Anywhere Back East (of here) this time of year, the trees change colors. Here, it's the sky. In this case, a particularly shade of orangey sky, though probably not one Cleveland native Ric Ocasek had in mind when he penned that lyric. In this case, in SoCal, the harbingers of fall are brisk Santa Ana winds, of which todays were 40-50MPH gusts,
which combine with the vast populations of insaniac tweaker homeless people (who infest both the suburbs and the local foothills) cooking roadkill (and meth) in the nearby canyons, and when one of these things meets the other, oxygen, heat, and fuel - in this case, a thick once-verdant and now dehydrated overgrowth from more than double the normal annual rainfall since January - decisively breaking Califrutopia's six-year drought, no matter what Moonbeam says - combine in what fire scientists refer to as the fire triangle, and what the county brushfire crews and state prison trustee crews refer to as one helluva big mess.
In this case, it's somewhere not terribly far off. The wind's been blowing like a sonogfagun since last night, the sun is behind a veil of brown smoke being pushed out to sea at a good clip, leaving a wide swath of ash and smoke that illustrates that chaparral hillside is being converted to charcoal-colored desert tundra at the speed of heat. In case I wasn't sure this was it, the county fire department's trusty Bell 412 is whop-whopping back and forth, clawing for altitude and heavily laden with a full belly tank of water or fire retardant,
doing so today with enough frequency to suggest the fire is not far off, and to give anyone of a certain age some decent 'Nam flashbacks. And as an added bonus, all my electronics, dutifully big-brothered into a daisy chain of efficiency by the minions of the digital universe, now squeal and hum insistently to me and everyone in the same area code that in the hills east of here, the perennial dumbasses who chose a view over common sense need to pack their crap, and Get The Hell Outta Dodge, because the mountainsides are on fire. Again.
Ah, Fall, in Califrutopia.
It's nowhere dangerously close to me, nor will or would be short of Kim Dum Nut dropping one of his garage-band nukes on the suburbia hereabouts, but I get the haze, the ash, the dry throat and burning crud in my eyes, and the olfactory splendor of knowing what it would smell like to live inside a campfire, a burning hay barn, or to wake up in hell.
God help the folks in the hot zones, and keep the firefighters safe in their appointed tasks. Happily, it's only about 80 here today, not 110, but I daresay it's a wee bit sultrier up on certain hillsides today, and with these winds, likely to remain so throughout the week.
That smell, that tumbleweed and scrub oak smell...nothing else smells like that.
It smells like...no, not victory. It smells like it's going to be a long, hot, windy, smoky week, and some people are going to lose everything they have in return for soul-crushing record-breaking property taxes and killer Pacific Ocean views across the L.A. Basin the rest of the year. It's the West Coast version of building your vacation home on Hurricane Beach.
Me? I just get the smell, a small taste of the apocalypse, and having to hose the car off every morning for the next few days.