The Newtown Pentacle

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certain conflicts

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Uhhhhhnnnnnnk, Manhattan… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had reason to visit that island hive of villainy and runaway political ambitions called Manhattan a few weeks ago, and found myself climbing to the concretized street level of that accursed complex via the stairs leading out of that badly ventilated subterrene concrete bunker which the children of NYC refer to simply as the “34th street/Herald Square” subway station.

Emerging from the hellish heat of that cavern lurking squamously beneath the streets, one was suddenly beset by throngs of disturbingly heterogenous tourists aimlessly clinging to those shadows provided by the high flung towers, blotting out the sky, which was a scene somehow inhuman and banal simultaneously. These creatures bounced and bumped into each other, careening between the merchant carts selling noxious smelling foodstuffs of uncertain origin, locomoting in a manner betraying that using their own feet was a somewhat alien concept.

On the filth caked pavement lay inebriates, madmen, and addicts – the latter proudly displaying their gangrenous abcesses in pursuance of soliciting currency, from both the native born and quite pitiless passerby, and foreign born tourist. The air itself was contaminated with vehicle exhaust, an abundant cacophony of stink was emanating from mounds of rotting garbage, and the greasy puddles swirled sickly along the curbs. All was pestilential.

Nearby the intersection of 34th street and 8th avenue, the fellow above was observed sitting in the ruinations offered by the omnipresent real estate industrial complex. The Manhattan people have become concerned in recent years about “gentrification,” since now it’s happening to them. I really, really hate going into the City these days, that’s what I guess I’m trying to say, but since I was already there I decided to visit Dyre Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m told that Dyer Avenue was named for General George Rathborne Dyer, a chairman of the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who died in 1934 while the Lincoln Tunnel was under construction (the tunnel was finished in 1937). Although I’ve noticed the street hundreds if not thousands of times, never have I decided to walk its truncated length.

After conducting a transaction with the camera shop people on the next corner, a humble narrator decided to put that right, on his way back to the train which would carry me to the rolling hills of Astoria, back in Queens. The less time spent in Manhattan the better, I say, so I try to get a lot done whenever I’m stuck going there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dyer Avenue diverges northwards off of W 34th street between 9th and 10th avenue, and continues along to W42nd street. Along the way, you’ll find a complicated series of entrance and exit schemes for the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I suppose you could describe it as passing through Hells Kitchen, although I usually associate that cognomen with a neighborhood found in the west 40’s. 

NYC City Planning, the NYC EDC, and the Related Companies would appreciate it if we all just referred to the zone surrounding 34th street and Dyre Avenue as “Hudson Yards,” but they’re heavily invested in calling it that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Manhattan is the problem, not the solution,” that’s what I tell all the people who work for the entities mentioned in the last paragraph who would prefer you to refer to this section as Hudson Yards, and nowhere is my statement better proven than in this area.

Inhuman streetscape given over entirely to the exigencies of the automobile? Check! A complete lack of trees? Check! A sterile post industrial streetscape with zero ground level retail activity or areas for residents or workers to congregate? Check! Pedestrian safety an afterthought? Check!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a comical little “green space” on Dyer, found between W 35th and W 36th, with a few potted treelings. What makes it “green space” is that the City has painted the concrete traffic island’s paving stones green.

Better than nothing, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

High overhead, the gleaming vainglory of the Hudson Yards mega project looms.

Want to know what Sunnyside Yards would do to Queens? What sort of buildings make it financially justifiable to build a deck over a rail yard? Take a walk around the west side in the 30’s, that’ll show you the solution which the Mayor has been searching to find a problem for. That’s the “Manhattan solution” for the puzzle of Western Queens, incidentally.

What Queens people think about Sunnyside Yards and all of this mega development is incidental. It’s the people who gave you Dyer Avenue – their opinions matter, not yours. They live in Manhattan.

So, what are you going to do about that?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

voluntarily followed

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ugggh, Manhattan, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not paranoid to say that there’s always something watching you these days. We’re betrayed by our various devices to the data collection business. Conversations with members of a certain transportation authority let slip the fact that they can track a card “swipe” through their system and use the data collected for all sorts of things. You know this, of course, but it’s nice to hear it from “the horse’s mouth” as it were. There’s cameras everywhere, acting as watchmen, but with all the video data being collected – is anyone watching it?

Pondering is what I do while riding the subways, and on a particular day this week, these thoughts occupied me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t have anything prosaic or interesting to do, just visit one of my doctors for a routine checkup. Since I had to participate in a conference call directly preceding the appointment, my travel time to Manhattan was amended to “put me on the ground” for the call, which meant that I was going to be fiendishly early for my scheduled appointment. Accordingly, I got off the train some forty and change blocks from my destination at Union square and walked there while participating in the conversation.

One observation I can offer is that Manhattan’s daytime occupants have lost that old NYC skill which involved the negotiation of crowded sidewalks in a fluidic fashion. Part of it involves everybody staring into their phones rather than paying attention to their surroundings. The dichotomy of the deep attentions which the phones themselves are paying to their users in the name of data collection seems to be lost upon them, as they bump into others and randomly stop moving in response to the pings and chimes of the things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you should be worrying about, I’d advise, is the malign thing which cannot possibly exist in the sapphire megalith of Long Island City. Staring down at the world through its three loved burning eye, this figment covets, and sees all – even that which occurs across the river in the Shining City.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 5, 2018 at 11:30 am

dyed aspect

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Sunlight, who needs it, gimme the night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Diurnalism has its benefits, sure. There’s the tan, of course, and the vitamin D production. The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself, however, often causes one to “shvitz.” Night time shvitz only occurs during periods of exertion. but the lack of ambient light is a bane for the photographically ambitious. Regardless, the shots captured which I seem to be drawn towards these days involve darkness. I’ve grown bored with dappled morning light and bold sunsets, it is feared.

Besides, night time is when true party animals come out to play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s always night in the sweating concrete bunkers offered by the MTA, which is a good place to practice low light photography. Lighting conditions are fairly uniform, and you’ve got a series of challenges to overcome down below – fast moving shiny things with bright lights moving through sooty black tunnels, weird depths of field, an abundance of signage printed on saturated color boards, and then there’s your fellow New Yorkers you have to contend with. Saying that, if you want to begin to understand low light photography, the relationship of captured color temperature with noise, and exactly how to fine tune your usage of the manual mode of your camera – use your Metrocard and get clicking.

Seriously, the MTA should hold workshops for photo people on the weekends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While this shot was being captured over by the Sunnyside Yards, a humble narrator was being assaulted by a plague of flies. Must have been something dead in the grassy knoll behind me. I also had to watch out for traffic, as there is no sidewalk on this section, which is one of those Queens things I will never understand.

How can there be no sidewalk on 43rd, a block from Northern Blvd.? Or 58th a block or two from Queens Blvd.? How did you people ever survive here in Queens before I showed up and started complaining about things to anyone who would listen? Sheesh. Growing up in Brooklyn, where “bitching” is weaponized, a sidewalk would have been complained into existence decades ago.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

euclidian anomalies 

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Just another day in Paradise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been using the current air conditioned hermitage in pursuit of learning a few things completely unrelated to anything relevant to my life or the modern world, specifically the emergence and early history of modern humans. I haven’t been deep diving into this, mind you, it’s been watching a few BBC and PBS documentaries which have led me to some do some reading on the subject. My interest in this boils down, ultimately, to folkloric inheritances. Every culture on the planet tells their children stories about wild men who live in the woods, mountains, deserts – the “Bogie” or “Boogie” man who will kidnap a petulant or disobedient child and carry them off. These boogie men are usually large, muscular, possessed of ape like dentition, and hairy. I’ve often wondered if these boogie monsters are apocryphal remembrances of the days when our specie had competition from other hominids – Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, etc. Both of these other hominid specie, in a straight up fist fight, would clean even an MMA champion’s clock. They were stronger and faster than Homo Sapiens, on an anatomical level, based on observation of skeletal muscle attachment sites. Home Erectus, for instance, was a long distance runner with an incredible olfactory system.

The general scientific consensus states that since our specie had the capacity for language and long memory, we were able to plan into the future better than our competition. This allowed our ancestors to organize, pass the organization down from one generation to the next, and this eventually out competed the other hominids in the quest to hunt game and eventually led to the sort of agriculture that modern day “indigineous” people’s practice in jungle and forest settings. Neanderthal anatomy, in terms of their ability to conceptualize and then throw a spear or some other projectile, seems to have been similar to our own. Erectus, alternatively, was anatomically unable to throw a spear but would have been able to rip a modern human to shreds in close quarters combat with their bare hands.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Analogizing historical equivalencies is often required when discussing human history. As I often say – if you were a space alien who arrived in orbit at one point in history or another, and were asked to bet which culture which end up dominating the rest of the human hive, you’d almost certainly lose your wager. If it was during “biblical times” 5,000 years ago you’d have bet on the African cultures centered around the Nile Valley, or the Asian ones centered around either the Yangtze or Ganges rivers. A thousand years ago, you’d have probably placed your bets around the middle eastern cultures centered around the Tigris or Jordan River valleys. 500 years ago, it would have been the industrializing Rhine or Seine. For the last century, it’s the Missisippi and Hudson River valley cultures that seem to be the dominar, but it certainly looks like the Yangtze culture is making a comeback. Oddly enough, anatomically primitive hominids like Erectus seem to have persisted in Asia longer and later than originally thought, as late at 30,000 years ago.

Again, speaking from a folkloric point of view, every culture has legends of hulking brutes lurking in the woods ready to carry off disobedient children. There are certain commonalities in all of the legends and religious traditions – the omniscient sky father, the earth mother, the untamable horned adversary, and the wild men of the woods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting point of view offered in a BBC documentary of the history of Wales which I encountered offered an intriguing bit of logic. As westerners, our thought patterns are decidedly non metaphorical and quite literal. If you’re discussing the legends of King Arthur “pulling the sword from the stone” it’s literally interpreted as “there’s a forged sword stuck in a stone.” The historians who wrote this particular documentary instead pointed out that Druidic cultures were quite poetic in their speech patterns, and spoke in metaphor. Their supposition was that in pre modern Britain, early Iron Age cultures got their raw material out of the bogs – bog iron as it was called. That limited supply, and the iron found in bogs wasn’t forged, instead it was merely shaped. The “pull the sword from the stone” legend emerged shortly after the Romans vacated Britain, and the theory is that the legend referred to harvesting iron from ore and forging it into swords, rather than the more familiar imagery of a young Arthur removing Uther Pendragon’s fully formed magick sword from a boulder. Literally “pulling” the “sword” from the “stone.”

One wonders about the folkloric inheritances and associations of the “other” which are encoded in modern cultures, and the predilection towards “racism” that culture displays. Racists often use language describing the subjects of their ire as “monkeys, savages, primitives, or apes,” intoning a subhuman character to those they dislike. Such childish preoccupation with the primeval Boogie Man, Sky Father, Earth Mother, or fear of the Horned God is fascinating to me and I often wonder how much of it is and unspoken inheritance from the days when there were actual “others.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

nightmare phrase

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Midtown, Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking a short break this week, and you’ll be greeted with single shots when visiting this – your Newtown Pentacle. Trust that I’m out and about gathering new tales to tell and photographs to display.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 23, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Manhattan, Midtown

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odd inquiries

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The Shining City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I had to attend a seasonal setup meeting with the Working Harbor Committee over on the west side of midtown Manhattan, followed by meeting up with Our Lady of the Pentacle at Penn Station when she returned from a business trip. That gave me about an hour’s interval to play around with, which I used to do a few long exposure shots.

Funny bit was, regarding the shot above, the coppers pulled up next to me and parked their car. I figured I was about to have a conversation about what I was taking pictures of when one of the cops apologized and asked if they were blocking my shot. I laughed and explained that they had provided a beautiful bit of framing for me and thanked them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a pretty foggy night, and in all actuality I was wishing that I was anywhere but in midtown Manhattan. Saying that, I really started to groove on the way that the masses of tourists motion blurred into greasy smears as the always crazy traffic you encounter in these parts zipped about. You work with what you’ve got, after all.

Also, given that I generally don’t spend much time around these parts at night, I was startled at the return of the army of derelicts and addicts doing drug business right out in the open, just as they used to in the bad old days. “Giuliani Time” is over, it seems. Within an hour spent between 42nd and 34th, I was able to scope out the network of customer finders, the drug runners, the junkies assigned to delivery duty, and even figure out who was holding the stash and cash.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For one reason or another, noticing this sort of thing has always been a talent of mine. Maybe it’s just that I grew up in 1970’s and 80’s New York. Maybe it’s a shame I never joined the police. I would have made a lousy cop, as I’d be shooting people for minor infractions and being a general hardass about every little thing – the kind of cop that other cops hate.

I actually do shoot at people all the time, but it’s with a camera.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

sensitive people

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It’s National Indian Pudding Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A variety of obligations and impediments have caused one to come up short on content this week. As is my custom, accordingly, whilst a humble narrator is out perambulating about the great city seeking to ameliorate his shortcomings – single shots which I like for one reason or another will be presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Pictured above – a shot of the Chrysler Building as seen during a rare meteorological event which occurred as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was settling into the horizon behind New Jersey.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Manhattan, Midtown

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