Northbound: Fall, as I remember it

As a born-and-raised Northern Californian, I’ve never quite gotten used to fall here in North County. Try as I might.

Maybe for me, it’s a hunger for nostalgia, childhood memories, that keeps me from fully accepting fall as we experience it here. In that sense, it’s not that somehow fall is better in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s that fall, for me, is a reconnection to the world I once knew.

I have fond memories of slowly settling into fall. By September, we would have overcast — the sky would be blanketed in light gray clouds, which had no contours and no edges. It was almost like nature’s way of setting the stage. Soon following, there would be a slight chill in the air, that got colder and deeper as you approached the holidays.

Eventually, the chill in the air gave way to a breeze, then to windy days, and windy nights.

In front of my childhood home, we had a tall maple tree, and my job was to rake the falling leaves and spiny seeds it would drop. Sisyphean task. However, I can still recall colorful leaf piles, the green grass in our yard, and how alive everything was on that street.

I remember my mother using the oven more often for cooking, in part to warm up the house in the evening. Chicken pot pies. Meat stews. All of course leading up to a plump, juicy turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. The smell of spices and seasoning permeating throughout the house.

How wonderful it was, the idea of sharing heat to keep warm; a fire in the fireplace, or a cup of hot chocolate.

Later, when I moved to San Francisco to start my career, I was always eager to enter a lively, warm café, restaurant or bar in the fall months. Everyone was dressed in their fall best; food and drink menus sourced from seasonal ingredients. We have nothing like that here.

Here in North County, summer extends on forever, until it doesn’t. The Santa Ana winds in October make for unbearably hot days and nights, especially those of us without air conditioners in our homes. Seasonal allergies hit, everything is dry. The sun saturates every surface.

You’re uncomfortably reminded you live in a desert. Then, suddenly, without warning, it’s cold and the nights are long.

Fall in North County is like an expensive halogen bulb that bursts in a final flash of light and heat, then leaves everything dark.

A false sense of constancy that ends abruptly and unceremoniously. Sad, really.

How we welcome the seasons (or not) also matters somewhat. Most women here I would say change their attire for the fall, but there’s a lot of men in San Diego who don’t. Stubbornly beholden to that aggressively casual dress code of board shorts, flip flops and a tee, regardless of the weather. I remember taking a recent November flight to Dallas, where the temperatures were hovering around 38 to 40 degrees. There were more than a couple San Diegans on that flight in flip flops and tees. I don’t really understand that, but it’s your choice how you live.

Maybe fall is simply a mindset then, for all of us. Choosing to change with the seasons. Celebrating that change, and everything that comes with it. Change is good, North County.

Vince Vasquez is an economist based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.

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