The Newtown Pentacle

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pittsburgh! After an epic drive from NYC to the Paris of Appalachia, my pal Max and I were desirous of a hearty meal. Luckily, a previous trip here had revealed a good spot for dinner and beers, so we left the car in our rented AirBNB’s driveway and shlepped over to it. Burger, Yuengling, yum.

We were going to be spending the last week of the summer out here exploring the greater Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area, a process which I had begun back in June on my last trip to this “zone.” One is beginning to develop a geospatial awareness of this place, but a rudimentary one and I’m often lost about something as elementary as the cardinal directions. I’m also trying very, very hard – and often failing – to not look at everything through a NYC filter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The place we were staying in was on Mount Washington, in one of the several charming but quite hilly neighborhoods found upon the prominence. I’ll often offer the phrase “pretty city of Pittsburgh” when describing this place. One thing I’ve learned, and this is entirely informed by my life long residency in the dystopian shithole of NYC, is that what looks like a nice neighborhood to me will often be considered a slum by the people who have spent their whole lives in the region. That’s the NYC filter rearing it’s ugly head again.

I don’t necessarily recognize the threats here, since I haven’t yet developed a sense of syntax for the local culture and can’t spot a hero or villain from 1,00 feet away like I can in NYC.

As an example of what I mean, an anecdote: since returning to Astoria from this excursion in late August, I noticed that a neighbor colloquially known as “Johnny the Junkie” seems to be experiencing one of his periodic downturns, and has been stealing the electric bikes used by the Deliverista guys to fund his hobbies. He’s been selling the purloined vehicles to a local e-bike shop through the back door, something I know because I’ve seen him pushing locked bikes in and walking out with a wad of cash. “Fortune teller Mitch” will describe the severe beating that Johnny will inevitably receive when the Deliveristas figure out who’s getting in the way of them earning a living. Prior witnessing of other applications of street justice by this group suggest that Johnny the Junkie will be beaten to within an inch of his life with bike chains that have steel locks deployed on them. Nice guy, Johnny is, except when he’s dope sick. He crashes and burns about once every 8-9 months, does a hospital stay, is sober and putting on weight for a few months and then…

That’s what I mean by “syntax” – understanding what’s happening just by looking, and knowing will likely happen, because the milieu is so long observed and familiar. I don’t possess this sort of societal prescience in any way for Pittsburgh yet, which means I’m in an extremely vulnerable position until I do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighborhood which our Airbnb was in seemed to be fairly quiet and what I’d describe as “middle class.” Everybody had a car, it seemed, and the streets were very quiet after about 8 o’clock. The rented space we were staying in had a second story patio outfitted with outdoor furniture. On our way back to the space, after having eaten dinner, we stopped off at a shop and bought a couple of six packs of beer, some water, chips, pretzels and other comforts. We quaffed said comforts on the second story patio. My pal Max and I discussed our journey from NYC, and organized a fairly broad set of destinations for the next week.

The weather was good.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, one of the interesting things about Pittsburgh is that due to the topography of the place, even if something wild and loud is happening less than a mile away (as the crow flies) from where you are, it’s still wildly distant because of the deep valleys and hills which separate the various neighborhoods from each other even in the center of the city.

The photo above was taken about a mile from the titular center of the City at Point State Park, depicting the front yard of the AirBNB we were rooming at, and all I could hear was the sound of crickets and cicadas.

Day one of the latest visit to the area played out thusly: Long drive, dinner, drinks. Time for bed, as we were going to be following my normal “away game” schedule of getting up early and out of the house by 8.

I favor a heavy breakfast while traveling, as it makes the pooping schedule a bit more predictable and thereby you don’t find yourself needing a toilet suddenly the next day. I’ve been told that you Goyem don’t think about such things, and that it’s “eminently Jewish” to worry about where and when you’re going to be when the food you just ate comes back out. Ever wonder how we Jews managed to survive having everybody wanting to kill us? Planning ahead, that’s how, and sweating the small stuff. What? You’re not going to have to go?

4,000 years of contemplation about the availability of clean bathrooms… all I’m gonna say on that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We encountered a foggy morning once we exited Mount Washington’s tree lined streets on the next morning, which was Sunday the 28th of August. We were going to be moving around on foot in the Downtown area for this particular day, so we left the car behind and used a ride share to get us to our first destination. A greasy spoon diner in a neighborhood called the South Side Flats was where we were heading, and where I ordered the “lumberjack” with eggs, bacon, potato, and a short stack of pancakes.

The good news is that by the time we returned to the rented rooms at the end of the day, we’d walked about the place for nearly 8 hours and I had fully earned the entirety of that meal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last series of posts from this area published here, at the start of the summer, proffered the fact that I had developed a desire to examine – in some granular detail – the Smithfield Street Bridge, in a photographic sense. Built on foundations laid down by John A Roebling for a predecessor span, this extant lenticular truss bridge over the Monongahela River was designed by Queensboro Bridge designer Gustav Lindenthal.

As you’ll see soon, when I declared that I was going to photograph this bridge, and every single rivet holding it up, it was no idle boast.

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

September 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

supposed son

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another trip out to Pittsburgh began for a humble narrator on the 27th of August. This time around, getting there was accomplished by automobile, specifically in my pal Max’s late model Mercedes. We traded off the driving, and this was officially the first time I’ve ever driven a vehicle manufactured by the German automaker. Nice drive, have to admit. It was a 4 door sedan, and kind of a “dad car,” but being a fairly heavy vehicle it sat into the curves on the highway neatly and was pretty fun to drive.

There are two routes from “here” to “there,” a northern route which we took on the way to Pittsburgh and a southern one that uses the Pennsylvania Turnpike which we used to return to NYC. I found the latter route a tedious and annoying drive devoid of the sort of epic scenery that the northern route offers. Also, the northern route carried us through Altoona, which is a whole other story that I’ll tell once I’m living in Pennsylvania next year and I have time to get photos of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somewhere in New Jersey, we made a stop to gas up the vehicle and grab some supplies for the road – Gatorade and gum, basically. As it happens, this is probably one of the last “Sinclair” branded gas stations in the northeast that I’m aware of.

Sinclair is the oil company that created the popular image and concept of dinosaurs somehow being related to the formation of petroleum with a 1960’s-70’s branding effort. The “Dino” has long been their corporate icon. They sell branded gear, everything from Covid masks and water bottles to Dino toys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The gas station still had one of the Sinclair Dino statues installed on its property. I was god damned bemused by this fact.

The actual geologic deposition of hydrocarbons in the ground isn’t dinosaur related, incidentally. Petroleum and gas are largely found in the dried up basins of prehistoric seabeds (organic matter deposited during several geologic periods that was compressed by the weight of water and agglutination of stone), and coal is found in areas that were heavily forested and flooded out during the Carboniferous. Of course, this is my understanding of the matter as a layman – if you are screaming out “He’s wrong” about the above statement, please share your knowledge with me.

We got back into the car, and zoomed off to the west. Highway speed limits in this section of the country are 70 mph. Saying that, while doing 70 in the right lane, cars and trucks were punching past us like we were standing still – and they were easily doing a 100 miles an hour in the passing lane. A semi tractor trailer doing 100 mph would likely need something close to a half mile of braking in order to come to a complete stop, using the tried and true formula of one vehicle length per every ten miles of speed for maintaining safe following distances on high speed roads, which is terrifying when you consider it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described last week, the camera was set up with a high ISO speed normally reserved for low light work, a narrow aperture (f8 or f11) and shutter speeds as fast as 1/8000th of a second in order to freeze the action and subject as we shot past it. The photos you get along the way are fairly random, just like the ones gathered from an Amtrak window that I’ve offered in the past, and are “snap shots” rather than photographs.

The middle section of Pennsylvania is quite rural. Farm country, essentially. While my pal Max was driving, and I was randomly shooting photos of things we were passing at 70 mph, one was bending his ear about the folk tales of cryptid creatures that have been reported as dwelling in these woods. Pennsylvania’s got a lot of lore, as it turns out. There’s meant to ghosts of Civil War soldiers wandering about, Sasquatch, goblins who live in abandoned mines, Dogmen, and my personal favorite – the Squonk,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lovely countryside though. When I talk to people about the middle of the state, the word “Pennsyltucky” often arises, followed by Trump and then I’m warned that “Trump Supporters will shoot me on sight.” Propaganda, much? Really?

Just like there’s a New York State based socioeconomic and cultural difference between the urban quarters of NYC (and its surrounding suburbs) and Albany (and the immediate Capital region around it), versus the rest of New York State, so too is Pennsylvania divided along political and social fault lines which are geographically and economically distinct from each other.

My basic understanding of the matter is that whereas Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Scranton, and Pittsburgh dominate most of the population, politics, governance, and finances of the State, there’s a considerably different point of view and way of doing things at work in the rural areas. To use the political parlance of the current day, the Cities are bright blue counties, and the rural ones are scarlet red. To use an older metaphor, there’s City Mice and Country Mice.

Luckily, there’s a whole lot of purple in the borders between these theoretical polarities. I actually like a divided government. Keeps them honest. Look at what happened in NYC when De Blasio came in and everybody was member of the same club. That’s where corruption gets bred, amongst bedfellows. Say it out loud – TAMMANY.

There’s so much to learn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also, no comment on that “Obey” sign spotted in the middle of a farmer’s field somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, other than that I hope the farmer is making good money for hosting an advertising bill board on their property. The group who’s signage this is also buy signage in LIC along the Sunnyside Yards, but their ads in Queens are either anti-abortion or attestations of either the Christ’s omnipotence or his continued existence – one of their signs is seen in this shot, for instance. It seems that there are several religious groups who purchase and fill these billboards with such messaging, as explored in this piece at priceonomics.

Again – there is so much to learn…


“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

September 26, 2022 at 11:00 am

doglike things

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a terrifying visit to a cautionary tale known as Hudson Yards, a quick ride on the 7 train carried me back to the gently rolling hills of Western Queens where a transfer at the Queensboro Plaza subway stop was actuated and I was soon on an N train heading towards almond eyed Astoria. This was from the end of my journeys on Sunday – August 21st – which were meant to include riding on a Fireboat, but which ended up in a staggered scuttle about the abominable Hudson Yards.

One was hoping to wander through a street festival or something lively in the way home through Astoria – a Detestation of some Abyssal Power, or a Celebration of a Lord or Lady of Light – but it was just another Sunday in the ancient village.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice was taken of this woman feeding a group of birds. The birds seemed to be arranging themselves into a geometric pattern, but logic dictates that it was just the pattern of the woman’s arcing throws of seed or bread that they were following. Still, one wonders, and more than wonders…

Once I caught a photo of a group of birds sitting upon a series of Astoria power lines, in a pattern which reminded me of musical notation. I sent it to a musician friend of mine for analysis. He refused to discuss the matter after viewing the image, instructing that I should never mention it again and advising that I destroy the image.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 24th of August, a day trip to visit a friend in the pretty town of Hudson, New York was undertaken. It was a long drive and my photographic curiosities were stifled due to social obligation.

There used to be a whaling fleet who’s home base was here in Hudson. The financial benefits of this industrial activity explains how they could afford the expenses of building out the grandiose architecture from the 1840’s – 1880’s era which is still extant in the town, as said fleet often did business with Ambrose Kingsland in Greenpoint. The Newtown Creek tributary “Whale Creek” is so named because of Kingsland’s whale oil refinery, and the corollary industries of rope manufacture, blacksmithing, shipwrighting, and miscellaneous ship supply hugged the shores of Whale Creek in Greenpoint.

Staten Island artist John Noble actually painted Whale Creek during this era – here’s a link to the Noble Museum at Snug Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson is a very attractive town, and I wish that I had more time to explore. I also really wanted to get a shot of the old docks where the Newtown Creek bound whaling ships would launch from, but as mentioned above – this was a social visit and not a photo mission.

The shot above is from a park along the Hudson River that obviously used to be part of a barge to rail setup.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday the 27th of August, and this shot was from something like 8 in the morning, captured while sitting in the passenger seat of a late model Mercedes on the George Washington Bridge.

The Mercedes belongs to my pal Max, and we were on the road heading west for a week long “away game.” I left the pinstripes at home, put on my gray uniform, and configured the camera to a very odd group of settings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ISO was set into the range I normally use for night time low light conditions, the aperture was set to either f8 or f11 depending on time of day and ambient light, and the shutter to 1/8000th of a second.

When you’re traveling in a late model Mercedes at about 70 miles per hour, westwards through Pennsylvania, you need to take steps to freeze the action for the camera.

More next week.


“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

September 23, 2022 at 11:00 am

keenly resented

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, and several times in fact, the way I pass the long hours of an Amtrak trip is by taking random snapshots of America. That sounds pretentious, but… that’s what they are. A homemade foam collar is affixed to my lens, then I set the camera up at a very high ISO setting and a wide open aperture. I then set the shutter speed to an insanely small sliver of time – 1/2000th or faster. It’s a challenging situation – Amtrak’s windows generally ain’t too clean or free of scratches, and the window glass itself has a reddish brown coloration to it. Saying all that – 8 hour train trip, yo – gotta do something to pass the time.

The video above represents what I saw between Harrisburg and somewhere in the middle of New Jersey. The sun was illuminating my window from about 4 o’clock on, and there’s really no way to combat the fact that your lens is pointed directly at the sun through a dirty and scratched brown window. Anyway… made it back to “home sweet hell.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I stepped off the train into a “NYC swamp ass hot day.” There was also a parade letting out, which was probably “Pride” given all the rainbow gear the paraders were parading around with. I walked a block to the E, returned to Queens at Queens Plaza, and caught a R back to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria.

So – That’s that story. This was June 26th, incidentally.

Six image posts are going to continue for a bit, as the particularly prolific photographic spree I’ve been experiencing continues. This post is being written in the second week of July, which is also good news as I’m way ahead of schedule.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I hung around HQ and the neighborhood for a few days after returning from Pittsburgh. June the 29th, however, was a day that the world put out “Mitch Bait.” Given that this is my last summer in NYC, I’m trying to do everything that’s possible for me to do. Visiting people, seeing things, wondering where that smell on the air is coming from. There’s a sentimental resonance in every step I take.

I don’t know if I’m going to miss this dystopian shithole or not, as it’s all I’ve ever known. See that photo right above? That looks normal to me. Everything about it is messed up, starting with the Cops leaving their car parked in a bus stop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever…

One of the things that I haven’t done in a whole lot of years is attend the fireworks display at Astoria Park. It’s a short cross Astoria walk to get there for me, right up 31st street and over to Hoyt Avenue and then scuttle to the water. 31st Street, with its elevated subway tracks, seldom disappoints. There’s always something to take a shot of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had been thinking about where I wanted to set up the camera on a tripod. I knew with certainty that the East River waterfront along Shore Blvd. would be mobbed, and I also wanted to get a shot with both bridges in it – the Hells Gate Bridge and the Triborough Bridge. I wanted a bit of water in the shot, but not too much. I’d have to contend with crowds, passerby who wanted to talk about cameras (this happens all the time), and any number of unknown things. When I got to the spot I had visualized, later on, there was a guy setting up a theatrical flying rope rig up in a tree which he was swinging around on, and doing gymnastics. You never know.

Photographing fireworks is fairly simple. You put your camera on a stable thing like a tripod. You set it to ISO 200, F8, and 4-8 seconds depending on ambient conditions. There’s variations on this, but that’s the basic exposure triangle. I usually record fireworks with the camera set for 3400K color temperature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were captured on the way to Astoria Park.

Along the way, I encountered this Manitou (a French manufacturer of a range of heavy equipment) vehicle parked on the street. It caught my eye, this thing. Given my interest in the belief systems of various parties, the first thing I thought when I read the logo was related to the religious views of the Algonquian peoples. Odd choice, thereby, in corporate branding if you ask me.

You could probably take out a lot of zombies with that thing, I bet…

Tomorrow- fireworks!


“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

August 2, 2022 at 11:00 am

occasionally tearing

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another trip to Pittsburgh came to an end, and there stood a humble narrator at about 7 in the morning, waiting for his train to come.

Amtrak owned the train, of course. Boarding the thing was meant to happen at 7:30 a.m., with an expected arrival at Moynihan Penn Station in NYC at 4:52 p.m. I had a Primanti Brothers sandwich wrapped up tightly in one of my three bags, but my caffeine consumption was limited due to circumstance, so I was in a dreamlike state.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The grandiose old train station in Pittsburgh, as in the one associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad, has been converted over to a residential building. What passes for a train station there in modernity is reminiscent of a Soviet orthodontist’s office with a barely functional drop off and pick up parking lot.

You enter the station through an automatic supermarket style door, and then ride an escalator up to the actual station where the tracks are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the fact that you are absolutely going to be getting on the train, all the people formed up into an anxiously stressed out queue. I found myself standing in between two sections of an Amish family, and asked the Dad to hold my place in line for me. He seemed puzzled by the request, but acceded.

On the non active track, there was something I wanted a shot of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lovingly cared for Ohio Central passenger car was on display. I’m told that this is possibly a private car, operated by some corporate outfit that hitches itself onto Amtrak’s rolling stock for expensive private trips. Can’t say if this true or not, but it sounds right given its great condition.

I got back in line with the Amish Family (or maybe Mennonite, I can’t discern what the differences between the two groups are), and the conductor assigned me to a certain car. Amtrak groups travelers who are going to common destinations. I was going “all the way” and was thereby assigned to the very last car on the train. I got a window seat.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, I set the camera up for shooting out of the window as the Amtrak rolled along. Embedded above is a YouTube video of the various things which shot past us while heading east, all of which are entirely random. Amtrak schedules in a few stops along the route. There’s usually a crew change at these longer “dwells” in the stations, and they also switch out the locomotive engines (Diesel for CoGen “Hybrid,” or Electric, depending on where you are) at some of these stops. You get about 15 minutes to “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em,” or stretch your legs if you don’t partake. A lot of people were vaping.

The images in the video above were captured between Pittsburgh and the Capitol of Pennsylvania – Harrisburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Harrisburg’s Amtrak station is pictured above. One is merely whelmed, not over or under whelmed, by this station.

I got lucky in terms of my seat mate on this trip, just as I did on the ride out to Pittsburgh. Another Nice kid in his 20’s, but this guy lived in the extremely rural “Pennsyltucky” area in the virtual center of the State of Pennsylvania, nearby Lancaster. Lancaster is “Pennsylvania Dutch” country, where the Amish and other sects like the Mennonites live in archaic fashion. The kid wasn’t “Dutch,” but was a farmer who amplified his agricultural income by working as a welder, and he also had a sideline selling firewood. Inevitably, national politics came up, and it was nice to hear somebody from conservative America – “the other side, as it were” – say “man, we really gotta turn down the volume on this shit before the shooting starts.” A humble narrator concurs.

More tomorrow, and back home to NYC, in tomorrow’s 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

August 1, 2022 at 11:00 am

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