Episode One: Gary's Blues
"We ain't addicted to the drugs. We addicted to the needle."
As I am just about finished watching Homicide, I thought about what long series I should watch next. I didn't think on it too long. Baltimore isn't done with me yet.
Following up on Homicide (the novel) couldn't have been an easy task for David Simon. He had followed the Baltimore Homicide division for a year, and I'm sure writing had been equally as time consuming. What could he possibly do for an encore that could be as enlightening and hard hitting.
How about the flipside of Charm City?
Along with Edward Burns, Simon wrote The Corner, a hard hitting look at life on the streets from the junkie and corner boy perspective. Equally as engrossing, and just as heartbreaking, The Corner saw life not just as a book, but also a mini-series from HBO.
Let me tell you something, you ever want to get depressed as hell in an hour, watch this show. It's like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline songs type of heartbreaking. I had every intention of at least watching the first disc, but one episode and I'd had enough for the day.
The Corner focuses on Gary McCullough (T.K. Carter, who looks like an older Cuba Gooding Jr.), a severely down on his luck dope fiend. He does everything he can to secure a daily fix. Stealing copper pipe, selling abandoned furniture, even robbery and shoplifting, anything just to score at least $10 for that vile.
Ordinarily, there wouldn't be much to separate Gary from the rest of the men on the street, but Gary once had a life. He spends much of his days shooting up in a house he once owned with his ex-wife. It's all but abandoned, nothing more than a shooting gallery, but still, the remnants of his old life remain. He finds old photographs amongst the rubble on the floor, and it's hard to watch him look at them as someone else pisses in the corner of the room.
He's a smart man. It wasn't a surprise to see him listening to talk radio and reading a chemistry textbook in his parents basement. There is good to him. His mother trusts him with $10 to go to the store to buy some potatoes and Hamburger Helper, and surprisingly, he runs the street gauntlet and makes it back without slipping. I expected him to fail, and from the look in his mothers eyes when she handed over the money, she didn't expect him to make it either. But those hurting eyes of hers, they've seen plenty of disappointment.
And the flashbacks are just an extra kick to the groin. Told with bright, sunny colors, with men singing on the street, we are idealistically shown what Gary's life once was. He held a job at the local corner store, where he was well liked and well paid. We see that he went to college, and watch his face light up when he learns he's going to be a father.
We also get to meet his son, DeAndre. He's a rising corner boy, flush with money and girls. He's an up and comer, but he still has a soft spot for his broken down father. He'll give him a 10 spot, or even a few vials to tide him over. There is a bond there, and it's apparent when Gary plays some basketball with his boy that they do like one another. Only problem is, Gary likes the needle, and his woman Ronnie more.
And Ronnie, she isn't anything but trouble. She's the one who can score the dope anytime, but don't you dare hold out on her, a lesson Gary learns when she trumps up an assault charge. He gets the opportunity to detox in a city lockup, and there is nothing pretty about it. Problem is, he should hold a grudge. But she holds the drugs, and past transgressions are quickly forgotten when that high is on the horizon.
Filmed with a cinema verite style and on location, it's hard not to get the feeling we are watching a documentary throughout the episode. Everything feels authentic about this show, and sadly it is. Each day blends into the next, and it's hard to even know how many days have past by, something I'm sure a junkie is familiar with. It's painful, and hard to watch. And as soon as I do something to cheer up, I'll be back for the next episode.
I'm only adding this because I've been asked a few times, but yeah, I always accept review/preview copies. Who turns down free stuff? Email me at email@example.com for my mailing address. And thanks.
Dan Fleming is the writer/co-creator of Warrior Twenty-Seven, the independant comics anthology. He's been known to bury his nose in books since the earliest of ages, and has been busy writing a crime novel for a few moons. His comic work can be viewed at www.warrior27.thecomicseries.com. He is also one half of the podcasting duo, The Potato League Podcast, which can be found on Podbean. He can be contacted at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com