Wednesday, July 28, 2010

LA Story: The Walking Man of Silver Lake

Walking is so unusual in LA that when someone does it regularly, that person becomes a local legend.  Last spring, while driving to Trader Joe's, Alex and I saw a short, Snooki-tanned older man, in bright green shorts walking while reading the paper.  While returning from the store forty minutes late rwe saw the same man still walking.  We had no idea back then that he has been walking this  20 mile-ish route since the 80's and was known in the neighborhood as "Walking Man."  Walking Man, or Marc Abrams was featured as one of LA Weekly's People of 2009.   In Brooklyn, we had many local heroes but none were celebrated for their athletic prowess.  There was "Bumps," some guy who lived McGolrick Park, and after years of alcohol abuse, no longer possessed balance...or pants; "Stop N' Shop," some guy who drove his fellow drunks around n a shopping cart; "Greenpoint Admiral," some guy who always dressed as an admiral; "Greenpoint Cowboy," some guy who always dressed like a cowboy; and "Starter Jacket," some guy  who always hung out in our laundromat  always wearing a Starter Jacket.  I can't remember his team allegiance. 

Last week Marc Abrams was found dead in a hot tub (such an LA death).  Today his death was ruled a suicide.  He was under investigation because his medical practice was allegedly a Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory for prescription drug addicts (such an LA abuse of power.).   This past Sunday, 400 people memorialized Walking Man by walking his route. There's something comforting about local celebrities, they give a small town feel to a giant urban sprawl.  Bars and restaurants come and go, people move in and out of neighborhoods, sights and sounds from outside whiz by your car window as you're running late to something, months go by before you see your next door neighbor, but it's nice that there's one constant you can depend on seeing everyday: a tiny man in tiny shorts speed walking and speed reading at the same time.  This same man might have abused his privilege to practice medicine by enabling deadly addictions, while battling his own demons of depression and suicide attempts.  The story of Walking Man gave a neighborhood joy and a common bond.  The possible reality of Marc Abrams is a sad portrait of destruction and isolation.  So LA.