The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

tightly compressed

with 3 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps, just maybe, a deal of some kind can be struck? A way to mitigate the damage, lessen the blow, come away a winner by losing less?

Would that I had never opened that damned letter… Stumbling back to Astoria, I found my self drawn to the Empty Corridor, where certain factory windows contain observers who monitor the street.

Shrouded in darkness and cigarette smoke, these watchers on high maintain a vigil over the street. If one is thought suspect by them, lesser employees of their masters will approach. Clad in the aspect of law enforcement, their manner will be aggressive, rough, and dismissive. Don’t stray too near, look too closely, or dally too long- or they will come.

from wikipedia

Industry terms for various security personnel include: security guard, security agent, security officer, safety patrol, private police, company police, security enforcement officer and public safety. Other job titles in the security industry include bouncer, bodyguards, executive protection agent loss prevention, alarm responder, hospital security officer, mall security officer, crime prevention officer, private patrol officer, and private patrol operator.

State and local governments sometimes regulate the use of these terms by law—for example, certain words and phrases that “give an impression that he or she is connected in any way with the federal government, a state government, or any political subdivision of a state government” are forbidden for use by California security licensees by Business and Professions Code Section 7582.26. So the terms “private homicide police” or “special agent” would be unlawful for a security licensee to use in California. Similarly, in Canada, various acts specifically prohibits private security personnel from using the terms Probation Officer, law enforcement, police, or police officer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Real Police, in all their clever designations and insignia, both demand and are entitled to decorum and procedure in their dealings with you. It is remarkable when they step out of this custom, and shocking to behold.

Those who merely dress like Police however, are bound by no rule save their own, in these lonely places found alongside fences and walls. Private citizens, employed as bully and thug by private and public interests alike, these guardsmen are often armed with club and baton and carry restraints and chemical deterrent weaponry such as capsaicin sprays. Guided by the observers above, they are sent to “let you know they are there”.

Accusations of “scouting” for some criminal enterprise, or operating at the behest of international terrorism are often offered to innocent photographers wandering past in a postal induced panic.

also from wikipedia

Patrolling is usually a large part of a security officer’s duties. Often these patrols are logged by use of a guard tour patrol system, which require regular patrols. The most commonly used form used to be mechanical clock systems that required a key for manual punching of a number to a strip of paper inside with the time pre-printed on it.

Recently, electronic systems have risen in popularity due to their light weight, ease of use, and downloadable logging capabilities. Regular patrols are, however, becoming less accepted as an industry standard, as it provides predictability for the would-be criminal, as well as monotony for the security officer on duty.

Random patrols are easily programmed into these systems, allowing greater freedom of movement and unpredictability. Global positioning systems are also easing their way into the market as a more effective means of tracking officer movement and patrol behavior.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My vast physical cowardice, honed to a fine art during the violent and often racially charged atmosphere which was 1980’s Brooklyn, has taught your humble narrator one of the few bits of wisdom in his cache. Simply put, keep moving. No matter what, never, ever, present a stationary target to any group of people who dress the same way – keep moving.

Whether it be a group of kids who show all affection toward wearing one of the primary colors that are throwing debris at you, or an encounter with a noxious creature of the street attempting to consume some part of you, junkyard dogs are barking at you, or – suddenly- you find yourself in a crowd which sprang up out of nowhere and is composed of a seemingly homogenous group – keep moving.

You cannot bargain with the Security men, you just keep moving.


What is it with photographers these days? Are they really all terrorists, or does everyone just think they are?

Since 9/11, there has been an increasing war on photography. Photographers have been harassed, questioned, detained, arrested or worse, and declared to be unwelcome. We’ve been repeatedly told to watch out for photographers, especially suspicious ones. Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.

Except that it’s nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about — the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 — no photography.

Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?

Because it’s a movie-plot threat.

also: check out this Newtown Pentacle posting of February 22, 2009 for a whole lot more on this “dimly lit and illimitable corridor”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The hand written note, affixed to that hated letter which shattered my illusion of joy, was written on an odd scrap of paper. Once a common enough material, the brown paper grocery sack is an increasingly rare sight these days, and when one suddenly finds a scrap of one inserted into a government postal package it is a remarkable occurrence. Also of some interest was that the hand written insert bore a style of handwriting seldom seen in modern times, but which scholars of the American Civil War would recognize for its extravagance and flourish.

It smelled, vaguely, of salt cod.

from wikipedia

Margaret Ethridge Knight (February 14, 1838 – October 12, 1914) was an American inventor. She was born in York, Maine to James Knight and Hannah Teal. James Knight died when Margaret was a little girl. Knight went to school until she was twelve and worked as a cotton mill worker from ages twelve through 56. In 1868, while living in Springfield, Massachusetts, Knight invented a machine that folded and glued paper to form the flat bottomed brown paper bags familiar to shoppers today.

Knight built a wooden model of the device, but needed a working iron model to apply for a patent. Charles Annan, who was in the machine shop where Knight’s iron model was being built, stole her design and patented the device. Knight filed a successful patent interference lawsuit and was awarded the patent in 1873. With a Massachusetts business man, Knight established the Eastern Paper Bag Co. and received royalties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That affixed note: whose hand written words on brown kraft paper were pinned to the crisp white sheets of the machine generated official correspondence, had offered some sort of address or manner of contact…

Perhaps, I could convince its scribe that I meant no offense, and acted only out of curiosity. Woe to the humble narrator who stares too long at the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself, for wrath will be drawn down from those who are born to the purple. The veiled threat on that brown paper, with its pulpy fish smelling surface, was written in pencil.

The shiny lines were no graphite and clay smear either, this atavist screed seemed to been scratched down with a pencil that was leaden- in the manner of a Roman or Egyptian Stylus.

The Security men had lost interest in me at this point, incidentally, having determined that your humble narrator was facile and a threat to none except himself.

from a Newtown Pentacle post of June 27th, 2009 about the history of this stretch of 51st avenue

In 1908, a fire at the nearby Blanchard Building- which housed the works of J.F. Blanchard, makers of fireproof doors and shutters- was started by an inferno at the Pratt & Lambert varnish works next door. The fire soon began to spread and a great crowd watched as groups of firemen tried to battle the out of control blaze. The great fear was that the nearby Columbia Paper Bag company would be set alight, which would provide ample fuel for an inferno that might spread beyond Borden Avenue and to the shores of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sliding into one of my deep moods, the black dog of depression began to nip at my heels, and I forced myself to keep on walking- to keep moving. There seemed little point in bargaining with some mythical sky father anyway, as God hates me.

from wikipedia

The perceived persecution may involve the theme of being followed, harassed, cheated, poisoned or drugged, conspired against, spied on, attacked, or obstructed in the pursuit of goals. [citation needed] Sometimes the delusion is isolated and fragmented, but sometimes are well-organized belief systems involving a complex set of delusions (“systematized delusions”). People with a set of persecutory delusions may believe, for example, they are being followed by government organizations because the “persecuted” person has been falsely identified as a spy. These systems of beliefs can be so broad and complex that they can explain everything that happens to the person.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 6, 2010 at 6:16 pm

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hey how’s it going? Being a resident of Long Island City/Blissville and student of history, I’m a real fan of your blog. I have a quick history question regarding the blissville area and the history of Cavalry cemetery. Is there a way to get in touch with you? Would appreciate it, thanks.


    July 7, 2010 at 2:18 pm

  2. I have share a studio in the brown and yellow building in the top photo. I’ve come to love that semi-deserted neighborhood.


    July 8, 2010 at 3:47 pm

  3. […] universe called New York City, a foul harlot indeed, I wandered into the empty corridor in a tightly compressed state of mind. Encounters with security men, and other creatures of the street not mentioned in the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: