This is a photo I took from my window of the loft I lived in while at Hopkins for my Preventive Medicine residency. It was taken on May 23, 2007:
“This is the view from my loft. In the last three days, I’ve literally watched three people take their last breaths outside my window. I was writing an artist statement at my window on Sunday and heard the beginning of a crash on Dead Man’s Curve and looked out the window just in time to see a man fly off his motorcycle and get cut in half by that light post. His bike hit the wall and immediately blew up. His partner behind him laid his bike down on purpose, it slammed into the bike that had blown up a few seconds earlier and it then blew up. His buddy was fine, but realized he was going to make the turn going over 100 mph in traffice. They didn’t bother to even pick up the sheets where he died.
Kiley and I woke up last night to about 15 gun shots that killed two men on the bridge. We watched the two murderers run down the street towards our window. They ditched the gun in the back of a pickup truck literally parked just below our window. At the moment of the shooting, there were two cop cars parked on the highway down there investigating that motorcycle accident scene. So two people were shot about 200 feet away from two cops. The cops had no idea. I called 911 and was put on hold for 3 minutes. A few minutes later, the helicopters were swarming but the shooters were nowhere to be found.
I was told there were 8 murders in Baltimore yesterday – not including these two because these officially happened after midnight. They didn’t even bother to clean up after their deaths. I guess there’s no time for that. They’re sadly too overworked.
The weird thing about all of this is that Kiley, Noah, and I were out to dinner on Saturday night and a conversation came up about how none of us has ever seen someone die out on the street. I’ve watched probably a hundred people die in my life, but never one out on the street. It’s much different. So sad.”
I was always so annoyed that my street was always blocked off because they were shooting The Wire in the alley behind my loft. I lived right on the edge of the good and the bad. I was never robbed at gunpoint. I was never “in the game.” And at the time, I had no idea that I should have been watching quite possibly the greatest television show of all time. And today, I finished the final episode. Absolutely brilliant characters and plot. You fall in love with the bad guys and start hating the good guys. You realize that the bad guys aren’t so bad, they just play by different rules. And you realize that you can trust the bad guys because they live by a consistent code that their culture has adopted. Granted, it’s wildly different from mainstream culture, and the consequences for breaking code is often death, but at the end of the show, the rules remain the same. And when you kill, you’re going to get killed. While living in Baltimore, I always heard that many of the kids in “the game” had no hopes of living past 25. It’s hard to imagine, but that’s their reality.
My favorite character was definitely Omar. He lived his life on principle and made a living by robbing drug dealers. He was one of the smartest characters but simply played by different rules. Here’s two of his best performances. And, do yourself a favor, if you haven’t watched The Wire, you won’t regret it. Also, the alley scene was shot in the alley below my apartment. I had no idea…
And Kottke nails it here:
Some think it’s unfair that the former president of Countrywide Financial, a mortgage company that played a big (and negative) role in the subprime mortgage debacle, is now the head of a company making big money buying troubled mortgages from the US government for cheap and then refinancing with the owner, making big money in the process.
But as a Baltimorean explains to McNutty in the very first scene of the first episode of The Wire, that’s how America works.
Suspect: I’m sayin’, every Friday night in an alley behind the Cut Rate, we rollin’ bones, you know? I mean all them boys, we roll til late.
McNulty: Alley crap game, right?
Suspect: Like every time, Snot, he’d fade a few shooters, play it out til the pot’s deep. Snatch and run.
McNulty: What, every time?
Suspect: Couldn’t help hisself.
McNulty: Let me understand. Every Friday night, you and your boys are shootin’ craps, right? And every Friday night, your pal Snot Boogie… he’d wait til there’s cash on the ground and he’d grab it and run away? You let him do that?
Suspect: We’d catch him and beat his ass but ain’t nobody ever go past that.
McNulty: I’ve gotta ask you: if every time Snot Boogie would grab the money and run away… why’d you even let him in the game?
McNulty: Well, if every time, Snot Boogie stole the money, why’d you let him play?
Suspect: Got to. It’s America, man.
The former president of Countrywide Financial, the mortgage company that did so much to dig the hole in which we all now reside, is making a killing buying up delinquent mortgage loans from the government at bargain basement rates.
“It’s like Jeffrey Dahmer selling body parts to a clinic,” sniped one of my friends.
As Eric Lipton reported in The Times, Stanford Kurland, who was president of Countrywide during the years when it was selling mortgages with temporary low “teaser” rates that later turned into permanent unaffordable ones, now leads Private National Mortgage Acceptance Company, known to its friends as PennyMac.
In what one company official said was “off-the-charts good” business, PennyMac buys troubled mortgages from the government (which got them from failed banks) at rates like 38 cents on the dollar. Then it offers the beleaguered homeowners a chance to refinance at far more favorable terms. PennyMac makes money, the homeowner gets an affordable mortgage and the government gets a share of the profit.
Everybody’s happy! Except, of course, those of us who helped come up with the other 62 cents on the dollar.