A chance encounter between the creator of a television show based in Baltimore and the former mayor of that city turned governor ended not in a verbal confrontation but in song.
David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun reporter and creator of HBO’s “The Wire” recounts the chance encounter with Gov. Martin J. O’Malley on an Acela train near Wilmington, Delaware.
The two have had their disagreements over the show. Simon, on his blog, explains that since other encounters “have been a little edgy,” he decided not to disturb the governor, who was seated behind him in the same car.
But Simon said his son had a different take and, in a text message, told his dad to buy O’Malley a beer.
“I waited until after just after Wilmington, for fear that the Governor of Maryland and I would not be able to endure the requisite formalities of forced proximity for much longer than that. Then I stood up, noticed that Mr. O’Malley was sipping a Corona, and I walked to the cafe car to get another just like it. I came back, put it on the table next to its mate, and said, simply, “You’ve had a tough week.” My reference, of course, was to the governor’s dustup with the White House over the housing of juvenile immigrants in Maryland, which became something of a spitting contest by midweek.
To Simon’s surprise, O’Malley invited him to sit and talk.
O’Malley and Simon have some things in common. Both are from the Montgomery County area and both moved to Baltimore. Simon wrote for the Baltimore Sun from 1982 to 1995 and his time covering the city crime beat overlapped O’Malley’s first four years on the City Council.
When Simon wrote The Wire he created a character that many said was more than based on O’Malley. Thomas “Tommy” Carcetti, as with O’Malley, is portrayed as a politically ambitious white councilman in a minority-majority city. Carcetti rises to mayor as two black candidates split the black vote in the city.
In a 2013, Simon told The Daily Beast that he saw O’Malley and Carcetti as linked.
“The writing was not unsympathetic to a man who comes in with the idea of changing things and emerges a completely different creature,” Simon told the online publication. “That was the story [of Tommy Carcetti] and that is the story of Marty O’Malley.”
Simon, in that piece, said he believed O’Malley was more interested in his own ambitions than governing and that he believed O’Malley, as mayor’ “juked” crime stats much in the same way Carcetti is portrayed as doing in “The Wire.”
Simon told Slate in 2008 that O’Malley “has arrested so many Baltimoreans that the ACLU and other civil rights leaders have rightly, to my mind, questioned the constitutionality of the city police department’s arrest policy.”
O’Malley, for his part, was also not impressed with Simon’s show.
In a 2012 profile in Governing Magazine, O’Malley said:
“David Simon has a very, very cynical view of what we’re capable of accomplishing as a free people in the face of challenges like the level of drug addiction and violent crime that we had allowed ourselves to sink into in Baltimore. But I’ve seen the goodness in the people of Baltimore, and that’s the power I’ve chosen to tap into.
“I’m glad that I have outlived ‘The Wire.’ More importantly, I’m glad Baltimore has outlived “The Wire.”
That brings us back to the Acela train and last week’s chance encounter.
O’Malley still hates “The Wire” and Simon is still not a fan of the former Baltimore mayor’s drug war and mass arrest policies, Simon explains.
But they found common ground over The Pogues, a Celtic rock band (O’Malley has his own Celtic band). The two even spent some time singing parts of a song.
And O’Malley even took a selfie with the ink-stained wretch.
That’s a happy ending you probably wouldn’t see on TV.