The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘AMTRAK’ Category

swelled alarmingly

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Three in the morning is exactly when Penn Station is at its best, I believe. The adjoining streets are populated by background extras from the movie “Taxi Driver,” and the cops randomly close several of the entrances to the train station because “because.” After stomping around with about 25-30 pounds of gear, and a week’s worth of clothing, one finally found an entrance which I could enter through after stepping over a few unconscious lunatics and an inebriate or two. I had a date with Amtrak, one which would culminate at 3:30 a.m.

The phrase “dystopian shithole” kept on going through my mind, as well as an accounting of the roughly thirty eight cents of every dollar I earn, disappearing into the black hole of New York City and State’s municipal coffers. Tax breaks for Billionaire Real Estate developers are clearly the logical thing to spend my tax money on, rather than a functioning transit system or a functioning social welfare network or a functioning Police force or a functioning anything. If you solve the problems, what are you going to run on in the next election cycle? Priorities.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Late night, they don’t use the sparkly new Moynihan Station for Amtrak, instead they use crappy old Penn Station. The first leg of my travels rendered a humble narrator sleep deprived, but the world doesn’t run on my scheduled comforts. The electronic boards didn’t tell me that the train was boarding, in fact, they didn’t tell me much of anything. An Amtrak employee suddenly materialized and began shouting out the number of the train and its destination. Indications were offered as to which staircase to descend, which led to the tracks below.

Shit. It’s all shit. We pay forty cents on the dollar for shit, and are told we should be lucky we got that. I’m so tired of fighting it at this stage of the game. Why, oh why does everything in NYC just suck?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Descent into the stygian depth of Penn Station found me boarding my appointed train. Settling into the seat was easily accomplished and the train was about half full (see, I’m an optimist). Fatigue would be my traveling companion for much of the next four days, but nevertheless I was quite excited to be finally embarking on this long planned trip around the northeastern United States.

At the beginning of the summer of 2021, an Amtrak rail pass had been purchased, which allowed me thirty travel segments. All told, I ended up using 22 of them over the next week (two of the segments were used on the Burlington trip). I was also traveling solo this time around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train began rolling, and I cracked out one shot of the part of Penn Station you don’t get to see. I tried a few shots from the moving train on the other side, but it was just too dark to get anything worth talking about. For the first, and not the last time, on this odyssey – I nodded out and fell asleep.

For those of you who know me, the idea that I fell asleep in public is surprising. It’s surprising for me as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train arrived at its destination at 7 in the morning, where I had planned about a seven hour layover into my schedule. I had lunch plans with an old friend at 12:30, and the interval would be filled with photographic pursuits.

One had roughly planned out an intended path, and given the amount of time allotted to this leg of the journey – needed to work quickly and efficiently to capture some images.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Day one – and Washington D.C., beckoned.

More tomorrow.


“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

October 13, 2021 at 11:00 am

white fungi

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All pleasant things must end, and at the end of all things is New York City. Exit 1 on most highways is NYC, and nearly every set of train tracks in the country ultimately resolves either in NYC or Chicago. After a greedily consumed 72 hours in the Socialist Paradise of Burlington, Vermont – Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself made our way to the neighboring community of Essex Junction to meet up with Amtrak’s “Vermonter” line, which we would spend the next seven and change hours riding on back to Moynihan/Penn Station in Manhattan.

Sounds onerous, doesn’t it? Seven and change hours. Why not fly?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To start, flying blows. You need to be there two hours in advance for security theater, then you’re stuffed into a tiny claustrophobic seat which you’re encouraged not to get out of during the flight since you might be a terrorist, treated like a disobedient child by the sky waitresses… and all for top dollar. On the other side, there’s no way you’re getting out of the airport in less than 45 minutes – and that’s just with carry-on luggage. In the end; you saved yourself around two hours on a trip like this, were presumed to be and treated like an international criminal, sat in an extremely uncomfortable and tight chair for the trip, and then…

Amtrak on the other hand… their website and ticket booking apparatus is horrendous – closest analogy I can offer is trying to get something done at the Brooklyn Department of Motor Vehicles. Once you’re ticketed, however, Amtrak is silk. The seats are gigantic, comfortable, and there’s an incredible amount of leg room. Unlike flying, if the guy in front of you reclines his seat, you don’t spend the entire trip staring at his bald spot. You can get up and walk around the train as well. There’s also the scenery rolling past.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had put a bit of thought into the scenery thing before leaving for this trip. I created a foam collar for one of my lenses made of the insulation strips you can get at Home Depot for when you install an air conditioner. That cancelled out reflection issues, as the foam was charcoal gray and I dusted it with some Krylon Matte Black spray paint. I set the camera to (autofocus) f1.8, shutter speed at 1/8000th of a second, and had the ISO to “auto.” Even though the Amtrak train was hurtling along at 50-75 mph (occasionally) the fast shutter speed froze the scene. I thought that these images would have an 80-90% failure rate, which backfired on me when I began processing them as the failure rate was more like 10-15%.

I suddenly had to contend with something like 6,000 shots just from the ride home. Uggh. What a road block this became.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Amtrak route goes through Holyoke, Massachusetts – a town which I was completely ignorant of before passing through it and one which I intend to visit in the near future. Holyoke is one of those early 19th century second Industrial Revolution New England towns you read about in 2nd grade history class. That enormous building pictured above, which caught my eye, is the 1869 vintage Albion Paper Mill, designed by the “Paper King” – architect David Horatio Tower.

Holyoke is also “Lovecraft Country” as well, so spooky too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As they did on the way north, the Amtrak people switched out the locomotive engine on our train at New Haven in Connecticut. This is about a 15 minute layover, during which they also change out the crews. Observationally speaking, this must be a union thing, as more or less every time Amtrak crossed state lines (this was only the first of several excursions on the service which I enjoyed in the month of September) a new staff would appear. The “tell” was when they closed the Cafe Car.

That’s a Connecticut Rail train pictured above. Can’t tell you much about it. It was well lit… that’s all I got.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Amtrak journey to and from Burlington was coming to an end as we were crossed the Hell Gate Bridge into Queens. Switching issues and heavy traffic on the NY Connecting Railway tracks leading into Sunnyside Yards and ultimately into the East River tunnels leading to Moynihan/Penn Station delayed us slightly, but we arrived within ten minutes of the published schedule. Why there isn’t a stop in Queens…

Of course, once we were back on the streets of the dystopian shithole that is NYC, we were accosted by the madmen and drug addicts which the NYPD herds towards Penn Station to keep them away from Times Square and its absent tourists. It seemed that our plan to complete the journey back to Astoria by Subway was an impossible “ask,” as the trash fire that is the MTA was in full melt down. As the task of operating mass transit into Queens was beyond that political patronage mill’s ability, we attempted to get a cab. Since the trains weren’t running, ride share services had instituted their sliding fare scale, and LYFT was telling us it would cost more than $80 to go four miles into Queens. After about an hour of useless anger, we finally got into a cab and returned home. Everywhere I looked, the streets were covered in garbage and filth, and lunatics owned the night.

Someday, a real rain is going to fall…


“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

October 11, 2021 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK, railroad

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new equilibrium

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A final post from a 72 hour visit to Burlington, Vermont. When we were looking for a place to shelter from a passing storm, I spotted this Vermont Railway facility, and an associated waterfront pathway leading to the “Roundhouse Park” and “Pine Street Barge Canal.”

That’s a railyard, a sewer plant, and a rail road transfer crane for me. I’d already been in two cemeteries and on a boat as well. Serendipity and Joy!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sky started getting pretty interesting about an hour before sunset. When you see beams of light emanating from the clouds, and Charlton Heston isn’t walking around in woolen robes and wearing a beard, it ain’t god – instead it’s an atmospheric effect called “Crepuscular Rays.”

One made his way down to the waterfront, deployed the gear, and got busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The waterfront paths I was shooting from were created beginning in 1981 under the leadership of then Mayor Bernie Sanders. The intent of the municipality was to convert the abandoned industrial waterfront over to something more natural and ecologically sound. At the same time, the post industrial waterfront’s building stock was either demolished or converted to other uses. Burlington used to be a major player in raw timber.

The iron road was (and sort of still is) located right on the shoreline. A large amount of money is currently being spent on renewing the Lake Champlain trackage and I keep on finding mentions of the intention of reactivating and routing Amtrak service to Burlington proper, rather than to Essex Junction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Rutland Railway is remembered largely for the curious case of Phineas Gage, whom we’ve seen a photo of at one time or another. Gage is the railroad worker who had a crowbar blasted through his head in Cavendish Vermont, and lived. He’s still discussed by neurologists and other medical people, and his case revealed a lot to their forebears about how the circuitry of the human brain actually operates. Who knew?

The other thing that the Rutland Railway is remembered for is the bankruptcy that ended its operations in 1963, whereupon the Vermont Railways outfit was opened for business in 1964 which bought the Rutland Railway’s assets. The State of Vermont purchased some of the tracks at the time, which Vermont Railways has since compensated the tax payers for. An intermodal local railway, Vermont Railways does freight, mainly, notably transporting rock and minerals. It’s tracks are used for passenger service by Amtrak. They operate in Vermont, and parts of New York State.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Forty years ago, this area looked like every other post industrial waterfront in America. Abandoned and collapsing docks, industrial gew gaws and leave behinds rotting away, slicks of oil and sewage… basically a smaller version of Newtown Creek or Gowanus Bay.

All it took was will.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our 72 hours in Burlington coming to a close, it was time for a humble narrator to get annoyingly anal retentive back at the hotel. Checklists! Had to pack up the camera, all of the gear associated with it needed to be carefully berthed and tied off, and we had to pack up the clothing and other junk we needed for our trip. Our Amtrak train was leaving from Essex Junction, about a thirty minute drive, at 9:44 a.m.

We grabbed breakfast at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, hoisted our bags on our backs, and we were off for Essex Junction and the long ride down a sloping hill carrying us back to a dystopian hellscape called New York City.


“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

October 8, 2021 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK, railroad

Tagged with , ,

grew hoarser

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After returning to the Diner we had discovered the day before for another hearty breakfast, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself agreed to separate for a few hours and do our own thing. In my case, that involved going on a photowalk in the downtown Burlington area. After all these years, one has developed a method for accomplishing this sort of task. A quick scan of Google maps revealed a reasonable to accomplish geographic area which I could explore, and I set off.

First thing I saw on my photowalk was the Burlington Fire Dept. returning to their truck. I was tempted to run alongside the truck shouting “firemen, firemen” but I’ve learned to contain these sort of impulses in my dotage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The housing stock of this section of Burlington… there’s no way to describe it other than “quaint.” I’m sure there’s a brutalist nightmare of an apartment building somewhere in the City of Burlington, but I didn’t see any dystopian glass towers or soulless monuments to Jared Kushner anywhere. What I did see were rather large wood frame homes which had been subdivided into apartments. In my experience, the sort of place pictured above is pretty common in Vermont, at least when you’re in Cities or Towns. The population is so low in Vermont – according to the 2020 census there’s only 643,503 in the entire state – there isn’t much call for multi unit dwellings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I found myself in Elmwood Cemetery for a short while. Can’t resist a good cemetery, me. There’s some heated local historical community controversy about whether this spot began to be used for internments in 1794 or in 1801, which makes me smile. Either way, this cemetery is about as old as the Nation is and that is just cool by me.

Not wanting to go down the rabbit hole of photographing the monuments, I forced myself to leave the place and keep walking. Very walkable, and very pleasant to walk in, Burlington is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Burlington weather is very, very changeable. It was overcast and cool when we left the hotel for breakfast, and a mere two hours later that had turned into passing thunderstorms and ominous skies. By this point, I had found my way down to the waterfront again, and was specifically in a section called Battery Park. Signage adjured that the area surrounding this park had traditionally been an Italian neighborhood, and was known as “Little Italy” until the age of urban renewal uprooted that community to another part of Burlington.

According to the meteorological sources that I checked, we were going to lose about 90 minutes of our day to a storm, with clear weather getting pulled in behind it. An executive decision was made, and we decided to find a place to grab a drink while sheltering from the rain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, while seeking out our spot for shelter and then dinner, I spotted something which absolutely needed to be photographed just to the south.

Negotiations began with Our Lady, who allowed me to abandon her for about forty to fifty minutes later in the day when the sun would be setting. She was going to install herself at a bar, and stare at the scene above. She barely noticed it when I was gone, in actuality, as she struck up a conversation with a woman who was also visiting Burlington but whose home town was Anchorage, Alaska. Wow.

I’ll show you the product of that sunset effort tomorrow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rain passed, the check was paid, and we still had one more “fun” thing on our list of “to-do’s” in Burlington. Our Lady and myself are both fans of hard cider, and a local brewery is the HQ of Citizen Cider. Off to the races!

More tomorrow.


“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

October 7, 2021 at 11:00 am

viscous end

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As everyone knows, I’m a water guy. Waterfront is a critical “must have” as far as I’m concerned, and when traveling to places largely unfamiliar, the first thing I look for is an analogue of the Circle Line. Circle Line, is – of course – a NYC institution which offers boat tours of New York Harbor. There are versions of this business in just about every City in the United States which has a waterfront of any kind, and the one in Vermont’s Burlington is called “The Spirit of Ethan Allen.” Tickets go pretty fast for this excursion, so I ordered them well in advance of the trip Our Lady of the Pentacle and I began when we boarded an Amtrak “Vermonter” line train back at Moynihan/Penn station back in the City.

There’s a lot of cities, but there’s only one place you’re referring to when you say “The City.” My view on this is incontrovertible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lake Champlain, like nearly all of the inland waterways of the United States, falls under the ultimate authority of the United States Coast Guard. There’s actually a USCG post just north of where we boarded the tourist excursion boat.

There’s a breakwater at Burlington’s harbor frontage which hosts two navigational lights maintained by the USCG. Like all of the USA’s lighthouses, their operations are now either automated or administered remotely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We got what we paid for on this sunset cruise, which lasted about 90 minutes. From my point of view, it didn’t exactly make for exciting photos. Saying that, we had a few drinks and chatted with the other passengers. It was a fun time, and certainly worth the price of admission.

Also, after having chewed up about thirty miles or so of shoe leather in the previous 48 hours, it was great to be riding rather than walking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like all boats of this type, there’s a fairly high priced food and drinks menu you can order from for an extra charge. There was table service, and the crowd onboard was a mix of visitors and locals. The Spirit of Ethan Allen people also sell a dinner cruise on the same vessel. The dinner cruise folks were dressed in business casual sort of clothing, so presumptively it’s an after work thing? It was also a Saturday night, so… who knows?

The boat was probably at 75% occupancy. Would’ve been 100% if they sold more tickets. This was a popular destination.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Spirit of Ethan Allen, as shot earlier in the evening.

Covid hung about like a bad memory everywhere we went. Burlington has one of the best vaccination records in the entire country, we were told. Accordingly, there are no municipal mask mandates or vaccination checks. You’re encouraged to wear a mask inside of certain establishments by private owners, of course. The National mask mandate as it applies to public transit also applies, as does the requirement for mask usage in ride share cars like those offered by the Lyft service. Saying that…

Conversation with some of the locals revealed that the same divide that exists everywhere these days is also extant in Vermont. If you live in a City like Burlington or Montpelier, you’re far more likely to have gotten vaccinated than the group whom one local described as being “The Hill People.” My guess is that – like many of my neighbors back in NYC – the Hill People have either forgotten all about the freezer trucks at Elmhurst Hospital, or Tucker Carlson or Anderson Cooper told them it was a lie.

Please stop consuming cable tv news. All of it. Stop. It’s toxic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, they ain’t exactly hurting for scenery up here in the Green Mountain State. The burning thermonuclear eye of god itself dipped, as predicted, behind the western shield wall of mountains in New York.

By the time the boat returned to shore, it was proper dark out and it was time to head back to the hotel. Another 24 hours lay before us, whereupon the journey back to Home Sweet Hell would begin.

More to come tomorrow 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 6, 2021 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK

Tagged with , ,

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