Wednesday, May 7, 2008

John Nolan Appreciation Day

I have my favorite reporters and news sources.My mom had a favorite reporter, too. She told me about this reporter in the following phone conversation:
Me: "Hello?"
Mother (choking with laughter): "I can't believe he's doing this!"
Me: "Mom?"
Mother (sobbing with laughter): "He's GREAT! I wonder if anybody else reads this thing?"
Me: "Mom?"
Mother: haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (drops the phone, hangs up).

Me: "Hello?"
Mother (sniffling, struggling to regain control): "Sorry, honey. This is just really funny."
Me: "What's really funny?"
Mother: "This guy who writes the Police Log in the paper. He's hilarious!"
Me: "Huh?"
Mother: "I know. Look, I'll have to show you the paper the next time you come up."
Me: "Okaaaaaaaaaaaay. Little wine tonight, mom?"
Mother: "You'll see."

And, I did see. For many years, John Nolan--reporter, author of the Police Log that made my mother laugh, former policeman in Scotland, journalist, gentleman scholar, wit, and tireless chronicler of the small town of Farmington, New Hampshire--stealthily slid humorous little tidbits into the normally very boring Police Log.

It's hard to recapture the magic of the moment my mother first discovered John Nolan as, bleary-eyed, she sipped her morning coffee and idly pawed through the paper. There, amidst all the little columns that are part of small town life--the Senior Center Quilting Bee, the School Lunches for the Week ("Sloppy Joes, potato crispies, carrot coins, canned apricots, oatmeal cookies, milk"), she snotted her coffee when she stumbled upon some of Mr. Nolan's Police Log work. For that reason--I can't provide you with the same moment of discovery--the following excerpt probably won't translate well. Still, I'm including it as a tribute to Mr. Nolan and to my mother. Although the original paper my mother enjoyed reading Nolan's work in went belly-up the year that she got sick, Nolan is still walking the Police Beat online, as well as writing articles. He kept her laughing almost to the end of her life.

Here is an excerpt from one of his police logs:
1:22 p.m. — A dog has been barking for almost three hours in the Logan Street area, but intuitively shuts up when a cruiser arrives.
1:57 p.m. — A Twombly Street resident reports he has a wild animal stuck under his fence. It is not a cat and neither is it a dog. Rochester police refer him to Fish and Game. Fish and Game says it is not their responsibility and refer him back to Rochester. At 6:03 p.m. the resident calls the station to say he has removed the animal himself and it is dead. Nice going, authorities.
4:40 p.m. — In the Old Dover Road area, an elderly lady wanders off from her husband and is found by the surprised resident of another house. In this case, a wife swap makes everybody happy.

6:56 p.m. — A Bridge Street resident complains of loud music and wants them "to keep it sown." Peas and quiet wanted?

Please go here to read: Farmington Corner: A Surrealistic Compendium of Life in the American Boonies by John Nolan and to buy "The Collected Poems and Songs of Farmington Corner." Then, go here to see the artwork of his wife, the very talented Stephanie Piro.

This is an excerpt from Farmington Corner: A Continuing Tale of Life in the Boonies, No. 285. Poets who Matter: #1. Omar KhayyamBy John Nolan, All Rights Reserved.PLEASE GO READ THE WHOLE THING AND BUY HIS BOOK.
"In Glasgow, I was a police officer, and for several years was assigned the Blackhill beat in the northeast of the city, where a substation had just been opened in the housing project of 5,000 people in the vain hope of subjugating it. The station was small – it had previously been a candy store - and its conversion had presented several architectural challenges including how to fit five toilets into a confined space – one for the public, one for prisoners, one for policewomen, one for policemen and one for sergeants and upper ranks. The prisoners’ toilet was in a holding cell whose door opened into a narrow passage leading to a kitchen and other urinary facilities in the rear of the building. The cell’s reinforced observation window looked out onto the office where a desk sergeant typed or, when there was opportunity, dozed. This arrangement could be particularly irritating to typing or dozing sergeants if the prisoner within the cell elected to flatten their face against the glass and stare into the office. Often there would be a cry of "Curtains" from the sergeant and a constable would dutifully tear out the stock market pages of a newspaper and tape them, upside down, onto the glass, to frustrate the prisoner’s gaze whilst substituting nothing interesting to read. A Blackhill prisoner tended not to take this treatment lying down, and might then stand with his back to the wooden door, and thump it over and over with his heel. In a well-rehearsed maneuver two constables and a sergeant would subsequently rush into the cell and deprive the prisoner of his boots. Sometimes this quieted things, but not always, for persistent types would resume the thumping in their stocking feet. At this stage, a constable would look expectantly at the sergeant and, given the nod, would retreat back up the corridor to the kitchen, fill up a white porcelain mug with cold water, sneak back down and whisk the icy liquid under the cell door. An anguished cry would result, as water swirled round sock, and a barrage of curses would follow. 'There must be a mellower way,' I thought to myself, after witnessing this ritual yet again, and turned to Omar Khayyam for guidance."
This was an excerpt from Farmington Corner: A Continuing Tale of Life in the Boonies, No. 285. Poets who Matter: #1. Omar KhayyamBY JOHN NOLAN, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.PLEASE GO READ THE WHOLE THING AND BUY HIS BOOK.

Happy Wednesday! I suppose I should go do my real work now, huh?