Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Corner by David Simon and Edward Burns

Thirty years gone and now the drug corner is the center of its own culture....In the end, we'll blame them. We always do. And why the hell not?... If it was us, if it was our lonesome ass shuffling past the corner of Monroe and Fayette every day, we'd get out, wouldn't we? We'd endure. Succeed. Thrive. No matter what, no matter how, we'd find a fucking exit.

If it was our fathers firing dope and our mothers smoking coke, we'd pull ourselves past it. We'd raise ourselves, discipline ourselves, teach ourselves the essentials of self-denial and delayed gratification that no one in the universe ever demonstrated. And if home was the rear room of some rancid, three-story shooting gallery, we'd rise above that too. We'd shuffle up the stairs past nodding friends and sullen dealers, shut the bedroom door, turn off the television, and do our homework. Algebra amid the stench of burning rock; American history between police raids. And if there was no food on the table, we're certain we could deal with that. We'd lie about our age to cut taters and spill grease and sling fries at the sub shop for five-and-change-an- hour, walking every day past the corner where friends are making our daily wage in ten minutes.

No matter. We'd persevere, wouldn't we? We'd work that job by night and go to class by day, by some miracle squeezing a quality education from the disaster which is the Baltimore school system. We'd do all the work, we'd pay whatever the price...Come pay day, we wouldn't blow that minimum-wage check on Nikes, or Fila sweat suits, or Friday night movies at Harbor Park with the neighborhood girls. No fucking way, brother, because we pulled self-esteem out of a dark hole somewhere and damned if our every desire isn't absolutely in check. We don't need to buy any status; no, we can save every last dollar, or invest it, maybe. And in the end, we know, we'll head off to our college years shining like a new dime, swearing never to set foot on West Lafayette Street again.

That's the myth of it, the required lie that allows us to render our judgment. Parasites, criminals, dope fiends, dope peddlers, whores- when we can ride past them at Fayette and Monroe, car doors locked, our field of vision cautiously restricted to the road ahead, then the long journey to darkness is underway. Pale-skinned hillbillies and hard-faced yos, toothless white trash and gold-front gangsters- when we can glide on and feel only fear, we're well on our way. And if, after a time, we can glimpse the spectacle of the corner and manage nothing beyond loathing and contempt, then we've arrived at last at that naked place where a man finally sees the sense in stretching razor wire and building barracks and directing cattle cars into the compound.'


  1. Home is the natural destination of any homeless person. But nothing can be done in a day, in a week, in a year to get nearer that destination. No perceptible progress can be made. In the absence of progress, time is nearly meaningless. Some days are more comfortable than others. And that is all the difference. A homeless life has no storyline. It is a pointless circular rambling about the stage that can be brought to a happy conclusion only by a deus ex machina'.

    To be poor is to be subject utterly to the agents of the law...Middle-class people have rights and they like to think that everyone has. The rich, of course, know that rights are bought and sold, and the poor know too. Those between them live an illusion.

    Lars Eighner "Travels with Lizbeth" (1993)

  2. from "A People's History of Poverty in America"