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The Police Call Columns That Tickle My Funnybone

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"A man with a ping-pong paddle was reported chasing a pig across Route 19. Deputies responded."

We all love newspaper Police Calls columns (they often appear in weeklies), where you can see what alleged criminal actions have occurred in your neighbourhood.

Some of these interesting columns are weirder than others, depending on the locale. Take Northern California's remote Point Reyes Light, for example. It's located in an area known to be populated by, well, psychic exiles. In the Light, a typical item might be:

"A scruffy man was standing along Highway 1, holding a sign reading 'Shave the Whales.'"

Back when we lived near Point Reyes, a local character like the one above was spotted, reported the San Francisco Chronicle's estimable late columnist, Herb Caen, on a surfboard, "trying to hail a passing ship for a dentist." He was never seen again.

No newspaper in the country has a more interesting police-logs column than the Arcata Eye. An unusually cannabinated community in northern California, Arcata is known for its high number of dope grow houses and local "characters." There's also a college campus nearby.

The Eye's column combines stylish writing with strong subject matter. The Eye's police items are written by its publisher, Kevin Hoover, and are so widely read that Hoover has published two books of them. I even used them when I was on the faculty of the prestigious Centrum writer's conference last summer in Port Townsend, WA. Recent samples from the Eye:

  • "A man luxuriated soporifically in the minimalist lobby of a cheap Valley West motel, so richly enslumbered he couldn't be awoken. But he came to for the arrest."
  • "A woman swigging a beer from a tall can and arguing with herself in the middle of the street on Tavern Row didn't show much commitment to the solo imbroglio, as she soon dispersed herself."
  • "It couldn't have been a pleasant task separating the drunks fighting in the alley behind the Plaza bars, one of whom wore a wholly ineffectual camouflage jacket and the other nothing at all."
  • -"A woman was reported rummaging through a car downtown. Which was fine, since it was her car."
  • Who says crime reporting can't also have literary merit?