“I owe him a trip to Chicago and a morning spent in a funny hat and gown.”

A surprise from today’s Chicago Tribune

David Simon pays tribute to a ‘Wire’ fan

It’s not terribly unusual for television writers to form bonds with the people who watch their shows. What David Simon is doing for a “Wire” fan this weekend, however, may be a little unusual.

Simon, the creator of “The Wire,” will be in the Chicago area Sunday to receive an honorary degree and to deliver the commencement address for DePaul University. Simon’s appearance at the ceremony, which will take place at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena, sprang from his desire to pay tribute to Ashley Morris, a DePaul assistant professor and “Wire” fan. Morris recently passed away at the age of 44. Morris was a New Orleans resident and a noted local blogger, and he taught in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media (he commuted weekly to Chicago to teach). In addition to being a hardcore Saints fan and Warren Zevon devotee, Morris was an avid “Wire” viewer. He became friendly with Simon via Web sites devoted to the show, and one site, Got That New Package, posted an online tribute to Morris when he passed away on April 2. The community of New Orleans bloggers also deeply mourned his passing. I’ll quote here from an obituary supplied by DePaul: “The NOLA bloggers, rising in response to an unimaginable tragedy, quickly found themselves steering different parts of the beast,” wrote noted Louisiana political cartoonist Greg Peters, on his blog, Suspect Device. “Ashley was fire. Ashley was the furnace where the rage was forged, where the steam pressure built, where raw anger began its conversion to power and motion.” (The full DePaul obituary for Morris is at the end of this item. The New Orleans Times-Picayune obituary is here.) Reading that, it’s not hard to understand why Simon liked Morris. Shawn Malayter of DePaul’s media relations office alerted me to Simon’s commencement appearance. Malayter said that Simon got in touch with the university after hearing of Morris’ passing, and expressed a desire to speak at the ceremony. Simon had reluctantly turned down the offer to speak when it was originally made several months ago, because he was supposed to be in London editing his new miniseries, “Generation Kill,” which debuts on HBO July 13. But he felt compelled to honor Morris’ memory and their friendship, even though the two men had never met in person. In an e-mail to me, Simon said he had hoped to get to know Morris if a proposed HBO project about New Orleans got off the ground. He also wrote about why he wanted to come to DePaul the ceremony to honor Morris: “The last [e-mail] conversation I had with this gentlemen, he expressed great satisfaction and pride in having worked hard to get me invited to the DePaul commencement,” Simon wrote. “In fact, I was originally scheduled to be in London doing the final sound editing on Generation Kill this coming weekend and so I regretfully declined. He e-mailed me back saying he understand and was very disappointed, but understood the scheduling conflict. Next thing, I learn that Ashley has passed away suddenly. “So the last thing this fella did was ask me to make a commencement appearance at the school where he taught and I said, sorry, no. And then he departs this vale. Naturally, for karmatic purposes, I had to call DePaul back and say if you still need me I’m there. “I enjoyed reading Mr. Morris’s contributions to the Got That New Package website as well as his dissertations on New Orleans in its post-Katrina agonies. I have a feeling I would have gotten to know him well and enjoyed his company if he had lived long enough to be in New Orleans when we, I hope, will begin filming down there for a future HBO project. “I admired his sense of outrage; petulance and selfish rage are useless, but rightful and righteous anger has an essential place in our times. Ashley was angry on behalf of others, which in my mind makes all the difference. From what he wrote, I am convinced that Ashley loved his city and he loved the people of his city, and he was short and to the point with people who tried to [evade] the real questions using ad hominem and decorum and false civility. He spoke his mind. “So I never got to know him. And that is my loss. And on some weird level, I owe him a trip to Chicago and a morning spent in a funny hat and gown.” Read the rest H/T Gentilly Girl



  1. Seems to be an open tag or something I can’t find…the whole site is in italics….

    otherwise, wonderful to hear from Mr. Simon about Ashley. Very beautiful.

  2. I’m tempted to try to be there. There is a live webcast of the ceremony at 8:30 am/CT on Sunday morning at depaul.edu.

  3. David Simon spoke for about 5 minutes at the DePaul commencement this morning, and it was all a tribute to Ashley’s unselfish anger. A terrific tribute.

  4. Jim-

    Were you there or did you see the webcast.

  5. Webcast. I was too slow on the uptake to get there in person. I’m working on a YouTube upload of the tribute. I will post the link when I have it.

  6. Thanks, Jim. My internet cut out in the middle of his remarks because of this massive storm we had this morning.

  7. Awesome, Jim. Thanks. My father’s day present was to get to stay up til 5 writing and then sleep all day, so I missed it. Can’t wait to watch it.

  8. I can’t wait to see the YouTube on this speech. I was just going to sleep when he did his piece. (and the street was flooding from the storm)

  9. Hey, GG. Nice to see ya over heres. Don’t be a stranger

  10. I’ll try to be around more. The house thing is eating us alive.

    BTW- I think the crab icon fits me.

  11. The archive webcast is up at the DePaul web site. David Simon’s introduction and remarks start at the 27 minute mark into the webcast…


  12. […] about Simon’s decision to speak at the ceremony here and […]

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