The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for December 23rd, 2019

cowed to

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All the holidays…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They say it’s Festivus, for the rest of us, as well as Channukah. Talk about eight crazy nights, tomorrow is Christmas Eve too. So much warmth and seasonal joy is afloat and available in the air, one can barely stand not sinking his teeth into its neck.

Last week, when I was limping over to the Community Board meeting here in Astoria, the camera was being waved about. I love that fruit stand pictured above and shop there occasionally, but have always wondered about the “United Brothers” name. Did these brothers used to quarrel with each other and maintained dueling fruit and vegetable stands before agreeing upon some set of terms in the hope of uniting under a single banner? Do the nieces and nephews get along? Is there a sister who got left out of the fraternal union? Do other branches of the family offer different kinds of produce – meat, or dairy? When they say “united” you don’t suppose that the place is owned by conjoined twins?

Also, would “fruit monger” be an appropriate term for their profession? Can you use “mong” as a verb? If you’re a monger or any sort, do you mong? When people get tired of your bullshit, do they ask if you don’t have any monging you should be doing instead of bothering them?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Drivers drive, painters paint. Carpenters don’t carpent though, and butchers don’t butch. Writers write, Cooks cook, Farmers Farm. Bricklayers lay bricks, Heavy Equipment Operators operate heavy equipment, Bartenders tend bars. Mongers?

We’ve got a lot of loaner words in modern English which came across the English Channel with the Normans in 1066 that are Medieval French in origin – like Carpenter – which replaced earlier Germanic Anglo Saxon sounding terms like “wood worker.”

The French speaking overlords who conquered England ate pork rather than swine, and lamb rather than mutton, and both were slurped up out of a saucer rather than a bowl. The conquered commoners who wore home spun britches retained the original Germanic terms, whereas the conquerors in their fancy pants used the French ones. After a thousand years, the term you commonly use is indicative of your social rank and class status.

I was thinking about all of this while listening to a group of people most would describe as “gentrifiers” discussing amenities in their tower apartment building at a Christmas Party recently. My root programming in blue collar Brooklyn would describe an amenity like access to a roof deck or a basement laundry room as “free shit you’re entitled to when you pay rent.” This would usually be followed by an admonition to not let “them” say no to you, and that I was just as good as everybody else so I shouldn’t be shy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always been fascinated by the NYC usage of the term “them” and “they.” They stole Carl’s bike, and Lenny was beat up by them. Shut up, or they’ll hear you. You’re going where with them? They’ll be waiting for you. They own everything. They are going to know if you talked to the cops. They are taking over. Lots and lots of prejudice and class struggle is wrapped up in they and them, the way we New Yorkers use it.

When people ask me why I’m taking photos on the streets these days, I like to say “It’s OK, I’m with them.” Then I point to the right with my left hand at nothing in particular while making my raised eyebrow smile face. “Just kidding,” I continue, “I’m just a photo monger, and I’m busy monging.” Finding out I’m just some idiot with a camera versus having stumbled across a terrorist photographer really disappoints most petitioners.

Screw them.

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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 23, 2019 at 11:00 am

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