The Parade of the First-Dead Leaves in Los Angeles

How you can tell it’s fall in L.A., according to a guy from Vermont.

The city is just hitting the beginning of a second decade of record-setting heat, so it’s a good time to revisit one of the city’s most famous traditions: the annual parade of the first-dead, or dew-killed, leaves, which often have been arranged in elaborate flower garlands and sprinkled with glittering metallic confetti.

Dew, technically, is “fall” in L.A., and in the city’s rich cultural history, the fall foliage tradition is as old as the Los Angeles basin itself, which in the early 19th century would be covered in fresh sprouts by cold, dry winter weather, a period of record-setting heat.

In the book “L.A. Fall” by photographer Mark Sorensen, the author writes that in Los Angeles, “every November, the city is transformed into a spectacle of fallen leaves, a forest of leaves that, like gold, reflects the beauty of the city.”

“That’s the L.A. Fall I know.”

In 2010, however, he says it was “a nightmare of heat and drought” causing a city-wide forest fire that destroyed 1,400 trees — including several that were considered to be the city’s “first tree,” or “first leaves.”

So, naturally, we asked Sorensen, who had photographed the parade for years — from 2010 to 2013 — how he has captured this tradition.

He tells us, “The L.A. Fall I know is more than just the first-dead leaves in the fall. The L.A. Fall that I know is the fall of your life.”

What is the first Fall in the city, and how do you get into the spirit?

Sorensen: There’s a very unique tradition in the city and in the history of Los Angeles

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