What's the Point?

Okay, so we know how I’ll benefit from this endeavor. I’ll gain experience in the great outdoors that will help me write a better book set in the Adirondacks. But you, my dear reader, may well be asking, “What’s in all this for me?” Hopefully you’ll gain a little knowledge, have a few laughs, and vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure. Think of it as a modern-day Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, where you get to sit comfortably at your computer screen – much like Marlin Perkins watching from a safe distance behind some bushes. I, on the other hand, will go out into the wild, ala Jim Fowler, and do all the heavy lifting in an effort to entertain you.

            Well, on second thought…

Entries in Betsy Bitner (2)


Don't Bug Me

Whenever I venture outside in the summer and have the audacity to speak, yawn, or God forbid, breathe, there’s always some gnat with a death wish that flies into my mouth. I try to spit it out, but can’t, and I’m left dry heaving on the front lawn until my neighbors call to complain. Which is one of the many reasons it’s better to stay inside (and I’m talking about both suicidal bugs and complaining neighbors here). So it probably comes as no surprise that I’d never intentionally eaten an insect.

All that changed recently, however, at my book club meeting. The book we were discussing, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, was set in the Amazon rainforest, so our hostess, Sheila, decided to serve refreshments in keeping with a Brazilian jungle theme. Now you’re probably thinking that we had bananas or mangos or even Brazil nuts. But you would be wrong. Sheila decided to go with something a bit more exotic and serve us something the Amazon has plenty of: insects.

Crickets, to be exact. Now I don’t know if there are actually crickets in the Amazon and I don’t feel like looking it up, but if there are you know they’re going to be some pumped-up-on-steroids type of cricket. The kind of cricket that would burrow into your inner ear and chirp endlessly until you jumped into piranha-infested waters just to end your misery.

The variety Sheila had were too small to be Amazonian crickets. Plus, they were dead so I was pretty sure their ear-burrowing days were over. They were actually called Crickettes and came in a small rectangular pack. Given their name and their packaging, I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to eat them or smoke them. Not surprisingly, they sat untouched until Sheila asked who was going to try one.




I don't know why I volunteered to try one, but alcohol may have been involved. Wait a minute. What am I saying? I was at book club - of course alcohol was involved! In my defense, we humans have a long history of consuming disgusting critters when we've been drinking. Don't believe me? Just ask the little worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle.

But I can’t blame just the alcohol. The box said the crickets were bacon cheddar flavored. I assume the flavor was added after the crickets’ demise because if living crickets are naturally coated with bacon cheesy yumminess I wouldn’t have waited so long to eat one. There was also the fact that no one else was brave enough to try one so this was the perfect opportunity to claim I’m the baddest ass mother on my cul-de-sac (and when I say mother I’m not using some gangsta slang. I mean an actual minivan-driving mother).


Truthfully, though, I wasn’t the only one to take the dare. Sheila’s 15-year-old son also volunteered. Since the judgment portion of boys’ brains aren’t fully formed until they’re 25, he had an excuse. I’m not a boy and I’m well-past 25, so I don’t know what my excuse was. Oh yeah, someone had just refilled my wine glass.


 Now, if you’re going to eat a cricket, here are a few pointers:

1.     Make sure it’s dead. Dead ones don’t put up much of a fuss.

2.      Whatever you do, don’t look at it. You’re not eating a frosted cupcake with sprinkles on top. Better to just pop the cricket in your mouth with yours eyes clamped shut.

3.     Don’t expect it to be delicious. Crickets have the consistency and taste of wood shavings. “But wait,” you say, “wood shavings don’t taste like bacon and cheese.” That’s right. And neither do crickets.

4.     Chew as little as possible. Otherwise you’ll end up like I did – with a cricket wing stuck to the roof of your mouth. And take it from me: no amount of dry heaving in your friend’s living room is going to dislodge it.

I did learn one important lesson, though. It turns out crickets are the perfect diet food. You really can eat just one.

  This is the "before" picture.

Trust me - you don't want to see the "after."


Happy Camper Is An Oxymoron

 I come from a long line of people who consider the phrase ”happy camper” to be an oxymoron. To put it simply, we Bitners are inside folk and I made sure to marry a man with similar proclivities. I assumed, then, that my husband and I would beget children who appreciated the value of memory foam pillows and indoor plumbing. I was wrong.



Recently my youngest has become fixated on the idea of camping outside. With me. In a tent. An item that, due to our love of the great indoors, we have conveniently neglected to own. Every time he brings up camping, I try to get him off the topic by offering him candy or turning the TV to Sponge Bob. Not a parenting technique I’m proud of, but one I was willing to resort to if it meant sleeping in my own bed. 

That is until the day my parental guilt took a direct hit from the Internet. I’d received an email announcing LL Bean was having a sale on all camping equipment.

            Malls I can do. They’re climate controlled, bear-free and the most dangerous part is looking for a parking space. Plus, the only equipment I needed was the piece of plastic in my wallet. So it was a no-brainer to head to Colonie Center for an adventure my nature-phobic DNA is better suited for: shopping.

            I was still on a buyer’s high when I returned home with my purchases – a tent, two sleeping bags and a self-inflating pillow. I only bought one pillow because I wasn’t sure it would work. If it did end up inflating, my son I would have to wrestle for it, but I was confident I could take him.

I also purchased a first aid kit and something called a Pocket Survival Pack. I bought the pack because it had seemed cocky to look at it in the store and then put it back like I didn’t need it. With my lack of camping know-how, I was in no position to tempt fate. I could picture rescuers one day discovering my lifeless body in the woods and lamenting, “If only she’d bought that pocket survival pack.” Besides, it was on sale.

            I decided I’d better figure out how to use the stuff while I was still safe and secure in my own home. It took me about ten minutes – no lie – to figure out how to open the survival pack, which turned out to be a simple zippered plastic pouch. This did not bode well for my chances in the wild.

            The first thing I noticed when I finally did get it open was that my pack was defective – no chocolate. Second thing I noticed was it was full of cool stuff I hoped I would never have to use – like a rescue whistle, signal mirror and waterproof fire starter.

Then I came across fishing line and fish hooks. I searched in vain in the pouch for the little tiny fisherman that will use them. Good Lord, I’m never going to survive if I have to catch my own food. There was also a scalpel blade, which, if I used it for slitting my wrists, would be a faster way to go than starving to death. There was even a pencil and notepaper.  Although it says you can use the paper when it’s wet, I’ll try to remember to write my farewell note before using the scalpel.

            Then I checked out the bonus lifesaving instructions. The first instruction said: Don’t Panic! Too late. Especially if I was reading it while stuck on the side of some mountain. Come to think of it, instead of a zippered plastic pouch, the whole thing should come in a brown paper bag so I’ll have something to breathe into to stave off the inevitable panic attack.


 With any luck, this retail excursion will be enough and just owning the gear will satisfy my son’s desire to go camping. And maybe if I stick the stuff in a closet, we can forget all about it. At least until the Visa bill arrives.