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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 (2/85)

March 9, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

I used to write at such a manic pace, remember? Never mind journals, either. Last time was in Providence when I cranked out some 400 dense pages in somewhere south of 6 mo. Writing every day, twice a day. That was when I thought it mattered; that people would read it and care. The whole prospect sours with time and indifference. Nonetheless, in retrospect, that period marked one of the happier (fulfilled?) periods of my life. I was alone, for the most part. Ah glorious solitude. Well, hardly solitude, to be fair, but wasn’t entwined with anything hardcore or thought/time consuming for the most part.

Made it through nearly a perfect shift this evening, extremely efficient, good tables and a significant # of them too, out the door by 9:40 – heading home with high hopes of 10:15 arrival to 7th street, but no! Ding-ding. That dreaded two-tone door-close signal preceded my arrival to the platform by mere seconds – the train was there! Doors sliding shut even as I came around the corner. Ah, here’s another.

On the train now. Safely ensconsed and relatively assured of uninterrupted passage downtown. If only my arm didn’t insist upon aching so [68th street] but it does, so that’s a silly request. An aching arm is as much a part of this portion of the journey/journal as, say, my black shoe + and checkered pants (courtesy of K. Stubbs some years back) both of which protrude quite calmly (if I may) beneath the edge of the book [59th street].

But what of the party which we may or may not head at this evening, given the timely reunion of myself and sweet Jules? What of that? And what of that potential CSI agent who may or may not have judged and rated my every action from her vantage at 5301 (or was it 42?) What of her? And what again of that glorious, productive period of writing w/such profligate confidence back in, what [Yes! Our train just converted to x-press tracks!] I deem the “Golden Years” of my writing career (dismal tho that may sound). Never to get back that ability to write like the wind and, more importantly (?) believe in what I wrote? Never to again + etc. But who knows? A dash of encouragement could go a long way toward restoring some gusto to my verve, what what have you.

And what about that cute blond fellow employee (patron’s dining room?) who followed me to…

Did me little to no good, this whole local/express shift as now I am consigned to sit, pensively scribbling still, in grubby, grimy, crowded, 10:15pm Union Sq. station. Shit.  Time crawls forward or scuttles sideways, crablike. Sometimes leaps, quantum. Will any of it matter? I never used to question the value of what I was working on. That was before 3 years and 3 drafts and constant struggle yielded not one editor or agent of interest ready to step behind and help me push. [Oop. Another express goes thundering past, of course. Why does it always work this way? If I had run down the last block or maybe not looked back (and paused) that final time to see if the blond still followed. Where is she now, speaking of? Somewhere on this very platform, similarly marooned and vexed (and curious) as myself?] And that was also before I read the – yes – magnificent work of Halldor Laxness, Independent People, out of print for 20 years! How did that happen? And how can I imagine… blah blah blah.

Train is here, local.

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