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Best Of 2001


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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Place to Find Support

Your back twinges. It aches. Sometimes it completely lays you out for days on end. Well, here's a store made just for you. Everything that Relax the Back sells is designed to lessen pressure and reduce the pull of gravity on your throbbing spine. The stores sell beds, mattresses, pillows, wedge cushions, car seat supports, office equipment, recliners, and couches. If you don't believe the stuff works, just sit down once in the $2600 NASA-designed recliner and feel the magic. Or listen to the numerous orthopedic doctors and dozens of chiropractors who recommend the store to their patients. The California-based franchise (there are about 150 Relax the Back stores across the U.S.) markets unique exercise equipment and stretching tools, such as water belts, that allow you to work out while floating in the pool. It also peddles those great big sports balls you lie on to stretch your back muscles and cool inversion tables that allow you to hang upside down like a bat. Take that, gravity!

Best Adult Video and Sex Toy Store

Sometimes tracking down the right vibrating butt plug can be a wild goose chase. You search hither and yon only to be disappointed -- again. That's why the connoisseur of battery-operated sex toys knows that biggest is always best -- and in this case, that describes Megasex Adult Emporium. The video/toy store looks as if it's taken over an abandoned airplane hangar and filled it with every conceivable pleasuring device for every conceivable orifice. You can go from easily concealed, surreptitious little smuggleables like the Pocket Rocket (perfect for those long airplane flights) all the way up to and including the 10-inch-wide, 24-inch-long Man o' War (which hurts just to look at). Megasex is better than a well-stocked candy counter when it comes to condoms, displaying a vast array of colors, flavors, and textures. Then there are the silly novelties: gummy sweets shaped like boobs and butts, loads of lickable lubes, jelly dongs, G spot ticklers, cock rings, and of course enough dildos to distract Annabel Chong. If you just can't seem to reach that hard-to-reach area, give Megasex a try.

Best Airport Shop

Oh no! Spilled overpriced coffee on myself. Look at the pretty dresses and separates -- I'll put together a new ensemble, complete with cute straw bag and iridescent bracelets. That ostentatious old man over there also mussed up his clothes; he'll probably grab some snazzy designer golf threads to go with the balls he's fondling. My whiny niece wants my new jewelry; instead I'll buy her Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss books. The latest Clancy, Cornwell, and Grisham -- great gifts for Mom and Dad -- are also available, though nothing from my lit class reading list. I guess I'll grab one of these magazines instead. Now, should I get my usual chips and chocolates or indulge in faux tropical (put coconut on anything, and they'll call it tropical) treats? Carrying all this merchandise makes my arms ache -- but here's a display full of tiny medicines and, to boot, replacement toiletries for all the stuff I left on the airplane. The Atlanta-based Paradies Shops did a good thing by opening this airport über-boutique in December after closing a few smaller stores. I can't help but agree with a traveler pushing a baby stroller, who spots the individually wrapped diapers and exclaims à la Elwood Blues: "This place has everything!"

Best Animal Hospital

If your pet could speak, it would probably say that going to the vet is for the birds. And it would be right in a way. Dr. Karen Zielezienski (that's Dr. Z to her patients) has been practicing avian medicine and surgery for more than 12 years, and she's one of a handful of AAV (Association of Avian Veterinarians) members in South Florida. Dr. Z is always willing to share her expertise through Notes from Academy, the animal hospital's monthly newsletter. In addition to bird-care information, the good doctor provides updates on the latest medical innovations in use at the hospital and health care tips for dogs and cats. Dr. Z is ably assisted by Dr. David Stewart, who cares for critters in a career that has spanned more than 30 years. Academy is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, surgery suites, ultrasound capabilities, laser surgery, and air-conditioned boarding. And the staff will clean up your mangy mutt or grimy kitty. Groomer Michael Argilan can coif your cocker or fit your longhaired cat with a lion cut for the summer. Whether they're ill or just in need of a checkup, pets get the best care from the entire staff at Academy, paws down.

Best Automated Teller Machine

Your bank account is down to its very last $9.66. You have nothing in your pocket, and that pack of smokes you crave is so near, yet so far away. What to do? You could take the bus over to the check-cashing store for a payday loan. But you haven't seen a payday since you threw the wrapper away. You, my near-destitute friend, have but one option, and it is Regent Bank, which, for some unfathomable reason, still uses first-generation mechanical money trees that dispense $5 bills, not just the ubiquitous tens and twenties most ATMs spit out. Thus you can yank your last fin without entering the red zone. Most of us thought ATMs that still gave out $5 bills followed Reagan out of the White House, but we were wrong. Yes, you'll pay $1.50 for the privilege if your account is with another bank. But that cigarette -- or can of Foster's -- never tasted so good.

Best Barber Shop

All right, Pharo's isn't, technically speaking, a barber shop. Barber shops are generally cheap and devoutly heterosexual in nature. Men are men, and when one walks into a barber shop, even his hair gets nervous. Or at least it should be nervous. We've found that barber shops are a dicey proposition at best. It's probably not so much that the quality has declined as that expectations in this oh-so-vain world have risen as high as Don King's comb. That's why we present you with Pharo's. The services are not cheap (nor are they exorbitant, at $17 for a cut and wash), but they're damn good. And at Pharo's you don't hear a bunch of tedious talk about sports, hunting, or current events. Walter, who trims our hair, instead might spin you the tale of his life in Cape Coral and how he inspired a macho sheriff's deputy to become a manicurist. Now that's entertainment.


Best Place to Find Support: Relax the Back


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