The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for October 2011

ecstasy and horror

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Although mysticism and the esoteric are dismissed casually (except for the dogma of organized religious denominations, of course, whose every fantastic claim of metacognition and supranormal “logic” is widely accepted as “gospel”), both the syncretic belief systems of foreign born peasant magick and long held folk superstitions are as much a part of the landscape of Western Queens and North Brooklyn as the concrete and steel which form it. The colonialists who conquered the western tip of Long Island were positive that witches, ghosts, and curses existed. Perhaps they were right, and perhaps we disregard their viewpoint at our peril. To wit, check out a posting which appeared here two years back- describing a haunting in Astoria.

The White Lady of Astoria, from a Halloween two years previous.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally witnessed, the vast cemeteries which distinguish and define western Queens and form the so called “Cemetery Belt” offer nocturnal privacy and ritual sanctity to 21st century sorcerers and other bizarre conjurors. Strange altars, burnt offerings, odd bits of symbolically knotted cord are so often observed by your humble narrator in these centuried polyandrions that scarce mention is made of them. One of the more obtuse and bold practitioners of the mystic arts used a certain hilltop in St. Michaels cemetery here in Astoria for rites that seemed to be tied to a lunar schedule for better than a year.

Pale Garden gathered together a series of postings on the weird activity at St. Michael’s Cemetery.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Found on a hill of Laurels, nearby that Lethe of New York City which is known as the Newtown Creek, First Calvary Cemetery was consecrated by the Archbishop of the Romans- Dagger John Hughes- in 1848. Visitors are warned not to spend too much time here, lest that which cannot possibly exist notice you. Sensitives and psychics avoid the place, for it is a font of buried ambition, and those who lie here refuse to be forgotten. Sanctified ground, the odd ceremonies which are observed at St. Michaels cannot take place here, due to the power of Dagger John’s wards, but still certain old world traditions and their leave behinds are observed in lonely corners and atop wind swept hills.

Remember the witch knots at Calvary, which were described in “Triskadekaphobic Paranoia“?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The high art of a prelate like Dagger John, or the disgusting practice of degenerates like Aleister Crowley find commonality in highly intellectual and overtly ritual observances. Peasant magick, however, whose tradition stretches back to the debauchment of slavery and the colonial oppression of the aboriginal cultures of the Americas may be observed everywhere one goes. Whether it is the “blue eye” talismanic wards of the Hellenes or the corner store Botanica of the Latinos, peasant magick surrounds and infiltrates our modern communities. Not long ago, this altar of handmade artifice was observed.

Little Memories described the odd altar encountered on Broadway and 43rd street in Astoria.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator grows increasingly concerned that the dime store spiritualism of pop culture “ghost hunters” is propagating both an acceptance of unblinking credulity and “magical thinking” in our culture. Skepticism and high standards of proof are required for extraordinary claims, and pseudo scientific methodology masks the propagation of a mystical world view which has led the nation to the current circumstance which threatens not just our personal liberty but the very existence of constitutional republicanism. Don’t forget that the last President of this Republic started a war based on the notion that his personal Deity had put him in office to do so. Accordingly, one morning I set out for Calvary Cemetery with the intention of capturing a “ghost photo”.

Scenes familiar, and loved presented what might be a “ghost orb” or “dust” at Calvary Cemetery’s Almirall chapel.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Halloween, folks, and if you’re looking for me today- I’m heading down to the Newtown Creek and will be searching high and low for all evidences of the Blissville Banshee.

I’ll be listening to this on my headphones, and would remind you that the old adage “The best trick of the Devil is convincing you that he doesn’t exist” is most often repeated by scurrilous and ambitious prelates trying to convince the gullible that their particular avatar of divinity does exist.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 31, 2011 at 11:10 am

usual symptoms

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Existential reality and physical weakness govern this day, as your humble narrator is off to the shining city for consultations with the staff of medical specialists and practitioners whose art maintains an acceptable equilibrium between life and death for him. They plan on siphoning off some of my very lifeblood, and subjecting it to alchemical tests, as well as poking and piercing at my increasingly fragile leather with instrumentation whose appearance fills me with a nameless dread. Their prescribed potions will be assessed for effectiveness, and I will face inquisition regarding diet and lifestyle.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Such exposure to the vagaries of science are required by the increasing fragility and easily upset homogeneity of life as one grows older, part of the overdue bill owed to the universe for that lifestyle of youthful vulgarity and distasteful indulgence which I once enjoyed. I prefer to tuck my conscious mind away in a little corner of my head, behind my left ear, and let them do to my body what they will- for that is the whole of their law. The great equalizer in our society is always found in the hospital ward, where commoner and king alike find themselves sitting on a paper covered table while wearing a cheap gown as strangers perform laboratory tests upon them.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The staff of medical professionals which are employed on my behalf are, despite my lowly status and financial devastation, actually quite competent and highly placed- ignoring their vast experience and advice would be (and is) foolish. Weak in mind as well as body, I often dismiss this advice, but that is is part of the strange trade off one often makes in modern life- sacrificing what you know is good for you in favor of the quick fix and a feel good option. Seldom do I leave their offices without dire predictions or warnings having been offered, and today will most likely not be an exception.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 27, 2011 at 9:50 am

inviting grottoes

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were captured on one of the Newtown Creek tours I participated in last week. As mentioned in the past, your humble narrator considers this troubled waterway to be one of the most visually interesting places in the entire City of Greater New York. You can have the skyscrapers, I’ll be quite happy staying right here.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m nearly recovered from the embarrassment and shame experienced after having stood in front of so many “normal people” and presuming to attempt a narration presenting a compact history of the Creek. Cogent and compact, the version of the story of this place which I presented to the audience was necessarily brief- an overview which covered the period of European occupation of these wetlands and the later industrial period which transmogrified it into the current condition.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news for your humble narrator, a shocking and hollow shadow of a man, is that once more I am free from public duty and obligation for a time. The blue Newtown Creek Alliance cap which I’ve been wearing all year is at last hanging on a peg, and will be needed infrequently for a time. Researches into the historical firmament of Newtown Creek have resumed, and the eternal wondering statement of “Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?” has returned to my lips.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 26, 2011 at 10:55 am

high and wild

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Sad and scared today, the Newtown Creek tours were yesterday, and your humble narrator spoke to 2 sold out boatloads of eager enthusiasts. This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken before a group, but anxiety and nervous energy ruled an otherwise beautiful autumn day, and I am exhausted. Accordingly, here are 3 pretty pictures to cheer up the mood, captured recently in the brilliant light of autumn in the borough of Queens. A single moment from the real world in 2011, found on Northern Blvd. is above.

from wikipedia

As opposed to nostalgia – the melancholia or homesickness experienced by individuals when separated from a loved home – “solastalgia” is the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment. A paper published by Albrecht and collaborators focused on two contexts where collaborative research teams found solastalgia to be evident: the experiences of persistent drought in rural New South Wales (NSW) and the impact of large-scale open-cut coal mining on individuals in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW. In both cases, people exposed to environmental change experienced negative effects exacerbated by a sense of powerlessness or lack of control over the unfolding change process.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’m walking around, looking for moments of time to freeze and or document, the movements of my eyes seem mechanical. Up, down, all around- notice everything. The things I seldom photograph, as I find it rude, are the little domestic scenes which make life in this ancient community of Western Queens and North Brooklyn worth living in. The old guys posturing with a bottle of bear, some old lady shucking beans, yuppies arguing with their dogs. My “thing”, however, is found in lost thoroughfares, graveyards, and wherever the night winds are answered with defiance and howls.

from wikipedia

Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Other symptoms include: abnormally increased arousal, a high responsiveness to stimuli, and a constant scanning of the environment for threats. Hypervigilance can be a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder and various types of anxiety disorder. It is distinguished from paranoia. Paranoid states, such as those in schizophrenia, can seem superficially similar, but are characteristically different.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the last week, the two walking tours of Dutch Kills for Open House NY, a private boat tour of Newtown Creek for an elect group of education professionals, and the two public tours on Sunday the 23rd have been accomplished. The massive preparation and study associated with speaking on these tours has flattened my psyche, and left my frail and ruined physique a shattered mess. Enjoy today’s photos, and I’ll be back tomorrow with another missive from deep within the Newtown Pentacle. Oh… almost forgot to say it… I’m all ‘effed up.

from wikipedia

The onset of a stress response is associated with specific physiological actions in the sympathetic nervous system, both directly and indirectly through the release of epinephrine and to a lesser extent norepinephrine from the medulla of the adrenal glands. These catecholamine hormones facilitate immediate physical reactions by triggering increases in heart rate and breathing, constricting blood vessels. An abundance of catecholamines at neuroreceptor sites facilitates reliance on spontaneous or intuitive behaviors often related to combat or escape.

Normally, when a person is in a serene, unstimulated state, the “firing” of neurons in the locus ceruleus is minimal. A novel stimulus, once perceived, is relayed from the sensory cortex of the brain through the thalamus to the brain stem. That route of signaling increases the rate of noradrenergic activity in the locus ceruleus, and the person becomes alert and attentive to the environment.

If a stimulus is perceived as a threat, a more intense and prolonged discharge of the locus ceruleus activates the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system (Thase & Howland, 1995). The activation of the sympathetic nervous system leads to the release of norepinephrine from nerve endings acting on the heart, blood vessels, respiratory centers, and other sites. The ensuing physiological changes constitute a major part of the acute stress response. The other major player in the acute stress response is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2011 at 11:09 am

disjointed jargon

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst marching past the sky flung and quite cyclopean walls of First Calvary Cemetery, which form the border between life and death along Review Avenue here in Queens, your humble narrator found himself stricken with certain longings for times past. Not the usual longings, borne of long nocturnal studies into the occluded and dim history of the fabled Newtown Creek and environs, but instead a desire to return to that moment in time when it was all new to me- just a few years ago. Far have my solitary marches across the concrete desolations of the Newtown Pentacle taken me from that original path.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When that hellish green flame of revelation was first lit, before I found out about Conrad Wessel and Cord Meyer and had no idea who Michael Degnon or Dagger John might be, the wonderland of Newtown Creek was merely another industrial area which had fallen on hard times and the sort of place which I always found myself wandering through. As a kid, it was south Brooklyn and the maritime era leave behinds which adorn Jamaica Bay. These days I’m conducting tours of the area for academic and political crowds, and speaking extemporaneously on the historic ramifications of it. Fear has risen in me that I’m losing my focus.

I almost walked past this glob of risible decay without photographing it, for instance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent inundation, which has been typical for the storm addled year of 2011, has saturated the low lying alluvial plain around the Creek and betrayed its past as wetlands. Accordingly, anything lying on an open patch of dirt immediately becomes soaked. I couldn’t tell you what this glutinous mass with a vaguely fibrous texture once was, but I am oh so glad I was still capable to notice it. The thing about the Newtown Pentacle, a term coined to describe the pentangular geographic distribution of the early European colonies in western Queens and Northern Brooklyn, is that the devil is always in the details.

20111020-152314.jpg

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Microscopy upon any subject often obscures the larger themes surrounding it, in essence when you follow Alice down the rabbit hole, you forget that the shire still lies without. The pile of discarded newspapers in the shot above, which are curiously and analogously arranged in the shape of a fallen man, obscured a bag of pots and pans. Repulsively filthy, one of the cooking pans was filled with human excrement.

Curiously, the pans were in the approximate location that a pelvis might be found on a human.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It has been painful to stand in public, as to be seen by so many diminishes me. Duty, however, demands that I tell the story of this place, no matter the personal cost.

This Sunday, the public tours of Newtown Creek will be departing from Pier 17 at South Street Seaport. The afternoon session is already sold out, but a few tickets are still available for the morning one. Heavily discounted (and I would point out that I have zero financial interest in the tours) at $10, due to a grant from NYCEF fund of the Hudson River Foundation, these will most likely be the last chance for the general public to see the Newtown Creek by boat until the spring.

And your humble narrator is anxious to get back out on the streets and find more mystery globs of risible decay, altars of unknown and foreign gods, and the graves of both Battle Ax Gleason and “he who must not be named”…

infinitely narrow

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above originated just last week at the Metropolitan Water Aliiance’s gala “Heroes of the Harbor” event. MWA choreographs a “parade of boats” on the Hudson River at sunset, and this year the coup de grace of the parade was the presence of the brand new “343” fireboat. Luckily for me, it maintained a static position on the river while firing its water cannons, and I was able to shoot this neat long exposure image of the FDNY’s new flagship.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Those stalwart stewards of the public trust at the United States Environmental Protection Agency contacted me the other day and asked that I might disseminate news of two upcoming “Public Information Sessions” which will be conducted in Brooklyn and Queens next week. For more information on specifics, or for more information about the event, check out the official flyer here. I will definitely be attending the Brooklyn event, oddly enough, but scheduled obligation might preclude me from visiting the famed Degnon Terminal (LaGuardia) one.

The dates, locations, and times- as forwarded are:

Tuesday, October 25

St. Nicks Alliance  2 Kingsland Avenue

Arts@Renaissance at the Garden Level, 2:00 to 4:00 pm and 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Thursday, October 27

LaGuardia Community College

31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City

Conference Room E-500, 2:00 to 4:00 pm and 7:00 to 9:00 pm

winding ways

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a note today, with the intention of thanking everybody who came along for the “Open House NY Weekend” tours I conducted of Dutch Kills Saturday and Sunday. Well attended, I nevertheless discovered messages on my phone post factum from a few who had ran afoul of transit difficulties. The tours were consciously delayed from the assigned starting time, but unfortunately we had to move. Don’t worry, this isn’t the last time I’ll be bringing company along on this particular walk.

Special guest speakers Penny Lee, Kate Zidar, and Kevin Walsh offered their own perspectives on the various sights and wonders found along the route and are offered a hearty thanks.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm

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