The Newtown Pentacle

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It’s Wednesday again, say its name.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Firebox, firebox, firebox. The one pictured above, encountered on Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside, is telegraphic. You pull the handle, a circuit is broken within the thing, and the bells go off at the local firehouse which brings out the lads and ladies who drive the big red truck. It’s likely a product of the Gamewell Company, which controlled about 95% of the market for this product at the start of the 20th century when the modern day FDNY was being formed and the Tammany crew were writing the checks. This, in my observation, the most common encountered form of fire alarm box you’ll find in NYC. The mount it’s sitting on is far more modern, but the alarm box itself probably dates back to the 1930’s or 40’s.

There are so many features of our New York streets that thoroughly blend into the background, and do it so well that you barely notice them. Manhole or access covers, utility poles, weird antennae… there’s all sorts of gear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Midnight wanderings, especially with all the bars closing early, can be a lonely affair. What with the quarantine and such, it’s been hard for me to find a few minutes to myself for “psychic butt scratching time.” The phone keeps ringing, Our Lady of the Pentacle requires company, there’s all of these Zoom meetings… I’ve really come to value these little snatches of nocturnal freedom more than I can say. Also, whereas in a spot like the one pictured above I’m quite obviously masked up, it’s been a sincere pleasure to forego the thing while marching about in the cold solitude of a January night.

If everything went to plan this week, as you’re reading this it will have been some 24 hours since a humble narrator received his first of two vaccination shots. If, by this time, you’ve received news of a humble narrator toothsomely tearing into passerby in pursuit of consuming their brains – you’ll know that we have arrived at a Walking Dead sort of scenario and you should avoid me. Who can say?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s, NYC began retiring the old Gamewell Telegraphic Fire Alarm Boxes in favor of a dual duty fire/police telephonic unit. This was during the crime wave which too many of you believe to have been a myth, or caused by “systemic racism,” or whatever other political terms you’re enamored with. People just like you, and Bill De Blasio, were in charge back then too. If crime, and being a victim thereof, is an intellectual concept for you rather than an ironclad memory that involves spitting out the bloody shards of your teeth, you really need to rethink your stances. I’m not advocating for bootlicking, nor for taking the Cops at their word and not holding them to account for every little thing, but very few of you “new people” have any idea what NYC was actually like prior to the current day. These new people have coined new lexicons, so the disconnect is logical.

Allow me to translate the recent past for you – “sex workers” controlled entire blocks, and all night long cars driven by “clients” would trawl around the neighborhood. In the mornings, used condoms and empty or smashed liquor bottles littered the sidewalk. Beyond the skin trade – school playgrounds were covered in broken glass, drug dealers operated with impunity and owned entire blocks, the Mafia controlled construction and private garbage collection as well as a bunch of other things and if you were smart you didn’t pay much attention to them. The cops did nothing but respond to 911 calls, and otherwise wouldn’t leave the safety of their cars to be proactive. The FDNY alarm boxes would alert fire houses of burning buildings, but FDNY wouldn’t be able to start fighting fires until armed Cops showed up to protect them. Rape didn’t involve being made to feel uncomfortable because somebody said something ugly or pointed at you. It was a world without bike lanes, if you can imagine such a thing.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, March 1st. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

March 3, 2021 at 11:00 am

sardonic actuality

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Holy shmegoalie, its Wednesday again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling about in the dark, as I do, there’s a lot of time for thinking. Recent musings found me thanking an earlier version of myself for getting interested in night and low light photography, as this particular passion of mine has been the only creative outlet available through the pandemic. My habit has been to wait until 8 o’clock or so, when the streets are becoming relatively unpopulated and free of humans, and then set out. My paths have become so well chosen that once I get out of residential Astoria and into the “IBZ” or “Industrial Business Zone” section, I’m finding myself completely and utterly alone for hours at a pop. It’s an odd sensation, moving through one of the most densely populated sections of the entire planet in solitude.

Generally speaking, when I’m back there and all by myself, I unmask. My habit is to slavishly wear the thing when moving about during the day, or in populated places. When I get to an area where the only other humans present are driving past in vehicles, or I can see empty sidewalks stretching out in every direction…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mask is annoying, and fairly uncomfortable, I’ve found. Factor in the fact that I wear eyeglasses, and I’ve got to deal with them fogging up and occluding vision as I’m trying not to get squished by trucks while crossing streets. Additionally, I have a beard, which – since they weather has turned cold – collects the breath condensation contained by the mask and my chin coiff becomes quite moist. Whatcha gonna do?

One of my super powers revolves around being able to prophesy the near future based on current circumstance, which is something I do using branch logic methodologies. Back at the beginning of this I told my friends in the political world that “food and housing security, riots, structural fires, and a vast underreporting of domestic violence” were on the horizon. I told them about race cars and fireworks back at the beginning of April.

What’s next, then, Ezekiel? We’re wearing masks, even with a vaccine, for a minimum of the next two years. Also, based on recent tectonic activity all over and all around North America, I think 2020 might have one last big surprise in store for us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has just a few more Zoom meetings to get through in the next couple of weeks and then we’re done for the year on both Creek and Community Board. Tonight, the Transportation Committee is meeting, and we’re going to be talking about the absolute mess which is Astoria Blvd. Parking rules vary block to block, sidewalks are inconsistently sized, signage and street lighting is either on functional or missing… There’s lots of fixing to do there, which I’m hoping that the Governmental Agencies which oversee this street will agree with me about.

That’s not Astoria Blvd. pictured above, as a note, it’s Laurel Hill Blvd. in the Blissville section of Long Island City.

Back tomorrow, Lords and Ladies.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, December 7th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 9, 2020 at 1:00 pm

invincible evil

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Feels like Monday, but it’s Tuesday, pal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been freely ranging about the City for the last week, as mentioned, and visiting several places which have been left unobserved during the pandemic months. That FDNY Fleet Services Wrecker was spotted in Greenpoint when I was on my way to the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, for instance.

Generally speaking, the Fire Department has the coolest gear in the entire municipal sphere. The Cops have cool toys too, mind you, but FDNY seems to have at least one of everything and they keep their stuff “mint.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This tree is found on the block I live on in Astoria. It’s in front of a noisome fellow whom the block’s lifers call “John the Pollock.” John doesn’t like dogs pooping or pissing in his tree pit, and has been the subject of much online conversation due to his habit of seeding the grass with pepper flakes and other irritants to discourage the canines from explorations. I don’t know if John is responsible for this scene or not.

Everybody in my neighborhood seems to have some sort of descriptive nickname. At the local bar, we have an abundance of fellows named “Chris.” There’s Croatian Chris, Crazy Chris, Glazier Chris, Real Estate Chris, Pharmaceutical Chris, and Substance Abuse Chris, amongst others. The latter Chris recently got carted off by an FDNY ambulance and I haven’t seen him for at least a week. Hope he’s ok. I asked after him with Vlad the waiter and Sean the Carpenter, but nobody has seen Substance Abuse Chris. Hopefully he doesn’t just disappear like Mattie the Vampire did.

…Astoria…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One plan which a humble narrator did manage to actuate recently was the caper where I ride the NYC Ferry and get out on the water, but more on that in subsequent postings. On my way to the ferry, the gate was open at an Ice Cream Truck storage and maintenance yard on Broadway at the corner of Vernon, so this shot was gathered.

The branding on these trucks is “New York Ice Cream” which indicates they were part of the breakaway faction of Mister Softee drivers who formed the “Master Softee” outfit. The Masters were sued by the Mister people in federal court over infringing on their trademark jingle and branding, hence the refit to New York Ice Cream.

More tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, September 7th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

September 8, 2020 at 1:00 pm

frenzied letters

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Wednesday photos, from the before time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More archive shots, captured during the before times, greet you today. These were captured prior to the Trumpists adopting the banner of the White Hand of Saruman, chopping down the forests at Isengard, and birthing the fighting Uruk Hai. They also predate Antifa joining that rebel army led by that pretty blonde woman with the three dragons, or the sudden revelation that all of the world’s rodents are annoyingly sentient. That press conference led by the rabbits and capybaras blew my mind, yo.

Today, I decided to revisit “Project Firebox.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Project Firebox was something which I spent a decent enough amount of time on when Newtown Pentacle first began to publish. These ubiquitous municipal alarm boxes were under threat back then, in the before time, as the Mayoral administrations of both Giuliani and Bloomberg had decided that the things were unneeded and redundant. After all, “everybody” carries a cell phone now, so why would you need to maintain – expensively – what’s essentially a network of telegraph boxes which are responsible for a high percentage of false alarms?

Both Mayors basically wanted to sack the electricians at FDNY who maintain these pieces of street furniture. Luckily, the current Mayor hasn’t decided that the red boxes are responsible for racism (yet) and thusly isn’t aware of their existence. Of course, the current Mayor is only capable of perceiving things when they fit into his political agendas, and he has not eaten the Eden fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. This is why he’s often surprised by mundane or common things which the rest of us take for granted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has moved on from Project Firebox in recent years, thusly.

As a note, last night I was watching a reality TV series called “Alone” which drops it’s survivalist contestants with a very limited set of tools into rugged wild areas to see what might happen. I found this an interesting cultural artifact of the before times. The fellow I was rooting for was an Air Force search and rescue specialist, who had managed to easily surpass the challenges of living in the wild tundra forest within a week and set up a comfortable, secure, and well fed existence using a pocket knife, saw, and a few fish hooks. After a few weeks, he got bored and called for extraction to the show’s producers. The rest of the cast was starving, stabbing themselves accidentally, or burning down their shelters due to careless attitudes towards fire.

If FDNY ain’t close, pay close attention to open flame, I always say.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, July 6th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

July 8, 2020 at 3:00 pm

tool satchel

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Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY Battalion 49 was established in 1928, are known colloquially as the Hellgate Firefighters, and the unit is housed on the northern side of Astoria over on 35th street. The assigned units are Ladder 163 and Engine 312, and the latter is pictured above as it was screaming down Steinway Street toward Broadway the other night. A few blocks to the East, a couple of other fire units were hurtling out onto Broadway and executing a left hand turn, lights and sirens on, and all of this FDNY capability was heading in the direction of the Woodside Houses NYCHA campus. Not sure what was going on, but they were in an awful hurry to get somewhere.

Firemen, firemen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has had an awful time trying to get out and about in the last week, what with all the rain and the sudden return to colder climes. Additionally, I’ve been struggling a bit with my mood, which has been generally sour. It has finally set in that the likelihood of conducting any of the walking or boat tours that I normally offer during the warm weather months, or collecting the significant percentile of my annual income which is derived from such activities, will be impossible while COVID 19 is still rampant. I’ve been holding off on producing virtual tours, but it looks like that’s going to be the only option as far as keeping Zuzu the dog well stocked with milk bones.

Additionally, I kind of miss riding the subway, which is something I never thought I’d say. Well, technically, I wrote that statement and didn’t say it out loud… but, you get my gist. Evolve or die, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing proof of my theory that the NYPD owns at least one vehicle of every type which has ever been manufactured was encountered recently nearby a training facility which the gendarmes have set up for their K-9 unit. On Northern Blvd. at Honeywell Street, you’ll notice tall green fences with concrete barriers set around them. The fences are adorned with admonitions warning passerby not to attempt entry to the gated lot as there are Police Dogs within. Occasionally, you will be barked at while walking past the fence, which hides a few buildings and is surrounded by a variety of parked police vehicles whose markings indicate that they belong to either training or transit division personnel (presumptively, one of those is what “TD” stands for) or are specific to the K-9 unit and it’s special needs. A few of the SUV type cop cars had decal lettering on their windows advising caution as to the presence of interior dogs.

What that truck pictured above looks like to me is a “kennel carrier,” and it’s designated as being TCU 7017. TCU 7018 was parked right behind it.

Now, about that Dermot Shea action figure…

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 11th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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 11, 2020 at 11:00 am

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