Down East 2013 ©
If I was asked to choose my favorite government agency, I wouldn’t hesitate. Since there’s no United States Department of Free Beer and Bacon (a constitutional oversight for which I hold the Founding Fathers directly responsible), I’d have to go with the Federal Emergency Management Agency , commonly referred to as “those *!@#%?+! morons” or sometimes as FEMA.
I would make that selection not because I think FEMA does a particularly good job at managing emergencies – it tends to deal with them in much the same way as Bill Buckner handles dribblers down the first-base line – but because the agency has always been there for me when I was in desperate need of something upon which to heap ridicule.
If there’s stupidity to be smeared across the landscape, I can rest easy in the assurance that FEMA will not only spread it on thick, but will enhance the experience by tripping and falling face-first into the mess it’s made.
About a year ago, FEMA employed some new technology to redraw the flood maps for Portland Harbor, whereupon it suddenly discovered the entire area was in imminent danger of being washed out to sea  by “high-velocity water.”
That’s FEMA-speak for “big waves.”
In practical terms, that meant nobody could build anything new on the city’s waterfront ever again. Portland officials held meetings with the FEMA experts in which they politely pointed out that most of the harbor had been in the same place for over a century without suffering any significant water-related damages. Perhaps, they gently suggested, the revised maps were “high-velocity bull $%!&.”
That’s non-FEMA-speak for “get a clue, jerk brain.”
This disagreement inspired me to relate my personal experience with FEMA , in which the agency decided some years ago that my house, located about eighty-five feet above the nearby Carrabassett River, was in a flood zone. That meant I was required to buy expensive flood insurance. The only way to avoid that and disprove this notion to FEMA’s satisfaction was for me to spend a ridiculous sum having my property surveyed, submitting reams of paperwork indicating the new maps may have missed some topographical features (such as a honkin’ big hill) and waiting months for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn reluctantly toward reality.
It cost me a fortune, but it was worth it because I got a column out of it, which meant I could write the whole thing off as a business expense on my income tax, which meant I’d be sending less money to Washington to fund FEMA.
As for the Portland Harbor issue, FEMA was eventually persuaded (FEMA-speak for “politically pressured”) to redraw its maps to remove the flood-zone designations .
All was well.
For a few minutes.
Until somebody at FEMA said, hey, if the ocean isn’t going to flood Portland Harbor, it must be going to flood someplace else. Let’s use all our new technology and more than three-million bucks in taxpayer money to revise the maps in five coastal Maine counties to make it look like they’re about to wash away.
And so FEMA has now come up with a whole bunch of new flood plains in southern Maine .
And just like the agency’s exemplary work on previous mapping efforts, the revised zones include areas that haven’t been hit with a drop of sea water since Billy King  was governor. That’s because they’re elevated – a concept FEMA has yet to grasp.
“Our mapping process is scientifically sound,” A FEMA spokesman told the Portland Press Herald, “but it may not be as accurate as some would like.”
Which may explain why FEMA thinks Mount Katahdin is in danger of being submerged, as well as Dry Mills, Sandhill Corner, Thornton Heights, and High Pasture.
A day or two later, the fumbling feds realized they had again managed to make fools of themselves (and provided me with fodder for yet another column – I wonder if I can deduct those surveying costs a second time), whereupon they agreed to discuss the more ridiculous changes with municipal and state officials , after which they will undoubtedly discover some slight flaws in their methodology.
Although, jeez, it worked OK during Hurricane Katrina.
Earlier in this posting, I made reference to the mythical United States Department of Free Beer and Bacon. This passing mention was what’s known in the writing profession as “subtle foreshadowing.” Alert and sensitive readers (by which I mean readers who are not employed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency) would have noted the sly insertion of bacon into the narrative and thought, “I’ll bet he included that stuff not just for purposes of juvenile humor at the expense of federal bureaucrats, but because later in this piece, he’s going to have some news concerning actual bacon.”
You are correct, alert and sensitive readers. Here it is:
Among the places host Adam Richman visited was Nosh Kitchen Bar on Congress Street in Portland, where he ordered an Apocalypse Now burger , a twenty-dollar combination of cured bacon, seared pork belly, foie gras, American cheese, house mayo, and “macerated orange and cherries.”
The place also offers “bacon-dusted” fries, which any diner who cares about eating a balanced diet would also feel compelled to order.
(Just so you won’t worry, Nosh is located in one of the few spots in Maine that isn’t a FEMA flood zone, so gorge yourself in peace.)
Naturally, the Apocalypse wasn’t the only thing Richman ate while he was in Maine. He also took on the “Manimal Challenge ” at the Tradewinds Café in Arundel. This involves scarfing down two slaw or kraut dogs, an order of fries (no word on whether they offer bacon dusting), an eight-patty cheeseburger with onions, a can of Moxie, and a one-pound butter pecan milkshake with coffeecake pieces in it.
In twenty minutes.
After which, you might want to have FEMA on speed dial. Because something will soon be splashing over your shoes.
Al Diamon would be willing to try the Manimal Challenge if it weren’t for one item. He thinks that if FEMA had a taste, it would be pretty much like Moxie. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org