The Newtown Pentacle

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Better late than never?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the single shot today, but my schedule got the better of me. Back tomorrow with something that won’t leave you hungry an hour later.

Pictured is thirty seconds of recorded light and time on Astoria’s Broadway.


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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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2020 at 2:30 pm

invocation addressed

with one comment

Rain, rain, hold still while I take a picture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One didn’t get out too much over the week between Christmas and New Years due to a variety of reasons, amongst them was that spate of drenching rain which hit the neighborhood here in Astoria, Queens. Regardless, inactivity and I don’t enjoy each other’s company, so I set up the camera and experimented a bit right here at home.

If you were making your way down Astoria’s Broadway and saw the silhouette of a weird old guy and a camera up on a tripod in a window, you should have waved. That was me.

Since I’ve lived in this neighborhood, that bodega has had three owners and never changed its name. The first set of owners were brothers, ones whose family had a farm back in Lebanon. Back then, they had great produce, and either brother was your go to for finding out whether or not a pomegranate was ripe or not. They sold it to another Lebanese family, one which had a large group of sons that were all fitness fanatics. I used to call them the “Lebanese Olympic Weight Lifting team” and it was always fun watching what would happen when someone tried shoplifting at the bodega. Older brother Gazi once punched a crook so hard that the fellow lifted about four feet into the air and traveled about six feet horizontally, making a quite satisfying “slap thunk” sound upon his landing. The current owners are South East Asians (Indian or Bangla, I’m not sure), who don’t carry much in the way of produce you’d want to buy, and are not obsessed with going to the gym, but are otherwise nice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever it rains for an extended period, my thoughts always drift toward my beloved Newtown Creek. One of the curses suffered by my favorite waterway involves the “combined sewer outfalls” which transport excess storm water mixed with untreated sewer water directly into it. These NYC owned pipes are often at least a century old, and use a pre modern era approach to waste water management summed up by the old adage “the answer to solution is dilution.” I know way too much about NYC’S sewer system, as a note.

That sewer grate, which is on my corner, is connected to a large pipe found under Broadway which connects all of the corner grates. That large pipe connects to an even larger pipe found at 42nd street called an interceptor. If you stand on the north side of 42nd and a Broadway in Astoria, you can hear water roaring through it through the access or manhole cover. This pipe goes to Northern Blvd. where it takes a right and follows the slope of the street through Queens Plaza, then goes diagonally under the Sunnyside Yards and towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek where it outfalls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I dream of dropping rubber duckies into the drain during a roaring thunderstorm, then racing over to Dutch Kills to catch a photo of them popping out of one of the outfalls. I’ve also fantasized while in the grip of somnambulant hallucinations, about pouring tons and tons of gelatin into the sewer, just to see what happens. Yes, I literally dream of such things.

Last night – for instance – I had a dream that I had adopted a gigantic French Bulldog the size of an ox, and that I was able to put a saddle across its back and ride it around. I mention that in an attempt to dissuade you of wondering why I dream about sewers, and to point out that rubber ducky fantasies are hardly the weirdest thing my brain manufactures.


“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

January 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

torturing appliances

with one comment

Why are you people always sleeping.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes, a humble narrator suffers from insomnia, so what’s a man to do but pack up the camera and wander around the streets in the middle of the night until he’s tired enough to fall asleep? Recently, one left the house at 4 a.m. on a Monday morning. It was the first time in a couple of months that I was carrying the “whole magilla” with me, as in the largish knapsack filled with camera lenses and all the other junk which one likes to have available when out and about. For the last couple of months, due to the broken toe you’re all so sick of hearing about, I’ve been traveling as light as possible. Now that the medically advised “take it easy” period is over, one is rattling the bars of his cage and is ready to go.

Funny thing is that I barely used all the crap I had with me, but I knew that when leaving the house. Wanted to see how my foot reacted to carrying the extra load on my back, and also start the process of getting back some muscle tone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My eventual destination was the BH camera shop on 34th street, so by leaving five hours earlier than they open, even the MTA wouldn’t be able to hamper my progress. One shlepped down Broadway through the urine and vomit puddles (the bars had just closed) towards the Astoria line tracks in expectation of riding an N or W into Manhattan, but while waiting for my chariot to arrive, I was puzzled at the presence of a J train sitting – seemingly abandoned – on the center track. I know, the J line icon in the shot above is all glowed out and unreadable. It was a J, here’s another shot of it which I executed in a different fashion.

Most of the people I saw waiting at the station seemed to be construction workers and people wearing security guard uniforms, which answers the question about who is taking the Subway from Astoria into the city in the wee hours. Them, and a wandering mendicant with a camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I transferred at Queensboro Plaza to the 7, which was just entering the station as I debarked the N. That’s the first missed shot of the night, and there were a few. One can not explain the logic behind a certain thought process, but sometimes a “little bird” starts singing to me about either not lingering someplace or just coming back another time. Call it “Spidey Sense” but… something was just telling me to go and not wait for the next 7. Over the years I’ve learned to listen to that voice in my head, and ignore the other ones. I actually didn’t have my headphones stuck in my ears all night, due to my desire to maintain “situational awareness” while shooting. Also, I had Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” playing in my head. A little paranoia is a good thing, in the dark of night. So’s a little Rush “ear worm,” every now and then.

New York City, folks, New York City. Pay attention to what’s going on around you.


“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

December 30, 2019 at 11:00 am

thought them

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…a good night…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just imagine trying to find a spot to park a sleigh with a full team of magick reindeers in Western Queens… you’d take the train too if you were Santa. Giving presents out to nice kids in celebration of his boy’s birthday is what God forces Satan to do, after anagrammatically mixing up the devil’s name, on Christmas Eve. If you can’t enjoy the little things as a supreme being, what’s the point? That’s why the antichrist is forced to play Santa Claus every year.

It’s not an accident that Santa Claus can walk through millions of fireplaces without getting burned, knows everything about naughty and nice (which will come in handy when the kid eventually dies and gets judged), and can accurately discern that which we desire most for gifts. The only indication of who Santa actually is gets revealed when you discover that some Christmas present requires a certain kind of battery which you don’t possess and have to special order from a shady dealer on EBay.

That’s how he gets ya, that wiley Satan. Ho, Ho, bwahhh ha ha, Ho.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has always suspected, and sought knowledge in pursuance thereof, that Christmas lights are part of some evil conspiracy. Unlike aglets (the plastic or metal tips on the ends of shoelaces), proof of their sinister nature has never emerged. Electric Christmas lights were invented by a guy who worked for Con Ed, as a note, but those strings of blinking bulbs aren’t exactly a washer/drier or air conditioner in terms of energy usage. Maybe they are blinking out some sort of subliminal code?

Satan is probably involved in the holiday lights business somehow. He usually gets his claws into whatever pie is available for flicking, so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having grown up Jewish, I would often react in credulity when my Mom would begin to decorate for the December holidays. She’d buy blue and white lights, tape together two xmas star ornaments to make a six pointed Star of David out of two fivers, and set up a blue and white plastic Christmas Tree. She called it a “Channukah Bush.” I call the thing in the shot above an inflatable antichrist, just to illustrate that you can call a thing whatever you want to but it doesn’t mean other people will adopt your terminologies. Channukah Bush, sheesh.

Being the asshole kid I was, which foreshadowed the professional asshole I became, I’d make it a point of reminding Mumsies that amongst the very few plantings mentioned in the Torah, there was prominently a burning bush. Suggestions that we drag it outside and douse the thing in lighter fluid were seldom greeted affectionately. My Uncle Marty said it might be borderline heresy to do so, and Marty knew a good heresy when he encountered it.

Merry Christmas, lords and ladies, and to all…


“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

December 24, 2019 at 11:00 am

betook himself

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Till you’re blue in the face.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s wrong with the EPA Superfund people allowing NYC’s DEP to continue releasing 468 million gallons of raw sewage a year into Newtown Creek, as opposed to the 1.2 billion gallons they currently do, for the rest of time? That’s the 61/39 issue for you, and it’s the absolute focus of the Newtown Creek Community right now.

EPA is currently floating a proposal which would cap off the liabilities of the responsible party behind the “combined sewer outfalls,” the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (funnily enough), to a goal in which they would only need to attenuate 61% rather than 100% of the municipal wastewater flowing into Newtown Creek. Not exactly reaching for the stars here, are they?

The Federal EPA doesn’t think 468 million gallons of sewage released into a narrow industrial waterway – which runs through a highly populated area – is all that bad, since the flow isn’t carrying a legally actionable load of what they call “contaminants of concern,” with the short list of these chemicals including PCB’S, PAH’S, and organocoppers. Sewage doesn’t count, they tell us.

Over on the Gowanus Superfund, the goal state for CSO (Combined Sewer Outfalls) reduction was raised to 74%, but here on my beloved Creek, 61% is the goal. It should be mentioned that the 61% number is based on “right now” precipitation amounts, numbers which were actually compiled back in 2008, and that the remedy date they’ve set for this reduction in outfall is 2042. More to come on this subject in the coming weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is slogging through the customary December “show my face at” circuit of holiday parties this week and last, which is something I actually do enjoy. There’s been a lot of “going to’s” and “how do I get home from’s” in that equation, but at least MTA is always working to keep you on your toes with frequent night time service changes. Stay nimble, lords and ladies. If you don’t make at least two transfers, you’re not doing it right.

Funnily enough, I’ve gotten so used to transit gymnastics and taking the long way around during the evenings that when planning on how to get from Point G (Greenpoint) to Point MHK (Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen) recently, my convoluted plan didn’t even consider simply taking the E to the City from Court Square in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking forward to gradually longer walks in the near future, a humble narrator is. The big toe situation is moving along, although it’s at that point where it aches and throbs while healing. If you’ve ever had a broken bone, you’re familiar with that particular phenomena. I’m just tired of sitting on my butt, which I fear my lack of exercise has made larger.

Back Monday with something new, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

December 13, 2019 at 1:00 pm

utmost fortitude

with one comment

There’s always something to complain about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has mentioned in the past that a singular virtue of the Governor’s “enhanced stations” project – and construction spending – on the Astoria line elevated subway stops along 31st street has been the abundance of street lighting they have introduced to what was formerly a dark and unfriendly series of street intersections. Also mentioned, repeatedly, is the fact that a humble narrator is still somewhat crippled by a crush injury to the big toe of my left foot, and I’ve been trying to “keep it local” as much as possible for the last few weeks to avoid reinjuring or impeding the healing process in the affected phalange. I plan to be back to full capability in the new year, after all.

Accordingly, the residents of my side of Astoria have begun to adjust to a sight often witnessed by the denizens of several other nearby communities – that of a strange old man wearing a filthy black raincoat and brandishing a camera about wherever municipal infrastructure stands naked and revealed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of complaining, or “freelance unsolicited criticism” as my pal Special Ed once called it, right about now that’s all I’ve got to fill my time. One likes to believe that he has weaponized complaint, and milled it down into a quiver of razor tipped arrows which can be fired – with some precision – at an opponent’s vital bits. Ten years of daily blogging… you get good at grousing, I always say. Nobody cares, though.

That’s the intersection of Broadway and 31st street pictured in today’s post, from three different angles. The first looks westwards, the one above south west, and the one below is looking northwards from a different corner.

On the alternative subject of people in my neighborhood getting used to seeing a humble narrator at work, unlike Maspeth or Greenpoint where the residents go out of their way to avoid human contact, Astorians will just stride right up and ask what I’m doing. Such mendacity is part of the reason that I call Astoria my home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The guy in the food cart with the glowing window seemed rather concerned about my activities, but a quick wave of the hand and his paranoia seemed assuaged. A few people who announced, unheeded, that they didn’t want to be photographed received my usual speech about long exposure shots and that unless they were standing statue still for at least half a minute while in frame there would be little more of them than a ghostly whisper or blurred outline of them in the final shot.

On that subject, I’ve got an idea about how to advance these night shots up a level, and plan on exploring a new set of techniques in the coming weeks. Somebody will end up complaining about that, though.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

December 6, 2019 at 11:00 am

hidden laboratory

with 3 comments

Don’t get snotty with me, pal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ChristmAstoria season has begun, I do declare. This was noticed this when my neighbor Tomas adorned his house, recently. Colloquially known as “Tom,” Tomas is remarkably detail oriented on the subject of home maintenance, and owns a personal power washer in pursuance of a gum and stains free sidewalk. In a neighborhood of slobs, Tom keeps his immediate vicinity neat and clean, and is quite timely when it comes to rolling out the holiday decorations. He is one of my seasonal bellwethers.

A pet peeve we share is the habit of spitting gobs of phlegm onto the sidewalk as practiced by the local youths. Another one of those “primate dominance display behaviors” which increasingly annoy me, there seems to be a societal fad underway which requires the late adolescence humans to expunge a mucosal charge onto the public way once about every four strides.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ptooie! I’ve never been able to get a clear answer out of the medical establishment about exactly what mucus is, other than it is produced by “goblet cells.” I’ve looked into it. Composition wise, snot is about 95% water. The remaining 5% is a variable brew of glycoproteins, proteoglycans, proteins, and DNA. The proteins are what make the stuff sticky, I’m told. Mucus is everywhere inside of the human infestation’s various avatars, and the specific to the respiratory tract stuff is called Phlegm (which, since I’m from Brooklyn, is pronounced literally as “Fleg gumm.” Everybody else says “flemm.”). Once you bark it out, it’s called “Sputum.”

This Phlegm material is conventionally “snot” and it acts as a filtering mechanism for the respiratory system. Contaminants like dust, pollen, and smoke particles get caught up in it, as do infectious biota. When you hawk a loogie out, it’s carrying these active bacterial and viral agents along with it. As the goober dries up on the pavement, these microbes and contaminants are then carried off into the the air column. That’s where the “spit every four steps” fad crosses over into a public health issue.

If you’re like me, as soon as the weather turns cold, the spigot starts running on the snot cannon in the middle of your face, and you’ve got a constantly runny nose. I’ve always got a pocket full of tissues with me, but many do not. These unprepared souls will often use a finger to close off one nostril and then exhale powerfully through the other, causing a rifle shot of sputum to rocket forth. It’s lovely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Such behaviors are why I try not to touch any public surfaces in NYC during the winter months. This year, in particular, I’ve instituted a new policy which has been hard to enforce as it disobeys several of those “primate display behaviors” mentioned above.

I’m avoiding hand shaking entirely, and when the greeting dance requires touching somebody, I’m trying to do it with a clothed part of my body – the elbow, for instance. Why anyone would wish to touch one such as myself is beyond me, frankly, but just the other night I was touched by multiple people in these greeting gestures and one of my friends actually snuck behind me and gave me a hug and kissed the side of my head for some reason.

Keep your epithelials to your self, bro.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

December 5, 2019 at 11:00 am

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