Voyeurism & a Subway Suicide

I’m just going to get this post out of the way.

A Ride on the L, Disturbed by Blood on the Tracks
http://eastvillage.thelocal.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/a-ride-on-the-l-disturbed-by-blood-on-the-tracks

Before you ask: Slasher title not my own. The history: About six weeks ago I was at the Charleston again for Tuesday night trivia with Cook. I’d made my debut at the Bowery Poetry Club to exactly seven attendees, which included the bartender and sound man, my wife, Cook, two guys at the bar & Joe V who’d walked over from Harper’s to listen to me read a reckless mashup of Allen Ginsburg poems & then a puree of my own stuff for exactly 29 minutes. Afterwards, walking to the L, we bumped into Daniel Maurer, who I found out later edits the Local for the NYTimes, & his girlfriend, both of whom Cook knew & invited out to trivia in the Burg. Several shot-hours later I was being asked to report on an unfortunate experience I’d related to Mr. Maurer concerning an L Train suicide I’d (not actually) witnessed (thankfully). I was aboard the train that did the killing, but saw no body; what I did witness through one subway car window was pure chaos, & out the other a disturbing lack of human empathy, which in some small but villainous way I felt drawn to participate in, which is why Daniel asked me to write about it, which I did. I had already conducted most of the research I needed the very night of the suicide, intending to prove to myself that this thing had occurred, to frame it in history, relating my own experience to that of others. Instead, given how little info was available on the incident (2 blog posts), I stayed up all night reading about the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by train engineers and witnesses to train suicides. I read accounts of short-term disability that became long-term disability, waking nightmares, breakups, divorces, & in some cases, joblessness, when it was clear the drivers could no longer ride in a train much less drive one. When I wrote the Times piece in a whirlwind 36-hour order-in no-calls weekend, the voyeuristic aspect pervading the scene of the subway death was contained within the first four of eighteen pages, and in the final paragraph. The other fourteen pages dealt primarily with the second & more persistent tragedy, which was the affect train suicides have on the lives of survivors and witnesses, & with the fact that subway deaths go unreported by the MTA & the police, & rarely appear in the media. The piece I’d written was condensed & the sections devoted to voyeurism were printed by the Times, which you can read by following the link above. I think the piece, for that particular discussion, works well at that length. However, having read all those accounts that night, & having revisited the subject many times since, I’m moved to further investigation. I think there is a larger story here, one which I will try to extrapolate upon in the future. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this piece, which is my first real foray into nonfiction apart from the writing I did for music magazines in my teens & twenties.

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