The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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Another set of shots from the Newtown Creek frozone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week I showed you what it looks like when Brooklyn’s English Kills freezes over, today it’s the polar paradise which Dutch Kills in LIC became after that recent spell of super cold weather that’s in focus. Both waterways are tributaries of the fabulous Newtown Creek, and the “kills” bit is Old Dutch for “creek.” The English and Dutch parts of the names are meant to indicate where the various ethnicities of European settlers sited themselves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills, as we know it today, is a canalized post industrial waterway surrounded by stout factory and warehouse structures and crossed by multiple bridges, with the current shape of things dating back to the creation of the surrounding Degnon Terminal in the late nineteen-teens. It attained its modern characteristics by 1921, and the last big addition to Dutch Kills was the installation of the Midtown Tunnel and Long Island Expressway way back in 1940.

That’s the LIE, or at least the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the it, pictured above. Close to 90,000 vehicle trips a day pass over the water here, yet most people you meet say they have never heard of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like English Kills in Bushwick, Dutch Kills here in LIC was contained nearly completely by a layer of plate ice when I visited it last Wednesday. The ice was already “rotting” as the air temperatures returned to seasonal norms, and the weak tidal action witnessed in Dutch Kills was breaking it into distinct floes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just like English Kills, certain areas which have been observed as being highly biologically active due to the presence of sewage sediment mounds during warmer climes were fully melted and flowing. The status of those unknown things which slither and slide and slop about in the bottom sediments during these unfrozen times remains a mystery.

There are some things you really do not want to know, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on the Borden Avenue Bridge, just to the south of the vantage point in the previous shots – which is offered by the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge – the rot of the ice was a bit more pronounced. An analogous appearance vaguely reminiscent of an otherwise wholesome slice of Swiss Cheese came to mind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The structure pictured in the first shot of today’s post, as well as in the last one presented above, is called a “dolphin.” It’s rooted deeply in the substrata of Dutch Kills and constructed of creosoted lumber piles. The purpose of these things is to protect the movable bridges they adjoin from an allision, accidental contact with passing maritime traffic. If both the boat and bridge were moving it be a collision, allision is if a moving object strikes a stationary one. 

For me, they provide essential design elements and focal points for the framing of photos at a frozen superfund site, hidden at the very center of New York City.


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almost snatched

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Project Queens is a work in progress, and always has been.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It often seems as if everyplace I find my heels clicking upon the sidewalks of Western Queens is a construction zone. This one got my attention the other day when I noticed a shaft of sunlight while riding a train, somewhere between the 46th Street and Steinway Street stops on the venerable R line tracks. After returning to the ancient village from points west and south, a brief investigatory wander revealed it to be a crew from the MTA construction division hard at work on Astoria’s Broadway. I walked up on the end of this process, but it seemed that they had cut a hole in the street in order to deliver bundles of lumber and other heavy materials to the sweating concrete bunkers below the street.

I know, that sounds ridiculous, cutting a hole in the street. Why go to such lengths and expense, inconveniencing an entire neighborhood, when you could just use a work train to transport materials to the job site… but… I did say “MTA” didn’t I?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can you imagine the sort of existential horror that would ensue if the current Mayor of NYC’s mad plan to deck over the Sunnyside Yards happened? Often have I contemplated the nightmare scenario of materials laden heavy trucks criss crossing through Woodside, Astoria, Dutch Kills, Hunters Point, and Sunnyside while carrying tonnages of construction equipment and materials. The noise alone…

It would be less instructive, IMHO, if they were to just extend the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek a couple of blocks to the north and bring it all in via a maritime shipping channel. That is, in a scenario in which this Queens killing abomination actually happens, of course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst marching about on Skillman Avenue nearby Queens Plaza, a work train crew was spotted on the overhead tracks. Presumptively, these folks were working on the long overdue CBTC signals project on the 7 line. This project, which seems like its been going on for decades (it has been) and must be millions over budget (it is) will allow the estimable scions of the MTA the opportunity to run one extra train per hour on the 7 line. Will the perfidy displayed by Jay Street ever end?

One of the military industrial complex concepts, which I wish the MTA would adopt in planning and spending, is the “resource to kill ratio.” In layman’s terms, that call that “bang for the buck.” You don’t use a million dollar missile to kill a guy on a camel, essentially. You use a sniper instead.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

formula filled

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My creek also puts on a show when I’ve been away from her too long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my practices, developed over the last decade or so, is to take a Newtown Creek break periodically and “allow my liver to return to a normal size.” I’m joking about the liver, but one does enjoy a bit of detox occasionally, and allowing the poisons I’ve accrued a chance to leach out. This is a luxury one enjoys, as he doesn’t live along Newtown Creek, others aren’t so lucky. Pictured above is roll on/ roll off garbage truck carrying a bin, spotted at a waste transfer station owned by a friend of mine which fairly straddles the border of Brooklyn and Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marching along Metropolitan Avenue, one squealed with delight as the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge began to open. This used to be quite a frequent occurrence “back in the day.” These days there’s only one regular maritime customer back here on the English Kills tributary, which is Bayside Fuel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The timing of the bridge opening was bizarre, occurring at precisely the time of one of the heaviest traffic intervals in this section of North Brooklyn, about 6:30 p.m.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That odd timing, however, allowed one to stand in the middle of Metropolitan Avenue without getting squished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I believe that the tug pictured above is the Mary H., which normally handles the Bayside duty, but it’s hard to say as I didn’t get any of its markings. I did manage to focus in on the captain in his wheelhouse, however, so “win.”

As a note, the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge spans the English Kills tributary of the larger Newtown Creek at a navigational mark 3.4 miles eastwards of the East River. Metropolitan Avenue was originally created as a private toll road about 1814, and was called the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike. The owners of the toll road, and the original bridge, were two brothers whose family name was Masters. That’s why you’ll occasionally see references to the road as the “Masters Turnpike” and the “Masters Bridge” in the historical record, if like me, you stay up until 4 in the morning reading old municipal journals and reports from the Chambers of Commerce of Brooklyn or Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My conceit is to call this area of Newtown Creek surrounding the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge “DUMABO.” That’s short for “Down Under the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge,” as I believe we need to be ahead of the real estate people on these sorts of things.


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ignorantly spared

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Back on the job.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the recent extreme cold spell has broken, a humble narrator has found himself marching about again, and boy are my dogs barking. On Tuesday, a stroll over to Bushwick East Williamsburg was enacted and the farthest reaches of the Newtown Creek at English Kills were observed. As expected, the waterway was frozen over.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Toxic ice. You don’t get to say that particular phrase that too often, but that’s what you’re looking at in the shot above. English Kills is the far eastern terminus of Newtown Creek, which branches off of the East River nearly 3.8 miles from the larger waterbody. These shots were gathered at about 3.7 miles back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That big sewer outfall at the end of the tributary is the 3.8 mile terminus mark, and the north/south street seen beyond the fencelines is Johnson Avenue. The surrounding neighborhood is gentrifying (dictionary definition of gentrifying), but on a fairly small scale as compared to points found to the west like LIC and Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One decided to hang around the neighborhood for a bit and stretch my legs after the long interval of being trapped in the house by inclement clime, and visit a few of my favorite places. This shot is from the Scott Avenue footbridge, which spans the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch freight tracks, just as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was dipping behind New Jersey to the west.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading over towards Metropolitan Avenue, and another of the dead end tributaries of Newtown Creek – the East Branch, one discovered that this section of the water was similarly locked in a decidedly polar state.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ice was decaying faster in both waterways where it touched the open sewer outfalls, no doubt due to the flow of melt water laden with road salt coming in from as far away as Canarsie. This untreated sewage is quite biologically active as well, and the metabolism of the microscopic entities contained in the water column likely helps to warm it up a bit.


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trick atavism

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Uh huh shattered, uh huh shattered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a long list of things which are looked for when one is out wandering, and shattered glass is one of them. Don’t know why, but it’s something I’m attracted to shooting, as I like imperfection and meaningless destruction. Spotted the shatter pattern above on the window of a shop along Queens Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one above is from those walkways you’ll notice above the digester eggs of the sewer plant in Greenpoint. I was told that a “bird strike” caused the damage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somewhere in industrial Maspeth, which is the epicenter for illegal dumping, these windows were abandoned on the sidewalk after being accidentally arranged in an esthetically pleasing pattern.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That used to be a mirror, which was similarly ditched in industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the reinforced glass windows – which used to be installed at the old Van Iderstine property in Blissville – was encountered along the bulkheads of Newtown Creek one day, and a humble narrator found himself transfixed.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 10, 2018 at 11:30 am

apparent scope

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Let’s take hatred back, folks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody likes to think that they’re saintly, and that all the negative emotional stuff in their heart and soul either needs to be or is already quelled and conquered in pursuance of evolving into a ball of vegan light or something. Me? I like all of my emotions, including that boiling cauldron of anger, lust, hatred, and jealousy I nurture. What are you without the “seven deadlies” after all? Lukewarm, a namby pamby, a jellyfish isolated in a tidal pool – that’s what.

According to the Christian text – Rev 3:16 particularly – “So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” I’ve always thought that who you hate is at least as important as whom you love, and you don’t want to be lukewarm about either one of those categories in your personal or professional life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our label happy culture has used the adjective “hate” to describe groups with fealty to atavist political views – Nazis, right wingers, racialists, etc. Why on earth are we rendering anything over to those clowns, especially an important part of the emotional palette we were all born with? I hate Nazis, so do a bunch of my friends, so does that make my little clique of friends a hate group? We are, after all, a group of people that hates another group of people. Hate can be a good thing, and it’s a brilliant motivator. Don’t put down hate until you’ve tried it, same thing with punching a Nazi in the nose.

I hate street littering and finding garbage floating about in area waterways, for instance, and hang around with a bunch of like minded people. We hate it so much that we schedule meetings with the government to complain about it.

As a note: I also hate finding mushrooms on my dinner plate, but not strongly enough to really do anything about it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I hate tyranny and bureaucratic nonsense. I hate the strong dominating the weak. I hate slogans, societal engineering, and calls to action by concerned citizens. I hate the do gooders and the do nothings. I hate baked coconut, am no fan of flavored coffees, or shellfish, and I’ve already mentioned mushrooms. I probably hate you, and certainly hate myself. I hate the whole interval around Christmas and New Years, and that weird drywall guy at the bar. I hate both the playah, and the game.

Don’t give up on hate, lords and ladies, in the dark hours of the night it might be all you’ve got. Take hate back from the bad guys and embrace your inner demons. That’s my advice.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 9, 2018 at 11:00 am

with astonishment

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I’m not being paranoid, everybody hates me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everywhere a humble narrator goes, people point and laugh. Some grasp at their purses, or point me out to their children as an example of what can happen if you don’t do your homework and behave properly. Sometimes, a mocking crowd will gather and hurl garbage collected off the street. The names I’m called by these assembled strangers are hurtful, because more often than not there’s a kernel of truth to their accusatory defamations. The guy above told me “You stink.”

The whole world is against me, I’m telling you.

from wikipedia

According to the DSM-IV-TR, persecutory delusions are the most common form of delusions in paranoid schizophrenia, where the person believes “he or she is being tormented, followed, tricked, spied on, or ridiculed.” They are also often seen in schizoaffective disorder and, as recognized by DSM-IV-TR, constitute the cardinal feature of the persecutory subtype of delusional disorder, by far the most common. Delusions of persecution may also appear in manic and mixed episodes of bipolar disease, polysubstance abuse, and severe depressive episodes with psychotic features, particularly when associated with bipolar illness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes, I’ll innocently greet a person whom I’ve met before. Instantly they will begin to offer excuses as to needing to be somewhere else, describe a sudden onset of nausea, or begin to speak in a different language. Shock and horror greet my arrivals, it seems. Often it seems as if groups of people have organized around ostracizing a humble narrator, forming into whispering circles with their backs turned towards me.

I don’t think I smell particularly bad, or at least no worse than other people.

from wikipedia

Paranoia is an instinct or thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself (e.g. “Everyone is out to get me”, which is an American parochial phrase). Paranoia is distinct from phobias, which also involve irrational fear, but usually no blame. Making false accusations and the general distrust of others also frequently accompany paranoia. For example, an incident most people would view as an accident or coincidence, a paranoid person might believe was intentional.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One loves to argue, to be fair. A humble narrator will take on any argument, anytime, and if I had the funding to keep a legal professional on staff I would be constantly in court pursuing frivolous lawsuits over minor points. It’s my right to complain to anyone who will listen, after all, and especially so to government employees and officialdom. One did not like “the look” which a deputy commissioner of the DEP gave me one time back in 2011, and I’ve been saving up in my penny jar since to hire an attorney to pursue the slight.

Best served cold? Pfahh, what kind of revenge is served cold?

from wikipedia

In the legal profession and courts, a querulant (from the Latin querulus – “complaining”) is a person who obsessively feels wronged, particularly about minor causes of action. In particular the term is used for those who repeatedly petition authorities or pursue legal actions based on manifestly unfounded grounds. These applications include in particular complaints about petty offenses.

Querulant behavior is to be distinguished from either the obsessive pursuit of justice regarding major injustices, or the proportionate, reasonable, pursuit of justice regarding minor grievances. According to Mullen and Lester, the life of the querulant individual becomes consumed by their personal pursuit of justice in relation to minor grievances.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spends a lot of his time wringing hands and gnashing teeth, which partially contributes to the sorry state of my dentition. Acquaintances such as the fellow pictured above have counseled me to just relax and forget about the slings and arrows lest I be branded a contrarian lunatic. He also suggested that I invest in some decent aftershave or cologne to cancel out the stench of sewage and garbage which I carry about my person.

from wikipedia

Stigma is a Greek word that in its origins referred to a type of marking or tattoo that was cut or burned into the skin of criminals, slaves, or traitors in order to visibly identify them as blemished or morally polluted persons. These individuals were to be avoided particularly in public places.

Social stigmas can occur in many different forms. The most common deal with culture, obesity, gender, race, illness and disease. Many people who have been stigmatized, feel as though they are transforming from a whole person to a tainted one. They feel different and devalued by others. This can happen in the workplace, educational settings, health care, the criminal justice system, and even in their own family.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This stimatization and social suffering sucks. It’s gotten so bad that a humble narrator recognizes facial postures such as the one above as being one of normal greeting. I’m not just paranoid about being socially isolated and rejected, it’s getting to the point where I’m not even sure of whose face it is staring back at me from the bathroom mirror at three in the morning, after my nightly hysterical fit. There’s some old guy in the mirror, where I’m supposed to be.

What’s real? I’ll tell you what’s real, people suck, and I don’t smell that bad.

from wikipedia

The most distinguishing symptoms of BPD are marked sensitivity to rejection or criticism, and intense fear of possible abandonment. Overall, the features of BPD include unusually intense sensitivity in relationships with others, difficulty regulating emotions, and impulsivity. Other symptoms may include feeling unsure of one’s personal identity, morals, and values; having paranoid thoughts when feeling stressed; dissociation and depersonalization; and, in moderate to severe cases, stress-induced breaks with reality or psychotic episodes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Numbed to such pain and rejection, what one truly worries about are the sometimes violent reactions people have when I’m near. When I say “I got stoned this afternoon,” it’s not a story of ingesting some cannibinoids instead it’s a report that people hurled chunks of masonry and rock at me. The whole world is out to get me, and not invite me to parties.

The fellow above, after accusing me of taking his picture, which I denied – punched me in the neck. Hard.

from wikipedia

Social anhedonia is defined as a trait-like disinterest in social contact and is characterized by social withdrawal and decreased pleasure in social situations. This characteristic typically manifests as an indifference to other people. In contrast to introversion, a nonpathological dimension of human personality, social anhedonia represents a deficit in the ability to experience pleasure. Additionally, social anhedonia differs from social anxiety in that social anhedonia is predominantly typified by diminished positive affect, while social anxiety is distinguished by both decreased positive affect and exaggerated negative affect. This trait is currently seen as a central characteristic to, as well as a predictor of, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, as it is seen as a potential evolution of most personality disorders, if the patient is above age 24, when prodromal schizophrenia may be excluded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Social isolation, punches to the neck, hatred and thwarted vengeance, accusations of stink and carrying the odors of the tomb about wherever I go… I’m not sure why I leave the house sometimes. How do you think you would smell, if children were always hurling rotten eggs at you? What did I ever do to deserve all of this?

Maybe, I should get some aftershave? I’d have to shave more, or at all, then.

from wikipedia

In humans, the formation of body odors is caused my factors such as diet, gender, health, and medication, but the major contribution comes from skin gland secretions and bacterial activity. Humans have three types of sweat glands; eccrine sweat glands, apocrine sweat glands and sebaceous glandss. Eccrine sweat glands are present from birth, while the two latter becomes activated during puberty. Between the different types of human skin glands, the body odor is primarily the result of the apocrine sweat glands, which secrete the majority of chemical compounds needed for the skin flora to metabolize it into odorant substances. This happens mostly in the axillary (armpit) region, although the gland can also be found in the areola, anogenital region, and around the navel. In humans, the armpit regions seem more important than the genital region for body odor which may be related to human bipedalism.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

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