The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

cheerful trifles

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing I was saying all summer was this – “if we don’t collectively hit 70% vaccines saturation by late July, Halloween and Thanksgiving will be fine but it ain’t going to be a very Merry Christmas and New Years is going to suck.” Since we didn’t hit that magic vaccine saturation number either locally or nationally, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself scheduled a holiday trip for the first weekend of December under the presumption of rough seas arriving for the holiday week. Of course, we spent Christmas watching tv by ourselves, and regardless of that, we both had a Covid experience for New Years so – “Call me Ezekiel, for I am a prophet.”

We couldn’t agree on our mode of travel for our weekend away – her schedule is far more demanding than mine currently is, so Our Lady decided to fly whereas I opted for experiencing another journey on the Amtrak. I vastly prefer travel on trains as compared to planes, as a note. It’s just a comfort thing, and I hate airports, and don’t mind spending a bit of down time reading or staring out a window.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One hopped on the subway from Astoria, and headed over to Manhattan’s Moynihan Penn Station on Manhattan’s west side. Upon arrival, I realized that one of the 2021 resolutions I had made – to explore and photograph the newly opened facility in some detail – has gone undone. It’s the “mask thing” holding me back, ultimately. Give me the choice between being outside and unmasked versus within a structure and masked up…

Generally speaking, I seldom wear a mask when outside – I’m vaxxed, and unless a crowd suddenly forms around me – am not too worried about Covid exposure as long as there’s a breeze blowing. Beyond legal requirements for mask usage inside buildings, it’s fairly prosaic and smart to religiously wear one indoors due to ventilation issues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The National order for masking up on mass transit is, and was in early December, still in effect. One of the problems with these requirements for Covid era facial accoutrements revolves around wearing prescription eyeglasses, as I do. Getting the mask to sit just right so as to not fog up my glasses has been a struggle for me since March of 2020. I’ve tried anti-fog spray, positioning the thing just right… you name it. The only tip I can offer which has had any sort of positive effect on the fog front involves washing down your eyeglasses with a dot of Dawn dishwashing liquid before heading out into the world. Getting them factory clean and “degreased” with the detergent ameliorates, but doesn’t eliminate, the issue.

Regardless, the Amtrak announcement that my train was leaving the station was received, and I queued up to get onto the locomotive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First stop that the Amtrak people allowed us to get off the train at was in Philadelphia at 30th street Station. A roughly 15 minute layover, this is where Amtrak changes out the actual locomotive engine of the train. Northeast corridor trains operate on electrical power, whereas the ones that will be heading deeper onto the continent generally use diesel. It’s a pretty simple procedure – the Amtrak people disconnect a series of cables and the big steel locket thingamabobs that connect the locomotive to the passenger cars. The original “Cogen” locomotive rolls away and another rolls in, which then has its cables and bits and bobs connected to the passenger cars. There’s a bunch of people wearing overalls who wave lanterns at each other from either side of the train while this is going on.

Finally, bells ring and you’re instructed to get back onboard, or to stay in Philadelphia and get used to eating lousy pizza or cheese steak sandwiches in the City known as America’s consolation prize. Really, as a New Yorker, I’m obligated to shit talk Philadelphia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We arrived at our destination about five minutes late, which really isn’t bad when you get down to it. Four hundred and forty six miles of travel, which ate up about 8 hours of my life. I enjoyed myself immensely doing absolutely nothing. Stared out the window, watching America roll past, that’s what I did.

I also ate the Amtrak hamburger again, as I’m a masochist.

When we were deciding where to go on our weekend away, the travels of September kept on intruding into the story, and since I had such a great time in Pittsburgh when I was there by myself…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Welcome back to the Steel City, lords and ladies.

We were staying in an AirBNB on Mt. Washington this time around, not the downtown area where my lodgings were last time. More tomorrow.

“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 17, 2022 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] cheerful trifles — The Newtown Pentacle […]

  2. an N95 mask should solve the fogging issue


    January 17, 2022 at 11:46 am

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