The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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Rain, rain, hold still while I take a picture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One didn’t get out too much over the week between Christmas and New Years due to a variety of reasons, amongst them was that spate of drenching rain which hit the neighborhood here in Astoria, Queens. Regardless, inactivity and I don’t enjoy each other’s company, so I set up the camera and experimented a bit right here at home.

If you were making your way down Astoria’s Broadway and saw the silhouette of a weird old guy and a camera up on a tripod in a window, you should have waved. That was me.

Since I’ve lived in this neighborhood, that bodega has had three owners and never changed its name. The first set of owners were brothers, ones whose family had a farm back in Lebanon. Back then, they had great produce, and either brother was your go to for finding out whether or not a pomegranate was ripe or not. They sold it to another Lebanese family, one which had a large group of sons that were all fitness fanatics. I used to call them the “Lebanese Olympic Weight Lifting team” and it was always fun watching what would happen when someone tried shoplifting at the bodega. Older brother Gazi once punched a crook so hard that the fellow lifted about four feet into the air and traveled about six feet horizontally, making a quite satisfying “slap thunk” sound upon his landing. The current owners are South East Asians (Indian or Bangla, I’m not sure), who don’t carry much in the way of produce you’d want to buy, and are not obsessed with going to the gym, but are otherwise nice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever it rains for an extended period, my thoughts always drift toward my beloved Newtown Creek. One of the curses suffered by my favorite waterway involves the “combined sewer outfalls” which transport excess storm water mixed with untreated sewer water directly into it. These NYC owned pipes are often at least a century old, and use a pre modern era approach to waste water management summed up by the old adage “the answer to solution is dilution.” I know way too much about NYC’S sewer system, as a note.

That sewer grate, which is on my corner, is connected to a large pipe found under Broadway which connects all of the corner grates. That large pipe connects to an even larger pipe found at 42nd street called an interceptor. If you stand on the north side of 42nd and a Broadway in Astoria, you can hear water roaring through it through the access or manhole cover. This pipe goes to Northern Blvd. where it takes a right and follows the slope of the street through Queens Plaza, then goes diagonally under the Sunnyside Yards and towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek where it outfalls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I dream of dropping rubber duckies into the drain during a roaring thunderstorm, then racing over to Dutch Kills to catch a photo of them popping out of one of the outfalls. I’ve also fantasized while in the grip of somnambulant hallucinations, about pouring tons and tons of gelatin into the sewer, just to see what happens. Yes, I literally dream of such things.

Last night – for instance – I had a dream that I had adopted a gigantic French Bulldog the size of an ox, and that I was able to put a saddle across its back and ride it around. I mention that in an attempt to dissuade you of wondering why I dream about sewers, and to point out that rubber ducky fantasies are hardly the weirdest thing my brain manufactures.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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

January 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

One Response

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  1. Don’t let your dreams be dreams. Put a GPS tracker on that ducky and letter rip

    Tommy Efreeti

    January 21, 2020 at 11:54 am

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