At the end of September I accompanied by best friend to the city of Lost Angels. We traveled by car by way of the very scenic Redwood Highway and San Francisco, then counted the mileposts along Interstate-5 on a stretch I refer to as Hell. Between Stockton and The Grapevine (that mountain all travelers have to traverse before dropping into the San Fernando Valley as if it were put there as a warning to go no further), there is nothing but orchards, fields, a lot of dry grass and flat, flat land and highway. It's a stretch of road that never fails to leave my nerves frayed.

Once we began climbing, and then clearing the summit, I could feel my nerves retracting as we sped past Six Flags and descended into the San Fernando Valley. Our destination was Sylmar - barely on the valley floor - where we spent two nights enjoying the hospitality lavished on us by our friends. It was a warm, generous and not soon to be forgotten welcome to LA.

The rest of our stay (another week) was spent in Torrance at my companion's mother's home. It proved an emotional visit, as we were preparing her house for sale. Mom had decided it was time to downsize and move into a senior community, never an easy decision, but one she made and executed with exemplary grace.

I've been making visits to Southern California since I was a child of ten. As a kid I was gaga over the palm trees and begged my father to move us there, but this was the first time as an adult I felt the pull to live there. Maybe it's the close proximity of the Pacific, or autumn's perfect summer weather, or the relaxed atmosphere of LA's beach communities - whatever - this time around I was taken by it, and wonder, South Bay, where have you been all my life?