Many people have an almost superstitious hatred of fall in Los Angeles.
Admittedly, it hasn't always had a good track record. Fall is the time of merciless Indian summers, apocalyptic brush fires and that natural sandblasting better known as Santa Anas but also referred to, more ominously, as the devil winds.
If there's an archetypal image of the L.A. dreaded by out-of-towners, it's set in fall in a vast industrial wasteland saturated in ungodly sunlight and capped by gritty, suffocating smog. It's an image captured by the 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A.
If you come from a part of the United States where the leaves turn brilliant oranges and reds, sweaters are ceremonially pulled from storage come October, and hot chocolate is your go-to beverage long before Halloween, we can see why this place can sometimes seem otherworldly in autumn.
For those of us who grew up in Southern California, however, fall here can be absolutely magical.
If you've been on Bruin Walk at UCLA as the Santa Anas snake through the gilded hills above, whistle through the pine trees, and compress into a goose-bump-inducing combination of warm and cool, you might know where we're coming from.
By October many of the toe-dippers have disappeared from even our most popular beaches, but the warm water often lingers, sometimes in playful patches. The offshore winds make it the most picturesque time on the water, as waves are briefly suspended by the gusts and ocean spray atomizes on your skin.
They say we don't have seasons here but a native can identify almost the very night that autumn shows her face. There's no definition here, only instinctive observations—a slight chill, an infinite night sky, the melancholic sound of Harley motors echoing across the basin.
And when the last of the heat waves follows the endless summer out of town, there's an amazing sense of renewal in Los Angeles.
In the quintessential New York movie, Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro's character, Travis Bickle, says “Thank God for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk.”
The L.A. equivalent would be Thank God for fall to blow the tourists and the heat away.
Summer in L.A. can be so unkind. Celebrities get out of town if they can, police deal with peak bloodshed in August, and motorists shake their fists at the smallest slight as they bake in mobile tins.
Fall is a time for peace, romance, and turning over a new leaf. Parties are more intimate, you can dress up again, and people are more kind.
One night soon, if you close your eyes, you will feel fall come. Open your window and watch the stars flicker brilliantly through the lens of the devil winds.