The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

back to West End Overlook Park

with 5 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

On December 29th, a humble narrator negotiated his way back to the West End Elliot Overlook Park in the Elliot section of Pittsburgh in the late afternoon. I offered a couple of shots I’d captured up here at dawn last week, but even while I was shooting those I was thinking “I have to come back here at sunset, this “view” is a sunset thing.” Also mentioned last week, sunset in Pittsburgh isn’t a couple of hours long like it is in NYC, with its oceanic skies. Due to the geography here, the setting sun casts the hard shadow of Mount Washington across the confluence of the three rivers and the city’s center midway through its descent.

One got to the spot in West End with plenty of time to spare and set up my gear. I had a nice conversation with some kid from the surrounding neighborhood, who was imbibing the devil’s cabbage and chilling out. He was the first of several folks I interacted with while shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the West End Bridge over the Ohio River, lit up all sexy like in the shot above. I had erroneously called it the McKees Rocks Bridge in a prior post but received a correction in the comments from one of you brilliant people.

Alexander McKee, for whom McKees Rocks and both the eponymous bridge and the nearby community of McKeesport are named for, was an early trader based in this region, whom initial research reveals as having displayed a surprisingly modern point of view towards the “First Nation” Native Americans that populated this part of the continent.

At any rate, while I was waiting for the sky and sun to align to my liking, and the local kid whom I was chatting with had departed, I began twisting my tripod head around. “Up, down, all around,” that’s one of my mottoes. A passing couple struck up conversation with me next. They were wearing Steelers gear, and told me that they were “Yinzers” or Pittsburgh “born and bred’s” who had moved out to “the country” a couple of decades ago and were “in town” for a few days to see a theatrical show and attend a sports ball game.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Off in the distance, I spotted the Allegheny Observatory which I had described to you – lords and ladies – a couple of weeks ago. As mentioned in that post, I’m attempting to visit the prominences surrounding the three rivers’ valleys to try and develop a sense of spatial relationship. When you’re driving along on the many, many high speed roads that transect Pittsburgh, it is fairly impossible to do so.

I’ve mentioned that there’s a different “etiquette” as far as driving here, as in with the “Pittsburgh Left,” but there’s also a very different polity at work on the roads. They don’t honk quite as much here, but it’s fairly common for somebody to crawl right up your butt if they think you’re driving too slowly. “Too slowly” in this area means you’re only exceeding the speed limit by 20-30%. Following distance is one of the most important thing to be aware of when driving on a highway. For every ten miles of speed, maintain at least one car length of space between you and the car in front of you. If you needed to jam down on and lock your brakes to screech to a complete stop, the minimum amount of space you’d need to come to a complete stop is one car length per ten miles of speed. Yup – that’s close to a hundred feet at 55 mph, which sounds crazy and unrealistic but isn’t. When I can see the brand of sunglasses you’re wearing in my rear view mirror, that’s way too close. Also…

I’m seriously having to learn a new style of performance driving around here, with the crazy hills and the serpentine curves that bend around prominences or along cliffs. Lots of hidden driveways as well, with blind turns happening at high speed, there’s highway exits that appear out of seemingly nowhere, stop signs on highway entrance ramps… a dynamic driving environment, Pittsburgh is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See what I mean about that hard sunset shadow cast by Mount Washington? One hung about at the park overlook, and some woman with a very enthusiastic dog arrived and set herself up nearby to play some sort of steel drum like instrument as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself disappeared. I was enjoying the jam she was playing and decided that I’d like to stick around until the lights in Pittsburgh came on.

Since I’m a suburban asshole now, I feel like I should refer to this downtown section as “The City” but there’s only one place which I’ll ever use that term for and it’s 400 miles diagonally east and north of here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This post is being written at the end of the first week of January, and it was literally this morning that – for the first time in 5 weeks – I actually had a fond “miss that” thought about NYC. It was bagel related. The bagels here are strange and anemic little things.

Thankfully, Pittsburgh actually has decent Pizza. Finding a pizzeria that does slices is a bit of a deal (they do 8” personal pizzas instead), but the local Pizza is actually pretty good. They tend to overdo it with toppings, giving into the tendency in this part of the country to throw every kind of meat you can imagine on top of the thing, but the thick crust is nice. Thankfully, it’s not the abrogation of all that’s right which… Philadelphia… calls Pizza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot was the one I was waiting around for, and soon after shooting it I decided to get out of dodge and back to HQ in neighboring Dormont. This decision was influenced by the dynamic driving environment mentioned above, as I don’t feel at all confident driving around at night around here and won’t until I get to know these roads and their peculiarities a bit better.

I had a rare moment of spare time, in between “have-to’s” and rainy days, so I decided to try and make the most of an unusually warm week in Pittsburgh over the first few days of 2023. My reward for the efforts of December and November was the few days I had to explore, I’d posit.

More tomorrow at this – 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 16, 2023 at 11:00 am

5 Responses

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  1. Look at the bridges on the left in the back over the Allegheny. Suspension bridges in the rear and an arched bridge in the front. Why so many differently designed bridges so close to each other?

    georgetheatheist . . . bearing loads

    January 16, 2023 at 1:25 pm

    • I’ve got a theory, and it involves the hometown of both the American Bridge Company and U.S. Steel…

      Mitch Waxman

      January 16, 2023 at 4:03 pm

  2. […] the West End Bridge, which I showed you from above last week. Pittsburgh has been dealing with an explosion of unhoused folks camping out in tents and […]

  3. […] described in yesterday’s post, 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 […]

  4. […] was at a fairly cool location in Pittsburgh which I’ve visited in the past – West End Overlook Park – when I noticed a CSX train hauling cargo down the Monongahela River toward its intersection […]

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