Last September I was scrounging for a topic to write about the Buzz opener—the front section of the magazine that explores a newsy topic with voice and, ideally, humor. “Write about the wind,” said our editor-in-chief, Mary Melton. “December is Santa Ana season.”
Writing about weather patterns is hard enough (see my June Gloom primer here). But writing about the Santa Anas is particularly tricky. You might recall right around this time last year, Los Angeles and the surrounding area experienced a windstorm so powerful it toppled trees, blew over street signs, tore off shingles, and left thousands without power for several days. It took most of us by surprise—and to those outside of Southern California made us sound like wimps. When not in the shape of a funnel, or part of a hurricane, wind just doesn’t sound all that intimidating.
What was intimidating was a piece Dave Gardetta wrote about the Santa Anas in 2008. Gardetta captured the nature of the Santa Anas, that mythic element that goes well beyond the Weather Channel. It’s a great piece and I recommend you read it. I just don’t recommend you reading it while trying to cobble together a 350-word piece on the same subject. It’s like a going onstage to tell knock-knock jokes after Louis C.K.
Fortunately, luck blew in my direction. On the way to work the day before my story was due, the weather sucked—in the best way. Though it was September and an unusually sticky one at that, a breeze grew into a gust, which tumbled into a real skirt-raiser. The Santa Anas had come early, and while everyone else complained about their allergies, I was reminded those treacherous December days of 2011, and I managed to bang out a draft, leaving my writer’s block in the dust. This time.