The Newtown Pentacle

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stricken flesh

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My foot hurts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lately, it feels like I’ve been exposed to ionizing radiation at some point in the recent past, as everything hurts. Part of getting older, I suppose. I’d worry more about it if the various aches and pains were more chronic and didn’t move around. One day it’s the knee, the next it’s a foot on the other leg, another it’s a weird knot in my neck which came out of nowhere. I’ve come to refer to this phenomena as my “pain squirrel” since everyday it seems to take up residence on a different branch of my personal Yggdrasil or world tree. Regular talking folk would just say “body,” but I ain’t regular.

What can I tell you, I spent most of my life burning the candle at both ends. If a situation required it, I’d use my body as a wrecking ball. It’s taken a toll, and the bill is coming due these days. All this recent rain has made me suspect that arthritis might be the culprit behind some of the various aches and pains, but it wouldn’t surprise if I woke up one morning and found that some part of me had turned to a form of goo under the blanket.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ideally, I’d like to house my brain, after the bodily gooification is complete, in some sort of robotic housing. On envisions a robust fluid filled jar for the brain, with electrical connections allowing me to control a mobile chassis. Said apparatus would have modular attachment sites for devices to interact with the world outside the jar. Given that I view the human body as little more than a chassis for carrying around the brain as it is, this scenario would be a bit less nightmarish for me than it would be for others. What I’d miss would be the feeling of sunlight on my face, as I wouldn’t have a face. A software algorithm could simulate any of life’s pleasures by pumping the appropriate dopamine solution into the jar anyway.

Yes, I sometimes fantasize about becoming a cyborg. Sue me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If my mobile brain chassis was constructed properly, I’d be able to crawl up walls, or even activate an amphibious modality and become a boat. I’ve never understood the science fictional trope of the robot man trying to return to being human. People already react to me like I’m some sort of monster, and I’m barely transhuman as it is. The camera is always hanging off of me, but that doesn’t count. I’m talking brain in jar, mounted in a poly alloy battle chassis powered by the particle decay of some sort of radioactive isotope, not rapidly aging idiot wandering around Queens. I look forward to the day when my biggest problem would be a patina of oxidation. Come to think of it, my biggest problem would actually be torch bearing mobs of peasants chasing me around since they’d perceive me as a monster, but that’s the sort of thing that already happens to me occasionally. Ask me about the time that a group of old Greek ladies saw me taking a pic of St. Irene’s here in Astoria when you see me.

In the meantime, the pain squirrel is lodged squarely in my left foot today, but I’ve got to walk over to a Greenpoint tonight for a Superfund meeting so it’s best to just suck it up and take a tylenol. That’s the burning the candle at both ends thing again, I guess.


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chorused anguish

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All the familiar places…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s really best for me to be by myself as much of the time as I can manage it, these days. I like to swipe the “do not disturb” or sometimes even the “airplane mode” button on my phone and drop off the digital planet for awhile. It gives me private time to ponder about what really might be running around in the woods surrounding the Chernobyl plant over in Ukraine, worry about Fukushima’s radiotropic fungi, and think about whether or not we’re accidentally terraforming the planet into the ideal environment for some race of sleeping elder gods who last saw the sun before the oceans had formed. Along my notifications free path, I take photos.

That’s the Sunnyside Yards in Queens pictured above, specifically a section of the facility which the Long Island Railroad is currently rebuilding. I think it’s connected to “East Side Access,” this construction, and they’re building a series of tracks for rolling stock to “dwell” in between rush hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quixotic, that’s how I describe the current obsession which the City and its Economic Development Corporation has with building a deck over the yards to house a multitude. According to officialdom, their negotiations with Trump’s AMTRAK are continuing apace. They’ve hired an architect to oversee the planning over this largely Federally owned railyard, one who has worked with the Kushner Companies on several projects so he’s got a relationship, and besides he’s got this whole Ayn Rand mentality so he’s fits right in with EDC. They haven’t talked about who the money to build the thing will be borrowed from yet. The Hudson Yards project was supposedly financed via the Israeli Bond Market, which is a great place for shady international financiers to cleanse their money and hide it from the prying eyes of both the global public and their own respective governments. If you’re a Chinese Army General shaving a few bucks off the budget, or involved with risky trade in South American powders, and you need a place to hide the cash…

But I digress. What do I know about such matters, I’m just some schmuck with a camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the particular afternoon these shots were gathered, one of the few in recent weeks where drenching rain hasn’t been falling from the sky, a humble narrator’s phone was in “do not disturb” mode and absolutely zero “LOL’s” or notifications of unimportant facts were coming my way. I did have my headphones in, and was re listening to Mike Duncan’s “History of Rome” podcast. Duncan offers an overview of Roman History, and resists the urge to get overly granular about this and that, which is a feather in his cap. For granularity, I prefer Dan Carlin’s massive “Hardcore History” undertakings.


“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 14, 2019 at 1:00 pm

hopeless howl

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The whole “human interaction” thing isn’t going well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behavioral quirks and noisome habits notwithstanding, one doesn’t consider himself to be too much of a chore to be around. Much like Billy Joel’s eponymous Piano Man, I’ll gladly tell you a joke or light up your smoke, but there’s someplace I’d rather be. Saying that, one is continually puzzled by the humans. Just this weekend, I had to stand between two friends who were about to come to blows over literally nothing, and encourage the angrier of the two to remember that he – as the managing partner of a multi million dollar corporation here in NYC – would be badly serving himself by getting into a bar fight. The following day, an encounter I had with an acquaintance here in the neighborhood went sour, but I refused to be goaded into “taking the bait.”

Embrace your inner sociopath, I say. Everybody is just ready to fly off the handle about every little thing these days. I’m sick of it, but getting angry isn’t the answer to all of life’s problems. Just add that person to “your list” and when the time is right, that’s when you deny them something they want. That’s the American way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the “American Way,” Thursday last found a humble narrator at the local pub sitting at a sidewalk table and enjoying a frosty pint of beer when the late model Chevy pictured above rolled by. Can’t tell you what it was, as I didn’t get a good enough look at its grill to identify it via the usual means, but I can tell you that the driver was a Billy Joel fan as “We didn’t start the fire” was blaring from within. Personally, I think Mr. Joel’s “Glass Houses” is a near perfect album, but I appreciate a good pop standard as much as the next guy.

In tune with the current era, one of you is now meant to leave a comment on this post telling me that I’m a fool for my stated opinion, or describe in exacting detail how that opinion indicates that I’ve been unconsciously co-opted into stating it by some shadowy cabal. One of my favorite songs, ever, is the theme song from an old 1970’s kid’s show – The Banana Splits. Great song. Here’s a link to a cover of it by 80’s band “The Dickies.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, you may of may not like the Dickies, or the Banana Splits theme song, or dispute my opinions on which Billy Joel album is best. It doesn’t mean that I think you’re an asshole for not being one hundred percent in tune with me, and I won’t write you off to the dustbin of history over it. It means we disagree about something. Civility surrounding disagreement is the actual American Way, which is that thing which Superman and Captain America were always rattling on about in the comics. The villains in comic books, on the other hand, were always seeking unity of thought – Darkseid and the Anti Life equation, or Doctor Doom’s various schemes.

Don’t be like Doctor Doom, aspire instead to be Superman.

Of course, Superman is a sociopath. He lies to all his friends, pretends to be someone he’s not, and can burn you to a cinder with one withering glance. The lesson in that is “be nice” to people you don’t know much about, because they very well might be an alien overlord with laser eyes and freeze breath who is invulnerable to whatever petty bullshit you decide to send their way. Being Clark Kent isn’t Superman’s critique of humanity, instead it’s his testing environment. It’s easy to be nice to the cape persona, and easier still to shit all over the nerdy reporter. He wants to know how the apes he lives amongst really treat each other, and we constantly disappoint him.

Thing is, Superman isn’t like that, he just wants to help people despite being a sociopathic liar.


“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 13, 2019 at 11:30 am

cylindrical drop

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the discount Chinese restaurant near your house is doing some sort of repair job in their basement, it’s best to remain ignorant of what they’re doing. This is related to the old adage about not wanting to know how sausages are made. It’s preferential to pretend that whatever is happening down there is salubrious, and doesn’t resemble the movie “Ratatouille” at all. Personally, I’ve sworn off the nasty variant of Chinese take out available in Astoria, as I’ve been to Flushing quite a few times in the last six months and what we’ve got locally just doesn’t compare to the good stuff that’s found to the east.

Still, as far as my current desire to shoot a few “minimalist” shots a week, this one fits the bill. I don’t want to imagine what’s going on down there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those are collapsed docks and piers at Shooters Island above, a landform which sits at the junction of Arthur Kill, Kill Van Kull, and Newark Bay. For a little spit of land, Shooters Island is a fairly interesting spot. George Washington’s spy network would use the place for meetups during the American Revolution (British HQ was on Staten Island), it used to be owned by Standard Oil, and legendarily – Teddy Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm once started a yacht race with a couple of the Vanderbilt Brothers from it “back in the day.”

These days it’s a bird sanctuary owned by the NYC Parks Dept.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I had to go to Queens Borough Hall to get sworn in as a member of Astoria’s Community Board 1. I’ve since been informed that I’m being assigned to the Environmental and Transportation Committees, which kind of makes sense. As part of the swearing in ceremony, which was led by BP Melinda Katz, we were given a multi hour series of presentations and training sessions by various members of the City government. One of the things that stuck with me was when they were describing an exact dollar figure at which point a gift is considered a bribe or inducement ($50) which would then trigger an investigation by the ethics people. They also discussed “talking to the press” and public statements, so…

As those of you who have come on my various tours over the years have heard me state at the start of the excursion – unless I’m specifically stating “Newtown Creek Alliance says” or “Access Queens wants” or whatever, the words coming out of my mouth are my words. Views and opinions are my own and do not represent the official opinions or stances of organizations or groups with whom I work or I might be a member of.

As an example; if I describe Mayor De Blasio as “the Dope from Park Slope” or describe him as an atavistic and dangerous throwback to Tammany Hall style corruption, or deride his vainglorious Presidential ambitions by pointing out his campaign pledge to “Make America Late Again,” or mock his desire to eliminate America’s Ground Hog infestation once and for all…

Well, you must presume that’s me talking as your neighbor and friend, and not describing an official position of NCA, or AQ, or the Community Board. If that’s not the case, I’ll let you know.


“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 10, 2019 at 12:00 pm

slightly abated

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A city of fortresses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing which bugs me so much about the conceptual model evinced by the City Planning crowd and the so called “urbanists” is how much they actually detest the chaotic streets and the “hustle and bustle” side of NYC. Everything they can do to eliminate the “unplanned” or the “unsightly” is on display over in Manhattan. Long blocks without street benches or other “friendly” features, a lack of interesting mid block street level buisness which might draw you away from the corner. The preservation of “sight lines” in favor of planting trees or other greenery… favoring certain kinds of commerce – high end retail and or office space – over needed businesses like supermarkets and laundromats. Modern Manhattan looks more and more like Marie Kondo has swept through it and thrown out all the stuff that doesn’t bring the “urbanists” crowd “joy.”

I’ve offered this thought before, but it seems that the crew running NYC’s regulatory environment regarding municipal preferences on street life don’t like cities all that much. They want order, and predictability. They want midwestern shopping malls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A comment often offered by a humble narrator to companions and sometimes passerby strangers involves me gesturing towards something and saying “Look, it’s just like an architects drawing. All the people in this scene are two dimensional, notice all those massing shapes and wayfinding infrastructure.” I once had a City Planner indicate to me, when I pointed out that a certain section of LIC’s street design was creating bottlenecks for pedestrians that necessitated walking multiple blocks just to find a place to cross the street, that “well, we don’t want people crossing the street there.” Thing is, people ARE crossing the street there, and what somebody in City Hall WANTS New Yorkers to do will always be trumped by what New Yorkers HAVE to do. Best laid plans, mice, men, all that.

I’m reminded of a conversation I once had with some NYS officials from Albany who told me that since they wouldn’t issue a fishing license for Newtown Creek, nobody would fish there because it would be illegal so there was no need for signage cautioning against the practice around the waterway. I inquired as to how the war on drugs was going, and proceeded to make my appeals to a different agency for signage. The Federal EPA saw my point, and there’s now signage around the creek stating the obvious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Old New York” and “New New York” used to refer to the era of modernist skyscrapers coexisting with and alongside the 19th century town houses and brownstones or tenements of an earlier age. These days, at least in my mind, it refers to the differential qualities of areas which the City Planning crowd has “fixed” versus those it hasn’t. Luckily, there’s large sections of Queens which their tender mercies haven’t been applied to. Yet.

Look at Astoria, with it’s vibrant street life and retail economy of mom and pop shopping. “Disturbingly heterogenous” and “chaotic” is probably how the City Hall people would describe things, and they’d ask “is this the best use of the land”? The bulldozers would be sitting on Northern Blvd. idling while they wait for the answer they want to hear coming back from people who think just like they do.


“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 9, 2019 at 12:00 pm

seemed baffling

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Astoria scenes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m always impressed by the daily dedication of the local “canners,” which is what we call the folks that walk about with shopping carts searching for redeemable deposit cans and bottles, towards making a buck. For some of these canners, this is an existential practice, and how they earn the money to keep their apartments or eat regularly. For others, it’s a “side hustle” and they’ll express their amazement at the American habit of “throwing money out with the trash.”

The more you have, the less you care about it, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Steinway Street at 34th Avenue, it seems that the corner furniture store is either giving up the ghost or just changing out their awning. In the meantime, an old timey bit of signage has been revealed.

“Auto Parts Place” is from before my time in the neighborhood. Any of you life long Queensicans who are reading this remember it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If memory serves, we had to start dialing area codes back in the early 1980’s, so the lack of a “718” on the sign indicates that the advertised phone number dates back to at least the first or second Koch administration.

Personally, I live in what used to the second floor office of an appliances store a few blocks away, and my porch used to be the roof of a barber shop. The Barber Shop is now a studio apartment, and the office is now Newtown Pentacle HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The population of drunkards along Astoria’s Broadway in the ’40’s has become quite attenuated in recent years. There used to be, just 5 years back, between 30 and 50 of these guys hanging around in various states of inebriation.

Somebody who shall remain nameless… ahem… pretty much embarrassed the local precinct into practicing the sort of subtle Policing which NYPD is famous for, and the cops made it uncomfortable for these fellows to be seen hanging around all day. Many of these guys have drank or drugged themselves into an early grave, and others have moved on to plague other neighborhoods, but we’ve still got a small core group of them hanging around all day and getting pass out drunk.

This poor guy passed out on the sidewalk and fell asleep with his back against the wall of a shop. The shop was closing up and when the steel gate came down it cracked him one on the gulliver and trapped his shoulder under it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this particular scenario play out, and the inebriate tried to salvage his pride by demanding that the shop owner give him a few bucks to not make a big deal of things. A word of advice I’d offer is to not try a “slip and fall” grift or attempt to con a Greek owned business in Astoria.

The remaining Hellenes don’t play.

The shop owner simply grabbed the guy by his collar and pulled him forward, signaled to his worker to finish lowering the steel gate, and then left the fellow sitting there with his back against the gate with an electronic keyboard (which had apparently been harvested from some trash pile) in his lap.

The scene will repeat itself again and again. Just watch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every day in Astoria can be a bit operatic. I like to sit and observe the neighbors. Just the other night, three spanish speaking gentlemen got into an argument in front of my door at about two in the morning, an altercation which resulted in fisticuffs and harsh talk. It was all very exciting.

These humans, here in Astoria, are endlessly fascinating.


“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 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

bearded stranger

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Long shadows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found one sheltering from a passing band of precipitation over on the normally sunnier side of the neighborhood, and once the atmospheric wave had passed through a humble narrator began kicking his heels around in pursuance of returning to HQ. My northward path was a familiar one, as was the pensive and self reflective mood I was in. The odor of a not unpleasant smelling strain of marijuana which those two teenagers crossing the street above were smoking mingled with the musty smells of a wet and cold evening. The trees and gardens of Sunnyside Gardens added to the bouquet, as did the wet but creosoted wood of the railroad tracks and the oily street. I can capture audio and images, but I’ve got no methodology for transmitting the experience or quality of “smell,” other than describing it with words.

Is smell the new technological frontier, I wonder? Just imagine if I could deliver the smell of Newtown Creek or its tributaries, after a thunderstorm, to your inbox.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The forgotten sense, smell is. Humans are essentially audio visual beasts, I suppose, which is why there’s so much technology available out there that allows us to transmit what we see and hear. Personally, when the olfactory region isn’t too clogged up by seasonal allergies, I like to take a ripping “shnort” of the ambient. There’s a whole memory center associated with smell that’s almost never accessed. I can imagine something I’ve seen in the past, conjure up a sound or series of sounds, but can’t seem to tell my brain that I’d like to imagine the smell of toast or whatever.

Funny that, ain’t it? Life’s rich pageant and all this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scene above was encountered nearby Northern Blvd., and I can offer two possible explanations for it. One is that somebody was making a meal of a watermelon and drinking water from a red plastic cup when they were raptured.

The other is that the foul serial killer whom I have named as the “Queens Cobbler” has returned to the neighborhood and is leaving behind their gruesome trophies as a taunt to community and the Gendarmes alike.


“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 3, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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