Doper moved out. For 25 years he sat slumped in the same sunken upholstered chair watching TV, smoking joints and eating take-out. On sunny days he crept out onto the fire escape and talked on the telephone, prattling in a harsh outerborough accent.
At home, Doper never wore clothes.
Hearing the call of the Age of Aquarius, he was a naturalist who went back to the land, which for him meant the Upper West Side between 72nd Street and 96th Street.
During the quarter century he shared the backyard airspace with this hirsute old hippie, Mr. Henry never learned his real name.
Mr. Henry spoke directly to him only once. On a bright and cheerful morning Mr. Henry stepped out onto his tiny porch and was assaulted by the sight of natural man scratching his furry self.
“Couldn’t you put something on?” Mr. Henry asked rhetorically. Doper did not speak. Furrowing his giant uni-brow, he shrank back inside the dark apartment.
Doper did not go to work in any conventional sense. Once in a while he was spotted rifling corner trash cans for books and knicknacks that he displayed for sale on the sidewalk in front of Artie’s Delicatessen on Broadway and 83rd Street. Until ten years ago, every six months or so his aged parents came to straighten up his grotty apartment.
Perhaps because Doper always traveled by bicycle, he managed to maintain an enviably sleek physique despite being in his middle 60’s. Did he subsist exclusively on marijuana, Chinese take-out, and paper bags of birdseed? Will we soon be seeing The Doper Diet at Barnes & Noble?
Perhaps he simply couldn’t stand the yuppification of Broadway.
At the corner of 77th Street a new restaurant is about to open, The West Branch, an offshoot of Tom Valenti’s Ouest which for years has been the only place in this neighborhood to get a really fine restaurant meal.
The West Branch will provide room service to the sleekly renovated hotel On the Ave.
What’s more, next to The West Branch will be a new Fatty Crab, an uptown offshoot of the downtown place famous for Singaporean street food and for not accepting reservations.
Instantly 77th and Broadway, a corner where store after store has foundered, is becoming a destination location for people with appetite and cash.
The Doper moves on.