Because DJs need vinyl, they depend on specialty stores that offer the hottest dance music and 12-inch-single remixes. But what about the record collector who never gave up on vinyl in the first place, who's still looking for yesterday's, and some of today's, releases? "There is no type of music we don't sell," claims Larry Paul, owner of Larry's Records, and he's not exaggerating. Fans of the Zombies, for example, who stuck with founder Rod Argent after he left the band in '69 will find Argent's stuff in the "Rock" aisle. A-ha, Icicle Works, and Wang Chung LPs from the '80s are in the "Progressive" music section. Replacements for worn-out copies of the Grease soundtrack can be found in the "Soundtracks" bin. Amid the rows of Bananarama, Men Without Hats, and Ultravox records under the "Rock Pop Retro" sign lurk plenty of 12-inch singles and EPs. And for vinyl junkies whose history goes back a ways, Nat King Cole and Paul Anka records are in the "Vocals" aisle, as are hits and obscurities in the two racks full of 45s. Separate sections are also set aside for picture disks, soul and R&B, jazz, oldies, calypso/soca, disco, and comedy. Larry even employs DJs who catalog and price the new dance stuff, the selection of which is large enough to give those specialty shops a run for their money.

Best Place To Find Toy Soldiers And Military Antiques

Grande Armée

If you can tell the difference between men and boys by the price of their toys, the miniature regiments stationed at Grande Armée serve as age indicators. Contemporary figures, starting at $10 for a single and $75 for a set of six marching men, could launch a young collector on a course that culminates in a $2600 game of turn-of-the-century cowboys and Indians. Co-owner Frank Muir initiated his "affliction" 50 years ago with Britain's limited toy soldiers, which now cost 100 times more than the few dollars he paid for a box then, and has since moved on to such rarities as a thimble-size Henry VIII surrounded by his six wives ($850 to keep the family together). "It's literally a hobby that's gotten out of hand," says his nephew, Jim Muir. "His wife wouldn't allow him in the house with one more piece. She was setting up metal detectors at the door." So ten years ago, Frank and his brother Bill opened the Worth Avenue shop that now offers one of the largest selections of toy soldiers in the United States, along with vintage weapons and other militaria. The ghosts of battles past pose solemnly in the windows, a $7500 marble bust of Napoleon plots his resurrection from atop a column in the corner, and a $24,000 helmet worn by a Russian Imperial Guardsman glints regally from a glass case. Even in peacetime it's an impressive display of force.

And now, a quiz. Does your apartment décor rely heavily on gaping blank wall spaces? Do you believe a row of beanbag chairs lined up against a wall is a reasonable facsimile of a couch? Are you aware that none of the folding chairs around your kitchen table match? If you answered "yes" to any of the above, you're poor -- or close to it. But that's OK. There's no shame in poverty, so long as you can hide it. And this is where St. Vincent de Paul's comes in. This church-run thrift store stocks all the home furnishings a Dickensian urchin could want. Used sofas? They have several rooms stuffed solid with them. Love seats? Ditto. Coffee tables? End tables? TV stands? Standing lamps? There's not floor space enough to display them all. Remember, all the goods are donated, so don't let a scratched surface or ripped lining discourage you. They're also very chea economical. We picked up a very comfy couch and a matching (well, we think it matches) glass-topped coffee table for $100. And all sorts of knickknacks are lying around: candlesticks, paintings, paperweights, lava lamps, gifts -- even appliances. We bought a used toaster-oven for $8, and it works great. The one thing we haven't found yet is a velvet Elvis, but we haven't given up hope.

Every spring the comic strip character Cathy frets in a fitting room amid mounds of less-than-flattering swimsuits, lamenting yet another torturous attempt to find one or two scraps of fabric that won't embarrass her at the beach. Her frustration is familiar to women whose figures don't conform to the proportions of mass-produced bikinis. Enter Custom Swimwear, which caters to all body types and tastes. The shop's seamstresses can copy a photograph, sketch, or old favorite gone nubby from wear. The staff sews 15 to 20 bathing suits a day, many of which hang from the racks: skimpy bikinis, skirted one-pieces in plus sizes, men's swim trunks, and glorified jockstraps. They can be bought as is, tailored while you wait, or reconstructed by the following day to your specifications. Choose from 100 fabrics, from solid shades to floral, nautical, and geometric prints. Custom suits start at $40 for a triangle-top bikini, but can cost as much as $170 with a support bra and metallic or crushed-velvet fabric. Those who crave completely coordinated outfits can order cover-ups, visors, and hair scrunchies to match. Custom Swimwear's clientele includes bodybuilders, beauty pageant contestants, and women who have had mastectomies. Each customer's patterns and measurements are kept on file, and even first-time orders can be placed via customswimwear.com, to circumvent a fitting room crisis altogether.

Sometimes the bottom line rules, and the simple fact is this: Best Buy is the cheapest place to buy compact disks. Super-mega-monstrosity-chain store or not, it's where we turn for the latest music. New arrivals? Always $11.99 or $12.99. Everything else in the store? You won't pay more than $14.99. Just about any other music emporium (the other megachains included) will tag you for $16.99. That's a two-dollar chunk of change we'd rather spend on a blank tape or bargain-bin cutout. The selection at Best Buy is comparable to any store in town as well. In recent months we've picked up Robyn Hitchcock's latest, Storefront Hitchcock, and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts' Salute the Majesty of Bob Wills, a tribute album featuring such altcountry luminaries as Robbie Fulks and Alejandro Escovedo. We even picked up a digital version of one of our scratched-up old vinyl stalwarts, The Replacements Stink. Now that doesn't stink at all.
Those big, bright megastores in which dildos, strap-ons, and inflatable Jacks and Jills compete for wall space with hard-core porn videos have their advantages. But we prefer erotic shopping to be, well, a little more erotic. Wicked Leather, a tiny boutique snuggled up against a wine store, caters to a largely gay male clientele and offers a few choice high-end sex toys as well as an enormous collection of whips, chains, restraints, and leather clothing. Laid out like jewelry in a glass display case are some of the most interesting implements of erotic torture we've seen. At $425, the deluxe violet wand, an electric stimulation kit, is a bit more expensive than sticking your finger in a light socket, but it's safer. The kit comes with light bulbs and glass tubes, through which a purple current travels, doling out varying levels of shock therapy. Rubber gloves tipped with talons, or dart tips, make for great back scratchers and even better back maulers. Candles, cuffs, pumps, and paddles are also available. And, for the true aficionado, the owners fill custom orders for things like leather-lined body bags with breathing holes and internal restraints. Hey, what you do in the privacy of your own home is your business.

Inline skates and skateboards are sidelines at surf and ski shops, but Super Skates specifically targets wheeled warriors. This specialized approach gives each store the atmosphere of a boutique. The shop on Fort Lauderdale beach is wide open to the salty breeze and outfitted with a smattering of clothing racks and rows of metal skate mounts. Skateboards and oversize T-shirts hang around one corner, bearing busty comic-book blondes and sinister skulls. The comprehensive selection of inline skates includes K2, Roces, and Salomon as well as the ubiquitous Rollerblade, at prices ranging from a child's $79.99 X-tenblade to a stuntman's $249.99 El Oro. "The word on the street -- a lot of people have them -- is Salomon," advises 13-year-old Neal McClure. In just seconds, he has slipped out of his skate-rat slouch and into smooth salesmanship. "It's a win-win situation. The flat sole goes a lot faster, and it's superior in comfort." Too young to be on the payroll, McClure helps out for free shirts, discounted gear, and social opportunities. "I make new friends every day," says McClure. "This place is so great, I'd work here for free."
Your back muscles whine with every twitch, your hair is an affront to good taste, and your nails look like a deck hand's. But the effort required to go to the nearest spa is simply more than you can muster. Spa to Go Essentials will come to your home, office, suite, boat, or cabana ready to rub, style, and file you back into form. Claudia, a Spa to Go masseuse, asks for your preferred pressure level and focal points before easing into a $70, hourlong Swedish massage. At $20 a manicure and $40 a pedicure, the nail services are a bit pricey but precise. A manicurist preps your hands with a lavish coat of lotion, then dabs warm cream on your cuticles and nips them clean. She colors in the lines, spreading polish to each nail's edge without straying into fleshy territory. Finally, co-owner Christine Lieberman, who opened the Worth Avenue version of her Nantucket spa in December, will send you out to that soiree with a $30 blow-out or $50 up-do that makes the morning's frazzled locks seem a distant apparition.
Gather round, small fry. You say you want toys? Then hold your breath (or at least threaten to) until your folks take you to the Gifted Child. I know, the name is, like, barfy -- but look, you've gotta think strategy here. Do you really think your folks are gonna let you run wild in, say, the Swap Shop? Sure, they may take you there, but they'll also hound your every step for fear you'll be grabbed by an evil clown. On the other hand, they may just feel safe enough to drop you off, with cash in hand, at an "educational" store for "gifted" children located in a manicured Weston mall. Don't worry, the toys don't all suck, and you can blow by those that do: the "authentic reproduction" of a T-rex tooth or the Rush-Hour Traffic Jam puzzle ("play by shifting the cars and trucks to clear the exit"). We promise you, there's some good stuff. Our recommendations: the Do-It-Yourself Volcano kit (be sure to double the recipe); the Real Working Binoculars (for peeping at neighbors); and the Undercover Fingerprint Kit (for diverting blame onto friends and siblings). A decent selection of books includes titles like Smell This Book! (Then Drop It, Bite It, Squeeze It, and Read It). And if you're an aspiring chef, there's a kit for making your own gummi candies and possibly gluing the kitchen drawers and cabinets shut in the process. As you browse the Gifted Child, let your motto be, "Hey, let's try this at home!"Readers' Choice: Toys R Us
"What was holding him up was his own fat. His body was folded down against his enormous thighs, and the thickness and fatness of them held him that way, kneeling, poised solid. It would have taken a couple of good blocking backs to knock him over." If you like crime fiction, you know there are few things as fun as an obese corpse, and nobody is better at describing obese corpses than Raymond Chandler. The passage above comes from his short story "Trouble Is My Business," which was first published in book form in July 1946, in a collection of Chandler stories titled Spanish Blood. Don't look for the first edition of Spanish Blood at Hittel's bookstore; we snapped it up for the untroublesome price of $25. But don't panic, either; there are plenty of gems left. Hittel has tens of thousands of books, including collector's items such as 18th-century Palladian architecture books (which you can have for a mere $10,000), old editions from The Wizard of Oz series, and a book signed by Harry Truman. But the true beauty of Hittel's bookstore, which has been around for 25 years, is that you're not limited to buying only rare books; you can buy cheap books, too. Hittel has tons of used books, thousands of them going for $1 or less. And it's worth mentioning that he has a heck of a selection of books by Chandler-influenced Florida crime writers.

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