Another Shade of Grey

another shade of gray

Acceptance and respect are the main things. Brevity is also important. If men accepted “no” as the definite answer – and women were brief and positive in the saying of that “NO” – we might all be in a better place as human beings. Crazies and thugs unfortunately excluded – because crazies and thugs have never understood the word “NO”.

Frankly, when it comes to shades of gray (or grey), I prefer the Monkees’ version. Wanted to post it here, but no can do. Apparently audio is a no go. Oh well. Those of my age will remember the song, and I shall always consider it definitive.

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For those who think outside the box – this one’s for you

A friend sent this to me and, after I had quit laughing (although I had seen it before), I pondered a bit. It brought back a couple of memories. Enjoy this student’s answers (again, if you’ve already seen it), before going on to revel in my deathless prose, won’t you?


I would have given him 100%!  Each answer is grammatically correct, correct as far as the question is posed, and witty, too. The teacher obviously had no sense of humor.

Q1.. In which battle did Napoleon die?* his last battle

Q2.. Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?* at the bottom of the page

Q3.. River Ravi flows in which state?* liquid

Q4.. What is the main reason for divorce?* marriage

Q5.. What is the main reason for failure?* exams

Q6.. What can you never eat for breakfast?* Lunch & dinner

Q7.. What looks like half an apple?* The other half

Q8.. If you throw a red stone into the blue sea what it will become?* Wet

Q9.. How can a man go eight days without sleeping ?* No problem, he sleeps at night.

Q10. How can you lift an elephant with one hand?*   You will never find an elephant that has one hand.

Q11. If you had three apples and four oranges in one hand and four apples and three oranges in other hand, what would you have?* Very large hands

Q12. If it took eight men ten hours to build a wall, how long would it take four men to build it?*No time at all, the wall is already built.

Q13. How can u drop a raw egg onto a concrete floor without cracking it?
*Any way you want, concrete floors are very hard to crack.

And for these answers, he got a 0%?

I love this guy. The teacher must have resented someone who could think outside the box – a talent that would serve him FAR better in his future life than knowing the technically correct answers to those questions.

Of course, the student never existed. This has been going around for years. It’s right up there with my other favorite, Philosophy 101. Do you know that one?

I’ll relate it just in case you don’t – or even if you do.

The time comes for the final exam in Philosophy 101. The teacher strides in, approaches the blackboard, and writes one word: “Why?” He turns to the students and says “You may begin.”

Two students scribble something swiftly, and leave the room. The rest sweat it out, filling their exam books for the required 2 hours.

When they go to find their grades a few days later, only two students passed – one got an A, the other a B+. They happened to be the two students who had left minutes into the exam.

The “A” answer was: “Why not?”

The “B+” answer was: “Because.”

Now, apocryphal as this story was, it illustrates a teacher who wants students to “get it”, and who rewards those who do.

This reminds me of the time I was the only one to get an “A” on a semi-final geometry test in 9th grade. The teacher wrote on the board: “Prove that 1 + 1 = 2.”
I sat looking at the question, stumped, while others around me started drawing diagrams and writing what would become 17-page proofs. I know that a few of these people went on to MIT and such, btw. But I was stumped because, NOT being a math person, I couldn’t figure out how you could PROVE that 1 + 1 = 2. In the geometry book we had received at the start of the year, strewn amongst the pages would be the occasional red-highlighted box. In these boxes would be something called a “given”. These “givens” were supposed to help us with our calculations, rather like “freebies”, because as they were “given” to us, we didn’t have to PROVE them. Now, I vividly remembered that in the very first “given” box, in Chapter One, was the information that “1 + 1 = 2.” So, not only could we NOT prove it, we weren’t EXPECTED to. I had thought it silly at the time, because everyone KNOWS that 1 + 1 = 2, but it was possibly going to come in handy now.

I pondered a bit more upon this, and then – because there was no way I was going to be able to turn out a 17-page proof ANYWAY, I might as well go for broke – just wrote “Cannot be proved, and we are not expected to. It’s a ‘given’.” Ten minutes into the exam, with fear and trepidation, I approached the adored Mrs. Meisner (my favorite teacher), and handed her my almost empty blue exam book. She looked VERY surprised, but said if I was sure I was done, I could have the rest of the class off and go to the library. Not study hall, but the LIBRARY! Bliss.

It turns out she was trying to teach her students to think, to remember, and to look at the big picture. She was stunned that her darling little mathlings-in-training were all sitting there trying to PROVE that 1 + 1 = 2, whereas her stumbling but game student – me – took only 10 minutes to “get it.” And she proceeded to explain that to then entire class as she passed out our graded exams. All but mine were graded with a big fat “F”. I got the only “A”, and was a hit at the nerd lunch table for the whole rest of 9th grade.

Aside from my obvious mathematical prowess (ahem!), this just shows you the difference between those teachers, doesn’t it? The one who counted a student down for being clever (and absolutely accurate to boot, considering the phrasing of the questions), versus the two teachers who genuinely wanted their students to THINK.

This reminds me of George Carlin’s bit “Don’t get smart with me!” But, that’s another story, and with luck you all remember it anyway. That’s “anyway” folks – NOT “anyways”!!! Sheesh, I loathe “anyways.” It’s almost as bad as “I want to loose some weight.” Even SPELLCHECK catches that one, people! Oh, don’t get me started.

“anyways”!!! Sheesh, I loathe “anyways.” It’s almost as bad as “I want to loose some weight.” Even SPELLCHECK catches that one, people! Oh, don’t get me started.

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Keep On Truckin’

truck airhorn

YES! So many fond memories of driving from Washington D.C. to Chicago, and elsewhere, on vacations with my mom – and every time we passed a truck, I would do that arm pump, and they would honk the air horn. No truck driver EVER failed me. It was so exciting as a kid – I looked forward to the next truck, and was always begging my mom to pass them – even though sometimes she liked to travel behind them because she felt safer – especially at night – with a truck in front of her. I didn’t understand her reasoning then – I do now. I always try to follow a truck at night if I am driving alone. That may make me sound crazy – what with all you hear about truck schedules and meeting deadlines – but I still feel they can see much farther ahead, and signal fast when something untoward is coming up, because they can see what we can’t. Now, I have to admit something. I STILL hang my arm out the window and do the arm pump (when I’m alone in the car!) and truckers STILL blow the air horn for me. EVERY SINGLE ONE. God Bless all truckers – they do a damned hard job, and are responsible for getting food to our tables, gas to our cars, and supplies to our stores. They mostly do a magnificent job of that.

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The Miss Fisher Mysteries

Oh, Phryne ! I have read the books and this is one time when I can say, sincerely, that the representation on film lives up to the character in the book.
ABC has stated that they are bringing our girl back. But – is this a third season, or is this just Season 2 finally being aired here? 
I have been praying for a third season, having seen both previous ones. However, I heard there would not be a third season, because the time period – and doing it RIGHT – was too expensive to continue filming.
Whether it’s a new season or only season 2 picked up by ABC – I have a question.
I can’t resist – what does everybody else think about “Phryne” as a name?
Because, in addition to being odd and hard to pronounce when you encounter it the first time – it was first the “nickname” of a famous Greek courtesan. Which would be quite lovely – except for the fact that in Greek, the word means “toad”, and implied “prostitute”. Look it up.
Of course, the original “Phryne” was also amazingly beautiful.
 Mixed signals, I guess.
But because I like her SO much – and because in my heart of hearts I believe she sort of exists – it really makes me wonder what her fictional parents were thinking when they named her. And YES, I know they were impoverished, distant relations of a hotsy totsy Lord and all, but I prefer to imagine it MY way:
“My husband, dearest Parameter, I am about to give birth for the first time. If I give birth to a girl, what shall we name her?”
“As you know, I shall not be there, Clymedia, because birth is disgusting. It will be particularly disgusting if you insist on birthing a mere female. It is therefore wise of you to consult me beforehand. Much as I loathe the idea of a daughter springing from my loins, perhaps one or two of the dozen children you will give me may possibly be female, and names must be bestowed. Therefore, after very little thought, I decree that we shall call her ‘Phryne’, which as you probably don’t know means ‘beautiful toad’ – one who can fascinate and ensnare men.”
“For money, dear husband?”
“Of course for money, you ignorant twat. I need a pied-a-terre on the Aegean.”
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New Shoes

Folks, this post is for shoe lovers only – the rest of you would be bored stiff. Non-shoe people should take this opportunity to read from the archives, where there are predominantly non-shoe stories. Thanks for stopping by!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

For me, buying a pair of new shoes is like a mini-vacation.

I’m not talking about shoes you HAVE to buy – for work, or for an event, or because your old pair wore out.

I’m talking about a pair of shoes you fall in love with and can actually afford to buy.

This happened to me during the big Easter sale at Skechers.

A friend of mine was wearing an adorable pair of sparkly multi-colored sandals last time I saw her. With trepidation, I asked where she had gotten them. I say “with trepidation” because 9 times out of 10, the answer is a breezy “Oh, these? I got them in Mexico a couple of years ago.” Or, “I bought the last pair on sale at Nordstrom’s.” Or, “I can’t remember – they were in some catalog, but it was 5 years ago.” In other words – not a chance I’m going to find those shoes.

But I got lucky. She had bought them at a local store, and recently. To add whipped cream to this delicious happenstance, she had bought them at the store’s OUTLET. The cherry on top? Everything at the outlet was ON SALE over the Easter weekend.

I got to the store, and they actually had the shoes. What are the odds? I was in heaven. I was told they are “very popular”. This meant that I would probably be seeing this particular model on feet all around town this summer and beyond. I didn’t care.

I tried on the shoes, but they were too big in my usual size. I tried them a half size smaller, and they were comfortable, but something was “off” with the right one. Like most people, my right foot is bigger than my left (reverse that if your left hand and foot are dominant, of course), so it was strange that the right shoe seemed bigger on my foot. Oh well, I had my shoes. I could work with the wonky one, right?

Took them home and started swanning around the house to “break them in”. It just got wronger and wronger. My heel was coming up out of the right shoe with every step. Bummer.

This meant I was going to have to return them. *shudder*

One of the things I dislike most in this world is returning things to the store. I don’t want an argument, and I certainly don’t deserve the evil side-eye. I never try to fiddle things – like wearing a dress to a party and then returning it the next day for a refund. However, I am almost always TREATED like I’m trying to pull something. Perhaps you know what I mean. I guess most store employees are just pretty world-weary now, and assume guilt until innocence is proven.

In this case, it was an outlet, which I assumed would make returning something even more difficult.

I was wrong. I am happy to admit it. The salesperson immediately agreed with me that one shoe was larger than the other. She went in the back, and found me two other pairs to try on.


The shoes she brought out were better, but I had the same problem to a lesser extent.

So, it was obviously my feet, and I was bereft – until I noticed that they had the same sparkly braided material in a shoe with CLOSED toes. Hmmmm. I tried those on – too big, and same problem with the heel. I went down half a size. Same problem. Went down a FULL size and – BINGO! Shoes fit! I can only assume that since I have narrow feet and most shoes are sized “B”, that when the back of the shoe is closed and the toe is open, my toes push toward the front, leaving my heel flapping up and out of the heel of the shoe.

In any case, I bought the closed-toe model, rather than the open-toed one. They are adorable. When I sashay around in the new shoes, I feel like a new person. I spend time figuring out which clothes look good with the shoes. I wonder about where I will go wearing the new shoes.

Of course, the thrill will wear off. But for now, it’s a mini-vacation.

Because – when I click my (well-fitting) heels three times – I’m in Candyland!


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The moon on water

The moon was shining on the pool tonight. I was sitting out there by the water, thinking. I wondered how cold the water was, and decided to find out. So I sat by the edge of the pool, and put my feet in. It was wonderful. I know that many areas of the country are still cold, but not so here. Actually, I often moan about how hot it gets here, and too soon. But tonight, there was a moon. It was shining on the pool. I put my feet in the water, and wiggled them, and then…magic. The more I moved my feet, the more the moon reflected on the water. It shot off moonbeams and such an incredible light – just for me. I am lucky enough to have a couple of diamonds. I love the way they catch the light, and radiate. But, diamonds cannot compare to the moon on water. All you have to do is move your legs and sparks fly – better even than fireworks, because more gentle. It struck me that so many of us want diamonds, when we should just be happy to be able to kick our feet in the water when there is a moon shining on us.

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Just let it go.

It has been a long time since I have blogged, and my few readers have long since melted away, so I feel I can say whatever I want, just to get it off my chest.

Can we all please STOP with the why’s and wherefore’s of Robin Williams’ suicide?

Can we STOP with the obscene innuendos, nasty speculations, and ghoulish delight about every sickening detail?

It makes me want to forgo Facebook forever.

Every mutant, jejune, nasty, ignoble, CLUELESS comment makes me want to spit nails.

If you don’t have any idea of what deep depression really means – and those of you who make the comments I am referring to manifestly do NOT – then please do the rest of us a favor and SHUT THE HELL UP.

But for those of us who are crying – for reasons we don’t understand – about the death of a person we did not know, but felt somehow that we did – those of us who feel diminished by his absence – I have something for you. This is NOT for the haters. This is for those of us who feel we have lost someone we may not have known, but who meant something to us in ways we probably can’t process. Maybe we don’t need to. Maybe we should just go with the grief, even if we can’t explain it.

I also can’t explain why everything that follows is in italics – with varying fonts – but I’m copying and pasting – and it’s not important anyway – so bear with.

This is a post from a blog called “Backwards In High Heels”.
It is beautifully put. I only know of it because Stephen Fry, himself no stranger to depression, posted it. It’s long, but worth the read. It is not just about Robin’s death – it goes right to the heart of the evil that we call “depression”:

“Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Never send to know.

It’s quite an odd thing, to cry for a stranger. One may feel sadness and melancholy and regret for so many deaths: the ones in the newspapers which run into horrifying statistics, almost beyond the ability of the brain to process, like the Yazidis or the Syrians or the Gazans, or those closer to home, the teenage car crashes or fire fatalities reported in the local press. John Donne’s lines live always with me:Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.But still, to find oneself weeping blindly in an ordinary kitchen, making an ordinary cup of coffee, on an ordinary, rainy Scottish morning, because of the death of a famous person, as if that person were a best beloved – that is quite strange.

And yet, perhaps it is entirely explicable. Many other people seem to have had the same reaction to the shocking loss of Robin Williams. I sat with a friend in the field in the rain, as the red mare listened, and tried to work it all out. It was not just the straight sadness of a bright spirit snuffed out too soon. It was not only the thought of the family and friends left bereft. It was, we thought, the terrible poignancy of a man who gave so much joy, who lifted up so many hearts, being unable to stop himself from sinking.

We came back to the same line: if Robin Williams could not make it, who could?

Perhaps too there was the contemplation of the power of those demons, which robbed him of hope. If they could overcome such a dazzling, inventive mind, such a good heart, such a glittering talent, they must have been almost supernatural in their agency. The thought of the long fight he must have waged with them was one of unimaginable terror.

Depression is a bastard, and it is a thief. It is random and it does not discriminate. It takes the brilliant and the beautiful, the kind and the good, the funny and the clever. It does not give a shit how much you are adored or how much joy you give or how many prizes you win. It is no respecter of money or class or fame.

As the affection and grief roll round the internet, my friend and I say, as one: if only he knew how much he was loved. There is the silent, melancholy rider: it would have made no difference. Depression does not count blessings. Blessings, ironically, may make the sufferer feel even worse. How dare I be afflicted when I have all this?

Out in the open prairies of the web, where so often the craziness of crowds lives, comes the wisdom of crowds. People are shining lights into those dark corners where debilitation and shame live. It’s a condition, they are saying, as real and painful as a broken leg. You can’t fix a shattered limb by the power of thought or will; you can’t say to someone with a smashed femur, cheer up, butch up, man up. Don’t be afraid to ask, people are saying; stretch out your hand for help. There is help, there are people who love you, you are not alone.

Ordinary people, touched by this extraordinary man, are remembering Captain, my Captain, and wanting to stand on their desks and be remarkable.

I met Robin Williams once. I was a waitress in a tiny café  in a valley in Scotland, and I went over to a table and asked the new arrivals what they would like, and stared straight into that familiar, smiling, open face. I have an odd benchmark of character: I judge people very much on how they treat waiters. Williams was enchanting. He was gracious and polite and regular; he had no sense at all of the Big I Am. He was gentle and quiet, with no trace of that wild, manic, public persona. The other lovely thing, in that small highland village, was that everyone left him alone. Nobody pointed or stared or asked for his autograph. They gave him the courtesy of allowing him to be an ordinary man, just for one day.

I have a fantasy in my mind that he ordered the special lentil soup that I had made that morning. It was a long time ago. I think he probably did not have the soup. I think he just had a cup of coffee. I prided myself on my barista skills, newly learnt, and I made the hell out of that cup of coffee. I don’t expect you can really judge someone on one brief transactional meeting, but I was left with the impression of a very, very nice man. A gentle goodness shone out of him like starlight. Perhaps that is why so many people, from the humblest waitress to the most storied Hollywood star, are so sad.

He did not belong to us. I think of the heartbreaking moment in Out of Africa, where Meryl Streep looks down bleakly on a mound of dry earth and says: ‘Now take back the soul of Denys Finch-Hatton, whom you have shared with us. He brought us joy, and we loved him well. He was not ours, he was not mine.’

And yet, so many of my generation feel as if Robin Williams was stitched into the fabric of our lives, from Mork and Mindy in our youth, through Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poets’ Society in our formative years, to the later, darker films of our middle age. He was so reliably present that perhaps many of us thought he would always be there.

There is something tragically democratic in his loss. Perhaps that too is what speaks to every bruised heart. He might have seemed to live up on that higher plane, where coruscating invention and wild talent and universal fame exist, in the troposphere where ordinary mortals may not go. Yet this kind, funny, haunted man was no more immune from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than the most workaday amongst us.

I very rarely use the universal we. I don’t like to speak for anyone else. But I’m not sure I have seen such an agreement on anything, in the rushing new age of the internet. There are no dissenting voices, no snide remarks, no cheap jokes. There is a collective sense of love and sadness, in their most authentic, unifying form.

In the end, there is not much point in trying to understand or dissect the extraordinary reaction to the death of one brilliant man. In the end, it is what it is. It is a shining light gone out, a brave soul lost, a fighting heart broken.

He gave us joy, and we loved him well.

Go free, now.

12 Aug 1

As I choose this picture, I think:

Tell someone you love how much you love them; take solace in the small things; be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle; lift your eyes up to the hills. Those are my resolutions for today.”

As the author has so eloquently put it, “Go free, now.”
And let us all lift our eyes up to the hills.


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