Down East 2013 ©
When people from away think of Maine, what’s the first thing that comes to their minds?
“Isn’t it winter there, like, ten months a year?”
“I think it’s part of Canada. Or Sweden.”
“Stephen King is the governor. Or the governor is some other psycho like him.”
Which just goes to show that people from away are idiots.
What they’re supposed to think of when the subject of Maine comes up is a rockbound coastline with lighthouses, lobsters being plucked from the sea and plopped into steamers, hardy rural types tapping maple trees each spring in order to listen in on what the trees are saying to each other (“Stephen King says we attack the puny humans at midnight”) and moose.
Maine is so intrinsically linked to the mighty moose that there’s one inscribed on the state seal . And don’t think it was easy for our founding fathers to convince a seal to sit still long enough to get a moose tattoo.
So why isn’t the moose the first thing that comes to mind when a flatlanders is asked about Maine? (“Polar bears! And penguins, maybe.”) It’s because this state’s place as the heartland of moose-oriented culture has been co-opted by unscrupulous entrepreneurs engaged in the international phony moose trade.
Take, for instance, Minnesota, a state where the alleged moose population has a distinctly anthropomorphic inclination , particularly near Frostbit Falls.
In Texas, there are tourist traps where they attempt to pass off jackalopes  as moose.
Florida has seedy wildlife guides that use Gorilla Glue to affix antlers to alligators in feeble attempts to dupe the unwary.
And in Connecticut, complaints from hunters abound about the trophies they end up with after paying big bucks to hunt big game (“Moose? I distinctly heard you say you wanted to hunt mouse”).
Until now, there’s been no way to stop other states from profiting unfairly from Maine’s impeccable reputation for having the finest lice-infested, mangy, smelly, stupid and dangerous moose in the world. Attempts to get injunctions against Kansas (“Moose and buffalos are almost indistinguishable”), Colorado (“Moose are big, dumb and have poor personal hygiene, sort of like the fans who think Tim Tebow  is going to save the Denver Broncos”) and Louisiana (“I know a politician who, for the right amount of cash, can arrange for you to meet a moose in a motel just outside of town”) have all failed because the courts claim they lack jurisdiction over ersatz moose.
But that egregious legal loophole could be closed in short order. Maine’s U.S. senators, Margaret Chase Moose and Edmund S. Mooskie, recently signed on as co-sponsors of legislation that would make it a felony to sell fake maple syrup .
This measure is being pushed by Vermont (state motto: No, We’re Not Part of Sweden, Either), which produces a lot of extremely expensive maple syrup and isn’t very happy about fly-by-night operators cutting into its business by selling cheap knockoffs made of corn syrup mixed with motor oil, but labeled as the genuine article.
If this bill passes, perpetrators will be deported to Sweden.
Of course, Maine also produces a lot of maple syrup, so it’s important to us to see that this legislation wins approval, even though we’d like to see even harsher penalties (“You can go free, Mr. Fake Maple Syrup Mogul, right after you spend one night alone in Stephen King’s maple-tree grove, bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha”). And we want one other amendment.
We want it made a federal crime to engage in moose misrepresentation. Violators will be forced to drive at seventy miles per hour down Route 16 between Rangeley and Stratton after dark during rutting season. Those who don’t know what rutting is will be given a hoofs-on demonstration.
Once this modest change in the law takes effect, we can expect a significantly different response when touristers are asked what images Maine evokes.
“The authentic moose were great, but I couldn’t believe how expensive the liquor is. What do they have, some kind of monopoly or something?”
“We walked around Paris all day and never saw the Eiffel Tower.”
“What the hell was that weird art on the road into the Portland Jetport?”
Nothing I can do about those first two complaints (other than suggest you buy your booze in New Hampshire and avoid discount travel websites), but I can help with the third.
The sculptures  near the airport depict six deer (because Maine has a lot of deer, although most of them plan to be out of state impersonating moose for the duration of hunting season ), a porcupine (I guess because Maine does have some porcupines) and a wolf (because Maine hasn’t had any wolves for decades, but this gives us a chance to cash in on the idea that we do, which allows us to get even with those creeps who rip off our moose). They were donated to the city by some rich people who wanted to help “cure the modern-day stresses of air travel.”
I know that last quote looks like the sort of thing I sometimes make up, but I swear it isn’t.
Of course, if somebody really wanted to ease the burden of flying, they’d find a way to let us keep our shoes on and avoid having our privates scrutinized by federal employees with a propensity for snickering.
Still, the sculptures are a nice gesture and a vast improvement over such other Portland public arts projects as “Tracing the Fore ,” “Electing a Mayor ” or “Occupying the Park .” It would have been better, though, if the figures depicted included Stephen King (scarier than a porcupine). And a lobster (come on, artists, help us out with the marketing). And a mountain lion (we have about as many as we do wolves).
With that last one, we’d be stealing Vermont’s official pussy cat. But it serves them right for dressing school kids up in moose costumes and making them run around in the woods every hunting season.
After two of Al Diamon’s friends got moose permits this season, he figured he’d soon be dining on moose sirloin. But they both got skunked. Moose-calling tips can be emailed to email@example.com .