The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak

pompous inside

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After an interminable number of days wherein a late July into early August heat wave saw me sheltering in place at HQ, August 10th saw atmospheric temperatures and humidity drop to comfortable levels. Thereby, off I went on a walk. After all the sitting around at HQ, my joints were creaking from a lack of exercise, and the camera was anxious to capture images of the wonders of Western Queens once again.

Alright, the Q66 bus ain’t exactly a “wonder,” but it’s still pretty cool. There’s a real disconnect in Queens regarding the bus system for a lot of people, and it’s one of those places where you encounter the “economic and cultural privilege divide” thing that the kids talk about. Neighborhoods where the primary form of transit service takes the from of Subway Train Lines are generally richer and more gentrified than those that are served primarily by buses. Buses, therefore, are fascinating to me as they represent a clear borderline between the social and economic classes. Personally, I make it a point of using all forms of available public transit, which – as my mother would have pointed out – “you’ve already paid for it with tax, don’t be an asshole.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve famously been riding around the northeastern United States on Amtrak, since getting vaccinated for Covid, but I haven’t ridden on their “high speed” Acela service. I’m not in that big of a hurry to get somewhere to justify their premium pricing and ride the slower and cheaper service, and am entirely satisfied to just grab shots of their Acela trains at the Sunnyside Yards.

As stated hundreds of times, the 183 square Sunnyside Yards coach yard and rail complex is a few blocks from HQ, and sits squarely betwixt a humble narrator and his beloved Newtown Creek. I cannot resist utilizing the multitude of federal fence holes to record the elaborate heavy industrial ballet that is observable below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad was rather busy on this particular evening, but then again I was passing by “hole reliable” about 6:30-7:00 p.m., and that’s literally LIRR’s busy time – so…

This was going to be a relatively short walk for me as I had an early morning assignation the next day, and the plan was to wander towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek and eventually end up at the 7 train at Hunters Point Avenue. My habit these days is to use the 7 to get back to Queensboro Plaza, and then transfer to an Astoria bound N or W. It’s more efficient for me to take the 7 to 74th street in Jackson Heights and then transfer to the downstairs R or M lines which offer a stop just two blocks from HQ. Saying that, I really don’t mind the ten blocks or so that I have to walk from 31st street after riding on that line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always wondered about “hiding” something by attaching it to a train. You build a train car that’s securely lockable, paint it up to look like any other bit of rolling stock on whatever line you’re going to use, and the thing just travels from place to place and never stops moving. You want to fully fund rail travel in the United States, you say?

Here’s what you do – prison cars. You lock your felons up in locomotive passenger cars that are set up internally with jail cages, and then they spend their sentence traveling the country in a windowless steel box. How’s that for an abrogation of civil rights? Got to be cheaper than the current prison system we already have. I have several other suggestions for the sort of authoritarian dystopia that seems to be just over the horizon, many of which involve reclassifying “child labor” as “mandatory national service.” How’s that for cruel and unusual?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the authoritarian future, I favor Dante’s Inferno style punishments that are designed to be cruel, ones which are also inherently ironic in nature. You’re a drug dealer? Then your sentence involves Pfizer and Eli Lilly testing out new drugs on you without repercussions to their stockholders. Home invader? Well, my dear fiend, your mailing address is now a Rotary Jail. Capital crimes would be punished in a specifically cruel and unusual fashion – mobs of crazed Chimpanzees come to mind for pederasts. Americans would happily tune into to watch the Chimps dismember thought criminals and child diddlers, so there’s profit to be had in selling ad space on the broadcast to Taco Bell or Coca Cola. The ancient Persians reached great heights in this sort of arena – “The boats” torture comes to mind. Come on, America, we can do worse if we try.

In this near future of unfettered and profitable cruelty, men will become wild and free, and unattached to any previous morality. Society will learn new ways to enjoy itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sigh…

One continued his scuttle, and since the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was hanging pregnantly in the western sky, headed over to Queens Boulevard where shelter from the emanations of the vast radioactive fireball would be shielded by the aqueduct veranda of the 7 line subway tracks.

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.

thing therein

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 4th of July, I planned to get shots of the Macy’s Fireworks show on the East River, but didn’t want to go anywhere near the water. I had two spots in mind, and was debating which one to gravitate towards. Luckily, both spots had a common corner where my paths diverged, so I chewed on the decision while walking towards it.

The shot above and the one directly below are actually from July 3rd, when I took a short walk around the neighborhood just to stretch my legs.

Along my way, nearby Sunnyside Yards, I spotted this van. A Holy Roller, indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When walking past Sunnyside Yards, it’s impossible for me not to crack out a few shots of the trains they have on display.

Amtrak does a whole lot of maintenance work here. Cleaning, stocking, mechanical stuff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 4th of July, I finally had to make a decision about where I was going to shoot the fireworks from. I initially considered the area around Dutch Kills.

As mentioned previously, the trick with fireworks is to create a “sense of place” in the shot. Given that the 4th of July fireworks will always have the Empire State Building in the center of the display…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I set out from HQ a couple of hours in advance of the scheduled show, and actually changed my mind while en route.

Greenpoint Avenue at the Long Island Expressway would be my spot!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, I passed by an FDNY maintenance facility and they had just opened the roll up door as I was walking down the street…

Firemen! Firemen! Firemen!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Fireworks, as described at the beginning of this week regarding another display at Astoria Park, require a simple exposure formula. F8/ISO 200/4-8 second exposures. I claimed a spot, and believe it or not, I was soon surrounded by Blissvillians and Sunnysiders here on the onramp for the Long Island Expressway at Greenpoint Avenue.

I intended, therefore, to include the crowd and the traffic in my shots. It was a part of the show, after all.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

The YouTube video above is what I got. No sound on this one, so no point in headphones. It’s a series of still images strung together in a slide show.

Back next week.


“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

August 5, 2022 at 11:00 am

keenly resented

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, and several times in fact, the way I pass the long hours of an Amtrak trip is by taking random snapshots of America. That sounds pretentious, but… that’s what they are. A homemade foam collar is affixed to my lens, then I set the camera up at a very high ISO setting and a wide open aperture. I then set the shutter speed to an insanely small sliver of time – 1/2000th or faster. It’s a challenging situation – Amtrak’s windows generally ain’t too clean or free of scratches, and the window glass itself has a reddish brown coloration to it. Saying all that – 8 hour train trip, yo – gotta do something to pass the time.

The video above represents what I saw between Harrisburg and somewhere in the middle of New Jersey. The sun was illuminating my window from about 4 o’clock on, and there’s really no way to combat the fact that your lens is pointed directly at the sun through a dirty and scratched brown window. Anyway… made it back to “home sweet hell.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I stepped off the train into a “NYC swamp ass hot day.” There was also a parade letting out, which was probably “Pride” given all the rainbow gear the paraders were parading around with. I walked a block to the E, returned to Queens at Queens Plaza, and caught a R back to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria.

So – That’s that story. This was June 26th, incidentally.

Six image posts are going to continue for a bit, as the particularly prolific photographic spree I’ve been experiencing continues. This post is being written in the second week of July, which is also good news as I’m way ahead of schedule.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I hung around HQ and the neighborhood for a few days after returning from Pittsburgh. June the 29th, however, was a day that the world put out “Mitch Bait.” Given that this is my last summer in NYC, I’m trying to do everything that’s possible for me to do. Visiting people, seeing things, wondering where that smell on the air is coming from. There’s a sentimental resonance in every step I take.

I don’t know if I’m going to miss this dystopian shithole or not, as it’s all I’ve ever known. See that photo right above? That looks normal to me. Everything about it is messed up, starting with the Cops leaving their car parked in a bus stop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever…

One of the things that I haven’t done in a whole lot of years is attend the fireworks display at Astoria Park. It’s a short cross Astoria walk to get there for me, right up 31st street and over to Hoyt Avenue and then scuttle to the water. 31st Street, with its elevated subway tracks, seldom disappoints. There’s always something to take a shot of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had been thinking about where I wanted to set up the camera on a tripod. I knew with certainty that the East River waterfront along Shore Blvd. would be mobbed, and I also wanted to get a shot with both bridges in it – the Hells Gate Bridge and the Triborough Bridge. I wanted a bit of water in the shot, but not too much. I’d have to contend with crowds, passerby who wanted to talk about cameras (this happens all the time), and any number of unknown things. When I got to the spot I had visualized, later on, there was a guy setting up a theatrical flying rope rig up in a tree which he was swinging around on, and doing gymnastics. You never know.

Photographing fireworks is fairly simple. You put your camera on a stable thing like a tripod. You set it to ISO 200, F8, and 4-8 seconds depending on ambient conditions. There’s variations on this, but that’s the basic exposure triangle. I usually record fireworks with the camera set for 3400K color temperature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were captured on the way to Astoria Park.

Along the way, I encountered this Manitou (a French manufacturer of a range of heavy equipment) vehicle parked on the street. It caught my eye, this thing. Given my interest in the belief systems of various parties, the first thing I thought when I read the logo was related to the religious views of the Algonquian peoples. Odd choice, thereby, in corporate branding if you ask me.

You could probably take out a lot of zombies with that thing, I bet…

Tomorrow- fireworks!


“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

August 2, 2022 at 11:00 am

occasionally tearing

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another trip to Pittsburgh came to an end, and there stood a humble narrator at about 7 in the morning, waiting for his train to come.

Amtrak owned the train, of course. Boarding the thing was meant to happen at 7:30 a.m., with an expected arrival at Moynihan Penn Station in NYC at 4:52 p.m. I had a Primanti Brothers sandwich wrapped up tightly in one of my three bags, but my caffeine consumption was limited due to circumstance, so I was in a dreamlike state.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The grandiose old train station in Pittsburgh, as in the one associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad, has been converted over to a residential building. What passes for a train station there in modernity is reminiscent of a Soviet orthodontist’s office with a barely functional drop off and pick up parking lot.

You enter the station through an automatic supermarket style door, and then ride an escalator up to the actual station where the tracks are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the fact that you are absolutely going to be getting on the train, all the people formed up into an anxiously stressed out queue. I found myself standing in between two sections of an Amish family, and asked the Dad to hold my place in line for me. He seemed puzzled by the request, but acceded.

On the non active track, there was something I wanted a shot of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lovingly cared for Ohio Central passenger car was on display. I’m told that this is possibly a private car, operated by some corporate outfit that hitches itself onto Amtrak’s rolling stock for expensive private trips. Can’t say if this true or not, but it sounds right given its great condition.

I got back in line with the Amish Family (or maybe Mennonite, I can’t discern what the differences between the two groups are), and the conductor assigned me to a certain car. Amtrak groups travelers who are going to common destinations. I was going “all the way” and was thereby assigned to the very last car on the train. I got a window seat.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, I set the camera up for shooting out of the window as the Amtrak rolled along. Embedded above is a YouTube video of the various things which shot past us while heading east, all of which are entirely random. Amtrak schedules in a few stops along the route. There’s usually a crew change at these longer “dwells” in the stations, and they also switch out the locomotive engines (Diesel for CoGen “Hybrid,” or Electric, depending on where you are) at some of these stops. You get about 15 minutes to “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em,” or stretch your legs if you don’t partake. A lot of people were vaping.

The images in the video above were captured between Pittsburgh and the Capitol of Pennsylvania – Harrisburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Harrisburg’s Amtrak station is pictured above. One is merely whelmed, not over or under whelmed, by this station.

I got lucky in terms of my seat mate on this trip, just as I did on the ride out to Pittsburgh. Another Nice kid in his 20’s, but this guy lived in the extremely rural “Pennsyltucky” area in the virtual center of the State of Pennsylvania, nearby Lancaster. Lancaster is “Pennsylvania Dutch” country, where the Amish and other sects like the Mennonites live in archaic fashion. The kid wasn’t “Dutch,” but was a farmer who amplified his agricultural income by working as a welder, and he also had a sideline selling firewood. Inevitably, national politics came up, and it was nice to hear somebody from conservative America – “the other side, as it were” – say “man, we really gotta turn down the volume on this shit before the shooting starts.” A humble narrator concurs.

More tomorrow, and back home to NYC, in tomorrow’s Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2022 at 11:00 am

return therefrom

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a simple plan, really, but what happens when you dare the MTA to screw your day up is where simple plans go all wrong. As mentioned in the past, a humble narrator’s normal habit is to be very early for any appointment. A 10:52 a.m. Amtrak assignation at Penn/Moynihan saw me leaving HQ at just after 9:15 a.m., and after purchasing supplies for a long train journey I was down in the station waiting for a subway by 9:35. Ample time to get there. Right?

Of course, neither the MTA nor I planned on the E sitting under the East River for a little better than 45 minutes, or me missing my Amtrak ticket because of the Subway delay. $111 later, after rapidly buying a second ticket for the last train from NYC to Pittsburgh, I was on my way. Of course, my original journey was going to be about 8 hours long, but thanks to MTA, I now had a 13 hour ride ahead of me – one which saw me riding a local service Amtrak to Washington DC and then transferring onto a Capitol Line Chicago bound train to get to Pittsburgh. Grrr.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit in such circumstance, there’s no point in getting angry about it. I settled into a seat and stared out the window, shooting random photos out the windows. The YouTube video above has no sound, nor does the other one below. The one above depicts what I saw on the journey from NYC to Washington DC – which includes the northeast rail corridor in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

I think it was something like four and change hours on this leg. Truth be told, it’s all kind of blurry after the ninth hour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a brief layover of about 40 minutes in Washington. The Amtrak ticket agent who saved my day back in NYC was fantastic, I should mention. I explained my situation to her, and she barked out “you’ve got seven minutes, give me a credit card and your drivers license.” That was followed by “sign this, and do you have explosives or weapons?” She handed me back my ID and credit card with the new ticket, and said “you have four minutes to catch the train at Track 15, RUN.”

When we arrived in Washington, I debarked the train and walked outside to get some air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the appointed time, I began making my way down to the boarding area. The direct to Pittsburgh trip from NYC, as mentioned, is about 8 hours. This new combination, on the other hand, was going to be just over 13 hours. That’s Washington D.C.’s Union Station pictured above, by the way.

Our Lady of the Pentacle would be flying out from NYC the next day and meeting me at the airport in Pittsburgh, where our plan involved renting a car from the Avis outfit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I ended up being assigned a seat on the Capitol Line next to a nice kid who liked to chat, and as it further turned out we shared several interests. He was a youngster, so we struck a deal where I’d buy the coffee if he would go wait on line at the cafe car for it at the other side of the train. This worked out great. For me, at least.

I played with my phone, stared out the Amtrak’s window, and occasionally affixed a little foam collar to my lens so that I could gather photos of the great American landscapes Amtrak puts on display as the train moved through basically all of Pennsylvania.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

It felt like I was on the cusp of attaining enlightenment, that’s how long this trip was… Saying that, I still prefer Amtrak to flying. It wasn’t their fault, me being delayed. For once, I didn’t leave my house two and a half hours in advance of an appointment, and thereby it’s my fault.

This was June 21st, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just before midnight, Amtrak dropped me off in Pittsburgh. I still had to get to my rented room, an AirBNB found a few miles away in the Brookline section. A quick cab ride found me standing in front of the place at about 12:30 a.m. Funnily enough, about two blocks from where I was staying in Brookline, Pittsburgh has both a Flatbush and Queensboro Avenue. Brookline is really nice, but they obviously spelled it wrong. Lyn… it’s Brooklyn, not Brookline. Hicks.

More next week, at this – your traveling Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 22, 2022 at 11:00 am

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