He’s gone to smell the loquats…
Funny how even without context it’s still pretty clear what that means. That turn of phrase grew common in China where they once referred to brothels as “the gates of loquats” because the loquat blossoms smell so delicious. The trees grow rampant across this city, but people don’t seem as excited about them here as they might be in China. Maybe we just don’t know what they are or maybe we just don’t own a tall enough ladder to reach the fruit. Either way, if you put in the effort you’ll find a sweet stone fruit, not a citrus as its name’s likeness to the kumquat might imply. “Quat” means orange in Cantonese. Kumquat: golden orange. Loquat: reed orange, meaning the tree likes to grow where it’s swampy like a reed.
In France you would call this tree a flambouyant bleu. “Blue is a very difficult color to achieve in botany,” a horticulturist with the Los Angeles County Arboretum told the LA Times. The Jacaranda would have to agree with said horticulturist, as its flowers are more of a bluish violet. No matter how you call it, their cheer is abundant across our city streets.
“And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that strange things happen all the time. And so it goes, and so it goes. And the book says, ‘We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us,’” we are told in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 epic love story to the San Fernando Valley, Magnolia.
While the Southern Magnolia is native to the American South, it not only lines the streets of the San Fernando Valley, but the entire Los Angeles basin. The flower was used as an emblem of the Confederate army, but unlike the assumption made by Anderson’s narrator, we’ve let go of its past. And thankfully so because these giant white flowers can make even the sleepiest of men smile. They’re so grand, in fact, they have earned it the Latin name, Magnolia Grandiflora.