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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 (28/85)

March 30, 1996

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Later →

Unreal. I feel as though I just received my transfer from hell to heaven… leaving the Met after a grueling day of short supplies and insanely demanding tourists, I head out + west on foot (as opposed to my customary train-ride south) across the vast + shimmering park and toward our new soon-to-be pad on 73rd. And since I bailed early (forfeiting some cash, true, but to hell w/it!) I feel entitled to pause for a few minutes beneath the shade of a pine (only minor concern about dog shit) catch my thoughts and scratch them to paper. Really an amazing day, especially compared to the gray sludge of yesterday. Clear, blue sky, sunlight, cool breezes. I’m sitting, now, on the low knoll overlooking the 72nd St pavilion arranged around the mammoth waterless (too early in the season) Bethesda fountain and just outside the circle of this dry fountain a band plays, the jazz riffs + jams strutting and curling through the thin air. In addition, an occasional dog barks, the usual murmur of a crowd’s voice. Beyond the fountain: the stairs where Jules and I watched the young girl sledding after that 1st amazing big blizzard last winter. 

On that night we ventured into a park absolutely transformed by snow; wandering tails completely unfamiliar, lost in a clean puffy fantasy world and everyone giddy w/the adventure. We borrowed flattened cardboard + large trash bags and spun down some dark + magical slopes. Everywhere the arclights glistened, along trails + paths  and the whole city was reborn, new and hushed in the snow. Even the looming majestic skyline seemed to beam, pleased, leaning over, from 59th street and gazing into the park like a proud and happy mom gazing into the crib of her newborn. We found a mother w/her daughter here, on the steps which seemed threateningly steep to me, but which this 6-year-old child descend on a circular saucer – her expression blasé; already accustomed to the ride and more interested w/her impact on us observers than on her ride (neither the danger nor excitement of it). I never got to try it.

Now the stairs are bone dry in the sunlight of spring but the carnival atmosphere remains: the music, the dogs, a juggler or two, the occasional fragrance of grilled meat or pungent sweetness of weed: it all contributes. I don’t know why I insist on sullying it w/these endless, pale descriptions. “Every word is a senseless stain on silence and nothingness.” (Thats Sam Beckett, via Art Spiegleman).

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