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March 23, 1996

Another sure sign of spring is the swarm of starlings circling the city's north side. Hundreds of the unwelcome little flying critters assemble in giant flocks each morning and descend on our parched lawns and fields in search of insects and other protein and water for sustenance. Meanwhile, the more genteel and badly outnumbered robins, sparrows, orioles, cardinals and other feathered friends stand back in dismay while awaiting their shot at the food supply, most of which is disappearing down those starling gullets.

This year's crop of starlings appears to be more numerous, sassier, noisier and fatter, not to mention messier, than usual. Conversely the others seem to be fewer. I hate to keep harping on this subject because I fear the foe is secretly reading this and plotting some terrible vengeance on your humble correspondent. But, that probably only happens in Alfred Hitchcock movies or Daphne du Maurier's fiction, so I rant on undaunted. No offense, starlings, but I wish you'd look for some new place to mess up.

The calendar says spring is officially here, so before long we should be able to enjoy more outdoor activities like picnics, baseball and other things with family values. In that connection, a friend down the street remarked the other day about the increasing amount of broken bottles and other glass shards she's observed in numerous Perry parks and other areas where adults and young people will be spending leisure hours shortly. Glass bottles of all kinds appear to have been shattered and left lurking there in the grass where some unsuspecting person could step on them. Don't you be guilty of that offense. Let's keep your public areas clean and free of such dangerous debris.

My friend also has a suggestion for eliminating the downtown traffic mess by installing four-way stop signs at each corner of the square. That would eliminate the need and consequent expense of repairing our present malfunctioning traffic lights. And, if all motorists behaved like law-abiding ladies and gentlemen, traffic should flow smoothly. But it would still create hazardous crossings for pedestrians. Would motorists accept the need for making a complete stop at each corner? Would the four-way signs simply be those unsightly dilapidated barrels which are now rolled out when the traffic lights fail? What do YOU think should be done?

Sometimes we get a little goofy in our attempts to be politically correct. A case in point is the Courier-Times, a newspaper in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which paraphrased the remarks made at a local anti-violence conference by Arun Gandhi, grandson of India's great social and spiritual leader, the late Mahatma. The newspaper told its readers that, "Growing up in South Africa during apartheid, Gandhi was beaten up twice when he was 10 years old. The first time his attackers were white children, a few months later they were African Americans." In South Africa? The Columbia Journalism Review cites this example for one of its monthly "darts" aimed at slipups in presenting the news.