The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for January 19th, 2022

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself enjoyed an early December visit to Pittsburgh, and we decided to buy tickets for the Gateway Clipper boat tour. If you find yourself in this area, I highly recommend the experience. Pictured above is the Smithfield Street Bridge, designed by Queensboro Bridge designer Gustav Lindenthal.

Also mentioned, since I had taken the same boat tour back in September, this time around I was shooting for details and playing around with a longer zoom lens than the one I normally use.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reason being is epitomized by the shot above and the two below. I heard a freight train nearing before I saw it, and because the camera was outfitted with “reach,” I was ready.

The boat we were on was pretty crowded. A Pittsburgh Steelers game was scheduled for the next day (these were captured on Saturday) and lots of people were in town for the game. Bars and restaurants were busy, and money was being spent. Given the way NYC’s stadiums are sort of intentionally “separated” from the City surrounding them (except for MSG and Yankee Stadium, I guess) you really don’t see the “local economic multiplier effect” of hosting an NFL franchise in your town in New York City. I mean, the bars are a bit more populated around the garden, yeah, but I don’t see “multi generational family destination travel” and spending as observed in Pittsburgh. Interesting.

We ate dinner at some restaurant up on Mt. Washington that night, where what had to be four generations of a family, all wearing Steelers swag, were seated. They were all staring at their phones and not talking to each other, but that’s another story.

As a note, the burger there was decent. Not great, decent. Restaurants that label themselves as a “Gastropub” are just fancy pants versions of diners with a beer license – who overuse and overstate the value of bacon – and are nothing special except for being 25% more expensive than they should be, if you ask me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s that freight train I heard coming, running through Downtown Pittsburgh, behind a CSX engine. A humble narrator is trying not to go all “historic granularity” right about now, so I’m not going to deep dive into the specifics of this track on the Mt. Washington side of the Monongahela River. I probably could, mind you, but I’m actively resisting the urge to do so. Anything railroad is inherently complicated, and easy to get wrong, thereby requiring serious research and multiple source fact checking. The train was towing minerals (probably coal, based on what it looked like, but what do I know), containers, and tanker cars.

Frankly, I’m not willing to spend the time on researching the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie, or the Monongahela Connecting Railroad… or B&O becoming… or Conrail… no… not doing it… I will… resist… for now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Freight rail traffic, in my limited observation, is pretty frequent here in Pittsburgh. This is the “leave behind” of the heavy industry that was once based here, obviously. This part of Pennsylvania seems to have deeper economic and cultural connections to western Ohio and northern West Virginia, in terms of its supply chain and “sphere of influence,” than with any of the four mega cities in its larger region (NYC, Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia). Pittsburgh also seems to not be a node of the East Coast megalopolis – the urban zone that extends from Boston to Washington D.C. with NYC and western New Jersey at the center. I might be wrong about this, however. As mentioned – limited observation.

That’s very, very interesting to me. Megalopolis wise, I mean.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Gateway Clipper excursion boat turned onto the Allegheny River, just as sunset began to see the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself descending. One thing about this particular weekend away that was revelatory is the fact that the aforementioned solar orb doesn’t actually tuck itself into a cavern in New Jersey, and instead disappears into the ground somewhere west of Pennsylvania, perhaps in Ohio or Illinois. More research is required, obviously.

Ignorance is a wonderful sensation for me, given the “I can see through time” level of experiential knowledge I have for NYC. It’s wonderful seeing things and places which you haven’t learned everything about. As an example – the Empire State Building is clad in ten million bricks, and uses 8 million feet of electrical wiring to govern its elevators. This is the sort of useless knowledge which I can offer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle had become so chilled from the December air by this point that she had taken up station within the cabin of the Gateway Clipper.

I had switched lenses, from the long reach 70-300mm zoom lens to the 24-105mm one. As has been the case with all of my travels in 2021, I was wearing my “full pack.” That’s two camera bags – a knap sack which my tripod and an umbrella were externally strapped onto, and which internally held batteries and memory cards and all sorts of handy gewgaws and camera lenses. A sling/messenger bag was also worn side holster style, so it hung down on my right hip. It’s a pain in the neck to use the knap sack when rapid lens changes are required, or to grab a len cloth or whatever, so I use the sling bag for stuff I anticipate using a lot during a particular adventure. The sling bag is also where I store the two prime lenses I carry everywhere these days – a 35mm f1.8 and an 85mm f2.

More tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 19, 2022 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK, railroad

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