The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘photowalk

is where

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Is there anyplace smellier than the IND station at Queens Plaza?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stumbling home through the dark recently, a humble narrator found himself at Queens Plaza, waiting for the R or M to arrive and carry his stinking carcass back to Astoria. “It seems that I’ve been dead for quite a while, judging by the smell,” thought I. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t the standard “eau d’ jew” which accompanies the end of a period of physical exertion and exercise which I was discerning, rather it was some other reeking horror that was permeating the Subway Platform.

At the end of the platform, or at least the side where the last Queens bound subway car arrives, that I found the source of an odor which I can only describe as Satan’s diarrhea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the syringe had already separated itself from this bubbling spring of buboes breeding Queens juice, but the smell of it…

Now remember, I’m the Newtown Creek guy. I hang around Sewer Plants, and open drains which carry liquids whose coloration ranges from olive green to cadmium yellow, and am possessed by fond memories of walking amongst the settling and aeration pits of the DEP. When I say an odor is nose hair curling, will wither away plastic, and describe something as having smelled like the dysentery of the Devil itself – pay attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can guess where this water is coming from, but it would only be a guess. The underground IND Subways in Long Island City are essentially concrete bath tubs which were set into a wetland that was already despoiled by sewage and industrial pollution by the time LIC incorporated in 1870. The subways didn’t come along until the 20th century, of course, but the waterways that flowed through Queens Plaza are still very much present.

One of them was the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek itself, which flowed across what’s now the Sunnyside Yards and was navigable all the way back to 40th avenue at the corner of Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue. Just ask the East Side Access guys, they drilled right into it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Commuters in Queens who transfer at Queens Plaza, and at the 21st street G station, will tell you about seeing green water spilling out from behind the tile walls and gag a bit trying to describe the smell. In the case of 21st, it’s a different tributary of Newtown Creek – contained into a sewer tunnel – called Jack’s Creek. If you see, or smell the phenomena at Queens Plaza – my bet is that it’s Dutch Kills.

Can I prove this? No. Call it a hunch, or an educated guess by a guy who spends his time on the shorelines of Dutch Kills’s extant path who can recognize its particular pungency from a half mile away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

anytime, anywhere

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A few shots from last week’s blizzard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given a humble narrator’s legendary vulnerability to cold, as you might have guessed, I spent most of the blizzard last Saturday firmly ensconced in the steam heated walls of Newtown Pentacle HQ in Astoria. I did venture outside during the afternoon to visit the bodega across the street for breakfast cereals, I like a bowl of Cheerios with a banana cut into it, and to vouchsafe a bar of chocolate for Our Lady of the Pentacle.

When venturing into the cold waste, I discovered that at least one Chinese restaurant was open, and offering delivery services. Early bird gets the worm and all that, but… Jaysis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were those who had decided to try and motor about, this was before the Mayor banned automotive traffic, but they were soundly rebuffed by road conditions. It was actually kind of difficult just to crack out a couple of exposures due to wind blown snow, which tended to “spot” the lens, let alone cross the street.

Luckily, most of the neighbors didn’t attempt to drive, and the streets were eerily quiet hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thing you saw much of were Municipal vehicles like the ambulance pictured above. One neat thing was that everyone in the neighborhood was given the opportunity to recognize the undercover vehicles which the 114th pct utilizes after the Mayor’s ban on travel was enacted.

After 2:30 p.m., anything you saw on Broadway was basically “blue” or “red.” Or Green, Orange, and a White in the case of the sanitation guys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having purchased my Cheerios and Chocolate, I began to scuttle back towards home, and one of the hundreds of plow trucks operated by DSNY rolled by. The annual Astoria problem has begun again, incidentally. As happened last year, and the year before – recycling pickup was cancelled due to Martin Luther King day. Recycling in my neighborhood is Sunday night’s problem, so it is up to us to store the stuff in anticipation of the following weekend. Now, we’ve got a blizzard’s worth of snow, so recycling pickup is again postponed till next week.

Last year, a series of similar cold weather events and legal holidays pushed the storage of the entire month of January’s recycling trash until well past President’s day in February.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in HQ, and with no intentions of leaving the place, one nevertheless used the fortuitous positioning of the building relative to the prevailing wind in pursuance of a few shots in the evening. As you’ll recall, this is when the storm really got rolling. I set up a tripod and all my night shooting gear, but in the end elected to use low light techniques for the shots.

The long exposure methodology effectively eliminated the falling snow from the shots, and since I wanted to have a “truer” record of the event – I went for high ISO and a faster shutter speed to capture the drifting snowflakes. As is always the case, getting the color temperature of the light was critical, and for the new LED street lights that’s 4300 Kelvin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Got to hand it to the neighbors, they were fighting this storm while it was at full force and attempting to keep their cars from being completely buried in the drifts. The different technologies of street lighting which were discussed a couple of weeks ago – the old school orange yellow sodium lights versus the new school led blue colored lights can be discerned in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new school LED’s actually performed quite well during the storm, I would add.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildup of a shelf of snow on my window sill while shooting inspired me to shove a couple of flashlights into it and get a macro shot of the translucent accumulation. These lights are part of what I call my “ghetto lighting” rig. Ghetto as in I have zero funds for real lighting and therefore have been forced to jury rig a set, which given my normal shooting habits – needs to easily portable. The warm light and blue light are formed by identical and quite powerful LED flash lights which can pump out an amazing 300 Lumens and are powered by just 3 AAA batteries each. That’s actually kind of amazing, but I’m a flashlight geek, and will jump up and down if you say “Cree.”

The warmer light is created by the flashlight having an old pill bottle gaff taped to its head.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

sometimes awed

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The unknown country, East New York,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, a drive around East New York was on the schedule recently, which was accomplished with frequent Newtown Pentacle opiner “Cav” (take that George the Atheist). Cav met me in Astoria, in his “automobile” and we motored along the Grand Central Parkway to the Jackie Robinson, or Interborough, Parkway in pursuance of a visit to the legend choked locale of East New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described endlessly, your humble narrator is a feckless quisling and vast physical coward, so leaving Cav’s auto was not on the menu. The murder capital of Brooklyn is not a place where you’d like to be noticed carrying an array of electronics including a highly visible DSLR camera, after all. Apprently, the facility pictured above suffered a fire, which somehow terrified me.

Cav laughed at me and my building sense of terror several times as we drove around the neighborhood, which is an area he knew well in his professional capacity. I’ll let him tell you what he did for a living hereabouts, but suffice to say that he was a Municipal employee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cav knew this neighborhood like the back of his hand, accordingly, and pointed out several land marks. He indicated that the building pictured above was once the City Hall of John Pitkin’s East New York, before it was agglutinated into the City of Brooklyn, back in 1886.

Apparently, it’s now simply a residence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of residences, the housing stock hereabouts was simply awesome. Unfortunately, the likely plans of City Planning, the NYCEDC, and our Mayor don’t include the people currently living in these structures – nor the structures themselves – in their “rezoning” efforts. East New York, which has had a series of targets painted on it for several generations, is currently being targeted by the “Real Estate Industrial Complex.”

Growing hungry, and knowing that the delicatessens of my youth were only a few miles away, I offered to buy Cav lunch if we headed towards the Flatlands/Canarsie/Mill Basin area. Never one to turn down a free meal, Cav pointed the car in a westerly direction and we headed towards Flatlands Avenue and the neighborhoods with which I can speak about with some authority and personal experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was along Glenwood and Flatlands, as we headed west past Starret City, that we began to encounter the horror of the now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We encountered some of that “affordable housing” which the Mayor is pushing, as mentioned above. Soulless and barren expressions of architectural banality, they surpassed what my pal Kevin Walsh originally christened as “Queens Crap” or “Fedders Specials” more than a decade ago. Looks like NYC is hell bent on not just repeating but magnifying the mistakes we made in the 20th century. Instead of vertical spires of poverty, we’re building horizontal sprawling poverty.

Cav offered that if the Soviets had created housing like this, even Stalin would have had to deal with riots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Block after block, the sort of architecture “designed to drive people insane” was encountered at the border of eastern Canarsie and East New York.

As mentioned endlessly, your humble narrator emanates from this neighborhood in Brooklyn and there is only one thing that I can say about this sort of construction.

Eff you, de Blasio, eff you.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 28, 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

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