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Archive for February 2016

squamous litanies

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It’s a real migraine out there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Let’s face it, what we New Yorkers actually do is raise a hell of a ruckus wherever we are, but especially so when we’re at home. Personal experience of visiting relatively rural and quiet areas, like Vermont, reveals the effect on my hearing that living in this constant din has wrought. For 24-48 hours after leaving the City, there’s a high pitched phantom tone constantly present. I’ve always thought that the “wheeeeeee” sound, in addition to having a medical definition and name, is my brains attempt to filter out the constant rumble and thunder of city life – cerebral noise cancelling if you will.

All the engines, and generators, exhaust fans, jets, car tires on asphalt, buzzing things on utility poles, everybody talking, the subways, the chattering of millions of birds – the air is polluted not just with toxic gases and sewage bacteria rising on the breeze from out of the harbor – but with noise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s only during power outages and blizzards that you get to hear the City hush up for a while. I’d settle for regular powers like being able to effectively climb a ladder or balance my check book, but a humble narrator has often fantasized about possessing some sort of super power. My first choice would be invulnerability, of course, but a lot of the really interesting choices involve sight and perception. X-Ray vision? I’d worry about giving people cancer just by looking at them. Being able to fly without the invulnerability would actually be kind of dangerous.

What if you could visualize sound? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know, that’s the sort of thing somebody would ask in a dorm room shortly after passing the bong, but still.

The BQE would probably look like something from Van Gogh, with crashing scalars creating fractal wavefronts which bounce and dance along the road itself and all the brick walls of the buildings which the highway weaves through. The East River would likely be a majestic sight, and would exhibit something akin to a sonic Jackson Pollack painting.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

thousand young

with 5 comments

A goat with a thousand young, that sort of thing, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Magna Mater notwithstanding, one worries that he has lost his moorings, but I’ve thought that since the age of five.

So many dreams are left unfillfilled – such as sparking a witch panic in western Queens. It has also also long been one of my goals to lead a torch bearing mob, but little success has been found in pursuing this goal. There’s the nuanced side of it all – you need to store the rag wrapped sticks, the accelerants, and determine some sort of organizing point for the angry masses… it’s all quite complicated. You also need to get a group angry enough to take to the streets and chase the monster towards the old and flammable mill. There’s no way to start a political riot these days which doesn’t involve some sort of intense preparation, and advance permitting, and I’ve always been a spontaneous sort of guy. Also, my apathy can be considered as being weaponized, and I just can’t be bothered to pointlessly bleat. What’s wrong with a Monster anyway, who’s it bothering, and why do you want to slay it so badly?

At any rate – anarchy, chaos, and – wooooh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I spent last night at the District Office, which is what I call the bar in Astoria that I frequent, and chatted with the working guys for awhile. A surprising number of them were “big” on Donald Trump’s candidacy for President. In particular, they were in favor of the expulsion of “illegal immigrants.” I reminded them that most of these “illegals” who would get caught up in this effort wouldn’t be of Mexican lineage (whom most stereotype as being the “illegals”) and that a significant number of 70-80 year old Greeks, Croatians, and Irish people who have lived here for decades would be the likely victims of this policy. Why? Because back in the 1970’s and 80’s it was fairly easy to buy a green card from forgers.

Also, given what I know about the way things actually work in this City – you’d have to literally go from house to house and search every attic and basement for “illegals” to comply with the Federal Mandate.

Speaking strictly as someone of Jewish descent, this sort of thing has been tried before in other countries and it didn’t work out well for anyone involved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Let’s do the thought experiment though, said a humble narrator, of how President Trump’s expulsion program would actually play out – using Astoria as an example. NYPD sets up a cordon on 21st street, and on Woodside Avenue. A skirmish line of Police begin moving north from Northern Blvd., working their way through every building and business and demanding identification and proof of status from everybody they meet. Those individuals who aren’t “pure” citizens are arrested, and shipped out to a holding cell.

The detainees would have to taken somewhere for further processing. Since our jails are already fairly full, we’d have to create mass incarceration camps where they could await deportation. Our national nightmare is the presence of an army of terrorists on American soil, yes? I can think of no better way to create one than building concentration camps full of angry people that know implicitly how to avoid detection when crossing a national border whose only wish was to become Americans and live in the United States.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm

terrible unseeing

with one comment

Fear and loathing, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of research was committed here at HQ to try and ascertain what sort of critters might be found down in the Subway tunnels. I found an interesting study which discussed the distribution of Manhattan bedbug populations –  it seems that east side bedbugs display a different DNA profile than west side ones – which the researchers attributed to the separated subway lines. There’s certainly roaches and rats below, no secret there.

Thing is, in a cave system – which is essentially what the subway tunnel network is – rodents, roaches, and beetles are close to the top of the food chain and subsist on diets of lesser insects and invertebrates. Conventional wisdom suggests that it’s the human infestation which supplies caloric fuel to the biota down here, but you never hear tell about centipedes, spiders, worms and all the other creepy crawlies which logically have to be resident in the system. Supposedly there’s a rich and variegated world of micro organisms found in the tunnels, but little in the way of accessible documentation on the subject. Maybe I just haven’t figured out what to call a subway taxonomy, or transit biota census, or whatever obfuscation it’s customary to use for this sort of thing.

A separate study of DNA harvested from the Subway system has reported that a certain percentage of the nucleotides and genetic material present down here emanate from no creature known to science.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most everyone has heard stories about “the condos.” For those not in the know: the condos are residences found in side tunnels and abandoned stations that are populated by groups of homeless individuals who are referred to as the “mole people.” MTA says this is both a fabrication and a myth. Urban apocryphals dictate that track workers will freeze in place and refuse to enter subterranean areas where furniture or camping equipment is observed. I’m no Steve Duncan nor LTV Squad, so I can’t intelligently describe these less common sections of the underground, but I can’t imagine that “mole people” would be anything other than strictly anomalous and out of the ordinary in the underground complexes. Simply put, there’s a lot of street level ATM rooms out there these days, and they are air conditioned during the summer.

Saying that, I’m certain that there are a few individuals here and there who have found a Subway hidey hole to camp in. Maybe there are mole people, which I certainly do hope. NYC needs more mole people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a surprising lack of occult oriented Subway lore, especially when compared to the famously haunted London system. A humble narrator is always looking around the web for ghostly tales (actually, I have an automated Google search gadget that does it for me) involving NYC, and there’s virtually nothing I can relate. The ghost of a slain track worker here, a 7 foot tall demon seen at Port Authority there – nothing other than that which a decent psychiatrist could prescribe away. That’s weird, actually, but I’ve always found New York somewhat lacking in folkloric traditions as compared to places like Boston or New Orleans or even White Plains.

Most of the subway horror stories I see on the web involve unwanted sexual attention – women being victimized by nut jobs with their nuts out, gropers, lewd talkers and so on. Men of debased mind whom my grandmother would have referred to as “meshigga poyvoyts.”

It should be mentioned that this sort of behavior has always mystified me, and the behavior set is beyond my understanding. I really don’t understand, and wish y’all ladies didn’t have to deal with it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of New York’s folklore seems to involve real world circumstance rather than the spooky stuff, in my experience. The ones involving the mob, or crime figures in general, have always been the most prevalent. There’s the ones which describe suicides landing on cars or sidewalk cafes, the aforementioned mole people, and sinister or conspiratorial attributions to otherwise mundane occurrences such as “alternate side of the street parking.” The one about dropping a penny off the Empire State Building onto a guys head, the ghost train at Hell Gate Bridge, and that old chestnut about the birth rate jumping nine months after the 1965 blackout.

It’s actually fairly hard to find a good New York City ghost story, as in something iconic. Guess all the superstitious types moved north or west after the civil war.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I miss earwire. That’s the name I assigned to some nut who I used to see on the R train during daily commutes, whose “thing” was dipping a length of copper wire into a jar of what looked like mercurochrome and then playing a lighter over the anointed cable, whereupon he’d jam it into and then dig it around in his ear. He’d pull the wire back out, thoughtfully consider the length and then talk to it.

He was puzzling and grotesque, but hardly an urban legend.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 25, 2016 at 11:30 am

found unfastened

with 3 comments

It used to be called Jane Street, y’know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent occasion found one perambulating from Astoria to Hunters Point. My eventual assignation was scheduled for the early evening (or late afternoon if you sleep in) and a decision to walk a less than efficient route was undertaken. A crooked hypotenuse is what I’d call the route chosen for transversing the somewhat triangular area, which would carry me into a couple of places I haven’t walked through in about a year. A year in LIC is long enough for square blocks of the place to have been demolished and for hundreds of feet of glass tower raised from the rubble, and since it was a nice day – off I went.

The DSNY earth mover was seen on Vernon Blvd., and for some odd reason, presenting these shots to you in a timeline inverse to their actual capture works better. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queensboro never disappoints. The Terracotta House restoration seems to finally be just about finished and a cursory inspection suggests that a pretty nice job of it has been done. For those of you not in the know about the New York Terra Cotta company, nor the sole remaining remnant of their presence in LIC, click here for a fairly old Newtown Pentacle post on the subject – from 2009.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent an awful amount of time in this area back in 2009, during the centennial celebrations of the great bridge. I was a parade marshall for the event, the first time I’d ever done something like that. I’ve become an old hand at conducting tours and being in public at this point, but back then everything was shiny and new.

If I knew then what I know now… I tell ya…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It won’t be long before Queensboro is hemmed in on all sides by towers and condominiums, and the glorious light of a winter afternoon will be occluded in the same manner as the East River Bridges in Brooklyn. For those of you who have never wandered around this area, it is highly recommended, but watch your back.

You are generally pretty safe around these parts, but if things go bad it happens pretty fast and the consequences can be awful. You mainly have to worry about traffic, but there are also inslaubrious characters hanging about here and there. Just keep moving, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The north side of the bridge had already been overshadowed by a series of new high rise construction projects. The tower you see in the shot above is over in the shining city of Manhattan across the river, a residential luxury tower which vaingloriously surpasses the height of the Empire State Building – called 432 Park Avenue.

As mentioned at the top of the post, the Queensboro bridge landing in Queens Plaza was once LIC’s Jane Street.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 24, 2016 at 11:00 am

bustling contact

with 11 comments

If you see something, say something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is LIC’s 41st street, between Northern Blvd. and 36th avenue, west side. The two shopping carts you’re looking at in the shot above have remained, unmolested, in this spot for more than a year. I know this because I walk past them on an almost daily basis. Not long ago, it occurred to me how long it is that they’ve been chained to this DOT owned sign post pole, and just how unusual that is. The City normally clips the chains of things attached to their property, and at the very least a Sanitation Inspector has been down this block at least once every couple of weeks.

At first glance, these carts belong to one of the many bottle and can collectors who work area streets for deposit returns. On second glance, however…

This is “weirdness” cart number one. (The numbers assigned are simply in the order of discovery and have no other meaning)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The carts are stoutly secured to the pole, with a galvanized chain and a heavy commercial grade padlock. By commercial, I mean the sort of case hardened unit you see securing the steel gates of shops. Locks like these will run you anywhere from $10-30 – depending on make, model, and quantity. I’ve never bought a length of chain, so I couldn’t comment on the price of that. Shopping carts in Astoria are in the $20-30 range. That means that between lock and cart, you’ve got $50-100 bucks chained to this pole, and it has been for more than a year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On top of the carts is a piece of beverage tray plastic, wired securely to the top of the things. The black bags in the carts are “3 mil contractor” bags, and if you probe them with your finger – there are no bottles or cans inside. Instead, you’d feel about an inch of foam and behind it a hard shelled case of some kind.

It’s odd, but there’s a lot of odd things you’ll find in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Steinway Street at the northeast corner of 36th avenue is where you’ll find another one of these assemblages. Same thing as the one on 41st – tightly folded up contractor bags perfectly filling the entire cart’s volume with a layer of foam and a hard shell hidden within.

This is “weirdness” cart number two.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Beverage tray is secured to the cart, with wire that is tightly twisted in a manner suggesting the use of pliers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stout chain, expensive padlock.

It’s odd, I tell you, odd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “weirdness” cart number three.

36th avenue, south side, at 38th street is where you’ll find it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around the corner, at 38th street’s east side, at 36th avenue. Foam, hard case within, contractor bags tightly wrapped. You’ll notice some blue material showing through, which was actually TYVEK – the same plastic fabric that construction tarps and COSTCO bags are made of. Can’t say if this stuff was in all of these carts, but… odd.

This is “weirdness” cart number four.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Beverage tray wired securely to the cart, twisted tightly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Expensive lock and galvanized chain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “weirdness” cart number five.

36th avenue, north side, at 37th street. This one has a wire grill attached to the top, but it too is wire tied to the cart. Again, finger probing of the black bag revealed not bottles or cans, but instead the now familiar foam padding around a hard case like interior.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “weirdness” cart number six.

37th street, east side, at 36th avenue. The arrangements of these carts became increasingly regular. Always at the same relationship to a corner, chained to the first sign pole on the block.

It is increasingly odd. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The beverage trays were securely tied off, the foam and hard interior shell present, and so were the heavy chains and expensive padlocks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

36th street, east side, at 36th avenue. 

While photographing this one, I got a “hey, whatcha taking pictchas of” comment from a fellow leaving his house. We chatted for a moment and he said this cart had been in this spot for more than a year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of these carts were arrayed along 36th avenue, I should mention. I should also mention the abundance of subway tunnels which are directly below. I continued my little survey, but the carts were not found anywhere beyond 35th street. I decided to head down towards Northern Blvd.

This is “weirdness” cart number seven.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “weirdness” cart number eight.

35th street, west side, between 37th avenue and Northern Blvd. This one was a little bit different, lacking a beverage tray on the top, but in all other aspects it was the identical setup with a padded case of some kind and the heavy chain with expensive padlock.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering back towards HQ, on Northern Boulevard, north east corner, at 42nd street. Same setup, with beverage trays and so on.

This is “weirdness” cart number nine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These carts on Northern at 42nd had a bit of garbage stuffed into them, but anything you leave on the street in Queens will soon turn into a trash can.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

35th avenue, south side, at 43rd street. Again, same setup. There were a couple of empty carts sitting alongside the two chained up ones.

This is “weirdness” cart number ten.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The whole affair was being held together with the now familiar wire tie offs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s going on here – along this stretch of Northern Boulevard, 36th, and 35th avenues, between 43rd and 36th streets? These ten cart installations hide whatever is inside those foam lined cases from discovery or inspection using skillfull camouflage. They look like just another bit of the sort of street ephemera you don’t notice – the bicycle wheel chained to a fence, a shopping bag stuck in a tree, a lamp post or firebox. At first glance you think “yeah, some bottle guy chains his cart here.”

Or – There’s a bottle and can collector – hereabouts – who uses high end padlocks, steel chains, layers of water tight contractor bags, TYVEK, foam, and a hard shell case that perfectly fits into a shopping cart to protect his ten caches of bottle deposit returns which are kept only in areas which are over subway tunnels.

Speculation is a silly thing to engage in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’re reading this post, I’m also sending it over to the 114th precinct for the boys in blue to consider. It’s probably nothing extraordinary, but I don’t like the locations or heterogeneity of these carts, given that they are all sitting on top of subway tunnels and are found at busy intersections which carry thousands of vehicles every day. I’d love to cut into one of these carts and find out what’s inside, but I’m a photographer not a cutter. It’s probably nothing, and the cops will proably just waste their time if they do look into it, but…

This cart business isn’t just odd, it’s downright weird, and my “spidey sense” is tingling for some reason.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

many went

with 5 comments

My favorite place, when I was a kid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Facebook the other day, I mentioned to my little collection of friends that I had signed up for one of those NYCID cards in pursuance of all the free stuff you get in return. There’s a collection of institutions which normally cost a larger than you’d expect fee at the front door, and the NYCID card gets you a free membership which negates any sort of payment for 12 months.

One of them is the American Museum of Natural History. You present your NYCID at the front desk, and you get a complimentary year of membership to the institution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was in the City anyway, and had a couple of hours to kill in between appointments, so I hopped on the B and went over to 81st and Central Park West and did the deed. Having a little time to kill, I strolled around the museum before it got too crowded. By about 12:30 p.m., I had discovered where every tourist visiting NYC with small kids in tow goes in the afternoon and given my lack of patience with crowds – well, it was time to head back to Queens and get back to work at HQ anyway after about an hour and fifteen minutes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I did manage to visit a few exhibits. I’ve always been kind of partial to the ice age mammals, personally, but let’s face it – you don’t go to Natural History to see Mammoth bones. You go for the dinosaurs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, when I was a kid this was my favorite place in the world. Last time I spent any length of time at the museum was back in the early 90’s when I lived not too far away at the corner of 100th street and Broadway. I had been hanging around that section of the Upper West Side for awhile, going back to the late 80’s when I worked a college job as a non Union doorman in a building I would later live in.

Mostly boring work, but good for studying, and I had to get physical a few times with crack heads who wanted to use the lobby to smoke up. The neighborhood gentrified quickly, and became both crack head free and banal, back in the late 90’s and by 2003 – Astoria beckoned. I’ve been back to the Natural History museum just once in the interval since then, accompanying a buddy who was drawing a comic for Marvel and needed to do some Pterodactyl and Archaeopteryx research.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYCID thing was actually kind of painless to handle. I made an appointment, at LaGuardia Community College of all places, and showed up with proof of address and a couple of other required documents. The whole thing took about 15 minutes and the card came in the mail about a week later. I’m signed up at Moving Image here in Astoria and at Natural History, so far.

The part I’m excited about is the free zoo membership, of course. Only problem with that is that I have to go to Bronx Zoo to do the signup, which is a great example of the macabre sense of humor which New York City exhibits. Expect many, many, copulating monkeys at this – your Newtown Pentacle – in 2016.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crowds at American Museum of Natural History really begin to dense up in the early afternoon, and as I was leaving it was noticed that there was a good sized lineup of people out on the steps waiting their turn to stand on the lines inside. Have to say – one of the many things which has changed since a humble narrator was young is that back in the 80’s and 90’s you were pretty much alone in these museums on week days.

There’s no way you could just drop yourself down on the floor and throw open a sketch book with all the tourists clodding about these days. New York really isn’t for New Yorkers anymore, I guess.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

itemized exceptions

with 2 comments

I just can’t stop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More of the macro shots with which I’ve been passing the cold weather down time, in today’s post. First up is a bit of Swiss Chard. Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris) is actually part of the beetroot subspecies of the Amaranthaceae family. I’m planning on cooking the non photographed portions of it up with garlic, red onion, olive oil, and a bit of a poblano pepper thrown in to make it interesting. That’s likely the first time I’ve ever shared a recipe at this, your Newtown Pentacle, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a bit challenging to pose this leafy thing, given the manner in which its leaves buckle up and curl. The now standard under flash arrangement was used to reveal some of the internal structures of the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All sorts of Lovecraftian stuff was flying through my head while I was shooting these, it should be mentioned, but then again – I was standing in a darkened and quite chilly room in which bright lights were flashing every eight to fifteen seconds. The thing about strobes is that even if you close your eyes, the light will penetrate the lids.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I mentioned pareidola in my last post of macro shots, and a humble narrator is experiencing it heavily in the shot above. It’s the nature of the human mind to try and find recognizable faces and other familiar shapes in entirely random patterns, or at least it’s the nature of the slowly rotting ball of snot found between my ears and behind my eyes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a bit of that plum I was showing you in the last macro shot, with a blast of light traveling up and through the flesh of the fruit. The slice was probably about a quarter inch thick, and I set my flash gun to half power.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The snow pea pod pictured above required full power on the flash gun. The waxy skin of the legume provided a bit of refraction as well, which was unexpected. A legume, the snow pea (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) is also known to the french talkers as a “mangetout.” That means “eat all.” I know it’s supposed to be “two peas in a pod” but three just worked better.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fuzzy Kiwi fruit, (Actinidia deliciosa aka mangüeyo), is seen in the shot above and is the national fruit of China. Once known as the Chinese Gooseberry, the vine escaped China in 1847 via the actions of British horticulturalists. A girls school principal began planting the vine in New Zealand in the early 20th century, and the fruit soon became synonymous with the country, although it wasn’t called Kiwifruit until 1959.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough, the world’s largest producer of Kiwifruit is actually Italy, and the specifics of the most common commercially available variant of this cultivar – called the Hayward – are that the world produces some 1,412,351 tonnes of it annually with Italy and New Zealand leading the pack. It seems that since the two nations are in different hemispheres, they don’t actually compete with each other due to seasonal variability.

Who knew?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

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