Music Arts Enterprises -- the huge music instruments store on Davie Boulevard -- is not a corporate chain. Really. Though it's got more guitars than you could shake a pick at (and loads of other instruments, music books, DJ equipment, lighting, etc.), the 41-year-old MAE is as mom-and-pop as they come. Guitars comprise roughly 30 percent of the store's inventory, with separate sections for new, used, and vintage collectibles from all the major guitar manufacturers. Drummers, don't fret; there's plenty of stuff for you as well. Ditto for keyboardists, DJs, engineers, and even brass and woodwind enthusiasts. If you're looking just to borrow some gear, MAE offers top-of-the-line rental equipment, from instruments to sequencers to analog and digital recording equipment and more. And if last night's wild gig left you sans a functional instrument, bring it by to MAE's service center. Larry Rubin and luthier Ralph Seymour (or "Ralph the Guitar Guy," as regulars refer to him) will fix your dinged-up gear lickity-split. While they're at work, you can browse the store, brandishing your checkbook and wondering if the landlord really needs that rent money.

It's the grand opening of a new location for a national chain music store. Give it some type of cool, seemingly edgy name like "Axes of Evil" or "Drum Addicts Anonymous." Anyway, the store purports to have a special on guitars, which earns the enthusiastic attention of young Johnny Six String. Johnny, thinking he'll get a good deal, hurries over to the store and heads straight for the guitar section, where he spots a Fender Telecaster that tickles his finger-tapping fancy. After noticing a small dent in the guitar, Johnny finds a sales rep -- a scrawny, nervous-looking guy with a goatee -- and asks him about a discount. But before Johnny can say the word bamboozle, the sly salesman launches into a frenzy, telling Johnny that if he buys a Fender guitar, then he needs a Fender amp, a Fender cord, Fender strings, etc. Within minutes, Johnny's been duped out of a cool thousand bucks. This scenario happens all the time. And it could have been prevented, had Mr. Six String tried Marathon Music instead. There, he would have found that Fender Stratocasters -- typically ranging in price from $149 to $1,200 -- can be purchased separately from their accessories. What a concept! Also, Johnny could price gear for his bandmates, like keyboards (from $99 Casios to $3,500 Suzuki electric pianos), bass guitars (Ibanezes from $169 to $900), and drums (full Tama kits for $1,499), as well as other instruments and accessories essential to the working musician. There's no reason those who sell instruments can't follow the same rule as those who play instruments, which is: "Less talk, more rock."

The Metal Factory may have dropped the metal in its name. It may be difficult to find a white fringe jacket anymore. But if you find yourself longing for the touch of a B.C. Rich Warlock bass so you can finally perfect that Iron Maiden solo, God of Thunder is a haven for those of us stuck in the '80s. It also offers lessons by Damian, who assures you he won't teach any of that "'Pop Goes the Weasel' bullshit," as well as sales, rentals, repairs, and rehearsal studios for the li'l metalheads in training.

Bookwise
One of the first things you'll notice upon entering Bookwise used bookstore is how neat and organized it is. Whereas lesser used bookstores are not much more than giant dustbins serving as the owners' storage closets, the books at Bookwise are all of like-new quality. And they're conveniently classified so you won't spend a whole afternoon trying to delineate which section is which. Bookwise has a huge selection of all genres, old and new, including a well-kept classics section in which the books are preserved inside glass cases. Perusing the various sections, you'll find books on just about every subject and by all manner of writers, from the philosophic musings of Herman Hesse to the time-warping sci-fi of Robert Heinlein; from books about the Rolling Stones to books about Rolling Stone; and just about anything else that's fit to read. You could spend a week looking through it all -- but you'd be guaranteed to turn up at least a few gems. Hard-cover books typically cost $5 to $10, though some of the older, rarer finds cost a few bucks more. Just keep in mind the cardinal rule of secondhand shopping: It's best to arrive without a shopping list; that way, you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you find. Readers' Choice: Borders
Everybody knows that the best way to find a mechanic is to ask someone for referrals. And who better to ask than other mechanics? After he had the timing belt in his Lexus fixed by the guys at Elder Automotive, a local airplane mechanic said, "They're good, and they're fair." What else do ya want in a mechanic?!? Bonus: If you're the penny-pinching, wrench-turning type, "They'll even wait if you want to go get a part from the junkyard, because it's cheaper than buying a new part through them."

Kids, pull up a chair and listen a spell. Paw wants to tell you a story about his favorite beer. 'Course, you can't find it nowadays. But back when your Grandpappy was alive, the finest beer you could drink was called Watney's Red Barrel. Damn if that wasn't just the swellest brew ever, a perfect balance of slightly sweet maltiness and just a li'l bitter bite from them hops. Oh, don't even get me started on Killian's Red. That swill ain't fit to wash your hubcaps with. Luckily for your old Paw, Fort Lauderdale brewmaster Adam Fine has whipped together a red ale recipe that does Watney's one better. Which is like doin' Killian's... whut? Six better? That's 'cause I'm talking about good old Number Seven, the smooth, eminently quaffable red ale that should be the flagship beer of Fine's Fresh Beer Inc. It's so damn tasty, and it takes me back to a simpler time. The billiard-ball tap is a nice touch too. Look for the stuff on tap at clubs like the Poor House and Alligator Alley but not in the refrigerator section of your neighborhood grocery store.

You know that saying, "Everywhere you go, there you are"? Well, it should be updated thusly: "Everywhere you go, there's a Starbucks Coffee store." You can't avoid them -- the damn things are everywhere. Next to your home. Next to your work. And, unfortunately, next to other Starbucks stores. This, hopefully, explains Starbucks' immense popularity with the roaming caffeine hound. Because it's certainly not quality that drives people en masse to the bloated coffee chain, unless puke-flavored java's the new thing these days. So, in hopes that supporting a growing David to slay the out-of-control Goliath is not too quixotic a goal, we recommend Greenberry's Coffee & Tea. New to the state, Greenberry's recently opened its first Florida location in Wellington and plans to open a location in Coral Springs this year as well. Unlike that other coffee store, Greenberry's selection of more than 25 coffee types is pleasing to the taste buds. Regular coffee comes in three sizes: tall (12 ounces, $1.40), grande (16 ounces, $1.60), and supreme (20 ounces, $1.70). For tea time, there are 18 loose-leaf teas to choose from. If you're in need of a quick caffeine fix, espresso is $1.45 for a single shot and $1.70 for a double shot. Or if you'd rather play it cool, Greenberry's has frozen drinks (java shakes, $2.65 to $3.40) and fruit smoothies (banana berry, mango apricot, raspberry, and wild berry, $2.90 to $3.65). Wireless Internet access is free. Now what was the name of that other place?

When you graduate from Dungeons & Dragons and Everquest and Heroclix and the other role-playing games favored by 30-year-old virgins, when it's time to put hair on your chest in place of pimples, then hit the old-school board games. Yes, lad, you may know your Stratego from your Axis & Allies, but when was the last time you busted out a round of Quo Vadis? -- "the game of Politics and Intrigue in Ancient Rome"? Got jiggy with 1856: Railroading in Upper Canada or took on Risk 2210 A.D.? The war games here are so specific, they deal with the last four days of Waterloo, for instance, or the Soviet liberation of Kiev in 1943, or helicopter warfare in the 1980s. If you want to cool your heels, sailor, check out Regatta, the game of championship yacht racing. Take your pick. Just remember: Chicks can dig games just as long as the dice don't have more than six sides.

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.

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