The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for September 2021

waxen mask

with one comment

Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Welcome back to a travelogue of a series of adventures experienced in the month of September, wherein an Amtrak rail pass was utilized to visit several other cities in the northeastern section of the USA. This section details a 72 hour interval spent in Burlington, Vermont. There are two other posts preceding this one, and this is hardly the last Burlington one.

Pictured above is the summit of Church Street, where the Unitarian Church (aka the Brick Meeting House) has towered over the City of Burlington since 1817. The original bell for this church was cast by Paul Revere, and its steeple was replaced in 1958 after a lightning strike caused catastrophic damage to the original model. Worshippers who call this building home are the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Church Street Marketplace is a pedestrianized four block open air shopping district, and has been since 1981, one which is encapsulated by a larger Burlington Historic District. The shot above looks down the hill from the properties of the Unitarian Church, at the intersection of Pearl and Church Streets. The ornate building on the left is an apartment building, the one on the right is a Masonic temple.

There are a few national chains located here – CVS, LL Bean, that sort of thing. A series of locally owned shops, selling all sorts of stuff you probably don’t need but want, await shoppers. There’s also a series of restaurants and bars, and at the bottom of the hill is Burlington City Hall.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apparently, a former Mayor of Burlington back in the 1960’s hated commercial signage impinging on and hanging over the public way so the City has strict laws about such matters. There’s all sorts of rules that apply to you in this particular area that are ignored or don’t apply just a couple of blocks away. No smoking or radio playing, for instance. There was a not insignificant number of homeless people and or junkies milling about in this area, panhandling. Everybody has to make a living, I guess.

Saying that, the Burlington Police Department and municipal government seemed to practice a somewhat lighter touch than the NYPD and NYC would regarding this particular population. It’s not a difference of scale, either, both law enforcement and other municipal employees were personally witnessed by me as being respectful and kind towards the street people. Maybe they kick the crap out of them somewhere else that the tourists can’t see, like NYC does, but I didn’t sense that sort of move as being the local modus operandi.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a lot of New England goodness in Burlington, and I could have spent days wandering the streets and marveling at sights like the Flynn Theater Marquis pictured above. Officially known as “The Flynn” in modernity, this theater complex opened in 1930 and presented both Vaudeville Shows and movies. It was renovated, restored, and reopened in 1981, and serves Burlington as a live music and theater venue for several groups, including the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. The Art Deco Societies of America lists the restoration of the Flynn as being one of the 10 most important restoration projects in the entire country.

The hour was growing late on our first day in Burlington, so Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself made a right on College Street and headed down the hill towards the shoreline of Lake Champlain where we had spotted a waterfront cocktail establishment earlier in the day. Sunset was coming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the side of the 1840 built Follett House at 63 College Street pictured above, which we passed on the way to get our sunset drink. It’s the last of a line of Greek revival mansions which once overlooked the water from the ridge it sits on, and was built by a wealthy Real Estate and Railroad Executive named Timothy Follett. It’s on the register of National Historic Places too, but that seems to be old hat for Burlington.

I try to maintain a nearly military schedule when traveling, incidentally, one which is the utter opposite of my night owl NYC persona. I wake up early, often before sunrise, and am showered/dressed/walking out of the door by 6:30 – 7:00 a.m. In the rest of the country, breakfast fare is not served after ten in the morning, you’ve got a ninety minute interval for lunch that starts at 11:30, and they start rolling up the sidewalks by about an hour after sunset so if you don’t eat dinner by seven or so – it’s a microwave burrito at a gas station convenience store for you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We finished our first full day in Burlington therefore quite petered out, and a couple of pints of beer were gladly quaffed. We had done the waterfront walking trails heading north, swung through and took a look at Lakeview Cemetery, visited the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum and its trails, visited Church Street, and now we were going to wind down Day One with a drink while watching the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself descend.

Tomorrow – sunset at Lake Champlain.


“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

September 30, 2021 at 11:00 am

immemorial lore

with 2 comments

Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself recently spent 72 hours in Burlington, Vermont after arriving here on Amtrak’s “Vermonter” line. Our desire involved being outside as much as possible, and one of the three big outdoor excursions we embarked upon was a visit to the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum on the north side of Burlington. The land here is often referred to as the Intervale, I’m told, and it was home to a Native American culture called the Abenaki. Ethan Allen was a Connecticut native who became a backwoodsman and settled on the Intervale in the late 1780’s. He was the leader of the Green Mountain Boys during the American Revolution, and is credited with leading the capture of Britain’s Fort Ticonderoga. That’s his house, pictured above.

The Intervale property operates as a public space today, has a display of an Abenaki camp, and there are miles and miles of groomed trails which you can explore. Just as we arrived, that rain storm brewing on the New York side of Lake Champlain mentioned yesterday arrived and we sheltered in a camping area for about 20 minutes while it blew through. I cannot possibly describe how utterly delicious the air smelled after the rain with all of this wet vegetation around us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Ethan Allen site’s northern side is defined by the Winooski river, a meandering and seemingly shallow river that flows down out of the Green Mountains into Lake Champlain. It’s alternately called the “Onion River” and that’s sort of what “Winooski” translates to in the native tongue of the Abenaki. It’s ultimately about 90 miles long, and the prevailing view amongst the geology crowd offers that it predates the Green Mountains themselves, meaning that this “antecedent river” was flowing as the mountains grew around it.

Vermont is seriously interesting. If the winters weren’t so brutal, I’d have long ago moved away from New York City to Vermont.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady was occupying herself with observations of woodchucks and other animal life, whereas a humble narrator was instead making himself busy with the tripod and the camera. A raucous cacophony of bird song and cicada buzzing was hanging in the air, which had turned a bit warmer as the rain storm continued eastwards and the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself appeared from its occlusion. There was still a not insignificant amount of wind.

I didn’t get the shot of them, since I was set up for a longish exposure with an ND filter on my lens, but of a murder of what had to be five or six dozen crows were spotted. KRAWWW!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Intervale grounds at Ethan Allen Homestead, which I’d love to explore in depth sometime, offered somewhat manicured paths for visitors. A variety of landscapes are offered along this path, sometimes woodland like the one above, others are cultivated farm fields. There was a working farm there, and a field or two that were in fallow phases.

As a City boy, it would be folly for me to try to understand land management in this sort of circumstance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last shot from the Intervale, and this is about when Our Lady and I decided to move onto our next destination and luncheon in the City center of Burlington. The center of things, where the Burlington City Hall and governmental center is found, is called Church Street. The idea for pedestrianizing Church Street goes back to 1958, but it was accomplished in 1981. Church Street Marketplace, as it’s known, sits in the Church Street historic district of Burlington.

We got around in Burlington using ride share services, specifically Lyft. It took about 20 minutes for a car to come get us and then drop us off nearby Burlington City Hall.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a series of local shops, and national chain stores too, at Church Street Marketplace. There’s also a series of bars and restaurants. Other than eating there, we had little interest at this particular moment in exploring the area (that happened on our last day in Burlington, which will be discussed in a subsequent post.)

One observation about Burlington that I’d offer is this – they don’t have much of a street litter problem. This is a very, very clean place. Church Street is where the homeless population of Burlington seems to gather, who are allowed to camp out in City Hall park overnight. The City Hall park also has a program going which offers free food to the hungry. The trademark physical consequences of heroin addiction was visible on the faces of many of the homeless here, but there was an entirely different vibe than the one you experience on the mean streets of NYC coming from them.

Back tomorrow with more.


“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

September 29, 2021 at 11:00 am

awed sessions

with 2 comments

Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Burlington, Vermont is found along the shoreline of Lake Champlain. You’re not terribly far (45 miles) from the National Border with Canada in Burlington, and it’s something like a two hour drive to get to Montreal. Burlington is a college town, with a large campus devoted to the University of Vermont and another to Champlain College. Just under 43,000 Americans call this city home, but Our Lady of the Pentacle and I were just visiting for a mere 72 hours.

Burlington has a feather in its cap, as it’s the first and only city in the entire United States to power its ambitions using renewable energy sources. Everywhere you look, there’s solar panels and wind turbines, and apparently the local power plant burns locally grown and farmed wood rather than fossil fuels to motivate the dynamos. It’s the home base of political superstar Bernie Sanders, who was Mayor of Burlington for an interval, and it was under his watch that the City transformed its post industrial decay into what it is now.

Look at that – the answer to all things isn’t “Luxury Condos,” and politicians who don’t just talk, they do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the west, on what I believe to be the New York State side of Lake Champlain, storms were brewing. If you haven’t been to this part of the country before, it’s essentially a temperate rain forest. The mountains aren’t huge, but there are a lot of them, which means a lot of valleys too. When the sun rises, mist and fog do as well, which agglutinate into fairly unpredictable overhead weather. You experience distinct climatological conditions in Vermont depending on what time of day it is.

Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself desired to be outside, nevertheless, after our long hermitage during the Covid lockdowns. There’s a series of waterfront bike and pedestrian paths, created by the Sanders era urban renewal projects, along the Lake Champlain waterfront. We followed them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was intrigued by the various islands found in Lake Champlain, some of which are occupied, as I was told by some of the locals. Obviously, you need to have your own boat and dock to interact with the rest of the world, but what a splendid sense of isolation this sort of lifestyle must offer.

The rain building to the west was moving towards us, and we decided to move away from the waterfront on the way to our next destination.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lakeview Cemetery was established in 1872, and several notable Vermonters are interred there. It’s officially a “Victorian Lawn Park” cemetery in design, and had that certain New England sort of stolidity encoded into every monument and planting. Beautifully maintained, like many cemeteries it was teeming with birds and bees and critters. Accidental island of green, cemeteries are.

Alongside those notables, lots of common folk are also buried here. I didn’t do a deep dive into research for Lakeview, since – as mentioned above – we were only going to be in town for 72 hours. Saying that, we were out of the hotel room every day in the early morning and didn’t come back until well after dark.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Louisa Howard Chapel, a high Victorian gothic style chapel gifted to the city of Burlington by (notable) Louisa Howard. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. One observation about this part of the country is that they don’t fool around when they’re building churches.

The Chapel is tiny, but it could probably bounce an artillery shell off of its stout walls and masonry. There are massive churches of every denomination here in Burlington and the surrounding towns which are – as the Brits would say – “gob smacking.” I could spend weeks and possibly months photographing them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In terms of the politicians actually “putting up or shutting up,” another thing that I can recommend about this northern city of just under 43,000 people is this – if you’re a refugee fleeing from some war torn situation, Burlington sets out its welcome mat for you. Vermont is one of the “whitest” states in the northeast, and Burlington’s population is something like 85% of European decent. When you see Middle Eastern or Far Eastern faces there, they kind of stick out. Casual chats with strangers revealed Afghani, Syrian, even West and North African inflected accents who described the new life they were experiencing in America and the generosity and kindness of the Vermonters when they arrived here. That’s the good stuff, I tell’s ya.

Tomorrow – more from the northlands.


“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

September 28, 2021 at 1:00 pm

ultimate abyss

with one comment

Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stage one of my September travels, accomplished using Amtrak to get from place to place, saw Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself entering Moynihan Penn Station early on a rainy day. This was actually the first time I’d stepped foot inside of the new facility and it was pretty impressive. I plan on going back sometime soon just for photos, but given that I was burdened down with luggage and my entire camera setup was on my back…

This journey was on a train line that Amtrak had recently reinstated after several years, “The Vermonter.” Our final destination was meant to be Essex Junction, which is a town neighboring Burlington in the state of Vermont. The announcement signaled it was time to board and we left the bright cavern of Moynihan Station and descended into the stygian darkness of Penn Station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the way Amtrak works involves you telling the Conductor where you’re going and then you get directed into one of the several cars on their train. They seem to group travelers together by destination, which – as it turns out – is a fairly prosaic practice. Once onboard, you’re adjured to use the luggage racks and reminded about wearing a mask. After the train leaves the station, conductors move through the line checking tickets and answering questions from the riders.

There were a surprisingly substantial number of people on the train, which I wasn’t expecting for a mid week and fairly long distance trip. Turns out that this route travels through coastal Connecticut for much of the run, and that a lot of people get to and from there by Amtrak rather than commuter rail.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Vermonter exited the East River tunnels, rode through the Sunnyside Yards, and surmounted the Hell Gate Bridge heading north. My original intention was to be productive on this trip, but honestly I ended up staring out of the window for most of it. Some of my homemade camera equipment was utilized, a foam collar for the lens which allowed me to cancel out reflections and shoot cleanly through the window.

I’ve got a couple of image sequences which I’ll be offering at some point in the future, but for today it’s just static ones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is vastly more comfortable to travel using Amtrak than it is to fly. “Vastly” is actually an understatement. The car that Our lady of the Pentacle and I were traveling in was mostly empty, whereas other ones were well populated. Again, this is where that system they use comes in. There were a bunch of stops along the way where the doors to our car didn’t even open.

There’s a cafe car, which was at the rear of the train on this journey, and I ate the Amtrak microwaved hamburger. I’d describe it as “modern day soldier food” and it really wasn’t terrible. Better than McDonalds? Let’s put it in the same range, although Amtrak doesn’t have pickles or special sauce. Point is that it “filled the hole” and I can now say that I ate an Amtrak Burger.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In New Haven, Connecticut, they switch out the electric engine for a diesel one and there’s a short layover wherein you’re allowed to exit the train and stretch your legs. They also changed crew there. Observationally speaking, they seem to change crews more or less when the train is crossing state lines. Must be a union thing, I guess.

At any rate, after they attached the Diesel unit to the front of the train, we continued hurtling northwards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Vermonter was an all day trip, and we arrived at Essex Junction well after dark. Luckily, they use ride share services up there too, and a quick cab ride got us to the hotel. We settled in and grabbed a meal and a couple of drinks at the hotel restaurant and then went to sleep. An early alarm was set, as adventure awaited us the next day.

More to come tomorrow, from the Socialist Paradise of Burlington, Vermont.

As a note, with all of the missed sleep and weird schedule I’ve been experiencing over the last few weeks I’m completely divorced from my normal schedule. Going to bed late, waking up in the afternoon, not normal. It’s going to take a few days until Newtown Pentacle, thereby, returns to its normal schedule.


“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

September 27, 2021 at 2:00 pm

mendicant wanderings

with 2 comments

Friday, but published a day late

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one has been out of town for most of the month of September. Amtrak has been my chariot, although for one weekend in there my pal Hank the Elevator Guy drove his car. The shot above was captured on the first leg of my journeys, depicting the scene from the trackage of the Hell Gate Bridge with Astoria Park in the foreground and mighty Triborough featured prominently. More next week.


“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

September 25, 2021 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: