Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Last Tuesday night at approximately ten o'clock I was riding my bicycle down Marion View when I made an unexpected and violent exit from the Bummer-Free Zone. A sudden encounter with an enraged dog, who became entangled with the smoothly whirring operation of my 10-speed, caused me to proceed over the handle bars and land with a sickly thud, like a wooden mallet striking a side of beef, on the merciless surface of the road. The result- a broken collar bone and a few days in a decidedly bummer-filled zone.

In the meantime I have watched the already anemic number of daily visits to my blog drop to levels that can only be described as pathetic- we're talking single digits people. It is clear that I will have to do some serious blogging to scrap my way back up to where the BFZ used to be. I vow to hold your attention!!! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Yep, it's that time of year again. "Back to school" is a phrase that still fills me with dread. Bowden, who is now a seasoned veteran entering second grade, was loose and relaxed, but Lucy was a tad apprehensive.
Poor goose.
Bowden tried to make her feel better with assurances that he would check in on her, but to no avail.
Here's Bowden with his teacher, Mrs. Chavez. We dropped Bowden off first in the hopes that some of his confidence would rub off on Lucy and help her ease into the chilly waters of a new school year.
But when we went to the Kindergarten class Lucy was still a bit clingy.

Here's Lucy with her teacher, Mrs. Longbrook. We know Mrs. Longbrook from church. Lucy's class is also chock full of kids from church, which is probably the only reason we were able to leave without a scene.
"Bye Mommy!"
Lucy with her friend, Sylvan.
Here's Jack with his pre-school teacher, Kathy Lewis, who Jack calls "Teacher Classy." We know Teacher Kathy from church as well. Jack is as happy as a pig in slop to be in pre-school. I think it makes him feel like a big kid- like Bowden and Lucy. Plus he loves being with the other kids. He has been walking around with his back pack for days talking about going to class. He is the most excited of the three I would have to say.
Above all, he loves his Spider Man water bottle that goes with his lunch box.


To make up for my whale hating post below , I thought I would bring you an environmentally conscious installment of AROUND THE HOUSE. Today I will teach you how to recycle two common waste items into a handy fire starting device which I call "the Lint Log."
Take an empty toilet paper roll and close off one end with masking tape. Keep the roll near the dryer and as you clean out the dryer's lint trap, just deposit the fuzz into the roll as demonstrated below.
Got it?
This is the finished product.
Guess what you're getting for Christmas, Dad!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


"She actually likes the Chinese food at our school. She thinks it's good, but it's not. It's not even chinese food really."
Third generation asian-American teenager in conversation with her second generation asian-American Mother- Fairway Market, Idyllwild, CA

"It's nice up here. Really very nice."
Man with a heavy German accent upon being asked how he liked Idyllwild- Strawberry Creek Shopping Plaza Parking Lot- Idyllwild, CA


When I watch "Whale Wars" I root for the Japanese whalers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

IN THE KITCHEN with Josh Tate

This is one of my favorite drinks on a hot summer day. First, make a batch of exceedingly robust iced tea (It's gotta be strong!) and oversweeten it. Then pour it off into ice cube trays and freeze.
While you're waiting for the cubes to freeze make another batch of tea. Once frozen, let the cubes clink-clink-clinky into the bottom of the glass, and then add some of the iced tea.
Ahhhh! It's best if you drink it in a hot shower.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Washington, Redskins vs. New York, Jets

Saturday, August 14, 2010


With my family out of town this week I have been spending an increased amount of time bathed in the blue glow of my television. I don't know how many channels we have with our cable package, but I basically only watch a handful of them- Fox News, The NFL Network, ESPN, A&E, National Geographic, Discovery, and The History Channel. Occasionally I will pay a visit to MSNBC or CNN and I will also occasionally troll through the other channels on the off chance that a good movie or something is showing. Between the Discovery Channel (278) and MSNBC (356) is a vast wasteland of cartoons and music stations which I simply never visit.

Last night I was skipping through the channels, but was not having any luck finding anything to pique my interest. I had already gone around the horn, CBS to the Weather Channel and back, three times without finding anything when I decided to commit to an episode of Glenn Beck.

I have been critical of Beck in the past, only once here on the BFZ, but quite regularly in private conversation. Every time I make a statement that is critical of Mr. Beck, however, I feel a pang of guilt because, in truth, I have never actually watched his program all the way through. I had watched O'Reilly, Maddow, and even the odious Keith Olberman, but I had never given Beck a fair shot. So I settled on the weather channel for a moment to cleanse the intellectual palate, then I punched 3-6-0 into the remote and jumped over to FOX news to give Beck a fair hearing.

I'm still not a fan.

Beck reminds me of a spinning tire- all noise and flying mud without any forward progress. His appeal is too heavily weighted toward the emotional. He talks like a man who thinks everyone in the room agrees with him. His posture is panicky and not persuasive in the least. A good argument will wed emotional appeal to intellectual substance, and, in my opinion, Beck lacks intellectual gravitas. Beck and I would agree on what’s wrong I think, but perhaps not on how to fix things. To put it another way, we would likely agree in substance, but not in spirit. I wish he were not such a prominent champion of conservative ideals.

At least I can criticize him now with a clear conscience.

In my mind, Beck is guilty of the same sort of feeble rationale that is becoming all too common among my fellow Christians. Have you ever noticed how often Beck appeals to the founding fathers to support his arguments while sputtering impotently at the current state of things. American Christians have taken to doing the same thing with alarming frequency. They trot out quotes from Jefferson and Franklin that demonstrate our nation’s Christian heritage, and hold them up like they ought to mean something to Bobby Bag-O-Doughnuts off the street.

Who cares?

Whether or not the likes of Jefferson and Franklin were even Christians is debatable, but they certainly were shrewd politicians who wisely packaged their radical ideas in the language of a culture that was deeply, and I believe sincerely, religious. That’s the whole point. Americans seem to believe that it was our visionary founding fathers who shaped the country, but I believe it is closer to the truth that the nation’s earliest leaders were shaped by a public that demanded they make their argument through the lens of faith. That is the history of our people, a good beginning to be sure, but that is a sword that swings in both directions. Today’s irreligious public is shaping our leadership and providing us with a new direction.

I have always thought that politics is a better reflection of society than art. Art is often ahead of society, but politics are usually spot on. The trajectory of things may not seem encouraging for the U.S.A., and that is an understandably emotional conclusion for those of us who hold a special affection for our people, but I fear there is little to gain by invoking the founding fathers and sputtering about what used to be. Bobby Bag-O-Doughnuts doesn’t care.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Driveways tumble down
Toward streets
Like mountain streams,
And cars,
Like sticks in the current,
Are drawn nose first
The river roads slide along
Past fields and forest,
Farms and towns-
They swell,
They overflow,
Expanding and adding lanes.
Cruisers bask on their banks
Like hungry crocs.
Every freeway a watershed.
Every road a tributary.
And like so much sediment
From upstream
The traffic flows out
Into the ocean named Los Angeles.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


"Don't run, but walk with purpose."
Woman in her late 40's speaking to a young boy, Camp Maranatha, Idyllwild, CA

"Give Bass a call. He's not doing anything."
Twenty-something female to a thirty-something female who had just complained to the twenty-something that she had not been able to find a ride to the airport for a planned departure on Thursday of next week, Post Office, Idyllwild, CA.


During my second year as a police officer I showed up for work one morning and, even before I could get into uniform, Michelle, one of our dispatchers, stuck her head into the squad room and asked me if I could take a phone call from a woman on line 1.

"What's it about?" I asked.

"I dunno, she didn't say," Michelle said over her shoulder as she walked back down the hall toward the dispatch center.

That annoyed me. The dispatchers were supposed to screen the calls and get more info before passing them onto us, but Michelle was new so I didn't make a big deal about it.

I shuffled over to my desk, grabbed a pad of paper and a pen, then picked up the phone and hit the button for line 1.

"This is Officer Tate."

The woman's voice, strained and cracking, said, "I have a little bit of an embarassing question."

"Okay, shoot," I said, feeling relieved because she had apparently not called to report a crime.

"Well, my husband, he's in Iraq, you know, with the army, and this morning I was looking at some stuff on the internet and a message popped up that said I was being investigated by the FBI."

I cut in, "What kind of stuff, Mam."


"Yeah. What kind of stuff were you looking at?"

"Well, you know, it was porn, but not like kiddy porn or anything. I mean...it was pretty nasty, but honestly I didn't think it was illegal."

"Well, I don't work for the FBI, Mam."

"Yeah, I know. But you think maybe?"

"I doubt it. It doesn't sound like what you were doing was illegal."

"Well how can I know for sure? It, like, really freaked me out?"

"I guess you could call the FBI if you want, but think about it, if you were really being investigated by the FBI they wouldn't want you to know that, right? They wouldn't want you to destroy evidence or change your behavior. That would ruin their investigation."

"That's true. I hadn't thought about that. Okay, thanks."

"You bet, and thanks for the sacrifice your family is making with your husband in Iraq and all."

"Oh, that's nice. Thanks. Have a good day."

"You too."


Mist in the trees
A licking breeze
Dampened the air
Bejeweled her hair


Sometimes late at night when I wake up befuddled and groggy, when dreams influence and mingle with conscious thought, my mind struggles to find its footing. Sometimes I am entertained by the nocturnal wanderings of my mind and at other times I am profoundly relieved they are not real. I think few people are truly entertained by their own thoughts. One's thoughts come from within and entertainment typically comes from without, but dreams are something different. Though dreams are a product of my mind and come from within, they have the potential to surprise and captivate me as though coming from without. I don't feel that I am controlling or guiding them. It is that sense of being swept up, and not being the author, that lends joy to a good dream and fear to a nightmare. A good dream, the sort that makes you wish you had not woken up, is excellent entertainment, but perhaps the greater joy is found in waking from a nightmare and realizing none of it was real.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


For the past few years I have attempted to guess who will make the superbowl prior ot the start of the football season. So far I have failed miserably. In one especially bad year I actually predicted the Redskins would be squaring off against the Browns. Do you remember that? Wow, that was a bad prediction.

I'm undaunted though. This year I am absolutely certain that I've nailed it.

Redskins vs. Texans

There you have it.

Okay, in other football related news, some folks at my church have a fantasy football league, and due to a less than fantastic showing last year I have first pick in this year's draft.

Who should I pick?


Sarah and the kids are out of town this week, and I miss them. I have always been the kind of guy who is perfectly happy being alone, in fact, for most of my life I have preferred it, but I don't know what to do with myself anymore when Sarah and the kids go away. I just wish they were back.

For some reason, I have trouble sleeping when they're gone. I keep waking up at night, and unable to go back to sleep, I watch TV or go for walks. I have taken to sleeping on the couch in front of the TV. Its ceaseless chatter helps me sleep, and the bed is altogether too big without Sarah. The couch is a better fit.

The days drag by more slowly when they're gone, and although I have more discretionary time without the kids in tow I actually accomplish less. I feel listless and unsatisfied, dull and lazy. The day starts wrong and ends wrong.

I don't want for company. I want for their company. I wish they were back.



That's right.


From time to time I get ideas for television commercials, and I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but I don't think they're half bad. If you are a long time follower of the Bummer-Free Zone you might recall my idea for an airline ad to promote its new and improved coach cabin.

Here are my two latest commercial ideas-

1. Car Commercial- "The King of the Jungle"

The look and feel of this commercial is that of a nature special in the African bush. A vast herd of beater cars rolls calmly across the sprawling grasslands as the sun sets. The vehicle being advertised then suddenly bursts out of cover and races into the herd like a lion, the beater herd picks up speed- dividing and stampeding- all is dust and confusion, roaring engines and squealing brakes. As the vehicle accelerates, cutting through the crappy clown cars, and navigating the terrain the narrator calmly lists the vehicle's attributes. Then the camera pans out to an aerial view and shows that the advertised vehicle has separated a doomed beater from the herd and is bearing down on it. The last scene shows the advertised vehicle next to a stripped down chassis, with tire rims, bumpers and such littered around it like bones. It's headlights come on and the engine roars out over the Savannah.

2. Mastercard Commercial- "Now back to the Game"

I have always imagined this commercial airing during a much anticipated sporting event, series finale, or something like that. The spokesperson (possibly someone from the series or sporting event) would explain how much a minute of ad times costs ($_.__), how long the average commercial break is (# of minutes X $_.__= $_.__). Then the spokesperson would explain that the company had purchased all of the available ad time for that break but only opted to run a spot that was twenty seconds long. "The next _ minutes are on us. Now back to the game." Priceless.


The computer started this morning.

I know! What a capricious jerk, right?

It hasn't started for weeks, but this morning it fired right up like nothing was ever amiss. It felt kind of like when you have had a big fight with somebody, and the next day, when you see them again, they try to act all normal like the fight never happened. I told the computer I wanted to talk about it, but do you know what it said? It just said that it had an update, and asked if I wanted to download it right then or if I wanted it to remind me later.

I see how we are, computer. Two can play at this game. Just remind me later I guess.

I've decided never to turn it off again.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


They say that as a whale starves it digests its own stomach last. Such is the state of the Bummer-Free Zone these days. It's sad when most of your posts are about not posting often enough, and it is true, I haven't posted enough.

The worst part is that it's not for lack of something to say. I've got lots of stuff backed up, on standby, and ready to vomit forth onto your screens, but our computer is dead. If it were a goldfish I would flush it down the toilet, and until I am able to replace it the BFZ will likely remain a sad and quiet corner of the internet.

All offers of free and/or used computers will be politely declined. I don't want your charity, and that sort of thing is messy/sticky. In the words of George Washington- "Avoid foreign entanglements."