Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baltimore: Life on the streets

Thanks to David Simon, I am terrified of driving to Baltimore.  As an avid viewer of Homicide: Life on the Street, and now The Wire, I have come to think of Baltimore as a thug-infested, open drug market, full of people who would just as soon kill me as not.

I know this isn’t (entirely) true. Baltimore has neat museums and shops and restaurants, but I hardly ever go to any of them unless someone else wants to drive me there. This puts me in a dependent position I was hoping I’d outgrown.

I have always been deeply affected by violent movies and TV shows, so it was sometimes a struggle to sit through all 122 episodes of Homicide and 60 episodes of The Wire (though I sometimes watched particularly violent scenes in The Wire behind a screen of closed fingers). But the writing on both shows was so good, I fought my involuntary panic at the first note of ominous music or flash of a gun (though I was sometimes trembling by the time the final credits rolled).

What made those shows more convincing is that they were shot in identifiable places, often with local people, not on some California set dressed up to look like the inner-city with beautiful, smudge-faced models pretending to be drug addicts. It’s is a real place I can drive to in under 40 minutes—not some distant, inaccessible fantasy.

I’m afraid if I tried to drive there and took a wrong turn, I’d soon be in the midst of Avon and Prop Joe and Marlo, separately or all together. Rationally, I know this is unlikely, but I can’t shake that fear from my unconscious mind. It doesn’t help that our car window was busted out the last time we were in Baltimore last November, parked on a busy street in front of expensive condominiums.

The only way out of this predicament, that I can see, is to review episodes of The Wire, trying to figure out where its worst characters are unlikely to be and to head to those areas, convinced of my safety. Maybe if I’m lucky, though, I’ll run into Omar.

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