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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 (48/85)

April 14, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Slight slip in monetary intake during brunch shift today but I attribute this more to my own laziness and burnout than any slackening of tourist trade. I just couldn’t summon the urge or the interest to push for a final table-turn, and Rachman and David were more than content to allow those tables, empty, to remain disheveled + unchanged thereby precluding further customers. It’s just been so goddam busy, day after day after… and it feels like I live at the Met in that damn dining room w/no relief in sight. That’s the most debilitating aspect to the whole absurd affair: if there were a break, a change, however distant – I would work toward it w/enthusiasm. I am a patient sort, I can bide my time w/the best of them. But this summer, outside of my 3 week vacation (which has yet to be situated on the calendar) we have no alternate plans than business as usual: eat + sleep + work at the Met and occasionally fuck and take up space – watch TV and no doubt a lot of movies, read a bit but not enough, play gobs of chess, work + work and maybe, occasionally, write a word or two of real fiction? I end that in a question for obvious reason.

And yesterday I committed the unpardonable blunder of reading some of this out loud to Jules. It was the section immediately prior to this, about Zain, and as such I thought maybe some value to her since she has yet to meet the guy. But really, deep down, I think I was looking to impress her a bit, because I thought that had been a fun and creative character sketch, or at least the start of one. I even, and my cheeks redden to admit this, briefly fantasized about reading that segment to John in the Balcony Bar. THANK THE SWEET LORD that fiasco never transpired. It was bad enough w/Jules. Of course, I’m making this out to be much more traumatic than it, by any means, was. I know that for the most part I scribble here unabridged, unedited, no revision and for the most part it should be treated as such: a playground for stream-of-conscious ideas and as such better left unread! – certainly by no means having much of ‘literary’ value. But her cool indifference still smarted. We discussed it on solely informational level – she said she still didn’t get the picture of Zain – but I felt the sting on a creative level as well. No compliments for creativity, no snickers, even, at the broad-strokes introduction to the odd character of Zain, either. 

On that note – I have nobody to blame but myself since it has been many years w/many subsequent slips + reminders since I concluded the pointless detriment of shared early drafts (I should add that I don’t mean shared w/eye to revision, but shared w/purpose of getting an ego rub). At best you get compliments that you can not, by definition, trust; at worst, indifference. Most likely: indifference. Because people don’t care. They have their own lives and ambitions to focus on.


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