When I moved from Vermont to Southern California more than a quarter century ago, I made the rookie mistake of thinking that Los Angeles was a seasonal city, an endless summer and a continuous day at the beach.
After all, Vermont makes its seasonal changes, especially from summer to fall, like nobody’s business. Autumn in the Northeast cannot be ignored. It comes with all the subtlety of carrot tops on a fire engine, the trees covering the hills of the Green Mountain State exploding in a riot of blazing oranges, flaming crimsons and sunny yellows like the seedling to the last, dramatic quote seasonally. Stage for Old Man Winter to pay attention to before committing.
Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate the more minor changes that mark the SoCal season (May Grey, June gloom, El Nio winds), but a part of me has always longed for the showy hoarseness of color, the leafy flare of festivities. Joe takes summer out with a bang. A few years ago, I realized there were color-coded forerunners that hit right under my nose (and I’m not talking about the celestial fall — September 22nd — which is based on the autumnal equinox, but Emotion That seasonal page has changed). They were simply too silent, like the seasons here. Below are some of the colors this former Vermonter signifies that autumn’s version of L.A. is well underway.
You’ll usually see this color, which can range from deep burgundy to near-fuchsia, that seems to spread wider and wider in your local news weather forecast maps, like a dropped bottle of Merlot, sometimes In October. Those red colors are a visual representation of high temperatures, which are the result of a seasonal weather phenomenon known as the Santa Ana winds (aka “devil winds”).
Due to the seasonal cooling of the Great Basin, the air moves west, warming and gaining momentum along the way. The result is a whipped-up and blast-furnace hot air that heralds the arrival of autumn in LA like nothing else does. (I’m not the only color-coder here; novelist Raymond Chandler mentions Santa Anas in the opening lines of his 1938 short story, titled—wait for it—”Red Wind.”)
In the same color family as Malibu beach-sand ecru and desert-dust khaki, this peculiar hue, which blankets rolling grassy hills on both sides of the 101 Freeway between Calabasas and Camarillo, used to be a pretty solid indicator that SoCal autumn was in full swing. Unfortunately, it’s a smoky taupe tapestry more often than not these days, perhaps the casualty of the state’s historic drought.
On a side note, I’ve always thought of the putty-covered hills between which Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (now Yeh) once made a home together, perhaps their early Yeezy apparel collections and earthy-hued bandages— Inspired by the beige palette. Her Skims shapewear label.
Pumpkin Spice Terracotta
During most of the year, this color is mainly confined to the curved roof tiles and ornamentation of the Spanish architecture of SoCal. Then, suddenly, without warning, one fall (or fall-imminent) day it creeps down the roof and into our limited-edition foods, including Cheerios, cream cheese, nondairy creamers, Oreos, and even more. Including our potted meat products, where they usually last until the day after Thanksgiving.
A “spicy orange hue with notes of nutmeg and cinnamon brown,” according to Benjamin Moore, who sells a paint called Pumpkin Spice 126, the color sneaked into the local autumn color scheme through coffee chain Starbucks, which made its seasonal debut. Pumpkin Spice launched late in the fall of 2004 and never looked back. Unfortunately, the popularity of the drink has resulted in the company releasing it before (the Pumpkin Spice Latte dropped on August 30 this year), thus robbing us of the once-reliable seasonal indicator.
There’s a time-honored tradition in our house (read: one we totally made up) inspired by repeated fashion advice: Don’t wear white after Labor Day. This includes the seasonal switching around of bottles on the bar cart; “White” bottles (clear liquors like gin and vodka) slip to the back, and darker liquors (whiskeys and rum) go to the front.
Like old friends who are warming up elsewhere, my wife and I find ourselves in Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, and as the holiday season approaches, indulge ourselves in all kinds of dark drinks with a festive combination of hard cider and bourbon. Make a point to introduce yourself. It is called a stone fence.
Although there’s no specific date that we switch-up, we’ve aimed for September 2007—the year the U.S. Senate declared the month between August and October as National Bourbon Heritage Month. (And before you’re all done about it, yes, martinis are seasonless, which is why Artingstall’s gin decorative decanters are always kept in the freezer.)
One of the less-common color schemes to mark the end of SoCal summer, the stealth pattern often goes unnoticed until someone is sunburnt and bare-armed in a late-night fire pit. For some, wearing o’ layering-piece plaid for the first time, usually in early November, is an indicator that summer is firmly in the rearview mirror.
Pay close attention to the telltale patterns peeping through tote bags and the back seats of cars quickly. As the nights get longer and colder, the presence of plaid increases. And its strongest presence will be in the button-front shirts tied around the waists of dogwalkers and canyon hikers early in the morning.
Of the colors heralding the arrival of L.A.-style autumn, the most eye-catching is—at least for the past decade—dodger blue. That’s because the Major League Baseball team, which makes its home in the Chavez Ravens, has earned a post-season playoff berth every year since 2013 (including this year), making it three times in the World Series and making it Winning once. On those early, cheery days each October, we all “bleed dodger blue,” and the team’s signature hue begins to pop up almost everywhere the eye might wander.
In addition to the expected sleeve of blue – seen on ball caps, jerseys, foam fingers and the occasional aloha shirt – October traditionally includes blew-up donuts, azure-colored soft-serve ice cream cones, and even full blue Comes with classification. The tinted house in eastern LA is why, in early August, it momentarily felt that fall would have come pumpkin-spice early when the LA City Hall Dodger lit up in blue. Until we learned it was to pay tribute to the legendary sportscaster Vin Scully, who died on August 2 at 94. (Fun fact Dodger Blue can even be hidden in your web browser—and not just on a seasonal basis. It’s the only sports team to be honored so much.)