The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for July 21st, 2011

life, matter, and vitality

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Paramount in my apprehensions about this unremembered walk- which began at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, continued down Delancey Street, went over the Williamsburg Bridge, staged into Williamsburg, and continued up Grand Street in the direction of that assassination of joy called the Newtown Creek- is the ideation that something happened to me in the ancient church.

Remember, this unknown fellow from the interwebs offered me information which is dearly sought, the location of a certain interment lost in the ghoulish multitudes of Calvary Cemetery which I have spent too much time searching for. When my anonymous assignee walked into the church with two troglodyte ruffians, I panicked and fled… but a nagging suspicion that something else might have happened in there torments me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Could a mere intuition have sent me into this flaming paroxysm of cowardly flight, carrying me blind miles in a stupor? A delicate constitution and deep physical cowardice are my hallmarks, yes, but a multiple mile flight which propelled me across most of the eastern districts of Brooklyn? Nevertheless, according to my camera card, I had nevertheless returned to the loathsome lands of the Newtown Creek and was standing upon the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge once again.

The coincidental concurrence of my route with certain long forgotten street car (trolley) routes continues to intrigue me as I write this in the sober and controlled environment of Newtown Pentacle HQ.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The tugboat which is often noticed here is the “Mary H.” which runs fuel barges from the outer harbor to the Bayside Oil depot located on Metropolitan Avenue itself, near it’s junction with Grand Street. The section of the Creek visible in these shots is actually a tributary, called English Kills. Two ancient pathways, which we call Grand St. and Metropolitan Avenue these days, cross each other here at a sharp angle.

Metropolitan was formerly known as the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike, and it connected Newtown in Queens with the Eastern District of Brooklyn- Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint. The crossing of Grand and Metropolitan was also one of the stops on the New York and Manhattan Beach Railroad, its depot would have found at the foot of Greenpoint’s Quay Street in 1912.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A theory which guides me of late requires a paradigm shift in thought and perception, simply put- the older communities of western Queens and north western Brooklyn have more in common with each other than they do with the boroughs they reside in. In earlier times, before the bridges, intimate (and railroad) ties knit these communities together and Bushwick has more in common with Astoria than it does with Flatbush.

The unifying principal, the organizing principal in fact, was access to the waterfront not just at the East River- but all along the various creeks and kills which once penetrated inland. The culture which grew along Sunswick and Newtown and Bushwick Creeks is lost to time and shifting populations, buried beneath centuries of concrete and the remnants of long vanished industry.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It would seem that your humble narrator continued down Grand Street from Metropolitan, toward the border of Brooklyn and Queens at the Grand Street Bridge, and area I dare to call DUGSBO- Down Under the Grand Street Bridge Onramp.

This section of the City of Greater New York, incidentally, is called East Williamsburg by modern cartographers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Fear exists in my heart for the noble little Grand Street Bridge, as modern traffic races across it’s delicate mechanisms. Long has it been since boat traffic has crossed it, the last official opening was in 2002. One misstep by a careless trucker and this historic structure would require replacement, no doubt by an economical fixed span.

Who speaks for it, save I? It deserves a better advocate.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An oddity and relict vehicle appears next in this fever dream found on my camera’s memory card, which is most probably a 1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe. It appears to be a loving restoration, although a powerful and enigmatic auto like this should either be painted black or fire engine red in my eyes.

What do I know, after all, I’m some guy who gets scared of strangers in the City and then wanders around the boroughs in a haze of panic and all the while I’m taking pictures that I don’t remember taking…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually funny, considering that in this odd state which I was suffering from, that when seeking a safe haven my subconscious mind bought me here to the Newtown Creek. It has been some time since warnings and admonishments to newcomers about this place have been offered at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

Irresponsible of me, in fact.

This carrion relict of a forgotten age is not the world you know, and those rules and conventions which govern the City that encompasses it’s district do not always apply here. Trucks and railroads operate at high speed along these streets, the very air you breathe is a fume, and there are malign forces long thought dead or neutered which still thrive here. The ground is a broken minefield of powdered glass and tetanus tainted metal, and just below the surface is a writhing agglutination of the very worst stuff that the 20th century ever managed to conjure. Who can guess all there is, that might be buried down there?

Welcome to the Newtown Creek.

Note: apologies for the absent updates this last week, but the City of Water Day Newtown Creek Tour and Magic Lantern Show seriously drained my strength. To be seen by so many diminishes me.

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