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.