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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 (3/85)

March 10, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Sunday morning → everything dead, or nearly so. On train, of course (see previous pledge). One man lies face down, emanating odor, across from me, stretched along 6 of the molded vomit-orange seats. And I write w/new pen, but the same aching arm. I really hope a smooth sharp razor-point might do much to de-agonize the action here. Time will tell. 

House party last night serenaded by Monarchy → smelly band wearing weird clothes, filled w/artificial rage + angst. Jumping up and down ‘til the floor shook and cops came. Still didn’t break up; it was only 12 by then. Instead, Zack + I found the silver foil wrapped gift of Jägermeister in the freezer. “It’s okay,” said Zack, loud enough for anyone to hear. “It’s my birthday.” It wasn’t, of course, but we tore (literally) into that bottle. “I’ve got 10 mins, tops,” I said, prophetically. Because, sure enough, w/o fail, Jules and I launched major warheads at each other soon thereafter.

“I mean, isn’t it odd that NONE of your friends are married.” (There’s much truth in this, in fact, it’s filled with truth, still…)

“They know better,” was my witty rejoinder. “Why bother.”

It went downhill from there. Up to bed, still fighting. Even this morning, still felt like shit → mostly that dreaded Jägermeister sloshing back + forth inside my skull. That and the sleep I DIDN’T get. [59th Street.] Soon this ridiculous pretense at action can be excused and the embarrassment will end. Too difficult. I’ll go back to reading on the train like everyone else; input rather than output. Yeah.

Homeward angel →

The city raps. Everyone contributes w/own brand of beat. Percussion, insistent, singing, chanting, picking up where the other leaves off ‘til all involved dissolve into hopeless, helpless giggles at the absurdity + beauty of a rhyming rhythm nation. 42nd St, Grand Central. Stand clear of the closing doors. Ding-ding. South.

What up? Difficult, already, it is to maintain this farce, partly due to wrist ache, headache, leg ache, eye strain and brain drain and more pain in my butt stain, the goddam bane of my word game, this, ‘cause I’m IN-SANE! Partly due to the ease and persistent desire to simply read. I miss Moses Herzog, for example, on this commute, I do.

3 young black men rapping on the 6 train
One keeps the beat w/pen and palm
One hovers, hung from the crossbeam
eyes closed, twitching, extemporaneous
From where, which well, does the language rise?
Does he dip deep his dipper,
or skim the verbs like skitterbugs
from the surface?

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