The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Subway’ Category

rythmic piping

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A dream to some…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Recurring nightmares have plagued me since childhood. Many of them revolve around isolation, or being solitarily confined to a familiar place that is normally quite crowded with others. The Subway system, in particular, strikes several of my psychological fault lines. There’s the paranoia about being pushed onto the tracks by some lunatic, an unnamable dread about having the tunnel collapse while under the East River, an entirely reasonable fear of the pathogens that swirl about within the cars, and the notion that no matter how crowded the train might be – you are always quite alone down there.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For several years, a recurring nocturnal hallucination finds one traveling on the NYC Subway system through an endless ride. The train never seems to stop, which would offer egress for escape from its confines, instead it just continues rattling and hurtling through the dripping concrete and steel havens of the rat.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The train speeds up when it comes to stations and terminals, rather than slowing down, acting in the manner of some sort of subterranean Mary Celeste. There are other potential victims of the endless train ride on the platforms, who see the panicked face and wild gesticulations of a humble narrator in one of the train windows and then begin to laugh and point.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The mephitic vapors of the underground mix with those powdered remnants of rat feces that fill the air, inside and out of the train, as the collection of electrically driven boxes speeds along rickety tracks which cause the conveyance to rattle and shake from side to side. A panic takes over me, as does the realization that the conductor might be some sort of demon swine herd and that riding the Subway itself might be the Sisyphean punishment that awaits me in the afterlife. A commute that takes an eternity, and one that starts over as soon as it ends… truly – Dante might have imagined this fate, were there Subways “back in the day.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Always, in these nightmare visualizations of being trapped down there, the train is empty. In New York City, the notion of being alone – true solitude – is somewhat terrifying. For those of us native to this wonderful and horrible place, there is always the notion that someone is watching. There is always the “presence” of others. Removing this externality of consciousness from the equation is terrifying enough, but being completely isolated on a moving Subway is both odd and disconcerting.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Gazing out of the train, in these dreams of mine, reveals naught but hopelessness. Were one able to pry open a door, in an attempt to escape into the tunnel, momentum would crush and pulverize. The false hope of the blue lights (the blue lights in the Subway tunnels indicate the presence of a stairway which leads back up to the surface, either a sidewalk hatch or a station) are set in place to tantalize and torment by the foul council of elder demons (the MTA) whose will is made manifest down here.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While caught up in the enchantment of these nightmares, basic physical needs begin to manifest. Urination, thirst, hunger. The worst, however is the boredom. Once, my recurring Subway nightmare played out over a week of dream time, an imaginary interval during which a humble narrator saw himself descend into atavist and ape like behavior. Licking the walls of the train car for condensed moisture was amongst the least horrible of my actions.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In waking life, one suffers from a certain form of claustrophobia. A bus trip in Junior High School which saw a 1980’s race riot spark up is the origin of it. The pushing and surging of the crowd of combatants during the internecine warfare of Brooklyn’s “Cujenes” and “Homeboys” left me with a real fear of being trapped in a mob, and to this day one avoids crowds. You will never see me at a protest, or attending a concert at some mega venue. These subway nightmares of mine seem to play on this trait, offering instead the hell of loneliness and solitary isolation.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Can any wonder why it is that I prefer the jittery solace of late night coffee, or question why I am routinely awake at 2, 3, or even 4 A.M.? That the notion of placing ones head upon a pillow is so terrifying that I resist the embrace of Morpheus? If only there was a way to escape the tyranny of biology, and avoid sleep. It’s during those intervals of unconscious hallucination that one truly understands terror, and the latent horror of an eternal commute.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

fled unknowingly

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Break time.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A single image greets you this morning, as will be the case through the Thanksgiving holiday.

A humble narrator requires a break periodically, to recharge and reinvent. Worry not, however, for pithy commentary and puckish intent returns on the Monday following Thanksgiving – the first of December.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

central and supreme

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I been everywhere, man.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Actually, despite the bold statement above, I’ve hardly been anywhere at all. There are spots which one is overly familiar with, of course, but the daily grind does tend to oppress. Just the other day, one had to undertake one of those ludicrous commutes which have been enjoyed throughout the last year, crossing from Astoria out to the New Jersey side of… Staten Island… via mass transit.

What I was doing on Staten Island will be the subject of a post later this week, but today I’m just complaining about how long it all took. Rapid transit indeed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The 59th and Lex Subway Station is surely meant to serve as a vast sculptural interpretation and exemplar of the spiritual concept known as “oppression.” Kafkaesque in layout, it always seems claustrophobic when I visit. The ceilings are lower, platforms narrower, stairs steeper… Last week, at least, I got to add a shot or two to my collection of “photographs of photographers photographing.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An somewhat accidental detour into Brooklyn occurred on the return trip, which I found rather ironic. It was nice to visit the Borough Hall station, but I needed to get back home before the indomitable bladder of Zuzu the Dog exploded. Has it ever been mentioned that my own personal version of hell is an eternity spent on a long commute through an endless labyrinth of tunnels?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

was indubitably

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Samhain has nearly arrived, are you prepared?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is prepared for a siege originating in the occult world, and has gathered bags of salt, bees wax candles, and vast amounts of blessed holy water unto himself in preparation for Samhain. One shall avoid descending into the sweating cement bunkers of the Subways after this morning, for who knows how deep some of those tunnels might go?

Perhaps - some connect to the upper reaches of Tartarus (this would explain the smell at the Queens Plaza R/E/M station, incidentally). Mephitic miasmas, carried along by the piston action of the train carriages, might mutate, metastasize, or metamorphosize men into malign or malfeasant monsters. Normally, this would be paranoid fantasy, and a mad ideation. Not so on the holy day of the Witches, when the psychospheric climate is appropriate for the fantastic and impossible to randomly occur.

The Horned God will have his annual dance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Beginning at midnight tonight, salt will be laid across every entrance to HQ, and “Mezuzah’s” will be affixed to each door and window post. Mirrors will be affixed to the doors themselves, and garlic hung from the lintels. I have a couple of those “super soaker” water gun rifles which I’ll be filling with the holy water. Also, a local butcher has agreed to supply me with a few gallons of lamb’s blood today, with which I intend to paint the sigil of the archangel Michael upon my doors, in the style of the Jews of ancient Egypt. Just for good measure, and to hedge my bets, I’m going to render the sigil representing the archangel Lucifer in butcher’s blood as well.

Just in case.

One feels that it’s best to try not to offend anyone, after all, and keep your options open. Samhain, or Halloween, is not a time you want to take chances, or choose the wrong side.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Concerns about certain steel and concrete gateways to the underworld, found here and there in LIC, form the primary firmament of my concerns. As is the case in the shot above, some of these portals are rather large. Gigantic daemon things could easily find their way to the surface on the annual sabbat of the old gods, walk upon the surface of the earth, and unleash the chaos of the pit itself upon the concrete devastations of Queens. Titanic in scale, there would likely be very little that the average citizen could do to combat the influence of these elder things and their minions. When confronted with such entities, most will simply abandon sanity – retreating into the blanketing comfort of gibbering madness, after all.

Luckily - and not many people know this – NYPD issues silver bullets to its patrol units on Halloween and their ESU teams (Emergency Services Unit) atypically bring a third man along on its calls – a Police Exorcist.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2014 at 11:00 am

must each dwarf

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“They rob, kill and plunder all under the deceiving name of Roman Rule. They make a desert and call it peace” – Tacitus

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving through lower Manhattan, the long time New Yorker cannot help but notice the changes to the area beneath the FDR drive. One remembers a day when this area was used for parking, and also served as a camp for homeless folks. My mental picture of this spot – a dank, dark, dripping waterfront mess infested with dangerous, and often addled or demented, primates – was forged in the 1980’s, so admittedly – it’s thirty years out of date. I also remember a day when Carvel Ice Cream shops were ubiquitous.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’ve got down here in modernity is a very well used “sort of” park or public space. There’s “model chicks” jogging around in yoga pants, “stock broker” guys leading tiny dogs around on leads, and lots of people lounging about. Pier 11 has become a sort of commuter hub these days, and there are hot dog carts and other vendors set up under the highway who charge $4 or more for a bottle of Snapple Iced Tea. CitiBike has one of its bike share racks in the area, and South Street has accordingly had bike lanes deducted from it. Al Smith would hardly recognize the street he grew up on.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In contrast, there’s Queens. This is the 7 elevated subway pictured above, as it leaves Court Square toward Hunters Point in LIC. Now, this is the same block which 5ptz once occupied, and one wonders if – when the luxury condos which will replace the art institution open – some future version of myself will say that they remember an earlier iteration of reality. Of course, many have told me that I watch too many movies, but I’d really love to be able to see the future as well as the past.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, October 25th, Glittering Realms
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

mocking instruments

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One dares, or he dares not.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one found himself entering the death inducing environs of Queens Plaza last week. Navigating the cryptic signage painted onto the pavement, which mixes bike lane and pedestrian lanes intermittently, at night… Well, the NYC DOT really needs to be thinking about a do-over concerning them. Path finding is not based on any sort of recognizable municipal language, and there are few if any “tells” indicating where the pedestrian pathways fall. I walk through here all the time, and it scares the patootie off a humble narrator every time.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Automotive lanes suddenly appear in front of you, ones in which cars are already moving at a pretty good clip by the time they hit a badly marked cross walk. There’s nothing to “stand behind” while waiting for the light to change, and a feeling of exposure is experienced. This can’t be right. When the Dutch Kills Green park on the northern side of Queens Plaza opened a few years back, it dramatically improved the pedestrian situation on the Dutch Kills side, but the south eastern side is dangerous as all get out and difficult to navigate.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Don’t get me wrong, the northern side ain’t perfect, but it’s vastly easier to navigate through it than its opposite. As a note, I’ve been unable to stop noticing the super tall Manhattan building “432 Park Avenue” and everywhere I go these days it’s just popping up and demanding to be acknowledged. Here it is from Queens Plaza, a monster building as seen from the central gearbox of the Great Machine. One wonders, and more than wonders, what the weather is like up there.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

abhorrent discords

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Queens Plaza is antithetical to life.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Long has one theorized that the biblical Garden of Eden was actually located in what is now known to be North America, specifically at the corner of 42nd and Broadway in Manhattan. The metaphor of mankind turning a paradise into Times Square is somewhat delicious, but one wonders if perhaps this theorized location of the former Garden of Eden is just a little too far west and that paradise lost is actually found in Queens Plaza. A vile place, fraught with multiple hazards for the itinerant pedestrian, Queens Plaza wants you dead – and it will try to kill you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

All of the human senses are under severe assault in this place. Harsh light creates glaring contrasts, and oily shadows slither twixt and fore. From above, a cacophony that drowns out all other aural information is accrued as two elevated subway lines converge. The tumult is amplified by the roadways and their torrent of automotive flow, as well as the many vertical metal surfaces which tend to amplify and reflect noise rather than abate it, while steel columns heavily shadow the pavement. Engine exhaust fills the air, and lungs, with an oily miasma. From below – the thrumming vibrations of speeding locomotives burrow deep into the intestines, shaking the bowels. Bike lanes cross and intersect with pedestrian ones, allowing spandex clad missiles purchase to surprise and surpass an ambling innocent, and a truly byzantine series of street markings conflict, confuse, and astound.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what one experiences just as you near Queens Plaza, as vague and existential dread overtakes you. Realization of the true randomness of fate blossoms upon reaching the locus of the Great Machine, where vehicles of many types and descriptions approach mighty Queensboro. One might trip while walking cracked pavement cloaked in shadows, be pummeled by some loosened piece of the overhead tracks, or be impacted upon by 200 pounds of spandex clad primate riding his bike at 10-15 mph on the sidewalk. A car might strike, a bus would hit, a truck could squish. There’s also the other pedestrians to consider… with their blood shot eyes rapaciously darting and or noticing passerby. The world is a scary place, for one such as myself, and Queens Plaza is especially scary.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

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