The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

sighing uncannily

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A personal theory of mine is that the garden of Eden was actually in midtown Manhattan, specifically the central section of 42nd street. The location where the proverbial tree of good and evil would have been observed in the dim past is the spot where Grand Central Terminal’s information booth will be found today, which is why the clock of the four cardinal directions was placed there. In this rather ridiculous assertion, my theory of what the primordial mother realized when eating the forbidden fruit was not awareness of her nakedness- but rather an awareness of time passing. The Vanderbilts placed the clock there to signify both location and event, I would wager.

from wikipedia

The main information booth is in the center of the concourse. This is a perennial meeting place, and the four-faced clock on top of the information booth is perhaps the most recognizable icon of Grand Central. Each of the four clock faces is made from opal, and both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have estimated the value to be between $10 million and $20 million. Within the marble and brass pagoda lies a “secret” door that conceals a spiral staircase leading to the lower level information booth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Time grows short, lords and ladies, an unstoppable river flowing toward oblivion and the embrace of the conqueror worm. Your humble narrator would love to tell you of some epic summer journey this day, a break from the daily grind, but even if I had somewhere to travel to- who would greet me upon arrival? Surely, one such as myself- a shambling and feckless quisling, physical coward, and unreliable lunatic- would be shunned by a sensible and sober local gentry wherever and whenever my shadow is cast.

from wikipedia

The Seth Thomas Clock Company began producing clocks in 1813, and was incorporated as the “Seth Thomas Clock Company” in 1853. The clock at Grand Central Terminal in New York City was manufactured by the company. Seth Thomas Clock Company manufactured longcase clocks as well as mantel, wall, and table-top clocks during this period.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Exertions of the last few months have worn me down, and left me naught but a reactive shell. A brief surcease of the incessant duties and exhibitions recently performed in obeisance to my beloved Newtown Creek is finally at hand, but as mentioned- I have no where to go. The idea of sitting alongside some vernal water body, or simply communing with an uncorrupted form of the natural world, fills one with dread. Vacations, as they are called, are for others to enjoy- I must remain locked in combat with an eternal and undying human hive and remain consigned to the concrete devastations of a post industrial dystopia.


Several times a day, riders troop into the stationmaster’s office in Grand Central Terminal to complain. Even the four faces of the signature brass clock above the information booth in the main concourse, irate riders often point out, are different.

The culprit is not the clocks themselves but something that resembles a giant filing cabinet, tucked away in a closet above one of the Beaux-Arts terminal’s platforms. It is a 15-year-old master clock system, with dials in the middle and two digital displays.

It connects each day at 3 a.m. by shortwave radio signal with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s atomic clock in Boulder, Colo., and then sends electrical impulses to the terminal’s 20-some historic clocks.

The problem is, the electromechanical devices in the terminal’s master clock system that are sending these signals are becoming increasingly unreliable, making the clocks inaccurate. What’s more, the time displayed on video monitors throughout the terminal is controlled by a different system, not tied to the atomic clock at all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unlike the Vanderbilts, who literally wrote a check when presented with the bill for Grand Central Terminal, my finances continue to be perilous. A disaster as simple as needing a new pair of shoes or a camera repair would sink this Humble Commodore’s fleet, and the frivolity of spending what little cash there is on some diversionary trip is overshadowed by the term “shelter in place”. Better that I just treat those hallucinations which occur when unconsciousness seizes me as my summer getaway.


The plan was expensive. The railroad needed to invest in electrifying its rails, and carve deep into Manhattan’s bedrock (workers would ultimately excavate 2.8 million cubic yards of earth and rock). The solution to the projected $80 million project budget (roughly $2 billion in today?s terms) came from Wilgus as well. Without steam engines, there was no longer a need for an open rail yard. Wilgus proposed that the area from 45th to 49th Streets be paved over and that real estate developers be allowed to erect buildings over the concealed tracks. In exchange for this privilege, developers would pay a premium to the New York Central Railroad for “air rights.” Construction in the years immediately after the completion of Grand Central Terminal would include apartment buildings like the Marguery, the Park Lane, and the Montana, and hotels including the Barclay, the Chatham, the Ambassador, the Roosevelt, and finally the Waldorf-Astoria, completed in 1931. (For many years, hydraulic tanks in the basement of Grand Central Terminal supplied power to these buildings.)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The odd condition afflicts me on a daily basis (approximately every sixteen to eighteen hours- muscle fatigue and mental confusion begin to manifest, followed by a sudden loss of consciousness and concurrently some six to seven hours are spent caught up in the throws of wild hallucinations. Upon regaining control of my body, odd smells and trails of dried spittle combine with a lack of coordination and a stunted mental capacity. During these periods of involuntary separation from conscious control over my mind and body, oddly, I’ve noticed that my fingernails grow prodigiously), and has since early childhood. it has long been my habit to lock myself away in a protected chamber here at Newtown Pentacle HQ in Queens when the warning signs of this debilitating malady present- far from the dangers of the greater human infestation in a long ago “paradise lost” which is now vulgarly called Manhattan.

from wikipedia

Extending between Sunnyside, Queens, and Grand Central, the project will route the LIRR from its Main Line through new track connections in Sunnyside Yard and through the lower level of the existing 63rd Street Tunnel under the East River. In Manhattan, a new tunnel will begin at the western end of the 63rd Street Tunnel at Second Avenue, curving south under Park Avenue and entering a new LIRR terminal beneath Grand Central.

Current plans call for 24-trains-per-hour service to Grand Central during peak morning hours, with an estimated 162,000 passenger trips to and from Grand Central on an average weekday. Connections to AirTrain JFK at Jamaica Station in Jamaica, Queens, will facilitate travel to John F. Kennedy International Airport from the East Side of Manhattan.

A new LIRR train station in Sunnyside at Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue along the Northeast Corridor (which the LIRR uses to get into Pennsylvania Station) will provide one-stop access for area residents to Midtown Manhattan. The station may spur economic development and growth in Long Island City.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 8, 2012 at 1:34 am

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. “…six to seven hours are spent up in the throws of wild hallucinations.”

    See? There’s the root of all your problems. You’re not getting enough shut-eye.


    August 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: