The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for October 2018

denizens of

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The horror…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Halloween, Lords and Ladies. The shots in today’s post were actually captured last night, so the pixels are still wet on them. One had a sudden desire to “get out,” and wander through the night. Such sudden callings to commune with the darkness are impossible to ignore, and often it seems as if some other intelligence has taken possession of my actions when such moods suddenly manifest. The filthy black raincoat flapping in the oil stained breeze, a humble narrator often hears the call of the children of the night in the concretized devastations surrounding the loathsome Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not a smell you encounter during low tide at Dutch Kills, rather it’s an aroma that greets you when the black mayonnaise is exposed to the air. That’s when the things which slither and slide through its greasy melange can be observed, and when other things best left uncommented upon are revealed. One is never concerned about those lower intelligences which feed upon and live in the toxic mud, as if you leave them alone they will ignore you in return, rather it’s the shadowy forms moving and chittering beyond the chain link fences which should raise concern.

Given the time of the year, Queens Plaza is avoided assiduously, for autumn is ideal vampire weather and the steel rafters of the elevated subways are infested with the things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Coelacanths have not been spotted in the East River, yet. Saying that, other ancient forms of aqueous life are said to squirm about on the bottom. Were these impossibly intelligent and impressively ancient amphibian things ever motivated to do so, they would rise from the depths to strike down our civilization in order to teach mankind new ways to revel and enjoy ourselves. It’s happened in great cities before, elsewhere.

What do you think happened to the Mayans? Climatological collapse? Feh.


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stalking shadows

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Doom… doom… doom…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So last week, I attended the NYC EDC’s soirée at LaGuardia Community College regarding their Sunnyside Yards Project. It was your standard “visioning” operation with poster board setup stations. You were supposed to progress from one to the next, deliver input, and then receive what turned out to be a really tasty plate of food. Pretty standard stuff for the non profit/public benefit organization industrial complex. The EDC were thrilled with the turnout, with their social media trumpeting vast support for the project and a turnout in the hundreds. They had to set up a line for entry. All the usual faces from LIC and Astoria were present, including a humble narrator. At every visioning station, the first question I asked the facilitator was “Where do you live”? The answer was never “Queens.”

In reality, the Building Trades Council organized a huge turnout by organized labor groups, which is how the EDC achieved that boast of “hundreds turned out for.” The place actually looked like a cast reunion for the Sopranos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EDC folks focused conversation on the imagined benefits to the communities surrounding the Sunnsyide Yards which their project would bring. They never mention the noise, tumult, and vastly increased flow of heavy truck traffic that a 24/7 multiple decade long project like this would bring along with it.

Don’t forget, the whole point of decking the 183 square acre property is that of a “land grab” with the intention of making it available for politically connected real estate developers to exploit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Decking the Sunnyside Yards is a centuried goal of the Manhattan people. It defeated Robert Moses, Nelson Rockefeller, and Michael Bloomberg. The vain glory of the our current Mayor states that his administration can do this. Notably, the EDC and City Hall neglect to mention how we’d pay for this, although I’m sure terms like “value capture” will be bandied about.

The cost of the deck alone, if they put shovels in the ground today, would likely be $18-20 Billion. That’s money which the City would borrow. If the City was actually in the position to borrow that sort of debt, don’t you think fixing NYCHA would be a slightly higher priority for the self proclaimed “Progressive Mayor”? Funding the Subways? Hospitals? Cops? Bah.


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unforeseen hitch

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One of those days…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

October 29th is one of those days on the calendar when things just seem to happen. In 539 BC, Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon and sent the Jews back to their homelands, whereupon they came up with an official version of what we call “The Old Testament.” In 312 AD, fresh off his victory at the Milvian Bridge where he claimed to have seen visions in the sky and swore to make Christianity the official religion of the Empire if he was victorious, Constantine the Great entered Rome as the Emperor of the Roman Empire. In 1390, Paris began holding witch trials, signaling the beginning of a European Witch Panic which would ebb and flow for centuries. Over in Geneva, in 1863, the International Red Cross was formed. In 1914, October 29th is the entry date for the Ottoman Empire into the First World War, and since things went very badly for the Ottomans in that conflict it also happens to be the day that the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923.

Closer to home – in 1929, October 29th was a Tuesday, and is known to history as “Black Tuesday” as it’s the start date for the Great Depression. In 2012, October 29th is the day that Hurricane Sandy blew through NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was out and about shortly after the flood waters receded in 2012 (on the 30th), accompanying a pair of scientific researchers who were collecting samples of the muck and mire deposited around the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek. The LIRR tracks in LIC, pictured above, were littered with all sorts of junk – including a sizable portion of FreshDirect’s truck fleet. The nearby Queens Midtown Tunnel was literally flooded with water from the Dutch Kills tributary of the Creek, which rose over its banks. Friends who were shepherding maritime vessels in the harbor described the swell from Sandy as being less of a tide and more of sudden rising of sea level. The waters rose vertically, and one of them said that his biggest challenge that night was maintaining a position on the Hudson River which wouldn’t find his vessel grounded on the West Side highway the next morning.

This sort of thing did happen on Staten Island, as a note, and a ship was found sitting somewhere along Richmond Terrace which should have been in the Kill Van Kull.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA proved itself criminally unprepared for an event like Sandy, and the Subway system suffered massive amounts of damage from flooding in the deep.

Personally speaking, Sandy didn’t affect me terribly much, but I’ve always looked at old maps when choosing a place to live and make it a point of living where the Dutch did. The Dutch were, and are, brilliant when it comes to this sort of thing whereas the English speaking world isn’t. I had power and water here in Astoria, but not too far from HQ the Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant and LaGuardia Airport were pretty much put out of business by the coastal flooding for about a week. Our Lady of the Pentacle was away on a trip, which became extended by about three to four days due to not being able to fly home, which made my little dog Zuzu quite pensive.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 29, 2018 at 1:00 pm

adduces many

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Hello, sweetie, it’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent afternoon’s excursion to South Brooklyn and the Bush Terminal area in Sunset Park saw a humble narrator sitting in the passenger seat of my pal Val’s car as we inched through heavy traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Val is a photographer as well, and as we were riding along she revealed that her car had a sunroof. Out came the camera as we approached the ongoing construction site of the Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement.

We were driving, of course, on the completed first phase of the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a weird perspective on this particular spot, where not two years ago I was standing around with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams waiting for an inspection tour of the project to start. We were all done up in hard hats and orange vests. A little over a year ago, this is pretty much the spot I was shooting from when Governor Cuomo cut the ribbon for the thing. My memory bank includes several bizarre experiences, it should be mentioned.

Walking on the BQE with a Congresswoman, Borough President, or the Governor is one. Another is walking through a subway tunnel with MTA brass, and others include walking on the roadways of the Queensboro and Manhattan bridges for extended stretches. Really, the last decade has been odd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Traffic was moving, albeit slowly, and while moving along I continued with the “spray and technique” system of image capture. That’s when you set your exposure and point the camera in the general direction of something and start depressing the shutter release button over and over in a somewhat blind fashion. I’m kind of sorta looking through the diopter, but the camera isn’t pressed against my face in the normal fashion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, one of my little quirks involves saying hello to Newtown Creek whenever I’m passing over it in a car, something close friends and our Lady of the Pentacle are quite used to. Val chuckled a bit while operating the vehicle as I intoned “hello, sweetie, it’s me. I’ll see you later, as I’m going to visit your sister Gowanus today.”

Hey, if you got as little love as Newtown Creek does, you’d appreciate it if somebody took notice of you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There she is!

I cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to the photo opportunities that the completed K-Bridge project will offer, as the pedestrian and bike lanes will be pretty much be offering this paricticular view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We crossed over the Creek and into infinite Brooklyn, where we hit a continuing traffic jam that lasted all the way to Sunset Park. More on what me and my pal Val saw in South Brooklyn next week, as this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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deeply worried

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Scuttling, always scuttling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Don’t worry, a humble narrator won’t be waxing all philosophic or talking about camera settings in today’s post. Instead, a few odds and ends collected or encountered when wandering home from industrial Mapseth last weekend at night are on offer. If you’re wondering, yes I was wearing my reflective construction vest over the filthy black raincoat. As is my habit, main streets are avoided, as I prefer to wander along the fencelines of cemeteries and abandoned factories. These lanes less travelled, however, are often badly lit and act as high speed byways for errant vehicles. Best to stay visible.

Also, for some reason, when I’m wearing the vest, nobody asks me why – or of what – I’m taking pictures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Carridor, or Northern Blvd. if you must, hosts a large number of used car dealerships. You often get to see a semi truck tagged with southern state plates hauling a delivery of cars here at night, and witness the frenetic unloading of vehicles which will be marked up and put on sale at the lots.

By me, it always makes for interesting photos, filed under “you don’t see that every day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I suppose this scene is technically found in Woodside, although ai normally associate this zone with Maspeth. It’s actually Borden Avenue down below the elevated Long Island Expressway, which runs between Second and Third Calvary Cemeteries.

A visually interesting and lonely spot, and another one of the dimly lit corridors found in the Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 25, 2018 at 11:00 am

sound oversight

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Too much time on your hands isn’t a good thing, find something to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a humble narrator’s beard has grown whiter and whiter over the years, there’s a few things one has gleaned from experience. My cohort of friends includes people of most ages, races, religions, and types – and with the younger members of this tribal group, I cannot help but share adages of the mistakes that I’ve made in the past and present, and ones which I plan to make in the future. The way I figure it, when you finally have life down to a science at some point, you get cancer or dementia and then become a science experiment. Between now, and then – when inevitability knocks on the door – you might as well stay busy, and keep on screwing up so that the reaper maintains his distance.

Additionally – you really, really need to be a better friend to yourself and get enough sleep. A doctor friend of mine once opined that it takes the liver and kidneys about seven hours to turn over your blood supply and clean out all the toxic juices that accumulate in it while you’re awake. Don’t know if she was just trying to scare me, but it’s been working out pretty good for me ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has often opined that he’d like to visit a hospital about once a year, get split open like a hog, and then get the works hosed down with a warm solution of detergents. You’d do this with your car’s engine, as a point, if you lived in a place with unpaved roads. The Docs use a fancy word for this – Lavage. Conventionally, this sort of invasive rinsing out is typically only done with cancer patients who have just undergone surgery, and instead of using a garden hose and water the Docs use chemotherapy compounds. The idea behind the chemo Lavage is to kill off any errant cells which they might have missed while chopping and slicing. I’m just interested in getting the skinvelope rinsed out.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be sticking to me on the inside?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

American hypochondriacism and fatalist thinking is fascinating to me. Every little pain must be related to, or be a revelation of, cancer. I’m guilty of it myself, and have sometimes found myself staring in the mirror at three in the morning with saucer sized eyes thinking “this is it, here we go.” Over the years, I’ve developed a minor but quite common orthopedic condition in my left foot, specifically in my big left toe, directly related to all the walking. An easily inflamed ligament leading from the foot to the toe knuckle flares up occasionally, causing minor discomfort. The condition is called “turf toe,” and it’s caused by pushing off into a step by putting my weight on that particular toe, inflaming a certain tendon or ligament. I convinced myself that I had developed foot cancer after a few google searches.

As a note, foot cancer is one of the most unlikely things you can contract. You actually have a better chance of getting hit by lightning, if you work outside.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular political moment that we are all living in really shouldn’t have taken anybody by surprise. Nazis, white power people… they’ve been here all along, lurking at the edges. Back in the ’80’s, there was a fellow named Tom Metzger who ran an outfit called “WAR,” which stood for “White Aryan Resistance.” WAR’s themology involved the recruitment of skinheads and rednecks, who were told to either let their hair grow out or to take a shave. Adherents were advanced money to secure college degrees and encouraged to join the workforces of both public and private entities and wait for their time to come. A lot of the kids of my generation who joined WAR are now at senior levels in the Police, Political, and Corporate worlds. That was Tom Metzger’s plan.

Erosion of trust in Government and other organs of cultural stability were accomplished through popular entertainment. The X-Files opined that “The Truth is out there,” painting the staid FBI and CIA as some sort of shadowy counter government secretly running the entire show and colluding with extraterrestrials. “Who killed Kennedy?” is a question that is more valuable than the answer ever could be. “The TV News guys are in on it, and the news is all fakery and cover stories.” Nothing is real, all is false, and in chaotic times the proletariat will always put its faith in strongmen who purport to represent the values and mores of generations past.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve advised my young friends, so too has wisdom been shared with those old enough to know better. A little mystery hanging about one’s shoulders is a good thing, but for those involved in public life an absence of information offered is an opportunity for blanks to be filled in erroneously. I can opine about battle and conflict, but suffice to say I don’t think you should ever telegraph what you’re going to do or say next, and instead recommend that you just make things start happening after a prior gentlemanly final warning. Raining blows down upon an enemy is a great way to balance your chi, after all. There’s nothing like grinding someone to dust and listening to the lamentations of their women.

I have never understood the male posturing that occurs before a physical conflict, as a note. “I’m gonna kick your skedooch, mothaflowah” and all that is redundant. Just stick your finger in the other guys eye or kick him in the crotch, pummel him until he’s tender or oozing, empty a garbage can or piss on him, and then get out of dodge before the cops show up… that’s the Brooklyn way. The sports guys call it “explosivity.” Movie fights and boxing matches see mutiple exchanges of blows, real fights last 2-4 minutes, tops. It’s always best to try and talk it out or walk away, as a note, but life ain’t about “should be,” it’s all “have to.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An oft repeated refrain invokes “not giving a fuck.” My advice to all is to give lots of fucks. It’s your life, take some agency over it. This is a real problem I’ve noticed with the generations coming up behind me. My politically conservative friends attribute this to “participation trophies,” which is something I don’t understand the obsession they have for. Politically liberal friends describe the generations coming up as “woke,” which is a term I don’t fully comprehend. Either way, the people I know in their early and late twenties and mid thirties are an extremely reticent group. They like to take political stands, decry the societal system that made them, and wallow or embrace their sorrows. None of them talk about superseding their limitations or conquering obstacles, rising above, or succeeding “in spite of.”

My take on these kids – they’re kids to me – is that these are the people who saw 911 playing out on TV when they were ten or eleven years old, and have come of age during what I have come to call “The Great Unraveling.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

often waylaid

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If you want spooky, Industrial Maspeth at night is your best bet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s nothing spookier than a feeling of personal vulnerability, a discernment of solitude, and the certainty that there’s no escape should trouble or danger arise. Most avoid finding themselves in this sort of situation, a humble narrator instead seeks them out. After attending a performance art event at a friend’s house nearby which was both artsy and fartsy, one headed in the direction of that notorious cataract of municipal indifference called the Newtown Creek and got busy with the camera, Saturday last. It was sort of late, about ten p.m. I’d wager, and fairly comfortable climatically so a short scuttle into the nighted concrete devastations found me headed towards the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road.

The streets were empty, except for a few security guards sleeping in their security guard boxes at the MTA’s Grand Avenue Depot, or Sanitation workers enjoying weekend overtime shift work and smoking cigars in front of a DSNY garage. A humble narrator, filthy black raincoat flapping about, pretty much had the place to himself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was no sign of any sort of life other than the aforementioned municipal employees and errant geese, the latter of whom were heard rather than seen. Every now and then, I’d spot the eye reflection of feral felines prowling about in the darkness. For once, I was carrying a fairly ok consumer level LED floodlight, so I waved it around a bit while shooting. It’s pretty bright up close, as a note, but once you get past six or so feet from the thing it’s emanations begin to diffuse out to nothingness.

One of the many things which I “nerd out” about are flashlights. There’s two ways to describe the output from a “torch.” The first involves the actual light output of the thing, which is measured in “lumens,” the second is “throw.” Throw involves how far the light travels as a cohesive beam. The particular flood light I have is great on the lumen count, just not so great on the throw. With a long exposure night shot, however, it’s really about producing just a little foreground detail in what would otherwise be a field of blackness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wave the camera around at Plank Road all the time, but for some reason I had the distinct sensation that somebody was both nearby and watching me. There were occasional sounds coming from the brush surrounding the clearing at the water’s edge, but as mentioned – geese, and cats. I’m sure that there was some watership down action involving rats going on as well, but those sneaky little bastards are great at not being seen or heard.

This is what was behind me, which I kept on craning my neck around to check on due to paranoid imaginings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last time I published a shot similar to this one, which included a lens flare just like the one seen above, a whole thread of comments was unleashed about the visual artifact and its coloration. I was advised to retouch it out, which I rejected. Despite the many years I spent professionally engaged as a Madison Avenue Advertising Photo Retoucher, perhaps because of that, I tend to try and do everything “in camera.” There is a slight bit of alteration in the shot above, other than normal adjustments for brightness, contrast, and color temperature to the “raw” file – an exposure gradient is laid into the extreme top of the shot to darken up the otherwise fairly blown out concrete plant and sky.

I’m not against monkeying with the shot, obviously, but given the level of manipulation that’s possible these days I try to maintain the integrity of the original photo as much as possible whenever possible. If a lens flare manifests in camera, it’s part of the scene as I shot it and it stays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking to the west along Newtown Creek from the Maspeth Plank Road, with the Kosciuszcko Bridge all lit up like some strumpet, or a Greek coffee shop. That purple beam rocketing up out of the bridge’s lights is visible from a couple of miles away back in Astoria. One cloudy or rainy nights, there’s a giant luminous blob of unnatural color visible in the sky.

I’m still debating whether or not I like this part of the new bridge, but I can tell you that the saturated colors produced by its powerful LED lighting wreaks havoc when developing night shots and it’s a real challenge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “tripod section” of my night accomplished, one affixed a “bright lens” to the camera and began scuttling back towards Astoria. The walk home to HQ was uneventful, but I didn’t find my way inside the domicile until well after midnight.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 23, 2018 at 11:45 am

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