The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for March 2011

pounding and piping

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Ahh, the return of warmth and a fortuitous angling of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself has resulted in a vast series of walks, which form something of a survey when viewed homologously. Temperatures may continue to underwhelm, but the glorious light which distinguishes the western coast of Queens has woken from its hibernation, and so has your humble narrator.

A shabby juggernaut once more scuttles forth!

from wikipedia

Long Island City station was built on June 26, 1854, and was rebuilt seven times during the 19th Century. On December 18, 1902, both the two-story station building, and an office building owned by the LIRR were burned down in a fire. The station was rebuilt on April 26, 1903, and was electrified on June 16, 1910.

Before the East River Tunnels were built, the Long Island City station served as the terminus for Manhattan-bound passengers from Long Island, who would then connect to a ferry to the East Side of Manhattan. The passenger ferry service was abandoned on March 3, 1925, although freight was carried by car floats (see Gantry Plaza State Park) to and from Manhattan until the middle twentieth century. Today ferry service is operated by New York Water Taxi.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Experimentation with the digital image, from both the capture and the processing angles, resumes.

To wit, “single image HDR”, images- wherein (non photography people can just skip over this part) a single raw image is rendered 1 stop higher and then lower than the metered exposure and then combined in photoshop to highlight the “sweet spot” from all three iterations. Garish, the images nevertheless reveal a wide range of shadow detail and highlight compression otherwise unattainable in a single exposure. A digital image, indeed.

from wikipedia

The Main Line is a rail line owned and operated by the Long Island Rail Road in the U.S. state of New York. It begins in Long Island City and runs directly across the middle of Long Island, terminating in Greenport approximately 95 miles (153 km) from its starting point. Along the way, five branches diverge from the Main Line. Eastern portions of the Main Line are also identified by branch names. These branches, in order from west to east, are:

  • Port Washington Branch (at Wood Interlocking in Woodside, Queens)
  • Hempstead Branch (at Queens Interlocking along the Queens/Nassau County border)
  • Oyster Bay Branch (at Nassau Interlocking in Mineola)
  • Port Jefferson Branch (at Divide Interlocking in Hicksville)
  • Ronkonkoma Branch – name given to the Main Line east of Hicksville
  • Central Branch (at Beth Interlocking at Bethpage) – a single track with no stations, connecting the Main Line to the Montauk Branch
  • Greenport Branch – name given to the non-electrified Main Line east of Ronkonkoma

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Highly “monkeyed around with”, there’s just something about these HDR shots which draws me in- but of course, your humble narrator was once a comic book artist and is naturally drawn toward these sorts of primary colorscapes. This section of the megalopolis could easily be called “Gotham” rather than “Long Island” City.

I would be remiss if the arrts-arrchives pages of historic photos and deep historical insight weren’t linked out to, so click here and here and here. These are VERY cool pages, and worth your time.

Project Firebox 23

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Scarred by sun and salt, an eternal vigil is nevertheless enacted on the corner of Northern Blvd. and 55th street in Queens where this centuried veteran holds fast. The tracks above are part of the fabled Hell Gate extension, which ultimately allows egress from the titan Sunnyside yard to the continent beyond for freight and passenger rail.

There’s a couple of announcements coming, describing some pretty cool “things to do”. Leave June 6th open, and be in Astoria… is all I can say right now.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 28, 2011 at 7:46 pm

little memories

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Primarily stated, I really have no idea just what it is you’re looking at right now. Was it sitting on the corner sidewalk of 43rd street and Broadway in Astoria on March 5? Yes. That’s the only factual thing which can be presented about it, along with a studied opinion that it’s some sort of ritual object.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the local gentry had shown me a cell phone photograph of something similar last year, which matched the style and workmanship of this object in substantial ways. The figurines seemed to be composed of some sort of dough, which brought to mind the exquisite and artistically evolved sculptural artifices of “Dia de los muerte” or “Day of the Dead” celebrations that emanate from the near equatorial cultures of North and Central America (Mexico, Ecuador, Honduras etc.).

Those objects, however, are stylistically differentiated from this.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What we’re looking at here, and we’ll take a closer look in the following shots, had obviously been intruded on roughly by the hustle and bustle of Broadway with its teeming multitudes. Doubt is expressed that this was the original configuration of these objects, which obscures its meaning.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, the obviously hand molded pieces appeared to be composed of dough. Notice the central figurine with the drawn in hair and face, and the torn lottery ticket. Notice also the grains of rice and coins.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Isolated to specific areas, various odd components seem to contrast each other, which is a standard technique in selecting ritual offerings.

The yellow orange powder in the North East corner had the appearance of having been machine milled, and looked a great deal like a saffron powder of some sort. There’s also a bead.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

South East featured a rough hewn clump with a cocktail sword sitting in it and some unidentifiable brown organics which might have once been fruit or flowers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

South West had this composite clumping, with another hunk of brown mystery.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

North West featured variegation, with a bisected lime, several raw chile peppers, what appeared to be a piece of meat, coins, and rice.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Long time readers know the ridiculous lengths normally gone to at this- your Newtown Pentacle- to explain and detail the meanings of these ritual sites and objects which may be found around the City of New York. Remember the weirding works at St. Michael’s Cemetery, the Grand Lodge of the Freemasons in Manhattan, or the witch knots at Calvary?

This one, however, has me stumped. Anybody out there have any idea what we’re looking at beyond the material and obvious?

Note: All comments are moderated (by me personally), so if you’d prefer to stay private, please indicate it and your message will not be “published” although I’ll filter out any identifying information about you.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 27, 2011 at 12:15 am

Cool Air

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the many startling things about H.P. Lovecraft’s unhappy life in New York, during which he suffered dire poverty, was that his favorite pass time seemed to have been wandering the streets tracking down antiquarian treasures- and He spent quite a bit of his time looking for artifacts of times gone by. Many of the locations mentioned in his fiction remain extant to this day, and sometime over the next couple of months your humble narrator will be journeying to Brooklyn to find the “Horror at Red Hook”.

Today, however, we’re on West 14th street in Manhattan- where “Cool Air” is set.

from wikipedia

The building that is the story’s main setting is based on a townhouse at 317 West 14th Street where George Kirk, one of Lovecraft’s few New York friends, lived briefly in 1925. The narrator’s heart attack recalls that of another New York Lovecraft friend, Frank Belknap Long, who dropped out of New York University because of his heart condition. The narrator’s phobia about cool air is reminiscent of Lovecraft himself, who was abnormally sensitive to cold.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi has christened Kirk, Lovecraft, Long and a small group of others as “The Lovecraft Circle” and this is where they would meet up and carouse late into the night. In the 1920’s, this was a “Bachelor’s Boarding House”, and from the description of the modern establishment quoted below- it still is.

from chelseapinesinn.com

Chelsea Pines Inn is located in a five story walk-up row house that was built as a private home in the 1850s.  In the 1980s, the building was transformed into a charming gay owned and operated hotel, where everyone has always been welcome. All guest rooms and common areas are decorated with original film posters from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Unique stores, galleries, restaurants, and clubs are within walking distance, and the world’s largest mass transit system is just a few steps away, so you can get anywhere in the city quickly and economically.

Originally built as a private home back when 14th Street was the northern end of the city, our building has gone through many exciting changes over the years.  As the City grew around us it became a fashionable rooming house and was used as the setting in Cool Air, a short story about air conditioning, written well before air conditioning was invented, by the celebrated horror author H.P. Lovecraft. (Just as a note, Chelsea Pines Inn has central air.)

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The action in the story would have taken place on the third floor, where the narrator’s rooms were located. Dr. Muñoz would have been at the summit.

from H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cool Air

It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude. I found it in the glare of mid-afternoon, in the clangour of a metropolis, and in the teeming midst of a shabby and commonplace rooming-house with a prosaic landlady and two stalwart men by my side. In the spring of 1923 I had secured some dreary and unprofitable magazine work in the city of New York; and being unable to pay any substantial rent, began drifting from one cheap boarding establishment to another in search of a room which might combine the qualities of decent cleanliness, endurable furnishings, and very reasonable price. It soon developed that I had only a choice between different evils, but after a time I came upon a house in West Fourteenth Street which disgusted me much less than the others I had sampled.

The place was a four-story mansion of brownstone, dating apparently from the late forties, and fitted with woodwork and marble whose stained and sullied splendour argued a descent from high levels of tasteful opulence. In the rooms, large and lofty, and decorated with impossible paper and ridiculously ornate stucco cornices, there lingered a depressing mustiness and hint of obscure cookery; but the floors were clean, the linen tolerably regular, and the hot water not too often cold or turned off, so that I came to regard it as at least a bearable place to hibernate till one might really live again. The landlady, a slatternly, almost bearded Spanish woman named Herrero, did not annoy me with gossip or with criticisms of the late-burning electric light in my third-floor front hall room; and my fellow-lodgers were as quiet and uncommunicative as one might desire, being mostly Spaniards a little above the coarsest and crudest grade. Only the din of street cars in the thoroughfare below proved a serious annoyance.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 26, 2011 at 12:59 am

weirdly afar

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Long have I harbored secret ambitions to some sort of throne, but ironic hubris would strike from its lurking perch. Rough hewn, this specimen was observed recently on Northern Blvd. in Queens, at the thoroughfare’s junction with 34th Avenue.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a difficult retail location, of course, which requires some showmanship and the grandiosity of this chair (obviously a showpiece) made me think about the sort of home decor into which it might blend.

One might expect to find a cheetah on a leash wandering about.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I jest of course, as my personal space looks like a server room, and hums audibly. Personally, I’d love to have one of those Frankenstein lightning things going in the corner, but my little dog objects to the sound of electrical discharges.

Which is how I’d describe this chair- upholstered electricity…

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 25, 2011 at 1:36 pm

shadowy corners

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“they’re building another one?” – photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the final installment detailing my experiences in western Queens, on that day when I finally located the grave of Calvary Cemetery’s first interment (Esther Ennis, 1848), stepped in a dead rabbit, picked up a paranormal companion on my long walk, found myself in a state of “stupendous ruin“, soon realized that my perceptions had grown “bafflingly homogeneous“, and that my senses had become occluded due to “sleep filmed eyes“.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s posting, tardy delivery of content to this- your Newtown Pentacle- has been caused by a cavalcade of obligations. Both personal and professional, these obligations have placed me in a room next to personages who enjoy the highest reputation and standing, lettered academics and eidelons of “the professions” both have taken me to a private corner of the room and confessed to having had similar experiences to those which I’ve been describing in this series of postings- which is VERY interesting.

This day, I was in Tower Town, down by the East River in Long Island City… or Queens West as its proponents call it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Former days of grandeur, industrial might, and utility seem to be over for this part of Queens. Perhaps it is overworked and deserves a pastoral retirement as a park and residential center. Such meta-lopolitan planning is beyond the understanding of one like myself, who is cursed to wander through this infestation of the human hive but forbidden to do anything but observe. When my nervous scuttling and vast perambulations are performed, dark glasses are worn and the earbuds of my iphone are firmly in place- serving to isolate and insulate.

Of late, I like to wear my hood up, but loss of periphery can be a fatal mistake in these places I go.

Perhaps this is why I was casting two shadows.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My companion was familiar to me somehow, an atavist and insistent presence. Definitely male, the image of a double headed ax was impossible to banish from my thoughts as I neared the bridge…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

…THE QUEENSBORO BRIDGE!!! Queensboro is its name, not 59th street nor anything else that Manhattan elites might attach to it.

CALL HUNTERS POINT SOUTH OR WILLETS POINT “KOCH CITY” instead…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

sorry that sort of thing just blurts out of me these days…

At right about this spot that I suddenly perceived that my spectral companion was no longer present, and when I noticed my nervous shadow had returned to its altogether wholesome and expected aspect. Whatever it was… perhaps it was just the moment when “one of my states” had passed…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It was here in the shadows of that great machine called Queensboro that the splendid isolations which your humble narrator so enjoys returned, and roamed once more alone amongst the multitudes. The disturbing vision of that double headed ax though, seemed to stay with me and caused ponderings to begin.

What connection could there be between Long Island City, a largely Irish cemetery, and a battle-ax?

involuntary marching

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Submissive posturing of face and body would be offered were we to meet in person this day, presented in some petulant passivity designed to demand forgiveness for having not updated this- your Newtown Pentacle- after having sworn to return to habits less indolent. Such pedantry is part of the daily turn for one such as myself, whose childhood was spent amongst never dusty shelves of old books while sprawled upon some sculptured green broadloom in Brooklyn, kept far away from other children due to my perilous infirmity and overall weakness of both character and constitution.

I was working on something else, which required 100% attention.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Some exertions require the marshaling of, and defense against, character and sloth. This project of mine was nothing grave, nor was it some occult expedition into the very bowels of Queens or anything. It was merely a presentation of certain bits of lore coupled with data gathered during the pursuit of this very blog, and illustrated with the usual flourishes- photographic and graphic- you’ve come to expect here and from your humble narrator.

Of course, while working on what ended up taking me a full week to produce, I’ve only been able to get out a few times for “my walks”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

So far in March- I’ve only managed to trek the coast of Queens from Astoria Park to Hunters Point, all of Skillman Avenue and then on to Greenpoint, LIC over the Pulaski to the Sewer Plant to Greenpoint Bridge to Sunnyside, from Maspeth to Manhattan via Grand Street and the Williamsburg Bridge, most of Roosevelt Avenue, most of First Calvary, and to all points above from Astoria.

Tomorrow, I’ll try and fill you in on the next part of my haunted walk, on that day when I finally located the grave of Calvary Cemetery’s first interment (Esther Ennis, 1848), stepped in a dead rabbit, picked up a paranormal companion on my long walk, found myself in a state of “stupendous ruin“, and soon realized that my perceptions had grown “bafflingly homogeneous“.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 22, 2011 at 12:54 am

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