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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.

05.14.91

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.

Look!

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 (38/85)

April 6, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Tonight is daylight savings – such as that may be. Of course, the true effect is loss of an hour and with it that much less sleep before I must return yet again to the Met. Crikey, that one extra day this week really threw me. I feel like I am constantly at that place and so is everyone else. We’re all sick of each other. Tempers run thin and everyone is irritated, ready to snap. Luckily, tomorrow is Sunday which then reluctantly gives way to Monday, which, as we all know, provides a much needed respite in the form of a day off.

And the check saga continues. Seems a very odd something happened that involved printing one check OVER another, punching the NaBanco to server 27, and all of this, supposedly, I did by accident and w/o subsequently realizing it. In my residual paranoid state, I at first thought Nancy was simply lying to cover her own ass, but later Marta corroborated the story and also promised to show me on Tuesday. So, on Tuesday, I will check it out for myself, I hope, and maybe determine whether I’m being fucked with or, the commonly accepted version: I fucked up.

So we are IN! Did I mention? Ensconced! Slept here (73rd) last night on the fold-out couch and woke at dawn to find a) Jules coughing like a madwoman and b) direct sunlight falling through our living room windows! Thus disproving, forever, the ‘North-windows-get-no-direct-sunlight’ myth. Can’t wait to spread the word.

Later spent quite some time just leaning on the sill of our westernmost bedroom window, just grooving on the tar + antenna roofscape outside. An open window, springlike zephyrs wafting around me, the calmer sounds of rear-apartment city – just goofing on all the quaint and sweet human touches in an otherwise purely urban vista: all brick + tar + cement and all the roofs made of black tar and studded w/chimneys + antennae + cisterns but everywhere small squares of makeshift patios w/fake grass and chairs + tables, here + there a hammock slung between piping and a surprising amount of life: birds perched on piping and antenna, people out fixing patios for spring; here a cat lolling and then lifting his head when I squeeched at him, rolling over, batting at a glass paneled door where another, indoor cat motioned back like a Marx Brothers’ mirror gag; there a dog stretched in the sun on another deck, owner prodding w/foot while talking on a cordless phone. And all this visible to us, like Gods overhead. None of them could see the whole panorama afforded us in our luxurious height.

Later, the 1-800-Mattress people came + did their thing, and erected our new bed and we shoved it right into that corner so that now we can lie in bed and look out over that scene I described or, at night, over all the myriad sparkling lights of uptown Manhattan. Ah, home sweet home.


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