What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Eight

Sudhir Venkatesh, Columbia sociologist and author of “Gang Leader for a Day,” is back once again for an eighth report after watching “The Wire” with a group of gangland acquaintances. His past reports can be found here.

Where is Flavor?

Readers of this blog may have noticed the absence of Flavor, the youngest member of “the Thugs,” from last week’s discussion. Shine wouldn’t tell me what happened to Flavor until he failed to appear for this week’s viewing as well.

Here’s the story: Flavor has a rival gang member named Jo-Jo. Flavor decided to sleep with Jo-Jo’s girlfriend, Pootchie, “just for fun!” according to Shine. “Flavor drove over to a bar Pootchie hangs out at, pretended he was a hot new rap star, started buying champagne, throwing the money around. That’s it: he got her in about two hours.”

But Flavor didn’t know that it was all a setup: Pootchie was involved in the trap.

While Flavor and Pootchie were getting to know each other, Jo-Jo used the opportunity to secretly visit with members of Flavor’s posse, and incorporate them into his own outfit.

“Jo-Jo went over to Flavor’s boys and stole them away,” Shine said, puffing on a cigarette while his dog sat obediently at his feet. “Jo-Jo told Flavor’s boys that he would pay them double what they were making. They all jumped at it. Flavor was left out in the cold.”

“Just like that?!” I asked incredulously. “They left Flavor for a few bucks?”

“Jo-Jo hated Flavor ever since high school: they were both fighting for the guard spot on their basketball team.”

“Who won?”

“Flavor got his big brother to beat Jo-Jo up so bad that Jo-Jo couldn’t play for the rest of the season. Flavor made the team,” said Shine. The 10-year itch apparently came to fruition last week when Jo-Jo successfully persuaded Flavor’s boys to switch their allegiances.

Then, Jo-Jo went after Flavor himself. Flavor was driving home one night, when a car pulled up beside him. Two people started shooting at him, but he managed to drive away. After that, he went into hiding.

“For n—-s on the street, the only home you got is your crew,” Shine said. “Once they take that away from you, you got nothing. Flavor got it all taken away from him.”

“What do you think will happen to him?” I asked.

“He’s got two choices. And they ain’t pretty. He can leave town, move in with some relatives somewhere. But Flavor ain’t the sweetest man in the world, you dig? It ain’t like a lot of people are waiting around to help him. And, anyway, we’re like dogs: all we know is the streets we grew up in. So he’ll have to go back and fight his way out. This means he has to win back his boys. All he needs to do is get two of them to be on his side. That’s enough.”

“What’s the easiest way to do that?” I asked.

“Easiest way for Flavor is to get his brother, Richie, who’s a cop, to help him. Let’s say he gets Richie to pick up two of his crew when they’re on the streets. We call it ‘playing the fool.’ Richie drives up in his [police car] and rounds up two of Flavor’s boys. Richie doesn’t put the cuffs on them, just keeps them in the car, or smokes a cigarette with them, and then lets them be. The rest of Flavor’s guys start thinking these folks are snitches. You think [black men] would be smart, know that this is all just a trick. But there is a reason we’re on the street: ’cause some of us are broke-ass, dumb-ass, can’t-do-nothing-else. The few smart ones know that you never get into a cop car unless you got a charge. Go down kicking and screaming before they open that door.”

Shine and I walked back into the apartment to watch episode 8. The rest of the crew was already assembled. Many had served up plates of catered food and were opening their fine domestic beers.

The viewing was uneventful until, “BANG!” Omar fell to his death. Kenard, the shortie from Michael’s street crew, had laid claim to the bounty.

The place went crazy. Omar is dead! Long live Omar! Kool-J threw a bag of pork rinds in the air, causing Shine to rebuke him with: “Hot sauce don’t come out of the carpets, boy!” Orlando woke from his semi-comatose state, crying, “No! No! They took my boy! First Butchie and now Omar!”

Tony-T was the most visibly shaken. “It can happen to any of us, just like that. You think you’re going out to buy some chicken and Pepsi, and the next thing, some kid wants to make a name for himself by taking you out.”

“We got to tell Flavor,” Shine said. “I know he’ll go nuts when he hears this.” Shine left the room to call Flavor on his cell phone. The rest of the Thugs began making side-bets.

“I say Michael kills Marlo,” Orlando said soberly. “That young [man] is going to take over.”

“Nope,” said Tony-T. “Avon. Avon, Avon, Avon. He’s got a deal with the Greeks, and they’ll take out Marlo. You watch: Avon is coming back! That’s my boy!”

Amidst the speculation and wagers, Shine returned. He had a fresh beer in his hand and he was shaking his head.

“Flavor’s in some real trouble now,” he said. “That boy should have laid low, and instead…”

“He went after Pootchie, didn’t he?” Kool-J yelled. (Everyone in the room evidently knew about Flavor’s troubles.) “Just say it! I’m right, ain’t I? Flavor went after Pootchie, didn’t he? I knew that son of a b—h couldn’t just hide out, keep quiet. That’s all he had to do! Jo-Jo was going to get arrested in a week — I told him that.”

Shine nodded and then explained: Flavor was so upset about the coup d’etat orchestrated by Jo-Jo that he decided to go after Jo-Jo’s girlfriend. But on the way to her place, he stopped off at a strip club, where he ran into some of Jo-Jo’s guys.

“They beat the s–t out of him, but that n—-r got away! I guess he left this trail of blood; he’s hurt pretty bad. But he’s in his car, still running.”

“I say Flavor goes after Jo-Jo,” Orlando said. “That [guy] can’t wait. Impatient m—-r f—-r.”

“No,” said Shine. “I think he’s shaken up. I think he’ll call his brother, Richie, stay at his place.”

“Hell no!” Tony-T yelped. “He’s going out like John Wayne. Guns firing.”

The Thugs turned their attention to the fate of Flavor. They had left a message on his phone, hoping he would call before they left Shine’s apartment. True to form, they laughed about the whole affair, but they were clearly worried. Flavor was the kid brother whom they watched over. And, like Flavor, at one point in their lives the Thugs had all felt immortal.

Shine started playing some rap music — 2-PAC‘s “Picture me Rollin” filled the room and people lost themselves in the lyrics. Kool-J offered up a toast to Flavor and Omar.

My own mind wandered to my research on gangs in Chicago. A gang leader named J.T. would always tell me that “success” in the game was simple: if you woke up and you weren’t in jail and you were breathing, that was reason enough to celebrate. These kind of pronouncements often felt like bluster until I heard stories like Flavor’s.

The young Thug’s troubles also made me wonder about my own limits. There was little I could do to help Flavor, but that didn’t make me feel any better. I felt a little bit like Prezbo, the cop-turned-teacher, who becomes a key player in season four: helpless, uneasy, and looking to do the right thing — although Prezbo did manage to eek out a few victories along the way.

Before completing this post, I decided to call Shine and tell him what I was feeling. His response: “You want to know what’s hard, Sudhir? Understanding that you just can’t fix [anything] — not always, and not right away. Live with that feeling you got, my brother, ’cause we’re living with it every day. I hope you suffer; it’s good for you.”


daf

I have never written a comment on the internet to any blog. This has been the most engaging and compelling analysis I've read about the Wire. I just love it. I'm a huge fan of the show and of Omar. I'm not the least bit shocked about the way he went out. I did expect Michael to do it. I still have him slated to take out Marlo though. He's lost his innocence (i.e. couldn't remember the piss-balloon prank/ice cream, his little brother to the aunt.) The most heartbreaking is to see Dukie become homeless because he couldn't make it in the Game like his friend. I hate to see this show end. (And it was way better than the Sopranos. No Doubt.)

Boaz Roth

Worse than his death was watching Omar limp around in his final episodes. To me, the show depicted that the world had passed him by-the penalty for departing from "the game"?-and it seemed perfectly appropriate to see him capped by a youngster. Omar-in my eyes-was never really Omar in this season.

Duffman

"I don't even watch The Wire and I love these posts."

I'm in the same boat. It makes me want to go start watching this show from Season 1 on DVD.

That said, when this show is over, I eagerly await the next part of the series: "What do real Thugs think of 'Two and a Half Men?'"

Robin

No compassion? What exactly here is there to be compassionate about? All the thugs seem to know all to well the dangers of the life they are living. To steal that famous line, "This is the life they have chosen," or at the very least been thrust into. Flavor was trying to mess with someone and he got messed himself. I wish him the best as a fellow human being, but where I'm from that's called Karma.

Gopal

I think if they wanted to continue the story of the Wire, they should do a film that depicts the rise of Avon and Stringer.

Do the older members of the Thug crew feel like they still have to watch their step in certain parts of town?

stevey

This is the silliest thing ever. "A bunch of suburban nerds sweating city kids"

Is this the NY times or is this some minstrel show?

TK

I've been reading these posts since the first episode went up, often sharing them with friends who watch The Wire. Omar's death was a shock, he was my favorite charcter! But I think this had been my favorite in the series this far just because of Flavor's story. I live in Baltimore and I get friends asking me if that's what it's really like, and, I don't know, this story just hit home that, yeah, it is what it's really like for people involved in it.

Al Creek

Binh,
I agree with your take on Omar's demise but only to a degree. It's true that Omar lasted as long as he did due to his intelligence and emotional control. But like all men, we all have our limits. Lesser men would of fallen victim to those streets alot sooner. No matter how hard or in control one may be, there's always at least one thing that will put you past the point of no return. Turns out, Loyalty to Butchie, a virtue in my mind, was Omar's...

Brendan

The uneventful and drawn out nature of the scene where Omar rips his final package had me on the edge of my seat... Nobody is invincible, especially in the game. That is why Omar died.

I thought the most powerful part of the episode was when the brief about Omar's death got cut from the Metro section of the Baltimore Sun. His was such an amazing story but his death didn't even get a paragraph in the local paper.

Also thought it was weird that McNulty wasn't more shaken by his death, they seemed to have quite a connection in the first two seasons.

Oh No

To Pete, comment #7...

You right PETE! Karma is a b*tch! Now you just remember to keep that in mind and apply that bullsh*t to your own life, dig...

S'pose ignorance is bliss!

-Oh No

joel

Hey MauiYankee,
Nice job of spoiling episode nine AND trying to pass it off as a "prediction".
I think Omar will get shot, maybe in the head, by a little kid, maybe Kenard.
whatever.

MauiYankee

This blog has become a weekly ritual. I've been checking back each day waiting for the next installment. Good writing about interesting folks.

Back to the make-believe.

Michael has game. I think Snoop gets taken down. Michael replaces Omar as the street "conscience". A code, twisted, but a code of "honor" is his compass.

Marlo is busted along with Cheese, leaving the streets open to "new blood". Here's to the new boss same as the old boss. Kenard is the harbinger of that transition.

The series is noteworthy for great story telling and terrific acting that can only be acheived by relatively little known actors. They can convince you that they are their character. (always fun to hear Stringer and McNutty speak in their British accented english).

Look forward to next week.

e40

therealcaro -

The majority of the people reading this blog and watching The Wire are outsiders that have no experience with the streets (except by watching dramas on TV). That, with the fact that humans are just not that compassionate, is why most people have little empathy for Flavor.

EJ

I honestly didn't see Omar going out like that. I don't think we've seen the last of Avon. I have a feeling that Chris is hiding something from Marlo. You think Avon is paying him? Maybe him and Cheese? Chris just seems on edge a lot.

eric

ummm... i know flavor is the character we know from these postings but does anyone think hes the bad guy in all this? He has his brother beat Jo-Jo to a pulp so he cant play basketball. He decides to nail Pootchie just for fun. Shine even says "But Flavor ain't the sweetest man in the world, you dig?" and im supposed to have empathy for him. Right. He played with fire and now he is burned. Save your empathy for someone who might possibly deserve it.

Michael D

Empathy!

Where's the disdain? "Thug" is a little more PC than "Murderer" or "Drug Dealer". These are a bunch of violent, criminal gang members. It's frankly surprising (and sad) that this series is posted here (with the ultimate purpose being our entertainment.) What good is served by observing criminals critiquing a television show? There might be some value if somehow a deeper understanding of these criminals led to new insights into how to reduce gang activity. But unfortunately that's not the case.

Maybe when the HBO series is finished, we can gather a group of rapists to tell us which actresses they would like to make their next victims. Fun!

tg

Ok, so is no one else concerned that a "cop" is also going along with the plans of these gang members? Also, I don't quite get why this is considered "journalism". It seems like it is merely an ivy league alternative to doing crack. They get to feel good about themselves, because they're helping the "less fortunate", but also get a cheap thrill they can't get in their normal, boring, high-paid careers.

Sean

Was waiting to see how the thugs would react to Omar's death.Glad to see that unlike a lot of other postings i have sen form Wire fans on the topic they didnt question the legitimacy of this death.I agree with comment #15 and worse than seeing him shot was seeing him limping like that.He had been away from the game a little while and he just couldnt get himself back witht the same verocity of before.The players changed and before he could get to knowing them properly he got, got.Makes toatal sense hed go like that and did any of us really believe it would come down to a street fight btwn him and Marlow.I hope Marlow falls but i really dont know who's gonna bring him down and why evryone seeems insistent despite how dark the season is that he will even fall.However if he does im backing Slim Charles do have something to do with it.he saw barksdale and prop joe fall,surely hell stand tall with someone on this.

Sean

Read more...

MJN

You had us until the made up sideline. Disappointed.

MauiYankee

36.
February 29th,
2008

No offense, but I have not seen anything other than the coming attractions for the coming week. The vacuums and the dynamics are a bit obvious. Omar, albeit a flawed character, had a code of conduct. That will have to shift. Who else but Michael? Hint: he let child escape the carnage of the family of the guy who insulted Marlo. He tried to discuss the morality with Snoop and Chris.

Given the car and the gun shot and Michaels comments "you always taught me to show up early" or some such. Can I be allowed to think?

I'm sorry if it appears that I've previewed the upcoming issue. I haven't.

I'm just connecting the dots from the previews.

My post was completely my invention.