Down East 2013 ©
The last time the University of Maine women’s basketball team won a game, somebody else was president of the United States. Probably Woodrow Wilson.
Just kidding. It was George W. Bush.
Or maybe the first Bush. It’s been a while.
In any case, this long run of futility – a 16-game losing streak – has finally ended. The Black Bears beat New Hampshire on Feb. 12 by a score of 57-49. 
The victory raised UMaine’s season record to 3-20, but did not produce any allegations of steroid use, bribes to refs or Flubber on sneakers.
If you want gooey stuff stuck to the bottom of something, you might consider visiting the Travelodge Bangor, named by posters on the Web site TripAdvisor.com as one of the 10 dirtiest hotels in America. 
The word “disgusting” came up more than once in the ratings, although the Bangor inn finished seventh, well behind the Hotel Carter in New York, where a woman’s body was found stuffed in a trash bag under a bed. Contrary to rumors, she was not identified as one of the star players for the University of New Hampshire women’s basketball team.
If you spot somebody in a neon-pink gown and a wig taller than Kevin Garnett walking along the back roads of western and central Maine, say hello to Tim Berry. Berry is a senior art student at the University of Maine in Farmington, and he’s strolling over 300 miles from the University of Southern Maine in Gorham to the UMaine campus in Orono to raise money so we can get some better women’s basketball players.
No, wait, he’s actually seeking contributions for the United Way. He’s also testing the tolerance of rural Mainers, many of whom have never seen anyone like him. I mean, he’s a pedestrian. And he’s trudging through territory where the natives harbor deep prejudices against anyone who doesn’t drive a 4X4.
In Portland, the first signs of the long-expected revolt of the shrimp have surfaced. Or to be more precise, haven’t surfaced. The city’s sewer system is getting clogged up with shrimp shells and antennas. 
So far, municipal officials have been unable to locate the source of the shrimp parts, although suspicion has fallen on disgruntled UNH fans and maintenance workers from the Travelodge Bangor.
Supporters say its an economically and environmentally sound policy. Opponents claim chickens are just “gateway livestock” that will pave the way for cattle herds, lion prides and swarms of locusts, not to mention all those feathers in the sewer system.
Maine didn’t just have a triumphant week on the basketball court. It also kicked thermometer bulbs all over New England in the competition for coldest temperature ever recorded.
On Feb. 10, the National Weather Service’s State Climate Extreme Committee (Motto: Yes, You’re Right, There Probably Is Something More Productive We Could Be Doing) finished checking all the data and ruled that a Jan. 16 reading in Big Black River (it’s right near, well … uh … Canada is about the only thing that’s anywhere in the vicinity) of 50 degrees below zero is not only the coldest temperature ever recorded in Maine, but tied with a Vermont reading for the coldest ever in New England. 
This still doesn’t explain New Hampshire’s ice-cold shooting against UMaine.
A day later, another record. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife announced that it had confirmed the December catch of a white perch at Ellis Pond in Brooks as the largest of its species ever landed. 
The perch weighed just over three pounds and was hooked by Jeff Paquette of Freedom, who promised to release it into the Portland sewers to devour shrimp.
You remember that body found in a trash bag in that grubby New York hotel? The reason that sort of thing never happens at the Travelodge Bangor is because Mainers don’t like plastic bags. If somebody from this state had wanted to dispose of a corpse, they’d have used a paper bag. Or just stuffed it into a sewer. Anything but a wrapper made of petrochemicals.
Acknowledging the state’s aversion to environmentally unfriendly packaging, state Sen. John Nutting of Leeds has introduced legislation to impose a 10-cent fee on every plastic bag a shopper uses. 
While winning accolades from green factions, Nutting’s bill has drawn opposition from merchants and from organizations that specialize in leaving dead bodies in hotel rooms.
Business has been a little slow lately for those groups, mostly due to the decline in vacation travel during the recession. But experts at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism held Feb. 10 in South Portland predicted the downward trend would begin reversing itself in mid- to late 2010. 
The reversal can’t come too soon for the Portland International Jetport (don’t you wish your town had a jetport, instead of a crummy old airport?), which saw a big drop-off in passengers in January 2009, after an even bigger decline in freight shipments in 2008. 
On the bright side, there’s plenty of space in the Jetport’s parking lots,  which are normally clogged up during school vacation week like the Portland sewer system during the annual convention of the International Shrimp Boiling Association.
Elliot Moskow, a Bates College economics major, and a couple of friends have started an online Dutch auction. When I heard this news, I had visions of pages and pages of tulips, wooden shoes and offers to go on dates in which both parties split the bill.
At Pricefalls.com, buyers have to balance the falling price against the possibility someone else will buy the item at any moment. So bidders have to be clever enough – and patient enough – to determine the rock-bottom value of something like a night at the Travelodge Bangor or a pair of tickets to the next UMaine women’s game.
While we’re waiting, anyone want some shrimp?
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.