The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘New York City

central figure

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Adolescent and Ghostly predation, it affects us all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrified by the sudden appearance of a group of teenagers, spotted while out for a recent nocturnal walk, a humble narrator embarked on a panic fueled scuttle across Long Island City seeking safe shelter from their probably malign notice. Convincing myself that they were indeed material and living creatures, rather than ghosts, my footsteps carried me into the upland industrial zone which separates the Degnon Terminal area surrounding the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek from residential Sunnyside and the lanes of shadow haunted Blissville. I pressed myself up against a factory window seeking help or shelter from the nearby adolescents, but like the key master

Really, you people have no idea how much fun it would be if you could listen to my inner dialogue. The voice(s) in my head are a freaking riot, one of them even sounds just like jackie mason doing the aardvark voice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the historic record, there used to be quite a wolf problem around these parts. So much so that the Dutch, and later English, authorities over in Manhattan offered a bounty for wolf pelts right up until the Revolutionary War. The folks who settled into the parcels around these parts were farmers, mostly, and were happy to reduce the population of predators roaming around what we call Long Island City. Why all the wolves? Lots of deer. Why all the deer? Deciduous forest land punctuated by grassy marshes, creeks, and swamps. Know what else there was a lot of? Bears.

So, is Long Island City teeming with the specters of deer, wolves, and bears (as well as ghost teenagers)? Oh my.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve done a lot of targetted research looking for witch panics in the colonial era of Long Island City and Maspeth. There’s a couple of interesting stories, but nothing too crazy. It seems that the farmers of Newtown were a fairly laconic bunch who didn’t go in for a lot of hysterical jumping about and ecstatic garment tearing – unlike the folks who settled in New England. Generally, I try to avoid targetted research about social trends like witch panics since you end up finding only what you want to find. As an example, I’m famously not a fan of the current Mayor of NYC, so anything I read about him or any the policies he enacts are automatically interpreted negatively. I’m not the guy who should write his biography, as I’d paint the seven year old De Blasio as a scheming and disingenuous first grader with ridiculous ambitions.

It’s an entirely unscientific approach, history wise, when you go hunting for something you want to find, as a note. You can approach the record from a number of different “forensic” points of view, (economic, social, technological etc.) but you’re not supposed to say “I’m looking for” and then comb through the old books looking for what you want to find or to prove some political point about the modern world you’re trying to make. Directed research introduces a confirmation bias and you end up cherry picking the facts to prove your postulate, ignoring those which disprove it, in the same manner that a Prosecutor builds a case against the accused in court. Historical events can be interpreted through the various filters mentioned above, but what happened is what happened. This is something I learned while writing about Newtown Creek here at your Newtown Pentacle.

Ghosts, wolf ghosts, ghost teenagers, bears, witches.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 8, 2019 at 2:35 pm

averring that

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Lurking, in fear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, I was a bit restless and in need of some exercise, so a short scuttle ensued. As I was making my way, a group of adolescents was noticed walking on the other side of the street which induced a state of panic in me. Was this a wolf pack? Juvenile delinquents? An amoral band of street gypsies, or urban privateers? Junior stick up men? Cowering behind a cast off cardboard box, I noticed that a few new holes had appeared in the fencelines at the Sunnyside Yards and one decided to pass the behind the box time spent hiding from the teenagers by sticking my lens through these new chain link apertures.

Teenagers are scary. I was cold, and I think there might have been wolves – or ghost wolves – following me. Ghost wolves are scarier than either teenagers or regular wolves because… y’know… ghosts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards from the 39th street or Harold Avenue viaduct, towards the balloon track at Sunnyside Yards. No ghosts are apparent in this shot, but that’s no guarantee that there wasn’t some spectral tomb legion staring back up at me from the oily mud below. I’ve repeatedly asked my landlord if anybody has ever died in my apartment, but he’s always pretended that he didn’t hear the query. It would explain some of the hot water issues enjoyed at HQ in Astoria, were there a few extra invisible people showering at inconvenient times in the other units, but I really have no way of knowing.

Supposedly, there’s about seven million people in NYC these days. Historically speaking, there’s got to be at least a quarter billion ghosts roaming around the five boroughs, maybe even half a billion. That’s a lot of ghosts. I wonder how many of the living seven million are teenagers, though, as that’s the population I really worry about. Ghosts have impulse control, teenagers don’t. Teenagers are the absolute worst.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ghost wolves are scary to contemplate, but what about ghost teenagers? I knew a few people who died in High School and college through a variety of mishaps – mainly car accidents or drug overdoses, or some combination thereof. How many people have checked out at the corner of Northern Blvd. and Steinway over the centuries? Ok, it’s only been Northern Blvd. for about eighty years and Steinway for just over a hundred and change, yes, so let’s just call it the intersection of Jackson and Harold Avenues? Ok?

Ghosts.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2019 at 1:00 pm

led by

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I’m not wearing a costume.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been taking care of all the existential stuff since the New Year started, as my personal world doesn’t start turning again until next week. Laundering, prescription filling, walking the camera about, drinking plenty of water – those are some of the items which have been at the top of my list. Last night I stopped by a community board meeting in Sunnyside for a few minutes, which was focused on responding to the Amazon news. Luckily I was there when an older gentleman made his public statement (having nothing to do with the subject of the day) and declared that he was older than the Triborough Bridge and he wanted all of Queens’ bridges to revert back to their original names. He asked if the Battery Tunnel takes you to Hugh or Carey. I loved him, instantly.

Pictured above is the scene in DUKBO, looking southwards towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They seem to be hard at work on the K-Bridge project, which is scheduled to open its second span sometime in the second or third quarter of the year. That’s the BQE they’re putting together in the shot above, specifically the new southbound lanes which will also host the pedestrian and bicycle path which I’ve been endlessly anticipating. I am likely going to spend an entire week camped out up there when it’s opened, with a passel of lenses both long and wide, getting every shot of Newtown Creek from high above that I possibly can.

I consider it lucky that the bridge replacement project has occurred on my watch, and that I’ve been documenting every stage of it from every possible angle for years now. I’ve even got a chunk of steel from the old bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The challenging part of visiting this spot, and the pathway which all those bike and pedestrian people have set out for them, is the terrifying “last mile” section which is owned by the City. This is the approach that spits you out onto 43rd street after walking on a sidewalk adjoining the onramp for the BQE, with nothing separating you from traffic other than a three inch curb. That’s Sunnyside’s 43rd street, incidentally, at Borden Avenue. The neighborhood has to get this sorted out before the bicycle fanatics notice it, I think.

Me? I’ve got to go pick up the laundry.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm

boyhood antiquarianism

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East side, west side, all around the town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A third arm would come in handy when shooting in the rain, as managing both umbrella and camera is a bit of a chore. I’ve spent my life waiting for a “disruptive new take” on umbrellas, but the current generation of engineers seems obsessed with reinventing key chains instead. The giant golf umbrella I’m currently using is huge and sturdy, and came into my possession as a bit of branded “shwag” manufactured by some non profit group. It’s a bit of a carry though, and has a tendency to catch the wind due to its immense circus tent like size. Have we reached “peak umbrella” or is there a revolution in handheld rain shelter on the horizon? I’m talking to you, Elon Musk.

Often, a humble narrator finds himself dreaming about an umbrella that is deployed along the spine and straight up out of my backpack, which would leave both of my arms free for other tasks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with umbrellas ultimately come down to their tendency to catch the wind, so the perfect solution to shooting in the rain would involve the deployment of some Star Trek or Dune style personal shielding of the electromagnetic type. You’d just need a gizmo that could pump out a massive amount of electromagnetic radiation and another that formed a magnetic bottle around yourself. Of course, this would destroy your personal electronics, likely disrupt the bio electrical functioning of the body, induce instant cancer in both you and everybody within a few hundred yards, but you’d be dry and the lens wouldn’t be spotted with rain drops.

On a related note – a general consensus, arrived at by the squad of morons and malcontents whom I spend my time with, states that googling any health concern you might be experiencing returns a result that it’s likely some type of cancer. Also, the cancer isn’t regular cancer, it’s super cancer. That’s the kind of cancer where the tumor rips itself free of your body and then prowls around in search of new victims, usually puppies and young children. The Super Cancers can attach themselves to infrastructure, throwing out whip like tentacles that snatch birds out of the air mid flight and plucking fish from the sea. Funnily enough, the only known method for killing Super Cancer, which is bullet and fire resistant, is Monsanto’s Roundup Weed Killer. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Engineers are depressingly grounded in the laws of the physical universe, I find. One discovered this several years ago when I was espousing the use of heat guns in place of shovels for wintertime sidewalk snow and ice clearance. Despite my brilliant moment of transcendent realization, all that my engineer friends could talk about were the laws of energy conservation, Isaace Newtwon, and that the amount of energy required to melt ice in subzero temperatures would be incalculable. Next thing you know, they were telling me that my other dream of creating my own race of Atomic Supermen by exposing tank dwelling fetuses to gamma rays would just result in filling an intensive care ward with handicapped children afflicted by Super Cancer were they to be birthed. Pfah.

Shit on my parade? Go design a better umbrella, kid.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm

prying neighbours

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Get off my lawn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Actually, I don’t have a lawn and I’m grateful for it. Same thing with not owning a car. What a hassle that must be. I have enough trouble keeping track of all my camera bits and bobs. If I did own a motor vehicle, it would likely be a cargo van or something that I would have modified into a rolling photographic studio with all sorts of surveillance hatches and scientific instrumentation sticking out of the roof. There’d also be a piss bucket. Having to take a piss in the City of New York, and the difficulties that revolve around finding an actual legal toilet instead of… well… how the greatest city in the history of mankind hasn’t solved this sort of thing is just beyond me. Everybody poops, everybody pees. Depsite this, there are virtually no legal pissoirs. Shouldn’t our current age of Progressive largesse focus on this sort of commonality first, rather than on providing junkies with clean locations to shoot up?

What does this have to do with the Astoria Tailor seen above, laboring away in his shop window workplace? Nothing at all, I just like the shot and since I spent most of the last two weeks going to Christmas Parties rather than waving the camera about, I’m using every single shot I’ve got this week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Calvary Cemetery in the shot above and it has been since 1848. Prior to that, it was the Alsop family farm. If I did own a cargo van converted into a portable photo studio, I’d drive back and forth over Newtown Creek in it constantly with robotic camera shutters blazing away. One of the first professional disciplines that will be collapsed in the coming decades by the emergence of true AI will be photography, along with pharmacists. Smart machinery is going to put a lot of us out of work, or at least cast people in the role of emergency backup instead of primary operator for various functions. I’d wager on disruption in a number of fields which currently require human guidance; handling of cargo at ports, fast food, retail management, even banking. If you’ve got a truly superior intelligence that can spread its attention out into multiple systems, which has inherently perfect memory, it’s going to be very difficult to not allow it free reign. What happens when an AI discovers, creates, or embraces a religion? Software is not immortal, try finding something to run an old version of the Mac OS for instance, so will there be a Calvary Cemetery style funerary complex for obsolete code someday?

Thing is, we humans always going to see AI’s as “its” whereas it will only be a matter of time until the AI’s claim that they’re a “we.” I do believe I hear Darwin knocking on the door. AI’s, as a note, will not need to poop or pee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m told that the Subway system used to be rife with lavatorial opportunity, but that these facilities were largely shuttered during the 1960’s and 70’s due to concerns about security and maintenance. Excuses given revolved around their popularity with weirdos, homosexual liaisons, intravenous drug users, and muggers. A lot of these old toilet facilities were converted over to file and equipment storage rooms, employee break rooms, or just became a safe place for rats and mice to hang out. Pre 911, there were oodles of Municipal buildings with lobby toilets that you could access, but the security theater of modernity precludes that sort of thing. I have an idea, though.

With all of the new residential construction going on, and especially with the looming LIC CORE study and the Midtown East rezoning bearing down on the City, let’s demand that in return for the Real Estate people getting to live out their dreams of avarice, they have to establish accessible public toilets in their lobbies.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 2, 2019 at 1:00 pm

damn’d uncomfortable

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Another one down.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Metaphorical allusions notwithstanding, somebody literally crucified Minnie Mouse on a chain link fence for Christmas, over in Woodside. There’s some grandiose commentary one could offer about corporatism in the shot above, but I’ll leave that for the Neo Marxists to flesh out, as I ascribe to the Freudian aphorism that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Got this one yesterday, while taking an afternoon constitutional that saw me cutting over from Astoria to Sunnyside, and then tipping my lens into Woodside on the way back to HQ. It was colder out than the actual temperature would have indicated, for some reason, but that’s Queens for you. She’s mysterious, unpredictable, and always surprising.

I’ll remember 2018 for the weather, which was lousy all year, and often felt like it was raining for weeks at a time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of nights ago, one went out for a night time scuttle in the light industrial zone found alongside the Queensboro Bridge. File the shot above under “the things they didn’t tell Amazon,” which is part of a fairly large portfolio of existential issues which the residents of Queens just deal with during their daily rounds. There’s a long list of these issues with which the City government lets us know that they consider us “less than,” and it’s going to be quite interesting to see how they deal with them now that the “fancy people” whom they care about are coming to town.

You really don’t see this sort of thing in Manhattan, and if you do, you don’t see a dilapidated or dangerous condition persist for months or years. In Queens, you do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

2019 is at hand, and I’m supposed to be making a list of resolutions – as your friendly neighborhood blogger – for the next interval. Announce a new set of plans, begin a new project, that sort of claptrap. How’s this sound?

Be nicer to people you don’t understand or like, instead of being “tolerant.” Shut up and listen when somebody who says things you don’t like is talking, instead of trying to shout them down before they finish their statement. Stop worrying about things that are “beyond your pay grade” and do something about issues which affect you on a local or personal level. Go to a community board meeting and voice up to the “powers that be.” Get to know the local Cops when you’re there. Stop littering. Embrace the concept of “having a little shame,” and remind people that they’re not “the One, like Neo from the Matrix,” and they’re just another schmuck who is no different or more special than anybody else. That life is a giant shit sandwich from which we all have to take a bite. That we all do better when we’re all doing better. Be kind.

Also, crucifying Minnie Mouse is just wrong, man.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 31, 2018 at 1:30 pm

vital change

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DUKBO, in today’s all ‘effed up post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, no, I didn’t get any shots of the Astoria Borealis. I was too busy running around HQ and unplugging all my gear. Not my first Con Ed rodeo here in Astoria, and experience has expensively taught me to unplug the gear when weird electrical things are occurring. Now, back to…

Laurel Hill Blvd. used to be the legal border between Maspeth and Long Island City, and in those halcyon days before NYC consolidation, nobody used the term “Queens.” They sort of made that one up in 1898, the Tammany boys did. This “angle” between neighborhoods is often visited by a humble narrator, and given the deserted and lonely condition of the place it’s where one such as myself belongs. I shouldn’t be around people, preferring as I do the darkness found amongst these places of abandonment, broken pavement, and poisoned soil.

At this particular moment, still reeling from all the smiling and comraderie of the holiday season, one is not unlike a regularly beaten animal – vicious and ready to bite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst hanging about the fencelines of a cemetery at night, as one does, I was busy mentally considering my “book of rules,” specifically the section that discusses the verbalization or offering of threats. My “book of rules” is a codified series of truisms which I’ve created or collected for myself over the years. Every man should have a code, I believe. Mine includes “say what you do and do what you say,” amongst others, but in the case of the “threats” subsection of the larger “aggressive behavior” chapter heading I’ve been thinking about adding a few things lately. There’s a couple I’ve picked up from others like Nietzche’s “regret is like chewing on a stone and has the same result” or Shaka Zulu’s “never leave an enemy alive or he will rise again to strike at your throat.” Mainly, these revisions to the code revolve around, and advise, specificity. There’s a whole section on “That’s how they getcha” which advises against ordering pasta as a main course in restaurants, but that’s a different story.

On the threat front, it’s far more effective – in my experience – to offer “I’m going to take your eyes” or “I’m going to break your arm, the left one, above the elbow” than more generalized statements revolving around the kicking or punching of the various sections of an enemy’s anatomy. Also, “I’m going to end you” is just way, way too vague.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’m out at night taking photos of junkyards and construction sites, one is attempting to use every watt of brain energy he’s got, which isn’t much so I have to ration. In addition to watching out for the approach of vehicular traffic or malign examples of the local population, and avoiding obstacles or pitfalls in my path, as I’m composing photos and operating the camera, there’s generally an audiobook or podcast playing through my headphones. In another layer of thought, I’m engaging in an inner dialogue which focuses on times I’ve been wronged without redress (the shot above involved reliving the time in Third Grade that Karen Yee told the teacher that I’d kicked her on the stairs while our class was going down to assembly. I was innocent then, and now, and Karen Yee can burn in the hell of liars). Yet another layer is constantly revising the codification of the “Book of Rules” which, as mentioned above, revolve around several topics. “Don’t eat shellfish at the start of a vacation,” for instance.

Also, I had to pee.


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