The Newtown Pentacle

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euclidian anomalies 

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Just another day in Paradise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been using the current air conditioned hermitage in pursuit of learning a few things completely unrelated to anything relevant to my life or the modern world, specifically the emergence and early history of modern humans. I haven’t been deep diving into this, mind you, it’s been watching a few BBC and PBS documentaries which have led me to some do some reading on the subject. My interest in this boils down, ultimately, to folkloric inheritances. Every culture on the planet tells their children stories about wild men who live in the woods, mountains, deserts – the “Bogie” or “Boogie” man who will kidnap a petulant or disobedient child and carry them off. These boogie men are usually large, muscular, possessed of ape like dentition, and hairy. I’ve often wondered if these boogie monsters are apocryphal remembrances of the days when our specie had competition from other hominids – Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, etc. Both of these other hominid specie, in a straight up fist fight, would clean even an MMA champion’s clock. They were stronger and faster than Homo Sapiens, on an anatomical level, based on observation of skeletal muscle attachment sites. Home Erectus, for instance, was a long distance runner with an incredible olfactory system.

The general scientific consensus states that since our specie had the capacity for language and long memory, we were able to plan into the future better than our competition. This allowed our ancestors to organize, pass the organization down from one generation to the next, and this eventually out competed the other hominids in the quest to hunt game and eventually led to the sort of agriculture that modern day “indigineous” people’s practice in jungle and forest settings. Neanderthal anatomy, in terms of their ability to conceptualize and then throw a spear or some other projectile, seems to have been similar to our own. Erectus, alternatively, was anatomically unable to throw a spear but would have been able to rip a modern human to shreds in close quarters combat with their bare hands.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Analogizing historical equivalencies is often required when discussing human history. As I often say – if you were a space alien who arrived in orbit at one point in history or another, and were asked to bet which culture which end up dominating the rest of the human hive, you’d almost certainly lose your wager. If it was during “biblical times” 5,000 years ago you’d have bet on the African cultures centered around the Nile Valley, or the Asian ones centered around either the Yangtze or Ganges rivers. A thousand years ago, you’d have probably placed your bets around the middle eastern cultures centered around the Tigris or Jordan River valleys. 500 years ago, it would have been the industrializing Rhine or Seine. For the last century, it’s the Missisippi and Hudson River valley cultures that seem to be the dominar, but it certainly looks like the Yangtze culture is making a comeback. Oddly enough, anatomically primitive hominids like Erectus seem to have persisted in Asia longer and later than originally thought, as late at 30,000 years ago.

Again, speaking from a folkloric point of view, every culture has legends of hulking brutes lurking in the woods ready to carry off disobedient children. There are certain commonalities in all of the legends and religious traditions – the omniscient sky father, the earth mother, the untamable horned adversary, and the wild men of the woods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting point of view offered in a BBC documentary of the history of Wales which I encountered offered an intriguing bit of logic. As westerners, our thought patterns are decidedly non metaphorical and quite literal. If you’re discussing the legends of King Arthur “pulling the sword from the stone” it’s literally interpreted as “there’s a forged sword stuck in a stone.” The historians who wrote this particular documentary instead pointed out that Druidic cultures were quite poetic in their speech patterns, and spoke in metaphor. Their supposition was that in pre modern Britain, early Iron Age cultures got their raw material out of the bogs – bog iron as it was called. That limited supply, and the iron found in bogs wasn’t forged, instead it was merely shaped. The “pull the sword from the stone” legend emerged shortly after the Romans vacated Britain, and the theory is that the legend referred to harvesting iron from ore and forging it into swords, rather than the more familiar imagery of a young Arthur removing Uther Pendragon’s fully formed magick sword from a boulder. Literally “pulling” the “sword” from the “stone.”

One wonders about the folkloric inheritances and associations of the “other” which are encoded in modern cultures, and the predilection towards “racism” that culture displays. Racists often use language describing the subjects of their ire as “monkeys, savages, primitives, or apes,” intoning a subhuman character to those they dislike. Such childish preoccupation with the primeval Boogie Man, Sky Father, Earth Mother, or fear of the Horned God is fascinating to me and I often wonder how much of it is and unspoken inheritance from the days when there were actual “others.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

another report

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Dinner and a show!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Friday nights, my neighborhood friends and I regularly gather for a “pub night,” at a bar which is found at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway. Now, since I’m all knowing, I can tell you a few things about this particular corner but for the purposes of this post – the NYC DEP has a storm sewer under the street here which leads directly to Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. That’s important in terms of the totality of things, but what’s also important is that several of the local sanitary water sewer pipes conjoin into a junction at this corner as well.

Apparently, there was a “priority one” repair order sent out to DEP’s maintenance crews, regarding something involving the storm sewer having developed a leak.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our little pub night gatherings involve sitting outside at the sidewalk cafe tables, and as always I have the camera ready and in my hands even when socializing. As the DEP crew got to work, so did I. Here they are noticing me.

Everyone at my table started waving and I started a chant of “DEP, DEP.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsung, these municipal heroes seemed to enjoy the respect they were being paid as they got busy. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The notoriously impatient drivers of Astoria, who seem to believe that their cars do not have a gear which allows them to reverse, turned the sidewalk into a vehicle lane for a short while. This stopped after a few minutes and presumptively the DEP crew set out cones at the northern corner of the block of 42nd street that they were working on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being the gregarious fellow I’m known for being, I walked across the street and introduced myself. This fellow was busy digging a hole. The head of the operation told me the circumstance of their tasks, which would involve exposing a broken pipe and replacing a section of it.

I congratulated him on the Friday night overtime, wished him luck, and headed back to my gathering across the street as it started raining.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYPD was called in, and towed a car which was perilously close to the job. The tow truck reparked this car around the corner on Broadway, and my friends and I were anxious to see the confused driver find their car somewhere else than where they had parked it, but alas…

At this point, everyone at my table started chanting “NYPD, NYPD.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heavier equipment began to show up and set up shop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the fellow who was digging the hole, and who was now guiding the operator of the excavator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More and more DEP crews kept appearing, carrying supplies and esoteric equipment. From what I could discern, one of them was a mobile welding unit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It turned into quite a party, happening across the street from my regularly scheduled Friday night party. Deciding that I couldn’t miss a minute of this, I ordered food and another drink.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rain really set up in earnest at one point, but I was sitting in a carefully chosen spot under one of the pub’s awnings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You really have to hand it to these folks. As much shade as I throw at DEP’s management during Newtown Creek oriented posts and in person at meetings, I have nothing but respect for the folks that do this essential, difficult, and dirty job on behalf of the rest of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A section of pipe was removed, another one welded in, and then the street was closed back up. Sated with food, drink, and a free bit of municipal dinner theater – a humble narrator then headed home to my little dog Zuzu.

You just have to love it. I do.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Friday, August 3rd, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

If you want infrastructure, then meet NCA historian Mitch Waxman at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, and in just one a half miles he’ll show you the largest and newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, six bridges, a Superfund site, three rail yards with trains moving at street grade, a highway that carries 32 million vehicle trips a year 106 feet over water. The highway feeds into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and we’ll end it all at the LIC ferry landing where folks are welcome to grab a drink and enjoy watching the sunset at the East River, as it lowers behind the midtown Manhattan skyline.

Tix and more deatils here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2018 at 11:02 am

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, NY 11103, NYC DEP

Tagged with , ,

poignant sensation

with 2 comments

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

always inclusive

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Summer Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always puzzled by this sort of sight, when a piece of heavy construction equipment rolls by on area streets. A buddy of mine in construction once opined that some heavy equipment handlers, who are apparently the construction workers you’ll see who wear  brown helmets with a bunch of stickers on them, aren’t allowed to leave the vehicle alone on the job site. They are obliged to use it for transportation from site to site, and even use it if they’re just picking up lunch somewhere. That doesn’t sound right to me, but I only wear a hard hat occasionally and when it’s required for visiting a work site I’m photographing, but the heavy equipment I’m rolling with is a camera.

Still, screw your bike lanes, “I wants me one of dose tings” pictured above. If I couldn’t find parking, I’d be able to dig a hole for it to live in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next week promises to be more of the same, weather wise, and my schedule is lightly packed. Perhaps I’ll spend some time down in the sweating concrete bunkers of the MTA and raise the suspicions of bored police officers again by photographing trains. I don’t know, I make things up as I go along. One has to be open to serendipity when you’re staring at the world through a camera’s diopter. One has to go the City a couple of times in the coming week to accomplish a few errands, so I might try to find some time to hit the zoo or a museum while I’m in town.

Been meaning to wander around lower Manhattan at night again anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my errands is to get a discounted camera maintenance and sensor cleaning session over at Beards and Hats on Sunday, which will eliminate some pesky dust motes that have resisted all my efforts at removal. You can only discern these occlusions in long exposure and tight aperture shots, which are exactly the direction that my proverbial muse is currently pointing at.

It’s always something.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm

threat level

with 3 comments

Either go clean your room or go outside and play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll go gather some proper shots of it next week, but as you can see from the shot above the second phase of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge project is coming along nicely. Those two new towers are rising from industrial Maspeth, right at the border with LIC’s Blissville, and are in the footprint of the old K-Bridge which was “energetically felled” last year. I’m going to be asking the K-Bridge team about an official update on the project sometime soon, but probably won’t hear back from them until the fall. Not too much happens in officialdom during the middle and late summer, as people who work for the government usually enjoy a 1950’s style work schedule that includes summer vacations and getting out of work at four or five. This is part of the disconnect between the citizenry and their Government these days. They have no idea about how corporate America operates in modernity, and what life is like for the rest of us.

It’s why they constantly design boxes to fit us all into that seem too small and constraining, just like our friends and family do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallets Cove in Astoria, pictured above.

Boxes are what others want to build around you, in my experience. Folks want to quantify their friends and family, coworkers and neighbors, defining acceptable behavioral norms and expectations for others. Speaking as somebody who avoids doing this, as it always leads to disappointment and conflict, and personally speaking it can be quite annoying when somebody gets after me about not fitting in one of their “slots.” I’m not a player on anybody’s stage other than my own.

It’s funny how often I get accused of egomaniacal braggadocio. Is it bragging if you’re just stating things that you’ve actually done, and recounting the tales of your adventures? There’s never been a box offered that can actually contain me, and at least for the last decade the life of a humble narrator has been lived in pursuit of “envelope pushing.” What that means is that when I’m asked if I want to do something that makes me uncomfortable, or nervous, I say “yes.” People close to me will often tell me “you can’t,” mainly because it threatens the envelope of expectation they have formed about you. Just do it, and screw what others say, life is short and it’s your life you’re living, not theirs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills, LIC, pictured above.

What I’ve discovered is that whereas I do have physical limits, their boundaries are far beyond anything I believed they were. Board a boat at four in the morning in January? Sure. NYC Parade Marshal? Why not? Testify in Federal Court about Newtown Creek and or Western Queens? OK. Advocate and argue for esoteric points of view with Government officialdom? Sounds good. The box I used to live in a decade ago before all of this madness began?

Shattered. 


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menace to

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Luyster Creek, Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking a short break this week, and single images will be greeting you through the July 4th Holiday week while I’m out shvitzing and photographing things.

Today is July 6th, and just like the rest of the calendar, there’s always a series of events that occurred over the centuries which seems to suggest that history might not be all that random. Alternatively, it probably is, and it’s the nature of human beings to attempt to form ordered patterns out of chaos.

  • 1777 – American Revolutionary War: Siege of Fort Ticonderoga: After a bombardment by British artillery under General John Burgoyne,American forces retreat from Fort Ticonderoga, New York.
  • 1854 – The first convention of the United States Republican Party is held in Michigan.
  • 1892 – Three thousand eight hundred striking steelworkers engage in a day-long battle with Pinkerton agents during the Homestead Strike, leaving ten dead and dozens wounded.
  • 1944 – The Hartford circus fire, one of America’s worst fire disasters, kills approximately 168 people and injures over 700 in Hartford, Connecticut.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 6, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria, Forbidden North Coast

Tagged with

never fainted

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I now know it was you, Larry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving HQ the other day, this is the scene which greeted me. Our Lady of the Pentacle spotted this tableau separately. Astoria, Queens is a place full of mystery, but you can’t beat the “block watchers” when you’re playing detective. On Saturday late afternoon/evening, while enjoying a few pints of beer at the “local” with some of the local commentariat, we put our heads together and pieced together the story of a skeleton cat wearing a collar that read “heartbreaker” which appeared in front of my door.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My neighbor Kenny, who is in many ways the adult man that Nelson from the Simpsons (the haw haw kid) would grow up to become, provided many of the individual pieces of the puzzle. He described seeing an affable fellow named Larry emerge from his building with the skeleton cat in hand, who thereupon placed it on the sidewalk with the intention of letting it find a new home.

Another neighbor described the Cat being picked up by ready hands and then abandoned again. It seems to have moved up and down the block a few times before coming to rest in the tree pit in front of HQ, one building lot from its original placement by the aforementioned Larry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heartbreaker apparently made it most of the way up to Newtown Road from the Broadway side of the block before track of it was lost. Having satisfyingly assembled the origin and travels of the thing, discussion of the articulation and manufacture of the skeleton cat ensued. Such are the minor points of interest upon which the neighborhood grinds away, here in Astoria. Whether or not Larry was the original owner of the thing, I cannot say, and speaking for the community – we’ve lost interest and moved on to other topics.

The possibility of having a block party during the late summer months came up, whereupon everyone turned to me in pursuance of getting a permit for said function.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

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