Local head shops have been hit pretty hard in recent months. The Department of Homeland Security has way too much free time on its hands and has been harassing stores that sell what they consider to be "drug paraphernalia." Unfortunately for the proprietors of these establishments, the department has not come out and said exactly what is illegal, making any merchandise that you can use to smoke into a potential business liability. A number of shops have closed, and those that remain open have pretty much cleared their shelves of everything but a meager selection of rolling papers, incense, and gifts. That's why we were overjoyed to discover that Grateful J's still has everything that the short-term memory of a pothead can remember needing. From bowls in Pyrex, metal, corncob, and wood to multihosed hookahs and futuristic vaporizers, J's carries everything you need for your next hit of the kind bud. A VW van's weight in Grateful Dead merchandise is inside, but our favorite spot is the Boca Raton store's showcase of handcrafted art glass -- goblets, paperweights, and pendants. If you look one shelf lower, you'll see a collection of handmade glass sex toys for use after that late-night hash spliff, when you and your honey are feeling nice and relaxed.
This ain't no reptile tourist trap. No faux alligator baubles to be found here, friends. You'll know this is authentic gator land the moment you step into this shop, which is hidden away in a cluster of drab warehouse cubbyholes just off I-95 and Pembroke Road. The piquant aroma of gator hides in various states of processing fills the nostrils, and craftsmen are hand-making purses, boots, and, well, whatever other notions of scaly stylin' you might desire. Opened in the late '80s by Massachusetts native and part-time marine biologist Brian Wood, the shop also offers meat, from fast-food cheap to caviar costly. For the highfalutin, there's the alligator tenderloins for $10.95 a pound. For the lunchbox set, try the $2.75-a-pound legs, or, hell, buy a whole carcass for $2 a pound and barbecue that baby up. If you prefer to be one step removed from the whole gator-factory experience, order online.

Remember back in college when you had to choose a foreign language? And, being the young Einstein you were, you chose whatever seemed the coolest, regardless of whether you'd actually ever speak the language. Fortunately, you can make up for your youthful shortsightedness at Clematis Street News Stand. Short of actually traveling abroad, what better way to check out a foreign country than to read its periodicals? Test your memory reading France's LeFigaro and Le Monde, Spain's El País, or Italy's Corriere della Sera, and several other foreign-language papers. Or peruse those of other English-speaking nations, like England's tabloid the Daily Mirror or the Irish Times. There are plenty of papers from the States as well, from the Left Coast (San Francisco Chronicle) to the Big Apple (New York Post, New York Times). But what good is reading the paper without a good meal on the side? Well, you're in luck: Clematis Street News Stand serves breakfast, lunch, and an assortment of desserts to boot. There's even a gift shop (though somewhat for tourists) offering fine wines, cigars, and various souvenirs and greeting cards. You could spend hours dining, shopping, and catching up on news from across the Atlantic. And you should too -- it'll help make up for all that money you blew in college.

In Fort Lauderdale, you used to have either your bus tour or your boat tour. Now you can go amphibian on this city's ass. It's called Lauderducks, and it opened at BeachPlace this past December. The silly name comes from a very serious vehicle, called a DUKW. These babies are basically large trucks with watertight hulls that were built back in 1940 for use in World War II. A few smart people decided to buy some DUKWs from the government, renovate them, then charge the populace to ride and boat in them. The DUKW is a terribly awkward-looking thing, and that's one of the wonderful aspects of the tour: It's as much an oddity as anything you'll see while you're on it. People stare and wave as you ride by and make obnoxious noises with these little yellow quacker things the tour operators give you. The 80-minute ride -- which costs $21 per adult and $13 for children -- rolls up the shopping district of Las Olas, into Fort Lauderdale, where you learn about our wonderful history (like the fact that the Broward County Governmental Center used to be a department store). Then they drive you right into the New River, where you float by what the city calls Millionaire's Row, where half of the mansions seem to be owned by the Huizengas. Then it's on to the Intracoastal Waterway, where you gawk at more boats than you thought could fit on the ocean. In short, it's a ride into the heart of Fort Lauderdale -- and it's a hell of a tour. Quack, quack.

The full name of this club for curs is Camp Canine Country Club and Day Spa for Dogs and Cats. I'll let the owners describe the place from their website, which calls it "not just an ordinary kennel, but an elite resort for dogs and cats offering very unique Daycare, as well as Grooming, Boarding, Training and an exclusive Pet Boutique -- for the most spoiled pets!" That's right, folks, we've entered the realm of pecuniary emulation for dogs. You don't just worry about keeping up with the Joneses nowadays but their damn furball too. But let's face it: There are a lot of single folk out there who can't be at home with their mutts during working hours. If you've got the money -- $15 for the first day and $22 a day after that -- why not let Spot play at Camp Canine? And rest assured that the folks at the sprawling, 9,200-square-foot facility in downtown Fort Lauderdale are professional, and they know what they are doing. Fido can roam about in the camp's air-conditioned play area or go to the secure yard outside. He can play on jungle gyms, have a nap time or a manicure, or watch "rainy day doggy movies." It's downright decadent, like Caligula for dogs. Discounted multiday passes are available. Fortunately, if all the debauchery gets to be too much for your pooch, the facility also has counselors on-site to handle your pet's psychological problems, like depression and separation anxiety. Unfortunately, they don't offer the same services to the animals' owners.

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.

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