David Simon story from 1995: Metal Men

I got into a convo on Twitter the other day, as I am wont to do. This time it was with Craig Pittman. I quipped that a story about metal scavengers was the real-life Bubs in action. He proceeded to tell me about this story and I, being a Wire fanatic, asked him to send it to me. Here’s how it kicks off:

Kenny wipes his mouth, passes the wine and stares into the shopping cart, his mind managing a quick calculation. Five or six lengths of good No.1 copper. Those cast-iron security bars. A window grate.


“Enough for a run,” he tells his brother.

“I want to finish this length of pipe,” Tyrone says.

“Man, we can come back on that.”

But Tyrone is already shaking his head, tossing the bottle, stepping back through the rear door with his hacksaw. Get the metal now or someone else comes behind you to grab it. He disappears into the wreckage of the broken Fulton Avenue rowhouse, emerging minutes later with pieces of a light-steel gas line. By then, his brother has the cart balanced for the run.

“Let’s get paid.”

They shoot down Fulton and cross Fayette where the corner boys are touting a fresh heroin package. The two shout to each other above the rattling wheels, talking about dope and coke and a couple of radiators that Kenny has his eye on. There’s no way to sense the speed involved unless you’re with them, cantering beside a full shopping cart, making for the scales in absolute earnest. The scrap yards close at 5; wasted time means one less run at the end of a day.

“With the copper,” says Kenny, guessing at the weight, “I’d say $ 20.”

” ’bout that,” agrees Tyrone.

Want to read the rest? Email me at tooter2 (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll send it to you. I’d post it all here, but ya know, it’s copywrited and even though I’m sure they have bigger fish to fry, I don’t want the Baltimore Sun pissed at me. 

Speaking of the Sun, this story appeared in the Sunday final edition on September 3, 1995. Further fodder for the journo nerds: Simon once recounted editors fighting over publishing it. In fact, the top editor initially spiked it because Simon witnessed illegal behavior and didn’t report it. Luckily, more sensible heads eventually prevailed and the new features editor revived it because he felt it was a great story, unreported criminal behavior notwithstanding. Naturally, I agree. 


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