Down East 2013 ©
The stereotypical image of Maine is of a peaceful, rural place, sparsely inhabited by lumberjacks, lobstermen and vacationing Hollywood celebs. More milkweed pod than iPod. Less Wii than weeds. There are cell-phone towers around, but mostly just to give the osprey a place to nest.
But this picture of a pastoral state blithely unaware of the complex technological world all around it was shattered this week, when computer hackers discovered the Legislature has a Web site  that’s inadequately protected against evil infiltrators .
The hackers planted viruses on the site where legislators normally display proposed laws, committee agendas and rule-making procedures.
Seems like an improvement.
The intruders also messed with the state budget, cutting spending to cover a projected $100 million shortfall .
In addition, they found a way to provide affordable health care; repair deteriorating roads and bridges; feed the hungry; raise math and reading levels in grades four, eight, and twelve; and fund free Fourth of July fireworks in every Maine municipality – all without raising taxes.
“Lucky we catch them before they do any more bad stuff,” said the state director of information technology, Og the Caveman. “If me find those bad people, me hit them with club.”
Legislative leaders expressed concern that other state Web sites might be equally vulnerable, particularly after video was posted on the home page of the Department of Health and Human Services showing Commissioner Brenda Harvey doing the hootchy-kootchy. But it turned out that wasn’t a hacker attack, after all. Harvey was just illustrating the moves medical providers will have to go through to be reimbursed by her department’s new Medicaid computer system .
Meanwhile, outside agitators of a different sort  were arriving in northern Franklin County. Coplin Plantation (motto: Mispronounced Since 1802 – It’s a Long A, Dummy) is hosting a national gathering of members of the environmental group Earth First!
Enterprising store owners in nearby Stratton immediately stocked their shelves with products they hoped would appeal to the radicals, such as recycled exclamation points from speeches by gubernatorial candidates.
Asked about the goals of the weekend event, one Earth Firster! said he hoped to see a lot of cool jam bands and get high. This was an initial indication that some of the hippies hanging out in Coplin had actually taken a wrong turn somewhere and thought they were at the Nateva Festival  in Oxford, where up to 15,000 people were expected to relive the simple pleasures of Woodstock Nation, except this time, the drugs would all have been prescribed by doctors specializing in the care of the elderly.
But the real threat to Maine’s tourist friendly image isn’t coming from computer geeks, geriatric Grateful Dead fans, or exclamation-mark-enhanced opponents of bottled water and wind mills. It’s emanating from the backs of battered pickup trucks with freezer compartments, the vehicle of choice for what the Bangor Daily News termed “rogue meat sellers .”
According to police, as summer arrives, these fiends rove through the state’s mid-coast area, knocking on doors and offering to sell meat of questionable quality, as well as punctuation marks stolen from Earth First! events. Officers have issued warnings that if these disreputable types are allowed in houses, they will steal whatever they can grab. And that’s not to mention what their products will do to your cholesterol levels.
All of which just goes to show how difficult it can be to distinguish honest folks from scam artists, hackers, Hollywood celebs, and people who have gotten lost on their way to the Nateva Festival. Fortunately, the Westbrook Police Department (motto: Far Fewer Complaints About Us Than the Westbrook Fire Department ) has discovered a solution:
The bad guys all dress the same.
They wear tie-dyed t-shirts, ragged shorts woven from hemp, and sandals.
Oops, sorry, that’s the way hackers, hippies attending the Nateva Festival, Earth First! members, and Hollywood celebs dress. Rogue meat sellers look almost the same, except they don’t bother with the hemp shorts. Although, you’d think going around pantless would attract unwanted attention.
But back to that discovery by the Westbrook cops. They’ve instituted a new policy with area businesses to require anyone wearing a hoodie, cap, and sunglasses  to leave the premises.
Anyone dressing to reduce the risk of skin cancer is advised to be wary about lingering in Westbrook.
Police say the hoodie-hat-shades combo is the standard uniform of “aggressive shoplifters.” Also hip hop artists and people attending New England Patriots games. People spotted in this garb will be harassed out of town or something.
But the best part is that the police have come up with a name for the outlawed look. They call it a “Westbrook Tuxedo.”
That’s cold, dude. The average street thug is going to be ashamed to show his (mostly covered) face anywhere downtown, lest his wardrobe be tagged with that one.
Which means a lot of aspiring criminals will be looking for some new diversion this weekend to take the place of petty theft. I suggest they take up pickleball .
Pickleball is a sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and shopping at a deli into one. According to the Morning Sentinel , it’s catching on big in parts of Maine where there aren’t any jam-band festivals or Earth First! conventions. Such as Somerset and Kennebec counties (motto: Please Don’t Wear Hoodies, Caps, and Sunglasses on the Pickleball Courts), where there are weekly sessions for the young, old, and thoroughly brined.
I was dismayed to learn that pickleball doesn’t involve actual pickles. The game apparently got its name from a dog named Pickles who invented it. Or something. Anyway, rather than smashing around little cucumbers with vinegar dripping off them, the sport requires hitting what looks like a Wiffle ball with what seems to be an oversized ping pong paddle while running around on a badminton court, except with a lower net. Also, I think the Scandinavian version requires players to wear skis and shoot rifles.
It seems like just the sort of low-tech activity that could restore Maine’s tattered image (hey, pine-cone breath, lose the hoodie and specs) as an idyllic escape from a techno-weary world. I can see it appealing to Nateva patrons, Earth First! devotees, and it’s just a matter of time before the hackers come out with a version we can play on Wii.
Al Diamon prefers his pickles to be dill and his music to make sense even if he’s not stoned. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .