The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for November 2010

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

from some point in space

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent travels and travails, which I’ll be describing in some detail in the coming days, have been consuming me. Antiquarian studies, which normally bring joy and excitement to one such as myself, are instead feeding a black dog nipping at my heels. The arrival of seasonally appropriate cold weather shatters the illusion I project of vigor and health, and instead reveals a weakened and tired old man whose ease of movement and comfort is shattered by lower temperatures. A huddled mass of insulating garments, what you perceive as a windblown pile of rag and filth often reveals itself to be me.

I’m all ‘effed up.

from nytimes.com

The Roswell P. Flower estate sold last week to the Borden Realty Company, a subsidiary concern of the Degnon Terminal Improvement Company, 362 lots in the sunken meadows south of Jackson Avenue, in Long Island City, and extending to Dutch Kills Creek and Newtown Creek, at prices ranging, it is said, from $1,000 to $1,500 each.

The Degnon Terminal Company has already invested from $2,500,000 to $3,000,000 in Long Island City meadows and meadows at the head of Flushing Bay, in the towns of Flushing and Newtown.

The meadows are to be filled in with the earth taken from the Belmont tunnel, and the Dutch kills Canal and Flushing Bay are to be dredged.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent opportunities and accesses to certain locations normally forbidden to the general public have drawn me out from HQ, however, and that which I have witnessed is the terrible spectacular of those sky flung monoliths and hybrid pestilences which typify the City of Greater New York in these dawning years of the 21st century. Gaze in despair upon the waste meadows of Dutch Kills, from high above.

from trainsarefun.com

Just south of Sunnyside Yards is Degnon Terminal, operated by the Degnon Realty & Terminal Improvement Company. A subsidiary, Degnon Terminal Railroad Corporation operated a switching terminal. It received and delivered cars from and to connections and switched them to the various industries, also the reverse operation. This carrier’s only railroad connection was with the Montauk Cutoff of the Long Island Rail Road at Pearson Street [Hunterspoint Avenue], Long Island City. Degnon constructed its tracks about 1919, although land reclamation and grading began about 1907.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My vantage was from within the cyclopean Degnon Terminal, a once mighty industrial center and railhead which has been transmogrified into a community college. The occasion which brought me here will be explored in later postings, but since the ennui under which your humble narrator currently suffers precludes any notion of positive thought, it was decided to just display these images for your consideration and not engage in some some long winded and depressing monolog about it.

from nydesigns.org

The NYDesigns staff know that summer’s truly over when, after two introspective weeks in a silent fructarian monastery in Appalachia, we spy the godzilla-sized, tomato-red IDCNY sign halfway through the 7-minute walk from the trains at Courthouse Square. We share the building with LaGuardia College CUNY and E. Gluck Corporation, a watch manufacturing company.

In 1908, however, the “Thousand Window Bakery,” a best practice factory showcase for the Loose-Wiles Biscuit company originally of Kansas City was the building’s sole tenant. All 10 stories of the building housed production, sales and management as well as 2500 employees in a Fabian, sun-infused proletarian paradise, complete with a lending library and a clubhouse. Trading under the name Sunshine Biscuits, the cookies were baked in the shape of Popeye, Olive, Swee’pea, Wimpy, etc. and distributed in tin boxes which are now modestly priced collectibles. Animal crackers originated here. Now a subsidiary of Keebler, Sunshine is now best known for producing the Cheez-It brand of snack crackers.

The “Thousand Window Bakery” was one piece within the larger industrial park of Degnon Terminal, the brainchild of Michael Degnon, entrepreneur and railyard contractor  for the Sunnyside Yards, which abut the building’s northwestern facade. Degnon Terminal  was attractive to companies including the Packard Auto Company, Ever Ready, and Chicle (of Chiclets gum) because of the ease in shipping just-manufactured goods via rail straight to distributors.The Sunnyside rail lines haven’t seen any traffic since 1989 and the industrial occupants have long moved on to more affordable real estate climes. Sunshine left in the mid ’60s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The water you see in the center of these photographs is the logical end of Dutch Kills, a tributary of the oft maligned Newtown Creek. The first bridge you see is the Hunter’s Point Avenue Bridge, which nears its 100th year of service to the municipality in uncommented anonymity (not if I have anything to say about that), and the large white structure is the Queens Midtown Expressway section of the Long Island Expressway which hurtles high over the empty corridor of long Island City.

Beyond is infinite Brooklyn, with the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility just left of center in centuried Greenpoint.

from nyc.gov

Long Island City is comprised of five separate neighborhoods: Ravenswood, Astoria, Steinway, Sunnyside, and Hunter’s Point. Engine Company No. 258 is located on 47th Street in Hunter’s Point, about halfway between Newtown Creek and the Queensboro Bridge. Though someearly nineteenth-century legal documents refer to the area as Long Island Farms or Long Island City, it was not until the 1850s that the current name was widely used. Popularized by a local newspaper, the Long Island Star, when the five villages were incorporated as an independent municipality in 1870, the neighborhood was officially named. Hunter’s Point became the commercial and political center of the new city, served by the Long Island Railroad at 2nd Street, near the East River, and multiple ferries to Manhattan. The seat of Queens County moved here from Jamaica, and two years later, in 1872, the New York Supreme Court Building for Queens County (reconstructed 1904-8, a designated New York City Landmark) was built on Jackson Avenue, now called Court Square. Long Island City grew quickly and the population tripled between 1875 and 1900. Among the various houses built in the area, a fine group survives on 45th Avenue, between 21st and 23rd Streets, in the Hunter’s Point Historic District. Faced in brick, brownstone, and Tuckahoe marble, these Italianate, Second Empire,and Neo-Grec structures, were collectively known as “White Collar Row.” Hunter’s Point had nearly 18,000 residents in 1905, a number that has never been exceeded.

Queens became a borough of Greater New York in 1898 and Long Island City became theseat of the borough president, with offices in the Hackett Building (c. 1885) on Jackson Avenue until 1916. Various transit projects that proved critical to real estate development in Queens were completed during this period, including the opening of the Queensboro Bridge (1909, a designated New York City Landmark), tunnels linking Manhattan with the vast Sunnyside Yards (1910), and the beginning of regular IRT subway service (1915) to Corona, and later, Flushing. Access to the general area was greatly improved, attracting large factories and warehouses that benefited from spur lines that allowed freight cars to travel directly to the loading docks. Various examples can be found in the Degnon Terminal area, along Thomson Avenue, where the Adams Chewing Gum and Loose Wiles Sunshine Biscuit companies located in the 1910s. These improvements, however, had a downside, creating barriers that isolated Hunter’s Point from the rest of the borough, while making it easier for commuters to reach new residential districts to the east, in Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, and other neighborhoods.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2010 at 3:17 pm

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