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Day by Day by the Hawthorne Off-Ramp

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.


Day by day

the old man's out there,

sitting on a bucket

in the middle of an off-ramp

from the 405.

His hardened eyes,

dull and gray,

stare blankly at the drivers

in their cars

behind rolled-up windows.


They wait for the light

to turn onto Hawthorne.

All the while,

his misspelled sign screams

for handouts.

Even if his eyes don't reveal

his desperate plight.


Day by day

he exists there --

a dirty mattress in the thickets,

molding and tattered clothes

on the guard rails.

Life has abandoned him,

just like the drivers who have to confront him.


But he's there,


showing all

he's still there,

despite his dead, dull stare.

He's waiting for handouts.

He's waiting for help


... day by day.

The Unfortunate Inspiration: One Stands Out

Every morning, I get off the San Diego Freeway (the 405) onto Hawthorne Boulevard in order to get to my work. And almost on cue, the same group of people are panhandling in this area. Some are obvious frauds (a friend of mine works as a police officer in neighboring Redondo Beach and is well aware of them). But every so often there's one that will emerge from the heavy foliage on an the embankment, sit on a bucket on an island under a signal, and hold a dirty, poorly written sign. He wears tattered garb and appears to be dazed. He tends to stare blankly at the drivers.

Most people ignore him; however, there are those that will toss coins or dollar bills in a cup at his foot. And through it all, he just stares. I'd later discover that he was more than a regular. He actually had a make-ship encampment on that embankment.

And if one looks closely, you can see the mattress he sleeps on. Mental disorder? Who knows? I don't think my police officer friend is sure of his status, either.

But he's there, day by day staring down drivers with that near lifeless gaze.

© 2017 Dean Traylor