Monday, January 25, 2010


Like a band of nomads that settles into a spot until the area's resources are depleted before moving on again the Bummer-Free Zone has struck it's tents, extinguished the fires, roused the beasts of burden, and have moved on to the next valley, which is to say that Blogger won't let me upload anymore photos without paying a fee.

I'm still unpacking boxes and setting things up over at the Bummer-Free Zone's new home, but feel free to come over anytime- just excuse the mess.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


As you well know, I have three pairs of boots (1, 2, and 3). With all of the snow we've gotten recently they have been getting the start over the Captain of my footwear, the Champlain Boat Shoes. When one pair of boots gets too damp I set it out to dry and grab the next pair in the rotation. By rotating my boots through in this manner I always have a dry pair of boots at the ready.
A couple of days ago I pulled out these old boots to add them to the rotation and realized that I hadn't worn them since our trip back to Vermont in October, and thus they were still encrusted with mud from the very shores of Lake Champlain. I almost declined to wear them, but then decided that was silly, but being a sentimental person, it made me miss all of you back there.


The famous Southern California sun made its return today, and the blue skies, sparkling snow, and crisp air made for a picture perfect day here in Idyllwild.
The gully which runs through the middle of the camp is absolutely perfect for sledding. It forms a big "U". The slope on the eastern side is much steeper than that on the western side.
Here are some of our campers shooting down one of the steepest inclines.

This guy is absolutely crazy. He made his way to the dining hall this morning in shorts and flip-flops. We don't have shoveled pathways so he waded through a foot and a half of snow like that, and then later I saw him sledding in shorts and a t-shirt.

This is a very poor shot of Sarah and Lucy wiping out.
Here they are a little dazed afterwards and checking themselves out to make sure everything still functions as it ought.

Snow angels.

Friday, January 22, 2010


We woke up this morning to a heap of snow, which continued to fall throughout the day, and even now is softly swishing against the window as I type.
Not only is snow wonderful, which it truly is, but the wonder of waking up to a world transformed was magnified by the news that Bowden's school canceled classes today. He was positively giddy. Unfortunately, the snow and the arrival of two groups here at the camp made extra work for me, which largely prevented me from enjoying the snow holiday with him. I did take a break from work in the afternoon though to go sledding with Bowden and Lucy. Camp Maranatha has an awesome sledding hill! It's a little too scary for Lucy though.

I like this picture. Sarah is such a good Mom.
Our little mon-chichi (sp?) slave was tasked with clearing the driveway.
Lucy likes the idea of snow, and will lobby hard for sledding and building snow men and such, but without fail, five to ten minutes into it her fingers are cold, she wants cocoa, her bottom is soggy, there's snow in her boot, she wants to be carried, etc... All of that is captured in the little face above.
"Get back to work, slave!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I think that songs and smells are the closest we’ll ever come to experiencing time travel. They can really transport sometimes, can’t they? I wonder why we are so designed. Occasionally a smell will waft to my nose or I’ll catch a song on the radio and I find myself removed to a nearly forgotten moment or season. It’s more than a memory though- it’s like my whole person is shifted. Yet it’s also spectral in that, while vivid, it ultimately lacks substance. It fails to satisfy whatever it has aroused. Try as I might to regain the fullness of the conjured moment, person or place- try as I might to drag the past into the present with all of its imagery and emotion- I usually end up just feeling titillated. The veil of time never parts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010


LET'S PLAY ILLUSTRATION- The game where I give you a scenario and you tell me what spiritual analogies can be drawn from it.


(In a crowded and noisy dining hall.)

"I want to draw a present for Mama."

"You want to draw President Obama?"



"Because I love her."

"President Obama is a man."



"Daddy, don't go!"


"Because I want to do something with you."

"Like what."

"I want you to run around the room so I can practice shooting at a moving target."

Friday, January 15, 2010


During my brief tenure as a police officer I responded once to an assault at a bar, and upon arrival I was told by a witness that the male offender had run away from the scene wearing a red sweatshirt. I relayed this information to the other cars on patrol and everyone circled around looking for the man in the red sweatshirt.

I would find out later that the man had cannily ditched his red sweatshirt shortly after fleeing the scene, and was thus able to temporarily elude us.

I read today that Nigeria has been added to a list of nations (Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Lebanon, Lybia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) whose citicens will automatically face tougher screening before boarding U.S. bound flights. Some have raised objections that this is discriminatory. I disagree with that. It makes as much sense to me as scanning for a man in a red sweatshirt. It makes sense, but therein lies the danger- they know we're doing it.

I'm afraid that all Al Qaeda will have to do to elude our thin line of defense is ditch the red sweatshirt so to speak. I predict that it won't be long before we see an act of terrorism perpetrated by an Islamic extremist who does not look like one and who does not hail from one of these problem nations. Maybe she'll be a fair-haired college student from France or Canada. Maybe it'll be an elderly man from Greece or a troubled teenager from an American suburb. Major Hasan was a U.S. serviceman. The danger in profiling passengers based on their nation of origin is not that it unfairly discriminates against them, but that it lends itself to a certain myopia or tunnel vision. They're looking for that red sweatshirt, ya know?

I would feel better if those charged with our security would drop this nation of origin business and standardize their screening procedures to allow for the evil potential of each passenger.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Sarah is a fanatic about observing birthdays. She really goes all out to make you feel special on your birthday- wether you want it or not!!! This year she arranged babysitting (special thanks to Lisa Richard and Katie Bayer for stepping up the challenge) so we could go out on the town- just the two of us (The last time that happened was the night Miles was conceived. Josh! Did you really write that?!?! Shut up, inner voice!). She also made me whoopie pies (photo above) as well as a bunch of my other favorite foods. The kids all bought me different colored rabbit pelts. Yep, it's true, rabbit pelts, and they also manufactured numerous scribbly drawings, which kept coming all day until the pockets of my blue jeans were filled to bursting with their crumpled and tattered offerings. I would have posted a picture of the rabbit pelts but they will be making an appearance in an upcoming installment of "Arts and Crafts with Josh Tate," so don't worry- you'll see them then. Just as I thought the day was winding down, a trip over to Lisa's house to pick up the kids turned into a surprise birthday party! I was really surprised too.

Here we are on our date (I look like I'm scheming something evil). Check out Sarah's "date sweater." That's the sweater she wore on our first date (also at an Idyllwild eatery) all those many years ago. She's hot.

Monday, January 11, 2010


My friend, Chad Irving, first introduced me to the Eagle Man commercial through his blog (now defunct). We watched it a few times while they were out over New Years, and now the kids walk around all day "playing Eagle Man." If you have never seen the Eagle Man commercial do yourself a favor and remedy that today. I can't decide which I enjoy more the women or Eagle Man. Did he really just lay an egg?!?! Was this commercial inspired by an acid trip? This is definitely one of the strangest and funniest ads I've ever seen. I like it a lot!

I will be posting the much anticipated final installment to the Water Trees of Jogues Valley pretty soon, and I thought I would link all of the previous installments here as some of you have expressed an interest in getting caught up before the grand finale is unveiled.








Sunday, January 10, 2010

There are some things that will always remind me of my Grandpa McCuen, like the smell of pipe tobacco, Jeep Wagoneers, and headdresses, but whenever I see a man wearing the combination of shorts and black socks I never fail to think of John Eugene McCuen.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I’ve walked away
On many nights,
Quiet as a cloud,
Across the field,
And into the woods,
Beneath the moon
With shoes still wet
From the water’s edge,
And with words rising in my throat
Like the contents of a shaken bottle,
Ready to burst from my frame
If they could find no other escape
Than the feeble door of my lips.

In the liberty of solitude
I have often said things
I would not have said
Where ears could catch them.

Oh, the words I have loosed
And the things I have confessed
In the woods at night
With only God for an audience.

Friday, January 08, 2010


"No, no, no! You don't have to tell him anything! If he gives you any s#*%^ just tell him to shut the f#%* up!"
Angry man speaking on a cell phone at the dump- Idyllwild, CA

"I love it up here. Everybody's so nice."
Middle aged woman to a stranger who was holding the door for her at the Post Office- Idyllwild, CA

"She's still out in the car. Just as we were parking, a song came on that she liked so she said she was gonna stay out there."
Older man to a female cashier at Fairway Market- Idyllwild, CA


...Is the product of their union- the fog.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I have observed that sometimes after I have just woken up or if I am really sleepy it can feel a full ten degrees cooler than it actually is.

Sunday, January 03, 2010


...but don't get too excited, the adventures of THE SLEEPING CLUB and their wacky founder, John Cornish, are just beginning. Check back in here for THE RETURN TO JOGUES VALLEY- which will be the final installment in the series.


Henri Al Jamil’s beginnings are shrouded in mystery. According to his official biography, he was sold as an infant to a traveling band of Hayam tribesmen by an Indian woman living on the outskirts of Abalta in 1879. According to Al Jamil's adopted family, the woman had named the infant "Henri." Many have speculated that this woman probably worked as a prostitute in Abalta’s thriving sex industry, but that is purely conjecture. The woman’s identity and livelihood remain unknown to this day. Nothing is known of Al Jamil's father.

In 1901, Al Jamil, age 22, married Afifah Basha’ir, age 15. The young couple settled near Dimah northwest of Abalta where Al Jamil managed a number of olive groves for a wealthy Frenchman named Guillaume Tourine. In that same year Al Jamil was selected to join a delegation from the Hayam to present a list of grievances to the colonial government at Le Mur.

Although the Hayam delegation failed to accomplish anything of consequence, the visit to Le Mur would have a profound and lasting impact on Al Jamil who was appalled by what he witnessed there. Under the growing influence of the Edenist cult the drug-addled city of Le Mur was fast gaining a deserved reputation for debauchery and hedonism, which offended Al Jamil- a devout Muslim. Following a visit to Le Mur In 1904, Canadian missionary, Jonathan Till, commented, “That foul den of iniquity [Le Mur] has outdone Sodom, if it is possible, in the business of sin. They embrace, and, indeed, publicly celebrate the most wicked and perverse inclinations of fallen man.”

In the decade that followed, Al Jamil would emerge as an outspoken and effective critic of the colonial Government. In April of 1911, he was arrested on charges of sedition and inciting violence following a speech at the soccer stadium in Sihel which drew a crowd of more than 20,000. For nine months Al Jamil was held in the prison at Le Mur, during which time he came to believe that the Edenists were right about the identity of the Jogues Valley- that it truly was the lost Garden of Eden- but unlike the Edenists, he described the valley as “the home of evil,” and, from that time forward, he saw it as his duty to return the valley to isolation thus removing it and it’s corrupting influences from mankind forever. In 1912, Al Jamil was released from prison and fled with his wife and family into the fastness of the Taresh-Dafare desert where he began planning and organizing the coming revolution.

During World War I, Al Jamil successfully built a coalition between the various tribes that live in the Taresh-Dafare desert, and, through force and diplomacy established himself as their leader. Believing further negotiations with the French contrary to the will of Allah, Al Jamil announced the beginning of the revolution on January 11, 1919 by destroying the vulnerable and unprotected Trans Taresh-Dafare railway at several points east and west of Le Mur thus effectively cutting the Jogues Valley off from the rest of the world. Communication with the valley would remain impossible from that time until after Al Jamil's death in 1971.

The French Colonial Government was woefully unprepared for the revolution which came seemingly out of nowhere and which swept across the colony overnight. What little resistance the French offered up was ultimately futile as Al Jamil and his numerous supporters routed the weakened and outnumbered French military in every engagement. The cash-strapped and war-weary French were not inclined to commit to a lengthy and expensive effort to retake the colony, but even so it was not until 1932 that the French officially recognized Taresh-Dafare as an independent nation. Henri Al Jamil declared victory over the French on February 1, 1919. He gave himself the title “Lord Protector of Taresh-Dafare,” and ruled as dictator until his death on November 3, 1971.

On April 2, 1972, his son, Ayman, who had succeeded to the office of Lord Protector upon his father’s death, granted a request from the French government to send a party of medical staff and government representatives back to Le Mur to discover what had become of the nearly 3,000 souls who had been abandoned there 53 years earlier.


Yesterday morning, Sarah and I loaded the kids into the minivan and drove to the desert. More specifically, we drove down to "The Living Desert" in the city of Palm Desert. (Excessive use of the word, "desert?") The Living Desert is a zoo which specializes in showcasing flora and fauna from deserts around the world. Lucy gets carsick very easily. We were nearly down the mountain when her tummy went into full revolt and forced our party off into this scenic pullout. Just as well, it was nice to thaw out in the sun and take in the view of the desert cities. (The word "desert" occurs 7 times in the above paragraph. Just in case you were curious.)
The Living Desert is small as far as zoos go, but their exhibits are top shelf. I was fine with the Living Desert's size as I'm not much of a zoo person. Sarah and the kids love them though.
I thought the giraffes against the backdrop of the mountains was an especially striking exhibit.

Check out this specimen of the Ankole Cattle from Africa. Their horns are massive!
Kids always love a petting zoo.

Check out these bloodthirsty desert tortoises.
I caught Lucy attempting to climb on top of the wall which encloses the tortoise exhibit, and loudly warned her that if she fell in the tortoises would attack her. She giggled, but the numerous bystanders that were present, and within earshot, didn't offer up so much as a snicker. I thought it was funnier than that.
Miles can sit up in a high chair now. That's a major milestone in the return to sanity.
Took in a wildlife show, but the only pictures worth posting were of this cerval. It was a good show though. To me, this is how the zoo should be. Bring 'em out and make 'em do stuff. None of this craning-your-neck-so-you-can-catch-a-glimpse-of-the-tip-of-a-mountain-lion's-tail stuff.

Bighorn sheep.
When did going to the zoo become like a five hour guilt trip?
Mexican wolves.
A lush oasis.