Tag Archives: local legends

Burbank Parrots

A flock of vibrant green parrots are known to roam the skies of Burbank, settling down in any tree large enough to hold the entire flock while filling the morning air with a chorus of squawks that make residents wish they could wake up to songbirds chirping for once. T.T. doesn’t know exactly where they came from but has heard different stories. All say that the birds were smuggled in as illegal pets but escaped to inhabit the wild concrete jungle. Some say it was just a few birds who escaped from the singular smuggler, and then proceeded to breed . into the flock that exists today. Others claim the smuggler brought a bunch of birds and was able to sell them, to spread them out and then a bunch of those birds individually escaped. Either way the current size of the group (tens upon tens of “loud hecking birds”) suggests that the birds have been around and reproducing for some time.

The parrots stand out to people who live in Burbank for being so obviously foreign. Burbank is a suburb with sparrows and squirrels. The most exotic animal sightings are usually coyotes up in the mountains. In that environment bright green parrots stand out, and they don’t even try to hide. Their flock conspicuously chases off more outnumbered ravens and whatnot that people are more used to seeing around Burbank, and again they are very loud. If they hang out in your neighbor’s tree that morning, you’ll know. The fascination with the parrots speaks to a deeper cultural fascination with exotic, outside things. For all its social liberalism, Burbank is still a very white, sizably old population so the interest in exotic birds being imported by plane (the city has its own busy airport) probably ties into an unspoken interest, possibly an anxiety, surrounding the different people from all over the world constantly arriving by plane. Of course Burbank doesn’t exist in a vacuum so this local legend also exists in personalized forms for other places in Southern California such as Pasadena, which can be found here: https://laist.com/2018/07/10/pasadenas_parrots_are_annoying_af_but_may_save_their_species_from_extinction.php

West Virginia Blue People

Text

The following piece was collected at a dinner table with a group of girls out celebrating a friend’s birthday. One of the girls, the “Informant”, was discussing an upcoming trip to visit her brother at West Virginia University. Laughing, the Informant launched into a story of the “West Virginia Blue People”, a story about a genetic condition the resulted from intermarriage.

Informant: “So, what my brother told me is that there’s a story that there are people in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, near the campus I guess, and there is skin is blue. It’s blue, and their people have always had blue skin because of all the intermarrying and incest. So you can tell if someone is a product of incest if their skin is blue! Sometimes, it can be really faint though, so you have to look closely at their lips or fingernails. Apparently, it shows more easily when they’re cold!”

Context:

            The Informant learned this information from her brother, when he returned home after his first semester at school. From California herself, the informant was very curious to hear about what the people of West Virginia were like. She remembers the story very easily, most often humorously, because she remembers the manner in which her brother told her. He recounted how, after hearing the story for the first time, he and his roommates would make a show of continuously checking to see if their other friends’ lips or skin ever looked blue. Finding it ridiculous herself, the Informant told me that she still enjoys being a part of the joke.

Interpretation

            My first reaction to this story was wondering whether there was a scientific reason, or condition perhaps, that acted as a precursor to this belief of a skin condition that was a result of incest. Upon further research, I saw that the original story was based on a specific family that was said to be suffering from blue-tinted skin. Researchers believe this to truly be the case, a result of the family suffering from a genetic condition called methemoglobinemia, which is an excess of methemoglobin in the red blood cells of the body. This condition does, in fact, cause blue-tinted. Hearing this story and conducting some research of my own led me to believe that people love to come up with their explanation for things they cannot explain, no matter how perplex.