The Newtown Pentacle

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was pretty much exhausted by the time these shots were acquired. All of the Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh posts you’ve seen in the last month, and these Philadelphia ones, were captured in about a 4 day period. A morning session in DC, followed by an 8 hour train ride, 72 hours spent in Pittsburgh, followed by a 7 hour train ride to Philadelphia, and I spent about 5 hours there. Between the three, I walked a little over 100 miles and photographed about 6,000 individual shots which ended up boiling down to about 700 “keepers.”

In Pittsburgh, I had a room where I could stow my gear, but in D.C. and Philly, I had to shlep it all around on my back. The shots in today’s post were the last ones captured on this trip.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Full pack “EDC” or Every Day Carry on a week long trip sucks. I had three bags hanging off of me. The one on my left hip – a camera sling bag which I’ve retired from active photo duty but which matches the current one – was stuffed with clothing, toiletries, and various comfort items like a comb and a few snacks – gum, candy, etc. as well as the various charging cables and wall adapters needed for my electronics.

The one on my right hip was full of the sort of camera gear you need to keep handy and ready to go – a bright “go to” prime lens, an air blower, lens cloths – that sort of stuff. I’ve also got a construction worker’s yellow safety vest in there. The two were hung on opposite shoulders, forming an X over my sternum.

Then there was the big bag on my back, which kept the X in place, a Jansport knapsack with my Canon zoom lenses within and housed in removable foam partitions, and also within it was a Mac laptop. On the exterior of the backpack was an attached Sirui Carbon Fiber tripod with a ball head, with an umbrella affixed on the other side. There’s lots of small items I like to carry – a flashlight, a roll of gaff tape, ten feet of paracord, one of those silver emergency blankets, a “bit kit” of screw heads that my Leatherman can mount, the homemade foam lens collars I’ve mentioned a few times, a backup camera support device called a Platypod, extra camera batteries. At the bottom of the bag is one of those ultra absorbent “shamwow” orange cloths they sell at Costco for washing cars, and a couple of clear plastic garbage bags. As a note, the flashlight and everything else made of metal in my bag has a layer of gaff tape on it. Gaff tape doesn’t leave residue behind when you stick it to things, and whereas it’s no duct tape, if you have to make a quick repair while in the field it’s better to have the stuff and not need it than the other way around. It also helps with “grip.” The layers of gaff on my flashlight easily release and are deployable as needed.

On top of all this, I was wearing my special “Scott E Vest” sweatshirt with its 22 secure pockets, pretty much all of which had at least one item secreted away in them. Additionally, I was wearing a pair of military surplus shorts, with a bunch of secure pockets where I was carrying a Leatherman utility tool, wallet, cash, keys, hankies, hand sanitizer, and all sorts of other bits and bobs. The shoes, as always, were Merell Moab style hiking boots.

There was also, obviously, the L bracket encased Canon R6 camera dangling off of me on a Black Rapid R strap, which itself has a zippered pocket for memory cards. I also had my iPhone with me, of course, which was used to organize my train tickets, rideshare needs, and allowed me to use google maps rather than a printed book. I did have a small Moleskine reporters notebook with me as a backup, and a single uniball retractile pen.

All told, it was about 20-30 pounds of stuff in aggregate. Nearly a third of my carry was due to the laptop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everything I carry with me day to day – My “EDC” or “every day carry” has stood the test of time and weather and is the best accommodation between weight and performance that I can afford. The plastic recycling bags have saved me and the camera from getting soaked during sudden rain bursts, the shamwow insulates the lens against vibration a bit and ensures I can dry wipe the equipment down in a hurry. The Mylar safety blanket, plastic bags, and construction worker vest weigh virtually nothing, and the former is occasionally deployed as a sun reflector whereas the latter is often donned while wandering around Newtown Creek in the dead of night. If you’re looking for a pocket tool rather than a weapon, the Leatherman Skeletool is a good solution. Pliers, screwdriver with interchangeable bits, and a blade. It’s also a bottle opener.

Also, forgot to mention the zip lock bag full of Covid masks. I use ziploc bags to organize things when traveling, writing down what was in the individual bag on the bag itself when I packed it, with a sharpie permanent marker. Inventory list on the container means you don’t forget or misplace something when in a hurry, and the clear plastic allows you to visually inventory.

Minus the third bag with the clothes, and the laptop, this is more or less the “EDC” that I take with me when leaving HQ for a regular photo adventure in NYC. During the winter, the shorts become black army pants from the same manufacturer, and the filthy black raincoat is added into the mix.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A standout at 30th Street Station here in Philadelphia is the “Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial” statue. 28 feet tall, and designed by sculptor Walter Hancock, it’s a memorial to the 1,307 workers of the Pennsylvania Railroad who died during the Second World War providing for the common defense. Check out this Wikipedia link for more on the thing.

To be honest, at this stage of the journey, I was giving zero shits about anything and just wanted to get home to see Our Lady of the Pentacle again and tell her about my adventures in Pittsburgh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train was delayed from its scheduled departure, but only by a few minutes. My feet hurt, and so did my back. I was impatient, and paced around the station to burn off my expectant energy. I was in a “shvitz,” as my grandmother would have said.

Finally, the boarding call was made, and the track announced. I proceeded down to the platforms.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amtrak’s chariot arrived, and I boarded a rather full train bound for NYC’s Penn Station at 7:58 p.m.

About 9:30 p.m., I returned to NYC and soon found myself on 8th Avenue, which was covered in a wind swept whirlwind of litter and garbage and there was graffiti on the sidewalk. One man was on his hands and knees screaming into a subway grate, another was standing on the corner of 32nd street openly masturbating. Another fellow, one legged and in a wheelchair labeled with a local hospital’s branding, had pulled his coat over his head to ease lighting up a crack pipe. By 34th street, I had passed through a bum fight between two women and got to see one of their boobies flapping about after her opponent tore off her t shirt. The air smelled of urine and car exhaust, and the dirty water of hot dog carts. Sirens, car horns, fart cars.

On 36th street, I turned a corner and narrowly avoided a group of charlatans working the “check out my hip hop cd grift” and managed to overstep a pile of vomit while passing them by. After negotiating through massive piles of restaurant garbage being colonized by rats that narrowed the sidewalk down to about 18 inches of space, I managed to find a spot to wait, and summoned a Lyft to whisk me home to Astoria.

Back in the 80’s, the saying was “what this city needs is a good plague.” Well – We’ve had one and it didn’t do any good, I’m afraid. When the greatest City in the history of mankind fails to compare favorably with… Philadelphia…


“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

November 18, 2021 at 11:00 am

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