The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

long before

leave a comment »


– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way to a restaurant nearby Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, one scuttled through an apparent historic district filled with homes of taste and substance. Several monumental religious structures were also encountered, but given that it had been about seven hours since I’d had a drink of water or anything to eat…

You have to be careful when you’re out doing an all day photowalk in unfamiliar territory. Drink too much, you end up having to piss. When you don’t know the “rules” for where you are, watering the bushes can result in an encounter with the cops. Thereby, it’s smart to restrict the amount of liquid you take in, since it diminishes the amount you then release back into the wild. This can backfire, of course, and sometimes I end up parched. I generally don’t carry bottles of liquid with me, since electronics and water don’t get along well, and water is heavy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My shot list, which was extensive and ambitious to say the least, was roughly half accomplished at this stage. I found a cool bar/restaurant called “Jack’s Firehouse” directly across the street from the penitentiary, and got there just as it started to rain. I guzzled water, had a pint or two of Yuengling, and ate an amazing bbq brisket sandwich with sides. The staff had just finished their lunch time rush and thereby I received a lot of attention due to the camera equipment, and the series of garrulous personality quirks which I’m famous for.

My server was a young woman who was native to the area, and she filled me in on the stratified socio economic situation here in Philadelphia, her experiences with the de facto “red line” segregation of the city, and also laid out a general nativist point of view on the place which was illuminating. Not the sort of stuff that makes the tourist brochures.

Necessity being the mother of all invention, I also broke one of my core rules and thereby – it was me – I was the guy who took a dump in a bar’s bathroom. Don’t worry, I flushed. Having blown my ballast, refueled, and with a couple of drinks in me – back onto the mean streets of Philly did I scuttle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, during the meal, I had whipped out my notebook and began crossing things off of the shot list. One knew it was impossible to accomplish everything I had sketched into my day before I got off the train – “no Liberty Bell for me,” said I – but given the early arrival of inclement weather ahead of its forecasted interval, I had to adjust.

A quick cab ride saw me heading from the Eastern State Penitentiary area to the shoreline of the Delaware River, and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge is a monster. In terms of massing and scale, this 1926 suspension bridge is reminiscent of the sort of spans you’d commonly observe in a certain superior City found to the north of Philadelphia. It must have been New Jersey’s influence on the Philadelphia people which caused them to reach higher than they normally do.

The rain was spotty, no more than an occasional drizzle at this particular point. My original intention had been to surmount the thing, which overflies the Delaware River. The rain – which was the first indication of an oncoming storm – changed my mind on that one. Instead, I poked around on shore, looking for places where the bridge’s ramps would provide me with a “rain shadow.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Originally built as the “Delaware River Bridge,” this giant is owned and operated by the Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The span was designated as a “historic place” in 2003, and began to be called the “Benjamin Franklin Bridge over the Delaware River” in 1955. It carries about a hundred thousand vehicle trips a day between Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. There’s 7 lanes of Interstate 676 and US 30 high speed traffic, two bike and pedestrian paths, and a mass transit service that runs on converted street car track ways called the PATCO Speedline. “PATCO” stands for Port Authority Transit Corporation.

The bridge overflies the water at 135.1 feet, has a total length of 9,573 feet, and it’s towers are 385 feet high. The bridge engineer for this gargantua was Leon Moiseff, designer of the superior Manhattan Bridge, found over the far better East River, in a more impressive City called New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While hiding from precipitant in the rain shadow of the thing, I spotted a lone tugboat navigating along the Delaware River. Fun!

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

May 3, 2022 at 11:00 am

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: