Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is advertising-free, and is supported by my subscribers on Patreon. History adventuring posts are shared there daily. The basic tier is a dollar a month, and the PhD tier, which includes "then and now" photos, billboards, aerials, videos, and super high-definition photos, is five dollars a month, and is discounted for seniors, veterans, and students. If you're a subscriber, thank you! You make this happen!

What Los Angeles smells like to a person from Phoenix


Since I lived in the Los Angeles area for many years, and still have a lot of friends there, I like to go back every year in the summer. I've lived in the Phoenix area now since 1989, and of course my mind is always flooded with good memories of my life in California, not the least of which is that I was younger. And I'm reminded of the smell.

Our sense of smell is something that triggers memories. And certain smells remind me of Los Angeles, some of which are really not all that pleasant. I'll see if I can explain, starting with exhaust fumes.

My friends who grew up in Los Angeles never smelled the exhaust fumes. It's the nature of lifelong exposure to something, you really don't notice it, because it's not unusual. The smell of exhaust fumes, especially diesel, in the air is the one thing that hit me the hardest when I moved to Los Angeles from Phoenix.

Now don't get me wrong, there's the smell of exhaust fumes in Phoenix - there are cars and trucks and airplanes, but nothing like LA. And for the past ten years I've been flying in, which means that my first step outside in California is at an airport. That's not a criticism of airports, that's just the way it is.

The other smell that reminds me of Los Angeles is chlorine. Yes, there are plenty of swimming pools in Phoenix, but apparently I associate that smell with relaxing poolside in Los Angeles. It's not a pleasant smell, but it immediately brings back fond memories.

Of course there's the smell of the ocean. I remember being able to smell the ocean all of the way from just west of Palm Springs back when I drove to LA from Phoenix. It's a particular tang in the air, which I would mention to the locals, and they would just think that I was weird. Down by the ocean, on the beach, it can be a very pungent smell of rotting seaweed, which isn't really that pleasant - I can't imagine "rotting seaweed" to be a popular perfume, but that stink reminds me of times that I spend there, which was quite a lot in my twenties.

So if you'll excuse me, I'll think fondly of exhaust fumes, chlorine, and rotting seaweed as I ponder my upcoming visit to California. It's weird, but it's mine.

Image at the top of this post: 1904 ad inviting Arizona guests to Los Angeles.

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History adventuring posts are shared there daily. The basic tier is a dollar a month, and the PhD tier, which includes "then and now" photos, billboards, aerials, videos, and super high-definition photos, is five dollars a month, and is discounted for seniors, veterans, and students.