The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Scuttling, always scuttling

with 2 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

After returning to the ground – Pennsyl-Firma, as it were – in a post facto interval experienced after walking over Pittsburgh’s Fort Pitt Bridge, one headed down for a rail to trail path which would place me in a convenient spot as far as boarding the T light rail service which would in turn take me back to HQ.

Along the way, I spotted the tug Vernon M. Weiland towing a chemical barge into the Monongahela River.

According to the experts at, this boat was laid down in 1981 down in Arkansas and has been doing its duty in the Pittsburgh area since 2016. It’s owned by an outfit called Ohio River Salvage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I finally got to take a picture of a train, which has been something of a frustrating pursuit for me since moving to Pittsburgh despite the density of the industry here. Getting a photo of this sort of subject is a whole lot like going fishing. You pick a spot and wait. Eventually a train will come, or not. I know people who pack a lunch and bring a folding chair, and who will will sit there waiting for a train set for long intervals. This is completely the opposite of my entire “thing.”

I’m always moving, no matter what. If there’s a thing to see and it ain’t there when I’m passing by, then I missed it. I don’t like lingering about in any one spot for too long, as it makes me a target. Back in Queens, I learned to anticipate when LIRR or New York & Atlantic would likely be actively doing stuff. I haven’t developed that sort of sense here yet, and I keep on arriving at places just after a train has passed though or I’m leaving the spot as one arrives.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsurprisingly, due to homeland security and commercial schedule factors, the freight people don’t exactly publish a schedule of when they’re coming through. Unlike tugboats and other maritime operations, there doesn’t seem to be a site with a live feed of who’s who and where they are. What that means is that either I start carrying a folding chair around with me in the cargo section of the Mobile Oppression Platform and just accept that I’ll have to sit down like the foamers and the train spotters, or that I’ll need to just accept that it’s catch as catch can.

I don’t imagine that this particular news story filtered back to NYC, but there was just a major derailment and chemical spill situation about 50 miles west of Pittsburgh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That gray line on the otherwise yellow steel of the Fort Pitt Bridge is the pedestrian pathway that I walked over, which was described in two posts this week – Part 1, and Part 2.

One is beginning to develop an understanding of how to shoot Pittsburgh. There’s a lot of vegetation here, albeit it’s winter time bare sticks at the moment. It’s a very difficult proposition finding a clean view without some sort of kitchie booger crawling in from the sides, so I’ve instead just started incorporating the stuff in the composition. Also, as it’s almost always cloudy here, I’ve taken a few proactive steps in the direction of exposing for that as well. When it’s a bit warmer, I’m planning on doing several get up early sessions to see what dawn looks like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far, none of the nightmare scenarios predicted by my NYC friends have come true. I haven’t found myself alone in a circle of pickup trucks with armed rednecks swirling about while loading their shotguns. Neither have I been buried in vertical yards of snow. They didn’t “just shoot me” when I was witnessed getting out of a car with New York plates. Give me time, as I’m sure I’ll piss somebody off, but so far the Pittsburgh people seem unusually nice and friendly. The local junkies would definitely boil you down for elements to pay for a fix, but they’d feel really bad about it afterwards. This could all change today, of course.

At any rate, I haven’t felt menaced or anything while roaming around in the area. One thing they’re really worried about in these parts are “Pedos” or pedophiles. Just the other day I was taking a photo of the Birmingham Bridge on the South Side of the Monongahela River, in a park, and I was approached by a young woman inquiring if I was taking pictures of her baby who was sleeping in a carriage. I didn’t want to explain to her that cameras can only take pictures of things they’re pointed at, so instead I bored her to death talking about the history of the bridge, and why I was photographing it. I continued on to a great recipe for soup that I had recently come across and… that’s how you handle a “Karen” in the wild.

What is it with the impulse people have to police public spaces and try to control other people’s behavior?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ‘pedo’ thing is weird though. Back in NYC, if somebody is giving you Karen crap on the street, it’s generally accusations of some sort of criminality. I was once asked “are you a terrorist” when I was taking a photo of the Queensboro Bridge on the Manhattan side. I found the question hilarious in and of itself, and briefly considered whether or not a terrorist would say “yes,” and if Al Qaeda issued business cards to its members. You want to know something about a group of people – find out what they’re scared of. Fear is far more revelatory than aspiration.

Back tomorrow with more, 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

February 9, 2023 at 11:00 am

Posted in newtown creek

2 Responses

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  1. Yes, the East Palestine derailment was news all over. Reminds us of potential risks on the tracks lining Newtown Creek. You remember Newtown Creek, don’t you? The Creek says she’s fine without you, but I think she’s putting on a brave face. Leaving her for three rivers’ worth of infrastructure… that was cold, man.


    February 9, 2023 at 12:50 pm

  2. Love your “Karen” strategy.


    February 11, 2023 at 8:32 pm

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