The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for July 5th, 2011

grotesquely gnarled

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in a prior posting– certain anonymous parties had contacted me about- and a meeting at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan was arranged- to discuss and finally gain possession of information which would lead to a certain location in First Calvary Cemetery which has denied all attempts at discovery.

Arriving at the venerable church early, however, the individual with whom this appointment was arranged arrived with confederates of a seeming rough character, and the notion that I had stumbled into some sort of conspiratorial snare of malign intent terrified me. Your humble narrator fell into “one of my states”, and the scene was fled in a stuporous panic.

Several hours later, when able to recompose myself, it was discovered that the memory card of my camera was nearly full, and this is the second of a series of postings attempting to reconcile the hundreds of photos I found with my episode of “missing time”.

from wikipedia

Missing time is a proposed phenomenon reported by some people in connection with close encounters with UFOs and abduction phenomena. The term missing time refers to a gap in conscious memory relating to a specific period in time. The gap can last from several minutes to several days in length. The memory of what happened during the missing time reported is often recovered through hypnosis or during dreams.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Based on the series of photos, it is presumed that my route took me down Mulberry on a southern declination, before turning east on Kenmare and ultimately to Delancey. The warren of streets which defy and predate the Manhattan grid, which is two centuries old this year– I would add- have been massively altered from their historic patterns by the attentions of urban planners and DOT engineers since the time of the Bloody Sixth Ward.

Partially, this was to accommodate the “automobile city” of the early 20th century, but no small effort was spared to eliminate the alleyways and so called “courts” which denied easy policing and access by fire and sanitation inspectors in this region of the Shining City.

It was in these courts and alleys that the street gangs of the 19th century were allowed to fester and swell, an offensive and dangerous situation to the progressives and reformers of the post civil war era “City Beautiful”.

from wikipedia

The City Beautiful Movement was a reform philosophy concerning North American architecture and urban planning that flourished during the 1890s and 1900s with the intent of using beautification and monumental grandeur in cities. The philosophy, which was originally associated mainly with Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. allegedly promoted beauty not for its own sake, but rather to create moral and civic virtue among urban populations. Advocates of the philosophy believed that such beautification could thus promote a harmonious social order that would increase the quality of life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My trusty camera seems to have been pointed in the direction of the 2nd of the three East River Bridges to have been erected, which we know as the Williamsburg. 100 years ago, I might have boarded a street car or horse drawn wagon to carry me over the span and boarded it at Bowery and Delancey. Were I cognizant of my surroundings, rather than stumbling in a panic, I might have caught an electric light rail- which is referred to as a “subway”- but instead and inexorably I marched forward into “Jewtown”.

from HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES By JACOB A. RIIS, courtesy google books

THE tenements grow taller, and the gaps in their ranks close up rapidly as we cross the Bowery and, leaving Chinatown and the Italians behind, invade the Hebrew quarter. Baxter Street, with its interminable rows of old clothes shops and its brigades of pullers-in—nicknamed “the Bay ” in honor, perhaps, of the tars who lay to there after a cruise to stock up their togs, or maybe after the “schooners” of beer plentifully bespoke in that latitude— Bayard Street, with its synagogues and its crowds, gave us a foretaste of it. No need of asking here where we are. The jargon of the street, the signs of the sidewalk, the manner and dress of the people, their unmistakable physiognomy, betray their race at every step. Men with queer skull-caps, venerable beard, and the outlandish long-skirted kaftan of the Russian Jew, elbow the ugliest and the handsomest women in the land. The contrast is startling. The old women are hags; the young, houris. Wives and mothers at sixteen, at thirty they are old. So thoroughly has the chosen people crowded out the Gentiles in the Tenth Ward that, when the great Jewish holidays come around every year, the public schools in the district have practically to close up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The politics of modern city dwellers prefers not to attach ethnic sobriquets to neighborhoods where any single population crowds out other mention anymore, but in the 19th century no such prohibition applies. Early subway maps refer to this section of Delancey east of the Bowery as “the Ghetto” for instance. Such description signifies the magnetic appeal of the tenement neighborhood to the vast Yiddish speaking populations which made good their escape from the “the Pale” in the 19th century.

These largely weren’t the Orthodox Jews of today, of course, as the Hasidic and Lubavitcher sects – typified by an outdated style of dress and clannish separation from their surrounding environs – are a fairly modern path which only began to gather real steam in the 19th century (just like most fundamentalist religions) and in the 20th century these groups still represent only a tiny fraction of the larger ethnic population.

Instead the majority were religious but secular peasants from the countryside, suddenly finding themselves in New York City living next door to a sophisticated citizen from the Austro Hungarian- or Russian- or Ottoman- empires. It was these transplanted urbanites who founded the Forverts and other Yiddish language newspapers.

from wikipedia

The Forward (Yiddish: פֿאָרווערטס; Forverts), commonly known as The Jewish Daily Forward, is a Jewish-American newspaper published in New York City. The publication began in 1897 as a Yiddish-language daily issued by dissidents from the Socialist Labor Party of Daniel DeLeon. As a privately-owned publication loosely affiliated with the Socialist Party of America, Forverts achieved massive circulation and considerable political influence during the first three decades of the 20th Century. The publication still exists as a weekly news magazine in parallel Yiddish (Yiddish Forward) and English editions (The Jewish Daily Forward).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The synagogues of Eastern and Southern Europe which have survived into modernity have all the appearances of a fortified house or town, and go to some lengths to blend into the surrounding communities. In the United States, however, the desire to show off and build a palace to the almighty was not limited to the Catholics or Episcopalians. Such aspirations were present amongst the Jews as well.

On the corner of Delancey and Forsyth one may find the former “Forsyth Street Synagogue, Poel Zedek Anshei Illia (Doers of Good, People of Illia)“. In modernity, it serves as a place of worship for the Seventh Day Adventists, which grew out of the millennialist Millerites in the years following the “Great Disappointment” 1844.

from wikipedia

October 22, 1844, that day of great hope and promise, ended like any other day to the disappointment of the Millerites. Both Millerite leaders and followers were left generally bewildered and disillusioned. Responses varied: some Millerites continued to look daily for Christ’s return, others predicted different dates—among them April, July, and October 1845. Some theorized that the world had entered the seventh millennium, the “Great Sabbath”, and that, therefore, the saved should not work. Others acted as children, basing their belief on Jesus’ words in Mark 10:15, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” O. J. D. Pickands used Revelation 14:14-16 to teach that Christ was now sitting on a white cloud, and must be prayed down. Probably the majority however, simply gave up their beliefs and attempted to rebuild their lives. Some members rejoined their previous denominations while a substantial number became Quakers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An unknown structure to me, online accounts describe it as having passed from Hebraic hands during the long 20th century decline of the neighborhood and speak of its resurrection when it began to serve as a church to some of modern Christianity’s more charismatic adherents. It is odd to see the Mogen David bisected by the rood outside of the esoteric or gnostic traditions.

Delancey street, I would mention, always figured prominently in the adages and folkloric warnings that my grandmother would hand out when I was a young but already humble narrator. A product of the Pale herself, she found work in America in that jewish garment trade which once flourished here, and even into extreme old age she practiced her craft. She always referred to Delancey and the environs as a home to midwives and fortune tellers (kabbalists) and shmata men.

When queries as to how lucrative the shmata (rag) trade was, and who could possibly need enough rags to keep a merchant employed full time- her response was “vat doz yu tink yu viped yur arse mit? Dere vas no terlet papah beck den”.

from wikipedia

Adventism is a Christian movement which began in the 19th century, in the context of the Second Great Awakening revival in the United States. The name refers to belief in the imminent Second Coming (or “Second Advent”) of Jesus Christ. It was started by William Miller, whose followers became known as Millerites. Today, the largest church within the movement is the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Adventist family of churches are regarded today as conservative Protestants. While they hold much in common, their theology differs on whether the intermediate state is unconscious sleep or consciousness, whether the ultimate punishment of the wicked is annihilation or eternal torment, the nature of immortality, whether or not the wicked are resurrected, and whether the sanctuary of Daniel 8 refers to the one in heaven or on earth. The movement has encouraged the examination of the New Testament, leading them to observe the Sabbath.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Uncertainty exists in my mind as to whether or not my trance induced scuttling and the photographic record thereof bears any kind of narrative thread or not. It would seem that my subject matter and focal point of view remained steady with normal pursuits, chasing esoteric and disabused touchstones of the oft occluded past, and noticing the small details hidden amongst the centuries old tapestry.

One wonders if I might have wandered into this storefront psychic and what Gypsy legend would have been offered. Perhaps I did, but in my trance state, who can venture as to what might have occurred in the moments between photos?

from wikipedia

Romani mythology is the myth, folklore, religion, traditions, and legends of the Romani people (also known as Gypsies). The Romanies are a nomadic culture which originated in India during the Middle Ages. They migrated widely, particularly to Europe. Some legends (particularly from non-Romani peoples) say that certain Romanies are said to have passive psychic powers such as, empathy, precognition, retrocognition, or psychometry. Other legends include the ability to levitate, travel through astral projection by way of meditation, invoke curses or blessings, conjure/channel spirits, and skill with illusion-casting.

Burial: Romanies pushed steel or iron needles into the body’s heart and put pieces of steel in the mouth, over the eyes, ears, and between the fingers. Hawthorn was placed on the legs, or driven through the legs. They would also drive stakes, pour boiling water on the grave, and behead or burn the body. All this preparation was to ward off vampires.

Afterlife: Romanies had a concept of Good and Evil forces. Dead relatives were looked after loyally. The soul enters a world like the world of the living, except that death does not exist. The soul lingers near the body and sometimes wants to live again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The River of Sound awaited, and a vast steel span was to be crossed.

Tomorrow is Williamsburg, where Brooklyn’s Grand Street will be attained and the puzzling series of shots found on my camera card will be further explored at this… Your Newtown Pentacle.


compulsive walking

affected animals walk oblivious to their surroundings. They appear to be blind, walk into objects, headpress against them and stay in this position for long periods, are oblivious to danger and may die of misadventure. They may attempt to climb a wall and fall over backwards. Common causes are hepatic encephalopathy and increased intracranial pressure.

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