The Newtown Pentacle

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

November 22nd was a busy day, and one that was full of “last times.”

My pal Val and I met up and headed over to the East River for my last ride on the NYC Ferry. As mentioned in the past, one absolutely refuses to write one of those cliché soliloquies which New Yorkers feel hell bent to offer when they finally leave NYC.

I’ve lived my whole life in this crazy place. School, career, friends and foes, love and loss – all of it happened here. For broad ranging criticisms of how the City functions, its endemic corruptions or temptations or dangers – all of that – just read through the archives linked to just to the right of this text. There’s posts in that list which span back to 2009 that will spell out my various opinions on the milieu.

Saying that, on our way to the boat, I got to grab a shot of the Real Estate people’s minions at work, demolishing yet another small business’s premises in order to make room for luxury waterfront condos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nobody in my world could believe it when I said that I would be moving at the end of 2022. “C’mon Mitch,” where are you going to go? What will you do? You’re “Mr. Newtown Creek!” Why Pittsburgh?

The escape plan for Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself, one we hatched during the COVID isolation months, has played out over the last 14 months or so. We started with the question “what do you want?” This allowed for the creation of a data set built around these wants, one which could be sought and pursued. That’s when the question of “who are you” and “what do you need” took primacy.

I’m a city boy – so urban, and given the stage of life Our Lady and myself are entering, pretty decent health care resources coupled with a quieter form of life that offered fewer existential dangers due to living cheek by jowl with the random madmen who howl on the other side of the wall. Pittsburgh, in the final analysis. offered the “wants, where’s, and who’s” we were looking for in “Act 3.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First tasks involved solving a few paperwork issues on my end. An expired drivers license’s replacement was complicated by a similarly expired passport. That was January. By April, I had solved both problems. Next up, we needed to buy a vehicle, since you can’t live in “America” without a car. Research, consciously saving the cash for a down payment all year, and a couple of car rentals later – the Toyota RAV4 had risen to the top of my list, and an order was placed for a new one with the Queensboro Toyota outfit on Northern Boulevard. It wouldn’t end up arriving until the week before Halloween, due to the supply chain problems, but that fit our timeline.

In September, I began to quit jobs, and sever my ties with the various organizations that I was associated with. First one to go was Community Board 1 in Astoria, where I was the Transportation Committee Chair. For those of you interested in serving on a CB, it’s definitely worth the effort, and there is a “Jeffersonian responsibility” to participate in the mechanics of the Democracy but there’s also a whole lot of bullshit you have to put up with – mainly from your fellow board members.

I next rolled up my business with all of the non profits that I either worked with, or was on the board of, over the next two months and made arrangements for a few “goodbye” moments like the Fireboat trip mentioned a couple of weeks back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Riding the NYC Ferry one last time was on my list of “have-to’s.” Particularly during the COVID interval, access to the ferry has been nepenthe for me. For just a few bucks, you can get out on the waters of NY Harbor for a bit, and if you time it correctly – be out there for sunrise or sunset during the flood tide when the rivers are thick with maritime traffic. Photographer paradise. Particularly this photographer.

When I told my pal Val (also a photographer) that I wanted to do this trip, she insisted on coming along for one last go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All year, I was telling my friends that when things got to late November, things would be moving at a thousand miles an hour. My prediction was correct. I had to work doubly hard for the five days or so leading up to the 22nd in order to buy enough time to get this day off. Boxes to pack, cupboards to be emptied. All that. I got lucky as far as weather goes.

The plan for late November and early December included spending about a week at the new address in Pittsburgh, where I’d be driving Our Lady of the Pentacle and some bare essentials out to Pittsburgh in order to set up housekeeping in the new digs. After a week or so, I’d need to drive back to Queens to handle the final stages of the move and supervise the moving crew, leaving Our Lady of the Pentacle out west in the new PA house while doing so.

After the movers left the Astoria HQ, I’d have to drive back out to Pittsburgh on my own, this time with a carload of hard drives and camera gear, which I don’t trust anyone else to handle. Thereby, in an 8 day period, I ended driving something close to 1,600 miles with all the back and forth. Post facto, this is all kind of a blur for me at this point.

This ferry day in November was, thereby, my last dance with the East River in NYC. It’s so weird saying that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know what’s in those blue boxes on the barge, can describe what the bottom of that tugboat’s hull looks like, and there’s also a story I can offer about each and every thing in the frame. The sort of knowledge I’ve gained in the last twenty or so years can be suffocating.

Want to hear about the time that Mose the Fireboy, the legendary giant of the 19th century “Gangs of New York” era Bowery B’hoys, wrestled a serpent out of the water here at Corlear’s Hook? How the skin of the water monster was draped over the bar mirror at McGurk’s Suicide Palace on the Lower East Side near St. Mark’s? How about the Constellation fire at the Navy Yard? The Sewer Rats gang who would paddle out to anchored ships at night to rob them at knife point? General Slocum, as in the politician whom they named the infamous excursion boat for? Boss Tweed, who lived in George Washington’s Presidential Mansion on Cherry Street in Manhattan, a few blocks back from the water?

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

December 19, 2022 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. On my quick run to the post office I saw that there were no longer any shades on the windows above a neighborhood pizzeria…and so an era ends.


    December 19, 2022 at 2:58 pm

    • Typical, kind of dumb for them to take down the blackout shades instead of just washing them. That’s my old landlord, though…

      Mitch Waxman

      December 19, 2022 at 3:01 pm

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