The Newtown Pentacle

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coherent thought

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Combination punches are what make a great fighter, and a deadly virus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is forced to continue his incessant marching about, as my very existence is predicated upon regular “cardio” without which my veins and arteries will become plugged up. In accordance with quarantine rules, I’m only leaving the house when the streets will be absolutely deserted. Luckily, I favor lonely paths, enjoy the concrete devastations, and am also a bit of a night owl under best circumstance. Recent endeavor found one wandering through Long Island City on my way to Newtown Creek on a Saturday night. I know how to party.

That’s Skillman Avenue pictured above. Somehow, all the arguing and gnashing of teeth over that bike lane seems pretty silly now, doesn’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

LIC is still home to several yellow cab fleets. These pictures were gathered on a Saturday night, and seemingly all of the yellow cabs operated by this particular outfit were sitting parked and empty. Already in serious trouble due to a changing economy and the rapacious greed of both medallion brokers and the City’s “TLC,” I don’t know if the yellow cab side of the “for hire vehicle” segment is going to survive this quarantine.

There’s a lot of people I know who work in the so called “gig” economy who are experiencing total unemployment and impoverishment already. Personally speaking, there is going to zero demand for any sort of walking or boat tour until at least July, and that’s presuming that things are normal again by then, so I’m actually one of the aforementioned “screwed” as well. Lots of belt tightening is underway at HQ, and my goal of buying a new camera body at the end of the year is pretty much kaput.

Saying that, I’m hoping to just not get sick and die right now, so if I manage that, it’ll soften the blow about the camera. ‘Life and death” versus “things you’d want debates”… so very American of me, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I do have a bit of sympathy for the cab drivers, as a note. A humble narrator makes it a point of talking to cab drivers, whereas a lot of folks don’t bother. One is often interested in the points of view offered by the mostly immigrant drivers, some of whom are surprisingly well educated and interesting people working at their first job in the U.S. and are just making ends meet by working in this particular trade. Others are knuckleheads and bad conversationalists.

One of the things I observed while wandering around that night was that the ethnic restaurants were empty, while bars and other restaurants were packed. This was on Saturday the 14th, as a note. When I say “ethnic restaurants” I don’t mean the kind that cater to the general population, rather ones which people of that restaurants actual ethnic culture or community frequent – the Comida Typica’s or Greek Tavernas or the Colombian steak and egg joints.

Of course, on this evening restaurants and bars were still open.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


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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

March 19, 2020 at 11:00 am

acrid scent

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I’m the thing on your doorstep at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Want to have people notice you? Stand on the corner of Skillman Avenue behind a tripod, while photographing scenes like the one above. People will literally walk directly in front of the camera lens and good naturedly ask you what you’re recording. “Right now, madam, your midsection” is something you can say. That’s why I had to stand there for about twenty minutes the other night, waiting for another 7 train to transit above. Shot needed the 7, after all, not some random woman’s abdomen. If you happen across a photographer who is set up with a tripod and all the other junk, and you’re feeling conversational, maybe it would make sense for you not to stand directly in front of their camera? As mentioned, hate for everyone and everything at the moment.

My goal, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, was to get down to Dutch Kills in LIC, which is one of my happy places. I need happy places at the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Hell is other people” as the saying goes. Of course, without the other people, these shots would have been gathered in a primeval and legendarily mosquito rich swamp that was supposedly avoided by the native americans. This section of LIC was historically undeveloped until the early 20th century, when the fields of both construction technology and financial capital management had finally attained levels sufficient to not just conquer but totally annihilate the natural environment. You can destroy an ecosystem the old fashioned way (Rome was great at this task), but to totally erase any trace of flowing or flooding water, you need modern tools and lots of money. The Pennsylvania Railroad, Michael Degnon, and the City of Greater New York itself had both requirements sorted out back “in the day.”

This corner is where, instead of some nosey lady, I got to smile and wave at a couple of cops who were mildly curious about my activities. Not curious enough to roll down the window, or get out of the car, just curious enough to stare at me for a few minutes. I waved, smiled, and flipped the tail of my filthy black raincoat at them. Shaking their heads, they drove off.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finally. When I say that I can only be happy when I’m in places like 29th street in LIC, a blasted railroad access route that masquerades as a proper city street. The bulkheads along the water side of the street have been collapsing for a couple of years now, but no one cares. The waters of the industrialized canal called Dutch Kills, which have tested positive for both Gonorrhea and Typhus, are poison but no one cares. Sick little trees line the banks, wicking up the heavy metals and other pollutants from the landfill used to conquer the swamp. I care.

Nepenthe.


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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.

horror somewhere

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Sick of it all, everyone and everything.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of those wintry moods has struck, and a humble narrator is very much in “lone wolf” mode at the moment. I don’t want any part of anything which involves exchanges of words longer than a singular sentence. Accordingly, attempts at avoiding pedantry and excess explanatory conversation are liberally ignored by all. I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it. Not getting any younger, tick and tock.

Luckily, photography – especially night time photography – is a singular pursuit. I can be alone with the HP Lovecraft audiobooks, although I would mention that while shooting these photos it was an unabridged reading of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” playing through my headphones. If you alter all the pronoun names of the characters in The Jungle from Lithuanian to Spanish – Jurgis to Jorge, for instance – it makes the thing even more depressing as nothing ever changes in this country – ever.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I would like to embrace the sophistry that we are living in some sort of simulation, a computer program which receives regular updates and patches to keep the players interested in us. Unfortunately, this sort of idea is the fever dream of paranoids, and like the worship of a divine sky father…

One left the house relatively early according to recent habit. It had just stopped raining, and heavy banks of clouds were positively hurtling across the dome. Perfect conditions, as far as I’m concerned. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times – NYC never looks as good as it does when it’s wet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My goal for the evening was ultimately going to be a visit to Dutch Kills, the Long Island City tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek. Due to the shattered toe drama, there’s entire sections of my “beat” which haven’t been visited in months. Given that it’s relatively warm out for January, and my overwhelming desire to be completely and utterly alone, one geared up and scuttled forth.

What I really wanted to find was some eidolon of dissolution and chaos, a true monster. I did glimpse one periodically, when walking past reflective surfaces.


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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.

firmly determined

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Sunnyside Yards, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned earlier in the week, one has been utilizing a severely limited photo bag for the last half of August, containing two small lenses and a novel form of camera support called an Ultrapod. The latter is basically an aluminum plate with machined screw holes of various sizes punched through it and there’s a tripod head screw mount welded onto it too. A bit of customization is called for, but due to the ubiquitous nature of the screw holes (.25 inch, 20 turn), I mounted latex furniture casters onto it – for friction. The whole thing weighs just a few ounces, even with the tripod head.

That’s Skillman Avenue up there in the shot above, and some monster has left a shopping cart nearby the bike lane. Surely a crime against humanity, and a terroristic act, this shopping cart abandonment must rate up there with the crimes of Mao and Stalin… just ask the bicycle people and they’ll tell you so. #carnage

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the fun things which I’ve been able to do with this minimal sized setup is to exploit some of the holes in the security fencing surrounding the Sunnyside Yards and get the camera lens into a steady position looking through the chain link. The smaller of the two lenses I’ve been using is a pancake lens, the Canon 24mm STM, which has a tiny little piece of glass that it peers through. That itty bitty POV is just small enough to look through these defects in the fencing, and the ultrapod gives me the stability to pull off longer exposures. Right tool for the right job, huh?

The illuminated structure in the upper right of the shot above is the Acela maintenance building, and there’s two trains inside the thing. Just to the right of that is a regular Amtrak trainset which was stopped on the tracks, and the brightly lit white building is the Standard Motor Products structure found on 39th street and Northern Blvd. The shot was gathered from the Honeywell Street truss bridge over the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also gathered on the Honeywell Street truss, the shot above looks southwest across a Amtrak holding yard for what I imagine to be Northeast Corridor rolling stock, but that’s strictly an educated guess as to what they are. Sunnyside Yards is a rail coach yard – meaning that trains cross through, change crews here, stop for maintenance and cleaning – but that you can’t actually catch a train here. The irony of that never ceases to amuse one such as myself, but it is an important reminder that if you want to get technical about railroad stuff – I’m an enthusiast and know more than the average bear – but I’ve never called myself an expert on the subject.


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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

August 29, 2019 at 11:00 am

day programme

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Unpleasantries abound.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While wandering home from Greenpoint on Sunday, a day wherein the climate suddenly flipped from rainy spring to high summer, a humble narrator was enjoying the existential hell of living in NYC. There are many days when, upon waking up in the great human hive, one can’t believe how amazing the place is. Last Sunday wasn’t one of them. Instead, it was one of those days where the antics of the assembly of humans just grated upon the nervous system. The douchebags doing wheelies on dirt bikes, the assholes throwing fast food garbage out of their car windows, the cock barons who think that the proper way to use an automotive horn is to hold it down steadily for several minutes at a pop while stuck in traffic.

I really need to get out of here for a couple of weeks, go somewhere nice and take a vacation in a place that I know nothing about and where I don’t know anyone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has grown weary of constant existential crisis, the “eye of sauron” outrage machine casting its gaze about, and the daily grind of “have to.” This is life, of course, but it often seems as if I get a lot more “life” than most. I desperately need to take some pics of something different, as well. Some “walden pond” kind of crapola, I guess. Of course, I’ll hate that too. Mosquitoes, gnats, mud. Everything sucks.

For the sake of all that’s holy, please don’t hit me up today for something I have that you want but don’t want to pay for. It’s a bad day, generosity wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have I become the “prisoner of Skillman Avenue,” or consigned to just aimlessly wander the streets forever? Am I some sort of flying dutchman with a camera?

Apologies for the inner narrative being offered today, but it’s been a lousy last couple of weeks. One is unhappy, which is predicate to one getting angry. Once anger has set in, so too does motivation manifest. Right now, everything is gray and hopeless. Once I return to being furious and rebellious, which will likely be by Thursday or Friday, this glum mood will pass. Once more, unto the breech, huh? Home sweet hell, indeed.


“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.

boyhood antiquarianism

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East side, west side, all around the town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A third arm would come in handy when shooting in the rain, as managing both umbrella and camera is a bit of a chore. I’ve spent my life waiting for a “disruptive new take” on umbrellas, but the current generation of engineers seems obsessed with reinventing key chains instead. The giant golf umbrella I’m currently using is huge and sturdy, and came into my possession as a bit of branded “shwag” manufactured by some non profit group. It’s a bit of a carry though, and has a tendency to catch the wind due to its immense circus tent like size. Have we reached “peak umbrella” or is there a revolution in handheld rain shelter on the horizon? I’m talking to you, Elon Musk.

Often, a humble narrator finds himself dreaming about an umbrella that is deployed along the spine and straight up out of my backpack, which would leave both of my arms free for other tasks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with umbrellas ultimately come down to their tendency to catch the wind, so the perfect solution to shooting in the rain would involve the deployment of some Star Trek or Dune style personal shielding of the electromagnetic type. You’d just need a gizmo that could pump out a massive amount of electromagnetic radiation and another that formed a magnetic bottle around yourself. Of course, this would destroy your personal electronics, likely disrupt the bio electrical functioning of the body, induce instant cancer in both you and everybody within a few hundred yards, but you’d be dry and the lens wouldn’t be spotted with rain drops.

On a related note – a general consensus, arrived at by the squad of morons and malcontents whom I spend my time with, states that googling any health concern you might be experiencing returns a result that it’s likely some type of cancer. Also, the cancer isn’t regular cancer, it’s super cancer. That’s the kind of cancer where the tumor rips itself free of your body and then prowls around in search of new victims, usually puppies and young children. The Super Cancers can attach themselves to infrastructure, throwing out whip like tentacles that snatch birds out of the air mid flight and plucking fish from the sea. Funnily enough, the only known method for killing Super Cancer, which is bullet and fire resistant, is Monsanto’s Roundup Weed Killer. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Engineers are depressingly grounded in the laws of the physical universe, I find. One discovered this several years ago when I was espousing the use of heat guns in place of shovels for wintertime sidewalk snow and ice clearance. Despite my brilliant moment of transcendent realization, all that my engineer friends could talk about were the laws of energy conservation, Isaace Newtwon, and that the amount of energy required to melt ice in subzero temperatures would be incalculable. Next thing you know, they were telling me that my other dream of creating my own race of Atomic Supermen by exposing tank dwelling fetuses to gamma rays would just result in filling an intensive care ward with handicapped children afflicted by Super Cancer were they to be birthed. Pfah.

Shit on my parade? Go design a better umbrella, kid.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm

disclosures which

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Happy Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, this weekend’s nocturnal walk occurred on Saturday night, which was a bit windy for my taste but I’m trying to be out and about as much as possible before proper winter sets in so there you are. Pictured above is Steinway Street, here in Astoria, where i considered getting on the subway in pursuance of getting to LIC but decided it wasn’t worth the risk of daring fate by entering the system. Instead, I scuttled along one of my usual routes, and whilst walking pondered a few things.

Amazon, Queens, life. One of the things I decided to do was put out an open request to you, lords and ladies, in the hope of attaining a point of view for the camera which I’m desirous of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrestrial is how I’d describe the images I usually capture. The point of view is generally somewhere between ground level and roughly 64 inches from it (that’s how tall my tripod is). That “big project” I’ve been working on is nearly finished, but I’m still missing something, and that’s a nocturnal aerial shot of Newtown Creek. Ideally, I’d love to set up and capture the image from the Empire State Building over in the City, but they don’t exactly encourage that sort of thing on the observation deck unless you’ve got TV Network money to convince them into letting you do so. The last time I was up there, I got a bunch of daytime shots like this one, just so you understand what I need to tie a bow around this project of mine and put it to bed.

If you’re reading this in Manhattan, and live or work between 18th and 34th streets, with visual access to the East River and Newtown Creek… I’d love to try and talk you into letting me set up the gear and record your POV. I’d only need around thirty minutes, on a clear night, well after dark which is about six p.m. or later this time of year. Contact me here (link is to my email address “newtownpentacle@yahoo.com” if it sets off any security alerts, there’s nothing “unkosher” in it) if this sounds like fun. I’ll pay you back with some sort of cool thing or other.

The “full view” of the Creek from on high is what I’m looking for, but if you’re living on an upper floor in one of the new buildings in LIC or Greenpoint and can see Newtown Creek from your windows or roof, that would work as well. Pictured above, as a note, is Skillman Avenue alongside the Sunnyside Yards. Those new bike lanes are barely being used for their intended purpose, but they do make a nice safe spot to take pictures from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the meantime, I’m scratching along in the grit and grime on the streets of Western Queens.

The shot above was captured at the intersection where Queensboro Bridge traffic from Queens Plaza emerges from under the steel of the elevated IRT Flushing line #7 tracks, and travels on one of the five vehicle bridges spanning the trackage of the Sunnyside Yards. Just to the south is Thomson Avenue, which provides another connection for LIC traffic across the Sunnyside Yards via another viaduct, and westwards towards the Court Square section of Hunters Point, and Jackson Avenue. A busy and complicated intersection, this is also where Van Dam Street begins, carrying automotive traffic south towards the Blissville section of LIC and the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (which overflies the tracks of the Long Island Railroad) after crossing under the Long Island Expressway at Borden Avenue.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

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