The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Broadway’ Category

needling comments

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It’s National Chocolate Chip Day, in these United States.  

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s never quiet, here in the western Queens neighborhood of Astoria. I’ve found myself referring to the sudden explosions of noise and activity simply as “Astoria Hullabaloos.” Ever the curious type, one has inquired into the scholastic hive mind and it seems that the word “hullabaloo” was first noticed by the Oxford English Dictionary back in 1762. It is defined by the aforementioned authority as an uproar or a fuss, and the general consensus amongst linguists is that the British picked it up during their adventures on the Indian subcontinent during that era. The Indian root word would be “Hullabol” which refers to a particularly ecstatic civic demonstration. The “Hulla” part is thought to come from Persian and Urdu, while the “Bol” is thought to emanate from Hindi. 

See, you learn something new everyday, at this – your Newtown Pentacle. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular hullabaloo pictured in today’s post seemed to be electrical in nature, with a crew of laborers firstly closing a curbside lane along the north side of Astoria’s Broadway, and then tearing open the street. The effect on traffic was immediate, and the ripple effect transmitted up and down Broadway for several blocks in both directions. Both the stout Croats, and strong backed Spaniards, stuck in this traffic situation loudly signaled their disapproval with a steady cacophony of automotive horn bleats.

One does not understand the “standing on your horn” thing. A “toot” or a “beepity beep beep” yes, but “wharrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn?” Seriously? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is often the nature of efforts such as this, whatever mystery these construction fellows were sent to accomplish was wrapped up by about four in the afternoon, and the next morning another crew arrived who filled in the excavation and applied a fresh layer of asphalt to the road. The everpresent Burrachos drunkenly returned to their perches atop residential stoop and commercial step, indolent adolescent groups began to prowl about again, and the normal pattern of life here in Western Queens returned. The car horn honking continued on, however, unabated – which is as mentioned – normal for these parts. 

That’s the great thing about a hullabaloo, it seldom lasts more than a day, here amongst the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

hushed conversation

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It’s National Cheeseball Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lots of odds and ends today. A supposition which opines that I live on the most exciting corner in Astoria continues to play out, as evinced by a deployment of the ever reliable FDNY the other night. It seems that one of the neighbors discerned the olfactory evidence of combustion emerging from a storefront occupied by the local bagel shepherds, which was a report which the FDNY responded to with a fairly large deployment. The fellows on the big red trucks soon determined that this was a false alarm, and it all ended up being just another Astoria hullabaloo. 

My suspicions that I live on the most interesting corner in Astoria will soon bear a different kind of fruit, however, as the trickle of water which I reported to 311 as bubbling out of a manhole cover on the next block – about two weeks ago – has now grown into a small flowing stream. Never quiet – here in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hypothetically – due to having had to sign a non disclosure agreement with the State of New York today, one cannot tell you where I am this morning or what I am doing. I am precluded from sharing photographs or discussing my visit to some mysterious location where my camera has been brought to today until some indeterminate time in the future when the embargo on such collected material has been rescinded by NYS officials. There are no specific penalties described for violating this embargo (which is odd), nor was it originally offered with an “expiry” date, which is fairly standard for such situations (an open ended NDA contract for such matters isn’t strictly “kosher” legally, anyway, and there’s also that whole first amendment thing which NYS doesn’t get to suspend). Saying that, a humble narrator made a big stink about the imposition of an open ended image embargo with certain hypothetical people whose offices would be found in some theoretical minor City – which would be found around two hundred miles to the north of the de facto Capitol of New York State at the other end of the Hudson River – and eventually I will be able to describe in some excruciating detail where I went this morning and what I saw at some later date whenever they decide it’s no longer a state secret. 

The photo of the two Kosciuszcko Bridges seen above is merely a decorative addition to this post – filler, if you will – and does not in any way indicate where I am, or what I may be walking upon or over as you’re reading this. The shot was gathered a week ago in Greenpoint, on April 9th, for the legally minded and prosecutorially inclined amongst you. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the bagel shop which drew the attentions of the FDNY to Astoria one recent night, while waiting for the bagel shepherds to construct a sandwich for me one recent afternoon, one was standing outside in the rain and glowering at passerby when I noticed these two pigeons working a flooded tree pit for bits of food and drinking from the puddles. Our normal flock of pigeons, who live in Astoria in fairly considerable numbers, have lately been harassed by a sudden explosion of super aggressive sparrows. This flock of avian bullies has been chasing the pigeons about, and driving them from their ledges. The Sparrows, on the other hand, have recently begun to be harassed by a bunch of Ravens. The multitudinous Sparrows will be loudly chirping when a single “caw” is sounded, which shuts them all up. Down below, the street cats watch, and wait. Luckily, after the bagel shepherds completed the construction of my sandwich, I was able to remove myself from this internecine urban warfare and return to the tranquil safety of HQ where my little dog Zuzu polices the behavior and habits of all the lower life forms. 

Gang warfare, of the feathered variety, affects us all. It’s best to have an elderly dog around to keep things straight.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

mongrel riff-raff

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It’s National Caramel Popcorn Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One possesses more than a single camera, and a couple of the older models are really starting to show their age, just like me. The Canon G10 is an old friend, but it’s outer shell is being held on and together by gaff tape these days and it doesn’t get to leave the house anymore. The actual functioning of the thing is still fine, including the superb (for a point and shoot) macro feature of its lens. I’ve got the thing more or less permanently affixed to a magnetic tripod dealie which allows for a firm footing on any thing ferrous, like my stainless steel kitchen countertop. I’ve been working on these tabletop macro shots off and on whenever I’m stuck at home due to weather, and just the other day realized that I hadn’t copied any of the photos off the G10’s memory card since about January.

Thus… a few random shots that I popped off while hanging around at home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The G10 isn’t just a macro camera, of course, and that magical magnetic tripod mentioned above is perfect for clamping down to a fence or sill. One night, a DSNY street sweeper decided to take a break on my corner in Astoria, and since the G10 was handy… the shot above resulted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with using multiple rigs is that unless it’s the day to day work camera – in my case a DSLR – you tend to forget about non deadline oriented shots like the one of this tomato above. I’ve evolved the little kit utilized for doing this as well, and will talk about that the next time I present a big pile of macro shots to you.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

swarthy foreigners

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It’s National Clams on the Half Shell Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So… right after that last snow event we had a couple of weeks ago, I saw something utterly unique in my experience as a New Yorker. I’m almost a half century old at this stage, and one has never – NEVER – observed the Department of Sanitation do anything but plow the vehicular section of the streets in Brooklyn or Queens. This year, however, they were out in force – in Astoria, Queens – clearing the curbs and walkways of snow.

Wha, wha, what?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DSNY had this neat little bobcat doohickey, which they were using to mash up and disassemble the berms of ice and snow which had piled up along the sidewalk and curb boundary area. I noticed this as it was happening directly under my bedroom window, which woke up both my little dog Zuzu and Our Lady of the Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They were actually clearing the streets! The slush lagoons too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself” is the borough motto most of the time around these parts. Snow clearance has been a political thorn for Queensican Electeds, going back to the days of Mayor John Lindsay, but seldom is anything improved. Not in 2016.

Maybe this gentrification thing has its benefits, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few hours later, around four in the morning (yes, I was still up and awake at four a.m.), another DSNY crew rolled through. This time they were shoveling pathways at the crosswalks. What has happened? Am I in some parallel reality? Is this a dream?

Is Trump still President? Was that just some sort of fevered vision?


Upcoming Tours and events

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 31, 2017 at 11:00 am

shingled sides

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It’s National Chiffon Cake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our plan was a simple one, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself. The King of Falafel and Shawarma (aka Freddy), who has been operating out of a food truck here in Astoria for many years, has opened a store front on Broadway just off of 31st street. Our Lady was returning from her office in Manhattan at the usual hour, and our plan was to visit the King for a tasty dinner of middle eastern comfort food.

The MTA intervened into our plans of satiety and happiness with transit delays, and Our Lady advised that she was going to be a bit later than we had planned. Well, if you’re a humble narrator and armed with a trusty camera, there’s always something to do. Given the Governor’s plan to rehabilitate the stations along the N/W elevated tracks hereabouts, I’ve been paying some attention to them anyway… so – click, click, clickity, click…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s been some sort of underground work project going on all winter on 31st street, which I’ve presumed to be either utility (gas or electric) or sewer related. It’s a private contractor doing the work, so I’m assuming the former and that its related to the large building construction projects going on at the foot of 31st street near its intersection with Northern Blvd. What can I tell you, despite my reputation as a yenta, I don’t know everything.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a pretty chaotic scene, actually. Heavy equipment rolling around at rush hour in the already cramped environs under the elevated tracks. The ever impatient drivers of Astoria leaning on their horns, pedestrians darting to and fro, workers working. It was all very exciting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everytime that Broadway was blocked, you heard a cacophony of auto horns blowing steadily, all the way back to Crescent Street. The laborers seemed to be finishing up for the day, clearing away their tools and moving the traffic cones and safety tape wrapped traffic barriers into place. The fellow driving the earth mover was placing large steel plates over the giant excavation which they had been working in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The trains finally began to move along the tracks again, thundering into the station and vomiting forth the neighbors. It seems there was a “police investigation” at Queensboro Plaza which held the whole MTA operation up. Our Lady eventually wafted down the stairs and was greeted with an embrace, whereupon we spent about an hour at the storefront inhabited by the King of Falafel and Shawarma, treating ourselves. The meal was delicious, and worth the wait.

I love it when a plan comes together.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 29, 2017 at 11:00 am

narrow slits

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It’s National Black Forest Cake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst shlepping about in Astoria, Queens – one often encounters cool cars. The one pictured above was a highly customized Chevy pickup which drew more than one admiring glance from both myself and some other bloke who was dressed as a butcher. I’m pretty sure he actually was a butcher, as after we compared notes on our admiration for the thing, he went into the butcher shop on the corner of 38th street. That would also explain the giant clots of blood I observed on the apron he was wearing, but you don’t ask too many questions about blood stains in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over by the NYCHA Astoria Houses, found to the north and west of that cool car mentioned above, one observed a group of workers building a dock to accommodate the Citywide Ferry service which is meant to be kicking into gear this summer. One advised everyone that would listen not to put it here, but nobody ever listens to little old me.

When a ferry leaves its dock in NY Harbor, regulation and custom demands that it signal its departure via the usage of a particularly loud foghorn. These horn toots are a regular complaint offered by the Manhattan people, who have docks near their homes along the Hudson, in the tony section called Battery Park City. Wonder how the Latin Kings of the Astoria Houses will react to it blowing outside their windows at seven in the morning.

It should have been placed to the south, at the Costco bulkheads where it would have become a viable transportation option for shoppers from Manhattan which would have made it an economically feasible stop and wouldn’t wake up anybody at seven in the morning, but as mentioned – nobody listens to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Traipsing down Jackson Avenue, one discovered that a Union protest of some sort (electricians, I think) was being aimed at the so called “5Ptz Towers” construction site. Personally, I’ve always believed there to be enough rodents of the home grown variety here in Long Island City, but there you go. One of these days, I’ve got to investigate where one would proceed to shop in pursuance of purchasing inflatable rodents. As you can see, there’s a regular and a family size model.


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peculiar precaution

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It’s National Tortilla Chip Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finishing off my week of non ugly subject matter, here’s a few shots of delicious things shot close up, and I’ll talk about ugly things instead. Regarding these shots, you’ve seen them before, just about a year ago. One of the interesting things about my little world is that my photos serve as bookmark reminders for what I was thinking and experiencing while shooting them. In the case of today’s shots, it was searing pain and an incapacitating shoulder injury. Pain is an odd thing, something which the brain… well, my brain at least… tries to forget.

Think about it – if I say warm summer day, or allude to some pleasure of a sexual nature, or mention fresh bread coming out of the oven – your mind will begin to ruminate on the sensations described by those circumstances. If instead it’s “burned by an oven” or “cut by a knife” or “punched in the nose” you’ve got a vague idea of that as being unpleasant, but the actual memory of it is fairly well buried. It is for me, at least. I remember that it sucked, but can’t summon up a memory of the actual feeling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every now and then, one will allow himself to fully experience the full coterie of nervous signals which my conscious mind filters out. All of the minor injuries and day to day pathologies are allowed to signal their intent, and for a minute or two I get in touch with a lifetime of injuries. The vague numbness in my left thumb from that time in high school, or the disconcerting clicking that’s been present in my knee since that time I fell out of a moving car in college? Yup. The “turf toe” pain in my foot which is always there, a consequence of doing all the walking across miles of concrete that I engage in? Um hum. The evolving issues with and constant discomfort emanating from my always crappy teeth? Yessir. The list goes on and on – the weird pain in my left neck, right side lower back, left hip… Essentially, if I was to allow myself to fully experience all of these things all of the time, I’d fall over and writhe.

Then I tune it back out. I figure the only difference between me and someone 15-20 years older than I am is that you lose the ability to filter out the pain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, whereas I have a distinct memory of the last time that I had a tooth go bad enough on me that it needed to be pulled, one finds it difficult to precisely remember the actual sensation. I can describe positive sensations in excruciating detail, conversely, but the things from my personal history that I remember are all decidedly negative in nature. The sound of a breaking bone, the feeling of a razor knife lacerating the skinvelope, the impact of a booted foot on my teeth – all that I’ve got. The smell of a newborn baby, or the aforementioned fresh loaf of bread? Not so much.

How about you? Do you remember the taste of vomit, or do you just remember puking?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What do you want me to say, I’m all ‘effed up.

Back Monday with something completely different, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

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