The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

perilous disposition

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember that insanely cold day back in middle February when it was twelve degrees? That’s the one where a humble narrator got frostbitten, when he decided to be at the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City at five o’clock in the morning. I remember it well, since I’m just now starting to get the feeling back in my fingertips. Literally weeks later.

It’s felt like I’ve been wearing a band aid over my right thumb ever since, and it’s only in the last few days that the nerve damage from the frost bite has ameliorated sufficiently to perceive texture again. You have to suffer for your art, they say. Well, here’s what it looked like while I was sustaining an atmospheric temperature induced injury.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills was thoroughly frozen over. A plate of ice several inches thick sat over the water. One was awaiting the arrival of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself in the vault of the sky, with the camera set up on its tripod. What that meant was that I was standing still with my feet in a six to eight inches of snow and a solid fifteen miles an hour wind hitting me. I needed to pee, but was afraid that if I “whipped it out” to do “that,” “it” might freeze and crack off.

Yes, I was wearing gloves. In fact, a layer of thermal underwear AND a long sleeve sweatshirt would have been found under my normal clothing. Additionally, a fleece sweatshirt would have been observed under the filthy black rain coat by the staff at the coroner’s office after being defrosted. On my left hand, I actually had two gloves on. On the right, there was just one so I could still operate the camera. Cannot tell you how difficult that is when you numbness has set in. Cold is my kryptonite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had left HQ at about 4:30 in the morning and hopped in a cab for the journey to Dutch Kills, which I normally just walk to. Man, oh man was it cold.

The entire purpose of the exercise was the hope that my favorite little tree of paradise, pictured in the first shot, might have some snow on its bows. No such luck. Since I was already on site, I decided to just tough it out and wait for the morning light to arrive. That interval is what resulted in frost bite. It wasn’t “British explorer” frost bite, mind you. There was no discoloration or blistering, just a bit of nerve damage.

“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

March 10, 2022 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. You care, you are a hero.


    March 31, 2022 at 9:31 pm

  2. […] in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section after receiving word that a barge had sunk in Newtown Creek. “perilous disposition” is one of dozens of posts which focused in on the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long […]

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