The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

went silently

with 2 comments

Sometimes you get what you pay for.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering about in DUKBO recently, specifically western Maspeth (aka Berlin) nearby its border with Blissville, your humble narrator found himself confronted with one of the many conundrums which torment. My Dad was a “working guy,” one whose entire body was thrown into the meat grinder of manual labor during his working life. Routinely exposed to paint, solvents, and all sorts of other chemicals which his trade utilized, the old man eventually succumbed to cancer.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The old man had a list of industrial accidents which he would rattle off to those who asked. The time he fell off a ladder and was blinded for a few months when a pail of lye splashed into his eyes, or a freak accident that somehow opened up his inner arm from wrist to armpit which needed 400 stitches to close, or the long lasting bursitis and arthritic after effects of having worked at an industrial butcher in the freezer room when he was a kid. There were busted toes, bad knees, a gamey hip, bulging vertebrae, broken ribs, a shoulder that made sounds when he moved it, and the scar tissue on his hands had formed into thickened gloves.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Other than insisting that I figure out some way to get a desk job instead of following in his footsteps, the old man had no real regrets other than never having won the lottery nor owned a Cadillac. He did what he had to do and always tried to get the job done right, or at least as half assed as he could get away with. This has been referenced before, and when I see working guys doing what the fellow in the shot above is doing, I cringe a bit and start to think about the old man. The guy in the shot is doing so many things wrong, safety wise, that I was half expecting him to just burst into flame as I walked by.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I spend enough time around the union types that I’ve kind of been infected by their logic. My upstairs neighbor sets out safety cones and a fire extinguisher when he barbecues, but he does something at work which he calls “firewatch” that requires permit and certification. “Even if ya don’t need it Bro, god forbid something happens you can at least say you did everything you could.” Also mentioned, in the past, has been the physical cowardice for which I am famous.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Given to capricious fits of panic and paranoia, your humble narrator attempts full situational awareness at all times, constantly scanning the local vicinity for threats. Those who know me personally will confirm the constant stream of warnings about broken sidewalks, things which drip, or suspicious personages to watch out for that spews forth. Additionally, I advise strangers who are crossing Northern Blvd. to stand behind something while standing at corners and waiting for the light to change. I’m all ‘effed up, but this really isn’t the old mans fault, I was just born weird. One of the things which allows one such as myself nepenthe is the presence of union guys like my pal upstairs, or these poor schmucks on a picket line in front of that dry ice and compressed gas place right at the corner of Laurel Hill and Review. Union labor keeps things nice and safe for the rest of us. You won’t find them sitting on a ladder using a metal grinder to remove paint without wearing glasses or a mask, nor wearing highly flammable synthetic fabrics while doing so.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The old man wasn’t in a union, he had some objection to them- something about the mafia and being Jewish and his older brother- a story which he changed periodically to prove a point or win an argument. I kind of wish he was, at least he would have gotten paid a lot better, and likely wouldn’t have been quite as busted up by the job. This little conundrum of mine, pondered while marching across the concrete devastations of DUKBO, is this: why do I care so much about what happens to strangers, nor mind my own business? Also, if I care so much, what can I do about it?

What would Superman do?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

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2 Responses

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  1. Mitch. You’re a mensch.

    georgetheatheist . . . rachmones rules.

    June 17, 2013 at 11:27 am

  2. Union wages ain’t what they used to be, but at least there’s the safety benefits.

    David Dickson

    June 17, 2013 at 5:09 pm


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