Past Stuff: Morning on the Hermosa Beach Pier

11 Oct

The sun replaces the moon as the city awakens

By: Dennis Johnson, Daily Breeze staff writer

6 a.m., Hermosa Beach Pier.

A semi-solid moon still hangs high in the sky. The deck, railing and seating of the pier are dewy-damp with condensed fog. The air is chilled crisp with autumn.

Lee Boll is out for his morning walk, a little exercise and a brief communion with God.

This is Boll’s time for meditation, the silence of morning easing the gregarious Hermosa Beach man into a rapport with his Higher Power. He laughs easily as he praises the earliness of the day.

It’s a good routine and he says he’s losing weight. He thinks it’s the diet and the walking.

“I’m 53 and handsome, but that’s obvious. I’m a master of the obvious,” he says before slipping down the pier’s slope toward The Strand.

To the east, the rosy-gray light of dawn is welling up and over the solid roofline of buildings that demark the horizon, turning the city’s thick pile of housing into a silhouette.

In nearby Redondo Beach, lazy columns of steam rise from the AES Plant’s towering smokestacks, dissipating into nothingness as they gain altitude. To the north, Manhattan Beach is bathedin a filtered layer of sea mist and haze.

Although there’s little surf, the air is filled with the splashing of small waves crashing.

At the pier’s end, Hideki Tanaka is whipping a bending fishing pole from side to side, steadily reeling in an anonymous fish from the water below.

“Oh yes, you’ve got a small one,” he says to his daughter, Maya. “It doesn’t look like a mackerel.”

“Daddy, you want a pocket knife?” asks Maya, 10, as she roots around in a tackle box.

Tanaka pulls the tiny flipping fish over the railing, “This could be anchovy.”

Father helps daughter unhook the harmonica-sized fish, and tosses it slapping into an empty white bucket. The Torrance man says he and his daughter started fishing less than a month ago. They’re turning into pier regulars.

“That makes my second fish (caught) in my entire life,” he says, then adds, “I’m not really a fisherman.”

Holding her sweat shirt-covered hands about 8 inches apart, Maya estimates the size of the fish that she’d really like to catch. A few minutes later she and her dad pull up a mackerel roughly the size of the space she previously held between her hands.

6:25 a.m. An orange-red ball of sun is now looming over the top edge of the city, flashing an iridescent red reflection across the ripples of the water.

Three more fishermen walk out on the pier and so does Richard Matson — like the shipping line — who is walking his dog Gretzky — like the hockey player.

Gretzky, a 10-year-old Akita, doesn’t really like the pier, Matson says. No place to sniff around and do his business. Pier Plaza, that’s what he likes, lots of bits of food to scrounge.

The dog’s getting up there in years, Matson says. He’s getting cranky, but he’s healthy. His dad lived to be 14, so you never know.

“I usually walk him earlier than this, otherwise there’s too many dogs out here,” he says, “but on Saturday and Sunday people roll out of the rack later . . . which is fine with me.”

The sun is now starting to blaze with its meager morning heat, cutting some of the chill. Its low elevation creates a strange temperature dichotomy, however, warming one side of your body while the other side still shivers in the sharp early air.

Toward the base of the pier two more anglers are trying their luck in the shallow water.

A lone surfer paddles around in the sloppy shore-break. There’s just not much to catch.

Along the shoreline, a few runners briskly trudge through the sand, chasing better health.

7 a.m. There’s now about a dozen people along the concrete pier and the full glare of the sun has turned the slowly dipping moon into a ghost. The stillness of morning is giving way to the energy of the day.

Above the rushing slush of waves, the dull drone of a boat motor floats up, out and over the ocean. A fisherman baits a hook with a sliver of mussel.

Some old-time surfers stand in a group and talk.

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