The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Subway

unrecognizable pulp

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Subway thoughts, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The “R” is now one of the subway lines offering connectivity for cellular telephones, which I guess is somewhat handy for those last minute dinner negotiations with Our Lady of the Pentacle, but the presence of the beeping and chiming and people shouting into their phones distracts one such as myself from philosophizing. Doesn’t matter how crowded the train is, you’re always alone on the Subway, and that’s the only thing I ever really liked about the system. I miss those quiet moments where you could contemplate how and when you had screwed up that day, and had the opportunity to think about how “shit” your life has become. Now, it’s just more connectivity and distraction down there in the kingdom of the rats.

Conservatively speaking, I give it around ten years for the MTA to have figured out a way to pump location based advertising to your phone as you move from stop to stop. It’ll be an “opt in” scenario, which you’ll agree to automatically, by entering the system. This is the future, btw, and it’s going to seriously annoying. As you walk down the street, your phone is going to be buzzing away, bringing you personalized “beacon” based ads.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Subway thoughts often form in cascading waves, coinciding with the rising and falling tides of the suffering and apprehension which riding it brings. Accordingly, I budget my time for self recrimination to my commutes, which frees up the rest of the day for more profitable pursuits. That moment when one realizes that it is 5:45 and the R is approaching the always crowded 59/Lex station… Now, that’s a perfect interval to tear open emotional wounds, think about dead people, and examine ones recent mistakes, omissions, or screw ups. This way, when a monstrous crowd of sharp elbowed humans surges forth – you kind of feel like you deserve it.

Certain personal failings were paramount in my thoughts one recent evening, so when the “makeup girl” whipped out her phone and started playing some atonal ditty, and with “eat greasy stuff from a paper bag” lady and “so tired that I will lean against and sleep upon strangers” woman closing in around the pole I clung to, and along came “gigantic knapsack” man… the penitence for my sinful inadequacies seemed to be at hand. As they closed in around me, I thought of my beloved creek, which offers such a splendid isolation.

At least “Korean preacher who bad mouths gay people” guy wasn’t onboard, nor “Earwire,” or “Pretends to be a Gypsy with sick baby, but is really an Albanian with a borrowed and quite healthy niece” woman were also absent, and “Is anybody Hungry, I have sandwiches” man were nowhere to found.

It’s all so depressing, really.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Subway thoughts that mainly concern me, other than vague fear over the microscopic biota which populates the air and coats every surface within these traveling aluminum boxes, is purely one of puzzled annoyance. During warmer months, one has mentioned the charming MTA practice of only switching the air conditioning on when the train leaves Queens and enters Manhattan. The one that gets me during this frigid time of the year is actually the inverse, which is running the heat at full blast. Entering the system, from wintry streets above – I, for one – am clad in twenty nine pounds of insulating garments. From observation, I am not the only traveller who is so bundled, nor am I the only one who is visibly sweating after only one or two stops.

Good one there, MTA, good one.

As mentioned, you’re always alone on the Subway, even a crowded one. Me, I’m just always alone, and prefer to remain an outsider. No, really. I’d actually much rather be outside in the fresh air than trapped with all these humans on the train.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

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There’s something wrong…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When the prophesied storm of fimbulvinter rolled through our town the other night, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself (along with our little dog Zuzu) were warm and snug down in the bunker we had readied for the Mayan Apocalypse. My understanding is that when the glacial ice sheet moved south across Astoria, according to some of the hardier Croatians who disregarded the warnings of City and State, a wooly mammoth was spotted on 31st avenue as it fled from a group of fur clad Neanderthals. Word has it that folks in the East Elmhurst area spotted a Sabre Toothed Tiger roaming about. The ice age escalated quickly, and this is how we live now. Please, please, generate some global warming and fast – do something to increase your carbon footprint right now – it’s freezing outside.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One realizes that the singular tonality of the age we live in is one of looming apocalypse. I get it. Jaded, the human infestation won’t respond to warnings about this and that unless you attach an existential danger to the message. Having grown up in a home where my mother would pop a blood vessel if the kitchen sink displayed moisture or a crumb was found nearby the toaster, I really do understand overreaction. However, the lesson of “Chicken Little” seems to be something that our risk averse culture has forgotten these days.

The sky was literally falling last week, but it was snow. This is normal, and expected, because it’s January in New York. If the government really wants to get ahead of this sort of thing, they should start considering turning NYC into one of those science fiction style domed cities.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Those things one such as myself worries about are a bit mundane, I fear. Having somebody who is texting while walking on a subway platform jostle and knock me onto the tracks, getting crushed by a falling air conditioner, or being splattered by the manic actions of some truck driver. Being struck by a bicyclist or electric delivery bike as they speed down the sidewalk – all of my little scenarios are far more likely than being flash frozen in a “Day after Tomorrow” style atmospheric inversion.

While sitting in the bunker, drinking hot chocolate with Our Lady, one did begin to ponder what has become of all that post Hurricane Sandy money which was spent studying ways to protect the City against extreme weather events.

Perhaps we should initiate a blue ribbon commission to study the studies which studied the problem?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 30, 2015 at 12:15 pm

corporeal tenement

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Wind, snow, rats, egg rolls, fear.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting visualization of the locations where rats were reported in 2014 in the City of Greater New York, as presented by the Village Voice, was reviewed over the weekend. The health department and the writer of the piece focused in on the seeming correlation between the addresses of Chinese restaurants and the location of rat colonies. Officialdom and the Voice writer speculated on whether or not the rodents have a preference for Chinese take out. When viewing the map, I couldn’t help but notice that the shape of the rat infestations closely mirrored that of the NYC Subway system. Follow the critters through Queens, and you can trace out the path of the R/M, 7, and F lines rather neatly. Same thing with Brooklyn, where you can trace out the G tunnels. Just saying… these restaurants are either located above subway tunnels or are nearby the entrances to the system.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal observation of the Chinese restaurants here in Astoria, a few of which are on the Voice map, reveals that the owners of these establishments consider the corner sewer drain as a handy receptacle for the issuance of both fryer oil and the emptying of mop buckets. Rats love fatty foods (who doesn’t, after all?) and hang around the local sewer interceptors and underground vaults knowing that the good stuff will be coming soon. Thing is, my belief is that these sorts of anecdotes are coincidental to the real issue of where the rats are coming from – which are the MTA tunnels.

Ask anyone who lives in public housing – the worst landlord in the City of New York is actually the City of New York, which passes strict rules and enacts a series of fines on the citizenry to enforce them, rules which it does not find itself obliged to follow. Show me a New Yorker who hasn’t seen a rat in the Subway and I will declare them a one percenter who normally gets around town in the back seat of a limo. Show me an apartment house owner with black mold on the walls and no available heat or hot water, who never gets fined, and I’ll automatically tell you the owner is the City of New York.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

After the snow finishes falling, look around tomorrow. You’ll be able to discern which properties in your neighborhood are owned and operated by the City simply by noticing which sidewalks haven’t been shoveled (with the exception of schools, courthouses, and anything within camera range of Manhattan’s City Hall). These City owned stretches of pavement will remain covered in snow, which will shortly compact down into a plate of milky colored, rotting, wet ice that will persist until the spring thaw. Sadly, many of these spots will surround Subway stations and bus stops. This is one of the things which “I don’t get” as even the Soviet Commisars acknowledged that they had certain responsibilities to the Proletariat. The connection between high volume restaurants and rats is actually a correlation of the proximity of these establishments to Subway infrastructure. Dealing with NYC’s rat infestation should begin with that which connects us all – the subway tunnels. Then, we should work our way up to the surface and blame the Chinese restaurants.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

lovely attribute

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Sneeze, cough, sneeze. Repeat.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself is defined by my list of phobias and fears, and a long list of prophylaxes is maintained. Fear of an unwarranted accusation, fear of finding myself in the path of a madman, fear of falling victim to someone else’s incompetent or lazy habits. I’m afraid of being seriously wounded in a manner that cripples rather than kills, terrified by stray electrical current loosed into salty puddles of melted ice and snow, and incapacitated by the notion of being pushed in front of a speeding subway train. What slays me, however, is the phobic reaction I suffer to the realization of the number of pathogens I’m exposed to whenever I ride the subway (and I regularly hang around waterways which has been added to the Superfund list that are choked with sewage). The stress is enough to make me develop a rash.

from wikipedia

The skin is the largest organ in the body. In humans, it accounts for about 12 to 15 percent of total body weight and covers 1.5-2m2 of surface area. It distinguishes, separates, and protects the organism from its surroundings. Small-bodied invertebrates of aquatic or continually moist habitats respire using the outer layer (integument). This gas exchange system, where gases simply diffuse into and out of the interstitial fluid, is called integumentary exchange.

The human skin (integument) is composed of a minimum of three major layers of tissue: the epidermis; dermis; and hypodermis. The epidermis forms the outermost layer, providing the initial barrier to the external environment. Beneath this, the dermis comprises two sections, the papillary and reticular layers, and contains connective tissues, vessels, glands, follicles, hair roots, sensory nerve endings, and muscular tissue. The deepest layer is the hypodermis, which is primarily made up of adipose tissue. Substantial collagen bundles anchor the dermis to the hypodermis in a way that permits most areas of the skin to move freely over the deeper tissue layers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The close quarters of the mass transit system, where the air you breathe was recently dwelling within the chest of someone else, causes a massive “flight or fight” response to blossom around three inches behind my sunglasses. People actually eat while riding these trains, after having touched various surfaces found both onboard and in the stations. Leaving behind the various inorganic contaminants found down here – the brake dust, carbon compounds released from failing electrical connections, powderized steel from the rails – you’ve got an aerosol teeming with virus and bacteria. On top of that, the micro biome which every member of the human infestation hosts – mites and other microscopic horrors – mingles with the personal ecosystem of others in these tight quarters. It’s a wonder that we aren’t eaten alive on the morning commute, and that trainloads of skeletonized cadavers don’t arrive from Queens at Manhattan’s 59th street every 10-15 minutes. One realizes that this is illogically phobic, but nevertheless, it causes me to become quite itchy.

from wikipedia

Scabies (from Latin: scabere, “to scratch”), also known colloquially as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin infection caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The mite is a tiny, and usually not directly visible, parasite which burrows under the host’s skin, which in most people causes an intense itching sensation caused by an allergic response. The infection in animals other than humans is caused by a different but related mite species, and is called sarcoptic mange.

Scabies is classified by the World Health Organization as a water-related disease. The disease may be transmitted from objects, but is most often transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact, with a higher risk with prolonged contact. Initial infections require four to six weeks to become symptomatic. Reinfection, however, may manifest symptoms within as few as 24 hours. Because the symptoms are allergic, their delay in onset is often mirrored by a significant delay in relief after the parasites have been eradicated. Crusted scabies, formerly known as Norwegian scabies, is a more severe form of the infection often associated with immunosuppression.

Scabies is one of the three most common skin disorders in children, along with tinea and pyoderma. As of 2010 it affects approximately 100 million people (1.5% of the world population) and is equally common in both sexes.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Realization that what I’m scared of the most is actually all of you torments and informs. One of my nightmares involves a packed train and some corpulent fellow whose skin is covered in bursting pustules whose yellowed issuance is tinted with tiny ribbons of blood. In my frenzied nocturnal hallucination, this citizen of the realm is infected with every possible disease of the dermis. A bit of his infectious spatter lands on my left hand, which I watch turn red, then yellow, then black as scarlet spider webs begin spreading up into my sleeve just as the train enters the tunnels which carry it beneath the river. Just at that moment when your ears pop due to the pressure of the water above, a brownish red liquid begins to drip out of my pants leg and a fever overcomes me. By the time the train arrives at my destination in the Shining City, there’s naught but a filthy black raincoat and a camera found sitting on a puddle of purplish goo upon the septic linoleum of the E train. Commuters just step over this liquefied but still humble narrator, of course, because no matter what obstacle New York City throws at you – you’ve still got to get to work.

from wikipedia

Leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions are the primary external sign. Left untreated, leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. Contrary to folklore, leprosy does not cause body parts to fall off, although they can become numb or diseased as a result of secondary infections; these occur as a result of the body’s defenses being compromised by the primary disease. Secondary infections, in turn, can result in tissue loss causing fingers and toes to become shortened and deformed, as cartilage is absorbed into the body.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 13, 2015 at 11:30 am

trickling from

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Those Astoria Tumbleweeds… they’re back.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Friday the 3rd of January saw a humble narrator out early, as one had professional obligations to fulfill. While waiting for my breakfast sandwich to be assembled at a greasy spoon on Broadway, here in almond eyed Astoria, observation of a carefully placed and quite discarded Christmas tree occurred. It would have made the news if this coniferous corpse was placed in a bike lane, but instead…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The ever reliable DSNY has posted an instructive page here, which describes the proper procedure for disposing of holiday cheer. The municipal organization has a large mulching operation set up to aid in the disposal of the seasonal cultivar, and no where in its list of specificities governing the process does it say “throw it into the middle of the street.” Ahh, Astoria.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The purchase of breakfast complete, one did not have time to watch the thing roll about in the street. Rather a somewhat epic journey was undertaken, wherein the longest and most expensive possible route (using mass transit) to Brooklyn was undertaken. Why do you need to leave the Long Island, traveling through Manhattan, to arrive at a spot on the Long Island less than 7 miles from your starting point? It’s just silly.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

chlorate cube

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Merry Festivstmas Kwaazannukah, yo.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

After my experiences at the camera shop, which were described yesterday, a series of emails indicated that one needed to cut his visit to the Shining City short and return to the grind back at HQ in Astoria. Originally, plans to do some shooting along the Hudson were on the menu, but there you go. Down in the sweating concrete of the subterranean transportation bunkers, I decided to do some “shooting from the hip” to pass the time while waiting for my train to arrive.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

“Shooting from the Hip,” as I define it, is when the camera is pre focused to a certain depth of field and held away from the face. Technically, you’re shooting “blind” and operating the camera sheerly on instrumentation and by obliquely pointing it at things. Also, I usually hold the camera upside down for some reason. Many of the shots gathered this way are useless, some are “happy accidents” like the first shot in today’s post, or conventionally spotted and captured as in the portrait oriented shot above.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, arriving trains were catalogued. Suddenly the fellow in the shot above appeared in my diopter, and he proceeded to begin staring me down. My first instinct was that he might be some sort of law enforcement officer, and that we were about to begin a dance which would start with “what are you taking pictures of.” My answer would be “trains.” Then he’d say “why are you taking pictures of trains” which would be answered with a memorable quip, which I’d tell with a certain Brooklyn inflection noticeably present in my voice, followed by “comma sir.” Usually, being polite to law enforcement is the smart guys way to stay out of trouble, but that’s me. Thing is, the fellow (I’d say Gentleman but I don’t know if he’s landed or gentry – what am I, psychic?) in the shot just stood there and kept staring at me as the train came in. Never stepping forward or even blinking. Cops are a lot of things, but shy and or reticent ain’t on their list of traits. I started to get creeped out, what if this guy was some sort of ideologue or anarchist?

I wondered if, hoped actually, there might be a Cop nearby.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A theory hatched in my fevered thoughts that this fellow might be some sort of Bolshevik or something, sent to the 34th street Subway station to subvert or just observe the American way. His unwavering, unblinking posture, coupled with the odd wires arrayed about his neck, led me to theorize that this might be some sort of time traveling android sent back to our age – Terminator style – as an intelligence drone gathering historical data. Before I could ask if there might be a sequence of numbers handy for playing the lottery, this “Staring at me (possible) Bolshevik Drone from the Future Guy” stepped into a passing crowd and disappeared. Pfft – gone.

That was a close one, I guess. I really fricking hate being in Manhattan. It looks great from the outside, but once you’re inside of that thing – yikes!

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 24, 2014 at 12:52 pm

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

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