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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 (84/85)

May 25, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

The park is characteristically crowded w/all sorts + types of crazy wacky characters in all shapes + sizes and variations that distinguish NY from other, more homogenous cities. For example, take the knee-high Indian boy who has demanded and subsequently received access to another small boy’s tricycle. The 2nd boy (trike owner) tries valiantly to help the little Asian brat work the thing: physically placing his (demanding boy’s) feet on the pedals to help etc. But Indian kid is a mighty brat and refuses to cooperate, not even steering as his mom drags him and the trike along the grass… Little shit. Trantrumming now in his poor mom’s arms as the other children try to remedy, offering him their toys etc. But he won’t be pacified. Nothing would appease him. Even now, as they round the bend toward 72nd St, out of sight, even now I hear his shrieks drifting through the otherwise cool + peaceful air…. Beating on + about his mother’s chest and neck with his small ineffectual (but no doubt painful and annoying) fists. But she continues to treat him like a prince. Little spoiled shit.

I’m in an odd frame of mind. A slight cold has set up residence in my brain, manifesting in sniffles and sneezes, and in an attempt to vanquish these symptoms (and avoid snotting on some customer’s salmon) I ingested Comtrex non-sleepy cold + flu medication. Non-drowsy, perhaps, but laced w/some concoction of drugs to frazzle my circuitry. And that’s where I am now – not drowsy, no, but not exactly alert either. Or perhaps jazzed to a weird hyperalertness – the moment is sharp + clear but all else fades at the edges… how did I get here? Not an altogether unpleasant sensation, it should be noted.

Yesterday, at the horse track, I won, then lost. In the end I won more than I lost which is all, I guess, anyone can ask.

And this journal? This slice of life, clearly + rapidly draws to a close. Will I actually point my pen in a new creative direction? Lord only knows, and he’s not telling. But my other projects have been going well, so that’s encouraging. Not necessarily yesterday when I called in sick, a drama in itself – we were at Grosant’s clothing boutique with Mr. Klein (where I scored various items of elegance [2 pants, shirt, tie, belt], just the kind of stuff they would like to think that I wear, but I probably very seldom maybe never will) and I called work only for Katia to tell me that she would have Nancy call me back. Well this is ordinarily no big deal even though I was not at home. I could be asleep or whatever and just not answering the phone. But yesterday, in an attempt to contact D, I left an OUTGOING message on our machine to the effect that he could meet us at 12:45 at Penn Station to go to BELMONT! If Nancy had heard that…….. So the plot thickens. Again, ordinarily this would not have been insurmountable. With our cool + rad digital answering machine, I can change the outgoing message from any remote location. But the problem is that our cool + rad machine also sucks much juice, and with battery dry, remote access code automatically evaporates: no way to alter nothing. But after much fumbling and rising panic, I managed to penetrate the natural defenses of the machine and change the message; so all was well. We went to the track + I got a cold + took Comtrex and eventually sat for a long time in the park, watching the dogs + kids + bikers glide past + I scribbled some thoughts to mark the passing of another day.

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