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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 (22/85)

March 27, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

–> Later

Fuuuuuuuck! Fuck! FUCK! All signs indicate that a downtown local N just passed this station prior to my arrival. Fuck. This I ascertain from a) the hordes of people exiting as I neared the ramp and b) the workers w/ladders propped over the express tracks and lanterns laid out and clearly no express train depositing aforementioned hordes, therefore and, finally, c) the red signals receding along the local track indicating, if nothing else, the recent passing of a train. This leaves me sitting for lord knows how long in this subterranean, 2am slice of hell which many people consider to be one of the most dangerous urban hangouts but which, quite the contrary, I find almost relaxing. (If it weren’t for the ear-splitting whistles of the workers). Because a) it’s quiet + cool, and b) it’s calm and uncrowded. Here’s an express, now, inching past. An E train?! That’s odd. I maintain that any intrinsic danger of the subway is, in fact, diminished after midnight. It may be somewhat secluded but not really enough to entice felonious behavior. In fact, due to the space and privacy, I bet most people are less on edge and ready to strike. Of course, sitting and waiting, for hours on end, could serve to restore agitation and malevolence to even the most blissed-out psyche (psycho?) but anyone who is here at this hour is really PREPARED to wait, or ought to be. Many, in fact, I feel, are here to do just that: wait. Perhaps not even waiting for a train. Just waiting. For the night to end. For spring to come. For a better world. Here comes an N. I hope it stops, oh Lord…

YES, I am now aboard the south-bound N, virtually assured of safe + relatively rapid transport to 8th St., St. Marks, point of personal departure. 

And with such a marked need to urinate. Brings to mind, briefly, PP’s (no pun) own personal double encounter with incontinence: riding in the van w/film crew and they couldn’t stop, just couldn’t stop, ‘til finally neither could he and let loose a torrent down his own leg. Luckily it was blessedly dark in the van. I guess he got away with it?

And what of David Foster Wallace who has established some phenomenal level of hype around the publication of his Xtra large tome and big book tour etc. My question is: who buys it? And, for that matter, who reads it? And, considering those, where does the money come from? 90K I think he got advanced and where does it come from? And why, if not to sell books, which is double-doubtful in the instance of this particular monster. These are my questions.

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