The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for August 2016

rat bitten

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Manhattan just stinks, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I did two things which I had been looking forward to for a bit. The first was the purchase of a new lens to fit into the camera, one whose specific occupation and design revolves around low light and night time photography (the shots in today’s post were captured with the thing), and the other was narrating a Working Harbor Committee “Newark Bay” excursion. Having the former with me, and having completed the mission for the latter, one headed for the Subway to make a hasty retreat back to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria .

My path carried me through the stinking warrens of the financial district. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many years did a humble narrator live on this island called Manhattan, which one used to refer to as “Home sweet Hell.” At night, the garbage collects on the concrete in front of office building and apartment block alike. The vermin rise from the sewers, drawn by the scent of festering food and moldering coffee grounds. Sidewalks narrow, and oddly colored rivulets of khaki colored liquid ooze into the gutters through rodent chewed apertures in the bags of filth. Sidewalk pavement and roadway asphalt both seem to be covered in a layer of rancid cooking grease, which gets tracked around by a thousand pairs of shoes an hour. It was a hot night, humid.

And they say Newtown Creek smells…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was heading for the Fulton Street stop for the 5 line. The 5, an express, is the preferred method for me to escape the municipal and financial center of the greatest city the world has ever known. The line traverses the spine of the island, and allows for a connection to a Queens bound train in just a few stops. The less time spent on this island, especially the southern third of it, the better.

That’s where I spotted this mountain blocking the cross walk and spilling into the street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has many friends who call Manhattan home – and as confessed earlier – I used to do so myself. My cliff dwelling pals tend to get hot under the collar when a humble narrator begins to discuss his disdain for the unsustainable civilization of Manhattan. My points are all “matter of fact,” and I usually advocate for something like “Brexit” but involving Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn breaking away from the center and forming a new political entity which is a bit less vampiric than the one we’ve had since 1898 – which is centered around a Beaux Arts building that we unfortunately keep Bill De Blasio in that stands (partially) on what was once a colonial era garbage dump known as the “Collect Pond.”

“Consume, consume, consume, flush, throw it out, let it be somebody else’s problem” – that should be the Borough Motto over in the City.

I would hazard a guess that within six hours of the above shot being captured, the entire mountain of trash pictured above was actually being sorted somewhere along Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a fellow at the center of the midden, peeking into bags and removing items of value like recyclable deposit bottles and bits of copper wire. Got to hand it to the “canners” for their industry and hustle, you really do. The streets are literally paved with gold in America, or at least there’s money lying around in the stinking streets.

What many don’t know is that canners have their own territorial “routes” in the City, and that violating another canner’s turf can result in a physical confrontation. I discovered that there’s also an organized crime aspect to this industry, or at least there used to be over on the West Side, back when I lived in Manhattan about fifteen years ago. Mystery trucks would show up at predetermined times and locations, paying cash at three to four cents per bottle, as opposed to the little chits that you get from the recycling machines at supermarkets which you need to redeem within. The canners are happy to settle for the lesser number, as they don’t have to waste hours feeding the machines which take one can at a time, or deal with the manager of a supermarket for whom they are less than a priority.

Something very similar to this collection spot has been observed in Sunnyside, incidentally, on 43rd street beneath the Long Island Railroad Tracks. There’s a Spaniard with a van… but, of course, the scale of business that the canners of Queens operate at for an entire week would be dwarfed by a single night’s worth of collections for these financial district guys.

Wall Street versus Main Street, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In addition to the rats and canners scurrying about, the sewer grates hereabouts also crawl with roaches and water bugs migrating in and out of Manhattan’s underworld. Those little black “drain flies” are also abundant in the air. The smell, which I attempted to define earlier, could be best described as “yellow.”

As an aside, I’ve always found it interesting that in English there are so few words, comparatively, for descriptions of smells. There thousands of visual adjectives, plenty for sounds, lots for the touch and feel category, but relatively few for smells. Accordingly, I ascribe colors to the descriptions of smells, and after dark – Manhattan smells yellow. I have spoken.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The worst part of lower Manhattan, to me at least, is that for the people who work hereabouts – this all must seem normal. Unfortunately, most of the people who spend their professional lives in this area can be best described as financial titans, realtors, politicians, and an army of government bureaucrats. Spending their time in this stinking, shadowy warren of imposing buildings and narrow sidewalks – which only occasionally allow a glimpse of the sky or a breeze – has made them think that this is what the entire city should look like and that they’ve somehow failed the rest of us until it does.

It’s why when they visit Queens or Brooklyn, their first instinct is to demolish some property and erect large buildings on it. Those large buildings can then be used for affordable housing people who “don’t fit” in Manhattan. These people can then support themselves by collecting cans, or whatever, as long as it’s somebody else’s problem.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 31, 2016 at 11:00 am

slanting floor

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Cool Cars, Sunnyside/LIC edition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a 1962 vintage Ford Mercury “Comet” 2 door sedan you see in the shot above.

I didn’t have time to properly shoot it, as I was on my way to Greenpoint to conduct a walking tour of Newtown Creek. For frequent commenter George the Atheist, who questioned my oft asserted statement last week that “I had business to attend to in Greenpoint” – if I say I have business in Greenpoint, it’s likely related to Newtown Creek or one of my walking tours. At any rate, the shots in today’s post are kind of a “hit and run.”

At any rate, and as mentioned, the cool car you see above is a 1962 Mercury Comet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was pretty “cherry,” this Comet.

The Mercury Comet was originally meant to be part of Ford’s Edsel line, but when they ended that “brand” it was assigned to the Mercury brand instead. It was developed with, and is quite similar to the Ford Falcon – which is coincidentally a “cool car” that I had focused in on over in Astoria not too long ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I believe this to be an S22 sports model Comet, by the way, due to its six bullet shaped tail lights and trunk design, but as always – I’m no auto dealer or expert in such matters. If I’m right, there a 101 HP, 6 cylinder engine under the hood, with a manual 4 speed transmission. Ford manufactured a few variants on the Comet, including a station wagon called the “Villager.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 30, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in newtown creek

practical use

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Reading is fundamental.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, when my phone rings, it’s seldom a call I want to receive. Luckily, when the chime sounded the other day and the caller ID said “Jimmy Van Bramer,” it actually was a call I wanted to get.

It wasn’t “the man” himself, rather it was one of his staff members ringing me up, letting me know that they were going to be doing a press event just down the road from Newtown Pentacle HQ at the Broadway Branch of the Queens Library.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The point of the event was to announce that JVB and the council had secured several million dollars of funding for the libraries of Queens, which are VERY well used, to stay open six days a week as opposed to five.

As you can see, Jimmy Van Bramer brought a few of his colleagues out to the neighborhood, including the Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along with the Speaker, which is a singularly great title to have IMHO, Andy L. King of the Bronx – who is chair of the Council Subcommittee on Libraries – was present, as were the heads of the three systems – Dennis Walcott of the Queens library, Linda E. Johnson of Brooklyn system, and Tony Marx of the New York organization.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a gaggle of press there as well, from local and citywide news sites and papers and stations. As is my usual habit, I left the “press pit” to get some shots of the third estate as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

JVB’s neighboring Councilman, Costa Constantinides of Astoria, was also present as (previously mentioned) were the heads of the three library systems of the City (New York Public, Brooklyn, Queens) which will all receive funding to stay open for the extra day every week. The Council people present made a point of saying that this new funding will be permanent, but we’ll have to see if that one plays out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Queens library, which I seldom use – it should be mentioned, as I’m an “internet” guy – is well embraced by the neighbors hereabouts. Many, many people I see on the train are reading library books.

It’s great to see that it’s actually going to be open six days a week now.

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unused tool

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Really, how free are the birds, actually?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Air traffic is something we all notice, occasionally indulge in, and which we are surrounded by. Newtown Pentacle HQ is in Astoria, Queens and LaGuardia Airport is literally on the other side of the neighborhood so I guess that I see a bit more in the way of passing passenger jets than most do. Luckily, the flight path approaches seem to be rotated so that no one neighborhood, other than East Elmhurst, gets the honor of being a daily pathway for the airborne masses and the host of pathogens they carry in their skinvelopes.

Saying that though, one worries about zombies. If the undead contagion arrives in NYC, and NY1 is reporting that hordes of revenants have begun to tear into the local population, it will have likely arrived in the City at one of our three airports. I can only hope it would start at Newark or JFK, so I’d have some time to board up the windows and reinforce the doors with odd pieces of furniture. My bet is that the neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens would make short work of the revenants, as they seem to be very well armed out there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those of us who aren’t members of the Saudi Royal family, the Political Elites, or relative paupers like the Walls Street guys wouldn’t have the option of using private helicopters to escape the hordes of flesh eaters, and would need to shelter in place instead. It would be wise to blockade the bridges, of course, as the last thing we’d need in Western Queens would be for the Manhattan people to start trying to take shelter hereabouts. We get enough of that “let them eat cake” crap as it is from the population of that island.

Actually, the smart thing to do would be to lead the zombies out of Queens and towards Manhattan. Then, we blockade the bridges. Let the City people deal with it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the fleeing masses of upper class folks would soon spread the zombie plague to Fire Island, Montauk, the Hamptons, and Martha’s Vineyard. Nobody ever really comes back from Suffolk County, so… not so much of problem for us in Western Queens. There’s no way that the hordes of undead assassins would be able to penetrate the crowded highways back into the City, they’d get stuck in a body jam on the LIE.

Additionally, nobody beats the Van Wyck, ever.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, Our Lady of the Pentacle and I would be fine. We’ve got around three cans of tomato soup in the cupboard, and a few cans of Goya chick peas as well. That’s enough food to wait out the apocalypse, isn’t it?

On a non sarcastic note, today is National Dog Day, so go love your puppy.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm

clean shaven

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Getting around town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wheel of the year is about to turn again, and the particular station we are in – what the Pagan crowd would call “Lughnasadh” – is about to give way to the pleasant temperatures and beneficial quality of light which will begin to lessen when Samhain rolls around at the end of October. The whole pagan wheel of the year thing is directly tied to harvesting various sorts of agricultural crops, of course, but a humble narrator is no farmer. Rather, for me the harvest is about photos.

Pictured above is mighty Triborough, as seen through the windshield of an “automobile” owned by a friend who allowed me to enter her moving mechanical contrivance for an afternoon. These “automobiles” are bothersome contrivances given to toxic exhalations and the consumption of a troublesome form of fuel, but quite handy when one’s desire is to photograph the “House of Moses.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The twisting complications leading away from the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City, are pictured above. These ramps were erected to serve the needs of the automobile, and given that unlike Mighty Triborough – the Queensboro was not erected upon a fairly blank slate – they wind and snake through a shadowy and confusing warren of buildings. The ramps emerge and then disappear behind buildings, seeking out connections to the high speed roads built long after the Queensboro itself was built.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My preferred method for getting around the City is found in the shot above. Given that I live three stops out from the titular center of the megalopolis, it is madness to consider owning one of these “automobiles” for one such as myself. One does miss the freedom offered by these devices, of course, as your humble narrator used to be an enthusiastic motorist in his younger days. Saying that, one does enjoy the challenges offered by mass transit, and the puzzle of getting from A to B when unfamiliar destinations are scheduled to be focused in upon.

Saying that, I cannot fathom why Manhattan’s 34th street Herald Square station is so damned hot.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2016 at 1:05 pm

frightened messengers

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Massing, massing, massive – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a few days ago, one found himself walking towards Hunters Point via the Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue route which I refer to as “the Carridor.” I was heading for a public safety meeting, regarding the East River parks in Hunters Point, and as is my habit – the opportunity to stretch my legs and get a bit of exercise was seized.

Whenever I’ve taken this walk over the last couple of years, one thought seems to predominate as I cast my gaze around – “they’ve stolen the sky.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sky has been stolen, or horse traded away, by the Real Estate people in collusion with the short term thinkers who populate City Hall – of course – but ultimately, who did they steal it from? Did anyone used to own the sky in Western Queens?

Definitively, somebody does own the sky now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The area around Queens Plaza and Court Square, in particular, has become a shadowed warren of glassy towers.

At the public safety meeting in Hunters Point, which was called due to a disturbing allegation of a rape occurring in Gantry Plaza State Park, the residents of the new buildings surrounding the waterfront had a chance to speak and offer their complaints about this and that.

Most of their comments boiled down to “I’ve lived here for twenty minutes, and this isn’t what the realtor told me it would be like.” Nobody told them that the Borough Motto was “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself” it seems.

The tower people mainly offered quality of life complaints to the panel at the front of the room which included Jimmy Van Bramer and representatives of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy as well as the various branches of law enforcement who have jurisdiction over the parks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can barely spot the Citi Megalith anymore, which once stood as a lone sentinel.

The impossible thing which cannot possibly exist that lurks in its cupola… with its unblinking three lobed burning eye… no longer has an unoccluded view of the world below.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

acrid smoke

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Tremulous skies and clean underwear, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That crazy heat wave which we all suffered through last week produced a series of powerful afternoon and evening thunder storms here in Astoria. The skies were so interesting and dynamic that one felt compelled to record the scene.

Pictured above was a worrisome looking funnel cloud that formed up to the east, and on the right hand side of the shot you can see the wall of rain pushing in from the west.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another day (or night actually), and another thunderstorm formed up. For this one I was at home on my porch. Psyched to actually capture the bolt of lightning seen above (it’s harder than you would think to photograph lightning without certain specialized trigger devices) one suddenly realized that I was standing next to a chain link fence during a lightning storm and was in a particularly exposed position.

Suddenly, my underwear didn’t feel so clean.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I found myself a slightly safer spot, under something, and continued to crack out shots of the approaching deluge. Likely, I was deluding myself as to being safer, but regardless I felt a bit less exposed to the elemental fury that was approaching.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a completely different note, while in the financial district of lower Manhattan last week, the van pictured above was spotted.

Clean underwear on demand is its promise, which is something I think we should all aspire to, especially during stormy weather.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

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