The Newtown Pentacle

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coarse brains

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Sorry for the late post today.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One was up late nursing a sick iPad back to healthy functionality, and my Wednesday didn’t start until what most would refer to as lunchtime. Technological vagaries notwithstanding, the NY Daily news ran a piece today that confirms many of my worst fears about the sweating concrete bunkers which underlie the streets of NYC, which I’ve often referred to as the kingdoms of the rat. Check it out here.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 4, 2015 at 2:02 pm

unrecognizable pulp

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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.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

corporeal tenement

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Wind, snow, rats, egg rolls, fear.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting visualization of the locations where rats were reported in 2014 in the City of Greater New York, as presented by the Village Voice, was reviewed over the weekend. The health department and the writer of the piece focused in on the seeming correlation between the addresses of Chinese restaurants and the location of rat colonies. Officialdom and the Voice writer speculated on whether or not the rodents have a preference for Chinese take out. When viewing the map, I couldn’t help but notice that the shape of the rat infestations closely mirrored that of the NYC Subway system. Follow the critters through Queens, and you can trace out the path of the R/M, 7, and F lines rather neatly. Same thing with Brooklyn, where you can trace out the G tunnels. Just saying… these restaurants are either located above subway tunnels or are nearby the entrances to the system.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal observation of the Chinese restaurants here in Astoria, a few of which are on the Voice map, reveals that the owners of these establishments consider the corner sewer drain as a handy receptacle for the issuance of both fryer oil and the emptying of mop buckets. Rats love fatty foods (who doesn’t, after all?) and hang around the local sewer interceptors and underground vaults knowing that the good stuff will be coming soon. Thing is, my belief is that these sorts of anecdotes are coincidental to the real issue of where the rats are coming from – which are the MTA tunnels.

Ask anyone who lives in public housing – the worst landlord in the City of New York is actually the City of New York, which passes strict rules and enacts a series of fines on the citizenry to enforce them, rules which it does not find itself obliged to follow. Show me a New Yorker who hasn’t seen a rat in the Subway and I will declare them a one percenter who normally gets around town in the back seat of a limo. Show me an apartment house owner with black mold on the walls and no available heat or hot water, who never gets fined, and I’ll automatically tell you the owner is the City of New York.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

After the snow finishes falling, look around tomorrow. You’ll be able to discern which properties in your neighborhood are owned and operated by the City simply by noticing which sidewalks haven’t been shoveled (with the exception of schools, courthouses, and anything within camera range of Manhattan’s City Hall). These City owned stretches of pavement will remain covered in snow, which will shortly compact down into a plate of milky colored, rotting, wet ice that will persist until the spring thaw. Sadly, many of these spots will surround Subway stations and bus stops. This is one of the things which “I don’t get” as even the Soviet Commisars acknowledged that they had certain responsibilities to the Proletariat. The connection between high volume restaurants and rats is actually a correlation of the proximity of these establishments to Subway infrastructure. Dealing with NYC’s rat infestation should begin with that which connects us all – the subway tunnels. Then, we should work our way up to the surface and blame the Chinese restaurants.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

terrible injuries

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Aching, painful butt? Get outside, I say.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, one forced himself off the couch, dared the frigid antibiome of Queens, and moved. Movement is difficult in this sort of weather, as one needs to swaddle himself in insulation. Sometimes I like to weigh myself unclothed, just out of the shower, and then get back on the scale after getting dressed. One recent day, I realized that I was wearing twenty seven pounds of clothes. We are all forced to carry baggage, I reckon, but no one is encouraging me to just sit on the couch so I picked myself up and went out – into the cold waste.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This crow was spotted over in Flushing, walking a cart of harvested alloys towards an Iron Triangle scrap yard for conversion into cash. He’s walking in a vehicle lane on the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge, which is ill considered – “vision zero” wise. Just before and about a minute after this shot was captured, vehicles moving at speed nearly struck him, dual events which really seemed to tick him off. The auto drivers offered the crazy notion that he should be using the pedestrian lane. Chalk this one up to “user error,” I guess.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Roaming into the park via the pedestrian bridge that connects the LIRR station with the Subway stop at Citifield, many sevens were present, but it was seven sevens that were focused upon. This is the MTA’s Corona Yard, which is next door to an MTA Bus terminal. All very exciting, except for the fact that due to track work, the train wasn’t running on the day I shot this and that I live way over in Astoria. Probably why there’s so many of them just standing around and apparently looking for something to do.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

lovely attribute

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Sneeze, cough, sneeze. Repeat.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself is defined by my list of phobias and fears, and a long list of prophylaxes is maintained. Fear of an unwarranted accusation, fear of finding myself in the path of a madman, fear of falling victim to someone else’s incompetent or lazy habits. I’m afraid of being seriously wounded in a manner that cripples rather than kills, terrified by stray electrical current loosed into salty puddles of melted ice and snow, and incapacitated by the notion of being pushed in front of a speeding subway train. What slays me, however, is the phobic reaction I suffer to the realization of the number of pathogens I’m exposed to whenever I ride the subway (and I regularly hang around waterways which has been added to the Superfund list that are choked with sewage). The stress is enough to make me develop a rash.

from wikipedia

The skin is the largest organ in the body. In humans, it accounts for about 12 to 15 percent of total body weight and covers 1.5-2m2 of surface area. It distinguishes, separates, and protects the organism from its surroundings. Small-bodied invertebrates of aquatic or continually moist habitats respire using the outer layer (integument). This gas exchange system, where gases simply diffuse into and out of the interstitial fluid, is called integumentary exchange.

The human skin (integument) is composed of a minimum of three major layers of tissue: the epidermis; dermis; and hypodermis. The epidermis forms the outermost layer, providing the initial barrier to the external environment. Beneath this, the dermis comprises two sections, the papillary and reticular layers, and contains connective tissues, vessels, glands, follicles, hair roots, sensory nerve endings, and muscular tissue. The deepest layer is the hypodermis, which is primarily made up of adipose tissue. Substantial collagen bundles anchor the dermis to the hypodermis in a way that permits most areas of the skin to move freely over the deeper tissue layers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The close quarters of the mass transit system, where the air you breathe was recently dwelling within the chest of someone else, causes a massive “flight or fight” response to blossom around three inches behind my sunglasses. People actually eat while riding these trains, after having touched various surfaces found both onboard and in the stations. Leaving behind the various inorganic contaminants found down here – the brake dust, carbon compounds released from failing electrical connections, powderized steel from the rails – you’ve got an aerosol teeming with virus and bacteria. On top of that, the micro biome which every member of the human infestation hosts – mites and other microscopic horrors – mingles with the personal ecosystem of others in these tight quarters. It’s a wonder that we aren’t eaten alive on the morning commute, and that trainloads of skeletonized cadavers don’t arrive from Queens at Manhattan’s 59th street every 10-15 minutes. One realizes that this is illogically phobic, but nevertheless, it causes me to become quite itchy.

from wikipedia

Scabies (from Latin: scabere, “to scratch”), also known colloquially as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin infection caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The mite is a tiny, and usually not directly visible, parasite which burrows under the host’s skin, which in most people causes an intense itching sensation caused by an allergic response. The infection in animals other than humans is caused by a different but related mite species, and is called sarcoptic mange.

Scabies is classified by the World Health Organization as a water-related disease. The disease may be transmitted from objects, but is most often transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact, with a higher risk with prolonged contact. Initial infections require four to six weeks to become symptomatic. Reinfection, however, may manifest symptoms within as few as 24 hours. Because the symptoms are allergic, their delay in onset is often mirrored by a significant delay in relief after the parasites have been eradicated. Crusted scabies, formerly known as Norwegian scabies, is a more severe form of the infection often associated with immunosuppression.

Scabies is one of the three most common skin disorders in children, along with tinea and pyoderma. As of 2010 it affects approximately 100 million people (1.5% of the world population) and is equally common in both sexes.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Realization that what I’m scared of the most is actually all of you torments and informs. One of my nightmares involves a packed train and some corpulent fellow whose skin is covered in bursting pustules whose yellowed issuance is tinted with tiny ribbons of blood. In my frenzied nocturnal hallucination, this citizen of the realm is infected with every possible disease of the dermis. A bit of his infectious spatter lands on my left hand, which I watch turn red, then yellow, then black as scarlet spider webs begin spreading up into my sleeve just as the train enters the tunnels which carry it beneath the river. Just at that moment when your ears pop due to the pressure of the water above, a brownish red liquid begins to drip out of my pants leg and a fever overcomes me. By the time the train arrives at my destination in the Shining City, there’s naught but a filthy black raincoat and a camera found sitting on a puddle of purplish goo upon the septic linoleum of the E train. Commuters just step over this liquefied but still humble narrator, of course, because no matter what obstacle New York City throws at you – you’ve still got to get to work.

from wikipedia

Leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions are the primary external sign. Left untreated, leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. Contrary to folklore, leprosy does not cause body parts to fall off, although they can become numb or diseased as a result of secondary infections; these occur as a result of the body’s defenses being compromised by the primary disease. Secondary infections, in turn, can result in tissue loss causing fingers and toes to become shortened and deformed, as cartilage is absorbed into the body.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 13, 2015 at 11:30 am

trickling from

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Those Astoria Tumbleweeds… they’re back.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Friday the 3rd of January saw a humble narrator out early, as one had professional obligations to fulfill. While waiting for my breakfast sandwich to be assembled at a greasy spoon on Broadway, here in almond eyed Astoria, observation of a carefully placed and quite discarded Christmas tree occurred. It would have made the news if this coniferous corpse was placed in a bike lane, but instead…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The ever reliable DSNY has posted an instructive page here, which describes the proper procedure for disposing of holiday cheer. The municipal organization has a large mulching operation set up to aid in the disposal of the seasonal cultivar, and no where in its list of specificities governing the process does it say “throw it into the middle of the street.” Ahh, Astoria.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The purchase of breakfast complete, one did not have time to watch the thing roll about in the street. Rather a somewhat epic journey was undertaken, wherein the longest and most expensive possible route (using mass transit) to Brooklyn was undertaken. Why do you need to leave the Long Island, traveling through Manhattan, to arrive at a spot on the Long Island less than 7 miles from your starting point? It’s just silly.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

resplendent aura

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A short encounter with the Saw Lady, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, while moving through the Subway system, as one paid his fare with a Metrocard Swipe, an oddly familiar sound penetrated through my headphones. Plucking the tiny speaker out of my ear confirmed it, the Saw Lady was nearby. Looking around and following my ears, I soon found Natalia Paruz busking.

from wikipedia

Natalia ‘Saw Lady’ Paruz is a New York City-based musical saw and novelty instruments player and busker. She is the founder and director of the annual Musical Saw Festival in New York City. She also organized the musical saw festival in Israel. She is a columnist of the ‘Saw Player News’ and a judge at international musical saw competitions.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Saw Lady, as Natalia calls herself, plays the musical saw with a sort of passion that others can only aspire to. I first met her around 4-5 years ago at a holiday party she was performing at here in Astoria, and most recently she and I were part of a nocturnal Atlas Obscura event that played out over in Greenwood Cemetery. Let me tell you, if you think the sound of a musical saw bouncing around a Subway station is ethereal, you should hear what it sounds like when played inside of a tomb.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Natalia Paruz maintains a website at sawlady.com, where you can check out and purchase her recordings, or learn more about the ethereal sound produced by the unique instruments. She’s a Guinness World Record holder, incidentally, having assembled the largest orchestra of musical saw players together, an event which happened right here in Queens.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 25, 2014 at 1:26 pm

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