DeAndre McCullough (1977-2012)

03 Aug
August 3, 2012

To remember him as we met him, twenty years ago, is to know everything that was lost, everything that never happened to a boy who could surprise you with his charm and wit and heart.

At fifteen, he was selling drugs on the corners of Fayette Street, but that doesn’t begin to explain who he was.  For the boys of Franklin Square — too many of them at any rate — slinging was little more than an adolescent adventure, an inevitable rite of passage.  And whatever sinister vision you might conjure of a street corner drug trafficker, try to remember that a fifteen-year-old slinger is, well, fifteen years old.

He was funny.  He could step back from himself and mock his own stances — “hard work,” he would say when I would catch him on a drug corner, “hard work being a black man in America.”  And then he would catch my eye and laugh knowingly at his presumption.  His imitations of white-authority voices — social workers, police officers, juvenile masters, teachers, reporters — were never less than pinpoint, playful savagery.  The price of being a white man on Fayette Street and getting to know DeAndre McCullough was to have your from-the-other-America pontifications pulled and scalpeled apart by a manchild with an uncanny ear for hypocrisy and cant.

He could be generous, and loyal. I remember him rushing out before Christmas to spend his corner money on gifts for his brother, nieces and nephews — knowing that his mother wasn’t going to get it done that year. I remember the moments of quiet affection he demonstrated when his mother was at her lowest ebb, telling her gently that she was better than this, that she could rise again. And, too, I remember his stoic, certain forgiveness of his father, who moved wraith-like around those same corners, lost in an addiction he could never defeat.

“I really feel like he’s at peace now,” DeAndre said after Gary’s funeral, explaining that his father was too gentle for the corners, too delicate a soul to be out there along Fayette Street. His father was never going to be what he was. Not ever again.  DeAndre said this with no malice, in a voice that was as loving as any words I ever heard him speak.

At first, he was content with the book we wrote about his world.  By the time “The Corner” was published it was something of an epitaph for people who were already casualties.  Not just DeAndre’s father, but Boo, Bread, Fat Curt, his cousin Dinky, Miss Ella from the rec center.  The book was an argument that these lives were not without meaning, that they, too, were complete human beings in the balance.  He liked that someone — anyone — thought the people of Fayette Street mattered.

In time, though, he confessed to hating the last line of the narrative, the one in which he is defined as a street dealer and addict at the moment after taking his first adult charge in a raid on a stash house on South Gilmor Street.  There was a burden in that, and he grew tired of its weight.

“That isn’t the end of the story,” he complained to me years later.  “You don’t know that the story ends that way.”

I readily conceded that he was correct, that the story was ongoing and that a new ending could and would be fashioned if he provided such.  By then, his mother had cleaned herself up, moved the family to the county, doing her damnedest to shepherd his young brother, and all of his nieces and nephews to adulthood, to gainful employment or college admissions.  The mother of DeAndre’s son had a master’s degree, in fact, and was thrice-promoted at the downtown hospital where she made a career. Even Blue, whose childhood home was the shooting gallery, had more than a decade clean and was spending what remained of his days counseling others out of addiction.

“If you give me another ending, Dre. I’ll write it. I promise. In a new edition, in a magazine article, anywhere I can. I’ll write that fucking story so hard.”

“Wait on it then. You gonna see.”

He went to work for the television shows, time and again lasting only as long as a paycheck or two.  He enjoyed acting, and showed some poise, but the jobs that offered the chance at a real career — the behind-the-camera production work, the path to union wages and benefits — those couldn’t hold him.  Several months ago, desperate to get out of Baltimore and to walk away from his ever-more exhausting addictions, he asked for one more chance.   He would get clean.  He would do what needed doing.  And so, we rented him an apartment in New Orleans and a gave him a position with the security crew for Treme.  His sobriety lasted until the first payday, and by Thanksgiving, ever more angry at himself and depressed, he asked me for a ticket back to Baltimore.  New Orleans wasn’t working; there were corners here, too, and he was lonely.  His plan, he said, was to see if he could get his job back at Mountain Manor.

It was there that DeAndre found some time to shine.  He worked as a peer counselor for court-ordered juveniles in the Mountain Manor residences.   He knew those kids, and he knew the street, and so, he actually had the skill set to bring some truth into the room.  He lasted two years — longer than any other gig in his life — before he again faltered.

I saw him on Christmas. We embraced. New Orleans went unmentioned.

On his birthday in May, I got a text:  “Hey, Dave.  Wassup.  I’m 35 today.  Never thought I’d make it.  How ’bout that?”

I texted him back: “Happy Birthday, Dre.”

By then, I knew he was again struggling, unable to outrun the demons.  A couple weeks ago, there was a photograph on the Baltimore Police Department’s webpage: An unidentified young man photographed during the robbery of a Pratt Street pharmacy. He claimed to have a gun, but offered only a note. He wanted not money, but drugs, and he left with pills. The photo was DeAndre.  Hollow-eyed, dusty — but, clearly, DeAndre.

Fran was horrified. This crossed a line in a way that was genuinely unlike her oldest son. He had lived his life doing great damage to himself, obliterating the bright-eyed manchild one dose at a time. In truth, I never saw a drug addict so unhappy to be high. When DeAndre was chasing, he was miserable and angry and ashamed, with every better angel of his nature buried beneath an ash-heap of resentment and self-loathing. When he sobered, you knew it immediately; DeAndre emerged, playful and self-aware and once again open to the world and other people. And always, in the past, the damage had been confined to himself and those who loved him.

This was new and ugly. Fran confronted him, telling him he needed to turn himself in to police, that he had gone too far, that he had truly lost himself this time. DeAndre pleaded for the chance to get clean first, to sober up before surrendering and going to City Jail. He did not want to detox in pretrial detention; he couldn’t stomach the thought of being sick in those spartan, unforgiving surroundings.  Once sober, he would surrender, and he asked his mother to ask me if I would go with him to court.  Ask him yourself, Fran told him.  Can’t, he told her.  I’m ashamed.

I told her to tell DeAndre that I would, of course, stand with him in court, but only if he surrendered himself. I told myself that even now, the end of the story hasn’t yet been written. Maybe this was a true bottom. Maybe some prison time could pull him from the spiral; nothing else seemed to work, after all.

Fran relented, drove him to Tuerk House, where he cleaned up for the last time and then discharged himself. He did not immediately surrender. Instead, a few days later, he took more pills until he fell over dead in a house in Woodlawn. This morning, when the police came to the county looking for him with a warrant, they learned that they were a day late, that DeAndre McCullough was beyond their powers of arrest.

If I close my eyes, the fifteen year old comes to me. His laughter, his wit, his foolishness and ridiculous rationalization mixed in equal measure with his goodness and honesty. I can forgive the addict who came to dominate that young life. I can let go of all the frustration and exhaustion that came with twenty years of faithlessness and hurt. I see, in the end, a man who was in great, unending pain. And I want him to rest now.

In spite of everything, I will miss him badly. I know because I’ve been here before. With Dinky. And Curt. And Ella. And Gary — especially Gary McCullough, the wounded father who in some awful way was a pathfinder for his wounded son.  When you tell yourself you are going to write a story about real people, you say so in the abstract, without any real sense of the beings you haven’t yet met, without any measure of the real cost of addressing actual human realities.

Well then, amid all of the easy labels and stereotypes that will now certainly apply, let me offer only the following:  I once had the privilege to know a boy named DeAndre McCullough, who at the age of fifteen had led a life of considerable deprivation, but who nonetheless was the fine and fascinating measure of a human soul. Everything after, even the very book that we wrote about his world, today seems like useless and unimportant commentary.

Be free, Dre.

 

 

 

 

 

195 replies
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  1. geo says:

    I’m a fan of both productions. I’m sorry to hear that one of the key figures on The Corner has died. I had hopes for him too. That being said, death or jail is the ending for most people caught up in the inner city drug trade. One suggestion I have Mr. Simon is that he use his influence and power to look for answers for these people. There is a group called law enforcement officers against the drug war (LEAP). This group is looking for answers that don’t involve arrests and raids of those low level people who use and deal. Our drug policies have failed and we must stop building prisons to house people who use, deal and steal because of their drug habits.

    I find your point of view refreshing. Keep up your examination of issues that most of us ignore.

    Reply
  2. Mike says:

    David,

    A fine eulogy indeed. Reading “The Corner” changed my thinking about so many realities of inner-city life, about the plight of DeAndre McCullough and his brethren across the country. Do you know what his son is up to? He would be about 19 or 20 by now.

    Reply
  3. Jason says:

    Thank you for eulogizing De’Andre in this almost- (and unfortunate) subchapter to The Corner. We all wish De’Andre could have made it out of the abyss of addiction, and it’s so sad he didn’t. I met you, De’Andre, Fran, and De’Rodd when I was working in the same building as Pat Moran in 2005, and we were able to visit for a few minutes. Since I first read The Corner in 1997, moved to Baltimore in 2003, and entered into recovery myself in 2008, it has had a huge impact on my life. De’Andre and I shared so many parts of our stories. I’m just blessed to have survived, and now we’ve lost him. I wish I could have known him as a friend and done whatever I could to help him. Thank you also for your nice words at his homecoming service at Bethel A.M.E. this morning. You have enriched and enlightened so many of us by bringing his – and everyone else’s – stories from The Corner to our lives. They they feel like my family too, so I’m glad we could all be there to pay our respects. Your continued work is changing the world so much for the better.

    Reply
  4. Kim J says:

    Being from Baltimore, Md I understand the demons that these men fight on a daily basis; it’s not that they don’t want to be drug free/ or get away from the lifestyle.. It’s about turning away from it all. However, it ‘s as if a temptation in the air, a draw back. In addition, it’s hard to get away from the things that you knew for so long and still remain in that environment . I can’t stop reading and looking at DeAndre he remind of my Ex who I believe is facing the same issues and I wish I can save him, Honestly I wish I can save the whole community of Baltimore it’s nothing but a cycle . I pray that the next generation don’t face those demons as the past generations had. Baltimore really need less liquor stores and bars, and idk I love my city I pray we get it together.

    Reply
  5. Tim T - Baltimore says:

    Is the funeral today, Tuesday?

    Any details?

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      It was. At Bethel A.M.E. Church. Donnie, his stepfather, spoke beautifully. And one of DeAndre’s poems, the one that closes the last chapter of The Corner, was read to great emotion. It was a hard day, but it was good to be with people who knew and cared.

      Reply
  6. Brenda Fulton says:

    Saddened by the lost of a young man, and more sadden by the lost for a parent. However Fran we still need you and the advocacy that you do on a daily basis. Your character and hard work will continue to encourage the lives of others forever.

    Reply
  7. jérémy says:

    right of passage rite of passage

    Reply
  8. Annie says:

    Thank you, Mr. Simon for your voice.
    They say, as a mother, you are only as happy as your unhappiest child. Unless you’ve lost a child to addiction it’s impossible to understand the magnitude of that pain, or the human consequence of failed social policy. By writing about the children, you keep the memory of hope alive. That all those children are gone saddens me in ways I cannot describe.
    Far too easy to blame others than to accept responsibility for each other….

    Reply
  9. Dan Entwistle says:

    Simon,

    I’m from the UK – about as far away from the corners of Baltimore as you could possibly get. My exposure to deprivation and drug use is strictly limited to the occasional vagrant and hipsters smoking a few joints.

    I first discovered Baltimore through The Wire (superb) and continued in that vein by reading The Corner and (currently re-reading) Homicide.

    The Corner, however, has stuck with me ever since. Reading about the McCullough family through your expertly crafted narrative shattered any preconceived notions I naively held on to about the nature of poverty, drug use and criminality.

    For the first time I was exposed to the real and true humanity that was all too well hidden behind the stereotypes and “who gives a fucks” of our society. Reading your moving obituary to this troubled yet spirited young man vindicates my new-found opinion that you so helpfully cultivated.

    So, in sum – a thank you. Thank you for opening my eyes to this universe (for it is separate to my own in such a way, I consider it such). Thank you for allowing me to pass on my understanding and allowing others to grasp the humanity – and the hypocrisy – that lies on your doorstep. Thank you for actually making me give a fuck.

    Reply
  10. Nick says:

    Wow that’s really sad

    I watched The Corner a few years ago and the impression that I got was that DeAndre was going to turn out ok because he came across as so smart and charming, damn shame

    RIP

    Reply
  11. Liz Quinn says:

    Dear Mr Simon,
    The Corner and The Wire are excellent examples of the scandalous waste of young people’s talents and lives.

    I spent my teaching career here in Scotland working with children who were often on the same path as DeAndre.

    Thank you for your compassionate writings.

    Reply
  12. Sebastian says:

    You’re an excellent writer David!

    Reply
  13. Shannon says:

    I was so sorry to hear the news of DeAndre’s passing. My condolences to all of his family and friends. It was so brave of DeAndre to share his personal life so openly for The Corner, and it was a privilege to gain a glimpse of who he was. Hopefully readers/viewers leave his story with not just a slight change in attitude and greater awareness of the struggles he (and too many kids like him) faced, but with strong resolve to make whatever difference we can to stop DeAndre’s outcome from endlessly repeating itself.

    Reply
  14. Antonette DeVito says:

    I cried as I read this. My son — a white, middle-class kid — suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, a diagnosis not made until his 18th birthday (a diagnosis I made, after reading an article about this mental illness in the NY Times). I suspect that DeAndre suffered from this, as well. Many broken people also suffer from this mental disease, and most are undiagnosed. My son Walker gets high to avoid the pain of being himself — a self he cannot fathom. Like Dre, he is at his best sober; high, he is miserable, ashamed, angry, impulsive. Right now, he is completing six months in LA County Jail. He calls to tell me how stressed out he is. Of course he feels stress — he’s in jail. He’s called Wood by the cops, a reference my Oklahoma-born husband had to explain to me. “Peckerwood — white trash.” He’s one of the few white guys incarcerated. Stress is one indication of his mental illness — this boy felt stress when he was four years old and going to a kid’s birthday party. I tell him he needs to both ignore his stress, and to harness it. The best cure for BPD is known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which is basically a form of behaviorism. It is basically meditation. You teach yourself that your feelings (anger, impulses) are just that — feelings — and do not need to be acted upon. You don’t need to beat up your girlfriend because you think she is cheating on you (and she is not). You do not need to use because of “uncontrollable urges” — you can control your urges, because they are just that — urges. They are not real. Gravity is real. Cancer is real. Your urges are just that — urges. Not real. –That’s the “ignoring it” part. The harnessing part — turn your manure (pain) into compost — write. Make music. Create.

    Reply
  15. Jean-François says:

    “Mille mercis” for this lovely tribute. As a “fan” of The Corner and The Wire, I am also saddened by the loss of Dre.

    JF (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

    Reply
  16. Matthew says:

    I loved DeAndre’s performance on the show, and I was incredibly moved by your words. It’s sad that Tim and his cadre of cynical, disillusioned officers have to justify what they do by dehumanizing the populace they’re enlisted to serve, but it proves your point all the more. You are a fine man for doing what you could for DeAndre, and for not falling to Tim’s level even when you would be completely justified considering what a horrificly insulting comment he made.

    Reply
  17. Kelly says:

    I am so sorry to hear this news. I just read The Corner not too long ago, and damn–to hear that all of those boys are dead just kills me.

    My condolences to you and the McCollough family.

    Reply
  18. Michael P says:

    David, I work as a drug and alcohol counselor inside of a state prison in Massachussetts and also part time at a halfway house. I wrote this earlier elsewhere, and I hope that you don’t mind me reposting. I want to thank you for your work in bringing reality to circumstances that most don’t understand. Please keep up the great work:

    When I left work today, I was greeted to a story about a young man who had passed away far too young. His name was DeAndre McCullough. A young man who was the same age as I am. A young man who also faced and battled addiction. Some of you may know who this man was if you watched HBO mini-series “The Corner” or saw his cameo appearances in HBO’s series “The Wire”. He was a man who should be defined by far more than his criminal record and addiction.

    Every day I go into work and work with people who are like DeAndre. Men who are at the broken edges of society, who have had their own faith broken long before they ended up in prison. These men who face the bleak prospect that they are marginalized in large part by a society that their own actions have alienated themselves from. Every day I see 70 plus DeAndre McCullough’s. Every day I pray for the miracle that I can help just one of them get their life back.

    The Corner is an important piece of the American narrative because it told the story of people who have been relegated into being inconsequential. As I watched “The Corner”, I couldn’t help but think of a few young men I grew up with who had lost their lives too soon. Young men like Gary Jeter, who my last memory of is a news video of him being rolled out of the Buffalo down town train on a gurney. Local Buffalo radio stations had a few laughs at his expense, and a life that could have been filled with potential was ended in a story that was quickly forgotten.

    When I visited Baltimore a few years ago, I couldn’t help to feel that it felt very similar to Buffalo. It feels like Worcester. It feels like Springfield, Boston, Lowell… Framingham.

    I stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the bravest people I know, who help in this war against addiction. It is a job that a thank you will come few and far between. Together, we help those who have often lost the will to fight for themselves, and our value is judged by many people who chose to hate the person and not the addiction. Together, we stand in the trenches battling against the greatest enemy facing our nation today, which is the utter indifference by most, and the incorrect facts spread by many who feel drug legalization would solve this problem. There are times when we feel alone in this fight. Many of us burn out only a few years into our careers.

    There is too much pain, too much disappointment. Too much hurt. Today I cried when I read about DeAndre McCullough’s passing. Not because I knew him personally. I cried instead because we are losing a generation of young men and women who have the same goals and dreams as DeAndre. Who are trapped in a battle where there appears to be no way out.

    I want to personally thank all those who stand with me in this battle. Fighting every day for the same lost souls that David Simon wrote about in his article. WE do make a difference, no matter how small we feel it is at times.
    God Bless.

    Reply
  19. Darden Swain says:

    I read “The Corner” for the first time fifteen years ago and it immediately became a mainstay on each of my bookshelves. I have since reread it countless of times and it never fails to open my eyes to a segment of society that is ignored. For those that love “The Wire”, DeAndre’s story was the beginning, and ultimately, the end. For Blue, Fat Curt, Gary, Fran, RJ, Dinky, and all the Fayette Mafia, Stay easy DeAndre.

    Reply
  20. Martin says:

    I just want to say thank you to DeAndre. It may seem strange to some but, I truly feel like he did something important when he let David into his life. Before “The Corner,” America (or the wider world) seldom got a chance to know a person like DeAndre. That is to say, a young boy from a broken corner of the American experiment who was, despite everything, still a truly human being.

    My condolences to all who knew and loved him.

    Reply
  21. Stephen says:

    Mr Simon,

    I live and work in a world very different to the corners you describe in Baltimore, a place I’ve never visited. I’ve watched The Wire, I’ve read Homicide, I’ve read The Corner. Monumental achievements, all of them. Here, in rural Scotland, I struggle to understand what draws me to these accounts, and now, reading this obituary, I think I know: you have the humanity to see the humanity in others, however far they fall – and you have the rare gift, as a writer, or expressing that, vividly and compellingly, to people like me who will never walk those mean streets. I am deeply saddened to hear what happened to DeAndre – but I salute you for your determination to tell his story, and to tell it so well. Thank you.

    Reply
  22. Dave says:

    A tragic end to a sad story. My thoughts are with Fran and the rest of his family.

    Reply
  23. Juan says:

    fuck!

    Reply
  24. ANTHONY [DONUT] GROSS says:

    I once worked with a man named Deandre McCullough [1977-2012] all I remember are the jokes we made about the teamsters! The time we went on Ms. Jane’s crafty truck & took all the gum because she lied to us!! The time we trip the electrician with his own wires when he wasnt looking!! [this is 2 say i knew nothing bad of Dre but all laughs and as I write this I still laugh memories are priceless & so was his life as it was taken to early to day i shall steal gum 4 us as u watch up in heaven & laugh i will laugh & cry 2 dre gone 2 early will not again will not b 4 gotten!!!!! [Donut] VIP Security

    Reply
  25. Gary Wright says:

    I will say fairwells to DeAndre, he was a legend of Baltimore, when I read his book and watched The Corner it changed me

    Reply
  26. CR says:

    If every victim of the drug war was given posthumous voice as truthful and empathetic as this, just maybe people could relate a little more and not be so quick write someone off as another dead junkie. Maybe they could even get a little respect while they’re still living, too.

    Reply
  27. Kelle says:

    I’m so sorry for not only your loss, but the loss of a son, brother, uncle, father, and friend. People living in the midst of street life and addiction are struggling with challenges most of us will never have to surmount.

    I work with people dealing with drugs and street life, and the traumas they have in their past can be heartbreaking. For them to survive in that environment is remarkable, and their skills are incredible. I couldn’t do it, and it shows us how inextinguishable the human spirit is.

    I admire your writing for portraying everyone with the dignity, worth, and respect that each human life deserves.

    Again, I am so sorry for your loss. My condolences to Fran and Dre’s family.

    Reply
  28. Mahoganie Jade Browne says:

    WOW! Ironically not too long ago, I wondered if there was ever a follow up on Dre. Thank you for these words David. Thank you for the imagery to present us with a human being; flawed and burdened with struggles but still shined when they allowed themselves to. My condolences to his family.

    Reply
  29. Bebe Ferro says:

    I just ran into him a few months ago while working on a commercial downtown. We recognized each other instantly even though it had been years since our last meeting. We chatted for a while and joked a little. He seemed fine. I had no idea he was in such a bad place.
    His passing is so sad. Let’s hope he’s at peace now too.

    Reply
  30. Queen Zorba says:

    I am literally in tears. There is a sadness in his story so deep it can’t be read without feeling it in the pit of my stomach. I am a mother of two and have fortunately never had to deal with those devils in my immediate family, but I’ve worked with youth and teen development for many years and your reply to Tim is appreciated. The story of someone’s life is never what one person sees on the surface or perceives as the story. Dre has loved ones who feel the same pain in his loss as a family on St. Charles Ave…empathy and a sensitivity to those feelings should reign supreme right now.

    Thank you for your story and follow up comments. Hopefully people will read this and feel compelled to do more. Why was this Dre’s story? Why does America allow this to be the story of so many young men? How do we break the cycle? Who is willing to step up to make something significant happen?

    Gone too soon, but Dre is finally in peace.

    Reply
  31. Deidre says:

    An addict is always somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, loved somewhere. Too many try and try and don’t make it out of the loop. Thank you for remembering DeAndre and by doing so bringing humanity to others who have fallen. I lost my brother to addiction three months ago. He was the opposite in some ways of DeAndre, younger, blue-eyed and grew up in a resort community sheltered from many things. He died, homeless, in a drug house, an OD from shooting up, his only ID a food stamp card. I still have his three month chip from when he was in rehab last year. He was many awful things, a vagrant, a criminal, an abuser, and a thief. But he was, and will always be, my baby brother. People who dismiss someone as just another addict deny the truth of a person. It sounds like you lost a good friend who gave you much in the world and I am sorry for his family who will never fill the hole he left behind.

    Reply
  32. Lynne Hastings says:

    I loved the miniseries and hoped his story would end like his Mother’s, not his Father’s . May his wounded soul finally be at peace. He, too, was too gentle for the corner. Thank you for being there for him. I am sorry for your loss.

    Reply
  33. Lynne Hastings says:

    I loved the miniseries and hoped his story would end like his Mother’s, not his Father’s . May his wounded soul finally be at his. He, too, was too gentle for the corner. Thank you for being there for him. I am sorry for your loss.

    Reply
  34. Susie says:

    Thank you for sharing the tones and shades of a life that could be so easily dismissed as just another addict who OD’d.

    My sympathy to his family and friends who are grieving his loss. I hope that those who knew him remember the goodness that existed – as it does in all of us – and that those who choose to see only the end of a broken life can understand that we will all continue to be impacted, and sometimes victimized by people in pain that we walk past or step over.

    We are all connected to each other whether we want to believe it or not.

    Reply
  35. Isaac Boone Davis says:

    I didn’t know D’eandre but I knew a lot of guys like him. Funny, insightful, lethal. The truth is never useless commentary Mr. Simon. While I can understand the frustration with guys caught up in the life, this is not the proper forum to chastise him for his choices. The court system, prisons, the constant threat of homelessness, these are constant realities for the forgotten. Rest In Peace Mr. McCullough, and thank you for your contribution. Such a dark road home.

    Reply
  36. Tim says:

    Dave, you conventionally chose to forget about the victims of the robberies who had no clue that “Dre” was such a gentle and loving guy. Ban me if it makes you feel good but you have missed something here. I live in the real world, “Dre” was not a good person & contributed NOTHING to improving his circumstance. I know better than you the story of “Dre”, I feel for the true victims of his life style, not for what he did to himself. Do you really believe what YOU write?

    Reply
    • John Flannery says:

      There are a few hundred boys from Mountain Manor that would disagree with you. He may not have “given back” in the ways that you consider “legitimate”…but he certainly DID give back. Does that erase the pain he caused? Not in the least. But out of respect we should remember him for the person he was…not his behaviors – most of which were inspired by something you have to experience to understand.

      JF

      Reply
    • Jgiddens says:

      Just read your tribute to DeAndre. When you deal with real perple in real life you find everyone has a soul, a story and wisdom. DeAndre was lucky to have a friend in you. You liked him just as he was; he didn’t even like himself. Did I know him? No. After your article, I felt like I did.

      Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Tim,

      I went back and reread the original post with your comments in mind. One would think, from your stance, that I had lionized DeAndre or excused or avoided his culpability in the tragedy, or that I had obscured the wrongs in which he was involved. But no, his failings are right there on the page — every one of them, right down to the last robberies.

      You on the other hand are insistent on making this man less human — which is, I believe, the precise dynamic that has allowed the drug war to go on as long as it has — achieving nothing and destroying everything still standing after the onslaught of the drugs themselves.

      You want to believe that DeAndre was the bad apple, that the game itself isn’t a dishonorable fraud on the part of our society. Well, you have a problem. Ed and I walked into that rec center on Vincent Street and we latched on to a half dozen adolescents, including DeAndre. And now, today, they are all of them gone. All of them. Not one still standing as part of our society and ready to claim the mantle of personal righteousness upon which you insist. Dinky was shot to death. So was Boo. Tae is in prison. So is Brooks. R.C. is gone, also an overdose. And now, after a long fight, DeAndre.

      When the odds are that stacked against childhood, it is no longer a matter of individual failure. It is systemic, it is indicative not of one young man’s venalities, but of a powerful dynamic arrayed against all of the young men. You fought the drug war in that neighborhood and I know you did so fairly, giving the ground stashes to the right guys, never cheating the P.C. You played by the rules. But you are having a hard time being honest with yourself about what corruptions you served by doing so. In truth, those were rules to a rigged game, and you were a soldier in Pharoah’s army. And everything you did along Fayette Street — at least in terms of drug enforcement — didn’t serve anyone, or help anyone, least of all that neighborhood. To the extent you responded to violence and to crimes against people and their property, you were a meaningful civic asset. But nothing was achieved from your service to this dystopic and dishonorable drug prohibition. Sorry. All my years of reporting and writing have led to that inexorable conclusion.

      The factories were gone, the jobs were overseas. The only hiring industry in that America was the corners. And you chased drug stats in a city in which half of all adult African-American males were without work and without any legitimate prospect of work. DeAndre grew up amid that rigged game and he played out his string. That he lasted as long as he did, that he went longer than every single one of his contemporaries is testament to his own fitful attempts at change and to the great efforts of his mother, who clawed her way to sobriety and managed to move her entire extended family away from Fayette Street. Only DeAndre, the oldest and most affected by a childhood in that place, could not be rescued.

      In response to your query, I believe every fucking word I write. And I knew that young man far better than you have any right to claim. His mistakes and his wrongs are in the original post, plain as day. But that isn’t enough for you, because some of his humanity was there as well. And that is what bothers you, isn’t it? You need all his failure to be a consequence of his being just that much less a human being than you and yours. Fitzgerald famously said that the sign of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two seemingly opposing arguments at the same time. Well, DeAndre did what he did and lived as he lived and died as he died. No one is denying any of that. Yet at the same time, he was also quite human, a wounded soul who wanted more for himself and those he loved. And the people who knew him understood this. That this is unacceptable to you, that you can only hold one side of this duality in your mind is not about DeAndre. Brother, it is about you.

      If you want to argue the drug war further, I will do so, and you should take your opinions to another heading at this site, perhaps the last one that argues drug policy, which is pegged to the recent Mexican election. I can be civil in debating the issue as an issue, and we can avoid any further discussion of DeAndre. But this post is here to serve the memory of one human being who, despite his struggles and failings, mattered to other human beings. And I can’t allow the basic indecency that underlies your remarks to continue. You can make your points without maligning this specific young man at a time when his family and friends are still coming to terms with his death. That’s just real, real wrong. Sorry.

      If you comment here again, under this heading, I will necessarily delete the entry.

      Reply
      • Kenyetta (DeAndre's Auntie) says:

        Thank you David, from his “auntie” who LOVED him very much!

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          Hey, Kenyetta. How have you been?

          I’m guessing this is the McCullough side checking in, because Kenyetta Bell would be Andre’s niece.

          Warm wishes to all of the McCulloughs — and there are many. I hope everyone is well and working through this hard moment.

          Reply
      • Chris says:

        David,
        A beautiful piece….I work with drug addicts in London and fully understand everything you write. I was actually in Baltimore (as my friend was living there and being a huge fan of The Wire) last November and couldn’t believe the deprivation and lives for so many in the ghettos there. Seas of boarded up houses. For me it was surreal. Also strangely last week I got half way through the second episode of the corner. I’m fascinated but so depressed about this side of life.
        I’ve lost many of my service users through addiction and every time it depresses me, especially when I’ve become close to them and try to understand their lifestyles and issues. But I agree with all you say.
        Thanks for this

        Reply
      • Jeff Miller says:

        Amazing response… probably the best post/response I’ve read all year on any topic. I don’t even know where to start in describing how many emotions you raised while reading your post… mostly I just kept saying “damn straight” to myself.

        Damn straight Mr. Simon… Damn straight… God forbid we see the humanity in others, because what would that lead to?

        Reply
  37. TheBearPaw says:

    Heartbreaking!!!! The inevitable hopelessness of the corner in the end did manage to smother and kill DeAndre. His unfulfilled and short life exemplifies all the many poor blacks in America who continue to be denied a life and the responsibility is undoubtedly for the ignorant, parasitic, and impotent politicians and policymakers plaguing the country to take.

    This is a truly tremendously sad and enraging end to the human individual we had the chance to get to know in The Corner. Yet it is only the latest chapter of the much greater unending tragedy of the failed drug war, authored by the blind and malignant government. What we can take from Andre’s death is yet another sorrowful reminder to us all of the failure of drug polices and an example to give to others with the efforts educate and inform the nation about the persistent cancer of the American society that no one gives a fuck or dedication to properly address. We each must do our part no matter be it minor or substantial to try to change the drug strategy, to change the intervention and treatment efforts for the DeAndres lining the streets, the corners, the alleys and the run-down homes of the modern US and not only.

    We can not afford to allow the people such as DeAndre McCullough to continue to die while we sit on our lucky, well-fed asses and make no effort to help the fallen members of our own nation experience an uncorrupted life. For the sake of humanity!

    Thank you, Mr. Simon for continuing to inform us about just such tragedies abound out there outside our warm homes, yet much, much closer to us than many unaware would suspect.

    Reply
  38. Tim says:

    Dave, another dead junkie, nothing more nothing less. I walked you through those very streets some 25 years ago, before the book, before your stint in homicide & before the TV shows. Fayette & Mount has not change a bit. The violence brought upon the community by all the “Dre’s” of the city is unforgivable. To make him out as something special is incredibly short sighted. Your compassion is, in my experience, misguided. You’ve chosen to fall in love with your subject matter & have overlooked the carnage he brought upon his own neighborhood. Where, I’m left to wonder, is the compassion for those that “Dre” left in his wake.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I remember you well, Tim. You were a fine police officer, thoroughly professional in your duties. I remember how precise your casework was, and how committed you were to addressing the drug trade along the lower end of the Western District. I admired you and your craft in every possible sense.

      But here, your lack of basic empathy, if not a certain fundamental humanity, is startling.

      DeAndre hurt no one more than himself. He was not notably violent and his crimes, until the very end, were about self-destruction. And indeed, if you consider the robberies of those pharmacies to be ruthless you are mistaken. He couldn’t bring himself to even brandish the gun, and in some cases it is entirely unclear that even had a weapon or a loaded weapon. He couldn’t even announce the robbery, merely handing a note and running away with the prescription drugs.

      That you can ignore the totality of this tragedy — willfully avoiding all possible context for how children find themselves growing up in places like Fayette Street, and giving yourself a dose of smug, self-satisfaction by simply labeling other human beings as “junkies” — this is a problem of a stunted, malformed human condition. And I am not referring to the others you are so quick to categorize and condemn. I say this harshly because, frankly, you must know that you are not merely conducting an academic or intellectual exercise when you write in this way about this particular young man at this particular moment.

      I have never actually sent anyone participating here to any sort of kill file. I’m quite content with fundamental disagreements on content. But in your case, I have to consider what you intended to accomplish with your post. Even if you believe every word you wrote, and even — if only for the sake of argument — we pretend that every word you wrote was intellectually justified, are you not still aware that you are writing in a forum in which other human beings are genuinely grieving for someone they have lost? That for myself — and for many others who knew DeAndre in ways that you can’t — this is staggering and heartbreaking? In that precise context, what kind of person writes as you did in this forum? And to what honorable purpose?

      With all due respect to the good that you tried to do on Fayette Street in your days there, I have to ask you to reflect on your own cruelty, your indifference to others and their pain, and ultimately, on your lack of manners. Seriously. When you go to the funerals of people you knew, do you sign the visitor book with an accounting of the flaws and failings of the deceased, and do you do so as a means of making you feel superior in your own skin? Because, Tim, that is exactly what you just did on this website.

      DeAndre struggled with great demons. As did many people lost on Fayette Street. The sad outcome doesn’t make their humanity or struggle any less real. Nor does it answer the greater question of why the Fayette Streets exist, and why we allow certain children in one of the most monied and propertied societies to learn their earliest lessons of life in such places.

      If you’re going to write again, think a little harder. Feel a little more deeply. Or understand what has happened — and happened for the first and only time — when the next comment is your last in this forum.

      Respectfully, and with fond memories of you in other contexts,

      David

      Reply
      • HR says:

        The compassion and empathy you bring to your work and the people in it, as evinced in this response to a callous blowhard, is why I will follow your work where ever it may lead.

        Condolences.

        Reply
      • EAC says:

        Thank you so much for writing that reply.

        Reply
  39. Jari Jasper says:

    Thank you for the insights and introducing the world to DeAndre McCullough. And Thanks to DeAndre for sharing his world and shining the light he had for the world to see.

    Reply
  40. Melissa says:

    When people label someone an addict it’s as if this is the only thing this person is, or ever will be. We are rarely just one thing. I’m sorry you’ve lost a friend.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      It’s for that reason that I never use the term, “junkie.” Ed Burns and I tried to avoid that term — at least in our own narration, apart from the quotes of others — in the tome that was “The Corner.”

      An addict describes the medical and psychological dynamic. Even the phrase “dope fiend,” which was how many in that world described themselves, speaks to hunger and conditional desperation.

      Junkie implies the value or valuelessness of a human being. I hate the word. I avoid it and what it ultimately represents.

      Reply
      • derek says:

        Actually, the term “dope fiend” makes more sense. The term addiction has become a catch-all phrase for any habit, whether good or bad.

        Reply
        • derek says:

          Dope fiend is a more precise description, without any implied judgement.

          Fiend, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary is “a person extremely devoted to a pursuit or study : fanatic ”

          And dope is what they are exrtremely devoted to. Can’t see a problem with that description at all.

          Reply
  41. Rebecca says:

    Beautiful and heartbreaking tribute. RIP De’Andre and deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

    Reply
  42. Jacki says:

    His story is so frustrating. So much was given to this young man and he seems to not have fully realized the value of the gift. I don’t know what to feel.

    Reply
  43. Dale savage says:

    I loved the corner.when I was little,ot was my favor show.sadd to hear what happen.Rip Dre.A Gee gone to soon! May peace&blessing be with family.fly in peace Gee?

    Reply
  44. Obamney says:

    This is so sad.

    Thanks for writing it, and telling us about DeAndre. I feel like I knew him and his family. Condolences to all that knew and loved him.

    Reply
  45. nisha562 says:

    omg this is sad rip deondre stay strong fran, lil bro, tyreeka, lil deontae and friends n family

    Reply
  46. Felicia says:

    Beautiful words.

    Reply
  47. brian says:

    tragic-beautiful- RIP

    Reply
  48. Jan Burke says:

    You’ve made Dre more than a statistic, made those who never met him feel a sense of who it is who has been lost, reminded me of others lost — whose inability to reach out and take hold of potential before death somehow marked them in the eyes of others as lesser beings. You noticed, you loved, you remind us. Not useless .

    I am so sorry for your — our — loss.

    Reply
  49. Greg says:

    Damn. Stay strong, Fran.

    Reply
  50. Oline Cogdill says:

    A lovely tribute

    Reply
  51. Randy says:

    Thank you, David. The news of De’Andre’s death has hit hard and been on my mind these past days, and will long leave me wondering about what more we might have done. I have been dealing for the past eight months with a nephew far away addicted to heroin and now homeless. I want so badly to reach out and help, but am painfully aware that it is his choice as to where he goes from here. I have sent him the various writings about De’Andre and hope that they may be of value to him as he moves forward and makes choices.

    Reply
  52. Eric says:

    I only knew DeAndre from “The Corner,” but he stepped out of the pages and became real for as long as it took me to read the book, and some weeks past that. Reading this piece today, he came rushing back, and it brought tears to my eyes. My condolences for your loss, and to DeAndre’s family as well.

    Reply
  53. Emma says:

    What a sad story. I am truly saddened to hear of Dre’s struggles in life after ‘The Corner’ & his subsequent death. I really hoped for his sake he would make good like Fran & believed he was indeed on that path. But the damage was done, the traumas he endured in childhood left their legacy on him & it seemed it was too much for him to overcome. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and everyone who, like myself, feel that they knew Dre through the great work of David & Ed. I currently work with addicts and am privileged to do so. No child aspires to grow up to become a “junkie”. That path is chosen as a way to escape pain & suffering. Maybe we can remember that when we see addicts in our courts & prisons. Compassion breeds compassion. Hate breeds hate. There are too many Dre’s in the world struggling. We should help them instead of demonising them. We are not our greatest mistakes or our worst behaviour. They are merely a result of our pain & hardship.

    Thanks for bringing this important story to life. I am sorry for your loss. Rest in peace Dre!

    Reply
  54. Joyce Pines says:

    Mr. Simon
    Thank you for telling DeAndre’s story, including the sad ending. I have watched The Wire numerous times and I’m in the midst of reading The Corner. I work as a psychologist in a drug treatment facility and meet my fair share of DeAndre’s. What I would give if I had the power to instill enough hope to get something through treatment and into a long-term recovery. Thank you for telling his story.

    Reply
  55. L Carney says:

    As someone who has struggled with the opiate poison for 15 years now, The Corner spoke to me in a way no other TV show, Movie or Book ever has. You just got it. The sheer mundaneness (is that a word?) of addiction was shown perfectly.

    I connected more with Gary than anyone else on the show as I always did well at school and even now I manage to turn up to work everyday and have even had a few promotions in the last few years, but that is because I am in Australia where our laws though still ridiculous in the way they target the victims of drug use (the users, though obviously the families of users, my mum, nan, dad etc are really the true victims) we are not as stupidly draconian as the US. Here for example there is no 3 strike policy. Here i got lucky with a judge my first time up and was given a Fine but no Conviction, therefore making it possible for me to apply for jobs and have nothing show up. Also here our employers are not as vigilant on checking this stuff.. So as I manage to keep my job I am like Gary in the lobster place, I work hard but spend all my money on only one thing, insane I know, but that is what The Corner showed so well, the sheer idiocy of the addict, an idiocy that is uncontrollable.

    I am on Suboxone a Tablet that takes away the physical withdrawals so I can still function when I havent been able to score, however it also acts as a crutch, meaning I allow myself to get on thinking Suboxone is always there to save me. That means I can maintain a job.

    However I am a victim of what I call the 23 hours and 58 minutes theory. For 23 Hours and 58 minutes of the day my intentions are good, but then unfortunately I have 2 minutes where I just say ‘fuck it’ and its those 2 minutes that kill me. Also I have this crazy thing where when I dont have money and just have to rely on my tablets I am fine, the thought doesnt even cross my mind, but as soon as I get paid its all over.

    Why do I bring all this up, well its because all this stuff I explained to my mother many times, but she could never understand it, but then she saw The Corner and finally said she understood, that is the genius of David Simon, he wrote the film wihtout judgement and managed to convey what its like to be an addict better than I could and I am one.

    Anyway I am so sorry to hear about Dre, I was devastated when Gary dies, Dre has made me really sad. It really does make you think, it really does. Maybe I can get rid of those 2 minutes, maybe I can use this to trigger me to ensure that for the full 24 hours my intentions remain good and I stop falling prey to those two insidious words ‘fuck it’/

    Reply
  56. Dan Seddon says:

    Hi David and the McCullough family, im Dan im a ex Heroin and Crack addict and dealer. And im still only 22 years old. Im from London in England and we see many of the same problems that Baltimore faces but on a smaller scale because guns are outlawed. They are still used though and there are regular gun and knife crime and murders. What I know is that most cities in the world have a corner now and the drugs and violence are wrecking our communities. I got a wake up call when I was caught with a ounce of both Heroin and Crack Cocaine and £1000 cash ( which equates to roughly $1400-$1500 ) I was facing 3-4 years in jail but luckily it was my first offence and I was already in drug treatment by the time of the trial so the judge showed mercy to me and gave me a three year suspended jail term and a mandatory drug programme for 18 months. I felt as if I had been given my life back. I have had a very similar life to DeAndre, I came from a broken home and there was lots of psychical and mental abuse in the many different homes I lived in over the years. My parents were very unstable and this led to me experiencing mental health problems like depression and anxiety but this was undiagnosed for 20 years. The corner was a great series and I relate 100 percent to DeAndre. RIP BROTHER!!!

    Reply
  57. Louise Scobie says:

    I met you last year at the festival of dangerous ideas in Sydney (i was the tony bourdain groupie). This meeting and your talk caused a retrospective look at your work because it was Treme that really drew me in, the music, the food, the people. I started my reading with Homicide which I had watched years ago and loved, never going to hear that ringing phone and not think of it. Purchased the series of the wire to rewatch and started reading the corner. Thats where I came unstuck. I was stunned and saddened about Gary’s passing but so very happy with Fran, Treeka and relieved that Deandre was still about though struggling. I finished the book and thought hey I should google and see how everyone is doing. Then I read the news that Deandre had died over a year ago. I cried myself to sleep, cried when I told my husband and am crying now. I felt so close to these “characters” that knowing that they actually walked or still walk this earth is a little too much for my world weary heart. I am 54 years old and hope to be able to do some good in this world before I kick off. thank you so much for bringing these people to the world stage. Keep it real Mr Simon, you rock. Hope to see you down under again.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. [...] can be seen in The Wire and The Corner (and, to a lesser extent, Treme). In fact Simon recently posted on his blog about the death of DeAndre McCullough, one of the subjects of The Corner. It’s clear how much Simon cared for McCullough, not least [...]

  2. [...] David Simon statement after DeAndre’s deathhttp://davidsimon.com/deandre-mccullough-1977-2012/ [...]

  3. [...] témoigne le bouleversant hommage qu’il a rendu cet été à DeAndre McCullough, un des principaux personnages de The Corner, mort [...]

  4. [...] few weeks ago, I read an incredibly moving eulogy penned by David Simon. The eulogy was in honor of a young man named DeAndre McCullough who was a [...]

  5. [...] can be seen in The Wire and The Corner (and, to a lesser extent, Treme).  In fact Simon recently posted on his blog about the death of DeAndre McCullough, one of the subjects of The Corner. It’s clear how much Simon cared for McCullough, not least [...]

  6. [...] “He went to work for the television shows, time and again lasting only as long as a paycheck or two,” Mr. Simon wrote in a tribute online. [...]

  7. [...] I just read David Simon’s obituary for DeAndre McCullough (1977-2012). [...]

  8. [...] “He went to work for the television shows, time and again lasting only as long as a paycheck or two,” Mr. Simon wrote in a tribute online. [...]

  9. [...] Simon’s obituary for DeAndre McCullough, his writing partner who also played Brother Mouzone’s assitant Lamar on The [...]

  10. [...] DeAndre McCullough, who played Brother Mouzone’s assistant Lamar on The Wire, has died at the age of 35. David Simon posted a lengthy obituary, talking about how he got to know him, etc., and you should read it. -DavidSimon [...]

  11. [...] David Simon, the writer/creator of The Wire, knew McCullough from back when Andre was a dealer on Fayette Street and Simon was doing research for a book called The Corner.  They had remained friends for the past 20 years.  Simon wrote a moving obit to his friend. [...]

  12. [...] David Simon: To remember him as we met him, twenty years ago, is to know everything that was lost, everything that never happened to a boy who could surprise you with his charm and wit and heart. This entry was posted in General by ben. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  13. [...] Simon has penned a touching obit for DeAndre McCullough, who just died of a drug overdose. When McCullough was 15 [...]

  14. [...] Of A Soul Posted at 1:30 on August 9, 2012 by Andrew Sullivan by Zoë Pollock David Simon has penned a touching obit for DeAndre McCullough, who just died of a drug overdose. When McCullough was 15 [...]

  15. [...] had to share this post that I saw on my Google Plus [...]

  16. [...] police had arrest warrants for McCullough's alleged involvement in two armed robberies. Simon remembered him: "I see, in the end, a man who was in great, unending pain. And I want him to rest now." [...]

  17. [...] Edited to add: I couldn’t pull this up before, but David Simon has a nice post on his blog. [...]

  18. [...] then I saw David Simon’s eulogy for Deandre, the central character from “The Corner“. Here’s the last [...]

  19. [...] any measure of the real cost of addressing actual human realities.” – David Simon, eulogizing. Like this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

  20. [...] McCullough—the subject of The Corner—was found dead of a drug overdose. David Simon wrote up an obit that’s worth checking out. It is a sad, if ultimately unsurprising, end to the story. Figured [...]

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