The Newtown Pentacle

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Lower Manhattan is just freaky, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, I found a hole in the wall sandwich shop set up in some alley in Lower Manhattan, and that’s where I purchased a delicious milk shake. When I returned to the spot just a week later, not only was the shop gone, but so too was the alley. A few weeks later, I spotted the alley a few blocks distant from its original location, and I was soon drinking another delicious milk shake, pondering how my spatial memory could be so “off.” As you may have guessed where I’m heading at this point, the alley and the shop has disappeared just a day later when I went looking for them.

I’ve been looking for the alley ever since, as that was one hell of a milk shake.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After visiting the Standard Oil building, as detailed in yesterday’s post, one needed to get back to Queens and my little dog Zuzu. On my way home, however, I decided to walk to Fulton Street rather than just catch the 5 line at Bowling Green. The tripod was deployed several times along the way, and I decided to spend a few minutes at the beating heart of global capitalism. Also, I was hoping to run into the alley again, as I really want another one of those milk shakes.

Pictured above is arguably one of the most important places, historically speaking, on the entire planet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is where George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States, after all.

Is it really possible that there’s an alley in the financial district which transposes itself from place to place? Is anything really impossible? The sandwich shop, as I’m describing it, is one of those old school NYC locations which is little more than a counter set in an open doorway. They had their offerings wrapped in wax paper, not plastic. In addition to little bags of potato chips, also offered in wax paper, they sold simple sandwiches of ham, turkey, or roast beef. A large coffee urn was extant, as well as two mixers used to produce the milk shakes. They also offered pastries – bear claws, the square variant of cheese danish, and cinnamon buns. The proprietors were named Chaim and Jose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just down the block at the corner of Broad Street is a building which the global economy is operated out of, I’m told.

The milk shake was a bizarre concoction – chocolate ice cream, syrup, whole milk, half a banana, and a shot of strong black coffee. It should have been cloying. Chaim made the first milk shake I had, Jose the second, but they were both on point and identical in flavor and consistency. I don’t get down to the financial district often, but everytime I am here, I search for that alley and the sandwich shop. Have you seen it? Where might that alley be today?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sandwich shop with the delicious milk shakes found in that alley was called “J.C.’s,” which probably stood for Jose and Chaim. Next door was one of those old school Chinese laundry shops, the sort where you get your clean garments handed back all wrapped up in brown paper and tied off with string. Directly across the narrow pavement of the alley, which was asphalt with Belgian blocks peeking through it, was a shop that sold fishing equipment. Next door to that was a shoemaker whose window signage promised one hour service on reheelings. That’s a real need in the financial district, given the amount of time which people who work hereabouts spend grinding other people and things under their heels, a practice which causes real “wear and tear” on footwear.

The beating and fortified heart of American Capitalism’s grand facade is pictured above, as seen on the corner of Wall St. at Broad Street, which is a filled in canal that originally connected to the East River during the days of the decadent Dutch. The canal, which was known as “The Common Ditch,” was filled in by 1676.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One continues to search for the alley where that delicious milk shake was on offer. The last time it was encountered was at the start of Michael Bloomberg’s second term as Mayor. Ponderings and wonderings abound about this alley, the manner it which it seems to transpose its location from place to place, and ultimately about the mystery of the delicious milk shakes. In this neighborhood, it should be mentioned, you need to watch out as there’s always somebody who will grab at and drink your milk shake if you give them half a chance.

A humble narrator makes it a point to wander along the lesser byways and permanently shadowed warrens of lower Manhattan in search of it, while also wondering what else might be hidden away down here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Largely forgotten in historical circles are the great fires of 1835 and 1845, which burned away much of what was left from colonial times in Lower Manhattan. Massive building projects during the Tammany Hall era eliminated the rest. Hushed bar room conversations with municipal workers hint at there being a world of secrets in Lower Manhattan’s underground. Sewer workers tell of masonry tunnels found during the pursuit of their duties whose floors are littered with clay pipes, and deeply seated caverns with rough hewn walls of dripping timber and nitre crusted stone which appear on no map. The only story I can offer them in response revolves around an alley which seems to change locations and where one can purchase a world class milk shake.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Did you get any pix of 23 Wall Street – the J.P. Morgan Building – where the 1920 bomb went off? The pock-marks from the blast are still there.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall_Street_bombing

    georgetheatheist . . . the Capitol of Capitalism

    April 11, 2018 at 10:31 am


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