A Year in the Life of Lake Oswego, Oregon

Our town newspaper?s police report is comedy, tragedy,
sociology, poetry. It is my town, my species, me. Here are my
summaries of some of the incidents it recounted this past
year:

Spring

A man reports a message on his answering machine from a
caller who threatened to defecate on his lawn if he was not paid
$100 million. Police determine that the caller was drunk.

Man, age 33, calls police from hotel to report that his
mother has sent a poisonous snake to his room to kill him. Officer
arrives and finds man with cocaine and a woman not his wife. Man
says he called the police by accident.

Newspaper runs erratum note: The bomb reported at the
elementary school last week was actually a bong (?a water pipe
commonly used for smoking marijuana,? the paper explains
helpfully).

Tennis ball on Reece Road determined to be a tennis
ball and not a bomb.

Man reports lock changed at house. Police report to
scene and discover that the man wasn?t wearing his glasses and had
been trying to open the door with his key upside down.

Doors of high school reported glued shut. Outhouse
found on roof of school. Police suspect student prank.

Complaint: Manager of an apartment complex reports
child going door to door in the complex asking residents ?What?s
up?? Police do not locate the child.

Woman reports strange sounds coming from a nearby
vehicle. Officers, suspecting an animal trapped inside, discover
that the ?suspicious braying and whining? is a country music
compact disc.

Squirrel reported ?intoxicated? on Cornell Street.

Summer

Woman ?spent 20 minutes talking dirty on the telephone
before she realized the caller was not her boyfriend.? She
contacted police to report the incident.

Charred Barbie doll found in chalk circle on State
Street.

Seafood delivery truck smashes into light pole. Shrimp
all over road.

Woman reports that someone broke into her house, used
the hot tub, ate food, drank soda, used the boat, used the beds,
used the towels, drank two cases of beer, and left behind the beer
cans, some underwear, and three compact discs.

Man, age 22, seen clapping, barking, and making karate
moves on Fifth Street. Officers contacted the man, who was
practicing yoga while walking his dog.

Man at the bank on State Street reports that a woman in
a red jacket asked him if he thought money was important. Police
search the area but cannot locate the woman.

Man, age 41, reports that his mother has taken his car
keys and refuses to give them back.

Police pull a man over on Boones Ferry Road and find
these things in his car: three stereos, a black bag, screwdrivers,
flashlights, seven sets of car stereo mounting brackets, an
unidentified crystalline substance, and assorted drug
paraphernalia. Suspect asked for receipts but cannot produce them
immediately.

Woman calls police to complain that her ex-husband has
signed up for the same dance class she wants to take.

Autumn

Police receive call from a woman who believes she may
have been the victim of a scam. Three weeks after losing her cat,
she received a telephone call from a stranger in California. The
caller claimed to be caring for the cat, but needed $600 to cover
expenses. The local woman wired the money to the stranger, ?but now
believes she may have been taken advantage of.?

Boy, age 4, returned to mother after she drove away
from Starbucks and left him there.

Boy, age 4, returned to parents after boarding bus
alone. Boy tells officers his parents were ?fighting and screaming?
and he was so scared that he wanted to go far away. Parents did not
notice boy gone for more than an hour after his estimated
departure.

Among the things stolen in recent weeks: a Cadillac
emblem, used tires, eight dollars, four bags of recycled
newspapers, choir bells from the Christ Episcopal Church, an
American flag, four tickets to an Elton John concert, a vacuum
cleaner, a portable picnic table, three Santa Clauses (various
sizes), two cases of Budweiser beer, two cases of Corona beer, a
six-foot snowman, two newspapers (?by a man in a sports car?), a
bottle of vodka (?by a woman in a sports car?), two bottles of
vodka (?by four people in large coats?), a saxophone, a candy
machine, the top half of a bikini, an air compressor, a blender, a
Gore/Lieberman campaign sign, a ceramic duck wearing a baseball cap
and sunglasses, a mandarin orange, four dollars, half a cord of
wood, half a bottle of Demerol, a Beretta pistol, a bird feeder, a
box of chocolates, 12 tons of newspapers (from the Lions Club), 40
candy bars, a bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII Grande Champagne
Cognac (worth $1,400), 20 football helmets, two fishing poles, a
piggy bank, two avocados, a Yorkshire terrier, a hearing aid, and
two boxes of detergent.

White parrot found confused on Hoodview Lane.

Winter

Front porch on Sierra Court meticulously covered with
layer of marshmallow.

Teenage boy seen vomiting on State Street. Police
determine that the boy and a friend were engaged in a milk-drinking
contest.

Complaint: drunken teenage party. Police responding to
the scene find ?an alcohol-free multicultural potluck.?

Pushy Jehovah?s Witnesses reported on Preakness
Court.

Large golden retriever steals sandwich from a police
officer on Monroe Parkway. Dog is last seen headed north.

Police issue a warning to three juveniles to stop
posing plastic reindeer in mating positions.

I finally pop into the office of the Lake Oswego Review
to find out who writes the police log. Turns out to be a young
man named Scott Hammers: Alaskan native, news reporter for three
years, previous job selling electric scooters. Hammers gets some
150 police reports a week and looks for serious crime first, drama
second, color third. ?Most of the time I just leave the
dispatcher?s language, which can be hilariously deadpan,? he told
me. His all-time favorite? A duct-tape-wrapped bomb on the high
school tennis courts, which turned out to be, after the police bomb
squad exploded it, a pile of
Penthouse magazines, scraps
of which floated down all over town.

Brian Doyle, whose essay ?Leap? appeared in
the Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of
Utne, is the editor of
Portland Magazine at the University of Portland. He is the
author of two essay collections and editor of a new anthology,

God Is Love: Essays from Portland Magazine (Augsburg Fortress
Press). Doyle lives with his wife and three children in Lake
Oswego, Oregon. Excerpted from
The American Scholar (Fall
2002). Subscriptions: $25/yr. (4 issues) from Box 97269,
Washington, DC 20078.

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