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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 (55/85)

April 18, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Good heavenly Lord but spring has arrived w/full radiant splendor and not the slightest hint of scepticism or doubt. Day dawned bright, clear and warm and has remained such throughout, causing the entire park to rise + preen like a milk-fed cat – lazy and stretched full length on the carpet, a few dust motes rising from fully fluffed fur in the sunbeam. And that is the park: sated + pleased w/itself – all alive + slowly rising like a great warm loaf of bread. I swear I can see differences, not only day-to-day but commute-to-commute, so although it seemed lush this morning on my way to work, it appears even more lush, now, on my way home. Really paradisiacal. 

I have assumed my (what is quickly becoming) traditional seat, just east of the Ramble – in fact, I suppose, where I sit today counts as in the Ramble. Sitting on a bench, oriented north, if I look to my right the view is an open green field, a few benches, those mottled large-trunked trees that Kandles defined as… Sycamore? Shag-bark? Something like that. And beyond that I can see, peeping through the as-yet bare branches: the blocky shapes of eastside buildings. But if I turn to my left, west, all I see is a narrow trail of the Ramble dropping down a small slope into the more heavily wooded region of the park. 

So: my route (since you asked): leave work through the 80th St. door (if still open, as today it was), head south on 5th Avenue to nearest entrance to park, take a right into the park, the Met now on my right, perhap a small Met playground as well. Very crowded here, always: tourists milling around the museum, browsing all the sidewalk art vendors etc. So then I take my first left, a bridge over the 79th street transverse. Take the first right, up Cedar Hill which is quite a steep incline. Kandles mentioned that when he was a kid he used to wish a huge jagged peak rose in the middle of the park, 18K feet and snow topped etc. Well, in effect there is a mountain, albeit not so dramatic. But there is certainly a marked rise, a hump, that I cross 2x daily to work + back. If I head south to 72nd street before venturing east I can avoid it; although in exchange I must elbow + jostle w/ the fountain- and boathouse-crowds who prefer the lower altitude. But back to my route. At the crest of Cedar Hill I come to the loop, also known as Park Drive: two lanes of flowing one-way traffic and pedestrians enjoying every manner of mobile recreation: jogging, blading, biking, walking and, yes, unfortunately (weekdays) driving. It can be quite treacherous to cross this road, especially during weekends when it’s closed to autos but boasts triple in pedestrians. So one must scuttle across, glancing back+forth both ways (because unexpected recreators can come hurtling either way at high velocity) and timing every step to coincide w/breaks in the rushing madness. Sounds like a swarm of locusts sometimes: whirring tires, clicking sprockets, rattling derailleurs, scraping blade brakes and scuffing sneakers. But we make it across and persevere. He is where, for the 1st time, we leave the major thoroughfare and head into less charted territory, crossing along what appears to be an access driveway for a Park Maintenance center, past the public restrooms on the right, then up the second rise toward the pinnacle or spine of the park. Immediately the crowds thin, the air seems clearer, all human sounds are left behind and replaced by bird calls, chirping and whistling, and small animals scuttling through the underbrush. At the top is the last open area before the Ramble. Secluded, surrounded, grassy + clear and lined w/the massive aforementioned Sycamores and flaking green benches, it’s an area that belongs in Paris not NYC. This is where I sit, now and often. Like I said, I’m already arguable in the Ramble so sunlight is fractured + filtered through branches. A gentle cool breeze brushes my cheek. I just finished the shimp + apple sandwich (lifted from cafeteria line, thank you) and I am at peace with the world. Although, admittedly and simultaneously, consumed by fantastic thirst. But soon I will move on, altho it’s the type of day that demands a relaxed, unquerried acceptance and enjoyment. Still, I know that soon I must move on – out of Eden and back to the world of responsibility. I must dismantle that damn bedframe for one thing, and prepare it and the dual box springs to be carted down by Zain(?) and myself and place on the street for large-item-pickup tomorrow AM. A true pain in my butt but what a profound sense of relief will come with getting rid of that crap. 

And as for Zain and maybe PP who are scheduled as tonight’s dinner guests? The plan originally was to rent Persona (Bergman). But now I am considering a post-dinner trip downtown to see Hot + Hazy perform… Where? Hope I can find the bill…

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