The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

last straw

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Always surprising – Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle has been quite busy in her professional life of late, and she rang me up recently as she was leaving her offices to suggest that we visit our local Astoria pub to grab a late dinner. As the bride working late is a fairly normal occurrence, we shortly settled in at some familiar outdoor seating at our “local,” ordered ourselves a couple of pints and plates of food. While discussing our day, I noticed a truck full of port-a-potties speeding down Broadway, and splashing the “via publica” with those blue chemicals that are found in the portable commode’s septic tanks.

Lovely, thought I. After paying the bill, we went home and while sitting outside on our porch with my sleepy dog (named Zuzu), certain odd sounds woke up and drew the attentions of that ever vigilant canine guardian of the domestic portico. These emanations were coming from an alley separating my building from the next one to the north. Said alley contains my neighbor Mario’s collection of safety cones as well as a collection of junk which my landlord is holding on to until an opportune moment for bulk disposal presents itself.

From the dog’s reaction to these sounds, I figured “rat.” Maybe “cat.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

However, after having peered over the veritable edge of my leased domain and gazing into the alley with the aid of one of my trusty flashlights… It was then that I went inside and fetched my camera.

It seems that there is now an Opossum living in the aperture between the two buildings, which is something that one of my neighbors – a sturdy Croatian – finds quite amusing. I believe it’s a “Virginia Opossum,” specifically, but I’m from Brooklyn so at the time I was referring to it as a “some kinda friggin thing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Opossums are fairly harmless critters, apparently, despite packing some fifty teeth and a nifty set of claws. I freaked the thing out, not with the flashlight mind you, but with the sound of my camera shutter flipping. This friggin thing didn’t want to leave the alley after hearing the shutter sound and hunkered down. I had grown bored with it by this point, so I decided to do some Opossum research at two in the morning. They’re Marsupials, I’ve learned. I also learned that if you cook one, it’s best to serve these friggin things with sweet potatoes. They are virtually immune to rabies, and highly resistant to snake venom. Y’know – Possum research.

That’s the sort of thing that normal people do at two in the morning, right?

As an aside, since these photos were taken – another Possum was spotted just about a block away (Zuzu scared that one too) and another, distinctly juvenile version, of these friggin things was observed hanging out on my porch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a defense move that Opossum’s do, “playing possum” as its called. They simulate that they’re a rotting corpse by stiffening up, curling back their lips and foaming at the mouth, and these friggin things release a foul smelling liquid that they secrete from their butt glands which smells like putrefaction. The particular Astoria Opossum in the shot above decided to forgoe the stiffening and foaming, and instead went directly for the corpse smell.

Zuzu was fit to be tied over that.

The juvenile one I spotted a couple of days later did the whole stiffen up thing, complete with the curled up lips, especially when the dog charged at it. Friggin thing.

Zuzu completely bought the corpse act though. The dog danced around like she had just found the last dodo, so I shuttled her back inside before she decided to eat or hurt the friggin thing, and I gave her a dog cookie to commemorate her victory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the years, many sorts of critters seem to have have turned up on my porch. Birds of all sorts – including a seagull and a nest of sparrows, raccoons, rats, mice, squirrels, and just about every kind of insect you can think of from digger wasps to centipedes. Now we’ve got a possum. This is all above the ground, of course.

Makes me wonder, and more than wonder, what else there may be lurking around in the underworld of sewer and subway tunnels under Astoria. There has been a foul wind exhaling from the sewer grates of late, and DEP workers have been observed operating heavy equipment at access holes all along the avenue.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden down there?

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

hung about

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More experimentation with my new lens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal, Jiminy the Parrot, is a ham. He’s also a great and cooperative subject when I’m trying to crack out some shots. Jiminy also hosts a wealth of fine detail in the green suit he always seems to be wearing, which makes him an excellent subject as far as testing out how a lens might perform as as far as rendering detail and color. It seems every piece of glass that you stick on your camera sees the world in its own way, and learning the way that my new Sigma 50-100 thinks and visualizes things is integral to the decision about whether or not it is a permanent addition to my kit.

At the moment, I’m loving the thing although it is damned heavy and there has been a bit of a learning curve as to how to best employ it. The lens itself weighs nearly four pounds, which is the equivalent of at least a couple of parrots. Add in the camera, and I’m waving about 5-6 pounds of gear around for hours at a pop. Doesn’t sound like much, but over the course of an average day – it adds up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, the Sigma “art” series lenses have a real predilection towards rendering colors in a hyper saturated manner which can be somewhat reminiscent of the four color world of comic books. This fits my visual sensibility, but for those of you out there who prefer muted color and heavy saturated blacks in your shots, this might be a deal breaker. That’s Astoria’s Broadway in the shot above, just east of Steinway Street, if you’re curious. The lens isn’t “all the way” open, instead it’s at f2.8. I could have doubled the ISO and narrowed the lens down to f5.6 to create a bit more of an “infinite” hyper focal range, but wanted to see what a shallower depth of field would do.

Going back to the “heavy” issue, I had been carrying the thing around all day and noticed that a slight fatigue tremor was present in my right arm. The good news, of course, is that I can use the extra exercise. The bad news is that my right arm is going to tone up to accommodate the extra carry while my left hangs there uselessly and will end up looking like a little tyrannosaur limb in comparison. Guess I’ll have to just carry around a gallon of milk or something with the left as I wander about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The virtue of this device, of course, is in the wide open side of it for usage in low light situations. The shot above is handheld and captured at ISO 800 at f1.8. It’s also Broadway in Astoria, and depicts the corner that HQ is found on. Since the night shots are what I’m interesting in pursuing this fall and winter, rather than brightly lit daytime shots of Jiminy the Parrot, the shot above is pretty promising as far as what this piece of glass is capable of.

Weather permitting, I’m planning on making a late night pot of coffee pretty soon and putting on one of my orange safety vests in preparation for an “all nighter” wandering around the industrial zones and concrete devastations surrounding that legendary exemplar of Municpal neglect known as the Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 7, 2016 at 11:05 am

age mad

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Bird brains, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend I got to hang out for a while with my parrot buddy Jiminy. I know, I know – he’s my buddy and whether he’s a parrot or not is immaterial. Describing him as a parrot indicates that I’m not a parrot and that I view myself as part of a superior monoculture, which further indicates that I judge individuals through a lens that distinguishes them as being parrot or non parrot. My “primate privilege” is on display, and I’ll be reporting to the reeducation camps shortly.

In my defense, when Jiminy is hungry, he blurts out “feed the parrot” but that’s him taking the “P” word back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, I got to witness a “cabinet of curiousities” at a scientific laboratory which sported dozens of dead things preserved in jars of some sort of preservative fluid. One of my buddies, who is coincidentally one of the founders of Atlas Obscura, has a “cabinet of wonders” in his house which includes a mummified baby llama he collected in the Andes. The fish in a jar smells better than the llama mummy, I would point out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been under the weather for several days, and suffering from a particularly annoying virus that has produced upper respiratory issues. A hacking and productive cough, accompanied by a sinus infection, has laid a humble narrator low since Sunday last. This has caused an uneven sleeping schedule, and forced me to stay quite close to home. The only thing I’ve been working on have been “paying jobs,” and thusly the views of NY Harbor and the Newtown Creek which you’d expect me to present are few and far between at the moment.

Accordingly, I’m a bit short on content for this week. One seems to be on the mend, and I’ll address this stunning lack of visual evidence as the week progresses, but for the next few days I’m going to be “reblogging” some archived posts. Sorry for the repeats.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 8, 2016 at 2:30 pm

knot of

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Today’s post is for the birds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Found myself walking into an infestation of rock doves on 43rd street recently, and decided to keep shooting as I penetrated their crowd. Generally speaking, the rock doves – or pigeons – I encounter as I march about don’t always acknowledge my presence. Usually, I walk right through them with no reaction from their assemblage.

I’ve always found this odd, and it reinforces a sneaking suspicion I’ve had that I might actually be dead and just a spirit condemned to spend an eternity rattling my chains in Western Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Putting this theory to the test, I got them to react to me when I charged forward and right into their flock, which caused them to explode into the air. This confirmation of corporeal presence allowed me to indulge another one of my little ideations – the one where everything that’s happened to me in the last decade is some sort of last gasp in a hospital bed, symptomatic of an oxygen starved brain desperately clawing at the last milliseconds of life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I mean, how do you know what’s real? Are you dreaming that you’re reading this? Am I dreaming I wrote it? Are both of us part of somebody else’s nocturnal hallucinations? How can you know? Is that top still spinning?

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 2, 2016 at 11:00 am

terrible, revolting, and inexplicable

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New Yorkers are a bunch of animals, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Psychological Industrial Complex would call it aversion therapy. After being permanently scarred by what I’d witnessed at the Central Park Zoo back during the cold weather months, it was with a palpitatant heart that I approached the Snow Monkeys at Central Park Zoo… In actuality, I had to go in to town for an appointment with my accountant at six, but I also had to call in to a Newtown Creek CAG meeting at four, so I decided to use my NYCID card granted free membership to the Zoo. Whilst the call in meeting was buzzing away in my headphones, I was wandering about the place and shooting. That, lords and ladies, is what you call “multitasking.”

Regardless, I was terrified that a couple of these apes were going to “do the deed” in front of me again. Last thing I need is for the Newtown Creek crowd to hear me screaming and gibbering in shocked horror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite my prior protestations to the contrary, one still has not managed to bank away enough time to make the trip deep into Brooklyn to visit the Aquarium. The Queens Zoo has been visited within the last year, and last month I squeezed in a trip to the unknown country known as “The Bronx” where NYC’s premier animal prison is located. I’m going to try and squeeze the Prospect Park Zoo into the summer schedule as well, but it’s a bit of a pain in the neck to get there from Astoria. The Aquarium is actually a straight shot for me on the N or Q to the end of the line in Brighton Beach/Coney Island.

Btw, did a whole post on the Penguins at Central Park Zoo last year – click here.

Alternatively, I’m thinking about just taking the 5 to its terminus near Brooklyn College and walking from there. That’s my old neighborhood, after all, and the place where I first developed my taste for wandering aimlessly across the megalopolis. It’s been a long time since I took a walk in that part of Brooklyn.

Either way, it’s going to be an all day sort of thing to get there and back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Time was growing short, and my appointment with the accountant was nearing. I left the zoo and on my way over to “my guy’s” office the usual line up of carriages and horses was encountered on the periphery of Olmstead’s master work. Since I was in an “animals” mode that day, a few shots were cracked out of the critters as I moved along. While I was doing this, the Newtown Creek conversation was revolving around familiar topics – largely sewers, and oil spills, trying to interpret the motives or true goals of the various “Potentially Responsible Party’s,” and puzzle out the kabuki of Federal regulators with their Sphinx like behavior. The usual stuff, in other words.

As the shot above was captured, I was thinking about sending it to the Mayor with the caption “Nice try, Bill, I’m still here.”

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, May 21st at 3:30 p.m. –
A Return to The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek,
with Atlas Obscura, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 16, 2016 at 11:00 am

neatly fitted

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A short, and kind of weird, one today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a number of theories about the shot above, captured on Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue near the corner of Commercial Street – about one block from the fabulous Newtown Creek. One involves a war in Pigeon Heaven and the stripping away of a rebel eidolon’s wings. Another revolves around an undescribed form of life, or something very much like life, which might lurk in the shadowy recesses of Greenpoint.

The most likely explanation involves feral cats, of course, but what fun is there in pondering that?

Back tomorrow with something a bit more substantial, a post that’ll carry a beat more “meat on the bone.”

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

inescapably strewn

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EAGLE!!!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As it happens, even a humble narrator requires a break every now and then. Single images will be greeting you this week, and normal programming will resume Monday of next week.

That’s a photo of a eagle, as you’ve likely surmised by now. It’s part of a collection of fowl that you’ll find at the Queens Zoo.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in birds

Tagged with ,

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