The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

no worse

with 3 comments

The world is not as it should be, rather it is as it is and always has been.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When a humble narrator was a boy, there were quite a few “doomsday scenarios” in play. Existential threats included the probable outbreak of a global thermonuclear war fought between the United States and the Soviet Union and the so called “population bomb” which was meant to cause mass starvation (predictions included the deaths of over 60 million Americans due to food shortages – a third of the population at the time). There was also an ozone hole which was meant to BBQ farm and city alike, an atmospheric phenomena whose formation was blamed on the presence of certain chemicals in aerosol hair spray cans. Additionally, an ice age was thought to be just around the corner, one which would depopulate the northern hemisphere and force humanity to cluster about Earth’s equator.

Slightly lower on the scale – but still terrifying – were threats posed by the rise of violent crime, disestablishmentarianism, and the rise of narcoterrorism. The world was ending, so say your prayers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a whole set of existential worries afoot these days – sea level rise, global warming, the rise of religion based terrorism, etc. Since these terrors are routinely explored in mainstream media, there’s no reason to repeat them as I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the various story lines. There’s a lot of drums that get beat upon by the “usual suspects.”

For those on the so called “left” – any factory or mill is by definition “satanic.”

For those on the so called “right” – the natural world is merely a collection of unharnessed natural resources.

The lefties want to see strict regulatory controls enacted on business, capital, and seek to curtail personal liberties in the name of protecting populations whom they have decided are vulnerable. The righties wish for an unfettered business environment, cessation of tax and regulation, and to curtail personal liberties in the name of protecting themselves. Both poles see society as teetering on the brink of destruction. Some predict a second American Civil War as being just around the corner.

Both sides populated by absolutists, who are dwellers in ivory towers. One set of towers is found in academia, the others on Wall Street. Both forget about the rest of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are no Mongol armies about to ride over the hill and force our village to submit to their yoke. If there were, these Mongols would meet the United States Marines, or the Russian Spetsnaz, or the British SAS and there would soon be no more Mongols. It’s no secret that the biggest problem encountered by the United States military in its recent wars was how to fight a war in which you don’t exterminate the entire population of any given country and instead just target the bad guys.

Superman would have to consciously pull his punches when apprehending bank robbers. One good punch from the big guy could reduce a human’s head to a spray of red mist, and his gaze could easily immolate. Criminals in Metropolis would seldom need to be reminded of what they’re dealing with. Neither would the ones in Gotham City.

The lefties would want Superman or Batman jailed for vigilante activity, and the righties would want them to go overseas and slaughter some Mongols.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I find both arguments pedantic. There are so many things commonly agreed upon, that are actionable, which get lost in this ideological tug of war that it actually depresses me. Don’t throw litter and garbage into the street? Be nice to each other and don’t call people ugly names? Don’t feign political naïveté? Don’t call yourself a “progressive” when you don’t understand what that means?

Maybe I’m just getting old. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe everybody else is right, and the Mongols are in fact coming to get us – or we should celebrate their vibrant diversity. The division between the two points of view is exactly the sort of thing which wily old Chingis Khan would have expolited. The Khans viewed themselves as appointed by God itself to rule mankind, and Chingis often referred to himself as “God’s curse.” The Mongol term for submission and peace used the same word.

The Khans would send a rider to the village gates before an attack, who would pronounce the following (the actual quotation is lifted from a letter sent to Pope Innocent IV, in 1246, by Chingis Khan’s grandson Güyük):

“You must say with a sincere heart: “We will be your subjects; we will give you our strength”. You must in person come with your kings, all together, without exception, to render us service and pay us homage. Only then will we acknowledge your submission. And if you do not follow the order of God, and go against our orders, we will know you as our enemy.”

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 2nd, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek – Bushwick & Mapeth Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 30, 2015 at 10:37 am

shore road

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As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In addition to every thing else going on in a humble narrator’s life, a full on kitchen renovation project is playing out in Newtown Pentacle HQ. Our landlord graciously decided to upgrade the physical environs hereabouts, and budgeted for new cabinetry and the services of my upstairs neighbors – who are construction guys. They are actually doing a fantastic job, but since our little dog Zuzu is the curious type, one has been stuck indoors for the better part of the last week in pursuance of her not getting built into a cabinet or something.

Last weekend, Our Lady of the Pentacle assumed the duty, and one was free to wander about in the concrete devastations for a short interval. Of course, my feet carried me to my absolute favorite of Newtown Creek’s tributaries – Dutch Kills in LIC. That’s where I observed a family of Snowy Egrets working the waterway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a couple of juvenile egrets there, so one presumes that this was a family. Shortly after the shot above was acquired, a Red Tail Hawk appeared. Startled, the Egrets scattered, and I decided to head over to Hunters Point Avenue to see if they were still hanging around Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The adult Egret had relocated to the west side of the waterway, and was hunting from atop a sediment mound. Believe it or not, there’s a ton of fish and other critters in the water here, all of which would make a nice snack for one of these latter day archosaurs. One such as myself is easily bored, however, so I moved on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing the Hunters Point Avenue bridge, and looking south towards the Long Island Expressway and infinite Brooklyn, I noticed that there was a bit of a hub bub down in the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like a pack of tiny sharks, a school of fishes were ripping bits off of some dead thing floating in the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Probably, this critter was once a bird. Possibly a rat, but it kind of looks “birdy” to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A near “100%” crop of the shot doesn’t reveal too much about the dead thing, I’m afraid, other than that it had become fish food. Nature is lovely to behold and all, but don’t forget that the singular goal of every thing that lives is ultimately to digest every other thing that lives. A waterway is in many ways a giant open stomach, or in the case of Dutch Kills – a giant open lower intestine.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 18th, 2015
Newtown Creek City of Water Day Boat Tour 
with Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

rapid run

with 4 comments

Content warning today – blood and gore, in today’s post. Not kidding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor carried one in a westerly direction through the Carridor – down Northern Blvd. to its junction with Jackson Avenue and towards Queens Plaza, from the rolling hillocks of raven tressed Astoria. Having some spare time to kill on the way, one elected to spend some of it getting “artsy fartsy” with the camera in this overly familiar corridor.

Note: Wasn’t kidding about the blood and gore stuff in this post. If you’re faint of heart, stop reading now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens Plaza and the area surrounding it are a devilish place for photography due to the contrast of elevated Subway shadows and bright sky. Hence – one such as myself likes to wave the camera around a bit in the name of staying “sharp,” exposure wise. Never know what you’re going to find around here, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the case of this particular afternoon, what I found was this unfortunate dead thing.

Once some sort of baby bird, something had expertly and partially skinned it and removed its head. That little bit in the lower right of the shot was actually the heart. I see a lot of dead things as I walk around – flat rats, dead pigeons and the like, but this… this was deucedly odd. Cat? Rat? Who knows?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around thirty feet further east of the dead thing, a small pile of blood was encountered. Now when I say small, it actually covered around a third of a sidewalk box, but by Queens Plaza standards this is actually a small amount. I would venture that this blood was not that of the dead thing described above, but had exsanguinated from a higher form of animal instead – likely from one of the humans who are known to infest this area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The spatter above offers evidence of the blood I warned you about at the top of the post, and the third shot contains the gore. The truth of our times, as offered in graphic narrative, is presented plainly and in full color at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms – Greenpoint, Brooklyn Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

haunted steep

with one comment

At the Maspeth Plank Road, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the same morning walk described yesterday, wherein one was heading over to East Williamsburg from Astoria to conduct a walking tour of My Beloved Creek, I found myself at the Maspeth Plank Road.

Whenever possible, an attempt to scout the day’s intended route is enacted, to ensure against any of the little surprises which are known to pop up in the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek. Bridge closures, road work, chemical spills – you know, the usual.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I ran into this family of Canada Geese, whom I’ve been noticing all over the Creek for the last few weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too much I can tell you about this specie, other than that like swans – you don’t want to get too close to them. Geese can be mean tempered and vast physical cowardice notwithstanding, who wants to get pecked?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The gaggle seemed to take some umbrage at their unwanted portraiture, it seemed, and they headed back to the loathsome ripples of that cataract of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My decision to scout the route was actually quite fortuitous, as the Grand Street Bridge was closed. The NYC DOT was conducting some sort of repair job here, something about fixing the deck plating on the pedestrian walkways so that it could accommodate bicycle traffic. This, of course, directs vehicular flow onto the sidewalks and directly into the path of pedestrians, but priorities are priorities for City Hall.

NYC MUST REPLACE ALL SURFACE ROADS AND PEDESTRIAN PATHS WITH BIKE LANES, AT ALL COST, INCLUDING SACRIFICE AND TORTURE.

Also, AFFORDABLE HOUSING.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

jouncing descent

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The situations which I find myself in…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long story short, my pals at HarborLab ended up building a floating dock which will be used by LaGuardia community college’s biology people to study wetlands restoration techniques and theories on Newtown Creek’s LIC tributary – Dutch Kills. Problem is that a 19th century railroad bridge at the mouth of Dutch Kills has been non functional for about twenty years, so towing the dock into the canal in the manner that any normal person would accomplish the task – y’know, like using a boat with an engine to tow something heavy – is a non starter.

That’s how I found myself in a freaking canoe on Newtown Creek a few weeks ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

HarborLab is based on the Queens side of Newtown Creek, at the Vernon Avenue Street end, which is where we launched from. I was in a boat with Lynn Serpe, long time environmental and community activist and the former Green Party candidate for City Council in Astoria, and one of the folks behind the Two Coves Community garden over in Old Astoria. Pictured above are Patricia Menje Erickson, HarborLab’s Facilities Manager, Erik Baard, and volunteer Phillip Borbon – who had the unenviable duty of rowing the dock itself roughly a mile back from the Vernon Avenue street end to the turning basin of Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The next few days will bring you an image saturated series of posts detailing the excursion. Dutch Kills leaves the main body of Newtown Creek a little over three quarters of a mile from the Creek’s intersection with the East River and heads northish in the direction of the Sunnyside Yards and Queens Plaza for about a mile. Long time readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you that Dutch Kills is far and away my favorite part of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. Thing is, because of that decrepit rail bridge blocking the channel, you can’t get in there using a motorized vessel except at extreme low tide.

Low tide was part of the calculations made by the HarborLab team, and we timed our trip to coincide with it lest we be barred from entry or end up stuck in there waiting for the water to slack out again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One generally discourages the aspirations of people who want to do this sort of thing, given the horrendous state of water quality in Dutch Kills, but the HarborLab folks (along with my pals at North Brooklyn Boat Club) are well versed in the “rules of the road” in the maritime industrial waters of New York Harbor so I agreed to come along and record the journey.

After all, this was the first time something on Dutch Kills was going to change in nearly fifty years, with the exception of the Borden Avenue Bridge repairs from a few years ago. Sometimes, “Newtown Creek Historian” means you have to be there when something is happening in the name of preserving it for posterity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s how I ended up in a canoe on Newtown Creek photographing HarborLab delivering a floating dock to the Turning Basin of Dutch Kills. There were times when I had to actually row the boat, but luckily Lynn Serpe did most of the work, allowing me to wave the camera around. A couple of times, the radio crackled out instructions to get shots of them doing this or that or reminding me to shoot them with the skyline behind them.

Their radio crackled back with me saying “NO ART DIRECTION NEEDED.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’re looking at is part of the LIRR Montauk Branch, a swing bridge called DB Cabin. It’s not long for this world, as the LIRR and MTA are rekajiggering a bunch of their operations in LIC at the moment. The Wheelspur Yard actually has freight rail running through it again, for instance, and there’s been a lot of chatter about plans for the relict Montauk Cutoff tracks which has reached me recently.

Anyway – what DB Cabin mainly functions as these days is as an obstacle to navigation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the situation as we encountered it, at low tide mind you. There’s about four to five feet of clearance between the rusting deck of the bridge and the surface of that gelatinous analogue for water that distinguishes Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The dock sits up out of the water, of course, as did its pilots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First step was getting their own canoe into the water and hitching it up to the floating dock.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Then a bit of “paddle fu” was enacted, and they slipped under DB Cabin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As Lynne Serpe and I approached the bridge, we noticed an amused gaggle watching the progress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In tomorrow’s post – we leave the geese behind and move inexorably towards the loathsome Turning Basin of a cautionary tale known as the Dutch Kills tributary of the Newtown Creek – at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 11th, 2015
BROOKLYN Waterfront Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

fully inanimate

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Hanging out at Hallets Cove, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having nothing especially pressing, on a recent and quite cloudy afternoon, a general scuttle was enacted to go out and “see what Queens wants to show me today.” My footsteps carried me to Hallets Cove, where the ancient mouth of Sunswick Creek lies forever buried beneath the folly of progress. One decided to pay some attention to the local fauna, and then find a private spot where the elimination of metabolic waste water might go unobserved by the surrounding human infestation. Such unfortunate consequences of my consciousness residing in a biological organism notwithstanding, the age old question of NYC once again arose and bedeviled.

Why is there no place to pee in New York? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC plans for everything in excruciating detail, and employs armies of academics and consultants to study the citizenry in the name of accuracy and scientific methods. I’ve met people who can tell me how much water I use, trash Our Lady directs me to carry to the curb, and predict my usage of the subway system based on geography and income levels. There are officials who can hazard a pretty good guess about the month and year you are likely to die in, barring accidents. They also have good figures for the probability of accidents.

The one thing which they can’t seem to figure out is the deployment, and maintenance, of a few piss buckets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eastwards of Greece, you start seeing a different form of public toilet than the ones we see in the affluent Western countries – what is known as a squat toilet. The system boils down to a cess pool or sewer connection with a goose neck drain that breaks the surface at a tiled hole in the ground with two raised blocks of concrete on either side. The name “squat toilet” describes how you use it. These are ubiquitous in the East, as they are FAR cheaper to install and maintain than our western porcelain. Over at Barge Park in Greenpoint, a recent “comfort station” cost better than a million bucks.

I’m not asking for “comfort stations.” How about three walls and a hole in the floor to piss in?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC has a “one percent for art” requirement baked into all of its municipal construction projects, which is how the Newtown Creek Nature Walk was funded. May I suggest we create a similar requirement stating that NYC must budget “one percent to acknowledge human biological functions” into future endeavors? Wouldn’t this be better than having to find some retail establishment which will allow you to use their facilities, or pissing against the wall of some innocent party?

Maybe we can cook it into a deal with future commercial and residential developments that they would be required to build and maintain publicly available facilities for elimination of bodily waste as part of the cost of doing business in the City Of Greater New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What do I know, though? One such as myself does not claim to possess advanced degrees in Urbanism or City Planning. I mean, everything that such professionals have done over the years has worked out perfectly. Why would actual community need figure into development plans and the march of progress?

I’m probably just full of shit, but the lack of public bathrooms in the City of New York pisses me off.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

strength and ingenuity

with 3 comments

Ok, guess where this was shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another shot from my archives, this iron statue of an eagle is not found anywhere within New York City – which is a rarity for me. I’ll narrow the challenge down a bit, and tell you that it is definitively found somewhere on Long Island. Recognize it? Leave a comment and I’ll confirm if you’re correct in your assertion.

As mentioned last week, I’m taking a bit of a break and there will be single shots from my archives offered all week at this, your Newtown Pentacle. 
“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 30, 2015 –
The Skillman Corridor with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –  SOLD OUT
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 19, 2015 at 11:00 am

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