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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 (63/85)

April 27, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Speaking of the ISO, just spent a significant period gabbing w/Michael of Nomes’ friend/ISO fame. Leftwing radical action-oriented socialist academic schmuck. (This is certainly not the best, or even correct, label for the poor guy but at the moment I can’t come up with an alternate). Definitely had the lingo/jargon/mumble down, gazing off to one side and muttering long strings of semi-articulate theory + opinion, always preceded by an “Of course…” or “Then again…” and speaking at full acceleration and very low volume as though we both have full grasp everything there is to say on the issues of economics and social politics and saying it at all is merely a social formality and form of sharing. Nice enough guy I might add – reminded me of a diluted version of EZ or the diet version. EZ w/o the vodka, you might say, and also lacking a lime.

I do miss EZ – He’s such an odd little fellow but so compactly constructed + earnest! Not always, tho. EZ of the multiple vodka shot, the yarda… EZ of the late night dope-smoke, many-giggled intensity, too. EZ of complete security and either denial or acceptance of his own inadequacies. EZ many-gestured, drunken, tie-in-punch pickup gaff. Ah, EZ, where are you now?

But what about the day: splendid, splendiferous. A bit cooler, as I mentioned, but so crystal clear it shimmers. It sparkles! And, as mentioned, I was lucky enough to commandeer the ultimate bench in the park (ultimate as in ‘best,’ not ‘last.’) – just off the pre-Ramble quad. No people at all here except those, like Michael, who wander randomly, occasionally, past. Back in the clearing (The “Quad” as I’ve termed it) I hear subdued voices and giggles, but nothing to be seen – it seems that the whole world is distant from here. Full isolation, separation (so rare and unlikely, near impossible, in an island of 20 square miles and a million+ people, or whatever.) And if I look that direction I see some striped-shirted buffoon circling w/a kite. He’s gone now, tho, somehow, finally, accepting the lack of any breeze. The world is still.

However, as there must be, so often, beside the bench, half buried in mulchy leaves: testament to ever-present filth: a crumpled paper towel clogged + scabbed w/dark brown crud. I can but assume it is human excrement. So what does one do? I doubt highly that I’ll pick it up and discard it. Sure it diminishes the magic (so to speak) for the moment, but is it my responsibility to counter this? Besides, I squeezed a near paragraph of inspiration from that wadded litter, who am I to deny another soul the same mental calisthenics? [Not to mention Lord knows what virile plague I might contract in the effort…]

“Ma’am, pardon me, it hardly bears mention, a triviality really, but, you see, in our country it is customary, you see, 15% tip is, therefore…”

In my country it is 10%, which is why I leave this.”

“Oh! Well, in that case, but, however, this is not even 10%.”

“Do you want that or not?”

And I took it! I took it all right, direct up the keister I took it. More not to cause a scene than desire for $2.98 But I should have said NO! This, madam, is not a tip, it’s an insult! Thank you all the same, but I’d prefer you utilize your $2.98 as, say, a butt-plug. Better yet, Ma’am, I’ll do it for you.” But what I really should have said (and this lapse in quick-thinking is what sticks me w/full bitterness) is: “Ma’am if I were in your country I would try to respect the customs of your country.” And see how she would respond to that!


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