The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for November 5th, 2021

luckily obtainable

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Day two of my 72 hours long visit to Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh involved lots and lots of walking up and down hills during the morning. After riding both the Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines to indulge my obsession with funicular railways, one took advantage of the overlook platform at the latter and set the camera up on the tripod with a filter to allow me to do a few longish exposures. Now, I realize that the shot above has been captured hundreds of thousands of times – it’s a point of view that is somewhat cliche in fact. Saying that, I hadn’t taken it, so I did. Don’t be ashamed of being a tourist when you’re doing tourist things, I always say, so get that selfie with the Statue of Liberty behind you on the Staten Island Ferry when you’re visiting my home town.

As you may have guessed by now, the Amtrak based traveling in the month of September which you’ve been reading about for a while now has been absolute nepenthe for me. Psychologically speaking, I’ve been keeping it together throughout the lockdowns and isolation of the Covid pandemic, but it’s been the same struggle for me as it’s been for everyone. I kept myself busy with night shooting and long walks around Newtown Creek, but the desire for novelty and “something else” has been nagging at me for a while now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The inability to travel in particular, is something which started a few years before Covid occurred. My beloved and dearly departed dog Zuzu’s declining years were tremulous. Kenneling her wasn’t an option if I left town, as her health wasn’t great and she was laser focused on me as her alpha, so I hung in there and barely left Queens. For all the joy and happiness she brought us from the time she was a tiny puppy, I owed her the debt of providing her with a stable and very predictable life during her dotage. Dogs are creatures of habit, and having Daddy disappear for two weeks would have derailed her. She passed away in the summer of 2020, which was a brutal experience for me, since her regular Veterinary care was impacted by Covid. We actually had to pay a traveling Vet to come to the house and euthanize her due to the amount of pain she was in, and during that last week she just laid on her side whimpering from a spinal problem’s pain. From that ugly day in the summer of 2020 till the day Our Lady of the Pentacle and I boarded the train to Vermont’s Burlington, the first thing I’d see in the morning each and every day was the spot where she died. Talk about picking at a scab, huh? It probably sounds dumb, talking about a dog like this, but Zuzu wasn’t an ordinary dog for me. She was very, very good at her dog job, and a good friend.

The good news is that for a few weeks in September of 2021, I was able to see and experience novel and fascinating things which allowed me to wake up and not see that spot first thing in the morning. As finances allow, I’m in the early stages of planning several other Amtrak based excursions for the winter and early spring. Providence beckons, as does Holyoke, and another visit to Pittsburgh seems to be on my list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m planning on closing out my trip to Pittsburgh’s postings either next week or shortly thereafter, after showing you what I saw on that boat trip which I’ve mentioned a few times that occurred shortly after these shots were collected. That’s when I’ll tell you why that blue bridge in the foreground – pictured above – is so special, and it’s direct connections to LIC.

I’ve been shooting a LOT since I’ve been back, riding the ferries and going places outside of the normal round. I’m now triple vaccinated, as a note. Tours of Newtown Creek have occurred for private groups – students and so on – and I recently led two public facing walking tours of Greenpoint for Open House NY Weekend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have to admit it was glorious to feel freedom again. I don’t mean the horseshit “freedom” that the rednecks proffer which is actually a form of indentured servitude to other people’s ideas and personal fortunes, rather I mean the ability to just do whatever the hell you want to and on your own schedule. A humble narrator is 54 years old, but I’m still in surprisingly good condition despite the life I’ve lived. The heart condition, as I was recently told by my staff of doctors, is well managed and not at all life threatening at the moment but I do need to drop some of the pandemic era weight that I’ve packed on. A bit of arthritis has been plaguing me for a couple of years now, but I’m 54, so…

Saying that, I can still easily do dawn to dusk photowalk days. That’s what I proved to myself, in Pittsburgh, in particular. I didn’t have to worry about somebody else’s leaky bladder, bad knees, spinal issues, psychological problems, or general inability to move their bodies around the world on this 72 hour mission. I also didn’t feel compelled to explain anything to anyone, which was simply awesome. When you know a little something about everything, as I do, you end up having to answer questions others offer all day long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having finished up the shots from the Duquesne Incline, one rode the funicular down to the south side flatlands of the Monongahela River, at the foot of Mt. Washington. A pedestrian bridge carried me down and across a high volume roadway, and I made my way to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail on this side of the City of Pittsburgh.

Observationally speaking, this side of the City isn’t quite as “post industrial” as the Allegheny/North Side is. Active freight rail tracks were humming with activity, and that’s the sort of thing which just draws me right in…

After a quick phone call to home, letting Our Lady of the Pentacle know that I hadn’t been carried off by a Mongol horde or something and that I was safe and sound, I scuttled off in the direction of my eventual boat tour. The dock was about a mile and a half from where I was standing, and I wondered how I’d fill the three or so hours until my scheduled ticket would be redeemed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As if I’d have to worry, huh? This CSX locomotive was hauling a coal train along the shores of Pittsburgh, and that’s the Fort Pitt bridge in the background. Seriously, this is one of the most visually interesting cities in the Northeastern United States.

More next week at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“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

November 5, 2021 at 11:00 am

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