Monday, December 17, 2012


1. If my feet are cold I'm cold. If my feet are warm I'm warm. I have found that feet are the key to the body's temperature control. If I'm lying in bed and it's a little too hot under the covers I just slip my feet out for some fresh air and- WHAMMO- instant relief. Conversely, if it's cold in the room I just need to get my feet warmed up and my entire self feels warmed.

2. I would guess that when I answer the phone at work and identify myself, "Good morning, Camp Maranatha, this is Josh," roughly half of the callers hear me say "Jeff" when I say "Josh." I must be saying it wrong to have such a large number of people hear me wrong. You would think after nearly 35 years as a Josh I would have become more practiced at saying my name, but apparently I am really bad at it.

3. Why are hospitals so uncomfortable? I have never encountered a chair or bed or any other piece of furniture in a hospital and thought to myself, "I've got to get one of these for my house." An airport terminal is more comfortable! Hospitals should be comfortable, right? I go there because you're in a state of discomfort and looking for relief. If I'm elected president I will make hospitals more comfortable.


Sarah's a winner! Quite literally she is, she won tickets recently (from 98.7) to an ugly sweater party and private performance by one of her favorite bands, Tegan and Sara, to be performed in the penthouse of the historic Hollywood towers. Following the performance, which, according to Sarah, was amazing, they allowed for photo ops with the band, which were subsequently posted to 98.7's website. I scrolled through all of the photos which were a series of boring pictures, the sort that only people who are actually in the photo would give a rip about, before coming to Sarah's photo. Clearly she made the most of her photo op. That's my Sarah. She's a winner!

She said to Tegan, "I'm going to do reindeer antlers!"

And Tegan said, "Like this?"

Friday, December 14, 2012


It has been several years since my last "Moose Leg Dream," which along with "The Cover Dreams" are the only dream series that I have experienced in my life. I call them series because the dreams that fall under these headings share some similarities (see links above if you want to psychoanalyze me) and also because they are similar in feel. In my mind these dreams are clearly related, and since my mind produced them then related they must be. Although I do appreciate the ways that God has used dreams in the Bible I am not one to attribute much significance or hidden meaning to my dreams. If they were vital communiques from God then I think He would have made that abundantly obvious. God is a good communicator. I think these dreams speak more to the restless nature of the human brain. The mind never stops. In this, brains are much like sharks. If they stop moving they die. Although I'm not the sort to talk about dreams much I have posted about them quite a bit. Remember the one when I had an affair with Britney Spears? Or the the time I was pulled down and eaten by lions? Or my attempt at disecting the anatomy of a dream?  Or my artistic rendering of the sorts of dreams I get when I have a fever? (Fever dreams are the worst.)

Several nights ago I woke up with a start at 4:23am- seven minutes before the alarm. My eyes had flown open like shutters and reality poured in through my window-eyes. I hate it when wakefulness interrupts a good dream. It feels exactly like when you get to the end of a really good book, and you just want it to go on and on and on. I wanted to return to my dream, but no dice. The shutters had been opened. Reality had poured in. There was no going back.

In my dream I was Moose Leg again. I was walking on a path through the pre-dawn, snowey woods. As in other Moose Leg Dreams I was filled with an amazing vitality, a euphoric joy and bridled energy. This energy didn't just make walking easier, it actually made it necessary. It was like my entire frame was under pressure, and if I hadn't given the energy release by chanelling it into walking it would have caused me to explode. As I walked, obstacles kept presenting themselves. Fallen trees, dense undergrowth, and rocks appeared as impassable barriers in the path ahead, but just as I would draw near to the obstacle a way would present itself to continue on without slowing down. As the sun came up I emerged from the woods into a broad valley. In the distance, a small town (like one you might see on a Christmas card) sat at the trail's end. It was early enough that the town was still asleep, but as I walked down the trail I was confident of a warm reception. It was like I had been long absent from people who loved me a lot, and my arrival would be like a soldier's homecoming on Christmas morning. Even though the town was in sight I couldn't wait to get there! I was excited!

Then I woke up.

I wanted to return to my dream, but no dice. The shutters had been opened. Reality had poured in. There was no going back.

Sunday, December 2, 2012



Earlier today I was taking a Happy Day Eve nap when I woke unexpectedly to the sound of clanking chains and horrible wailing. Terrified, I peaked out from underneath the covers and saw Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell shuffling into my room. They beckoned me to join them on a gurney, which magically elevated and flew out the window and back into the mists of time. With them as my guide we revisited all the Happy Days that have come before. It was horrible. After revisiting the Redskins' catastrophic loss to the Eagles in 2009 I collapsed sobbing onto my knees in front of Jason Campbell. I grabbed big handfuls of his jersey and as tears ran down into my beard I begged him to stop. Then all of a sudden, POOF, they were gone and I was left alone sobbing on my knees in front of the television.

The television!

I gazed in wonder at a message that Zorn had left for me, written with his finger in the dust on the television screen- "Redskins beat Giants, 23-17!"

From my house to yours, have a wonderful and victorious Happy Day!!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dear President Obama,

Can something be done for February? It's clearly the runt of the monthly litter, and a sad, depressing little corner of the calendar as well. I propose giving it thirty days like other months. Take a day from January and another from March and give them to February. If any man possesses the necessary authority to rearrange the months it is you, Mr. President. March in particular has needed a good trimming for the longest time. Who wants an extra day of March? Not I. What I want, no, what I demand is two more days of February.

In fact, I think it would make the most sense, and I'm sure you will agree with me Mr. President, that only the finest months should be given an extra 31st day. I propose that you take May's 31st day and give it to June. That way all three summer months would have 31 days. October and December can keep their 31st day because of their inherent and obvious awesomeness.

And during a leap year we can still add a day onto February, which would go a long way towards making up for the years of abuse it has endured. Call it reparations if you wish.

As a well known champion of the little guy I am confident that you will take up February's cause. I thank you in advance for your support in this worthy effort.

Marlene Rini 

Thursday, November 29, 2012


1. I don't trust the public enough to ever, under any circumstances, use the word niggardly for fear that they would mistakenly think I was being racist. Using big words is kind of pretentious and off-putting anyway- stingy will do just fine.

3. If I'm ever mistaken for someone famous by a fan who wants an autograph I'll just give it to him. I think that's what famous people would want.

4. Why is ninety percent of nature programming committed to sharks, crocodiles and snakes? They are not interesting animals.

5. Trying to be nice when you are breaking up with someone is like trying to throw a grenade softly.

6. When Sarah eventually goes through menopause I plan on telling her, "You don't have hot flashes. You are hot consistently." I'll just file that away for now, but someday, when Sarah is going through menopause, I'll bust it out, and she'll be all  like, "Josh, God made you from sweetness concentrate and forgot to add any water."

Tate, out!

Saturday, November 24, 2012


 With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror most Americans have now turned the corner and have focused their festive attention on the biggest holiday of the year, Christmas. However, for a few of the faithful there remains one more holiday to observe before they can give themselves over fully to the Christmas season.
Happy Day is upon us!
Celebrated annually on the occasion of the first nationally televised Redskins game, this year's Happy Day has been scheduled for Monday, December 3rd when the Redskins host the New York Giants under the lights. Of course, the game against the Cowboys this past Thursday was likewise nationally televised, but that was Thanksgiving Day. Consequently, the third of December shall be observed as Happy Day throughout the Bummer-Free Zone. 
The Western Tates will probably spend Happy Day morning going to get a Christmas tree, and then rush home to make a traditional Happy Day meal with all of the fixins'. Then, of course, we'll watch our favorite team lose in a disappointingly unspirited contest. It's tradition! I can't wait to hear Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver talk about how well the Giants played. Of course, no Happy Day would be complete without Rotel.  Rotel tastes like crying.

Happy Day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


John Madden's voice makes me hungry. It's pavlovian! I hear Madden start to talk and I instantly start salivating and looking for the chips and dip. Football holds numerous such associations for me. Over the span of numerous seasons as a Redskins fan, which can only be described as frustratingly disappointing, I have come to harbor some ill-will toward a number of personalities on the NFL Network and ESPN. I also hate the football robot that dances and stretches before and after commercial breaks on Fox. If you didn't know, its name is "Cleatus." I have seen him dance his way through so many Redskin losses that I now feel as though he is taunting me with his automoton gyrations. Oh, he knows what he's doing! I simply cannot abide Troy Aikman as a color commentator either. Strangely, I feel some warmth towards Chris Berman of ESPN and also Steve Mariucci (Sp?) even though they have also been given the difficult job of delivering bad news to me over the years. They do so with sensitivity and class. In truth, I hope for a redskin win this weekend more than a fantasy win. That's why I load my fantasy fotoball team up with Redskins. That way I can root for them with a whole heart. Last weekend I played DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia, Eagles on my fantasy squad despite the fact that he was playing against the Skins. I felt conflicted about it, but I decided that if the Redskins lost I might as well be consoled by the fantasy results, but still it felt weird and wrong to root for Jackson and the Redskins at the same time. (Jackson got a whopping 0 points by the way on 2 receptions for a total of 5 yards.) You cannot serve God and mammon both. This week I am glad that I have no Cowboys on my roster. I'll be rooting for the Skins with a whole heart tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2012


For previous tent-related posts go HERE AND HERE.
Check out this beauty of a tent. A few months ago Sarah was loading the kids into the ol' family truckster when she spied this tent on the other side of the chain link fence that separates our home from the San Jacinto State Park. She alerted me to its presence saying, "You have to come see this tent in the State Park. It has a ladder and a second floor."
It did indeed have a ladder inside, which led up to a cozy second floor. The second floor was cleverly designed to rest across the top of a parked vehicle.
The man on the left (holding the coffee mug) was the tent's owner. He graciously permitted me to tour and photograph his tent. The man on the right, a friend of the owner, asked him how much the tent cost and the man shrugged nonchalantly before responding "It was either $1,200.00 or $3,000.00. I can't remember," which told me something about his socioeconomic status. I guaranty you I would have remembered the cost of the tent to the penny if it had cost me that much.

This is the upper floor of the tent which the man was intending to share with his wife that night. Their two young daughters had arranged their sleeping bags downstairs, or should I say downladder (downrungs?). As I took my leave, I asked jokingly "Where does the butler stay?," and the man quick-wittedly turned to his friend and said "I'm not sure. Ron, where are you staying?"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


"Hey! You get over here so I can give you some loving!"
Loud, elderly female to a male of like age who she happened upon in the produce aisle of Fairway Market. The man jumped in genuine surprise at her unnaturally loud and agressively affectionate greeting and then began to shuffle away at top speed in mock horror. The woman ran him down and they embraced next to the cheeses. Fairway Market- Idyllwild, CA

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I believe there is a pile of money to be made if someone would design a bicycle helmet that would protect the neck of a bicyclist who is riding in Mountain Lion country. A bike zipping past a mountain lion is like rolling a ball of yarn in front of cat, but with a top speed of 45 miles per hour, and up to 200 lbs of muscle, teeth and claws this cat plays for keeps. I first got the idea when Sarah and I were watching a TV special about mountain lion attacks. One man on Vancouver Island in Canada was riding home on his bike at night when he was savagely attacked. The only thing that saved his life was that he had a rolled up yoga mat sticking out of the top of his backpack. Mountain lions attack from behind and strategically target the neck. The mountain lion buried its teeth into the yoga mat thinking it was the bicyclist's neck. The man emerged relatively unscathed although his yoga mat and backpack were shredded. The yoga mat bought him the time he needed to give him a fighting chance.
Ask anyone who rides in Mountain Lion country who is aware of the risks, and they will tell you that sometimes they worry about being attacked. If such an attack comes it will come with little or no warning, and if a mountain lion does attack a bicyclist chances are its gonna go for the back of the neck. If someone designs a helmet that protects the back of the neck I have no doubt that there is money to be made in such a venture.

The only problemn is I am principally an idea guy, and I need some capable folks to come alongside of me to help me realize my vision for such a helmet.
(Here the mountain lion range in California is depicted as a slice of bacon.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012



"I'm not sure I want to go in there if you're gonna be like that!"

Middle-aged woman following a second woman of like age as they were walking into the library. The New Public Library- Idyllwild, CA

"I'm not going to make a fuss or anything. It's not going to be like that."

The aforementioned second woman

Thursday, November 8, 2012


The drizzle and mist of the evening before had hardened overnight into a fragile sheath of ice over every twig, every blade of grass, and the rotting pumpkin in the garden. And when the sunshine flowed over the hills east of the house, flooding the valley with warmth and radiance, the world stood transformed.  In that fragile time, when sun and ice coexisted, there was a dazzling brilliance that hung about everything. It was captivating in its transience and fragility, arresting in its beauty. The mind marveled at the great thoroughess with which the ice etched even the smallest details of creation. From the window above the kitchen sink I gazed appreciatively on the crystal trees which stood in ranks, climbing the hills to welcome the rising sun. I stepped outside and my breath curled away from my mouth. The silver field also seemed to breathe as the sun made it steam. Before my eyes wispy tendrils of vapor rose above the hip-high grass and gathered in the low places, as the sun transformed the silver field into its own golden likeness.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Fox news has just announced that President Obama has sealed the deal with a narrow victory in the Buckeye State. If the right-wing crowd at Fox news has made such a pronouncement it simply must be so. Put Brit Hume on suicide watch! Four years ago such an electoral outcome prompted me to rename my blog the "Bummer-Free Zone." I imagined my blog as an escape and a refugem from such depressing realities as the national trajectory, and so it must remain.

Although the BFZ's election was not covered on Fox, CNN or MSNBC I was also reelected President today. My opponent, Bobby Bag O'Doughnuts, gave me a scare in Jolly County, but ultimately it was strong turnout in Giggle and Happy county that secured for me a return to the Octagon. My first act upon being reelected was to have Bobby Bags tickled for daring to challenge me. That'll learn him!

Here is my election day promise to you, the good people of the Bummer-Free Zone: In 2013 I will beat my all-time posting record of 372 which I set in 2011.

Come away with me to the BUMMER-FREE ZONE!

Monday, November 5, 2012


In the summer of 1999 I rented a room on La Rue Paradis in Quebec City while I was studying French at nearby L'Universite Laval. It was a nice enough room I guess. There was a bed, a table and a metal folding chair. There was no dresser, but between the shelf in the closet and my suitcase I got along okay. The room was spartanly furnished to be sure, but I didn't mind. It was situated in the basement of a house along with three other rented rooms, and was accessed by a private entrance in the back. Upon arrival an elderly woman showed me to my room. She led me along the side of the house and through a wrought-iron gate into a backyard which was almost entirely covered in old stone pavers. Moss had grown up between the pavers, and it sticks out in my memory as the most aesthetically appealing thing about the house. I remember descending a dark stairwell which brought us out into a small, dingey looking lounge/kitchen area. Four rooms were located off of the lounge. One belonged to me. My immediate neighbor would prove to be a man named Bruno Routier, who owned a convenience store down the street. He owned his own home, which was located nearby, but it was being remodeled and repainted during the summer of 1999 so he too had taken a room in the basement. He was the only occupant of the basement who was not a student at the University. The other two rooms were occupied by Francoise and Nicole. Francoise was from Quebec. Nicole was from Toronto. What they studied, or what they were like, I don't know. Nicole, slightly overweight with red hair and a freckly face, ignored me entirely. In fact, I hardly ever even saw her. Francoise, thin with dark hair and a penchant for tank tops and skinny jeans, was local and spoke no english. A constant parade of friends and family were always popping in on her, but to a man they all acted as though I was not there. It was strange. The only conversation I recall having with Francoise had to do with a mouse she had seen in her room. She apparently hated mice and was concerned that the dirty dishes being left in the sink were attracting them. I found the whole conversation kind of amusing because, as best as I could tell, nearly all of the dishes being left in the sink belonged to Francoise. I was not yet comfortable enough with my neighbors to leave any belongings, including dishes, in our common area.

There was apparently no law or social norm keeping the occupants of the basement on Paradis Street from smoking cigarettes inside the house, which seemed to be their favorite pastime. They all smoked like chimneys. I spent a lot of time out riding my bike.

Quebec City stands alone in my memory as the most beautiful place I have ever lived. The old city, with its narrow cobblestone streets, stone walls, cannons, and monuments, was crowded along the bluff next to the broad sweep of the St. Lawrence river. It was evocatively beautiful. It is the only fortified city in North America, and everywhere your turned you were confronted by soaring ramparts and batteries. The walls bristled with heavy cannons which had oxidized green over the years of peaceful neglect. Interspersed liberally throughout the city were also parks, soccer fields, and museums. Bike paths connected everything. In fact, I never used my car the entire time I was there. Quebec city was also unique for its tunnel system, made necessary by the extreme Quebec winters. The entire university was connected by underground tunnels so that its students need never step outdoors in the wintertime. You could go from your room, to class, to the dining hall, and also to the supermarket without ever stepping outside. Artists had taken ownership of different sections of the tunnel, whose walls were lined with art, poetry and philosophy. It was very stimulating. I always took the tunnels just for the novelty of it. It felt to me like I was living on a lunar colony, and I enjoyed imagining that stepping outdoors would rip the oxygen out of my lungs.

My neighbor, Bruno, had a girlfriend. I don't recall her name. She was tall with curly reddish-brown hair and always wore a pair of lavender suede boots. She would come over occasionally to visit Bruno. I can remember the first time she ever came over. I was in my room studying when I heard a rhythmic banging against the wall, punctuated at intervals by throaty moans. I instantly deduced that Bruno and his girlfriend were having an intimate moment on the other side of the paper thin wall. I decided to go for a walk, but as I was moving about my room, gathering some things before leaving, the sounds form the next room stopped and I could hear Bruno's girlfriend talking to him in muffled French. I'm not sure but my theory is that when she heard me moving around on the other side of the wall she became a little more self-conscious. I was also uncomfortable. I left.

My theory was confirmed the next time Bruno's girlfriend came over. Bruno came and knocked on my door, and without any embarassment he told me frankly that he was going to have sex with his girlfriend and that I should go watch TV or something. Francoise was smoking a cigarette and watching Musique Plus, which was the Quebecois equivalent of MTV, with a surly looking boy in the lounge.  I thanked him sincerely for the warning and went for a bike ride instead.

That became the routine after that. She would come over. Bruno would knock on my door and I would go for a bike ride.

One night, I was feeling tired after a long day of classes and bike riding, when Bruno came knocking on the door. He jerked his thumb toward the lounge, not in a rude way, but just with an easy familiarity. This was a well-established ritual by that time which required no words. In truth, by this time Bruno and I had become something north of mere association but still south of true friendship. He had given me a tour of his home which was being remodeled, and would occasionally bring me things from his convenience store, hot dogs, pizza, and slurpees, which he explained would have been thrown away anyway. One day, I even helped him install some base boards in his dining room. He would also routinely offer me beer and cigarettes which I declined. Hot dogs, pizza and slurpees were my vice of choice. He never offered me any of his marijuana however, which he also smoked liberally and often. I would have declined, of course, but still I found it odd that he never offered any. Anyway, when he came knocking I was feeling exhausted so I opted to sit with Francoise and one of her friends in front of the TV in the lounge. True to form both ignored me. After a few moments we were joined by Bruno and his girlfriend. They rolled a joint and began passing it back and forth. Francoise and her friend were likewise sharing a bottle of wine and smoking cigarettes. The room was filled with smoke. I decided to go for a bike ride after all.

I rode toward a pay phone near the university. Using an international calling card I spoke briefly with Sarah who was back in California for the summer. I was sick from missing her. Her voice was like food and drink to me. The amount of time left on the calling card forced the call to end sooner then she or I wanted it to. Ah well! Such was life for poor college students in those days. The calling card put a necessary governor on the amount of time we spent talking on the phone. If we had cell-phones we would have racked up serious charges, of that I have no doubt. After hanging up I was faced with a difficult decision- either return to the smokey basement on Paradis Street or continue prowling the night on my bike. It was then that I decided to just stay out all night. Why go home? The thought was liberating. I had no classes the next day. I had my health, a good bike and money in the bank.

I rode across the university to a 24-hour grocery store where I wandered around for a while before buying some postcards, a pepsi and a box of fig newtons. I love fig newtons. Then I turned my bike toward the old city down by the river. The bike paths were well-known to me by then. I chose one that dropped down off the heights to a wide path along a smaller river that flowed into the mighty St. Lawrence. According to a historical landmark placard placed alongside the path, the course of the bike path followed that of an old indian trail. The indians eventually led me out along the St. Lawrence itself whose broad expanse had been whipped up by a stiff wind into large waves which ran contrary to the river's current. Music, light, and laughter spilled out of the many eateries and bars which lined the river. I pedaled against the wind before turning toward the narrow streets that climbed the bluff. Riding over the cobblestones was tough going, especially going uphill, so I dismounted and walked my bike up through the city and out onto the plains of Abraham. Near the citadel, and not far from where General Wolfe died in the French and Indian War I sat down on a bench overlooking the river. Despite the wind it was a warm night. I produced my fig newtons from my back pack and ate them, washing them down with my pepsi. I watched for a long time as large ships bound to or from the ocean made their way up and down the river. They were all lit up like birthday cakes on the black sheet of the river.

All night I rode my bike through the quiet city until the bells from the Catholic churches peeled out a welcome to the dawn,  and as the sun rose up over La Rue Paradis, I chained my bike and descended the dark stairwell into the basement. Everyone was just exactly where I had left them, smoking in front of the TV.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Finally!!! The invisible hand of the market has been brought to bear in all of its glorious might in deciding the question of Bigfoot's existence. I am confident that Spike TV will accomplish what decades of quackery, plaster casts and grainy film footage have failed to do, namely to bring the public undeniable evidence of bigfoot's existence. I am glad that I have lived to see this day. Spike TV has proposed a $10,000,000.00 bounty to the the team that can bring us sasquatch. That's the American way!

(Special thanks to Maxon for tipping me off to this amazing story. Now to assemble my team!)


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A few nights ago I walked down to the camp's office to get something I had accidentally left down there. As I crossed the parking lot I noticed that the floodlight behind the office was on. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught some movement to the left of the office, and as I turned I observed a coyote running at full speed out of sight behind the office. At nearly the same moment a duck came flying out of the opposite side of the building. It looked to me like the coyote had morphed into another creature as it ran behind the office, and shot out the other side as a duck.

So, of course, I went to the left of the office, got up a good head of steam and ran at full speed beneath the floodlights behind the office. Nothing happened. I was disappointed. Maybe I didn't run fast enough.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

PRODUCT IDEA- Snack-a-roni and cheese!

I love macaroni and cheese out of the box. (I know what you're thinking. How does he keep such a girlish figure with such eating habits? It's a gift. Don't hate, appreciate!) Honestly, the more generic the better, but the portion size is always just too darn big. I propose that Kraft come out with a snack sized portion, maybe 1/3 of a box, and promote it as "Snack-A-Roni and Cheese". I looked up Snackaroni and was surprised to learn that such a phrase is already in use according to the Online Urban Dictionary. I gotta get my snackaroni on!


I read an article today about a man who tried to rob one dollar from a bank in an intentional effort to go to jail. This reminded me of an idea for a short story I had once and which I would still like to write someday if I ever have the time. In my story a group of homeless men living in a northern city decide that it would be better to go to jail than to continue living on the streets in the dead of winter. However, they decide that if they're gonna commit a crime they might as well go out in a blaze of glory. So they decide to do something big like robbing a bank. However, much to their surprise they accidentally get away with it. Most of the story would document the ensuing moral dilemma for them. Their original intent was to go to jail where they would at least be guaranteed a bed and three square meals a day, but when they accidentally succeed in their heist they don't know what to do about the money. I think it would be a good story. Maybe someday I will put pen to paper. I need a catchy title.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


10. Team Jacob
9. Favors shortening "eleven" to just "leven" (Finally somebody has the courage!)
8. He's opposed to murdering kittens
7. Bobberball should be an olympic sport
6. Always says couch, never sofa
5. Favors a final solution for the nation's cat problem.
4. Federal recognion of "never nudes" as mental illness (An issue that's very personal to him.)
3. Techno Viking to be named head of the joint chiefs of staff.
2. Wants to bring bust of Bill and Ted back into the Oval Office.
1. Once elected, he intends to assign Dog the Bounty Hunter head of a high profile task force to finally put the sasquatch question to rest. "Smoke him out, Dog."

Thursday, October 4, 2012


If I possessed the necessary technical know how I would have used photoshop or whatever to paste Mitt Romney's head onto the body of the main character in this Corona Beer commercial after last night's debate.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


10. Amidst the hustle and bustle of a night shift at a factory. I'll just make up a little cot in a break room or janitor's closet or something.
9. On a cot next to Niagara Falls
8. On a cot in the midst of the babbling waters of a shallow stream.
7. In an emergency shelter I had to make myself out in the woods. (Must be out of necessity, and not for the fun of it.)
6. In the White House
5. In a private berth on a sleeper train
4. In an igloo.
3. In a secret room behind a false wall.
2. On a bed made up in the back of an open pick up truck being driven along side streets in the desert.
1. Overnight on the fifty yard line in the midst of a deserted FedEx field (The Redskins' Stadium)

Saturday, September 29, 2012


During my senior year of high school I took a college prep course called Anatomy and Physiology because some friends of mine told me it would look good on my college transcripts. As I have matured over the years into greater self-awareness I have realized that God never crafted me to think as a scientist, but as a teenager I still believed that all paths were still open to me. I could be anything I wanted to be! Who knows, maybe even a Doctor. Such Hubris! Did my disastrous foray into the frighteningly mathematic world of Chemistry teach me nothing! So, during third period on the first day of my senior year I found myself seated in the back row of Anatomy and Physiology listening with horror as Mrs. Pelletier explained our goals for the year. I didn’t sign on for this! While attempting to teach me about anatomy and physiology, Mrs. Pelletier would inadvertently help me understand the finite limits of my God-given design. In this she proved to be a good teacher. (It must be said that she was also a good teacher in the conventional sense. She was also a fine human being as well.)

I muddled along, limping through assignments that other, more gifted, students bounded through with the grace and ease of a deer. Then, one Friday, Mrs. Pelletier assigned the class a homework assignment to be completed over the weekend. She wanted us to create a three-dimenional cross-section of the human brain using any materials we wanted. "Be creative and have fun with it," she said. It was a mickey mouse sort of assignment that some of my classmates thought was beneath them- just busy work- but I was finally on equal footing.

By the time I got home I had formulated my plan of attack. My Dad was heading out to run some errands so I asked him if I could tag along. At our first stop, U-$ave Discount Foods on Rt. 4A in Hydeville, I purchased a big bag of chewing gum. There was pink, red, green, blue, purple and even black gum in there. Once back home I enlisted my brother Job's aid in chewing up all that gum. We spread it out on the floor of the den in front of the TV, and chewed and chewed and chewed as we watched Jeopardy. We chewed until our jaws positively ached. The thing about gum, especially the old, expired gum for sale at U-$ave, is that at first your jaws really have to work to soften the gum and then the chewing gets easier, but when all you're doing is working on softening new pieces of gum it's pretty tiring work. Our first assignment was the biggest part of the brain, I think it was called the cerebral cortex. For that I used big gobs of chewed-up pink gum. They were the cheapest kind of gum at U-$ave- barrel shaped and individually wrapped in waxed paper- the sort you get on halloween. I lined a box with tin foil, and put the cerebral cortex in place. It looked amazingly realistic! "This was going to be the best brain cross-section ever!" I thought to myself. Thrilled by the success of the cerebral cortex I fell to chewing more gum for all of the other parts. The medulla oblongata, the pituitary gland, the cerebellum, the thalamus...these and others were all added and when the brain was fully constructed I have to admit I was very proud of the overall effect. It looked almost exactly like the multicolored, textured illustration in my textbook. Next I took little toothpicks, glued numbered penants to them and stuck them all over the cross section labeling the various parts of the brain, and then created a separate key that listed each part next to their corresponding numbers. It is one of the few times in High School that I finished an assignment as soon as I got home, and for the first time in Anatomy and Physiology I was completely confident of my work. The nicest thing about my brain was that it filled the entire house with the heavenly aroma of chewing gum. Really, is there a more pleasing aroma?

I put a lid on my bubblegum brain and put it on a shelf for the remainder of the weekend. When I got to school on Monday morning I took the lid off to show my masterpiece to a friend, and, horror of horrors, all of the saliva had come out of the bubblegum and had pooled in a slick pinkish puddle all around the brain. "Nasty!" my friend loudly exclaimed, and soon a crowd had gathered around my brain. The librarian, Mr. Luzer (Yes, it was pronounced "loser."), stopped in passing and suggested that I label the oozing saliva "cerebrospinal fluid," which is exactly what I did. With Mr. Luzer's help I went to the teacher's lounge where I acquired another toothpick and a tiny penant of red construction paper. Working quickly before the bell rang I just managed to get it done before first period.

When the bell rang for third period I retrieved the brain from my locker and proudly carried it to be presented to Mrs. Pelletier. As I put my brain alongside the others, and took my seat, I proudly noted that mine was clearly the most excellent of the brains. The only other brain that was any good had been made by a girl named Lindsay who had cooked strands of spaghetti in food coloring and then had arranged them into the shape of a brain and  allowed them to dry out in the oven so that the whole thing stuck together. Still, I remained confident of the superiority of my bubblegum brain. However, as class began, and Mrs. Pelletier walked up and down reviewing and critiquing each brain in turn, she stopped before my brain, and I noted that her face was contorted into a horrific mask of disgust. "Is that gum?!?!?!" she said as though she had just spied a rattlesnake. "Whose is this?" she demanded. Everyone looked at me. "Uh... it's mine...," I stammered lamely,"... it really looks like a brain."  She moved on quickly without commenting further. I was surprised and embarassed! Really, I was completely blindsided and bewildered by her obvious disapproval.

After class, Mrs. Pelletier asked me to remove my brain from the classroom, which, if you think about it, is a very interesting thing for a teacher to say to a student. The other brains would remain on display, but mine would have to go. I didn't ask for an explanation, but she offered one anyway- "It's kind of gross," she said. "Yeah I know," I said, laughing as though the whole thing had been a practical joke or something, which it hadn't been.

A week later I got my grade- C+. Beneath my grade were the comments, "Very creative, but unhygienic!" (She was right of course. That I can't deny.)

I felt deflated, but when I showed my grade to Mr. Luzer, he said simply and without fanfare, "It was clearly the best brain," and then he went back to his work. It was the nicest thing any of the faculty at Fair Haven Union High School ever said to me, and his simple words of affirmation were better than an A+.

Mr. Luzer will always be a winner to me.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Beard Beer? Yes, that's right, Rogue Ales has developed a new beer made with yeast harvested from the beard of celebrated brewmeister John Maier. Check out the article HERE. I imagine it would probably go well with some fresh fromunda cheese spread on a cracker, and maybe a garnish of belly button lint.

Maybe they could expand their line of beard beers to include the signature yeast of various celebrities and newsmakers, such as Castro or maybe Robin Williams. They could even develop a beer made from the beards of homeless men and dedicate a portion of the proceeds to area homeless shelters. I also envision a drink called "The Bearded Lady" with yeast collected from a circus freak show.

"It tastes sort of beardy."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I read an article today which said that after 37 years a dying man has come forward to tell the FBI that Hoffa, the ex-teamster boss, was interred under a cement pad in a detroit area backyard. Initial testing has concluded that something is indeed buried under the pad. I only wish I could summon a trench coat garbed Robert Stack to tell me the story of the mystery surrounding Hoffa's disappearance. My money is on them finding Hoffa under that cement pad.


I'm a sucker for chips and salsa. I find their siren song irresistable. I was at a party recently when I spied a bowl of the spicy condiment and an abundant supply of tortilla chips set out on the kitchen counter like a cornucopia of spicy, salty plenty. Without hesitation I crossed the room, strategically selected a chip with a slight bend and bowl shaped depression at one of its three corners, and then greedily dipped it into the bowl of salsa. As the chip emerged with its pay load of mouthwatering salsa I was faced with a difficult decision. Clearly I had dangerously overloaded the chip, and I could either return some of the salsa to the bowl or bring it to my mouth as quickly as possible before any of the precariously balanced goodness could slide off. This maneuver, which I call "the scoop and swoop," is the riskiest that chip eaters can attempt. Research is inconclusive, but most experts believe that the scoop and swoop is only succesful 60% of the time. Clearly it's not for beginners, but I am no neophyte, and 60% odds aren't terrible. I decided to give it a go!

I did the scoop and swoop by the book. I cupped one hand underneath to catch any dribbles, and then moved the chip toward my salivating mouth with the speed of a rocket in flight. However, to my great shame the manuever failed. Three distinct dribbles, like a reddish-orange archipelago, landed dishearteningly onto the front of my blue shirt. I grabbed a napkin and rushed to the sink. Dab. Dab. Dab. Surprisingly, although I am considered expert when it comes to the business of eating chips I have never mastered the art of stain removal- two areas that my experience tells me should go hand in hand. Not since Lady MacBeth has anyone experienced such difficulties in the area of stain removal. I returned to the party with the salsa stain screaming shame like a scarlet letter to all I encountered. I greeted a friend, and his eyes drifted involuntarily to the shmootz on my jammy-jams. Oh, the shame!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I think a great name for a new model of fuel-efficient car would be "THE CAMEL" given the desert dwelling ruminant's famous capacity for going and going and going between fill ups.  Or maybe if someone were to create a new brand of cars based around greater fuel efficiency they could call their new line of cars CAMELS and their first two models could be THE DROMEDARY and THE BACTRIAN.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A NOSTALGIA FUELED EXCURSION INTO THE NIGHT- Houghton College- May, 2012, 11-12:15pm

College. For many it is one of the most vivid and exciting times in their lives. Larry Osborne, author and pastor of Northcoast Church down in San Diego County, pointed out in a book I read once that people are like legos. Everyone has a certain number of connectors. Some have just a couple. Some have a lot. Once those connectors are full, however, they can be friendly, but they don't have the relational space to really connect. This is why people who move to small towns or some churches report that everyone is nice enough, but they struggle to connect on a deeper level with people. What they don't realize is that they are entering a context where everyone's connectors are all filled up. Everybody's nice but they just can't seem to connect. They're left wondering what's wrong with them or imagining that things are wrong with their context. "People around here just aren't friendly," they might say or "This church is cliquey." The magical thing about college is that everyone is coming into a new context all at once. They've all left friends and family behind and all of their connectors are wide open. Everyone is looking around for people to plug into their connectors. Deep friendships and intense feelings of community and beloning are born. Many people look back on their college years and yearn for those feelings of connectedness.

My college years were spent at a small christian liberal arts college in Houghton, NY, about an hour south of Buffalo. Situated on a hillside above the Genessee River's floodplain, and surrounded for miles and miles in every direction by woods and farms Houghton may as well have been Alcatraz for a student without wheels, but we loved it.

My dorm was Shenawana Hall, which I was told came from a Seneca Indian phrase meaning "house of brave men." Who knows if that is true. I asked my roommate, who just happened to be a Seneca, and he shrugged and said "I don't know. Probably." During our one night in Houghton this past May Sarah and I stayed with Drs. Mike and Jill Jordan, two friends who we went to school with and who have now returned to serve on staff at the school. After staying up late visiting with our very gracious host and hostess I ventured out for a nocturnal trip down memory lane. My first stop, of course was the house of brave men, Shenawana Hall. This was my first return to Houghhton in more than a decade, and I was prepared for much to have changed, but surprisingly it had not. The entrance had changed some, but once inside I found that it still smelled the same- a funky melange of spent popcorn bags and dirty socks. It wasn't a pleasant smell, but still it had positive conotations for me. It smelled like home. I visited each of my four rooms in turn. I spent a year on each of Shenawana's four floors, my last two as RA of the basement (or foundation as we called it for some reason) and RDA on the 1st floor. On the thrid floor, on my way back from an inspection of the glass palace I was confronted by two RA's who astutely sized me up as a stranger and demanded to know my business in the dormat such an hour. I identified myself as Shen Lord Josh Tate and demanded that they pay me homage, which they did. Actually, and I am absolutely not making this part up, they recognized the name Tate, but seemingly had me confused with my brother Job Tate. They creditied me with playing some role in the establishment of the "Shen Block" at Houghton soccer games, which I was not a part of. I did inform them that I was the one who established the first Shenanigus celebration, which did make an impression on them. They offered me a free IBC rootbeer out of the Shen Desk in deference to my august rank as a Shen Lord, which I refused citing the hour, but then instantly wished that I had taken them up on it if only for the photo op it would have offered for the purposes of this post. Ah well! I also told them that I had gone to school with Drs. Mike and Jill Jordan and that I had also roomed with Professor Eli Knapp during my freshman year. One of them said that Mike was his "mentor." I said "Good choice," and made my exit out into the drizzly night without dropping any more names.

It was good to know that Shen hasn't changed much. After all, I did have reason for being concerned.

The bubble gum trees were still encrusted in the unhygienic leavings of hordes of undergrads migrating to and from the upper terrace where Shenawana is located.

These sculptures were situated outside the Art building during the years I attended Houghton, and surprisingly they remain there still to this day. It was nostalgic to see them there, but, in truth, I have never appreciated them on a purely aesthetic basis. They kind of remind me of medical drawings of female anatomy which I have occasionally seen in Doctors' offices in which breasts are depicted as fatty deposits and blood vessels. These sculptures always remind me of that.
The verse inscribed on the cornerstone of Shenawana Hall, which I walked past daily for nearly forty years. I subconciously memorized it. I can't think of a more appropriate verse to be confronted with daily during those years.
Surprisingly I found the chapel unlocked. As a student, my chapel record was kinda spotty. I attended the minimum required number of chapels, and those were often spent furiously completing an assignment that was due immediately following chapel or catching up on reading for a class. I also skipped a fair number of classes, but if I could have either the classes or the chapels back I would pick the chapels now. I sat in the chairs and roamed the stage before exiting through the lobby.
I am a different person now then I was in my college years. I was studying business and French back then. Today I am pursuing an MDIV degree with an eye towards pastoral ministry. There is nothing I enjoy more than teaching the word of God to people. That was not true back then. One of my private ambitions, which I have not revealed to too many people is that I would like to return to Houghton to speak at a chapel service some day. I have already briefly outlined my remarks. Maybe someday.

This was my old college mailbox- 1666. It has not been too many years since I graduated, but back then we were on the cusp of technologies that we take for granted today. Sarah and I wrote each other the old fashioned way during our long-distance courtship, and this was the box which I came to every day with hopeful anticipation that a letter from Sarah would be there. I sometimes saved checking the box as a reward. "Okay, just finish this assignment, then you can walk down and check the mail." I would rather have received a letter from Sarah than money back then. When there was a letter I would secret it away like a squirrel with a nut to somewhere where I could read it and reread it in private. Those days gave me an enduring love for "real mail," which is why I continue to correspond in the old fashioned way to this day. That is also why I still send mail occasionally to the current boxholder of CPO BOX 1666.

I stopped by the college's dining hall and sat at "my table." I consumed many mediocre meals in that spot. During my freshman year I hated going up to the cafeteria because I didn't have a group of friends to eat with. So either I could sit by myself like a loser or introduce myself to stranger and ask if I could eat with them. Either way I was doomed to an uncomfortable time and a hastily gulped down meal. I settled on a novel strategy, which was to pick a table, more or less at random, and sit there at every meal no matter who was sitting there. I remember once sitting with a group of super-cool soccer players and another time with girls who were intimidatingly gorgeous, but still I hung in there, and before long it became known as "that one guy's table." Eventually I populated my table with good friends.

I stopped by the infamous gazebo.

I hung out in the campus center, which is the place where I discovered my love for falling asleep in public.

I wandered all over campus, visiting every building in turn, before wrapping up my walk by paying a visit to South Hall, which has now been renamed Rothenbuhler Hall. I understand that Rothenbuhler is a Seneca word meaning "where the roaches scurry." I paid my respects.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012


1. This thought is kinda juvenile. As I lay in bed this morning I was thinking about State Universities in Pennsylvania, and how their initials are most likely UP, like as in "you pee." (Tee-hee!) Do students at UP Pittsburgh say they go to "You pee-pee." (Tee-hee-hee) Or maybe they reverse it and say PU Pittsburgh, as in "Pee-Yew! Pittsburgh" like the whole place is stinky. Whether it's "You Pee" or "Pee-Yew!" I don't know, but either way I am a fan.

2. Recently I have seen loads of news coverage about the spaceshuttle Endeavor hitching a ride across the country on the back of a jetliner. Everytime I see it I can't help but think that it looks like two planes coupling. Is this where baby airplanes come from? I should ask Boeing's CEO, Jim McNerney, the next time I bump into him. What's really troubling is that some people are still not open minded about spaceshuttle-airplane relationships. Please don't fill my comments section with Archie Bunkeresque tirades against interaviation marriages. Not since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has a couple's right to privacy been so flagrantly violated for the benefit of a voyeuristic society that has forgotten how to blush. Shame on you for reading this post.


"Tape it! Tape it to another toe."
Twenty-something male, wearing a black baseball cap, gray t-shirt, and blue jeans, speaking telephonically to an unknown second party while standing on the front porch of Village Hardware store- Idyllwild, CA.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

SECRET SPOT- The Deer Stand

The deer trail was a thin narrow ribbon winding its way along the top of a low bluff, which ran parallel to the lake shore. It was a meandering sort of trail which followed the path of least resistance over, under and around until it came to a spot where the bluff gave way to a slope which ran uninterrupted down to the lake. At this spot two trails converged to form a veritable deer highway down to the shore. It was obviously a well-used trail. Hoof prints of all sizes were pressed sharply into the mud and the way was littered with their droppings. Near this spot where the trails came together, some enterprising hunter had constructed a stand, hammering 2X4's between two adjacent trees, and then cutting up the waste to lay down as decking. Other boards had been nailed directly into the trunk of one of the trees to make kind of a crude ladder. I clambered up and admired the view, which commanded the approach along both trails as well as the one shooting off down toward the lake. With my eyes I followed the trail that went down toward the water, and then looked beyond at the sweep of the broad lake itself. A yacht was putt-putting it's way south out in the middle, and a bass boat was tearing its way north at top speed against the wind. I sat there for some time watching the yacht's slow progress, squinting to see if I could make out any figures on deck at that distance. I thought I could see someone, either a woman or maybe a man with long hair. I was trying to decide which when I heard the "SNAP" of a twig, and the "SWOOSH" of a branch returning to its place off to my left and, turning, watched with wonder as two does, their coats summer red, came into view along the trail and passed directly below the stand. They were so close I imagined I could have jumped on their backs like a panther if I had wanted to, and, in truth, I was curious what would happen if I did drop directly down on top of a deer, but before I had an opportunity to expand on this thought or get up the gumption to act on it they had passed beyond the tree and were soon lost out of sight amidst the dense woods moving quickly in the direction of the lake.

Monday, September 17, 2012

In a ferny basin, set low between the hills,
I found a rusty bucket toppled off the back side
Of a mossy boulder. It was full of bullet holes.
I picked it up and knocked it against a tree to get
The mud and leaves out. Then I set it back on top.

Friday, September 14, 2012


I just know this is Moss's last season in a Redskins uniform, maybe even his last in the league. The thirteen year veteran is like an old hound, and I just know that at the end of this season Ol’ Man Snyder  is gonna take him out behind the barn, tie him up and shoot him. It's the way of things on the Snyder farm. He's savvy, sure, but he has undeniably lost a step. He's no longer the deep threat he used to be.

"Sorry ol' boy, everybody's gotta earn their vittles round here!"

I am way too sentimental a person to ever own a football team (also way too poor). Joe Theisman would probably still be taking up salary cap space if I owned the Redskins. I guess I'm glad I'm not in charge. Still, it makes me sad.


"Ah...Dude! I just put diesel in John's bike! DUUUDE!"Twenty-something male, with a horrified expression on his face, holding a gas nozzle next to a motorcycle, which I presume belonged to an unknown third party named "John." He was speaking to a second male, who was sitting on another motorcycle at the next pump waiting for him to finish pumping gas. Outside of the Shell Gas Station- Idyllwild, CA

"Dude, NO! (laughter) What are you gonna do?"
The aforementioned second male, who removed his helmet before responding. Unlike the first male, he had kind of a cavalier attitude about filling John's bike with diesel, and was openly laughing at the first male.

"I don't know! You gotta help me, dude!"
The first male again in response to the second male's question- "What are you gonna do?"

"John's gonna kill you, dude."
Second male.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


The night was black. The clouds blocked the moon. The brook, fat with the spring melt, flowed over an escarpment south of the house crashing down  before flowing out into the lake. The lake itself was a black field beneath the house. It was as quiet as the clouds. I took the stairs down to the shore, and then glanced back up at the house. The lights shining forth from its windows, spoke of life within. There would be conversation there, questions shouted from room to room, toys scattered on the wood floor, laughter, and food. There would also be the photos staring down from the walls, the mantle, and the tops of dressers. Those photos, captured in a moment in time, with the spark still in the eyes like a light from a window and the mind behind them filled with the stuff of life, stare unceasingly on a scene that they once occupied bodily. The stairs once carried their weight. The walls once echoed with their laughter. Their eyes once took in the view, sweeping north to south, looking for approaching storms and boats. They pulled chairs up in front of the fireplace to talk. And they worried about their children when they went exploring in the woods. The stuff of life.

I wondered what they would think of me, those who came before.

As I paddled out onto the black lake I wondered if one day a photo of me would stare down on a generation yet to come. I wondered what I would think of them. I hope they put me in the living room.