The Stoopman

The Core Belief

I was in the presence of greatness yesterday, not that anyone else who passed by the stoop on the north side of East 7th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues noticed. The few Bourgeois Bohemians that did look were disgusted. They are new to the area and wish this part of the old neighborhood would just go away.

The stoop was being swept by a large, toothless man in a dark blue Yankee jacket. He kept doing ‘the elevator,’ Lower East Side slang for nodding out on smack while standing up. You get halfway or so down, wake up, stand up and do the whole thing over again. This pantomime was aided by the beige broomstick he kept sliding down.

Harry “The Stoopman”, the world’s greatest junkie, had copped and was in his full drooling, nodding glory.

In the early ’70’s, Harry was on his way to a cushy brokerage career on Wall Street before he succumbed to heroin addiction and life on the street.

Even finding out he was HIV positive back in 1982 didn’t derail Harry from copping. He lost a wife, a kid and many friends. No light penetrates the man’s soul; he is consumed by the quest for his medicine.

One day, that quest found him shooting up with three Orthodox Jews in a Grand Street tenement. After firing up the first bag, one of the Jews began to OD. Harry, who had seen this many times before, was able to pull his shooting buddy back from the brink of death.

“How many times have I told you about keeping your salt level up?” The Stoopman said. He had taken these guys under his wing and was trying to show them the ways of the junkie. “I’m trying to school you here.”

When the other two Orthodox Jews asked why it took several bags of dope for Harry to get off, he scoffed. “I’ve had better.”

A few weeks later, Harry went in for his check-up. After twenty years or so living with HIV, his doctor couldn’t figure out why he hasn’t developed full blown AIDS in that time. The mystery deepened when after several blood tests, the doctor couldn’t find any trace of HIV in the Stoopman’s system.

Karma or better living through chemistry?

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