The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

be fair

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I love to photograph, So mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, it’s all about the yellows. The particular wavelength and angle of light emanating from the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is ugly at this time of year, and a certain responsibility is felt to attempt to brighten things up. Pictured above is one of the groundling burrowers with the glowing red eyes who inhabit the Roman Catholic polyandrion called Calvary Cemetery, here in LIC.

Word has it that their role is to carry messages between those who exist above and below the till, and that the daily challenge is to try and avoid the multitudes of Hawks, Cats, and other predators who desire the rending of their flesh during the carrying out of their task.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last summer in Astoria, we had what seemed like a record crop of Sunflowers, which led to great rejoicing in the apiaries of Western Queens. I’ve mentioned a certain paranoia – carried over from childhood – regarding sunflowers and the buzzing harvesters which infest them, in the past. Regardless, the stalwart photographer must pursue his craft, and the fancies or terrors of infancy are best left on the back shelf.

Still, sunflowers freak me out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead things abound in Western Queens, and not all of them are found below the soil of the so called cemetery belt. This poor little bastard counted its last minutes on a sidewalk in Queens. Often, one fears that this is the sort of posture one such as myself will be displaying when discovered by passerby.

Life a leaf, you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pineapples, in some abundance, observed at an Astoria fruit stand.

The most amazing part of our culture, in my opinion, is that after reading this post – in the middle of January – you can go out into the cold, and by writhing through the atmosphere for just a few blocks find tropical cultivars on sale. It will not be difficult for you to find mangoes, strawberries, pineapples – in January. That is simply amazing, when you get down to it, and it’s a reminder that despite the climactic challenges you’ll encounter – you live in the financial capital of a nuclear armed superpower which enjoys the actual highest standard of living ever known and that other nations and cultures send us regular tribute.

In many ways, we are living in the modern equivalent of late Republic Rome.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of living in an analog for Rome (prior to the First Triumverate, natch), you can be reasonably assured of the presence of the fire fighters should sudden immolation occur. FDNY’s trade dress, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, always brightens things up. The only times that the phrase “everything is going to be alright” escapes my lips is when FDNY shows up – they’re our army of municipal super heroes, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The darkness of winter gives the Vampire community of Western Queens vast regency. As opined in the past, the army of Strigoi shuns entry into Astoria due to vast numbers of South and Central European ethnicities resident hereabouts. My neighbor Mario prefers to use high visibility paint on his cruciform wards, because “safety first.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s down on the western section of the Sunnyside Yards that you really need to be carrying the garlic in LIC. The area is infested with the Nosferatu in the Hunters Point Avenue section nearby the LIRR. It’s a big part of the reasoning behind the stout fences protecting the 7 train as it rises from the tunneled depths. You probably don’t want to accept the fact, I know, but there you go.

Don’t get me started on the Witch Cult. Vampires are merely rabid dogs inhabiting the shadowed corners of our world, whereas the worshippers of Hecate and the Magna Mater are hidden amongst us and actively working… I’ve probably said too much already.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm

indubitably again

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Wake up, sleepyhead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a brand new year, and we’ve all got a lot to get done. Let’s get to it! You’ll probably want to make some coffee first.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

unutterable aeries

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Tekelele, indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post, a sexual display committed by two monkeys at the Central Park Zoo scared me, so a retreat to the “safe space” of the Penguin house was enacted. It should be pointed out that the lighting in this section of Manhattan’s premier animal penitentiary is rather dim, which I suspect is for the comfort of the captive birds contained therein. It took every trick I know, as far as the subject of low light photography goes, to capture the images in today’s post. You can actually discern the sensor grid of my camera in a few of these shots, as it was pretty darned dark in this safe space and the exposure triangle required for hand held shots (through glass) leaned toward staggeringly high sensitivities. Also, a significant amount of condensation and moisture was observed on the barrier glass of the bird prison, which actually created some interesting visual effects, imho.

Whilst concentrating on my task, errant thoughts kept intruding, and one couldn’t help but think about H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness.” Actually, since I was listening to an unabridged reading of the novella (Audiorealms, Wayne June reading) it was extremely difficult not to think about the star crossed Elder things and their shoggoth problems. Tekelele, tekelele.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, given the largely useless amount of trivial information which populates my thoughts, a secondary narrative began to intrude. The Mountains of Madness tells the story of a fairly inaccessible Antarctic region which holds the remains of an alien city whose inhabitants were exterminated by a certain biological technology which ran amok, which Lovecraft called “shoggoths.” Good book, this, and Lovecraft makes a good case for letting “sleeping dogs lie.”

The ends of the earth, and the so called “poles of inaccessibility” began to come to mind. Anything, anything to erase the micro aggressions suffered at the Snow Monkey enclosure, was a welcome reprieve.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oodap Qeqert is a bank of gravel and rock which is found off the northwest coast of Greenland, and is possibly the most northern point of land one might find before the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean obliviates terrestial life forms. Geologists don’t consider a gravel bank to be actual land, per se, and Kaffeklubben Island (also off the coast of Greenland) is officially the northernmost point of dry land you can get to if you’re on the way to the North Pole. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, and headed for the antipode, the most remote island on Earth warrants a visit. It’s a Norwegian territory, believe it or not, called Bouvetøya Island.

Unless a Penguin got seriously lost like Topper (the scarf wearing Penguin from the Rankin Bass “Santa Claus is coming to town” animated television program), you won’t find any in Greenland. You’ll find lots of Penguins on Bouvetøya Island, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The chilly waters of the antipode are actually quite mysterious. Lots of interesting and fairly undocumented things happen down there, like the so called Vela Incident back in 1979. The Antarctic Continent is literally the last terrestrial frontier for mankind, and was a focal point for the Super Power competitions of the Cold War era. The Soviets established Vostok Station nearby the Southern “Pole of Inaccessibility” on the continent. What that “POI” term means is that it is situated as far away from a coastline in every direction as you can get on Antarctica.

Famously, the Russians who now inhabit Vostok Station have been involved in a deep drilling experiment to access the unfrozen fresh waters of Lake Vostok, which lies some 13,000 feet beneath the glacial surface that Vostok Station sits upon. Speculations about what sorts of primeval life – the lake has been sealed off from the rest of the planet for fifteen million years – might inhabit the lake cause one to shake and quiver with horror.

Truly – who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Soviets were goofy for drilling deep holes into the Earth, it should be mentioned.

Their “Kolskaya sverkhglubokaya skvazhina,” or Kola Superdeep Borehole, not too far from their border with Finland on the Barents Sea, managed to penetrate down better than 40,000 feet. The rocks and geological layers that their drills reached to date back to the Archaen Age, which are about two and a half billion years old. The Kola project was abandoned in 2008, and the Russian Federation made it a point of not just destroying the facility and equipment, but capping the hole with reinforced concrete and steel. They likely had their reasons. What is held in the deep earth is not something that mankind truly wishes cognizance of, and were its contents to become widely known… Incidentally, Kola is the supposed location where that “well dug to hell” recording was captured, but that’s just an Internet meme, right?

Deeper holes have been drilled since Kola, in pursuance of hydrocarbon deposits nearby Russia’s Sakhalin Island in the Northern Pacific Ocean, and in the Persian Gulf by Qatar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My recovery from the startling and outré Monkey incident accomplished, a humble narrator decided it was time to return to Queens, where my delicate sensibilities might be better coddled, cultivated, and wrapped in vibrant diversity than here in Manhattan’s Central Park Zoo.

On the whole “poles of inaccessibility” thing, I’d suggest study of the village of Suluk in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which is one of the so called “cradles of nations” and likely the most inaccessible place in Eurasia. Closer to home, the United States’s “POI” is called Corn Creek, and it’s in Allen, South Dakota. Allen is, coincidentally, the poorest county in the entire United States and the median family income thereabouts is $3,819 per annum, and that is all the justification you’ll ever need to hear for the importance of loving someplace with a harbor or port nearby.

Hell, $3,800 won’t even get you one month in a closet sized studio in Williamsburg.

The geographic center of New York State is in Madison County, and is around a half hour drive from Utica.

The geographic center of NYC is on the “Boulevard of Death” – the middle of Queens Blvd. at 58th street – according to the NYC Dept. of City Planning. There’s a brass plaque and everything on the spot, and it’s one of the places where a humble narrator likes to shout out “Tekelele, Tekelele” at passing traffic.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

marine things

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R.I.P John Skelson.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another member of “Team Bernie” has left us, this time it’s photographer John Skelson. John was a life long Staten Islander who spent a lot of his time on the North Shore along the Kill Van Kull photographing passing ships. Working Harbor Committee alumni, John produced shots for the WHC blog’s Friday feature – Ship Spotting with Skelson. Ship Spotting got John noticed by the NY Times and others, and happily I can report that during his final years he enjoyed a certain notoriety in maritime circles. He’s survived by his wife, Phyllis Featherstone.

That’s John Skelson pictured above, at his office on the Kill Van Kull, just a few months before he died.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, in his honor, a few of us met up at Skelson’s office to collect a few shots and reminisce. Will Van Dorp from tugster.com showed up onboard the NY Media Boat. Afterwards, we retired to Liedy’s Shore Inn, drank a beer or two, and then headed back to other parts of the archipelago.

You people have no idea how connected all of us are to each other, out there on the edge of the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Team Bernie, as mentioned above, was the collection of harbor rats, rail enthusiasts, and antiquarians whom photographer Bernie Ente included on his adventures. Bernie went first, cancer. John Doswell went next, cancer. Skelson just died, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m so obsessed with what’s lurking in the water. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Skelson was a good and kind man, as were Bernie Ente and John Doswell. He, and they, are dearly missed. The collective knowledge which died with them, which will be lost to time, is irreplaceable. Bernie, also a photographer left behind a wife and daughter, who are doing fine last I heard. Capt. Doswell’s wife Jeanne is still one of the operative and moving gears which allows Working Harbor Committee to continue.

And you people wonder why I blog every day, and kiss Our Lady of the Pentacle every chance I get.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the worst part of growing older – just at that moment when you’ve got yourself figured out, know what and who you actually are – that’s when it comes. All the wasted time and emotional tumult, all the troubles and tribulations, just at the point when you’ve “figured your shit out” is when it all ends. That’s when all that’s left are clothes, papers and possessions, and someone you love finds themselves alone. There’s some truth to the concept that the person that suffers least is the one who died. Saying that, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m the guy with the sign boards in Times Square that say “the end is nigh.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is Skelson’s Office. The tracks of the Staten Island Railroad are still there, at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Bard Avenue, between the gas station parking lot and the water. A general call is going out to the maritime community to refer to it as such. For those of you interested in photographing the show along the Kill Van Kull, Skelson’s Office is available for new tenants. Bring a zoom lens, and dress warm. Get there early, stay there late. NY Harbor never disappoints.

And you people wonder why I talk about legacy and “passing it on” so much. 

Also, on a completely different note:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Want to get involved in the future of the Montauk Cutoff? A “visioning meeting” will be taking place tonight (December 2nd) at LIC’s Nomad Cycle (47-10 Austell Pl, Queens, NY 11101), between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. There will be snacks!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

louder drone

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Holiday pretty pictures, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Found an unfortunate chicken on Newtown Road in Astoria a few years ago. It seemed like a cat had gotten at the upper reaches of the thing, so one decided to focus instead on the feet, since “out of frame” is “out of mind.” The family resemblance to Dinosaurs always seems pretty clear when you look at avian feet, no?

Enjoy the roast dinosaur you’re eating today, accordingly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s my pal Jiminy the Parrot in the shot above, who will describe to you in fairly perfect English how he’s feeling about this or that. Jiminy often completes sentences started by the primates he hangs around with, which is a bit disconcerting. It’s also weird when he calls you a bird brain, but there you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pigeon above was spotted in Sunnyside one day, and seemed to be considering something massive while a humble narrator clicked away with the camera. For some reason, it made sense that a thanksgiving post at this – your Newtown Pentacle – would be one for the birds.

Remember, you are what you eat, which means that when you start buying presents tomorrow on “Black Friday,” Jiminy the Parrot might call you a turkey or dinosaur – depending on his mood or if he’s green with envy.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

lowered edges

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Dismissed, diminished, derided.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligations notwithstanding, a humble narrator desperately needs a bit of a break from the daily grind. The recent twists and turns of the atmosphere have done a number on my rather fragile homeostasis and one requires an interval to adapt to autumn. Sleep has been less than restful, my knees hurt, and I seem to be flying off the handle over less than important issues. It’s all very depressing, really.

Accordingly, this and the rest of this week will be bringing you library shots. This sort of thing is nothing new to longtime readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle. Occasionally, one finds himself overwhelmed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Weather of the type recently experienced, as well as certain other things, have functionally derailed the locomotive train of imagery that is normally presented, and a bit of “catch up” is required. There are several things going on this week which will “feed the blog” in the coming weeks, but at the moment – I’ve got nothing new worth showing you. As is my habit, interesting individual images will populate this space on a daily basis, but don’t look for anything profound or well researched here anytime before next Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been reading up on a number of rather esoteric subjects. Manufactured Gas plants and their historical footprints, in particular, seem to be drawing my eye. Additionally, the carefully occluded history of the NYC sewer system and the creation of the NYC DEP itself in 1983 have been occupying quite a bit of research time.

Wednesday the 7th, one will be appearing on a panel in Brooklyn to discuss Greenpoint’s environmental history, and this Saturday the rescheduled Atlas Obscura Calavry Cemetery walk will occur. Links below.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours and events –

October 7th, 2015
Our Polluted History:
A Non-Toxic & Fascinating Forum on Greenpoint’s Environmental Past panel discussion

with GWAPP, click here for details

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Posted in animals, birds

Tagged with , , ,

noisy and numerous

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Puzzling are the neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a helper parrot named Jiminy. Jiminy is a local celebrity in Astoria, and what he helps with is controlling his owner’s blood sugar. It seems he can sniff out when his Mom’s glucose is low and warn her to drink some juice. “Drinking juice” is why a small crew of my neighbors and friends often collect at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – which is where you’ll find a pub called Doyle’s. Jiminy likes the fried calamari on the bar menu, btw.

Doyle’s is Newtown Pentacle’s District Office, and you’ll often spot a humble narrator enjoying a pint of beer at this location on summer evenings. You want to keep track of what’s going on in the neighborhood? Best place to start is at the bar, I always say.

Not long after the above shot was captured, Jiminy turned to me and said “Feed the Parrot.” Yes – he talks, follows conversation, and often interjects with surprisingly astute observations. Jiminy mentioned that something was going on across the street which we should pay attention to. When a Parrot points something out, you should listen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This couple was carefully measuring the distance between a fire hydrant and a parked car. The lady seemed annoyed at participating in the operation, but the fellow seemed to be on some sort of mission. Over the course of around twenty minutes, they measured and remeasured the interval between street furniture and automobile, then disappeared into one of the two story private homes which line 42nd street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shortly, the fellow reappeared, after having donned a business suit. He began to recalculate the distance again. The lady didn’t accompany him this time, formal attire notwithstanding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Jiminy and I watched as the fellow began to photograph the tape measure with his smartphone. The group at our table speculated upon his plan of action, and we came to a generally agreed upon theory that he had either received a parking ticket or was performing prophylactic measures in anticipation of receiving one.

“Feed the Parrot” rang out again, and Jiminy’s mom ordered a plate of calamari – ostensibly for the table, but we all knew who it was for.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm

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