Down East 2013 ©
It’s not easy being a commercial fisherman in Maine these days. New federal regulations designed to protect the sardine stock limit the catch to a half-dozen cans a week if they’re in oil or eight cans in mustard sauce.
If they want to go after live fish, it’s even worse.
Nets must have holes in the mesh big enough to allow endangered species – such as sea turtles, whales, koala bears, and incumbent members of Congress – to escape. Time at sea is strictly limited to either half the duration of Lady Gaga’s next love affair or none, whichever is less. Except on Tuesdays in odd-numbered weeks, when the reverse is true.
It’s enough to make some hardy fishing folks dock their boats and turn to clam digging to earn a living. Unfortunately, all the soft-shell clams in eastern Maine waters are being wiped out by an infestation of moon snails .
Ha ha, I can hear you saying, there aren’t any snails on the moon. Space slugs, maybe, but no snails.
Wrong again, mollusk brain. There are indeed snails on the moon, and they travel to earth with impunity, due to lax immigration enforcement. While here, they collect welfare, commit crimes, and bore little holes in clams’ shells through which they suck out all the good parts. The only way to save our remaining stock of bivalves is to build a wall around the planet and only allow snails who are rich and speak English through it.
It’s not just clams that are at risk from moon snails. The creatures are also among the suspects in a bizarre case of vandalism involving a statue  in the sculpture garden on the University of New England campus in Portland. A sizable … uh … piece was recently – and illegally – removed from a work created by Portland artist Nancy Nevergole. It depicts a naked man in an … er … aroused state.
On second thought, it might not have been moon snails. A better bet might be prudes.
But back to fishing.
As the old blues song  goes, “Any fish bites if you got good bait.”
But finding quality bait can be a problem. Expert fishermen want to be sure the rancid, stinking fish guts they put on their hooks or in their lobster traps are uncontaminated with residue from pesticides, leaking oil wells, failing sewage treatment plants, and lawyers.
For this reason, the city of Portland recently ordered a bait firm on the municipal fish pier to move its operations a safe distance away from an old warehouse that’s being converted into the new headquarters of a prestigious law firm .
Initial reports had the story backwards. They indicated the attorneys didn’t want to look out their windows and see barrels full of piscine internal organs. Nor did the barristers want to smell the odor of rotting minnows as they walked between their newly renovated building and their Beemers and Mercedes.
But that’s clearly not the case. Portland economic development officials didn’t force the bait operation to move because it offended a few wealthy attorneys. They did so because of the danger the odious emanations from legal discussions pose to bait. Once infected with those pollutants, it’s not good for anything but catching scum-sucking bottom-feeders.
I hope this dispels the notion that Portland has become the sort of gentrified haven in which the inhabitants cannot bear even a hint of the raw processes by which the essentials of life are produced. In such a sheltered place, all the unsightly, unseemly, unappetizing aspects of catching fish, slaughtering meat animals and even growing vegetables are as isolated from the consumers as … well, as a Trader Joe’s franchise is from Maine.
Although, I may have to come up with a new simile in the near future. It now appears likely a Trader Joe’s will be opening on Marginal Way in Portland  in the near future.
Just as soon as a neighboring bait shack can be torn down.
But I don’t mean to imply that Portland is losing its roots as a rough-and-tumble waterfront town in much the same way that statue lost its … uh … member. In fact, the city still has a rowdy side, as witnessed by the appearance at PT’s Showclub  of a stripper who goes by the stage name of “Sarah Paylin .”
I haven’t seen her complete act, but I think it’s safe to conclude it bears little resemblance to a tea party. Of either kind.
Portland isn’t the only place in the state trying to deal with an unruly element. In Auburn, city councilors are faced with a crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Its commercial fishing industry is dying, mostly because Auburn is nowhere near the ocean.
Maybe they could dig a big hole where Brunswick used to be, and fill it with water.
While that issue is being debated, the city is also trying to figure out how to regulate huge displays of Christmas lights .
Not that there are that many of them in June. But it’s best to be prepared, just in case the fishing industry undergoes a revival, but all the fish are frightened away by flashing lights and Mannheim Steamroller music .
Also, there’s this couple on Vista Drive who host nightly light shows in December (“Sarah Paylin’s Nude Holiday Extravaganza”) that attract so much traffic the neighbors have complained about noise, congestion, and public urination.
No, that’s not that Nancy Nevergole statue they kicked out of Portland.
While I’m on the subject of art gone terribly wrong, it’s worth noting that Tom Bergeron, host of “Dancing with the Stars ” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos ” will be in Maine this weekend to sign copies of his new book, “How I Saved Maine From Obscene Statuary, Poorly Sited Bait Shacks, and Ill-Conceived Displays of Holiday Lighting.”
Oops, sorry, the book is actually titled “I’m Hosting As Fast As I Can! Zen and the Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood,” and Bergeron will be appearing  at the Celebration Barn Theater  in South Paris, where, decades ago, he says he received training from the late mime Tony Montanaro that made him the major talent he is today.
Although, I have to wonder if watching Bergeron on TV wouldn’t be vastly improved if he’d stuck to mime and didn’t have to talk.
At least he didn’t end up as a mime-fisherman. That combination would never work, because under new federal regulations, nets and hooks will soon be illegal. The only way to catch fish will be by imitating their mating calls and fooling them into jumping into the boat looking for hot sex with whatever the fish equivalent of “Sarah Paylin” is.
Al Diamon lives far from the ocean, but will accept carping comments at email@example.com