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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 (43/85)

April 9, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Apartment saga continues. Journeyed down to World Trade Center this afternoon in search of legal advice, and there we found Jeffery Ween (?), tenant rights activist extraordinaire w/”Tenant Weekly” [swear there is such a magazine!] and “The Nation” and “New Republic” and other liberal journals and championing-the-underdog-type literature on the waiting room table. So he’s all for helping the helpless and trodden-upon against ruthless capitalist land-owner oppression. Unfortunately that’s not us. No, I soon became all too familiar w/the category in which he placed us: spoiled semi-rich suburban white kids out to snare granny’s rent-controlled pad. I felt I should rise up and demand satisfaction for such erroneous stereotyping. Trouble is (I sank back w/a sigh): he’s right. I mean, that’s basically what we are + and what we are doing and deep down (not even that deep) I sensed that all his contempt and condescension was both accurate and deserved.

At one point he seemed to be requesting the meat of the matter and so I said, “Well, do you want the truth or–”

“I ONLY!” he cut me off w/one accusatory finger, “…deal w/the truth.” Half rising out of his chair (or did I imagine that? For it sure seemed like he should be rising from his chair. The combative vibes were intense…) “I’m not getting involved w/some scam here,” he continued. “And if that’s what you’re after you can march your skinny whitebred asses right out to some other more sleazy attorney.” (Exact vocabulary might have altered w/translation; but his gist was clear.).

“So.” I looked at Jules, feeling truly nonplussed. I greatly abhorred this fellow at that moment – problem was, like I said, I also agreed with him, and distantly admired the moral fiber he had, that we clearly lacked (although, as a lawyer, charging $180 per ‘consultation,’ I wonder how far these principles really extended). Jules, however, remained diplomatic (assuming, I suppose [and correctly] that we were spending $180 regardless, we might as well attempt to maintain a dialogue.) “We just are a little confused,” she said, nodding encouragingly and crinkling her whole face into the most profound solicitation of sympathy that I’ve ever seen. “We’re not accustomed to this sort of thing, you see.”

“What’s there to know?” Jeffery Ween shot back, relenting not at all. “Either she’s allowed to be there or she isn’t.” 

So after 20 minutes (inclusive), we left, beating a hasty and somewhat chastened retreat, $180 poorer but also clearer on the dynamic. OUR presence in this apartment is really incidental, certainly secondary to Paula’s continued toe-hold. If she has purchase, then we can be here, end of story. If she has severed her tenancy (a condition hugely unlikely) then we are out, on our butts, no questions asked, no time for farewell fucks in the magnificent bedroom, etc.

Tomorrow, Robert talks to Feldman (Landlord) and I imagine then that more will be revealed and decided regarding our future + destiny + other such trivial matters.


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