20 Ideas for a Greater Greater Portland
By Chris Busby
Back in the days of Casco Bay Weekly, then-deputy assistant chief sub-editor Al Diamon penned an annual compendium of gags, one-liners and insults called 25 Ideas for a Better Portland. Published in December, it was a great way to recap the past year’s news, poke fun at public figures who’d stopped returning our calls, and fill a hole in the cover story schedule during a traditionally slow news period.
Sadly, since the demise of CBW,
Al’s 25 Ideas is no more. So The Bollard is reviving this tradition in sleeker form with these 20 Ideas for a Greater Greater Portland. We hope you’ll enjoy this whimsical take on the state of our metropolitan area, even if you never call us back again, Chief.
1. If the Mayor of Portland can give rock stars the Key to the City, can’t he also lock them out?
If so, let’s ban Axl Rose for blowing off that unsold-out Guns N’ Roses gig at the Civic Center last year. Have a temper tantrum on stage at Merrill Auditorium over minor sound problems? Not so fast, Ryan Adams — you’re 86’d.
And yeah, we hold grudges. Back in 2002, the Grammy-winning swing band Asleep at the Wheel missed their flight here for a New Year’s Portland gig due to a “snowstorm” in Colorado that didn’t actually happen. To them, the Jetport is forever closed.
2. Someone put out an a.p.b. for Portland Police Chief Tim Burton. Where is that guy? We knew he was soft-spoken, but invisible, too? If so, he should be making a lot more undercover busts.
Nobody’s asking for Burton to be Chitwood II: Media Mike Strikes Back, but give us somethin’ to be afraid of! Like this…
3. Mike Chitwood for Congress. Is it just us, or do you also find the current crop of 1st District Congressional candidates as uninspiring as, well, Tom Allen? We need a candidate of action, a tough S.O.B. who’ll get things done, who talks plain talk and doesn’t mind ruffling a few feathers in furtherance of the American Way. We need Mike Chitwood in Congress.
Here’s Mike on the issues…
Illegal Immigration: Not in my
Iran: No nukes for you, scumbags!
Terrorism: Osama bin Laden is a scumbag.
Taxes: Read my lips, scumbag: No new taxes!
Universal Health Care: Even scumbags deserve access to a doctor, especially after my guys get through with ’em.
4. Portlanders are still wound up over last year’s formula business ban debacle. A city committee has been studying the issue for six months, but take a walk downtown and the real problem is obvious. Chains and franchises aren’t taking over the city. Hair salons are.
They’re everywhere — scissor-wielding Sweeney Todds on every block, bleeding the local economy to death. Salons are like casinos — they don’t produce a product, and most customers leave with less than they walked in with. Portland needs a hair formula business ban.
5. An idea for the former Portland Public Market: Denny’s Downtown Lounge. Think Norm’s with breakfast 24 hours a day. You’d need a dumptruck to make bank deposits.
6. Republicans in Portland (all 14 of them) were outraged over the King Middle School contraception controversy, but it wasn’t the school board’s fault, and social conservatives, of all people, should’ve known that. The scandal points to a larger societal problem: the breakdown of the traditional American family.
Before the Godless, hedonistic 1960s, the threat of violent retribution by a member of the girl’s immediate clan was enough to prevent most teen pregnancies. But in today’s fractured households, many teenage girls don’t have an imposing older sibling or hard drinkin’ dad around to keep Billy’s willie in check.
So nevermind The Pill. We propose a new mentoring program modeled after Big Brothers Big Sisters. It’s called Badass Brothers and Sadistic Sisters. These mentors hang around at-risk girls’ homes, often holding a commonplace but potentially threatening object, like a baseball bat, or knitting needles, or a steak knife. They take teen couples on chaperoned outings to, say, the shooting range, or deep, deep into the woods where no one can hear you scream.
A related program: Flat Battle Fatigued Daddy. Just place this cardboard father figure in front of the TV, pop in a DVD of The Deer Hunter (included) shortly before young Romeo arrives, and see the youngsters off confident their abstinence is assured.
7. Eighties music still sucks. There, we said it. Now move on, people, the trend train is leaving the station. And yes, that means it’s time the popular ’80s cover band The Awesome started playing ’90s covers, though we suppose they’ll need to rename themselves after a slang term for “great” associated with that decade. May we suggest The Shit?
8. The Bollard supports the Portland Buy Local campaign (editor and publisher Chris Busby is a board member of the volunteer group behind it, which, we hasten to point out, has nothing whatsoever to do with this idea), but it doesn’t go far enough.
After hair salons, the biggest threat to our city’s unique character is the proliferation of chain convenience stores. Ample anecdotal evidence proves these chains make most of their profit selling smokes, cheap beer and screw-top wine to the poor. So if all the smokers and drinkers in town spent their crumpled ones at independent, family-owned corner stores and markets instead, we could really turn the tide.
Here’s a new slogan: Smoke Local.
A related initiative to boost Maine’s rural economy and combat Canadian drug lords: Toke Homegrown.
9. Secession was a hot topic in 2007. From Peaks Island to Portinsula to the Mayor of South Portland, it seemed everyone around here wanted to form a breakaway republic.
But in 2008, secession is out. Accretion is in. Let’s stop fighting amongst ourselves, get together and start takin’ some stuff.
Like New Hampshire. We can conquer those posers with their nose-less mountain, take all their toll money and cheap liquor, and make them pay sales tax to us as reparations for all the money Mainers have funneled to stores just across the border.
“Live free or die,” you say? Listen, New Hampshire, don’t get overdramatic. You’ll be free enough as part of New Maine, and then we’ll gang up and conquer Vermont — assuming those maple syrup–suckled hippies even put up a fight.
10. Sure, it’s a small thing, but it’s the principle of it that really bugs us. The water from the drinking fountains at city-owned Merrill Auditorium is piss-warm — an obvious ploy to make parched concertgoers buy bottled water and other pricey concessions. The fountains on the other side of the wall, in the halls of City Hall, provide cool, refreshing water, with hardly a hum of effort.
Look, we expect to get fleeced at big concerts in corporate arenas — that’s why we get loaded in the parking lot. But pulling scams like this in a public auditorium is too much. What’s next: turn the thermostat down and sell pso sweatshirts to the shivering elderly? Shame.
11. The Denny’s idea is gold, but if the Portland City Council nixes it with another formula business ban, we’ll need Plan B: Public art.
12. What if Maine wasn’t the way life should be, but rather the way life should be according to The Maine Switch? Could we live with ourselves if we lived by the wisdom in this free pile of cheap wrapping paper? Or would we collectively leap, lemming-like, into the frigid waters off the coast, sick to death of following fads, exploring yoga and toiling away at an endless list of home improvement projects between marathon bouts of Art Walking and pandering to potential advertisers?
It’s hard to say. On the upside, there’d be lots of cookies. And it could be worse. We could be living our lives according to the Portland Phoenix. Half the time you don’t know what you’re talking about, the other half you’re racking up a fortune in phone-sex minutes. And everyone thinks you’re an asshole.
13. While we’re on the subject of our esteemed colleagues in the media, here’s another one. If local TV anchors are gonna dumb-down the news and talk to us like we’re children, why don’t they try to appeal to a kid’s sense of humor, too? Here’s a few gags and features to try during Sweeps Week…
WGME 13: Breaking News, Breaking Weather, Breaking Wind!
Bill’s Green Boogers
Tickle Me Karkos
The Fudgsicle Files
14. OK, just one more. Like the Portland Press Herald and The Forecaster, The Bollard isn’t afraid to bend the rules of responsible journalism in an attempt to boost readership. Take this cover story, for example. But we aren’t being competitive enough.
The Forecaster prints the names, ages and addresses of (presumably innocent) people who get arrested, but doesn’t follow up when they get their day in court. The Press Herald only publishes lists of those convicted of a crime, but it lets yahoos anonymously post comments about them on its Web site, and largely relies on offended readers to alert them of particularly hateful, racist and/or slanderous posts it’s publishing online.
That’s why we’re introducing a new feature in which we publish the list of people arrested each week on our Web site and let readers anonymously throw e-stones at them in this virtual public square. You’d read that, wouldn’t you?
15. Flying Duck Tours. Work on that. And hey, DiMillos, why not let the restaurant float around the bay once in a while? C’mon, it’s Gramma’s birthday!
16. Stop salting the streets and sidewalks when it snows. Road salt kills trees, and you can get perfectly good traction on Mrs. Dash’s salt-free blend of 13 natural herbs and spices.
17. Portland Sea Dogs vs. Portland Pirates.
Yeah, it’s stupid, but think how fun it would be to watch the Pirates play nine innings against the Sea Dogs at Hadlock Field? Then, in the second half of this charity doubleheader, the Pirates take on the Dogs at the Civic Center for three periods of full-contact hockey. We’d buy tickets.
18. Speaking of sports, there’s been buzz about the prospect of having a minor league basketball franchise in Portland, but we really need a big-time college hoops team in this city. The University of Southern Maine has a Division III squad, but USM’s in worse financial shape than its graduates these days. So it’s up to an unlikely hero, a scrappy underdog who’ll take the ball and rise to the occasion: Maine College of Art.
It’s a perfect fit. We want more March Madness and MECA needs more students — hell, nobody’s suggesting they put their current crop of graphite-pencil-necked geeks up against Division 1 teams. Granted, the art school may have to adjust its admissions standards a bit to accommodate top high school talent, but we hear Dadaism is making a comeback.
The team will need a fearsome name, of course. How ’bout the MECA Goths?
19. Bring back Granny’s Burritos, The Village Cafe, The Skinny and Free Street Taverna. The Alehouse can come back if they promise not to cut another peek-a-boo window between the men’s and ladies’ rooms and get the fruit fly population under control. Cake, Digger’s/Liquid Blue and the demolished McDonald’s on St. John Street are just fine where they are.
20. Finally, a few books we’d like to see published…
The Wit and Wisdom of Jim Cloutier
Full transcriptions of impromptu policy dissertations delivered during public meetings over the years by the former Portland City Councilor and Mayor; in 27 leather-bound volumes, exhaustively footnoted, with index and glossary of jargon.
Forest Avenue: A Survival Guide
A guide to successfully navigating, and surviving, the stretch of Forest Ave. between Congress Street and Warren Avenue. Chapters include: “When Right Lanes Go Wrong,” “Doin’ the Funky 16 Corners: Morrill’s and Woodford’s,” “How the Great Bear Got Lost,” “Left vs. Leftish,” “Sweet Jesus, I’m Stuck on the Tracks!” and “Forest Gardens: Definitely Not a Gardening Store.”
One Good Reason Maine Should Still Have County Government
Any takers? (And no, the song doesn’t cut it.)
School Budgets for Dummies