The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 2010

12 stations of the Newtown Pentacle

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It’s wonderful to be here, It’s certainly a thrill. You’re such a lovely audience,

We’d like to take you home with us, We’d love to take you home.

I don’t really want to stop the show, But I thought that you might like to know,

That the singer’s going to sing a song, And he wants you all to sing along.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Lennon/McCartney)

Its been a fascinating 12 months, Lords and Ladies, and I believe that I’ve stayed on mission at this one year anniversary of this blog. 270 posts, in case you were wondering, some large others small. The blog itself has received a little over 43,000 views and the photos the posts are based on at flickr have been witnessed some 76,577 times. Not bad, and both sets of gross statistics are growing on a nice curve. The number 1 post, historically, is Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant .

Here’s a few of the Newtown Pentacle’s greatest hits, which are not “by the numbers”:

from the very first posting of May 29, 2009:

What is “The Newtown Pentacle”?

The colonial era towns of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and the Queens towns of Astoria, Ravenswood, Hunter’s Point, Bowery Bay, and Middletown were called Newtown in Dutch and English times. In the early 19th century, the Queens villages combined to form Long Island City. The industrial center of the area was and still is Newtown Creek. The most polluted body of water on earth, this ancient inlet was once home to the Maspaetche Indians. Dutch Orchards and English farms gave way to Yankee rail and then Standard Oil as time went by. Today, its waters are a curious shade of copper green, and the largest oil spill in history gurgles back and forth through deep subterranean channels between Green Point and Long Island City.  The architecture of the place is disturbingly heterogeneous. A rough tumble of styles are represented in this area — 19th century wrought iron row houses predominate, but 18th century warehouses are still on active duty in some places. Near Hunter’s Point and in Old Astoria, Antebellum mansions abut hideous Le Corbusier-influenced modernism. To the south and the east can be found some of the most interesting stone work in New York City as one explores the cemetery belt along the Brooklyn and Queens border.
Three million New Yorkers lie in Calvary cemetery alone. In this, the Necropolis of New York City, the living population of Queens is outnumbered three to one.

After a health scare a couple of years ago, my doctors recommended a course of clean living and regimen of physical exercise as the best curative. An amateur antiquarian and connoisseur of odd information, I elected to use my prescriptive exertions as an opportunity to explore and record. I toured crumbling Long Island City, the tree lined lanes of Victorian Astoria, and rusty coastlines of foetid Newtown Creek. Headphones on, camera in hand. The journey has taken me to many odd and forgotten places, and led me to discover a fascinating group of people. Follow me on these long walks, I promise you’ll see something amazing.

from June 4, 2009

The Night Soil and Offal Docks, and Jell-O

Not Furmans Island, but pretty close by in 2008

Newtown Creek from Maspeth 02

I was seeking out some information on a shunned 1960′s religious group which had headquartered at a disused 19th century Satmar Yeshiva (which burned to ash in 1973) over on the Greenpoint side when I read about “Conrad Wessel’s noxious and pestilential night soil and offal dock on Furman’s Island, along the Newtown Creek”. This reference was connected to Gov. Flower’s “smelling committee” which traveled up Newtown Creek in a steamboat during the summer of 1894 to confirm that the waterway did, in fact, smell. The Smelling Committee placed much blame for the miasma which permeated Long Island City, Dutch Kills, and Greenpoint at the doorstep of the bone boilers on Furman’s Island.

read more…

from July 16th, 2009

Hook and Ladder 66

g10_img_6230_jul4_hl66_1.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Just off the corner of Steinway is 38-13 Northern Blvd. It stands opposite the cyclopean Standard Motor Products building, and at the foot of the bridge which carries Steinway into 39th street and south to Skillman Avenue over the Sunnyside Yards. Currently, the structure houses part of the NYPD’s ESU units- the Emergency Medical Squad. The building was originally a firehouse- the Hook and Ladder 66.

The earliest volunteer fire company in Newtown was organized in 1843- the Wadownock Fire, Hook & Ladder No. 1. By 1902, there were 66 distinct volunteer fire departments in Queens. 19th century Long Island City was served by (amongst others) the Astoria Engine Co., the Hunter Engine Co., the Mohawk Hose Co., and the Tiger Hose Co. In 1890, the legislature of New York State abolished the volunteer departments, seeking to create a paid and professional force of firefighters. In Long Island City, as many as nine units were created, and then reorganized in 1894, as rampant political corruption had rendered the new units impotent against all but the smallest blazes. This corruption was centered around Long Island City’s mayor- Patrick “Battleax” Gleason- or was at least blamed on him by his enemies in the press.

The critical date for this story is 1898, when Long Island City joined in the municipality of the City of Greater New York, and its firefighters joined the FDNY.

read more…

from August 12th, 2009

The Terracotta House, or… what is that?

Terracotta House by you.

New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works, LIC -photo by Mitch Waxman

After an apocalyptic fire in 1886, the New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works needed a new headquarters. One that befit its role as the preeminent manufacturer of architectural ceramics.

Built in 1892 as an office for the company that supplied terra-cotta for Carnegie Hall and the Ansonia Hotel, among others. The company went out of business in the 1930s, and the building became vacant. It was eventually bought in 1965 by Citibank. Its ruins can be found at 42-10 – 42-16 Vernon Avenue, across the street from the sumptuous hedonism of the newly opened Ravel Hotel, and next door to the venerable and recently feted span of the Queensboro Bridge. It was landmarked in 1982.

Two and one half stories, the structure is actually the front office of an industrial complex that was once surrounded by a 12 foot high wall of brick, which enclosed an open storage yard, a 5 story factory, and the kilnworks one would expect to find at such a large endeavor. Its satisfying design was crafted by Francis H. Kimball, architect of the celebrated Montauk Club in Brooklyn, and it is in the Tudor Revival Style.

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from September 12th, 2009

a Grand Journey in DUGSBO

g10_img_8033_bday.jpg by you.

Grand Street – North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze upon the coils of the dragon and despair.

Scuttling like some Kafkaesque cliche’- away from those tremulous revelations manifested just up the street in DUMABO- at the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge over the English Kills- around soiled patches of broken pavement and across a sandy substrate of glittering and powderized glass- between towering fencelines whose attendant armies of guardian birds voicing their mocking cry of “Ia, IA” or “tekeli-li” – the Grand Street Bridge is suddenly risen above the Newtown Creek’s miasmic banks- and your humble narrator falls unabashedly to the tainted ground before it. This is a standing stone, an ancient artifact, and like the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge- an urban talisman of those days when the Tiger came to the Newtown Pentacle.

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from October 15th, 2009

Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant

LO… Behold and tremble, for the Newtown Pentacle is back in session.

from Newtown by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A fitting temple has been erected to an ancient goddess by the redoubtable engineers of the DEP, a shining secular cathedral which looms over storied Greenpoint, this is the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (referred to as the NCWWTP from this point on), whose guarded interiors were revealed to an eager public via the auspices of the 2009 Open House New York event.

read more…

from November 13, 2009

Tales of Calvary 4- Triskadekaphobic Paranoia

Cavalry Cemetery, a morbid nutrition 04 by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Near the crest of one of Calvary Cemetery’s hills, can be found what I’ve described in previous posts as “a tree that is fed by some morbid nutrition”.

A convenient afternoon vantage point for photographing the Johnston mausoleum and a frequent destination, a Hallowmas (nov. 1) stroll through Calvary revealed some interesting goings on beneath the swollen boughs of this loathsome landmark.

note: I returned the following Sunday (nov. 7) for further observations, to this alien vista of titan blocks and sky flung monoliths.

read more…

from December 1, 2009

Mt. Zion 1 – imps of the perverse

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What would appear to be a Jewish section of the vast funerary complex that is 2nd and 3rd Calvary Cemeteries, is actually a distinct cemetery organized as and referred to as Mount Zion.

It made a convenient hiding spot for me one day when a group of children on Maurice Avenue took notice of me and began to follow me around. The possibility of some vaguely malign intention toward me, on their part, caused a near faint and I ran away- here’s what happened.

Narrow, juvenile faces, their appearance and aspect were dominated by a toothy grimace- much wider than the usual proportion- and oddly jowled chins. The corners of their mouths stretched to mid cheek and passed well beyond the bulging center point of those widely set and unblinking milky blue eyes- which I attribute to the possibly mutagenic qualities of the chemical pollution of that nearby extinction of hope called the Newtown Creek.

A little girl amongst them, barefoot and carrying a polydactyl calico which was buzzing with attention, pointed me out and all the other odd looking children turned and stared in my direction. A vast physical coward, and unable to withstand even the thought of defending myself against  a crowd of 10 year olds, your humble narrator screamed a shrill shriek and broke into a clumsy run to make an escape to hallowed ground.

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from January 31st, 2010

A Great Machine

Queensboro Bridge and associated structures- “The Great Machine” – photo by Mitch Waxman

Queensboro, whose steel has cantilevered the flow of traffic to the shining city from the fabled vastness of the Long Island since 1909, is merely the focal point of a polyglot mechanism whose works spread into the east. The backbone of New York City runs through the marshy hillocks of western Queens.

As I’ve said in the past:

Airports, railroad yards, maritime facilities, petrochemical storage and processing, illegal and legal dumping, sewer plants, waste and recycling facilities, cemeteries. The borders of the Newtown Pentacle’s left ventricle are festooned with heavy industry and the toll taken on the health of both land and population is manifest. A vast national agglutination of technologies and a sprawl of transportation arteries stretching across the continent are all centered on Manhattan- which is powered, fed, and flushed by that which may be found around a shimmering ribbon of abnormality called the Newtown Creek.

Light rail (subway) and vehicle traffic focus toward Queens Plaza, and within a three mile radius of this place can be found- the East River subway tunnels, the Midtown Tunnel, multiple ferry docks, and the titanSunnyside Rail Yard which connects to the Hells Gate Rail Bridge. This “Great Machine” is the motive engine that allows millions to enter and leave Manhattan on a daily and reliable schedule from North Brooklyn, Queens, Suffolk and Nassau Counties. The great endeavor called “The East Side Access Project” and its associated tunneling is also occurring nearby, which will terminate at a planned LIRR station sited for the corner of Queens Blvd. and Skillman Avenue.

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from February 6th, 2010

Crows of Queens

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.

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from March 15th, 2010

Ides

- photo by Mitch Waxman

He died alone, squirming in agony, surrounded by strangers. His last friend and only true colleague had recently used a colt handgun to commit suicide, and the only woman he ever loved had left him years ago. Instead he lay there alone in the charity ward- dying in anonymity and pain as his parents had. An orphan raised by matron aunts who indulged and spoiled the strange child who came to them in their dotage- they left him unprepared for adulthood. He retreated into his letters, wrote his stories, and never knew he would live on in the dreams of the sensitive and artistic forever more.

Just 14 months previous to his death, the newspapers detailed the lurid crimes of Albert Fish- the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, The Boogeyman- who was executed at SingSing. The good old days, indeed.

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from April 3rd, 2010

City of Marble and Beryl

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Note: One of those things that your humble narrator is guilty of is a tendency, when confronted with something alien or unknown, to “fill in the blanks” via an inexact mixing of logical supposition and impressionist reasoning. The opposite of exactitude, this can result in wild ideas and false assumptions being presented and accepted as fact. I would love to tell you which cultic group these artifacts belong to- but the fact is that I just don’t know. Certain assumptions can be hazarded, based on cursory resemblance and observed phenomena, but they will be guesses. Don’t assume my interpretation of things is correct.

Witness, then, what I observed in St. Michael’s Cemetery on the Saturday before Easter- April 3rd, 2010- right about here.

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from May 22, 2010

opiate peace

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is not a dead place, this Creek which forms the currently undefended border between much of Brooklyn and Queens, despite wholly inaccurate statements to the contrary recently presented by major publications. To begin with, there is the teeming human infestation, whose population is in the millions. Additionally- migratory birds, invertebrate and vertebrate water fauna, and an enormous hidden population of higher mammals lurk amongst the canalized shorelines of the Newtown Creek.

from the nytimes.com- an article that gets a lot of things completely wrong, which is surprising for the times, and seems to be shilling against “Big Oil”

People don’t often think of urban creeks as biodiverse waterways, but Newtown Creek was once a rich tidal estuary popular among hunters and fishermen. Starting in the 1870s, however, Standard Oil and other refineries began spilling or dumping excess fuels and toxic chemicals into the water or onto the soil, slowly poisoning the ecosystem.

read more…

We are just getting started, Lords and Ladies, on this very bumpy ride through the realities of the Newtown Pentacle.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 29, 2010 at 2:05 pm

delight and understanding

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Witness the endless roads of the Newtown Pentacle, weaving in and amongst all those tribes of man gathered in western Queens, as along them walks a pedantic soliloquy. Your humble narrator, returned from familial duty and participation in a culture which has became alien, continues.

In a somewhat lucky turn, the video card on my mac went sour on Wednesday, and failed attempts at repair or replacement here in New York have resulted in my having to order the part from Apple which (in conjunction with the holiday weekend) means that I won’t have a working mac until at least next tuesday. I’m working off a late model laptop in the interim (just in case you were wondering), but processing and publishing photos or any “heavy” work is on hold. Luckily, I’ve managed to completely sublimnate the situation I can do nothing about (the funeral) by throwing myself bodily at the one I could (securing a replacement part). A shame, since I took some lovely shots of the post interment gravesite.

Yikes.

If anyone has an AGP bus ATi Radeon 9800 XT with 256mb they don’t need for a few days (or ever again), contact me.

from wikipedia

A belief in magic as a means of influencing the world seems to have been common in all cultures. There was considerable overlap between beliefs and practices that were religious and those that were magical, such that their mutual influence was significant. In many cases it becomes difficult or impossible to draw any meaningful line between beliefs and practices that are magical versus those that are religious. Communal rites and celebrations contained elements of both religion and magic. Over time, especially within the specific religious context of western monotheism as expressed in the Abrahamic religions, religiously-based supernatural events (“miracles”) acquired their own flavor, and became separated in those religious worldviews from standard magic.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Weather permitting, I’m planning on walking one of the great patterns, here in the Newtown Pentacle. The “beat”, as Our Lady of the Pentacle has heard it referred to in the past. St. Michael’s needs to be checked in on, as a full moon has just passed. Calvary demands inspection, as well as the distaff hinterlands of that lugubrious waterway called the Newtown Creek. Perhaps a trip to Mt. Zion will clear my head, or a walk over one of our many Newtown bridges or a stroll through Tower Town. Promises of holiday parties and ribald evenings here in centuried Astoria are being discussed by area wags as well. Perhaps it is for the best that the mac is down for a few days, so that life can go on. One thought though, a single question- felt in enigmatic sense impacts rather than being heard- echoes in my mind…

from wikipedia

Aninut

The first stage of mourning is aninut, or “[intense] mourning.” An onen (a person in aninut) is considered to be in a state of total shock and disorientation. Thus the onen is exempt from performing mitzvot that require action (and attention), such as praying and reciting blessings, wearing tefillin (phylacteries), in order to be able to tend unhindered to the funeral arrangements.

Aninut lasts until the burial is over, or, if a mourner is unable to attend the funeral, from the moment he is no longer involved with the funeral itself.

Avelut

Aninut is immediately followed by avelut (“mourning”). An avel (“mourner”) does not listen to music or go to concerts, and does not attend any joyous events or parties such as marriages or Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, unless absolutely necessary. (If the date for such an event has already been set prior to the death, it is strictly forbidden for it to be postponed or canceled.)

Avelut consists of three distinct periods.

Shiva – Seven days

The first stage of avelut is shiva (Hebrew: שבעה ; “seven”), a week-long period of grief and mourning. Observance of shiva is referred to by English-speaking Jews as “sitting shiva”. During this period, mourners traditionally gather in one home and receive visitors.

It is considered a great mitzvah (commandment) of kindness and compassion to pay a home visit to the mourners. Traditionally, no greetings are exchanged and visitors wait for the mourners to initiate conversation. The mourner is under no obligation to engage in conversation and may, in fact, completely ignore his/her visitors.

Visitors will traditionally take on more of the hosting role when attending a Shiva. Often bringing food and serving it to the mourning family and other guests. The mourning family will often avoid any cooking or cleaning during the Shiva period and those responsibilities become those of visitors.

There are various customs as to what to say when taking leave of the mourner(s). One of the most common is to say to them:

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

Hamakom y’nachem etkhem b’tokh sha’ar avelei tziyon viyrushalayim:

“The Omnipresent will comfort you (pl.) among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”

Depending on their community’s customs, others may also add such wishes as: “You should have no more tza’ar (‘pain’)” or “You should have only simchas (‘celebrations’)” or “we should hear only good news (besorot tovot) from each other” or “I wish you long life”.

Traditionally, prayer services are organised in the house of mourning. It is customary for the family to lead the services themselves.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Gilman… where is Gilman?

from “Searches Into the History of the Gillman or Gilman Family, Including the Various Branches in England, Ireland, America and Belgium by Arthur Gilman

The appointment of Geoffrey Gilmyn as ‘ Custodian of the gate of the King’s Castle at Canterbury’ was made when Edward III. was at York engaged in the expedition against the Scots who had invaded Cumberland. No doubt he felt, during his absence in the North, he could depend on the loyalty of the Bristol townsman, Geoffrey Gilmyn, hence his appointment by Writ of Privy Seal and mandate in pursuance to the Sheriff of Kent.

Geoffrey Gilmyn probably continued to reside in Canterbury or the neighbourhood and left descendants in the county. In the year 1431, two brothers, living at Wittersham, near Appledore, in Kent, were convicted before the Archbishop of Canterbury of heresy and Lollardie and of harbouring heretical teachers, especially one Peter Gylmyn. “Mandatum factum ad vocandum hereticos ad penetenciam,” Arc (MSS. of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.)

In 1478 Richard Gilmyn, Brother of the Hospital of Saint Harboldowne, situated about one mile from Canterbury, died ; his will, proved in the Consistory Court of that Cathedral City, shows the continuance of Geoffrey’s descendants in or near Canterbury.

The Hospital of St. Nicholas, at Harbledown (as now spelt), was founded in 1084, by Archbishop Lanfranc, for lepers: those poor outcasts from society, suffering from a loathsome disease, cared for by none, and on whom none but a ‘ religious ‘ would attend. Brother Gilmyn had no doubt devoted his life to the work and was a ‘ Father Damien’ of that period. In course of time the terrible disease has been stamped out in this country, and the ‘ Hospital’ now consists of almshouses, being a range of cottages and gardens, with a large common hall in the centre and a fine old church, consisting of chancel, nave and tower. A prior, chaplain and steward now preside over the establishment.

Harbledown is situated one mile from the West Gate of Canterbury, on the road from London, on high ground from which one of the most beautiful views of Canterbury greeted the pilgrim in ancient times on his journey to the shrine of St. Thomas-aBecket.

Here the first sight of his journey’s goal burst upon his vision. Nothing could be more striking than the great mass of the Cathedral, with the hooded outline of the Chapter House lying monk-like beside it, lifting its deep shadows against the clear blue of the mid-day sky, or flushed all over with the rosy glow of sunset. Far in the distance are visible the white cliffs of Pegwell Bay, under which Augustine landed on his mission to subject the English Church to Roman influence.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 28, 2010 at 2:30 am

Eulogy

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Kinda personal post today, its been a bad day.

Yesterday, Tuesday the 25th, your humble narrator was helping out on a Working Harbor Committee tour of New York Harbor. The goal of this tour was to encourage a group of inner city kids to continue their education beyond secondary school and to present the notion of a career in the maritime industries for their consideration. Several notable speakers made the case while I shot pictures of the event, and of course- passing tugboats and other watercraft. That’s when the phone rang.

It was a Doctor, a nursing home staffer on Staten Island that had been caring for my Mom. He adjured me to make all haste toward their facility as her time was near. Trapped onboard the ship, however, I would either need to return to Manhattan and catch the Staten Island Ferry or jump ship and swim – the irony was that my actual location in the Kill Van Kull was a mere mile from their inland location. Within moments, the phone rang again, and the Doctor informed me that Mom had died.

from wikipedia

The Kill Van Kull is a tidal strait approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1,000 feet (305 m) wide between Staten Island, New York and Bayonne, New Jersey in the United States.[1] Spanned by the Bayonne Bridge, it is one of the most heavily travelled waterways in the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Kill Van Kull connects Newark Bay with Upper New York Bay. The Robbins Reef Light marks the eastern end, and Bergen Point its western end. Historically it has been one of the most important channels for the commerce of the region, providing a passage for marine traffic between Upper Bay and the industrial towns of northeastern New Jersey. During the colonial era it played a significant role in travel between New York and the southern Thirteen Colonies, with passengers changing from ferries to coaches at Elizabethtown. Since the final third of the 20th century, it has provided the principal access for ocean-going container ships to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the busiest port facility in the eastern United States, and Howland Hook Marine Terminal.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My mother has been dying for nearly 10 years, with periods of intense illness followed by long lulls spent in a half life of pharmacological stasis. Her once vast intellect had shattered, her body weakened, and finally her physicians ordered her to give up the smart little apartment she had bankrupted herself for. She checked into a nursing home, which was her last mailing address.

Suffering from dementia, she ended up on the sixth floor, where the screamers are. Her life became something very close to my personal vision of hell- an institutionalized and undignified existence without a shred of freedom or self determination. Confused, sick, confined.

Don’t get me wrong, the old lady was no angel, this isn’t one of those stories. Just like every other post here, at your Newtown Pentacle, this description of her fate was neither good nor bad- it just is.

Today, a priest who never met anybody in my family will officiate at a ceremony in some town on Long Island that we have no connection to at a burial ground which adheres to a peripheral and unfamiliar religious system. He will speak in a language that nobody present will understand, and say prayers that were ancient when Rome was founded. At the end of it, the extended family will disperse to diners.

People will try to comfort me, offer open ended promises, and search my face for emotional cues to follow. Problem is that I’m a cold fish, very hard to read, and will appear aloof. Nobody can do or say anything right now, and the offers are appreciated, but one of the traits my Mom beat into me was “freak out later, take care of business now”.

from wikipedia

The Jewish funeral consists of burial, also known as interment. Cremation is not considered a viable possibility. Burial is considered to allow the body to decompose naturally. Burial is intended to take place in as short an interval of time after death as possible. Jewish law forbids embalming. Displaying of the body prior to burial does not take place.

In Israel the Jewish funeral service will usually commence at the burial ground. In the United States and Canada, the funeral service will either commence at a funeral home or at the cemetery. Occasionally the service will commence at a synagogue. In the case of a very prominent individual the funeral service can begin at a synagogue or a yeshivah. If the funeral service begins at a point other than at the cemetery the entourage accompanies the body in a procession to the cemetery. The funeral itself, the procession, the burial, are referred to by the word levayah, meaning “accompanying.”

Levayah means “accompaniment” because the funeral procession involves accompanying the body to the place of burial. Levayah is Hebrew and it also indicates “joining” and “bonding.” This aspect of the meaning of the word levayah conveys the implication of a commonality between the “souls” of the living and the dead.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The great commonality of human existence is that nobody dies well. There is no “good death”. As long time readers can attest, I understand the actual physical processes of death in arcane detail, and it ain’t nice.

Mom, however, died in a bed with a team of experts doing their level best (within the legal restrictions of her wish to not be subjected to “heroic measures” commonly called a DNR order) to save her. How lucky, and wonderful an end, for in her last moments- Mom had regained control over her life again. That’s something.

The Pentacle won’t be updating with anything new for a day or so, your humble narrator has to engage with the funerary industrial complex for the next couple of days.

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi, indeed.

from wikipedia

A do not resuscitate document is a binding legal document that states resuscitation should not be attempted if a person suffers cardiac or respiratory arrest. Abbreviated DNR, such an order may be instituted on the basis of an advance directive from a person, or from someone entitled to make decisions on their behalf, such as a health care proxy.

DNR documents are widespread in some countries and unavailable in others. In countries where a DNR is unavailable the decision to end resuscitation is made solely by physicians.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 26, 2010 at 1:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

a mediocre fellow

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Fragile and mercurial in temperament, your humble narrator has been suffering from stormy weather of late. Sleep has been an elusive and foresworn luxury, and a season of tumult has settled over Newtown Pentacle HQ, here in the silken heart of Astoria. Seismic twistings of my little world are underway, again.

Always, I must remain, an Outsider.

from wikipedia

In Western philosophy, misanthropy is connected to isolation from human society. In Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates defines the misanthrope in relation to his fellow man: “Misanthropy develops when without art one puts complete trust in somebody thinking the man absolutely true and sound and reliable and then a little later discovers him to be bad and unreliable…and when it happens to someone often…he ends up…hating everyone.” Misanthropy, then, is presented as the result of thwarted expectations or even excess optimism, since Socrates argues that “art” would have allowed the potential misanthrope to recognize that the majority of men are to be found in between good and evil. Aristotle follows a more ontological route: the misanthrope, as an essentially solitary man, is not a man at all: he must be a beast or a god, a view reflected in the Renaissance of misanthropy as a “beast-like state.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Always desperate for praise and attention from relative strangers, your humble narrator has found himself walking in august company of late. In the last months, I’ve met (and in some cases actually touched) a Mayor, a Congressman, a Senator, several members of the City Council, 3 Borough Presidents, and a sampling of those third and fourth tier authorities who actually run New York City.

Heady stuff for one such as myself, and such experiences have been forcing me to question exactly which road I’m scuttling down these days. I’m not crowing about this, rather reeling from the experience, as I am neither right nor left- merely lukewarm.

from wikipedia

The industrial revolution produced a parallel revolution in political thought. Urbanization and capitalism greatly reshaped society. During this same period, the socialist movement began to form. In the mid-19th century, Marxism was developed, and socialism in general gained increasing popular support, mostly from the urban working class. Without breaking entirely from the past, Marx established the principles which would be used by the future revolutionaries of the 20th century namely Lenin, Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. Although Hegel’s philosophy of history is similar to Kant’s, and Marx’s theory of revolution towards the common good is partly based on Kant’s view of history, Marx is said to have declared that on the whole, he was just trying to straighten out Hegel who was actually upside down. Unlike Marx who believed in historical materialism, Hegel believed in the Phenomenology of Spirit.[18] Be that as it may, by the late 19th century, socialism and trade unions were established members of the political landscape. In addition, the various branches of anarchism, with thinkers such as Bakunin, Proudhon or Kropotkin, and syndicalism also gained some prominence. In the Anglo-American world, anti-imperialism and pluralism began gaining currency at the turn of the century.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Politics are a nasty business, one I have little interest in other than as a spectator sport.

I find myself pining for the empty streets of Long Island City, the canalized horrors of Newtown Creek, and the mysteries of Calvary. These places, and their stories, have become like old friends to me and I’m missing their company. The other night, engaged in conversation with a known and influential member of the national Republican party, I was told that my politics are far left. Just a week or two ago, the horror and shock exhibited by a group of so called leftists I was sharing a bottle with at a local bar, as I argued against a few meme based theories and “accepted truths”, was followed by accusations of my membership in some mythical Nazi party and fidelity to a debauched national mythology.

Sigh…

What can I say, other than that technology and progress is part of the answer, and not all of the problem.

from wikipedia

The terms “left” and “right” appeared during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. (The seating may have been influenced by the tradition of the English parliament, where the monarch’s ministers sit to the speaker’s right, while the opposition sit to his or her left.) One deputy, the Baron de Gauville explained, “We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp”. However the Right opposed the seating arrangement because they believed that deputies should support private or general interests but should not form factions or political parties. The contemporary press occassionally used the terms “left” and “right” to refer to the opposing sides.

When the National Assembly was replaced in 1791 by a Legislative Assembly composed of entirely new members the divisions continued. “Innovators” sat on the left, “moderates” gathered in the center, while the “conscientous defenders of the constitution” found themselves sitting on the right, where the defenders of the ancien regime had previously gathered. When the succeeding National Convention met in 1792, the seating arrangement continued, but following the coup d’etat of June 2, 1793, and the arrest of the Girondins, the right side of the assembly was deserted, and any remaining members who had sat there moved to the center. However following the Thermidorian Reaction of 1794 the members of the far left were excluded and the method of seating was abolished. The new constitution included rules for the assembly that would “break up the party groups”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s funny the way that the culture has fractured, around outdated 19th century descriptors like republic, capitalism, or socialism, or even the “nation state“. The whole notion of right and left is a relict of earlier times, and the ideation of the New York megalopolis being confined to its legal borders is ridiculous. Our local economy, even in its current state, is greater than that of most countries. Somehow though, everybody seems to be parroting the same lines on the left- and the right has fractured into a million little pieces. Everyone is pissed off, all the time, and ready for battle…

from wikipedia

The economy of New York City is the largest regional economy in the United States and the second largest city economy in the world after Tokyo.  Along with London, New York City is the leading financial center of the world and a premier headquarters location for leading global financial services companies. New York is distinctive for its high concentrations of advanced service sector firms in fields such as law, accountancy, banking and management consultancy.

The financial, insurance, health care, and real estate industries form the basis of New York’s economy. The city is also the most important center for mass media, journalism and publishing in the United States, and is the preeminent arts center in the country. Creative industries such as new media, advertising, fashion, design and architecture account for a growing share of employment, with New York City possessing a strong competitive advantage in these industries. Manufacturing, although declining, remains consequential.

The New York Stock Exchange is by far the largest stock exchange in the world by market capitalization of listed companies. The NASDAQ electronic exchange has the most companies listed and is third largest in the world by market capitalization of listed companies.

The New York metropolitan area had an estimated gross metropolitan product of $1.13 trillion in 2005, the largest regional economy in the United States. The city’s economy accounts for the majority of the economic activity in the states of New York and New Jersey.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Meanwhile, that omniscient thing- which neither sleeps nor breathes nor lives but eternal hungers- looks down from the megalith, amused by the ants.

Musings about the politicians and the philosophies of the bosses stop here, though, on the street…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

…where the wise asses are and the tyranny of “the real” begins. It is going to be a hot summer, I think, the sort of season we haven’t seen since the 1970’s in New York.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 25, 2010 at 10:05 am

Who can guess…

with 2 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hatches abound in the Newtown Pentacle, dimly lit tunnels to another world. On the surface- logo, design, manufacturers marks- all indicate the existence of former incarnations of the City. The BSBQ identifier on the one above means that it was installed by the Bureau of Sewers, Borough of Queens, and I saw it in ancient Maspeth.

an incomplete list from wikipedia

This is a list of manhole cover markings found in New York City.

  • Bell System
  • BMT = Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation
  • BRT = Brooklyn Rapid Transit
  • BSBQ = Bureau of Sewers, Borough of Queens
  • CT&ES Co. = Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company
  • ConEdison = Consolidated Edison
  • Con Edison Co. = Consolidated Edison
  • ECS Co. LIM = Empire City Subway Company Limited
  • EDISON = Edison
  • FDNY = FDNY
  • GAS = Brooklyn Union Gas
  • IRT = Interborough Rapid Transit
  • LIC = Long Island City
  • NYM = New York Municipal Railway
  • QMT = Queens Midtown Tunnel
  • RTS = Rapid Transit System
  • NY&QEL&PCo = New York & Queens Electric Light & Power Company
  • BPM = Manhattan Borough Monument

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the lid of a coal chute, found on Broadway in Astoria. A near identical model was shot by Kschlot1 at flickr, check it out. This kind of relict is actually the origin of one the mottos here at Newtown Pentacle- Who can guess, what else there may be, that might be buried down there?

from good.is

The Knickerbocker sewer is a 12-foot wide intestinal tract that runs beneath the streets of Brooklyn. Flashlight beams falter at 50 feet against the tunnel’s swirling vapors. Wading knee-deep through the bacterial wash, it’s difficult not to imagine what, exactly, constitutes the inches of silt between the sole of one’s rubber boot and the sewer floor. It is here, where the city breathes and belches, where Steve feels most at home.

As he wades upstream one winter night, he runs his hand along the sewer’s red masonry walls, a 120-year-old vestige of a time when New York was a city built in brick. Duncan is wearing hip-high rubber boots, a headlamp and a respirator to protect him from the fumes. He also brought his tripod, a camera bag and Shane Perez, a 26-year-old photographer with a mohawk, whose personal interest in urban exploration centers on shooting nude women in abandoned industrial plants.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Commonly referred to as manhole covers by everyday New Yorkers, these iron plates can serve as guideposts to the hidden underworld and occluded past. Often, wonderings of this underground system and all that which might dwell in the sunless depths below our great human hive spark moments of terror in your humble narrator. This one is from Ridgewood, incidentally.

from nytimes.com

For decades, city workers and contractors who want to make any change to New York’s vast water and sewer networks have had to retrieve browning maps, drawn by draftsmen and stored away in each borough hall and the department offices in Queens. To help them find the sewer and water main maps — some dating back to the Civil War — city clerks have had to consult indexes, created by each borough before the city was unified in 1898. The maps were cataloged on 3-by-5-inch cards.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 25, 2010 at 5:05 am

Posted in Photowalks, Pickman

Tagged with , ,

Project Firebox 5

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Project Firebox, 1314 – photo by Mitch Waxman

Storied and replete with historical allegories and cautionary tales, Greenpoint in Brooklyn hosts some of New York’s most ancient street furniture. This survivor of the 20th century, I am told by certain reputable experts, would have had a lit globe at its summit when new. Said globe would light to indicate to arriving firefighters where the fire alarm was raised. This is on Provost street, near the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

As it turns out, Provost street is named for one of the original European settlers of Greenpoint:

from nyc-architecture.com

The Praa’s and Volchertsen’s, together, with the Mesorole’s, Calyer’s, Provoost’s, and Bennet’s formed the core of settler farmer families that lived and flourished on the land consisting of Green Point. They and their ancestors would do so for almost 200 years. The fertile land provided enough to supply the needs of the families that toiled on the land, and an abundant excess to trade at nearby markets. Each family kept a large row boat on the river to transport their harvest to the markets downstream in the emerging cities of Williamsburg and Brooklyn, and across the river in New York. Thus, Green Point became a major agricultural center and breadbasket for the area. It’s grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables and livestock made it possible for others to take up other trades in the New World, and contributed to the overall success of the pioneer efforts of that era.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 24, 2010 at 11:05 pm

MV Red Hook at Brooklyn Bridge

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle suffers much for my obsessions with the municipal sewage infrastructure of the City of Greater New York. Endless hours of monotone exposition greets her whenever a significant appliance or facility is encountered, and today you- lords and ladies- will share her pain. That’s the M/V Red Hook sludge boat soldiering down the East River, and passing beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

from wikipedia

Contemporaries marveled at what technology was capable of and the bridge became a symbol of the optimism of the time. John Perry Barlow wrote in the late 20th century of the “literal and genuinely religious leap of faith” embodied in the Brooklyn Bridge … “the Brooklyn Bridge required of its builders faith in their ability to control technology.”

References to “selling the Brooklyn Bridge” abound in American culture, sometimes as examples of rural gullibility but more often in connection with an idea that strains credulity. For example, “If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.” References are often nowadays more oblique, such as “I could sell you some lovely riverside property in Brooklyn …”. George C. Parker and William McCloundy are two early 20th-century con-men who had (allegedly) successfully perpetrated this scam on unwitting tourists. The 1949 Bugs Bunny cartoon Bowery Bugs is a joking reference to Bugs “selling” a story of the Brooklyn Bridge to a naive tourist.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Speculative destinations for the Red Hook could include storied Greenpoint, where the product of the Temple of Cloacina might require transport, or the Wards Island facility where the syrupy product of New York’s human infestation will be dewatered and processed into cakes of concentrated nightsoil.

from nyc.gov

Sludge treatment

The following are typical stages of the sludge treatment process.

Thickening

The sludge produced by primary and secondary treatment is approximately 99% water and must be concentrated to enable its further processing. Thickening tanks allow the sludge to collect, settle and separate from the water for up to 24 hours. The water is then sent back to the head of the plant or to the aeration tanks for additional treatment.

Digestion

After thickening, the sludge is further treated to make it safer for the environment. The sludge is placed in oxygenfree tanks, called digesters, and heated to at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit for between 15 to 20 days. This stimulates the growth of anaerobic bacteria, which consume organic material in the sludge. Unlike the bacteria in the aeration tanks, these bacteria thrive in an oxygen-free or “anaerobic” environment. The digestion process stabilizes the thickened sludge by converting much of the material into water, carbon dioxide and methane gas. The black sludge that remains after digestion has the consistency of pea soup and has little odor. This is called digested sludge.

Methane gas is often used as an energy source at the City’s wastewater treatment plants. The gas may be used in engines to produce electricity or directly drive plant equipment. Gas is also used in boilers to provide heat for digestion and plant-wide buildings. Currently, DEP and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) have jointly installed fuel cells at four of the City’s water pollution control plants; 26th Ward, Red Hook, Oakwood Beach and Hunts Point. Fuel cells convert the methane gas and carbon dioxide into heat and electricity that is then used to operate the plants. This technology contributes to New York City’s efforts to enhance clean air operations at its facilities. There is a significant reduction in air emissions as a result of using fuel cells.

Digester sludge is pumped from sludge storage tanks to a dewatering facility. At some treatment plants, where there are no dewatering facilities on site, the sludge is transported for processing through a pipeline or by a sludge boat to a plant that has a dewatering facility.

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