I walk down Fourth Street in late October. Towering trees on both sides create a natural “Canopy of Green”, an arboreal “Honor Guard” blanketing the dappled thoroughfare below. (You can’t imagine how much strain that slip of poetry required. And I’m not crazy about “blanketing.” I need to take a break.)
Okay. I’m back.
I look down on the sidewalk, clumps of desiccated leaves littering the terrain. I am no stranger to this arrangement. It’s autumn. The trees lose their leaves, the fallen leaves turn brown and dry up. And get dislodged by pedestrians, shuffling along without lifting up their feet.
An awakening confusion. Something appears to be out of whack.
I look up at the trees. They are fully enleafed and sumptuously verdant. I look down on the sidewalk:
And I think to myself, “Huh?”
I look up.
I look down.
I look up.
I look down.
And I ask myself, figuratively scratching my head, or maybe literally if I am not wearing a hat…
If those branches are filled with leaves…
Where did these leaves lying on the ground come from?
They did not come from these trees. Their leaves are still up there. Since leaves cannot possibly be simultaneously in two states – alive on branches and dead and crunchy on the ground…
What the heck is going on?
And then I think, “Well it is Hollywood. Who knows?”
Squadrons of pre-dawn trucks dispatched throughout the city, laborers jumping out of the vehicles filled with dead leaves flown in from New England or the Pacific Northwest, scattering them strategically over the landscape, supervised by studio set decorators seeking “Maximum Autumnal Effect.”
A possible, though unlikely explanation. But it has to be something. There are maple leaves lying on the ground and the overhanging trees are not maples. (Or so it seems, though perhaps only in my imagination.) (The truth is these trees lose a tiny fraction of their leaves. They are never skeletal, like back home. There is not even a “bald spot.”)
It’s inaccurate to say California lacks variations in its seasons; they’re just harder to delineate. Unlike Toronto – and elsewhere – there is little help from the vegetation, all of which has been brought in.
This place was originally a desert. Or was it a beach? It is difficult to make the distinction – they’re both sand. I guess desert sand is hotter. I don’t know.
The transplanted trees appear to have freakishly lost their bearings. Drive down some Los Angeles streets in the summer, you’ll see dead leaves strewn across the sidewalks. That doesn’t make sense – dead leaves in the summer? Other trees – the kinds botanically scheduled to shed – the leaves remain up there all year.
Uprooting and relocation seem to have mutated their genetic impulses. The transplanted trees have forgotten what they are supposed to do. And when exactly they are supposed to do it.
For me… yeah, I mean, it gets dark earlier so you get the hint something’s going on… but I could not easily distinguish fall from “darker summer” were it not for the annual seasonal ritual of “Jacket Selection.”
Let me dispense with the extremes.
Warm parts of the year, which is the majority of it – you don’t need to wear a jacket. Winter? We don’t have winter. So you can forget about parkas. (Note to Readers: Remind me to tell you about “Rent-A-Coat”, a magnificent enterprise I conceived of, on which, to my everlasting regret, I neglected to follow through. I was “this” close. The idea was in place. I just needed to do something.)
The Dynamics of “Jacket Selection”
You go outside and you check the temperature. You do not want to be caught wearing the wrong jacket. There’s the “Ridicule Factor” – “Really? That? Today?” – Plus, you’ll be warm. Or, if it is cooler than you anticipated, chilly.
You go back inside and you proceed to coat rack. There, if you are me, you see five available options:
The light silk windbreaker. The lined cotton windbreaker. The thin leather jacket. The heavy “Bomber Jacket” with the fleece collar.
(The fifth option is the “Multi-Purpose” flannel shirt. It is uncertain where that belongs on the continuum. “Conventional Wisdom” suggests between the “light silk” and the “lined cotton.” But it’s a matter of personal judgment. And what you decide to wear underneath.
It’s not easy, but over time, you develop a “touch” for making exactly right choice. The rewards are demonstrable. Pick right, and you are less likely to get a cold. (Colds in Los Angeles can stay at while.)
A Personal Confession: It is not your “shiningest moment” when the highlight of your “Seasonal Milestone” post is “Appropriate Jacket Selection.” Though I am not delighted by the results, I take comfort knowing I am not the first to be defeated by this unpromising undertaking.
“Autumn in L.A.”?
Not a song.
Not a post card.