The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania

Highland Park Resovoir

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the 117 million gallon ‘Reservoir One’ pictured above, at Pittsburgh’s Highland Park. The region’s water and sewer people style themselves as pgH20, and they’re the Pittsburgh equivalent of NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection – or DEP – whom long time readers have endured multitudinous descriptions delineating both the infamy and charm of that organization here at Newtown Pentacle.

For you New Yorkers – the DEP is annually budgeted at $1.6 billion, and is committed to spend some $24.3 billion on capital improvements to their system on top of that, just in the next decade. Pay attention to this “black box,” somebody.

The reservoir, here in a suburb of Pittsburgh, is surrounded first by a walkway and then by a large park which also incorporates the city zoo and aquarium. The enveloping neighborhood is, I’m told, also called Highland Park and boy oh boy is this a pretty town, with gorgeous housing stock surrounding the park. This is literally just up the hill from the location on the Allegheny River which started up yesterday’s post about Lock and Dam 2. Of course, when I say “just up the hill” in Pittsburgh, we’re talking Mayan pyramid up. The reservoir is at an elevation of 1,030 feet above sea level, and the lock and dam I visited was at an elevation of 721 feet, so that would be about 25-30 building stories differentially.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were all sorts of humans milling about, in their impermanence, so to remove any sign of life from these shots I set myself up for long exposures and got all artsy fartsy. That’s how you get those long mirror surface reflections, with long exposures of at least 20-30 seconds. Also, unless one of the humans stands stock still like a statue they disappear.

As opined yesterday, one remote scouts using Google maps’ satellite views to look for interesting things and locales which might be within reach of a humble narrator. In this case, it was a “what the hell is that” followed by “hey, there’s a parking lot.” Now that I’m a car guy, having a safe and legal spot to park the Mobile Oppression Platform has become part of my deal. Luckily, Pittsburgh doesn’t pretend that bike lanes can fix the universe nor do they opine that cars are the reason that housing is unaffordable. Instead, there’s places to park your car which adjoin safe and maintained trails for recreation and exercise.

Distributed load multi modal transportation network is the term you’re looking for. So’s acknowledging that people have kids, or mobility issues, and that public infrastructure like parks HAS GOT TO BE ACCESSIBLE BY PEOPLE WHO AREN’T NECESSARILY ABLE TO WALK OR RIDE A BIKE. You need to have places to bring and park vehicles. There is no one size fits all answer to anything when you’re discussing access to a public place.

Sorry, still scarred from being the Transportation Chair of a Community Board in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent about a half hour at the reservoir, pulling shots from various angles. The locals were wandering about on bikes and on foot, and I even spotted a couple of other blokes tugging their cameras about, but they were preparing to do some sort of portrait shoot with a video component from the look of their gear. We chatted briefly, Sony shooters.

A humble narrator has long used little strips of gaff tape to cover up the bright white Canon logos on my camera, ever since I had to retouch the reflection out of the eyes of somebody I was taking a picture of. Also, the evil people are clever, and also have google on their phones and can thereby figure out what your gear is worth and if you’re worth robbing. Why not camouflage that Canon or Nikon logo?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were several signs forbidding certain things on the walkway – litter, smoking, dogs – all of which were prosaic cautions given this reservoir is full of what’s going to be used as drinking water. Where HQ is found in Dormont, the water system has been privatized and is controlled by a corporate entity called “American Water” which is apparently a fairly large corporation that I never heard of before moving here.

Pennsylvania politics flips hard “Red” or hard “Blue” during the various election cycles. Currently it’s in a blue phase. The reds ok’d fracking and a bunch of other ugly stuff, whereas the blues… man… this sort of thing really sounds like the last days of the Roman republic doesn’t it? If memory serves, for them it was Blues and Greens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I’ve managed to avoid having just about any political conversation at all so far. Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time until I blunder into some sort of situation where I find myself in a “political room” but I really want to stay the hell out of all that until I have to. I’ve had enough of that for a while. You should see the look on the Pennsylvanian’s faces when I mention that my Congress member used to be AOC, back in Astoria.

At any rate… Highland Park in Pittsburgh…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way back to the MOP, I cracked out this shot of the Highland Park’s formal entrance with its columnar accoutrements.

In yesterday’s post about Lock and Dam 2, I mentioned that a diversion of about an hour occurred in between my circling of the river infrastructure. Highland Park reservoir was where that diversion occurred.

Tomorrow, more from the corridors of the Allegheny River.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 1, 2023 at 11:00 am

Snow, rain, snow

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The best way to describe the previous week’s weather here in Pittsburgh is simply “last Tuesday was the day it didn’t rain or snow.” Saying that, a humble narrator was busy with mundanities so it wasn’t too much of a deal. One thing I can report to all of you back in Fun City is that I drove over to a local variant of the Department of Motor Vehicles, dubbed as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or “PennDOT Driver’s License Center” to transfer my New York State Driver’s License over to a Pennsylvania one in accordance with local statutes. Based on years of experience with NYS’s best analogue of a Soviet toilet paper distributorship, I figured my DMV or PennDOT experience would be miserable and frustrating.

45 minutes later I was walking to the Mobile Oppression Platform with a freshly printed Pennsylvania driver’s license in my wallet. Just had to fill out a few forms, pay a $36.75 fee, and done. The people working there were nice, helpful, and the process clear.

Y’know, when you’ve been drinking dirty water your whole life and somebody hands you a glass of crystal clear earth juice instead…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One hung around HQ during the inclement weather, mostly. A friend from New York was in town on Monday last and I got to spend a bit of time with a familiar face, which was nice. One day, after a particularly heavy wave of precipitation blasted though, the double rainbow pictured above was observed over Dormont, where HQ is now found.

Today’s post breaks format a bit, with a three photo post. Tomorrow, we go back to the usual vulgarity with six shots. As mentioned, the weather has been… well… not fierce, but I’m still not at all used to driving out here on these crazy serpentine roadways with their steep hills and especially so when it’s icy. Take an inch of snow, pour a few hours of rain on it, then drop the temperature below freezing – that’s how you get me to stay home and not drive around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pittsburgh is actually deficient at this moment, in terms of its annual averages, for snowfall but it has been fairly chilly. It is, after all, January. As you’re reading this, one is likely behind the wheel of the MOP, heading towards the bureaucratic entity that handles car registration and license plate issuance in Pennsylvania. As soon as that bit of business is handled, the entire “escape from New York City” process will have wound down and can be declared accomplished. There’s still a few things to do, notably rebuilding my office workstation which died a few years ago at the start of Covid. I’ve been working off of a fairly underpowered laptop the last couple of years, which has been sufficient but just so.

Tomorrow, I’m taking you along with me on another scouting mission, this one along the Allegheny River. Remember how I said I was “kvelling” to get a look at one of the several lock and dam locations operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers? Well…


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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

January 30, 2023 at 11:30 am

Investigating the GAP, part three

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mon Valley Works – Edgar Thomson Plant. That’s what the U.S. Steel outfit calls this steel mill, parts of which date back to 1875 and Andrew Carnegie. It’s where the United States’ first Bessemer Converter was installed, and is a cornerstone of our American story.

Having never witnessed this sort of thing in person before, the Mon Valley Works absolutely blows my mind. Wow. I’ve seen Battleships, and Air Craft Carriers, and mega massive sewer plants, and power generating stations, and petroleum refineries, and waste transfer stations, and port infrastructure – but I’ve never seen anything like this before. Blown.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had carried all the gear I use with me onto the Great Allegheny Passage trail, and got busy with the tripod and everything else as soon as a decent point of view of the Mon Valley Works appeared. Next time I visit the GAP, I’m planning on entering the trail from the Duquesne side to explore what you can see from that set of angles.

I’m also going to return to this position for early morning and late afternoon light when it warms up a bit, but I fear that spring and summer will create problems for me due to the vegetation being clad with leaves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even across the Monongahela River, and pretty distant, the Mon Valley Works are loud. Massive fans are at work for the heat exchangers, and the furnaces also are beaming out vibration and sound. The plant is also pumping out a terrific amount of sulfur dioxide, as it runs off coke and coal, so there’s a smell of rotten eggs which is omnipresent in the air.

I’m told that air quality in the Pittsburgh area can be awful, largely because of these coal fired heavy industries. So much so that there’s a website which tracks the plumes of pollutants that the three big steel mills pump into the atmosphere. Prevailing wind and economic geography decide who gets to breathe the stuff in. These steel mills, however, form and produce the building blocks for other industrial sectors, and always have. Somebody always pays the price for “progress.” It’s something to remind yourself about as you consume new manufactured products in the manner of a raging wildfire.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the side of the Monongahela River that the GAP trail follows, you’re a pretty decent distance away from the shoreline. I did a wide shot to illustrate that, and to pass on the advice that if you want to get shots of the plant, bring a zoom lens with a not insignificant range.

As mentioned, those trees are going to block out the view during the warmer months. This was my turnaround point for this walk, as I’d have about another 4 miles to walk to get back to the Mobile Oppression Platform (my nickname for the car) which was parked at the Homestead Pump House. How did I come up with “Mobile Oppression Platform”? First, I owe a debt to the writers of the Futurama cartoon, secondly… have you ever talked to the bicycle people in Queens? Ever heard a car described as a two ton murder machine? I have, and took inspiration from the bellicose posturing they offered. If “two wheels good, four wheels bad” is your motto, I figured I’d give my car a name to piss you off. I’m a Dick like that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s so many things I want to get close up to in the shot above, including the Army Corps of Engineers lock and dam at the right side of the shot. After a disastrous flood in the 1930’s, the USACE installed a series of locks and dams on the rivers leading to Pittsburgh to control the waters. There are multiple USACE lock and dam facilities in the Pittsburgh area which I’m “kvelling” to get closer to.

I packed up my more esoteric gear after this one, reverted back to handheld shooting mode, and started retracing my steps back to the Mobile Oppression Platform in Homestead and my ride back to HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way, I cracked out a few more shots, and was passing by the defunct Carrie Furnace just as the light became a bit kinder. As mentioned in the first of these posts, it was fantastic to walk a fairly long distance again. It’s been a couple of months, what with the move and the setting up of housekeeping and all that, since I’ve had the chance to just scuttle about and see these sort of things.

Next week, something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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

January 27, 2023 at 11:00 am

Investigating the GAP, part one

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I showed you what the historic Homestead Pump House site on the Monongahela River looked like when bathed in thick fog. Lament was offered regarding the lack of a freight train transiting over the Pinkerton’s Landing or “Pemickey” Rail Bridge.

The Homestead Pump House is one of the trail heads for The Great Allegheny Passage or “GAP” rail to trail system. 150 miles in length, the rail to trail pathway follows several incorporated rights of way once operated by the B&O Railroad, Lake Erie Railroad, Union Railroad, and the Western Maryland Railway. You could theoretically walk or ride a bike to Washington D.C. on this path, which is paved in asphalt or crushed limestone – depending on where you are – and graded in accordance with the rail standard of one foot of elevation for every hundred feet.

Pictured above, this time around my dreams of a train moving over the bridge came true as a CSX freight train appeared and I was able to get a few shots of its transit across the rail bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Homestead site has a parking lot, one which leads to the actual trail after a short walk on a sidewalk. I did all the remote scouting that was warranted, using Google maps and a few other tools as well as watching a YouTube video offered by some bloke who rode the trail on a bike. One still hasn’t purchased a shuttle craft bike which will accompany me in the cargo area of the Mobile Oppression Platform (that’s the nickname I’ve assigned to my Toyota), and be deployed for hyper local transport.

I don’t really keep track of how many miles I walk. Sometimes, after a walk I’ll check my phone to see how many steps it perceived me as taking on an excursion. If there’s any accuracy to that data, I walked on the trail about 4 miles in and 4 miles back. It was an extremely easy walk, thanks to the pavement and the easy grading in elevation. There were even installed park benches for taking a break along the route, but one of my rules involves not sitting down when you’re out. Keep moving until you’re back where you started.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Active rail tracks are visible for the entire section of the GAP I visited. Defunct gas and rail infrastructure was noticed on the water facing shoreline for a good chunk of this distance, and there was a high volume road at the top of a shallow ridge overlooking the whole shebang. The municipality of Homestead was where I entered the trail, and there were markers here and there letting you know what town you were walking through.

That’s how I learned there’s a place called Munhall in Pennsylvania, those signs. There were actually a fair number of people using the trail for running and bike riding for a weekday afternoon in January. A good proportion of the bike riders were wearing the “outfit” – the helmet with the rear view mirror on it and a polyester bike shirt, stretchy shorts, and those special bicycle shoes. Like I said – the outfit. Most of the bikes were road racers, but I spotted a couple of pedal assist electric ones too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Carrie Furnace Hot Metal Bridge pictured above, I believe. Before you ask – of course I looked, and yes you can, and no it’s probably not ok but there doesn’t seem to be anybody watching, so of course, but no, not this time around. Next time, maybe.

I continued along the GAP trail, scuttling along at a leisurely pace.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once you’re a fair bit into the GAP trail, you’re completely separated from the surrounding town and of course – there’s no automobile traffic zipping along at high speeds to worry about.

On a personal note – it’s been a very long time since I’ve had the time to take a very long walk like this one. It felt very good to stretch the legs, kick the heels, and point the toes. Ultimately, this was another scouting expedition. It was mid afternoon, and the light was a ghastly thing to handle. For the ultimate destination I had in mind, this scouting revealed it as an early morning or sunset sort of deal. It’s also a winter thing, as the foliage must obscure all of the cool stuff you can see from this path during the warmer months when the trees are clad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The GAP follows under the Rankin Bridge spanning the Monongahela River. The 1951 bridge has a fairly convoluted history, and it once was used to carry Trolley traffic as well as motor vehicular flow, apparently. There’s a few very nice points of view in this section of the trail that I’m going to return to in the future. For this trip, my main interest was in getting close to the Mon Valley works, and I still had a few miles to walk to get there.

More tomorrow, from the GAP.


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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

January 25, 2023 at 11:00 am

an Allegheny interval

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had a couple of hours to kill recently, and decided to do a proper photowalk on the north side of downtown Pittsburgh. This area which I was in, I’m told, was an independent municipality in Allegheny County called Allegheny City until 1907, when it was annexed by another municipality. Pictured above is Downtown Pittsburgh, which is the neighboring city that did the annexation.

The waterfront in this area is part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which is a post industrial accommodation open to the public for exercise and recreation. Lots of joggers and bicyclists are moving about, and right behind me while I was shooting these there was some kid trying to figure out to ride his skateboard. This is right about where the Allegheny River feeds into the Ohio River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking along the Allegheny River, past the Fort Duquesne steel bowstring bridge and towards the “three sisters” suspension bridges. Last week, frequent commenter and wise aleck George the Atheist asked in a comment why there are so many different types of bridges here in Pittsburgh. I don’t have a definitive answer but I’ve got a few theories. First is that these bridges were largely installed over a 75-100 year period and that technologies and materials change over time. The second, and this one fits in with my somewhat conspiratorial point of view, is that Pittsburgh was the home of the American Bridge Company.

My theory is that American Bridge Company, as organized by JP Morgan, used Pittsburgh’s waterfront as a showroom for its national and international customers. Notably, American Bridge Company was one of the principal contractors used for most of NYC’s “lesser” bridges including the Pulaski Bridge spanning my beloved Newtown Creek. They also worked, and still work, on the major bridges too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One decided to shed the tripod and filter setup, and just shoot shots instead for the remaining time I’d be out. Scouting, that’s what I’m doing. What I want to be doing is shooting long exposure and loving photographs of Pittsburgh and its wonders, but it kind of bogs me down and keeps me from discovering new things and points of view. I still need to wander about and find these points of view before I get fancy… that’s what my inner narrative naggingly reminds.

I packed up the gear, and set my heels a clicking for a proper photowalk, thereby. I followed the Three Rivers Heritage trail, heading off along one of the Ohio River legs of the path.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the West End Bridge, which I showed you from above last week. Pittsburgh has been dealing with an explosion of unhoused folks camping out in tents and makeshift dwellings along the waterfront in recent years. Political outrage about this has caused the City to send in the cops and sanitation crews to clear out the dwellings and to try and convince the unhoused folks to literally come in from the cold and take a bed at a homeless shelter. This went about as well as it does in any American City, as the section of the trails in the Downtown area which the TV News people filmed the Government types “cleaning up” remains depopulated, but the zones which didn’t receive the media attention still host people living in dire circumstance. The Ohio River frontage is one of those zones.

I should mention that use of the word “explosion” in the Pittsburgh context indicates that there were a couple of hundred down on their luck street and or traveling people living rough in tents and make shift huts – at most. This made the TV news, in heavy rotation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I approached the great cathedral and spiritual center of Pittsburgh, and the most important thing in this region of the country. This structure, which occupies the thoughts, prayers, and minds of all Pittsburgh and its surrounding counties is a sports ball arena that is home to the Steelers football team. Formerly called Heinz Field, naming rights for the stadium were recently acquired by an outfit called Acrisure. Across the street from the stadium is the Carnegie Science Center, an interactive museum largely designed for kids. In between the two is a parking lot which costs $6 for all day parking, and it’s where I left the Mobile Oppression Platform while I was out walking around and shooting.

It was starting to get dark, and since I don’t know the “lay of the land” quite yet, I decided that I would be happier and quite a bit safer in the car. It’s not that things are dangerous hereabouts, but I’m ignorant of what a good neighborhood versus a bad one looks like. Additionally, there was a nearby industrial zone I wanted to take a look at which was definitively “car country” rather than being pedestrian friendly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of those industrial zone spots which I wanted to take a look at involved the Western State Penitentiary, a now shuttered prison found in the former Allegheny City and along the Ohio River. Word has it that opportunity to visit and photograph parts of this facility might materialize during the spring or summer, notably as part of a citywide event called Doors Open Pittsburgh. Doors Open’s operation is reminiscent to me of Open House NY, whom I worked with for several years on walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek.

More tomorrow, from the Paris of Appalachia, at your Newtown Pentacle.


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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

January 24, 2023 at 11:00 am

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