There I was standing in my garden this morning, inhaling the pure, clean spring air of Maine, feeling tingly all over with the sense that I was filling my octogenarian lungs with the sweet healthy stuff of life. Then I unfolded this paper to discover that the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report is out.

The report has revealed that, among the other stuff I don’t understand, Kennebec County, the one I live in, got a “B” grade “based on the number of potentially unhealthy air days reported by federal authorities.”

I’m sure I got some of the details wrong, as I’m always in error when it comes to reading figures in reports by federal authorities.

But I can tell you that a “B” rating, where I come from, would be very exciting, and would result in balloons and naked dancing in the streets.

An example: The same federal authorities have just reported that the Long Beach-Los Angeles area’s ozone pollution is the highest in the country. Los Angeles in general lacks the cool clean air of the Arctic.

But it would be of no concern to this pilgrim who long ago fled the Left Coast to settle down on the frozen lip of North America. Here, I inhale the pure clean air and lead the torpid life of a writer.


I do take note of the warnings of “officials” that I might experience “more shortness of breath, irritation or other effects when exercising or exerting oneself outdoors.” Well, that’s a no-brainer, for I, long ago, gave up exercising or exerting myself, indoors or outdoors. That’s what “torpid” means.

Here’s the bad news: My youngest daughter, the agent-attorney, and her mate, Wayne, a Los Angeles publicist, are, after a happy life of 24 years, getting married. Frankly, I don’t understand.

They’ve received numerous awards, magazine covers and applause as the happiest, most content couple in America. (I made some of that up — I am, after all, a proud father.) So why not leave well enough alone? Don’t ask. I think they’ve just run out of fun things to celebrate, and thought it would just be fun to have a party.

I, of course, encouraged the official union. I figured it’s no skin off my nose, as my mother used to say.

Well, it turns out that it’s a considerable patch of skin off my nose. I thought I would just applaud the happy couple on Face-Time or Twitter, and send a nice card and salad bowl.

No such joy. It seems that my presence is required.


Say what? Yes. I will have to get on a plane and return to the dragon’s breath of Los Angeles, that City of Angels that just got the “F” from the clean air people.

No big deal, you’re all chortling.

You think not?

I have not flown on an airplane in more than 40 years. The last serious flight was in 1955 from Tokyo to San Francisco, with stops on Guam, Wake Island and Honolulu. It was an American Airlines ship with four propellers.

I just looked it up and discovered, to my discomfort, that propellers are no longer used on airplanes. Everything now is about jets.

I tried to get out of it.


I said I had a root canal coming up about the same time, two readings of my book (“Will Write For Food,” now available at Barnes & Noble in Augusta), an appearance as keynote speaker at the annual convention of the Maine Retired Teachers Convention at the Augusta Civic Center, and a podiatrist appointment on the same day. OK, I made up the root canal and the podiatrist thing, and fudged on the other dates. So I’m stuck.

In June, yours truly, medicated with two Xanax, one glass of wine and a Stella Artois, will be buckled into an expensive seat on JetBlue Airways, bound for Los Angeles, and re-medicated each hour until arrival. The same for the trip back.

While there, I will wear a baseball cap and sunglasses and keep my collar up. Everyone I knew 32 years ago is dead, so unless, in a drunken stupor, I stumble into Forest Lawn Cemetery, I will be safe. More later.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. His book, “Will Write for Food,” is a collection of some of his best Morning Sentinel columns.

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