This Rat Just Out Here Grinding

New York is cold, hell is hot, and this rat is a hustler.

A stretch of Spring-like December weather in the City perhaps made New Yorkers complacent; softer than usual. It’s back to normal now, hovering slightly above freezing for the week, and this rat on its grind is here to remind us that the concrete jungle yields for no one, not even the vermin. The days of milk and honey and pizza are over, and perhaps they never were; it’s all just one long illusion if you live one enough, anyway, and the flush days are always fleeting in these mean streets.

This rat knows you have to get in where you fit in, and that no one owes you anything. If your friend can’t take the heat and croaks on the way to the garbage can buffet, well, it’s up to you to turn misfortune into an opportunity. A true hustler would do as this rat does; a true hustler would drag her friend down multiple stairs and across a subway platform, presumably to a secluded corner where she will then proceed to consume the body for much-needed sustenance in this hellish winter landscape. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Cannibalism is still paleo.


Pizza Rat was a little bitch. Everyone, even the hardened miscreants at Gawker, thought Pizza Rat was just so cute, so brave. Pizza Rat taught us nothing about the way rats live today, except that certain rats will enjoy greater affection from the public at large than their less privileged sisters and brothers, simply because they are caught doing something that reflects human behavioral traits. People loved Pizza Rat not because people love rats, but because people love pizza, and therefore Pizza Rat was seen to be somehow more relatable than other rats. This is bullshit. Rat Rat is much closer to the cold, hard truth of the circle of life, one that true New Yorkers will not—nay, cannot—ignore day in and day out. You gotta fend for yourself, and do whatever you can just to get by.

Whomever filmed Rat Rat understood this; viewers can be heard in the background slightly gasping “Oh my god,” but with the same vocal inflection and vehemence as one might say “oh my god” when she learned that Martin O’Malley did not qualify for the Ohio ballot: with mild disinterest, an exclamation that is socially appropriate but fleeting enough that she will not remember it by the time she reaches her train stop, if not before. The camera lingers on the rat, lets it carry out its business, the natural order of hustling, and lets it disappear into the tunnels, remarkable but utterly unremarkable, a participant in the endless order of things, on and on and on.

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Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Thank you Josh for coining “Rat Rat”