The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

doubtful alchemy

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior missives, one last ride on the NYC Ferry was on my NYC bucket list to accomplish, before the big move to Pittsburgh. My pal Val and I had boarded the service in Queens and ridden the Astoria line boat southwards to Pier 11 in Manhattan, whereupon we then transferred to a Soundview line unit heading northwards.

The East River gave me a good day, for this last outing. The Queensboro Bridge was lit up all pretty like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I laugh about continually, since having arrived in Pittsburgh, is when the locals complain about traffic. There’s certainly road congestion here in Western Pennsylvania, but traffic? Look above, at the FDR Drive. That’s what traffic looks like. Pittsburgh traffic, even when it stacks up around the pinch points of tunnels and bridges at rush hour, still moves at 15-20 mph. Normally, it’s flying along at highway speeds. The average speed of a motor vehicle in NYC is 4.1 mph. …traffic…

Val and I had timed our afternoon out perfectly, as it turned out. Despite the complete lack of clouds in the sky, there were already hints of golds, oranges, and scarlets appearing in the early winter sunset.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After visiting one of the ferry’s stops at 34th street, the boat headed northwards. After 34th street, the Soundview boat moves into the westerly channel of the East River, found between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan, as it navigates north. This is more or the less the pathway that the ill fated General Slocum followed, all those years ago in 1904.

Next stop for the ferry is at East 90th street, nearby Gracie Mansion. The Astoria line stops here as well, and it’s one of the points where you can transfer between the two. Until they get wise to this exploit I’ve been taking advantage of, you’ve got a 90 minute period after activating your ticket during which you can transfer from one line to another. If you play your cards right and time it correctly, you can get from Soundview in the Bronx – nearby the Throgs Neck Bridge – all the way to Rockaway on $2.75.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the northern edge of Astoria pictured above, where thousands of people will be occupying newly developed luxury apartment houses within just a few years. It ain’t exactly prosaic that the City is putting this sort of population density in place along the waterfront, in an era when the term “managed retreat” is about to become quite familiar to most New Yorkers, but there you go.

Somebody else’s problem, as I now live on the side of a small mountain of coal and shale nearby three rivers, some 400 miles away from NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So many memories bounce about in my mind about the Hells Gate narrows area of the East River. Truly, this is one of the most amazing places, in a place known for being amazing. Don’t forget, for those of you who are staying in NYC, to stop and smell the roses every now and then. Gaze in wonder at the marvels, and appreciate the billions of hours of labor that they represent. Robert Moses didn’t build that bridge, tens of thousands of our grandparents did.

Mighty Triborough. The Hell Gate Bridge. Randall’s/Ward’s Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Soundview boat crossed under the two great bridges at Hells Gate, past Astoria Park, and continued north. Our plan, as it were, was to be riding southwards on the return trip at more or less the moment when the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself descended behind New Jersey. In the intervening period since shooting these photos, I’ve made a discovery or two which I’d like to share.

Turns out that the burning thermonuclear eye DOES NOT descend into New Jersey, as I’ve learned clear on the other side of that state. Recent observation has suggested to me that it instead descends somewhere else, perhaps even behind the State of Ohio.

More astronomical discoveries, and other updates 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 21, 2022 at 11:00 am

One Response

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  1. We all back here in the Big Apple will miss your ramblings. Thanks for the good times and buona fortuna in Pittsburgh.

    Joseph McCluskey

    December 21, 2022 at 11:31 am

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