No good deed goes unpunished. I’m walking back from the Yemeni-owned and operated bodega on 123rd and Lenox, which incongruously carries the New York Times and the Daily News, but not the Post, I’m carrying lots of expensive beer because a friend is coming over to rehearse the songs we’re going to play on the L platform in June, just for money—no fun allowed—and I see an enormous fucking rat scampering down the sidewalk in front of me, he acts like a dog I just let off the leash.
I’m stunned because I’ve been with the Rat Man, Greg Foster, and this block is where he got his start as the sheriff. So I talk to the first person I encounter, a tall black man on a cell phone, I know he’s not a neighbor, never seen him before, but the rural idiocy of my Midwestern origins induces speech, I say,
“Did you see that?”
“The fucking rat the size of a car!”
“Well you gonna see lotta rats ‘round here, you gonna see lots a shit you never—“
“No, no, Greg cleared this block—“
“Well maybe you oughtta go back to where you came from, where there ain’t no rats,” he says, and in that wonderful moment I can finally say what I know to be true. Do not mistake me, I didn’t come from Harlem, or hard times, or a subaltern subject position, not the last time I checked anyway.
But going back to where I came from is equally ridiculous. So I say,
“This is where I come from.”