Malibu Trekker @ ----- Post #1 Nov. 5, 2009

Need a shaman? Try upstairs at the mall.

Welcome to Malibu...

In recent years this elite township along the Pacific Coast Highway has been associated with wildfires, mudslides, evacuations, and of course the tearful stories of movie stars whose multi-million dollar homes were reduced to rubble. In fact, when I visited there last fall, I half expected to see little more than a blackened hillside with many long, dreary faces staggering to and fro at the base of it.


The #534 bus from L.A. drops you off on Cross Creek Road near the PCH, where there's lots of shops and access to the beach.

I did see a couple of emergency vehicles, but the hills looked fine and those firemen had simply stopped for lunch at the Malibu Country Mart. If "country mart" conjures up the specter of saddled horses tied up at the stoop, and sacks of flour and sugar for sale inside, the reality is quite in the other direction. This place resembles a Town and Country development, with high-end specialty shops surrounding a courtyard and patio, plus a nice playground for the kids. Ralph Loren, Rock Star, a Belgian chocolatier... really, all the essentials that residents here can't do without.

The good news is you don't need an American Express card to bask in the ambience of luxurious wealth in Hollywood's famous coastal colony. According to the posted signs, it's OK to drop anchor at one of the varnished teak picnic table's green canvass umbrellas and eat a bag lunch. Even on the sunless, overcast day in November when I took these photos, the Country Mart is a refuge from a harsh "Show me the money" world of other attractions around L.A.


And judging by the loads of cars pouring into the free parking lots, I'm not the only one who enjoys the place. Across the street, there's a movie theatre, more stores, and a delicatessan/cafe that "packs 'em in", so to speak. After conducting some reconaissance of the area, I found that this deli sells Peet's coffee, so I plunked down a not unreasonable $1.65 for a cup. (Watch out for the day-old, half-priced muffins, though. They cost more than that!) After making this modest purchase, I went back to sit in the patio and people watch for awhile.


The playground allows many a mom and dad to sit back and watch their little ones digging in the sand. There's also the chance to appreciate modern art, as the area is adorned with a rather tall sculpture of a broken red hammer. And if you're a fan of the Westminster Dog Show, you'll find lots of unusual pedigrees wandering about the courtyard, some more adorable than others.


While most tours of Malibu emphasize a visit to a celebrity home, I had no interest in invading somebody's personal privacy. I sniffed around town until I located the public library just around the corner from the Mart, and rustled up a one-page flyer about what to see and things to do. I also read in a copy of the local newspaper that few city workers actually live in Malibu, except for the local schools superintendent, who makes about three hundred grand a year. He also gets a free condo as part of his compensation package. This while the district is struggling with a huge debt...

Anyway, the landmarks listed in the flyer were all closeby, so I set out now to find them.

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