Grapevine Mills Mall

This 1.5 million-square-foot mall near D-FW has everything anybody could possibly want in the way of escaping the weather and wasting time. The 5-year-old mall is one of the largest in Texas and offers a bunch of stuff to do besides shopping. The mall has a 30-screen theater, restaurants and a GameWorks that has a bar. If you get bored with the mall, a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World is right across the parking lot. There you will see all manner of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen who make a pilgrimage to this fishing mecca. Also, when you get bored, play "Guess Which Shopper is From Oklahoma." That's always fun.

If you thought Whole Foods had a unique selection of soap, you haven't seen anything. Established in 1752, Caswell-Massey is, as it claims, "America's oldest chemists and perfumers," and now Dallas residents can shop at one of its newest locations. Need soap? They've got a skin-tingling array of domestic and imported soaps made of everything from oatmeal to lavender and beyond. The store also sells a wide array of other pampering products, including body oils, shampoos and crèmes. Unlike many toiletry stores, which tend to focus on her needs, Caswell-Massey carries a wide selection of men's products, including sandalwood and almond-scented shaving creams. They go perfectly with the house's very own silver-tipped badger shave brush. Remember those?

Let's say you've found a cherry 1946 Martin 6 horsepower boat motor in your grandfather's garage, but the rope-pull starter mechanism is broken. You know what most boat shops around Dallas are going to tell you? Tie a rope to it and use it for an anchor. But Barber Boats on Harry Hines is old-style, meaning they actually know how to fix stuff. Boat motors shouldn't be like computers: The answer shouldn't always be to throw it away and get a new one. At Barber it's not like that.

Perusing the racks, you may find the occasional space where a video once had a home but is now long gone. In its place stands a card berating the thief, with identification if possible. On their Web site, along with new arrivals and special event info, owner Ben Moore features a shoplifter of the week. Needless to say, in person or on the Net, the descriptions are never flattering and always entertaining. We love the ones complete with photos. While you're there, check out a cult flick or Mark Ryden's latest book.

Half Price Books

Once again, the key ingredient to a good bookstore is its selection. And the selection of used books (not to mention software and music) at Half Price Books is far and wide. In fact, its store on East Northwest Highway in Dallas is so big, this book lover's companion recently made the mistake of taking a trip into the store's "paranormal" section and wound up vanishing into thin air. It took a good hour for her to reappear with body intact, book in hand and, after checkout, bank account still padded.

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.

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