The Newtown Pentacle

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corner pivot

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How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, anyway?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may think the delivery truck pictured above represents some sort of madness. This is not madness, this is Sparta…

I’ve been waiting about two years to make that joke, so thanks for indulging a humble narrator in his puerile goals. I notice this particular truck all the time in Astoria, making deliveries of flour and other whatnots to the local bakeries and bagel shops. They’re a local business, Sparta is, operating out of a building opposite Rainey Park on Vernon Blvd. One is resisting the further urge to make a thousand jokes revolving around the movie “300,” write a detailed history of the Laconian Peninsula over in Greece, or describe the many attempts to penetrate the Astoria markets which the Persian Bakery Supply people have been denied over the years by these Spartans.

The Persian Bakery Supply people have said that “if we can get a single bagel shop to use our services, we could take over the entire neighborhood and expand our empire.”

Spartan Bakery Supply always replies to the Persians, laconically, with “if.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the quirky things about Astoria is the habit that early 20th century real estate developers had in creating “courts.” A court, in this context, is an open space designed either for the entryway of a large building or one that exists between two distinct structures, and it provides for light and air circulation in residential units that would otherwise have none. The one pictured above is on Steinway Street between 34th Avenue and Broadway, and the shot was captured during a doctors visit for Zuzu the dog. Just a checkup for my increasingly elderly pup, whereupon she got a fairly clean bill of health. Zuzu is getting old, is a bit plump, and seems to have some sort of issue going on with her back – according to the doc. Since dogs are “all back” that’s a worry, but both the ravages of advancing age and the conqueror worm are inevitable, so there you are.

Personally speaking, I’m feeling the decades more than ever these days. Luckily, Zuzu and I have gone gray at the same time so we match. She looks like a giant possum, though, whereas I’m starting to look like Dr. Zaius from “Planet of the Apes.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Long Island City, where new construction driven by the fiendish avarice of the Real Estate Industrial Complex has finally burst through the barriers long provided by the Pulaski Bridge on one side and the LIRR tracks on the other, this trio of feral predators was observed the other day. I’ve mentioned a few times the novel approach to controlling vermin on industrial properties which I’ve observed in LIC, wherein one omits the expense and consequence of employing an exterminator – with their noxious chemicals – and instead embracing the presence of the omnipresent feral cat. Most of these wild kitties have been sterilized by “TNR” (trap, neuter, release) services. You can tell that because they have had the tip of one their ears clipped.

The “bird people” hate this concept, since the particular speciation which they advocate for are predated by these cats. Personally, I’m willing to take a few dead pigeons in return for not having watered down chemical weaponry like Malathion spritzed all over the place. Using cats to control rats and mice is part of what I mean when opining that smartly using natural mechanisms to control the urban environment is the way forward. There’s unintended consequence, of course.

Remember that Daffy Duck cartoon where Daffy has a mouse in his hotel room? The one where Porky Pig is the manager? Porky first sends a cat up to the room to get rid of the mouse. Then a dog to get rid of the cat, a lion to get rid of the dog, and an elephant to get rid of the lion. How to get rid of the elephant? Send the mouse back in. Someday, before Zuzu and I age off of this planet, I’d like to see herds of wild elephants roaming around LIC. Word has it that Persian Bakery Supply once deployed delivery elephants in their never ending quest to cross the Spartan Bakery Supply lines but it didn’t go well for them.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

certain tools

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Rounding out the week, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of times this week, I mentioned a looming thunderstorm nearing my position when I was out and about around Newtown Creek last weekend. After fulfilling a couple of promises – one to a film crew for a couple of hour long on camera interview about the history of Newtown Creek, and then to a photographer/activist buddy of mine who asked for me to talk about the Dutch Kills tributary into a microphone – I was heading home along Skillman Avenue when I began to feel cold raindrops colliding with my skin. Rather than walk and risk a soaking, one scuttled over to Queens Plaza and was happily surprised to find that the R train was indeed operating. Even more surprising was that it was making all stops.

This isn’t always a given, these days. One didst swipe, whereupon one rode, and then did arriveth at a street called Steinway. I was just in time, and luckily – for once – the subway moved faster than something else. Specifically, the storm front.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t make it all the way home, however, and ducked into the local bar for a pint to wait out the deluge. Nice thing about my “local,” btw, is that it’s got outside tables that are protected by awnings from precipitants.

It wasn’t icy cold for long, but there’s something nice about enjoying a pint of beer in dry comfort while watching people dart around in the rain. I think you’d call it a “sense of false superiority.” Whatever, I was dry, they were wet. I got to take pictures of a driving rainstorm without having to constantly wipe my lens. Win.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as the storm had begun to vacate the skies over Astoria, here in Queens, the fellow pictured above appeared. Now, I’m generally a supporter of making it safer and better for people riding bikes to share the streets with other vehicles, but I’ve gotten into my fair share of arguments with “the bicycle people” over the years. Too many of that crowd are humorless tightasses and ideologues, and are promulgating a not so carefully disguised political and corporate agenda, and automatically treat people outside their cultic circle as vehement enemies. I don’t like absolutists of any stripe. The world is made of shades of gray, and not black and white contrast.

Now… what drew my attention to this guy on the CitiBike was multifold in nature. I can get past the not “wearing head protection” thing, and that he’s not wearing discernible socks. It’s the “texting while driving” thing that got me to hit the shutter button. Imagine what the bicycle people would say if they saw a truck driver doing this? Gosh. #carnage #murderhappycharacter


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

hopeless howl

with one comment

The whole “human interaction” thing isn’t going well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behavioral quirks and noisome habits notwithstanding, one doesn’t consider himself to be too much of a chore to be around. Much like Billy Joel’s eponymous Piano Man, I’ll gladly tell you a joke or light up your smoke, but there’s someplace I’d rather be. Saying that, one is continually puzzled by the humans. Just this weekend, I had to stand between two friends who were about to come to blows over literally nothing, and encourage the angrier of the two to remember that he – as the managing partner of a multi million dollar corporation here in NYC – would be badly serving himself by getting into a bar fight. The following day, an encounter I had with an acquaintance here in the neighborhood went sour, but I refused to be goaded into “taking the bait.”

Embrace your inner sociopath, I say. Everybody is just ready to fly off the handle about every little thing these days. I’m sick of it, but getting angry isn’t the answer to all of life’s problems. Just add that person to “your list” and when the time is right, that’s when you deny them something they want. That’s the American way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the “American Way,” Thursday last found a humble narrator at the local pub sitting at a sidewalk table and enjoying a frosty pint of beer when the late model Chevy pictured above rolled by. Can’t tell you what it was, as I didn’t get a good enough look at its grill to identify it via the usual means, but I can tell you that the driver was a Billy Joel fan as “We didn’t start the fire” was blaring from within. Personally, I think Mr. Joel’s “Glass Houses” is a near perfect album, but I appreciate a good pop standard as much as the next guy.

In tune with the current era, one of you is now meant to leave a comment on this post telling me that I’m a fool for my stated opinion, or describe in exacting detail how that opinion indicates that I’ve been unconsciously co-opted into stating it by some shadowy cabal. One of my favorite songs, ever, is the theme song from an old 1970’s kid’s show – The Banana Splits. Great song. Here’s a link to a cover of it by 80’s band “The Dickies.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, you may of may not like the Dickies, or the Banana Splits theme song, or dispute my opinions on which Billy Joel album is best. It doesn’t mean that I think you’re an asshole for not being one hundred percent in tune with me, and I won’t write you off to the dustbin of history over it. It means we disagree about something. Civility surrounding disagreement is the actual American Way, which is that thing which Superman and Captain America were always rattling on about in the comics. The villains in comic books, on the other hand, were always seeking unity of thought – Darkseid and the Anti Life equation, or Doctor Doom’s various schemes.

Don’t be like Doctor Doom, aspire instead to be Superman.

Of course, Superman is a sociopath. He lies to all his friends, pretends to be someone he’s not, and can burn you to a cinder with one withering glance. The lesson in that is “be nice” to people you don’t know much about, because they very well might be an alien overlord with laser eyes and freeze breath who is invulnerable to whatever petty bullshit you decide to send their way. Being Clark Kent isn’t Superman’s critique of humanity, instead it’s his testing environment. It’s easy to be nice to the cape persona, and easier still to shit all over the nerdy reporter. He wants to know how the apes he lives amongst really treat each other, and we constantly disappoint him.

Thing is, Superman isn’t like that, he just wants to help people despite being a sociopathic liar.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 13, 2019 at 11:30 am

cylindrical drop

with one comment

Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the discount Chinese restaurant near your house is doing some sort of repair job in their basement, it’s best to remain ignorant of what they’re doing. This is related to the old adage about not wanting to know how sausages are made. It’s preferential to pretend that whatever is happening down there is salubrious, and doesn’t resemble the movie “Ratatouille” at all. Personally, I’ve sworn off the nasty variant of Chinese take out available in Astoria, as I’ve been to Flushing quite a few times in the last six months and what we’ve got locally just doesn’t compare to the good stuff that’s found to the east.

Still, as far as my current desire to shoot a few “minimalist” shots a week, this one fits the bill. I don’t want to imagine what’s going on down there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those are collapsed docks and piers at Shooters Island above, a landform which sits at the junction of Arthur Kill, Kill Van Kull, and Newark Bay. For a little spit of land, Shooters Island is a fairly interesting spot. George Washington’s spy network would use the place for meetups during the American Revolution (British HQ was on Staten Island), it used to be owned by Standard Oil, and legendarily – Teddy Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm once started a yacht race with a couple of the Vanderbilt Brothers from it “back in the day.”

These days it’s a bird sanctuary owned by the NYC Parks Dept.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I had to go to Queens Borough Hall to get sworn in as a member of Astoria’s Community Board 1. I’ve since been informed that I’m being assigned to the Environmental and Transportation Committees, which kind of makes sense. As part of the swearing in ceremony, which was led by BP Melinda Katz, we were given a multi hour series of presentations and training sessions by various members of the City government. One of the things that stuck with me was when they were describing an exact dollar figure at which point a gift is considered a bribe or inducement ($50) which would then trigger an investigation by the ethics people. They also discussed “talking to the press” and public statements, so…

As those of you who have come on my various tours over the years have heard me state at the start of the excursion – unless I’m specifically stating “Newtown Creek Alliance says” or “Access Queens wants” or whatever, the words coming out of my mouth are my words. Views and opinions are my own and do not represent the official opinions or stances of organizations or groups with whom I work or I might be a member of.

As an example; if I describe Mayor De Blasio as “the Dope from Park Slope” or describe him as an atavistic and dangerous throwback to Tammany Hall style corruption, or deride his vainglorious Presidential ambitions by pointing out his campaign pledge to “Make America Late Again,” or mock his desire to eliminate America’s Ground Hog infestation once and for all…

Well, you must presume that’s me talking as your neighbor and friend, and not describing an official position of NCA, or AQ, or the Community Board. If that’s not the case, I’ll let you know.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 10, 2019 at 12:00 pm

seemed baffling

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Astoria scenes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m always impressed by the daily dedication of the local “canners,” which is what we call the folks that walk about with shopping carts searching for redeemable deposit cans and bottles, towards making a buck. For some of these canners, this is an existential practice, and how they earn the money to keep their apartments or eat regularly. For others, it’s a “side hustle” and they’ll express their amazement at the American habit of “throwing money out with the trash.”

The more you have, the less you care about it, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Steinway Street at 34th Avenue, it seems that the corner furniture store is either giving up the ghost or just changing out their awning. In the meantime, an old timey bit of signage has been revealed.

“Auto Parts Place” is from before my time in the neighborhood. Any of you life long Queensicans who are reading this remember it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If memory serves, we had to start dialing area codes back in the early 1980’s, so the lack of a “718” on the sign indicates that the advertised phone number dates back to at least the first or second Koch administration.

Personally, I live in what used to the second floor office of an appliances store a few blocks away, and my porch used to be the roof of a barber shop. The Barber Shop is now a studio apartment, and the office is now Newtown Pentacle HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The population of drunkards along Astoria’s Broadway in the ’40’s has become quite attenuated in recent years. There used to be, just 5 years back, between 30 and 50 of these guys hanging around in various states of inebriation.

Somebody who shall remain nameless… ahem… pretty much embarrassed the local precinct into practicing the sort of subtle Policing which NYPD is famous for, and the cops made it uncomfortable for these fellows to be seen hanging around all day. Many of these guys have drank or drugged themselves into an early grave, and others have moved on to plague other neighborhoods, but we’ve still got a small core group of them hanging around all day and getting pass out drunk.

This poor guy passed out on the sidewalk and fell asleep with his back against the wall of a shop. The shop was closing up and when the steel gate came down it cracked him one on the gulliver and trapped his shoulder under it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this particular scenario play out, and the inebriate tried to salvage his pride by demanding that the shop owner give him a few bucks to not make a big deal of things. A word of advice I’d offer is to not try a “slip and fall” grift or attempt to con a Greek owned business in Astoria.

The remaining Hellenes don’t play.

The shop owner simply grabbed the guy by his collar and pulled him forward, signaled to his worker to finish lowering the steel gate, and then left the fellow sitting there with his back against the gate with an electronic keyboard (which had apparently been harvested from some trash pile) in his lap.

The scene will repeat itself again and again. Just watch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every day in Astoria can be a bit operatic. I like to sit and observe the neighbors. Just the other night, three spanish speaking gentlemen got into an argument in front of my door at about two in the morning, an altercation which resulted in fisticuffs and harsh talk. It was all very exciting.

These humans, here in Astoria, are endlessly fascinating.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

nightmare ghouls

with 2 comments

A little bit of housekeeping.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First off, I think I’ve conquered the fortress and can stop taking pictures of the Q104 bus on Astoria’s Broadway after the shot above. Nailed! Secondly, the profusion of advertising that’s appeared of late at Newtown Pentacle has absolutely nothing to do with me, rather it’s WordPress (which hosts and provides the tech underpinnings) which is both inserting and profiting off your attentions. It’s something that I’m going to have to deal with, but nothing profound is going to occur before June.

As I’ve mentioned, the week of June 6th will mark the tenth year of publication at Newtown Pentacle. I’m early planning a couple of things to celebrate, but then again I’m not really the celebration type. I’m more of the “tear your clothing and throw ash on your face type,” really.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For an interminable number of recent weeks, one has been involved with a series of “have to’s” that have taken me away from contemplation of the existential miseries, logical fallacies, and quirky historical commentary which I enjoy so much. It’s also really gotten in the way of the camera work. A lot of recent shots have been caught on the fly, as I move from one “have to” to another. Luckily, Queens is visually interesting and there’s always something to see that’s worth clicking the shutter over.

Now, if it ever stops raining…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This past weekend, I actually got to attend somebody else’s event and learn a thing or two. Luckily, that interval occurred in between sessions of rain, so one didn’t get soaked to the skin in the process. In the meantime, however…

I’ll be doing a book signing and slideshow tomorrow night in Greenpoint to support my new “In the Shadows at Newtown Creek” publication, and this weekend on Sunday the third annual Newtown Creekathon will be conducted. Come with? Links below.


“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 blurb.com for $30.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 22, 2019 at 2:00 pm

disordered condition

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Don’t like it, but I have to leave Queens occasionally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had to go into the City to visit the accountant the other day, one of the few ties I still have to my old neighborhood in Manhattan. For over a decade a humble narrator was centered in a small apartment with very cheap rent on the corner of West 100th street and Broadway, a white walled box which served my needs when I was working as a corporate drone in the advertising salt mines. NYC was just getting started on its current vector back then, when a series of NBC sitcoms presented Manhattan as a viable or desirable option for midwesterners to consider. Come to the City, where you’ll have “Friends” and meet quirky characters like “Kramer” or get lucky and have some “Sex in the City.” I blame “Seinfeld” for kicking off this whole gentrification business.

I’ve always been fascinated by media portrayals of New York City, and the pop cultural interpretations thereof. Beginning in the 1960’s, Hollywood began telling you that this was a place you didn’t want to be. Fun City indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A mostly forgotten but well done Police procedural series offered in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was called “Naked City.” It’s tag line was “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Heavy handed on the social justice storylines, Naked City nevertheless is the prototype for later procedurals like “Law and Order” and like that long running production, was shot on location all over NYC. If you can find it, check out a few episodes and pay attention to the background landscape details. Shot during the era of urban renewal and slum clearance, Robert Moses’s various initiatives can be seen in the backgrounds, with the foreground filled by soon to famous actors playing their first major roles. There’s one with Al Pacino in it, who’s climax occurs with the raw steel of the United Nations building visible in Manhattan’s former “Blood Alley” section.

Fascinating window into the past, televised fiction can be. At the rate which NYC constantly demolishes and rebuilds itself, you have to take anything you can get in terms of what once was, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Creek is picture above, from the pigeon poop encrusted stairways of the Pulaski Bridge in LIC. Speaking of “demolishing and rebuilding itself,” let’s just say that I have seen the plans for what’s coming next, and that the area between LIC’s 2nd Street and the Pulaski/Borden Avenue and Newtown Creek (including the LIRR station) is – indeed – next. You’ll hear about it soon, I believe.

Get your pics now, lords and ladies. Tick tock.


“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 blurb.com for $30.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 17, 2019 at 1:30 pm

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