Tag Archives: humor

Shades of Gray

“Are you the real John Gray?”

I get asked that by a lot of people. I always assure them I am. I add that my wife is not from Venus; she’s from Iowa.

I have the second-most common first name and the sixty-ninth most common surname in America. An Internet search for “John Gray” turns up at least 76,000 results. Even Googling my whole name, John Clinton Gray, turns up matches. Wikipedia thinks the most famous one was born in1843: a John Clinton Gray who served as a New York Court of Appeals judge from 1888 until 1913. Then pneumonia got him.

I was named after both my grandfathers. Had I been born last week I might be called Noah Mason Gray or Jacob Justin Gray, so to me, my more traditional monikers are just fine. I’ve worn them a long time, after all. They’re well broken in, comfortable. “John” derives from a Hebrew root meaning “God is gracious” and “Clinton” refers to a “town on a hill” in Old English. It’s amazing, but I actually live in a town on a hill, and if it weren’t for the grace of God I probably wouldn’t be here. So, I think my prescient parents got my name just right.

Except, well… there are so many of us…

John Grays alive today include a television news anchor in Albany, New York; a mayor of Greenland, Arkansas; a Canadian ice hockey player; an English cricketer; and a fugitive from the law in Trinidad, Texas.

In addition to the judge, among dead John Grays are an English poet and priest; the first practitioner of homeopathy in the United States; an Aussie rules footballer; a U.S. Civil War Medal of Honor recipient; the founder of Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland; and the first president of Ford Motor Company. There was also a chemistry professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, my grandfather.

Hey, it could be worse. The most common male name in the country is James Smith. Search that, and up come 460,000 results. So, being one of 76,000 isn’t that bad. After all, I am the real one.

John Clinton Gray
February 4, 2013


To The Last Bite

I lost a life-long friend yesterday. For over 50 years I knew him intimately, but not by name. The dentist called him Number Fifteen, one of my four 12-year molars and a veteran of mastications too many to mention. It was sad to see this loyal buddy go; we shared roots, after all. For over 5 decades he knew everything I ever ate or drank and most of anything else I did with my mouth. We were that close.

Number 15’s demise wasn’t unanticipated. More than 25 years ago, a dentist now long-retired, first told me the molar’s days were numbered. “It’s just a question of when,” he advised. Over the years, two other dentists, six highly professional hygienists, and one expensive periodontist all pronounced similar sentences. Number Fifteen’s days were indeed numbered, but it turned out to be a pretty big number.

Alas, yesterday—nearly ten thousand days and some thirty thousand meals later, not to mention innumerable snacks and sticks of gum—it came time for Number Fifteen to give up the ghost. I could have said “bite the dust,” but that would be insensitive. He can’t bite anything now. Toward the end I wished Number Fifteen were less sensitive himself. You see, he’d reached the point where he couldn’t take the cold anymore, and the pressure of everyday work had gradually worn his nerves raw. Worst of all, he was losing his grip on my left maxillary bone.

After examining x-rays, my current long-time dentist shook his head slowly and tsked a little behind his sterile mask. “It won’t be long now,” he said, more to the molar than to me. This doctor has presided over many dental deaths in his career, but I could feel his sadness and resignation at losing another. Or maybe he was mourning the loss of the nice little income stream he’d derived from Number Fifteen. For years that molar had received more attention and special treatment than all his 31 brothers combined. He was high maintenance for sure. And in his final weeks Number Fifteen could, without warning, emit sudden, silent, cranial-splitting screams right in the middle of otherwise enjoyable repasts.

We were beyond the point of heroic measures. I reclined in the dentist’s chair, numbing, awaiting the final deed. I was grateful the pain in my head and in my wallet would both be over. If the tooth be known, Number Fifteen’s pockets were deeper than mine.

Veggies On My Mind

I’m omnivorous with girth as proof, and a gourmand of the garden. Is there a vegetable I cannot stomach?

veggies2 Give me artichokes and arugula, asparagus, beets, and beans of all kinds. I love bok choy and broccoli, and brussel sprouts (yes, even brussel sprouts), cabbage, carrots, and cauliflower. I delight in collards, and eggplant; peas, kale, leeks, and parsnips.


Give me every squash, and spinach, and yams. I’m happy with them all…  But, alas, there is one vegetable the very thought of which makes my throat constrict, my intestines roil and stomach convulse.


It’s okra. Disguised in flavorful batter and deep fried in garlic doesn’t count. You can get most anything past your palate with the right accompaniments, but straight boiled okra… The very word, let alone the vegetable, starts that bowel curdling retch. It’s the texture, the hairiness, the gelatinous interior, the seeds, the fibrous husk… Yuck, and double yuck! Even the most otherwise wonderful Southern dishes can’t hide it.

okra2 There. I’ve confessed. It’s okra, cursed okra…