Down East 2013 ©
I’m the last person on earth who would ever criticize somebody for drinking beer. I firmly believe beer is a healthy alternative to such beverages as soda (full of sugar or chemicals to make you think it has sugar), coffee (interferes with both the stress-relieving mid-morning and mid-afternoon naps), juice (often has more calories than beer and fewer vitamins – really, look it up), and water (may contain sharks or electric eels). And as I recently explained to my dentist, who was complaining that my habit of flossing only during total solar eclipses was inadequate, beer contains alcohol which kills the very germs that cause tooth decay.
That’s just one of the reasons why I don’t understand why anyone would drink alcohol-free beer.
It does nothing for your dental health. It tastes bad. And it causes you to burp in public without suppressing your self-consciousness about such boorish behavior the way real beer does.
I mention all this because it’s come to my attention that athletes at the World Cup Biathlon in northern Maine celebrate their victories by drinking from a giant glass of what appears to be beer.
But it’s actually alcohol-free beer .
The biathlon – an odd combination of two seemingly unrelated sports, swimming and bullfighting – is sponsored by a European brewery that supplies its fake beer for the awards ceremonies, claiming it’s better than Gatorade or other sports drinks.
That might be, because most sports drinks taste like they’ve been processed through the urinary tracts of wharf rats. But this distinction is really beside the point, which is that alcohol-free malt swill is not better than real beer.
These bi-athletes (I assume they’re called that because of their sexual orientations) have completed their competitions. They’ve earned a chance to kick back. They deserve something bracing, something with oomph, something that prevents tooth decay. It’s not as if they’re going to drink a couple of glasses of suds, and then do something stupid like strap on a pair of skies, grab a rifle, and go around shooting up Aroostook County.
Speaking of The County, all Mainers know it’s located near … well, actually it isn’t near much of anything.
But exactly how far away is Aroostook from the real world? That’s hard to say.
Until recently, you could have estimated the mileage from wherever you are to there by hauling out a map, a ruler, a protractor, a compass, the other kind of compass, a calculator, and somebody with an advanced degree in geography. Or you could have programmed your GPS to pick the shortest possible route. Or you could have asked the proverbial bird the distance as it flies.
Trouble is, these three different methods are likely to give you three different answers. In the old days, we’d have shrugged, opened a beer, and said, “Just goes to show that they was right when they said you can’t get there from here.”
But that sensible approach is no longer sufficient for dealing with a state law that mandates there be at least one hundred miles between gambling emporiums. That provision was included in the referendum question approved by voters last November that allows a casino to be built in Oxford County. It was intended to make sure there was enough space around each of these facilities to allow for sufficient parking.
And to keep the competition to a minimum.
Now, however, it’s being employed in an attempt to thwart the site plans of the very people who drafted it.
A lawyer for a proposed racino in Biddeford has discovered that the Oxford location  is just ninety-four miles from the Hollywood Slots facility in Bangor.
That’s as our friend the bird flies.
The owners of the planned Oxford casino took immediate issue with this claim, stating that by road, it was 125 miles from their plot of ground to Hollywood Slots.
State law, as is so often the case, seems unclear on how the distance should be measured, although under the Maine Revised Statutes Annotated, Section 411.3(a)5, paragraph 11, pavilion section 66, box seat 113, there is this statement: “For legal purposes, Aroostook County shall always be deemed to be not near much of anything.” There’s also a citation from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court case Sobriety, et. al. v. Drunkenness (1825), which reads, “For legal purposes, real beer is given precedence over the abominable alcohol-free variety.”
I suppose there’ll now be lawsuits and such to sort out how to measure the distance between casinos. I doubt I’ll pay even as much attention as I paid to the biathlon.
What I will be following closely is the continuing story of Portland’s efforts to rid itself of a hideous piece of artwork called “Tracing the Fore .”
This metallic litter in Boothby Square was supposed to represent the waves of nausea that afflict drinkers of alcohol-free beer. But most passers-by thought it looked like somebody chewed up a lawnmower with a chain saw. Portland is currently trying to decide what the best way to dispose of it would be. The city’s first choice – throw it in a dump truck, drive it up to Aroostook County, and toss it in a ditch – was rejected when officials discovered Aroostook isn’t really near anything. They’re now trying to decide whether the sculpture, which cost $135,000 to install five years ago, should be cut up for scrap or sold to somebody with no taste.
But there’s a new option. The artist who created this unsightly item wants to buy it back, possibly to sell it to some other unwary municipality. Such as …
Oxford. Casino developers have expressed interest in placing the artwork on the grounds to, in their words, “give the place a little class.” Unfortunately, state law forbids the relocation of “blobs of tortured metal” within a hundred miles of their original sites.
That’s as the bird flies. We know this not from musty old law books, but from the icky droppings on the sculpture.
Everybody and everything seems to think they’re an art critic. I suspect it’s a side effect of drinking alcohol-free beer.
Al Diamon reminds you not to drink and drive. I mean, where are you gonna drive to, anyway? Aroostook County? Do you realize what that isn’t near? Pretty much everything, that’s what. But if you do decide to go, send an e-mail to email@example.com .