The Hobbler and the Gulls

Something happens on Beach Boulevard when the weather starts to consistently become a little warmer, and I’ve noticed it over the past few weeks.

For one, it turns into seagull alley. There are so many of them these days — bunching together on streetlights, flying along with traffic mere feet above cars that are zooming by underneath, even landing in the road to make off with a bit of food or something else they find to be of interest. I’m sure this happens on other streets in the area, but with Beach being a fairly ridiculous thoroughfare in terms of traffic, the birds add one more obstacle to be mindful of.

They seem to still be in a winter coma, because I have seen more dead ones over the last few weeks than I ever have before in my life. A mound of white feathers will be there in the morning, and the next day it will be as flat as a pancake — but there’s a new one nearby. Are they not flying high enough? Are they still out of it from having taken it easy during the colder winter months? I have no idea, but it’s a sad, sad sight. All I can think of are the birds from Finding Nemo saying, “Mine, mine, mi—…”

Morbid.

Two, the familiar homeless clan is also back, but I’ve noticed a new man with a terrible limp and a shiny, tie-dye cane hanging out at my usual off-ramp.

Each morning, he’ll grimace as he hobbles up and down the off-ramp with his sign: “Food appreciated, money not necessary.” I’ve seen him get bananas, apples, brown-bagged lunches and bottled water — all of which he seems genuinely grateful to receive.

This morning, however, a driver wanted to give him money. We had all been stopped at a red light, and when a fellow driver waved a few bucks at the guy to have him come get it, the light turned green. And I’ll never forget what I saw.

The hobbler threw his cane into the brush which blanketed a short hill between our off-ramp and the freeway, and ran — yes, ran — towards the man with the money. He snatched it up, practically high-fived the guy, then ran back to where he’d chucked his cane right as all the cars were starting to move again.

Hello money, farewell limp. The Shawshank scene where Warden Samuel Norton sarcastically exclaims, “Lord, it’s a miracle!” popped into my head. Indeed, his hobble had up and vanished like a fart in the wind.

I’m not quite sure what to be thankful for in the context of dead birds and homeless individuals faking a disability. Maybe the guy isn’t even homeless. I feel terrible saying that, but who knows anymore? All I can say is that my normally boring, routine morning commute has recently gotten an IV drip of awareness, and my radar is working overtime these days. Makes me wonder if it’s in preparation for something more serious that I’ll need to have my antenna up for in the coming days and weeks. Either way, heightened awareness is never a bad thing, so I’ll take it — and be thankful for it.

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