The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for February 2013

somehow impelled

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perambulating down Northern Boulevard here in Queens, one finds many gas stations and quite a few car washes. The Hess Station on the corner of Steinway offers both. A small, seemingly robotic car washing chamber exists here. Luckily, it possesses windows, which allow for some pretty intense lighting, at the right time of day. Car washes are another one of the things which your humble narrator waxes on about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Back in the day,” as it were, it wasn’t customary to ride through the wash. You would leave your vehicle, and “the Brooklyn way” was to follow along with your car, viewing it through plexiglass windows as it made its way through the detention, wash, and optional Carnuba wax. At the end of the process, in a wood paneled room, would be a cashier. Loss leaders on sale at this station included key chains, porn magazines, “gas, grass, or ass- nobody rides for free” bumper stickers, and all sorts of fingerless gloves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whereas I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords… the long counter of air freshener products screen printed with Farrah Fawcett pin ups is missing from this automata, as is a complicated display with key chains extolling the logo of several auto brands. It does make for pretty pictures, of course, but still… Where does someone go these days for mirrored aviator sunglasses that fold, or a bumper sticker adjuring the Ayatollah Khomeni to go to hell?

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 21, 2013 at 12:15 am

perfect service

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent malfunction in one of the many Con Ed street pits here in blessed Astoria drew the somewhat swift response of service crews. It was only three days before they arrived at the spot where vaporous exhalations from the street had spewed, and they quickly set up for their task. Before long, a series of intense blue white flashes and a sound best described as “popping” sent them back into their service vehicle. They were summoning additional help.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A truck arrived, which had some sort of suction hose on it. The truck was very noisy, reminding one of the sound which might be made by a congress of baboons all vacuuming at the same time. The Con Ed employee was not actually a speedster whose movements were reminiscent of the Flash character of DC Comics fame, instead these are timed exposures which allowed the shutter to stay open for some 15 seconds. I know its difficult to accept that these guys actually move this much in 15 seconds, given the reputation of Union Labor in quasi municipal employ, but there you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One prefers instead to believe that the Flash, and other meta human beings, would find easy employment in the municipal services which keep New York City’s fuse from burning away. In my estimate, the City at any given moment in only half an hour from total collapse. We live amongst a series of highly volatile dominoes kept from detonation only by the constant maintenance and tinkering of an army of labor. Somewhere in the Bronx just now, a Union guy casually tightened a screw whose failure would have otherwise unleashed the beast of Armageddon, while in Staten Island- a frayed strand of wire threatens the entire municipality with unthinkably dire and entirely existential implications.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2013 at 12:15 am

suffocating windrows

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few of you have emailed me recently, concerned about the dire outlook and melancholy displayed here, at your Newtown Pentacle, in recent months. Concerns have been transmitted that I seem to be grasped by a dark and somber mood are noted, and appreciated. Everything is fine, however, and your humble narrator is simply reacting to normal stressors in typically infantile manner. For example- I need an expensive new zoom lens and have no idea how I am going to pay for it, which is the very definition of a “first world problem.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing is, though, that at the moment I’m more than a little bored, without a whole lot to look forward to in the immediate future. There’s going to be a Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat tour in May, and I’ll be announcing a series of 2013 walking tour dates that will stretch out from the early spring to the fall in a few days… Also, the Kosciuszko Bridge project will be kicking to life soon… right now, though, not so much.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the moment, I’m just some weird guy in a filthy black raincoat whom you see while driving along, walking toward Newtown Creek with a camera in my hand. A veritable mendicant- discarded and disabused, walking the earth and cataloging its riches. “When you’re down in the dumps”, I always say, “buy into your own mythology”- it’ll get you through the rough patch.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2013 at 12:15 am

stark hideousness

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is never truly alone in New York City, given that it is one of the most densely inhabited and developed sections of the entire planet, but one often experiences a deep and abiding loneliness here. This is paradoxical, as any New Yorker- when queried as to their deepest wish- will answer with “I’d just like to left alone and have everyone else just mind their own business instead of paying attention to mine.”

That, and they’d like to win something called the Lottery, quit their jobs, and move someplace called “the country” where there is “no bullshit.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A product of this place, having existed in its schools and streets and along the waterways, your humble narrator is lonely by nature- but that has nothing to do with the City. Vainglorious humility is oft invoked when describing myself as an Outsider, but I’m only half joking. Regardless of my social status and ability to “fit in,” one would have no desire whatsoever to leave New York were my “ship to come in.”

That would be giving in, and allowing the City to say that it beat you (although the thought of a little country place in Vermont sounds pretty sweet).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The desolations of solitude, wherein the mind spawns metastases of self accusation and secondary guessing, are at the root of much of what ails most. How can one truly be alone in a crowd, or lonely in New York City? One such as myself craves (and in fact deserves) desolating isolation, the quiet of the tombs, and the absence of others.

Then again, I was raised as an “only child” and never had to share a bedroom with someone I didn’t wish to.

shaking encumbrances

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently spotted, the tug Nanticoke, plying NY Harbor. Upon reading the name “Nanticoke,” your humble narrator grasped for some meaning behind this enigmatic arrangement of ordinary vowels and consonants. Knowing that the Vane company often names its vessels after inland and coastal waterways, a certain river came to mind.

from wikipedia

The Nanticoke River is a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay on the Delmarva Peninsula. It rises in southern Kent County, Delaware, flows through Sussex County, Delaware, and forms the boundary between Dorchester County, Maryland and Wicomico County, Maryland. The river course proceeds southwest and it empties into the Chesapeake at Nanticoke, Maryland. The river is 64.3 miles (103.5 km) long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nanticoke was on duty with a barge, heading south toward Staten Island from some origin point northwards on either the Hudson or East Rivers. A fuel barge, who can guess what sort of volatile cargo might have lurked within it, vouchsafed by Nanticoke?

from vanebrothers.com

The Nanticoke is 95’ long, with a 34’ beam, and a 15’ draft. Her gross tonnage is 99 tons. She is powered by two CAT 3516, 2100 horsepower engines with Kort nozzles, and maintains running speeds of better than 12 knots. Featuring a model bow and square stern, her fuel capacity is approximately 90,000 gallons. Potable water capacity is approximately 9,000 gallons. With accommodations for seven crew members, the Nanticoke is dedicated to 50-class tank barges on the coastwide trade.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Maritime Sunday staff here at Newtown Pentacle HQ offer a wave of the hand and official shout out to the Vane Brothers Nanticoke cast and crew. Huzzah!

also from vanebrothers.com

The Vane Brothers Company has served the maritime industry in the Port of Baltimore and the U.S. Eastern Seaboard for more than 100 years. Today, we are comprised of five divisions operating out of the ports of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, and Charleston.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2013 at 12:15 am

Project Firebox 59

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

At 34th Avenue’s junction with Northern Blvd. waits this long serving alarm box. Its seen fire and its seen rain…

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 16, 2013 at 12:45 am

sufficient accuracy

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DUE TO AN ILLNESS, THE FRIDAY NIGHT MAGIC LANTERN SHOW WILL BE POSTPONED!!!

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A week of darkness was promised you, lords and ladies, and this Friday posting provides a neat bookend.

Long Island City is one of the most difficult spots in New York City to hail a cab, precisely because so many Cab companies are based here. Drivers don’t want to pick you up if they’re in the neighborhood, as Cab Drivers are generally heading here to drop off the car and end a shift before they get hit with a penalty for being late.

The reverse of “bringing coal to Newcastle”, it would seem, is in effect.

from nytimes.com

Many taxicabs are used by two drivers a day, each working a 12-hour shift. To ensure that each leg is equally attractive, taxi owners schedule the shift change in the middle of the afternoon, so each shift gets a rush hour.

But the switch cannot happen too early, either: a 2 p.m. changeover, for instance, would require a day driver to start his 12-hour shifts in the wee hours of the morning. And cabbies say the midafternoon offers brisk business not evident 12 hours later, when fares mainly consist of late-night revelers.

Hence the 5 p.m. compromise. When the changeover became standard, its timing did not pose a big problem for passengers. Many taxi garages were situated on the Far West Side of Manhattan, requiring cabs to make only a short trip to 11th Avenue before heading back to Midtown with a fresh driver.

But in the 1980s, as commercial rents rose, taxi fleets began migrating across the East River, particularly to Long Island City, Queens. The 5 p.m. shift change now included a journey over the often-packed Queensboro Bridge, not to mention the return slog to the city. Drivers started going off duty between 4 and 4:30 p.m., to ensure that they had enough time to make it to the garage; even today, tardy cabbies can be hit with a $30 fine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is an interesting sight, seeing hundreds of Taxis arrayed about their dispatch and maintenance yards in the wee hours of the morning. Taxi’s are not unlike Police cars in this manner, inasmuch as they seem to be in perpetual motion and always in gear.

Drivers have described the system to me, shift work accomplished in long stretches behind the wheel during which they struggle to first pay the day’s lease on the car and then the fuel bill. Once this sum has been reached, whatever is left over is theirs to keep. They are functionally without a union, and vulnerable to the whims of politician and businessman alike. The overnight drivers also describe having to deal with cleaning up a lot of bodily fluids, the product of nightlife and its revelry.

from wikipedia

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) was established in 1971 with jurisdiction over the city’s medallion (yellow) taxicabs, livery cabs, “black cars”, commuter vans, paratransit vehicles (ambulettes) and some luxury limousines. The TLC was founded to deal with the growing number of drivers and to address issues important to both the taxi and livery industries. Its predecessor was the New York City Hack Bureau, operated under the aegis of the New York City Police Department. TLC Inspectors are New York State peace officers who carry batons, pepper spray, and handcuffs.

In the 1970s and 1980s both the unofficial livery services and the medallion taxicab companies began finding more and more of their drivers in the growing populations of black, Latino, and middle eastern immigrants to the city as the previous generation of cabbies retired and moved out of the city. Crime in New York City had become severe at this point, and cabbies were often the victims of robberies and street crime.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a different note, a distinct point of interest is the Court Square Diner, which is a completely different structure at night than during the day. On this particular morning, despite my screaming desire for a cup of joe, the place was passed by and merely photographed. The whole “shooting at night” thing was produced by a bout of insomnia, after all, and the last thing that the sleepless needs is the sort of hot brown jet fuel sold at Court Square.

from courtsquarediner.com

Court Square Diner was built in 1946. Since then it has only had three ownerships.

The current owners, Steve and Nick have been in operation since 1991. When they had first purchased the diner, it was mainly a small diner for breakfast and lunch. In 2009, the Court Square Diner was renovated with an all new retro look. Now it is a full service 24 hour seven day a week successful diner complete with breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. The delivery service is 24 hours a day seven days a week. All the baking for the diner is done on the premises.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 15, 2013 at 12:15 am

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