The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

debased idiom

leave a comment »


– photo by Mitch Waxman

Riding Amtrak gives you not just a series of interesting if brief windows into other people’s lives and communities, it also gives you a bit of time to let your mind wander. Pondering minutiae and considering the unconsidered, as it were. I spent part of my time planning for future arguments.

I polished the current logical fallacy which is offered to several of the unvaccinated people that I’m friends with. Said argument revolves around their usage of illegal street drugs, and how they’d never ask the guy they’re buying weed or coke from what the circumstances of the stuff’s origin were. I can tell you with some authority that Marijuana in particular is absolutely doused with pesticide by most growers, in order to maximize yield and to make the risk of discovery by law enforcement one worth taking. Cocaine is manufactured, literally, using gasoline. It’s “stepped on” and diluted with other powdery substances several times before that dude with the braids shows up at the bar to deliver the end product gram to you. Beyond illegal or illicit substances, do you actually know what’s in that shot of whiskey that nice fellow behind the bar just poured for you? How about the contents of a bottle of soda, or a fast food burger? You do know it was Dr. Fauci who recommended that condoms be used to avoid getting AIDS, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Man, oh man, do I ever want to do a multi day car trip around central Pennsylvania just for the pursuit of some pure landscape photography. These woods seem endless, but they’re punctuated regularly by bridges and other 19th and 20th century infrastructure. So many rivers… waterfalls… mountains…

Who was the first cave guy that found a puddle of melt water, with hops and grain rotting and fermenting within, and decided to drink it, and then soon got drunk? More importantly, who’s the friend he had that decided to try it too, after the first guy described his experience with that proto beer? I know it was a group of guys. Had to be. Wine is something I’ll hand discovery of over to the cave ladies, but beer? Definitely cave guys.

Also, there were cave bears, cave lions, and cave men. All were bigger and stronger than their modern descendants. Recently, I learned that there were cave ducks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in prior posts, one was shooting out of the window of a sometimes speeding Amtrak train while enjoying an eight hour long trip from Pittsburgh back to NYC.

I always say that the most valuable thing about a railroad’s right of way isn’t the train or the tracks. It’s the real estate directly surrounding it. I’ve asked several rail people and a Congressman or two about the land surrounding these rights of way. Federally administered but mostly privately owned, there’s a mandated amount of clear space surrounding the actual tracks. This clear space’s purpose is obvious – you don’t want trees or other vegetation to grow too close to the travel path. My big idea, however, is to attach a mechanism to the back of the train which spews seed balls of native pollinator plants, as the train travels, and at predesignated spots. It wouldn’t be anything other than an engineering problem to make sure the seed balls land outside of the designated clear area, and even if only 10% of the seed balls “take,” you’d be creating thousands of miles of pollinator plant strips all over the country. All in all, another brick in the environmental wall.

Gordian Knot, lords and ladies, Gordian Knot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of the humans on the train were sleeping, which is something that one such as myself cannot do in public unless I’m absolutely exhausted. I fell asleep on my last trip to Pittsburgh back in the fall, but I’d more or less been awake and very active for nearly 28 hours by then.

I’m legendarily paranoid and cautious. Drives people around me crazy, actually. Before I go to bed at night, every door lock is tested to ensure it’s locked tight. That AirBNB I was staying in back in Pittsburgh had a chair sitting in front of the door when I went to sleep. When I’m out walking around, my habit – at least once every block – is to stop and turn to see if some malign jackhole might be following me. I look three times when crossing a street, not twice. Having grown up in NYC in the 1970’s and 80’s – this sort of behavior is something that became a part of my DNA early on. People walk around like they’re safe or something. You’re not. Sleeping in public? When you don’t absolutely have to? Are you nuts? I was tempted to steal some guys shoes just to teach him a lesson.

I’m similarly tempted towards grand larceny when I see some idiot pull their car over into a bus stop, so as to pick something up at a bodega, while going inside and leaving their car running. It’s really all I can do not to jump in the thing and drive away. Brooklyn!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Amtrak trip from Pittsburgh to NYC is governed by two “layover” stops wherein the cafe car closes and you’ll see different crew members take over the various duty assignments. Saying that, you’ve got about 4 hours to wait after leaving Pittsburgh before you arrive at the first of those stops in Pennsylvania’s Capitol – Harrisburg. The second long stop is in Philadelphia, about two hours later.

I began building a mental list of Anglo Saxon versus Norman French food names. Mutton and Lamb are the exemplars on this list. Same meat, coming from the same critter. One is what the conquered called the stuff, and the other is what the conquerors called it. To this day, mutton is cheaper than lamb. There’s a lot of hidden history buried in the English Language, which is usually a leave behind from some long ago war. Is it Fowl or Poultry for lunch, or is it boar or pork for dinner? When you go to sleep will you be wearing pajamas? Going on vacation to the country, will you stay in a bungalow or a cabin, an inn or a hotel?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In accordance with my newly adopted ideology of sociopathy, I made it a point of not initiating conversation with any of my fellow travelers. They might have said something that caused me to care about something, so I avoided the possibility entirely. This “nothing matters, nobody cares” thing is great. You’re never disappointed by your fellow man this way, since you start the day by acknowledging that everything is shit. It’s quite European, this. I’m nearly a Frenchman at this stage.

I did spend a short interval poking at my phone, and I looked into a cottage industry which allows you to enact mean spirited but not illegal vengeance on those you dislike. You can anonymously send somebody a bag of gummy dicks, for instance. There’s also a service which sends a glitter bomb anonymously. A spring board mechanism within, holding a substantial amount of glitter upon it, is actuated by opening the shipping carton’s lid. This causes a cloud of glitter to explode into your interior space, and that’s awesome. There’s another one – a personal favorite – which uses a similar mechanism to distribute 5,000 live crickets about your crib when the box is opened. Good times.

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 31, 2022 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK, railroad

Tagged with ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: