The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

was indubitably

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Samhain has nearly arrived, are you prepared?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is prepared for a siege originating in the occult world, and has gathered bags of salt, bees wax candles, and vast amounts of blessed holy water unto himself in preparation for Samhain. One shall avoid descending into the sweating cement bunkers of the Subways after this morning, for who knows how deep some of those tunnels might go?

Perhaps - some connect to the upper reaches of Tartarus (this would explain the smell at the Queens Plaza R/E/M station, incidentally). Mephitic miasmas, carried along by the piston action of the train carriages, might mutate, metastasize, or metamorphosize men into malign or malfeasant monsters. Normally, this would be paranoid fantasy, and a mad ideation. Not so on the holy day of the Witches, when the psychospheric climate is appropriate for the fantastic and impossible to randomly occur.

The Horned God will have his annual dance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Beginning at midnight tonight, salt will be laid across every entrance to HQ, and “Mezuzah’s” will be affixed to each door and window post. Mirrors will be affixed to the doors themselves, and garlic hung from the lintels. I have a couple of those “super soaker” water gun rifles which I’ll be filling with the holy water. Also, a local butcher has agreed to supply me with a few gallons of lamb’s blood today, with which I intend to paint the sigil of the archangel Michael upon my doors, in the style of the Jews of ancient Egypt. Just for good measure, and to hedge my bets, I’m going to render the sigil representing the archangel Lucifer in butcher’s blood as well.

Just in case.

One feels that it’s best to try not to offend anyone, after all, and keep your options open. Samhain, or Halloween, is not a time you want to take chances, or choose the wrong side.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Concerns about certain steel and concrete gateways to the underworld, found here and there in LIC, form the primary firmament of my concerns. As is the case in the shot above, some of these portals are rather large. Gigantic daemon things could easily find their way to the surface on the annual sabbat of the old gods, walk upon the surface of the earth, and unleash the chaos of the pit itself upon the concrete devastations of Queens. Titanic in scale, there would likely be very little that the average citizen could do to combat the influence of these elder things and their minions. When confronted with such entities, most will simply abandon sanity – retreating into the blanketing comfort of gibbering madness, after all.

Luckily - and not many people know this – NYPD issues silver bullets to its patrol units on Halloween and their ESU teams (Emergency Services Unit) atypically bring a third man along on its calls – a Police Exorcist.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2014 at 11:00 am

intoning endless

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A dream to some, a nightmare to others.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were gathered at an Atlas Obscura event in Green Wood Cemetery last weekend, which was a soirée of sorts. Cocktails in the Catacombs is how it was described, and an eager band of explorers responded. Your humble narrator wormed his way into the event, but did not partake or partay, I was too busy working. “How often do you get to photograph a cemetery in total darkness?”, after all. You’ll notice a crude bit of lighting in the shots above and below, which was barely visible during the image capture. A battery operated LED flashlight, if you must know.

It was late evening when I was shooting, the event started at ten and I left the cemetery for Astoria about one in the morning. These photos are long exposure, and tripod shots. To the human eye, there was naught but darkness framed against a brooding sky. Leaving the shutter open for 20-30 seconds at a pop, one can gather a range of color and tone which would otherwise be imperceptible. The small LED flashlight becomes a flood light in such circumstance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Funny thing was that although you know that you’re “safe as houses,” the fact remains that you are standing in near total darkness in a cemetery and the slightest sound – a tree branch falling, for instance- is enough to trigger an irrational flight or fight response. Fear is so much fun, isn’t it?

The imagined stuff, I mean, not the sort that accompanies bad news from doctors or accountants, or lawyers, or the kind of existential angst that arises when you encounter drunk cops or pistol wielding teenagers.

Personally, my days are usually filled with horror of one stripe or another – although more often than not it’s of the “kafkaesque” type – and the wild hallucinations experienced during those daily intervals of fevered unconsciousness – that some may call “sleep” – consume a third of my life and they both terrify and inform.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A recently recurring hallucination of the nocturne has been a scenario in which your humble narrator is sitting at his desk and working, with Zuzu the dog lying at my feet. There’s a white flash, and suddenly everything is darkness and pain. Limbs are pinned by some unknowable weight, and there is a smell of copper as something begins dripping onto my face, and a certainty that one is completely helpless is realized. There is also pain, unknowable pain. Unable to wipe this unknown drip away from my eyes, immobilized in total darkness, a bit of light becomes visible and seems to be some distance away but it illuminates my situation. Surrounded by bloody concrete and rebar, the light grows brighter and begins to assume a hue as it intensifies. Orange yellow and growing brighter, the light illuminates clouds of dust which are picking up on an air current beginning to sweep through mounds of broken masonry and shattered bricks, as the ambient temperature begins to rise. The smell of cooking meat greets. My eyes begin to blister, and all vision perishes in fire just as the…

That’s when I wake up. At least this has replaced an older nightmare – one where I fall into an industrial carpet loom and am torn apart by clock works and bobbins of spinning yarn.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s also a series of “consigned to suffer” and “torn apart by sharks” ones, and a fantastic internal narrative that involves a rapid onset of Leprosy that completely disincorporates a humble narrator in the interval which it takes the R train to reach Manhattan’s 59th and Lex from the Steinway Street stop in Queens has emerged recently. When the Subway doors open in the city, my mortal remains gush out onto the tracks unnoticed. The last thing witnessed before waking, in this fantastic example of Freudian angst about Ebola, is a herd of rats licking up the crimson juice which once called itself a humble narrator.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 29, 2014 at 12:15 pm

wondered whether

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My Bubbe would have described the first shot as “Yoyzel on de cross.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who didn’t grow up in a Jewish family, “Bubbe” is Grandma, and let me tell you this – Sarah would not have liked me even taking pictures of a crucifix, let alone hearing about me wandering through First Calvary cemetery on a regular basis. She was not a big fan of Halloween either, preferring to see the masks and costumes come out for Purim instead. Hailing from the Pale, and having lived through late 19th and early 20th century Pogroms (and other indignities) inflicted upon her rural community by the Cossacks, my Grandmother was particularly suspicious of the Goyem. She instructed that one should dwell with their own kind, because at least then “you’d see it coming when somebody had it in for you.” You have to cut the old lady some slack though, she saw her younger brother’s head chopped off by the Cossacks, who played a drunken match of polo with it afterwards. For Bubbe Sarah, the word “Russian” was a synonym for “rapist.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While reminiscing about transmitted generational prejudices and familial lore, one happened to notice this odd scene at the monument to Sarah Bell and the Kelly family. A doll lay upon the loam, in a position which would be familiar to crime scene investigators. No investigation of the Bells or Kelly’s has been undertaken, but one suspects that their sentiments about the English were probably quite similar to my Bubbe’s feelings about the Russians. It amazes me to this day how much effort, finance, and political capital these two empires expended in the name of oppressing and exploiting rural peoples – the Irish and the Jews of the Pale – over the centuries. The same goes for the United States, incidentally. How much has our government spent over the centuries suppressing – not just the aspirations of negroes and native Americans – but a vast rainbow of minority opinions?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’m in the “if it doesn’t affect me, why should I care what you do” camp, and that’s the end of my progressive neo prudentialist liberal politics for the day. Bubbe would have been beside herself at the idea that some child had lost her dolly, however. She would have used the astoundingly forceful personality for which she was famed, during her “shtetl” and Lower East Side garment worker days, to compel me to stand out in the middle of Greenpoint Avenue and ask every passing motorist if their child had lost their toy until it got dark. The old lady was tougher than leather, but had a big heart, which bled for everybody that told her a sad story. She also made one hell of a pot of chicken soup, which is dearly missed by one such as myself in the autumn.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 28, 2014 at 11:20 am

unthinkable hands

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Adventure and excitement.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Working Harbor Committee’s annual Circumnavigation of Staten Island tour carried me out onto the Kill Van Kull recently, and despite it being a Sunday, the waterway was teeming with busy tugs. Moran, in particular, was quite occupied.

Pictured above is the Barney Turecamo.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The tugs were accompanying MSC Busan, a cargo ship, from Port Elizabeth Newark to the outer harbor along the narrow and busy Kill Van Kull.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Barney Turecamo was leading the way, and bringing up the rear were Miriam Moran, Gramma Lee T. Moran, and Laura K. Moran. All the Moran tugs have painted their “M” pink to raise awareness for Breast Cancer research.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

By cargo ship standards, MSC Busan isn’t that big a boat. Built in Korea in 2005, flagged in Liberia, she’s 324,80 meters long and can carry 8089 TEU worth of containers. TEU means “ton equivalent unit” and the cargo containers you see onboard are either 20 or 40 TEU boxes, which the boat can carry 6275 of.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

must each dwarf

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“They rob, kill and plunder all under the deceiving name of Roman Rule. They make a desert and call it peace” – Tacitus

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving through lower Manhattan, the long time New Yorker cannot help but notice the changes to the area beneath the FDR drive. One remembers a day when this area was used for parking, and also served as a camp for homeless folks. My mental picture of this spot – a dank, dark, dripping waterfront mess infested with dangerous, and often addled or demented, primates – was forged in the 1980’s, so admittedly – it’s thirty years out of date. I also remember a day when Carvel Ice Cream shops were ubiquitous.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’ve got down here in modernity is a very well used “sort of” park or public space. There’s “model chicks” jogging around in yoga pants, “stock broker” guys leading tiny dogs around on leads, and lots of people lounging about. Pier 11 has become a sort of commuter hub these days, and there are hot dog carts and other vendors set up under the highway who charge $4 or more for a bottle of Snapple Iced Tea. CitiBike has one of its bike share racks in the area, and South Street has accordingly had bike lanes deducted from it. Al Smith would hardly recognize the street he grew up on.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In contrast, there’s Queens. This is the 7 elevated subway pictured above, as it leaves Court Square toward Hunters Point in LIC. Now, this is the same block which 5ptz once occupied, and one wonders if – when the luxury condos which will replace the art institution open – some future version of myself will say that they remember an earlier iteration of reality. Of course, many have told me that I watch too many movies, but I’d really love to be able to see the future as well as the past.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, October 25th, Glittering Realms
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

enormous circumference

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Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, or perhaps Goldfinger’s yacht, I would presume…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, a humble narrator was out on the water, and this luxury yacht was encountered nearby the Statue of Liberty. Painted on the hull is the legend “Altessa IV,” which a bit of googling has revealed as being the property of a fellow named Dennis Washington. A Montana businessman of some note, calling Mr. Washington’s vessel a mere yacht does the thing a disservice. This is an incredible ship (an accurate description, as Altessa lV can actually launch two smaller vessels from within her hold). Also, there’s a helicopter deck.

Apparently, Mr. Washington lent the thing to Bill Gates for a family vacation to Belize back in 2012.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

To me, it looks like this ship is ready to jump into the air and transform into some sort of giant fighting robot, but I’m an idiot.

Forbes got onboard, and there’s a great set of shots by Neil Rabinowitz that detail the interior spaces onboard here. Boatinternational.com also hosts a set of images from the same photographer, which can be viewed here.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Luxury yachts are not normally something I point out, but the Altessa lV was a striking ship. As to what I was doing on the water, suffice it to say that I was circumnavigating Staten Island with the Working Harbor Committee and let’s leave it at that.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, October 25th, Glittering Realms
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

devil cursed

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Magickal Astoria, where “small parts and small balls” may be found.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One had no particular place to go, one recent afternoon, but the desire to stretch my roadway interfaces, get away from my desk, and exercise my aches and pains away overwhelmed. Accordingly, a short saunter from HQ down to the East River and back was enacted. Along the way, one encountered these vending machines adorning a supermarket near Crescent Street. The very idea of occult talismans being offered in such a manner tickled me, as it is so very American, and the camera was deployed to record the scene.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Upon returning to HQ, the shots were copied off of the memory card and inspection of the images revealed this lovely bit of legal ass covering incorporated into the signage adorning the trinket dispensing device. The “small parts and small balls” line mightily amused me, but I’ve never really grown up and am emotionally locked into a junior high school level psychology. I’m from Canarsie, in Brooklyn, and you cannot say “small parts and small balls” to me without causing a smirk to cross my face.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Inquiries with merchants and shop keeps about similar retail level vending machines, including the sort of “ride” pictured above, have intrigued me. Several bodega owners have told me that the ride just showed up in front of their place one day. The owners and maintainers of these devices offer a 50/50 split with the shop, I’m told. One or two friendly shop keeps have told me that these machines can earn several hundred dollars a month, money which the shops are not obliged to report to tax officials as their cut is paid in cash. My interest in them is strictly artistic, and I’ve noticed a distinctive set of “hands” at work in many of their paint jobs.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, October 25th, Glittering Realms
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 22, 2014 at 11:00 am

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