The Newtown Pentacle

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surgical instrumentation

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When a young but already humble narrator was but a boy, he lived in an apartment in southeast Brooklyn with a pair of parents who liked to fight and argue about every little thing. There was always a lot of yelling and screaming, as Mom and Pop would square off about the various issues and challenges facing them. Mom was always the superior tactician in these regular verbal battles. The old man was all about volume and anger, often demonstrating his frustration by putting his fist through a wall, whereas the old lady would go for the emotional jugular and work the guilt angle whenever she could. One of her techniques to wind the old man up would be flipping the subject mid fight, which forced him to suddenly wheel around and defend a previously unexposed flank. She would do this several times in rapid fire, which confused the hell out of Dad or whomever she was arguing with as she didn’t reserve her combative psyche for the household, but instead spread the enmity around to whoever was available in the neighborhood or reachable by telephone. 

Mom was kind of a jerk, and often initiated her wars due to personal insecurity and perceived slights which had little basis in reality. In many ways, she ruined her own life with this sort of behavior, alienating everyone around her – including myself, her sibling, and just about everybody she was related to didn’t want to be anywhere near her at the end. Even after she died, all that my family members could talk about was her constant bickering and invective reasoning, which means that she ultimately won her battle to dominate any and all conversation. We were continuing to argue about and with a dead woman. 

Mom was actually a genius on the arguing front, and she would skillfully obfuscate and steer the conversation and arguments she was engaged in away from whatever the original subject was. Her diversions would drive her opponents into blind fury and annoyed frustration. At the end of her tirades, she’d proclaim herself the victimized party, and then begin a multi day process of shaming and guilt towards her “victimizers.” 

Sound familiar? It’s exactly the sort of technique which the current President of the United States uses. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My Mom and Dad are no longer with us (except as regular voices in my inner dialogue) and the wasted family time, which was squandered in this ridiculous melodrama, weighs heavily upon me. So too does the time we are all wasting as a community discussing and arguing about “he who must not be named, for saying his name gives him power.” What would be expected of an American President after a race riot is a repudiation of the KKK and the white power crowd, but by prevaricating about the subject, the President has made his views and feelings a point of debate amongst both the press and people and is diverting attention away from actual events over to himself. His goal, which is to stand at center stage and have the only conversation be about him, has been achieved. He’s keeping our heads spinning with the bi weekly outrages, and in doing so, he dominates all discourse. Can you actually remember the outrages of February or March, or is your head spinning? Have you punched a wall yet? 

Even I’m talking about him right now, and this is hardly the only thing you’re going to read about him today. His strategy, like my Mom’s, is to keep himself as the central character of a shaped narrative and dramaturge. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – none of the words we use for political subjects have any meaning. In the last election, Hillary Clinton was the actual conservative and “he who must not be named” was not a “reformer.” Bill de Blasio is not a “Progressive,” as he has never once used the mid 20th century political term “Progress” in its proper context. None of these political brand marks mean anything anymore, and they were coined more than a century ago by people who meant something entirely different by them than modern usage. We don’t use Whig or Torie anymore, do we? 

You do have to hand it to the Nazi’s and Race Supremacists however, for evolving and adopting the techniques of “Identity Politics” as pioneered in the 1960’s to rebrand themselves and portray their “movement” as being something other than hooliganism and the “mob mentality” which Alexander Hamilton was so concerned about during his Federalist papers period. That’s pretty clever, and my Mom would likely have been impressed by the sheer ballsiness of it, but she was a cruel person who enjoyed other people’s misfortunes and enjoyed winding them up. 


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.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

decisive steps

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It’s National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the known presence of a tribe of Vampires lurking in the steel rafters of the Red Hook section’s Gowanus Expressway, the elevated span offers a welcoming respite from the radiate energies of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself to a humble narrator as well as the revenants – and given the high temperature and humidity levels last week – one was willing to take his chances with the bloodsuckers in pursuance of a bit of shade. This corridor in South Brooklyn is hellacious to drive through, and is also a bit of an adventure whilst on foot.

It’s the “House of Moses” after all.

from wikipedia

Robert Moses (December 18, 1888 – July 29, 1981) was a public official who worked mainly in the New York metropolitan area. Known as the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, Rockland County, and Westchester County, he is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann of Second Empire Paris, and was one of the most polarizing figures in the history of urban development in the United States. His decisions favoring highways over public transit helped create the modern suburbs of Long Island and influenced a generation of engineers, architects, and urban planners who spread his philosophies across the nation despite not training in those professions. Moses would call himself a “coordinator” and was referred to in the media as a “master builder”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One’s plan was a simple one. Attendance at an event in Sunset Park was on the menu, and a convoluted trip using the subway from Point A in Queens’ Astoria to Point R in Brooklyn’s Red Hook was instituted. From Smith/9th street, I had a distance of about a mile to cover on foot, during which one encountered a series of challenging pedestrian obstacles which made me wish I had called a cab. My plan was to take Hamilton Avenue over to Third Avenue, whereupon I was headed over to 28th street in Sunset Park. Simple?

Btw, that’s NYC DOT’s Hamilton Plant pictured above, they do asphalt.

from wikipedia

Asphalt concrete (commonly called asphalt, blacktop, or pavement in North America, and tarmac or bitumen macadam in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland) is a composite material commonly used to surface roads, parking lots, airports, as well as the core of embankment dams. It consists of mineral aggregate bound together with asphalt, laid in layers, and compacted. The process was refined and enhanced by Belgian inventor and U.S. immigrant Edward de Smedt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things got a little hairy for a scuttling narrator as the realization that there was no way to safely cross the street set in and that I was just going to have to “go with the flow” and follow whatever detours Robert Moses left behind for me. Realizing that you’re the only person moving along on foot along a busy road is a bit disconcerting. More so, the unseen eyes staring maliciously down at my gloriously blood swollen body were sensed rather than observed.

My understanding is that this tribe of Nosferatu are nowhere near as organized or aggressive as the ones found around Queens Plaza. Those are the ones who enact a nightly siege at the NY Blood Center facility in Vernon Blvd., but one remained vigilant nevertheless.

As quoted from a 2015 post at this – your Newtown Pentacle – “It is said that the vampires arrived with a grain shipment from Germany in the early 1900’s, quickly established themselves in the neighborhood, and never left.”

from wikipedia

During the 18th century, there was a frenzy of vampire sightings in Eastern Europe, with frequent stakings and grave diggings to identify and kill the potential revenants. Even government officials engaged in the hunting and staking of vampires. Despite being called the Age of Enlightenment, during which most folkloric legends were quelled, the belief in vampires increased dramatically, resulting in a mass hysteria throughout most of Europe. The panic began with an outbreak of alleged vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and in the Habsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734, which spread to other localities. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The diversionary sidewalk path carried me away from Hamilton’s intersection with Third Avenue, and one was forced to vacate the BQE’s shadows – which sheltered both undead army and humble narrator alike from the sky born radiation. One found himself at the veritable angle between the three neighborhoods surrounding the Gowanus Canal, and proceeded along his way.

I kept a close eye on those steel rafters, however.

from wikipedia

Legends of vampires have existed for millennia; cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of demonic entities and blood-drinking spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. Despite the occurrence of vampire-like creatures in these ancient civilizations, the folklore for the entity we know today as the vampire originates almost exclusively from early 18th-century Southeastern Europe, particularly Transylvania as verbal traditions of many ethnic groups of the region were recorded and published. In most cases, vampires are revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but can also be created by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire itself. Belief in such legends became so rife that in some areas it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along my path, several gaunt and filthy humans appeared, asking me for things I might have – oddly specific amounts of currency or just random items that they noticed me carrying. Surely, these debased people were the “bled white” servitors of the vampiric powers, enjoying the brief sojourn of freedom which the daytime brings them. Shoving past them with a “harummpf” and a “good day to you madam,” one was nevertheless on a mission, which was arriving at my destination in Sunset Park on time and not quite a perspiring mess due to the uncomfortable atmospherics.

One had arrived at Third Avenue, finally.

from wikipedia

Clinical vampirism is named after the mythical vampire, and is a recognizable, although rare, clinical entity characterized by periodic compulsive blood-drinking, affinity with the dead and uncertain identity. It is hypothetically the expression of an inherited archaic myth, the act of taking blood being a ritual that gives temporary relief. From ancient times vampirists have given substance to belief in the existence of supernatural vampires. Four vampirists, including Haigh, the ‘acid-bath murderer’, are described. From childhood they cut themselves, drank their own, exogenous human or animal blood to relieve a craving, dreamed of blood-shed, associated with the dead, and had a changing identity. They were intelligent, with no family mental or social pathology. Some self-cutters are auto-vampirists; females are not likely to assault others for blood, but males are potentially dangerous. Vampirism may be a cause of unpredictable repeated assault and murder, and should be looked for in violent criminals who are self-mutilators. No specific treatment is known.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I noticed that the steel rafters of the highway were no longer quite so high relative to my position, but were instead placed far closer to the ground. At this lower height, it would be a simple thing for some glass nailed claw connected to a pale limb by creaking ligaments to swing down and scratch at my skinvelope, causing my bodily juices to spill out and make for easy consumption. The local gendarmes don’t inquire too deeply into exsanguinated corpses around these parts, I’m told, chalking the complete lack of blood up to “extreme dehydration” on official NYPD paperwork.

Yeah… there’s definitely something thirsty hereabouts… I’ll tell you!

from wikipedia

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first appearance of the English word vampire (as vampyre) in English from 1734, in a travelogue titled Travels of Three English Gentlemen published in The Harleian Miscellany in 1745. Vampires had already been discussed in French and German literature. After Austria gained control of northern Serbia and Oltenia with the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, officials noted the local practice of exhuming bodies and “killing vampires”. These reports, prepared between 1725 and 1732, received widespread publicity. The English term was derived (possibly via French vampyre) from the German Vampir, in turn derived in the early 18th century from the Serbian vampir (Cyrillic: вампир).

The Serbian form has parallels in virtually all Slavic languages: Bulgarian and Macedonian вампир (vampir), Bosnian: vampir, Croatian vampir, Czech and Slovak upír, Polish wąpierz, and (perhaps East Slavic-influenced) upiór, Ukrainian упир (upyr), Russian упырь (upyr’), Belarusian упыр (upyr), from Old East Slavic упирь (upir’) (many of these languages have also borrowed forms such as “vampir/wampir” subsequently from the West; these are distinct from the original local words for the creature). The exact etymology is unclear. Among the proposed proto-Slavic forms are *ǫpyrь and *ǫpirь.

Another less widespread theory is that the Slavic languages have borrowed the word from a Turkic term for “witch” (e.g., Tatar ubyr). Czech linguist Václav Machek proposes Slovak verb “vrepiť sa” (stick to, thrust into), or its hypothetical anagram “vperiť sa” (in Czech, the archaic verb “vpeřit” means “to thrust violently”) as an etymological background, and thus translates “upír” as “someone who thrusts, bites”. An early use of the Old Russian word is in the anti-pagan treatise “Word of Saint Grigoriy” (Russian Слово святого Григория), dated variously to the 11th–13th centuries, where pagan worship of upyri is reported.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One bolted across Third Avenue, seeking safety instead of avoiding the burning gaze of the Thermonuclear Eye of God itself. For one such as myself, it is merely uncomfortable to stand in the radiation of the almighty’s gaze, but for the Vampire folk it is an existential matter. It’s why their kind prefers cold climates with long winters, when’re they can enjoy the ecstasies of freedom and the hunt both unmolested and unrestrained, like the wolf.

I’m told that one of the local South Brooklyn Vampires has recently announced a run for the local City Council seat as an independent. There’s a lot of minor candidates who feel emboldened by Donald Trump’s surprise victory to try and gain elective office who figure that if Trump could do it, why not them too? Watch out Brad Lander.

from wikipedia

Opportunism is the conscious policy and practice of taking advantage of circumstances – with little regard for principles, or with what the consequences are for others. Opportunist actions are expedient actions guided primarily by self-interested motives. The term can be applied to individual humans and living organisms, groups, organizations, styles, behaviours, and trends.

Opportunism or “opportunistic behavior” is an important concept in such fields of study as biology, transaction cost economics, game theory, ethics, psychology, sociology and politics.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Warehouse and fenceline shadows would now have to be my only shelter from the burning rays of the thermonuclear orb in the sky, and one proceeded south. Now all I had to worry about were those man things which have seemingly never been instructed in how to wear human clothing that are common in this area, the everpresent high speed and randomly directed truck traffic, and a growing crowd of disaffected and heavily tattooed young humans who were riding their bicycles clumsily on the sidewalk while texting on their iphones.

from wikipedia

The hipster subculture is stereotypically composed of youth who reside primarily in gentrifying neighborhoods. It is broadly associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, vintage and thrift store-bought clothing, generally progressive political views, organic and artisanal foods, alternative lifestyles and snobbery. The subculture typically consists of mostly white young adults living in urban areas. It has been described as a “mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow, I’ll show you where I was going to in Sunset Park, and why I braved the horrors of the sweating concrete bunkers of the MTA, the pedestrian hating “House of Moses,” and the Vampiric hordes of hoary Red Hook itself.

That’s Gowanus Bay above, as seen from my eventual destination in Sunset Park, which was ultimately kind of a trashy experience – but more on that subject tomorrow – at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from wikipedia

Sunset Park is a neighborhood in the southwestern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is bounded by Park Slope, Greenwood Heights and Green-Wood Cemetery to the north, Borough Park to the east, Bay Ridge to the south, and Upper New York Bay to the west. Because it was once close to the southern boundary of the City of Brooklyn, Sunset Park is considered to be part of South Brooklyn. However, until the 1960s, the northern part of Sunset Park was considered to be part of Gowanus, and the southern part was included in Bay Ridge. The neighborhood received its own name in that decade.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

inner gallery

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Happy Memorial Day, y’all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator wishes all well, and chides some to remember the cost of those things held most dear.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 27, 2016 at 11:15 am

abetted by

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Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion to Gowanus Bay saw our vessel plying the Buttermilk Channel section of the East River, which is found between Red Hook and Governors Island. The legend about how this section of the river ended up being called Buttermilk Channel states that back in colonial times, it was so shallow at low tide that Red Hook farmers would herd cattle over to the island for safe keeping and free grazing. Dredging projects in the industrial era lowered the depth hereabouts, creating a shipping channel.

As our vessel moved along, a big orange boat called the Staten Island Ferry entered into Buttermilk, which is pretty unusual. Incidentally, despite its size, the Ferry is a boat. If it could launch a boat, it would be a ship, but since it can’t, it’s a boat. Life boats don’t count, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was actually a dredging project that caused the anomaly. New York Harbor is an estuary situated between a giant conveyor belt for silt and soil called the Hudson River and the estuarial waters of Jamaica Bay and Long Island Sound. The back and forth tidal action of the East River, coupled with the titanic flow of the Hudson, causes the harbor floor to build up constantly and channel maintenance is an expensive but necessary activity ordained and financed by the ports people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as we were leaving Buttermilk Channel on our way to Erie Basin and Gowanus Bay, the NYPD Harbor Patrol came splashing by, offering themselves up with an iconic backdrop.

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twining tightly

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Tugboats, tugboats, tugboats – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion to Port Elizabeth Newark was particularly photogenic. We’ve entered into “that time of the year,” wherein the angle of the light emanating from the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is propitious to photographic pursuit. From now until mid November, and again in the March to June period, the light is just right.

Pictured above are the Liberty Service and Marion Moran tugs at full steam on the Kill Van Kull.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kirby Moran, which is a new boat for me, with the Bayonne Bridge as back drop, was observed over in Newark Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DonJon Towing’s Emily Ann was headed north in Newark Bay, with the titanic Global Marine Terminal behind her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure which tug this was, as I couldn’t spot a name or IMO number on her, but she was docked at Governor’s Island – on the south or Buttemilk Channel side, with some old French chick standing behind the barge she was tending.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Buttermilk Channel, Mary H. was towing a fuel barge past Atlantic Basin when I spotted her. I know where Mary H. was likely headed for – East Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Avenue – and the Bayside fuel depot found 3.1 miles from the East River on the English Kills tributary of my beloved Newtown Creek.

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Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

rattling and beating

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Meshuggenehs, all of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting exercise was undertaken recently, which involved the peeling back of hardened scabs and callouses. Whilst browsing the vast interwebs recently, a link carried me over to YouTube. A recording of “The Howard Stern show,” which was broadcasting live during the September 11th attacks, was perused. The reactions of Howard and his crew to the attacks as they happened put me in touch with my own experiences that day, and opened up an old wound. This touched off a spate of reviewing broadcasts, both news and scripted drama, produced in the aftermath of the attacks. One remembers the emotional numbness of the time, when it seemed that nothing would ever be funny again, and the paramount question of that moment in time – raised over and over – was “why do they hate us.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All these years later, the answers offered by the entertainment industry – whether asked by the hosts of what passes for news in our nation or as interpreted by dramaturges – boiled down to “freedom.” Aside from a childish lack of knowledge about the actual foreign policy of, and an unvarnished look at the actions of the United States in the second half of the 20th century, what struck me was the notion we held about ourselves back then. The general gist of what folks wanted in the months following the attacks was to “unleash” the CIA, and to teach the rest of the world “who’s the boss.” I guess we’ve got that now – with our fleets of flying robot assassins, institutional torture, and a gulag in Cuba. If you’ve got the time, I suggest you scan the web in a similar fashion, as it’s an interesting thing to see what our world was once like and how far we’ve travelled in a very short time. Remember “freedom fries”?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An urban myth is put to rest, incidentally, in the shot above. “Ever notice how you never see a dead pidgeon” is the particular yarn, something I’ve heard repeated over and over. I see a LOT of dead pidgeons, and have photos to prove it. An urban myth which the September 11th attacks actually put to bed was the efficacy of the so called “Emergency Alert System,” whose tests interrupted television and radio broadcast throughout my childhood. It was nowhere to be found on 911, despite there being an actual emergency in my area. Additionally, the Emergency Alert System didn’t seem to activate during Hurricane Sandy either.

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cold and humorless

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Well, here we are again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

September 11th is the only thing that can make a New Yorker flinch, a subject which causes all of our carefully cultivated callouses to fall away. City people have thick skins, but the subject is still raw around these parts.

A world ended thirteen years ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

War came to New York City that day, and we weren’t ready for it. There were no air defenses at the ready in the defacto capital city of the United States that morning, when the Twin Towers fell. This is something one still finds stunning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s to absent friends.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 11, 2014 at 9:56 am

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