Tuesday, March 04, 2008

OBSESSION (It's not just a perfume from the 80's)

I, am, clearly ambivalent about blogging or just lazy (I cop to both) since I have been seriously deliquent about keeping this updated. Chalk it up to watching too much of "The Wire" which I am, yes, frighteningly obsessed with. I don't care if this makes me the hundredth hipster (and ONLY by virtue of my zip-code) to spout off on how "ammmmaaazzinnnng" the show is. It is. Amazing, that is. Plus, I feel a certain loyalty to any show that centers around the underbelly of America especially if that underbelly is located squarely in the heart of Baltimore, Maryland. (A place I know well: I went to college there, came of age there, fell in love hard for the first time there, and, lastly, was mugged three times, twice by gunpoint, there). Watching it is just a welcome back to Balmore hon'. Baltimore has a lot of charm but the City has been, more or less, ravaged by the loss of its manufacturing centers and what rose up to replace it: a drug trade with customer loyalty and profits that any Captain of Industry would envy. The show is in essence a treatise on moral relativism in an era of decay. David Simon (who I have now read a lot about in truly obsessive/pyschofantic fashion) says he was inspired by the Greek dramatists notion of fate i.e. instead of the Gods failing man it's now institutions (government, school, press) who randomly abandon and thus, destroy it's constituients no matter how good, how promising, how worthy they may be).

It's odd to have "The Wire" looming large in the background of my thinking these days. Seriously, I'm obsessed and this has to do as much with the compelling themes, the fantastic writing and the terrific acting. Seeing genuine journeymen actors (none of whom looked botoxed or underfed) chew the dialogue and tear up the storylines with relish is thrilling. At any rate, it's a curious thing to be bouncing back and forth between watching "The Wire" while indulging in my other obsession: the Democratic Primary. There's been a lot of ink spilled about how historic, blah-de-blah, it's all been and it has and it is. And, I will readily admit that my love of Obama seemingly knows no bounds. As Hendrik Hertzberg wrote "he's got Bobby Kennedy's heat and Jack's cool" so what's not to love? All things being relative and knowing that no matter what platitudes these pols spout to get elected most of it will remain just that: a platitude. "Change" is as amorphous as "faith" but I don't care, I'll take false hope over no hope while I can.

Nonetheless, there is something jarring about watching "The Wire" with its vivid and stark view of the rotted and decaying American-Every- City and then hear the candidates wax on about America's greatness, our military prowess, our vast potential... For many of us who have lived or are living in these parts of urban America know that there are entire pockets of this country where the violence and poverty rival most third world nations. John Edwards hinted at this but Obama's promise of one America was ultimately more seductive than being reminded that there were two America's. I fell for it too. Maybe I fell for Obama's One America because it makes me feel better about abandoning that other America. I watch the other America on "The Wire" from my apartment in Brooklyn (David Simon calls New York City "a pile of money") - I watch it struggle and gasp from the safe distance of my couch. Then in the morning I turn on NPR in hopes that I might catch a snippet of Obama's speech at some rally to make me feel better about America ( One and Two).