The Newtown Pentacle

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more affable

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Heading somewhere, with nowhere to go, while having to “go.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator’s experience can be described, ultimately, as a series of denied ambitions coupled with frustratingly implacable obstacles. Too often are my carefully laid plans upset by an externally generated mid course correction, or by having the bar raised as I’m reaching for it. My life often seems to be gummed up while trying to get from anywhere else in NYC to “Point A” in Astoria, Queens while using the subway. Additionally, enough people have told me that “I’m full of shit” over the years that I’ve started to believe it.

Last week, I found myself going everywhere all the time and wandering about the City in pursuance of a series of mundane tasks. At the end of each of them, whilst trying to return home, creativity and adaptability were required.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On one particular day, and I should mention that I had eaten oatmeal for breakfast the day before, there was some urgency in finding my way back home, so the observation about “being full of shit” offered by many was demonstrably true. Certain biological functions, as centered in the alimentary system, had created a bit of a ticking clock which needed to be acknowledged and dealt with in a somewhat expeditious fashion. Renal function is easily accommodated, in my experience, but blowing other forms of ballast are something which I have a certain situational preference for handling back at HQ. Somehow the MTA realized this, and conspired with that malign sentience which NYC is possessed by to have some fun with me. I saw many, many subway stations and instituted several increasingly urgent transfers. Having what one would colloquially refer to as “one in the chamber” while negotiating the transit system is not pleasant.

Before you ask, I did make it home in time, but just barely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is blessed by predictable function regarding such matters. Regrettably, life in the Big City and its various exigencies don’t always jibe with or conform to the clockworks found within. Accordingly, while double timing it back from the N – as MTA had decided it would be crazy for me to have actually used the R line which stops two blocks from my house – one pondered that age old question…

Why is it that in the greatest city in all of human history there no acknowledgement of human biology, and no public “pissoirs?” The Romans and Babylonians managed to create facilitations for this unavoidable existential fact, so why not NYC?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 8, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Subway

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every evidence

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Children don’t seem to sing rhyming songs about lethal infectious diseases anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Colloquially speaking, the whole “Ring-a-round the rosies, a pocket full of posies” rhyming nursery school standard is commonly thought to refer to the onset of Bubonic Plague, but scholarly experts in the field of folklore deny such interpretation claiming that such ideations first appeared in the post modernist plagued 20th century. There’s evidentiary usage of the rhyming song from early in the 19th century, with regional and linguistic variations, contained in journalism and travelogue writings. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle documented Brooklyn street urchins singing a version of “Ring A Rosie” in 1846, for instance, and there’s written accounts of variants from Britain and Germany in about the same period. The German version sounds terrifying of course, which confirms something I’ve been chatting about with one of my Astoria buddies who originally hails from Cologne about.

“Nice” things, when spoken in German, sound terrifying whereas terrifying things sound like desserts. As an example – “newborn baby” is “Neugeborenes,” which sounds like some sort of a bone cancer. “Death by fire” is “Tod durch Feuer,” which my first instinct would presume is a fried fruit and chocolate cake concoction served on a wad of whipped cream.

It’s odd that, almost as odd as the design of that Amtrak engine unit 651 pictured above. This model of train engine seems to have an angry face, complete with glowing red eyes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was quite a hubbub here in the neighborhood last weekend, as the MTA was busy working in Queens Plaza on the N/W elevated tracks and had closed several arterial streets leading to and from the Queensboro Bridge. There were all sorts of diversions and reroutings, with all sorts of lovely gasoline powered signs flashing important messages at passerby. This was actually a difficult shot to acquire, as the “Expect Delays” sign was of the LED type.

The reason that LED lights use so much less energy than incandescent or flourescent ones revolves around the fact that they’re actually flashing on and off rather staying steadily on. To the human eye, something that’s flashing on and off a hundred times in a second appears steadily illuminated, in the same way that we perceive the 30 frames per second of cinema or tv images as moving images. One wonders about the subliminal effects of LED lighting, and whether or not they could be used to alter human perception via changes in frequency, perhaps inducing mood changes in a madding crowd environmentally. Visual morse code? Maybe. Try going out with and without the tinfoil hat and see if you think different things between the two experiences. Be empirical, I say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A significant percentage of MTA’s rolling stock down in the sweating concrete bunkers has seen their “badge” indications converted over to LED lighting, which causes me no end of trouble when engaging in my habit of photographing trains entering and leaving the station. I’ve settled on a minimum shutter speed of 1/160th of a second for such matters, although 1/100th seems to be the actual frequency of the badge’s lighting cycle. The latter speed is too slow for the approaching locomotive, as the image of the thing gets “smeared” with motion blur. Even at 1/160th, however, as in the shot seen above, there is a discernibly lit and unlit portion of both the badge circle and the line designator.

Also, before anyone becomes fixated on the purplish lens flare visible, I cannot tell you why it’s purple. There’s a lot of light kicking around when a train enters a station, dust and crap in the air, and the headlights are pointing right into the lens which has an anti glare coating on it as well. It’s all part of the environmental effect.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 16, 2018 at 11:15 am

poignant sensation

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Underground philosophizing, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator does three things, generally, while riding in “the system.” One, I’m trying to get a few decent shots of trains coming and going into the station. Two, I’m usually listening to music of one sort or another on my headphones. Three, I’m struggling with some existential dilemma, which I tend to avoid thinking about when I have better things to do.

Since time spent in “the system” is essentially the exploration of a parabola of mindless intent, I figure you might as well use it to work out some deep seated personal conflict or other bull crap that’s slowing things down when you’re not on the Subway. I’ve been told by MTA employees that train operators (that’s the driver, the conductor is the one mid train who opens and closes the doors) loathe getting photographed, so I make it a point of doing so. One of the many things I plot, plan, and philosophize about are passive aggressive revenge scenarios against fairly unreliable and impersonal government agencies. It keeps me from pondering what sorts of debased life may be hiding in the sweating concrete bunkers just beyond the light puddles created by the station platforms, at any rate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In case you’re wondering why today’s post has little to do with what I did last week, it’s because the rain and high humidity  basically cancelled out any and all plans that didn’t involve a humble narrator earning a paycheck. My time was essentially spent staring into space and bemoaning the climatological extremes, in between subway trips.

While on the train, I pondered why so many Democrats describe themselves as “progressives,” as they don’t actually seem to know the mean of the word (Robert Moses was a progressive, as in “progress”) and why so many Republicans call themselves “conservatives” since they too seem ignorant of what that term indicates. Progressive is “you need to move, since the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and the many need an eight lane highway instead of your house,” and Conservative is “things are pretty good the way they are, so I’m going to resist anything but incremental change.”

As a note, one thing I don’t wonder about are the incorruptible human remains of Saints. They were embalmed in honey. Honey is basically a time machine. They pull jars of the stuff out of Egyptian tombs that are pretty much edible 5,000 years later. In ancient times, if you received a wound, they’d put honey (liquid gold) in it. Then they’d layer some odiferous powder like Frankincense on top (to defeat the olfactory senses of flying insects), and splatter a resin like Myrrh on top to seal it. The whole affair would get wrapped in clean linen. Y’all don’t need three wise men, you have me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spends a pretty good amount of time wondering what the steel dust choked air, combined with the electromagnetic spill over from the energized third rail and the nitre coated concrete walls of the subways, is breeding underground. You’ve got all you need down there to replicate the early conditions for life on Earth – electrical fields, organic molecules, lots of solute choked liquids…

Who can guess, all there is, that might be festering into life down there?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 30, 2018 at 1:00 pm

magic evening

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Nothing’s easy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One hates going into the City, or Manhattan for those of you who didn’t grow up in Brooklyn or Queens, so very much that a tendency has developed in a humble narrator to cluster together errands and get them all done in a single go. Tax season is upon us all, so a trip to my “numbers guy” and his accountancy office was required. Additionally, a quick stop at “Beards and Hats” or the BH Photo store to purchase supplies for various endeavors was on the list.

When I left the neighborhood, I put the guy pictured above in charge, but I think a poor choice was made regarding my choice of deputy given that he was out cold before I even got on the R train.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A quick stop in Jackson Heights was executed first, wherein Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself indulged in a meal at one of the local curry shops. Our chosen dining location was of the buffet type, and while filling a plate with exotically spiced chicken and well cooked rice and vegetables, a humble narrator was approached by a strange woman.

She informed me that I was “going to purgatory” and walked away. Despite my questioning of her curious pronouncement, that was all she had to say. My theory is that she misread the Newtown Creek Alliance “NCA” hat I was wearing as NRA, but then again she was probably just another nutcase. I attract them flies to poop, after all.

After eating, Our Lady and myself climbed the stairs to the 7 line subway tracks and boarded a train heading towards the Shining City itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, whilst on the 7, I found a relatively clean window and pointed the camera at various points of interest. Pictured above is the Sunnyside Yards, and the fleet of trains which LIRR, NJ Transit, and Amtrak store in Queens between peak demand periods – the so called “rush hours.”

To anyone reading this who works in Government, or the Transit sector, or in the Non Profit Industrial Complex – the old 9-5 concept only applies to you. Corporate America has long abandoned the “English week” of eight hour workdays. The rest of us are doing everything we can to keep our heads above water, and that involves staying late and coming in early as well as showing up sometimes on a Saturday to help out. Additionally, “rush hour” begins at about 5:30 a.m. and lasts till 10:30 a.m. due to staggered work shifts. In the afternoon, it actually starts around three and lasts till nine. Please staff accordingly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We arrived in Manhattan, and boarded the vertigo inducing escalators at the 7 line’s terminal stop at Hudson Yards.

“Beards and Hats” was – as always – a model of customer facing commercial efficiency, and even with a bit of browsing amongst the shelves we were out of there in about a half hour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being a relatively nice day, and knowing that lousy weather had been forecasted for the middle of the week, we opted to walk from BH photo at 34th street to our tax appointment with the Accountants nearby 72nd and Broadway.

Upon arrival at the office, however, we were told that our number cruncher was seriously behind schedule and we would have to cool our heels in the waiting room for at least an hour. Everybody else in the waiting room had “gone to the phones” as I descirbe it, including Our Lady of the Pentacle. I instructed her to text me if anything sped up, and that I’d be back in a little while if she didn’t mind waiting without me. She didn’t.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One didn’t want to wander too far afield, and I wasn’t fully equipped (or inspired) to do full on night shots, but – I did have a tiny little tripod with me. A couple of set ups followed, the one above is looking downtown along Broadway towards Columbus Circle.

Incidentally, has the Mayor considered the fact that if he pulls the statue of Columbus down and renames the roundabout at 59th and Broadway, he will be forced to then rename Columbus Avenue and compel Columbia University to change their name? Just saying…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A long time ago, I used to live waaaaay north of “the Dorilton” building found at west 71st street. It’s a handsome beaux arts “block of flats,” built in 1902 and a landmark. It was originally called “the Weed” when it was built, after its developer Hamilton Weed. It’s architects were the firm of Janes and Leo.

For some reason, it’s always filled me with a sense of foreboding and seems to be pulsing with some latent occult potency. God only knows what goes in there, but who can guess what the moneyed classes do behind closed doors? There’s probably roasted baby being consumed in there. brrrr…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After finally sitting down with the accountant, and working out exactly the financial tithe to war and waste which Our Lady and I owed to both the Federal and NYS political establishments, we decided that a quick trip back to Astoria was in order. Our little dog Zuzu had been alone all day waiting for us, and you don’t want to make an elderly dog angry. The plan was simple – get to 42nd street and then transfer to a Queens bound R.

Have I mentioned that the “A” in MTA is for “adventure?”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After waiting for a period of time considerably in excess of my visit to “Beards and Hats” and which promised to approach that of my delayed appointment with the Accountant, we decided that the likelihood of an “R” showing up was slight. MTA hit us with a great fakeout when an N line train appeared using the rolling stock you normally see on the R line.

They have some sense of humor, I tell you, those guys and gals at the MTA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having resigned ourselves to walking from 31st street back to HQ, which is only two blocks from an R stop as a note, the N pulled into Queens Plaza and announced that the train was going to go express to the terminal stop at Ditmars and 31st. “Why do they do this” asked several of my fellow riders. Having zero barriers or inhibitions about talking to strangers, a humble narrator had to opine to my fellow commuters the probabile reason we were standing on a train platform in Queens Plaza at 8:30 p.m. after getting turfed off the one we were on.

Simply put, MTA rates its on time performance by measuring when a train leaves one terminal stop as compared to that of its arrival at the one on the other end of the line. Should a train set get delayed doing local stops, particularly common in Manhattan, MTA’s practice is to switch the train to express to make up the lost time. This is why you’ll periodically see the train you’ve been waiting for speed by the platform with no one on board. Their (MTA Bosses) job performance review is more important to them than yours, and you’ve been cited several times for showing up late to work because of their desire to be “on time.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While we were waiting, one again waved the camera around at points of passing interest. Luckily, the 7 was sitting at the platform for a good ten minutes so I had something nice and static to photograph.

Were there a so called “walking transfer” available between Queens Plaza (upstairs) and Queensboro Plaza (downstairs) we would have tried our luck with catching an R or M back to our actual destination but c’est la vie. Unfortunately, MTA still operates the IRT and IND lines as if they the separate entities of the dual contract era, even when it comes to fare control.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When a local stop N line train finally arrived, we boarded. A debate about which stations are currently under construction began, wherein Our Lady was forced to ask google about it. I know this is probably heresy, but if there was a single piece of signage explaining it to the ridership found in the cars…

Bah. I relieved the shopping cart guy from watch when I got home, and got back to my malingering amongst the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria.

I did wonder a bit about that purgatory comment from the crazy lady back in Jackson Heights.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 9, 2018 at 11:00 am

hurled consequentially

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No matter where you go, there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“How are ya?” is usually greeted wth “just another day in paradise,” whenever a humble narrator is queried by friends and acquaintances. It’s nice to have a catchphrase, and it took me years to come up with one that didn’t involve verbiage that could be considered a threat, hate crime, or offer a string of profane words randomly strung together. For a while, I liked “gaze upon the dragon and despair” but it’s difficult to pull that one off with the proper theatrics before coffee.

Here in paradise, one has been quite inert due to the weather. That sucks, but the good news is that “the project” has been moving along nicely. Allow me to explain…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“The project” which was slowly chipped away at throughout 2017, is cataloging photos. It all started last winter when I realized that I needed to print up new business cards. I use a printing company called “Moo” for this, and their services allow for variable color fill on one side of the card (photos) and a single BW layout for the other. Essentially, it’s up to twenty shots for the photo side. Thing is, while hunting through something like sixty thousand photos, I realized that it was time to start organizing and separating the wheat from the chaff. That means that I’ve had to comb through the entire archive, just in the name of “doing it right.” I literally finished the process on December 30th, and am in the early stages of arranging shots into categories – harbor, bridges, people etc. Believe it or not, I’ve consciously avoided inclusion of Newtown Creek or NY Harbor oriented shots, as those will be getting their own individual processes. There’s a reason this project has taken so long to get done.

The end of this grueling procedure will be a godsend, and will be spawning several byproducts. I still haven’t printed any new business cards, incidentally, that’ll be the first thing I do. 2018 is going to be something of threshold year I hope, which will lead into the tenth anniversary of this – your Newtown Pentacle – in June of 2019.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I plan on doing in 2018 is creating more video essays like the “A Short History of the Sunnyside Yards” or “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern” ones I’ve offered in the past. I’m also planning on creating a few pamphlet sized publications exploring various subjects, which would be offered for sale as both digital and physical items. Suffice to say that there are other goals for the end product of this project, but that’s still something I’m scribbling down in my notebooks and thinking about.

“Just another day in paradise” might be a worthy title for a photo book about Western Queens, one believes.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm

sinister matters

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting the most photogenic of NYC’s Subway lines entering the Queensboro Plaza station in LIC.

Tomorrow night, at Jackson’s Eatery Bar in LIC (which sits atop the Vernon Jackson stop of the 7 line at 10-37 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101), Newtown Creek Alliance’s holiday party will occur between 6 and 8:30 p.m. Come with?

 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 12, 2017 at 12:45 pm

given much

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note – this post was originally meant to be published yesterday, and was written in two distinct sittings – I’ll get to the reason why a bit later at photo number five…

So – The other day I was hanging out with a photographer pal of mine, and she asked if I’d be interested in going to “shoot the 7” with her, an entirely wholesome activity of the sort which one readily agrees to. We met up in Astoria, rode to Willets Point and then back to 103rd street, where we debarked the train for luncheon at an eatery of my acquaintance which serves food of the Latino typology. One torta later, we were back on the 7, riding to and fro while chasing opportune lighting.

Who do you think I run into?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the 40th Lowery Street stop, Santa Claus was waiting for the train to arrive. One greeted this seasonal master of the elves, and inquired if it was kosher to collect a shot or two of it. Never piss off Santa. He’s not always a nice guy, and you don’t want to end up on that naughty list. Incidentally like god, Santa is an “it,” not a “he,” as metaphysical beings are not gendered. You don’t refer to the burning bush as “him.” What you see when a Saint, Angel, Savior, or Djinn presents themselves is all that the limited senses of men can perceive and interpret of the thing, the event horizon of something existing in multiple dimensions simultaneously, which our brains can only render as being a jolly fellow in a red suit. Santa is a dragon, an exploding star, a single quark – all at once.

The eidolon of the Yule answered my request in the affirmative, and it didn’t even cost me a glass of milk nor a cookie.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is opined that the children this creature (whose syncretic origins tie him back through time and space to the Pagan God  Odin in the northwest of Europe and the 2nd century Saint Christian Nikolaos of Myra) defines as “good” receive toys and other decadent gifts. Those whom it has arbitrarily labeled “bad” receive a lump of coal. Occultists and certain Christian sects will inform that Santa is not this entity’s true name, and that “Santa” is just an anagram.

It is said that there are a pair of brothers who used their lumps of coal as the seed with which they founded a petrochemical empire, and rose to National political prominence. When life, or Santa, gives you lemons…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wouldn’t be me, incidentally, if I didn’t try to ruin Santa Claus for everyone else by talking about the deep historic roots of the entity nor remind all of you that there’s a difference between the Mediterranean and Near Eastern “Christmas” and the “Yule” celebrated by the barbarian Normans. Most of what we associate with “Christmas” is actually Yule.

Christmas Eve was once called Mōdraniht by the same Northern European cultures that believed in Norns, Hamingja, the Fylgjur, and variants of Odin. These same people also dug Thor and Freya, whom they turned into Saint Michael and the Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian times, but there you are.

from wikipedia

Scholars have connected the month event and Yule time period to the Wild Hunt (a ghostly procession in the winter sky), the god Odin (who is attested in Germanic areas as leading the Wild Hunt and, as mentioned above, bears the name Jólnir), and increased supernatural activity, such as the aforementioned Wild Hunt and the increased activities of draugar—undead beings who walk the earth.

Mōdraniht, an event focused on collective female beings attested by Bede as having occurred among the pagan Anglo-Saxons on what is now Christmas Eve, has been seen as further evidence of a fertility event during the Yule period.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, as to the question of why this post originally meant to publish yesterday on National Cotton Candy Day rather than today… HOLY SMOKES was a humble narrator laid low by some sort of rapid onset stomach bug after attending a Christmas party in the City on Tuesday. This felt a bit more like food poisoning than a virus. I blamed one of the Billion Oysters guys, whose hand I shook when he took a break from shucking shellfish for the Xmas party, while laying there in a hallucination plagued state as my digestive system purged itself. It could also have been touching something on the subway, but I needed someone to blame, so the oyster guy got the nod.

“Both ends” of my inner worm were exit points, if you know what I mean.

Couldn’t hold down a sip of water, and I enjoyed deep bodily chills as well as fevered sweats while repeatedly running towards my porcelain throne. The time in between explosive exhalations was spent sleeping and suffering. Over a 24 hour period, all I could hold down was a bit of Gatorade, a banana, and about half a bottle of Pepto Bismol.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At this moment, one seems to be on the mend, but bodily weakness and a general turpitude prevails.

Imagine it… a humble narrator so enamored of a waterway plagued by raw sewage… laid low by a simple handshake.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

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