Category Archives: Life

Emitt Rhodes was, and is, a musician and songwriter who was once best known as the “One Man Beatles” (link to documentary) and is perhaps now best known for his fade-out into obscurity.  I was, and am, a big fan of Rhodes’ music: his early-1970s self-made albums inspired my own college musical creations.  Rhodes was often, and unfairly, compared to McCartney but he was neither a knock-off or imitator.  His songs were just as well-crafted but much more personal — perhaps best described as wistful pop.

One of my favorites from the first Emitt Rhodes album (1970) was Promises I’ve Made

Ever since you have gone the days don’t seem so bright
And I wish I could forget you but I can’t
Ever since you have gone I haven’t felt quite right
And I promised I’d forget all that you meant
But now that I’m alone I can’t stop my self from thinking
I can’t stop myself from breaking promises I’ve made to myself
Babe, you must believe

I have promised myself I wouldn’t dream of you
But I find that awful hard sometimes to do
I have promised myself I wouldn’t think of you
But I find that just as hard you know it’s true
Because when I’m alone I can’t stop my self from thinking
I can’t stop myself from breaking promises I’ve made to myself
Babe, you must believe

… all sung to a bright melody and jaunty tempo, belying the lyrical content.

In 2016, Rhodes released a new album, Rainbow Ends, 43 years after his previous album and the day after his 66th birthday.  The musicianship was still evident but the brightness was largely absent, with even more wistfulness in its place.  Now, I can get wistful myself, but listening to Rainbow Ends makes me want to call up Rhodes and say something to cheer him up.  I’m not sure what that could be.

• • • •

I have made a few promises myself in my 66 years, several of which have appeared here on The 100 Billionth Person.  Let’s see how well I have kept them:

  DIRECTV (March 2011):  “I intend to cut back on services, and the thought has entered my mind of cutting the cord completely…”  Result:  It never happened.  I’m still paying too much for TV because there are no easy alternatives in our area.  That, plus inertia.

  VITAMIN WATER (September 2014):  My open letter to Glaceau/Coca-Cola complained about that company’s poor response to my defective product report, and I declared that I would no longer drink VitaminWater or other Coca-Cola products.  Result: I have in fact sworn off Glaceau VitaminWater, but I did unknowingly consume a Coca-Cola product, when I had a bottle of hotel-provided Dasani water.  I consider that a minor infraction.

  WEIGHT LOSS (January 2016):  I committed myself to losing 36 pounds and listed a number of foods that were now off the table.  Result: I lost 25 pounds, then hit a wall, forgot about the diet, and gained just about all the weight back.  More on this below.

  PINTEREST (June 2017):  “I will never sign up for Pinterest, never, ever.” Result: I am still as un-pinterested as ever.

  CHEERIOS (July 2017):  I vowed not to buy Cheerios or any other oat cereal until their manufacturers stopped using RoundUp to desiccate the oats.  Result: Soon after that post, my spouse mistakenly bought me one more box of Cheerios, which I ate, because I do not like to waste food.  But I have been O-free since then.

  READING LIST (December 2017):  I used to publish a list (in the sidebar of this blog)  of books I intended to read in the current calendar year.  Result: I quietly dispensed with the Reading List because, year after year, so many books would remain unread.  The list was clearly an ineffective way to shape my reading behavior.

  CREATIVITY (December 2017):  “In 2018 and every year after that, I pledge to myself to do something creative every day.”  Result: It was a nice thought.  I haven’t kept count but I’d guess the actual figure is more like 30-40 percent.

  PRO FOOTBALL (March 2018):  In disgust, after viewing yet another crippling injury to an NFL player, I declared that I was done with pro football.  Result: My boycott lasted only a few weeks.  I was soon back to following the action in the newspaper and I resumed watching games before the year was out.  Since then, I have watched many more players suffer concussions and season-ending injuries.

  SAMANTHA BEE (June 2018):  I decided that comedian Samantha Bee crossed the line when she called Ivanka Trump the c-word, and there would be no more Bee for me.  Result: Does Bee still have a show?  I wouldn’t know.

⊗  PAINTING (November 2018): I proclaimed I was (finally) ready to start painting again!  Result: I did start a canvas, worked on it a few weeks, then made a dubious artistic move that I feared ruined everything.  I haven’t touched it in nine months.

The final tally of these promises, pledges and proclamations: 4 mostly-kept vs. 6 reneged.  Not a stellar record, is it?  What kept me from keeping more of them?

Making one’s promises visible to others is supposed to help one keep them, but evidently that did not matter here.  I don’t see a pattern in my successes and failures, except perhaps that my aspirational pledges seem more fragile than my principled stands.  There is probably some tortuous socio-psychological explanation for this, but I’m not convinced that it would be useful. 

The larger question is, must a person abide by every promise made to himself?  I find it interesting that the maxim “Don’t make promises you can’t keep” focuses only on your promise-keeping failures.  It means that you can comply with the dictum using one of two strategies: keep all your promises or make no promises at all!  Many people actually advise the latter, as if the negatives of a broken promise far outweigh any positives from efforts to uphold it.  In this way, our culture unwittingly promotes under-commitment.

The importance of keeping promises to oneself should not simply be a moral imperative but should be correlated to benefits and consequences.  That being the case, I should focus more on commitments such as losing weight (to stave off future problems) and less on my personal boycotts that may feel satisfying but have little real impact on social ills.

Which brings me back to the weight-loss issue.  Acknowledging my own poor track record on this count, and recalling what finally got me to quit smoking, I literally asked my doctor to tell me I needed to lose weight and how much I should lose.  At my insistence, we made a handshake agreement that I would weigh 190 pounds by next May.  We will see whether my externalizing this commitment produces the desired result.

As for those other pledges and declarations, I say this:  I am done making promises here!

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I just checked my Gmail inbox and, despite periodic clean-ups, it currently has 224 items. My sent mail folder is even more glutted, with 569 items.  These numbers bother me, and they make me wonder: have I become an e-hoarder?

In the days of snail mail, a person might save a piece of correspondence here and there.  Normal people would not save all of it.  And no one (lawyers and businesses excepted) would save a copy of what they sent.  So what has changed?

Some email retention is justified, such as one’s upcoming hotel reservation or the most recent note from a friend that has not yet been answered.  But these kind of emails are only a handful of the hundreds now in my inbox.

In some cases, I have saved emails to compensate for my poor (or lazy) social memory.  When friends share personal details with me, I don’t want to insult them — or embarrass myself — by forgetting what they said.  It could be the names and ages of children and/or grandchildren, or current health issues, or upcoming life events.  I worry that, if I don’t keep a mental/digital record of such items, I am disrespecting what has been shared.

In other cases, I am hanging onto information that — as every hoarder says — might be useful someday.  For instance, I once asked a friend about his experience with drum pads and drum software.  His responses, still in my inbox (and still un-acted upon), are nearly four years old.  This is the email equivalent of saving an AOL installation disk.

I also get overly attached to attachments.  The best way to ensure that I don’t erase your email to me is to attach something to it.  When I do cull my inbox, I rarely touch an item with an attachment — it is usually too much trouble to open the attachment to see if it is something important, which by default it is.

These are all habits that I have slipped into and can’t seem to break.  I would love to know how others deal with email management, and how many items are currently in your inbox and sent box.  This post will be a lot more interesting with some thoughts from readers.

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Last month, my spouse and I made a 13-day trek to several western states: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and California.  Our trip served multiple purposes — see old friends (some for the first time in decades), visit family, get a better sense of the West, and enjoy some good food and fine art.

While we spent a few days on our own in Santa Fe, our trip would not have been the same without (more than) a little help from our friends.  It was certainly great to see them and share experiences, but it was also a privilege to have such well-versed guides escorting us to the places we visited.  Relying on them allowed me to make less-detailed travel plans than I normally do, which heightened our sense of discovery.  I appreciate all their time and effort, as well as all the what-to-see-and-do suggestions that many others offered.

I took 1000-plus photos, some of which had to be good if only by accident.  I have posted the more artsy ones at my other site (ART@CHC) in two newly-minted galleries: Western Skies (for landscapes) and Western Civilization (anti landscapes?)  Interesting photos from this trip that didn’t fit either category may one day find their way into future and/or existing galleries. But I’ll share a few of them now.

For example, this bighorn sheep (click image to enlarge) strolled right past our car window as we were parked on a roadside in Colorado National Monument.  Such lucky encounters with natural beauty can turn anyone with a camera into Ansel Adams for a small moment.  But sometimes it’s better to forget the camera and remember to just be there.

After a few days exploring Grand Junction with our friends, we all drove the river road to Arches National Park near Moab, Utah.  The river road (Utah 128) is impressive in its own right, following the Colorado River as it flows past the gorges it created.  The most dramatic views were those of Fisher Towers. As my inner Keats puts it:  The morning light bath’d its cragged spires in mystery.

Many of the rockfaces along the gorge were spectacular as well, but they were no match for what we saw in Arches.  We only had a morning to spend in the park, so we mostly stayed on the loop road — but there was still plenty to take in.  My main takeaway was how varied the terrain was — not just the pillars of rock sculpted in a hundred different ways and all the boulders balanced on top of other boulders, but the ground itself: sandy in one place, gravelly in another, nearly lava-like elsewhere.  I could have spent hours walking along the Arches trails and shooting at ground level.

The internet has plenty of great photos of Arches by great photographers, so I’m not going to duplicate them here.  I did want to point out one rockface that I saw as we were driving the loop road — this rockface actually did have a face and, not only that, it was rocky:

Rockface Balboa (Arches National Park) by CHCollins

We drove from Utah to New Mexico and spent four days in the Santa Fe area.  I grew tired of turquoise pretty quickly but not so the art:  there were dozens of interesting galleries on Canyon Road, along with the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and New Mexico Museum of Art.  I was surprised and pleased that the O’Keeffe museum was not preoccupied with paintings of sexually-suggestive flower parts.  Most of her work was far less notorious.  (Incidentally, O’Keeffe denied those connotations, which I find hard to believe.)

If there was one O’Keeffe painting that I would have brought home, it would be this abstract waterfall (right).  That’s the kind of art I wish I could imagine and do.

I did bring home a souvenir of sorts from one Canyon Road gallery, namely a small rhodochrosite (“Rose of the Inca”) warbler perched on a veined rock of unknown type.  Even after the owner dropped the price by a third, I probably paid more for it than it was worth.  But it’s a nicer remembrance than a Georgia O’Keeffe coffee mug would have been, so no regrets here.  I am admiring it as I write.

Leaving Santa Fe, we took the Turquoise Trail (State Route 14) to Albuquerque, stopping at several points of interest along the way.  Our first stop was the San Marcos Cafe and Feed Store, where we had a great breakfast watching chickens and peacocks and listening to a well-traveled guitarist-singer.  It was a quirky spot, one of those hidden gems.  I just had to order the Eggs San Marcos, an egg burrito with chiles, cheese, guacamole and beans.  This was the only burrito (or variant thereof) I ate the entire trip and it was delicious.

Our second stop was the village of Madrid, which was frankly a disappointment.  It was essentially a half-mile stretch of chuchería (tchotchke) galleries, a chocolate shop with a dauntingly long line (sorry, not going to wait 15 minutes for chocolate) and a biker bar.  Almost impossible to find a space to park that Saturday afternoon.  Maybe I’m not being charitable toward the place, but I wasn’t into that vibe that day.

Our last stop on the Turquoise Trail was the roadside haunt of one Mr. Leroy Gonzales of Golden, New Mexico.  His abode has a pin on Google Maps titled “Bottle House” but it is much more than that.  We didn’t even know the house or Mr. Gonzales existed until my spouse spied the bottles in front of the house and made a U-turn so we could check it out.

My brief visit with Mayor Leroy (see my Western Civilization gallery) was the highlight of my trip down the Turquoise Trail.  Leroy and his domain have been well documented by many others, including biker/photographer Chuck Jines, so I will just provide a link and let Leroy do the talking.  Enjoy.

• • •

We visited family in San Diego for a few days, then headed eastward on Interstate 8, eventually driving through the strangest hills I’ve ever seen.  As I would later learn, these are the Jacumba Mountains — they look exactly like giant piles of rubble, as if they were just dumped there from some astronomical-scale construction project.

Other notable features of Interstate 8 included views of the Trump Wall rising and falling amidst the sand dunes, and interior border-control checkpoints.  I didn’t even know that the latter existed until this trip.  I am sure my spouse and I were being ethnically-profiled by those smiling agents, just as when we visited Canada back in the day.  Our freedom of movement at such checkpoints is merely the visible tip of our white-privilege iceberg.

The final leg of our trip included a four-legged breakfast ride at a resort ranch near Tuscon, Arizona.  I was assigned a draft horse whose chest was so big that the saddle wouldn’t stay on straight.  Halfway through the ride, my saddle starting slipping to the left and my only choice was to fall off as gracefully as I could without getting my foot caught in the stirrup.  This earned me a lecture from the ride-boss to sit straight and push on my stirrups if the saddle began to slide — which it did, again.

Meanwhile, my spouse did not anticipate that the trail ride would include rock-strewn 30-degree downslopes.  Neither did I, but I figured that my horse had learned the trail on previous rides, and I was pretty sure he didn’t want to fall either.  So I let him do his thing and we all lived to tell about it — which I am doing now.

One last thing: I usually don’t do this, but here is a link to a set of uncropped, unadjusted, uncurated and unexplained straight-from-the-camera shots from our Mountain Time trip.  (Don’t forget about the nicely-processed images in ART@CHC).  In any case, thanks for saddling up with me, and have a great Thanksgiving.

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