Uncategorized

How Many Pigeons Do You See?

This Is What I See In My Backyard.

MT

This Is What My Neighbors See.

St. Mark’s Square, Venice, Italy.

I received an anonymous letter:

            May 24, 2021

            To: Neighbor at ………

            Re: Pigeons

            Over the past few months, we have noticed an increase in pigeons which are creating a nuisance in the community.

            As a bird lover, I’m sure you understand that pigeons are altering the ecosystem. Pigeons run counter to ecology and conservation. These birds are invasive and are having a negative impact on our community.

            Over the past month, we have begun cleaning homes that are near yours. In trying to resolve this issue, we have worked to identify where the pigeons are coming from. On numerous occasions, we have observed pigeons feeding in your back yard then flying to neighboring homes to nest.

             This weekend we removed approximately 25 pounds of pigeon feces from the top of one home that neighbors yours. The pigeons are nesting in the HVAC units and damaging stucco with their feces.

            In addition, the pigeon feces is (sic) causing health issues for those of us with breathing issues.

            We are respectfully asking you stop feeding the birds for a short period to eliminate the pigeons and look for other ways to feed small birds.

            Thank you in advance for your consideration and attention to this issue! We THANK YOU!!!

Now if this letter had not been sent anonymously, I would have responded directly, attending to each of the charges. I then considered posting this note on the Next Door Neighbor Website. However, after reading previous comments about bird poop, the audience takes the subject too seriously. And as the owner of my local Wild Birds Unlimited store reflected, “If you have water or trees, you will have birds.”

Generally, when I look in my backyard there are either no pigeons, or two to four. No way could those birds produce 25 lbs. of bird feces. And by the way, did my accusers weigh the bags? And why? And can they tell the difference between pigeon poop and dove poop?  

As for the pigeon feces causing health issues, I have severe asthma, but I certainly can’t pin it on the poor pathetic pigeons.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, fresh bird droppings have not been shown to present a health risk. They quote the CDC as saying that fresh bird droppings on surfaces such as sidewalks and windowsills have not been shown to present a health risk. Of course, they recommend that people avoid contact with any animal droppings but add that good hygiene such as washing hands and leaving shoes at the door, are adequate preventions if someone accidentally comes into contact with animal droppings.

Pigeons are not altering the ecosystem. They serve as food for peregrine falcons, hawks, foxes and martins. They also maintain and regulate insect species and weeds. Additionally, they play a part in seed dispersal by eating seeds and distributing them. Pigeons regulate insect populations as they are omnivores eating both plant and animal matter. And their poop is a great fertilizer.

So do I feel guilty as charged? Not enough to stop feeding them. And how can I discriminate against the pigeons and doves (sometimes called desert rats) and only feed the finches and quail? Besides, those pigeons and doves desperately try daily to access the finch feeders. They end up eating what the smaller birds spill on the ground.

I am sympathetic to neighbors having to remove bird droppings from the air conditioners or on their roofs. However, I do not feel culpable for this. I was advised that the city tried to get rid of the pigeons on the downtown plaza and somehow have gotten them to relocate in this general area. For that, I am not responsible.

I am willing to take responsibility for my actions and inactions. In this case, however, had the complaining neighbor been enough of a mensch to confront me directly, we could have had a meaningful discussion.

They say, ” J’Accuse?” I plead, “Not Guilty.”

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is also a bird lover. And although she prefers just feeding the quail, finches, and thrashers, she cannot discriminate against the doves and pigeons and other undesirables.

norinedresser.org

Gallery of Folklore & Popular Culture: flpcgallery.org

able/disabled, health

TO BE SHOT? OR NOT?

As of 4/1/21, over 76 Million people have been fully vaccinated in the U.S.

                                    

For me, it was a no-brainer.

When the Salk vaccine to protect against polio was first released, my son received his injection at age four. About ten days after that, the nursery school he attended took the children on a field trip to the Los Angeles Music Center. This was during the 1950s when passengers were not required to wear seatbelts, so the little darlings piled into the car packed in like sardines.    

Approximately two weeks later, three of the nursery school children began exhibiting polio symptoms: fever, headache, neck stiffness, pain in the arms and legs, weakness, vomiting, PARALYSIS.  The nursery school shut down. Not only did the children become infected, but they also passed the virus on to siblings and parents. One victim was a father who had been a dentist. He recovered for a while but was severely affected and could no longer pursue his occupation. He succumbed to the after-effects at an early age.

One day, I accompanied a nursery school mom to visit her son at Rancho Los Amigos, a facility in Southern California that accommodated a large number of iron lungs. For me, it was chilling to see children’s faces protruding from these frightening-looking tanks. For the parents, it must have been devastating.

                   

Iron lungs helped patients breathe. They are now obsolete because world-wide polio has been almost eradicated. Today, ventilators are the go-to device for breathing assistance, especially common during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, our two nursery schoolteachers, who had been in such close contact with the children, felt especially vulnerable. After consulting with their doctors, they received large doses of gamma globulin. This was costly but health experts believed that gamma globulin boosted immune systems, and that might be one way to fight off this crippling disease. When the teachers submitted their medical bills to the nursery school parents, some parents balked at paying for the shots. I couldn’t believe it. These two women put their lives at risk in caring for our children. Why should any parent deny them this protection?

Even though my son had received the Salk vaccine less than ten days before the field trip, I believe that antibodies were already beginning to form in his body, and this spared him.

When I was growing up, poliomyelitis was the summer scourge, and no one could figure out how it was transmitted. Swimming pools were suspect because the numbers of infections rose during the summer. Consequently, public swimming pools shut down if one of the users came down with the disease.

At about 17, I met a boy a year or so older than me. I’ll call him Joe, and at that time he was on the rebound from a girlfriend named Betty. Joe and Betty had been childhood friends and during adolescence their friendship blossomed into romance. Now they had broken up.

Joe was a live wire, an identical twin with a dynamic personality. Not only that, but he and his brother sang together and often performed at social events. I fell for that, too. But not long after we began dating, Joe took a summer job as a counselor at a children’s camp. Unfortunately, several cases of polio broke out at the camp and everyone was placed under quarantine. Guess what? As fate would have it, Joe’s old girlfriend, Betty, was also a camp counselor at the same camp. During their confinement, their romance re-ignited, and he sent me the equivalent of a Dear John letter, and we would not be seeing each other again. I like to joke that after meeting me, Joe realized that Betty was the one for him. Eventually, they married.

I was crestfallen for a while, but not for too long. Yet whenever I think about polio, memories of my broken romance re-surface. More importantly, memories of the miracle accomplished by the Salk vaccine come to bear. That is why I was delighted to receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. After receiving each of the injections, I felt jubilant. Additionally, when my family recently celebrated Passover, a memorial to overcoming obstacles and enjoying freedom, we tied it to the COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine has provided us with an opportunity for protection against the pandemic that has claimed more than half a million lives in the U.S. alone.    

I am also enthusiastic about taking any other vaccines that have the power to protect me from flu, shingles, pneumonia, tetanus. And why not? I am a believer in science.

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who, as a mom, was equally positive when she learned that her four grandchildren had been vaccinated against mumps, measles, chicken pox. These were damaging, sometimes fatal, diseases of their parents’ childhoods. Thus they were spared.

norinedresser.org

Uncategorized

IT’S OFFICIAL!

My yard has been certified as a Wildlife Habitat.

This is the sign that officially makes my yard a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wlldlife Federation. Photo by Mariah Chase.
© Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.

Since I first moved into my Las Cruces home in 2012, I have been birdwatching in the backyard. Although I would love to be a real birdwatcher and travel the world, or even closer, to observe our feathered companions, that is pretty hard to do when using a cane, as I must do. Birdwatching requires looking up with full attention. But looking up is hazardous for a klutz like me with natural tendencies to trip and fall. The only solution is to have a stationary bird center where I can observe from the stable environment of my dining room table.

What does it take to have one’s yard become a certified Wildlife Habitat? Naturally, food is one of the first requirements. I installed bird feeders right away. I ordered the usual supplies: bird seed; suet blocks; quail blocks; bark butter bits; worms. When the sales person at Wild Birds Unlimited asked whether I wanted live worms or dried worms, I made a quick decision, “Dead ones, please.” Why? Because if I ordered live ones, I would have to feed them celery every ten days and store them in the fridge. That became my line in the sand, and I opted out.

Another necessity is water. In addition to a solar-powered fountain that sits on the ground, I also have two other pans where they can drink. However, birds don’t follow my rules. Some bathe in the water rather than drink there. Others do both.

One must also provide a place where birds can shelter their young. I ordered two different kinds of bird houses and picked the perfect spot to place them. However, my backyard adviser, Liza Chase, warned me that if I used that chosen location there was too much sun and the hatchlings would cook in our desert sun. OOPS! The bird houses now sit in the shade of a tree.

So far, these are two different styles of bird houses. The upper photo shows a more standard bird house for finches, while the lower photo shows multiplex living quarters, also for finches that abound in the yard. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.
Gambel’s Quail resemble California Quail. This photo is a bit misleading because the yellow on its chest is actually more like a creamy white. Its black mask and orange cap indicate that this is a male.

My favorite visitors to the yard are the Gambel’s Quail. When I see their bobbing top-knots as they scurry around the yard, I automatically smile. They are my daily meditation as I get caught up in watching their dramas: taking dust baths in the holes dug for them by the bunnies; keeping track of their errant young – and there is always one straggler; one standing sentry at the top of the fence overlooking the brood and ready to sound an alarm if danger approaches. And they are the best parents. They tend to their young for a long time, guiding them even as late as their teenage years, yet nothing is as precious as seeing parents escorting a string of baby feather balls.

Did you know that Roadrunners are a part of the Cuckoo family? And that
seems so appropriate, too, because they are such silly looking birds. I love it when they visit my yard, although their presence frightens some of the smaller birds.

Roadrunners make me laugh. The yard mostly clears when they are around, although surprisingly, I’ve observed a bunny chasing one off. I can only surmise that baby bunnies must have been hiding nearby. While they are in the yard, they are usually on the hunt for lizards. When I first started learning about birds, I told Kristi Lane, the owner of my local Wild Birds Unlimited store, I wanted to feed them, too. That inclination was squashed when she said, “They’re carnivores, you know.” And they have a bad reputation for eating quail eggs.

Cooper’s Hawks are predators that visit
my yard. They are rather small for hawks, but that speckled chest is an easy identifier.

Birdwatching has its dark side, too. Sometimes a Cooper’s Hawk will chase a dove into one of my large dining room windows. The crash into the window creates a sickening “thud” that reverberates through the house. Then after the stunned bird falls to the ground, the hawk pounces; feathers fly, and the hawk devours its prey. That doesn’t sit well while I’m having my lunch.

You can learn a lot by watching the backyard action. Pecking order has real meaning. At the bottom of the pecking order are the mourning doves but the white winged doves have priority over them. And the quail have seniority over the doves.

Knowing how much delight I receive from bird watching, Liza came up with a great idea. she thought I would enjoy hearing them, too. She set up a baby monitoring system so that I can hear them when I am in my bedroom and in the dining room. After a short while, I have become quite adept at distinguishing between bird sounds. The only creepy part is at night when I hear unfamiliar sounds, and it’s too dark out there to identify the culprit.

Other regular visitors to my yard are grackles, who elicit the response, “The sky is falling,” because they commonly look skyward; finches of many varieties; curved bill thrashers; hummingbirds; pyrrhuloxia (a kind of cardinal); sparrows; and mockingbirds.

This plaque was a gift from my dear friends, Mariah Chase and Roxana Gillett. Roxana participated in the gift despite my having previously gifted her with twelve pink flamingos that did not thrill her. The flamingos have since migrated to my yard where they have multiplied over the years. The bunny (Cottontails) population in New Mexico has greatly diminished due to some pandemic that has been causing their deaths. Now instead of having three to five every day, I only have one.

During this pandemic, I have been enjoying ZOOM meetings of the Audubon Society. Recently, one presenter said, “Birdwatching keeps you sane.” I must agree with her. Each morning as I record how many infections and deaths have occurred in Doña Ana County in the last 24 hours, I then turn my head to watch the birds and surrender my worries.

**********

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who has always loved birds. When living in Los Angeles, the Scrub Jays depended on her for daily doses of peanuts that they took from her hands. When they saw her car pull into the garage, they sat on the front steps hand railing and squawked at her to let her know they were hungry.

norinedresser.org

Visit my Gallery of Folklore & Popular Culture: flpcgallery.org

celebrations, customs/rituals, health, parties

Bob Dylan Was Right: The Times They Are a-Changin’

And Here’s the Reason Why – The Covid-19 Virus

I purchased this Covid-19 piñata from a piñata and popsicle shop here in Las Cruces, NM. Since no face-to-face parties are safe during the pandemic, I am hoping to smash it in October 2021, at my 90th birthday party. Hopefully, by then we will have a safe vaccine available. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2021.
I purchased this Covid-19 piñata at a piñata and popsicle shop in Las Cruces, NM. Since face-to-face celebrations are unsafe during this pandemic year, I am hoping to smash it in October, 2021 at my 90th birthday party. Hopefully, by then we will have a safe vaccine available. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.

During this 2020 Pandemic we are sheltering in place and keeping our social distances, but leading a sedentary lifestyle brings changes:

       We are gaining weight;

       Our pets are gaining weight;

       Bra sales are down;

       High heel sales are down by 70%;

       Pajamas and lounge wear sales are up;

       Lipstick sales are down (it smears inside a mask);

       Eye makeup sales are up;

      Single folks who are dating now concern themselves with, “What mask shall I wear?”

Since going to movies and dining inside restaurants is limited, we must content ourselves with home-based entertainment. Thus we are transported to places all over the world via TV streaming or ZOOM activities on our computers. I do both.

Last week, I visited the moon with NASA and saw close-ups of its peaks and craters. I’ve gone bird watching in Utah with the Audubon Society; I went on a pilgrimage with the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California to Yosemite to learn about the role of the Chinese as trail cooks and laundry workers in the National Parks;  In the Catskills, I listened to a band composed of Irving Berlin’s great-grandchildren playing great-grandpa’s tunes; I attended the Roswell, NM Jazz Festival to learn about the music of Duke Ellington; I toured three ghost towns in New Mexico; I wept at three different funerals: Catholic, Buddhist, Jewish.

I’ve ZOOMED to the Fowler Museum at UCLA for two Learn and Lunch sessions, one on Voudun flags from Haiti, the other on elaborate headdresses from Sierra Leone. I traveled to the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv; In Cuba, I enjoyed the music of an outstanding female trio, the Vocal Vidas, and I learned about St. Joseph Tables from the Italian American Museum on Olvera Street. In New York, I celebrated Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday party, where Broadway singers belted out his tunes. I’ve visited book clubs, meetings of the Las Cruces Press Women, and weekly gatherings of the Las Cruces Ukes. Once you start exploring online, the opportunities are endless. 

Despite ZOOM transporting us all over the globe for stimulating events, they can’t replace the experience of being with real people. That rarity happened when I attended a drive-through Jewish ceremony for Ephraim Schmukler’s first haircut, called an Upshearin. Ephraim is the three-year-old son of Rabbi Bery and Chenchie Schmukler, co-directors of the Alevy Chabad Jewish Center of Southern New Mexico. In addition to a boy’s first haircut at age three, the boy also accepts his responsibility to begin studying the Torah. 

Ephraim Schmukler, three-years-old, sitting under an archway of balloons before his hair-cutting ceremony. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.

Several years prior, I attended the Upshearin of Ephraim’s older brother, Ari. At that time, the number of party goers numbered about fifty, held indoors with fabulous decorations and food prepared by his talented mother. The highlight was having every person step up to cut off one lock of the boy’s hair, in exchange for a donation to charity.

At the drive-through Upshearin, we received a packet of goodies, including cookies that were the birthday boy’s favorites. Then as we drove out, an attendant gave each of us a sno-cone to offset the oppressive desert heat of that day.

Las Cruces’ Tropical Shaved Kona Ice truck provided much-needed respite from the desert heat. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.

Since I arrived at the tail-end of the event, Ephraim’s mom invited me out of my car to snip a lock of her young son’s hair. Actually touching this child’s soft silky curls was startling. When was the last time I touched a baby’s hair? This simple gesture reminded me of how much we have lost during this pandemic beyond those who have perished.

Norine, the Barber. What an honor to touch and cut this sweet baby’s hair. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.

We crave human contact. We need hugs and human touch, actions that ZOOM cannot provide. Alas, we must wait until such time when human interactions are safe. In the meanwhile, I guess I’ll just have to content myself with hugging my cat for the twenty seconds per day she allots me.

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who has taken sheltering-in-place as a mandate.

norinedresser.org

Visit her Gallery of Folklore & Popular Culture: flpcgallery.org

customs/rituals, folklore, health

Quackery

Phrenology: While not an exact example of quackery, this was a bogus method of diagnosing human behavior popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. By examining the shape and unevenness of a head or skull, one could discover the organs responsible for different intellectual aptitudes and character traits using the above skull map. Photo by Mariah Chase. ©Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.

 

JIM BAKKER SUED BY SECOND STATE FOR SELLING FAKE CORONAVIRUS CURE screamed the headline sourced by CBS News. Both Missouri and Arkansas claimed that Bakker and his Morningside Church Productions bilked consumers out of over $120,00 for colloidal silver, a product sold on the internet as a dietary supplement. However, ingesting this substance is toxic and can cause Argyria that can permanently turn the skin a bluish-grey. Regardless, Bakker advertised that his Silver Solution totally eliminated the virus, killed it, deactivated it.

According to Lydia Kang, M.D., and Nate Pedersen, co-authors of  Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything (New York: Workman, 2017), purveyors of sham cures prey on our fears of death or sickness. They hawk substances that don’t work, that hurt and even kill us. Sometimes the sellers truly believe their potions are effective; more frequently, they are being deceptive with intent to cash in on a catastrophe.

The COVID-19 pandemic offers a perfect opportunity for charlatans to take advantage of our anxiety about this invisible killer. An online Newsweek headline reads: Coronavirus Quack Cures Like Cow Urine, Fasting and Cognac Are Being Promoted by Authority Figures Around the World.

In Kenya, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko promoted drinking cognac as an antidote for the disease. Elsewhere in India, party agendas included the drinking of cow urine as a cure for the virus. As absurd as that may seem, in the past, U.S. physicians touted ingesting  Premarin to reduce hot flashes of menopausal women. And how is Premarin made? From the urine of pregnant horses.

President Trump got into the action when he suggested injecting household disinfectant  as a possible cure for the Covid-19 Virus along with internally using ultra-violet light. The scientific world metaphorically groaned. (Isn’t that when Dr. Fauci covered his face?) Not only were these cures invalid but could lead to death. His pseudo-remedies inspired many Facebook jokes and satires. For example, Randy Rainbow, popular online parodist, wrote and sang: “Just a spoonful of Clorox makes your temperature go down….”

The WHO was not amused claiming that drinking anything with bleach in it can cause severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration and acute liver failure. A less toxic treatment in China caused some people to hold exactly seven peppercorns under their tongues to ward off the COVID-19.

Fortunately, there is a dependable online source called “Quackwatch.org” run by a Dr. Stephen Barrett. He calls it “Your Guide to Quackery, Health, Fraud, and Intelligent Decisions.” And he has been a good health crusader for over two decades.

Barrett posts numerous categories of COVID-19 scams including: Prevention (phony dietary supplements that boost immune systems); Testing (fake at-home kits, door-to-door sales people); Mask Exemption cards (no such things); Treatments (fake cures); Supply (phony salespeople who take your money and run).

These are scary times being surrounded by an unseen foe. The danger cannot be understated. Personally, two of my friends got the virus, but only one survived. In Sunset Park, Brooklyn, two dozen refrigerated trucks currently hold over 1,300 frozen victims awaiting burial. The bodies remain in limbo while families decide how they want their loved ones buried or come up with the money to pay for funerals.

Be careful. Discuss your concerns and plans of action with medical personnel, and observe recommendations for masks, avoiding crowds, and social distancing. To use an old maxim, Better Safe than Sorry.

                                                                   ###

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who takes the Shelter-in-Place recommendation seriously. The evidence? Check out her now long and greying hair.

Website: norinedresser.org

Gallery of Folklore & Popular Culture: flpcgallery.org