It’s Greek to Me
Our painter/columnist Erick Gatcomb asked if I would write something about gladiators. It’s more a challenge than a deep-seated desire, but OK I needed a topic, or at least a starting point.
It’s nothing new to link professions of the present to legendary professions of the past. I know that a lot of country songs like to call truck drivers “modern day cowboys,” and I can see it in one sense—freedom, open road, big country—and I can “not” see it in that it feels like they’re just trying to sell cowboy records to truckers. I’d like to say “I never found a truck stop diner that I didn’t like” but it’s not exactly true. There was one a ways north of Jackson, Mississippi that had the most gosh-awful smell which I finally chalked up to “peas porridge in the pot nine days old,” in that they hadn’t swapped out their hot vegetables in longer than I care to imagine. And there was a truck stop dinner in Cuba, Missouri that stuck with me for about two days before it finally…anyway, yuck.
So sorry Erick, I’m not going to say “painters are today’s gladiators,” and that wasn’t part of the deal anyway. Gladiators were usually conscripted slaves forced into fighting, making a lot of money for their owners but occasionally becoming celebrities in their own right. A combo of gladiator sweat and dirt was often bottled up with other cosmetic ingredients and used as face cream. So there ya go, if you want to be a gladiator, on a hot day you can make a little extra money with sweat equity right after you clean out the sprayer and your favorite brush.
I read another article—and a lot of people disagreed with the premise—that blamed the fall of Athens on the city’s decision to invest money in theater rather than a military. As a playwright, I think this is a good idea. When gladiators were in full swing, such delicate arts like theater took a hit. Who wanted to see the issues of the day hashed out in highbrow poetry when there were sweaty guys out there flinging blood and swinging weapons?
Fine craftsmanship can take a hit when easy solutions that don’t work win the day in the marketplace. “Buy my miracle product and you don’t have to do the job right ever again!” Craftsmanship good and bad is to be had in both 2018 and in 1918, as Erick shared some lines from a book he found written by a painter back in the day. This old volume has some of the snarkiest and most entertaining pages about painting I’ve ever seen, and despite lavishing praise on the wonder of lead-based paint, he takes to task painters who cut corners, do shoddy work, and don’t pay attention to what they’re doing.
Those old Greek statues with sleek lines, bulging muscles, and curly beards were painted in their day, but even the best exterior can flake off after 2,475 years. Interior, it can last for quite some time. Designer and color expert Sally Fretwell stopped making her brand of paint a ways back, but I recently had to stir up an old can for a bit of touchup. Years later it still touches up. And it’s red, on top of everything. We know that putting red on top of anything can be a hiding nightmare, but two coats and I was good to go.
Here’s a word to our potential customers: advertise. Painters don’t care if the magazine is eight pages or 80 as long as the articles are good and your ads have products that help them get the job done. And please make sure when you offer a free sample that you send it, so painters don’t tell on you and then ask me not to say anything.
So this is me, not saying anything…