The Newtown Pentacle

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back home in Queens, after my day trip to Philadelphia, and I’m sorry to report two things. First, a combination of obligation and precipitation conspired against me taking a single picture for a week after the 7th. The second is that the obligations took the form of an endless series of Zoom meetings which just happened to occur on the few days when it wasn’t raining in the second week of March.

The only good news about this series of Newtown Creek related, or non profit advocacy group focused, or Community Board meetings I participated in is that while the “blah blah blah” and virtue signaling was happening, I was developing all the shots from Philadelphia that you’ve seen over the last couple of weeks on a different screen.

Multi tasking!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 14th of March, a Monday, a very long walk was undertaken. My pathway involved first crossing the Sunnyside Yards, and then scuttling along the Skillman Avenue corridor which follows the southern side of the vast Federally owned railroad coach yard.

Famously, a humble narrator has a catalogue of every hole in the fences which is large enough to allow a lens sized point of view. After a spate of outings during the winter months, ones which saw me going out in the early hours of the morning in pursuit of the rising of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself, this was the first of several spring outings timed for the recession of the fiery orb to its receptacle somewhere behind New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Hole reliable” is actually two holes. They appear to be surveyor’s points, and they are cleanly cut apertures punched out of the steel plate fences. There’s four kinds of fencing around the yards, with three of them being absolutely disastrous in terms of photos – save for these rare surveyor points.

The funny thing about the so called “security” situation here are the rail cops sleeping in their cars alongside wide open gates, contrasted with an abundance of “block the view” or “unclimbable” fences.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot was gathered while lingering, unchallenged, at one of those open gates. There was a cop sleeping in his car directly behind me, with a tablet playing a TV program in his passenger seat.

I literally could have done anything I wanted here – walked right down to the tracks and waved at passing trains. Anything. It’s all theater – security kabuki.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the 7 line subway heading eastwards out of Queens Plaza towards Sunnyside pictured above. The tracks it travels on are suspended high above the ground level tracks used by Long Island Railroad and Amtrak. In between, there’s a truss bridge which carries vehicle traffic into and out of Queens Plaza, where the travel lane approaches to the Queensboro Bridge are found.

I moved on, the cop never woke up. Maybe he was dead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, just as I arrived at my first actual destination, the sky lit up with oranges and yellows. I miss the old days in Long Island City, before big real estate crossed the river from Manhattan and stole the sky.

More tomorrow, from Long Island City, 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.

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Philadelphia’s Market Street Bridge, in its modern or fifth incarnation, is pictured above. Leading directly to 30th Street Station, Market Street bridge was erected in 1932. It sports ornate masonry along its roadway, including four “Pennsy” eagle statues salvaged from New York City’s original Penn Station. This November of 2021 post describing a previous visit to Philly – “Menacing Dreams” – shows what the scene looks like from above, rather than below, here on the Schuylkill River Trail.

The history associated with this crossing is fairly ancient for the United States, and includes a ferry which crossed the River as early as 1673.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, the pathway I was using here in Philadelphia – the Schuylkill River Trail – was very, very well used by the locals. As always seems to be the case with me these days, when people see the camera on the tripod they want to come over and talk cameras with me. Tell me what camera they have, or want, or ask about where they might sell some old equipment which they inherited from a dead relative. Find out what I think about the Sony vs. Canon ecosystems…

I try to be polite, but… c’mon… I’m obviously, and literally, focused in on what I’m doing… sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To my understanding, there’s a subway tunnel under the water here leading into 30th Street Station’s innards. If I’m reading things correctly, it’s in between the John F. Kennedy Boulevard Bridge (left) and Market Street Bridge (right). Called the Market Frankfort Line Tunnel, it carries local subway and streetcar traffic of Philly’s SEPTA and PATCO transit operations into the intermodal sections of the rail facility. Grain of salt on the location, btw, as mentioned – I’m a tourist here, not an expert.

Of course, when the shutter was open for the shot above… that’s when I heard the jingle jangle of an approaching railroad train behind me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had to quickly “rekajigger” the camera from “dreamy landscape” to fast motion capture modality, but managed to do so before the freight train got to me. It was a CSX freight unit.

Funnily enough, since the camera was firmly affixed to the tripod and that fence in the shot above was at least five feet high, I just hoisted the thing above my head with the swing out screen pointing down. Clumsy, but effective. Click, click, click.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Conrail came into existence in 1976 at the behest of the Federal Government, which combined the bankrupt (private capital, publicly traded) but strategically and macro economically important holdings and routes of the Penn Central and Erie Lackawanna outfits (amongst others) under a single management team. Conrail became profitable by the middle 1980’s, and in the northeastern USA, two privately held companies – CSX and Norfolk Southern – ended up absorbing the Conrail property and stock (42% and 58%, respectively). Conrail is still around, and owns a significant amount of rail tracks which they perform “maintenance of way” work on.

CSX operates 21,000 miles of track all by itself. Its business ranges from Canada’s Ontario and Quebec, and all over the eastern coast of the United States – including servicing the Atlantic and Gulf coastal ports, as well as the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, and the St. Lawrence Seaway. CSX is what is referred to as a “Class 1 railway.” They do freight, not passenger. A Fortune 500 company, CSX’s total assets are worth (as of 2018) $12.25 Billion in Shareholder’s equity, and CSX has a portfolio of assets which is worth $36.729 Billion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

CSX engine no. 104 was pulling this train along these tracks by the Schuylkill River. Built by General Electric Transportation Systems sometime between 1993 and 2004, the model GE AC4400CW’s manufactured during that interval generate 4,400 horsepower of motive force. A diesel electric locomotive, some 2,834 of them were produced for CSX and other freight operators including Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, Ferromex, and Cerrojón, and others.

Choo Choo! More tomorrow, 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

April 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in NYC, just as the Omicron variant Covid surge began, one put all thoughts about holiday merrymaking and socializing out of his head. You can’t argue with a logarithmic curve, so the logic of the entire Covid period – at this particular moment, it’s been 1,057 days, if my math is correct – was followed. Go out at night, by myself, and wander around the industrial zones where I’m going to encounter few if any other people. As the old Christmas cartoon would offer: put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door.

Good golly, Miss Molly, are we ever going to escape from this looping form of existence? Everyday is like the last day, same old, same old. When this is all over, I’m going to start wearing different colored clothes or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This particular evening in early December was quite a cold one. My simple desire was to get some exercise, but I was engaging in a “short walk.” For me, that meant heading out from Astoria, crossing the Sunnyside Yards to Skillman Avenue and following that to Queens Plaza and then back down Northern Blvd. towards HQ. Just under three miles, round trip, I guess?

Was wondering, while shooting these, if I had recently been riding on any of those trains down there. Sigh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunnyside Yards is a railroad coach yard. What that means is that you can’t catch a train here, despite it being an 180 and change square acres Federal and State railroad facility. The purpose of the Sunnyside Yards is to provide holding areas and turn around trackage for commuter rail that’ve already been to Manhattan. You see New Jersey Transit, Long Island Railroad, and Amtrak units down there regularly. Every now and then you’ll see some train set branded with Pennsylvania colors. I always figure they must’ve gotten lost when I see them. “Queens, what do you mean Queens? We must’ve taken a wrong turn at Lancaster… Crap.”

The yards are divvied up between the various entities housed here. The official owner is Amtrak, but MTA has sway over significant acreages of the place. They’ve recently finished building out an enormous new holding yard on the north side of the facility, which is a part of the East Side Access project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator famously maintains a catalog of the holes in Amtrak’s fences which are large enough to fit a camera lens into. The best of the Federal holes were cut for surveyor usage. They’re generally the size of a deck of cards, these holes, but are far and few between. There’s also tears in the chain link fencing, which is also fairly easy to work with. Then, there’s the set of holes formed by weathering and material failure. Those are irregular and difficult to use, but I manage.

The shot above comes from one of the latter kind, where – I think – what must have been a vehicle accident caused a steel plate to bend away from the rest of the fence structure. Holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back onto Skillman Avenue nearby Queens Plaza, where I spent a few minutes pondering whether or not I wanted to head down to Dutch Kills for a lookie loo. One decided not to. It was, after all, freezing out.

One pointed his toes north and east, and started shlepping back to the rolling hillocks of almond eyed Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, a discarded Book of Psalms and pile of Cheerios caught my attention. Fascinating, the way that these manufactured items end up where they do once somebody is done with them.

One thing you notice, upon returning to NYC from nearly anywhere else, is how dirty it is. Piles of crap are everywhere.


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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

February 2, 2022 at 11:00 am

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After spending a stinky hour and change at Penny Bridge in Greenpoint, one decided to walk back to HQ in Astoria via the pedestrian path on the Kosciuszcko Bridge. I ran into a friend and her dog on the way, and got to enjoy a bit of company. Having not seen this particular person since the start of the pandemic, she was a bit startled at how much my personality has changed in the last year and a half. I explained my philosophical embrace of sociopathy in recent months, and how freeing it is to just not care about anything anymore.

Really, I just give zero shits about anything. Nothing actually matters.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “happy place” is my pet name for industrial Maspeth. The corner which that stop sign pictured above is found on used to host a Yeshiva, which closed under mysterious circumstance back in the 1950’s. Rumors abound, including wild stories about “Dybbuk” infestations, but it’s most likely something mundane that closed the religious school. The “Frum’s” were probably just consolidating themselves into Williamsburg and or Crown Heights during this era.

Translation of Frum for Goyem – many Jews refer to the Orthodox sects (Hasids, Satmars etc.) as “Frum.” It’s a Yiddish word, which I don’t know the exact meaning of, but it seems to be related to being strict. Frum are the people you see wearing the hats and formal clothes everywhere they go, and who rigorously follow religious law and custom, and are often in the camera retail business. Conservative Jews usually dress like everyone else, but wear Yarmulkes and observe both dietary and sabbath law pretty closely, but also often ski or take cruises and that sort of stuff. Secular Jews, which are my particular tribe, are basically assimilated Americans with funny last names, except we have Chanukah substituted for Christmas.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Almost back at HQ, and suffering greatly as the humidity had risen nearly 30 points since my time at Penny Bridge, a chance meeting with a New Jersey Transit train running on the turnaround track at Sunnyside Yards necessitated a photo as it passed. Boy oh boy, was I shvitzing when I walked in the house. Oy, it’s so humid!

Back tomorrow.


“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 31, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A problem often encountered regards the motivations of other people. I understand it when someone is beating the drums and they are advocating for an urgent issue of the day in vociferous fashion. Also “got” is when somebody is at their wit’s end and frustration with the various processes offered by Governmental authorities boil over. Thing is, there are some you encounter who are just plain mean.

I don’t want to indicate that they’re “mean” to others as a political tactic, since there’s apparently a validity to the strategic move of being a colossal dick – it might even make you Governor or President someday. Why be ugly when you don’t have to be? Why make enemies when you don’t have to? If you can see trouble coming, why not take steps to avoid it? Pissing contests and dominance displays amongst the mice don’t even amuse the elephants, since they’re not paying attention to what’s going on down on the ground.

Seriously, every single day that a humble narrator has to deal with this sort of thing is just one day closer to the day that I say “I’m out” and drop the mike. I’m really, really, trying to allow my better nature to remain dominant at the moment. Spring loaded, however, is “full Brooklyn.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My fascinations with the tracking systems on the newish camera continue to fascinate. I’ve been trying to figure out where it fails, and giving it difficult things to lock onto, such as the shot above with trains and overhead wires and a million little contrasty features in frame. So far, it’s a champ. At least I have technology, huh?

I should explain, in a vague way, that I’ve become embroiled in a controversy or two not of my making. A particular fire starter here in Western Queens is actually the “maker” of these imbroglios, and they have caused me no end of angst and worry and forced me into “having to deal with this.” Said arsonist will discover in January, after the current Mayor has left office, that all of their bridges have long since burnt away and that the people who currently lend them legitimacy will have either left office or will be done using them as a stalking horse. Lessons will be learned, subsequently, about arson. Be toxic, live toxic, die toxic.

On that note, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this particular player’s “cancel crowd” came after me or mine in the near future. Maybe they’ll succeed. Others have tried. Where are they now? I’ll point out that over on Newtown Creek I often tangle with trans national energy companies and Federal level regulatory entities, employees of which tell me that they’ve got private detective produced file folders on me which include my high school transcripts. Somehow I’ve survived that sort of inspection.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, while testing the autofocus setup on the camera rig, an Amtrak trainset came rolling by while lit up all nice by the setting sun. Something to hang my hat on for a late spring afternoon’s effort. I like trains.

There’s a sticky NYC summer setting up, lords and ladies. Hope your hot weather clothes still fit. Back next week 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

June 4, 2021 at 11:00 am

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