The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 4th, 2011

little memories

with 3 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing I like about walking the earth is that one moves at a slow pace, and it’s possible to notice the little things otherwise obscured by vehicular speed which line the streets of the great metropolitan city. Whether it be an altar following the precepts of some cultic faith, or the odd things which might be observed at the fence lines of area cemeteries, or just the footpath leading to a homeless camp- these small details are obscured by speed. This phenomena first became apparent to me when still a teenager, before the hellish green flame of revelation was lit in my mind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many years, just where the high flying Queens Midtown Expressway returns vehicular traffic to ground at Greenpoint Avenue and it transmogrifies into the Long Island Expressway, behind one of the ramps that lead from VanDam, there was a long established and quite populous homeless camp. As an aside, I should mention that your humble narrator has a scary rapport with these often debased, dangerous, and diabolical men (few women take up residence in these places, I’ve observed) which has caused me no small amount of concern. Personal experience and the social class which I was born into (working class, there was always plenty to eat, and Dad owned a car) would normally preclude any interaction at all with such vagabonds (called Bums up till sometime in the mid 80’s), but for some reason, “the street” and I understand each other. The stories told by such men, often told in return for a hip pocket flask of cheap libation, reveal a side of our community which won’t be recorded by history.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The camp at this location has recently been swept out, no doubt due to the attentions of the NYPD and certain policies enacted by the City Fathers in Manhattan designed to offer proper shelter to a vulnerable and often mentally ill population in need of doctoring. Such progressive policies are the responsible and “Christian” thing to do, of course, as those of us who manage to claw our way through the dark and find purchase on the socioeconomic ladder are presented with the moral quandary of helping those who cannot. My experience with the homeless, though, is that by and large it’s not “cannot” – it’s “will not”. When I lived on what is now called the “Upper West Side” in Manhattan, my pal Henry whose last address was a car parked alongside Needle Park once told me that the tramps had their own world with certain social hierarchies, and were the true New Yorkers. Another unfortunate, Raggedy Andy, described interaction with “the world” as painful for him- he preferred the life of the streets to the rote and obligations presented to him by the “do gooders”, social workers, and the nemesis gendarme.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All that remains to indicate their morbid habitation is a cooking pan, several dog eared books, and the soiled bedding which typifies such ad hoc agglutinate communities. Encounters with these men, while dangerous for an unarmed visitor, have instead filled my mind with wonder. Tales from Latino day laborers along Broadway in Astoria about a white man with a strange mustache in a late model red van from whom you should never accept an offer of work, as those who go with him are never heard from again. Second hand reports from a mendicant on Grand Avenue in Maspeth about a thing which has been seen around the extant sections of English Kills, described as a sort of small dog which walks about on two legs, and descriptions of some enormous and shining black shape seen slithering around in Maspeth Creek during moonless nights have all been related to me. Obviously addled by liquor and narcotics and informed by madness, the witnesses are suspect at best, but as always, your Newtown Pentacle presents what is offered to it “as is” without varnish or judgement. One wonders though, about this burned out ancient house in Blissville- not far from Calvary Cemetery- and the secrets which might lie hidden in it’s worm eaten walls.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 4, 2011 at 10:34 am

%d bloggers like this: