The Newtown Pentacle

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

After quaffing breakfast at some greasy spoon restaurant in the South Side Flats section, on a recent trip to Pittsburgh, my pal Max and I then walked across the South 10th street Bridge spanning the Monongahela River. I’m told that it’s the longest bridge over the Monongahela in Pittsburgh, and the only proper cable suspension bridge in Allegheny County – which Pittsburgh itself is the seat of.

When we were leaving the South Side Flats area, a rough looking fellow rose from his roadside campsite near the bridge and began stalking us as we moved along. He was obviously meditating on some sort of action which would deprive me of the camera, which I thought was just adorable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

He followed us clear across the bridge, and then onto the land for a ways. Being a lifetime New Yorker, I’d rate this fellow’s menacing as being amateurish and clumsy. A NYC villain would have rushed at me, knocking me down, then grabbed what he came for and ran away. This guy was incredibly hesitant in his nefarious plans, and since I refused to meet his gaze, he had no “opening” to exploit. A shy mugger.

I’m not proud of the criminal element in NYC, as a note. Nor am I saying that there aren’t hard cases hereabouts in Pittsburgh whom you want to avoid. I’m just saying that I found this fellow adorable.

People are very polite in this part of the country, even the scumbags.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wow! For an infrastructure geek like myself, Pittsburgh is heavenly.

I’m told that the South 10th street bridge connects to a staircase which leads to the nearby Duquesne University, but we were heading in a different direction – across the downtown area and towards the Allegheny River/North Side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m also told that there’s some sort of parking lot down by the Monongahela River in this area that you want to avoid due it flooding regularly. That’s likely where that car was coming from in the shot above.

This part of Pittsburgh’s downtown was where we walked by the local jailhouse, and there were a few other law enforcement and governmental looking offices nearby.

Pittsburgh was talking about a population of homeless people in late August, who have set up housekeeping this summer since I was last there in June. A largish group of them had encamped along the Three Rivers Trails in tents. This has made the television news, and drawn critique for their new Mayor from his City Council.

To my observation in late August, there were about 25-30 tents and several were full of “Crusty’s” – traveling folk that are unable to exist in “polite society” for one reason or another, and are seldom in any once place for very long. Modern versions of the old timey Railroad Hobos, with a distinct culture and cultic language which only initiates of their society can interpret, the Crusty’s. The rest of the population on the trails were people living rough and on the down and out. Pittsburgh is expanding its homeless shelter system, which they hope to absorb some of the tent people into and find them some help in staying housed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pittsburgh definitely does have a population of street people, something I’ve mentioned while describing the place during prior visits. Many wear the “Heroin Mask,” as I describe it – sunken eyes, shallow or toothless jaws, pale and underfed, with “visible skull.” In Pittsburgh, they’re mostly wearing clean clothes, though, these street people. That means they have somewhere to go, and where they can do laundry.

I suspect that the local gendarme encourage these street people to “do their thing” in the downtown area, rather than in the residential neighborhoods, using the sort of gentle persuasion that American Police Departments are famous for. NYPD unofficially does something similar regarding Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the Herald Square areas during tourist seasons. It’s why you see so many campsites on the extreme east and west sides of midtown (post Covid) where the tourist types don’t go, and not that many in the center regions where these tourists spend and spend and spend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See – I just did it again, explained experiences and places in Pittsburgh by using metaphors and anecdotes about NYC. This is the psychological barrier which a humble narrator currently wrestles with. I’m not desirous of being a “Noo Yawker” in Pittsburgh, if you know what I mean. What I am desirous of is “getting with the program” and learning the local milieu, as it were.

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

September 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

One Response

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  1. That is quite a cheerful yellow bridge! Yellow bridges are new to me.

    Jaye Haviland

    September 28, 2022 at 6:59 pm

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