The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

amidst tangles

with 3 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s only one bridge in the entire country named after a visual artist, it’s in Pittsburgh, and it’s pictured above. That’s the Seventh Street/Andy Warhol Bridge spanning the Allegheny River, which opened in 1907. Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself crossed it in the rain, on foot. It was all very romantic, and a bit soggy.

There are two other somewhat identical bridges neighboring this one on the Allegheny which are of the same vintage. They are named for Baseball player Roberto Clemente and author Rachel Carson.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, as I’ve mentioned in the past – it ain’t all sunshine and handjobs here in Western Pennsylvania. There’s all sorts of ugly you can encounter. A nasty history of segregation and “race stuff,” lots and lots of junkies (opioid epidemic), and crime. The local police have a national reputation for being heavy handed, and you’re at the ideological crossroads of the toxicity of National Political Party politics. A white supremacist shot up a synagogue here in Pittsburgh not too long ago. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are generally left leaning, whereas the center of the state is fairly Trumpist.

Saying that, they really do seem to have graffiti under control here. You don’t see garbage floating in the rivers. All of the bridges I’ve encountered here have combined bike and pedestrian paths, and whereas Our Lady and myself were moving around in areas which the Pittsburghers we talked to raised an eyebrow at and described to us as “sketchy,” we never felt unsafe. As it turns out, our AirBNB was at the edge of one of these feared “danger” zones, a neighborhood called Beltzhoover. Beltzhoover actually reminded me a lot of the sort of neighborhoods in which I’d lived in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, except for all the nearly vertical hills and valleys. There ain’t no “flatbush,” here’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of our rented room for the long weekend, Our Lady of the Pentacle’s flight time was nearing and soon after clicking the shutter button for the shot above, we had to head back to Mt. Washington for her to gather up her traveling kit and call for a cab to take her to the Pittsburgh International Airport for the flight back home.

As mentioned in prior posts, I’d be taking Amtrak home the next morning and had been planning on a full evening of photographic pursuits. Pittsburgh’s legendarily volatile climate had other plans in store for me, however.

As a note, you’ll notice a building sticking up in the distance behind the bridge’s right side pier superstructure in the shot above. That’s the one that the fancy pants restaurant I mentioned yesterday is housed in, and it’s directly behind the spot where I was heading for my big night of photographic pursuit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a goodbye kiss was enjoyed and Our Lady was on her way, I was on my own again. My first destination was one of the inclines on Mt. Washington, where I was happy to see the rain clouds and stormy weather blowing out to the north and east. I think it was east, at least. My plan involved capturing dusk and sunset, and despite what the meteorological forecast was predicting – proper night time darkness with the city all lit up like a scarlet woman.

My desire was to execute a series of long exposure tripod shots, but the weather was not impressed by my plans. A wicked bit of wind began to kick up, and the temperature began dropping. There was an actual whistling sound being caused by the air flowing around the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That heavy wind was buffeting the camera, and several of my shots were ruined by the motion thereby introduced. I had to change my plan, from long exposures to ones that were significantly shorter. That’s part of the deal, when you’re standing behind a camera. Got to adapt.

I wasn’t ready for this sort of cold, though. This was early December, mind you, and winter hadn’t really set in yet, nor was I physically acclimatized to deep cold yet. Additionally, I had no long underwear or heavy gloves with me, and I was just wearing the usual “mitch suit” with a hoodie sweatshirt and the filthy black raincoat. This particular wintry uniform works great for me until the temperature begins to dip below thirty, whereupon I layer up with thermals and all that. I was naked under my clothes, which sounds kind of obvious when you say it out loud.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before long, the atmospheric temperature had plummeted to just 21 degrees, and the wind had kicked up at the same time. Sustained 10-20 mph winds, with gusts of 30-40 mph, were now on the menu. By the time I had returned to the Duquesne Heights location I had found the night before, the only words on my lips were “fuck me, it’s freezing.”

An additional bit of circumstance is that I was standing on the veritable edge of a nearly thousand foot prominence overlooking the three rivers, and the wind was coming up the hill from behind and then dropping over the edge down to the water below. The physics of that slope increased the wind speed at the edge where I was, and meant that I also needed to vouchsafe against my camera getting toppled and smashing down to the ground – or worse still – getting blown over the edge of Mt. Washington.

I got some of the shots I wanted, sort of, but you’re going to have to wait for tomorrow to see them.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 26, 2022 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK, railroad

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. Oh what a cad you are, sirrah. After years of professions of undying love for the Newtown Creek and its environs just to unceremoniously dump her and us, the loyal Lords and Ladies of the Pentacle. Old love ’em and leave ’em with nary a backward glance or some lame “Dear John” letter. You could be forgiven for your trysts with the Gowanus Canal as indeed you are from Brooklyn, out of towners are gonna out of town, you know. The demeaning moniker of “Queensicans” was irascibly overlooked as the ignorance of an out of towner who doesn’t understand the absurdly anachronistic and parochial pride we townies have still in our towns. But, by Gad, this is a bridge too far, sir. Several of them in fact from the above photos.

    I pray, sir, you come to your senses else I shall favor you with wrath of a most unpleasant scowl of disapproval with arms crossed and shaking of my head. And you wouldn’t want that to happen!

    In Service to the Pentacle through thick and thin even if she hates my guts
    Donald Cavaioli


    January 26, 2022 at 4:19 pm

  2. Have you seen “Striking Distance” – 1993 film starring Bruce Willis as Pittsburgh Police homicide detective Thomas Hardy. Not a good movie but great for Pittsburgh river scenes and stuff.


    January 26, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    • I have. Our Lady and myself would recommend “Jack Reacher” for some car chase action there.

      Mitch Waxman

      January 26, 2022 at 11:01 pm

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