The Newtown Pentacle

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After my last trip to the Pittsburgh area, one of the places that really stuck out for me was the City of Wheeling in West Virginia. It’s another one of the so called “rust belt” cities, and is in the middle of trying to reinvent its downtown. It’s a small city, with about 27,000 people living in the city center, but with nearly 150,000 residents residing in the Greater Wheeling Metropolitan Area. The Ohio River defines not just one of its borders, but West Virginia’s border with the State of Ohio. Wheeling is about 60 miles west/southwest from Pittsburgh.

Pictured throughout this post in the 1849 vintage Wheeling Suspension Bridge.

Here’s a mega massive panorama of the Ohio River span, with the more modern Fort Henry Bridge visible in the background.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I find Wheeling very, very interesting – speaking from a photographic point of view. While we driving around, one of the destinations which I wanted to check out was a small overlook park found high above the city. That’s the Ohio River again on the right hand side. I plan on returning here in the future, and especially so during the cold months when the trees are less vivacious.

We had other destinations to visit, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Max had an interest in Pennsylvania’s Washington County. We drove there, and we were soon standing in front of the magnificent 1900 vintage Washington County Courthouse. This governmental facility is where the seat of Washington County is found.

Washington, PA. also hosts Washington and Jefferson College, and it used to be a “railroad city.” Then it was an “oil city.”

This municipality was at the very center of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1791-94 that challenged the authority of the newly minted Federal Government to tax its citizens. It got all the way up to President George Washington marching towards the rebels with 13,000 militia troops following him.

Shit get real when George Washington is coming at you with an army, yo. That’s what they say in Washington.

No, not really.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was pretty impressed by the grandiosity and obvious abundance of funding which were incorporated into this court house building. Surprisingly, while casting my research nets out, one of the little fishies that came back revealed that the Pittsburgh Railway Company operated an inter urban trolley service between 1909 and 1953 between Washington and Pittsburgh.

Another pretty interesting place, and not terribly far from Pittsburgh either. Western Pennsylvania is fascinating.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, the Washington County Seat is found here, and apparently there’s an architecturally noteworthy City Hall as well, quite nearby where I was standing. In one of the cardinal distances, pictured above, the spires of the Washington and Jefferson College campus rise above the town.

The other direction though…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something wicked this way comes, thought a humble narrator, and that we should start driving my pal Max’s Mercedes in the opposite direction of an oncoming thunderhead and back towards Pittsburgh with haste.

More! Next Week! At this! Your Newtown Pentacle!!!


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 30, 2022 at 11:00 am

perceptible resemblance

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was my pal Max’s first time in Pittsburgh, so we took a grandiose walk around a downtown area known as the “Golden Triangle,” after crossing the Monongahela River on the South Tenth Street Bridge. We walked crosstown to the Allegheny River and then over a bridge or two to the North Side. That’s the Fort Duquesne Bridge pictured above.

We wandered about for several hours, and feeling a bit thirsty, decided to go looking for a place to sell us a glass or two of beer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After crossing the Allegheny River via another span from the north side, we headed for a tavern rich area called “The Strip District,” and passed by this demolition project. I can officially say that this cold storage warehouse had caught my eye the last time I was in town, so seeing it midway through being torn down was a bit of a surprise. It looked like a Godzilla had taken a bite out of it.

There you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was a Sunday, when these shots were captured, so no work on the project was taking place. There were lots of people milling about wearing Steeler’s colors. There was a preseason game scheduled for the evening, and there were lots of yellow towels being carried around by fans of the “sports ball” franchise.

As mentioned – Sunday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday is, I’m told, the day that the Goyem go to a church. Accordingly. the doors of St. Stanislaus Kostka R. C. Church were open and inviting signage sat in the aperture.

Well… like a vampire am I. An open door and an invitation? Yes, please.

This Polish church is locally famous, as the future Pope John Paul 2 once randomly showed up here to lead a service, while he was still holding the rank of Cardinal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wow. Beautiful sacred space, this.

We asked: Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła was in town, as described by some of the lovely people caring for the church, to receive an award from one of the universities. He was staying at the home of a local business magnate who was of Polish ethnicity, and decided that he wanted to lead a mass service locally before attending the awards ceremony, so St. Stanislaus Kostka was suggested to him by his host as it’s the sister church of the one in Poland which Wojtyła’s ministry was based out of.

The modern church people described the encounter with the future Pope to us, which involved a stretch limo arriving in front of the church unannounced, and a red robed Cardinal suddenly getting out and walking in. There’s a small altar set up to the side of the main pulpit, pictured above, which commemorates the visit and event.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The folks at the Church were really nice and friendly, gave us a few tips on other wonders of the Catholic Church in the area that sounded incredible. I was told that there’s a Reliquary on nearby Troy Hill that contains one of the largest collections of such items in North America.

I told them I’d be back in January, and wanted to talk more. I also want to properly photograph this amazing structure at some point.


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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

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September 29, 2022 at 11:00 am

people leave

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After quaffing breakfast at some greasy spoon restaurant in the South Side Flats section, on a recent trip to Pittsburgh, my pal Max and I then walked across the South 10th street Bridge spanning the Monongahela River. I’m told that it’s the longest bridge over the Monongahela in Pittsburgh, and the only proper cable suspension bridge in Allegheny County – which Pittsburgh itself is the seat of.

When we were leaving the South Side Flats area, a rough looking fellow rose from his roadside campsite near the bridge and began stalking us as we moved along. He was obviously meditating on some sort of action which would deprive me of the camera, which I thought was just adorable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

He followed us clear across the bridge, and then onto the land for a ways. Being a lifetime New Yorker, I’d rate this fellow’s menacing as being amateurish and clumsy. A NYC villain would have rushed at me, knocking me down, then grabbed what he came for and ran away. This guy was incredibly hesitant in his nefarious plans, and since I refused to meet his gaze, he had no “opening” to exploit. A shy mugger.

I’m not proud of the criminal element in NYC, as a note. Nor am I saying that there aren’t hard cases hereabouts in Pittsburgh whom you want to avoid. I’m just saying that I found this fellow adorable.

People are very polite in this part of the country, even the scumbags.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wow! For an infrastructure geek like myself, Pittsburgh is heavenly.

I’m told that the South 10th street bridge connects to a staircase which leads to the nearby Duquesne University, but we were heading in a different direction – across the downtown area and towards the Allegheny River/North Side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m also told that there’s some sort of parking lot down by the Monongahela River in this area that you want to avoid due it flooding regularly. That’s likely where that car was coming from in the shot above.

This part of Pittsburgh’s downtown was where we walked by the local jailhouse, and there were a few other law enforcement and governmental looking offices nearby.

Pittsburgh was talking about a population of homeless people in late August, who have set up housekeeping this summer since I was last there in June. A largish group of them had encamped along the Three Rivers Trails in tents. This has made the television news, and drawn critique for their new Mayor from his City Council.

To my observation in late August, there were about 25-30 tents and several were full of “Crusty’s” – traveling folk that are unable to exist in “polite society” for one reason or another, and are seldom in any once place for very long. Modern versions of the old timey Railroad Hobos, with a distinct culture and cultic language which only initiates of their society can interpret, the Crusty’s. The rest of the population on the trails were people living rough and on the down and out. Pittsburgh is expanding its homeless shelter system, which they hope to absorb some of the tent people into and find them some help in staying housed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pittsburgh definitely does have a population of street people, something I’ve mentioned while describing the place during prior visits. Many wear the “Heroin Mask,” as I describe it – sunken eyes, shallow or toothless jaws, pale and underfed, with “visible skull.” In Pittsburgh, they’re mostly wearing clean clothes, though, these street people. That means they have somewhere to go, and where they can do laundry.

I suspect that the local gendarme encourage these street people to “do their thing” in the downtown area, rather than in the residential neighborhoods, using the sort of gentle persuasion that American Police Departments are famous for. NYPD unofficially does something similar regarding Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the Herald Square areas during tourist seasons. It’s why you see so many campsites on the extreme east and west sides of midtown (post Covid) where the tourist types don’t go, and not that many in the center regions where these tourists spend and spend and spend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See – I just did it again, explained experiences and places in Pittsburgh by using metaphors and anecdotes about NYC. This is the psychological barrier which a humble narrator currently wrestles with. I’m not desirous of being a “Noo Yawker” in Pittsburgh, if you know what I mean. What I am desirous of is “getting with the program” and learning the local milieu, as it were.

More tomorrow.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

churchyard teachings

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pittsburgh! After an epic drive from NYC to the Paris of Appalachia, my pal Max and I were desirous of a hearty meal. Luckily, a previous trip here had revealed a good spot for dinner and beers, so we left the car in our rented AirBNB’s driveway and shlepped over to it. Burger, Yuengling, yum.

We were going to be spending the last week of the summer out here exploring the greater Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area, a process which I had begun back in June on my last trip to this “zone.” One is beginning to develop a geospatial awareness of this place, but a rudimentary one and I’m often lost about something as elementary as the cardinal directions. I’m also trying very, very hard – and often failing – to not look at everything through a NYC filter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The place we were staying in was on Mount Washington, in one of the several charming but quite hilly neighborhoods found upon the prominence. I’ll often offer the phrase “pretty city of Pittsburgh” when describing this place. One thing I’ve learned, and this is entirely informed by my life long residency in the dystopian shithole of NYC, is that what looks like a nice neighborhood to me will often be considered a slum by the people who have spent their whole lives in the region. That’s the NYC filter rearing it’s ugly head again.

I don’t necessarily recognize the threats here, since I haven’t yet developed a sense of syntax for the local culture and can’t spot a hero or villain from 1,00 feet away like I can in NYC.

As an example of what I mean, an anecdote: since returning to Astoria from this excursion in late August, I noticed that a neighbor colloquially known as “Johnny the Junkie” seems to be experiencing one of his periodic downturns, and has been stealing the electric bikes used by the Deliverista guys to fund his hobbies. He’s been selling the purloined vehicles to a local e-bike shop through the back door, something I know because I’ve seen him pushing locked bikes in and walking out with a wad of cash. “Fortune teller Mitch” will describe the severe beating that Johnny will inevitably receive when the Deliveristas figure out who’s getting in the way of them earning a living. Prior witnessing of other applications of street justice by this group suggest that Johnny the Junkie will be beaten to within an inch of his life with bike chains that have steel locks deployed on them. Nice guy, Johnny is, except when he’s dope sick. He crashes and burns about once every 8-9 months, does a hospital stay, is sober and putting on weight for a few months and then…

That’s what I mean by “syntax” – understanding what’s happening just by looking, and knowing will likely happen, because the milieu is so long observed and familiar. I don’t possess this sort of societal prescience in any way for Pittsburgh yet, which means I’m in an extremely vulnerable position until I do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighborhood which our Airbnb was in seemed to be fairly quiet and what I’d describe as “middle class.” Everybody had a car, it seemed, and the streets were very quiet after about 8 o’clock. The rented space we were staying in had a second story patio outfitted with outdoor furniture. On our way back to the space, after having eaten dinner, we stopped off at a shop and bought a couple of six packs of beer, some water, chips, pretzels and other comforts. We quaffed said comforts on the second story patio. My pal Max and I discussed our journey from NYC, and organized a fairly broad set of destinations for the next week.

The weather was good.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, one of the interesting things about Pittsburgh is that due to the topography of the place, even if something wild and loud is happening less than a mile away (as the crow flies) from where you are, it’s still wildly distant because of the deep valleys and hills which separate the various neighborhoods from each other even in the center of the city.

The photo above was taken about a mile from the titular center of the City at Point State Park, depicting the front yard of the AirBNB we were rooming at, and all I could hear was the sound of crickets and cicadas.

Day one of the latest visit to the area played out thusly: Long drive, dinner, drinks. Time for bed, as we were going to be following my normal “away game” schedule of getting up early and out of the house by 8.

I favor a heavy breakfast while traveling, as it makes the pooping schedule a bit more predictable and thereby you don’t find yourself needing a toilet suddenly the next day. I’ve been told that you Goyem don’t think about such things, and that it’s “eminently Jewish” to worry about where and when you’re going to be when the food you just ate comes back out. Ever wonder how we Jews managed to survive having everybody wanting to kill us? Planning ahead, that’s how, and sweating the small stuff. What? You’re not going to have to go?

4,000 years of contemplation about the availability of clean bathrooms… all I’m gonna say on that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We encountered a foggy morning once we exited Mount Washington’s tree lined streets on the next morning, which was Sunday the 28th of August. We were going to be moving around on foot in the Downtown area for this particular day, so we left the car behind and used a ride share to get us to our first destination. A greasy spoon diner in a neighborhood called the South Side Flats was where we were heading, and where I ordered the “lumberjack” with eggs, bacon, potato, and a short stack of pancakes.

The good news is that by the time we returned to the rented rooms at the end of the day, we’d walked about the place for nearly 8 hours and I had fully earned the entirety of that meal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last series of posts from this area published here, at the start of the summer, proffered the fact that I had developed a desire to examine – in some granular detail – the Smithfield Street Bridge, in a photographic sense. Built on foundations laid down by John A Roebling for a predecessor span, this extant lenticular truss bridge over the Monongahela River was designed by Queensboro Bridge designer Gustav Lindenthal.

As you’ll see soon, when I declared that I was going to photograph this bridge, and every single rivet holding it up, it was no idle boast.

More tomorrow.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

supposed son

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another trip out to Pittsburgh began for a humble narrator on the 27th of August. This time around, getting there was accomplished by automobile, specifically in my pal Max’s late model Mercedes. We traded off the driving, and this was officially the first time I’ve ever driven a vehicle manufactured by the German automaker. Nice drive, have to admit. It was a 4 door sedan, and kind of a “dad car,” but being a fairly heavy vehicle it sat into the curves on the highway neatly and was pretty fun to drive.

There are two routes from “here” to “there,” a northern route which we took on the way to Pittsburgh and a southern one that uses the Pennsylvania Turnpike which we used to return to NYC. I found the latter route a tedious and annoying drive devoid of the sort of epic scenery that the northern route offers. Also, the northern route carried us through Altoona, which is a whole other story that I’ll tell once I’m living in Pennsylvania next year and I have time to get photos of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somewhere in New Jersey, we made a stop to gas up the vehicle and grab some supplies for the road – Gatorade and gum, basically. As it happens, this is probably one of the last “Sinclair” branded gas stations in the northeast that I’m aware of.

Sinclair is the oil company that created the popular image and concept of dinosaurs somehow being related to the formation of petroleum with a 1960’s-70’s branding effort. The “Dino” has long been their corporate icon. They sell branded gear, everything from Covid masks and water bottles to Dino toys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The gas station still had one of the Sinclair Dino statues installed on its property. I was god damned bemused by this fact.

The actual geologic deposition of hydrocarbons in the ground isn’t dinosaur related, incidentally. Petroleum and gas are largely found in the dried up basins of prehistoric seabeds (organic matter deposited during several geologic periods that was compressed by the weight of water and agglutination of stone), and coal is found in areas that were heavily forested and flooded out during the Carboniferous. Of course, this is my understanding of the matter as a layman – if you are screaming out “He’s wrong” about the above statement, please share your knowledge with me.

We got back into the car, and zoomed off to the west. Highway speed limits in this section of the country are 70 mph. Saying that, while doing 70 in the right lane, cars and trucks were punching past us like we were standing still – and they were easily doing a 100 miles an hour in the passing lane. A semi tractor trailer doing 100 mph would likely need something close to a half mile of braking in order to come to a complete stop, using the tried and true formula of one vehicle length per every ten miles of speed for maintaining safe following distances on high speed roads, which is terrifying when you consider it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described last week, the camera was set up with a high ISO speed normally reserved for low light work, a narrow aperture (f8 or f11) and shutter speeds as fast as 1/8000th of a second in order to freeze the action and subject as we shot past it. The photos you get along the way are fairly random, just like the ones gathered from an Amtrak window that I’ve offered in the past, and are “snap shots” rather than photographs.

The middle section of Pennsylvania is quite rural. Farm country, essentially. While my pal Max was driving, and I was randomly shooting photos of things we were passing at 70 mph, one was bending his ear about the folk tales of cryptid creatures that have been reported as dwelling in these woods. Pennsylvania’s got a lot of lore, as it turns out. There’s meant to ghosts of Civil War soldiers wandering about, Sasquatch, goblins who live in abandoned mines, Dogmen, and my personal favorite – the Squonk,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lovely countryside though. When I talk to people about the middle of the state, the word “Pennsyltucky” often arises, followed by Trump and then I’m warned that “Trump Supporters will shoot me on sight.” Propaganda, much? Really?

Just like there’s a New York State based socioeconomic and cultural difference between the urban quarters of NYC (and its surrounding suburbs) and Albany (and the immediate Capital region around it), versus the rest of New York State, so too is Pennsylvania divided along political and social fault lines which are geographically and economically distinct from each other.

My basic understanding of the matter is that whereas Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Scranton, and Pittsburgh dominate most of the population, politics, governance, and finances of the State, there’s a considerably different point of view and way of doing things at work in the rural areas. To use the political parlance of the current day, the Cities are bright blue counties, and the rural ones are scarlet red. To use an older metaphor, there’s City Mice and Country Mice.

Luckily, there’s a whole lot of purple in the borders between these theoretical polarities. I actually like a divided government. Keeps them honest. Look at what happened in NYC when De Blasio came in and everybody was member of the same club. That’s where corruption gets bred, amongst bedfellows. Say it out loud – TAMMANY.

There’s so much to learn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also, no comment on that “Obey” sign spotted in the middle of a farmer’s field somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, other than that I hope the farmer is making good money for hosting an advertising bill board on their property. The group who’s signage this is also buy signage in LIC along the Sunnyside Yards, but their ads in Queens are either anti-abortion or attestations of either the Christ’s omnipotence or his continued existence – one of their signs is seen in this shot, for instance. It seems that there are several religious groups who purchase and fill these billboards with such messaging, as explored in this piece at priceonomics.

Again – there is so much to learn…


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 26, 2022 at 11:00 am

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