The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Astoria

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

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

only crawl

with one comment

Astoria, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other night, while hanging out at my local pub here in the southern end of Astoria, some rough fellow accosted one with the usual “hey, what are taking pictures of?” thing. Bellicose, the gentleman began to advise me that I should spend my time photographing the skyline of Manhattan because “no one cares about Queens.”

He was rather insistent about this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is kind of rallying cry for me, this “no one cares about Queens” thing, and it’s bothersome to have to argue about it with some guy who – as it later turned out – had a largish back tattoo whose motif included a shoulder to shoulder swastika.

I’m all for political expression of course, but a Nazi in Astoria?

Conversation with amiable bartenders over the weekend revealed that there seems to be a small population of like minded individuals in the neighborhood. They’ve actually had to reprimand one fellow who liked to read passages from “Mein Kampf” out loud at the bar.

“Really?” was all I could say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not strange that racists and other adherents to rather ugly philosophies can be found in Astoria. We’ve got Jihadi sympathizers on the ass end of Steinway Street, and those Greek “National Front” guys are here as well -heck- a few years ago I even ran into a small group of actual card carrying Bolsheviks who opined that the revolution was nigh. “Diversity” includes nut jobs and jerks too, it would seem.

Thing is – If you’re a racist, “politically” a racist that is, Astoria probably ain’t the sort of place you’re going to want to live in. It will be exhausting for you to merely identify or classify the human infestation hereabouts, let alone espouse a specific grievance about all the groups who are living and working here. We have everybody from Egyptians to Eskimos, Thai to Tibetan, Irish to Indian. There’s normal human prejudice and frictions encountered occasionally when these wildly different cultures rub up against each other, but Nazi’s?

How retro.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Historically speaking, Queens has a rather checkered past on this subject. Members of what we would call the American Nazi party – the so called German American Bund – were rather active in the years leading up to the Second World War here in Queens (and especially so in Ridgewood and Bushwick).

These neighborhoods hosted a rather large German population back then, who referred to their communities in New York City as “Kleine Deutschland” and the “bund” was usually in tune – politically speaking – with their distant homeland. All of that fell apart during the Second World War and the American Nazi’s became associated with extreme elements of the Ku Klux Klan, and prison gangs like the Aryan Nation.

Hey, when you grow up Jewish, you develop a certain sensitivity to this sort of thing. Swastika bad.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

sidetracked once

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Death, annihilation, and hatred… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is not in a good mood, so bitching will ensue.

Psychological firmament at the moment would be best defined as reminiscent of the general anger and malaise one enjoyed in the late 1980’s. A neighbor casually asked me the other night “Howz yooz doins, brah?” and my only answer emanated from that era with “What this City needs is a good plague.” If it weren’t for the physical cowardice and generally avoidant set of behaviors which rule me, I might stamp my feet and cry out loud at passerby. A desire to craft a sandwich board vest which announces the nighness of the end compels and overtakes. The train is crowded, and so are my thoughts.

Why is it so noisy all the time, and why is there no place to pee?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’d bring up the whole dumb idea of decking over the Sunnyside Yards with these innocent travelers whom I’d acost with the truth of our times, and check off a list of realities associated with the population whose arrival in Western Queens is already scheduled. Thing is, if one was to become overexcited and display the wild eyed zeal and abundant mania which typified the behaviors of times gone by, one might fall into one of his states and need to be taken to a trauma center of some kind and the nearest one is found in Manhattan at Bellevue.

How could I achieve carbon neutrality after spending a hour in an Ambulance in Manhattan traffic? Ow, my algorithm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Would one opine about the corrosive effects that afternoon drunkeness and public vagrancy cause in the minds of kids in particular and the community as a whole? Here, on Broadway in Astoria, populations of fellows like the gentlemen pictured above spend their days and nights wandering about in a drunken haze. Public urination, defecation, and drinking are commonly observed. As well, one routinely has to wake them up when they pass out in his doorway. Whether you feel sorry for these chaps or hate them, why aren’t the Police policing them?

Would the presence of obvious brothels in storefront locations on the main shopping thoroughfare be mentioned, and would the seeming toleration of such establishments by the aforementioned local police come up as well? If you leave your car parked in the wrong place for just a few minutes, the gendarme are promptly on scene to issue a ticket. What about drunks sleeping in front of your grocery stores and in your driveways, or storefront whores performing their trade next door to the bagel shop?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“What this City needs is a good plague” was a standard answer for me when people asked “Howze it goin, dude” back in the 80’s. That era in NYC wasn’t the way that some are describing it these days, opining about “energy and vigor and…” It was a grimy shithole which had seen better days, where you took your life in your hands by getting off at an unfamiliar Subway stop. An era of “getting jumped” and “mugged,” when you’d routinely see trails of blood on the pavement which would lead you from place to place. Sometimes they’d lead back to a party, but you didn’t have to go far to find a house party somewhere in East Village back then. More often the trails would lead over the bridge from Alphabet City into Williamsburg, where a lot of people found themselves bleeding back then.

Meh, I’m going to go listen to some Black Flag.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

hysterical madness

with one comment

Shots and anecdotes from Astoria, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Queens Cobbler is at work again, this singular shoe was observed on the 21st street side of the ancient village while perambulation was underway. A trophy hunting predator walks amongst us, unseen and unnoticed by the Gendarmes. Mark my words, lords and ladies, soon you will see banner headlines about the Queens Cobbler and his nefarious work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My upstairs neighbor, one of the laconic Croatians who populate my particular neck of the woods, tells me that the price of food has become “terrible” hereabouts. She laments what has happened to her adopted country in the roughly three decades that she has dwelt here, and informs that once she reaches retirement age a return to Istria will be a top priority.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Pentacle’s district office is found at Doyle’s, an Irish bar on Broadway and 42nd street – the Times Square of Astoria. During the warm months, it is my habit to pack up Zuzu the dog and make an end of day pilgrimage to this District Office, in order to touch base with the neighbors and enjoy a pint or two of beer.

Not long ago, whilst engaged in this activity, a bird on a wire was observed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria, Queens… we now have wild Parrots infesting the neighborhood. There’s also Opossums, one of which showed up at my own door recently. Zuzu the dog bit it on the butt, which caused it to retreat back to whatever cryptid critter bolt hole is preferred by the out of place and unexpected fauna wandering about the ancient village.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 11th, 2015
BROOKLYN Waterfront Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

fully inanimate

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Hanging out at Hallets Cove, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having nothing especially pressing, on a recent and quite cloudy afternoon, a general scuttle was enacted to go out and “see what Queens wants to show me today.” My footsteps carried me to Hallets Cove, where the ancient mouth of Sunswick Creek lies forever buried beneath the folly of progress. One decided to pay some attention to the local fauna, and then find a private spot where the elimination of metabolic waste water might go unobserved by the surrounding human infestation. Such unfortunate consequences of my consciousness residing in a biological organism notwithstanding, the age old question of NYC once again arose and bedeviled.

Why is there no place to pee in New York? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC plans for everything in excruciating detail, and employs armies of academics and consultants to study the citizenry in the name of accuracy and scientific methods. I’ve met people who can tell me how much water I use, trash Our Lady directs me to carry to the curb, and predict my usage of the subway system based on geography and income levels. There are officials who can hazard a pretty good guess about the month and year you are likely to die in, barring accidents. They also have good figures for the probability of accidents.

The one thing which they can’t seem to figure out is the deployment, and maintenance, of a few piss buckets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eastwards of Greece, you start seeing a different form of public toilet than the ones we see in the affluent Western countries – what is known as a squat toilet. The system boils down to a cess pool or sewer connection with a goose neck drain that breaks the surface at a tiled hole in the ground with two raised blocks of concrete on either side. The name “squat toilet” describes how you use it. These are ubiquitous in the East, as they are FAR cheaper to install and maintain than our western porcelain. Over at Barge Park in Greenpoint, a recent “comfort station” cost better than a million bucks.

I’m not asking for “comfort stations.” How about three walls and a hole in the floor to piss in?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC has a “one percent for art” requirement baked into all of its municipal construction projects, which is how the Newtown Creek Nature Walk was funded. May I suggest we create a similar requirement stating that NYC must budget “one percent to acknowledge human biological functions” into future endeavors? Wouldn’t this be better than having to find some retail establishment which will allow you to use their facilities, or pissing against the wall of some innocent party?

Maybe we can cook it into a deal with future commercial and residential developments that they would be required to build and maintain publicly available facilities for elimination of bodily waste as part of the cost of doing business in the City Of Greater New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What do I know, though? One such as myself does not claim to possess advanced degrees in Urbanism or City Planning. I mean, everything that such professionals have done over the years has worked out perfectly. Why would actual community need figure into development plans and the march of progress?

I’m probably just full of shit, but the lack of public bathrooms in the City of New York pisses me off.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

alleys and bazaars

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From Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Procession of San Pio is an annual “thing” here in Astoria, conducted by the parishioners of Saint Joseph’s RC Church over on 30th avenue. Whenever possible, I try to get over to the event and record it in some way. They usually have bands and a fair in the parochial school parking lot as well.

As mentioned last week, I’m taking a bit of a break and there will be single shots from my archives offered all week at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 30, 2015 –
The Skillman Corridor with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –  SOLD OUT
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

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