The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘weirdness

hellacious tide

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My mother used to call me “the complaint department.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A buddy of mine once described his ideal job as “freelance unsolicited criticism.” He posited that he’d walk into a bank, let the manager know that the velvet ropes leading to the tellers were arranged incorrectly, and then submit a bill for his services. I’ve always liked the concept, although to be fair, my buddy’s nickname is “Special Ed.”

Pictured above, a view of lower Manhattan from the Wallabout in Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsolicited criticism number 1 is offered to my fellow riders of the NYCTA Subway system. For the love of god itself, use your freaking headphones when you’re playing a video game on your phone while riding the train. It’s bad enough that I’m being subjected to evangelist Korean guy and to jazz busking. Do I really need to listen to the stupid beeping and blinging that your game is making?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsolicited criticism number 2 is also aimed at my fellow riders of the Subway system. I am certain that allowing me to exit the freaking train will not, in fact, cause you to not be able to get onboard. Pushing past someone like me, a veteran of 1980’s NYC’s punk scene, means that you will – in fact – find yourself bouncing off of a stranger whose elbows are far sharper than yours. The worst offenders on this subject are found at the 59/Lex stop. Do you really want to experience the “people moving” techniques I learned in 1980’s mosh pits?

No? 

Then wait your turn and let me get off the train before you enter it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsolicited criticism number 3 and 4 are offered in the shot above.

First, the solar powered garbage cans that the urban planning geniuses of Pratt University have been placing around Lower Manhattan and the tony sections of North Brooklyn. Let those words roll out of your mouth – “solar powered garbage cans.” Do you have a fossil fuel powered garbage can in front of your house, lords and ladies? Was this a problem that needed solving?

Secondly, the giant pit you see above – according to the NYPD personnel I asked about it – used to be a subway grate on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan. It seems a truck driver decided to use the sidewalk to bypass a parked car and discovered that a sidewalk grate wasn’t designed to carry the weight of a truck.

Fellow New Yorkers – NYC streets are color coded. Black pavement is for vehicles (including Bicycles, Delivery bikes, and trucks). Gray pavement is for pedestrians, baby carriages, and “not vehicles.” Stay the feck off the sidewalk.

Bah. 

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 7, 2016 at 1:00 pm

bustling contact

with 11 comments

If you see something, say something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is LIC’s 41st street, between Northern Blvd. and 36th avenue, west side. The two shopping carts you’re looking at in the shot above have remained, unmolested, in this spot for more than a year. I know this because I walk past them on an almost daily basis. Not long ago, it occurred to me how long it is that they’ve been chained to this DOT owned sign post pole, and just how unusual that is. The City normally clips the chains of things attached to their property, and at the very least a Sanitation Inspector has been down this block at least once every couple of weeks.

At first glance, these carts belong to one of the many bottle and can collectors who work area streets for deposit returns. On second glance, however…

This is “weirdness” cart number one. (The numbers assigned are simply in the order of discovery and have no other meaning)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The carts are stoutly secured to the pole, with a galvanized chain and a heavy commercial grade padlock. By commercial, I mean the sort of case hardened unit you see securing the steel gates of shops. Locks like these will run you anywhere from $10-30 – depending on make, model, and quantity. I’ve never bought a length of chain, so I couldn’t comment on the price of that. Shopping carts in Astoria are in the $20-30 range. That means that between lock and cart, you’ve got $50-100 bucks chained to this pole, and it has been for more than a year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On top of the carts is a piece of beverage tray plastic, wired securely to the top of the things. The black bags in the carts are “3 mil contractor” bags, and if you probe them with your finger – there are no bottles or cans inside. Instead, you’d feel about an inch of foam and behind it a hard shelled case of some kind.

It’s odd, but there’s a lot of odd things you’ll find in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Steinway Street at the northeast corner of 36th avenue is where you’ll find another one of these assemblages. Same thing as the one on 41st – tightly folded up contractor bags perfectly filling the entire cart’s volume with a layer of foam and a hard shell hidden within.

This is “weirdness” cart number two.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Beverage tray is secured to the cart, with wire that is tightly twisted in a manner suggesting the use of pliers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stout chain, expensive padlock.

It’s odd, I tell you, odd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “weirdness” cart number three.

36th avenue, south side, at 38th street is where you’ll find it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around the corner, at 38th street’s east side, at 36th avenue. Foam, hard case within, contractor bags tightly wrapped. You’ll notice some blue material showing through, which was actually TYVEK – the same plastic fabric that construction tarps and COSTCO bags are made of. Can’t say if this stuff was in all of these carts, but… odd.

This is “weirdness” cart number four.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Beverage tray wired securely to the cart, twisted tightly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Expensive lock and galvanized chain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “weirdness” cart number five.

36th avenue, north side, at 37th street. This one has a wire grill attached to the top, but it too is wire tied to the cart. Again, finger probing of the black bag revealed not bottles or cans, but instead the now familiar foam padding around a hard case like interior.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “weirdness” cart number six.

37th street, east side, at 36th avenue. The arrangements of these carts became increasingly regular. Always at the same relationship to a corner, chained to the first sign pole on the block.

It is increasingly odd. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The beverage trays were securely tied off, the foam and hard interior shell present, and so were the heavy chains and expensive padlocks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

36th street, east side, at 36th avenue. 

While photographing this one, I got a “hey, whatcha taking pictchas of” comment from a fellow leaving his house. We chatted for a moment and he said this cart had been in this spot for more than a year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of these carts were arrayed along 36th avenue, I should mention. I should also mention the abundance of subway tunnels which are directly below. I continued my little survey, but the carts were not found anywhere beyond 35th street. I decided to head down towards Northern Blvd.

This is “weirdness” cart number seven.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “weirdness” cart number eight.

35th street, west side, between 37th avenue and Northern Blvd. This one was a little bit different, lacking a beverage tray on the top, but in all other aspects it was the identical setup with a padded case of some kind and the heavy chain with expensive padlock.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering back towards HQ, on Northern Boulevard, north east corner, at 42nd street. Same setup, with beverage trays and so on.

This is “weirdness” cart number nine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These carts on Northern at 42nd had a bit of garbage stuffed into them, but anything you leave on the street in Queens will soon turn into a trash can.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

35th avenue, south side, at 43rd street. Again, same setup. There were a couple of empty carts sitting alongside the two chained up ones.

This is “weirdness” cart number ten.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The whole affair was being held together with the now familiar wire tie offs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s going on here – along this stretch of Northern Boulevard, 36th, and 35th avenues, between 43rd and 36th streets? These ten cart installations hide whatever is inside those foam lined cases from discovery or inspection using skillfull camouflage. They look like just another bit of the sort of street ephemera you don’t notice – the bicycle wheel chained to a fence, a shopping bag stuck in a tree, a lamp post or firebox. At first glance you think “yeah, some bottle guy chains his cart here.”

Or – There’s a bottle and can collector – hereabouts – who uses high end padlocks, steel chains, layers of water tight contractor bags, TYVEK, foam, and a hard shell case that perfectly fits into a shopping cart to protect his ten caches of bottle deposit returns which are kept only in areas which are over subway tunnels.

Speculation is a silly thing to engage in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’re reading this post, I’m also sending it over to the 114th precinct for the boys in blue to consider. It’s probably nothing extraordinary, but I don’t like the locations or heterogeneity of these carts, given that they are all sitting on top of subway tunnels and are found at busy intersections which carry thousands of vehicles every day. I’d love to cut into one of these carts and find out what’s inside, but I’m a photographer not a cutter. It’s probably nothing, and the cops will proably just waste their time if they do look into it, but…

This cart business isn’t just odd, it’s downright weird, and my “spidey sense” is tingling for some reason.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

 

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

systemic horror

with 2 comments

An altar to Lord Dattatreya, at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, which was the only day in Decemeber that has actually felt – climatologically – like December, one found himself in the company of a couple of my Creek chums in a small boat on Newtown Creek. We saw something odd while out on the poison waters.

Our excursion was launched in pursuance of surveying certain bulkheads in an area defined by the former Penny Bridge and the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road. We were literally studying the Creek, and I was along to gather photographs for further inspection at a later date – this is the sort of sinister stuff we get up, in Newtown Creek Alliance. Our survey of the study area was completed, a loop through the East Branch tributary was enacted, and we were headed west towards a dock at North Brooklyn Boat Club nearby the Pulaski Bridge in Greenpoint.

That’s when one of my companions asked if I’d seen “the statue.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Restaurant Depot company, a wholesaler which supplies commercial food establishments, sits on part of the former Phelps Dodge property in Maspeth. Their property is lined with industrial piers which have seen better days, but which were stoutly constructed and you can still observe rail tracks adorning them. In a couple of spots, the piers have decayed or collapsed, and there are little wooden bays amongst the piles.

That’s where the statue is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The style of the thing is clearly southeast Asian, and specifically subcontinental. Given the reach and spread of Indian culture, which is far flung, it’s often difficult to say “Indian” as opposed to “South East Asian.” The statue, however, displayed certain details which betrayed its stylistic and ritual origins, and after a bit of research – the specifics of its representation.

How it ended up in the littoral zone at the former Phelps Dodge property on Newtown Creek in Maspeth is anyone’s guess. I’ve long stopped asking these sort of questions on the Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The statuary was around three to four feet in height, and seemed to be made from molded concrete. It depicts Lord Dattatreya, who is a well known member of the Hindu Pantheon. The particulars of the statue are that it represents the Hindu trinity of Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva – which members of the faith refer to as the Trimurti.

Note – if I get something wrong here, my Hindu friends, please offer correction in the comments section: 

Dattatreya is a primordial figure in Indian culture, and is mentioned in the Mahabharata – an epic holy text whose origins are nearly prehistoric. Mahabharata scholars believe its texts were originally written between 800 and one thousand BCE, making it a 2.5-3,000 year old holy book which is coincidentally the longest epic poem ever written at nearly two million words. Mahabharata is as culturally significant a text as the Christian Bible or the Quran, and offers spiritual guidance to what probably boils down to as much as a quarter of all living humans.

Dattatreya veneration was ancient when the Mahabharata was written, and the deity was originally represented with one head. Dattatreya came from the Deccan Plains in South Eastern India, which is one of the cradles of human civilization. The Trimurti version of the deity, seen above, has six arms and three heads. That’s Brahma on the statue’s left, Vishnu in the center, and Shiva on the statue’s right. The hands are all meant to be holding symbolic weapons and icons of these deities. The cow is sacred to Vishnu, and although it’s not terribly clear in the representation above, there are traditionally four dogs on a Dattatreya statue. Hindu scholars debate the meaning of the dogs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the Vedic religious traditions began, Dattatreya was reconsidered as an avatar of the Trimurti. About a thousand years ago, it became common practice to represent the deity as three headed. Certain Hindu sects revere Dattatreya as a supreme being singularly, with others placing him near the top of the food chain in the pantheon, but still subordinate to Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma. His sister is Chandra, who is the moon goddess.

One can merely speculate as to the presence of the statue in the tidal zone of Newtown Creek, and as to what sort of congregants might rise from the water to worship before it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, our party was out on the water performing a bulkhead survey, and we were in search of something far more modern and mundane than an ancient Indian God. Controversy in the Superfund community has recently involved discussion of “Manufactured Gas” and the ebullition (reverse dripping) of coal tar sludge from subaqueous pockets in the sediment up to the surface. This has resulted in a humble narrator “getting smart” about the waste materials which the manufactured gas industry spewed out. Coal tar, and coal tar sludge, were – by far – the most abundant material that arose from the retorts and distillation equipment of the industry, but were hardly the only noxious material produced.

We were searching for “blue billy” amongst the rip rap shorelines of the lugubrious Newtown Creek, which is “spent lime” that had become infiltrated by ferrocyanide compounds during the industrial gasification of coal. There was no aftermarket for this material, and more often than not it was just dumped. Examining photographs of “blue billy,” my cohorts in NCA and I all remarked on how familiar it seemed, and set out to find some.

Instead, we found an Indian God.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 23, 2015 at 11:30 am

dog trot

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A bit of weirdness encountered in Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before launching into my usual folderol, mention must be made that an equipment failure here at HQ has sent my mac to the shop, and any oddities in formatting of posts and interactions for the next few days are due to the fact that several workarounds have been enacted in the name of keeping the ship afloat. I’m working off an iPad and Our Lady of the Pentacle’s laptop. The iPad is a familiar tool, but crap at formatting posts. The laptop is using a newer operating system than the one I normally use – which is unfamiliar at best and there is a learning curve. Never a dull moment.

Anyway, check out this little oddity noticed on Rust Street in Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator had been out and about for several hours when these shots were captured, and having just stepped between a parked truck and the fencelines adjoining the LIRR tracks in pursuance of a private spot in which to answer the call of nature. Whilst painting the street with urea, this little fellow was noticed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know a lot of tree huggers around Newtown Creek, but this was a new one for this little pisher.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It will be somewhat light fare at this, your Newtown Pentacle, for the next few days. When the repairs are completed, I can begin churning out photos from the “master cylinder” desktop machine again.

I will mention, incidentally, that I find it surprising how the modern operating systems offered by apple get in the way of doing actual work. Then again, they aren’t in the business of selling workstation computers anymore.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

sleep filmed

with one comment

Triskaidekaphobia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, it’s Friday the 13th again, which got me thinking the number 13.

13 is the atomic number for aluminum, incidentally. I see a lot of shredded aluminum along Newtown Creek, but aluminum foil is ubiquitous. Turns out that aluminum is actually the third most abundant element on the earth, after oxygen and silicon. That’s kind of interesting, no?

How about the fact that Aluminum production consumes roughly 5% of the electricity generated in the United States?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Does the pyrophoric nature of a lot of the aluminum based compounds interest? Pyrophoric means that the metallic compounds spontaneously combust on contact with the air – How cool, and unlucky, is that? Bloof!

I dunno, maybe I’m a little crazy about this Friday the 13th aluminum connection. Gotta go get me a tin foil hat to try and keep Obama and the Freemasons out of my head before they institute Sharia law between my ears.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In a tarot card deck, XIII is the card of Death. 13 is also kind of a lucky number for the ole U.S. of A.

The United States of America was created from thirteen British colonies. Thirteen stars are found on the Great Seal of the United States and there are thirteen stripes on the American flag as well. The deep connections to Freemasonry on the part of our founding fathers contributes to the “13” motif found in our national heraldry, presumptively. The masons love number games, and 13 is an interesting number in European esoteric traditions like Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.

Saying that, Apollo 13 did not perform as expected, so it’s not necessarily that lucky a number for Uncle Sam.

Speaking of deep space, Metatron’s Cube is composed of 13 Platonic solids.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

not describe

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You really just have to love them Astoria industrial zones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While performing a perambulation back to Astoria’s southern border where Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself maintain our HQ, after taking a look at the Steinway Mansion found on the forbidden northern coast of Queens – one encountered this comical doorway on an industrial building.

The “danger” sign seemed apt, as there was a drop of about a yard from the door to the sidewalk. Somewhere out there, I thought, there’s an architect who has a bit of string tied around his finger to remind him to complete a task.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another view of it, just for perspective.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly, after rounding the corner, I discovered that there was another doorway on the eastern face of the building offering a similar hazard. Is this some kind of “thing”?

You really, really, have to just adore the industrial sections of Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly, on another walk, this time from the southern border of Queens at Newtown Creek back to Astoria’s Broadway section via Sunnyside – another structure was noticed which seemed to be missing something. This time around it was a residential structure whose entrances would be noticeably difficult to access. Perhaps that nameless architect has more than one piece of string tied about multitudinous digits.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

staves and axes

with one comment

Walking down Meeker Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First – a confession – I had something else planned for today’s post, as it was a rather exciting (and highly combustible) weekend in Astoria, but the photos aren’t ready for public consumption quite yet. As a result, what was going to be tomorrow’s installment of your Newtown Pentacle is offered in its stead.

Last week, occasion found me in Greenpoint to photograph a Newtown Creek related event in the afternoon. Having a few hours to kill, since my next engagement was in lower Manhattan in the early evening, a humble narrator decided to walk into the City via the Williamsburg Bridge. A medium sized scuttle ensued, and one found himself walking through and beneath one of the “House of Moses’s” more onerous creations – an elevated section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway which over flies Meeker Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst my walk played out, several photos were captured, including shots of this charming bedroom set. One would guess that the Mayor can scratch one unit of affordable housing off of his “to do” list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Signs of morbid habitation like this one drive me crazy of some reason. To begin with, it’s likely the unhealthiest environment upon the earth for a human being to exist in, here in the traffic choked House of Moses beneath the BQE. Secondly, it exposes the farcical realities of “homeland security” and the so called “security state” in the era of the Terror Wars. If you can set up housekeeping alongside the steel pillars supporting a roadway that carries nearly 200,000 automobiles a day… well… let’s just say you wouldn’t be able to get away with basing yourself in similar circumstance in Riyadh or Tel Aviv.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path continued along Meeker Avenue, towards the home of the Artisinal Pickle in Williamsburg, which has become one of the most pedantically boring neighborhoods in all of New York City in recent years. Dispassionate and jaded esthetes were observed as they moved aimlessly about the place, searching for some sort of “authenticity” or diversion from the tyranny of the now, which seemed to be in short supply hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shimmering memories of the old Williamsburg, with its DMZ’s and danger, are hinted at here and there. The whores and the bangers are relegated to history, however, and after having walked from McGuinness to Metropolitan along Meeker Avenue, it occurred to me that not once did I feel danger. There were no hookers blowing truckers, no collections of scabby kids selling vials of death candy… just a rather well appointed homeless camp or two and construction workers eating lunch.

There were also grown men riding skateboards in the middle of a Thursday afternoon, incredibly thin women covered in tattoos that were ignoring them, and both sexes seemed to be staring into their smart phones while Brooklyn writhed incessantly around them unnoticed.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

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