The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘green wood cemetery

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A dream to some, a nightmare to others.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were gathered at an Atlas Obscura event in Green Wood Cemetery last weekend, which was a soirée of sorts. Cocktails in the Catacombs is how it was described, and an eager band of explorers responded. Your humble narrator wormed his way into the event, but did not partake or partay, I was too busy working. “How often do you get to photograph a cemetery in total darkness?”, after all. You’ll notice a crude bit of lighting in the shots above and below, which was barely visible during the image capture. A battery operated LED flashlight, if you must know.

It was late evening when I was shooting, the event started at ten and I left the cemetery for Astoria about one in the morning. These photos are long exposure, and tripod shots. To the human eye, there was naught but darkness framed against a brooding sky. Leaving the shutter open for 20-30 seconds at a pop, one can gather a range of color and tone which would otherwise be imperceptible. The small LED flashlight becomes a flood light in such circumstance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funny thing was that although you know that you’re “safe as houses,” the fact remains that you are standing in near total darkness in a cemetery and the slightest sound – a tree branch falling, for instance- is enough to trigger an irrational flight or fight response. Fear is so much fun, isn’t it?

The imagined stuff, I mean, not the sort that accompanies bad news from doctors or accountants, or lawyers, or the kind of existential angst that arises when you encounter drunk cops or pistol wielding teenagers.

Personally, my days are usually filled with horror of one stripe or another – although more often than not it’s of the “kafkaesque” type – and the wild hallucinations experienced during those daily intervals of fevered unconsciousness – that some may call “sleep” – consume a third of my life and they both terrify and inform.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recently recurring hallucination of the nocturne has been a scenario in which your humble narrator is sitting at his desk and working, with Zuzu the dog lying at my feet. There’s a white flash, and suddenly everything is darkness and pain. Limbs are pinned by some unknowable weight, and there is a smell of copper as something begins dripping onto my face, and a certainty that one is completely helpless is realized. There is also pain, unknowable pain. Unable to wipe this unknown drip away from my eyes, immobilized in total darkness, a bit of light becomes visible and seems to be some distance away but it illuminates my situation. Surrounded by bloody concrete and rebar, the light grows brighter and begins to assume a hue as it intensifies. Orange yellow and growing brighter, the light illuminates clouds of dust which are picking up on an air current beginning to sweep through mounds of broken masonry and shattered bricks, as the ambient temperature begins to rise. The smell of cooking meat greets. My eyes begin to blister, and all vision perishes in fire just as the…

That’s when I wake up. At least this has replaced an older nightmare – one where I fall into an industrial carpet loom and am torn apart by clock works and bobbins of spinning yarn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s also a series of “consigned to suffer” and “torn apart by sharks” ones, and a fantastic internal narrative that involves a rapid onset of Leprosy that completely disincorporates a humble narrator in the interval which it takes the R train to reach Manhattan’s 59th and Lex from the Steinway Street stop in Queens has emerged recently. When the Subway doors open in the city, my mortal remains gush out onto the tracks unnoticed. The last thing witnessed before waking, in this fantastic example of Freudian angst about Ebola, is a herd of rats licking up the crimson juice which once called itself a humble narrator.

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Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 29, 2014 at 12:15 pm

elysian realm

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

This Saturday, for a change, we’re not going to present a “Project Firebox” posting, and will instead talk a little bit about the holiday weekend. What the British (or most of the rest of the world) might call a “bank holiday”, the truth of what the three day weekend represents is lost within the dross usage and little understood idioms of the modern tongue.

The truth of the term is met by merely sounding it out. This is a secular holiday, a “holi” “day”, or holy day.

From a representative democratic point of view and sensibility, this “holiday” is meant to be like Yom Kippur or Good Friday- serious business.

from a November 2009 posting, “Tales of Calvary 2- Veterans Day“, about the antipode of this seasonal holiday- Veteran’s Day (which discusses the monument in some detail)

The statues here at Calvary’s Soldiers Monument seem to have been the original castings of a much reproduced statuary design. Placed here in 1866, they predate the identical statues found at Green-Wood Cemetery, and exact issuance of the mold has been confirmed in New England, North Carolina, and all over New York State. As early as 1875, fumes from a nearby Ammonia Factory at Newtown Creek were graving pitted marks into them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The original intent of the holiday was to honor the dead of the Civil War… well, all wars, supposedly… but they were really talking about the Civil War in 1868 when Memorial Day (then Decoration Day) appeared on the American Calendar. Someday the eleventh of September will replace Labor Day, as the term “Union” will mean little to future generations, and summer will end “officially” in the second week of the ninth month rather than the last of the eighth. Some politician will have assigned it a name by then- “Never Forget Day” or something, I’d wager.

There are some wounds which will never heal, even in the fullness of time.

from wikipedia

Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. (Southern ladies organizations and southern schoolchildren had decorated Confederate graves in Richmond and other cities during the Civil War, but each region had its own date. Most dates were in May.) By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. As a marker it typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The smell of BBQ will rise above Queens and Brooklyn, as always, and the Manhattan people will order take out Chinese and I really couldn’t tell you what will be happening in the Bronx and Staten Island. There will be parades of Veterans, kids will skin their knees playing ball, and many of their Moms and Dads will get way too drunk. Fatty meats and cold drinks will swell many bellies.

All the kids will get sunburns, and go to bed knowing that the freedom of summertime has finally arrived.

Somewhere far away, however, other American kids with rifles in their hands will nervously stare out into the darkness of the desert, or listen intently for movement at mountain passes, and desperately hope that this will be a quiet night. Their BBQ is back at base, and like freedom- home is infinitely far away.


Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Memorial Day holiday was created by those who would implicitly understand the situation of the latter. They suffered the same sort of dysentery, horror, and mission- and also watched friends get cut down by anonymous artillery fire in some faraway land.

By the end of the Civil War, there were no victors, only survivors. These survivors wanted us to learn from their trials, and set an annual date for us to sit and think- long and hard- about how high a price certain things are worth.

The same can be said of the veterans of every mechanized “modern conflict” fought since the advent and introduction of the war machines in the 1860’s.


Memorial Day isn’t just an excuse for springtime sales and a three-day weekend—it is, first and foremost, a time to honor those citizens who’ve served the United States in times of war. NYC honors our fallen heroes with parades all over the City. The Little Neck–Douglaston parade in Queens is reputedly the largest of its kind. You can also attend Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade (145 years old!), which begins at Third Avenue and 87th Street. In Manhattan, head uptown for a smaller parade in Inwood that begins at Broadway and Dyckman Street. Check the City’s events calendar for a full list of events and start times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that this is also “Fleet Week”, might a humble narrator suggest that if you see a Marine or Sailor at the bar- have the bartender anonymously send over a beer on your tab.

Thanks of a grateful nation, and all that.

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