The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

immediate presentation

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Everybody’s always telling me what to do, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Public signage is fascinating to one such as myself. Sometimes, as is the case with the specimen above which was found on the George Washington Bridge several years ago, a sign has been installed which attempt the criminalization of something not otherwise prohibited. This allows for the “pretext” needed for law enforcement officers to perform an interview and possibly hand out a citation. Without the presence of the sign, there’s no pretext.

It’s one of those wrinkly bits, constitutionally. Signage of the type displayed above was spattered all over the bridges of NYC after the September 11th attacks. Enforcement of the sign’s sentiments has proven costly for law enforcement, in court case after court case against photographers, so changes in the rules have been instituted. MTA Bridges and Tunnels, as well as the Port Authority folks, have created the rule “Must follow instructions posted on signage,” so if you’re walking over Triborough or George Washington Bridges anytime soon and ignore a posted missive that says “Jump” you’re in legal jeopardy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As advised by the local precinct brass when an army of hobos and bums appeared along Broadway in Astoria a couple of years ago, after a humble narrator inquired as to why it was legal to pass out drunk in front of my house but it wasn’t legal for me to energetically encourage the departure of the inebriate, another wrinkle was revealed. If you don’t have a sign up specifically forbidding trespassing, the cops are limited somewhat in what they are enabled to do. One prefers the sort of gentle persuasion and good mannered physicality which the NYPD rightly enjoy a reputation for, when the sidewalk outside my domicile has been turned into the daily gathering place for half dozen drunkards, to a couple of cops nicely asking the bums to move on. If you’ve got a “No Trespassing” sign up, now, that’s a different story altogether.

Famously, the cops used carry a “nightstick” as part of their compliment of utility belt tools, but not too long ago I found out they used to carry a “daystick.” My query as to what the difference between the two clubs was, to a veteran of the NYPD during the 1970’s, was answered with “It was some kind of plastic, and like a nightstick, but smaller. You’d use it to hit people, but the nightstick was better for that.” What do cops carry these days, for use as a club? A frozen Toblerone, perhaps? The mind boggles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always ready to fight, or give flight, as my brain commands the pancreas to manufacture all the fear and anxiety hormones and steroidal mixes it can manage. That means two things. One is that I “wake up tired” in the abdominal area found just above my small intestine and right below my liver, secondly is that a blind panic sets in as soon as the eyes flicker open from the interminable daily intervals wherein I pass out and wildly hallucinate for hours and hours.

Danger? Yeah, good morning.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 5, 2018 at 3:00 pm

4 Responses

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  1. That Hopperesque subway stairs at night is a masterpiece.
    Keep up the good work and you can become White House Photographer.

    Hal Weiner

    January 6, 2018 at 12:20 pm

  2. If one’s photo-producing apparatus does not look exactly like the one on the sign, can one still photograph?

    A few years back, I showed up for jury selection at Borough Hall in Queens. I had my DSLR with me. The court officers made me fill out a form and took my camera for safe-keeping until I exited the building. I asked them why they did not do the same for everyone else who entered with their (image-producing) iPhones. The latter were being used for whatever iPhone activity the potential jurors had in mind during my sojourn in the jury room; texting, reading, AND potentially photographing..

    The court officers had no explanation. I guess they needed something to do. It made no sense.

    georgetheatheist . . say cheese

    January 7, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    • BTW you even photographing that sign . . . a violation, misdemeanor or a felony? Where’s the statute citation on the signage?

      georgetheatheist . . say cheese

      January 7, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    • I had the same experience with the court officers.

      Mitch Waxman

      January 7, 2018 at 2:06 pm


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