So there's this guy, Books. He won't say his real name. He does some graffiti, but he can't talk about that either because, you know, it's illegal. He and his business partner, Dr. Black (don't ask him his real name either), have taken stencil to an artistic level. Remember stencils from grade school? These ain't them. Books and Black have made intricate stencils and engravings carved with a CO2 laser onto metal, wood, and even mirrors. They've been hired to create business cards, poker tables, and wedding invites. They'll even engrave the windshield of your tricked-out ride. While they're both very mysterious about what they do, they're open about one thing: MasterCard is accepted.
Sub Zero Gaming Center is a mix of Internet café and video arcade, with a twist of home gaming. It's got all the comforts of gaming at home (a snack bar, comfy chairs, individual glass desks, and headsets) without the solitude. The Greenacres joint has 17 computers equipped with 19-inch LCD gaming monitors and a half-dozen console stations, all connected via a high-speed network. (What better way to savor the looks of frustration and despair on your fellow players' faces as you blast them into oblivion?) And there are a lot of games to choose from. Whether it's first-person fare like Counterstrike, Xbox-fueled warfare with Gears of War, or Hobbit-esque excursions in the World of Warcraft, Sub Zero has your fix and probably a new gaming addiction you haven't found yet. Players can become members for a one-time fee of $20, which gives them access to reduced rates and a host of other goodies, like free play time and entry into special tournaments and events. But the best membership bonus is this: Sub Zero packs in nearly 200 hard-core members a week, so you'll always have someone to play with.
Babies are stupid. Many of them can't even talk. So they're in no position to complain if all their toys serve some ulterior parental motive, like education. Rather than letting the TV set play babysitter, pop in Brainy Baby, the DVD that teaches junior how to access his right brain (for creativity) and then his left (for logic). As the kid grows up, a parent can continue heading to downtown Hollywood for raids on the Kids-n-Science merchandise. A talking microscope, for instance, beats any talking doll. And if the kid insists on a doll, buy him or her the "Human Undercover Body," a science kit that promises a "human skeleton and organs inside!" (It's never too early to start med school.) Eventually, the little runt will go through a phase where he's fascinated with gore and destruction. Don't fight it; feed it with the "Horrible Science" series of toys. There's "Explosive Experiments" for the kid who would build his own fireworks and volcanoes and "Bloody Bones & Body Bits" for the youngster who would practice heart surgery on a life-like plastic model — which is far better than practicing it on the neighbor's cat.
Sticks and Stones
So you need to buy some turquoise jewelry created by local craftsmen, pick up a chunk of petrified dinosaur dung, and relieve that pesky itch via a holistic earwax-removal candle, but you don't have time to run all over town. Lucky for you, the Hollywood Beach Resort has just the one-stop shopping mecca you seek. Walk into the giant building's main entrance and past the Farfr¨mp¨ken T-shirts (yes, they still sell them), beyond the kiosk specializing in incense and used watches, and up to the sandwich-board sign that reads "Sticks and Stones — The most unusual gift shop in a hotel anywhere!" Single animal teeth stand up next to neatly inscribed labels — "seal tusk," "bison tooth — 7800 years old!" — making a menagerie of dentin solders. The shop's soulful-eyed bohemian owners (and nondenominational preachers) can also up-sell you with a funeral, wedding, or commitment ceremony either on the beach outside or in the tiny wedding chapel they have fashioned out of bamboo and tapestries in the corner of the shop. The John Lennon Wedding Chapel holds enough instruments to outfit an entire band and has a hand-painted sign hanging from its ceiling: "All you need is love." Whether you're looking to spend a little (bunny pelts are only $6) or a little more (the 400-million-year-old dinosaur dung rings in at bargain price of $31), Sticks and Stones has the perfect nonregistry wedding gift for any occasion.
Thanks to the enterprising folks over at Rose Vine Winery, you can now do in a Federal Highway shopping plaza what it took Robert Mondavi acres and acres of expensive Napa Valley real estate to do: make your own wine. First, a winemaking specialist lets you sample a range of flavors and explains concepts like fermentation, clarification, and aeration. Do you want to make a fine Merlot? A peach Chardonnay? Something more akin to Boone's Farm? Once you've decided, mix different varieties of grape juice concentrates, which makes the potion more oaky or as sweet as you please. Add yeast (yeast + sugars = alcohol), take the temperature, and leave the mixture at the shop for about 45 days. (A winemaker will monitor it.) When you come back, you bottle your wine using high-tech electric bottling equipment, design your own labels, and stick corks in each of the 24 bottles your batch has produced. It costs $249 — just over $10 a bottle!
Jezebel
Over the past 20 years, this boutique has evolved from humble roots: It started as the Stock Exchange in Wilton Manors, a tiny closet of a shop jam-packed full of vintage textile treasures. Now (and for the past 16 or so years), it calls the Gateway Plaza home and has expanded its inventory to include every adorable shiny trinket you could possibly desire for your nest. From dishes cartooned with pictures of bad girls with even worse tattoos to atomic-print diner-style napkin holders, Jezebel turns your low-rent hellhole of a kitchen into a charming '50s diner. Need to add a little joy to that dank, windowless bedroom? Browse through sunshine-yellow blankets or snag any number of hanging paper lanterns. Sniff your way through tables of sweet and savory candles or take home feng-shui friendly room diffusers. Finally, scrub your whole pad down with aromatherapy cleaning products, sit back, and relax. Your digs will look, feel, and smell so good.
We all know that the softest, most sublime, and supple leather comes from Italy. Whether it's shoes, a jacket, skirt, pants, or even chaps, the Italians can make even the most loyal vegans want to wear it. And at Minimalista Furniture in the Gateway Shopping Plaza — where Sunrise Boulevard and Federal Highway converge/diverge — you'll want to strip off whatever you're wearing right there in front of the salespeople and the giant windows facing that busy intersection just to get as close as possible to the leather. Most everything in the elegantly and purposefully sparse showroom is featured in white and black — in true minimalist fashion. The prices aren't minimal, however. When you spend upward of $4,000 for that upscale leather sofa, can you really afford that extra end table?
He could have said it was the flux capacitor, and sadly, I wouldn't have known the difference. So you can imagine my surprise when the vehicle that I had nervously abandoned only 15 minutes earlier was already prepped for surgery, diagnosed, and broken down into words that even I understood. Nick said the "scary gasoline smell" that needed to be checked out was legitimately "A Scary Gasoline Smell" and that its cause was a laceration in my fuel line (then the term death trap was tossed around lightly). Instantly, cartoon dollar signs replaced my pupils, I clutched a nearby window ledge for support, my knuckles went white, and I asked the question that every owner of a wounded vehicle must ask: "Soooo, how much?" His response floored me even further, "How's $13.50 for parts and labor? Oh, and we can have it ready in about 20 minutes. Oh, and hey! Congratulations on quitting smoking — it must feel good knowing that you would have exploded if you hadn't!" Was I really getting my car fixed for less than the cost of an oil change and in about the same amount of time — as well as receiving moral support on a major life decision? Yes! But that's because I brought my plush whip to Rothe's. The Rothe family, Nick, and the rest of the crew at this busy little shop approach auto repair with an uncommon Zen-based flair: They not only see the inner beauty in every hoop-ride but they feel it deserves to live (and occasionally die) with dignity. So if your beater just quit beating or you're not emotionally ready to pull the plug on your '87 Pinto or hell — you're just scared of slick-talking grease monkeys, take it to the wrench-wielders who will give it to you straight. Take it to Rothe's.
Competition Cycle Center
Outside Competition Cycle Center, a hulking doorman sits on a chair, his vest appliquéd with rock 'n' roll patches and an embroidered outline of a middle finger. Inside, rows of gladiator-style body armor hang from waterfall racks like a daredevil army. Across from them, a weathered man in sun-faded denim and a beard worthy of a ZZ Top roadie examines the 40-foot-long, double-sided shelves of polishes, waxes, and soaps — searching for just the right combination of potions to make his first love glisten and shine. But it's the staff that really sets this joint apart. Competition's hog doctors know the best solution for every motorcycle dilemma. (Question: "Should I get real leather saddle bags or fake?" Answer: "Fake. Real leather cracks and falls apart. You only think you want it.") And they patiently dole out their knowledge to the newbies with credit cards and old-school highway hustlers who use only cash. So whether you're born to be wild or mild, Competition can help you look good doing it.
Flamingo Road Nursery
For a place with sand instead of soil, South Florida's got some persistent native plants. And if the long drive west on Griffin Road is any indication, there's no shortage of businesses that want to sell those plants to you. But the question you have to ask yourself is: "What kind of Eden do I want my yard to be?" And then, consider why you put so much work into maintaining grass — you can't eat grass. Start making your yard work for you by turning it into a lush mingling spot for edible plants, fruit trees, and sweetly fragrant night bloomers. To do that, you've got to go to the right nursery, and Flamingo Road Nursery has got your back (yard, that is) with the best selection of snackable plants in town. Increase your yard's cocktail-hour garnish potential by picking out a kumquat bush, a key lime shrub, or a lemon tree. Score an instant vegetable and herb garden from the mini potted starter plants. And when the grass-to-delectables transition is complete, pick up an Adirondack chair from the furniture section, take it home, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor by sipping on some homemade lemonade.

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