Salad Days (are here again)

I just finished a painting titled Salad Days (are here again).  The painting is inspired and loosely based on a Procol Harum song from 1968. More on that later.

The term ‘Salad Days’ comes to us from the time of Shakespeare and referred to times of youthful innocence and exuberance, when everything seems to be going your way and you are invincible. I didn’t know that until I was deeply into the painting and got Google-curious.  I thought it meant exactly the opposite: times when resources were scarce when all you could afford was salad.  

The lyrics to the song – which are magnificent – let me believe that my original guess at meaning was correct.  See for yourself:  

You come to me at midnight and say, ‘it’s dark in here.’
You know you robbed me of my sight, and light is what I fear
I tell you that I can not see but you persist in showing me
Those bangles that I paid for long ago
 
And though my face is smiling I’m really feeling low
And though you say you’re with me I know that it’s not so
Your skin crawls up an octave, your teeth have lost their gleam
The peaches snuggle closer down into the clotted cream
And for some unknown reason my watch begins to chime
And though I beg and plead with you, you tell me it’s not time
 
And though my face is smiling I’m really feeling low
And though you say you’re with me I know that it’s not so
The sun seeps through the window to see if we’re still dead
To try to throw some light upon the gloom around our bed
At quarter past the doorbell rings, the water faucet drips and sings
And still my reason will not rhyme, and still you tell me it’s not time
 
And though my face is smiling I’m really feeling low
And though you say you’re with me I know that it’s not so
You really know that it’s not so
 
This sounds like a couple that has overstayed one another’s welcome.  They’ve had their decadent indulgence and haven’t yet figured out how to go — hardly the Shakespearian version of ‘Salad Days!’ 
 
There are phrases in this lyric that I love – ‘Your skin crawls up an octave, your teeth have lost their gleam/ The peaches snuggle closer down into the clotted cream.’ I love that one so much you can actually READ it on the canvas in a couple of places. 
 
I’m also fascinated by the idea that she(?) ‘persists in showing me those bangles that I paid for long ago.’ Note, he didn’t buy them, he paid for them. He didn’t lovingly pick them out and make a gift of them to her, he paid for them. It is as if she extracted them from him as some form of payment that she now flaunts. 
 
And then there is this:  ‘The sun seeps through the window to see if we’re still dead/
To try to throw some light upon the gloom around our bed.’  Clearly we’ve hit rock bottom and yet, she continues to insist that it’s still not time. 
 
The song sent me into a reverie about a period of time – roughly 1973 – when I was running back and forth from my home in downtown Atlanta to a cabin in an odd patch of woods called ‘Devil’s Pond’ outside of Athens, Ga. I was having an affair! Though neither of us was involved with anyone else (so it wasn’t an adulterous affair), it was an affair nonetheless.  What made it an affair? We were very clear that this was fun, and there was no future in it for either of us. I know, we’ve evolved and today young people see that as something less titilating.  It’s recreational, friends-with-benefits sex and is about as meaningful as a game of pick-up basketball. But to us, in 1973, it was very meaningful and involved lots of experimentation and discovery.  
 
That is the layer beneath the layer in this painting.  It is a reverie I hold very dear.  So dear that I actually did a small digital transfer of an image of the young lady with whom I was affairing onto the canvas.  It is small and obscured – but if you relax your focus you may spot it.  
 
And to reward you for making it all the way through this post, I’ll now include the full song (courtesy of YouTube) by Procol Harum:  

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