The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Crows of Queens

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Red Crow van spotted – photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning from a trip to Third Calvary Cemetery the other day (searching for Gilman) to my Astoria, I came across this red van with a disturbingly heterogeneous collection of mattresses affixed to it. This red van is a familiar sight around the neighborhood, personal conveyance of a Crow. For clarity and codification lords and ladies, this gentleman shall be referred to as “Red Crow”, here at your Newtown Pentacle.

Red Crow appears – photo by Mitch Waxman

Crows is a nickname given to the refuse and metal collectors who harvest valuable metals from everyday garbage, as assigned to them here in the old village of Astoria. Some are individuals, others are multi man operations, and a variety of vehicles are purposed to the task. If its not nailed down, and copper-steel-iron or gold can be harvested, a Crow will fly in and scoop it up. Furniture and bicycles are highly prized.

Red Crow goes back for more – photo by Mitch Waxman

Usually an hour or two ahead of the Sanitation trucks, the Crows may be observed on DSNY “bulk pickup days”, cruising the streets with the wary aspect of a Police Detective hunting a criminal. Most are specialists, collecting a specific kind of refuse. Almost all of them are metal collectors, no doubt selling the found materials by the pound down at the Newtown Creek.

This is a surmise, incidentally, filling in the dots as it were-  as I cannot prove what I’m asserting- i.e. I can’t show you a photo of some lump of metal in Astoria, grabbed by a Crow, and then the same lump transacted for in Greenpoint. I have observed the beginning (this post) and the product of such scavenging at metal dealers in Brooklyn, however.

Red Crow reappears – photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the rules of dumpster diving in the City of Greater New York dictates that mattresses are not a desirable item and are in fact avoided like lepers. If its on the street, there’s either an infestation or somebody died on it, and Bedbugs can jump like Fleas. Essentially valueless as a manufactured good, the general custom is for the merchant that sold and delivered your bedding is to remove and dispose of the old mattress- often at no cost. Nobody really wants a used mattress. What, then, would motivate this incongruously well dressed Crow into such an odd pursuit?

Red Crow hitches – photo by Mitch Waxman

Steel springs, the coil structure within the bedding, are highly prized items for recycling. The reason that its not economical for a commercial enterprise to do so is the cost of removing the deeply embedded metal from its surrounding padding and removal of the metals using electromagnetics. Mattress merchants factor the cost of this process into every new bed sold, by statute in some places.

Red Crow adjusts – photo by Mitch Waxman

Not conforming to OSHA or environmental guidelines, the Crows have a developed a far simpler system to separate the wheat from the chaff. They call it fire.

Red Crow ties – photo by Mitch Waxman

Somewhere, whether it be in the backyard of an isolated house in Flushing or an empty lot along the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint or East Williamsburg, the steel springs will be freed and the charred padding discarded. Elsewhere, plastic insulation will be melted off copper wire and tires will be melted open to reveal their internal steel belting. The Crows will clean up after themselves and no one will be the wiser for the extra tax free bucks that they pick up off the streets.

Red Crow done – photo by Mitch Waxman

This is recycling, manifest, incidentally. A crude layman version of it, but the way that things actually work, one of those “Green Jobs of the Future” the politicians keep going on about.

Red Crow drivers side door doesn’t want to open, uses passenger door – photo by Mitch Waxman

I bring this Crow to your attention simply because the history of our times will be culled from sources that promote an oligarchal viewpoint, and the story that will be told is that of the princes and potentates who stare down at the world from skyscraper windows. Phenomena like these “Crows of Queens” will escape the notice and mention of the future, leaving behind virtually no documentation that they ever existed, like the omnipresent “shmata” men of Manhattan’s Lower East Side a mere 100 years ago.

Red Crow resumes hunt – photo by Mitch Waxman

Revisionist by nature, the urge to focus a historical lens on the machinations of the rich and powerful is strong, and desire to know and emulate the successful is a strong desire. The story of the bosses is not all that’s going on these days.

You have to appreciate this fellow, he looks mid-50’s to me, and here he is in 25 degree weather scavenging the streets and struggling to tie down his load. The rest of us just walked by and saw a pile of junk, he saw opportunity, and was willing to go that extra step and do the job. Know what I see, when I look at these Crows of Queens?

Red Crow, notice PBA stickers and window washer duct tape repair – photo by Mitch Waxman

I see that which made America great, and will do so again.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 6, 2010 at 11:23 pm

4 Responses

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  1. […] Crows of Queens […]

  2. […] this be some sort of super Crow?” thought your humble […]

  3. […] assigned this crow a name “Blue Crow”, but both the “red crow” and the “burgundy crow” have been mentioned […]

  4. […] also a red crow out […]


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