The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

mental images

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It’s an insult to Jackie Robinson, if you ask me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Interborough, or Jackie Robinson Parkway if you must, is one of those less well known connecting points between Brooklyn’s East New York and Kew Gardens in Queens which the Manhattan people don’t really care about. It’s New York State Route 908B, and was known as Interborough until 1997. It opened in 1935, was profoundly reworked in the late 1980’s, and is another one of the traffic corridors which crisis cross through the citywide House of Moses.

As a note, my Dad used to curse vehemently whenever our daily round involved the Interborough, and he believed that it’s design was purpose built to populate the many cemeteries through which Team Moses cut it out of. I am not 100% sure that my Pop wasn’t correct about this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent outing with frequent Newtown Pentacle commenter “Cav” saw us careening along the Interborough, traveling as fast as traffic allowed. There are virtually no shoulders on this road, as it is surrounded by the aforementioned cemeteries and a series of steep hills. The parkway is cut through many of these cemeteries, and it’s construction required the disinterment of many graves. If ever there was a haunted highway here in NYC, it would be this one.

The always excellent nycroads.com has a page on the history of the Interborough/Jackie Robinson Parkway, check it out here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cav and I were chatting about our January boredom recently, and we decided to visit East New York, which is seldom boring for long. Luckily, he is a dedicated motorist, which meant that we could visit the murder capital of Brooklyn without having to get out of the car – a plus for one such as myself – who is a vast physical coward given to falling into convulsive fits at the slightest hint of danger.

East New York ain’t no joke, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having grown up in a neighborhood adjacent to East New York (Canarsie/Flatlands area), East New York – incidentally – was the place my friends would threaten to leave you tied up and naked if you were acting like a jackass while drinking, one still maintains a healthy amount of respect for the place and those who can endure it. Again, East New York ain’t no joke.

Of course, since our current Mayor is gaga about “Affordable Housing,” he’s decided East New York is the place to install a large residential population and attempt to gentrify the place. I would point out that rents are fairly affordable in East New York as it is, mainly because it’s the murder capital of Brooklyn, and functionally just about as far from Manhattan as you can get without leaving Brooklyn. It is served by a Subway line, but it’s a LONG commute. I remember taking the L from its terminus in Canarsie, and that was an unbelievably long trip back in the 80’s.

Incidentally, I understand that Jackie Robinson himself – or at least his mortal remains – can be located at Cypress Hills Cemetery nearby exit 3.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things which makes the Interborough so spectacularly dangerous are actually the drives leading out from the cemeteries which line its route. One will not pretend to have any sort of familiarity with East New York, since as mentioned, it was a place to be avoided when I was growing up in 1980’s Brooklyn.

I lived on the Canarsie/Flatlands side of things, and 1980’s Brooklyn was a racially divided community. As you may have guessed, I’m a pale face, and back then there were “dividing lines” and “DMZ’s” between the various ethnic populations hereabouts. 1980’s Brooklyn plainly sucked for this reason.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Jackie Robinson or Interborough follows the Terminal Moraine of Long Island into a lowland area, the hills formed from the same geologic structure into which the Ridgewood Resovoir was set. There are sub neighborhoods in East New York which are named for said geology – The Hole, for instance, and “Flatlands” is right next door to “Flatbush.”

There used to be a “Stanley Avenue Dip” off Fountain Avenue, which followed the former path of Spring Creek from Jamaica Bay on its way inland. Fountain Avenue is where illegal street racing used to take place, which was quite multiracial, and apocryphal tales offered by the “Utes” of Brooklyn suggested that the sand strewn lots of East New York were a Mafia dumping ground that you didn’t want to ask too many questions about.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

excellent notion

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Water Pollution can actually be quite lovely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was captured before the cold waste section of the year descended upon us all, with its crappy light and chill air. It depicts the Borden Avenue Bridge in Long Island City, which spans Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. You’re looking west in this one, and you can just make out the Empire State Building over in the Shining City of Manhattan on the horizon.

The following shots aren’t at the level or perspective of the water, instead they were captured recently from the deck of the Borden Avenue Bridge itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Knowing the sort of things I know isn’t pleasant. I’ve actually had some casual training in recognizing the various things you’ll notice on the surface of Newtown Creek. Your humble narrator can distinguish between fresh petroleum and old, the difference being the sort of “sheen” which it effervesces.

Saying that, this olive colored snot pulling along on the tepid currents of Dutch Kills may – or may not – be petroleum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If it is petroleum, it’s probably a subaqueous deposit of historical pollution which has worked its way up to the surface having become “moussed” on its way and has formed a sort of aerated foam. It can also be grease, or something that floated out of the open sewers found along Dutch Kills. Heck, it can be a whole series of unpleasant things, only a chemist would be able to tell you for sure.

Whatever it is, it’s fairly interesting from a visual point of view – no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Y’know, we’re moving into an era in which the Newtown Creek will be cleaned up and many of its environmental issues are going to be sorted out. I’m terrified by this, as the place is going to end up being “all niced up,” which will make it boring as heck. I’ll miss the oil sheens, condoms, dead rats – all the variegated crap which is defined as “floatables.”

I guess there’s always Luyster Creek, or Anable Basin, or the Kill Van Kull… luckily, there’s a long list of polluted waterways and future superfund sites here in the City of Greater New York which are splendidly filthy.

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used in

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Spectacle on the Boulevard of Death, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had a bit of Newtown Creek related business to take care of, and found myself visiting the offices of a certain City Councilman last week to discuss the matter. As always, the exchange was amiable and after accomplishing the delivery of my missive to the office, I found myself wandering down Queens Boulevard in pursuit of a return to Newtown Pentacle HQ. My phone rang, and I wandered onto the median of the so called “Boulevard of Death” to discuss a friend’s upcoming Birthday celebration when a caterwaul sounded from the east bound lanes at the corner of Locust – or 44th street if you must.

An “accidental” had occurred. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seemed that some unlucky fellow, who was riding a bicycle and got struck by an automobile, was laid out on the Boulevard. Luckily, passerby were already calling 911 and guiding the always heavy traffic around the scene. There was also a USPS employee on scene, who was talking to the 911 operator, and since the NYS DMV has always told me – emphatically – that postal traffic has the right of way in all things traffic related, I felt like it was being sorted and did not require my intervention as the Feds were on it.

So, I stood there taking pictures. We all have a role to play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bicyclist, who seemed stunned when I came upon the scene, suddenly began to writhe about. The car’s driver and passenger managed the victim’s bicycle while the aforementioned postal employee and a member of the gathering crowd of gawkers chided the poor fellow to “not move” and “stay down.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless, he sat up, but seemed thunderstruck (or at least Mazda struck). Off to the north, in the direction of Skillman Avenue, sirens began to ring out – no doubt in response to the multiple 911 calls coming in from the gathering crowd of “lookie loo’s.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Woodside Warriors, Engine 325, arrived. As mentioned in the past, my reaction to the arrival of FDNY units is “everything is going to be all right now.” Accordingly, I put the lens cap on my camera and started back on my path towards Astoria. Such is life in Western Queens, and the traffic corridor of Long Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle, when I was relating the tale above to her, asked me if I did anything to help. She immediately regretted asking, as I went through a whole set of “photographer” morality plays with her. It’s an odd thing, actually. My moral dilemmas about recording an event versus participating in it are rather tame.

Look at the war photographers for the true soul searching about whether or not you should stand there taking pictures or intervene while someone is bleeding out.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

weak and tender

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One last effort at combatting Cabin Fever, Dry Rot, and your SAD.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This post will be your last dose of seasonal affective disorder medication, so drink in the color. Next week – it’s back to concrete devastations, chemical factories, superfund sites, cemeteries – you know, the usual.

Funny thing about the shot above is that I used to know a girl called Mary Gold. What was funny was that she was named Mary and was from a  Jewish family, but then again Christian Mary was from a Jewish family too, so maybe Mary is as Jewish a name as Abraham, Esther, or Sarah. In my family, there were two Aunt Rose’s, and my mother would call one of them “Rose Waxman” as she had married into the clan, and the other was Aunt Rosie as she had been born into it. There was only one Ida, but if memory serves she never grew any apples but made one heck of an apple cake.

Anyway, that’s my marigold rap.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve never met, nor am I knowingly related to anyone named Albizia Julibrissin. Commonly referred to as the Mimosa, the Persian Silk Tree is actually an invasive species here in North America. It’s native to Japan and Korea, apparently, and was a prized landscaping specie in the recent past. Persian Silk Trees, aka “the bastard tamarind” and or “Pink Siris,” is an allelopathic organism. Allelopathy is a ten dollar word for “secretes chemicals into its environment whose function is to inhibit or eliminate competitors.”

It’s pretty though. I’ve heard many members of the gentry hereabouts in Astoria complain about the so called Mimosa, as when its flowers drop, they create a sticky mess on their sidewalks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m pretty sure that the flower above is an Iris, but what I know about flowers is less than what I know about brands of luggage. I’ve known several Iris’s in my days, including one whose last name was Gold, but was not related to the aforementioned Mary G (who was the “OG” as I had met her first). This was all back in an earlier era, of course, when Brooklyn was a place people didn’t want to live in, Mtv played music, a young Joe Piscopo taught us all how to laugh, and Huey Lewis was the Hootie of his time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery, one moist afternoon. It was Autumn, raining, and the light was great. Turning leaves, of course, which violates today’s flowery thema but follows along with the palette of reds and pinks nicely. Red light is carried on a longer wavelength than blue, and is of a higher frequency. The human eye – according to a couple of sources – perceives about 390 to 700 nm wavelengths and frequencies which are (in a banded gradation) in the vicinity of 430–770 THz. There’s all sorts of light invisible to human eyes, but certain critters abandon one end of the spectrum for the other, like the honey bee and the gold fish who can discern the ultra violet but lose the infrared. In return for seeing deep blues and violets, they lose the ability to see any wavelength longer than orange, which is kind of a neat trade off.

Makes me think about the things which might be flopping all around me that I can’t see. Wonder what sort of critters there might be might who have evolved an effective invisibility to Homo Homicidis?  This would be the ultimate defense mechanism against us. Might answer the question about “what is that smell, and where is it coming from”?

The reason why the sky is blue? It boils down to the shorter wavelengths and lower frequencies of the violet and blue range being scattering by the atmosphere, which is also why sunny days on Earth’s surface “look” warmer as the red light with its longer wavelength is able to penetrate down to the ground and is prevalent on deck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The most amazing skies I’ve ever witnessed were in Crete, over in the Peloponnesus of Greece.

Some awesome flower action is going on over there as well. Given the weather forecast, I sort of wish that that’s where I was right now. This is a back garden at a house which my In-Laws lived in for a number of years in a village called Tsiverus, a settlement which had the most treacherous road system I’ve ever experienced. Considering that this place has been settled by modern humans since the time of the pyramids, however, I’m willing to cut them some slack on the bad layout and placement of roads. I’m sure these paths were a lot easier to navigate with donkeys and slaves and stuff, but why there’s a highway with no guard rail placed on the ridge of a thousand foot gorge… it boggles.

Of course, the same day this was taken, I saw a work crew cutting a trench through the ruins of a Roman settlement to lay a sewage pipe into. Did you know that Greeks don’t call themselves that? They’re Hellenes, Athens and Kriti are in a country which is called the Ellīnikī́ Dīmokratía, and the word Greek comes from “Grik” which is a Roman slur that means “short legged.” Travel broadens you, I’m told, for me – it’s just another set of things to do research on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is hoped that this week of bright colors has helped alleviate the seasonal affective disorder symptomology which we are all feeling. People always refer to “cabin fever” during this time of the year.

Cabin fever is no joke, it’s an actual “thing.” “Piblokto” or Arctic Hysteria, is a condition that appears in Inughuit (which is how you spell “Inuit” now) societies up in the Arctic Circle, but it’s certainly not confined to the natives as both sailors and soldiers posted to the Arctic experience it as well.

Symptoms of Arctic Hysteria include: social withdrawal, excitement, convulsions with stupor, and recovery – which kind of describes my life in high school, except for the recovery part. The excitement part involves stripping naked and running around in the snow. You might survive Arctic Hysteria, but high school?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

OK, back to January.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

grisly forever

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A continuing series of colorful images, combatting the SAD reality of January.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a reason that your summer clothes are always tight when you put them on in June, and it has nothing to do with them getting shrunk by careless laundromat employees. During the cold months, there’s few options open for Queensicans other than to hunker down in their domiciles and blankly stare at a television screen while stuffing food into their mastication orifice. Personally, I’m a big fan of Citrus during the interminable winter months – high in fiber, hydrating, and it delivers a much needed blast of vitamin C.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing is, living in Queens, one has a lot of options which – while not the smartest choice from a dietary point of view – taste real good. A humble narrator is prejudiced towards the selection of an oatmeal raisin cookie while browsing the bakery case, using the rationalization that since its oatmeal – it’s a better choice to make. One entirely omits the fact that these things are full of the “devil’s grease,” which is better known as butter.

Either way, I’m not even thinking about the sugar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of sugar, the shop keeps here in Astoria constantly up their cake game. Often, I wonder if they have struck some sort of deal with Satan itself, committing to slowly murdering as many of us as is possible with baked goods such as the chocolate heart cakes seen above. A true devil’s bargain, and shaped like that which they’re aimed at, these are.

Short term gain indeed, in return for an artery choking case of sclerosis which would send one plummeting to the fiery pit and into the company of the beast.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are those who work for us, instead, it should be mentioned. Agricultural bounty is available wherever you choose to seek it out. My team of doctors have passed on a simple coda for interpreting foodstuffs of the vegetative variety – bright greens and dark greens are packed with iron and simple sugars, and red things are anti inflammatory powerhouses. Yellow things are also a good choice, but one should generally avoid white and brown things like potatoes due to the carbohydrate load indicated by their coloration.

They are ambivalent about orange things, my docs, which is good as I’m a carrot guy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The coda falls apart when witnessing so called “heirloom” cultivars, of course. There’s a lot of these sorts of vegetable and fruit on the market these days, which are sold with the legend “organic.” Of course, being “Captain Vocabulary” and all – the term has always bothered me as it betrays a lack of knowledge about what words actually mean. My response to the word “organic” is always “oh good, there’s no silicon in this tomato.”

I avoid the purchase of said heirlooms, or hipster fruit as I sometimes call it. If a “regular” tomato was good enough for Harry Truman, it’s good enough for me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wildly verdant, despite the environmental horror of it all, these “sewer berries” can be observed growing in Greenpoint. I would recommend against their consumption, of course.

Legend has it that quaffing a handful of Greenpoint’s sewer berries will lead to bodily transformations and psychological changes. Vampirism might be rampant on the Queens side of Newtown Creek, but apocryphal tales from hoary Greenpoint involving lycanthropy all seem to tie back to some punter tossing back a few feral berries. At least that’s what’s supposed to have happened to McGuniness.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

be fair

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I love to photograph, So mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, it’s all about the yellows. The particular wavelength and angle of light emanating from the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is ugly at this time of year, and a certain responsibility is felt to attempt to brighten things up. Pictured above is one of the groundling burrowers with the glowing red eyes who inhabit the Roman Catholic polyandrion called Calvary Cemetery, here in LIC.

Word has it that their role is to carry messages between those who exist above and below the till, and that the daily challenge is to try and avoid the multitudes of Hawks, Cats, and other predators who desire the rending of their flesh during the carrying out of their task.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last summer in Astoria, we had what seemed like a record crop of Sunflowers, which led to great rejoicing in the apiaries of Western Queens. I’ve mentioned a certain paranoia – carried over from childhood – regarding sunflowers and the buzzing harvesters which infest them, in the past. Regardless, the stalwart photographer must pursue his craft, and the fancies or terrors of infancy are best left on the back shelf.

Still, sunflowers freak me out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead things abound in Western Queens, and not all of them are found below the soil of the so called cemetery belt. This poor little bastard counted its last minutes on a sidewalk in Queens. Often, one fears that this is the sort of posture one such as myself will be displaying when discovered by passerby.

Life a leaf, you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pineapples, in some abundance, observed at an Astoria fruit stand.

The most amazing part of our culture, in my opinion, is that after reading this post – in the middle of January – you can go out into the cold, and by writhing through the atmosphere for just a few blocks find tropical cultivars on sale. It will not be difficult for you to find mangoes, strawberries, pineapples – in January. That is simply amazing, when you get down to it, and it’s a reminder that despite the climactic challenges you’ll encounter – you live in the financial capital of a nuclear armed superpower which enjoys the actual highest standard of living ever known and that other nations and cultures send us regular tribute.

In many ways, we are living in the modern equivalent of late Republic Rome.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of living in an analog for Rome (prior to the First Triumverate, natch), you can be reasonably assured of the presence of the fire fighters should sudden immolation occur. FDNY’s trade dress, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, always brightens things up. The only times that the phrase “everything is going to be alright” escapes my lips is when FDNY shows up – they’re our army of municipal super heroes, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The darkness of winter gives the Vampire community of Western Queens vast regency. As opined in the past, the army of Strigoi shuns entry into Astoria due to vast numbers of South and Central European ethnicities resident hereabouts. My neighbor Mario prefers to use high visibility paint on his cruciform wards, because “safety first.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s down on the western section of the Sunnyside Yards that you really need to be carrying the garlic in LIC. The area is infested with the Nosferatu in the Hunters Point Avenue section nearby the LIRR. It’s a big part of the reasoning behind the stout fences protecting the 7 train as it rises from the tunneled depths. You probably don’t want to accept the fact, I know, but there you go.

Don’t get me started on the Witch Cult. Vampires are merely rabid dogs inhabiting the shadowed corners of our world, whereas the worshippers of Hecate and the Magna Mater are hidden amongst us and actively working… I’ve probably said too much already.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm

with dreams

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Constrained and contained.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The winter blues are upon us all, one fears. Dark skies and so on, combined with recurrent viral infections polluting the local outlook. Not so at this, your Newtown Pentacle. This week it’s not about the blues, rather it’s the purples, and reds, bright green, and lemon yellows. Every image that will greet you this week is chosen not for some narrative purpose, rather it’s a public service whose purpose is to help combat your SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and virus addled days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This week you’ll be greeted by a series of shots culled from the archives, accompanied by a bit of text discussing that which is pictured, when warranted. Above, a barbed wire fence line in Blissville, Queens. Behind it rises the former headquarters of the General Electric Vehicle Company, which manufactured electric automobiles and trucks in LIC back at the start of the 20th century. I described the saga of GEVC in this post, which is actually a few years old at this point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Williamsburg Bridge is actually the reason that there’s a Municipal Art Society, as the span was considered to be such an abomination when constructed that the gentry of the early 20th century wished to ensure that nothing like it ever occurred again. Personally, I don’t consider it that bad, although I prefer the venerable Manhattan and spectacular Queensboro bridges – speaking from a strictly esthetic point of view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s at the bottom of the barrel, January, in terms of the wheel of the year. What one such as myself craves is color, saturated and bright. If all I can get is artificiality, I’ll take it.

If this Astoria vending machine, which is the sort designed to tempt a passerby to drop a few coins in pursuance of a stuffed animal which might be obtained via the use of a metallic claw, is all I can get – I’ll take it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The former Williamsburgh Savings Bank, over in North Brooklyn, has been laboriously restored to the glories typical of the era of France’s Second Empire. Luxurious detail and slavishly applied color is found on the domed ceilings of the place, both of which are sure to brighten up your wintry malaise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to LIC’s Blissville, in the shot above, and a religious parade committed by a small army of Bolivians at St. Raphael’s on Greenpoint Avenue. If this quartet of dancers cannot brighten a January day, I don’t know what can.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yuyzel on da cruss, as my Grandmother would have described the statuary above, is found at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Lower Manhattan. The cruciform is backed up by stained glass which provides for a bit of color at one of my favorite and most cinematic spots in NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can’t go wrong with Times Square if you’re looking to brighten up and color up your mid January. Of course, since it’s actually everything that’s wrong with modern NYC made manifest, a trip there might just backfire. Come to think of it, Times Square has always represented everything that was wrong with NYC, at least in the 20th and 21st centuries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY always lights things up when they’re working, come to think of it.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

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