Synodontis petricola is a dwarf catfish commonly found in Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. It rarely exceeds three and a half inches in length. But S. petricola, better-known as the pygmy catfish, has one hell of a Napoleon complex: Put this graceful creature in an aquarium with some of his larger, more aggressive catfish brethren and watch him quickly gain respect as he scavenges the bottom of your aquarium. S. petricola ($34.99) is merely one of the unique underwater oddities you can find at Benny's Tropical Fish in Pembroke Pines. This family-owned store, founded by Benny Manna, is a turnkey outfit for all your fish and home aquarium needs. In fact, Benny's fish, many of which are bred in captivity, have gained such a following that Manna ships everything from Blue Dolphin ($5.99) to Albino Cobalt Zebra ($4.99) to customers nationwide. Readers' Choice: Petsmart
It might sound frivolous to those whose pets don't pray on Saturdays, but the Fort Lauderdale company that's producing kosher dog and cat food hopes to report yearly sales in the seven figures by the end of 2004. Consider it bragging rights to say that your dog is a better Jew than the neighbor's flea-bitten mutt. KosherPets concocts its dog and cat food using a rabbi-blessed kitchen and sells its divine goods at boutiques and chain stores. They use kosher meats and unleavened bread to create vittles probably more holy than what a lot of Jews scarf down. A bowl of kosher dog food does cost more -- a one-pound bag of dried beef patties is $29.95 -- but how much would you spend to save Spot from damnation? Some of the company's most popular items are Hanukkah and Passover treats (nonkosher), including stuffed dreidels and menorahs, which KosherPets claims "brings out the mensch in even the most unruly pooch."

Oh no! There's only half an hour left before your big date, and your car's a complete mess, inside and out. The carpet's littered with Doritos bits, and your once-shiny paint job is now decorated with bird droppings. Slime, dust, and dirt seems embedded in every part. A trip to the gas station seems like the best solution, but then you'll have to choose whether to wash it or vacuum it; you don't have time to do both. Or do you? Only if you ditch the Amoco station and go to Woody's Wash & Wax. For $13, you can get the Ultimate Wash and Wax, which includes vacuuming and window-cleaning (add $2 for Armor All). But if you're really strapped for time, Woody's $10 Super Wash (no wax) takes under ten minutes from the moment you pull in to the moment you leave. You can always come back later and get your auto hand-waxed for $30. So, now that your car's nice and spiffy and ready for your date, let's talk about that haircut.

Somewhere between college and meeting the woman of your dreams, you realize that plaid couch with worn armrests acts as a large neon sign, almost visible from the street below, blinking: Bachelor! Bachelor! Bachelor! It's time for a change, good man, and nowhere can a more drastic change be found than at Trend Furniture by Design in downtown Hollywood. Take a look. There's the cushioned chaise longue with the sloped back and six-foot base extending out in a curve, as if it were a human tongue gently arching forward. That little chair will set you back half a paycheck or so. Now move over to the lamps. They extend up from the floor, their colors as vivid as their curves smooth, as if the metal bases were stems reaching upward to give birth to flowers (uh, yeah, the light bulbs go in those flower-lookin' things). A lamp can be had for $200. But then you'll see the couches. Oh, the couches! Many use two contrasting colors, the arms one color, the base and back another. The cushions give lightly as the lines of the couch move out and envelope as if they were the curves of a beautiful woman. Price? $1,200. Pricey, sure, but this furniture store offers some wild and sexy stuff.

"I found a Hello Kitty coin purse!" and other exhortations are guaranteed to spring to your lips after you're finally able to crawl out of this sinkhole of sale items, this quicksand of quirkiness. Or if the mouthless cat isn't your thing, just substitute another favorite only-a-buck goody: a bag o' confetti, perhaps? How about some glow-in-the-dark aquarium rocks? Don't miss the Auto Aisle! Never pay $1.49 for plastic ice trays ever again or $1.09 for a votive candle. Not at the 99 Cents Store. Best of all, the large selection of merchandise priced over a buck -- but rarely more than a fin -- yields discounted finds like glass cabbage heads, aluminum paella pans, cheap cologne, and all sorts of other utterly useless but nonetheless completely fascinating totems of our disposable society. Most dollar stores deal in down-on-their-luck junk, but this formidable array of low-budget items is in a class by itself.

There's nothing but Christmas in this unassuming shop, yet it's open year-round. That it has survived for three decades is a Christmas miracle if ever there was one. (Heck, eggnog gets only one month a year, and that stuff is molten crack.) Inside, you'll wander past entire rooms of ornaments, stockings, tree skirts, Christmas lights. At least 35 styles of Christmas trees decorated in themes. A five-foot-tall stuffed snowman. Snowman head ornaments. Wire frame sleighs outlined in winking tube lights and deer that nod their light-filled heads. A six-foot-tall upright reindeer made of what appears to be artificial hedge, wearing a red scarf and vest. Santa dolls in more variations than Barbie: poinsettia-patterned-coat Santa; pimped-out, crushed-velvet-coat Santa; fur-lined-wilderness-coat Santa. Two rooms dedicated to miniature, achingly detailed Christmas scenes: the snow village, the alpine village, the Dickens village (Hark! Be that Scrooge's house?). And of course, more crèches than you can shake a tiny wooden Jesus at. Even supporting players Balthazar, Melchior, Tiberius, Esau, Obediah, Zachariah, and Samson are here, pocket-sized, to enrich your favorite Bible story diorama, 52 weeks per annum.

Biking in Broward is dangerous business. Drivers refuse to give way to other cars, let alone some flesh-and-bone human propped up on a metal contraption with two one-inch-wide rubber tires. Without a bike that can hop street corners, absorb shocks, and then stop in seconds, you'll become just one more bicycling casualty in South Florida, turned into pavement by some rusty, fuel-powered tank. That's why you need Kevin's Bicycles, a turnkey bicycle outfit thriving in the age of automobiles. Specializing in urban rides, including such sweet bikes as Mongooses and Calois (prices start at $139), Kevin's is the last of a dying breed: a locally owned store and repair shop that can inspire you to give up your car every now and then. What's more, like a car dealership, Kevin's takes trade-ins. Or let's say you don't like bicycles. That's OK. There's a fancy unicycle for sale. Readers' Choice: Lauderdale Cyclery
If what you want is a bicycle -- not an ass kissing, not a motivational speech, not a new best friend -- then go to Bicycle. Wayne -- the awesomely coifed (think '80s skater haircut on a tall, skinny, gray-haired dude) proprietor who runs the one-man show -- is serious about these machines. Whether you want a road bike, a hybrid, a mountain bike, or a cruiser; whether you want to buy components or have your bike tuned up, Wayne is the man to see. He may not smile; he may not sweet-talk you; he might even tell you to go away if you're not the serious kind of customer he's looking for. But there are two things Wayne never has to worry about: (1) dissatisfied customers and (2) having to wipe brown stuff off his nose.

Most of the plants at Tropical World Nursery didn't just pop up in some mass-produced South Florida farm. Many of the bromeliads, cacti, and orchids have traveled farther than you did on your last vacation. Tropical World grows most of its stuff a few thousand miles away, on the side of a dormant Mexican volcano. The nursery's South of the Border location, at 3,500 feet above sea level, allows it to produce plants that won't grow to maturity in South Florida's heat. Once of age, the plants can survive in local backyards, says owner Michael Marino, who makes regular trips to Mexico to retrieve the full-grown specimens. Many of the rare varieties are shipped via suitcase on domestic flights. That overhead doesn't make Tropical World the kind of place most folks will go to landscape the entire homefront, but the unique blooms of one-of-a-kind plants make it ideal for a yard's finishing touches. And they do have some deals. Check out the $6 cape primrose, or streptocarpus, a relative of the African violet. They also have carnivorous pitcher plants (sarracenia) that grow in burgundy colors with orchid-looking leaves for $5. The best part is that you can brag to the neighbors that your new shrubbery is volcano-grown.

For those of you looking to furnish your pad like a seafood shack, this is the place to go. Culpepper & Co.'s crowded yard of goods has reams of nautical-themed antiques pulled from the hulls of boats and shipyards the world over. Owner David Culpepper spends two months a year combing shipyards and wrecking facilities in remote places, usually in Asia and the Near East. He returns with one man's trash and another man's item to piss off the wife when it ends up in the living room: rusting anchors, glass buoys, aging harpoons, and dresser drawers full of sailing flags. Just about every wall of the small showroom is covered in life preservers that look as if they've come in handy a few hundred times, and there are piles of oars scuffed from years of use on long-forgotten boats. Some stuff even still has that saltwater smell. Mmm. And it's cheaper than you may think to make your home look like Red Lobster. A fishing basket runs $15 and a brass porthole about $250. The wooden ship's wheel will set you back a few hundred as well, but you're not going to let her say no, are you?

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