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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 (45/85)

April 11, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

I sit, now, in a brand-spanking new location, never before sat in by the likes of me and certainly never before w/intention of eating a bit of semi-stolen ham+cheese on Pumpernickel and afterwards jotting a few thoughts on this page. What are these huge, twisted trees w/smooth but mottled trunks that appear so appropriate in, say, a Parisian park but here seem almost surreal in the bright afternoon sunlight that slants down across the skyline that I can see, ragged + torn through the branches and brambles of… THE RAMBLE? For, yes, I sit on the leading edge (easternmost edge) of that series of interwoven + tangled paths, dips, swoops and loops known officially as The Ramble and unofficially as A) Dope-Drop Thicket and B) Blowjob loop. To me it’s just The Ramble – a surprising oasis of privacy and isolation smack in the middle of Central Park smack in the middle of Manhattan. Birds still rustle + flutter in the branches (altho that could be trapped plastic bags…); small animals scurry through undergrowth (could be rats) and various exotic birds are spotted floating in the marshy reeds (could be dead or toxic mutation). And to me, The Ramble represents a near midpoint on a straight line between 115 W. 73rd + The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hence I pass this way.

As to where I’m going in life, whether I will end up in hell, and if so whether I will get another job before I arrive there or remain a waiter ‘til my dying breath (and beyond?!) –  I DON’T KNOW! What I do know is that I just spent two minutes impressing a very dashing French couple w/my complete lack of geographical knowledge concerning the park and any bars therein.

“Um, let’s see, you are…” Vainly twisting their mini-map back and forth like a broken hologram in the sunlight. “Let’s see, if you go back this way, no, straight this way… well there’s a place that’s called, well, um, I don’t remember…” (Tavern on the Green, you dope!) “…the name but it’s, er, let’s see, I think, uh…” And so on until they left, giggling and elbowing each other. But such is the nature of The Ramble – not only do you disengage from the otherwise inescapable grid, but you lose all track of how to return as well, and you remain content to wallow like the floating birds or maybe fluttering slightly but otherwise stationary like the bags snagged in the branches.

But duty calls, and I turn, now, to thoughts of the future. To navigating the tricks + precipices of the remaining tangle of The Ramble; finding my way back to the West Side, to my life, to the hardware store to buy metal protective lock-plate (we switched door locks last night; now nobody can sneak in and tamper) and 100 ft. of telephone cable to connect our ultra-cool 900 mhz cordless phone.

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