The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for April 2020

convulsive cry

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Getting used to living with the tyranny of the now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One recalls all of the angry men who drove these yellow cars, and their frustrations. The angry men would have vastly preferred not having to drive you anywhere you needed to go, instead they’d have liked you to just toss a few bucks in their open window when they drove off after hearing that you didn’t want to go into Manhattan. These yellow cars were always dirty, uncomfortable, and the drivers generally bad tempered. When the ride share corporations began to chip away at the exclusive franchises of medallion taxi’s, nobody really cared about the drivers of the yellow cabs, since one of the commonalities of life in NYC involves a story about some asshole cab driver who… fill in the blanks.

Functionally speaking, there is no such taxi industry right now. The ride share drivers have been reduced down to making food and supply deliveries, but at least they’re working. Everywhere I go, entire fleets of yellow cabs are being stored in the parking lots of closed businesses, along the curbs, or anywhere you can park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA buses are still operating, as are the subways. Both options are ones you could not pay me to take right now. Since the start of all this, a thought which has been optimate and repeated like a mantra revolves around “dwell time.” It’s one thing to risk exposure to infection in terms of a quick trip to a shop – you’re in, you’re out. It’s another to “dwell” in a biologically hazardous environment. This is something I’ve learned over the years along the Newtown Creek. Don’t misunderstand me, you can still catch a viral load if all you’re doing is buying a pack of gum at a bodega and you’ve only been in there for a quick minute, it’s just that the odds of inhaling something malign are somewhat lessened if you’re not in that bodega for a half hour or hour. The longer you dwell in an air mass with people who aren’t your “quarantine buddies,” the more epidemiological mathematics begin to work against you. “Quarantine buddies” you ask? That’s your family and or domestic partners, and all of the people with whom both you and they interact with. The bigger the buddy group, the better the chance you have of getting sick.

If you’re riding on a bus, like the Q32 pictured above, everybody on the bus and everybody they interact with are now your buddy. Theoretically, so is everyone else who rode that bus since the last time it was fully disinfected – which should include the internals of the heating vents – but – MTA, so…

I think we should pay a lot of attention to filters on HVAC systems, moving forward.

Saying all that, I’m just a schmuck with a camera who likes talking about NYC history, not a doctor or an epidemiologist, and the paragraphs above represent an opinion not a fact. Do whatever the hell you want. Bleach, estrogen, fire, whatever.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Right now, a humble narrator is wishing that he had access to a private vehicle – a car, truck, or even an electrically powered bike. Under normal circumstance in the past, the cost and effort has been something I eschewed, but during those intervals one had access to the entire MTA system, ride share services like Uber and Lyft, and those angry fellows driving the yellow cars to rely upon. I’d love to jump behind the wheel right now and pop over to Plumb Beach or Rockaway and sit on a large rock while staring at the sea. C’est le vie, no?

Could be worse, of course, at least I live in a place that’s visually interesting and am surrounded by other areas which are similarly idiosyncratic and within walking distances. Also, still alive and not sick yet, so…

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, April 27th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

visual identity

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CoronAstoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before the nightly helicopters begin circling the ancient village, just after sunset in fact, one staggered forth from HQ with the intention of taking a LONG walk. Said walk ended up being five and change hours long and covered around 12 miles of western Queens. What was cool about my night was that the only people I saw were blocks distant from me, or driving vehicles. Funnily enough, upon arriving at my inevitable destination amongst the concrete devastations of Newtown Creek, where one can find themself truly alone, I can finally relax a bit and let my guard down.

While marching around in areas zoned for residential occupancy, one walks quickly, hoping to leave the humans behind as quickly as possible for fear of contagion. Lurking in fear, indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One wears the mask in spots like these, even though there was no one on the street. The sidewalks are narrow, and it was garbage day. Cooties.

Once a certain geographic juncture has been surpassed, the mask goes in my pocket and for a time I can breathe easily again. The industrial neighborhoods are absolutely and completely deserted, save for an occasional warehouse storing foodstuffs, or near the yards of commercial shipping operations like FedEx and UPS. Knowing where these locations are, one avoids them. Getting out of Astoria and across Sunnyside along certain less travelled paths are fairly key.

South, I head south. I bob, and I weave.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior posts, one is desirous of open sight lines. I might just have to go for a ride on the NYC Ferry at some point, riding on the open top deck of course. As also mentioned, you couldn’t pay me to get on a subway right now, so after landing at Manhattan’s Pier 11, I’d have to either take another ferry, or walk back to Astoria along the East River from Wall Street.

I really want to feel some sunlight hitting my skinvelope, though, so maybe.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, April 27th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2020 at 11:00 am

had strangled

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Used to be, long ago…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One remembers when there were people here. Loiterers, louts, loudmouths, lords, ladies, lingerers. They would walk dogs and smoke intoxicating substances and argue about bike lanes. Some would play athletic games until late in the night, trading an inflatable ball back and forth over a net while shouting at each other in some foreign tongue. They’re all hidden away now, and a humble narrator was the only midnight perambulator on Skillman Avenue during one recent midnight hour.

The quiet is quite deafening, in all actuality, punctuated as it is by bird song and a several blocks distant sound of empty locomotives performing the pantomime of passenger service. Spring has arrived in the quiet, and these echoing streets are in bloom. Raccoons sit on double yellow lines, fearing not the roar of trucks. Only silent electric delivery bikes were spied moving about, their operators staring out a thousand yards into the dark over their respiratory masks.

Whatever… at least I’m finding a way to get outside for some exercise and keep the camera busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always an outsider, no matter what or when or where, but this new world of ours is disconcerting even for me. Thousands are nearby, huddled in their apartments and presumptively gathered around the hearth of their televisions and phones. The sound of sirens in the distance, and that of the unseen but omnipresent helicopters overhead, punctuated with the clatter of the birds.

It’s lonely on Skillman Avenue. When somebody else who is out for a stroll passes by, a nervous wave is offered and is sometimes returned. Nobody gets too close on purpose, and all bear a sinister aspect. Unclean? Sick? Perhaps a criminal?

Paranoia abounds, but the pavement stretches forth and a humble narrator scuttles forward, camera in hand. Wonders, there are, wonders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, I haven’t found any trouble whatsoever on these midnight walks of mine, or at least trouble hasn’t found me as of yet. As far as authority figures, back in April, a couple of cops inquired what I was taking pics of over in Blissville one night. Another, some MTA railroad cop was shooting me the hairy eyeball nearby the Sunnyside Yards, and a few people have asked me for spare change here and there. The cops drove off, the MTA cop never got out of his car when I waved and smiled, and I’m fairly sure that one of the rather ragged looking coin petitioners here in Astoria would have performed sexual acts in exchange for the spare change.

Saying all that, perched up in my digs in Astoria, I’ve been noticing a lot of new faces roaming around the neighborhood. One new “skel” found an empty drug bag along the curb and after carefully examining the thing, pocketed it. Another was trying household and automotive doors to see if they were locked or not. I’m a lot more worried about a few of the neighborhood troublemakers who have recently been released from Riker’s. Just the other night, the streets were suddenly populated by detectives or perhaps alienists searching for somebody. Additionally – one fellow, let’s call him Cicero – is back on the loose again. I overheard him petitioning random passerby about whether or not they would sell him a pistol.

Cicero got angry when the people he petitioned said they didn’t have a pistol to sell him. He’s still angry that the cops took his old gun away, when they caught him masturbating atop a step ladder while staring in someone’s back yard window.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, April 27th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 28, 2020 at 11:00 am

guards around

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I remember…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There used to be others… They had distinctive faces, but I can’t remember what they looked like anymore. Some were tall and ugly, others short and pretty, and they came in a variety of sizes and colors. That was then, before the masks and the sirens. Now, it’s just me, wandering in wan darkness towards weird illuminations and through the abandonments. The concrete devastations remain the same, as does their odor.

One has finally worked out the correct procedure for capturing the queer lighting of the new Kosciuszko Bridge, but who might know? The shot above depicts the span, alongside the garbage train, on Review Avenue in Blissville and across the street from a polyandrion which is called Calvary by the Roman Catholics.

The weather was chill, my urethral bladder full, and hurt did my left foot do. Other than that, a humble narrator was having a grand old time. I’ve always opined that what this city needed was a good plague, and here we are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When you really want to embrace hopelessness, despair, and truly commune with how screwed we all are right now – talk to a history boy like me. I’ll tell you about historical plagues – civilization enders all – which lasted for hundreds of years. The so called Plague of Justinian is my go to for that sort of thing, and it really wipes the smile off of listener’s faces. Calvary Cemetery, pictured above, actually owes its existence to a series of epidemics that scythed through early 19th century NYC, resulting in the Rural Cemetery Act of 1848.

Of note during our current collective storyline, the NYS Anti Mask Law of 1847 is going to end up having some dire consequence with all of us walking around with masks on, I fear. NYPD was enforcing that one as late as 2011, during the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. Did you also know that’s it’s illegal to keep a goat in your apartment in NYC? I’m not judging if you do keep a goat, after all what a person does inside the confines of their residence isn’t for me to judge, but it is technically illegal. Same thing with owning a ferret. Sodomy is kosher, though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Closer to home, and actually on my way back home to Astoria, I was attracted by the glowing white cruciform adorning the fortress like walls of a mega church on 37th Avenue. It’s the New York Presbyrterian church, as a point of fact, and just for the history boy trivia folks – 37th Avenue used to be called Dutch Kills Street prior to the creation of the Sunnyside Yards. The congregation is largely Korean in ethnicity, I’m told, and the building that the church is housed in used to be an industrial laundry operation. In 1999, a 1,500 seat sanctuary was added to the prexisting complex.

Said complex was built in 1931 for the Knickerbocker Ice Company‘s Laundry division, which inhabited the space until 1970. The Naarden Perfume Company was then based in the space until 1986, whereupon the building was sold to the church people. Apparently, the size of the congregation qualifies this as a “mega church,” which is a fun thing to say out loud in full Brooklynese. Try it. May Gah Choich.

There used to be others…

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, April 27th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

sullen mood

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Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge pictured up there, which has been described in excruciating historical detail in many, many past posts. Saying that, I think this is the first time that this particular view of it has been offered. One of the virtues of a certain lens which I’ve mentioned in the past, the Canon 24mm pancake lens, is that it’s tiny size allows me to exploit otherwise unusable gaps in fencing or other visual obstacles. In the case of the shot above, my tripod was set up to lean in towards a chain link fence, holding the lens maybe an eighth of an inch away from it. It took a bit of wiggling to get the lens’s focal to sit right in the center of one of those diamond shaped openings in a standard chain link or “hurricane fence.”

It’s also three different photos combined into one, using a sort of exposure stacking process which Photoshop allows. This is one of the things I’m playing around with in my quarantine dotage. Also doing a bit of focus stacking work, which is interesting to play around with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s just a normal long exposure shot, above, captured on Borden Avenue near the intersection with Review Avenue. Anybody who knows me will tell you that an oft repeated opine is “NYC never looks as good as it does when it’s wet.” In other words, you have a puddle? I’m shooting it. I also like when it’s just finished raining.

For the last few weeks, the Empire State Building has been flashing fire engine red to honor the medical people and the ambulance corps dealing with the virus. Accordingly, I’ve been trying to get some shots of it all framed up with Long Island City’s various wonders. That’s how I found myself back on Borden Avenue, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I shot this one twice, from two different locations. For the alternate view, I used a different lens – the Canon “Nifty” 50mm. Check that out here, if you want.

For some reason, I was having a devil of a time getting the 50mm, which is of significantly older age than the 24mm – design wise – to lock focus on the Empire State. I got it, eventually, but wow did it hunt around a lot. The red lights didn’t register as contrast heavy enough, I’d speculate, or perhaps the IR filter glass inside the sensor was blocking this particular wavelength.

The 24mm found focus almost instantly, in contradiction.

I’m still using the “minimum kit” which I started carrying last year during the broken toe drama – a Canon 7D with an arca rail, a couple of extra batteries and memory cards, a 24mm and a 50mm lens, a cable release, some lens cloths, a safety vest, a rocket blower, a flash light, an ultrapod with a small ball head, and a carbon fiber travel tripod with a ball head. The only other things found in my camera bag at the moment are business cards and a few pieces of chewing gum.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, April 20th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

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