The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan

public sentiment

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#twotondeathmachines

– photos by Mitch Waxman

“Two Ton Death Machines” is the term which the bicycle fanatics use when discussing automobiles and their murder happy drivers. If I played guitar and was starting a metal band, Two Ton Death Machine would be what I called the outfit, and my first album would be called #CARNAGE. C’est la vie.

The big project I’ve been alluding to for the last several months, which has been actually been distracting me for more than a year, is beginning to come to fruition. This involves the pulling together of tens of thousands of disparate photos, separating them by typology and subject matter, and then stringing them together into some sort of coherent form. The “Cool Cars” YouTube video above is one of the initial attempts. I’d love to put some sort of soundtrack to it, but as mentioned above, I’m no musician. If any of you are, and would be interested in riffing a track for me to include (I’ve got zero $) I wouldn’t say no.

I’m going to figure out how to include narration on forthcoming videos, as a note, but for now there’s no audio – so, be very quiet, the two ton death machines and their death hungry drivers are rolling about and hunting human victims to squish into the pavement and they might hear you. #vrooom


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2018 at 11:00 am

honest bourgeoise

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Street Furniture, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is still a bit behind in his schedule, and a series of peregrinations over the weekend diverted one from producing new posts or putting the finishing touches on any new shots, so I reached into the archives for today’s post. It’s one of my favorite subjects – street furniture. Normally that term applies to fire hydrants or lamp posts or benches, but in my little world it can also be used for the cast off furnishings that the humans who inhabit this urban hive position on the street in the hope that some one, anyone in fact, might lessen their burden and take the unwanted thing.

Interesting thing about street furniture is that it often speaks to the economic status of the neighborhood you encounter it in. To wit – this rather expensive looking chair encountered along the sidewalks of the Upper East Side of the Shining City of Manhattan, pictured above. That’s some high class trash, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Brooklyn rules” state that if something has been abandoned on the sidewalk, it’s yours for the taking. Before the reemergence of bed bugs (or “vantzem,” as my Grandma would have said) in NYC in recent years, it was fairly commonplace for young folks and college students to furnish their entire apartment with found furniture.

Not so much anymore, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always impressed with the material wealth of our culture. The amount of usable and fairly well conditioned furniture cast aside in the pursuit of redecorating is kind of staggering. Often it seems that you could fill an entire apartment with stuff you’d find after a bit of leg work on bulk pickup days.

I’d need to buy a new mattress, as a note. There are certain items which I categorize as “personal” – hats, shoes, underwear, bedding. Items that might spend a lot of its time absorbing bodily fluids like spit or sweat are things you really want in “virgin” condition, in my opinion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are a few non profits out there, beyond the morally circumspect Salvation Army people, who will take your “good condition, used” category furniture items and see that they find a new home with somebody in need. There’s “Build it Green” here in Queens, for instance. I’ve always wondered why the Sanitation Department doesn’t do something similar with good condition furniture left on the curb.

I would guess that the logistics of redistribution rather than disposal would be too expensive and complicated to be feasible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A complaint often offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle – centers around the lack of public lavatories in NYC.

This sidewalk find in LIC suggests that all things are possible if a little imagination is utilized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This fellow is a hero to all Astorians, having dragged his reclining “dad chair” into his minivan and then deploying it at Astoria Park. Thusly, the very best definition of street furniture is submitted for your approval.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

certain conflicts

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Uhhhhhnnnnnnk, Manhattan… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had reason to visit that island hive of villainy and runaway political ambitions called Manhattan a few weeks ago, and found myself climbing to the concretized street level of that accursed complex via the stairs leading out of that badly ventilated subterrene concrete bunker which the children of NYC refer to simply as the “34th street/Herald Square” subway station.

Emerging from the hellish heat of that cavern lurking squamously beneath the streets, one was suddenly beset by throngs of disturbingly heterogenous tourists aimlessly clinging to those shadows provided by the high flung towers, blotting out the sky, which was a scene somehow inhuman and banal simultaneously. These creatures bounced and bumped into each other, careening between the merchant carts selling noxious smelling foodstuffs of uncertain origin, locomoting in a manner betraying that using their own feet was a somewhat alien concept.

On the filth caked pavement lay inebriates, madmen, and addicts – the latter proudly displaying their gangrenous abcesses in pursuance of soliciting currency, from both the native born and quite pitiless passerby, and foreign born tourist. The air itself was contaminated with vehicle exhaust, an abundant cacophony of stink was emanating from mounds of rotting garbage, and the greasy puddles swirled sickly along the curbs. All was pestilential.

Nearby the intersection of 34th street and 8th avenue, the fellow above was observed sitting in the ruinations offered by the omnipresent real estate industrial complex. The Manhattan people have become concerned in recent years about “gentrification,” since now it’s happening to them. I really, really hate going into the City these days, that’s what I guess I’m trying to say, but since I was already there I decided to visit Dyre Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m told that Dyer Avenue was named for General George Rathborne Dyer, a chairman of the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who died in 1934 while the Lincoln Tunnel was under construction (the tunnel was finished in 1937). Although I’ve noticed the street hundreds if not thousands of times, never have I decided to walk its truncated length.

After conducting a transaction with the camera shop people on the next corner, a humble narrator decided to put that right, on his way back to the train which would carry me to the rolling hills of Astoria, back in Queens. The less time spent in Manhattan the better, I say, so I try to get a lot done whenever I’m stuck going there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dyer Avenue diverges northwards off of W 34th street between 9th and 10th avenue, and continues along to W42nd street. Along the way, you’ll find a complicated series of entrance and exit schemes for the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I suppose you could describe it as passing through Hells Kitchen, although I usually associate that cognomen with a neighborhood found in the west 40’s. 

NYC City Planning, the NYC EDC, and the Related Companies would appreciate it if we all just referred to the zone surrounding 34th street and Dyre Avenue as “Hudson Yards,” but they’re heavily invested in calling it that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Manhattan is the problem, not the solution,” that’s what I tell all the people who work for the entities mentioned in the last paragraph who would prefer you to refer to this section as Hudson Yards, and nowhere is my statement better proven than in this area.

Inhuman streetscape given over entirely to the exigencies of the automobile? Check! A complete lack of trees? Check! A sterile post industrial streetscape with zero ground level retail activity or areas for residents or workers to congregate? Check! Pedestrian safety an afterthought? Check!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a comical little “green space” on Dyer, found between W 35th and W 36th, with a few potted treelings. What makes it “green space” is that the City has painted the concrete traffic island’s paving stones green.

Better than nothing, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

High overhead, the gleaming vainglory of the Hudson Yards mega project looms.

Want to know what Sunnyside Yards would do to Queens? What sort of buildings make it financially justifiable to build a deck over a rail yard? Take a walk around the west side in the 30’s, that’ll show you the solution which the Mayor has been searching to find a problem for. That’s the “Manhattan solution” for the puzzle of Western Queens, incidentally.

What Queens people think about Sunnyside Yards and all of this mega development is incidental. It’s the people who gave you Dyer Avenue – their opinions matter, not yours. They live in Manhattan.

So, what are you going to do about that?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

rambling accounts

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The compositional virtues of the Umbrella, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A thousand years ago, when a humble narrator was still a boy and a young Joe Piscopo was teaching America how to laugh, one of the classes I took in art school involved the finer points of composition and drawing perspective. The perspective part of this, as taught by cartoonist Sal Amendola, was highly technical and involved the underlying theories behind the physical representation of three dimensional spatial relationships on a two dimensional plane. Composition, alternatively, was discussed as how to break up the illustration in the name of forcing the viewer’s eye to go where you wanted it to. One of the bits of advice offered by Amendola, and by legendary cartoonist Gene Colan as well, is to stick an umbrella into the shot.

There’s something about the shape of an umbrella that’s “interesting.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not drawing comics anymore, but as I’m waving the camera around at the various sections of the City of Greater New York which suffer my periodic habitations, I keep that old set of rules in mind. You really just can’t go wrong with an umbrella in the shot, framing the subjects with an interesting shape and subdividing it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Historical records suggest that the first folding umbrellas were a product of the Chinese culture, and there’s direct evidence of them dating back some 2,400 years. Umbrellas are related to, but distinct from, parasols (designed for sun protection, not rain). They were even used in ancient Ninevah by the Persian kings, parasols were. The umbrella spread from east to west, and there’s evidentiary material suggesting that the Romans and Greek cultures used them. The democratization of Umbrellas to the masses began in 1710, when a french merchant named Jean Marius began selling a folding model not dissimilar to the sort of thing we carry today.

Looks like tomorrow will be a good day to carry one, as a note, so now you have some small talk about the things to offer. Such conversational fodder and minutiae is a public service – as offered by this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Photowalks, Pickman

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voluntarily followed

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ugggh, Manhattan, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not paranoid to say that there’s always something watching you these days. We’re betrayed by our various devices to the data collection business. Conversations with members of a certain transportation authority let slip the fact that they can track a card “swipe” through their system and use the data collected for all sorts of things. You know this, of course, but it’s nice to hear it from “the horse’s mouth” as it were. There’s cameras everywhere, acting as watchmen, but with all the video data being collected – is anyone watching it?

Pondering is what I do while riding the subways, and on a particular day this week, these thoughts occupied me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t have anything prosaic or interesting to do, just visit one of my doctors for a routine checkup. Since I had to participate in a conference call directly preceding the appointment, my travel time to Manhattan was amended to “put me on the ground” for the call, which meant that I was going to be fiendishly early for my scheduled appointment. Accordingly, I got off the train some forty and change blocks from my destination at Union square and walked there while participating in the conversation.

One observation I can offer is that Manhattan’s daytime occupants have lost that old NYC skill which involved the negotiation of crowded sidewalks in a fluidic fashion. Part of it involves everybody staring into their phones rather than paying attention to their surroundings. The dichotomy of the deep attentions which the phones themselves are paying to their users in the name of data collection seems to be lost upon them, as they bump into others and randomly stop moving in response to the pings and chimes of the things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you should be worrying about, I’d advise, is the malign thing which cannot possibly exist in the sapphire megalith of Long Island City. Staring down at the world through its three loved burning eye, this figment covets, and sees all – even that which occurs across the river in the Shining City.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 5, 2018 at 11:30 am

dyed aspect

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Sunlight, who needs it, gimme the night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Diurnalism has its benefits, sure. There’s the tan, of course, and the vitamin D production. The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself, however, often causes one to “shvitz.” Night time shvitz only occurs during periods of exertion. but the lack of ambient light is a bane for the photographically ambitious. Regardless, the shots captured which I seem to be drawn towards these days involve darkness. I’ve grown bored with dappled morning light and bold sunsets, it is feared.

Besides, night time is when true party animals come out to play.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s always night in the sweating concrete bunkers offered by the MTA, which is a good place to practice low light photography. Lighting conditions are fairly uniform, and you’ve got a series of challenges to overcome down below – fast moving shiny things with bright lights moving through sooty black tunnels, weird depths of field, an abundance of signage printed on saturated color boards, and then there’s your fellow New Yorkers you have to contend with. Saying that, if you want to begin to understand low light photography, the relationship of captured color temperature with noise, and exactly how to fine tune your usage of the manual mode of your camera – use your Metrocard and get clicking.

Seriously, the MTA should hold workshops for photo people on the weekends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While this shot was being captured over by the Sunnyside Yards, a humble narrator was being assaulted by a plague of flies. Must have been something dead in the grassy knoll behind me. I also had to watch out for traffic, as there is no sidewalk on this section, which is one of those Queens things I will never understand.

How can there be no sidewalk on 43rd, a block from Northern Blvd.? Or 58th a block or two from Queens Blvd.? How did you people ever survive here in Queens before I showed up and started complaining about things to anyone who would listen? Sheesh. Growing up in Brooklyn, where “bitching” is weaponized, a sidewalk would have been complained into existence decades ago.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

forbidden tithing

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Rhapsodic ecstasy, that’s what it’s all about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, a humble narrator needed to get to the financial district in Lower Manhattan and soon found himself in hell’s third circle, which is my pet name for the 59/Lex subway interchange. Hell’s ninth circle, where you’ll find Satan chewing on Judas Iscariot, is the 34th street Herald Square complex – in case you were wondering (that’s why it’s always ninety degrees in there, even during the winter, as it’s literally a portal to hell.) If you’re a Queensican, however, there really is no way to avoid the third circle. My habit is to ignore the wailing desires of those ghastly entities who run the system found below, and not ride the local R line from Astoria all the way to lower Manhattan. Instead, a quick transfer to the Lexington line express is accomplished, which gets me to lower Manhattan in short order. The former journey, using the oft delayed Broadway line local service can take up to an hour, whereas my composited route and transfer only takes about a half hour.

The “A” in MTA is for “adventure,” lords and ladies, so live a little and transfer often. The less time spent in the sweating concrete bunkers below the better, I say. Also, take MTA’s route suggestions for what they are, and be nimble. Dante had Virgil, you’re stuck with me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My preference would have been to take a ferry, but the United Nations General Assembly was underway, and the Coast Guard had interrupted service due to security concerns. Given that I had to go “adventuring” through the circles of Hell, I padded out my time of arrival in Lower Manhattan. My obligation was to do a short talk about Newtown Creek for a group of esthetes and intellectuals, which is a task gladly embraced. Unfortunately, it involved the chore of going into the City.

Since I had arrived about forty five minutes ahead of my scheduled arrival time, a short walk about Battery Park and Castle Clinton ensued. The weather has been absolute junk for what seems like weeks now, but all that atmospheric activity has at least been producing dramatic and enigmatic skies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A quiet weekend is ahead for a humble narrator, during which I hope to be brandishing the camera about. Monday the 1st is an “Infrastructure Creek” walking tour I’ll be conducting for Atlas Obscura (ticketing link below). On Thursday, I have an actual adventure scheduled, which will unfortunately mean that I have to repeat my journey through the Third Circle at something like seven in the morning… but as mentioned – the “A” in MTA is, in fact, for “adventure.”

There’s also a couple of big projects I’m working on at the moment, as a note, which I’ll let y’all know about next month.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2018 at 11:00 am

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