The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania

dancing forms

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The return to 30th Street Station section of my March 7th trip to Philadelphia took the form of a “photowalk” rather than the sort of “composed” photos which I’d been capturing most of the day. What that means is that I had a vague idea of where my destination was, but no route. This carried me through several mixed use and residential neighborhoods along the way.

Looks a lot like Bushwick used to look like, I thought.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Disturbingly, observed evidence along my route suggested that I’m not the only resident of Queens to have visited Philadelphia recently.

Could the Queens Cobbler be operating here as well? Is this where the Cobbler disappeared to during the pandemic months? Can’t be…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fires of gentrification, fueled by locally grown wood and spewing artisinal smoke, burn hotly in Philadelphia – I’m told. Real Estate, real estate. Notice the signage on this construction project promising “Luxury Living” alongside the elevated expressway.

What a view, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ok, this was when it started to get weird. It can’t be, can it?

Given that it was “rush hour” while I was heading to the presumptive west, I just kept on walking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s lovely historic architecture everywhere you look in Philadelphia. Again, one of the weird things for me as a New Yorker was a paucity of street level shops. No bodegas to be found, but I did eventually find a 711 storefront, where I snagged a coffee and a bottle of Gatorade to boost my fading energy. All told, according to the phone, I had covered about ten miles over the course of the day. A tiny corner of a huge city.

Scuttling, forever scuttling, I continued on my way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What the hell, Philadelphia?

The Queens Cobbler and I seem to haunt the same corridors.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 5, 2022 at 11:00 am

cloudless peak

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The long heralded storm which had been forecast to hit Philadelphia in the late afternoon finally set up, and whereas a humble narrator had an umbrella attached to his pack – shelter was required. Right alongside the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is the Cherry Street Pier (Municipal Pier No. 9), which is a former maritime industrial doohickey that has been converted over to public open space usage. They have caged artists in residency there, and they imprison them on display in converted shipping containers, no doubt to keep their intellectual contagion from infecting the youth.

When researching the trip, I had spotted this facility, and knowing that thunderstorms were forecast, was ready to duck in there for some cover. It was neat, and my “just in case” plan was successful. Another bit of advice for the traveling photographer – always have a “rain plan” you can alter your course into.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to photographing the colossal Benjamin Franklin Bridge, for me, thereby. The roof is missing on the section of the pier I was on, but there was just enough up there to mostly vouchsafe the camera and lens from getting “spotted” by raindrops.

My ambitious shot list for the day in Philadelphia had already been heavily redacted, and most of what I had to drop wasn’t terribly exciting – touristy shots of the historic districts where, you know, the United States was imagined and drawn up. Liberty Bell, etc.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one thing I regretted having to drop, due to weather and time, was walking up onto the Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s pedestrian path and blasting out a few photos from the prominence. As mentioned – Thunderstorms – and a humble narrator doesn’t mess with high wind and lightning if he has a choice.

Next time, I guess. The Port Authority’s website offers fairly explicit instructions for photographers who want to shoot from on high, and suggests introducing yourself to the security personnel at the entrance to the pedestrian path before heading up there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since I was sheltered from the worst of the rain on the pier, advantage was taken. That’s the Delaware River, with New Jersey’s Camden waterfront on the horizon. It seems that wherever New Jersey touches the major city of another state, there’s a pretty awful circumstance. Newark in the north, Camden in the south. Newark is comparatively a paradise as opposed to its southern counterpart, I’m told.

My time in Philadelphia was growing short, and it was nearly time to begin heading back towards the 30th street Station to catch an Amtrak train back to “home sweet hell.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Across the river, and I had to use a super zoom lens for this one, the Battleship New Jersey operates as a museum vessel. Couldn’t avoid taking this shot, despite the conditions.

A general reordering of the camera bag(s) occurred at this point. My current system involves carrying a backpack with foam inserts to protect the gear, and attached to its exterior are my tripod and an umbrella. I also carry a messenger style sling bag on my hip which is similarly outfitted with foam inserts. In general, I carry four lenses on these sorts of excursions. Two of them, the zoom lenses, are “daylight” oriented. The other two are prime lenses, and are “lowlight” specialists. There’s a whole lot of other crap in the bags – batteries, a loop of paracord, gaff tape, gum – all sorts of stuff I might need or want.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lenses I’m using circumstantially and in the moment – zooms for daylight, for instance – are carried in the sling for easy access. When the circumstance changes, so does the carrying order. The zooms go into the backpack, and the low light primes come out. One is on the camera, the other in the sling bag. When you walk as much as I do, even a single pound of weight in the camera bag can slow you down incrementally, and by photographer standards – my kit is a wonder of efficiency.

Don’t forget, with the exception of an hour in the late afternoon when I had a meal, I had been in continuous motion since 7:30 a.m. The shot above was captured at 5:22 p.m. My return trip to NYC was scheduled to leave at 8:01 p.m. Given that I was in unfamiliar territory, and definitely wanted to arrive in advance of the train, my toes were pointed away from the river and back towards Center City.

Seriously, why don’t these cheesesteak eaters just call it freaking “downtown?”


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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

May 4, 2022 at 11:00 am

long before

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way to a restaurant nearby Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, one scuttled through an apparent historic district filled with homes of taste and substance. Several monumental religious structures were also encountered, but given that it had been about seven hours since I’d had a drink of water or anything to eat…

You have to be careful when you’re out doing an all day photowalk in unfamiliar territory. Drink too much, you end up having to piss. When you don’t know the “rules” for where you are, watering the bushes can result in an encounter with the cops. Thereby, it’s smart to restrict the amount of liquid you take in, since it diminishes the amount you then release back into the wild. This can backfire, of course, and sometimes I end up parched. I generally don’t carry bottles of liquid with me, since electronics and water don’t get along well, and water is heavy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My shot list, which was extensive and ambitious to say the least, was roughly half accomplished at this stage. I found a cool bar/restaurant called “Jack’s Firehouse” directly across the street from the penitentiary, and got there just as it started to rain. I guzzled water, had a pint or two of Yuengling, and ate an amazing bbq brisket sandwich with sides. The staff had just finished their lunch time rush and thereby I received a lot of attention due to the camera equipment, and the series of garrulous personality quirks which I’m famous for.

My server was a young woman who was native to the area, and she filled me in on the stratified socio economic situation here in Philadelphia, her experiences with the de facto “red line” segregation of the city, and also laid out a general nativist point of view on the place which was illuminating. Not the sort of stuff that makes the tourist brochures.

Necessity being the mother of all invention, I also broke one of my core rules and thereby – it was me – I was the guy who took a dump in a bar’s bathroom. Don’t worry, I flushed. Having blown my ballast, refueled, and with a couple of drinks in me – back onto the mean streets of Philly did I scuttle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, during the meal, I had whipped out my notebook and began crossing things off of the shot list. One knew it was impossible to accomplish everything I had sketched into my day before I got off the train – “no Liberty Bell for me,” said I – but given the early arrival of inclement weather ahead of its forecasted interval, I had to adjust.

A quick cab ride saw me heading from the Eastern State Penitentiary area to the shoreline of the Delaware River, and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge is a monster. In terms of massing and scale, this 1926 suspension bridge is reminiscent of the sort of spans you’d commonly observe in a certain superior City found to the north of Philadelphia. It must have been New Jersey’s influence on the Philadelphia people which caused them to reach higher than they normally do.

The rain was spotty, no more than an occasional drizzle at this particular point. My original intention had been to surmount the thing, which overflies the Delaware River. The rain – which was the first indication of an oncoming storm – changed my mind on that one. Instead, I poked around on shore, looking for places where the bridge’s ramps would provide me with a “rain shadow.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Originally built as the “Delaware River Bridge,” this giant is owned and operated by the Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The span was designated as a “historic place” in 2003, and began to be called the “Benjamin Franklin Bridge over the Delaware River” in 1955. It carries about a hundred thousand vehicle trips a day between Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. There’s 7 lanes of Interstate 676 and US 30 high speed traffic, two bike and pedestrian paths, and a mass transit service that runs on converted street car track ways called the PATCO Speedline. “PATCO” stands for Port Authority Transit Corporation.

The bridge overflies the water at 135.1 feet, has a total length of 9,573 feet, and it’s towers are 385 feet high. The bridge engineer for this gargantua was Leon Moiseff, designer of the superior Manhattan Bridge, found over the far better East River, in a more impressive City called New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While hiding from precipitant in the rain shadow of the thing, I spotted a lone tugboat navigating along the Delaware River. Fun!

More tomorrow…


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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

May 3, 2022 at 11:00 am

mute granite

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A pre dawn Amtrak ride, some 90 minutes in length, had delivered a scuttling horror – familiar to NYC – to the banks of the Schuylkill River in the city of Philadelphia. America’s consolation prize didn’t disappoint, and a humble narrator had spent a very productive morning and early afternoon photographing the bridges spanning the banks of the Schuylkill and working through an extensive shot list. My last stop along the Schuylkill River Trail is pictured above – the Fairmount Water Works.

This operation was designed in 1812 and principally installed between 1812 and 1815, with work continuing at the site until 1872. Fairmount was Philadelphia’s second attempt at creating a municipal water delivery system. It was operational until 1909, and included a nearby three million gallon reservoir contained in a monumental earthwork, which the Philadelphia Museum of Art now sits atop (looming in the top left background). All of the Neo Classical styling you see is purely facade.

After 1909, the site became the home of the Philadelphia Aquarium (until 1962), and later housed an indoor swimming pool (until 1973). These days, there’s an educational operation there called the “Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center,” and a fancy pants restaurant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What really drew my interests here, however, is the Fairmount Dam. A tidal River, much like the East River back home in NYC, the Schuylkill experiences a mix of brackish and fresh water. The Fairmount Dam, completed in 1822, raises the level of the fresh water flowing down to Philly all the way from distant Pottsville and rural Pennsylvania to the north. Above the dam it’s fresh water, below – brackish.

The spill way creates a basin, referred to as the “Schuylkill Pond” by the cheesesteak eaters, which seems to have drawn large numbers of collegiate rowers to its placidity over the centuries. That line of structures on the horizon in the shot above form up “Boathouse Row.” Its seems that local universities including Drexel, Penn, and La Salle have rowing teams based here, and the basin is the setting for multiple rowing regattas.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Simple engineering like this spillway dam is something which I bring up during superfund conversations about my beloved Newtown Creek all the time. Our problem on Newtown Creek is ultimately about “flow” and quickening the pace of water flowing through the channel. I like any solution to this problem which doesn’t require pumps or “adding” energy into the system via mechanical means. This dam functions purely on gravity, and also serves as a fish ladder for critters returning form the sea to lay clutches of eggs upriver.

This was the last entry on my shot list for the Schuylkill River, and it was long past time for a meal and a whole lot of liquid. I was hungry, and thirsty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One clambered over the artificial hill that the Philadelphia Museum of Art squats upon. Yes, these are “those” steps. The ones from the Rocky movies. Dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dan dun de dun

I’m told that the cheesesteak eaters get all livid if you refer to this area as the “Rocky Steps.” Once again, I will state plainly – I’m from Brooklyn and shit talking Philly is just ingrained in me. I also don’t get upset when cinematic references are made about my own – far superior – City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While watching tourists discover that running up these steps is actually quite the athletic endeavor, a humble narrator was busily scrolling through a Google map describing eateries and restaurants nearby.

Eastern State Penitentiary was just a few blocks away, and a long line of bars and restaurants which seemed to be open were described as being just across the street from the decommissioned prison.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The camera was converted over from landscape to handheld modality, the tripod tied up to my bag, and a general policing around my person accomplished. One set off to the presumptive northeast, in search of sustenance and refueling.

More 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

May 2, 2022 at 11:00 am

crystal lakelet

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling along the Schuylkill River trail in Philadelphia, my extensive shot list included the two bridges pictured above. The smaller one, which passes under the larger specimen, is called the West River Drive Bridge, and the larger one above is the Spring Garden Bridge.

I found this section, which adjoins the Philadelphia Museum of Art, quite visually intriguing. It might have been the hunger and thirst, however. I had left HQ in Astoria before dark, boarded an Amtrak and travelled to Philadelphia where I encountered a quite warm morning, and started getting busy by about 8 a.m. The last drops of my Gatorade bottle were swallowed by 10.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless, a fellow suffers for his art. This heavily oxidized span over the Schuylkill River is – as mentioned above – the West River Drive Bridge and it’s one year older than I am, having been built in 1966. West River Drive has subsequently been renamed as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive but the bridge is still identified by its original name.

The West River Drive Bridge is 701.1 feet long, and 36.1 feet wide, constructed of steel girder and concrete, and it’s supported by two piers. It carries local traffic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above it is the Spring Garden Street Bridge, which carries highway bound traffic over first railroad tracks, then the Schuylkill River, and then Schuylkill Expressway. This is the 4th bridge to stand at this spot, with the first one being an all wooden 1812 giant called “The Colossus” which burned away in 1838.

I found the interplay between the two structures – as mentioned above – very interesting visually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things which caught my eye was the presence of big chunks of lumber and driftwood that had managed to jam themselves into the arrangement. This was still a part of the Philadelphia section of Schuylkill River Trail, incidentally. The River itself flows all the way down from Pottsville in the north, eventually joining into the Delaware River to the south. The trail, apparently, will one day stretch from the Delaware River in Philadelphia to Pottsville.

I was continually reminded of the central role that Philadelphia played in the formation of this country, from a civil engineering point of view, on this walk. Of course, when the Erie Canal opened in 1817, the East Coast crown of mercantile and financial dominance was seized by NYC and the slow decline in “importance” of both Boston and Philadelphia began. This is something that didn’t really become apparent until the decades after the Civil War, of course. If you were taking bets in 1800 on which one of the three would end up becoming the dominar “best in class” on the East Coast, NYC would have been a long shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They really must get some crazy floods moving through here during storms and springtime thaws to deposit huge logs like those onto the bridges. Wow.

My ambitious shot list began to look more and more impossible by this particular moment, and all I could think about was finding a place to sit down for an hour and eat a meal while drinking gallons of water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, the shot list had one more Schuylkill River destination on it – the Fairmount Water Works – that I needed to handle. They’ve got a 19th century dam/fish ladder here, and there was no damn way I’d miss that, lords and ladies.

More next week, from Philadelphia, 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

April 29, 2022 at 11:00 am

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