The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

dreaded volume

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is endlessly fascinated by the topography of the City of Pittsburgh. It’s a series of riverine valleys and ridges, and walking a single block can translate into the equivalent vertical ascent of several building stories. One block’s worth of horizontal space can see the two corners separated by a hundred feet of verticality. I grew up in a place called “Flatlands” which is next door to “Flatbush,” so this sort of up and down is weird to me. I always complain about how hilly Maspeth in Queens is, which is a flat plane compared to any given block in Pittsburgh.

These shots are from the prominences of Mount Washington, which seems to be the high ground framing the downtown area. When you’re on Mt. Washington, you’re looking down at the skyscrapers in the downtown area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Housing stock in this area is packed in pretty densely, but still has a suburban vibe to this Brooklyn kid’s eyes. The streets are somewhat narrow, and apparently parking is a real issue here. There’s a thing people here do called “parking chairs,” where you leave a plastic or folding chair in “your spot” in front of the house to reserve it. Apparently, it’s a fighting offense to move another man’s parking chair.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things we wanted to experience here was the transit situation, which is actually a pretty impressive implementation for a City of Pittsburgh’s relative size and tax base. It ain’t the Subway, let’s get that straight. The T system is a catenary wire powered light rail which extends a few miles beyond the municipal center, and is designed to interact with a much further reaching network of buses and municipal parking lots. Basically, they don’t want you driving to downtown Pittsburgh so they created a system where you can leave your car somewhere safe and then get back and forth to work. Last mile transit, ultimately.

Within the inner ring of the city, transit is free to ride, but that’s really only a few stops in one direction or another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We boarded the Blue Line, pictured above, and rode it out to a terminal stop about a half hour away. Density wise – I’d analogize the communities it connected to as being not unlike the central and northern sections of Westchester County along the Metro North line. We didn’t have a car with us, so our observations were limited by what we could reach.

After turning around at the terminal stop, we rode the Blue Line back into the downtown area and then to its alternative terminal on the Allegheny River shoreline nearby Heinz Stadium.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a sports town, Pittsburgh. The Steelers are the center of the universe, or at least they were on the weekend in early December when we were there. The entire focus of the City was on the game. I met and was joking around with some youngster wearing a gorilla suit and a Steelers jersey while shooting the shot above. This was normal, apparently, and the young fellow offered that the gorilla suit would keep him toasty warm well into the December night.

I should mention that I’m not, and never have been, a sports ball enthusiast of any kind. Couldn’t care less, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, I was definitely the exception. This shot is from the T station overlooking Heinz Stadium. Lots of tailgating, a party atmosphere prevailed, and Steelers fans were posing next to the parked automobiles of their players for selfies. Cops were everywhere, but they seemed to be having a good time too.

To each his own, and more from Pittsburgh next week at this – your traveling 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

January 21, 2022 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK, railroad

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One Response

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  1. Thank you for your interesting Pittsburgh travelogue. I enjoyed my short time there and hope to go back.


    January 22, 2022 at 8:29 pm

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