The Scents of Los Angeles

Night-Blooming Jasmine

The two most noticeable floral scents of Los Angeles both become apparent in May or June and last for several months. The more pleasant of the two is night-blooming jasmine, as most Angelenos refer to it. I love taking walks in the spring and encountering a display of jasmine blossoms. The other scent does not smell as good, but is more beautiful. I refer to the jacaranda tree, which originated in Paraguay and Argentina and eventually became a denizen of Southern California. It purple flowers are beautiful, but there is a slight acridness to the smell of the blossoms.

Jacaranda Tree in Santa Monica

Note that, in the above photo, there is a layer of fallen jacaranda blossoms under the tree. If one parks one’s car under a jacaranda, the blossoms seem to stick and, well, stink a bit.

Perhaps my least favorite smell in Los Angeles is not floral. In the fall, when the Santa Ana Winds blow, parts of the city, especially the hills, catch fire. The air is filled with tons of ash that tends to cause asthmatic attacks. Fortunately, I have not experienced that for quite a few years—and my fingers are crossed.

The Book of Chilam Balam of Malibu

Southern California Brush Fire

Ten years ago at approximately this time, I was blogging on the Yahoo-360, which I liked and was saddened to see snuffed out. Around this time in 2007, there were extensive brush fires in Southern California. Here is what I wrote on October 23 of that year.

The brush fires that are devouring Southern California bring to mind another catastrophe: The Mayans, trying to cope with the Spanish invasions and the attendant diseases and persecutions, produced a series of prophetic books called the Books of Chilam Balam, the most famous of which is the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel. A copy of the Roys translation is available on the Internet by clicking here.

Here is a brief apocalyptic meditation on the fires and several other disastrous “signs and portents” brought to mind by them in the style of (and incorporating some of the words of) the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel:

October 21, 2007 at dawn

When our rulers increased in depravity and stupidity
Following the words of their evangelical swineherds
That which came was a drought, according to their words,
When the hoofs of the animals burned,
When the seashore burned,
A sea of misery.

Then the face of the sun was eaten,
Then the face of the sun was darkened,
Then its face was extinguished.

Smoke covered the land
Darkened the clothes hanging on the line
Bringing an acrid stench to the nostrils
And dissatisfaction to the gorges of men.

They awoke in the morning
With the lining of their noses crusted with ashes
They took ashes with their coffee
Ashes with their water
Until the smell of burning was all that was.

Far out in space
The crystalline sphere of the gods
The smoke was visible
As that which was once alive and green
Now turned dark brown and black
And acrid.

How long will the gods let this continue?
May they abate their devil winds
And waft clouds heavy with rain
Over the blasted hillsides.

May they restore the beauty that was was there.
May men walk in this beauty
And appreciate it as a gift to be cherished.



Sky Full of Ash: The View from My Front Door

The wildfires to the north of us have filled the sky with ashes. When I wake up in the morning, I have to blow my nose to lessen the irritation. The air smells burnt.

According to Wikipedia:

In the Hebrew Bible Tophet or Topheth (Hebrew: תוֹפֶת‎; Greek: Ταφεθ; Latin: Topheth) was a location in Jerusalem in the Gehinnom where worshipers influenced by the ancient Canaanite religion engaged in the human sacrifice of children to the gods Moloch and Baal by burning them alive. Tophet became a theological or poetic synonym for hell within Christendom.

The traditional explanation that a burning rubbish heap in the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem gave rise to the idea of a fiery Gehenna of judgment is attributed to Rabbi David Kimhi’s commentary on Psalm 27:13. He maintained that in this loathsome valley fires were kept burning perpetually to consume the filth and cadavers thrown into it.

In any case, it doesn’t sound very appetizing. There are times when Los Angeles is beautiful and fresh, but that’s only after a rare rain. Other times, it’s like a slow oven. And it could even be cold. When there’s a major earthquake, it feels that you can slide at any moment into a deep crevice near to the fires at the center of the earth.

But, still, it’s better than Cleveland.


Vacation Planning Around Disasters

Wildfires in Argentina’s State of Chubut

Wildfires in Argentina’s State of Chubut

Whenever one is traveling anywhere in the world, one must keep up with the news. When Martine and I went to Argentina in 2011, for example, there was a major Chilean volcanic eruption that spewed ash all over the State of Rio Negro, forcing us to remove San Carlos Bariloche from our itinerary and replace it with El Calafate. This time, there is a huge wildfire near Los Alerces National Park and the town of Cholila. While the eruption of the Puyahue/Cordón Caulle volcano in 2011 lasted for months, I am confident that the Chubut fires will be doused well before November, especially as there will be an intervening rainy season.

Among the Chubut locales I hope to visit are El Maitén, Esquel, and Trevelin.

The Area Around Cholila Before the Fire

The Area Around Cholila Before the Fire