This little blue house turned Mexican import store also consists of a neighboring garden shed full of hidden, hanging piatas of many a color, shape and size. Sarita's fills custom orders when provided a photo and given at least two weeks' notice. So if you've been wondering how to get your hands on, say, a George W. Bush piata for your next big birthday bash, now you know where to go.

No matter how hard we bemoan the loss of the mom-and-pop hardware store, no matter how inept we are at handymanshipness ourselves, no matter how much we would like reality to be different, let's face it: Elliott's rules--certainly in this category, anyway, as it has for years. The big boys like Lowe's and Home Depot feel so, how shall we say this, Wal-Mart-ish and just don't tape-measure up when it comes to sales, service and such. Nowhere can you find more interesting stuff, nowhere is that stuff as easy to access, nowhere can you find more knowledgeable help--or any help at all, for that matter. The folks at Elliott's do their best to make home improvement more than just a rerun of a so-so TV sitcom.

Nuvo

You can find the same thrill you got by freeze-framing Mark Wahlberg's prosthetic reveal at the end of the Boogie Nights video along the card racks at Nuvo. Really. Such titillating schlong photography you have never seen, and even Nuvo's long-standing reputation as a happy bastion for gay men in Dallas' colorful Oak Lawn area can't keep the straight women out. It's fun to watch the hetero gals crowd the (presumably) homo guys in front of the full-color, full-frontal nudity cards-for-any-occasion. Nuvo features other cards, too--many with meditative, philosophical and funny sentiments--but we've never found such a selection of naughty bits. And we've looked long and hard. We were just trying to see if the models were wearing falsies. Still looking. Jury's out. Hung jury.

There's nothing like coming home to that furry little child that's just fine with eating off the floor and relieving himself in public. That look of appreciation and little mew or woof of love is worth all the money in the world--and sometimes the loyal pet owner will pay just that to keep creatures great and small in good health. Employers, however, don't often give time off for an animal's doctor appointment like they do for human children, so it helps to find a place with accessible hours in addition to fair prices. Not to mention, Hillside has a plethora of vets on staff to treat family members ranging from the average baby kitty to the not-so-average hedgehog. The clinic provides prescriptions, carriers, food, accessories and boarding--hot diggity dog!

You want a TC bare-bones system, Amptron MB, AMD Duron 1.2 gig-hz processor, ATX case, 250-watt power system, 256 Mb of ram, Sis Video and Sis Sound, Sis Network 10/100 mhz plus Sis Modem 56K V90, serial, parallel, USB and PS2 ports with a 15-inch monitor for $520? No, wait. Maybe you want a Toshiba notebook with Intel P-120 mhz processor, 48 megs of ram, a 1.4 gig hard drive, 6x CD rom, SVGA Video with Sis sound, 28.8 modem, serial and parallel ports with MS Windows 98 for $199. This stuff is used, but that's better than the only other way you'll ever see these prices, which is out of a bad person's car trunk. Tran Computer is good, and it makes good on its guarantees. You need it now and you need it cheap: See Tran.

This chic urban pampering asylum done up in shades of swimming-pool blue offers a full menu of delicious traditional treatments like stone therapy massage, anti-aging facials and skin-rejuvenation treatments, in a soothingly comfortable atmosphere. But it goes beyond the ordinary, with laser hair-removal procedures, and Botox treatments and collagen injections administered by a board-certified plastic surgeon. Aqua also offers massages, manicures and pedicures and therapeutic facial mud fights. (Just kidding about the last one.)

This place is much more esoteric than it is bookstore. All kinds of herbs and oils with healing and other powers abound. So do votive candles adorned with saints to pray to and things to wish for. Burning a dark green lucky candle adorned with dice, horseshoes and numbers could help a believer win the lottery, for example. Saying the corre diablo corre prayer on the back of a black, burning run devil run candle helps keep evil at bay. And burning a dark blue Saint Dymphna candle while praying to the "youthful martyr of purity" can help console and give strength to those suffering from "nervous disorders, mental anguish or addictions." If you need to break or cast a hex, the appropriate candles line the shelves here as well.

Mark Sonna and Larry Groseclose opened their Deep Ellum hipster gift store seven years ago and just this summer opened a second location downtown. The new store is a lot like the old store, except there are posh neighbors like Neiman-Marcus and the Adolphus Hotel, and a vintage atmosphere in the restored 1913 Woolworth Building. Both locations feature kitsch, artist-designed jewelry, retro toys such as pet rocks, sea monkeys and paint-by-number sets and funky home furnishings, but what we like best are the wall-to-wall greeting cards. Mark & Larry's carries more than 30 of the best lines--Nobleworks, which are funny; Fotofolio also--and hard-to-find handmade cards, many from England. British artists create one-of-a-kind, elaborate cards for the English Card Company and Vigo. Mark & Larry's carries frames to fit the card works of art--very cool idea, particularly if you pay more than $10 for a card.

America loves the hairless. Hair removal has taken the place of the manicure as a status symbol and has made its way onto many a Dallas woman's schedule. We think it might be a touch excessive and masochistic to use an Epilady, and Nad's has been road-tested by several staffers here, and we got no satisfaction. So we turn to the experts, Ms. Hunter in particular, for a considerably more pleasant hair-removal experience. She uses the latest technology (IPL Photo Rejuvenation), makes you feel comfortable (even when you're not so clothed) and has catlike swiftness. She also does more than hair removal, offering microdermabrasion, facials and anti-aging skin care. Hairless, wrinkle-free and spic-n-span pores sound fine to us; at least the nonsurgical methods won't make your ears meet in the long run.

Gas Pipe

We would never, ever pick a best head shop. Drugs are bad, m'kay? What we come here for are the plentiful gag T-shirts, the comic bumper stickers, the incense. Not that we ever have a call to burn incense. What? You say they have water pipes, too? Hmmm. We thought all those fancy, colored glass sculptures were lamps. Sure are purty. Might have to pick up one of those some day.

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