The Newtown Pentacle

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My long walk on March 14th continued along Newtown Creek, and I visited all of favorite places west of 48th street. Vainglorious thoughts cause me to refer to my circumlocutions of the Newtown Creek as a “patrol.” Irregular in schedule, it seems that about every six weeks or so, I walk the entire shoreline of the waterway, and have done so for nearly fifteen years now.

I really should have gotten into building model airplanes or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dark and lonely is the way I like it. Sure, there are passing cars and trucks, but I’m the only pedestrian usually. It’s actually a bit surreal, truth be told. Moving about in the veritable geographic center of NYC, and more often than not – complete and utter solitude.

It’s been a panacea during the pandemic, I tell’s ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I grew up without siblings, so being alone is normal for me. Unfortunately, what’s going through my mind during these long walks is a non stop review of all of my failings. I really work myself over psychologically during these long walks. Why? Well, even if your Jewish mother is dead, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do to yourself what she used to do and rake yourself over the coals for every mistake you’ve ever made dating back to potty training.

A particular quirk of mine involves the way my memory works. I don’t remember anything good that I’ve done or said, instead the milestones in my psychological roadmap revolve around failure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sleights or arguments – those stick around. Complimentary relationships or personal victories are soon forgotten. I’ve gotten better about this stuff as I’ve gotten older, but in my late 20’s and early 30’s it was crippling to exist behind these eyes and between the ears. On this particular walk, I was processing painful memories retained from when I was in Junior High School. Pedantic, huh?

For the curious – I remember being embarrassed, and hoping that nobody who has ever met me as an adult would find out about that time in 7th grade when I decided to wear a pair of “Tale Lord” jeans to school and was roundly mocked for months about it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, I was reminded by a cousin of the great esteem one used to espouse for the band “U2,” in my senior year of high school. Given that I barely listen to that outfit anymore, but still stand behind the statement that the albums “Boy” and “War” were pretty great, I grew embarrassed about that too. Working myself over about all of the stupid things I’ve said and thought over the years…

Part of this thought process revolves around the aging process. We are all different people at different times in our lives, and the trick is to accept that as the years stack up that you’ve evolved – hopefully. That trick eludes me as – since mentioned – my focus and lattice of memories are built on a foundation of professional and personal mistakes, and saying exactly the wrong thing at exactly the right time. My internal Jewish Mother will never let me forget about failures.

You’re supposed to succeed, what do you want, a medal? Mr. Big Shot, remember the time you shit your pants when you were at cousin Nancy’s first wedding in Washington when you were 4? Your father was so embarrassed he had indigestion for the entire Carter administration. What about the time you…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, I positively feed upon all of this ennui. Wouldn’t do it to myself if it didn’t have some positive effect, right? Maybe it’s why I work so hard and so often. Why I strive to try and not be a Dick.

Tomorrow – something completely different, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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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, 2022 at 11:00 am

beetling precipice

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

God, I love the loneliness of it all. I’ve got a speech I make occasionally – one usually offered when somebody asks about how I got involved with the whole Newtown Creek thing. The best part of the speech is when I say “and just like every other piece of wind blown trash in New York City, I found myself on the shorelines of Newtown Creek.” It sounds good, and makes for a good quote that a journalist can use. If you don’t give them a quote to take back to the office, they’ll use something you don’t want them to.

Industrial Maspeth is famously my happy place, where I go when I want to be by myself. Unfortunately that’s changed during the pandemic months, as Industrial Maspeth has become quite a busy place again. Different sort of busy than the old days, but there are concurrences between now and then.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last mile shipping industry – UPS, FedEx, and the Amazon people – have quietly expanded their operations – massively – during the blitzkrieg of bad news we’ve all experienced over the last couple of years. There’s a huge industrial population of package sorters, package loaders and unloaders, road truck drivers and local delivery truck drivers who congeal around the various shipping facilities in Maspeth. Amazon is building a Taj Mahal sized shipping facility on Grand Avenue on what used to be the campus of Star Corrugated Box.

This population of people working “in the zone” have brought all sorts of things along with them to my beloved Creek. Five years ago, this happy place of mine was a post industrial wasteland which people drove through and seldom stopped in. In the last couple of years, as this new group of workers have filled in; I’ve seen a prostitution racket using the LIRR tracks for their assignations, lots and lots of druggery, and of late a while new racket.

Kids, as in late teen and early twenties, are riding into the shipping warehouses on delivery bikes and raiding the baskets of packages awaiting their temporary destination on the local delivery van. Two man teams, arranged like Scythian Archers with one facing backwards, swipe stuff in boxes and then tear ass away from the scene as fast as the bike will go. The various teams communicate with other using cell phones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, where are the photos of that, Mr. Wind Blown Trash Newtown Creek? Well, there are certain things which you don’t want to be noticed noticing when you’re alone and on foot at night in Industrial Maspeth, I tell’s you.

Street level trouble is one thing – a weird encounter with a homeless guy, or a group of menacing teenagers nearing – but there’s a higher level of sinister which you just don’t want to be anywhere adjacent to around these parts. Notably, you don’t want to be a witness when somebody is in the early stages of organizing their crime. Careful out there, peeps.


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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

March 1, 2022 at 11:00 am

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A long walk to my happy place – Industrial Maspeth – resulted in a humble narrator returning to HQ with several interesting shots on the camera’s memory card. The Kosciuszcko Bridge is all lit up like a Greek coffee shop these days, with outré LED lights that cast a weird luminescence on the surrounding landscape and upon the lugubrious Newtown Creek that it spans.

I’ve mentioned a landscape photography technique called “focus stacking” in the past. You shoot multiple exposures of the same scene, while moving the focus point of the lens about. This gives you a series of “tack sharp” foreground, middle ground, and infinity point images which are then combined into one shot during the developing process. The shot above isn’t one of these, as a note, it’s just a “normal” exposure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I’ve noticed, however, when gathering images for these “focus stacking” images, is that if the Kosciuszcko Bridge is going through its lighting sequence while you’re shooting the photo sequence, the changes to hue and color offered by the bridge end up becoming part of the final image. Like many of these sorts of discoveries, it became apparent to me when a sunset focus stacking shot of the Kosciuszcko Bridge formed a rainbow. The image was weird, as it wasn’t intentionally shot that way, but one said “hmmm.”

Hence, the focus stacking photos above and below, wherein I timed the shutter to coincide with the bridge’s lighting package cycling through reds and purples. I was also trying to be conscious of maintaining some texture in the water, rather than letting it turn into a glassy mirror as in the shot below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These were shot from the bulkheads of what was once called Phelps Dodge, in Maspeth. I’ve shown you the Hindu god statue that’s secreted away in the piles of this section of Newtown Creek in the past.

What I’m up to in these shots, experimentally speaking, is turning focus stacking into time stacking.


“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

February 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

limitless limitations

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst scuttling about on a recent evening, one met an Opossum. I have no idea if the critter was a he or a she or a they, but it seemed nice. Are there trans or non gender conforming opossums, and do we have to worry about their feelings? The thing was vamping for me, and since I had just updated the firmware on my camera with what Canon promised as being “improvements to the eye tracking autofocus for animals and people” this situation presented an excellent opportunity for me to test the improved feature out.

Apparently, a big part of this face and eye tracking update involved adapting to the presence of Covid masks. The Opossum wasn’t wearing one, and neither was I for that matter, but there you are. Speaking as someone who has treated Covid with a great deal of respect over the last two years, it absolutely flummoxes me when I see people who are entirely alone – and outside – wearing masks. Same thing with people who are driving solo and wearing one. Why?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, when I was riding around on various Amtrak’s in the September and December, and on Subways here in the City, you’d have had to pry the mask off my cold dead face before I’d remove it willingly in an unventilated congregate setting. Outside, though? Unless it’s a truly crowded sidewalk – a protest or maybe a press event – I’m bare faced. Ventilation, people, ventilation. Also, distancing, people, distancing. This isn’t advice, you do you.

Recent occasion found me at the Jackson Heights intermodal subway and bus station at Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue here in Queens, where a masked up crowd formed into tight rows less than a foot away from each other when either boarding the escalator or awaiting the train’s arrival. Me? I was masked up, but stood well away from everybody else and their clouds of cooties. Why crowd in? What advantage is there? Who are you trying to beat out for pole position in terms of boarding the R? I guarantee you’re going to get onto the train, why do you need to be first?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My evening’s destination, which the pursuance thereof had precipitated meeting the nice Opossum, was the Newtown Creek waterfront in Maspeth. The former bulkheads of a long gone copper refinery and chemical factory called Phelps Dodge offer a commanding set of views of the Kosciuszko Bridge as well as a few other interesting things to point a camera at.

As far as Newtown Creek goes, the waters which greasily lap at the Phelps Dodge shoreline are generally considered to be the most deeply compromised – environmentally speaking – on the entire waterway.

Back next week with more – at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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.

amorphous amenity

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lucky. Just happened to be in the right place at the right time, which happened to be the Brooklyn/Queens border, found on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, at about 8 o’clock at night on a Friday in middle January. The tug is the CMT Pike, a 1979 vintage push boat operated by Coeymans Marine Towing.

This was a very, very difficult shot to get the exposure right for, as a note. The difficulty was due to the contrasting environment of bright lights and deep shadow, and complicated by the boat being operated at full steam and sliding quickly across the gelatinous waters of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One doesn’t like heading home along the same path which he left it from, so my toes were pointed in a generally “Maspethian” direction for the return leg of things. There’s a little park, on Review Avenue at the corner of Laurel Hill Blvd., that was constructed along with the new Koscisuzcko Bridge. One likes to have a bit of sit down there when out for a long walk, and although sitting on a block of concrete in January isn’t exactly comfortable, it’s still nice to be able to take a load off for a few minutes and “unclick” my back.

As long as I was there, why not get in a couple of shots of the bridge? Why be lazy when you’re already out and about, and sitting down on a block of frozen concrete which is draining your body heat away through your butt?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path back to HQ in Astoria found me walking through Sunnyside Gardens, and looking over my shoulder a lot. My paranoia alleviates around Newtown Creek, given how relatively depopulated it is. Sunnyside, however, enjoys quite a dense population. Using my old rubric that 2 out of every 10 people are straight up evil, what that means is that when you’re moving through a densely populated neighborhood about 20% of that population might screw with you.

My “rule” is that out of every ten people, two are evil and two are good. The remaining six are in the middle, and can go either way depending on whether or not they follow their social cues from the good two or the evil two. “The company you keep” isn’t just something your grandmother warned you about, in my mind.


“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

February 23, 2022 at 11:00 am

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