The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 4th, 2023

That’s some set of stairs, I tell’s you

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The destination which I had in mind when leaving HQ is pictured above. It’s one set of the many, many municipal staircases which climb up and down the hills and valleys of Pittsburgh. This one, in particular, is branded with Duquesne University logos and there’s an overpass which allows pedestrians to cross a high speed road called the Boulevard of the Allies nearby the Monongahela River.

It’s something, I tell’s ya.

The Panorama image above, which breaks into the usual format here at Newtown Pentacle, gives an idea of the streetscape by which you approach the stairs. If you click, it’ll open up a version of the image at Flickr which you can zoom in on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These stairs are actually not that difficult to negotiate, but vertigo is a definite factor so I held tightly onto the bannister with my non camera holding hand. Down below, there’s a couple of highways which fly about on elevated ramps. A local street, Forbes Avenue, feeds into what I’m fairly sure is the Penn Lincoln Highway section of I-376, and there’s also U.S. Highway 22 in the mix. Beneath all of those ramps are the Armstrong Tunnels, and a local street called Second Avenue as well as the on and off ramps of a bridge.

Additionally, a ‘rail to trail’ bike and pedestrian path is mixed into the arrangement – a section of the Great Allegheny Passage called the Eliza Furnace Trail, which I had walked a few months ago, and on this day I was heading – ultimately – to the same spot I was back then – the South Tenth Street Bridge.

This Panorama is from the top of the stairs, looking eastwards along the Monongahela River towards the south side of Pittsburgh and the Birmingham Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Massing shapes, that’s what I call them. The building at the top right of the shot is the City’s jailhouse, and a brand new homeless shelter has recently opened right next door to it. I don’t think the symbolism is lost on anyone, including the poor devils who reside in one or the other.

That’s also just short of where the Boulevard of the Allies returns to ground and becomes a ‘normal’ street again, with traffic lights and crosswalks. In a post that’ll likely be coming your way sometime in the next couple of weeks, I’ll show you what that looks like, and describe what it’s like to use the pedestrian and bike lane leading to the Liberty Bridge, so get ready lords and ladies. Thrills and chills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My next goal post was to get to the South Tenth Street Bridge, pictured above, and use that crossing over the Monongahela to situate myself properly to catch the T light rail back to HQ. Remember, I had left the Mobile Oppression Platform parked in my driveway, and used the T to get to the center of things in Pittsburgh – where I had a moment of Epiphany and then passed by St. Benedict the Moor, and admired the old timey vibe encountered on the Bluff.

Seriously though, height and I are old friends, but a humble narrator will admit to having what has always described as being a very deep and quite logical respect for heights. Others might describe it as phobic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rickety wooden steps didn’t bother me one bit. The concrete planks which formed the ‘run’ of the middle section were badly seated and you felt a distinct shift and clicking sound when in that section. At the very top, the stairs are made from a kind of metal grate, which allows you to look down through them. Forgive my french, but that was ‘effed up.

I’ve always gotten a certain physical sensation, specifically tingling in the fingertips and a feeling of numbness in the palms, when I’m situated at a high spot. I’ve found myself on the roof of a surprising number of skyscrapers in Manhattan, and seem to have spent the last fifteen years walking across bridges so it’s not like it slows me down or anything. I don’t lock up as some do, but I become extremely deliberate and restrained while moving in high environments, a postural affectation which contrasts with the norm.

A friend of mine once described my locomotive style as ‘herkie jerkie, like a spasmodic flying jew.’ I’ve also been told that I always look angry, and that my ‘scuttling with a purpose’ posture imparts the impression that I’m on my way to murder someone or something.

Truth be told both POV’s in this YouTube video clip link are pretty much how the world looks and feels to me, most days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just so you don’t think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, nor ‘that I’ve seen too many movies,’ or any of the other crap I’ve heard over the years – the top right brick building is part of Duquesne University. Follow that to the black structure on top of the cliff. That’s photo and panorama one. There’s power lines and a lamp post in shot two, and if you follow those power lines down to where that white van is on the extreme lower left side of the shot above, that’s the bottom of the stairs. Whew.

Holy Pittsburgh!

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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

May 4, 2023 at 11:00 am

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