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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 (51/85)

April 15, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

→ Later

Typical Zain imbroglio into which he has quickly submerged himself w/complete investment of full passionate concentration and all ancillary emotions. A victim of the technological age, he calls me this morning w/nothing for greeting but, “I’m fucked.”

Seems some dorm-sharing technophile did him the dubious favor of seeking out Amina’s address, web-name, etc. She’s near DC, and that’s where he’s heading in a week. To see her, or not to see her… that is the agonizing question. She’s possibly married now; he pines for one last sniff of her perfume. He’s in an agony of indecision which is where he has spent most time and where, as far as I’m concerned, he belongs.

“Of course I’m quick to voice opinions,” he tells me, in the Barnes + Noble superstore cafe. “And I will continue to do so. It either elicits response and provokes dialogue, or it instigates nothing and I carry on secure in my beliefs.” This all after he dismissed a book I was considering w/one glance and literally tossed it aside. “I can tell you in three sentences,” he said, plucking it from my hands (this is another habit so annoying it becomes almost endearing: he can’t stand to have his companion’s attention elsewhere. And if it is elsewhere, he immediately becomes agitated and wants his there too). “Oh, pthwa! There is something very awkward about the transition between these words – between ‘conscious’ and ‘with.’” It took me a few moments to even find his reference (all of Vollman’s writing tends toward the disjointed) while he waited impatient for my accord. “Well,” I said, “He writes so much, so prolifically; I doubt he has much attention for editing.” “Hogwash!” (this is not Zain’s word at all, but the spirit is there). “It’s obviously over-edited. He’s edited it to death!”

So followed a long discussion about what right Zain has to be so erroneously judgemental about all things w/so little information or knowledge to back it up (pressed, he admitted he had never read one page of Vollman’s writing or even heard of the author before I casually picked up the book). “It doesn’t mean anything,” he, at one point, decided. “It just sounds nice. I like saying it. Of course I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

Now he’s in a jumble and filled w/consternation about his latest problem – which is exactly where he likes to be. He’s alive w/the pressure to decide to act to do. 

“What you must do,” he instructed when I mentioned my ongoing creative struggles and insecurities, “…is search deep inside yourself to find the seed + the soul of your love for chess. Find that, and translate it into writing, just one sentence, and you will have written something of value. And maybe another sentence will follow…”


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