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.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Today, as I drove across town on an errand, I heard a song on the radio. Its sound was bigger than its lyrics. It was like a gold box of the finest quality, whose crafters had imagined it filled with beautiful, meaningful things, but whose owners had inexplicably chosen to use it as a repository for a few broken crayons, some candy wrappers and a large brown hair scrunchy.

The tune was the container and the lyrics its contents. It had a driving beat and complex layers of sound that danced and flirted before harmonizing into a beautifully simple symphony that struck the ear as pleasantly as a lover's touch. As I gazed in at the lyrical contents I was sad to find that they were not beautiful or meaningful or worthy. They were not even sufficiently cryptic that I could see in them whatever I wanted to see. They were an utter waste of such a container. I was disappointed.

I don't want to hear that song again.


Just a few days ago I posted that I had been invited to speak on December, 23rd at Idyllwild Bible Church, and today IBC also asked me if I could speak on 10/21 (service times at 9am and 10:45am). I said "I'll take it!"

Can't wait!


Special thanks to my buddy, Hutch, for sending me a link to this article about a Dallas area eatery that has hiked the price of its product 24,671% for Redskins and Giants fans who they hate. Is that even legal? The funniest thing about this whole situation for me persoanlly is imagining those poor Eagles fans, who are also part of the NFC East, wondering why they are not also hated. Why must they pay the normal rate?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I'll be bringing a seasonally appropriate message on 12/23 at Idyllwild Bible Church (Service Times 9am and 10:45am).
My only complaint is that I wish they would give me more time to prepare.
Any suggested texts?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


There is something that resides to some degree in the hearts of all men, and which is most evident in little boys who have not yet learned to hid it and disguise it- the desire to be dangerous.


There will be good days and there will be bad
There will be happy, there will be sad
Take all the good days as long as they'll last
And know that the bad days soon will be past.


"Do you know how to spot a drug addict? " he asked.

"No, how?"

"They always wear clothes that are inappropriate for the weather."


He pointed at a young man wearing a winter jacket, something akin to a parka, who was passing through a parking lot toward the Food City Grocery Store. It was a balmy evening in late may. Maybe in the upper 60's.

"See? You watch, this winter he'll be out walking in the snow in a wife-beater."

"Why is that?"

He shrugged. "I don't know, but watch, it's true. You'll see."