The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

baby steps

with 4 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

Time, as in the sort of time I normally devote to wandering about taking photos, had come at a premium price for me in the months of November and December of 2022. On December 14th, I was recovering psychologically from the “have-to” of driving from NYC to Pittsburgh the previous day, which is an all day sort of thing. This is the day after the “threshold moment” when all of my belongings were packed up into a moving truck at the apartment in Astoria. A walk was in order.

That’s my new neighborhood pictured above, in the Pittsburgh Borough of Dormont. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, the hills here ain’t no joke.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the very top of the hill I live on is a light rail transit line called “the T.” Pittsburgh’s “master cylinder” as far as mass transit goes seems to be buses, but one of the things that made the South Hills area – which Dormont is a part of – attractive to Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself is this street car line. $2.75 is the fare for us, but it’s a “zone system” operation. The T runs free in the downtown area, but you have to pay after it crosses out of a certain geography. Essentially, you pay your fare when boarding a Pittsburgh bound car, and pay as you’re getting off on one heading away from Pittsburgh. That’s “Pittsburgh” as in the downtown municipal center area where the office buildings and the stadiums are found. It’s all very confusing, really.

In another post coming later this week, I’ll show you some more T action. As the title of this post indicates, I’m exploring bit by bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of my friends kept on saying that Pittsburgh’s weather was ferocious during the winter months, but that isn’t really true. It’s more or less the same weather in NYC, we just get hit here a couple days in advance of the City. I haven’t lived outside of NYC long enough yet to weave “the old neighborhood” or “back home” into my speech pattern like some mobster on witness protection. This is what Dormont looked like on the morning of December 18th. The shot looks towards the bottom of the steep hill seen in the first photo in today’s post. The horizon line at the top of the shot is the street where the T line runs.

The local news was all agog about the arctic air and windy condition which would be arriving at Christmas, which seemed like it would be quite unpleasant to deal with. Our Lady and I decided that the best move would be to hunker down in the house for a few days, accordingly. A quick trip to the local market and we were sorted out as far as comestibles go. It was still relatively seasonal, however, with temperatures floating around freezing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 21st was a cold day, saying all that, and since recent exertions had seen me rising up and out of bed at 4 or 5 a.m. for a few weeks, it was normal for me to be out and about before the sun rose anyway. I decided to take advantage of this rare early morning phase of mine and head over to a park in a nearby neighborhood, called the “West End Overlook,” for a sunrise session.

West End’s Elliot, where the park is found, is a pretty old section of town I’m told, and West End was originally founded under the name “Temperanceville.” The park sits high over the Ohio River, nearby the McKees Rocks Bridge (I got that one wrong, and thx to NP reader Jon’s comment on this post – I can now tell you that it’s the West End Bridge) spanning the waterway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While shooting these, I decided that I’d need to come back here at sunset sometime. It was quite chilly on this particular morning, with atmospheric temperatures in the low 20’s. Luckily, this spot is about a 20 minute drive from my house, so…

After the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had fully risen into the vault of the sky, I packed up the gear and turned on the heating in the car. Y’know, when I let the Toyota guy talk me into heated seats, I thought I’d never use them…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After shooting the sunrise, I got into the car and drove over the Monongahela River from the south side of the water, where West End and my new HQ in Dormont are, to the Golden Triangle side of the Monongahela. I spent the morning heading eastwards along its banks, where enormous properties once devoted to industrial steel production now sit fallow.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, and was mainly scouting for photographic opportunity. I had built up a small set of waypoints in advance of this scouting mission, things that looked interesting in the top down view of Google maps.

More tomorrow.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 9, 2023 at 11:00 am

Posted in newtown creek

4 Responses

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  1. If you haven’t thought of it already
    a). Register with the police and State/City as a reporter – set up a local blog if you have to.
    b). Check out the PA and City rules regarding your ability to go onto transit property etc etc
    c). Keep in mind that PA and Pittsburgh is not NY State nor NYC so check out local feelings on news photographing. Overall you should have freedom of your usual rights, but local courts could interpret those rights differently from NYS/NYC and you have to decide whether sometimes ‘discretion is the better part of valor’. Talk to other local reporters for their opinions. We all remember right after 9/11 that illegally PA/NY-NJ, NJ Transit, Metro North, MTA and many other orgs tried to stop photography of their properties.

    So much for my diatribe.

    Best of very good luck my friend. Looking forward to seeing you when the weather warms. Louis


    January 9, 2023 at 11:27 am

  2. As a Pittsburgher relocated to Brooklyn, I’ve long been a fan of the blog. Now its a “reverse commute” of sorts.

    I’ll dispense with the slight correction: The bridge in your photo is the West End Bridge, not McKees Rocks. If you turned ~120 degrees, you’d be looking at the McKees Rocks Bridge.

    In response to an earlier post, two in-depth “primers” on Pittsburgh:
    Pittsburgh’s Landmark Architecture: The Historic Buildings of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, by Walter Kidney. I think the newest is 1997? Can be found for $30-40 on ebay, Amazon, etc.
    Pittsburgh: The Story of an American City, by Stefan Lorant. I think the most recent edition (5ht?) is from 2000, and you can find just about anywhere. I mean, this book is so ubiquitous that just about anyplace that has used books should have a copy.


    January 9, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    • Thank you, I’ll make a correction. Today, btw, I drove over to the Clairton works. Wow. Looked around on the opposite bank for a POV but was fairly thwarted.

      Mitch Waxman

      January 9, 2023 at 6:14 pm

  3. […] one headed over to another elevated location known for its views. West End Overlook Park, which I’ve visited a couple of times since relocating to Pittsburgh, was my […]

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