The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for January 13th, 2016

from behind

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Breaking in, stretching out, forced marches – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The holiday season saw me largely sitting on my butt, and eating too much, which caused my butt to grow largely. Accordingly, muscle tone has slackened and tendons have grown stiff. As one doesn’t heal as fast as formerly, a series of short perambulations around Astoria have seen me wandering in circles around Newtown Pentacle HQ, which have grown concentrically larger as the days have gone by.

HQ is found along Broadway in the 40’s, a part of Astoria known to the historical community as “the German Settlement” which was founded by members of the German Cabinet Makers Association back in 1869. Catholics from the south of Germany, they settled here at the border of Woodside and Astoria in pursuance of something they referred to as “Kleindeutchland” or “Clean Germany.” The Germans, or Dutch as their contemporaries would have called them, had a huge footprint in western Queens and North Brooklyn. The German population center was actually in Bushwick and Ridgewood “back in the day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering down Broadway in the direction of the East River, at 34th street a new pizza shop has opened and I’m happy to see that my personal “naming convention,” which tacks “Astoria” onto any other word which ends in an “a” has been adopted by the owners. One hopes they can make a go of it, but this is one of those “cursed locations” where one restaurant after another has opened and then closed shortly thereafter over the years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We have a new graffiti writer in the neighborhood, who has been prolifically sharing their wisdom in a distinctive block scripted typography. There are three new writers, actually. The second one is in love with “love” and extols the emotion’s virtues in a flowery script which is writ large. The third works in a crude block script and describes various societal ills while detailing the sins of capitalism and the financial industry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Swinging north on Crescent Street, on a whim, this lovely line of Long Island City style row houses has somehow resisted being broken up by the fires of gentrification. I didn’t get close enough to them to look for the little flecks of iron pyrite which typifies the specie, but from across the street they seemed to be dressed in the yellow Kreischer Brick which adorns the Matthews Model Flat type row houses. This yellow brick is found all over Western Queens, incidentally, which has nothing to do with the fact that Steinway’s kid married Kriescher’s kid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing north, one encounters a series of homes which enjoy automobile garages on their lots. It is amazing that the NYC Dept. of City Planning hasn’t drawn a gigantic development bullseye on these structures as of yet. One can envision a “super block” of maximum density super tall buildings here. It would fit in with the current logic evinced by the municipality – the neighborhood schools are overcrowded, the sewer and electrical system at capacity, the Police already overwhelmed by the current population, it’s fairly distant from the subways – exactly the sort of situation into which you’d want to insert thousands of families into in de Blasio’s New York.

Incidentally, this side of the neighborhood is what those of us who live in the “German Settlement” side of Astoria refer to as “Astoria, Astoria.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of “Astoria, Astoria,” you don’t get much more “Astoria, Astoria” than the corner of Astoria Blvd. and 31st street.

Just a block away is the spot that Robert Moses raped the Triborough Bridge and Grand Central Parkway into, and 31st street carries the elevated tracks of the N and Q IND subway lines. It’s a high traffic zone, and street crossings are made at your peril. Accordingly, our local “connected” development group – HANAC (Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee) – has installed several mega structures hereabouts which primarily serve the aging Greek community. HANAC has also been given several large lots on 21st street to develop by the powers that be. They are building “affordable” and senior housing all over this section, and there is an unspoken understanding that the residents will all vote “Democrat” on Election Day.

Of course, the powers that be forget that most people in Astoria will tell you that they don’t vote, as it inevitably results in getting called for Jury Duty and being forced to report to some court in Rego Park or Jamaica at 7:30 in the morning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearing 31st street, a taxi driver was doing his religious duty and praying on a mat – presumptively before starting his shift. Didn’t have the desire to interrupt him and tell him that he was pointing north east, and that his devotions were being directed towards Boston rather than Mecca.

Not trying to be a smart ass here, as I’m actually curious about this – my understanding of Muslim devotion is that your daily prayers are meant to be directed towards Mecca. Is there a methodology by which one finds the correct direction towards the Arabian penninsula? As an technology obsessed American, I would make it a point to carry a compass if I was obligated to such devotion, but is there an Islamic “way” to determine the vector?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing 31st street, there is yet more construction going on, as observed when headed in the direction of the 114th precinct house found along Astoria Blvd. The good news here is that the construction has revealed some historical graffiti which was long hidden by occluding structures which occupied this land in the interval since the paint was laid down. One lives in hope of witnessing graffiti that dates back to the Nixon era revealed as the furnaces of gentrification are further stoked here in the ancient village.

“Turn on, drop out,” that sort of claptrap.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the 114th, we really have to figure out some kind of parking solution for the unformed officers who vouchsafe the community in these parts. One of the reasons that the local kids don’t respect the badge is simple observance of the blue army breaking the laws which they are meant to enforce on a daily basis. Every car you’ll see illegally parked along Astoria Blvd. between 31st and Steinway Street has a PBA placard on the dashboard, or they’re off duty radio patrol cars done up in NYPD trade dress as seen in the shot above.

Do as I say, not as I do? Indeed?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

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