Most people go to their neighborhood drugstore to get their 'scrips filled or to pick up a bottle of 'Tussin for that nasty cough. But folks who are more attuned to the spirit world go to botanicas for healing. Situated in a strip mall in southwest Fort Lauderdale, Botanica 7 Rayos offers a wide array of prayer candles, herbs, beads, statues, and some of the best Bembe music this side of the Nile. The place gets it's name from the seven deities of Santería. A "spiritual consultation" will run you $31, and -- though no catalog exists just yet -- product orders can be placed via the shop's Website. Even if you're curiously browsing, the helpful staff will answer any questions -- just be sure to tip Elegguá on the way out.
One of the more dreadful things in life is not having a baby when you're having a baby. Push after excruciating push, howls of pain, and the beautiful new little being simply won't budge. The lazy, jaded doctor utters one horrid letter: C. As in C-section. Surgery, possible complications, extreme discomfort, two or three extra days in the hospital. Nobody wants it, and you pray that something will help the baby come along. If you're lucky, someone like Audeanne Donaldson will be at your side. Sure, she's a smart and pretty nurse with 12 years' experience bringing new people into the world, but she's also as strong and determined as anybody you'll meet. She doesn't like the knife, so she uses wonderful tricks to bring forth the baby. One of her favorites is putting the husband to work. Donaldson grabs a sheet, ties a knot at the mother's end, and hands the other to the husband. Then she says, "Now I want to see a good tug of war." As the parents-to-be tug, the baby's head peeks out. Between contractions, the husband gets the feeling back in his hands. Then they pull a little harder, and the head peeks out a bit more. And pretty soon, the doctor comes in and says to the mother, "My God, I think you're going to make it." Donaldson smiles a knowing smile. And when the baby's born, the nurse shows off another skill: guessing the baby's weight. She usually hits it dead-on. Thanks, Audeanne.
South Florida has long been known as the capital of plastic surgery, but last year, the title took an ugly turn when a Broward woman seeking silicone injections died after she was injected with a fatal mixture of chemicals. The death called attention to a ring of illegal underground "at-home enhancement" scams. Call it the Valley of the Dolls or Tupperware parties of the new century: a 29-year-old transsexual named Viva admitted injecting a woman whom authorities found with 36 puncture wounds oozing industrial-grade silicone. Let that be a warning. See only people with that all-important American Medical Association seal of approval. We recommend the Aesthetics Institute, which offers a wide range of nipping and tucking -- everything from lipo to forehead lifts. Led by Dr. Paul Wigoda, the clinic thoroughly interviews patients to determine if they're mentally and physically ready to undergo surgery. And Wigoda is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Check out his credentials at www.drwigoda.com

Company's coming, and you simply must have some authentic South Florida culinary weirdness. Bedessee's well-stocked, cramped, and claustrophobic aisles have plenty of what you're hankering for. Bedessee is a strange, schizophrenic marketplace, because half the store's goods (and customer base) is Jamaican, and half hales from the Indian subcontinent. Thus, shoppers can feel like globetrotting travelers, sampling wares from far and near. There's cricket gear; sugar-cane stalks taller than a toddler; Solo soda from Trinidad; cases of Jamaican Ting; tins of Madras curry powder; Kingston newspapers; tamarind candy; pure coconut oil; tubs of ghee, plantain, cassava, and yam flour; Nigerian palm juice; cock-flavored soup; odd varieties of root vegetables (like eddeo from Brazil and yampi from Jamaica); and strange fruit like Costa Rican cho-cho. Plus, you've got your pork ear, snout, or a whole burnt goat's head. And there's a notary public here too. Bedessee's one-stop shopping is an experience like no other.
The trend these days in health-food stores is big. They look like supermarkets and have prices to match. And health is relative: Some of the chains sell more meat than a butcher shop. It may be free range, but it'll clog your arteries just as quick as the stationary type. Nutrition Depot isn't completely animal-free and the place isn't nearly as big as Whole Foods, but it has prices that won't make tofu stir-fry cost more than prime rib. And the aisles and freezer cases are filled with whole grains and soy products. You'll find traditional health-food-store favorites like wheat-free sprouted bread, soy cheese, and brown rice. The most amusing thing about the place is the soy milk next to the organic half-and-half. The best thing is the chocolate Tofutti Cuties. Hey, imitation ice cream bars are sold at supermarkets and other health-food stores, but Nutrition Depot is one of the few places in town to stock them in chocolate. The Pompano store has the biggest food selection; the other four stores, which are scattered from Boca to Plantation, have less food and a lot of vitamins and fitness supplements.
Not only can you pick up bikes by every manufacturer from Schwinn to Diamond Back to GT to Redline and a dozen more at this superstore; you can also get just about every kind of bicycle, from BMX to 24-speed mountain bike. Prices start at $109 for a 12-inch girls bike and go as high as $3600 for a Klein Quantum Pro, a road model with handmade frame and full Dura-ace components. Aside from all the two-wheeled suckers, there are trikes, skateboards, Rollerblades, exercise machines, and more, making Big Wheel Cycles a one-stop shop for just about every man-powered vehicle and piece of exercise equipment in existence. And for those of us too lazy to use our own muscles to move from place to place, the store also carries Go-Peds and hybrids. If you want to move faster than a walk but don't want all the expense and trouble of a car, this is your place. The store is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. It's closed Sunday.
For the snowbirds fleeing New York or Montreal, South Florida's sand, palms, and thongs are a different world. But if that's not enough for them, Leaping Minds offers the opportunity to step off the sunny streets and onto a different planet. It's spiced with 75 kinds of incense; soothing New Age music floats above mounds of crystals and far-out knickknacks. A selection of religious statuary from Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist traditions looks out on a spacious store arranged in accordance with feng shui principles, from the varicolored walls to the central fountain. Owner Greg Macneir, formerly a personal trainer, started the shop two years ago intending to be as ecumenical as possible. "We carry everything from angels to Zen," Macneir says as his friendly sheepdog, Sheba, mingles with regular customers, some of whom browse the 2000-title book selection that ranges from astrology to George Bernard Shaw's Vegetarian Cookbook. Nor are books and baubles the only draw. A Zen fountain with chimes goes for $115, and incense sells for 13 cents a stick. A gent named Reverend Bill offers "intuitive" (psychic) readings. And healing sessions are conducted by a man Macneir touts as a genuine Peruvian shaman. The shop's most recent addition, classes in four styles of yoga, have attracted more than 1000 sign-ups since February. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Of course, this is a New Age store, so you never really know.
Vehicles are like human beings. Some live a long life, married to two, three different owners. As the years pass, the fuel and exhaust systems tend to constipate, endurance diminishes, and the sheet metal buckles and sags. Other cars and trucks, however, pass on well before their time from rollovers, broadsides, and other highway mayhem. Old or young, they all end up in salvage yards. The elderly are crushed. From the young, though, come a harvest of parts: alternators, carburetors, radiators, air conditioners. From its 800 dead vehicles, Millions of Parts will pull what you need, or, if you want to trade your sweat for cash, unbolt it yourself for an even lower price. For example, strip an alternator off a '95 Whatever and pay only $20; take the radiator, $40. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Purely and simply, Rothe's takes the fear out of getting your car fixed. Two financial concerns loom every time the old Olds craps out: How much will the repair itself actually cost, and how much in addition to that will you get ripped off? With Rothe's, the latter is of zero concern, because Rothe's is one of those Mayberry, RFD kinda places that puts the lie to honest mechanic being an oxymoron. Sure, the tab for the repair itself is unavoidable, but here, it's always reasonable. Most important, with Rothe's, you won't also get bamboozled into replacing your shocks and your belts and that other thingamajig. When you take your rattletrap in thinking you need new brakes for 200 bucks, how many other places will tell you that you just needed an adjustment for 20 bucks? Rothe's will. When's the last time you've been pleasantly surprised by a car repair bill? With Rothe's, it can happen. No fear, indeed.

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