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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 (16/85)

March 23, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Crouched again, squatting painfully on my hams, waiting for the uptown 6 to transport me into the grand halls of eating. Did I mention Paul Newman sighting yesterday? Probably. But there he was, in the flesh, and eating in our restaurant! Did he bring his own salad dressing? I would be hard pressed to say… but one thing is for sure, he brought w/him that ineffable breeze of celebrity magic that permeates all nooks and crannies and remains for days entwined in the fabric of our lives like smoke from a bar remains entwined in the fabric… whoops, train here.


Zow. Chinese Art has my vote + approval. But oh was I seething earlier, on the way North, due to 1st some big woman who squeezed in next to me and later when she moved to get herself a solo seat (her fat bag spread across adjoining seats to insure her own all-important privacy) then due to another fat man who squeezed down beside me at 42nd St. again.

Seething! I’m so glad we now pay over $1.50 per ride for these absurd shortened trains that first require you to run down the platform in pursuit, then insure an increasingly crowded ride when/if you get on, depriving me, inevitably of the space and privacy necessary to write these pressing and important words! This time due to lanky gangly eater next to whom I squeezed this time (only available seat, you see) and who continued to cram his face w/chinese glop from a styrofoam box, wielding chopsticks and elbowing me all the while. At one point I became convinced he was elbowing me on purpose – retribution for squeezing next to him. He got off at 42nd (as so many do) but already I can tell that my output has been severely compromised both North and South due to these crowded, embarrassing arrangements. I had quite a lot to say but already we’re at 14th St. and it all may go unsaid unless I sit for some minutes on the platform at Astor Place. Which I may.

So there was Paul Newman entwined through my psyche like smoke from a bar permeates and clings to my clothes. That’s what I was trying to say earlier. What power and influence these people have! Their mere presence becomes a reality-altering occurrence to those who bear witness. 

[Now I am sitting on the platform at Astor Place – cold bare wood bench, perennial danger of mugging or death through gun-play] Anyway, seems silly to write about it now (‘specially given this locale) but no question these celebrity encounters leave me a trifle down. I tried to explain it to Jules – just how insignificant we are, by comparison. You’re huge to me, she replied. But who are you? I said. You’re small too. Am I, she said. Look at me. It’s true. She’s colossal in my book and makes me colossal in turn. And that’s what we give each other, along with fantastic sex. (Just kidding! [no I’m not]). Although she hated me a lot, later, coming in stenching of smoke at 4am.

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