It's A Gray Area: My weekly column will become monthly

In 2004, I took an unpaid leave of absence from my duties as a trial court judge and ran for U.S. Senate as a Libertarian. I knew I would not win the election, but I was so upset at the direction our country was headed that I wanted to be a part of the discussion.

Frankly speaking, it was a waste of time and effort. President George W. Bush's conceding the election in California virtually from the outset resulted in the senatorial campaign of Republican Bill Jones simply never getting off the ground. So there really was no discussion, and Sen. Barbara Boxer won the election without much opposition or fuss.

After the election I decided to try to be a part of the discussion by writing a weekly newspaper column. When the editors of the Daily Pilot expressed interest, I promised them that I would write the column for at least a year. In many ways this approach has worked, and it has given me the privilege of being able to "sound off" on lots of various topics. I thank you as readers for affording me that privilege.

But now I have been writing this column every week for more than four years, and for some time I have had the germs of an idea for another musical in my head that I would like to pursue. So I simply do not feel that I can both continue to live with my Thursday deadlines each week for this column and also have the time to research, write and perfect my new musical. That being the case, five weeks ago I called my editors and told them of my decision to put "It's A Gray Area" to bed.

Nevertheless, it has been a great run. During the past four years we have been able to discuss approaches that would guide back to excellence our systems of education, health care, immigration, drug policy, criminal justice and others. In fact, the response was so positive to many of those proposals that I expanded them into a book, "A Voter's Handbook: Effective Solutions to America's Problems," published in 2010 by the Forum Press.

Other things discussed over the years in this column have been the seven major religions of the world, as well as the separate worlds of fly fishing, white water rafting, school uniforms, reading, traveling, synchronizing our traffic signals, a sea horse nursery in Hawaii and geothermal power plants in Iceland, among others.

Probably the most direct result of the column was using it to persuade the California Highway Patrol to cease providing to donors to its 9/11 Foundation some license plate frames that were considered by many to be close to a "free pass" to avoid moving violations. The new director of that great organization also issued additional instructions for its officers to disregard the frames that were already in circulation.

Along the way during these past four years, many of you have introduced yourselves to me wherever our paths have crossed and said that you agreed with this or that column, or graciously offered disagreement or suggestions about further topics to address. Some comments on the Daily Pilot's website have also been complimentary and even gratifying, such as one lady who said that, while reading my recent column about the importance of family out loud at the breakfast table, her teenage son came up to her, kissed her and said he loved her.

Another recent website entry offered criticism by calling my "eat your spinach" columns boring and predictable. At times maybe so, but it is my experience that much of what we call common sense in today's world is far from common. And besides, I believe that if a majority of readers can get even one useful tip or inspiration from a column, the risk of boredom to other readers is a reasonable cost of doing business.

For example, have you noticed that the logo on the Federal Express trucks has an arrow between the letters "E" and "x" in "Fed Ex"? If you haven't, you will never see those FedEx signs in the same way again. I hope that most of the points made in this column have been more substantive than that one, but that is what I have tried to do.

Further, as a result of these columns, I hope you have felt compelled to contact one or more of your elected officials and pursue some needed reforms. This is really important because, as has been stated numbers of times in this column, when it comes down to it, it is our government, and if it is not working we have no one to blame but ourselves.

With that continuing thought in mind, last week I decided that instead of putting the column completely to bed, I would reduce it from being weekly to monthly. So I called my editors and made that request, and they accepted. As a result, in the future please look for the "It's A Gray Area" column the first Sunday of every month, beginning Oct. 2.

In the meantime, thank you for your interest and involvement, and I will continue to try to justify the time you spend on this space every month.

Life is good!

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the composer of the musical revue "Americans All," which is being performed at Vanguard University until Oct. 2, and can be contacted at

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World