The Newtown Pentacle

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Sorry for the late update today, daylight savings time finally caught up with me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back tomorrow with something a bit more substantial.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 24, 2016 at 1:00 pm

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Flushing Cemetery, in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that, back in 1853, the 20 acre Purchase Farm was bought and repurposed for usage as Flushing Cemetery. In 1875, the Whitehead Duryea Farm’s 50 acres were incorporated into the property, which more or less created the modern shape of the institution (there were a few minor additions added here and there). Flushing is a bit of the “unknown country” for me, and I usually just refer people to Queens Borough Historian and Flushing native Dr. Jack Eichenbaum when the subject arises.

Not too long ago, my pal Cav and I jumped into his “automobile” and went to check Flushing Cemetery out as the best curative for ignorance is investigation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cursory research reveal there to be around 41,000 people whose last address is here. There are several notables, including musicians, actors, and revered statesmen interred in Flushing Cemetery. The place was in a VERY good state of repair during my visit to the place during the last weeks of 2016’s winter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The plots and sections we visited revealed a large number of German sounding names on them, and the dates on the monuments ran a gamut from the middle 19th to early 21st centuries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The marble monuments showed the “rotting” sort of decay that is caused by acid rain and subsequent water infiltration, causing their carven screeds to be obscured, unreadable, or lost. You see this sort of thing in a more advanced form at Calvary Cemetery in Blissville, where certain monuments have the appearance of melted ice cream. Observationally, granite monuments seem to endure longer in NYC’s peculiar and polluted atmospherics.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fellow who plotted out the cemetery back in 1853 was a Civil Engineer named Horace Daniels, and he seems to have embraced using a lot of curving paths. It’s likely there’s a ton of original design elements missing from the scene above – railings, statuary, plantings, etc.

Flushing used to be known for horticulture, “back in the day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bowne plot was stumbled upon, specifically the Walter Bowne one. Yes, Bowne House, Bowne Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I won’t attempt to tell you anything else about the Bownes, as Flushing is outside of my area of expertise.

I just came here on a day trip, and would advise that you seek out and chat with Dr. Jack Eichenbaum. Dr. Jack can discuss the Bownes in greater detail and scope than I can. The East River and Newtown Creek coastlines are where my knowledge of Queens history is both detailed and well studied.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Quite Lovely” thought a humble narrator, upon noticing a surviving iron railing on the Bowne Plot, with its cast iron chains designed with the appearance of a tasseled rope.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

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The horror, in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My post last Friday about the 7 line got me thinking about the Subways of Western Queens, which are referred to as “the horror” in conversations with Our Lady of the Pentacle.

It was the 3rd of April, in 1913, that the City of New York purchased the (Steinway) tunnels utilized by what would become known as the 7 line from August Belmont, and in 1915 service started on June 22. They didn’t know it at the time, but those old timey types were creating the most photogenic of all of New York City’s subway lines.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even when it’s underground, such as the busted ass Vernon Jackson stop, the IRT line’s 7 looks good. It’s when it moves into Sunnyside and Woodside that the 7 looks best, of course, but there are few stops in Queens where it doesn’t look pretty cool to this itinerant photographer – notably the stop pictured above and the last one in Flushing are comparatively kind of “meh.”

Everything looks terrible in Manhattan, and nobody would go there if they weren’t paid to do so.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In comparison, the R – which travels on the IND – is the reliable but visually uninteresting line. It didn’t reach Queens until 1920, but back then it only went to Queens Plaza. The modern route, which goes all the way to Forest Hills, was established in 1949 – but back then it was known as the “RR.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The interesting thing about the Court Square station, to me at least, is that – at least these days – it offers a free transfer between the IND and IRT systems. Downstairs, you’ve got the G, M, and E lines, and upstairs the 7. To continue with the arcane Subway knowledge – the G line became active in 1933, but it was known as the GG back then. The E also came online in 1933, and it is one of the Subway lines that never sees the light of day operationally as its entire route is underground.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The M is something of a newcomer to the IND Sixth Avenue tracks, although the line was officially designated as early as 1914. It wasn’t until 2010 that the line was routed into its current path mirroring the R service. It actually pisses me off, M wise, that if I wanted to go to Ridgewood – a mere five miles from Newtown Pentacle HQ on Astoria’s southern border – I would need to endure an hour and change long journey through the Shining City to get there.

Before you inform me – yes – I know all about taking the R to Newtown Grand Avenue and catching the bus – I do it all the time.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

detail to

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Oy gut to visits mit das Goyem again!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My friends at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral allowed me to photograph their 2016 Irish Language Mass, over in Lower Manhattan’s Bloody Sixth Ward on the corner of Mott and Prince, which occurred on Saturday the 12th of March. This isn’t the first time I’ve shot this event – check out “wildest speculations” and “luminous aether” for my earlier efforts.

One thing you’ll pick up on is that this year is that the House of Dagger John – St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral – looks a bit different. There is an enormous amount of construction going on within the building, as there’s a restoration project underway meant to prepare the Church for an upcoming historical anniversary and return her to the splendor of an earlier era.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, I got there early, way before any of the parishioners showed up. During the ceremony itself, my preferred spot to shoot from is alongside the organist, which is on a catwalk that sits what must be thirty or feet over the floor. The image above is from ground level, at the center of the aisle between the pews, looking straight at the altar.

I presume they’re called “pews,” and that the ceremonial center is called the “altar,” incidentally. I’m Jewish, so what do I know? If you’re Roman Catholic, and I’m calling out “something” as something it’s not, please offer corrections in the comments section below rather than getting offended.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the pipe organ, there is one, and it’s a magnificent thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The altar area at the front of the basilica has also enjoyed a bit of restoration. The carved wooden statues of the Saints (presumptively) or Apostles on the ornate screen have received quite a bit of artistic attention since my last visit here. The big oil painting that used to act as a centerpiece has been replaced by a model of the Cathedral which encloses the host.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Cruciform has also been cleaned and its paint restored, and has been relocated from its former position behind the carved altarpiece. It’s now suspended from the roof by thin wires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks back towards the organ from the front of the Basilica, up on the altar itself. The stained glass which normally adorns the windows has been removed, and been sent off to an artisan glass shop for restoration. There’s a fabricated construction material that looked like Tyvek covering the windows, and you’ll notice there’s a scaffold set up in the lower left hand corner of the shot. Just about everywhere I looked, there was something going on, repairs wise.

I was informed that this Mass is the first time in many, many months that the Cathedral has been open to the public due to these construction and restoration efforts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Irish language mass got going, and it was in celebration of St. Patrick’s day. Naturally, it started with bagpipes, and most of the attendants whom I spoke with were indeed of Hibernian descent. There were a couple of important people who spoke, in Irish… can’t really tell you what they were saying as I’m not fluent in Gaelic. The ceremony itself went on, and the priests performed their devotions. Actually, the guy on the left is Pastor of this church and is a Monsignor.

As a note, I LOVE photographing this event, and am honored that I’m asked to attend and record it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of my awe, of course, is that this was the church of Archbishop John Hughes – who is my nominee for the most important but largely forgotten New Yorker of the 19th century.

Dagger John, as he was known in his time, is the founder of Calvary Cemetery along my beloved Newtown Creek in Queens, and he actually officiated the very first funeral that was held there. It was also because of Dagger John, and his creation of an entirely free Parochial School system for the children of the poor (including Protestants) that the Protestant elite of NYC created a Public School system which must NEVER mention a god or offer religious instruction.

If you don’t think about the Protestant/Catholic conflict when discussing 19th century NYC, you probably don’t know anything about the Bowery B’Hoys or the Bloody Sixth Ward. McGurk’s Suicide Parlor was a couple of blocks away from here, not far from McSorley’s and Cooper Union. A few blocks east, German and Ukrainian  Socialists conspired to oppose the bosses over on first, and just a few blocks further east was an area referred to as “The Jew Ghetto.” Lame Duck was the king of Doyers Street and its opium parlors to the south, and to the north west at Union Square – a political organization which called itself “Tamanend” was just beginning to flex its electoral muscles.

Back in the 1830’s and 40’s the Catholic Church was considered to be a threat by the old line Protestant “powers that be” and the Pope was referred to as (and was the de facto) King of Italy. NYC was boiling with racial tension in that era, with ethnic militias making war upon each other on the streets. A Nativist Mob once marched on this very church intending to burn it down, and were greeting by Irish gunmen manning the fences along Mott, Mulberry, and Prince Streets.

It’s hard to imagine, I know. Back then, the concept of race wasn’t just black and white, it included National origin. Back then, the Irish were considered a degenerate and primitive race, separate and lesser than the other pale skinned Europeans. Reading the NY Times archives from back then on the subject of Irish emigration, and the growing population of Catholics in the United States, can be a startling experience for modern eyes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mass played out, and the two priests brought the host down for the congregants.

On a technical front, I was constantly swapping lenses throughout the ceremony, and rotated through my entire kit several times. The camera was set up on a tripod, with a remote shutter release cable installed. The “architectural” shots were narrow aperture and low ISO (to gather all the ornate details available within the hyperfocal distance available between f8 – f22 and “infinity”) and a shutter speed which floated around in the neighborhood of 2-6 seconds.

The shot above, if I recall correctly, was a high ISO (2,000, maybe) with the aperture set at f7.1 and the shutter open for 1/60th of a second. There were several exposure triangles which were quickly gleaned for usage on various types of shots, suffice to say, and that all of the “technical” sort of night shooting I’ve been doing is growing increasingly useful.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wanted to get a bit “arty” in the shot above and blur the moving people a bit while leaving the Church and its ornamentation tack sharp. The aperture went down to f22 and then I lowered the ISO to 100 so as to cut down on as much light as possible from hitting the sensor, and then opened the shutter up for 30 seconds. Anything moving in the shot became ghostly and was blurred into a motion trail.

The arty part was to try and suggest the impermanent condition of the living in the context of a sacred space which has seen the fortunes of New York City rise and fall several times over, or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you click through to the flickr set these photos are a part of, (just click the image) there’s lots more of Old St. Patrick’s and the ceremony to check out in there. I hope that when the restoration is done I can get my camera back into the House of Dagger John.

Eyn loshn iz keynmol nisht genug!

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Nothing like an adventure, MTA style.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found me leaving HQ just after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had begun its journey across the sky. A humble narrator’s intention was to have been out and about for a couple of hours in the pre dawn part of the day, but one overslept and left the house just as dawn arrived. My eventual destination was in lower Manhattan, and my plan was to be mid span on the Queensboro Bridge when dawn occurred, but as mentioned – I rolled over and kept on sleeping rather than springing out of bed when the alarm sounded at four in the morning. It wasn’t until about 5:30 that I stumbled out into the staggering realities of Astoria.

A brief scuttle across Northern Blvd. and the Sunnyside Yards ensued, and bored with the idea of walking across Queensboro at this point, it was elected that I would catch the most photogenic of all NYC’s Subway lines – the 7 – at 33rd street and cruise into the shadowed corridors of midtown Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “international express” as it’s known, arrived in the station accompanied by announcements that due to construction there was no Manhattan bound service at 33rd street. Having set aside literally five hours for the walk, I figured I’d just play along and see where the MTA wanted to take me.

As a note, with the exception of the F line, on the weekend of the 5th and 6th of March – there was “no way to get there from here” without playing the game laid out by the MTA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 carried me to the 61st Woodside stop, where Manhattan bound service could be accessed. Off in the distance, at what must have been the 69th street station, there were crews of laborers and what seemed like a crane busily at work. The normal “Manhattan bound” side was entirely subsumed by their activity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 train, with its multitudinous delays and seemingly constant construction, has spawned a bit of activism. My pal Melissa Orlando, and others, formed first a Facebook group called “The 7 Train Blues,” and have since begun the formation of an organization called “Access Queens” with the intention of acting as advocates for the ridership community along this “international express” traveling between Flushing and Manhattan’s west side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of the 7 train, my immediate response is to discuss its immense photogeneity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is virtually impossible to point a camera at the 7 and not get something interesting. Maybe it’s the low lying nature of Western Queens, with the elevated tracks running at rooftop level… can’t say. After running through the MTA’s perverse hoops, a humble narrator found himself in the Shining City, and what was encountered at my destination will be discussed in a post presented next week at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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