On July 21, 2010, walking my dog, nearing home, I noticed a small cluster of murmuring people in front of 2446 Moreno Drive. A couple of hours later driving past the same address I saw a covered body on a gurney wheeled into a coroner's van. The next morning I heard that Dr Abrams had committed suicide. The body on the gurney must have been him, Dr Abrams, aka Walking Man. What was curious was that I had frequently seen him coming and going to another house, up the street, and thought that's where he lived. Then I remembered discounting a report a year earlier by a breathless UPS delivery man that Walking Man's house was being raided by the police. When I went to take a look I indeed saw uniformed people ravaging a garage in search of something. But it was a few addresses from where I thought Walking Man lived so I attributed the UPS man's report to gossip mongering.
Walking Man's demise was the talk of Silverlake for several days, at least until a memorial walk was held the following weekend. The turnout was enormous. At that memorial (and in the LA Times and other news outlets) it was hinted if not asserted that Dr Abrams was being investigated for causing the death of a patient for over prescription, that, in fact, he was a Dr Feel-Good running an Rx-mill (no charges were ever filed by the LAPD). Attempts on FB to lionize Dr Abrams with a statue near the Sunset Junction or by naming The (Silverlake) Path, Walking Man's Path were quickly abandoned. A year later, in July of 2011, the Walking Man of Silverlake was forgotten. I don't remember seeing a single 1-year anniversary story in any media outlet.
I had seen Walking Man even before I inherited my parents house on Moreno in 1990. But in 2006 I got a big dog who insisted on massive daily walks, so I began to regularly cross paths with the Silverlake legend. Usually we exchanged mutual recognition nods, but it was clear to me that Walking Man was not interested in people or idle conversation. Only once did we talk and it was brief, while walking on Angus from Micheltorena to Kennilworth. Beneath his courtly veneer I sensed anger and loneliness. I concluded that he was congenitally depressed and had been advised that walking was good therapy.
I further hypothesized that at some point in his depression he must have steeled himself, put one foot in front of the other, moved to Silverlake, and opened a simple low-income clinic. Burying himself in work, he brooked no distractions. If patients were liars or malingerers he hardly noticed. He did his job, he paid his taxes, and he walked.
Avoiding curious passersby and courting disaster, he walked in the bicycle lane and read his newspaper. At night he would use a small flashlight. His recklessness was frequently commented upon and considered an endearing quirk, even as it posed a significant social menace. Rain or shine, summer or winter, day or nite he walked his route: West Silverlake, Rowena, Hyperion, Griffith Park, Sunset, Silverlake Blvd and back to West Silverlake. Sometimes he walked clockwise, sometimes counter. Occasionally he deviated from his route but rare was the day he didn't walk. He was a fixture of Silverlake life, an icon for one of the walkingest neighborhoods in LA.
If the Dr Feelgood allegations are true (and from Yelp comments I gathered they were), these allegations can also be seen as evidence Dr Abrams treated addicts as patients, not as criminals. But I don't think Dr Abrams was that enlightened. He was an invalid, barely able to run a business or maintain human contact, ever ready to walk away, and certainly not ready to deal with the complications of malingering addicts. Official investigations into his life must have been devastating. Sometime after the police raid on his home in 2009 he sold his business and retired. In July 2010 he tried 3 times to overdose and finally managed to drown himself to death by sheer force of his not inconsiderable will.
No drugs were found in his system. I found this curious and managed to get a copy of the coroner's report. Besides the negative toxicology report it also contains the Investigator's Narrative. That report seems cursory and sloppy. It says he last talked to his wife 7/19/2010. But 7/19/2010 was 3 days earlier, the day he was released from a mental health facility. The account of how his wife found him is puzzling. She saw him floating face down in the jacuzzy first and then she opened the lid and tried to bring his head out of the water. Finally, it is not clear from the narrative why his wife didn't panic when she couldn't reach him by cellphone all day 07/21/2010. After all he had repeatedly tried to commit suicide and was released from a mental health facility just 3 days before.
As far as I know, the coroner's report was never published in the media and no investigative journalist has pursued the case. I include a copy of the Investigator's Narrative below.
Silverlake fancies itself a tolerant neighborhood. I think it's time to resurrect Walking Man. A bronze statue in the polka dot plaza at Griffith Park and Sunset seems appropriate. If that's too expensive, a plaque naming the bicycle lane from Griffith Park to Silverlake Blvd after him. Or why not name the polka dot plaza Walking Man Plaza?