The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Subway

rythmic piping

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A dream to some…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Recurring nightmares have plagued me since childhood. Many of them revolve around isolation, or being solitarily confined to a familiar place that is normally quite crowded with others. The Subway system, in particular, strikes several of my psychological fault lines. There’s the paranoia about being pushed onto the tracks by some lunatic, an unnamable dread about having the tunnel collapse while under the East River, an entirely reasonable fear of the pathogens that swirl about within the cars, and the notion that no matter how crowded the train might be – you are always quite alone down there.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For several years, a recurring nocturnal hallucination finds one traveling on the NYC Subway system through an endless ride. The train never seems to stop, which would offer egress for escape from its confines, instead it just continues rattling and hurtling through the dripping concrete and steel havens of the rat.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The train speeds up when it comes to stations and terminals, rather than slowing down, acting in the manner of some sort of subterranean Mary Celeste. There are other potential victims of the endless train ride on the platforms, who see the panicked face and wild gesticulations of a humble narrator in one of the train windows and then begin to laugh and point.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The mephitic vapors of the underground mix with those powdered remnants of rat feces that fill the air, inside and out of the train, as the collection of electrically driven boxes speeds along rickety tracks which cause the conveyance to rattle and shake from side to side. A panic takes over me, as does the realization that the conductor might be some sort of demon swine herd and that riding the Subway itself might be the Sisyphean punishment that awaits me in the afterlife. A commute that takes an eternity, and one that starts over as soon as it ends… truly – Dante might have imagined this fate, were there Subways “back in the day.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Always, in these nightmare visualizations of being trapped down there, the train is empty. In New York City, the notion of being alone – true solitude – is somewhat terrifying. For those of us native to this wonderful and horrible place, there is always the notion that someone is watching. There is always the “presence” of others. Removing this externality of consciousness from the equation is terrifying enough, but being completely isolated on a moving Subway is both odd and disconcerting.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Gazing out of the train, in these dreams of mine, reveals naught but hopelessness. Were one able to pry open a door, in an attempt to escape into the tunnel, momentum would crush and pulverize. The false hope of the blue lights (the blue lights in the Subway tunnels indicate the presence of a stairway which leads back up to the surface, either a sidewalk hatch or a station) are set in place to tantalize and torment by the foul council of elder demons (the MTA) whose will is made manifest down here.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While caught up in the enchantment of these nightmares, basic physical needs begin to manifest. Urination, thirst, hunger. The worst, however is the boredom. Once, my recurring Subway nightmare played out over a week of dream time, an imaginary interval during which a humble narrator saw himself descend into atavist and ape like behavior. Licking the walls of the train car for condensed moisture was amongst the least horrible of my actions.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In waking life, one suffers from a certain form of claustrophobia. A bus trip in Junior High School which saw a 1980’s race riot spark up is the origin of it. The pushing and surging of the crowd of combatants during the internecine warfare of Brooklyn’s “Cujenes” and “Homeboys” left me with a real fear of being trapped in a mob, and to this day one avoids crowds. You will never see me at a protest, or attending a concert at some mega venue. These subway nightmares of mine seem to play on this trait, offering instead the hell of loneliness and solitary isolation.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Can any wonder why it is that I prefer the jittery solace of late night coffee, or question why I am routinely awake at 2, 3, or even 4 A.M.? That the notion of placing ones head upon a pillow is so terrifying that I resist the embrace of Morpheus? If only there was a way to escape the tyranny of biology, and avoid sleep. It’s during those intervals of unconscious hallucination that one truly understands terror, and the latent horror of an eternal commute.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

central and supreme

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I been everywhere, man.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Actually, despite the bold statement above, I’ve hardly been anywhere at all. There are spots which one is overly familiar with, of course, but the daily grind does tend to oppress. Just the other day, one had to undertake one of those ludicrous commutes which have been enjoyed throughout the last year, crossing from Astoria out to the New Jersey side of… Staten Island… via mass transit.

What I was doing on Staten Island will be the subject of a post later this week, but today I’m just complaining about how long it all took. Rapid transit indeed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The 59th and Lex Subway Station is surely meant to serve as a vast sculptural interpretation and exemplar of the spiritual concept known as “oppression.” Kafkaesque in layout, it always seems claustrophobic when I visit. The ceilings are lower, platforms narrower, stairs steeper… Last week, at least, I got to add a shot or two to my collection of “photographs of photographers photographing.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An somewhat accidental detour into Brooklyn occurred on the return trip, which I found rather ironic. It was nice to visit the Borough Hall station, but I needed to get back home before the indomitable bladder of Zuzu the Dog exploded. Has it ever been mentioned that my own personal version of hell is an eternity spent on a long commute through an endless labyrinth of tunnels?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

tripping on

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Glamour, intrigue, concerns about Popeye’s health – that’s what I’m about.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Raconteur is not how you’d describe a humble narrator, but I am a man about town. So much so that I find myself positively dizzied from exposure to those malfeasant atmospherics typically found within that nightmare of the claustrophobe which is particularly known as the NYC Subway system. Often, it feels as if one has become detached from reality when below, and has been reduced down to a statistical average. Limbo, indeed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps it is the unwillingness of Station Managers to activate the exhaust fans at certain stops along the line? The unwelcome dustings of rodent feces and other foul exhalations which signal the arrival of a train? Mayhaps, it is the dripping concrete and smell of rotting masonry? On long trips which require many connections, one such as myself experiences a disordering of thought. If there is a hell, my specific punishment will be an infinite commute.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, one experiences his most intriguing thoughts while attempting to ignore the quite possibly dangerous humans who infest the system. All social interaction is fraught with risk, so the humans are best avoided. Instead, one ponders deep thoughts while lost in the labyrinth.

Recently, while considering the appearance of the cartoon sailor Popeye, it occurred to me that the characters peculiar physiognomy might indicate that he is a stroke victim. Frozen expression, swollen extremities, speech impairment – think about it, he’s also a smoker. The spinach might be on advice of medical professionals. Also, Poop Deck Pappy presents the same disabilities, so it might be some form of hereditary arteriosclerosis which affects the mariners.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Time lost, time gained. Down here, where I am useless and bored, is the platform for deciding the right course of action on a series of meaningless points. Often, I find myself just clicking the camera off randomly, turning it at funny angles to the scene. That’s kind of how the shots in today’s post came together. While developing them, I realized that my brain was working really hard working out the angles and perspectives.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unconsiously, my head kept on turning, craning over to one side, as the visual information processing section of my head took over. When I caught myself doing this over and over, autonomiclly, a point was made to pass some of my time in subterranea waving the camera around randomly.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s something so odd about this image, and it’s just that it was shot upside down. It’s interesting, neurologically speaking, this “perception thing,” isn’t it? Ever notice that when you see a photo or video of yourself, it doesn’t seem to look right? That’s not the face you see in the mirror every day, is it? Thing is, what we think of as “our face” is actually a flopped mirror image, which indicates… what do I know, I’m on the friggin subway all the time.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 2, 2014 at 12:23 pm

defined apprehensions

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Twirling, ever twirling.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The affability of recent climate has seen me visiting old haunts and novel locale alike in recent weeks, which might be described as having been a somewhat pleasurable set of experiences. That would mean, of course, that your humble narrator was actually capable of experiencing a sensation called “pleasure.” A series of dull events punctuated by occasional gastro-intestinal distress, all sorts of bacterial and viral infections, and the oft bizarre actions of others is the way one such as myself describes “Life.”

One bright spark in the otherwise gathering clouds of existential horror which plague me are unexpected moments of serendipity.

A train passing by can excite one endlessly, and reminds that “you have to appreciate the little things.”

In my case, it’s big things that go “thruuummmm thruuuuuuummmm thruuummmm” or “claaacckkclaaacckkclaaacckk” as they pass by, but I’m all ‘effed up.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Good days are ones where I’m not walking to go anyplace in particular. Days when I leave the house and decide only which compass point to walk toward. For some reason, its not east that often, as that’s usually looking into the light. Instinct always points my path towards water, no matter where I am. It was kind of interesting finding myself in Queens Plaza, which I used to inhabit back in 2009 and 2010 during the Queensboro Bridge Centennial period but which I mainly cross through these days on my way to someplace in Brooklyn or Hunters Point.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, Our Lady of the Pentacle had agreed to visit the Brooklyn Grange roof top farm here in Astoria with a friend of ours who subscribes to their CSA program and I tagged along. While they picked up some quality produce, I got busy with the camera. Serendipity at work, when I woke up that morning, seeing this vista overlooking the Sunnyside Yards and the Shining City of Manhattan was not on the menu.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

solitary presence

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Loathsomeness awaits, in the deep.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One is never more alone than when waiting for a Subway to arrive. Swaddled in stifling clouds of fungal spore ejaculate and those desiccated airborne particulates of rodent excrement which lend the dripping concrete caverns their particular perfume, the “system” must be the loneliest place on earth, despite the abundant representation of the human infestation whom are found therein. Depersonalization is a specialty of the “system,” which redefines individual personages as “ridership” and let’s everybody who uses it know that there is nothing special about them, whatsoever, despite whatever status they hold in the radiant world above.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In forgotten side tunnels and hidden chambers, all throughout the system, what might lurk? One does not forget the 1980’s, when rumors of a population of indigents who set up housekeeping in these antechambers abounded amongst the above ground population. Stories of grasping hands reaching up from sidewalk grates at small dogs and women’s ankles tantalized with latent horror, during that particularly dark age in the history of the megalopolis.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In Jackson Heights, mothers assure their children that the Rakshasha do not hide in the tunnels, as do the folks in Flushing when they tell their kids that there is no È Guǐ waiting to carry them off into the darkness down here. So too do parents console, on the south side of Williamsburg and all along the G and F lines, instructing that there are no Comprachicos hiding in these vaulted tunnels of rotting cement, waiting to make a meal of some toddler or small child. It should be pointed out that MTA workers never go anyplace alone in the system, and instead prefer to move in large groups.

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

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

as offerings

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Renewing my call for commercial freight service on the NYC Subway.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One has mentioned this before: why does the NYC Subway system not offer commercial freight service during the overnight hours? How many trucks could be circumvented from ever entering Manhattan if a cargo train on the E tracks were to carry just Federal Express shipments from Kennedy airport to one of the hubs in Queens or Manhattan?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Rush hour is obviously not the time period which I’m proposing this, in fact, if the sun is up – it’s probably a bad thing to cause any interruption or delay in passenger service. I’m talking about the late nights, when most of the trains are running less than 10% full.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA does it now, for themselves. Moving garbage and construction supplies around on modified rolling stock, as you see in the shots displayed above and below. They used to move cash around in similar manner, onboard the fabled “Money Train.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Load the cargo on at the Corona yard, or at the 36th street one in Brooklyn, or at Hunts Point in the Bronx – any of the final destination stops, really – and bring commercial shipments into the City’s heart via the Subways. Why not? It would reduce the number of trucks on the streets, and help eliminate some of the congestion entering and leaving in Manhattan below 96th street. It would also create a brand new revenue stream for the MTA.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The fly in the ointment would be getting the bulk cargo up out of the station, but that’s something that would be easy to engineer around and one thing NYC is not lacking in are legions of stout young citizens with strong backs and a work ethic. See, it would create jobs too.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

This weekend-

Sunday, August 3rd, Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
With Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 30, 2014 at 11:31 am

bottomless pit

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NYC is full of bowels, my friends, full of them.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Various travels and tribulations cause one such as myself to appear in different sections of the Megalopolis continually, and sometimes the distance is too great to walk in my allotted time. Luckily, most of my travels involve short hops on the Subway, but occasionally the end of the line is where I’m headed. Never a fan of being confined in a dripping wet concrete bunker full of rats and insectivorous life forms, the same discipline used while sitting in a Dentist’s chair is invoked, and I’m able to endure the experience. I’m sure that you, Lords and Ladies, do the same.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It is impossible, however, for my mind not to wander. Great effort is made not to make eye contact with the humans who infest this Megalopolis – they are changeable and can often be dangerous – when intervals of travel in these subterranean aluminum and glass boxes are thrust upon me. Often, my thoughts turn to how easy it would be to conceal unpleasantries down here – in some side tunnel or hidden chamber down here in NYC’s guts.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Morlocks, dough colored hairless lemurs, or other extant iterations of the monkey tribe could easily exist down here. The possibility of Rat Kings, basilisks, or even goblins existing in great numbers crosses my mind when on a long subway trip. Those hidden galleries, abandoned platforms, and the blue lit emergency exit points which flash by as the train moves along populate my mind with outlandish possibility.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s at the “end of the line” stations where my apprehension grows to unbearable proportion. Recently, on the 5 train as it neared its final destination deep in Brooklyn, the entire car emptied out. For more than three stops, a humble narrator rode alone, expecting some nightmare entity to board the train who would proceed to masticate and ingest me. Another lost soul, who disappeared after entering the system…

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, July 26th, The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek
With Atlas Obscura, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, July 27th, Glittering Realms
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2014 at 11:35 am

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