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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 (37/85)

April 5, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Well, the move is completed, conducted, finalized, paid for. Jules, on the phone, says, “Come home to me,” and she means 73rd + Columbus, not 7th between 1st and 2nd. Weird. Today, a mad whirlwind of frantic packing activity involving Moishe’s Movers and 3 young mover studs, two from Israel, one from England: Nick. With much heaving + hoing we vacate 7th St and head north in a fine drizzle which, as we later sit, agitated + useless + in the way, at our new pad, turns into a thickening blizzard of white flakes swirling down on the roofs and terraces outside our windows. The snow gave us a focus which otherwise would have been all nervous tension and waiting for the landlord or some bloke from central services to stomp up demanding proof of residency or some such nonsense. Soon after we arrived and spent several uncomfortable minutes jamming the elevator w/our shit and all of us crammed into this very unmanageable tight space with other (quite displeased) tenants – up comes Martin Torez and both Jules and I nearly fainted, but he was merely pointing out the large + spacious service elevator that I had certainly looked for and (literally) dreamed about but never FOUND hidden in the stairwell. So, altho now requiring Martin’s attention (a harrowing prospect) gave welcome relief from the distasteful and annoyed glances from our new neighbors. Also, w/the added size now available cut what would surely have been an eighteen hour job into about half that time – the majority involving the wrapping + transporting of all Tony’s…

We are definitely IN. Took the new route home during which I wrote the previous. Route involved an entirely new system of actions which could, with time, become a new routine: Post-work found me crouched uncomfortably not at the far end of a subway platform BUT in the far corner of a bus stop shelter. There I was, as usual, on my hams, notebook wedged open on my knee, all circulation effectively impeded, corner of 79th and 5th Avenue, waiting for a bus. It came, I rose and hobbled in, deposited my token in the correct slot, and my butt in the furthest rear seat, by the window. Usually I opt for the left window, but tonight that prime location was occupied. I choose the rear seat because a) it’s less crowded back there, b) I like my back and left flank protected c) I can look out the window or over all of my fellow passengers d) the rear bus wheel hump provides a footrest upon which to prop my feet (the same reason I opted for the third seat from the rear when i was bused to grade school) which in turn lifts my knees and creates a fine shelf, so to speak, on which to rest this book or another book I might be reading and… d) I love the smell of diesel exhaust! (joke).

Anyway, crossed the park which provided about time enough to scribble one journey paragraph (jouncing might have been equivalent to train jounce, but writing time was reduced by about 7/10) and disembarked at 80th and Columbus. Walked observantly down the major avenue of my new neighborhood, noting the shish and foof (as in shi-shi foo-foo) in full bloom on this pleasant almost balmy Friday evening and arrived, soon, to my new doorstop at 115 W 73rd St.

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