The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘New York City

debased attainments

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The ole 11103.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given my current limitations, let’s just say that one of my normal pedestrian based travelogues through industrial Maspeth isn’t going to be on offer for a bit. One is more or less confined to a very narrow slice of almond eyed Astoria, and unless it’s directly related to a “have to” or work I’m not going to mess around with the healing process for the broken big toe. Luckily, Astoria is seldom boring.

Yesterday, my “have to” related to limping over to my optician to get the lenses in my spectacles updated with a new prescription. While waiting for the process to finish, I noticed this artifact of the recent holiday displayed vulgarly atop a fire hydrant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning towards my side of Steinway Street along Broadway, laborers were busy clearing out the remains of the Duane Reade which has occupied the corner of Broadway and Steinway for the entire time I’ve lived here. Duane recently announced that their landlord had raised the rent for this cavernous space to usurious levels and the corporation decided to shutter this location.

Man, if Duane Reade can’t pay the rent…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t title photos, since I’ve always hated the ego which such a practice displays. Back when I was a retoucher working on Madison Avenue, a standard refrain one might hear being shouted from my cubicle was “I HATE PHOTOGRAPHERS.” The level of preciousness attached to imagery by some of us just drives me crazy. It’s not an oil painting, despite the amount of skill and practice it takes to produce quality shots. Studio or big outdoor shots with props and lighting equipment do not change the equation all that much, in my mind. I know comic artists and fine art painters who don’t treat their works as preciously as some photographers do. The only members of the discipline whom I’ll grant the preciousness thing to are the photo journalists who work in war zones, capturing scenes of combat from “within the trenches.” That shot up there is a “snapshot” of a garbage can on 43rd street in Queens, and it doesn’t deserve much in the way of preciousness.

So, as mentioned, I don’t title photos. If I did, the one above would be called either “Childhood’s End,” or “Mommy and Daddy don’t live together anymore.”


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come to the library!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek – The Roosevelt Island Historic Society has invited me to present a slideshow and talk about my beloved Newtown Creek at the New York Public Library on Roosevelt Island, on November 14th, 6 p.m. Free event!

Click here for more information.!

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

November 5, 2019 at 11:03 am

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, NY 11103

Tagged with ,

miasmic entree

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DUKBO will always be the Poison Cauldron to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In those halcyon days when a humble narrator’s roadway interface was still functioning within normal parameters – or simply before a week ago Sunday when my big toe got smashed – one was wandering through the hoary streets of Greenpoint, specifically the area which I’ve long referred to as the Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek. That’s the Brooklyn side of DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp, if you’re curious. Broken toe or not, I’m still an idiot.

That’s when I spotted this pack of black cats with pale yellow eyes glaring at me from behind an industrial fenceline. I did not see any clipped ears, so these little predators aren’t being looked after by the TNR (Trap Neuter Release) folks, but they were hanging out at an industrial site, so they are likely being offered some sort of shelter, water, and food. The “Blue Collar” crowd are secretly softies when it comes to critters, in my experience. There’s likely lots and lots of Costco brand pet food somewhere back there behind the fence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily for the cats, this open hydrant and the small pond it maintains attracts birds. The birds do bird things, and based on the scattered piles of feather you see stuck into the sticky mud which the water creates, the cats then do cat things to them. The Audubon people I’ve met over the years are horrified by this sort of thing, reacting in much the same way that the bicycle people do when somebody throws a candy wrapper into one of the bike lanes.

Me? I see something eminently hopeful, as even here – in the darkest of the hillside thickets – you give the natural world an inch and it will take a mile. Awesome sauce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, on Friday afternoon specifically, I finally sought out medical attention from the Mt. Sinai operation here in Astoria for the smashed up toe. X-Ray confirmation of a fracture was attained, and they gave me a prescription for an anti biotic which was so completely off the charts strong that I spent Friday night and much of Saturday cowering here in HQ. I stopped taking the pill, but it took about 24 hours for me to piss the poison out. At no point did anyone in the hospital mention side effects, drug interactions, or mention that Tylenol (which I told them I was taking for pain control) mixed with this mega dose of anti biotic would BBQ my liver. Also not mentioned was the long list of potential side effects, including one which would have wiped out my gut flora and likely caused a C Diff infection in my intestines.

All of you reading this who are running for Borough President or considering a bid for Costa’s council seat here in Astoria are going to receive an earful when I see you, so be warned. I strongly suggest that any of you regular people reading this requiring emergency care bite the bullet and head into the City rather than rolling the dice with the second rate jobs program that is health care in Queens.


“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

November 4, 2019 at 1:15 pm

mundi horriblus

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It’s a bad year for toes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I actually wish that I had two priests praying for my big toe today. Yesterday, during that torrential rainstorm, I had to execute some emergency maintenance on a giant planting trough and the thing ended up dropping directly onto the big toe of left foot, smashing it flat. It’s something to look at today, but yesterday the swelling was so bad that the skin actually split, causing blood and other serums to ooze out. That makes two busted toes for me this year, and both are on the same foot.

Before you ask, no I haven’t gone to see a doctor yet. Waiting and seeing at the moment. 50/50 chance I shoot over to Mt. Sinai here in Astoria today to get it looked at, but there’s not really that much you can do for a broken toe. Rest, ice, compress, elevate is standard of care and I don’t really want to pay the hospital a thousand smackers to tell me that if I don’t have to. Still… owwwww.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s one heck of bruise, though. Still in the purple and red stage, and the entire left foot is swollen up. That trough which fell on it is about 7-8 feet long and about 15-16 inches deep. Filled with rain saturated soil, I figure that I had about two hundred pounds of force transfer into my toe when it dropped around two feet onto it. How did it drop? Well, you know those workplace safety videos that describe stupid things people do that cause injuries? That was me.

The world hates me, wants to kill me, and the groundling borrowers at Calvary Cemetery are just giggling about it right now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I get to walk on it for around two miles tomorrow night while conducting a walking tour. Otherwise, if any of you reading this we’re planning on seeing me anywhere this week, feel free to make other plans.

Everything is cancelled except for the Newtown Creek walk. Ultimately, you always have to go to work.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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 28, 2019 at 1:09 pm

protective illusions

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Rainy NY Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, the whole reason you’ve been treated to me expounding on the hellish nature of the Times Square subway station, as well as positing that the Garden of Eden was located in Times Square itself, is that the Working Harbor Committee offered a Circleline tour during the afternoon and I was in the City anyway. It was positively pouring out, which a humble narrator decided to make the best of. For once, I wasn’t busy on the mike, so a clickety clicking with the camera was commenced.

In addition to the steady downpour, there was a dense fog permeating the scene. Actually, there were seemingly two fog banks, one clinging to the surface of the water, with the second about 200-300 feet up. In between was rain, constant rain. It’s never boring out on the water, I guess,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Foggy days are a formidable challenge in terms of acquiring tack sharp focus. The occlusion of ambient light due to the misty clouds changes constantly, and this sort of climate is especially vexing in terms of not absolutely destroying your camera. Liquids, aerosols, and all the other states which water takes are absolute anathema to digital devices. Luckily, my omnipresent bag of tricks includes the everyday carry of a couple of supermarket carrier bags.

I pop a hole in the bottom for the lens, gaff tape to bag to my lens hood, and then stick my hands through the carrier loops to keep in it place. Looks stupid, but it’s effective, and I don’t pay BH Photo $7-8 a pop for those clear plastic doohickeys. Also, I don’t have to worry about having one with me, since they fold up into a two inch square rather easily and weigh virtually nothing.

Since atmospheric conditions were supplying me with background and foreground separation, isolating my subject was a piece of cake. The hard part was forcing my camera to focus in on the tugboats, rather than the droplets of water falling through the intervening atmosphere between the tug and the lens. Truth be told, I shot the set up above six times and got two positive results, with the one above being the pick of the litter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s always a bit of a trial getting the exposure correct when you’re on the water in NY Harbor. You’ve got great big dark things floating about in a luminous and quivering jelly, with bright sky and a hopelessly complicated shoreline which you’re photographing from a quick moving object, essentially. What do you expose for? Why are you here? Who are you?

Due to the pall of humidity, I had to shoot at a fairly high ISO as far as daylight goes. The hard part was getting the color temperature correct during the development stage of things. Here’s a tip – on high iso days like the one pictured above, set your camera to record in a cooler range to reduce noise. If you shoot daylight (5400 kelvin in the Canon family) the rusts and oranges will barely register as anything BUT noise. Your shot will look weird, noisy, and too warm. I captured these at a custom color temperature setting of 3750 K, and then pushed the color to 5500 K when the raw files were in photoshop. That reduced the amount of noise considerably, while neutralizing the color back into what my eye saw.

Anyway, that was my week of wet, at your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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 25, 2019 at 11:00 am

nervous coordination

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Wet, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots aren’t from yesterday’s rainstorm, instead they’re from last week’s deluge. My little dog Zuzu and I were eagerly awaiting the eventual return of Our Lady of the Pentacle from a social engagement last Wednesday when the sky opened up and biblical amounts of rain began to fall. What was odd about that particular storm was that the airborne droplets seemed to be swirling on their way down to the mean streets, negating any chance of finding a “rain shadow” to record the scene from. Even setting up my camera on a windowsill inside HQ didn’t really provide the lens with much cover as the rain seemed to be falling sideways. Weather is weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the interesting things that has come out of all the long exposure stuff I’ve been doing for a while now has been the revelation that you can visualize traffic patterns moving through urban streets using this technique. Head lamps, and running or brake lights, leave behind tell tale trails. For some reason this is fascinating to me, and since anything that isn’t standing still in the frame for at least fifteen to twenty seconds is effectively “ghosted” those trails are the only indication of where a vehicle was and what its path was. The reduction of item based distraction allows one to record actual “desire paths” chosen by the driver.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of these days, I’ve got to do a series of these and then blend them into a time lapse video. I’d love to somehow take up position thirty to forty feet over the double yellow line, of course, but you’d need one of those mobile oppression platforms used by NYPD or a cherry picker basket on a telecom maintenance truck to do so. The mobile oppression platform would be best, of course, since it’s got a solid cop roof on it.

I spent a lot of time shooting stuff in the rain this last week, and it’s going to be a moist five days here at the Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, NY 11103

Tagged with , ,

ultimate abomination

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Hullabaloos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, whilst enjoying an autumnal afternoon with the neighbors at the local pub, a sudden explosion of noise and tumult occurred when the FDNY suddenly arrived at a call on 42nd street right off of Broadway here in Astoria. Given that – despite my advancing age – I still run down the street yelling “Firemen, Firemen” when the big red trucks are screaming past, one couldn’t help but get excited and start waving the camera at them.

Predictably enough, it was the engine and hook and ladder you’d normally associate with Astoria who answered the call – Engine 263 and Ladder 117 – who are based out of a house on Astoria Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure what the emergency was, based on what I was seeing and what they were carrying with them, I’d guess that somebody had reported smelling gas or something. They didn’t stay too long, which usually indicates that the emergency conditions were overstated and that the talents of the FDNY weren’t required to ameliorate it. Not pictured was one of those red big jeep vehicles which the FDNY brass ride around in, but which was present. There were no ambulances either, so it must have been purely a structural call. We get a whole lot of FDNY personnel showing up whenever a drunk is being scooped up by EMS units for some reason.

A few people at the bar were grousing about overkill. I offered one of my little aphorisms about not questioning the appropriateness of what professionals think is correct, and especially so in the case of FDNY. If they think it’s right to show up with a small army…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thankfully, the emergency – whatever it was – was resolved quickly. The normal pattern of life in Astoria resumed, and as the photo above can confirm, delivery bicycles began to flow freely about without impediment again.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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 17, 2019 at 1:00 pm

was unmistakably

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Minimalist Wednesday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have a whole category of photos which bear the key words “dead things.” Composed entirely of the various cadavers encountered during my travels, it’s overwhelmingly populated by ex birds. Sure, there’s a few dead raccoons, rats, and other mammalians, but NYC seems to be a bird extermination machine. Spotted this poor bastard on the streets of Lower Manhattan recently, for instance. I’m not a bird person, so I won’t even attempt to identify specie or type. It’s a bird, and it’s dead.

Morbid? Maybe. In my mind, I’m documenting the extinguishing of a life which passed without comment or notice. Also, stop being so sensitive to the abject realities of life and death in the big city. Someday, that might be a photo of you up there, lying dead on the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That Soundview Ferry tour I’ve been doing is a lot of fun for me, and the route is fantastic. Problem is that in order to get to the meetup spot on time from Astoria via the Ferry, I end up in Lower Manhattan a good hour before I need to be there. I try to make some productive use of the time after reviewing my notes, waving the camera about. Unfortunately, since Manhattan’s spit and polish modern incarnation is so visually uninteresting to me, I have to wander far afield to find something I’d like to shoot. Rusty stuff is always a win.

Luckily, Pier 11 is owned by the EDC, who love building stuff but don’t like maintaining it. Uncoated steel and salt water don’t mix. Paint, fellas, paint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As opined earlier in the week, one is in the midst of a whole lot of have to. Yesterday, I participated in a conversation with other members of the Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group (superfund) Steering Committee figuring out an agenda for the next public meeting and discussing the latest twists and turns in the story. Then down to Greenpoint to conduct a night time Infrastructure Creek walking tour (which will happen again on October 29, see link below) and afterwards came back home to Astoria.

Today, I’m meant to participate in some fancy pants symposium taking place in the Shining City. On my way home, I’m planning on doing a bit of photographing at Grand Central Station before getting on the train. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be an “outside day” according to the weather people.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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 16, 2019 at 11:00 am

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