The Newtown Pentacle

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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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 23, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Manhattan, Midtown

Tagged with

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Manhattan, Midtown

Tagged with

latent idiosyncrasies 

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst watching a bird eating some random drunk’s vomit here in Astoria recently, a humble narrator found himself contemplating the news of the day. One soon realized that he’d rather watch a bird feeding on puke than deep dive into another pointless conversation about the news of the day. Nazis…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is disgusted, depressed, and despondent.  

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I just do not have anything to say. I just can’t. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 14, 2017 at 1:00 pm

parenthetical ideation

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s no secret that we live in an age of real estate mega development, and that the skyline of NYC has been undergoing massive changes which we haven’t seen the like of since the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Unfortunately, so much of what is being built is uninspiring, and banal. Glass rectangles designed to maximize profit which offer no sense of wonder, inspiration, or esthetic joy. 

The exception to this modern rule is actually found in Manhattan, where what I consider to be the most interesting new building in NYC is found. It’s on West 57th street at the Hudson River – Bjarke Ingels’ W57. Check out this article at the Atlantic for all the details on it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been watching this one go up from the water for a couple of years now, and it’s made me think a bit. I’m in a constant argument with both friends and enemies over rhetorical tone and grammar when it comes to political terminology. “Gentrification” is a bugbear word for me, especially when it refers to LIC or Greenpoint. What’s going on there isn’t gentrification – we haven’t coined a name for what’s happening along the East River coast of Long Island, yet. 

What happened in East Harlem and Park Slope in the 90’s – that was “gentrification.” Similarly, there’s no such thing as a “liberal” or a “conservative” or a “progressive” anymore, our culture is just stuck in a grammatical paradigm which was coined by an earlier generation (one which refuses to retire, much like the so called establishment it sought to replace in the 60’s)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Where NYC architects went wrong was the embrace of inhuman and emotionless architecture like the so called “international style,” which imparted a soulless and somewhat fascist countenance to the city. Ask a native New Yorker, and we will always point to the Chrysler, Empire State, and Woolworth buildings as the ones to embrace. Soulful and inspiring, these sorts of mega structures are loved and welcomed by communities rather than reviled. 

Hopefully, W57 will offer a lesson and act as a harbinger to the real estate shit flies out there. It’s not some “NIMBY” sentiment which activates community protests against their projects, rather it’s about avoiding the building of yet another banal glass rectangle whose singular purpose is “stealing the sky.” 


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 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

greater wildness

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Vertigo, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, one had attended a photo industry trade show at the Javitz Center. As this was the first time that circumstance had carried me to the newish Hudson Yards stop on the IRT Flushing line – conventionally referred to as the “7” – I decided to take a few minutes and record a few images.

There you go. Back to Manhattan. Sigh…

from wikipedia

The name “Manhattan” derives from the word Manna-hata, as written in the 1609 logbook of Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson’s yacht Halve Maen (Half Moon). A 1610 map depicts the name as Manna-hata, twice, on both the west and east sides of the Mauritius River (later named the Hudson River). The word “Manhattan” has been translated as “island of many hills” from the Lenape language. The United States Postal Service prefers that mail addressed to Manhattan use “New York, NY” rather than “Manhattan, NY”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing that kept on striking me about visiting the new station was a sensation of vertigo. Normally, one is possessed of a sound and reliable bit of plumbing in the inner ear, but there was just something about the setup of the incredibly steep escalators which distinguish the new station that induced me to feel as if I was about to fall and tumble.

Given the sort of things I know about escalators, which are – functionally speaking – indistinguishable from industrial meat grinders, this was a real concern for one such as myself.

from wikipedia

Escalators, like moving walkways, are often powered by constant-speed alternating current motors[citation needed] and move at approximately 0.3–0.6 metres (1–2 ft) per second. The typical angle of inclination of an escalator to the horizontal floor level is 30 degrees with a standard rise up to about 18 metres (60 ft). Modern escalators have single-piece aluminum or stainless steel steps that move on a system of tracks in a continuous loop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps it’s the angle at which they’ve been set at. The Hudson Yards station platforms are found fairly deep in the ground, by NYC Subway standards. Comparable but still examples of the depth would be the 7’s Grand Central platform, or the 59th street and 3rd exit on the IND lines. Looking up rather than down, it felt a bit like the Smith/9th street stop on the F and G lines. Mr. Walsh from Forgotten-NY assures me that the deepest station in the system is in upper Manhattan, and I have few occasions to oppose his opinions so I’ll take his word on it, but Hudson Yards is deep.

from wikipedia

In January 2005, the New York City Council approved the rezoning of about 60 blocks from 28th to 43rd Streets, including the eastern portion of the West Side Yard. This did not include the western portion. In June 2005, the proposed West Side Stadium, to be built over the western portion for the New York City bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, was defeated. Soon after, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) thought of ways to redevelop the 26 acres (11 ha) yards. In conjunction with the government of New York City, the MTA issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 12,000,000 square feet (1,100,000 m2) of mixed-use space. The space was to be built on platforms over the rail yards, which would still be in use.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a mezzanine level where you’ll find the turnstiles, which is where the set of escalators in the shots above bring you. The mezzanine is fairly pleasing, design wise. There’s a whole bunch of arcing shapes moving against each other, tiled floors, and other “architect” looking features that are pretty pleasing to the eye. Or, to mine at least.

from wikipedia

The new construction, part of the city’s and the MTA’s master plan for the Far West Side, extended the IRT Flushing Line west from Times Square to Eleventh Avenue, then south to 34th Street. Although the West Side Stadium plan was rejected by city and state planning agencies, the 7 Subway Extension plan received approval to move ahead, as New York political leaders wanted to see the warehouse district west of Eighth Avenue and north of 34th Street redeveloped as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, and subway service was to be an essential part of that effort. The extension also serves the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which was expanded in 2008–2014 and is located a block away from the station entrances.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big kahuna of the escalators, and the ones which caused me to begin to experience vertigo, are the ones which carry you down to the platforms themselves.

from wikipedia

Vertigo is when a person feels as if they or the objects around them are moving when they are not. Often it feels like a spinning or swaying movement. This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, or difficulties walking. It is typically worsened when the head is moved. Vertigo is the most common type of dizziness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is looking back up at where the previous photo was captured, and just the act of turning myself around forced my non camera arm to reflexively reach for some kind of support.

from wikipedia

The MTA completed excavation of a 150-foot (46 m) long cavern in June 2009. The cavern was dug below the bus entrance ramp to the lower level of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and formed part of the eastern end of the new extension and connected it to the Times Square station. At the same time, tunnels were being dug northward from the machine shaft at 26th Street; soft ground at 27th and 28th Street required 300 feet (91 m) of ground to be frozen so that the tunnel-boring machines could easily dig through the soil. On December 21, 2009, it was announced that a tunnel-boring machine broke through the 34th Street station cavern wall. Both tunnel-boring machines were scheduled to finish the required tunneling in the spring of 2010.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think it’s the “leading lines” which did it. There’s a real “THX 1138” vibe to this station, which seems to be part of a modern design aesthetic MTA is following. I’ve been to the Second Avenue Subway construction site and the new stations about to come on line are visually quite similar to the Hudson Yards stop.

from wikipedia

THX 1138 (pronounced “T-H-X Eleven Thirty-Eight”) is a 1971 science fiction film directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut. The film was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch. It stars Donald Pleasence and Robert Duvall and depicts a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police officers and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotion, including outlawed sexual desire.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down at the bottom, there’s another vaulted tunnel which terminates at yet another barrel vault, which is where the two tracks for the 7 train are found. This is a terminal stop, of course, so there must a turnaround track somewhere down there but I’ll be godamned if I knew where it was. Felt like like I was halfway to hell if truth be told. Dizzy, I got nervous, my chest grew tight, and it was oddly warm on the platform itself – given its depth.

Then again, Manhattan generally makes me experience both agita and angina, and often reminds me of hell.

from wikipedia

The main entrance, located at the southeast corner of the intersection of 34th Street and Hudson Boulevard, has a turtle shell-shaped glass canopy above it that allows light to shine on the upper mezzanine. The elevator is located south of 34th Street in Hudson Park, while the escalator entrance is located further east, closer to the boulevard. The ventilation building will be built over by developers at a future date. The second entrance, which will contain escalator entrances is at the southwest corner of 35th Street and Hudson Boulevard East. At both of the exits, the staircases and four escalators each go down 40 feet (12 m) to a fare control area, then another 80 feet (24 m) to the common lower mezzanine; the main entrance was completed by summer 2014, while the secondary entrance is still under construction and will be completed by 2016.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

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