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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 (83/85)

May 23, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Rather unsure of the date due to various factors: a general slowdown as far as the scribbling goes, usual discrepancies in the computer dating on our NCR printouts at work (said 22nd but I think that’s wrong), and of course the general muddle that represents my own statistical mental lag. The global slowdown in journal entries does not upset me much. Even the most casual inventory reveals an ever (and rapidly) diminishing number of blank pages to the right of this one, an ever fattening stack of soiled/stained pages to the left. Not far to go, in other words, and as surely revealed elsewhere, that’s it. I have no intention of cracking another book, preferring and dedicated to the mission of applying my talents and my energy to other kinds of blank pages, if you will.

But for now I sit on one of my favorite benches: fringe of Ramble. To the right, the sunny quad; to my left, the winding narrow trail. Is this metaphor for what comes next in my life? Perhaps, but also perhaps not. ‘Tis what it is and nothing more.

The park is lush and verdant now: full summer, really (in fact, the last 3 days have found me wearing shorts + T-shirt) and holds a peaceful heavy calm. 

But as I arrived to here, crossing the qad at a long diagonal, I nearly collided w/another man skirting the quad on the proper path, headed in the same direction. We both sidestepped; I ended up in front by a matter of paces, and even as I angled for my bench, I knew that he would do the same. So, for the 1st paragraph of this page (above) I wrote with a stranger sitting on the same bench, not 4 feet away. Reminiscent of my train days: squeezed in w/fellow commuters, my book wedged open, hunched protectively and constantly convinced that someone was reading over my shoulder as I wrote. This guy left, soon, and I was granted luxurious solitude for my pondering.

So, for what it’s worth (and as this book draws to a close, might as well take stock), I’m feeling pretty positive about life lately, and not just due to the stellar day-after-day performance by Mother Nature (which admittedly does much to buoy the spirits). Mostly I’ve been writing quite a bit and! more than this: I’ve been not only enjoying the product, but highly charged by the process!!! Uncanny, almost, the way it finds its way back to me and gives me hope for a gratifying future. Presently, and in addition to this journal ((which I hardly count)which I hardly count) I’m working on “Gambit,” (chess story), “Waiting,” (Angelo story), and “Charm,” my latest inspiration and source of greatest enthusiasm and interest.

You see, as Jules and I were leaving the apt. two nights ago, we spotted an odd folded piece of paper beneath the awning on the sidewalk. Written on the outside was: “Please pick me up.” Meticulously arranged, beneath it, in sticks, was spelled, again, “Please pick me up,” w/an arrow. We were both mystified and intrigued. My immediate reaction was of caution. I recalled the ringing pay-phones and Kandle’s warnings about someone watching w/nasty glee controlling me like a puppet. I thought this could be a similar trap or ploy, perhaps dog pooh or something distasteful folded to befool us. Jules poked at it w/her umbrella. Inside the folds, we could see something: more writing. “It’s got to be a trick,” I said. Simultaneously, we looked toward the two young girls I had noticed when we exited, sitting on the cement stoop of our neighboring building, maybe twenty yards distant. “Did you do this?” Jules called. They looked at us, then away (guiltily?). “What?” said the older one, innocently. “Come on,” I said, to Jules. “They obviously did.” But the girls had jumped down and were shyly approaching. “Is it dog stuff?” said Jules.

“No.” “Uh-uh.”

Jules knelt while the two girls watched, and parted the folds of the page. Inside was a twisted paper clip wrapped in rubber bands. Written on the page, in computer type, it said, “A good luck charm for you.”

We all decided it was an excellent surprise and better left for another, unsuspecting beneficiary. As we were leaving, Jules asked them, “Can we have good luck anyway, even tho we didn’t pick it up?”

“Yes.” “Yeah.” they replied, happy to oblige us. 

What I recall most was the breathless anticipation of the more adventurous of the two. It had been her idea, no doubt, and she didn’t know how we would react. She had put her creativity + her heart on the line, in a small way, and for this I admire + am indebted to her. The other girl was cautious – like me – not committed and therefore not in danger, but at the same time in the shadows – like me. I understood them so well and Jules and I left feeling almost unjustifiably elated. We discussed the event for some time. It stayed w/us. Like a charm. And I’ve already started to write the story. I think I’ll work on that when I get home.

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