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The Didon essay is one of the creepiest things I've ever read.

God, I love her.

Posted by sw | October 14, 2008 12:21 PM

Growing up in Southern California in the 1950's, I came to know the nerve-ending prickle of an approaching Santana intimately. A sort of itch that couldn't be scratched, which I later came to associate with a life-threatening attack of shingles. Not only the nerves -- the sinuses are alert to the approaching sandstorm, and the eyes perceive a peculiar clarity to the atmosphere before the first leaf rustles faintly in the newborn breeze. In North Africa, they call it the simoom, and it drives people mad, listening to the blasting of sand against stucco, the banging of shutters, and the tortured whip of palm fronds. Oh, yes. Southern California does have weather.

Posted by Calpete | October 14, 2008 12:23 PM

"To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior."

That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

Posted by east coaster | October 14, 2008 12:32 PM

Did Savage offer to start paying you to Slog or something? Man o man you've gone from zero to 60 in the last few days.

Posted by Non | October 14, 2008 12:34 PM

You captured the Santa Anas perfectly. I remember as a kid in Anaheim, standing outside in the hot dry winds of October. I felt invincible, but I could never put my finger on it like you did!

Posted by idaho | October 14, 2008 12:34 PM

I hope that wasn't Rachel, The Adult-Onset Diabetes Squirrel...

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | October 14, 2008 12:46 PM

Unfortunately, US Forest Sevice practices in the last century have set us up to fight these monster fires every year. Allowing controlled burns of undergrowth would reduce the severity of the fire season. The "no burns, at any time, ever" policy has created a problem that results in fires that kill people and destroy property annually, in all parts of the West.

Posted by Justin J | October 14, 2008 1:13 PM

In Southern California, Mother Nature does not start the fires. Man does.

Santa Ana winds are accompanied by clear skies. There are no lightning strikes. Nearly every wildfire that occurs near developed areas are caused by arson.

Posted by Mahtli69 | October 14, 2008 1:51 PM

Reading those excerpts reminds me of the way Ray Bradbury describes the night in Something Wicked This Way Comes, a story I first read as a boy living in Ventura County.

Posted by ragold | October 14, 2008 2:40 PM


You really do love to hate on West Coast writers, don't you? Joan Didion, splendidly literary child of California, is one of the best-ever chroniclers of that wonderfully strangest of the Western states. You'll never begin to understand her magic stuff unless you spend some time out here. Give it a try sometime.

Just stay away from Seattle.

Please. Honestly.

Posted by Jeff Stevens | October 14, 2008 3:15 PM

A fireball squirrel?! Jesus christ, that is a sign of the apocalypse for sure.

Posted by kerri harrop | October 14, 2008 3:36 PM

"It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer in a cocktail lounge."
- Raymond Chandler, "Red Wind" (1935)

Posted by E | October 14, 2008 3:46 PM

And don't miss "Santa Ana Woman" by The Bobs:

"The next thing I knew, there was a pain in my head like my sinuses were cracking. The Santa Ana winds had come back, and the whole city of L.A. was acting like it had PMS."

Posted by Nick | October 15, 2008 6:08 AM

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