As They Say

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Kara Walker (American), Pop-up Book, 1997

Recently, I was an influential member on a docent tour in a lovely art gallery in Naples, Florida.  I tried very hard to ensure everyone on the tour knew that, yes, I know a lot about art.  I did this by nodding my head enthusiastically with key points or smiling widely  at the mention of an artist’s name, as if that artist were a personal friend of mine.

For example, the docent would say someone like, “Kara Walker” and I would rapidly nod my head and then make an insightful comment to my traveling partner/arts patron/mother, “Oh her work is awesome.  She was at the Albright.” My arts patron looked at me with the sheer awe of watery eyes that seemed to say, “The student has outdone the master.”  Or maybe that was just my art patron’s eye contacts giving her a hard time.  It’s unclear and I was too busy showing everyone that I was taking lecture notes on my cellphone to clarify.

While in the elevator to the second floor of the museum, the docent said something like “Don’t worry, we can all fit on this elevator” and then she added, “As they say.”  The elevator occupants smiled.  My head perked up. That phrase “as they say” was of exceptional value and I quickly added it to my English vernacular.  Obviously, as a personal friend of the country of France, herself, I knew I would also need it in French, so I looked it up “comme on dit.” This phrase is so valuable because it can be used to authenticate any statement, regardless of whether this statement has even once been said.  The “they” is vague and thus useful, as it infers a committee or a large group of trusted people.

Here are a few possibilities, but please feel free to comment with your own:

In spin class in America, “Why does our gym insist on playing Fox News all the time?  Well, I guess you can’t eat the chess pieces, as they say.”

In a cafe in a foreign country where no one really knows you or is unaware that you have never actually published a book or a poem, “Je suis le mieuller écrivain dans le monde.  Connaisez-vous Simone de Beauvoir et Gertrude Stein? Allors, moi, je suis quatre fois meilleur, comme on dit.”

To the condescending leisure biker on the walking path who acerbically said, “Excuse me.”

And I said, “Oh sorry” and moved over.

And then she said, in sharp little cocktail knives, “Uh, you’re right in the middle of the path so . . .”

I could have said, “Wow, some people are really a waste of human life aren’t they? As they say!”

And then walk away and point to the gigantic yellow sign that said “Bicyclists please walk your bicycle” that was standing behind me.

But, I didn’t notice this until it was too late, so instead just froze up and then walked away muttering improperly constructed insults that included the word bitch and the word rich, over and over again.  And, then I felt bad for containing such cruelty and felt rotted inside.

Or, to your lovely friend in the cafe who is visiting from France, “I miss you very much and wish we could continue run club and cook club every week, but you know, life is a voyage and we are all ships on the sea finding our own winds, comme on dit.

So, as you can see.  This phrase is extraordinarily handy.

Okay, so I must go and find another art tour that I can conquer.  I think I’ll make sure to use the 100 foot walking-only section of the path with my leisure bike.

nota bena: the photos here are ones I have taken at the Baker Museum  (Kara Walker above and Dale Chihuly  for the feature photo (red glass).  Photography without a flash is allowed at the Baker, however, if the artist feels this is copyright infringement, I will immediately take them down.)
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post script: The texture of that image is from a photo of decaying street art that I took in Rome.