July 6, 2008

Small Town News

In today's orgy of cleaning I unearthed one of my favorite newspaper clippings. It's from a small town paper in Arizona.

If you're driving through a small town this summer, do yourself a favor. When you gas up, make sure to spend an extra 50 cents and buy a newspaper. If you don't have time to stop in the town, you'll at least pick up the local flavor. Check out the crime blotter and public notices first. This is where the real news is reported.

In the area where we used to vacation, the local writer in charge of the crime blotter reports every drug bust and child battery call with dramatic flair, rhyme or a humorous twist (ex: the sheriff finds that the child wasn't being tortured, but bathed). He's still at it.

"Clothes Assaulted," read the headline in the local police log that detailed how my cousin's deranged neighbor had cut some (but not all) of the legs off his track suits as they hung on the wash line. Don't tell me that that writer didn't laugh all the way home after writing that headline. I'm still laughing 20 years after I read it.

Finally, readers of the public notices in the Tujunga free paper last month learned that a guy with a very regular-sounding name has petitioned to have it legally changed to Sal A. Mander. This stuff is out there if you just look for it.

What keeps me coming back to my favorite clipping is how earnest and unintentionally funny it is. It's a summary of the past and upcoming activities in a large trailer park. Among the many upcoming singles events is the the 39th Annual Singles' Bean Dinner. I try not to laugh, but it's a struggle because nothing says "romance" quite like beans. I consider that perhaps this is like the story of stone soup, in which each person contributes to the meal with a dish that's greater than beans and in the end they have wonderful communal feast. Or maybe this is some singles party phenomenon that I haven't picked up on. Nope. As far as I can tell, there is only one singles bean dinner. It's not a movement.

At least not until later.

I have cherished this clipping for years and the bean dinner is 50 years-old now. What a proud, long-standing and self-perpetuating singles event. Do you want to hook up with a fellow bean-eating loner? Me neither.

Did I mention that the park's highest scoring bowlers were Dick Dangler and Dick Tracy?

Go read your paper.

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