Malibu Pier 6, 2011
It wasn’t until some years ago when I first visited Palo Alto, California, in September that I realized just how dry it gets out there in the fall. Seeing all that brittle brown vegetation made it much easier for an Easterner to understand why wildfires are so easy to start and spread out there.
Malibu’s like that, too. Like me, you might have wondered how people living practically on top of the Pacific Ocean could have such problems with wildfires. But now that I’ve driven the short distance up the coast to Malibu from Santa Monica I can understand how four asphalt lanes of Pacific Coast Highway are scant protection from wildfires that ignite somewhere up in the Santa Monica Mountains and spread rapidly down to the shore.
But thoughts of that unpleasantness passed quickly last week when I had a chance to drive up to Malibu for lunch. It was sunny. The temperature was in the low 80s. The humidity was low. In short, conditions were just about heavenly.
Malibu Pier 19, 2011
I didn’t really have much interest in visiting the commercial center of Malibu. But I did find the Malibu Pier to be an appealing photographic subject. I thought I’d have lunch at the restaurant that’s out on the pier, but the lines waiting to get in snaked out to the highway. So I settled for the diner/beer joint just across the highway, where I could have sworn I heard one of the waitresses being called Barbie. If I’m wrong on that count, let’s just say it’s the kind of place where waitresses could be called Barbie.
The Malibu Pier was built in 1905 by a local rancher as a transfer point for his cattle and crops to get to waiting ships. Over the years ownership of the pier passed back and forth between private and public hands. After falling into disrepair following a battering by El Nino storms, the pier was closed during the 1990s. It later reverted to state ownership and is today operated by the California State Parks system.
It’s a gorgeous old pier. The railings and structures are painted bright white with bright blue trim. (This must be an official California color scheme, as it’s the same colors used on the Crystal Pier I visited down near La Jolla last December.) You can look down between the floorboards and see the ocean rolling underneath you just about anywhere you are on it. On a bright day, this color scheme, combined with a blue sky and green ocean, made for a terrific subject. I spent about twenty minutes on the pier, poking around, walking up and down steps and generally casing the joint. Barbie was still watching over my car when I got back to it.