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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 (8/85)

March 16, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

→ Evening

Here’s an odd one: my bus turns west, across the park. Why? Because I’m heading west, that’s right. Toward Amsterdam + 110th . Party. How about that kid getting out of the limo just there, at 86th + 5th? Young sort of hip-looking kid, in a baggy hip hop way. Climbs out of a black stretch limo and proceeds west on 86th to the corner, winding his way around the police barricades (St. Patties Day provides entertainment and street blockage). Anyway, there, this kid pauses, just before rounding the corner and proceeds to clean himself up, tucking his shirt into his baggy pants, etc. before rounding the corner and ducking into the doorway of 1050 5th Avenue: one of the ritziest addresses available to mankind. Who was in the limo? Where’s this kid coming from? Going?

This bus was odd in that the seats wore blue cushions back + bottom and it generally had a new-design feel to it, like perhaps a prototype for 21st century buses. Many of the seats had already sprung apart, of course: cushions on the floor or not there at all! Gone, leaving only empty space and, yes, exposed springs.

Now I sit on the stone steps of a cathedral. 86th and Amsterdam, waiting again for a bus. The step is cold and I feel even more pronounced kinship to Vernon (! Yes, I recall his name, now: it springs to mind) Good old Vernon in Providence RI chanting his dispossessed mantra (muttering, more) “Spare change, money, food…(?)” Not really a question mark at the end. His resignation so complete he no longer had space for a query of any kind, a robotic recitation, hand outstretched in the perennial panhandle salute. “Keeping track,” he once told me, when I asked him directly what he was writing on the large tablets of paper he had beside him on the grass (small patch of park just south of RISD.) “Keeping track.” So Vernon, too, kept a journal and WHERE IS MY BUS!!?? This farce has carried on quite long enough I say! Another crosstown just arrived, bringing w/it the memory (not pleasant) of 7 express trains passing while I stood helpless and fuming on the platform at 72nd waiting for one goddam uptown local. Very annoying. But, since I now vibrate safely in the electric blue embrace (my sloppy writing bears testimony) of another uptown bus – not so akin to this experience as I feared or would have you believe. Perhaps I should abandon this plan and enjoy the shaky ride since I can’t hold pen steady to the point of legibility, regardless, and since in a way my faculties would be better + wiser invested in navigating these tricky uptown streets. I just watched the dim 96th St. sign drift past, so I guess I have some time left w/which to entertain us both. My arm has become of mammoth, Popeye proportions of late, with all this scribbling I do, nearly busting from my jacket it is or at least feels like. Huge, aching, red, hot, glowing, cast iron bar of an arm it is. 

Good lord! 106th Street is upon us, so rapidly and me caught w/great need to readjust myself so neighboring cad cannot read these words… 107th Street. Must disembark quite soon, I surmise. Perhaps one more sentence? Don’t want to miss my stop, after all. Nite.

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