Time to start being original again

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been relying on a cache of pre-written pieces for my column every other Sunday. 

I hadn’t actually sat down and written a fresh one from scratch for the paper since late June, when I banged out three in basically one sitting so that I would have a couple less things to think about in an otherwise busy month.

All throughout last week I kept reminding myself to double-check the production system at work to make sure the column – my last in the backlog – was still there and read just fine. Of course, I didn’t do that until about two hours before deadline on Friday afternoon…to discover it had disappeared. SHIT.

Thankfully I remembered the basic format of what I’d already written, and it was built around a section of a blog post I wrote a few months ago. It turned out to be fairly solid, and even elicited a few laughs from the bartenders at the Liberal Cup over screwdrivers on Sunday morning before we went golfing, so that’s good I guess?

Anyway, this one may be a little familiar to the dedicated readers among you, but hey – read on and find out!

Stayin’ alive in Maine no mean feat

Australia has a reputation for dangerous species, but there’s no shortage of natural hazards in this neck of the woods, writes Adrian Crawford.

“How’d you ever survive 28 years in Australia with all those dangerous creatures around?”

“Did a dingo ever steal your baby?”

“Are there kangaroos everywhere? Do you ride them?”

“I expected more (bravery) from the guy from Australia, aka the place where the scariest animals on the planet live.”

There are two common themes to the quotes above. The first theme is that they’re all things that people have said to me — mostly in jest, of course — over the past seven or so months I’ve been here in Maine.

The second thread running through all those lines is that they all revolve around the deadly wildlife that my country of birth is so stereotypically popular for, thanks to Crocodile Dundee, Steve Irwin and Hollywood in general.

And look, I’m not here to dispel that as mere gossip, or a vicious rumor (but I will apologize for that awful pun). To be fair, we do have more species of poisonous snakes than anywhere else in the world.

But let’s not get it twisted, central Maine. Our home, idyllically nicknamed “Vacationland,” while beautiful, also poses threats to my health.

I’ll start with the one I’ve only heard of secondhand: moose accidents.

The way my co-workers describe the result of running headlong into a stationary moose on the interstate is almost enough to make me not want to get behind the wheel ever again. Then I went and accidentally subjected myself to a photo on Twitter of the aftermath of one such accident, and now I really don’t want to get behind the wheel ever again.

Let’s move on to ones I have experienced personally. But first, some mental imagery: When you think of a lobster, what comes to mind? Bright red shell, right?

Well, now you’re picturing how I looked a couple of months ago, when the weather (finally) turned nice. My arms were scarlet from wrist to shirtsleeve (the original Farmer’s Tan); my forehead was sending off warning beacons like the lighthouse I got burnt outside of; and worst of all, my legs looked like sticks of red licorice.

To be fair, it’s totally my fault. After a few days of overcast, rainy weather, I had jumped at the opportunity a sunny, 63-degree day offered, and I took a new friend from away to see her first real Maine lighthouse.

There was barely a cloud in the sky and the sea breeze neutralized most of the heat the sun was giving off, so we sat out in the brilliant conditions for a couple of hours, chatting and putting away lobster rolls.

But as we got ready to head back to reality, I started noticing that tingle. You know the one. A tiny bit of residual warmth is spreading across your skin even though the breeze off the ocean is still coming. Uh-oh.

On the drive home it became painfully apparent that my left arm was radiating enough heat that I was concerned the window glass would melt back into its former state. My forehead was flushed. My companion riding shotgun felt the same way.

By the time I got to the office for work, I looked like someone had poured candle wax all over me. And since I’d worn a T-shirt and shorts to lunch that day — again, taking opportunities where I can — I had the options of a) exposing every one of my crispy limbs to my co-workers or b) uncomfortably covering my arms with a hoodie I’d stashed in the car. I chose the latter, but it still wasn’t enough to mask either my discomfort or my glowing face.

To be perfectly honest, I was figuratively red-faced as well. Surely Aussies should know how to be a little more sun-smart, right? But therein lies my point, I think — it took me three months to adapt to the cold-weather conditions, and then I had to remember everything I’ve already forgotten about nice conditions.

After enduring multiple layers of clothing and becoming sick to death of everything I own that has sleeves and a fleecy lining, I was desperate to get back into shorts and a shirt, and I paid the price.

That great big burning ball of gas in the sky isn’t the only thing to worry about, though.

There was a bear wandering around in Waterville a couple of weeks ago. Goats are escaping through a fence on I-95 in Sidney because they have nothing better to do. A mystery pig was chasing innocent walkers on a trail in Oakland, although police brought home that bacon. A family of deer stampeded out of some bushes on Second Street in Hallowell one night a couple of months ago, not 50 feet from me, and scared me half to death.

We have so many animal stories in the news that a co-worker and I have joked about making a special page for CentralMaine.com as a year-in-review-type presentation to bring all our “creature features” together.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m flattered by the implication that Australians are bred more sturdy than most, because of our overabundance of dangerous species and our predilection for eating the animals — the kangaroo and the emu — on our coat of arms. Unlike many of my countrymen who’ve expatriated to the United States, I think the stereotypes and widely held yet fanciful assumptions about Aussies are hilarious.

But give yourselves some credit, central Maine: To live here, you’ve gotta be pretty tough, too.


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