Down East 2013 ©
This weekend, hundreds of volunteers will spread out across southern Maine to count loons . Based on anecdotal evidence, they’re likely to find a lot of them.
And not just at the State House.
In the past week, loons have turned up from the Canadian border in the north to a York County courtroom in the south, as well as numerous points in between. This growth in the wacko population is unexpected. The Maine Audubon Society  (the state’s official arbiter of all things loon-related) had predicted the cold, wet spring would reduce the fruitcake population, because nutjobs tend to prefer warmer spots like Florida, California, and Libya. Nevertheless, in the past week, Maine has attracted an unprecedented number of weirdos.
Not even counting elected officials or candidates for mayor of Portland .
Let’s begin in Calais. That was the scene of a recent attempt by a Canadian folksinger and her backup singer to sneak into the United States , in an apparent attempt to be counted as native loons. When Michelle Marie Bahrynowski, who performs under the name Gordon Lightfoot , and Carrie Anne Sadler, whose stage name is Neil Young , arrived at U.S. Customs, they weren’t entirely forthcoming about the reason they wanted to enter this country.
“We’re here for the loon count,” they said, apparently in unison.
“Sorry, Neil and Gordon,” the customs agents replied. “We love your music, but to take part in the loon count, you need a loon-count visa. Also, you’d have to explain why you’re women. And Gordon would have to agree never to perform “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,”  possibly the most boring song ever written, in public again.”
Because they could not meet these conditions, Bahrynowski and Sadler were turned away, but they weren’t discouraged. Instead of returning to their homes in Red Deer, Alberta (motto: Somewhere In Canada, Maybe), the duo went to the next border crossing, where they used their real names (“Hi, we’re both Joni Mitchell ”) and told the agents that they weren’t going to the U.S. to perform a series of concerts for which they had no work visas. Uh uh. Nothing like that, eh. They just planned to visit some friends, maybe play a little music, not for money, mind you, but just because that’s the kind of things Canadians do in their spare time, eh. And please pay no attention to the boxes of CDs concealed in their vehicle, which they weren’t planning to sell at any shows they weren’t planning to put on or anything like that.
Also, they wouldn’t be passing themselves off as American loons.
The two were arrested and hauled before a judge, who clearly had no patience with interlopers trying to take jobs away from American folksingers , not to mention local loons. She sentenced them to the harshest punishment the law allows: being returned to Canada.
Also, if they attempted to return to the U.S. in less than five years, they would be arrested and thrown in jail. And don’t think, missy, that just because terrorists carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers might slip unnoticed through our airtight security that we won’t spot you and your little backup singer, too.
As a result, American folk fans will not be hearing Bahrynowski, who really does use a pseudonym on stage where she’s known as Michelle Joly , any time soon. As for Sadler, who performs under the name Celine Dion , she’s banned from taking part in any loon counts until 2020.
Moving on to news from Bar Harbor, police responded to a distress call from a local hotel. The caller reported that vandals using paintball guns  had attacked a car. The perpetrators were described as “Canadian folksinger-types.”
Actually, I just made that up. Because when a cop arrived on the scene of the crime, he discovered the stuff covering the car wasn’t paint.
It was bird poop.
Tests will be needed before it can be conclusively proved the birds in questions were loons, but it seems likely. As for why seemingly harmless waterfowl came to feel harassed to the point they felt they had no recourse but to defecate on cars, we can only speculate that the confluence of this event and the annual loon count was no coincidence.
But on to the town of Alfred (motto: No, We Weren’t Named After Batman’s Butler ), where the trial of the century was held to decide The Puzzling Case of the Purloined Pussycat , in which a volunteer for a local humane society was accused of swiping a kitten she was supposed to be providing with a temporary foster home.
You could be excused if you are now asking yourself why anyone but a certified loon would steal an ordinary cat of no special pedigree, when a drive down nearly any back road in the state will take you past dozens of signs advertising free kittens. Maine has a sizable surplus of felines, mostly because irresponsible owner let their pets wander loose (“Keeps down the loon population”), even though they haven’t been neutered (this would be the ideal spot to insert the joke about the Canadian folksinger with swollen testicles, but I’ve got an uneasy feeling it would never get past the loon who edits this posting). If the state counted cats as well as loons, it would find out we have too many of both.
But back to the trial. The humane society tried unsuccessfully to get the kitten back, but the foster mom’s daughter’s ex-boyfriend had taken it to New Jersey and wouldn’t return it. So, the society took the woman to court. Got the York County District Attorney’s Office (motto: Things Are A Little Slow Right Now) to bring charges. Had a jury trial and everything.
The defendant, having watched several episodes of the Perry Mason TV show (including 1959’s “The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat” ) represented herself in a manner a veteran trial observer described as “likely to get the average attorney disbarred.” Of course, there’s a lot to be said for disbarring attorneys. And that approach was surprisingly effective. The jury took less than an hour to acquit the woman.
It’s going to be difficult for the loon-counters to decide who among this bunch qualifies.
Finally, this note: If you identify yourself as a loon by having one on your license plate , the state Department of Conservation says you can visit any state park in Maine this weekend for free.
I suspect they’re trying to round them up to make the counting easier.
Al Diamon listens to Mojo Nixon’s show on satellite radio most days. Not only does Nixon sometimes play songs by Canadian folksingers, but he’s also known as “The Loon in the Afternoon.” Coincidence? I doubt it. If you have evidence to support this conspiracy theory, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org .