Monday, May 30, 2011

I want to wake up in a house that is my own- a stand-alone house with more window than wall.

I want to pad barefoot across its floors, which are more floor than furniture.

I want to stand with a cup of tea, and scratch my chest, before one of its many windows.

I want to stare out on a new day, full of golden promise, and watch as the rising sun paints the earth anew.


I have never built a stone wall, but someday I would like to. Seven years ago I even read a book on the topic. It had the unimaginitive title of "Building Stone Walls," but it offered numerous insights into the art and method behind their construction which I would not have thought of otherwise. I love the looks of an old stone wall. They are beautiful to me in a way that no other border can rival. They have a settled, heavy feel about them, which I enjoy, and I think they scratch an itch inside all of Adam's sons and daughters to exercise dominion over the earth. It's satisfying to see a straight and orderly line made from so many rough, irregular pieces. 

I remember that the book recommended collecting a large pile of rocks before getting started. The reason being that often times you will need to find a rock that has just the right shape, weight and size to fit a niche as you build, and it helps to have a large collection to select from.

I sometimes think of my posts like that- a collection of rough, irregular thoughts varying in shape, weight and size- and the BFZ is my rock pile, but what will I eventually build with them? I'm not sure, but the thought occurs to me that I would like to incorporate them into something straight and orderly someday.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Although the postcard itself features an image from Oregon City, Oregon the postmark said it was sent from western New York. Thanks to my finely tuned investigative skills I was able to track down the postcard's author and I confirmed the NY origins of these overheards. So now the Bummer-Free Zone has received overheards from 2 out of 50 states (CA and NY)! Sadly, still only 1 out of 7 continents, but we're just getting started! Keep 'em coming!
These were some of the best overheards I have ever encountered. They are mysteriously dated 5/14/08, and the subject matter is intriguing to say the least. Initially I felt like I might be looking at exhibit A for the prosecution, but then I remembered that hearsay is inadmissible. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think an overheard would have to be classified as hearsay. Am I right about that?

Anyway, these overheards were snatched out of the air through an apartment window in New York State during May of 2008:

"Was I the reason that he got stabbed? No."

"You were there."

"Yeah...I mean, I wasn't the reason, but I might have been the catalyst. I mean, I didn't have to punch that kid, but I punched him like six times."

So if I understand this correctly the individual who originally uttered these statements was present when an unknown male was stabbed, and that an altercation precipitated the stabbing, during which the speaker punched a "kid" approximately six times.

Nice work anonymous! Some of the finest overhearing I have ever witnessed, and to think that you sat on these gems for three years. Wow! I'm glad you let the BFZ share them with the world.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Those who have only come to know me in the past 8 years might be surprised to learn that I was once an avid jogger. Why would they be surprised? Welll, cause I don't look like a jogger. That's why. It's true though, for extended periods of time in years past I made it my daily practice to go for a run at the end of the day. I like running, and although I've never been fast, once I hit my groove I could just go forever.

My favorite place to go jogging was out at the lake house. I used to run from the house to Benson Landing and back every evening (4 miles). On summer evenings the fields, which lined my route, would be full of fireflies. As I motored past I would pretend that their flashing came from paparazzi cameras. (I have always entertained delusions of grandeur). I also enjoyed running along the Saint Lawrence in Quebec City, around the campus at Houghton and up and down the hills of Pittsford during my police academy days, but I have found it hard to maintain a jogging regimen since moving to Idyllwild.

A few nights ago I decided that every other day I would begin concluding my time of study in the morning with a 30 minute jog. This morning was my first time out. I had preset my MP3 to the theme from Chariots of Fire, and, after doing my stretches, I headed out along a route which I had planned in advance. That's the only way to run in my experience. Start with a plan- "I'm gonna run to A and then over to B and then back here." Any deviation from that route is failure. That's what I tell myself. Stay the course. If it's harder then you had anticipated you've got to stick with the plan.

This morning was hard though. Harder then I expected. I was tempted at times to abandon my plan. My running form began as imperfect and then quickly turned into kind of a tortured shuffle as I forced myself along. Then buzzards began circling overhead waiting for the wounded creature that was me to die. My legs felt wooden, and not springy at all. My breathing was ragged, and, although it wasn't pretty, I managed to finish what I had set out to do. It was a start.This is why it is so important to start with a plan. My natural laziness and aversion to discomfort kicked in and whispered things like, "Whoa! Take it easy,"  "This is your first run in a long time. You shouldn't push it like this," "You should build up to this kind of a run," or "You should turn around and head back. You've gone far enough for your first time."

Deviation is failure I tell myself, and I keep on shuffling. Stick to the plan! To A, then over to B, then back home.

This reminds me of Hebrews 12:1-3, "Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and pefecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Jesus had his eyes on us (for we are the joy that was set before Him) as he went to the cross and so too should we "fix our eyes on Jesus" as we live for Him in these days. Jesus is all at once our coach, our fuel, our reason, our reward, and our victory. When we grow weary and feel like losing heart, when Satan begins to whisper, we should "consider Him who endured." He endured for us, and so we press on for Him. This business of being a Christian is not for sprinters. You've got to be tough, determined, gritty and even courageous to "run with perseverance." You don't need to be fast, but you do need to stick to the course "marked out," wherever that may lead. It's a long distance haul, filled with the enemy's head games. So, brothers and sisters, let's "fix our eyes on Jesus." Let's "consider Him." Let's run!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


"Shame and pride are twins,
And mother selfish grins
To see her boys at play
Inside my heart today." JBT


1. I wonder if barbers feel weird about touching strangers heads all day long. I don't think I could be a barber.

2. If nausea could be cured by transferring the discomfort to a willing second party I wonder how much would be the going rate for such a service. Like for instance, if Mrs. Smith had a 24 hour bug and was spewing all over the place, and she called me up because I had a business where I took people's nausea onto myself, how much would I charge for helping her out? I think $100.00 would be fair. Maybe a couple thousand for a whole first-trimester.  I would do it for my family (and any of you) for free though. Seriously, I would. I bet I would get super good at being nauseous, and I'd lose tons of weight too!!! On my business card I would have a catchy motto. Maybe "DON'T CALL IN SICK. CALL JOSH." No, that's horrible! Hmm...let's see...what would be a good motto for a vomit guy. Maybe something cheeky like "YOU MAKE ME SICK!"

3. I like floor to ceiling windows and wide hallways.
I often think it's odd
When I consider the mighty bear
That such a creature as I
Could give such as it a scare


Move over Klaus Teuber! I too am an inventer of awesome board games. Back in the summer of 1999 I invented a board game about pirates and adventure on the high seas as a gift for Sarah, who was my girlfriend at the time. We were separated for the summer. I had stayed on at Houghton College (my old alma mater) for the summer to work on their custodial crew, and Sarah had returned to California. In the evenings, after I was done with work, there wasn't much to do in Houghton so I made this board game. I have found that mindless, reptitive labor followed by hours of complete down time consitutes the choicest of conditions for creativity to bloom.  If my labor today was more mindless and  if there were fewer demands on my evenings I think I would have written the great American novel by now. Anyway, the conditions were perfect in the summer of '99 for the birth of such a board game, and after working on it in the evenings for a week I shipped it off to my hot girlfriend in California. ('cause nothing tells your special lady that you've been thinking of her like a random, home-made board game.) I named the game "Tarberry Islands" after the main character of a defunct disney series, "The 100 lives of Black Jack Savage," which I enjoyed as a wee lad.
I pulled out Tarberry Islands this week because I have been reading "Stowaway" to the kids at bedtime, which is also about pirates. I was honestly suprised at how much the kids liked the game. Their ships navigated the treacherous waters surrounding the Tarberry Islands experiencing unspeakable hardships- scurvy, the royal navy, hostile natives, drunken crews, storms, sea monsters, sea battles, even mutiny- and all in search of treasure. Each had little sacks, hand-sewn by your's truly in 1999 from the remnants of a plaid shirt that Sarah didn't like, which swelled or shrunk over the course of the game depending on their fortunes. Jack, or Captain Jack as I prefer to call him, was the big winner, which was fortunate because much like the pirates of old he pretty much just dissolves into tears when things don't go him way.
Bowden proved bouyant in defeat and kind of hyper in victory.
Lucy was less bouyant, but not nearly as fragile as Captain Jack. She really only cried once, when she lost all of her money to The Shiny Shekel, captained by Bowden. Their two vessels intersected off the coast of Tate Island and a sea battle ensued. Bowden won two out of three rolls and "The Matilda," captained by Lucy, had to limp back into port for repairs without its accumulated booty. Lucy found it was easier to repair her ship than her bruised heart, but after a quick conference with Mom in the next room she came back with dry eyes and intent on revenge. Lucy perked up considerably when she pulled the Island Princess card on one of her turns, which spared her from all native attacks and when other players paid off the marauding natives the money went directly to her. Cha-ching! Plus she got to wear a pretty necklace which came with being the Island Princess. Captain Jack was sad that him didn't get to be the Island Princess though.
It's fun now that the kids are actually old enough to play games with. 1999-Josh had no idea as he crafted this game that he would one day play it with his and 1999-Sarah's kids. That's awesome!

Monday, May 23, 2011


I heard back from Chipotle today who I had praised in my letter for the quality of their ingredients, affordability, excellent service and their cilantro-lime rice (All true- it's a great restaurant). Their response, authored by one Alicia Swartz,was nice and appreciative but there were no coupons inside for free or discounted food. It felt a little like receiving a birthday card without a check inside. Just "Thanks for taking the time to write."
Goodwill alone is hard to quantify, so, sadly, the return on investment from Chipotle has to be recorded as a disappointing negative forty-four cents.

At this time, I am still waiting to hear back from Red Robin, Subway, Starbucks, Joe's Crab Shack, CA Pizza Kitchen and Papa John's. That's $2.64 in postage. So far I have heard back from Carl's Jr. ($12.00), McDonalds ($2.00), Pepsi ($0.44), and Chipotle (-$0.44). That means that even after today's disappointing letter from Chipotle I am still ahead by $11.36.


I would like some tadpole stew
No other stew will do
I'll cook it up and serve it hot
On a table set for two

Saturday, May 21, 2011


The above photo is from my Mom's blog. These are the stairs that lead down from the lake house toward the water. At the bottom there is usually another portable set of stairs which drop another 4-5 feet down to the shore. The portable stairs have been pulled up in the above photo. The amazing thing is that right now you could use the landing at the bottom of this flight of stairs as a boat launch. Every spring the lake (Lake Champlain) rises dramatically as a result of snow-melt and rain, but this appears to be a banner year with lake levels rising far higher than I have ever seen. This has caused some headaches for my folks who live there seasonally, although nothing like those poor folks living in the Mississippi's flood zone. The biggest headache is that my folks haven't had water because the lake rose up high enough to compromise their spring house.
However, there is definitely a positive in all of this. As a boy, when the lake house belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa McCuen I used to love to roam the shore looking for treasures that had washed up in the spring. Over the years I found duck decoys, fishing lures, bobbers by the hundreds, toy boats, wooden signs, dock sections, etc... Once I even found a dollar bill deposited in the branches of a bush along the shore. Some of the greatest treasures though are not washed up trash. There are some pretty spectacularly shaped pieces of driftwood, and once I found an arrowhead that had been washed from an eroded bank by the lake's battering waves.
I think that this year's flooding can only mean that the lake will slip in and grab even more loot than in years past. This is going to be a great year for beach-combing! In the fall, people left real bonafide treasures  in places that they felt confident would be safe from the lake's fingers, and right now those treasures, big and small, are being driven along by the waves toward the shore beneath the house. By the middle of summer the lake will have receded enough that any enterprising soul could go for a walk and come back with gifts from the lake.


Some have been quietly exerting influence behind the scenes to get me to take down the photo of the FART BOMB wrapper featured in the latest installment of "BFZ PRODUCT CENSURE." They claim it is "IN POOR TASTE," "OFFENSIVE" and "GROSS." I suspect that FART BOMB got to them somehow, and either they're in FART BOMB's pocket or they've been threatened and bullied into pressuring me to back down. Something stinks around here and it may just be FART BOMB.


Earlier this morning, Josh Tate, President for Life of the Bummer-Free Zone and a fine specimen of a man, held an impromptu press conference to announce a major policy shift toward long-time ally Israel. President Tate, who appeared artfully disheveled after a night’s sleep, demanded that Israel "return to its pre-930 b.c. borders." The statement prompted a collective gasp from the assembled media.
Following the President's prepared remarks, CNN's Chuck Berlinsky asked if the timimg of this morning's announcement had anything to do with President Obama's historic speech earlier this week wherein he called for Israel to return to its borders prior to 1967 as part of a plan for the creation of a Palestinian state. In response, Tate pointed to Berlinsky's chest and said, "You've got something there on your tie, Chuck," but when Berlinsky glanced down at his tie, Tate dissolved into laughter before crowing "Made you look, Chuck! Look at his stupid face everybody! Hahaha! Made you look!" A nearby aid high-fived the exultant president before adding, "Good one, sir!"  

Friday, May 20, 2011


Yesterday evening, I was forced to leave Bowden's baseball game and zip back home after I discovered Jack sobbing in a heap outside of the porta-potty. "I PEED my pants!" he howled as I walked up to him. I wanted to scoop him up and whisk him away to The van, had peed his pants and I wasn't just about to scoop him up or otherwise convey him for fear of being soggied with Jack-Juice. So instead I encouraged him to walk toward the van. It was painfully slow progress with Jack crying the entire way and constantly begging, in fact pleading, for me to pick him up and carry him. I almost gave in too, after all it wouldn't have been the first time I had been soggied, sometimes expedience requires it, but I finally decided to stay the course and make him walk all the way to the van.

Him howled across the basketball court. Him howled across the playground. Him howled down the sidewalk and across the parking lot. The entire time him top speed was about .000000012 miles per hour. Him put more energy into voicing him displeasure than walking, but I do not negotiate with terrorists like Jack. "C'mon Jack. We're amost there," was my mantra.

When we finally reached the van I stripped him of his soggy and soiled clothes leaving him dressed after the fashion of Winny-The-Poo (naked from the waist down).

As we drove home to get a change of clothes I was feeling frustrated so I asked Jack, "Why did you pee your pants?"

"Cause it was easier," him said.

Him not very considerate.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Yesterday I went to good ol' Post Office Box 618 and found this post-card from an anonymous BFZ reader, which contained a choice overheard from the Safeway parking lot in Carmel, CA. The context was two teenage bicycle enthusiasts in conversation as they passed through the parking lot on their bikes. One said to the other "Hey Dude! Put on a shirt! We're in Public."
Thanks for the post card. What a great idea. Although I feel reasonably certain that I know the identity of the post card's author, it was written anonymously so I won't out her publicly as the snoop and eavesdropper that she is. Nice work, anonymous. That was a fine piece of overhearing.

The post card got me thinking- How awesome would it be to receive overheards from all over the country  the world?

So send me your overheards on a post card, and I will share them with the world here at the BFZ. Don't forget to include the context as well as the quote.

Bummer-Free Zone
C/O Josh Tate
PO Box 618
Idyllwild, CA

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


On Monday three workers from the Idyllwild Water District came over to examine the "Maranatha Mystery Hole." After examining the hole they were not able to say with certainty why the sink hole formed, but they did find an abandoned well right next to the hole, which had been filled to the top with cement after it was abandoned. They speculated that the abandoned well may have had something to do with the formation of the sink hole, which would certainly make sense. They're gonna fill in the hole, and hope it doesn't swallow anybody up.

Apparently we're not the only ones finding mystery holes in the United States these days


If you wait until lunch time to check out this post it'll feel just like we are having lunch together.

Oops! We forgot to pray!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Our room was situated at the back side of the Hotel overlooking the pool and a bike path, which made for some good overheards.

"Dad! Pull up your pants! Everyone can see your crack!"
Juvenile female to her father, whose swimming trunks had apparently come down as he exited the pool.

"Are you even watching them?!?!"
Adult female (exiting the excercise room) to an adult male (seated pool side). Apparently she was openly questioning how well said male was supervising two juveniles in the pool. I glanced out the window ('cause I'm nosey like that) and observed that the male in question was setting down a newspaper which he had apparently been reading before being confronted. Tsk-tsk!

"No you're not!"
Middle aged female in response to a teenage boy who kept insisting that he would push her into the pool. (He did not push her into the pool)

"Ahh! Ho-ho-ho-ho!"
Asian man entering the hot tub.

"So what do you want to do today?"
Thirty-something female who was in the pool with her chin resting on the edge looking up at a man of like age sitting in a deck chair.


(Special Rhyming Edition)

"Those who gossip never doubt
That they're being talked about" JBT

"A life without Jesus is all want and no supply
A grasping after things that fail to satisfy." JBT

"It is better to face a monster that is seen and understood
Than one who's left a'lurking in the mind's darkened wood." JBT

"Those who judge by how you dress
Are the ones who never dress for less." JBT

Monday, May 16, 2011


 On Saturday, my oldest son, Bowden, came running into the office where I was working and breathlessly exclaimed that I needed to come with him "to see something." At first I was reluctant because my kids pull this stunt at least half a dozen times a day and usually it's not for anything spectactular, but something in Bowden's demeanor made me decide to go along with him. Bowden set off across the ballfield at a trot, yelling "C'mon Dad!" over his shoulder, and I followed along at a less ambitious pace. He brought me to a spot just behind the camp's entrance sign and stood pointing at a hole in the ground. Now, holes in the ground are pretty commonplace 'round these parts. Ground Squirrels are always burrowing, and at first this looked to me like a common ol' washed out ground squirrel burrow. In fact I started to tell Bowden as much, but he cut me off, and said, "No Dad! Look inside." I got down on one knee to peer inside and then stepped back in sudden horror. The hole just dropped away to a surprisingly deep, cavernous space, which went right underneath where I was kneeling. I later came back with a board to see how deep it was and, at it's deepest it, seemed to go down about 6-8 feet. You could easily hide several Josh Tates down there.
 Keith, my boss, was out of town when the discovery was made, but as soon as he got back I told him about it. He told me that a long time ago they had tried drilling a well in that general vicinity and that their probe had gone down a ways before it inexplicably just dropped away to nothing and was never recovered.
Now I can be pretty excitable, and I don't want to jump to any crazy conclusions, but it's a big hole and all that dirt had to go somewhere. It's not piled up on the surface so it had to be carried away underground. So either water is flowing somewhere or there's a big empty space down there. Either way I'm pretty eager for this mystery to be solved. The forecast is calling for rain the next couple of days. It will be interesting to see what that does to the hole. Maybe we will witness the birth of Maranatha Caverns.


As many of you know, for the past couple of years I have been pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree through on-line courses. When I first started exploring the idea of getting some formal Bible training I sought the advice of a friend who had been through the same program in which I am now enrolled. He had a surprising piece of advice for me, which I have taken to heart even though it has undoubtedly slowed my progress. He urged me to not take time away from my kids in order to pursue my studies. At the time the Spirit loaned weight to my friend's advice and impressed upon me the rightness of it all, but even so there have been many late nights when I questioned the wisdom of staying up until the wee hours of the morning. I would think things like, "Won't I still be taking time away from my kids when my tired body forces a nap tomorrow afternoon?" or "Won't I be taking something from my kids when I snap at them because I'm so worn-out and frazzled?"

Then a couple of weeks ago I was driving somewhere with Sarah, and she suggested that instead of staying up late at night I get up early in the morning to do my course work. Initially I rejected the idea as preposterous, but once again the Spirit stepped in, and loaned His weight to Sarah's advice. I decided to give it a try. It has proved to be a much better arrangement. Instead of giving God an empty tank, and a lets-knock-this-out attitude at the end of the day I am now able to enter my time of worshipful study with a full tank and a sharp, focused mind. Sometimes I start my studies when I used to finish them, but I'm making better progress and getting more out of it.

I'm surprised it didn't occur to me earlier. It's basically the first fruits principle- giving God our best. That's why Sarah and I tithe as soon as we are paid. That's why Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, "Worship now your creator in the days of your youth."

During this season of my life, time is a precious commodity. So that makes it a more precious offering. Every morning I boot up the computer, start the coffee, and lay a few hours on the altar.


Sunday, May 15, 2011


May is a swelling note in the chorus of months. It strains ever upward as it builds and grows toward the summer crescendo.


A blog is a lot like a family photo album. If all you knew about a family was based on the contents of their photo albums you might come to the wrong conclusion that their life was full of vacations and get-togethers, smiles and happy moments. After all, who takes pictures of the mundane, the routine, or the quiet moments in life. Both blogs and photo albums tend to be carefully manufactured by their creators to present a certain side of who they are. It’s not dishonest so much as it is incomplete. This is true to some extent in all human interaction, but I think the problem is exaggerated on-line.

The trouble comes when people who only know the carefully-manicured me meet the Josh Tate who lives without a delete button. There is a large and growing number of people who know me this way, which can be problematic for a number of reasons. I suppose it is not entirely negative though (unless you dislike my on-line persona). In many respects it is simply inevitable, and at the end of the day I’m simply glad to be known, but it can become a bit awkward when the two worlds collide. This is so because we are both more and less than our on-line personas.

The most troubling thing about this dichotomy for me personally is that those who know me primarily through my blog seem to think that I approach every relationship and experience as fodder for my next post. "Is this gonna end up on your blog?" they ask. It's almost as if they think my life orbits my blog rather than the other way around.  Maybe I take myself too seriously, but I want those within my sphere to understand that I don’t view them, or our shared experiences, as blog fodder.
John and Lisa made a video.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I'm a sucker for those books that are collections of pithy quotes. I have never read such a book cover to cover, but whenever I encounter them I never fail to open them up, plunk my finger down, and see what pearls of wisdom I can glean from the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and the like. The appeal of a good quote is undeniable. They are bite-size but also expansive. The sum of my own literary ambitions are limited to this; Someday I want a quote of mine to be published in such a collection. I better start generating some worthy quotes. This new BFZ feature, YOU CAN QUOTE ME, is where I'll collect them as they come to me.

"Lifeguarding a crowded pool is like a high-stakes game of Where's Waldo." J. Bowden Tate

(Thanks to my friend, Steve Maxon, for the above revision. He commented that dropping "a crowded pool" and "like" would make it a stronger quote and I agreed with the former but not the latter. Thanks, Steve. I wish I could link your name so that BFZ readers could click over to your blog to witness your brilliance for themselves, but, alas, said blog is non-existent for now. Allow me to suggest the following title for your, as yet, non-existent blog-  "Maxi's Pad." C'mon Steve, it's getting lonely out here.)

THE BUMMER-FREE ZONE'S NATIONAL ANTHEM- "Sweet, Sweet Corn on the Cob" (written and performed by Josh Tate*)

*One day, on a whim, I typed my name into Youtube just to see if there were any other Josh Tates making news out there. I was surprised to find that several Josh Tates were featured in Youtube videos, but none of them struck me as being particularly worthy of my name until I happened upon a video of Josh Tate, not me but a black man living in Baltimore, singing a song to a female co-worker on his last day of work. Did he quit? Was he fired? I don't know, but that was the context. He seemed relaxed so I have always assumed it was an amicable parting. With a name like Josh Tate I am sure that he wasn't fired. I imagine that he found a way better job where he made loads of money- that's what a Josh Tate would do! I originally linked the video here, but when I went back to see if I could find it, I was sad to discover that the video was no longer available on Youtube, and all traces of Josh Tate (him not me) had vanished from the face of the interweb (I am very much present on the interweb.). The song was "Sweet, Sweet Corn on the Cob," which I immediately memorized so I could sing it to my kids at bedtime. Thankfully that allows me to recreate the song here. I have googled the lyrics, but likewise to no avail. This has led me to believe that Josh Tate (him not me) wrote the song himelf. I am reluctant to claim this song as the BFZ's national anthem without first obtaining permission from Mr. Tate, and I think it would have also been cool to interview him about the song (and being a Josh Tate) before posting this, but alas he has slipped away and out of reach. I did make a good faith effort though. Sorry, Josh Tate for stealing your song. At least we're keeping it within the brotherhood. Josh Tates of the world unite!

Friday, May 13, 2011


Bummer-Free Zone President, Josh Tate, announced today at a press conference that he plans to personally perform the BFZ's new national anthem sometime in the near future. When pressed for more details, the ruggedly handsome President smiled coyly and said, "Prepare to be amazed." Despite mounting pressure to divulge which song the BFZ had chosen for its anthem, Tate has kept his cards close to his chiseled, adonis-like chest, saying only that "[the song] is almost as beautiful as I am." An anonymous source within the BFZ leaked a list of songs considered to be in contention earlier this week. Armed with the list, CNN's Chuck Berlinsky asked Tate directly if the anthem was "Do the Hustle," "Starry-Eyed Surprise," "Kung-Fu Fighting," "Grazing in the Grass," or "Patches," Tate responded cryptically, "What do you think, Chuck?" and then hurriedly left the room before any follow up questions could be asked, which has only served to fuel speculation that the anthem is indeed among the songs listed. Only Tate and his closest confidants can know for sure. We'll keep you posted.


Is there any better way to begin a road trip than an early morning stop at McDonald's? I love pulling off the freeway just as the golden sun is cresting the hills and bringing the van to a stop beneath the arches. Outside of the van, the smell emanating from the fryers, pulled up through the exhaust hoods and vented out across the parking lot, harmonizes with the hum of the nearby freeway and the bright-eyed smiles on the kids' faces to form an irresistable siren song that beckons us in through the double doors.

If you've never been to a McDonald's early in the morning you could be forgiven for not knowing that it's a different breed of individual that you will find there than the slightly depressing lot who come around later in the day. These are not the lazy, foul-mannered, makers-of-bad-decisions that you may have encountered before at McDonald's. The people of the dawning day are a different crowd altogether. Early risers, working people, and the industrious fortify themselves with Egg McMuffins and coffee before heading out into another day. They are people of purpose. For such as these, a stop at McDonald's is the calm before the storm. They eat in a respectful, reverential silence before squaring their shoulders and heading out the door and into the breach. Retired couples who have buillt a McDonald's breakfast into their daily routine are also a frequent fixture. They sit across from each other talking quietly or sitting in an easy familiar silence. I find it all very pleasant.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The squish and suck
Of mud and muck
Sound beneath my feet
While the plips and plops
Of fat raindrops
Drum a steady beat.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Since the daring raid last week in which a team of U.S. Navy Seals stormed Bin Laden's compound, killing him and making off with his corpse and a treasure trove of intelligence, much has been made in the media over Bin Laden's code name of "Geronimo." Honestly, I can see why indignenous Americans, especially our Apache friends, might have taken offense. I wouldn't want to be identified with the likes of Bin Laden either.

I think the department of defense should take me on as a consultant to come up with code names for all of their future black-op targets. I think I would be awesome at that! I could certainly do better than Geronimo!

Here are my top ten alternative code names for Osama Bin Laden:

10. Bubbles
9. Turd-burger
8. Shabby Sheikh
7. Snookie
6. Jeff
5. Birthday Boy
4. Boo
3. Whiskers
2. Dimes (just 'cause I have always thought it would make the coolest nickname in the world)
1. Cochise

Department of Defense, if you are monitoring this bit of internet traffic (We all know that you spy on us, D.O.D.!) and you like my ideas, then I'll meet you on the bench outside of the Idyllwild Public Library Wednesday afternoon at 11:30 am. Wear a red hat.  I'll have an envelope containing more suggested codenames, which I will hand over in exchange for an envelope stuffed with cash. See ya then!


 In the last installment of Project Free Lunch I reported a -$0.44 loss on my letter to the good people at PepsiCo. Well, the very next day I went to PO BOX 618 and found this package from the Pepsi mother ship waiting for me. I had given up on them too soon it would appear.
 It didnt contain any coupons for free (or discounted) pepsi as I had hoped, but it did contain magnets in the shapes of soda bottles featuring pepsi, pepsi max, and diet pepsi.
 It also contained a spiffy lanyard for my keys emblazoned with the pepsi logo.
Better than the magnets and lanyard though was this letter from Robin Harris who works in Pepsi's consumer relations department. I have faithfully transcribed Pepsi's response to my letter below. Enjoy.

Dear Josh,

Thank you for contacting PepsiCo. Your interesting letter was just sent to me and I'm happy to respond.

I've read lots of letters from Diet Pepsi drinkers but yours stands out. I've never before heard someone's loyalty to our product described in terms of being the ultimate request during their final meal before their execution. Whoa, Nellie!

Though you wanted to thank us for producing a great drink, I want to thank you for taking the time to write. Your fanaticism is inspiring and your allegiance is much appreciated.

Again, thanks for thinking of us. I hope that the upcoming summer months are good ones for you.


Robin Harris
Team Lead Consumer Relations

My fanaticism inspires Pepsi! That's awesome. And although the value of the magnets and lanyard are difficult to estimate I'm gonna say that I at least got the cost of my $0.44 stamp back, which brings me to a return on my investment so far of $12.68. My next letter, which I intend to mail tomorrow, is going to the finest of pizzerias, The California Pizza Kitchen (who serves Pepsi instead of Coke by the way).

Saturday, May 7, 2011


 The nation's homeless are rockin' the casbah with a new look inspired by America's late arch-villain, Osama Bin Laden. Fashion experts are calling the trend, which consists primarily of an unkempt beard and a menacing glare, "shabby sheikh." When reached for comment, local transient, Art Buckwell (photo below) said of the trend, "I'm with the CIA!"


Friday, May 6, 2011


"Excuse me! May I have a word? This was advertised on the menu as fresh caught by local fishermen, but it tastes farm raised to me. I can always taste the difference."
Middle aged woman, accompanied by a teenage boy, to her server who responded politely, "I'm sure it was caught locally, Mam." Crab Louie's Bistro- Monterey, CA
The savages, who had initially fled the approaching boat, now turned and padded their way back through the dark forest. Barefoot and bare chested, they moved quietly and in concert toward the shore where their abandoned fires cast an orangle glow on the deserted beach, the boat and its bearded crew.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

If all the creatures in all the seas
Jumped all at once in perfect sync,
And for a moment they just hung there
In the air above the drink,
I wonder in that moment
How much would the ocean sink?
And would the ocean sink?
Hmmm... I wonder, do you think?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Billionaire, philanderer, carnival barker, fellow middle child and relentless self-promoter, Donald Trump.

(When reached for comment about this post, The Donald said confidently that because his photo is used in the post it would be the greatest Shen-or-South in the history of that fetaure and possibly even the greatest BFZ post ever. Mr. Trump then went on to say that if you disagree with him about that then you are "a very stupid person.")


"Where have you two been! We've been looking for you for the past fifteen minutes!"
Irate, middle-aged woman yelling at her husband and young son, in one of the exhibits at the Monterey Aquarium as an elderly man, who may or may not have been the woman's Father looked sheepishly on. The words by themselves don't convey the depth of her rage. It was all in the tone. I should have written her quote entirely in CAPS. She was fuming mad, and gave full vent to her fury in an extremely uncomfortable eruption of vitriol. Her husband who looked a little embarassed by the public dressing down shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and said in a low voice "It has not been fifteen minutes." Sarah and I just got out of there before somebody pulled a knife or served divorce papers.

"I am not black! I am not black!"
Homeless man of unknown race yelling nonsensically at a group of men standing outside of the Monterey Brewing Company on Prescott Street.

Monday, May 2, 2011



Approximately one month ago I began OPERATION FREE LUNCH with a letter to Carl's Jr. thanking them for their Jalapeno Burger, and I have followed that up with another letter every Monday (my day off) to another eatery. In my letter to Carl's Jr. I argued that Hamburgers are the best food in the world and that their Jalapeno Burger was the very best kind of hamburger so, ipso facto, the Jalapeno Burger is the very best food in the world. Pretty sound logic, right?
They responded by sending me two, count 'em two, free Six Dollar Burgers cleverly designed to resemble hamburgers. If you subtract my $0.44 cent stamp that's an $11.56 return on investment. Pretty good, right?

Next I targeted Red Robin praising their garlic fries as well as the superior service we received from our waiter, Valencia, at the Red Robin in Temecula. I also wrote to the good people down at Pepsi inc. professing my undying fealty to them in the ongoing war vs. Coke. At this time I have not yet heard back from either (Return on investment, -$0.88). Thanks to the generosity of Carl's Jr. I am still ahead though by $10.68.
My next letter was to McDonalds praising them for their Play Areas, speedy service, and overall affordability, which is certainly important in these days of want and woe. They replied right away with two free items off of the dollar menu. Everything I write in my letters is positive and true, and, in case you are wondering, I never come right out and ask for free stuff. Subtract the $0.44 for that postage and now I'm ahead by $12.24.
Today I took a half hour* to knock out some letters to Subway, Chipotle, Starbucks, and Joe's Crab Shack. I'll keep you posted.

*Actually, I do not have too much time on my hands, as you might reasonably suspect from posts such as these. If anything my days are tight as a drum with work, school, ministry and four little kids. Don't judge me for how I use my free time.