I’m entirely dumbstruck to learn that one of Silver Lake’s most recognizable and mobile icons, Dr. Marc Abrams — aka The Walking Man, The Walking Dude, Doc Walker — has died. His age is being reported as 58 and he was apparently found dead Wednesday in the backyard hottub of his Silver Lake home.
In my seven years in Silver Lake, I’ve of course seen Abrams in his element countless times (and photographed him on any of several occasions). By chance one day a few years back while I myself was walking the hills west of the reservoir I found him coming out of his house to begin one of his marathon treks and felt like I’d graduated; not only did I know of The Walking Man, but now I knew of where he lived!
It’s a funny thing. Though he was in essence a stranger, there was nevertheless something very reassuring in seeing him out there on the sidewalks in his shorts, reading something or talking on his cell phone. Whether I was having a crap day or the world was in some way greased and going to hell, a fleeting encounter with him was a reminder that everything wasn’t entirely out of whack.
But now it is. And I know that sometime in the next few months I’m going to be biking or walking or driving somewhere in Silver Lake and wonder why it is I haven’t seen him in so long. Then I’ll remember, and it won’t surprise me if I get choked up like I am right now.
It is at least some consolation that so revered by the community as he was I can find him in at least three neighborhood murals I know of, including Nicky Gagliarducci’s 2009 mural next to Local Restaurant (pictured above; click to enlarge). He has — sigh, had — a habit of popping up our of nowhere so maybe he’ll surprise me by showing up in other street art I don’t know about.
In the meantime I’ll fondly recall the last time I saw him in person, which was prior to the start of one of my Bike Every Saturday In May group bike rides. As he strode past where we’d gathered in the Silversun parking lot at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Parkman Avenue, one of us asked him if he had any advice. He stopped, turned and thought about it for a second. With a smile he fittingly gave us Satchel Paige’s “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”
Then he walked away.
Rest in peace, Walking Man. Rest in peace, Dr. Abrams.