Monday, October 22, 2007
City of Rats
New York City. The City that Never Sleeps. Famous for Times Square, Central Park, bagels and lox, rude drivers, and -- perhaps to the city's disdain -- rats. It is difficult to think of the Big Apple and not think of rats. A simple search of the phrase "new york city rats" turns up over a dozen pages worth of links, and they're not just "Buy New York City Rats!" advertisements. One of my favorite rat books (and, in fact, a big influence in the creation of the Rat Hunter Diaries) is Robert Sullivan's Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants, in which the author details the combined histories of New York City and the rattus norvegicus. Truth be told, I wish I'd had this book when I ventured forth into the city, but even without this Rat-seeker's Guidebook, I managed to fare pretty well in my solo hunt.
I had heard stories of the New York City subway, of giant rats that scurried amid the tracks, but I did not expect them to be so easy to find! Surely, as soon as the sun began to set above, below the rats came out. I was so thrilled at my first rat sighting that I squealed "Ratties!" and chased him along the track, eliciting many odd stares from passerbys and my fellow travelers. At the second rat I fumbled to get a blurry, indistinct photo. Once I realized that the rats were indeed plentiful, I relaxed and was able to get better, albeit poorly lit and grainy, photographs. Despite my exuberance and my cooing words ("come here little ratty, hello little guy") the rats paid the people no mind, and the people treated them likewise. Proper new yorkers, nobody made eye contact, and indeed, they seemed more disturbed by the strange little tourist leaning precariously close to the track. Despite the monster rat stories, all of the ones I saw were cute little things.
Cincinnati is hardly a rat friendly city; so it is that whenever I see anything ratty, I'm compelled to snatch it up to add to my collection. Chinatown, on the other hand, has such a wealth of rat merchandise that I have to exercise discretion with my rat purchases, else I'll be left with an empty bank account and more items than will fit in my suitcase. I found myself at Pearl River Asian Market, a veritable gold mine of rat stuff, but with considerable will power I left with only four items.
I was determined to spend at least one day in Central Park during my short trip. I was excited. I had it all planned out. I had not planned on rain, unfortunately, nor did I have an umbrella. I toughed it out for half an hour before, soaked to the bone, I decided to head back to my hotel, but not before I stumbled across a pleasing little sculpture of Alice in Wonderland. I thought the little dormouse looked more ratty than mousey.
St. Mark's Place
My trip to St. Mark's Place was unplanned, but quite pleasing, especially when I happened to run into a rat of the domestic kind. As we were working our way through the crowd, my rat-radar kicked in and I looked over to spot a young punk kid with a little white rat on his shoulder. I immediately squealed and rushed over, asking to pet the rodent. The boy seemed a bit put-off by my cooing and coddling of what he surely thought was a properly punk pet, and thus I declined to take his photo, but it was a nice little end to the entire trip.
I was only in New York City for less than five days, but found myself overwhelmed by the rattiness of the city. Given the time/money/means, I'd love to return and make a project out of photographing rats in the subway. Maybe after I graduate.