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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 (68/85)

May 5, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that I’m still here; survived a weekend of festivizing and general decadence. But at what cost? Well, per prediction, tired for sure. Soooo tired. Let’s recap. Friday night went out w/Jennifer and got all wound up w/two beers and slept next to none and what sleep I did get was besieged w/an assortment of exhausting dreams. Then, Saturday, I worked (see previous page) and then went to consider the lamest “3 bedroom” apartment I could imagine. Tiny, dingy, cramped + narrow w/the 3rd “bedroom” nothing more than a pod connected to the “living room” which in turn was nothing but a tiny cubicle at the end of a long, dark, narrow hallway. And then there was the whole suspicious neighborhood to consider – composed of what odd combination of hooligans + drug users, prostitutes and sidewalk preachers… I took the offered application, but more as a formality and act of goodwill than out of serious interest. Depressed the hell out of me and made me value (and lament!) our present situation all the more highly.

So then, after all this, I played chess, of course, and that only allowed me the briefest nap before PP retrieved me for our planned trip downtown and beyond, where we met his friend Bruce for brews and some heated agreeing, and then all of us (via PP’s sister’s car) continued to this party in Brooklyn that consisted of a lot of relatively boring people I didn’t know.

Afterwards, just when I thought we might casually and politely take our leave (and cut our losses) back we headed into Manhattan to my old haunt: 7th Street (but further east) where a self-called Saturday night video extravaganza was in full swing, complete with (sure enough) Local Hero playing on the TV and an impressive heap of cocaine on the credenza for general enjoyment. I held strong, you will be pleased to hear, and partook not a grain of that insidious powder. Altho… sorely tempted. But by then it was 2am, so, I mean, really! And especially with a full Sunday Brunch to contend with in not very many hours.

But there I was, just like my old reckless days, sitting in one corner of a couch w/seven people I didn’t know, all partying hard around me. This girl spent a lot of time telling a silly Mickey Mouse joke, then even more time telling it again for my benefit. At this point I felt inspired and told the Jeffrey Dahmer / Lorena Bobbitt joke. After the intro (“What did Jeffrey Dahmer say to Lorena Bobbitt?”) the silly girl emitted a sort of pleased, excited squeak or squeal and turned to our host: “Jimmy, you ought to like this!” At this point, I began to take stock of my surroundings. The room was cluttered w/an array of eccentric artifacts: plastic iguanas, iron binoculars, African masks, on every lateral surface – so much so that later, heading to the bathroom, I literally had difficulty finding even the space to place my beer – and bones, and (human?) skulls, and other remnants of carnage. Later, after I completed my joke (“Are you going to eat that?”), the same girl made a comment about all the dead people in the room. “Dead Jewish people,” our host replied. I’m sure he said this. I began to freak out a bit. PP and Bruce had left to replenish the beer. I had no idea who’s carnival this was or who these clowns were all around me. Had PP and Bruce “delivered” me here for some arcane, demonic, ritualistic sacrifice? Luckily not, but my paranoia perked up + looked around for further reason to release adrenaline. All there was in the room was a bunch of very wired people all watery-eyed + jabbering and, of course, our host whose bulging eyes + thick neck and shaved head left him looking like a cross between a Hitchcock character and Alfred Hitchcock himself. He was relatively calm compared to, say, the ultimately coked member of Railroad Jerk who made two pilgrimages to the mound in the ten minutes that I was there, and proceeded to have quite a conversation w/himself and me, with me being more observer than participant, and himself providing ample counterpoint to balance his own otherwise unbroken flow of babble. But when that silly girl commented to Jimmy, our host, about the appropriate nature of my half-told joke (“You should like this,” she said, launching my paranoia) it was quite an amusing + subtle shift his otherwise serene expression underwent. His eyes got wider + more bulgy. He swallowed. He seemed completely nonplussed and a bit perplexed – as though the spotlight shifting to him he found completely unnerving.

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