My name is Steve, and I'm an addict.
David Simon is my dealer. He got me in the early days with the five-part HBO mini-series, "The Corner," and now, I've moved up to a full hour in front of the television, every, single, solitary Sunday night. Nine p.m. Sharp.
I don't answer the phone. I don't text. I don't make any other plans. And I'm not ashamed. Word on Critic Ave. is that is most Highbrowers love it for its Dickensian nature and literature-like depth. Sure it is chock full of literary witticisms and fanciful metaphors, but to leave it there is to miss the beauty of the scathing critiques and unabashed in-your-face-ness of it all. But hey, whatever helps you sleep at night. I'm real with mine.
My name is Steve, and I'm hooked on "The Wire."
Hooked like Bubbles was before he found recovery, I am a junkie, a full-blown Wire addict, who is staring at withdrawal, and I am not alone. There are millions of us "Wire headz" roaming the streets, combing over lines, strung out on plot theories, barely able to hold on until the next Sunday night.
Like crack in the 80's, "The Wire" hit television hard and unrelenting. Sure there were other television shows on the block, but none with that raw and uncut look at street life from every angle. What Simon sold us was that, leave-your-arm-here-a-minute-this won't-hurt-one-bit type of dope. And we were hooked. All of us: The yupppies, buppies, hipsters, old foggies, nerds, thugs, teachers, politicians, and players. All of us. Strung-out on this television psychedelic trip where a cold-hearted killer could push past the bounds of sexuality and be both righteously deadly and a lover of men and Newports alike. (And don't forget the Honey Nut Cheerios). A television show where bad people do bad things and good people do worse. And we don't question it at all because "The Wire" is truth, and truthfully we are addicted. Addiction skews reality, it knows no cultural perimeters, no age limit.
And, the worse part is this: after this Sunday, there will be no re-up, no more product. All of us, collectively, will be forced to quit cold turkey.
Doesn't Simon understand that we need this? Haven't we been good, trusted, faithful clients/users all these years? Why would he leave us feening for more, right when it's gotten so good to us?
This is not the addiction speaking when I say that "The Wire" changed the way we see things. It merged the haves with the have nots, put a face, a heart, a life, a story to inner-city youth who most folks would rather forget,. and it proved, time and time again, that no one is all good, or all bad. It is far better and more compelling than politics.
It is Hillary, with its brash sense of foresight and unflinching look at experience. It is Barack, with it's beautifully hand-woven dialog that reaches into the hearts of the people and exposes their souls. It is even McCain, touting years of commitment to the process, even if the process is unrelenting. And it is a hundred times more. What "The Wire" gave us was what hip-hop used to be: a gritty, raw look into the City of Gods, showing you both the heart and the cutthroat nature of its existence.
It made us all cultural relativists so that we don't have to live it to understand it. So of course, you would never go to the lengths that McNulty would go to catch Marlo Stanfield, but you understand, because you come to understand McNulty and the parameters he is given to play within.
You feel the pain that Bunny Colvin feels when he pulls Namond out of the streets. You are in that classroom way in the back when Prez sees Dukie on the computer and recognizes in that moment that he has no place else to go. While you would never advocate death in any sense, you know exactly why Omar hunts down Brother Malzone in Season 3, and why they team up against Stringer Bell.
And you deeply understand, expect, demand, that he avenge the death of Butchie in Season 5. It only follows, then, that you understand why Marlo has to go all out to stop Omar. And when Omar dies in the unnamed convenience store in the heart of a city he has terrorized for years, you got a lump in your throat. A tear hit the well of your eye, because he is gone and you understand that the possibility of him being anything else but a stick-up street hero just died with him.
That is what addiction does, it forces you to lose touch with all that you know. For an hour on Sunday you begin to think like a psychopath.. "The Wire" is barbaric and calculating in the way it consumes you. It is, in its totality, amazingly brilliant. To paraphrase the late Rick James, [The Wire] is a hell of a drug.
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a Washington writer.