Bridget Barfield was a teacher for many years but quit her job over frustration with her administrators. Eventually, she found herself at one of those career counseling services that uses a personality test to recommend what course in life for which one is best suited. The test said she should sell shoes. And that is how Heart and Sole came to be. It is the only all-Birkenstock store in town. Barfield opened the store with her daughter Brooke a little more than a year ago. We are very particular about our favorite, hard-to-find model of Birkenstock. Heart and Sole carries it, along with about 400 other styles.
Titan Comics
A few months back, the fine owners of Zeus Comics and Collectibles in Turtle Creek Village took umbrage at our insistence that Titan Comics is "the only comics shop that matters." Hey, we can see why they'd be a little unhappy--you don't advertise in a paper expecting it to label your establishment a moot point--but hear us out. Now, Zeus is a fine place to buy brand-new (or close to it) comics, and it's an excellent store for those in search of action figures, high-priced Barbie dolls and other geek errata (count us in on all of it). It's a dilettante's paradise, actually. But the hard-core collector--the fetishist who still lives with Mom or the fanboy with a wife and mortgage--spends his days and long green over at Titan, tucked away in a predominantly Spanish-speaking shopping center across from Bachman Lake. Jeremy Shorr and his knowledgeable girl wonders (as always, it's refreshing to find women behind the counter in a comic-book shop) preside over a store filled with nothing but comics, many of which date back to the Silver Age and beyond (Shorr recently began purging the action figures at bargain prices). Titan's got what the purist craves: a staggering smorgasbord of boxes filled with bagged-and-boarded back issues, a wall of trade hardbacks and paperbacks, cases crammed with history books about the oft-maligned medium and two walls papered with new and current issues. It doesn't discriminate between DC, Marvel and, oh, Fantagraphics: You can find Chris Ware's hypnotically clever work mixed in among the latest Marvel (ironically named) Ultimate title, and you'll find old Neil Adams' Green Lantern-Green Arrows alongside Kevin Smith's recent take on the subject. Fact is, we're thinking of moving in...or applying for a job when this journalism thing doesn't pan out. It's the dork's home away from home, and we couldn't be more delighted to pay some of the rent.

One weekend last spring, we were riding our bicycle around White Rock Lake with our faithful wife and our sometimes faithful toddler son when we chanced to see a well-made sign standing in the grass, along the lake's shore. The sign read, "Free Advice." Near it sat two men in comfortable lawn chairs. Between them, on the ground, was spread a blanket. We stopped, thinking it was some sort of performance art. Turns out, Roderick MacElwain and Neal Caldwell have been doing this most Sunday mornings, weather permitting, since 1996. And it is not performance art. MacElwain and Caldwell are gainfully employed, somewhat eccentric, very thoughtful fellows who enjoy giving advice on subjects from plumbing to marriage to large-animal veterinary medicine (all fields, by the way, in which they do have experience). We and our wife that weekend wound up posing a question that can be summarized as, "What should we do with our lives?" We were not disappointed with the advice we received.
We aren't picky about where we get our hay or our burlap sacks. We'll buy our pot-bellied pig chow from any Tom, Dick or Harry who stocks the stuff. But fox urine is an entirely different matter. We won't buy it from just anyone--mainly because just anyone doesn't carry it. Fox urine is one of those commodities that can only be found on the shelves of stores run by women with names like Dodie, which happens to be the name of the woman who runs the Mesquite Feed & General Store. Dodie is not a city girl. If you ask her, she will be pleased as pie to explain why you might need fox urine. Bless your heart.
Jim DeNoyer isn't the original live-action Fan Man. Think of him as playing Dean Cain to the George Reeves who started the business back in the late '70s. DeNoyer didn't don the tights and cape until 1994, when he bought the business. Now The Fan Man carries more than 400 antique, restored and reproduction fans in his modest Lakewood shop. A reproduced 1912 Gyro fan goes for $2,500. A restored 1930s-era metal-blade desk fan might run $300. And The Fan Man is one of the few people in the entire country to whom you want to bring your old-fashioned fan for restoration. He is truly a man of steel.

Premiere Video
Still the best video rental joint in Dallas, no one compares to Premiere Video--which is what makes it, duh, premier. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful, the store is easy to browse, and there's a good chance they have the hard-to-find video for which you've been jonesing ever since that artsy dude at the office embarrassed you by saying, "Oh, my, you've never seen blankety blank?" While chain rental stores mostly trade in current releases and let their back catalog languish, Premiere is fully stocked in a plethora of genres including film noir, Hitchcock thrillers and BBC drama series. Interested in Brigitte Bardot's lesser-known films? Busy exploring Willem Dafoe's oeuvre? It's all there. The store is rapidly building its DVD collection as well.

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