The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for November 22nd, 2009

misty water colored memories… but with blood

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Long Island City, mouth of Newtown Creek, Greenpoint stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

Note- I’ve got a turmoil in me right now.

Your humble narrator is pissed off, and this ape is standing at the edge of his personal forest, hurling invective at an unfamiliar thing hanging in the sky called Moon. Rambling ahead, with a few reminisces of New York in “the good old days”.

The disturbing incongruity of modern skyscrapers in the Newtown Pentacle’s panoramic skies, whether commercial spire or residential tower, is horrifying to the residents of victorian relicts such as Long Island City and Greenpoint. All along the rotting infrastructure of the malodorous Newtown Creek, nearly the geographic center of the City of Greater New York, the arrival of a pregnant moment is apparent.

“A river of federal money will wash out the Newtown Creek, and all the poisons in the mud will be hatched out, or so say the G-Men” is my take on the EPA superfund listing of the Creek for now.

I still haven’t parsed everything, that was said in the November 5, 2009 Newtown Creek Alliance meeting at St. Cecilia’s. I made an audio recording of the presentation, and will be listening to it again. Its just that the EPA… the feds… gaining absolute control over a 4 long by half mile wide chunk of New York City for as long as 50 years… that’s 12.5 presidential administrations. 12.5 administrations ago was FDR’s first term.

Speaking of FDR, did you know that his second term Vice President- Henry A. Wallace (responsible for the very successful transformation of dustbowl era agri-businesses from rural homestead into their somewhat modern form) was a well known and public occultist?

Looking east from Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant catwalk stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

The New York that my father knew, the one built up in the late 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, is the one that began crumbling in the 70’s and came crashing down during the 1980’s. Contrary to what you may have read, the Reagan years were not a very nice time, and a soggy malaise hung over both the great city and the nation that exists because of it. Disillusioned by the failures of utopian city planners and those shambolic ideologies which were popularized by academic and journalist alike, the population of New York turned on each other in those days.

Here’s a few of my “new york stories”- I was there, I saw them.

Looking southwest from Queensboro Bridge stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

A tragedy of Russian scale and tone, “good old days” New York saw violent encounters between strangers became commonplace in a city always on the edge. Back then (late 80’s, early 90’s)- Williamsburg was a blasted out brick lot, blighted, and an island of extreme poverty.

West from Pulaski Bridge facing Manhattan, stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

Naked hookers plied their trade in Williamsburg on Bedford and Grand, while  just beyond- a Motorcycle Club’s shanty was lit by oil drums filled with castaway lumber and litter. The Lower East Side (then known as Alphabet city) was where you spent your time, then, or way uptown above 96th street on the west side- and both neighborhoods had borderlines and “DMZ” areas.

The City belonged to the rats, and you either fought them or ran away. Cowardice was considered an intelligent option back then, just run away- don’t try to fight “them”.

East on Newtown Creek, Kosciuszko Bridge stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, I saw a businessman 2 blocks north of Grand Central Station on Park Avenue, wearing an expensive vested suit which was the fashion at the time. He walked between two cars, dropped his suit pants, and defecated in the street. You used to pee wherever you wanted to, as well, “back in the day”.

You could smoke tobacco, in designated areas, within New York City hospital wards. There was a magical danish called the Bearclaw, which has since gone extinct in New York City, best quaffed with bitter black coffee. The last Bearclaw I had was in the “New York New York” casino in Las Vegas.

Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside Railyard fence line – photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, I saw a homeless guy junkie- during the early AIDS years- get hit by a cab. His head shot forward toward the asphalt in a parabolic arc with his knees acting as a fulcrum, shattering his face and killing him. This happened on 21st street and 3rd, down the block from the Police Academy. They left him there for 2-3 hours waiting for the morgue to show up because nobody wanted to get AIDS blood on themselves. The bulls set up traffic cones around him.

Sunnyside, Barnett Avenue looking west stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

That New York City- the one that was a national disaster long before it became the scene of a national disaster, a lamentable metropolis of blood, hate, and too much damn noise- is being built over and carted away. But this is the way of things, here.

Those farms and mills obliterated by rapacious rail barons and their quest to build Sunnyside Yards, do you know who the Payntars were, or their story?

Queensbridge Park, looking west toward Manhattan stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

The mansions of Ravenswood, gothic palaces built for the ultra rich who made their fortunes on Newtown Creek and in Long Island City, were casually eradicated to make way for mill and dock, and later bridge and housing project. Do you know the story of the Terracotta House?

From George Washington Bridge looking south on upper Manhattan and New Jersey stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, back in ’93, on 99th and Broadway- some guy was talking on a pay phone in the middle of the night, during an ice storm. You know the kind- the sort of weather that coats every surface in a half inch of clear, slick ice. Urban misery, but quite beautiful.

Astoria 31st Avenue stormy sky stitched panorama- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately for this fellow on the phone, someone shot him a few times and he must have slumped forward with the phone in his hand. I walked by on my way to the 2 train the next morning and the wind had pushed him backwards, his frozen hand around the receiver and his corpse was swaying stiffly in the february wind. There were bloodcicles.

Long Island City, Hunters Point, mouth of Newtown Creek, Greenpoint stitched panorama – photo by Mitch Waxman

For more on this lost and forgotten civilization, buy an early Ramones album and play it very loud.

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