Rat Tales and Such...
by John Viscardi aka "Johnnie V" with additional writing by Bridget Petrella
Living in New York, Iíve heard my share of New York rat stories. My friend, who lives on the Upper East Side and wears sandals in the summer, turns his walk home into a terrifying game of "toe hopscotch"... in the center of the sidewalk on garbage days, to avoid the ever-looming rodent collection that scurries back and forth across the sidewalk, running like crazed commuters from their dark and dismal holes to the heavy black bags set out along the curb. On the other end of the island, a beautiful cafe in the tented garden of a luxurious restaurant was interrupted by the squeals and thrashings behind one of the tentís side panels of a particularly vicious rat fight, which culminated in the winner hurling the loser over a table at which people were eating.
New York is infested with rats. No one knows the exact number of rats. Dr. Patrick Thomas, a curator of mammals at the Bronx Zoo states that, "They are an extraordinarily adaptable and hardy breed. The population of rats will continue to increase if the city does not do anything about the poor garbage disposal, increased construction or the inefficient coordination of the city's response to this problem." Why is the number of rats so large? In just a year, one female rat can produce 285 new born rats. After few weeks they are already roaming around the city. New York City is trying to decrease [and possibly eliminate] this infestation. It is imperative to address this problem because the rats are already outnumbering the number of people and is increasing year by year. Not only will they be overrunning the city, but it is critical for the safety of the people. They can carry bacterial diseases such as salmonella and many people report of rat bites.
These rats are susceptible and able to carry disease. The city, in 1997, had a budget of just over 8 million dollars to spend on exterminators, toxic pesticides etc. By the year 2000, this budget increased to 13 million dollars. Rats tend to live where humans live, since the presence of man generally creates an abundance of food and shelter. Because rats live for the most part out of the sight of people and usually emerge from their dwelling places when we're either asleep or not around to see them, it's easy to imagine that far more of them are lurking in those impenetrable dark spaces than really are there. We create maxims that are far more reflections of our anxieties and fears about feeling surrounded by unseen crawly things than they are accurate estimators of populations-- sayings such as, "You're never more than six feet away from a rat" and "For every cockroach you see, there are ten more you don't see." A rat will eat 1 to 3 ounces of food a day. Based on this, New York rats eat 250 tons of food each day. In New York rats drink 62,500 gallons of water a day. So will Willard be visiting The Big Apple anytime soon? It's unlikely. To many of my writer/artist friends, a New York rat is very much a metaphor for a rather large number of the city's "corporate" inhabitants... cut throat, fast-paced and more than often... will eat their own before submitting to anything remotely resembling "weakness"...
In some villages
and cities in India, rats are thought to be the reincarnated souls of
mystics. Back in New York, there are folks who sell and offer up rats for
adoption. I may be missing something here, perhaps my compassion for these
treacherous little creatures who, for the most part, are more than willing
to pillage their way up the food chain... but I guess I just don't see the
point in worshipping a mean-spirited rodent, mystic or not. According to a
study conducted at Cornell University in New York, rat brain waves may be
able to help locate trapped people. Still not a reason to worship these
nocturnal stalkers... but perhaps a truly decent reason to respect them. UB
Viscardi, or "Johnnie V" as we all commonly refer to him, has
spent well over 15 years in the entertainment industry as a
producer, writer and phenomenal performer. Formerly with Warner
Brothers Television Development, John is currently the Vice
President of Creative
Development for Nite Owl Productions, Inc. He is also the
co-founder and artistic director of the Essential Theatre Blah Blah
Blah, Inc. in NYC.