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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was pretty much exhausted by the time these shots were acquired. All of the Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh posts you’ve seen in the last month, and these Philadelphia ones, were captured in about a 4 day period. A morning session in DC, followed by an 8 hour train ride, 72 hours spent in Pittsburgh, followed by a 7 hour train ride to Philadelphia, and I spent about 5 hours there. Between the three, I walked a little over 100 miles and photographed about 6,000 individual shots which ended up boiling down to about 700 “keepers.”

In Pittsburgh, I had a room where I could stow my gear, but in D.C. and Philly, I had to shlep it all around on my back. The shots in today’s post were the last ones captured on this trip.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Full pack “EDC” or Every Day Carry on a week long trip sucks. I had three bags hanging off of me. The one on my left hip – a camera sling bag which I’ve retired from active photo duty but which matches the current one – was stuffed with clothing, toiletries, and various comfort items like a comb and a few snacks – gum, candy, etc. as well as the various charging cables and wall adapters needed for my electronics.

The one on my right hip was full of the sort of camera gear you need to keep handy and ready to go – a bright “go to” prime lens, an air blower, lens cloths – that sort of stuff. I’ve also got a construction worker’s yellow safety vest in there. The two were hung on opposite shoulders, forming an X over my sternum.

Then there was the big bag on my back, which kept the X in place, a Jansport knapsack with my Canon zoom lenses within and housed in removable foam partitions, and also within it was a Mac laptop. On the exterior of the backpack was an attached Sirui Carbon Fiber tripod with a ball head, with an umbrella affixed on the other side. There’s lots of small items I like to carry – a flashlight, a roll of gaff tape, ten feet of paracord, one of those silver emergency blankets, a “bit kit” of screw heads that my Leatherman can mount, the homemade foam lens collars I’ve mentioned a few times, a backup camera support device called a Platypod, extra camera batteries. At the bottom of the bag is one of those ultra absorbent “shamwow” orange cloths they sell at Costco for washing cars, and a couple of clear plastic garbage bags. As a note, the flashlight and everything else made of metal in my bag has a layer of gaff tape on it. Gaff tape doesn’t leave residue behind when you stick it to things, and whereas it’s no duct tape, if you have to make a quick repair while in the field it’s better to have the stuff and not need it than the other way around. It also helps with “grip.” The layers of gaff on my flashlight easily release and are deployable as needed.

On top of all this, I was wearing my special “Scott E Vest” sweatshirt with its 22 secure pockets, pretty much all of which had at least one item secreted away in them. Additionally, I was wearing a pair of military surplus shorts, with a bunch of secure pockets where I was carrying a Leatherman utility tool, wallet, cash, keys, hankies, hand sanitizer, and all sorts of other bits and bobs. The shoes, as always, were Merell Moab style hiking boots.

There was also, obviously, the L bracket encased Canon R6 camera dangling off of me on a Black Rapid R strap, which itself has a zippered pocket for memory cards. I also had my iPhone with me, of course, which was used to organize my train tickets, rideshare needs, and allowed me to use google maps rather than a printed book. I did have a small Moleskine reporters notebook with me as a backup, and a single uniball retractile pen.

All told, it was about 20-30 pounds of stuff in aggregate. Nearly a third of my carry was due to the laptop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everything I carry with me day to day – My “EDC” or “every day carry” has stood the test of time and weather and is the best accommodation between weight and performance that I can afford. The plastic recycling bags have saved me and the camera from getting soaked during sudden rain bursts, the shamwow insulates the lens against vibration a bit and ensures I can dry wipe the equipment down in a hurry. The Mylar safety blanket, plastic bags, and construction worker vest weigh virtually nothing, and the former is occasionally deployed as a sun reflector whereas the latter is often donned while wandering around Newtown Creek in the dead of night. If you’re looking for a pocket tool rather than a weapon, the Leatherman Skeletool is a good solution. Pliers, screwdriver with interchangeable bits, and a blade. It’s also a bottle opener.

Also, forgot to mention the zip lock bag full of Covid masks. I use ziploc bags to organize things when traveling, writing down what was in the individual bag on the bag itself when I packed it, with a sharpie permanent marker. Inventory list on the container means you don’t forget or misplace something when in a hurry, and the clear plastic allows you to visually inventory.

Minus the third bag with the clothes, and the laptop, this is more or less the “EDC” that I take with me when leaving HQ for a regular photo adventure in NYC. During the winter, the shorts become black army pants from the same manufacturer, and the filthy black raincoat is added into the mix.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A standout at 30th Street Station here in Philadelphia is the “Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial” statue. 28 feet tall, and designed by sculptor Walter Hancock, it’s a memorial to the 1,307 workers of the Pennsylvania Railroad who died during the Second World War providing for the common defense. Check out this Wikipedia link for more on the thing.

To be honest, at this stage of the journey, I was giving zero shits about anything and just wanted to get home to see Our Lady of the Pentacle again and tell her about my adventures in Pittsburgh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train was delayed from its scheduled departure, but only by a few minutes. My feet hurt, and so did my back. I was impatient, and paced around the station to burn off my expectant energy. I was in a “shvitz,” as my grandmother would have said.

Finally, the boarding call was made, and the track announced. I proceeded down to the platforms.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amtrak’s chariot arrived, and I boarded a rather full train bound for NYC’s Penn Station at 7:58 p.m.

About 9:30 p.m., I returned to NYC and soon found myself on 8th Avenue, which was covered in a wind swept whirlwind of litter and garbage and there was graffiti on the sidewalk. One man was on his hands and knees screaming into a subway grate, another was standing on the corner of 32nd street openly masturbating. Another fellow, one legged and in a wheelchair labeled with a local hospital’s branding, had pulled his coat over his head to ease lighting up a crack pipe. By 34th street, I had passed through a bum fight between two women and got to see one of their boobies flapping about after her opponent tore off her t shirt. The air smelled of urine and car exhaust, and the dirty water of hot dog carts. Sirens, car horns, fart cars.

On 36th street, I turned a corner and narrowly avoided a group of charlatans working the “check out my hip hop cd grift” and managed to overstep a pile of vomit while passing them by. After negotiating through massive piles of restaurant garbage being colonized by rats that narrowed the sidewalk down to about 18 inches of space, I managed to find a spot to wait, and summoned a Lyft to whisk me home to Astoria.

Back in the 80’s, the saying was “what this city needs is a good plague.” Well – We’ve had one and it didn’t do any good, I’m afraid. When the greatest City in the history of mankind fails to compare favorably with… Philadelphia…


“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

November 18, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

562,000 square feet. Built between 1927 and 1933, which is when it opened. Designed by the successor to Chicago’s D.H. Burnham & Company, who provided architectural services for both Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh’s Union Stations. Currently the property of Amtrak, 2955 Market Street in West Philadelphia is officially referred to as “William H. Gray III 30th Street Station” or colloquially as “30th Street Station.”

It is bloody magnificent, and speaks to the power and majesty of one of the great American corporate powers which has passed into history and out of our cultural consciousness – the Pennsylvania Railroad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The largest corporation in the United States for more than a hundred years, PRR was founded in 1846. It grew, by 1882, to a size that saw its annual budget superseded only by that of the Federal Government. By 1926 – it had acquired, merged with, or owned 800 other rail companies. PRR operated nationally, and owned or operated nearly 12,000 miles of track in the northeastern United States, and was headquartered in Philadelphia. PRR was the primary carrier and transportation for John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. Manufactured goods like refined oil from eastern port cities went west and south, cotton and timber went north, and agricultural products and raw petroleum went east to feed and employ the immigrant masses working in the coastal factories. All of this activity was train based.

Despite its capital intensive business, the PRR paid out the longest dividend payment in American business history to its stockholders from its founding in 1846 until its first reported losses in 1946. By WW2, it had annihilated all but one of its major rivals – the NY Central Railroad. The two rail giants were decimated by the arrival of the Interstate Highway system and containerization, which kicked off an era of deindustrialization in the North Eastern United States. In the end, they merged operations, becoming the Penn Central Railroad.

Bankruptcy was declared in 1968 for the combined Penn Central, ultimately resulting in President Richard Nixon nationalizing their assets as Conrail (freight) and Amtrak (passenger) in 1971. Their inner city and suburban commuter rail assets – Long Island Rail Road, for instance – were assigned to newly minted State level counterparts of Amtrak like MTA in New York State, or as in Philadelphia’s case, SEPTA.

Again – I’m not a rail historian. If you want to know more, I’d suggest taking a class, doing some googling, or reading up on the subject. It’s a fascinating subject, really.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the modern day Philadelphia skyline, as seen from the entry to 30th Street station.

It’s hard to conceive of the sort of monopoly power that PRR enjoyed in the American economy without referring to modern day technology companies like Apple or Google. Additionally, the National Security aspect of their business cannot be understated. Military conscripts were shipped to military bases for basic training via the rail, and trained soldiers were then delivered to the Atlantic port cities for overseas deployment by the PRR and others. Weapons and supply items could be manufactured in safe inland factories nearby sources of mineral supply, and then also be sent to the ports using rail.

Standard Oil is mentioned above, but the tonnages of coal, timber, mineral ore, agricultural products, and factory produced manufactured goods transported by this corporate goliath literally allowed the United States of America to evolve into a global superpower by connecting its most distant natural resources to each other with a high speed iron road. Rail doesn’t seem quick in an era when private space flight is possible, but until the 1930’s – the fastest speed most people ever travelled other than by rail was governed by a horse.

The corporation is actually still extant, but they’re in the property and casualty insurance business these days, and are now called “American Premier Underwriters.” Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve said a few times in these posts about Philadelphia – as a New Yorker, I’m duty bound to shit talk Phillie – but in the particular case of 30th street Station, they’ve got us beat. Yeah, we’ve got Grand Central, but our Pennsylvania Railroad station – Old Penn Station – was demolished in 1963 to make way for the harbinger of the dystopian shithole version of NYC we all know in the modern day – modern day Penn Station.

Pictured above is the entrance to 30th Street Station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

30th street Station received refurbishment and modernization upgrades in 1991. It’s one of the busiest intermodal train stations in the country, and Pennsylvania’s SEPTA system uses it as a regional hub for its commuter rail operations. There’s a separate subway station nearby called the “30th Street Subway station” and there’s streetcar/trolley service associated with that facility as well. Down below the ornate frontage, there are two levels of track, with the upper one hosting 3 east/west oriented platforms, and a lower level which offers 6 north/south ones.

No surprise here, but there’s cops and drug/bomb sniffer doggies roaming all over the joint. I’d advise you to not travel with your dynamite or heroin collection through 30th Street Station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A nuanced bit of trivia is offered here, which speaks to the actuality of the rail world. It’s a station – which indicates that it’s not a final stop with a turnaround track – in which case it would be a terminal. NY Central Railroad’s Grand Central Terminal in New York is a terminal for modern day MTA Metro North commuter rail, but the new MTA LIRR East Side Access stop deep below it will be a station. Get it? Station means stop, terminal means end. The 7 line subway has terminals at Hudson Yards and Flushing, everything in between, including the platforms at Grand Central Terminal is a stop.

It’s all so complicated.

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“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

November 17, 2021 at 11:00 am

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