So I Went Crazy

So there’s these two fish in a tank, and one fish says to the other one, “I can’t drive this thing.”

Seriously, I know one joke, and that’s it. I forget who taught it to me. I’m sure it was funnier when he said it.

McNulty and Templeton, sitting in a tree, L-Y-I-N-G. And we view the one with sympathy, because his intentions are to bring much-needed police power to bear on a criminal. The other, his aims are selfish, to make enough of a splash to get the Washington Post to hire his resume-packing ass. Both of them running cons, each of them looking at the other one, because when you’re a professional liar you think everybody else is too because it’s the only way you can live. Each of them looking at the other one trying to figure out what his con is, what he’s about, how it might help. McNulty’s sizing up a suspect; Templeton might as well be a dealer for all he’s playing and being played. He’s a corner boy, maybe, working an angle of his own in a game he barely understands and at which he has no hope of succeeding. They’re both so completely into their own stuff here they can’t even see past their faces; it’s not like Herc, who can’t see the long game. He can’t see it; they’ve closed their eyes.

But the consequences spiral out from the center and never stop; being a writer is like being a teacher is like being a cop is like being anybody: You never know where your work lands, you never know where it stops. It spirals out, in that somebody reads something you wrote and gets involved in a cause and comes to understand community and runs for office and gets elected and does it again and again and you didn’t make that guy president, but you dropped the pebble in the pool. You flapped the wings on that butterfly and changed the way the air moved. So now Kima’s in it, in that she’s implicated in faking police reports with McNulty on the phony serial killer. Alma’s in it, too, and I feel for this girl so much, in that she’s sharing a byline on a guy who’s gonna get found out and it’s going to come back to haunt her. She’s gonna think, every day, “Could I have seen this coming?” Kima, too; she and Jimmy used to be close, she’d know if something was up, wouldn’t she?

Forget about up the ladder, to Daniels, to Gus. Forget about that. I look at down the ladder, everybody who ever passed either of them a pencil is gonna get tarred with this, because things like this ruin everyone they touch, and maybe they should, maybe that’s the only way it stops.

So does it matter, given the damage it’s causing to people who don’t have any hope of the kind of parachute Burrell got, for example, does it then matter that Templeton’s intentions are bullshit and McNulty’s are (in his own twisted way, in the beginning) honorable? Does it matter that McNulty intends to catch a killer and Templeton just wants to get his dumb ass a better job? Before it touched somebody else, I would have said intentions  counted. When your ass is your own you can risk it all you want for whatever aims you please and if you can convince me to find it admirable I will but it doesn’t really matter that much; McNulty had no right to risk Kima’s ass (or Bunk’s, but he knew, and Kima doesn’t). That’s where his rationale falls apart for me. Templeton never convinced me I should have the slightest bit of sympathy for him; make him the old timer trying to hang on with the new kid coming for him, and you might have had me there.

(And why the fuck didn’t Templeton go into television, anyway, if what he wanted was to be a halfbright hairdo who people admired and asked to their parties? That shit is for the six o’clock, not for print, god damn it.)

So there’s these two fish in a tank in the city of Baltimore, neither can drive the thing worth a damn, and they’re rolling all over everything in their path, crushing things they don’t even see.




  1. I love this post, but I disagree with you about McNulty’s motivation. Maybe not a disagreement as much as we weigh things differently, I dunno.

    I love McNulty, it’s hard not to, plus I have that weakness for bighearted assholes. That said, I’d argue that his intentions were never honorable, that they came from a huge gaping hole inside him. Undoubtedly the end was a just one, and I think he believed with all his heart he was doing a good thing, but the whole thing is soaked in his own vanity. If someone had come to him and beyond a shadow of a doubt, maybe Lester should have done this, and said, “YOu know what you want is right and I promise I will carry out your wishes to a T and here is why and how I can do it successfully. So, I’m going to take this off your hands and I want you to concentrate on staying healthy and sober and centered for your kids, for your woman, and for your co-workers, so step back and let me finish what you started and I’ll even give you all the credit, okay?” If that had happened, do you think McNulty would have kept sane and let someone else take care of that grievous problem? I think the answer is hell no. McNulty thinks only he can fix this, can win, can beat Marlo and the assholes at city hall. At least that’s what I think he thought at the beginning. Now he’s just running on fumes. Now, I think he has not only a careless disregard for his own life but for those of his family and friends.
    And yeah, he’s sick, he’s a drunk, an addict who’s powerless over his addiction, but he started down this path when he was sober and conscious and knew better, when he was healthier than he’d ever been. Back in that scene in bed with Beadie when he decided to believe that “maybe this time, it will be different.”
    For that matter, Templeton’s probably got some deep seated soul sickness that make him prize ambition and success over human emotions, so I should probably feel compassion for him too, for both of them because they’re so damaged.
    I don’t though, and this is where we agree, I think, because they are putting others at risk. McNulty maybe even more because he’s forgotten he has kids, not just kids but adolescent boys: a strong man in their life would be a good thing right now, plus he’s a cop, and him fucking up can get people hurt or killed.

  2. Oh, narcissists, why are you so attractive to us? Seriously, McNulty is every college boyfriend I ever had up till Mr. A, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in there, too; there’s a lot of self-importance in thinking you’re the one who can heal him, fix him, pull his nuts out of the fire. You’re right in that it’s about him, but I do really believe that part of what motivates his conviction that only he can fix this is that the people in whom he puts his trust keep disappointing him. They keep holding out the idea that they’ll do the right thing, like a carrot on a stick, and jerk it away from him time and time again. It’s not hard to see how he starts thinking that he’s gonna steal the carrot, light the stick on fire and shove it up the ass of the motherfucker holding it, and why shouldn’t he be the one to do that, since nobody else has their shit together?


  3. plus I have that weakness for bighearted assholes

    That explains all the super-pokes on Facebook, I guess. ;p

    Here’s another joke. Two guys, one from New Orleans, one visiting. The second one says, “Did y’all lose a lot of churches in the storm?” and the first says “I don’t know, I usually go to Popeye’s.”

    I looooooooooove that joke.

  4. That explains all the super-pokes on Facebook, I guess. ;p

    …..what was your name again?

    great joke!

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