The Newtown Pentacle

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all massing

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Better late than never.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a community over on reddit which posts “shower thoughts.” It’s usually the deep revelation stuff: “buying a Lay Z Boy makes you a lazy boy” sort of ideas. My brain is a bit bruised today – one has been attempting to force the organ to fulfill its purpose (other than just acting as a counterweight for my butt) of late – so I won’t bore you with my little snippets of realized truth as they would all sound something like: “tired, so tired, tired, my foot hurts, tired…” and so on. That’s what my shower thoughts might sound like when I’m transversing Ravenswood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Ravenswood, somebody went to no small amount of effort at creating a giant hole in the ground nearby Queens Plaza. This aperture was something like 30-40 feet across and of an unknown depth. I’d like to think that NYPD has finally found that vampire nest they’ve been searching for, you know, the ones that attack the Blood Center on Vernon every night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is sticking close to home this weekend, as next week “it begins.” “It” is Newtown Creek tour season, and I’m likely not going to see too much of home on Saturdays and Sundays for the next several months – a welcome counterpart to the frozen season recently past.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

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

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 24, 2015 at 4:26 pm

streaming out

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The law is an ass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frustrating, calling 311 is.

Having just spent thirty minutes attempting to report a violation of NYC’s anti idling law – there’s a large RV with a diesel engine parked in front of HQ, which also destroyed a series of branches of my street tree when pulling into its parking spot, and whose engine has been running for better than an hour – the 311 operator informed me that DEP would be out in ten days to investigate the report.

When one opined that the offending vehicle would likely not be there in ten days, and that this might be something properly assigned to the NYPD traffic unit for enforcement, the operator reluctantly agreed to inform the 114th pct. She suggested that I call 911 instead, but this sort of thing hardly qualifies as a Police emergency.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The process of calling 311 has gotten more and more painful over the years, and what was once a smooth point of contact between community and government has turned into a bureaucratic shit show. I had to make two separate reports with two different operators, and give them the same information twice. The street tree part of it went to Parks, and the idling complaint to DEP, when both are street enforcement actions best handled by NYPD ticket books. 311 now also insists on acquiring all the identifying information about the caller as possible, which is no doubt a) data mining and b) will cause me to think twice before calling 311 again. Meanwhile, an hour and a half after this vehicle parked in front of HQ – the engine is still idling.

I didn’t mention “who I am” on the call (because that’s kind of dickish), but next time I run into the Commissioner of the DEP, she’s going to get an earful about this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

People get after me for acting like an accusatory asshole towards our employees, but that’s the way that I perceive anybody from the Mayor on down who collects a check from the City. Speaking truth to power is my creed, and when these employees of ours screw the pooch, the boss has something to say about it. Their boss isn’t the Mayor, it’s you and me, and our employees are doing a shit job of late.

Citizen Mitch has seen something, said something, and the City damned well better do something.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 30, 2015 at 11:11 am

shining mists

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Signs and portents, in today’s post

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As promised, while you were gazing at the photo of that cute kitten I posted yesterday, a minor scuttle of the immediate environs was enacted. Where I’m going on my walks around Queens is seldom guided by a conscious decision, other than avoiding all possible contact or interaction with the human infestation, instead it’s more of a wandering sort of thing. Yesterday, I was looking specifically for the little things. For instance the Mexican Deli’s sidewalk signage offering a matrix of name translations between Spanish and English for various comestibles.

I always wondered how to say “Green Beas” in Spanish, now I know it’s “ejotes.” I think that “ejotes” must be a fun word to pronounce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lost Kittens, that’s what the headline on this lamp post flyer says.

Can there be a headline which is sadder in tone than “Lost Kittens?”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There seems to be a lot of this sort of thing around the neighborhoods. Everywhere I go, even down at Newtown Creek, these sort of lost pet flyers are found. “Lost Kittens,” jeez.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the same lamp post, another faded ad, this one searching for a little black dog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few blocks south, on Broadway -somebody had posted queries about the status of a lost, child sized, winter boot.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 11, 2015 at 1:00 pm

other objects

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Curiouser and curiouser.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been encountering these odd little offerings and altar pieces for a while now, here in the Astoria section of Queens. This post from March of 2014, and this one from 2011 illustrate and speculate upon their origins and purpose. The one pictured above was discovered in calendrical confluence with the celebrations of lunar new year that are practiced by many of the cultures hailing from Asia. Chinese New Year fell on April 19th in 2015, for instance, and the shots offered in today’s post were captured on the morning of the 20th.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As in prior instances and encounters with these… are they small altars, or offerings, or… All I can offer is a brief description without any interpretation or insight. They seem to be molded out of a doughy substance, several different doughy substances actually. This one was obviously disturbed and jostled – whether by the careless footfalls of passerby, or the curious examinations of some canine, I cannot say. The central figure was roughly hewn, and held a candle in its lap.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A block away on the same date, at 34th avenue’s intersection with 43rd street, this example was found. The workmanship seemed quite a bit more advanced, and it was entirely undisturbed. It’s facing essentially north west, if that might have any significance to somebody who knows what these things are. Speculations about prior sightings have pointed towards Latin American Santeria, but there’s no coins and I cannot imagine a Padrino using a plastic plate. Santeria practice would demand a “plate of great price.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I’m seeing here is a sculptural tableau of some kind, and due to the proximity of lunar New Year, one likely connected to the traditions of Asia. Anybody out there recognize what these things are, and which culture they emanate from? Tibetan, maybe? If this looks familiar, please educate the rest of us and leave a comment for everyone else to read.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

these instruments

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It’s a real mess around these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, here’s the skinny – bulk pickup and recycling day in my part of Astoria is Monday. More specifically, we are meant to stock the curb with refuse on Sunday nights. This routinely means that the neighbors and myself end up sitting on the clear plastic bags for a week or so, as legal holidays in January and February usually fall on a Monday. Problem is that snow storms seem to come on Sundays too, which further interrupts bulk and recycling pickup. Accordingly, there are mountains of garbage both within and on top of the mountains of rock hard ice lining the sidewalk. To wit, pictured above is a piece of what my friend Heather over at newyorkshitty.com would refer to as “feral furniture” found on Broadway. It’s sitting on top of a glaciated pile of recyclables.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite Christmas having come and gone some two months ago, holiday trees keep turning up on the pavement. This rather creative use of the corner waste pail was shot just last week, for instance. I don’t call these things the Astoria Tumbleweeds for nothing, y’know. My neighbor, a laconic Croatian lady who believes that cracking a smile might be deadly, simply offers that “it’s terrible” and blames the Mayor.

I don’t blame the Mayor, because the entire country seems to have been damned to Viking Hell (or more accurately “Hel”) and I don’t think that’s his fault. The Mayor is very tall, however, and just might be a Storm Giant (a Jotun),so he might be somehow complicit in the whole Viking Hell thing after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This Astoria Tumbleweed just revealed itself to me on Tuesday, emerging along with a pile of newspapers from a sunlit section of the ice pack. It’s actually sort of grim, seeing a Christmas Tree – in February – which has been preserved in the sidewalk ice. One half expects a Wooly Mammoth to be found over on 19th avenue or something.

Reflecting on the recent cold snap, my thoughts turned first to Rankin Bass Christmas specials (because of the Tumbleweeds, I suppose) which featured the brothers Heat and Cold Miser. That led to wondering about the famous “hundred words for snow” which are attributed to the Inuit peoples of the Arctic, and why there are comparatively so few adjectives attached to winter weather, as opposed to the rich tapestry available for summer. You never hear someone say “yeah, but it’s a dry cold” or “it’s not that cold, temperature wise, but Oy it’s so humid.” Winter has a lot of Germanic sounding ones – bitter, biting, brutal.

What do I know, I’m freezing and there’s frozen garbage everywhere.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2015 at 11:00 am

typical denizen

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Beneath the sodium light of a salty moon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, in 1881, the bleeding heart Russian author Dostoyevsky died from a triad of pulmonary hemorrhages. In 1913, a mysterious series of fireballs streaked across a 7,000 mile long patch of the night sky, which scientific opinion described as the break up of a previously unobserved natural Earth satellite – a tiny moon. It’s also Ash Monday, aka “Clean Monday,” which kicks off the liturgical calendar for Easter in certain variants of Christianity. Queensicans rejoice on February 9th, for on this day in 1956 – Mookie Wilson entered this world.

For me, it’s just Monday. I hate Mondays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever it has been possible, as the weather has been decidedly antibiotic, one has engaged in the usual pursuit of hidden knowledge around the dustier sections of North Brooklyn and Western Queens. Most of the aforementioned objects of my interest have been a bit better hidden than usual, given the blanket of snow and ice which occludes the pavement. Luckily, the Real Estate Industrial Complex is at work in Greenpoint converting the toxic East River shoreline of that ancient village into a residential zone. A protective wall of condominiums will rise, ones so stout that they can protect neighborhood streets from fire and flood alike.

A few of them will be residential transformers, I imagine, able to turn into giant robots who will defend Greenpoint and Stuyvesant town against an attack. They will be known as CondoBots. That earth mover you see in the shot above? Yep, that’s a small one, and it calls itself Payloader.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The latest bit of hidden knowledge I’m working on, incidentally, is figuring out where all the hidden or filled in tributaries of Newtown Creek are or were. One branch of Maspeth Creek used to terminate at the locus of 58’s – avenue, street, road – nearby the Clinton or Goodfellas Diner. Under the Kosciuszko Bridge, on the Queens side, there was a largish tributary that flowed south out of the heights of Sunnyside, and ran between Laurel and Berlin Hills on its path to Newtown Creek. It’s “map work” and since I have zero budget for acquiring facsimiles of historical plottings, quite difficult and slow going. Headway has been made, however, and all will be revealed soon enough.

It’s all so depressing, really. Look at what happened to Dostoyevsky, who died of a bleeding heart.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

leers down

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A short one today, from the frozen zone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this bicycle frozen to its pole mount on Steinway Street the other day, the presence of the Ambulance was coincidental. The FDNY personnel were headed down into the Subway station with their bags of kit – the oxygen bottles and all that other gear. Didn’t stick around long enough to find out what was doing, as a humble narrator had places to go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot was also captured in Astoria, on Broadway, at one of the heaviest moments of precipitant snowfall last week. Ughhh. I’ll be back next week with some hopefully sunnier shots at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

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