Stranger things have happened

By Eva Murray | Nov 17, 2011

Some odd news items have been coming across my desk.

Isle au Haut is welcoming new people. They want responsible, hard-working, live people who will participate in the year-round activities of the community. Atlanta, Georgia, on the other hand, is offering substantial incentives for zombies. It said so on the news.

Maine State Revenue Services says they’ll need to slap the 7% “snack tax” on pot brownies because, hey, junk food is junk food. As a baker of brownies and others goodies who dutifully collects and sends in my snack-tax — I mean sales tax — each summer, I darned near choked on my homemade cookie laughing at that headline. Who’d have thunk it? Even if they tax the medical marijuana they’ve still got to collect the extra 2% on the brownie part or it wouldn’t be fair to the folks who only buy non-pot brownies. I’d hate to be the one who has to pro-rate that.

Speaking of junk food, Facebook on Nov. 1 found some of us idling away precious time discussing the fact that homemade cookies and other goodies are still allowed, produced, offered, and eaten on the islands on Halloween. At my house we give out these chocolate-peanut butter-oatmeal “no-bake cookies” and have for years. This year, the weather cooperated, those particular treats being a weather-sensitive recipe akin to old-fashioned fudge. When the weather’s not right the stuff either remains chocolate oatmeal, best eaten with a spoon, or sometimes “goes off” suddenly in the pan like fiberglass resin with too much methyl ethyl ketone and you have to bash it out of there with a hammer and chisel.

Somebody posted the comment that “Matinicus might be the last place where trick-or-treating kids are allowed to eat homemade treats.” Of course it isn’t, thankfully; I suspect they can on Isle au Haut, too, and good thing as Isle au Haut is more or less the chocolate hub of Maine (good reason to move there). With regard to the restriction of treats I’m not talking peanut allergies or calories or salmonella or acne or tooth decay or anything so logical — I’m referring to that omnipresent, ubiquitous worry among parents everywhere across our nation — twisted psychopaths in their basement laboratories, hunched under a single dusty light bulb, smiling that snarly grimace and…poisoning the candy. Uh huh.

Has that ever really happened?

I know, I know; good parents assume an ax murderer behind every privet hedge and every mom worth her salt drives her 10-year-old the three blocks to a friend’s house because, hey, there are crazy people in this world (at said friend’s house the two youngsters will safely engage in several hours of Grand Theft Auto which is, of course, only a game). Anyway, I found out about the absolute epitome of conscientious parenting this year just after Halloween when somebody mentioned a little trick-or-treater asking for water and informing the trusted homeowner that “this is the only place I am allowed to have a drink of water.”

Water? We’re not supposed to let our kids drink other people’s water? Boy, have I been remiss as a parent.

I sure am relieved that my children are all grown up now and responsible for their own risks like driving out of state, sampling the good scotch, playing varsity rugby, working with electrical instruments high up in the catwalks, traveling to Russia, drinking other people’s water, etc. That was close.

There are something like 250 million people in this country, probably more. That means…what, 50 to 100 million households? We could look it up online but it doesn’t matter. The point is, the chances of one person in 50+ million skulking in the shadows sprinkling nasties on the candy corn (not to mention into the tap water) is, well, over one in 50 million. If anybody was going to sabotage the goodies, I suspect they’d start with a treat somewhat less unique and easy to place than granny’s from-scratch recipe. It could happen. They used to tell kids to take their bag of treats down to the police station and have it put through the metal detector. We don’t have a police station. I also think we are more at risk from sharks, or bears at large. Or alligators, if you live down south.

Or zombies. The city of Atlanta, according to a very reputable 6-o’clock network news broadcast recently, is offering “generous tax credits” to zombies, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (located in said city) offers on its website sound advice for dealing with the coming zombie apocalypse. We have already clarified for readers of this column that the zombie apocalypse would likely start here, on this island, based on facts gleaned from the wrathful jibes made about islanders in the “online comments section” following news stories which mention Matinicus. Rather brutal forms of isolation and quarantine for islanders have been suggested, much like with the zombies. Of course, maybe it’s just because we don’t have a police station.

Another thing that keeps adding to the stress, at least in the letters and advertising promoting the racino issues on the ballot, is this huge problem of starving unemployed blacksmiths. It would seem to be a big concern in our society, what with how often they are listed among those multitudes of Maine workers who will be displaced should the ballot items not pass. Blacksmiths? I am not making fun of the farriers who work to keep Maine’s horses at work and comfortable. It’s a specialty and an art. As it happens I am a member of the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America — not a farrier, not by any stretch of the imagination, just a hobbyist who forges the occasional ornamental fireplace tool, but I know that somebody has to shoe the horses. Fine. But reading and listening to the election hype makes it sound like we’re dealing with the Great Recession — of the eighteenth century. Hordes of blacksmiths will be reduced to penury. There could be rioting in the streets. How many blacksmiths are employed in the harness racing industry? Three? Ten? Oh, no — surely, it must be thousands.

I’ll bet in reality there are fewer racetrack-dependent blacksmiths than there are zombies (although way more blacksmiths than cookie-poisoners).

Maybe we shouldn’t pay too much attention to those news folks anyway, because we can’t trust them, and here’s why: they don’t know the difference between power lines and phone lines. That is evident after every significant storm, when they show footage of telephone lines while talking about electricity customers.

Common sense, folks. The Isle au Haut Community Development Corporation has, to their credit, the foresight to remind anybody thinking about moving to that lovely island that they’ve got to keep in mind some way of making a living (although those guys don’t have a police station either). The Centers for Disease Control reminds visitors to their website that the same advice they offer concerning preparing for the onslaught of zombies is helpful for tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and other disasters. Most of us remind at least our smaller children to trick-or-treat people we know. Relatively few blacksmiths will starve. If you can’t tell the difference between power lines and phone lines either, write to me. We’ll talk.

Eva Murray lives on Matinicus Island.

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