Friday, March 30, 2012

Crushing Cockroaches or The Crane Fly Must Die

When I lived in Libya, there was a saying, "You know you're a real ex-pat when you can kill a roach with your bare feet," a bare feat (groan) I never mastered.  The huge, black flying roaches encountered there were horrific, appearing through the gaps around the poorly fitted wall a/c unit and flying straight into your hair.  They could turn a man into a blubbering baby in a matter of moments so you can only imagine my response.  I was terrorized.  However, while I've yet to kill one with my naked plates-of-meat, decades as an ex-pat have given me enough resistance to cope with them ugly roachy beasties.  A rolled-up newspaper is all it takes to transform me into a killin' machine.

I wish the same could be said for mosquito hawks or "crane flies."  Some say they look like big mosquitoes.  I say they look like giant flying spiders.  And because of the 2011 drought and our welcome spring rains, Texas abounds with them.  They knock at the glass doors by the hundred trying to get in, "Helloooooo, heeeellooooo!"  That's enough to freak me out but worse, they know there's a little gap by a side window at my house, and they file in with one intent: to frighten me out of my wits.

"There's Miss Bernadette," they sing in a Texan country drawl, as they fly into my hair "Come on in, all y'all!  Party-time!" 

A rolled-up newspaper won't do it; them bugs too quick.  My cats won't do it; them moggies too slow.  It's ridiculous that 20 years in A-TX has not yet given me the ex-pat oomph to rise above it; that any creature has to die because I'm such a cowardly, lily-livered wuss.  And yet, in between flapping my arms like a crazy woman and running screaming from room to room, I blog in the dark this morning with a long-handled fly swat alongside me.  And I ponder the age-old question all ex-pats ask: "Why does everything in Texas have to be so dad-gummed BIG?"

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

URombo, Me Bernadette

Attempting (yet again) to post on YouTube, I started from scratch and created "My Channel."  Wow, I'm important.  My own channel.  Not sure what it meant but I went for it.  It asked for my avatar.  My what?  Er, do I have my own god who descended to Earth?   Oh, a photograph.  Dang, I used to be good at languages.

To talk me through this, I met with my -- what to call her -- my social media guru?  A web angel.  Perhaps she's my avatar!  See, I'm stunned by the number of websites on which, as an artist running my own business, I'm supposed to have a presence.  There are those I'm already using but can't get off the ground floor: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube.  Others, like Tumblr, Flickr, Spotify, Storify, are gaining momentum; hundreds I'm only now hearing of.  New ones are created daily and somehow everyone's hip to them.  Except me.  And maybe a few folks in my age range.  Babies are now born with this knowledge in their DNA.

I try to keep up, really I do.  I'm not new to computers.  I was there at the start: Cadbury Schweppes, London, 1980, an IBM 8100.  Obsolete by the time it was installed.  Letterhead, glued onto continuous feed paper one sheet at a time, flew off the printer like paper planes.  No polite question when you gave the computer an instruction.  No "Are you sure?"  No "yes/no" button.  When you said, "Delete," it deleted.  No second chance.  Many a freshly-typed 40-page financial report was lost that way.  Much sobbing was heard.

Conan O'Brien joked: Twitter, My Space and Facebook should form one site called, "My Twitface."  Quite right.  ONE web communication zone; a sort of Universal Remote combining all my social media, a Universal Remote Combo, a UROMBO!  Whenever I write, act, sing, dance, smile, burp, fart, or tell a story, I push URombo's button to broadcast on all my media simultaneously.  URombo will have top-notch, state-of-the-art questioning ability, asking, "Are you sure?" if I try to share on YouTube a video of a drunk Englishwoman slipping up in the lobby of a 5-star hotel clutching a litre of Bombay Sapphire.  URombo will question before I know there's a question to be asked.  URombo understands me!

Wait a minute...Mum loathed the universal remote; we laughed at her individual controls for the TV, VCR, and the Goblin Teasmaid.  My mother-in-law only recognizes the on/off switch.  "Something's happened to my TV!  I tried to record The Golden Girls when it just died!"  I quietly curse before talking her through it one more time.  Ah, Berni Nason, you know what this is?  Computer Karma.  Pay-back time!  Universe, if you're listening, I vow never to treat old people like idiots again.  I'd better have a cup of tea to calm myself down.  What the...hey, Geek, move away from my kettle!

Monday, March 26, 2012

John Payne and the Menace at Hawk's Nest

Yesterday was my delightful beloved ex-husband John Payne's birthday and I've lately been searching thrift stores for an interesting addition to complete his birthday gift.  Anyone who knows me knows that two of my favorite things in the world are my delightful beloved ex-, John Payne and thrift store scouring.  I comb through the charity shops so regularly that I'm recognized and greeted like family.   Austin's Burnet Road has the best thrift and second-hand shops; from "Top Drawer Thrift" and "Assistance League" at one end all the way to "Goodwill" on Research Blvd. at the other.  "Bethesda Resale" sadly closed its doors but as it was replaced by the super Monkey Nest Coffee (, I won't complain. 

I set out expecting to spend a whole morning in the hunt for that little something special but was surprised to find what I was looking for at my first stop, an antique book called:

"JOHN PAYNE and the Menace at Hawk's Nest"
Story by Kathryn Heisenfelt.  Illustrated by Henry E. Vallely
Copyright 1943 by Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin

How exciting!  A book with his name in the title!  Since JP was born in 1951, he would've grown up with this style of book, early "pulp fiction" by the looks of it.  The black and white illustrations were great, and it became clear from one with the caption, "John Smiled Despite His Concern" that the John Payne in the novel looked rather like real-live John Payne...hurrah!

Then I noticed the following writing:  Except the authorized use of the name of John Payne, all names, events, places and characters in this book are entirely fictitious.

I was aware there was another, more famous John Payne...his most memorable film was Miracle on 34th Street...but I didn't know that writers in those days created novels around film actors, using them as the stars of books as well as movies.  I went on-line and found that I was right -- those who know me know that I am indeed usually right -- there was a photo of movie star, John Payne, the same man as in the book!

Real-live John Payne was thrilled with his story of fictionalized John Payne based on once-real-live-but-now-dead John Payne.  He started reading it last night.  With chapters entitled: "Call of Distress" and "Old Gran is Valuable" and "A Little Sharp Knife," there's fun on the horizon.  And with illustrations such as: "John Payne Was Eager to See His Old Friend" and "He Trained the Gun on Old Gran" and "Well, Son, Gettin' Yourself into Trouble?" he's back in his boy-hood world of grave danger, great adventure

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Berni and the British Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnet: lupinus texensis, a perennial herbaceous plant from the lupin family.

CENTRAL TEXAS.  Drove from Austin to Bastrop today.  Recent rain after the epic 2011 drought has brought out the best wildflowers I've seen in 20 years: Indian Paintbrushes, Indian Blankets, Black-eyed Susans, and of course, Bluebonnets, the Texas state flower.  I won't mention Bastard Cabbage which is apparently trying to take over the neighborhood:

Back to lupinus texensis, I remember that growing up in England we had lupins in our garden: red, pink, purple, cream, yellow and pure white.  No blue.  Alongside huge maroon peonies, ours bloomed tall, fragrant, elegant.  Cultivated.  Mum would drag my sorry teenage carcass out of bed on weekend mornings to pull weeds.  While deeply resenting such forced labor, still I had questions: who chose which flowers to be prizes, which to be weeds?  I felt sorry for the weeds, mentally apologizing for ending their lives because someone somewhere had said, "This flower will be a beloved prize; that flower will be wild but may be chosen to represent a whole state, and this other, well, it's pretty and golden like the sun and has seeds that float like magic dust on the passing breeze but that's a weed.  Pull it out.  Let it die."  I once said to Mum, "Who makes that choice?"  "Never mind," she replied, "I don't want dandelions in my garden.  Dig deep to make sure you get the whole root and be careful not to hurt the lupins."  Even then, with primitive 14 year-old brain-power, I thought all flowers beautiful, whether prized, wild or weed. 

Now if you'll excuse me, feeling rather sorry for the Bastard Cabbage, I'm firing up Wikipedia...