The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Allegheny River

unexampled flight

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Onboard a Gateway Clipper excursion boat, here in Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh, the Captain navigated us around the “Point” of the Golden Triangle and off of the Monongahela River and onto the Allegheny River. Pictured is the confluence of the “Three Rivers” where the two form the one and the Ohio River begins.

That fountain above is the centerpiece of Point State Park, and was discussed in a prior post dubbed “certain circumstances.” When I was here, on Day One of my 72 hours in Pittsburgh, it was nighttime. The shots in today’s post are from Day Two.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above are, from the top – the Fort Duquesne Bridge (also briefly profiled in the post linked to above), and the three smaller yellow bridges beyond it are the Sixth Street Roberto Clemente, Seventh Street Andy Warhol, and Ninth Street Rachel Carson bridges – discussed in similarly brief fashion in this post – dubbed “human clothing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Gateway Clipper tour guide intoned that the reason why everything “Pittsburgh” is colored black and yellow dates back to its founding, and is related to how they came up with the romantic sounding name “Pittsburgh” in the first place. The City picked up its moniker in 1758, when a British General named the area in honor of a back home politician named William Pitt, the 1st earl of Chatham. From an American history POV, we remember this politician as “Pitt the Elder.” It seems that the feudal standard colors of the Pitts were black and gold.

Pittsburgh stays on “brand” all these centuries later, with black and gold municipal goodness; its bridges, its Steelers NFL team, Penguins NHL team, and the Pirates MLB uniforms. According to the tour guide, the gold color, as commercially supplied, is called “Aztec Yellow.”

That brings me back to the old days, “Aztec Yellow” does, I tell’s ya… reminds me of the Aztec deity Tezcatlipoca, the god of wizards and darkness often referred to as “the smoking mirror” lest invoking his name summon the entity. Tezcatlipoca was often depicted by the Nauali Priesthood of Tenochtitlan as man with obsidian black skin wearing yellow war paint, or simply as a Jaguar.

Nerrrrrrrrrrd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing up the Allegheny River, we encountered the Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge, whose details and specifics were also discussed in the posting linked to above – dubbed “human clothing.” As mentioned on that occasion, captured also on Day One of this 72 hour portage, this is a very active railroad bridge.

Once the Gateway Clipper passed underneath it, the turnaround point for the excursion would be reached.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator normally reacts with horror at the sort of architecture employed by a structure called the “David L. Lawrence Convention Center,” or colloquially the “Pittsburgh Convention Center,” but this massive 1.5 million square foot facility is actually pretty cool looking and a nice accommodation of the space. A section of it is cantilevered out over a highway or high speed road of some sort, as well as the Three Rivers Heritage Trail bike and pedestrian pathway. This is just past the “Strip district.”

It’s where I got my shots of the Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge the day before, along the waterfront path.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behind the Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge, which had one of those seemingly half mile long Midwestern freight trains you hear about moving over it, that’s the “Veterans Bridge” truss bridge, and the 16th Street David McCullough Bridge in descending order.

Wow, it’s almost as if I had planned out my 72 hours in Pittsburgh to involve collecting a systemic catalog of the Golden Triangle’s bridges and interesting points, found on the Allegheny River between 31st street and Point State Park, and then the Monongahela River side Bridges and both Inclines – Monongahela and Duquesne – between Point State Park and the Smithfield Street Bridge. It’s almost as if the entire mission could then be visually summed up and compiled, via the rapid fire shooting and focal points offered by a 60 minute tourist boat excursion covering much of the same ground I had already travelled on foot.

That’s crazy, right, as I’m an idiot man child with a camera scuttling through junk yards and along riverbanks, right?


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November 10, 2021 at 11:00 am

luckily obtainable

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Day two of my 72 hours long visit to Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh involved lots and lots of walking up and down hills during the morning. After riding both the Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines to indulge my obsession with funicular railways, one took advantage of the overlook platform at the latter and set the camera up on the tripod with a filter to allow me to do a few longish exposures. Now, I realize that the shot above has been captured hundreds of thousands of times – it’s a point of view that is somewhat cliche in fact. Saying that, I hadn’t taken it, so I did. Don’t be ashamed of being a tourist when you’re doing tourist things, I always say, so get that selfie with the Statue of Liberty behind you on the Staten Island Ferry when you’re visiting my home town.

As you may have guessed by now, the Amtrak based traveling in the month of September which you’ve been reading about for a while now has been absolute nepenthe for me. Psychologically speaking, I’ve been keeping it together throughout the lockdowns and isolation of the Covid pandemic, but it’s been the same struggle for me as it’s been for everyone. I kept myself busy with night shooting and long walks around Newtown Creek, but the desire for novelty and “something else” has been nagging at me for a while now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The inability to travel in particular, is something which started a few years before Covid occurred. My beloved and dearly departed dog Zuzu’s declining years were tremulous. Kenneling her wasn’t an option if I left town, as her health wasn’t great and she was laser focused on me as her alpha, so I hung in there and barely left Queens. For all the joy and happiness she brought us from the time she was a tiny puppy, I owed her the debt of providing her with a stable and very predictable life during her dotage. Dogs are creatures of habit, and having Daddy disappear for two weeks would have derailed her. She passed away in the summer of 2020, which was a brutal experience for me, since her regular Veterinary care was impacted by Covid. We actually had to pay a traveling Vet to come to the house and euthanize her due to the amount of pain she was in, and during that last week she just laid on her side whimpering from a spinal problem’s pain. From that ugly day in the summer of 2020 till the day Our Lady of the Pentacle and I boarded the train to Vermont’s Burlington, the first thing I’d see in the morning each and every day was the spot where she died. Talk about picking at a scab, huh? It probably sounds dumb, talking about a dog like this, but Zuzu wasn’t an ordinary dog for me. She was very, very good at her dog job, and a good friend.

The good news is that for a few weeks in September of 2021, I was able to see and experience novel and fascinating things which allowed me to wake up and not see that spot first thing in the morning. As finances allow, I’m in the early stages of planning several other Amtrak based excursions for the winter and early spring. Providence beckons, as does Holyoke, and another visit to Pittsburgh seems to be on my list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m planning on closing out my trip to Pittsburgh’s postings either next week or shortly thereafter, after showing you what I saw on that boat trip which I’ve mentioned a few times that occurred shortly after these shots were collected. That’s when I’ll tell you why that blue bridge in the foreground – pictured above – is so special, and it’s direct connections to LIC.

I’ve been shooting a LOT since I’ve been back, riding the ferries and going places outside of the normal round. I’m now triple vaccinated, as a note. Tours of Newtown Creek have occurred for private groups – students and so on – and I recently led two public facing walking tours of Greenpoint for Open House NY Weekend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have to admit it was glorious to feel freedom again. I don’t mean the horseshit “freedom” that the rednecks proffer which is actually a form of indentured servitude to other people’s ideas and personal fortunes, rather I mean the ability to just do whatever the hell you want to and on your own schedule. A humble narrator is 54 years old, but I’m still in surprisingly good condition despite the life I’ve lived. The heart condition, as I was recently told by my staff of doctors, is well managed and not at all life threatening at the moment but I do need to drop some of the pandemic era weight that I’ve packed on. A bit of arthritis has been plaguing me for a couple of years now, but I’m 54, so…

Saying that, I can still easily do dawn to dusk photowalk days. That’s what I proved to myself, in Pittsburgh, in particular. I didn’t have to worry about somebody else’s leaky bladder, bad knees, spinal issues, psychological problems, or general inability to move their bodies around the world on this 72 hour mission. I also didn’t feel compelled to explain anything to anyone, which was simply awesome. When you know a little something about everything, as I do, you end up having to answer questions others offer all day long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having finished up the shots from the Duquesne Incline, one rode the funicular down to the south side flatlands of the Monongahela River, at the foot of Mt. Washington. A pedestrian bridge carried me down and across a high volume roadway, and I made my way to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail on this side of the City of Pittsburgh.

Observationally speaking, this side of the City isn’t quite as “post industrial” as the Allegheny/North Side is. Active freight rail tracks were humming with activity, and that’s the sort of thing which just draws me right in…

After a quick phone call to home, letting Our Lady of the Pentacle know that I hadn’t been carried off by a Mongol horde or something and that I was safe and sound, I scuttled off in the direction of my eventual boat tour. The dock was about a mile and a half from where I was standing, and I wondered how I’d fill the three or so hours until my scheduled ticket would be redeemed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As if I’d have to worry, huh? This CSX locomotive was hauling a coal train along the shores of Pittsburgh, and that’s the Fort Pitt bridge in the background. Seriously, this is one of the most visually interesting cities in the Northeastern United States.

More next week at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


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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

November 5, 2021 at 11:00 am

other constellations

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior posts, a humble narrator took his camera on vacation in September. The camera wasn’t bored, but it’s been trapped here in NYC since arriving from Japan at the end of 2020 due to COVID restrictions and all that, so I wanted to show it what other parts of the USA look like. Amtrak takes you places, and one of the places we went together was the pretty city of Pittsburgh.

One left the rented room in Pittsburgh early in the morning, after having received weather forecast warnings about a powerful line of storms meant to arrive in the area where their three rivers converge about 4:30 p.m. Accordingly, one’s activities for the day had been built around this. After exploring both sides of the Allegheny River frontages, a humble narrator began scuttling back towards the AirBNB I was staying at in downtown Pittsburgh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the PPG tower. Pittsburgh Plate Glass, that is, and if there’s an “Empire State Building” in this city, I guess that’s the one. Proper photographs of the thing will be offered tomorrow, the shot above is a bit more of a “snapshot” than it is a photograph.

On the way back to my room, I picked up some coffee and a couple of bananas at a 711. Also as mentioned, the temperature when I left in the morning was about 60 and over the course of the day it had risen to about 85 and it was quite humid. One had been out wandering and walking all day and I was perspiring.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The AirBNB was in a former office building which had been converted over to residential usage called “The Clark Building.” Apparently, it used to be the regional HQ for Warner Brothers, was built in 1928, and I was staying on its 23rd floor. The elevation provided a front row seat to the oncoming storm, and after a quick shower and change of clothes, the window was first rolled up and then the tripod was deployed so that the camera could watch the show.

I really was hoping for lightning, but c’est la vie, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For about 90 minutes, rain and wind pummeled Pittsburgh, and according to the local news I was watching on my phone, a tornado had set up nearby the Allegheny county line that caused no small amount of damage. Me? I was sitting pretty, drinking coffee and enjoying a banana.

I also took this opportunity to offload the day’s photo effort from the onboard memory cards of the camera to the laptop which I had carried with me all the way from Queens in NYC. I recharged the batteries and wiped down the equipment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the front had passed, the temperatures dropped back into the low 60’s, and there was still a bit of occasional drizzly rain coming and going. Around the corner from the Clark Building, an ornate movie theater was observed with a lit up marquis advertising a showing of the “Wizard of Oz.”

When in Rome, as the saying goes, and since I required a meal at this point – as I had long ago digested the pancake breakfast quaffed nearby the Heinz Factory on the north side of the Allegheny – I headed for a nearby outpost of Pittsburgh’s iconic “Primanti Brothers” sandwich shops.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Primanti Brothers sandwich is a “cholestival festival.” I ordered the menu item they called “The New Yorker.” How could I not, after all? Pastrami, Corned Beef, french fries embedded in the sandwich… delicious, but it’s a cardiologist’s nightmare made manifest on a plate. I washed it all down with a couple of pints of Yuengling, which is apparently a locally manufactured beer. After eating, I gathered my crap together and decided to remain busy.

Tomorrow – night shooting in Pittsburgh.


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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

October 27, 2021 at 11:00 am

human clothing

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Allegheny River in Pittsburgh is adjoined on both banks by the “Three Rivers Heritage Trail” which offers pedestrians and bicyclists a series of stunning views. That’s the 16th street or David McCullough bridge, which is of the “steel trussed through arch” type. It was erected in 1922, replacing the earlier 1838 Mechanics Street Bridge. It’s some 1,900 feet long, on ramp to off ramp, and 40 feet wide. In 2013, it was renamed for historian and native son David McCullough.

As you may notice, I had retooled the camera back into its tripod mode at this point. Mid afternoon sunlight isn’t exactly kind to photographic pursuit, and I had to handle the situation. A ten stop ND filter allowed me to “slow the exposure” down, and all the shots in today’s post were accomplished using this particular technique.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks towards the direction of the junction of the three rivers – Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela – from the pedestrian pathway of the 16th street Bridge. One of the things that I really enjoyed in Pittsburgh was the near complete lack of chain link security fences occluding the views. It’s one of the truly frustrating things about NYC, these fences and occlusions. Actually, almost everything in NYC is annoying and frustrating.

A humble narrator was in a full sweat at this stage of the day as the atmospheric pressure began to build up ahead of that front of storms moving in. I got moving, looking for shade, and started heading towards the “point” of the delta.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “steel and welded girder” type truss bridge, the fairly uninspiring Veterans Bridge opened in 1988. It carries the 7 lane interstate 579 into and out of the center city on a north/south axis, and one of those lanes is a reversible high occupancy vehicle lane meant for buses and other transit related usage. On ramp to off ramp, it’s 1,050 feet long, but the section spanning the Allegheny River is 410 feet which sits some 51 feet over the waters.

While shooting this image, I had to contend with a territorial gaggle of Canada Geese, who – as a specie – are dicks. Everywhere I go, gooses abound.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up is the American Bridge Company built “Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge” which continues the deal here in Pittsburgh of bridges having more than one name. According to the National Register of Historic Places, this is alternatively the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge. It’s also known as “Bridge No. 1, Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway.”

It’s of the “double deck steel truss” type, and it’s 5 spans cross some 985 feet. The longest span is some 319 feet long. It’s 40.9 feet over the water, and replaced an 1868 forebear that sat just outside of this one’s footprint. It was opened for rail traffic in 1904, and was raised in 1918 to its current height to increase navigability. This is something that they managed to pull off without interrupting rail traffic.

I actually got pretty lucky with my timing right here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lower deck is inactive, and as you can see in the shot above (and not for the last time during my 72 hours in Pittsburgh), the upper deck carries freight and passenger traffic. Freight rail operator Norfolk Southern’s Fort Wayne Line, and Amtrak, cross the Allegheny on this bridge.

Score! Freight rail in the steel city. Little did I know… but that’s another post for another day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Ninth Street Bridge, aka the Rachel Carson Bridge, is one of three relatively small bridges which all seem to be very similar in design if not identical. Suspension Bridges with eye bar catenary cables, it sits in close association with the Andy Warhol Seventh Street Bridge and the Sixth Street Roberto Clemente Bridge. Unveiled in 1926, Ninth Street Bridge is on ramp to off ramp 995 feet long, and 840 feet of it spanning the Allegheny River is just over 40 feet from the water.

This was my “head back to the room” shot, incidentally, as that approaching line of thunderstorms was now only a half hour away and people’s phones were going off warning of possible tornado formation.

I’m not clear on what water level indicates in Pittsburgh, by the way. I keep on seeing references to an Emsworth Dam and it’s normal pool level as being 710 feet above sea level and that seems to be the effective level of the water locally. Any of you engineer types or Pittsburgh experts who might be reading this and who can elucidate – leave a comment on this post. I live by the sea, on an archipelago. It’s called NYC. I don’t know your mountain ways.

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 26, 2021 at 11:00 am

choked fissure

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in previous posts, a humble narrator used an Amtrak Rail Pass during the month of September to carry the camera to various locales in the North Eastern United States. First up was a short day trip interval in Washington, D.C., followed by a long train ride on Amtrak’s “Capitol” line to Pittsburgh. In last week’s posts, I brought you along with me on the north shore of the Allegheny River all the way to the 31st street Bridge, where I crossed back on to the river delta known as the “Golden” or “Iron” Triangle, and we entered a rapidly developing post industrial area referred to as “the Strip.”

The Strip is my kind of jam, by the way. Surviving industrial buildings repurposed rather than demolished, and when you encounter new construction it acknowledges the neighborhood it’s in rather than trying to destroy/replace/obfuscate it. I’m looking at you, Long Island City, right in the eye.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m trying to not get super granular in these postings about Pittsburgh, given that I was only physically present in the City for 72 hours and of that interval – awake and shooting for about fifty hours. Saying that, the Phoenix Brewing Company building caught my eye. A bit of quick looking revealed that the folks at both “pittsburghbrewers.com” and the “The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh” have paid some attention to this structure well before I wandered past it.

It was pretty warm, weather wise. Again, the weather in Pittsburgh is super dynamic. When I had woken up and left the AirBNB, it had just finished raining and was overcast and in the 60’s. Here I was just a few hours later, and it was sunny and middle 80’s. I had a bit of an atmospheric deadline to oblige, as a line of strong thunderstorms was meant to arrive and rip through the City between 4:30 and 6:00 p.m. My plan was to keep shooting until 4, then head back to the rented room to offload the photos from my camera onto the laptop while sheltering from the weather.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is new construction, residential in nature, as encountered in the post industrial Strip district. Given that this is the “hip” section, and where several of the “new economy” companies like Facebook and Google have thrown down stakes, if this was NYC the real estate people would have to be saved from drowning on their salivations. The powers that be in NYC would be screaming about density and affordable housing and describe critics of their greedy intentions as racist or classist “NIMBY’s” who wanted to deny mostly wealthy people a home. They’d build a Tower of Babel sized glassine spire here, not caring about the effect it had on municipal infrastructure like the number of hospital beds or school desks. It seems they’re following a different plan in Pittsburgh, and trying to keep things fairly human scale.

“Post industrial” is a term I use a lot, and it bears a bit of explanation. A Post Industrial area is a plot of land which once housed a manufacturing or warehousing operation. It’s usually quite polluted, and more often than not the property ended up in the hands of the local municipality due to the original owner – a company, say – leaving the area or going bankrupt. Municipal entities all over the world struggle with what to do with this category of land, which often requires expensive remediation procedures to occur before it’s safe for other uses like housing. There’s a serious difference between what’s considered safe for “occupational exposure” eight hours a day versus “residential exposure” which is twenty four hours a day. More often than not, these post industrial parcels adjoin waterways or railroad tracks. A regional decline in heavy industrial and manufacturing economic activity following the creation of the Interstate Highway system in the late 1950’s had particular impact on the Northeastern United States, as industry fled to the American south and southwest in the 1960’s where land and labor are a lot cheaper. These areas allowed them to diminish the power of Organized Labor in “Right to Work” states, and fairly undeveloped land in the American South in particular allowed them to erect enormous horizontal campuses that complimented the new truck based – or intermodal – form of transporting their goods to market. This process got our of control, from a national economy pov, when corporations continued this process internationally and exported their operations first to Mexico and Central America and then overseas to East Asia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What got left behind when the businesses left, however, were the workers, and the buildings. NYC (along with all of the other 19th century NE industrial superpowers like Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh) experienced record unemployment and economic devastation along its waterfronts during the 1970’s and 80’s.

Pittsburgh, alternatively, saw it’s population cut in half at the same time that it lost most of its corporate tax base. What do you do as an individual when you lose your job? Belt tightening and you eat peanut butter sandwiches or spaghetti with ketchup sauce until you find a new one, right? The Strip area here in Pittsburgh was largely abandoned. From what I’ve read about Pittsburgh’s recovery over the last 50 or so years, post industrial has meant a lot of grief, debt, and lateral thought.

That’s the St. Stanislaus Kostka Church pictured above, an 1891 Polish Roman Catholic Church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Again, the topology of Pittsburgh kept on surprising me. Check out that change in elevation from where I was standing on Smallman Street nearby a series of repurposed agricultural and rail warehouses, as compared to that large house up on the hill. The riverine valley nature of this area lends itself to high humidity in the flatlands along the rivers, and even if you’ve got the bucks to afford living up on the ridges overlooking the City, you’ve still got humidity issues to deal with, but you’re able to say that “you’re above it all.”

Seriously though, everywhere I went, one of the odd things I observed was that there were always dehumidifier units laboring away. On large buildings, these units had outfall pipes feeding a steady stream of water directly into street drains. I imagine mold must be a serious issue for homeowners here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering mendicants can opine about post industrial economic development and land use endlessly, but that isn’t what my mission for the day was. What drew me to Pittsburgh, in fact, was it’s waterfront and in particular its amazing collection of bridges.

Pictured above is the 16th Street Bridge, aka the David McCullough bridge. David McCullough wrote what I consider to be one of the best NYC history books of all time – 1972’s “The Great Bridge,” which detailed the story of the Roeblings, Tammany Hall, and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. If you want to get a feel for what NYC was like in the middle to late 19th century – get this book. There’s also a fantastic audio book version of it available at audible. David McCullough was a native Pittsburgher.

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 25, 2021 at 11:00 am

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