By Ingomar Schoenborn, Quilt Staff
DATELINE: PARTHENIA STREET
Parthenia Paul, Canoga Park’s beloved and flea-infested possum prognosticator of neighborhood noise, emerged from his den inside a storm drain along Parthenia Street early Monday evening and saw his shadow - cast from the bright white searchlights of an overhead Los Angeles Police Department helicopter - and forecast another six hours of overhead LAPD chopper activity.
The nocturnal mammal’s prediction came at 8:34 p.m. as he began his nightly foray into neighborhood yards looking for sustenance in the form of rotted fruit, garbage and cat feces when moments later the telltale window-rattling whup-whup-whup clamor and erratic, unnatural light from above began as a police helicopter flew into the area. (The animal, spooked, immediately disappeared into a crawlspace under a nearby house.) An official proclamation announcing possum Paul’s forecast was to be read by attending representatives of the Canoga Park Friendly Neighborhood Council to a small gathering of the press and the public, but the idea was quickly abandoned when it was decided no one would be able to hear it over the noise from the circling copter.
While there is no mystery as to how the tradition of looking to the lowly possum for police air traffic activity came to be - it’s been traced to superstitious Slovak settlers who came to the area in the 1980s - what baffles possums and residents alike is exactly why the police helicopters circle one small area for so long. Despite broad, vague explanations by the LAPD and articles in local newspapers and free weeklies transcribing those broad, vague explanations, the phenomenon remains an insoluble mystery.
One thing’s clear, though: Parthenia Paul’s track record can’t be argued with - the feisty marsupial and his predecessors have been right the last seven years running. “Frankly, it’s not too surprising,” explains top-hatted master of ceremonies Mike “Ronnie” Dorado. “It goes on pretty much every night around here, and once it starts, it’s like it never ends.”