Sunday, May 30, 2010

THE WEEKLY STATS- Coffee Consumed from 5/23-5/29

Along with "Living Life on the Record" this will be a new weekly feature here at the Bummer-Free Zone wherein I will provide you, my concerned and engaged readers, with different stats from my life each week...and yes I am aware that this represents the very height of narcissism.

We'll start off with something fairly pedestrian-

Cups of Coffee consumed- 19


Just the facts. My week in review.

Sunday- Unseasonably cool day. It began to snow just as church was beginning and continued off an on for the next hour or so. Invited the Oliviers over for dinner on Monday night. After church Sarah, the kids and I joined the Bayers, Marin (and her two kids), Scott and Mark over at Arriba’s for lunch. Took a long nap in the afternoon. Sarah and I watched the series finale of “Lost” before bed.

Monday- Cool again today. Sarah and Jack accompanied Lucy on a pre-school field trip to the county park, and with Bowden in school as well, Miles and I were left at home alone for the most of the morning. Sarah took a long nap in the afternoon. I cleaned the house before the Oliviers came over at 6:30pm for dinner- three cheese penne. Oliviers hung out and talked until around 9:30pm.

Tuesday- Still unseasonably cool but getting warmer. Lucy and I went on a daddy-daughter date over my lunch break. At her request I dressed in a suit and wore cologne. We went to Café Aroma for lunch and then got shaved ices from the Candy Cupboard, which we ate down by Strawberry Creek. The Bayers came by to pick up Sarah at 4:15 to go up to Camp Alandale to pick up the vegetable co-op order. Sarah ended up inviting them and Lisa to dinner- barbecue chicken. Spoke briefly with John on the telephone in the afternoon. After dinner. Lisa went home and we hung out with the Bayers until 10:30pm. Did coursework until 11:30. Went to bed at Midnight.

Wednesday- Weather much the same as yesterday, cool but sunny. Marin came over in the morning and spent most of the day with Sarah, staying through dinner- quiche. After dinner, we loaded up the kids and headed over to the church for the annual Awanas award ceremony. Fell asleep in the reading chair in kid’s room while I was putting them to bed. Did no coursework.

Thursday- Overcast and chilly with sporadic sprinkling in the morning. Out the door at six am for my weekly Father’s group at the Idyllwild Inn. The kids are out of school for a five-day memorial weekend beginning today. Sarah took all four kids down to Hemet with her to load up on necessaries. They returned with new pairs of shoes for all the kids. The first of our three Memorial day weekend groups arrived at the camp in the evening. Dinner in the dining hall- Orange Chicken. Nanny arrived as I was putting the kids to bed. She and Sarah will be taking them to Legoland tomorrow morning and Nanny intends to stay through the weekend. Drank some coffee and stayed up until midnight doing coursework. Still jittery from the coffee so I went for a walk before going to bed at 1:30am.

Friday- Cool day- never climbed out of the 60’s all day. Sarah and Nanny loaded up the kids and left for Legoland after breakfast. After dinner- roast beef- I took advantage of the kids being gone by getting some coursework out of the way earlier in the day than normal. Sarah et al returned from Legoland at about 9:00pm. After being thoroughly briefed on the Legoland adventure I went to bed at 11:00pm

Saturday- Warmest day all week with plenty of sun. Nanny and Sarah left with the kids in the morning to look around at the various memorial day weekend yard sales. They ate lunch in town before coming back to the house in the mid-afternoon. Sarah bought a chair for $10.00 to replace one that is falling apart in our living room. Busy day at work. Saw a coyote lope across the ball field just before lunch. Unintentionally fell asleep in the reading chair while putting the kids to sleep- woke up at 11:00 pm and forced myself to complete the coursework I had resolved earlier in the day to do. Fortified myself with caffeine before getting to work. Wrapped up the day at 2:30 am.

Friday, May 28, 2010


After I finished my coursework tonight I went for a midnight walk. I think of these times at the end of the day, after the rest has been carved up for all things purposeful and productive, as scraps of waste material. Like the two and a half inches of a 2x4 left on the floor of a workshop.
Nothing remarkable happened on my walk, but it felt good to stretch my legs beneath the nearly full moon.
The sprinklers.

Walking with an MP3 player is kind of like stepping into a music video. It affects how I walk.
I found this Domino's sign at the dump about a month ago and it has been magnetically attached to the camp's truck ever since.
I walked into town, but except for a scrawny looking coyote, scurrying across North Circle I was the only creature wandering the streets.
Amazingly, even though it was past midnight, Nature's Wisdom was still open. At first I thought that whoever had closed up must have forgotten to turn the lights out and take in the "OPEN" sign, but out of curiosity I went up and tried the door. The owner, Anna, was inside making some curried lentil soup and thought she might as well be open in case some hungry person with disposable income might happen by.

"You never know."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


My four year old daughter, Lucy, has been asking me take her out for some "alone time" for several months now. I'm not sure how she got the idea, but I think she came up with it entirely on her own. Several times a week she would bring it up and ask when we were gonna "go have our alone time." You can only say "sometime soon," so many times before it becomes a little too "Cat's in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon." So on Tuesday we had our alone time. At Lucy's request, I wore a suit and cologne. I'm not a cologne guy, but I did have some aftershave, which I applied generously to my bearded visage. As you can see, Lucy wore a beautiful dress.
These shiny and seldom-worn shoes got the nod for the occasion.

Also at Lucy's request, we went to Cafe Aroma. Both of the women in my life love Cafe Aroma although it's not my favorite. We both ordered bagels with a cinnamon roll.

"Lucy, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"A Ballerina Teacher."

"Where are you gonna live?"

"Next to the Ballerina school."

"Where is the ballerina school gonna be?"

"Next to your house."

"Oh, and what town is that in?"

"Daddy! The same town as you."

"Do you think you'll be married?"

"I think so."

"To who?"

"Joel White."

"Lucy, what is the scariest thing in the world?"

"I think probably a bear."

"If you could have any pet what kind would you want?"


"Not a bear?"

I think my outfit looked very much like that of Father Bear from the animated television series "Little Bear." I hope that wasn't scary for Lucy.

Lucy drew a picture of us together on our date. She sticks out her tongue when she's concentrating. It's adorable.
After lunch, we drove down to the Candy Cupboard.
"I want this, Daddy."

We both got shaved ices. Lucy's was strawberry & blueberry and mine was lime & coconut. Lucy suggested that we take our shaved ices down to strawberry creek. So we did. It was pretty down there. Lucy and I eventually settled on some sunny boulders and finished off our shaved ices before heading home.
Now the boys want them some "alone time," although I think they mostly just want shaved ices and cinnamon rolls.
My goose.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I knew Gabby by reputation long before I ever actually met her. I had read her life story in the form of incident reports, juvenile petitions and affidavits at the police academy where her life was offered up to us as a real life case study and where I noted with interest that she lived in the city where I would be working. It had all begun at the tender age of 11. Her Mom’s boyfriend. It was tragic. Though her initials and name had been carefully blacked out in all of the documentation at the academy, I would later run into the same documents in their unedited form while adding my own to her well-documented life.

The tragic list of things she witnessed (person of Interest), things done to her (victim), and things she had done (Suspect/convicted criminal) was impressively long, and that was just what had been reported to the authorities- no doubt just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. You could not be blamed for imagining her as having a hard, used-up look about her, but she was actually very pretty. Long, dark hair, which fell to the small of her back, framed a pleasant face with a pair of large, clear eyes. Given her past, it would also be reasonable for you to imagine her as having a difficult, troubled air about her, but, surprisingly, she always seemed buoyant and carefree. Of course, it was an illusion, and a well-practiced one, which hung over her countenance, like a blanket of snow over a trash-strewn yard.

One night as I drove past the bars on Federal Street she flagged down my cruiser, and leaning in through the passenger window, asked for a ride home.

“It’s cold and I think I drank too much,” she said with a flirtatious giggle.

“This is a cruiser, not a taxi, Gabby.”

“Tate, come on, why do you have to be such a hard *** all the time. What if something happened to me? It’s just around the corner. Aren’t you supposed to protect and serve?”

“If it’s just around the corner why can’t you just walk there?”

“Come on, Tate! Don’t be like that.”

“Alright, get in,” I said reluctantly.

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said as she slid into the passenger seat and buckled up.

While I was waiting for an opportunity to pull back out into traffic on federal Street, I grabbed the radio and advised dispatch what I was up to.

“7-2-8, Central”

“Central, 7-2-8”

“I’m transporting a female from Federal Street to her residence on Maple Street, please note the time in the log.”

“10-4, 7-2-8, beginning time 2315.”

As traffic allowed me to pull away from the curb, Gabby leaned across the center console, so I could smell her boozey breath, and said, “You know, I’ve always wanted to **** a cop.”

I had never been propositioned before. I immediately pulled back to the curb, and with emotion that surprised me I almost shouted, “Get out!”

At first she looked a little surprised herself and then she began to cry.

She stammered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean… it’s cold, come on, I’m sorry.”

“I said GET OUT!”

She unbuckled, got out, and collapsed to the curb sobbing.

I drove away.

“7-2-8, Central”

“Go ahead 7-2-8”

“22 that, she’s gonna walk.”

“10-4, ending time 2316”

Looking in my rear view mirror I saw that she had successfully flagged down another officer. That’s how news got around to the other guys at the department. Dealing with advances from drunk women was just a part of the job according to them, and they were all in agreement that I had overreacted.

“You just told her to get out?!?!”


Several months later I was out on patrol when dispatch called me on the radio and advised me that Gabby was in the lobby requesting to speak with me. You can imagine some of the comments as I walked through the squad room on my way to the lobby. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as I entered the lobby, Gabby stood up and in a simple, straightforward way apologized. She spoke in a level, frank manner that impressed me. She said she was going to leave St. Albans and make a new life for herself in New York City. Then she shook my hand, walked out of the police department, climbed into her Kia and drove out of town. As far as I know she was never seen in that town again.

Sometimes I wonder how that story ended.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


All four of our kids' birthdays are clustered in June (8th & 10th) and July (14th and 28th). I kind of like that. Coupled with our upcoming anniversary (June 16th), all of the birthdays make this time of the year seem more festive. Recently, on an unrelated quest, I dove deep into the Bummer-Free Zone's archives and found myself revisiting (and enjoying all over again) the great deer hunt of 2007- possibky the best birthday party concept I have ever personally experienced.

I thought some of you might enjoy revisiting it as well-

The Making of the deer

The Party

Sarah is a fanatic about observing birthdays. Mostly, she just likes getting together with people and having fun I think, and birthdays are a good excuse to do that, but she always pours an amount of energy and enthusiasm into birthdays that I find amazing. That was most on display in "the deer hunt" when Sarah organized and planned one of the coolest birthday parties ever for Bowden in the days immediately prior to giving birth to Jack, and then after having the baby came home and threw the party the next day.

It was madness! Madness, I tell you.

Friday, May 21, 2010

ARTS AND CRAFTS with Josh Tate

In this installment of ARTS AND CRAFTS we are going to demonstrate how to boil down a deer skull so it can be put on display in a nature exhibit. (Gotta give a shout out here- I was first introduced to the art of boiling down skulls by former outdoor ed. instructor and good friend, Lisa Richard.)
First, find a dead deer. If there are no dead deer to be found then by all means kill a live one. This one got hit by a car before limping down into Camp Maranatha where it was evidently finished off by a pack of coyotes behind one of our meeting halls.
Here are the tools you will need for the first part of the project- a block of wood, a saw, latex gloves, and some Vicks Vapo Rub.
Before getting to work, apply the vapo rub generously to your upper lip and around your nostrils (this is a trick I learned from my days as a police officer. Don't dwell on that too much.). That deer had been down for a while (it was pungent lemme tell ya) and the vapo rub really helps with the smell. (Mike Rowe eat your heart out.)
Let's do this thing!
I would also recommend latex gloves that cover the wrists.
Position the block of wood under the deer's neck just ahead of the shoulder so it is easier to saw off the head.
Then get right to work. No half-measures, get in and get out.

Success! Surprisingly, success smells like vapo rub.
Next time I'll demonstrate how to boil down the skull.
To Be Continued...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Today, I was talking with my friend, Lisa, about how the number of visits to my blog has dropped dramatically over the past few months, and how I felt like I needed a real "grabber" to post about. she suggested that I post about how I always seal envelopes with tape because I don't trust the adhesive on the backs of envelopes to hold up during transport.
Now if that's not a "grabber" I don't know what is. I'll do anything to boost the ol' ratings.
I really don't trust that glue.


This man claims to have been continuously bearded since the 70's.

This is kind of how I imagine all of the Patriarchs in the Old Testament looked. For me, it was kind of like finding Moses wandering the streets of Idyllwild.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Gimme a ring.


Sarah and I have the travel bug all of sudden, well at least I do (Sarah says she is sick of talking about it.), but we have this plan. Next year, June 2011, we will have been married for ten years, and we have had it in our minds to do something really big to celebrate it- kind of a second honeymoon (or in our case more of a first). We are not people of means, never have been, and we haven't been able to go abroad much, but by golly, we've resolved to squirrel away what money we can and make this happen for our tenth. We really want to go somewhere exotic, just the two of us, no kids, but I wanna get it right. Every year we take turns planning our anniversary- last year was my year, this year is Sarah's turn, and 2011 is mine to plan. I need some suggestions. Where should we go? Where would you go?


It's official, a baptist church from off the hill will be camping out at Hurkey Creek in late June and they have asked me to come and speak at their Sunday morning service. This is exciting to me for a number of reasons, with the foremost being that I love speaking (borderline need to speak), but also because this church doesn't know me personally at all. That has become one of my quiet goals and I have been praying to God for just such an opportunity and quite suddenly it fell in my lap. I'm thankful for the opportunity and seeking God about that morning.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


For Mother's Day weekend Sarah and I loaded the kids up into the Astro Van (which just a few days prior had received a new set of tires, an oil change and $75 in gas) and set a course for the La Brea Tar Pits in downtown Los Angeles. Sarah had fond memories of field trips to the tar pits when she was in elementary school and has been wanting to take the kids there for a long time. I'm glad she pushed for it. It was awesome! For those of you don't know anything about the La Brea Tar Pits they are a place where asphalt naturally follows fissures and faults eventually bubbling to the surface in downtown Los Angeles. It is quite literally downtown- between little Ethiopia and Beverly Hills. During the last ice age the tar pits represented a death trap of epic proportions for all sort of animals- and the museum is dedicated to displaying the perfectly preserved bones of such creatures as the American lion, the American camel, the prehistoric horse, sabre tooth cat, ground sloth, mastodon, long-horned bison, etc... Many of the fossils belonged to creatures that are long-extinct (and also lots that are still around today like coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, etc...) and I really enjoyed visualizing herds of mastodons and camels plodding along through the grasslands of Southern California while a pride of American Lions looked on, and ice age hunters with spears in hand moved along the tops of a ridge following the herds and keeping a wary eye out for Sabretooth cats. I also learned that only set of human remains has ever been found in the pits- a woman (an apparent homicide victim) who most likely belonged to an ice age tribe known as the channel island indians (they determined that based on the shape of her skull which had been shattered as a result of blunt force trauma).

I was genuinely impressed by the exhibits and also by the size of some of those animals. The whole experience was mind blowing actually. Expansive. If you ever have an opportunity to take in the pits I highly recommend it.
As we stepped out of the van and were getting the kids together before crossing the parking lot, Sarah said "Do you smell that? It smells exactly like someone's paving a road." I had smelled the same asphalt smell, but I had reasonably assumed that somewhere nearby a crew was, in fact, repaving a road. When she said that though I suddenly became aware of what she already knew- what I was smelling were the tar pits themselves.
For a long time the asphalt was quarried here and this large pond is the result. The pond is constantly bubbling like a cauldron (although it is not hot) as a result of the methane gas escaping from below. Everything surrounding the pond is spattered with asphalt from the bubbles violently emerging at the surface and throwing tar everywhere.
The tar also seems to seep out wherever else it pleases. Some of the seeps have been cordoned off with these little gates which pepper the grassy areas surrounding the pits.

But we found dozens of other places where the asphalt was just bubbling out at the base of a tree, or under a fence, or right smack dab in the middle of a grassy area. If you had walked up to the seeping tar as I did you could have actually watched it bubbling up and trickling out. It must be under pressure. It was fascinating to me for some reason. Perfect, black, shiny asphalt just spilling out of the ground like as if Jed Clampett had just recently happened by shootin' up some food.

The most stimulating part about the pits was the museum where the bones of ice age animals were on display. Check out that Colombian Mastodon's huge curving tusks.

I asked Lucy to take this picture of me in front of the American Lion's skeleton. This killing machine was bigger than today's African Lion and for that matter any feline alive today. Have you ever seen when a cat gets really wet and they suddenly look way smaller than they seem when their fur is all fluffy. I kept thinking about that while I was looking at this lion's skeleton- add muscle, flesh and fur and it would have been more than just a little imposing. That was big cat. Yikes!
Once again I would like to state on the record that I am not sad the cave bear is extinct.
One of the interesting facts I learned about the tar pits (and there were many) is that over 90% of the fossils recovered are of predators and scavengers. When an animal got stuck and died in the pits other creatures would come from everywhere to take advantage of the free meal and they would inevitably get stuck themselves. Here Sarah is standing next to one of the extinct species of condor that is on display. They had lots of vulture-like birds that they had found in the pits.
Some of them were startlingly big.

The sabretooth cat atop the ground sloth in the background would, every once in a while, spasmadically dig its fangs into the sloth's back, but it was broken or something and it didn't look as cool as its designers had undoubtedly intended. It looked more like they were nuzzling or something. I could just imagine the sloth saying, "Oh you!" as the sabretooth tickled him behind the ear.
This was interesting to me. The most common species of animal found in the pits are Dire Wolves. In fact, the remains of approimately 3000 of the now extinct wolf species have been removed from the pits. Here is a wall display containing 404 of their skulls. Scientists theorize that, in addition to getting mired in the tar while scavenging, they may have also chased prey into the tar inadevertantly sealing their own doom. Entire packs have been found entombed together.
Dire wolves.
No wonder they're extinct, eh?
This is a picture of an active excavation site. We got there too late to actually see them working, but there was a viewing platform where we could look down where they work. They had flags where the bones were, but they don't show up very well in the photo.
This woman was working on removing an animal from a chunk of hardened asphalt. I asked her what it was and she said it was an american camel. You can kind of see it, can't you?
They also had an atrium in the center of the museum with a turtle pond. The kids loved the turtles, which even I found refreshing after so many dead animals.

"Oh you!"
Don't look at Jack's outfit too long. It might give you a seizure.

Miles tried to catch a bird.
So close.