Where The Heck Is Immigration Reform?

Houston leads all other Texas cities in population with well over two million people sprawling over an area of almost 600 square miles.  According to Huffington Post’s March 5, 2012 article “Houston Surpasses New York And Los Angeles As The ‘Most Diverse In Nation‘” by Sara Gates, Houston enjoys a special ethnic based status among all other cities in the United States. At any time of day over 90 different languages and dialects can be heard chatting away within the city limits. According to 2010 census figures, gringos checked in at 51% of Houston’s population.  Although Houston’s Hispanic population was officially 44%, it was estimated that close to half a million illegal immigrants also live throughout the Houston area. With so many households not registered with the Census, it could easily be said that Hispanics actually enjoy a much larger slice of Houston’s population pie and could easily be the city’s predominant culture. The Greater Houston Partnership Research Department’s October 2014 report “Social, Economic and Demographic Characteristics of Metro Houston” includes a moderate growth scenario which predicts that by 2015, Hispanics will represent the largest share of Houston’s population and, by 2044 Hispanics will outnumber all other ethnic groups combined.  So, it seems that Houston’s ethnic communities continue to grow. With such tremendous growth of the Latin immigrant community, why are their voices not being heard? Where the heck is immigration reform?

I believe two reasons Houston’s Hispanic population is so large is geography and climate. Houston is often the first place an immigrant from Central or South America arrives at when they first cross the border. It’s simply convenient and economical to stay. For many of these immigrants, Houston’s subtropical climate is quite similar to what they left behind and it creates a comforting familiarity. My husband, for example, immigrated from the jungles of Peru. Houston was his first checkpoint in his new land. He did a brief stint in Georgia and Maryland but, after experiencing their winter season, he high-tailed it back to Houston where you can wear flip-flops and tank-tops in December.

Many immigrants come to the United States searching for the opportunity to build a better life. These immigrants also prefer to stay in Houston because it’s a hotbed of opportunity. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Houston consistently led the rest of the country in “total nonfarm employment” job growth from March 2010-March 2015. Many of these jobs are performed, on and off the books, by Houston’s Hispanic population. I believe if almost half a million undocumented people are contributing to Houston’s economic success, these people deserve the opportunity to become legitimate Houstonians. Immigration reform is long overdue.

It seems to this gringa that the task of trying to process the existent undocumented immigrant community is a job way too extensive for our already overburdened judicial system to take on.  That is one reason why I support amnesty.  Another reason is because I do not place all the blame of an undocumented person’s illegal status on the immigrant.  For decades Americans chose to turn a blind eye to immigrants that secretly crossed the border. The people of this country knew they were coming and made non-enforcement our country’s unofficial border policy at the Rio Grande. Suddenly, many in the United States not only want to change this unspoken policy, but they also want to demonize the undocumented workers that arrived here during a time when they were passively welcomed. Our country wanted to enjoy the fruits of low paid labor.  Our citizens wanted their landscapers, live-in nannies, and farm workers.  For decades U.S. citizens were willing to benefit from undocumented worker labor. Now, America, you refuse to play the game you started.  You want to take your ball and go home. The complicated repercussions of such a temper tantrum could very well be economically and socially disastrous.

The United States is just as much at fault for the current undocumented immigrant issue by creating a situation that enabled millions of undocumented workers to easily immigrate and build a new life. The country then needs to accept responsibility and stop crying foul. We should not rip families apart by keeping within our borders those who were born here and send the others back to their country of origin.  We do not need to create a vacuum of loss in our economy by suddenly disappearing profitable businesses and vital service industries that the community is interdependent upon.  We do not need to allow documented immigrants to point and wag their fingers and self-righteously proclaim, “If WE can do it the right way, so can you.” Stop that. It’s not helpful. As you pass judgment on this group of people you  are absolutely clueless of the conditions of their life journey and it does not solve the problem. We do not need to get on our defensive high horses and scream, “But they are taking our jobs!” We need to stop perpetrating this lie because the truth is most gringos and gringas believe they are too good for the job of busboy, housekeeper, landscaper or floor sweeper. The unspoken, politically incorrect truth is that most Caucasians simply refuse to apply for such jobs as tomato picker, fruit sorter, launderer, seamstress, nanny, busboy and gardener. The politically incorrect truth is that America has created a culture of entitlement and a corresponding population that believes those jobs are for the “illegals”.  Not only are immigrants not “stealing” anyone’s jobs, many of these people are true entrepreneurs creating their own jobs as well as jobs for others, hiring staff to work alongside them in their landscape business, housecleaning service or mobile taqueria.

Please be honest with yourself, America. Political correctness solves nothing because, although it may be a feel good/sound good message and doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, political correctness usually has nothing to do with the truth. It’s like when the esposa asks the esposo, “Does this make me look fat?”  And, yes, it most certainly does make her look fat but he knows better than to say the truth or there will be a rumble in the barrio. So, he diplomatically lies in order to spare her feelings, “No. What, are you crazy? You look great!”  And then she goes out and the whole familia starts gossiping about how Tia is probably pregnant. Look at how much weight she’s gained. See, political correctness is stupid. Without accepting and dealing with the real truth of issues, progress can never be accomplished. So, political correctness junkies, just stop it.

Our country is faced with the job of processing a vast population of undocumented workers. This presents a task so daunting that it would be another decade or two before the court system worked its way down the list to even begin processing immigrants who entered the United States under a new immigration policy today. I say the only reasonable solution is amnesty for those undocumented workers that are here now. Wipe the slate clean. Legalize the ones we have and start anew with a streamlined, simplified, affordable immigration policy that makes it possible for the impoverished immigrant to escape a hellish reality just as easily as a privileged immigrant who has the means to be college educated in America.  Our policy of rejecting the lowly has been proven wrong by the thousands upon thousands who have come here with nothing and have created their own opportunity and built their own version of the American dream. If you don’t believe me and need a strong dose of reality, I invite you to my barrio so you can see for yourself. Mi casa es su casa. The gringa will keep the café hot and the chicha morado cold while I wait for you!

Proud Laborers of the Barrio

From time to time I hear politicians, as well as certain people in the media, stirring the “class warfare” pot. They all remind us we better stock up on our provisions.  Gather up your pitchforks and torches.  And, for God’s sake, don’t forget to pile up all the junk you can find to safely barricade your “domain”.  Class warfare? Seriously? I don’t know about you, but this gringa and all her neighbors in the barrio do not have time for such nonsense.  We’ve got mouths to feed and the only way to do it is to work, work, work.  If the gringa is not pounding away at the keyboard working (or playing Spider Solitaire), scrubbing a toilet, laundering yet another load of stinky socks and unmentionables,  then she’s having adventures with the Latin man of her dreams or basking in the glory of the presence of the kids and grandkids. And, as far as I can tell, all the people in the barrio are doing the same. So, why all the paranoia and fear-mongering from the politicians and media?

Recently the gringa and her caveman escaped the barrio for “uptown” (which means we went a few blocks west).  We had lunch at a local restaurant. The lady in the booth behind us was talking on her phone to a family member. She was giving this person directions to the neighborhood pool from her home. Overhearing her directions (yes, I am a notorious eavesdropper), I was able to determine that I was familiar with the neighborhood she lived in.  It is an exclusive, gated housing development.  All the homes back up to a golf course. Many of these million dollar plus properties are of the most modern designs incorporating the latest technology. Sometimes they are marketed as “smart homes”.  I easily drew the conclusion that this was probably a wealthy woman.  As she explained the details of purchasing a seasonal pool pass for the neighborhood pools she concluded by expressing her dismay that because these were “public” pools even people that did not reside in her “village” could get these passes, they just had to pay more.  It seemed disturbing to her to find herself sunning next to a table where one of these poor families had set up camp so she explained if she had to go she preferred to go early and on a weekday.

My husband and I have taken our kids and grandchildren to these pools numerous times over the years.  What I would like to know is how can a rich person know another person is poor when you are all basically wearing underwear that passes as outerwear simply because the fabric is lined? Does the working class gringa and her familia have a glowing, poor person aura?  Do we exude a distinct barrio fragrance? Do the wealthy have a poor person detector implanted discreetly in their body? Perhaps it is my banged up, duct taped ice chest that has seen many seasons of use at the pool, the beach and the campground that gives me away. Maybe it’s the twenty dollar haircuts we all sport from Great Clips. She might be able to detect the presence of an eight-dollar-a-bottle Clairol redhead (before I went blonde). However, most likely it is the Wal-Mart brand drinks and snacks that always litter the table. Yes, that’s probably it. I shop generic. Ya know, the “more bang for your buck” method of shopping? Perhaps we are seen pulling through the parking lot in our old, beat up mini-van with the one broken door that has the lock duct-taped down so no one makes the mistake of unlocking and opening it because we’ll never get it closed again if they do! But, don’t hate the van, it was paid for! I do know, however, that our manners are not the dead give-away. We may be working class and can’t afford Gucci, but, by golly, being polite and considerate is a freebie to all!

Please, have no fear, rich folk, if you find yourself side by side with the poor folk. We are all out for the same thing, just a little fun in the sun.  Heck, just think about it. That beautiful park you are enjoying is manicured regularly by some working class Joes. Speaking of manicure, your lovely toes and fingers are sporting a mani/pedi compliments of some working class gal (or guy). That bottle of sparkling water you’re enjoying with your organic what-not tidbit was trucked to your favorite store by a person just like my husband. Chances are many of the things that make your life easier and more pleasureable are made possible by the working class. And it is highly likely many of these working class laborers are immigrants who are here to build a better life, not take yours.

As you pass another taco truck or landscape crew salute the courage of these men who, like my husband, left behind all that they knew to enter a foreign country, often all alone, not even knowing the language. And yet, they are making it on their own. As you pick up your clothes at the dry cleaner or enjoy an immaculately clean home thanks to a wonderful house cleaning service, take a moment to admire these women.  These are women who have often survived a life of extreme disadvantage and possibly risked a dangerous journey to immigrate. The hope for a better life was worth the risk to them. Rather than consider working class immigrants suspiciously, consider them heroes. One day their children and grandchildren will owe all of the opportunity and privilege they enjoy to these brave men and women. Our country is enriched by people like this. They are landscapers, cooks, crop harvesters, nannies, seamstresses, truckers, handymen, busboys, hair stylists, etc. They are not just immigrants, they are immigrants who have come to embody all that is American. They are America.

So, please, all you wealthy folk out there who are concerned that us working class folk are biding our time until just the right moment to shriek, “BURN THE WITCH!” and come after your Bentleys and Birkenstocks, it just ain’t so.  There is no need for you to clean out your local Wholefoods Market of Perrier and organic bon- bons.  There’s no reason to have KBR on your home security networks’ speed-dial.  You see, first of all, we working class folk simply don’t have the time to engage in revolt. I stated some of the whys and wherefores of that in the opening paragraph.  But, we also don’t have the extra moolah to fund such an effort. I mean, have you seen how much a pitchfork costs these days? Extras like that are simply not in a barrio budget.  The familia of the barrio spends all of their money on their family and a better life. They will not waste a nickel on something that is going to just cause trouble for another. Most barrio families came here to leave that kind of trouble behind. The simple truth of the matter is, working class people are just not the type of people to bang on your door, poke their hand out and demand a piece of your pie.  Working class people are proud.  Working class people are humble.  Working class people are independent.  We do not want what is yours.  We are satisfied with what is ours.

The barrio is a beautiful place.  The gringa doesn’t want to live anywhere else in the world. You can keep your golf course real estate and your mansion that talks to you. I am happy with my patio garden and an apartment I can clean from top to bottom in about forty-eight minutes flat leaving the rest of the day for my own pleasure. When we moved here the Caveman and I joked we were gonna “slum it” until all the kids were finished with college.  You see, wealthy people don’t sweat tuition. The truly poor get financial aid. Working class people pay every single dime.  We don’t make enough for us not to sweat it and we make too much for the government to think our kids need help. But, we don’t complain. We are proud that our oldest has finished, two are still at it, and the youngest, showing much promise, will soon be on his way.  So, even though it may have started as a temporary move to the barrio, now I want to stay for life. We may not have much but we always have enough, and, of love and laughter and good times, we have plenty. So, what in the world is there to fight for? All of our dreams that really matter have already come true.

Beards And Boogers

I find this current trend of male facial hair very interesting.  This gringa personally does not like male facial hair.  I am too distracted with the fear that boogers or food debris may be lurking within.  It would be an anxiety-filled experience if my husband wanted to kiss me in full beard.  I can see it now.  “Come over here and give me a kiss,” he would say.  Tentatively I pass him a tiny comb (you know, the ones they make to remove fleas or head lice).  I cautiously reach toward him as if I were handing a ravenous, wild gorilla a peanut.  I would observe his efforts to make certain no gross tidbits remain that could inadvertently fall into my sexy, parted lips and be unknowingly ingested.  Oh, the horror of just imagining it!  My stomach is rolling!  I’m breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about it!  When he satisfactorily completes the comb out, I can see me pursing my lips, poking them out as far as I possibly can.  He embraces me and, I helplessly fall into a mass of giggles because I am outrageously ticklish and all that fur is oh, so stimulating.  Yes, a beard would absolutely ruin any hope for intimacy and romance.  It would most certainly cause a divorce.  There would be a domestic rumble in the barrio.

Despite my inordinate phobia of facial hair on men, I am sure there are plenty of women who find it incredibly attractive and do not mind taking the risk of eating a booger, or two, or getting food tidbits second hand.  These must be the women who love the bad boy.  They swoon for the rugged, manly man.  Or, perhaps they prefer a soul patch as they fantasize about cuddling up with a cool, hip, millennial Beatnik.  There are all sorts of women with all sorts of desires.  Hairy men need love too.

My curiosity is not so much about how women can overlook the booger and food tidbit issue.  What I really wonder about is why a man would want that stuff on his face in the first place.  Just consider the comfort factor.  Hair is hot!  I watch professional athletes with these super bushy monstrosities hanging from their faces.  I see the sweat pouring down their faces.  I think, “Ewww.  That beard is going to be really stinky with all that sweat coating those follicles.”  Later, as I see them on the sidelines attempting to wipe down their face with a towel, I decide, “Yep, the beard really gets in the way.  No amount of towel blotting is gonna help that mess. It was probably not such a smart move to grow that during your sport season.”  As they cease the normal re-hydration process and stop drinking the water in order to pour the water on their face, I then say to myself, “Look at the big silly.  He’s willing to risk a heat stroke for the sake of that ol’ booger trap on his face.”  It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

This insulation factor of a beard could be beneficial to, say, a polar bear hunter.  Yes, I can see that logic.  But, you still have the booger and food tidbits to deal with.  Most of the polar bear hunter types I have known throughout my life are not the kind of men to let a few boogers or food scraps bother them.  But what about all that itchiness?!  I mean, when you’re out in the woods hunting, you must be very still.  I don’t know about you but I go bananas if I can’t scratch an itch.  I may not have ever had a beard (although I do have one long, soft, curly white whisker I pluck from my chin regularly), but I do know hair is itchy.  I have conducted a few hippie experiments of my own.  Thinking I could go all natural and no longer have to shave my armpits and legs was a big fail on my part.  This was entirely due to the fact that hairy body parts are itchy body parts.  I worried that if I went out in public people would think I had scabies because I was always clawing at my stubbly legs or scratching away like a monkey at my pits.  So how do those grizzly faced hunters do it?  It must be some sort of Zen thing they get going all alone out in the wilderness.  Fascinating.

So that brings me to the urban millennial hipsters.  These fellas don’t have to worry about heat stroke from hairy facial insulation.  Overheating on the basketball court from having a stinky, sweat coated wad of shag is not in the hipster playbook.  They also don’t need a fur barrier to protect them from the cold when they’re out in the back forty. What, then, is their reason to want something on their face that requires lots of extra time and effort to maintain?  I think they’re willing to make such a sacrifice because of good ol’ masculine rebellion against years of oppression by militant feminism.  And I don’t blame ‘em.  It’s as if they are saying, “Hey, feminist, I’m a man and I am proud.  Here’s mud in your eye! Here’s something I can do that you can never equal!”  Yeah, how’s that for uterus envy.  That’s what we women get for proudly gloating, “You men may be big and tough and get better pay, but, hey, you can’t have a baby!”

However, I will count my blessings.  This gringa is fortunate enough to have a caveman that, although a caveman, is at least a smooth, clean shaven caveman.  He can kiss me and cuddle me and I can stroke his face without fear.  I get such a warm, fuzzy feeling when I lay my cheek against his, and the warmth and fuzziness have nothing to do with beards and boogers.  I must never take this hygienic smoothness for granted.  I will not become a militant feminist.  I will try to be a good and gentle gringa because I don’t want him to start getting any ideas of how he might need to assert his manhood.

Dancing With Lightning

I met my husband at a dance club on New Year’s Eve many years ago (out of kindness to myself I won’t recount how many years ago).  I was there to have a beer and enjoy the music.  He was there to dance.  He doesn’t just love to dance.  He is a dance addict.  It is like a drug to him.  How do I know this?  I have seen him become another person due to the effects of this “drug”.  If I have really made him mad, where kindness, beer or chicken fail, dance will always save my bacon.  He’s always willing to make up by dance night.  I have also seen him make out of character decisions because of this “drug”.  Such as taking me again and again to a club I have made it very clear I HATE because the floor is so crowded and I get run over.  I even got my foot broken by some fool who smashed into me (not even an apology!).  But, caught up in the power of his addiction, and the lure of an absolutely awesome musical group he adores, he forgets my terror fueled hatred and pulls into that parking lot time after time.  In his frenzy to get his fix, his eyes glaze over so that, unable to focus, he is oblivious to the “you’re gonna pay for this” look on my face as he helps me out of the car.  Yes, he is an addict.  So, if I was gonna be his gringa, I had to learn to dance.  Which, in my case, is much easier than it sounds.

I grew up in a conservative little town that was firmly in the grip of the Southern Baptists.  At our school, it was against the rules for boys and girls to have any physical contact.  If brushing a pinkie against some sweetie’s elbow was a crime, you can be darned sure there were no school dances.  I take that back.  I remember one.  Yes, just one.  If you wanted to get your groove on you had to be old enough to drive to the next town.  You also had to be popular enough to be in on the location and time of the current party.  If you were lucky enough to get to one of these shin-digs, it was all Two-Step with maybe a splash of Rock-n-Roll once or twice.  So, when I met the caveman of my dreams, I knew nothing about Salsa, Merengue, or Cumbia.  But, hey, I was in love.  I was ready to learn.

Not only was I hindered by my lack of personal dance experience, I also had a medical condition that could make certain things about dancing very tricky.  Strobe lights were definitely out.  They put me in la-la land in about three minutes flat.  My poor little brain also gets a little freaky when expected to process visual information in any type of hurried fashion.

Take my college ballet fiasco for example.  My instructor was very serious about his art.  The whole eye/hand/feet coordination effort of mirroring his movements had my epilepsy zapping my brain like crazy.  It was like dancing with lightning.  During rehearsals one day, I finally gave up and improvised my own silly dance.  If you watched a lot of ‘I Love Lucy’ episodes, you can imagine, then, my style.  When my instructor noticed me in the mirror he stopped the class.  He slowly and deliberately walks over to me and stands silently before me, near enough that I can feel his breath blowing my 1980’s big-bangs.  Finally, after mulling over what to say in order to shame me in front of the whole class, he says, “You need to take a more serious approach to your performance.  That would include your facial expressions.”  I politely ask, “You’ve seen me dance, right?”  He takes a breath to speak, then clamps his lips together, twitches his head, cocking it to the side, and replies, “I think maybe you’re not a dancer.”  I laughed and said, “You would be right.  But I need a P.E. grade.”  Reaching his limit and raising his voice just a wee bit he tells me, “You should try the water aerobics.”  So, you see, my Twinkle-Toe Delight for a new lover had no idea what he was getting himself into when he met me that night so long ago.

The first few weeks of dating were quite interesting.  Several nights during the week I would go over to his house and he would teach me my steps.  Now, one thing I did learn from that college class was how to count steps.  I picked up the eight count of salsa rather quickly.  However, my new instructor did not count HIS steps.  He would be holding me close, guiding me through each movement, then, all of a sudden, he would release me and bust a move.  He was fantastic.  However, when he wanted to resume dancing together, I had been steadily doing my one, and a two, and a three, and a, “Hey, what the heck!  What am I supposed to do now?!  I don’t know where you’re at!  Don’t you count your steps?”  Juan would smile and say, “No. I just feel the music.”  Oh great.  He’s one of THOSE people.  So, now I’ve learned to be a psychic dancer.  We are great dancers, together.  I can’t dance with anyone else.  I’ve tried.  It’s a disaster.  So, it’s just us, Gringa and the Caveman, dancing with lightning for life.

Baby Bird Rescue 101

A few weeks ago some of the neighborhood girls “gifted” me a fledgling blue jay. My reputation has been well established by my grand-daughter among her barrio playmates. When the crisis arose, these girls knew where to go with the little orphan.  The gringa knows birds.

As I held this fuzzy little creature with its enormously wide baby beak, I knew if it survived the next 24 hours I was in for a complete upheaval of my day to day life, at the beck and call of this little guy round the clock.  I would also be entering into a life of crime.  Using Google to search for information about how to care for a fledgling blue jay, I was disappointed with the lack of information available.  It seemed only two options were offered on what to do in such a predicament:  a. Return the baby bird to the nest; or, b. hand the baby bird over to a wildlife rehabilitator.  It seemed these well-meaning bird rescue professionals had not really thought this through.  Real life is usually not that simple.

Returning the fledgling to the nest was out of the question. These giddy, little girls couldn’t even remember where they had found it.  Even if they had, a blue jay typically has a nest at the most extreme height possible in a tree.  At my age there is no way I was climbing any tree, not even a bonsai.  Setting the baby on the ground beneath the tree, hoping that the parents would return to care for it, was also not an option.  These little girls would most likely hang around to watch, preventing the parent birds from approaching, not to mention all the other kids who would eventually join in, many bringing their dogs with them.

The second option, release the bird to a wildlife rehabilitator, sounds logical.  However, reality is a completely different story. There simply aren’t enough wildlife rehabilitators out there. My experience has been that they have criteria that determine whether or not they will take in a rescue. One of those determining factors is usually how demanding the rehabilitation will be regarding time and effort.

For example, I once rescued a fawn that had been hit by a car.  Its jaw was broken so it was unable to suckle a bottle.  I spoon fed it goat milk.  When the wildlife rehabilitator learned of this, she would not accept the fawn until it was eating on its own.  I think she expected the little girl to die.  She didn’t.  I spoon fed that baby her goat milk rations for a week until she could suckle that darn bottle.  Then the wildlife rehabilitator wouldn’t accept her until she was grazing on her own!  I was fortunate that at that time the hubby and I had not downsized yet and still had a backyard.  We also had an 8’x10’ chain link dog run that became a deer stall.  Eventually she was grazing.  Finally, the wildlife rehabilitator would take her to join a herd she was releasing on some private land.

I was pretty certain the job description of feeding a baby blue jay every 15-20 minutes would not be a welcome undertaking.  This was confirmed in my ensuing conversations with the local wildlife management center.  When I called I told them what the case was and they advised the above two options.  I explained that the girls did not remember the location of where the bird was found.  They advised me just to put it outside in a safe place and leave it.  The parents would find it.  I informed them we had a very active community.  There were lots of children and dogs outside, all over the property.  It would not be safe.  I was told to keep the kids and animals away for about two hours.  I told them they were crazy and out of touch with reality.  That was not a reasonable, workable request. It’s as if they had a mantra of “the parents will return” and could not think outside the box of their perfect, imaginary, wildlife world.  It seemed they didn’t want it.  Even worse, it seemed they didn’t want me to help it.  I’m sorry, but allowing a healthy animal to die for the sake of complying with bureaucratic deficiencies and unrealistic expectations is not an option for me.   Despite all of the fear-mongering the Wildlife Management Office tried to instill in me about my inability to provide proper nutrition and hygiene that would probably result in the death of the baby bird, I chose to attempt to help it anyway.  I am proud to say he is thriving.  They seem to think this is more difficult than rocket science.  If you can raise human children, puppies, kittens, etc., you can use the good sense God gave you and figure out how to feed a bird.  I mean, as far as I can tell wildlife rehabilitators are simply human beings with an acquired knowledge on a particular subject.  They’re not super-humans or aliens.  I can learn what they learn.  I can implement that knowledge.  I can be successful.

So, for all of you fellow bird whisperers out there, I will offer suggestions that are sorely lacking in the public information arena on the subject of rescuing and raising baby birds.  But, beware, you will be embarking on a criminal enterprise.

DETERMINE THE IDENTITY, DIET, AND ENVIRONMENT OF YOUR RESCUE:  Most people are familiar with the identity of the local bird species.  Google some images just to make sure.  Research the diet of the adult birds of that species.  Baby birds eat the same diet as the parents. It is simply watered down a bit into a mushy, regurgitated mess which you can replicate.

GATHER SUPPLIES:  You will need some soft cloths that you can throw away after soiled, newspaper, paper towels, eye dropper, medicinal syringe, plastic storage containers, perches of various diameters (or tree branches), toys, multiple food and water dishes (at least two of each), some type of well-ventilated cage, a sheet or blanket to cover the cage.

SETTLE THE LITTLE BUGGER IN:   The first 24 hour period is the most critical.  Before you do anything else, create a safe place for the bird.  For my rescue I started out with a small dog crate.  I lined it with newspaper, added a multi-tined antler, set upside down, for a perch, and shredded a small dishtowel and formed it into a mound at the very front of the crate.  I then wrapped the baby bird in a washcloth and cozily snuggled him into the mound. I put him where I could see him while I prepared food.

FOOD PREPARATION:   Please note I offered food either at room temperature or straight out of the refrigerator.  Keep in mind that these feedings will also contain the water intake as well so always add proportional water amounts.  I discovered blue jays are omnivores.  The greater part of their diet is grain based and includes vegetable matter, fruits (such as berries), and proteins (insects, small frogs, even carrion).  Suitable substitutes for my bird’s dietary needs could be found in my own kitchen.

FEEDING:  The first week I used baby food:  beef, turkey, chicken, cereal with berries or fruit, peas, sweet potatoes, green beans.  I added enough water to make it easy to draw up in an eye dropper.  The first day I fed every 15-20 minutes. I attempted three eye dropperfuls, but he usually consumed two.  It was a tricky procedure because the baby bird did not understand what I was doing and would struggle.  I kept him gently swaddled in a washcloth with one hand.  Using the edge of one of my fingernails I would gently wedge his beak open just a tiny bit, enough to slip in the tip of the eye dropper.  As soon as he would sense the liquid he would begin to accept the food.  The best advice I can give about portions is that small, frequent feedings are the best.  Also consider the size of his “crop”, which is a small pouch that is a temporary storage area for the food and is part of the esophagus.  After about a day of feedings like this, he began to open his mouth on his own as well as squawk to let me know when he was ready to eat.  His first night I fed him about three times throughout the night.  After that I began to cover his cage and he would sleep through the night.

The second week I graduated him to a sturdier diet that was mashed rather than pureed.  His feeding times became hourly.  My many recipes over the past few weeks have contained a grain/veggie/fruit/protein blend combined from any of the following ingredients:  brown rice, whole wheat spaghetti, grits, oatmeal, cream of wheat, carrots, spinach, peas, green beans, sweet potato, papaya, banana, mango, applesauce, baby food beef/turkey/chicken, scrambled egg, imitation crab meat, shredded tilapia. The solid foods need to be boiled until they are very soft. I then strain the water and transfer it to a plastic storage container.  I use the base of a large, sturdy plastic tumbler to grind it to a paste.  Then I add fresh water to moisten it, keeping in mind this is his source of water as well as food.  The paste was too thick for the eye dropper so I switched to the medicine syringe.  I cut the tip off the syringe close to the body of the syringe and used a fork tine to open it up a little wider, then sanded it smooth.

He has continued this diet throughout his third week, but is gradually beginning to eat on his own.  When he progresses into his fourth week I will make a visit to the local pet store for mealworms and crickets (dear God, I can’t believe I’m actually PLANNING to “buy bugs”).  To introduce him to insect hunting I will use the bathtub for containment.  I don’t want those suckers loose in the house.  When he gets the hang of it I anticipate he will greedily dispatch them as soon as I toss them his way in his cage.  That way I don’t have to worry about unwanted guests around the patio or sneaking into the apartment.

HYGIENE:  For the first couple of days, if he got messy I would gently clean him with a warm, wet paper towel, drying him thoroughly with a washcloth.  Much to his dismay this meant gently spreading out his wings but he eventually grew to like his grooming sessions.  When he was better adjusted, I used the water sprayer in the shower to let him experience “rain”.  The water would be cool and the spray on a gentle setting.  I would place him on the antler perch out of reach of the spray.  He could go in and out of the water as he pleased.  This also enabled him an opportunity to practice flying, making daring attempts to perch on the shower curtain.  Eventually he was successful.  I would usually do this while I was cleaning his cage.  I replaced the paper whenever it was soiled but at least once a day, sometimes twice, I cleaned the inside of the crate with a sponge and mild dish soap.  I would dry the cage, dry the bird, and, voila, all clean again.

MOVING OUTDOORS:   By the third week, I was fairly certain he would survive into adulthood and I could release him.  It then became important for him to move to an outdoor cage.  Our night temperatures were a safe temperature, in the mid 70’s. During the day my patio would provide adequate shade and protection from direct sun, wind and rain.  I moved him to the patio, into a flight cage that allowed him to exercise and fly around. He had additional toys and tree branches at various levels.

At this time I began offering a small bowl of bite size food tidbits.  I started out with four tidbits each of a protein, grain, vegetable, and fruit (example: tilapia, whole wheat spaghetti, peas, and banana).  Knowing how many tidbits were in the bowl helped me know how much food was consumed.  For about a week he only responded to the food bowl with curiosity and played with the food.  Soon he began eating everything in his bowl early in the morning before his first feeding.  I was a late sleeper and he would be too ravenous to wait for me.  I hung a chunk of suet and cuttle bone and scattered seed on the floor of the cage at various points.  I positioned the scattered seed so that it would not be directly under perches in order to avoid being soiled by droppings.

Although my routine was to feed hourly, he was now able to wait longer if I had other things to do away from home.  These time extensions between feedings encouraged him to eat the food left in his cage.  This was also when he began bathing himself in the large, shallow bowl of water in his cage. I knew now he was on his way to becoming independent.

BONDING & COMPANIONSHIP:  Like most birds, his nature is to establish a strong bond. He has bonded with me and I don’t know if he will want to leave when the time comes.  The next month or so will determine whether he will leave or want to stay.  It’s his choice.  When my little bird is ready, I will attempt to release him.  If he flies away, I will be happy for him.  If he has bonded to me, his cage door will remain open.  He will be free to come and go as he pleases.  I do not consider myself his “owner”.  But, I admit, it will be very hard to say good-bye.

THE LAW:   Unfortunately, everything I have done, though right, good, moral and ethical and, my only workable option, is actually criminal in this country.  I think this is absolutely absurd.  It is just another example of how lawmakers in their marble state houses are totally out of touch with the realities of life as a regular person.  According to the Migratory Bird Act it is illegal to own any native bird species.  Well, I don’t own him.  I think he actually owns me.  It is also illegal to rescue and care for these birds if you are not a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

I contacted a local wildlife management center and they didn’t seem to think this little guy needed help.  It is not my desire to break the law, but, rather, due to the inadequacy of Federal Wildlife Management to provide enough wildlife rehabilitators that participate with this law, I am left to either live with the possible death of a healthy animal I could have helped weighing on my conscience or, I can become a criminal.

I would love to be a legitimate wildlife rehabilitator but my research has revealed that I don’t measure up to their standards.  To rescue and rehabilitate most native bird species, a federal permit is required.  My apartment and patio would not meet their space standards.  The rescues would have too much exposure and contact with the humans and other animals of the household.  So, working class folk such as this gringa, who obviously have the skills and abilities to succeed as wildlife rehabilitators, are prevented because they can’t afford the square footage and cage guidelines.  Until permit laws reconsider such things, and the law becomes more flexible to allow for situations like this, or more wildlife rehabilitators exist that actually want to believe you when you tell them the little bird needs help and will receive these orphans with open arms, good-hearted, capable people in the barrio will rescue and rehabilitate at their own risk.

I hope sharing my experience has been helpful if you have found yourself with a baby bird on your hands this spring.  You should probably copy and paste, or share, this article.  I won’t be at all surprised if some government wildlife Nazi, er, I mean, agent, eventually comes knocking and asks me to remove this helpful information.  I don’t think they want us regular folk helping out without guv’ment approval.  Hopefully this gringa won’t be going to the slammer!

Shoe Shopping In The Barrio

This Gringa needs a new pair of dancing shoes!  I know exactly what I want:  open toe, 2” heel, no platform, crisscross ankle strap, velvet, satin or similar soft fabric, wide strap across the instep just above my toes, maybe with some sparkly jewels, one pair in black, one pair in nude, and one pair in white.  I could find this perfect shoe at the local specialty dance shop but, on a Barrio budget, who could afford ‘em? What’s a poor, workin’ girl to do? Well, this gal hits the mall for what would become a noteworthy shopping experience.

At five-foot, five-inches tall I stand a wee bit taller than my husband (although his Latino machismo makes this impossible for him to believe).  This fact means a low heel is a critical factor in shoe shopping.  Also, because I dance like a madwoman with her hair on fire and am not interested in broken ankles, I prefer a low heel.  As I peruse the selections at the various stores in the mall I seem to have the same conversation again and again with the sales staff.  These exchanges go something like this:

“Can I help you find something?”

“Yes, please.  I’m looking for some shoes to wear out dancing… Oh my, impressive, but, seeing as I’m not a hooker, not really what I had in mind.  Thank you, though.”

“Have you been helped?”

“Well, if that’s what you wanna call it.  What I’d really like is a pretty, low-heeled, strappy sandal with more of a princess look than the hooker look, if you know what I mean.”

“Heh, heh, well, let me see what I can find for you.”

“Mmmm hmmm. Now THAT’S quite a shoe! Just exactly how high is that platform? Really! Well, it’s awfully inflexible.  What I’m looking for are some new dance shoes and, since dancing like Frankenstein is really not my style, I guess I should keep looking. Thanks anyway.”

Finally, after four desperate hours of shopping and finding nothing but KISS and Elton John inspired platforms with five-inch spike heels (Frankenstein hooker shoes!), I left the mall totally disillusioned.  I felt incredibly old and out of touch with fashion.  Then, behold, I spy a popular discount store.  I am now more in need than ever of some retail therapy.  Hmmm, what have I got to lose?  And there, against all odds, I rejoiced with the angels because I found my heart’s desire at… Payless Shoe Source.  Who knew?!  Not only did I find beautiful, satin, jeweled princess shoes, but, best of all… I COULD AFFORD TWO PAIR!

Soccer In The Barrio… Pffft!

Sunday and Thursday are the official soccer days of this household.  In the early days of my relationship with my husband I would go with him to the park believing, in my devoted, little heart, that I would cheer him on.  I soon learned that I hate soccer and began taking a book or a bag of knitting.  Now I don’t even bother going at all.

Soccer fans are true fans, in the whole sense of the word fan is derived from. They are FANATICS!  When my husband’s soccer buddies meet me for the first time they are shockingly amused when I make it very clear to them that I HATE SOCCER. Then I have to explain why, knowing I am delivering the highest insult and they will never look at this Gringa the same way again.

I am an American country girl who grew up in a small school where basketball and American football were the primary sports.  Anybody who was anybody played.  If you played golf, you were a nerd who was afraid to sweat.  If you played tennis, you were a baby who was afraid to get knocked around.  If you wanted any chance at all of any level of popularity and acceptance, you played basketball or football.  Soccer was not even in my vocabulary back then.  Needless to say, when I met my husband and was finally exposed to the sport, I was clueless as to the rules.  All that I was certain of was that you kicked a ball into the opponent’s goal to score, prevented opponents from doing the same, and you did not touch the ball with your hands.  That remains the extent of my knowledge and it’s all I care to know now.

Growing up watching the Dallas Cowboys legends of Tony Dorsett and Roger Staubach, back when Tom Landry showed the world an NFL coach could train champions AND have class, I suppose I became spoiled to the ideal athlete who could take a hit, a hard hit, and not roll around the field crying like a baby, faking an injury in order to manipulate the game in their favor.  That is the real source of my abhorrence of soccer.  I think soccer players are big babies.  If you get your leg broken, by all means roll around in agony.  However, if you are just putting on a show, people like myself, who want to watch a sport and not a soap opera, turn the channel or leave the stadium.  That’s not what I tuned in for.  I was expecting to see athletes who busted their bums to develop a skill that would win a game, that skill being athletic, not dramatic, in nature.  For drama I go to the theatre.  So, professional soccer teams, if you want to win the hearts and minds of the American majority, ya gotta toughen up and play with some grit.

Now, putting those criticisms aside with the understanding those opinions primarily apply to professional soccer, I will confess I do enjoy watching amateur matches.  These are the guys that play with their hearts and souls, whether in the spirit of true competition or just for fun.  I don’t see them play-acting.  Probably because they know their buddies, comprising both teams, will see right through it and either kick their ass or make fun of them for being a “puto” (my best English translation, “man-whore”).  Occasionally someone will also get into a fight, which is very exciting.  Since the amateur games lack referees, there’s no third party to prevent the overabundance of testosterone from leading to a bit of rough stuff, which will eventually piss someone off.  Finally, a tackle! A hit!  Now those are some moves I can really understand.  When my husband comments, “Oh, that was an awesome pass!”, or, “He can really touch the ball!”, I don’t have a clue what that means.  But a shove and some “in your face” verbal abuse, or maybe a quick tussle on the ground that involves every player dragging them apart, now that takes me back to some American football.  That’s when I love soccer.

So, as my Latino Loverboy leaves for his playdate, I shout out the door, “Have fun!  Don’t get in a fight!”  Later, when he returns all sweaty and smelly, I ask, “Did you have fun?  Did you get in a fight?”  This Sunday he said he didn’t get in a fight.  I was disappointed.


Thursday night is always salsa night for this gringa. I’m not sure what the significance is of Thursday where Salsa music is concerned. In our neck of the woods, most of the nightclubs that play the latest popular dance music on the weekends have a special “Latin” themed night on Thursdays. In Old and Middle English, from which Thursday is derived, it means “Thor’s Day”. Thor, through various twists and turns of linguistic travel throughout the ages, can be traced back to an origin found in ancient Rome’s Jupiter, the god of sky and thunder. So, dear reader, you ask, “What does Jupiter have to do with Latin Thursdays at Houston nightclubs?” Well, not a damn thing.

What is interesting about the Latin Thursdays nightclub scene is that it provides strong evidence that Houston needs many more nightclubs that feature Latin music every night they are open. The northern suburbs of Houston are especially in need of dance clubs dedicated to Salsa music.

People who faithfully show up, week after week, rain or shine, for Latin Thursday are people who love to dance. We want more Salsa! We want more Merengue! We want more Cumbia!  And, judging from the crowds who pour in from open to close in order to swing and twirl and twist while at the same time desperately attempting to avoid crushing the insteps belonging to lovely ladies in 5-inch heels wiggling just millimeters away , what we need more than anything is… BIGGER DANCE FLOORS!

I look forward to date night with my passionate Peruvian. We live for Thursday. It’s the best day of the week. I suppose that’s one more thing we want… WE WANT MORE THURSDAYS!