australian loogie squad. (Loogie is an Olympic sport that combines luge and spitting, so it’s understandable that it doesn’t attract many spectators. But it’s not clear why they’d even need non-freezing pens. Autographs, maybe?) There’s also been an inquiry from Colombia, although it didn’t appear to come from that country’s official Olympic committee. The guy just said he was in the “import-export business” and wanted to know what this state’s manufacturers thought the odds were “those customs idiots will look inside a pen that says ‘Maine’ on the side, because what kind of contraband would they think could be hidden in there – lobsters?”
Actually, that’s how we sneak most of our blueberries out of the country.
Gov. Baldacci was clearly pleased with both Wescott’s win and the international attention it has focused on the state.
“What’s a five-letter word for how I feel today?” he asked a boisterous State House rally.
The room lapsed into a confused silence.
“It starts with an H,” said the governor.
“Hairy?” someone suggested, suppressing a giggle.
“The third and fourth letters are both Ps,” responded the state’s bald chief executive, exuding just the slightest hint that he might not have found that last answer to be all that humorous.
“Hoppy?” somebody asked.
“Hippy!” someone else offered.
Shortly thereafter, the rally was abruptly concluded, and future events at which Baldacci was planning to play the game his staff had dubbed “governorcross” were cancelled.
Even though the governor was cross.
Here’s something to make him feel better. Portland is going to be in a comic book .
That’s right, Maine’s most populous municipality is joining the ranks of Metropolis (Superman), Gotham City (Batman) and the Big Apple (Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Brian Williams) as the location for graphic action and adventure.
The comic is called “Seth Wescott: Snowboardcross Man.” It’s sort of like the Silver Surfer, only with crossword puzzles.
Sorry, got carried away.
The comic is actually called “Joe the Barbarian ” and is the work of New Hampshire artist Sean Murphy, who thought the city where a former girlfriend lived would be the perfect setting for a story about a disgruntled kid with elaborate and unrealistic fantasies.
I hope this comic doesn’t turn out to be about one of the candidates for governor.
In any case, Portland could use a superhero or two to resolve issues between the Cumberland County Civic Center and the Portland Pirates minor-league hockey team. (Hockey, as you probably know, is an Olympic sport, just like snowboardcross, except in place of crossword puzzles, it uses violent temper tantrums.) Rumors began circulating last week that the team might move to Albany, N.Y. , after this season if it couldn’t reach agreement with the civic center on a new lease. City officials are concerned that a town with no hockey team isn’t going to last long as the setting for a comic book, so it’s considering hiring the Priceline Negotiator to get the deal done. The Pirates intend to counter with a character called Captain Injunction and his teenage sidekick, Trademark Infringement.
Only Seth Wescott can save us now.
And when he gets here, maybe he could bring along some snow. In West Forks, the situation is so bad for snowmobilers – on whom the seasonal economy depends – that the town is trucking in snow  it’s making with equipment borrowed from a ski area.
The artificially distributed white stuff will cover trails that lead through town, so riders will not be deprived of the opportunity to buy gas, food, comic books (“West Forks Man Battles The Evil East Spoons Girl”) and Seth Wescott souvenirs (which are inscribed “Seth Wescott lives nearer to here than he does to wherever you’re from”).
Finally, one other bit of ingenuity, this time from the town of Sabattus (motto: We Also Have A Large Selection Of Seth Wescott Souvenirs For Sale Even Though He Doesn’t Live Here, Either). Sabattus has been without a permanent town manager since the last one quit in September to pursue his dream of winning Olympic gold as part of the Australian loogie team. There have been a bunch of applicants (“I’m familiar with the area because I used to be a superhero in Lewiston”), but none that really fit the job qualifications (“You must enjoy talking to people who think they know a lot more about being a town manager than an idiot like you does”).
So, the selectmen decided to rent a manager .
They contracted with a New Hampshire company to provide a town manager, an assistant manager, coffee service, janitorial duties, document shredding, souvenir vending and sensual massages – all for one low annual fee of $90,000.
The new manager even comes with his own pen guaranteed to write at temperatures as low as 30 below zero. That’s in case he has to take notes during meetings held on the town’s new snowboardcross course.
It’s never too early to start planning for the next Winter Olympics, you know.
Al Diamon (email@example.com ) wonders why staying inside by the fire isn’t considered an Olympic sport.