The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Queens’ Category

no worse

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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

without warning

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A fairly novel spot found in north western Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, one enacted a “bat out of hell” protocol when Our Lady of the Pentacle allowed me a brief furlough from a kitchen renovation project here at HQ. My perambulation was committed in an easterly direction along Northern Blvd., which ceases to be pedestrian friendly at 114th street. A northerly turn found me at the intersection of Astoria Blvd. and Ditmars, and since it was a warm afternoon, tree lined Ditmars was the route I elected to take back towards the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria.

When you say “North Western Queens,” one thinks of jails and airports and power plants and stadiums, and as pictured above – the barrier parkway known as the Grand Central.

There is, however, something else found hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along Ditmars Blvd., this inviting pedestrian path beckons. Signage found at its intersection informs that this is NYC Parks Department property, and a part of the Flushing Meadows Corona complex.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Worlds Fair Marina is noticed first, a boat basin servicing a fleet of privately owned pleasure craft.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Then, looking to the west and LaGuardia Airport, you observe a part of the Flushing Bay Promenade. Asking around at my local bar, none of the native Astorian lifers even knew this park existed.

Perhaps it’s better known in East Elmhurst, which is the community that hosts it, but my Astoria peeps professed complete ignorance on the subject.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east, something that every Queensican is intimately aware of will be found, the home of our lamentable Mets baseball team at Citifield. Just beyond the stadium are the main sections of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the west is LaGuardia Airport, and this spot along Flushing Bay was a great location from which to observe the goings on thereabouts.

The NYC Parks Dept. makes this page available at their website, describing the history and rather recent creation of the Flushing Bay Promenade, which is connected to the presence of a large NYC DEP “Combined Sewer Outfall” gray infrastructure project nearby.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the western edge of the park was a somewhat natural shoreline, and lots of birds were observed flitting about. Luckily it was high tide when I was visiting, as anyone who has driven along the Grand Central Parkway can describe the sickening rotten egg smell which out gasses from the mud flats here at low tide.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A smallish homeless camp was observed right along the walls of LaGuardia Airport, and there were makeshift shanties and fabric tents arrayed amongst the tree line. I didn’t venture into the area any further than as indicated in the shot above, however, as I avoid taking shots of residences no matter what their status is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high speed road known as the Grand Central Parkway, pictured above as seen from within the Flushing Bay Promenade, was constructed in the 1930’s. Part of the Triborough Bridge build out, the Grand Central was widened in the post WW2 period to its current dimensions. Another project from the House of Moses.

Robert Moses was a very clever man who mastered the bureacracy of State, City, and Federal highway systems – earning himself the appellations of both “Master Builder” and “Power Broker.” Moses held near absolute power over highway and bridge building, as well as public housing and parks, for nearly forty years before Governor Nelson Rockefeller ousted him from government in 1974.

The NYC we all know is the City that Moses built.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As with all things government, specificity is key to understanding a thing. The reason that it’s the Grand Central “Parkway,” instead of highway or expressway, are the grassy and wooded medians that run alongside it. Since these medians are titular “parklands,” Moses had broader powers of eminent domain when claiming and remodeling the area to drive a high speed road through it.

Moses also built LaGuardia Airport, incidentally.

“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 28, 2015 at 12:06 pm

past imagining

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Wandering, wandering.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, a brief interval allowed me to escape from HQ, where a kitchen renovation has been underway for the last couple of weeks. My landlord, distressed by my reports of rodentine occupation in the so called “wet wall” found behind the 1970’s era cabinetry affixed to it, sent in the Croatians. Said Croatians have been doing a brilliant job, and are nearing completion of the project after two weeks of work (which is bit of a miracle itself here in Astoria), but I’ve been stuck here keeping an eye of things and ensuring that Zuzu the dog doesn’t wander into a tile saw or something.

Luckily, Our Lady of the Pentacle invoked a “work from home day” last week, allowing me the freedom to go on one of those ridiculously long walks across Queens for which I am sort of known. This time around, my path wasn’t towards the East River, nor Newtown Creek – instead, I headed east along Northern Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first thing which caught my eye was, as always, something Robert Moses left behind – the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. This is literally the “Northern Blvd. exit” by the way, which empties the highway onto the local streets in a confusing series of curved and badly marked lanes. As with all things Moses, “pedestrian friendly” is at best an afterthought. The BQE does serve a purpose for me, however, as a geographic reference point.

It’s easy to know which community of Western Queens you’re moving through when on the neighborhood’s “main drag.” You have no doubt about whether it’s Jackson Heights or Woodside when you’re on Roosevelt Avenue, for instance. Same thing with Sunnyside, Woodside, or LIC. There’s a distinct “feel” to these neighborhoods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northern Boulevard, however, was built as a high volume road for automobiles. Most of what you’ll find along its length, from its transmogrification at 31st street from Jackson Avenue to Northern Boulevard all the way to its titular end of pedestrian friendliness at 114th street in Corona (and yes, I know route 25a continues all the way to Suffolk County) are automobile related businesses and chain store restaurants. Northern gets a bit more residential when you get out east into the 80’s, 90’s, and so on but it’s still pretty automobile focused. We’ll talk about that in subsequent posts that spawn out of this particular walk.

The funny thing is, of course, that a few phone calls were made to friends who grew up in Queens to double check my impressions of “where I was” while developing this set of shots. You can’t trust the real estate people, who will try to describe parts of East New York as Williamsburg if you let them.

As I said to Hank the Elevator Guy – “so if I’m on 78th and Northern…” There was some debate amongst my Queens natives on that one, incidentally, as to whether that particular area counts as Jackson Heights or Elmhurst. Consensus was achieved when several parties said “it depends on which side of Northern you’re on.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fellow pictured above, who made the absolutely terrible decision to stand on the off ramp of the BQE in what is definitively Woodside (62nd and Northern), bore a bit of signage adjuring passing motorists to toss him a few handfuls of loose change. A sign of the times, this fellow actually is. Emblematic of the current Mayoral admistration’s anitipathy towards the enforcement of “quality of life” regulations which have distinguished our municipal experience over the last twenty years. I’m sure he will be replaced shortly by some guy with a squeegee and a bottle of windex. I’d vote for the squeegee guy over our current First Citizen in a heartbeat. I’d also vote for a parakeet just to see the First Citizen sent packing back to Park Slope.

This walk, an escape from the domestic construction project mentioned at the top of the post, was a bit mad btw.  One emulated the proverbial “bat out of hell” and covered quite a bit of ground. Starting at Woodside Avenue and Northern Blvd., I walked east along Northern to 114th and then headed Northwest along Ditmars into East Elmhurst and then southwest back into Astoria.

Many interesting things were observed, which will be offered and described in subsequent posts at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

which swelled

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Random sightings in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, whilst waiting for the bagel shop guy to assemble a sandwich for my consumption, this pile of cigarette refuse was observed. One was impressed not just by the quantity – this has to represent around $75-80 worth of coffin nails as currently priced in NYC – but by the relative tidiness and self contained nature of the refuse. The “Vision Zero” branding on the muni meter receipt just brought it home for one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Astoria’s Broadway, nearby Crescent Street, one of those Chinese owned dollar stores had a display of plastic flowers arrayed upon the pavement. Other offerings included off brand backpacks and those wire shopping carts which we all use for transporting bags of laundry to and fro, but the patent artificiality of the flowers transfixed me. It was actually a bit of a challenge to capture how truly saturated their colors were.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Near Astoria Boulevard’s intersection with 21st street, this pentagram graffiti was found on the back door to a fairly ancient commercial building. When I spotted it, a loud exhortation bubbled out of me and “yeah, Satan!” was uttered. This caused no end of concern to the old Greek lady sitting on her porch across the street. Accordingly, one scuttled away and brisk perambulation carried me in a generally northern direction.

I’ve been chased through the neighborhood by a group of angry Greek women before, and do not intend on suffering through that sort of thing again.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

portal guardians

with 2 comments

Hatches abound in the Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is possessed by a certain and somewhat odd fetish for “access covers” – or as they are colloquially known and popularly referred to by the local gentry – “manhole covers.”

Often, these iron discs will be the oldest thing present on any given street, due to their durability and the difficulty one encounters when attempting to replace one. According to several Federal Highway and Street design manuals which I’ve suffered through – guidelines state that it is preferential to replace one of these hatch covers only with an exact copy issued by the original manufacturer.

That’s probably why you’ll notice the Citizens Water Supply Company of Newtown’s hatches sprinkled around the neighborhoods of the Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

About a block from the 108th Precinct’s HQ in LIC, sharp eyes will notice this 1874 vintage (independent municipality of) Long Island City sewer cap adorning the pavement.

Nothing else which has survived gentrification on this particular block dates back to anything earlier than 1900 or so, which makes this discus a genuine artifact of another age and a somewhat prehistoric culture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few blocks away, on Second Street in LIC, there used to be an iconic power plant that (positively) electrified the Long Island Railroad. The power plant is gone, transmogrified by the Real Estate Industrial Complex into yet another bland residential building sheathed in mirror glass.

The rectangular LIRR access cover remains, nevertheless. This chunk of iron likely dates back to the late 1890’s, an educated based on logo usage and operational era.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Queens Blvd., in the Sunnyside area, you might notice these IRT branded storm drain covers. They are found on the roadway parking lots which underlie the massive concrete acqueduct which carries the Subway tracks high above.

These access covers are a non standard size, btw, only around 16-18 inches across. They carry the sort of typography one would expect from the house of Moses at the TBTA, and I suspect that they might have installed when Queens Blvd. was widened to its current footprint back in the 1930’s (may have been 40’s but I think it was the post Triborough Bridge era in the late 30’s. Don’t trust me on this one, I’m pulling this from memory rather than proper fact checking).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once upon a time, there was just one phone company. A monolith corporation which enjoyed a special status in NYC, the populace hereabouts called it “Ma Bell.” One of the interesting bits of history about which these access caps can inform the observer concerns corporate America.

You’ll see “NYCTEL” and “Bell System” as well as “NYNEX” and “Verizon” sprinkled around here and there, and all speak to the roll out of telephonic infrastructure across the megalopolis, and the evolution of the telecommunications industry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of wires, Consolidated Edison caps are probably the most numerous hatch covers encountered. They are larger than most of the other ones, and are sometimes several feet in diameter.

My understanding is that the electric people have been retrofitting their access pipes in recent years with plastic undercaps, whose purpose is to keep salt laden melt water from winter snowfalls from infiltrating down into and degrading the electrical equipment found within. The hidden barrier also serves to vouchsafe against the manhole cover becoming electrified.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in East Elmhurst, this gorgeous hatch was recently encountered along Ditmars Blvd. in the 80’s. It belongs, or belonged, to the Brooklyn Union Gas Company – another monolithic organization which enjoyed – like the Bell System – a special monopoly in NYC.

These mega corporations operated under the aegis of a “Public Utility” designation, which meant that in return for exclusive access to the NYC market they would agree to charging politically regulated rates and perform tasks in concert with municipal officialdom.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The typography on this hatch is particularly pleasing, to my eye, at least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also in East Elhurmst, around a block or two from LaGuardia Airport, this manhole cover was encountered. Signage nearby adjures that a buried gas line is in the ground, which might offer some clue as to the occupation of the hatch, but the “ACQ” screed embossed in the iron is somewhat puzzling.

Any ideas as to its meaning, Lords and Ladies?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 21, 2015 at 10:18 am

vine encumbered

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It’s “something completely different day” in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle has been exercising her green thumb since the late spring, and we have quite a cucumber patch situation in one of the flower boxes out on said porch. Our Lady is an early riser, whereas your humble narrator is not, so one recent evening after she had retired to the boudoir, I was found out on the porch. Astoria is somewhat infested with rats, and given the abundance of cucumbers found hereabouts, a rustling in the patch caused me to grab a flashlight and inspect. While doing so, and it was just the wind btw, it occurred that it would be cool to stick a camera down in the pot and see what I could see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My trusty old Canon G10 has a fantastic macro lens function on it, but the device’s weaknesses have always been most apparent in low light situations. Luckily, one of my flash guns has a “slave” function built into it, which triggers it when another camera flash is actuated within a certain visual range of its sensor.

Accordingly, the secondary flash was positioned at the far end of the vine, and the G10’s onboard flash (which is pathetic, but adequate for the task at hand) activated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The G10 was outfitted with a remote cable release, and its menu of options set up, whereupon I sat it down on the soil deep within Our Lady’s flower trough. A little bit of noodling on the settings was called for, and eventually, the correct combination of instructions were encoded into both the capture device and external flash gun. Did I mention that these shots were captured well after midnight and in somewhat complete darkness?

Also, I never knew that cucumbers were covered in little hypodermic needles when immature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Encouraged by my results in the first few shots, I ran inside and grabbed another bit of photographic kit, a clamp with a tripod’s ball head built into it and used the same technique to shoot down into the vine at some of the maturing fruit. In some of these shots, like the one above, you can actually see worms emerging from the recently watered soil. I plan on exploring this approach in the future, presuming that some urban farmer will allow me access to their planting beds at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One realizes that botanical macro shots aren’t exactly par for the course here at your Newtown Pentacle, but since I couldn’t stop looking at them, it was decided to share them in today’s rather late in the day post.

Also, for all of you who donated money to the camera fund last week, I cannot express my gratitude. I will at some point in the near future, incidentally, when my financial life isn’t quite as rugged. Like the Grinch confronted by Mary Lou Who, my heart grew two sizes due to your generosity and support.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

incomprehensible if

leave a comment »

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

Citizen Narrator found himself walking through the pedestrian paradise called Queens Plaza recently. The commissars who guide the workers paradise of Queens – from the offices of central planning in the Shining City – would encourage every common worker to do so, in order to experience the glorious cultural vibrancy and ethnic diversity of this testiment to collectivism and proletarian rule. Under our glorious new system, all citizens will be afforded the opportunity to visit secular cathedrals like Queens Plaza. Just a short time ago, when the financial industry vampires occupied City Hall, such things were one hundred percent denied to any common worker and reserved for the aristocracy.

Imagine what it was like in those bad old days, when public defecation was still considered a crime, under the despotic rule of these capitalist strigoi and fascists who so recently monopolized our municipal life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Under the guidance of First Citizen De Blasio, all injustice shall soon be struck down. Crime is only criminal if it is so defined to be. The First Citizen learned his trade in the 1980’s in Nicuaragua, while defying the official edicts of the Capitalists in Washington, who denied aid and comfort to the enemy. So great was the First Citizen’s compassion, and true his convictions, that he continued to rally aide for the Ortega regime after returning to his native New York.

The First Citizen has many loyal supporters, of course, for no great champion of the Proletariot can work alone. Accusations by recidivist elements of the old regime notwithstanding, it is ridiculous to suggest that the First Citizen’s agenda is bought and paid for by this cabal of concerned comrades.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vampiric elements of the old regime, who inflicted a million trees upon the people and imprisoned them for minor offenses like public drunkeness or urination, writhe and twist under the reforms offered by the First Citizen. Luckily enough for the proletarian masses, our leader has cut funding for maintenance of these examples of “green infrastructure” shortly after rising from within the Party to his well deserved position as our leader. The First Citizen demands that all new infrastructure be red.

Soon, the only crime prosecutable by the Police will be the harboring of counter revolutionary ideologies.

“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm

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