How far inland can seagulls be found? Are they looking for quieter digs, or are they just lost out there?
— Charlie Bingbang, inland
I’ve been feeding a motley group of pigeons for a few years now. Are they grey, feathered insults to nature? Yeah, probably, but still they’re my birdies. Now for personal reasons I must abandon them in the near future. Should I wean them off birdseed or let them go cold turkey (ahem, cold pigeon)? Will they be okay?
— Bye-Bye Birdie, San Diego
Ah, seagulls and pigeons. Symbols of soaring grace versus concrete-bound clumsiness. Cool, sunny beaches; hot, smoggy cities. The romance of the deep blue sea, the depressing sight of poop-crusted statues. Cities use seagulls in their logos; nobody has a pigeon. But how about this: seagulls can hear the sound of a picnic basket being opened a mile away. I have no science to back this up, but I’d bet it’s true. The contents of the basket are immediately clawed by flocks of flapping, squawking, pecking gulls that attack you and one another to get at the sandwiches, spreading plastic and aluminum foil everywhere. In fact, the basket doesn’t even have to be opened. They know from experience where the food is, and if you leave it unguarded, they’ll invade.
Grandma lost an entire four-course meal to gulls one day when she decided to go paddle in the surf instead of laying her body over the storage bin until her armed backup arrived. Gulls simply have better PR than pigeons. There’s a whole dark side to their personalities.
Different species of gulls have different habits, but a big lot of them don’t mind a little commuting if there’s plenty of food at the destination. And of course the most popular destination for a gull trip is a landfill, however far it is from what the gull calls home. The farthest east in San Diego County is the Borrego Landfill, but that’s closer to the Salton Sea than it is to the Pacific. So they may originally be Salton gulls.
If the surrounding terrain is friendly, populations of gulls can take up residence well inland, hundreds of miles from any ocean, and raise generations of garbage eaters. And of course, despite their reputation, gulls aren’t always ocean-shore dwellers. They follow rivers and set up housekeeping around lakes, so no telling where gulls might show up if there’s enough food and security. Other delicacies on a gull’s menu are earthworms and ground bugs, so you might find gulls shuffling around on large expanses of grass and in agricultural fields, especially if the ground is damp or being tilled at the time. For the same reason, they’re pests at airports.
So gulls are aggressive scavengers equal to pigeons, I’d say. As for Bye-Bye’s feathered friends, I’m sure they’ve become like family, each with a cute little personality. And it’s great when your pals show up every day for a handout. Like a nice family dinner. And they might even recognize you on sight, before you get out the fodder. If you always feed them at exactly the same time of day, they might even be waiting for you. But once you’re gone, don’t imagine that they’re sitting around reminiscing about the good old days, when they used to hang out at Bye-Bye’s. They’ll be off to another food source. No self-respecting pigeon will hang around in a foodless environment. Cold-pigeon will not scar their tiny psyches. To quote an old song that Grandma likes to sing to the elves, “Got along without you before I met you, gonna get along without you now.” The pigeons will be whistling it as you leave.
My friend has a friend who keeps talking to her about how cool alcohol enemas are. He says they get you really drunk, but you don’t throw up or anything. He wants her to try it, but I think it’s crazy. How can an enema get you drunk?
— Anonymous, via email
It’s not crazy because it doesn’t work; it’s crazy because it’s crazy. Among some of the more adventurous drinkers or drinkers who have stomach or throat problems, a butt full of gin and tonic is the perfect happy-hour solution. The most important function of our digestive systems is to absorb nutrients to keep us alive. Apparently the colon doesn’t care which end the alcohol’s coming from. It absorbs it directly into the bloodstream. And therein lies the crazy part. When you drink alcohol the ordinary boring way, it’s metabolized by the body, so not all the alcohol goes into the bloodstream to make you tipsy. Your body probably can handle about an ounce of alcohol an hour. Drink too much, and your stomach might start rejecting the irritant, and you’re looking for a convenient bush. No such safeguards in the colon. Anything absorbable will go directly into the bloodstream. (A bum-administered Long Island iced tea will dose you with five ounces of alcohol immediately.) People have been poisoned or died from butt drinking. More have developed irritated colons and other uncomfortableness. Alcohol enemas can make you very drunk. Why is this a good thing?