The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

innermost monstrosities

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I know things, I tell you, things!

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Owing to it being Columbus Day and all, one got to thinking what the old boy might have seen were he to have ever made it to Newtown Creek. Columbus, of course, never got anywhere even remotely close to NYC – but if today’s post was a thought experiment designed to picture a spot that the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek flowed to prior to European colonization… well, 40th avenue between 29th street and 30th is a darned good place to visit. Just saying.

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all pantheons

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Hey, youse, whatcha taking pixchas of? Comere, ahlls gis yes someting to take pixchas of right heres…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The first time that a camera was used as a weapon of war, not for propaganda or image capture but as a bludgeon, was during the First World War. A century ago, a British infantryman who was completely out of ammunition on the Western Front swung his Kodak Brownie stoutly around for 17 straight hours, holding off a German division singlehandedly before succumbing to his injuries.

I’m making that up of course, to illustrate the ridiculous nature of people’s reactions when they see a camera being used these days. Folks don’t react in the same manner to cell phone cameras, mind you, dslr’s must awaken some ancestral memory of one eyed predators stalking our primate predecessors. At any rate, here we go again with the Subway pics.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Compared to the shooting protocol I’ve been perfecting for the underground system, down in the tubes, the 7 line is a piece of cake. Above ground through most of Queens, every one of its platforms (except Hunters Point, which has its own virtues) offer fantastic points of view. The shot above is the Corona Yard, nearby Flushing Meadow Corona Park and Citifield, on the pedestrian bridge between the LIRR station and the 7 line’s stadium stop.

Whilst shooting this one, some faceless security guard asked me “what are you taking pictures of?”. Gesturing to the yard, I said “the trains.” He offered that it was disallowed, noticing such things and capturing the reflected light streaming off of them. Not desiring to discuss constitutional law with a fellow in a rented cop suit, I instructed him to summon the police. He declined and began to harass a teenaged skateboarder instead.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While on Skillman Avenue near Queens Plaza recently, the 7 came sliding in over the intersection and the deployed camera was called to action. An older woman, whose logical decision making process is clearly flawed – she made the decision to drive into Manhattan at rush hour – called out to me from her idling automobile, offering a question.

Her query was “are you a terrorist?”. I affirmed the negative on that one, and asked if she had remembered to turn the oven off before she left the house. I’m a real stinker like that, she was probably worried about it for the rest of the day. Seriously though Queensicans, leave me the hell alone when I’m working, because that’s what photographers are doing when we have those one eyed predator weapons systems pressed to our faces.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 10, 2014 at 12:44 pm

so dissimilar

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Places to go, no one to see.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at Newtown Creek’s LIC tributary, Dutch Kills, a property owner has been clearing away a stand of poison ivy and feral trees which have been occluding views of the turning basin (47th avenue at 29th street). There’s a bit of controversy about the property owner’s plans to erect a fence line here, as it seems to be NYS property, but this is Queens so who cares? If this was North Brooklyn, there’d be hunger strikers and hipster girls would be chaining themselves to the bulkheads. Here, the primary impact on the community is the loss of a good spot for weed smoking used by students from a nearby college and high school.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, Working Harbor Committee did a tour of the Gowanus Bay and Canal which I was onboard for. Conversation with members of the Gowanus Conservancy allowed me to utter aloud one of the “faux pas” for which I am famous. My statement that Newtown Creek is a FAR bigger problem than their troubled waterway was greeted with “oh, here we go.” I explained that its geography, and that Newtown Creek and its tributaries simply occupy more space than the Gowanus. Closest analogy for the Gowanus, in my opinion, is actually Dutch Kills – multitudes of bridges, overflown by a highway, narrow channel, and abandoned bulkheads.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Got me thinking about Luyster Creek and all the other largely abandoned industrial canals in Queens that never get mentioned, of course. Flushing River, Anable Basin, and the rest seldom receive much notice from regulators. They’ve got the Black Mayonnaise and the VOC’s, the CSO’s and PCB’s. Heck, the entire alphabet can found floating around in New York Harbor. Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull is so rich in pesticides that it could likely wipe out every roach in Manhattan.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm

too vivid

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The Brooklyn Queens Expressway, what a gas.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, an assignment I was working on sent me packing back home to Astoria from Red Hook in a Taxi, and one became sublimely bored as the driver negotiated through traffic. As is my way, the camera was deployed to see “if I can get anything worth keeping.” Every time that I see, or cross, the Kosciuszko Bridge these days – a sense of finality kicks in and it occurs that I really should get some shots of it since there will shortly not be a bridge to be shot – rather it will be a construction site.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For the camera folks out there, these shots were captured with settings of f1.8 at around 1/250th of a second at ISO 2000+. It’s actually pretty dark up there, something which I’ve never been able to understand given the number of street and vehicle lights, but there you are. I guess there’s a lack of ambient light coming up from Newtown Creek and Calvary Cemetery.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator has nearly caught up on a couple of projects which have been weighing heavily, and is anxious to get back to weightier matters around the Creeklands. Another week or so and one should be free of entanglement and distraction. There’s also a couple of autumn walking tours I need to tell you about, but that will have to wait for a day or two.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 8, 2014 at 10:50 am

healing balm

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Cry havoc, and let slip the dog of Blissville…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way to a recent Poison Cauldron tour, wherein a group of overtly curious New Yorkers were guided around neighborhood found in Brooklyn’s DUKBO, a rather large canine was spotted. It is my belief that I have met this dog before, and if I’m correct in my assumption of its identity, all one hundred pounds of slavering canine flesh contained in its skinvelope are overtly friendly and desirous of a good scratch. One way or another, he caught my eye whilst a humble narrator was scuttling toward the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Stinging critique is omnipresent in my mind, as always. A novel one has been added to the list over at my Brownstoner Queens column, where someone has characterized a recent post as “classist.” That’s a new one. I’ve been called a lot of things over the last five years or so, but classist ain’t one of them. Just so that you understand where I come from, my Dad called the commode “a terlet” and the conventional wisdom in my family was that the best you could do in life was to pass a civil service exam which would vouchsafe “security” in the form of a job working for the City.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dogs are generally good, to me at least. Here in Astoria, where a significant number of the neighbors hail from the near east and adhere to the mores of a Muslim upbringing – they’re not so good. There’s a whole other cultural imperative at work with these folks, and they view dogs as “unclean.” Canines aren’t as “haram” as pigs, of course, and I’ve noticed that there seems to be a coefficient to how unclean they are based on geography. Conversation with the neighbors has revealed that folks from the western side of the near east – Lebanon, Egypt etc. – are fairly tolerant of dogs although they are a bit wary about them (much like the Greeks who hail from the Cyclades). When you meet folks from further east – Bangladesh, India etc. – the sudden appearance of a dog amongst them is tantamount to pulling the pin on a grenade. The dividing line between the two points of view seems to be somewhere around the Arabian peninsula. This is entirely unscientific, of course, and based strictly on conversation with the neighbors.

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idle pursuits

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Oh dear gourd, what fresh hell has been loosed?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too much to report today, lords and ladies of Newtown, so seasonal greetings are offered. Over the weekend, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself decided to spend some idle time carving the family Jack O’Lanterns. One less thing, right? I did the one of the left, and Our Lady carved the right side one.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I decided that my pumpkin must have teeth of some kind, and the general outlines and shapes of a human skull were kept in mind.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady, who is a bit of a scamp, decided to go for a mischievous sort of thing. One likes her pumpkin, better than one’s own.

Back tomorrow, with something a bit more substantial, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 6, 2014 at 11:59 am

long coma

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Trucks, trucks, trucks.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving about as one does, an awful variety of trucks are observed. There are trucks that suck, and trucks that carry. Pictured above is a delivery of automobiles arriving at Northern Boulevard’s “Carridor.” This is a truck which drives cars around.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

At the corner of Meeker and Monitor and at the border of Greenpoint and Bushwick, this rusty number only carries people and a small amount of cargo. A human scale machine if ever there was one.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Ash street in Greenpoint, one encountered a truck full of mini tractors. This was a municipal kind of thing, as these tractors were on their way to a NYCHA vehicle maintenance facility. There is nothing human scale about the New York City Housing Authority, of course.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Van Dam Street in Blissville, I found a tow truck of the “wrecker” type with a smaller tow truck on its bed. This was novel, thought a humble narrator, piggybacking one truck onto another. I wondered if the smaller tow truck might have a jack in its cargo compartment.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the Carridor in Queens, a heavy truck was delivering light trucks to a Mercedes dealership one morning. Whimsy demanded that I consider whether or no there might be some of those “Smart” electric mini cars inside the light trucks, but that made my head begin to hurt.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Finally, on Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn, a truck that carries ex cars. Its cargo consisted entirely of squished automobiles, which were undoubtedly headed for the SimsMetal pier on the Queens bank of the Newtown Creek.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 3, 2014 at 11:06 am

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