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The following is not actually part of The Subway Diaries (or any other Dreamscape) but it seemed to embrace the ethos (not to mention the setting) of the category so well, that we include it, here, for your enjoyment.


I sit, as it were (crouched, really, my back braced to a wall), in the twilight dawn of subway station X, the twilight dawn that stretches, dim, through all these lonely and darkened corridors during any period of the night, every night.

Can you feel the breeze? It comes noticeably from my left, from the north, ruffles my hair... would ruffle these pages were I to relax my hold. That’s the air pushed ahead through the tunnel by the next approaching train. And look! Up the track, still in the tunnel: two yellowish eyes come a’rattling and a’screeching its approach: a #9 train, heading south? Well, thankie much; don’t mind if I do.

Now I sit in another expanse, internal and metallic and mobile this time, descending the colon of the beast, a long smooth chromium turd sliding down down, to dump me downtown, as it were.

And Look! Stuttering through the girders and briefly glimpsed as they rattle past: every station a book-in-waiting, if only I would take the time and...

Ah. The ride smooths as we coast from 116 → 110 on steady rails and no propulsion, superconductive it feels, steady as the night. Now we slow, pause, ka-ching, doors open, souls descend and disembark, or vice versa, as the case may be... ding ding... "Stand clear of the closing door!" to lurch us on our way.


The yellow/orange plastic pre-formed curves designed to palm the average NY bum. (Or “transient,” as I believe correct terminology these days, or "unsavory," by others [Cam!...]). And my bum too! It could be Mickey Ds, in here, with the form-fitting molded orange and beige plastic of it. But listen!

A rush of air. A higher whine. The low-slung murmured gossip that animals make to pass the time, distract the mind, from the terminable darkness.

Oh, hark. Why have we stopped now? No tiled aquarium glow to be glimpsed, just blank blackness outside the scratched and plastic windows, maybe a hint of grimy tunnel wall pressed close up to the glass. But still... feel that? A hum. The deeper, burning, glowing surge of electricity held in check. Do any of us really know: the thrumming power that feeds the grid?

Oop, on the move again. And someone laughs as we lurch and leave the station (103rd). Out of 22 passengers in this car (yes, I counted) I am not the only caucasian. Another sits opposite and ½ way down, his chin propped on knee-propped fist… no socks, white t-shirt, shorts (it’s damned hot, remember). And me, now, as we arrive at 86th (“Stand clear of the closing doors…” ding...ding. Swoooooosh. Hummmm.) Yes me. I'm glad you asked: red socks, red t-shirt, khaki shorts… I write. For no apparent reason, I write. I am a “writer”, pen to paper, thus. But when I pause (which I don’t often) what then? For example, as we hit 79th and I glance up to take assessment… When I pause to lick the quill and look around. Still a writer? Definition unclear.

"Burden of Proof" (by Scott Turow) is the novel the man held; the man who (bearded, bespectacled, marching resolutely from one car to the next, bracing himself occasionally from swaying) passed, just now, in front of my knees and, for a moment, through the world of my perception and description…

Hark! 66th street… south, south and south some more we go (59th next). Ding ding.

… but am I still a writer then?

I am surrounded now it should be glumly noted. And it ain’t no fun. To my right, to my left, and above, hanging one arm on the crossbar. If one of these scurrilous fellows so much as side-eyes they can read every word and meta-word (and meta-meta-word) I scribe. Well, fuck ‘em all! To hell with them! I scribble on, undeterred, and determined, it might appear, to set a new, and, as yet unconceived record, to be the first, foremost and probably ONLY person to scribble virtually unceasingly from 125th Street (ah, respite from the prying eyes: 42nd Grand Central brings an equally grand exodus, a general emptying of the train, the good from the chaff, as it were [chaff, including me, left on board, as only those heading TRULY downtown stay] and I can breathe again with some space and lucidity and privacy around.) Yes UNCEASINGLY, is what I was saying, I shall pull meaning from the void and press it in ever tightening spirals and hieroglyphs to this page, to be exhumed someday and marveled at by future sociologists and historians alike. They will ogle and gasp, unable to believe, equally unable to deny: the only person, I propose, ever to write perpetually from 125th Street to Christopher Street, unstopping! AND, as 14th St is now behind us, it appears I might just make it since Christopher is next and no more power outages in sight. Still, man plans and god laughs and when's the last time a power outage was predicted never mind spotted, so I won't count it yet, not yet, but now! The train slows! The aquarium glow. Most importantly, I can’t miss my stop (that would be a disastrous and dastardly turn of events). CHRISTOPHER STREET. Ding ding. Jayson, out!

The Subway Diaries i (13/85)

March 21, 1996

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This looks bad, very very bad. Platform is packed w/no sign (lights illuminating distant track, for example) of approaching trains. And me stuck w/o a bench, consigned to squat, awkwardly, back propped to wall, this book on my aching knees, constantly shifting in a vain attempt to relieve the joint strain. Oh! Crackly announcement that train is coming. And so it is – here!

But I choose, perhaps erroneously, to wait, forgoing the mad crush of desperate commuting souls, because…

[And was that not the BEST decision? I now sit almost ALONE in my nearly solitary car – last seat (my favorite), last car (my preferred) – nearly guaranteed a private commute w/which to concentrate on my precious mad scribbling, here] because, even as I joined the push for the doors, I could see (or imagined I could see), down the track behind us, the first dim light of ANOTHER train. And I gambled that it would stop (because at times like this they sometimes don’t – blasting ear-bleeding horn blasts as they pass – going express even while still on the local track – bypassing local station for no discernible reason) and transport me in relative comfort, which at first it seemed inclined to do, the earlier train clearing the way, so to speak, sweeping the platforms prior (just prior; this second train could not be more than 45 seconds behind the 1st). But now it is filling w/loud brazen rowdies, joking + pushing each other (“I’ll fuck you up!” “C’mon, nigger, you be.” “I said y’all – you feel like taking all that shit?” “I thought I lost my hat. I show you later!” [and would they kill me if they knew that I sat here not completing some yuppie corporate spreadsheet, but transcribing diligently their interchange: “Yo shortie, if you dope, turn around. Yo, Shortie! I said, if you’re ugly don’t turn around!” – etc. “Yo! he said, ‘you’re a fucking BEAST!’ What are you afraid of: she’s going to come on here and shoot you?” Etc. etc.

OH NOOOOO! I’m properly fucked. Some scum-sucking corporate tool squeezed down right next to me and started reading! That is too much. Beyond all the various indignities I must endure, to be asked to continue under such circumstances is simply too much. And that was at 42nd St. So I folded my book and rode the rest of the way fuming and mute, so to speak. Solid 9 minutes wasted. To compensate, I now sit at Astor Place, near exit while trains squeal in and rattle out and the express, occasionally rumbles past, groaning, and pedestrians of all make + model exit toward home, and I sit like a fool and scribble to make up for lost time. [Some young woman swears volubly at the payphone + through the payphone. But she’s happy enough…]

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