Didn't you ever want to dig a hole in the back yard, put some water lilies in it, put some fish in it, sit around and look at it? Well, you should, man. What's the matter with you? Nowadays everybody sells the basic equipment, even Home Depot, but most of the people who sell it have no idea how to do it. The people at Water Gardens Galore originally got into the business by servicing existing ponds. They really know their stuff, and they can tell you how to avoid the pitfalls, such as mosquitoes. (You buy little mosquito-eaters, and it's no sweat after that.) There's a little bit of an art to it, and they can tell you what it is. Live in an apartment? You can do a balcony pond. Really. Time to move? Heave-ho over the edge. It's part of the natural cycle.

Best Place to be Stuck in the 20th Century

Movie Trading Company

We know someone--the name begins with "M" and rhymes with "brother"--who still doesn't own a DVD player. She claims she never will but defends her right to complain that no one carries videocassettes anymore. Lucky for her (and her technophobe brethren), there is one last sanctuary. Movie Trading Company still carries VHS tapes, and used ones are only $5.99. But if you buy four--say, Dirty Dancing, Memphis Belle, Road House and Autumn in New York--then they're five bucks apiece. There are rows upon rows, because, really, what 15 people don't need an almost-new copy of Teen Wolf? Let's just hope this oasis in the desert of DVDs doesn't dry up. Mom might have to learn to work another scary small appliance.

An evil-eye talisman is a Turkish charm that is supposed to bring luck and ward off those who wish to do you harm--both concepts we can get on board with. Plus, they look really cute on a gold chain or possibly a silver bracelet. Yes, we're superstitious, but not at the expense of fashion. In any case, the best place to go for the evil eye is Another Time & Place, on the trendy Knox-Henderson strip (a second location opened in Plano earlier this year). They've got evil eyes for every occasion and every person. Besides jewelry, there are evil-eye key chains, magnets, coin purses, door hangers and more. So, really, there's no excuse not to protect yourself. But that's not all. Another Time & Place is the trinket-shopper's crack house. The stuff's always there, and you can never get enough. But for some reason, we're always drawn to the good-luck charms; you know, like mini-Buddhas and three-legged pigs...OK, fine, make fun if you wish, but you might as well break a bunch of mirrors and stand under a ladder.

No other place satisfies kids and the inner child in their parents quite the way Zeus does, with a wide-ranging inventory containing everything from mint-condition artifacts meant to be kept behind glass to newer, cheaper stuff meant to be banged around inside a toy box. Stuffed animals, action figures, Barbies, movie tie-ins, board games, bobbleheads, even the McDonaldland Gang--they've got it all and then some.

Best High Fidelity-ish Record Store

AWOL Records

Other stores are too bright, clean and well-kempt to look like Championship Vinyl, the record store John Cusack owned in High Fidelity. But AWOL has that slightly disheveled, dank, grungy feel of home...for music nerds, at least. It also has Cusack character Rob's sense of categorization. How many genres of punk are there? We're sure there's more each time. There's also usually more junk, too. AWOL is one of the few places where you can pick up that out-of-print Fugazi album and a vintage radio missing a knob and a plug. Ah, just like home.

Best Place to Succumb to the Kitsch

Metro Retro

Metro Retro is like a flashback. A good one--typewriters, Formica tables, vintage rags, Centipede board games and the best in midcentury Christmas décor when the season's right. Looking at something that may need a little cleanup? Owner Andrea Jennings can probably offer a few tips on re-covering or chrome polishing. She knows her stock better than any other owners specializing in Donna Reed-era collectibles (although Metro Retro does offer other selections from various decades). Walk in and ask. If they've got it, you'll love it. If they don't have it, don't worry, because you'll probably find something better waiting on the shelf. Want an example? We went trolling for a birthday present, looking for a specific action figure. What we got was something better, a figure that was indeed active: a Redd Foxx bobble-head doll. Oh, yeah.

The news was bad. Some faulty wiring had caused a fire that put Mister Tuxedo temporarily out of business in July. But nothing could stop the unflappable Harold Bell, owner, proprietor and grand master of the witty comeback, from reopening as soon as the smoke cleared. He secured a new space close to the old one and has plans of returning to the original storefront as soon as it can be repaired. What Mister Tuxedo offers are quality goods and dependable service. Unlike chain-store rentals, there is never any fear that you might come up a stud short, or that your cummerbund will reveal an unsightly guacamole stain from the previous renter. Whether it's a wedding, bar mitzvah, high school prom or spring formal for the SMU Greek set, Mister Tuxedo will continue to be the black-tie specialist in town--just as it's been for the past 40 years.

Truth is, it isn't new--and most of the books aren't. But for a new book-shopping experience, this is the place to try. "We're a nostalgic place," says Jim Parker, who owns the business with his wife, Dee. Remember reading Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time or Jack London's White Fang? You can find collectors' first editions, many of them signed by the author, along with autographed copies of favorites by Stephen King, Anne Rice, etc. The prices are a bit steep ($350 for a copy of Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad), but browsing is encouraged and enjoyable.
We'd walked past it an untold number of times, never once stopping to look inside what appeared to be just another one of those annoying hippie stores that sells incense and plays crap music by Enya. The front windows of downtown's Musemart advertised "Organic Iced Lattes" and had some funky copper disc thing that obstructed the view of what we had originally thought to be either a 99-year-old yogi in downward dog or a gigantic rain stick. One day, though, while ignoring our duties back at the office, curiosity got the best of us, and we ventured inside. Our first impression of the place couldn't have been more off. The tiny shop, nestled between greasy spoons and a Korean beauty salon, is an absolute treasure trove of imported and rare art and lifestyle magazines, 50 cent snacks and a collection of vinyl records ranging from bluegrass to trip-hop, new wave to classical. We even came across an original LP of Elvis Costello's My Aim is True. Not bad for a presumed annoying hippie store. Not bad at all.

Best Way to Save Yourself a Trip to the Spa

Beauty Store & Salon

Not only can you find every ointment, unguent, lotion, peel and organic skin- or hair-care concoction you'll need here, but the prices are usually lower than you can find at swankier spots. The really great thing is that there always seems to be a special going on. Whether it's a free this with your purchase or a free that done to you for coming in, we always feel pampered and prepared when we leave.

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