The Newtown Pentacle

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few more shots from West Virginia’s Wheeling today, and offered above is one from the walkway of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, which is said to be the oldest bridge of this type still standing in the United States. Although I did offer a few observations in yesterday’s post which were colored by the political tides of the present day, that’s a subject which I assiduously avoided while “in country.”

Pepsi comes in a blue can, Coca Cola in a red one. Both are chemical concoctions that are really, really bad for your health and actually make you thirstier when you drink them. Water is clear, and when served icy cold, exactly what you need. Drink water to calm down, and avoid both red and blue talk – that’s my advice. Alternatively – take the Pepsi challenge or have a Coke and a smile and argue about which one “tastes great or is less filling” like a pack of lemmings while heading for a cliff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were several utterly vacant buildings in Wheeling, including this old department store on Main Street. It was recently purchased by a church, I’m told. Apparently, a major project is underway in the City of Wheeling, revolving around the rejuvenation of the downtown area. Were Wheeling in NYC, I’d describe most of the downtown people I’d spoken to as being “hipsters.” Saying that, these were hipsters who owned houses and drove $50,000 trucks.

The sun was absolutely brutal on the day we were there, and the locals seemed to observe what Mediterranean communities call an “intermedio” during this hot part of the day – heading inside for a rest and a meal and then re-emerging after the heat and light subsided.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mad dogs and Englishmen, right? I’m crazy, and Our Lady is British, so…

I was nevertheless still marching around with the camera, capturing whatever glimpses of this little city that I could for the short interval I was there. Fascinating place, this is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure what this building was originally purposed for. To me, it looks like there was a shop downstairs and warehouse space above. The windows on the street level had historic photos printed as posters displayed in them. The photos depicted street cars coming off of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, and offered a “once upon a time, long ago” narrative of a thriving industrial city.

The “Rust Belt,” that’s what this section of the United States is called. The decline in manufacturing activity in the Rust Belt is universally described as being caused by NYC’s Wall Street driving corporate consolidations and selling off the assets. 1980 is considered to be the year that this process really kicked into gear. If you want a primer on this process, watch Oliver Stone’s film “Wall Street.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing, politics wise, that I can report to you is that whereas in prior trips to this section of the country I observed a plethora of red MAGA hats, coupled with car flags and lawn signs advocating for the disgraced former standard bearer of the Republican Party, this time around there was barely a red baseball hat to be seen. I wasn’t in the so called “blue state” areas, either, rather I was often moving about in extremely politically “conservative” communities with agricultural based economies for much of the time. What does that mean? Who knows? Nothing matters, nobody cares – remember? Drink water instead of Coke or Pepsi.

On our return from Wheeling to Pittsburgh proper, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself checked into a different AirBNB than the one we had been staying in, this one was in the Bloomfield section. Bloomfield was apparently Pittsburgh’s Little Italy – back in the day. There was a definite “collegiate” feeling to the place, but that’s logical given the nearby Duquesne University and University of Pennsylvania (U Penn) campuses. This section of the City of Pittsburgh was quite “urban” as compared to the somewhat suburban vibe of Brookline, where our first rented room was located on the south side of the City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that my personal frame of reference is NYC based, I pronounced Bloomfield as reminding me a great deal of North Brooklyn prior to the ignition of the gentrification furnaces. Brookline, on the other hand, reminded me a great deal of Brooklyn’s Midwood, or Queens’ Forest Hills. Monroeville and Crandberry Township were not unlike the Nassau County “Five Towns” area, Wheeling felt a great deal like Yonkers or Newark, and Youngstown was reminiscent of the borderlands between Mt. Vernon and the Northern Bronx or the Queens/Nassau County line nearby JFK Airport. Latrobe was eerily similar to the rural counties around Albany and southern Vermont, and both Butler and Bethel Park reminded me of Westchester County’s tony Katonah or Mahopac.

Distance means something very different in this part of the country than it does in NYC. The highway speed limits range between 55 and 70, and a web of high speed roads penetrate even into the city center. “Traffic” is not what a New Yorker would call the congestion encountered on these roads. A “traffic jam” moves along at about 30-40 mph. I was chatting with one of the “Yinzers” about this, and described a recent trip that My Pal Val and I made to get to Fresh Kills on Staten Island from Astoria (38 miles) as having taken nearly two hours to complete. I helped them gather their jaw up off of the bar.

“Yinzer” is Pittsburgh slang for a native of the area.

“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

July 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

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