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lured and

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Adventure and pedantic excitement, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavors found me at what I’m fairly sure is the western boundary of the former garden of Eden, the modern day Times Square. Often have I advanced the theory that Eden was not only in North America, but in Manhattan, and that the Tree of Knowledge was found in the dead bang center of 42nd street between 7th Avenue and Broadway opposite the Subway entrance on the south, and the news ticker on the north. Furthermore, it is my belief that Times Square is actually the geographic center – or Omphalos – of the universe itself, but esotericism and magick seldom apply to cartography.

I am sure that Adam and Eve would have headed in the direction of modern day Port Authority after eating the forbidden fruit, as original sin and mortal damnation are inextricably linked to that hellish terminal building and all the lost souls who dwell therein.

Somewhere deep below Port Authority is a forgotten and unmapped subway platform servicing the H, E, and LL lines, with transfers available only from the S, I, and N lines. One needs to ride the latter in the correct order, in order to arrive at the entrance leading to the former.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the E, and hellish subterranean complexes filled with ironic punishments, here’s one entering Queens Plaza. MTA played one of its little jokes on me last week, when I found out that they had instituted a “you can’t get there, from here” rule for the local R train on a Saturday afternoon.

Putting the signage up on the platform, rather than at the turnstile? Well played, MTA, well played.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The melting snow last week saw Steinway Street here in Astoria offering water curtains slipping off of construction sheds, which was actually kind of magical when the sun was out. I say it all the time – “NYC never looks so good as it does when it’s wet.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, and this happens every year, some escaped toy had frozen to death and its corpse emerged as the snow pack dissolved. Why people who own toys don’t install screens on their windows, I cannot fathom. Personally, I won’t let any of my toys out of the house without a leash, and they’re all “chipped.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst waiting for the bagel shepherds to accomplish the fashioning of breakfast one day, I was fascinated by the forensics offered by a tree pit on Astoria’s Broadway. Notice the normal sized human boot print and the gargantuan one superimposed at the top of the shot.

I can confirm that there very well might be a Sasquatch family living here in Astoria, which would make sense as every other tribe of the hominids maintains a residence hereabouts, but that their big feet are clad in galoshes. Vibrant Diversity includes cryptids, you know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, I met a Mariachi one night.

He seemed nice. He was certainly vibrant, I believe he said his name was Luis, but I can’t say a thing about whether he was diverse or not. We have a LOT of guys who work as Mariachi musicians hereabouts, and I know more than just one Luis who lives in Western Queens. 

We discussed Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi movies” and the gentleman affirmed that his guitar case held a musical instrument rather than a series of automatic weapons by producing the thing and strumming out a tune.

Luis (?) The Mariachi told me that he was a classically trained guitarist who loved Bach, but paid his rent working as an entertainer at restauarants and parties. I commented that I’m a fan of the Moorish influenced 12 string Spanish Guitar genre, whereupon he informed me that there is no such thing as Spanish guitar – it’s “Mexican Guitar” – that’s all there is. After parting company, I immediately regretted not mentioning Bix Beiderbecke, given where our encounter took place on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside. 

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

unsupervised circuit

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Life long relationships, ending, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the late 1980’s, my first job in advertising involved making photostat enlargements and reductions for the senior designers, art directors, and production artists at an agency which specialized in “B2B” marketing involving food service. My job title was “stat boy” and my function, beyond shooting “stats” in a darkroom, was to support whatever the more senior people needed. I worked directly for the “Studio Manager,” who was a friend from College that had graduated a couple of years ahead of me and offered me my first “leg up” into the business. He would often remind me that “shit rolls down hill” and accordingly I would end up performing menial tasks that he was too busy for – ensuring that our supply closet was stocked with pads of paper or paste up supplies, running job bags around the agency for sign off’s and approvals from the various powers that be, that sort of stuff. Think Jimmy Olsen at the Daily Planet, that was me back then. Overall, the job was worth doing, and it taught me a lot about how to survive as an artist in NYC.

One day, the Studio Manager sat me down in front of a brand new Macintosh computer, handed off a pile of floppy disks, and the task was to install a suite of software on the new Mac – which was the very first one that the agency had purchased. That was the first time that I ever opened a new program called “Photoshop” and it was also the first step towards what I ended up doing for a living as a digital production artist and photo retoucher. I’ve seen the entire conversion of the industry from “paste up and mechanicals” to full digital and web production over the intervening decades.

I’ve spent most of my professional life in front of an Apple computer – this post is being written on an iPad, for instance, and every photo you’ve ever seen from me was edited and processed on a desktop Mac tower.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a while there, things weren’t going so good for Apple. A lot of bad decisions, coupled with horrendous customer relations, had almost put the computer manufacturer out of business.

Steve Jobs returned to the company, and brought it back from the brink. The phones came along, and Apple suddenly became a mainstream company, and flush with cash. Jobs died, and a new management team took over at Apple, who have unfortunately returned the company to the bad old days. Form has taken primacy over function with this new team, and the entire concept of producing something which could be termed a “professional workstation” began to suffer. Every refinement of the core operating system released over the last decade has been crafted with the idea that its only function is to “monetize” the device, as related to selling me commercial entertainment media, and they have specifically removed capabilities from the device which were and are “mission critical” to my professional life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent encounters with the company – one where they informed me that a three year old workstation was “obsolete” and that even a simple component replacement would be impossible by the end of this year, another where a two and half year old iPhone with a defective battery (factory issues at the time of manufacture) was also obsolete – have soured me on the whole idea of Apple. The applications which I use in my daily round, the so called “Adobe Suite,” have become platform independent in the decades since a humble narrator was commanded to install them at that B2B agency off of floppy disks, and I’m not at all sure that I want to continue paying premium prices for a device which is considered obsolete by its manufacturer less than 36 months after opening the box.

Why buy a Ducati when a Buick will do?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots, of midtown Manhattan, were gathered while killing time and ruminating on my relationship with Apple at the end of December.

I was waiting out a battery replacement for the aforementioned iPhone, which – it should be mentioned – was performed flawlessly and took exactly one hour, but cost approximately one seventh of what I originally paid for the device. I pushed the folks at the Apple Store for a replacement device, but was told that this would be impossible, but that I could trade my old phone in for a couple of hundred bucks which could be applied towards the purchase of a new one (which would leave a $500 differential). Alternatively, they offered me entry into a contractual program, which would entail me giving the company $30 a month forever afterwards, that would ensure that whenever they released a new model I would receive one. That would mean a $360 per annum payment to Apple, forever and ever.

That’s a corporate tax, and the last straw, frankly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is less than sanguine about being overly exploited by a corporation, but if the service is desirable or needed… I have no problem paying my accountant, nor doctors, nor my local bartender, baker, or butcher what they’re due. Should my bakery suddenly announce that they will require me to pay them a monthly stipend for the privilege of returning moldy bread, however, I will find a new place to shop for my cookies and pie.

Sometimes, one must address the costs of things costing too much, and remember that the costs of customer retention are not too much for a large company. There are other options, always. I’ll miss Apple.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 12, 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.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

consistently toward

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It has been one heck of a couple of weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One tends to become a bit overwhelmed at times, and the last couple of weeks are an exemplar of this truism. Accordingly, posts at this – your Newtown Pentacle – have been a bit… light on the hidden facts and occluded history and all the other stuff I’m normally obsessed with bringing you. A particular series of recent imbroglios surrounding my beloved Newtown Creek have occupied a bit of the brain space. Pictured above is the Kosciuszko Bridge spanning the troubled waterway.

Recent meetings and presentations offered by the various powers that be in the Superfund story have been generating a tremendous amount of debate amongst the activist community on the Creek – which is actually a great thing. It is only through hand wringing and intellectual conflict that a community can find the correct path towards the future by finding the “middle way.” There is a corporate side, a governmental side, and a community side to the story of rectifying Newtown Creek’s environmental issues. All have valid interests, and all must be acknowledged as we proceed through the superfund process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor, the sort of thing one occupies himself with when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself dips below the horizon offered by the shield wall of Manhattan, is presented in the “table shot” above. The photographic exercise was less about the technical aspects of the shot than it was about color purity and reproduction. The pencils were part of my old kit from back when I was drawing comics, and representative of the sort of palette which was often employed in the manufacture of my four color fantasies. This was a one light source one camera flash shot, for you curious shutterbugs out there.

The big flaw in the image is the color pollution notable in the orange brown shadows falling on the white substrate at the bottom of the shot, something which I’d retouch away if it was a “commerical” image rather than an exercise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around two in the morning one recent night, the sound of an angry toddler screaming drifted through my windows from the sidewalk below. Turns out that this kid wanted to go for a midnight walk and his VERY patient Dad was trying to explain to him why that was a bad idea. This fellow deserved the “Dad of the Year” award, imho. The kid kept on trying for the street, and Poppa kept on pulling him back in a kind manner, patiently explaining that playing in the streets was a bad idea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lastly, the 5 train entering the bunker found at 59th street in Manhattan. For the last year or so, my normal habit of just getting on some Manhattan bound local train and lazily “sitting out” the trip has been avoided. I’ve been trying to use the system in a somewhat more intelligent way, which involves a lot of transfers. Don’t want you to think I’ve become a transit nerd… but I’m becoming a transit nerd.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 3rd, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm

curious pacts

with 3 comments

The great anniversary, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It all started in the Belgian Congo, over in Africa, when a fellow named Robert Rich Sharp discovered the deposit near a little town called Shinkolobwe.

The Union Minière du Haut Katanga, a Belgian Mining Company, assumed control over the resource and began to refine the material into something useful. It was something unique, this mineral deposit at Shinkolobwe, and the mine was soon producing ore materials that were 65% pure. Other global deposits of the stuff, discovered and exploited later in the 20th century, were considered major finds if they held 5% pure ore, and Shinkolobwe is described as a “freak occurrence in nature” by minerologists. The Belgians owned the Congo, and UHMK held a virtual monopoly on the rare elements found within the colony. Refineries were set up in Shinkolobwe, and both the town and the mine were excised from maps and official mention.

When the Second World War broke out, Belgium fell before the German Blitzkrieg, but the UMHK had already stockpiled some 1,200 metric tonnes of refined ore in the United States. It was stored in New York City, where UMHK had warehoused it on Staten Island, beneath the Bayonne Bridge. On the 18th of September in 1942 – Edgar Sengier, the head of UMHK, had a meeting with United States General Kenneth Nichols.

Nichols purchased the 1,200 tonnes of refined uranium from the Belgian Company, which was already in America and warehoused on Staten Island, and arranged for another 300 tonnes of the stuff to be shipped across the Atlantic from Shinkolobwe for usage by the War Department of the United States. This transaction ultimately caused the death of some 66,000 people, and the maiming of at least 70,000 more, a scant three years later on this day in 1945. Thousands more died on the 9th, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The military project General Nichols represented was started in 1939, eventually employing more than 130,000 people and costing nearly US $2 billion (about $26 billion in 2015 dollars). There were four known major deposits of the precious ore in 1940: one in Colorado, one in northern Canada, Joachimstal in Czechoslovakia, and Shinkolobwe in the Belgian Congo. Joachimstal was in German hands. The Canadian and American deposits were quickly nationalized, and the Congo mother lode was soon held firmly by British interests.

Across North America, dozens of industrial plants were built and got to work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

History is full of “what if’s.” What if Charlemagne had refused the title of Holy Roman Emperor? What if John III Sobieski didn’t break the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683? What if Chingis Khan had never invaded the Middle East? What if the Japanese Empire didn’t attack Pearl Harbor and force the United States into the Second World War? One can speculate…

Eventually, the U.S. would have intervened in Europe. Simply put, the English and French owed billions in war debts from the First World War to American banks, and the U.S.A would have been forced to intervene simply to protect its interests. The Pacific was considered an American and British lake back then, and the Phillipines were a de facto American colony in the 1930’s – so it was only a matter of time before the Japanese Empire and the United States would find themselves in one conflict or another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the European Powers, the Japanese understood what “total war” meant in the age of industry. Their miraculous conversion, in just one century, from Medieval backwater to industrial superpower had already resulted in Japanese forces utterly dominating and annihilating both German and Russian armies in one sided conflicts. Their naval strength was staggering, and by the 1930’s their armies made short work of capturing the infinite resources of China. Pearl Harbor was meant to be a decapitating blow, clipping the Eagle’s wings.

There are mistakes in history, blunders of epic scale, and Pearl Harbor ranks up there with the Khwarazm Shah telling Chingis Khan to go fuck himself. The America that the Japanese empire attacked wasn’t the one we know today, full of soul searching and unsure of itself – rather it was the country which had produced Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and especially John D. Rockefeller.

It had also produced Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves, whom General Kenneth Nichols worked for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ore purchased from the Union Minière du Haut Katanga by General Kenneth Nichols, which was scratched out of the earth in the Belgian Congo’s Shinkolobwe mine and stored in a warehouse on Staten Island, was uranium. The United States of America used that ore to refine and produce Plutonium in a massive industrial complex which it built in just six years. On September 18th, 1942 – the fate of two Japanese cities was sealed when the ore came passed into the hands of the Manhattan Project, which came to fruition on August 6th in 1945.

Seventy years ago today – a device named Little Boy carried that ore, mined from Shinkolobwe and stored in Staten Island, over a city called Hiroshima in Japan.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 6, 2015 at 11:30 am

crawled into

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A short one today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, one found himself in Manhattan – I had to pick up a job from my printer – and transfixed by a lovely building facade in the 19th century’s version of “Tin Pan Alley” on Broadway in the 20’s.

This was once NYC’s theater district, Gershwin had offices nearby, and although I’m speaking strictly out of my admittedly hazy memory here – I believe this structure on Broadway at 29th street was originally built as a fancy hotel.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 31, 2015 at 11:00 am

unrecognizable pulp

with one comment

Subway thoughts, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “R” is now one of the subway lines offering connectivity for cellular telephones, which I guess is somewhat handy for those last minute dinner negotiations with Our Lady of the Pentacle, but the presence of the beeping and chiming and people shouting into their phones distracts one such as myself from philosophizing. Doesn’t matter how crowded the train is, you’re always alone on the Subway, and that’s the only thing I ever really liked about the system. I miss those quiet moments where you could contemplate how and when you had screwed up that day, and had the opportunity to think about how “shit” your life has become. Now, it’s just more connectivity and distraction down there in the kingdom of the rats.

Conservatively speaking, I give it around ten years for the MTA to have figured out a way to pump location based advertising to your phone as you move from stop to stop. It’ll be an “opt in” scenario, which you’ll agree to automatically, by entering the system. This is the future, btw, and it’s going to seriously annoying. As you walk down the street, your phone is going to be buzzing away, bringing you personalized “beacon” based ads.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Subway thoughts often form in cascading waves, coinciding with the rising and falling tides of the suffering and apprehension which riding it brings. Accordingly, I budget my time for self recrimination to my commutes, which frees up the rest of the day for more profitable pursuits. That moment when one realizes that it is 5:45 and the R is approaching the always crowded 59/Lex station… Now, that’s a perfect interval to tear open emotional wounds, think about dead people, and examine ones recent mistakes, omissions, or screw ups. This way, when a monstrous crowd of sharp elbowed humans surges forth – you kind of feel like you deserve it.

Certain personal failings were paramount in my thoughts one recent evening, so when the “makeup girl” whipped out her phone and started playing some atonal ditty, and with “eat greasy stuff from a paper bag” lady and “so tired that I will lean against and sleep upon strangers” woman closing in around the pole I clung to, and along came “gigantic knapsack” man… the penitence for my sinful inadequacies seemed to be at hand. As they closed in around me, I thought of my beloved creek, which offers such a splendid isolation.

At least “Korean preacher who bad mouths gay people” guy wasn’t onboard, nor “Earwire,” or “Pretends to be a Gypsy with sick baby, but is really an Albanian with a borrowed and quite healthy niece” woman were also absent, and “Is anybody Hungry, I have sandwiches” man were nowhere to found.

It’s all so depressing, really.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Subway thoughts that mainly concern me, other than vague fear over the microscopic biota which populates the air and coats every surface within these traveling aluminum boxes, is purely one of puzzled annoyance. During warmer months, one has mentioned the charming MTA practice of only switching the air conditioning on when the train leaves Queens and enters Manhattan. The one that gets me during this frigid time of the year is actually the inverse, which is running the heat at full blast. Entering the system, from wintry streets above – I, for one – am clad in twenty nine pounds of insulating garments. From observation, I am not the only traveller who is so bundled, nor am I the only one who is visibly sweating after only one or two stops.

Good one there, MTA, good one.

As mentioned, you’re always alone on the Subway, even a crowded one. Me, I’m just always alone, and prefer to remain an outsider. No, really. I’d actually much rather be outside in the fresh air than trapped with all these humans on the train.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

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