“SEND A SALAMI TO YOUR BOY IN THE ARMY”
Douglas Leichter, abstract expressionist and collagist whose chief influences are Giotto and Dr. Hubert’s flea circus in Times Square, creates large scale paintings of macrocosmic intimacy, and miniatures that contain the universe in a matchbox. A Bronx born Rumanian Jew, the heart of Tristan Tzara beats in his bony chest. A Brooklyn refuge living in a cold-water tenement on the pre-Beat lower East Side, I met Douglas in the early 60s when we worked at the 9th Circle, a bar on Christopher Street in the Village, he as a waiter, I as a short order cook at a station in the middle of the room juggling lemons and composing poetry when I was not sweating over grill and frialator. One morning, in the after-hours pre-dawn glow, he took me to his Bowery studio and showed me canvases that made my head spin. I shared inchoate poems. Then I went to sea, and lost touch with Douglas, who also went to sea. After a prodigious launch into the art world, and a prestigious Pollock-Krasner Grant, his course was eclipsed by a night-sea journey through decades that took a toll on his health and career. Almost fifty years later, we met again in Tucson, where he’d moved to ease his arthritis as he continued to work in a small studio on large canvases from a step ladder. Shortly after his arrival, I’d come to take part in the Tucson Poetry Festival for a reading/performance of my poems set by composer Dan Asia. He saw my name in the paper, and decided to give me a call. His voice on the phone came to me out of a time-space continuum where atom breaks down into quantum fields, and pre-existent forms of a timeless narrative emerge in new configurations. We embraced as fellow travelers at that mysterious point where parallel lines meet. That was ten years ago.
Cited in various source, as the early founder of “earthworks,” Douglas persists (as do I) in the penumbra of a shrinking historical memory. This is his story, my story, and the story of our friendship.
My Dear Pauly,
Greetings from the world and me. i listen to it through my stethoscope and hear EVERTHING. i sit on a park bench. Approach. i hear it's stillness and it’s pulse. i am the unattired pilgrim traversing the world bringing you and all the family glad tidings.
the attached images are haunting—the globes, large and soft, a huge stethoscope draped around the North Pole, ear to the universe, an immensity that dwarfs all but is expressed in the tiny flowers of consciousness, miniature human figures clinging to the protruding axis andrubber hose. Which may not be the case. I’ve been reading about the latest data in cosmology which indicates through an analysis of radio waves at the dawn of the BB that there have been a succession of creations, and that our universe may occupy a bubble in a Black Hole nested in a larger sequence of containers. What has this to do with Send a Salami to your boy in the Army? I ask you, and only you. My great friend. My unattired pilgrim.
Doppler the Austrian mathematician [who loved salami] posits the closer one gets to that which is being broadcast, our very proximity, increases the frequency. Ultrasound tests blood clotting, weather reports, all from Doppler who loved his Mother as much as he loved salami. Xmarine. Exnihlo. no such thing. This was palpable to artists before there was a beginning. That’s why they began the beginning. That black hole that's the fox hole shared with a comrade, a gun, the muse and of course a salami. It’s recorded in the book of wars. There was a teraphim, a locket of his dear, a hope in his heart, an imagination, disinterested in will and propelled by the muse, a salami, and a conviction to make this a hospitable world unmarred by suffering. In the hole, in its blackness, and outside of the hole, in the light, Mr. Katz knew this from the revolution from Russia to Houston St., a dry heel of bread and a piece salami keeps this world spinning. Einstein's theory unified the structure of time and space with gravity. After eating a piece of salami he decided to include electromagnetism, as well Doppler. Einstein. Hear him playing that fiddle in the hole. P.Sdo you remember chicken salami from the delis of my childhood
Dear Proximate and Approximate Dougie,
I hear your discourse on Doppler, Einstein and the impact of salami with an open mind and a heart altered by the accumulation of events over 70 years that defy description no less reduction to the chicken salami of our childhood, an artifact long perished from the cultural memory of the species except for a lingering taste on the tongues of a few old men mostly located now in assisted living. I’ve been reading up on various Egyptian descriptions of the passage of the sun through the netherworld on a bark full of helper gods and a few animals, foremost among them a snake, the ureaus, which in the hieroglyphs of certain tombs resembles salami. We know that this figure, snake/salami helps move the vessel forward through the opening three hours that is particular as a threshold full of dancing baboons. Beyond that we draw progressively into the depths of darkness where the sun illuminates a particular region in passing, much to the delight of those who dwell there. This describes also what happens at night when we dream and the light of consciousness is directed inward. Also on this salami driven journey the boat touches a depth which is immeasurable, a darkness where no sun shines, the condition prior to creation out of
which all things come, a Black Hole unanswerable to Doppler, Einstein but not Katz, who talked back to it, and who like the sun may have bypassed assisted living and even his own bypass to emerge on the other side of it an infant, new born, the promise of life from decay, which as we know is at the heart of good deli, or at least was in times past, before meds. Of course artists have always known this, and have existed under the protective aegis of the worm, because no matter how many pieces you cut them into they continue to wiggle. I will let you have anything else I discover as I discover it, even though your image of the soft globe beside the hard one says it all.
A lengthy response will be forthcoming. There is much to chew on, pun intended, sad and funny. You perhaps could not make out the details of the additional postcard in my WORLD series, the archival photo of the hot dog beauty Queen from the forties adorned with hot dog accessories and a tiara of salamis. I’m off to Dr. Quackenbush for lab work. Do you remember him from the Marx Bros? well he’s nothing like him but I will not be cut off at the pass by cling peaches and apaches, for I am armed with my salami.
Who needs an army?
Love, meshuganah Moish
I did miss this cheese cake of Zion draped in hot dogs and crowned by salamis! Your presentation of her is sensational, attached to the stethoscope hung on the axis of the world, Anima Mundi with cold cuts, a queen, at the very least a consort, the blue eyed antithesis of dark beauty in the Song of Songs--assimilated but difficult to digest as a whole. Is she a thought-form from the house that Katz built? Did her image in shorts and skimpy bra accompany each package to the boys in our army who arrived at Auschwitz two years too late?
The woman of which you speak is without a name, on a postcard my daughter Pia sent years ago. She is the once-upon-a-time face from the underground, Meet Miss Subway, or Miss Rheingold. How far have we come since then? Whatever happened to Betty Grable, whose name evokes hot pastrami but sounds like a kosher chicken? Moses in the bulrushes. Horace in the bulrushes. Grable. Grable. Grable. Say it three times fast. I will write Rockefeller Center demanding that in this postmodern paradigm of cultural diversity they hang a salami or two on the Christmas tree, honor the ancestors, permit them to speak.
the father of AmenShimmel inventor of the knish which he passed down to Yonah from the banks of the Nile the original form a roll of chopped liver in papyrus. The ancestors call out to us. What do they say? I leave it to you. They studied the heavens and found there the
Underworld and a river that led deeper than it is possible to navigate. What might they say to us now awaiting the first lunar eclipse in 2000 years to occur in concert with the winter solstice? The moon at 3:17AM, E.S.T. will have a haunted amber cast shot through with a salami shaped suggestion of red that snake in her corona. I am reminded of the last pronouncement of the oracle of Delphi when Theodosius ordered all voices of the earth stopped so we could hear only one that is unheard except through the body of his son who muttered in confusion a message certain to make mischief among men.
Tell the king; the fair wrought house has fallen.
No shelter has Apollo, nor sacred laurel leaves;
The fountains are now silent; the voice is stilled.
It is finished.
Brilliant sad funny empty full familiar. i threw out all the adjectives. the house is bare so very bare. Jack Webb’s Sgt Friday, inventor of minimalism, repeated without a trace of emotion, the same request. His persistent anthem,”Nothing but the facts." so much more stubborn than the truth, which exists in shards and splinters, at best enjoying pseudo existence. FACT: TONIGHT AT 10:17 THERE WILL BE A LUNAR ECLIPSE. You speak of the underworld where scholarship is in conflict over the knish. It was in the belly of the whale YONAH MADE THE PRIMORDIAL KNISH. and that whale beached itself on Houston St., where the archaeologist emerged from the dumbwaiter bearing proof with a potato stainedsmile berthed in the underworld . In the guts of that whale Shimmel played his sax and wished knished .That was at a time when the underworld was above the clouds and the mapis mundis fell from a box of crackerjacks, the world a microcosm of a microcosm. and just 2-3 cubits away the Bothchiballalley issued shouts from Toots Uncommon, "Step right up get your lunar coronas, wishes, knishes, and oil cured Sicilian Halo's. Georgy Porgy lemonadepie, i saw Zeuswith a tear in his eye.
that moon photo is gorgeous. Gorgonous. Like something one should not stare at directly. I think moonscapes are brilliant in a way that blurs the inner eye. Or opens it. Scarabs were sun signs in Egypt, which I believe more and more was the land of our forefathers to the same degree as Sumer. A patient had a dream that a scarab was holding his left eye open. He wasn't sure if this was to let in the light from the outside or to look for it rising from within. Is there an equivalent moon creature can check for that light rising, or is that light as seen in the depth still the sun on his journey through the underworld reflected back by a darkness which at its depth never sees the light, remains forever unlit? Unfortunately, the eclipse here was invisible because of clouds but my daughter saw it clear as day in Bushwick, home of the knish, an idea whose time had come
like a new day dawning. And where was that castle of BrooklynKishke King, circa 1953, located if not on Pitkin Avenue? Is his King’s name n.j jaffe, or is that the photographer? Certain artists are like scarabs holding the eyelid open in search of the dawning light from within, the sun who vanished into the right orb as an old man now reborn from the left one as a child. How shall we understand this movement reversing time but eluding history, moving backward into the future? And what did he see staring back into the eye of that beetle? A kin i/ sh /ip.
Here’s looking at you, boychick. Yr Scarab
The night's lately are dark in more ways than one. Must stay away from the quicksand. Leklelka, in Hebrew means to get yourself up. Inevery way .To go, to leave, the energy needed to leave that which is familiar, and go to that promised land be it ABRAHAM OR JONAH. GETTINTG UP IS THE CHALLENGE. and scarabs like so many small moving gems have been a part of me. i shoot the full moon every month and this artists sees so much in reality even if it's just wallpaper and dreams. Dioramas i've made do not let the eye see everything, sometimes just a hint ofa wake, a trail, a smear. need that Lekleka . i made postcards of my photos. i see a voice in the work. DREAMS, SCABS, STAINS, MOONLIGHT, FIRE, CLODS, LEAFS, FEATHERS, MEMORIES rescued from irrelevance, intimacies exhumed, a hand unwilling to, nakedness, the forgotten deposited at the threshold of light shook free from dustand sentiment. Lekleka. your communiqués are like porridge.
Your daughter in Copenhagen sends you a post card with a photo of the Knish King’s castle, Brooklyn, circa 1953. This synchronicity first observed in Denmark by Plank, Heisenberg and Pauli, the improbable entanglements that resist certainty, but leave no doubt that they occur, and have unseen consequences, a physics inherent in Hamlet. My daughter sends me a self-portrait of herself as the Pythoness in her Delphic cave steam rising around her white robed body, her face raised in trance but with a hint of something lost, oracular in its passing, about to come forth from her that will never come forth. She watches the eclipse in Bushwick, observes its corona, the red streak in amber she may recognize as a snake, but does she also see salami? It doesn’t matter. She has moved back to Brooklyn and knowingly or unknowingly contains the story of my life which is the story of yours. I locate myself in your daughter’s reach through time, deli relative to the speed of light and horseradish. More than kin and less than kind. I love the ensemble images attached to your Email, miniature people riding a bee, housefly, grasshopper and beetle, seated as in a city bus on the back of a cockroach, balancing on a coiled spring as if it were the top rung of Babel. They speak in a familiar but incomprehensible tongue.
yes, yes to everything. but the photos of my ensembles are of inferior quality. you can’t detect the scarab in detail, it's iridescence. it's there. Also, in one of my missives i respond to the dream your patienthad and yourtalk ofvision opening, i open, eye open, the [thee] opening. a friend wrote me this, “Kurosawa said, ‘To be an artist is not to avert your eyes.’" he then said, “Your eyes have beenpainfully open.” It's true, but i see the beauty and everything in the omelet, how uncanny the stuffing of the derma, and how it could be from both our sweet breads. So i left out an important PRONOUNwhen i. spoke of your words like a page ripped from “ MY “ diary (that's the surreal connection in the land of dreams). maybe it's our diary. I chuckle when i think of the "PAULI" effect .
we bring what we can to the table. Plank had electromagnetism. Heisenberg uncertainty. When Pauli walked into the lab beakers fell from their shelves and shattered. We have forgotten the “Pauli effect” and Wolfgang’s compulsive lust for tarts in lederhosen serving dunkle at the Haufbrauhause. A toad of a man, he was no Kurt Jurgens, but left a trail of broken glass in his wake. This was not simple deli. Who can forget Dietrich in the Blue Angel, the uncanny stuffing of her derma? An figure that reconciles the snake of time in the Book of Hours with Katz salami: to digest as we are digested. More to the point, I can see the iridescence of the beetle in your ensemble. No need to re shoot the photo. The images you create, filaments of space-time, are hypnotized fragments of eternity, ancestors we sneeze into the salt. Gezuntheit! I’m suddenly hungry for a knish on Houston St., or a sour pickle, but only as tastes that re/member what we have said to each other. In the belly of the whale, moonlight. Tonight, a waxing Gibbous, 92% full. Don’t give up. Until we speak again I remain…
Your boy in the army.