The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for November 2010

shocking, unlighted, and fear haunted abysses

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ennui of a nearly narcotic character has paralyzed your humble narrator for an interval of several weeks, a period which is at an end. Stumbling in the manner of some morphine or hashish addict across the masonry clad streets, my mood has been affected by both growing poverty and certain darker influences. Applications of various substances- derivates of the cocoa or coffee bean- have been ineffective in forcing me into a bright and waken state. Reduced to a quivering and passive “experiencer”, a cancerous nugget of self hatred grows in my heart, and has shocked me back to the waking world. Anger is an energy, as Johnny Rotten pointed out in his seminal “rise” ditty, and I walk amongst you once more.

New perspectives are called for, if the antiquarian mysteries which haunt our communities are ever to be revealed, and I no longer care about the consequences.

Let “them” quiver and tremble, for we are beginning the winter session, Lords and Ladies, at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

from wikipedia

A sett, usually the plural setts and in some places called a Belgian block, often incorrectly called “cobblestone”, is a broadly rectangular quarried stone used originally for paving roads, today a decorative stone paving used in landscape architecture. A sett is distinct from a cobblestone by being quarried or shaped to a regular form, whereas a cobblestone is generally naturally occurring. Streets paved with setts are highlights in several cycling competitions such as the final Champs-Élysées stage of the Tour de France and the Paris–Roubaix road race as riding upon them is technically more challenging than riding on asphalt. Notable roads paved with setts include Vicars’ Close, Wells, much of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and the set of Coronation Street. In New York City the meat-packing district retains such streets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those of you who have been following this periodical recognize the descriptions of these moody moments of navel gazing which a humble narrator is unable to forestall or avoid, and which curiously seem tied to seasonal variance in light and temperature. During these intervals, postings become scarce and difficult to perform, as despite the richness of environment and staccato nature of events- I cannot summon the motivation to write and become as everyone else- ordinary and voiceless. Professional writers describe this vacuity as becoming “written out”, and prescribe a period of reading and research to reignite the hearth. I’ve been following this prescription, and just this morning- the hellish green flame of wonderment has once again been kindled.

As I said: “Back in session”.

from wikipedia

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) completed construction of the yard in 1910. At that time Sunnyside was the largest coach yard in the world, occupying 192 acres (0.78 km2) and containing 25.7 mi (41.4 km) of track. The yard served as the main train storage and service point for PRR trains serving New York City. It is connected to Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan by the East River Tunnels. The Sunnyside North Yard initially had 45 tracks with a capacity of 526 cars. The South Yard had 45 tracks with a 552 car capacity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Presented for your amusement today, this shot is from the Newtown Creek Cruise of October 24th, which ended up being quite well attended.

Bernard Ente (of Working Harbor Committee, Newtown Creek Alliance) and your humble narrator handled the narration. A small coterie of guest speakers (including Jeffrey Kroessler, Tom Outerbridge, and others) allowed us infrequent breaks from the microphone- during one of which I snuck away and captured this image. Fairly close to the Brooklyn coastline of the Newtown Creek, it was nevertheless captured from the water- that’s the Pulaski Bridge dividing the horizon, with Empire State and Chrysler Buildings framing the sky in the manner of some enormous tuning fork.

from wikipedia

Before the nineteenth century urbanization and industrialization of the surrounding neighborhoods, Newtown Creek was a longer and shallower tidal waterway, and wide enough that it contained islands. It drained parts of what are now the neighborhoods of Bushwick, Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn; and Maspeth, Ridgewood, Sunnyside and Long Island City in Queens. During the second half of the nineteenth century it became a major industrial waterway, bounded along most of its length by retaining walls, the shipping channel maintained by dredging. The Montauk Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, mainly a freight line, runs along the North bank. A liquid natural gas port is under construction on the South bank, between Kingsland and Greenpoint Avenues, Whale Creek, and the main stream of Newtown Creek.

In 2007, residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and the New York State Attorney General’s Office filed lawsuits regarding the Greenpoint Oil Spill that contained more than twice the oil of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

On September 27, 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency designated Newtown Creek as a Superfund site, preparing the way for evaluation and environmental remediation of the stream. Environment advocacy groups supported the decision.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Happy Birthday, Bayonne Bridge

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Sunday, the first day that the Bayonne Bridge opened for use to the general public was 28,856 days ago, on November 15th, 1931 at 5 A.M.

from a Newtown Pentacle posting of June 26, 2009 (where a few of these photos first appeared)

The fourth largest steel arch bridge on Earth with a height of 150 feet over the water, it connects Bayonne, New Jersey’s Chemical Coastline with Staten Island. It’s primary mission is to allow vehicular traffic access to Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel…

The Bayonne Bridge was designed by a man who helped design the Hell Gate rail bridge on the East river- and was principal designer for the Verrazano bridge over the Narrows, The George Washingston Bridge over the Hudson River, the Bronx Whitestone Bridge over the East River, the Throgs Neck Bridge over the East River. He was brought in to simplify the design of mighty Triborough– which is actually a bridge and highway complex spanning multiple waterways and islands. A swede, Othmar Amman worked for Gustavus Lindenthal(designer of the the Queensboro and Hell Gate Bridges), and took over as head bridge engineer at the New York Port Authority in 1925. He also directed the planning and construction of the the Lincoln Tunnel.

He was Robert Moses’s “guy”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A brutal beauty, the elegant parabola of the Bayonne Bridge is not likely to remain unaltered at its centennial.

from wikipedia

The Bayonne Bridge is the fourth longest steel arch bridge in the world, and was the longest in the world at the time of its completion. It connects Bayonne, New Jersey with Staten Island, New York, spanning the Kill Van Kull.The bridge was designed by master bridge-builder Othmar Ammann and the architect Cass Gilbert. It was built by the Port of New York Authority and opened on November 15, 1931, after dedication ceremonies were held the previous day. The primary purpose of the bridge was to allow vehicle traffic from Staten Island to reach Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A new class of titan ship, the Panamax class cargo carrier, would be stymied from entering Newark Bay and the elaborate port infrastructure which lines its shores by the shallow height of the bridge’s roadway.

from nycroads.com (be sure to click through, and check out the historic photo of the bridge under construction)

Ground was broken for the Bayonne Bridge on September 1, 1928. The span is comprised of a two-hinged, spandrel-braced trussed arch in which the bottom chords form a perfect parabolic arch. As the span’s primary structural members, these manganese-steel chords carry most of the dead load and uniform live load, which is then transferred to the concrete abutments. The span’s top chords (which were constructed from a lighter silicon steel) and web members are stressed by live loads and temperature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Humorless, the suggestion to lower the water falls on deaf ears amongst those stern and hardened engineers employed by the Port Authority.

from panynj.gov

Initially, the bridge was planned for motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians only. Accordingly, a suspension bridge design was developed since this type of bridge offered the most economical way to engineer a single span across the Kill Van Kull for motor vehicles. However, the suspension scheme was abandoned when the Port Authority commissioners insisted that considerations be made for at least two rail transit tracks to be added at some future date. (Studies showed that adapting a suspension design for rail traffic would be cost-prohibitive.) With rail traffic in mind, the bridge’s chief designer, Othmar H. Ammann, began developing a scheme that spanned the Kill Van Kull with a single, innovative, arch-shaped truss. As with the suspension bridge scheme, Ammann worked on the arch design in partnership with architect Cass Gilbert. The arch bridge that emerged promised to be a remarkably efficient solution, well suited to the site from both an engineering and aesthetic standpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One can only hope that the solution to the Bayonne Bridge’s height issue can be solved in as elegant a fashion as Othmar Ammann’s original design.

from panynj.gov

In 1931 the Port Authority built the Bayonne Bridge, which connects Bayonne, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York and sits at the entrance of the Port Authority’s maritime facilities over the Kill Van Kull. Due to the increasing size of vessels, the 151-foot airdraft (the distance from the water’s surface to the underside of the bridge roadway) of the bridge presents a navigational challenge to some vessels today – a challenge that is expected to increase as larger ships transit the Panama Canal after its expansion in 2015. The Port Authority recognizes the importance of developing and maintaining a world class port with deep and clear channels for vessels and the infrastructure to support the movement of cargo.

In order to address this navigational challenge, in 2008 the Port Authority commissioned the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to complete an analysis of the commercial consequences of and the national economic benefits that could be generated by a potential remedy of the Bayonne Bridge’s airdraft restriction. The final report concludes that despite the high cost of possible solutions, the national economic benefits (i.e. the transportation cost savings to the nation) that would result from implementing a remedy would far outweigh the costs. The total project cost of modifying or replacing the bridge could range from $1.3 billionto $3.1 billion and could take ten years or more to complete.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 15, 2010 at 3:05 am

Greenwood Cemetery, October 28th, 2010

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– photos by Mitch Waxman

A trip to Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, seeking AND FINDING the spot where Robert Suydam lays with his bride. You have no idea how much it freaks a humble narrator out when the realization that H.P. Lovecraft’s stories aren’t altogether fictional sets in.

from dagonbytes.com – H.P. Lovecraft’s Horror at Red Hook

Robert Suydam sleeps beside his bride in Greenwood Cemetery. No funeral was held over the strangely released bones, and relatives are grateful for the swift oblivion which overtook the case as a whole. The scholar’s connexion with the Red Hook horrors, indeed, was never emblazoned by legal proof; since his death forestalled the inquiry he would otherwise have faced. His own end is not much mentioned, and the Suydams hope that posterity may recall him only as a gentle recluse who dabbled in harmless magic and folklore.

As for Red Hook – it is always the same. Suydam came and went; a terror gathered and faded; but the evil spirit of darkness and squalor broods on amongst the mongrels in the old brick houses, and prowling bands still parade on unknown errands past windows where lights and twisted faces unaccountably appear and disappear. Age-old horror is a hydra with a thousand heads, and the cults of darkness are rooted in blasphemies deeper than the well of Democritus, The soul of the beast is omnipresent and triumphant, and Red Hook’s legions of blear-eyed, pockmarked youths still chant and curse and howl as they file from abyss to abyss, none knows whence or whither, pushed on by blind laws of biology which they may never understand. As of old, more people enter Red Hook than leave it on the landward side, and there are already rumours of new canals running underground to certain centres of traffic in liquor and less mentionable things.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Hudson River, October 17th, 2010

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Hudson River, October 17th, 2010 – photos by Mitch Waxman

A trip from Cold Spring to Manhattan, aboard the John J. Harvey Fireboat.

2010 New York City Marathon

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– photos by Mitch Waxman

Frontrunners from the disabled race, women’s and men’s non disabled, and crowd shots to fill in the experience of “being there”. These were shot in Long Island City.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2010 at 12:24 pm

pale garden

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The first posting in this series was “City of Marble and Beryl“, from the 7th of April in 2010. 1 The second posting in this series was “effulgent valleys“, from the 7th of May in 2010. 1 The third posting in this series was “Strange Prayers “, from the 7th of June in 2010.

June 27, 2010

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are more shots in the following series up at my flickr page, if you care to view a few more of them. On the 27th of June, the day after a full moon, I found a white candle in front of the seeming altar. A few other incidentals were scattered about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two cigars were in place, both had been lit at some point, but not smoked.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a curious residue in the grass, which looked to me like candle wax or some other sort of resinous substance.

July 26, 2010

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 26th of July was a full moon, and I showed up the day of… just to see if any preparatory elements had appeared for the night’s ceremony. There were charred bits of grain and burned bone in the spot where the candle wax or resin was last month.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The white candle was smashed, probably by groundskeepers during routine mowing. I actually ran into a groundskeeper on this trip, an amiable but suspicious man who volunteered “I see all kinds shit up around here, bottles- knives- whatnot” when I queried him about the spot.

August 26, 2010

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The full moon was on the 24th in August, and obligation kept me from St. Michael’s until the 26th. Luckily, whoever is working this ritual site is fastidious, whereas the groundskeeping crew were concentrating on other more… modern… sections of the cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This time around, there was a pan of what looked like peanuts (a kind of nuts at least), beans, and some sort of grain floating about in a frothy bath of water. There was intense rain just the day before, and the water very well might have been a natural accumulation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This time around, the candle was green, and nestled close to the altar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Melted white wax was also apparent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, there was a broken egg in the grass.

September 23, 2010

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Almost disappointed that “my man” didn’t show up on the moon of September 23rd, a humble narrator instead decided to think about the history of the place and the set of assumptions I’ve been operating under in recording this macabre series of scenes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First, the things I know for certain. The frequency of events at this location have been dropping off, after a flurry of activity at the start of the holy year at Easter. The site is set up along the meridian points of a compass, and it seems to have been following a lunar calendar since the early summer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meridian points.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

South

– photo by Mitch Waxman

East

– photo by Mitch Waxman

West

– photo by Mitch Waxman

North and approximately 100-150 yards away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

North and approximately 175 yards away. Bingo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Clockwork.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A plate of great price, north of the new site.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An odd necklace just south.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can this be a medicine bag?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just East was this torn apart bird. My first instinct was that this was a kill by one of the many felines which patrol the cemetery,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

But this isn’t how cats kill, and the bird’s sundered remains were all present and the tell tale signs of carnivorous consumption were absent.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 6, 2010 at 2:11 am

pounding on the rocks

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

In accordance with habits cultivated, your humble narrator spent the lunar maximum visiting the vast garden cemetery complexes which adorn the Greater Newtown Pentacle during the waning of October. Surveys of these necropolitan complexes often reveal surprise and delight, and figure prominently in the rambling narrative which regular readers of this journal have grown accustomed to. Extant clues to the deep history of our communities can often be found carved into the nitre dripping monuments and grave markers which adorn and define the cemetery belt.

St. Michael’s Cemetery is found in Astoria, a charming victorian affair which has a surprisingly diverse roll call of interments.

from St. Michael’s

St. Michael’s Cemetery is situated in the borough of Queens in New York City. Established in 1852, St. Michael’s is one of the oldest religious, nonprofit cemeteries in the New York City metropolitan area which is open to people of all faiths. It is owned and operated by St. Michael’s Church, an Episcopal congregation located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

The original property for St. Michael’s Cemetery was purchased in 1852 by the Rev. Thomas McClure Peters and occupied seven acres. Over the years St. Michael’s gradually acquired additional land to its present size of approximately eighty-eight acres. Because it was Dr. Peters intention to provide a final dignified resting place for the poor who could not otherwise afford it, areas within the cemetery were assigned to other free churches and institutions of New York City. These areas are still held for the institutions they were assigned. As a service to its diverse constituency, St. Michael’s continues to this day provide burial space for individuals and families from all classes, religions and ethnicities. St. Michael’s reflects the demographic and historical trends of New York City. Walking through the older sections of the cemetery, you will find burials representing the 19th and early 20th century immigrants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not so far from Newtown Pentacle HQ that it can’t be reasonably accessed, traversed, and returned from in a timely interval, my frequent strolls through the place are always intriguing. At 88 acres, it’s not the monster that the Olivette/Lutheran or Calvary/Zion objectives represent, and my proximity to it offers me the closest thing to true parkland in this section of Astoria (which does not have two enormous steel bridges spanning it). September and October of 2010, of course, were remarkable for the severe weather that swept across Queens (including an actual Tornado), and the toll taken on the ancient arboretum cemeteries during those days of angry skies is apparent to even casual notice.

from wikipedia

Cemetery authorities face a number of tensions in regard to the management of cemeteries.

One issue relates to cost. Traditionally a single payment is made at the time of burial, but the cemetery authority incurs expenses in cemetery maintenance over many decades. Many cemetery authorities find that their accumulated funds are not sufficient for the costs of long-term maintenance. This shortfall in funds for maintenance results in three main options: charge much higher prices for new burials, obtain some other kind of public subsidy, or neglect maintenance. For cemeteries without space for new burials, the options are even more limited. Public attitudes towards subsidies are highly variable. People with family buried in local cemeteries are usually quite concerned about neglect of cemetery maintenance and will usually argue in favour of public subsidy of local cemetery maintenance, whereas other people without connection to the area often argue that public spending comes from their taxes and therefore should be spent on the living in the district rather than being “wasted” on the dead.

Another issue relates to limited amount of land. In many larger towns and cities, the older cemeteries which were initially considered to be large often run out of space for new burials and there is no vacant adjacent land available to extend the cemetery or even land in the same general area to create new cemeteries. New cemeteries are generally established on the periphery of towns and cities, where large tracts of land are still available. However, people often wish to be buried in the same cemetery as other relatives, creating pressure to find more space in existing cemeteries and are not interested in being buried in new cemeteries with which there is no sense of connection to their family.

A third issue is the maintenance of monuments and headstones, which are generally the responsibility of families, but often become neglected over time. Decay and damage through vandalism or cemetery maintenance practices can render monuments and headstones either unsafe or at least unsightly. On the other hand, some families do not forget the grave but constantly visit, leaving behind flowers, plants, and other decorative items that create their own maintenance problem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Osage Oranges, Maclura Pomifera if you might, have dropped onto the ground in accordance with their nature. A detailed posting on St. Michael’s atavist vegetation was offered nearly one year ago- “Things you learn from being a Ghoul“- which discusses the fruit, my discovery and identification of it, and various empirical theories about the enigmatic and quite prehistoric cultivar. I am keen on acquisition of an Osage wood staff, and fashioning a camera monopod from it, but “one must never remove anything from a graveyard” is one of the commandments etched into my iron road and I shall obey my maxim.

from wikipedia

The trees acquired the name bois d’arc, or “bow-wood”, from early French settlers who observed the wood being used for war clubs and bow-making by Native Americans. Meriwether Lewis was told that the people of the Osage Nation “esteem the wood of this tree for the making of their bows, that they travel many hundred miles in quest of it.” Many modern bowyers assert the wood of the Osage-orange is superior even to English Yew for this purpose, though this opinion is by no means unanimous. The trees are also known as “bodark” or “bodarc” trees, most likely originating from a corruption of “bois d’arc.” The Comanches also used this wood for their bows. It was popular with them because it is strong, flexible and durable. This tree was common along river bottoms of the Comanchería.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A shame, for the Osage Oranges are actually highly prized as natural pesticides, and sell at a per piece price at major online auction sites. Offered at 6 for $5, such a harvest might find a hearty welcome here at NPHQ, which is underfunded and is a place where belts continue to be tightened and teabags used thrice.

Any reading this missive interested in alleviating the wicked poverty which approaches a humble narrator might wish to purchase the first Newtown Pentacle bookNewtown Creek, for the Vulgarly Curious– which can ordered by clicking this link. It’s available as a nicely bound paper book which will be shipped out to your choice of address, or in a downloadable ebook format (which is HIGHLY discounted)– I would add.

from wikipedia

Osage-orange, Horse-apple, Bois D’Arc, or Bodark (Maclura pomifera) is a small deciduous tree or large shrub, typically growing to 8–15 metres (26–49 ft) tall. It is dioeceous, with male and female flowers on different plants. The fruit, a multiple fruit, is roughly spherical, but bumpy, and 7–15 cm in diameter, and it is filled with a sticky white latex sap. In fall, its color turns a bright yellow-green and it has a faint odor similar to that of oranges.

Maclura is closely related to the genus Cudrania, and hybrids between the two genera have been produced. In fact, some botanists recognize a more broadly defined Maclura that includes species previously included in Cudrania and other genera of Moraceae.

Osajin and Pomiferin are flavonoid pigments present in the wood and fruit, comprising about 10% of the fruit’s dry weight. The plant also contains the flavonol morin.

Recent research suggests that elemol, another component extractable from the fruit, shows promise as a mosquito repellent with similar activity to DEET in contact and residual repellency.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

But… Mitch… -you ask- St. Michael’s? Wasn’t that the place with the weird ritual site that you posted about in “City of Marble and Beryl“, “Effulgent Valleys“, and “Strange Prayers” a few months back? What the heck, man, you just kind of dropped the whole thing after promising to keep us posted on it?

Actually, I’ve been making it a point to be in St. Michael’s after the full moon since then, but you’re just going to have to wait till tomorrow for all that…

from wikipedia

Magical rituals are the precisely defined actions (including speech) used to work magic. Bronisław Malinowski describes ritual language as possessing a high “coefficient of weirdness,” by which he means that the language used in ritual is archaic and out of the ordinary, which helps foster the proper mindset to believe in the ritual.  S. J. Tambiah notes, however, that even if the power of the ritual is said to reside in the words, “the words only become effective if uttered in a very special context of other action.” These other actions typically consist of gestures, possibly performed with special objects at a particular place or time. Object, location, and performer may require purification beforehand. This caveat draws a parallel to the felicity conditions J. L. Austin requires of performative utterances. By “performativity” Austin means that the ritual act itself achieves the stated goal. For example, a wedding ceremony can be understood as a ritual, and only by properly performing the ritual does the marriage occur. Émile Durkheim stresses the importance of rituals as a tool to achieve “collective effervescence,” which serves to help unify society. Psychologists, on the other hand, describe rituals in comparison to obsessive-compulsive rituals, noting that attentional focus falls on the lower level representation of simple gestures. This results in goal demotion, as the ritual places more emphasis on performing the ritual just right than on the connection between the ritual and the goal. However, the purpose of ritual is to act as a focus and the effect will vary depending on the individual.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 5, 2010 at 3:43 am

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