The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

honest bourgeoise

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Street Furniture, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is still a bit behind in his schedule, and a series of peregrinations over the weekend diverted one from producing new posts or putting the finishing touches on any new shots, so I reached into the archives for today’s post. It’s one of my favorite subjects – street furniture. Normally that term applies to fire hydrants or lamp posts or benches, but in my little world it can also be used for the cast off furnishings that the humans who inhabit this urban hive position on the street in the hope that some one, anyone in fact, might lessen their burden and take the unwanted thing.

Interesting thing about street furniture is that it often speaks to the economic status of the neighborhood you encounter it in. To wit – this rather expensive looking chair encountered along the sidewalks of the Upper East Side of the Shining City of Manhattan, pictured above. That’s some high class trash, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Brooklyn rules” state that if something has been abandoned on the sidewalk, it’s yours for the taking. Before the reemergence of bed bugs (or “vantzem,” as my Grandma would have said) in NYC in recent years, it was fairly commonplace for young folks and college students to furnish their entire apartment with found furniture.

Not so much anymore, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always impressed with the material wealth of our culture. The amount of usable and fairly well conditioned furniture cast aside in the pursuit of redecorating is kind of staggering. Often it seems that you could fill an entire apartment with stuff you’d find after a bit of leg work on bulk pickup days.

I’d need to buy a new mattress, as a note. There are certain items which I categorize as “personal” – hats, shoes, underwear, bedding. Items that might spend a lot of its time absorbing bodily fluids like spit or sweat are things you really want in “virgin” condition, in my opinion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are a few non profits out there, beyond the morally circumspect Salvation Army people, who will take your “good condition, used” category furniture items and see that they find a new home with somebody in need. There’s “Build it Green” here in Queens, for instance. I’ve always wondered why the Sanitation Department doesn’t do something similar with good condition furniture left on the curb.

I would guess that the logistics of redistribution rather than disposal would be too expensive and complicated to be feasible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A complaint often offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle – centers around the lack of public lavatories in NYC.

This sidewalk find in LIC suggests that all things are possible if a little imagination is utilized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This fellow is a hero to all Astorians, having dragged his reclining “dad chair” into his minivan and then deploying it at Astoria Park. Thusly, the very best definition of street furniture is submitted for your approval.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

certain conflicts

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Uhhhhhnnnnnnk, Manhattan… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had reason to visit that island hive of villainy and runaway political ambitions called Manhattan a few weeks ago, and found myself climbing to the concretized street level of that accursed complex via the stairs leading out of that badly ventilated subterrene concrete bunker which the children of NYC refer to simply as the “34th street/Herald Square” subway station.

Emerging from the hellish heat of that cavern lurking squamously beneath the streets, one was suddenly beset by throngs of disturbingly heterogenous tourists aimlessly clinging to those shadows provided by the high flung towers, blotting out the sky, which was a scene somehow inhuman and banal simultaneously. These creatures bounced and bumped into each other, careening between the merchant carts selling noxious smelling foodstuffs of uncertain origin, locomoting in a manner betraying that using their own feet was a somewhat alien concept.

On the filth caked pavement lay inebriates, madmen, and addicts – the latter proudly displaying their gangrenous abcesses in pursuance of soliciting currency, from both the native born and quite pitiless passerby, and foreign born tourist. The air itself was contaminated with vehicle exhaust, an abundant cacophony of stink was emanating from mounds of rotting garbage, and the greasy puddles swirled sickly along the curbs. All was pestilential.

Nearby the intersection of 34th street and 8th avenue, the fellow above was observed sitting in the ruinations offered by the omnipresent real estate industrial complex. The Manhattan people have become concerned in recent years about “gentrification,” since now it’s happening to them. I really, really hate going into the City these days, that’s what I guess I’m trying to say, but since I was already there I decided to visit Dyre Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m told that Dyer Avenue was named for General George Rathborne Dyer, a chairman of the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who died in 1934 while the Lincoln Tunnel was under construction (the tunnel was finished in 1937). Although I’ve noticed the street hundreds if not thousands of times, never have I decided to walk its truncated length.

After conducting a transaction with the camera shop people on the next corner, a humble narrator decided to put that right, on his way back to the train which would carry me to the rolling hills of Astoria, back in Queens. The less time spent in Manhattan the better, I say, so I try to get a lot done whenever I’m stuck going there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dyer Avenue diverges northwards off of W 34th street between 9th and 10th avenue, and continues along to W42nd street. Along the way, you’ll find a complicated series of entrance and exit schemes for the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I suppose you could describe it as passing through Hells Kitchen, although I usually associate that cognomen with a neighborhood found in the west 40’s. 

NYC City Planning, the NYC EDC, and the Related Companies would appreciate it if we all just referred to the zone surrounding 34th street and Dyre Avenue as “Hudson Yards,” but they’re heavily invested in calling it that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Manhattan is the problem, not the solution,” that’s what I tell all the people who work for the entities mentioned in the last paragraph who would prefer you to refer to this section as Hudson Yards, and nowhere is my statement better proven than in this area.

Inhuman streetscape given over entirely to the exigencies of the automobile? Check! A complete lack of trees? Check! A sterile post industrial streetscape with zero ground level retail activity or areas for residents or workers to congregate? Check! Pedestrian safety an afterthought? Check!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a comical little “green space” on Dyer, found between W 35th and W 36th, with a few potted treelings. What makes it “green space” is that the City has painted the concrete traffic island’s paving stones green.

Better than nothing, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

High overhead, the gleaming vainglory of the Hudson Yards mega project looms.

Want to know what Sunnyside Yards would do to Queens? What sort of buildings make it financially justifiable to build a deck over a rail yard? Take a walk around the west side in the 30’s, that’ll show you the solution which the Mayor has been searching to find a problem for. That’s the “Manhattan solution” for the puzzle of Western Queens, incidentally.

What Queens people think about Sunnyside Yards and all of this mega development is incidental. It’s the people who gave you Dyer Avenue – their opinions matter, not yours. They live in Manhattan.

So, what are you going to do about that?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

aroused about

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A storm’s a coming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Depressing, that’s how I usually describe it. Shortly after taking this photo in the Court Square/Queens Plaza area of Long Island City, where the sidewalk was actually blocked off by this enormous midden of residential tower garbage, I sat in one of the high priced cafes installed into one of those residential towers (the kind that offers fare best described as a single perfect tomato served on a big white artisinal plate) and listened to a group of activists telling me that all this real estate development was just peachy and that they’d like to see more of it. My spiel about opposing the Sunnyside Yards fell on fairly deaf ears, and I inquired about how long the folks I was chatting with had lived here in LIC. The answer was pretty much encapsulated by De Blasio’s term in office, and I realized that these folks hadn’t been here for a transit strike, or a blackout, or had the Mayor turn a hotel on their block into a homeless shelter yet. Give it time folks, and remember the Borough Motto – “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself.” 

They didn’t mind the fact that they were living on the site of a 19th century chemical factory, and in fact didn’t care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another sit down with a group whom I would describe as “hard left” was also somewhat dismaying, as their plan for the future involved collapsing one of the legs of the economic stool which the City’s economy stands upon. I’ve said this a million times, it seems, but one is not “anti-development” as macro economic forces such as our current building boom need to be managed, and the job of government is to manage and eke concessions or “buy-in’s” from the real estate industrial complex which both current and future populations will need. Transit improvements, green infrastructure, medical facilities, supermarkets and laundromats, school space, street level urban furniture like benches and garbage cans. Instead, our government still operates as if it’s the 1970’s and they need to beg developers to begin projects in NYC. The Real Estate people are awash in the “LLC” money that often malign foreigners are laundering through our local economy, so let’s demand that they share the wealth just a little bit and design some ameliorations of the City’s many needs into their towers – that’s what I say. It’s called “good old fashioned graft” in case anyone has forgotten that term. Why isn’t there still any place to take a piss, amidst all this new construction?

Is Long Island City going to function as a “city,” or is it instead just destined to be a dormitory for Manhattan’s job base. Why aren’t we talking about office space and commercial construction here? As the old adage offers – if you build it, they will come. That’s how Queens was originally developed a hundred years ago – they built the Subways, and the people came.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking these not so mean streets as I do, I can tell you that vast stretches of Queens are unfriendly, forbidding, and barren of any of the things you’d expect to find in Brooklyn or Manhattan. We’re starved for hospital beds, school desks, street trees. Our commercial strips are bare as far as street benches and everything else you’d expect to find in the “fastest growing community” in the northeastern United States, and Queens has less park land acreage per person than anywhere else in NYC except for Greenpoint in Brooklyn and the South Bronx. 

While all of this is going on, or not going on, everybody continues to snipe and gripe and fight over an ever smaller piece of the pie. They’re fighting battles that they’ve already lost, which seems to be the Queensican way.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

rambling accounts

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The compositional virtues of the Umbrella, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A thousand years ago, when a humble narrator was still a boy and a young Joe Piscopo was teaching America how to laugh, one of the classes I took in art school involved the finer points of composition and drawing perspective. The perspective part of this, as taught by cartoonist Sal Amendola, was highly technical and involved the underlying theories behind the physical representation of three dimensional spatial relationships on a two dimensional plane. Composition, alternatively, was discussed as how to break up the illustration in the name of forcing the viewer’s eye to go where you wanted it to. One of the bits of advice offered by Amendola, and by legendary cartoonist Gene Colan as well, is to stick an umbrella into the shot.

There’s something about the shape of an umbrella that’s “interesting.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not drawing comics anymore, but as I’m waving the camera around at the various sections of the City of Greater New York which suffer my periodic habitations, I keep that old set of rules in mind. You really just can’t go wrong with an umbrella in the shot, framing the subjects with an interesting shape and subdividing it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Historical records suggest that the first folding umbrellas were a product of the Chinese culture, and there’s direct evidence of them dating back some 2,400 years. Umbrellas are related to, but distinct from, parasols (designed for sun protection, not rain). They were even used in ancient Ninevah by the Persian kings, parasols were. The umbrella spread from east to west, and there’s evidentiary material suggesting that the Romans and Greek cultures used them. The democratization of Umbrellas to the masses began in 1710, when a french merchant named Jean Marius began selling a folding model not dissimilar to the sort of thing we carry today.

Looks like tomorrow will be a good day to carry one, as a note, so now you have some small talk about the things to offer. Such conversational fodder and minutiae is a public service – as offered by this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Photowalks, Pickman

Tagged with , ,

time at

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A splash of color for a gray world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is not having a good week, and as it’s only Tuesday, portent does not offer much in the way of hope. The weather isn’t helping, either. This gray, misty, and unseasonably warm climate is depressing. Accordingly, since I haven’t been doing too much in the way of shooting for the last week or two, the archives have been accessed in pursuit of color and polychrome light. Consider this a public service from your Newtown Pentacle.

Or don’t, I’m too numb to care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This whole climate change business seems fairly obvious now, don’t it? The butterfly in the shot above is the one responsible, and I was there when it flapped its wings.

I should be living inside a hoodie sweatshirt by this time of the year, damnit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It feels like we didn’t get a “spring” in 2018, and that the summer was composed merely of the uncomfortably humid and hot days and punctuated by rain. Bah!


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

more affable

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Heading somewhere, with nowhere to go, while having to “go.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator’s experience can be described, ultimately, as a series of denied ambitions coupled with frustratingly implacable obstacles. Too often are my carefully laid plans upset by an externally generated mid course correction, or by having the bar raised as I’m reaching for it. My life often seems to be gummed up while trying to get from anywhere else in NYC to “Point A” in Astoria, Queens while using the subway. Additionally, enough people have told me that “I’m full of shit” over the years that I’ve started to believe it.

Last week, I found myself going everywhere all the time and wandering about the City in pursuance of a series of mundane tasks. At the end of each of them, whilst trying to return home, creativity and adaptability were required.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On one particular day, and I should mention that I had eaten oatmeal for breakfast the day before, there was some urgency in finding my way back home, so the observation about “being full of shit” offered by many was demonstrably true. Certain biological functions, as centered in the alimentary system, had created a bit of a ticking clock which needed to be acknowledged and dealt with in a somewhat expeditious fashion. Renal function is easily accommodated, in my experience, but blowing other forms of ballast are something which I have a certain situational preference for handling back at HQ. Somehow the MTA realized this, and conspired with that malign sentience which NYC is possessed by to have some fun with me. I saw many, many subway stations and instituted several increasingly urgent transfers. Having what one would colloquially refer to as “one in the chamber” while negotiating the transit system is not pleasant.

Before you ask, I did make it home in time, but just barely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is blessed by predictable function regarding such matters. Regrettably, life in the Big City and its various exigencies don’t always jibe with or conform to the clockworks found within. Accordingly, while double timing it back from the N – as MTA had decided it would be crazy for me to have actually used the R line which stops two blocks from my house – one pondered that age old question…

Why is it that in the greatest city in all of human history there no acknowledgement of human biology, and no public “pissoirs?” The Romans and Babylonians managed to create facilitations for this unavoidable existential fact, so why not NYC?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 8, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Subway

Tagged with , ,

voluntarily followed

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ugggh, Manhattan, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not paranoid to say that there’s always something watching you these days. We’re betrayed by our various devices to the data collection business. Conversations with members of a certain transportation authority let slip the fact that they can track a card “swipe” through their system and use the data collected for all sorts of things. You know this, of course, but it’s nice to hear it from “the horse’s mouth” as it were. There’s cameras everywhere, acting as watchmen, but with all the video data being collected – is anyone watching it?

Pondering is what I do while riding the subways, and on a particular day this week, these thoughts occupied me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t have anything prosaic or interesting to do, just visit one of my doctors for a routine checkup. Since I had to participate in a conference call directly preceding the appointment, my travel time to Manhattan was amended to “put me on the ground” for the call, which meant that I was going to be fiendishly early for my scheduled appointment. Accordingly, I got off the train some forty and change blocks from my destination at Union square and walked there while participating in the conversation.

One observation I can offer is that Manhattan’s daytime occupants have lost that old NYC skill which involved the negotiation of crowded sidewalks in a fluidic fashion. Part of it involves everybody staring into their phones rather than paying attention to their surroundings. The dichotomy of the deep attentions which the phones themselves are paying to their users in the name of data collection seems to be lost upon them, as they bump into others and randomly stop moving in response to the pings and chimes of the things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you should be worrying about, I’d advise, is the malign thing which cannot possibly exist in the sapphire megalith of Long Island City. Staring down at the world through its three loved burning eye, this figment covets, and sees all – even that which occurs across the river in the Shining City.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 5, 2018 at 11:30 am

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