The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Lake Champlain

new equilibrium

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A final post from a 72 hour visit to Burlington, Vermont. When we were looking for a place to shelter from a passing storm, I spotted this Vermont Railway facility, and an associated waterfront pathway leading to the “Roundhouse Park” and “Pine Street Barge Canal.”

That’s a railyard, a sewer plant, and a rail road transfer crane for me. I’d already been in two cemeteries and on a boat as well. Serendipity and Joy!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sky started getting pretty interesting about an hour before sunset. When you see beams of light emanating from the clouds, and Charlton Heston isn’t walking around in woolen robes and wearing a beard, it ain’t god – instead it’s an atmospheric effect called “Crepuscular Rays.”

One made his way down to the waterfront, deployed the gear, and got busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The waterfront paths I was shooting from were created beginning in 1981 under the leadership of then Mayor Bernie Sanders. The intent of the municipality was to convert the abandoned industrial waterfront over to something more natural and ecologically sound. At the same time, the post industrial waterfront’s building stock was either demolished or converted to other uses. Burlington used to be a major player in raw timber.

The iron road was (and sort of still is) located right on the shoreline. A large amount of money is currently being spent on renewing the Lake Champlain trackage and I keep on finding mentions of the intention of reactivating and routing Amtrak service to Burlington proper, rather than to Essex Junction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Rutland Railway is remembered largely for the curious case of Phineas Gage, whom we’ve seen a photo of at one time or another. Gage is the railroad worker who had a crowbar blasted through his head in Cavendish Vermont, and lived. He’s still discussed by neurologists and other medical people, and his case revealed a lot to their forebears about how the circuitry of the human brain actually operates. Who knew?

The other thing that the Rutland Railway is remembered for is the bankruptcy that ended its operations in 1963, whereupon the Vermont Railways outfit was opened for business in 1964 which bought the Rutland Railway’s assets. The State of Vermont purchased some of the tracks at the time, which Vermont Railways has since compensated the tax payers for. An intermodal local railway, Vermont Railways does freight, mainly, notably transporting rock and minerals. It’s tracks are used for passenger service by Amtrak. They operate in Vermont, and parts of New York State.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Forty years ago, this area looked like every other post industrial waterfront in America. Abandoned and collapsing docks, industrial gew gaws and leave behinds rotting away, slicks of oil and sewage… basically a smaller version of Newtown Creek or Gowanus Bay.

All it took was will.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our 72 hours in Burlington coming to a close, it was time for a humble narrator to get annoyingly anal retentive back at the hotel. Checklists! Had to pack up the camera, all of the gear associated with it needed to be carefully berthed and tied off, and we had to pack up the clothing and other junk we needed for our trip. Our Amtrak train was leaving from Essex Junction, about a thirty minute drive, at 9:44 a.m.

We grabbed breakfast at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, hoisted our bags on our backs, and we were off for Essex Junction and the long ride down a sloping hill carrying us back to a dystopian hellscape called New York City.


“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 8, 2021 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK, railroad

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grew hoarser

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After returning to the Diner we had discovered the day before for another hearty breakfast, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself agreed to separate for a few hours and do our own thing. In my case, that involved going on a photowalk in the downtown Burlington area. After all these years, one has developed a method for accomplishing this sort of task. A quick scan of Google maps revealed a reasonable to accomplish geographic area which I could explore, and I set off.

First thing I saw on my photowalk was the Burlington Fire Dept. returning to their truck. I was tempted to run alongside the truck shouting “firemen, firemen” but I’ve learned to contain these sort of impulses in my dotage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The housing stock of this section of Burlington… there’s no way to describe it other than “quaint.” I’m sure there’s a brutalist nightmare of an apartment building somewhere in the City of Burlington, but I didn’t see any dystopian glass towers or soulless monuments to Jared Kushner anywhere. What I did see were rather large wood frame homes which had been subdivided into apartments. In my experience, the sort of place pictured above is pretty common in Vermont, at least when you’re in Cities or Towns. The population is so low in Vermont – according to the 2020 census there’s only 643,503 in the entire state – there isn’t much call for multi unit dwellings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I found myself in Elmwood Cemetery for a short while. Can’t resist a good cemetery, me. There’s some heated local historical community controversy about whether this spot began to be used for internments in 1794 or in 1801, which makes me smile. Either way, this cemetery is about as old as the Nation is and that is just cool by me.

Not wanting to go down the rabbit hole of photographing the monuments, I forced myself to leave the place and keep walking. Very walkable, and very pleasant to walk in, Burlington is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Burlington weather is very, very changeable. It was overcast and cool when we left the hotel for breakfast, and a mere two hours later that had turned into passing thunderstorms and ominous skies. By this point, I had found my way down to the waterfront again, and was specifically in a section called Battery Park. Signage adjured that the area surrounding this park had traditionally been an Italian neighborhood, and was known as “Little Italy” until the age of urban renewal uprooted that community to another part of Burlington.

According to the meteorological sources that I checked, we were going to lose about 90 minutes of our day to a storm, with clear weather getting pulled in behind it. An executive decision was made, and we decided to find a place to grab a drink while sheltering from the rain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, while seeking out our spot for shelter and then dinner, I spotted something which absolutely needed to be photographed just to the south.

Negotiations began with Our Lady, who allowed me to abandon her for about forty to fifty minutes later in the day when the sun would be setting. She was going to install herself at a bar, and stare at the scene above. She barely noticed it when I was gone, in actuality, as she struck up a conversation with a woman who was also visiting Burlington but whose home town was Anchorage, Alaska. Wow.

I’ll show you the product of that sunset effort tomorrow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rain passed, the check was paid, and we still had one more “fun” thing on our list of “to-do’s” in Burlington. Our Lady and myself are both fans of hard cider, and a local brewery is the HQ of Citizen Cider. Off to the races!

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 7, 2021 at 11:00 am

viscous end

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As everyone knows, I’m a water guy. Waterfront is a critical “must have” as far as I’m concerned, and when traveling to places largely unfamiliar, the first thing I look for is an analogue of the Circle Line. Circle Line, is – of course – a NYC institution which offers boat tours of New York Harbor. There are versions of this business in just about every City in the United States which has a waterfront of any kind, and the one in Vermont’s Burlington is called “The Spirit of Ethan Allen.” Tickets go pretty fast for this excursion, so I ordered them well in advance of the trip Our Lady of the Pentacle and I began when we boarded an Amtrak “Vermonter” line train back at Moynihan/Penn station back in the City.

There’s a lot of cities, but there’s only one place you’re referring to when you say “The City.” My view on this is incontrovertible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lake Champlain, like nearly all of the inland waterways of the United States, falls under the ultimate authority of the United States Coast Guard. There’s actually a USCG post just north of where we boarded the tourist excursion boat.

There’s a breakwater at Burlington’s harbor frontage which hosts two navigational lights maintained by the USCG. Like all of the USA’s lighthouses, their operations are now either automated or administered remotely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We got what we paid for on this sunset cruise, which lasted about 90 minutes. From my point of view, it didn’t exactly make for exciting photos. Saying that, we had a few drinks and chatted with the other passengers. It was a fun time, and certainly worth the price of admission.

Also, after having chewed up about thirty miles or so of shoe leather in the previous 48 hours, it was great to be riding rather than walking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like all boats of this type, there’s a fairly high priced food and drinks menu you can order from for an extra charge. There was table service, and the crowd onboard was a mix of visitors and locals. The Spirit of Ethan Allen people also sell a dinner cruise on the same vessel. The dinner cruise folks were dressed in business casual sort of clothing, so presumptively it’s an after work thing? It was also a Saturday night, so… who knows?

The boat was probably at 75% occupancy. Would’ve been 100% if they sold more tickets. This was a popular destination.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Spirit of Ethan Allen, as shot earlier in the evening.

Covid hung about like a bad memory everywhere we went. Burlington has one of the best vaccination records in the entire country, we were told. Accordingly, there are no municipal mask mandates or vaccination checks. You’re encouraged to wear a mask inside of certain establishments by private owners, of course. The National mask mandate as it applies to public transit also applies, as does the requirement for mask usage in ride share cars like those offered by the Lyft service. Saying that…

Conversation with some of the locals revealed that the same divide that exists everywhere these days is also extant in Vermont. If you live in a City like Burlington or Montpelier, you’re far more likely to have gotten vaccinated than the group whom one local described as being “The Hill People.” My guess is that – like many of my neighbors back in NYC – the Hill People have either forgotten all about the freezer trucks at Elmhurst Hospital, or Tucker Carlson or Anderson Cooper told them it was a lie.

Please stop consuming cable tv news. All of it. Stop. It’s toxic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, they ain’t exactly hurting for scenery up here in the Green Mountain State. The burning thermonuclear eye of god itself dipped, as predicted, behind the western shield wall of mountains in New York.

By the time the boat returned to shore, it was proper dark out and it was time to head back to the hotel. Another 24 hours lay before us, whereupon the journey back to Home Sweet Hell would begin.

More to come tomorrow at this – your 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

October 6, 2021 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK

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reel irresponsibly

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself found ourselves at Burlington’s Shelburne Farms, whereupon we discovered that we had accidentally wandered onto a Vanderbilt estate whose landscape had been designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. Wow.

We followed the paths down towards the shoreline of Lake Champlain. I’m afraid I didn’t get shots of the massive carriage house or the Webb mansion, as the light wasn’t on my side. Don’t worry, I’ll be back here at some point in the future.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As we moved along the grounds, it was discovered that they no longer do the “tap and bucket” thing when collecting maple sap for syrup production. There were pvc lines running all over the place that all led back to a pumping house hidden away behind a tree line. What was neat about this were the spider webs which had been erected in between the pvc lines. Clever little Ottos. As a note – all spiders, whether male or female, are named Otto. It’s a default name, sort of like “Macintosh HD.” All male dogs are born as “Fred” until they are renamed, which is the sort of hidden theosophical knowledge that Newtown Pentacle has been bringing you since 2009.

We followed the light along the wooded paths, and eventually found our way to the shorelines. I don’t know, Lake Champlain seems pretty great to me, but it’s not considered to be one of the Great Lakes for some reason or another.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Theoretically the sixth largest lake in these United States, Lake Champlain is about 490 square miles in area, and exists at an elevation of around 95-100 feet above sea level. 107 miles long and 14 miles across at its widest point, Lake Champlain’s maximum depth is about 400 feet deep. The flooded valley it exists in – Champlain Valley – is the northernmost section of the Great Appalachian Valley, a landform defined by Quebec to the north and by the State of Alabama to the south. That’s some landform, huh?

There are too many rivers and streams, as well as other lakes, that feed into Lake Champlain for me to efficiently mention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the photographer types amongst you, I basically didn’t leave anything at home on any of my travels in September. I had the tripod, the Canon R6, a 24-105, a 70-300, and the 35mm and 85mm primes. I used a 10 step ND filter for shots like the one above, to slow the picture down and smooth out the distraction of light glinting off of the waves in the lake. I was armed with two extra batteries, several more memory cards than were necessary, and all the bits and bobs you need to keep everything running. I was using a two bag configuration to carry it all – a knap sack for most of the stuff and a sling bag worn pistol holster style for the stuff I was going to need every 5 minutes like lens cloths and a blower.

Lessons learned from the Burlington excursion saw me carrying a laptop, additionally, on the latter legs of my travels. The laptop helped me containerize the photos from the various segments of travel, which was a real issue with the Vermont ones in terms of the prolific manner in which I gather images. This caused me some organizational angst, which was solved by just carrying the damn laptop with me and off loading shots to it from the camera at the end of each day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wish I had a week to explore the entirety of Shelburne Farms, truth be told, and to catalog the monumental architecture erected by the Vanderbilt Webb family on the property. Heck, I could probably spend a month here and not get it all. What a spot.

Thing is, we had to get back to the central district of Burlington for our next assignation, a boat tour of Lake Champlain onboard an excursion/tourist boat called “The Spirit of Ethan Allen.” Just walking back to the entrance of Shelburne Farms was going to require a solid hour, and we had to figure in the half hour drive/transport back to Burlington.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I squeezed in one last shot, looking at the grand terrace overlooking the Lake which I’m sure that many a garden party had been held at.

If you’re heading up towards Burlington, Vermont – Shelburne Farms should definitely be on your “must visit” list.

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 5, 2021 at 11:00 am

doubly potent

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They’re not exactly hurting for scenery up there in Vermont, I tell’s ya.

At the end of College Street, right on the waterfront, is a boathouse which tenants a bar/restaurant sort of situation. They do cocktails and lobster rolls, burgers and beers, that sort of place. Most importantly, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself were able to grab a table and a couple of chairs and just reflect on what was a very fun day wherein we had experienced 3-4 different weather forecasts within 12 hours.

We were tired from what ended up being about 15 miles of walking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Doesn’t sound like a lot of walking, 15 miles. Saying that, I spend all of my time on the mostly flat tidal plain that NYC is embedded onto. I grew up in a gray area of Canarsie and Flatlands, which was right next door to Flatbush. Notice how the word “flat” keeps coming up? In Burlington, getting to the next corner could involve walking up an inclined street to get to an intersection that is fifty or sixty feet higher in elevation than the one you started on.

It would have been nice to have some sort of personal transportation, but when we needed to get someplace distant, ride share LYFT cars were never too far away and even our longest ride fare never broke past $20 before tip.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Burlington is immaculate. That’s something I kept on noticing. Street litter is largely nonexistent. There’s also a paucity of, but still some, graffiti. Most of the graffiti observed adjured the reader to love themselves, and others. Real hippy dippy messaging, if you know what I mean. People I talked to were aware of combined sewers and that street garbage would inevitably end up in Lake Champlain so they made an effort to keep that from happening. There were litter bins – garbage AND recycling – on every corner. The air was clean and fresh, you didn’t smell rotting garbage or standing water. There was no sound of fart cars, or police helicopters, or anything like the constant standing wall of buzzing noise offered by NYC.

Could you live here?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The biggest local employers are a company that has taken over functions at an old IBM factory in Essex Junction, which is where we debarked from the Amtrak “Vermonter” line train. That’s where the money is, I’m told. The other big employers are the colleges – University of Vermont and Champlain College. Burlington is surrounded by farm country, as in a little more than half hour drive from the city center and you’re looking at cows and horses. An hour out and you’re deep in “the country.” A significant number of Vermont natives live in deep poverty. There’s no more than 643,503 people in the entire state, according to the 2020 census, and the average median income for a hypothetical family of four would be about $53,000. Remember, that’s median, so 53k is the 50% mark with half of those six hundred forty three thousand souls earning far less.

Population wise, Vermont is the second least populous state after Wyoming. That means that your vote for National Office holders like Congressman or Senator really counts. As far as income rank, that 53k median mentioned above makes it the 28th most wealthy state – per capita.

By the way, if the fact that 53k for a family of four puts you in the middle of the income chart for the USA doesn’t scare the hell out of you and make you rethink what you think you know about economics, I think you should talk to your doctor about getting on some kind of pill.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Burlington enjoys a hot summer version of a continental climate, with average temperature ranging between 20 degrees Fahrenheit in January to 72 degrees in July. They get outlier days, of course, but those are the averages as offered by the government meteorological types. Despite the northern latitude, they don’t seem to get as much snow as you’d imagine. An average of 37.5 inches of precipitation falls annually on Burlington. That’s around ten inches less than New York City gets these days, actually.

Politically speaking, Burlington is far to the left of New York City – it’s Bernie Sanders’ home base, after all. The City operates on 100% renewable power, solar panels are installed everywhere, there are generating windmills, the place is squeaky clean and mostly litter free.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The answer is that yes, you could live here and have a pretty ok life, and obviously so if you’re in the upper income percentile over 53k per year. The median cost for a house in the City of Burlington is about 131k. The price of housing drops off the further away you go, of course. There are real steals available in farm country, and living fifty miles outside of the center doesn’t mean the same thing in Vermont that it does in NYC. In NYC and its exurbs, it can take you two hours to go 5 miles, even on the highways. An hour drive in Vermont can find you living in a vernal paradise of barely populated and quite aboriginal woodlands. The trick is finding a way to move there with the salary you’re earning in NYC.

Woof. Back next week with more pics and stories from Vermont. Vermont was, of course, just one of the places I’ve been to in September. It’s been a wild ride, lords and ladies.


“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 1, 2021 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK

Tagged with , , ,

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