The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

riding the T

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

On December 23rd, one awoke to the horror of not having any sort of gift to present on Christmas morning to Our Lady of the Pentacle. Not wanting to disappoint, nor to drive, one climbed up the hill in Dormont to the T streetcar line and headed into Downtown Pittsburgh to visit a holiday market that gets set up in a ritual center for the downtown area called “Market Square.”

As is my habit, I debarked the transit line a couple of blocks early and took a meandering scuttle to my destination. That skyscraper rising in the shot above is the U.S. Steel tower, and is home to that corporate entity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pittsburgh is experiencing the same phenomena that other American cities are in this age of hybrid and remote work. The streets are fairly deserted without the hustle or the bustle, and large numbers of the shops which would service the gastrointestinal or other needs of the office workers have gone out of business. Most of the people you see wandering around are living rough, and display a number of behavioral issues which cause one’s caution to rise.

Personally, having lived in NYC my whole life, I don’t feel at all threatened by this population but there you go. Regardless, shields up, and be aware of what’s happening around you. My big worry right now is that since I’m unfamiliar with the local culture, I won’t see it coming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After purchasing a whimsical hat for Our Lady, one made his way over to the T to return back to Dormont, which is about 5 or so miles away from Downtown. There’s a few different lines on the T, all of which flow through downtown in a tunnel that originally carried freight trains under the city during the Steel City era.

I guess I waited about 15-20 minutes for my ride. Pictured above is a “Blue Line” light rail unit approaching the Gateway Center stop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As has continually been the case in this area, I was marveling at the lack of graffiti and cast off garbage and litter. We are absolute slobs in NYC. Admittedly, Pittsburgh makes it a lot easier than NYC to be responsible – there’s litter baskets everywhere, ones which even have separate receptacles for cigarette butts. I’ve seen a bit of graffiti tagging here and there, but comparatively nothing when contrasted with Brooklyn or Queens.

The “Broken Windows” theory of Bill Bratton is thoroughly debauched in the eyes of most in NYC these days, but there’s a corrosive effect in terms of civil order when the citizenry sees litter and graffiti everywhere. It makes you not care, since everything is shitty, and why should you go out of your way when nobody else does? Pittsburgh maintains itself much better, and thereby the citizenry seems to “make an effort.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My “Red Line” T finally arrived, and I soon boarded it. As mentioned previously, the way things work here is that transit is free in the city center, and you pay your fare when leaving the train on your way out of Pittsburgh. On the way in, you pay when you board.

Both buses and T train sets use a protected corridor called a “Bus Way” for part of their journey. The bus ways are also used by other municipal vehicles like Police, Public Works, and Ambulances. You encounter signage forbidding private vehicles from usage of these corridors at various intersections through the City.

Compared to the bloated nightmare which is New York City’s governmental system, Pittsburgh gets so much more “bang for the buck” with literally 1/10th the financial resources available to the agencies of NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The T dropped me off back in Dormont, with Our Lady of the Pentacle’s whimsical Christmas hat stowed securely in my camera bag.

It was time for us to hunker down for the coming cold snap. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around the next day, atmospheric temperatures had dropped down to literally zero and with the wind chill factored in it was negative 20. We had prepared for this, and decided to just spend a couple of days at home unpacking and making the house a home.

More tomorrow, from Western Pennsylvania, at your Newtown Pentacle.

“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

January 11, 2023 at 11:00 am

Posted in newtown creek

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