The Mad Scientist of Baltimore
In my travels recently I met someone so interesting, I haven’t been able to forget him. It’s just too bad that what Kato Simeto really needs is a venture capitalist, not a journalist. But it would be a shame if nobody outside of Baltimore ever heard his story.
Simeto was introduced to me by a friend of a friend in the days after the Baltimore protests. I didn’t know the city and I needed someone to show me what happened and where, for a story I ended up writing in the wake of the Freddie Gray incident, about community policing.
A secondary motive for me (and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this) was my obsession with the show The Wire. Simeto, I knew, had been involved peripherally in the making of HBO’s true-crime epic, working as a fixer of sorts and having been an extra in multiple scenes.
Fanatics can spot him as a SWAT team member in the Season Two raid. He’s also in the dogfighting scene of the classic “All Due Respect” episode, looking on with a frown as Method Man’s Cheese Wagstaff character rips off his “That ain’t nothing but bait” line.
Anyway, Simeto took me around in Baltimore, I did my thing, and one night we got together for a drink. He said he had something on his mind. I figured it was a pitch for a movie or a book. Instead, he told me a wild story about a world-altering project he was trying to put together in his backyard.
He wanted, he said, to become the first African-American automaker, and had spent years designing an ultramodern, green-energy prototype car.
“It’s going to be the greenest car in history,” he said. “It’s an electric car and a solar car. And a wind-powered car. It’s going to use transparent luminescent solar collectors for windows. And then it’s going to be covered with supermaterials to help catch wind energy. Wind turbines, to charge the battery…”
He spilled into a long rant of ultra-technical gibberish. I had trouble following him. Finally, I interrupted.
“Wait,” I said. “Are you the engineer on all of this? You’re designing all of these things?”
He shook his head in irritation, like I wasn’t listening. He knew his own story by heart and was way ahead of me.
“No, it’s not like that,” he said. “I’ll get one person to make this part, another person to make that. I’ll just put it all together. Nobody will really know what the whole machine is except me.”
I felt a wave of déjà vu. I’d seen this act before, in the movie The Fly, when teleportation machine inventor Seth Brundle explained to a reporter how he farmed out the details: “Build me a laser this, a molecular analyzer that…”
This was exactly the same mad-scientist act, only it was from a guy who’d checked Method Man’s gun at a Baltimore dogfight, not Jeff Goldblum.
Then he showed me a picture on his iPad. Simeto’s “Ulozi Motors” sports car was a gorgeous looking vehicle, like a space-age version of a Jag or a Lamborghini, with a hint of DeLorean tossed in. He had a whole series of pictures of the long-hooded luxury sedan posed on country highways, sunlight gleaming off its superhydrophobic, corrosion-controlling waterproof coating.