The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for June 2nd, 2011

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent business, if you must ask, is the reason I found myself visiting …Staten Island… Kevin Walsh of wanted, sensibly enough given the sylvan landscaping and thoughtful architecture of the place, to offer a walking tour of St. George as part of his ambitious schedule of “2nd Saturday” walking tours. As an accomplice in his fiendish revelations, I was forced to return to this place by land.

It is one thing to motor past …Staten Island… on a ship or highway, and another thing entirely to touch it with your feet. This is when you are helpless, a pedestrian lost in a land of motor vehicles and steep hills, and movement noticed behind dark curtains might said to be an implied rather than suggested hint of an occluded occupant.


For the past two days, visitors to a park in Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth section have stumbled upon a gory mystery — a mutilated animal, possibly a dog or a goat, wrapped in a white sheet.

Parkgoers found two such animals in Von Briesen Park yesterday and this morning, city Parks Department officials confirmed.

The discovery has sparked speculation of ritual sacrifice and cult activity, and has led one Port Richmond woman to douse part of the ground where one animal was found with holy water, in an attempt to ward off what she believes is an evil presence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Overly sensitive to sleights, always ready to interpret malicious intent in an innocent gesture, your humble narrator nevertheless prides himself on what Brooklyn kids might call “spidey sense”. When certain instincts and triggers begin to fire off, the imperative to “get out of dodge” becomes overwhelming and flight ensues, if I am clever enough to acknowledge this “tingle”.

Every time I’m on the island which Richmond County squats upon, I start to tingle.


Staten Island ranks second in the overall suicide rate out of all five boroughs, behind only Manhattan, according to the most recent state Department of Health statistics.

In 2005, the most recent year available, there were 6.9 suicides on the Island per 100,000 people. Manhattan was the only borough that had more, with 7.6 suicides per 100,000; rates for the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens were 4.8, 4.6 and 5.4, respectively.

Sudden changes in behavior or personality; feelings of desperation, helplessness, hopelessness, aloneness, loss and depression; previous suicide attempt; and most importantly, suicide statements expressing a desire or intention to die are all some of the warning signs that sometimes go overlooked, experts say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the years paying attention to this “tingle”, sometimes felt by Our Lady of the Pentacle instead of me, has aided me in avoiding multiple encounters with the Constabulatory, allowed me to escape a burning building twice, and facilitated in sidestepping some of the dire consequences of a degenerate youth. Additionally, I seem to know which days it would be fortuitous to call in sick to work, intuitively avoid traffic jams and transit logjams, and when some baser denizen of the NY streets sets their sights on me- I know it.

It has long been my belief that physical cowardice is a genetic inheritance, a gift from timorousness ancestors who managed to run away before the Vikings or Mongols found them.

from wikipedia

Snug Harbor was founded by the 1801 bequest of New York tycoon Captain Robert Richard Randall for whom the nearby neighborhood of Randall Manor is named. Randall left his country estate, Manhattan property bounded by Fifth Avenue and Broadway and Eighth and 10th Streets, to build an institution to care for “aged, decrepit and worn-out” seamen. The opening of the sailor’s home was delayed by extended contests of the will by Randall’s disappointed heirs. When Sailors’ Snug Harbor opened in 1833, it was the first home for retired merchant seamen in the history of the United States. It began with a single building, now the centerpiece in the row of five Greek Revival temple-like buildings on the New Brighton waterfront.

Captain Thomas Melville, a retired sea captain and brother of Moby-Dick author Herman Melville, was governor of Snug Harbor from 1867 to 1884.

In 1890, Captain Gustavus Trask, the governor of Snug Harbor, built a Renaissance Revival church, the Randall Memorial Chapel and, next to it, a music hall, both designed by Robert W. Gibson.

Approximately 1,000 retired sailors lived at Snug Harbor at its peak in the late 19th century, when it was among the wealthiest charities in New York. Its Washington Square area properties yielded a surplus exceeding the retirement home’s costs by $100,000 a year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are places which terrify, and intimidate. …Staten Island… with it’s hoary past and terrifying implications of Old World conspiracy- accomplishes both for me. I prefer to focus on what floats past the place, observing from the safety of running water, rather than delve too deeply into the rumors of those things which have been witnessed in the trees near Willowbrook.


All “aged decrepit and warn-out sailors” were accepted. Even some blacks. Eventually the Harbor also allowed steamboat sailors and inland sailors from lakes and rivers too, but they were no doubt frowned upon as not being adventurous enough. Once, while trying to affix a sculpture to one of the walls, we found a sealed-off compartment containing a book of photographs of hundreds of inmates (as the retired seamen were called). Here and there were some dark faces. All races and nationalities were welcomed. Only “habitual alcoholics and those with contagious disease or immoral character were banned.”

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