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November 24, 2009

Why Jackson Browne likes Baltimore

jackson browneA couple weeks ago at the Lyric Opera House, Jackson Browne took a moment to tell the audience why he likes Baltimore.

Is it because he recorded much of his acclaimed 1977 release "Running on Empty" at nearby Merriweather Post Pavilion and the Cross Keys Inn (which is now the Radisson Hotel, I believe)? Is it because he loves crab cakes or Berger cookies?

Nope. Browne likes Baltimore because he watches "The Wire."

"I think it's a good show," he told the crowd (here's a link to my review of that show).

"Do you have an awareness that show was shot here?" he asked.

Sigh ...

In the five years I've lived in Baltimore, I've been asked about "The Wire" too many times to count. At first, I was intrigued by all the questions. Then I got sick of being asked if Baltimore is really as bad as it looks on the HBO series, and started rolling my eyes at the questioner.

These days, I pretty much repeat what I read on the blog Stuff White People Like:

If you need to impress a white person, tell them you are from Baltimore. They will immediately ask you about The Wire and how accurate it is. You should confirm that it is “like a documentary of the streets,” the white person will then slowly shake their head and say “man” or “wow.” You will be seen in an entirely new light.

Don't get me wrong -- I loved watching the show, especially seasons one and four. And though the show's creator (and Baltimore Sun alum) David Simon has gone out of his way to berate me (that's another story), I definitely admire his work.

Apparently, so does Jackson Browne. How's that for random?

(AP photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:04 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Random stuff


He berated you personally? What gives, Sammy?

Did he disagree with your opinion of bacon vodka or take issue with your review of Taps?


When they were still filming the show, I used to run Wire-related events in the Live section. One week, David Simon called and asked me to run a listing about a charity bartending event, and it got lost in the shuffle. He called me and laid into me. The conversation started like this:

Sam: Baltimore Sun, Sam Sessa.
David: Sam. It's David.
Sam: David?
David: SIMON.
Sam: Oh, right, that David ...

Our little chat it ended with Simon cussing me out and hanging up on me -- over a listing, no less. He later called my editor -- not me -- and told my editor to tell me he was "sorry for temporarily losing his mind." I still look up to him as a writer, just not as a person.

This makes sense. I've heard stories from people who know him personally and say his personality typically varies from brooding to ornery.

Thanks for the story.

David Simon is a BAD MAN :(

Like I said when the "Stuff White People Like" piece came out: You can find the people like the cast of “The Wire” in any major city. We just happen to have better writers.

No offense to the guy who wrote this piece or to the guy who corresponded with him in this post. I'm sure they are great guys but I just wanted to be the voice of the other side you know.

A-holes make great art. They may not end up being the nicest people but lets say David Simon doesn't end up a "BAD" man and he never plots with Ed Burns to make The Wire . He never sees his industry getting the shaft or rather he doesn't notices it and he goes about his job and never leaves the paper and doesn't write Homicide: Life on the Streets .

He buys into the "Marrimow" system of Pulitzer hunting and he writes good yet shallow pieces for the paper that never get to the root of the problem only reinforces generalizations and stereotypes. He gets his thirty and retires.

Now if his life goes that way then who and what fills that void in American TV and American Art?

The Sopranos and David Chase? Please. Great show, but its scope is limited to NY/NJ and Italian mobsters.

Who takes on the question of the state of modern America? The West Wing and Aaron Sorkin? Not Likely. Too many advertising and television execs to deal with every week.
How About Dexter? Yeah right. Its entertaining but not much else.

There are many who may not like Simon and his abrasive behavior but he is exactly what I want in a reporter. Someone with an unyielding search for the truth. Someone willing to go to great lengths to get the "story"

So occasionally that makes him a major a-hole, so be it.
Thanks for this outlet.

I also hate people automatically associating Baltimore with The Wire within the first second of them hearing I'm from Baltimore. I think The Wire was a fantastic show- one of the best shows in history- and it gave us Omar, one of best characters in American television EVER, but I also get sick of the automatic association. There is so much more to Baltimore than The Wire.

That being said, I was in the UK back in May and people there are absolutely wild about the show. When I was pubhopping in Cardiff, everyone I spoke to LOVED the fact that I was from Baltimore and pretty much everyone I told bought me a drink! For some reason, being from Baltimore gave me some sort of street cred (that I seriously DO NOT HAVE). I took advantage of it because, well, free alcohol! I spent maybe 5pounds that whole night.

I am white
I love Jackson Browne.... the finest man, singer songwriter of our times
I loved the Wire...Baltimore is the backdrop,the actors were remarkable,the story realistic and well told

So what?

There is so much more to Baltimore than The Wire.


Yeah, like Ace of Cakes!!!!@@@

At least, that's what I get asked about when I'm out of town. I wish somebody would ask me about The Wire for a change.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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