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The other day I got a call from a producer at a radio station in St. Louis, MO. He said that every week for a year the station was doing a feature on one of the 50 states and this particular week it was Maine’s turn. He wanted to know if I would provide him with information. He admitted he got the idea for the feature from Michael Feldman, a popular Public Radio host who features a U.S. town each week on his radio show.
Anyway, I said, “Since a year has 52 weeks and the United States has only 50 states, what are you going to do on the two extra weeks?”
Allaying my concern, he said they planned to do features on Puerto Rico and Guam. Once that was resolved to my satisfaction I proceeded to tell the producer about Maine.
I told him we call our state Maine but no one knows how we ended up with that name so don’t even ask. We will, however, listen to any plausible explanations his listeners might have. (If I get any I will be sure to pass them along.)
Our state has about 1,274,923 people, I then told him but let him know that didn’t count what we call “summer complaints.’
He was glad to hear our population numbers but like most people, he wanted to know about our moose. I let him know that Maine had about 30,000 mostly healthy moose. Then, of course, he asked about lobsters. I said we have more than enough for anyone who wants one, and I gave him an 800 number his listeners could call to have lobsters overnighted to St. Louis.
“How large is Maine?” he asked.
Maine has 33,275 square miles of land. Fortunately, most of it is above sea level at high water. I said, “we’re proud of the fact that a few of those 33,275 square miles of land are even owned by Maine people.”
Highest point? Mount Katahdin at 5,268 feet. I said, “folks in the Old Port are sometimes higher on Saturday nights but then get pretty low by Sunday morning.”
Maine’s lowest point is sea level and – for some – the first day of tourist season.
When he asked where to go for further information I said his listeners should get here first then stop and ask a colorful native for information and/or directions. I let him know they might not get to their destination, but it’ll be an authentic Maine experience.
Well, then he wanted to know what someone should pack before coming to Maine.
“As little as possible,” I said. All seriousness aside, I said we prefer that folks bring NOTHING with them and plan to buy everything they need while they’re here. Just bring lots of money and credit cards. Lots of them. Again, try and leave your suitcase at home. If you insist on luggage you might want a suitcase with wheels. If you’re planning to visit one of our wilderness areas, you might want luggage with four-wheel drive. Luggage with a power take-off with hook and cable could also come in handy.
What should people wear? I said the only thing certain about Maine weather is its unpredictability. Even people who are paid to predict our weather have no idea what it’s going to do from one minute to the next, so what chance do the rest of us have?
In coastal towns fishing boots and foul weather gear are acceptable in restaurants and shops, just as logging outfits are considered proper in Maine’s western hill country.
Even in summer you’ll be some glad you have a few sweaters, sweat shirts and heavy jackets with you. Bringing all kinds of rain gear will almost guarantee you one dry sunny day after another. Conversely, if you don’t have a stitch of waterproof clothing you’re begging for a non-stop spell of rain and a bank of fog that – as Kendall Morse would say – “is thicker than three in a bed.”
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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