Half Price Books

New York City has The Strand, Portland has Powell's, the Internet has Alibris.com, and Dallas has Half Price Books. It's as simple as that and has been since 1972, when Ken Gjemre and Pat Anderson stocked a converted Laundromat with some 2,000 books from their personal libraries and started the place. Thirty-two years later there are some 80 stores in 13 states, but we're betting none is as essential to its community as the Northwest Highway flagship is to Dallas; without this place, trust us, Dallas would be as culturally barren as Los Angeles. The recent addition of the Penguin collection, consisting of thousands of Brit paperbacks costing around eight bucks a pop, has only made us love this place that much more, if such a thing were possible. One tip, though: Never go here looking for something too specific, because odds are you'll come out disappointed; happens to us every other week, which doesn't stop us from going anyway. Just go to browse, and then scour every nook and cranny and corner, because you'll walk away with something you didn't know you needed but couldn't imagine living without.

Readers' Pick

Half Price Books

A quick self-test for the high-bottom neurotic: Are you afraid you're going to stay fat? Afraid you're a fraud? Afraid you're going to die alone? Afraid your lover man has a hidden pimp stick? Have you tried therapy, self-help groups and mixed drinks but still have this compulsive negative chatter that makes you a real turd in the punchbowl of life? Then it's time for hypnosis. Rex Rasor is a certified hypnotist--though he prefers the term mind training coach. His game is to teach you how to improve yours using such techniques as visualization, relaxation and neuro-linguistic programming that can be practiced at home or even on the golf range. The former stand-up comic and raconteur has been delving into the subconscious realms for years and showing people how they can open up cans of cosmic whup-ass to develop a killer tennis serve, quit smoking, lose weight or simply become a sexy muthafucka. You're guaranteed a good laugh and a change of mind. Or, as George Clinton said, "Free your mind and your ass will follow."

In our perfect world, we'd skip through the streets, pockets overflowing with Slo Pokes, coconut Long Boys, Dubble Bubble and saltwater taffy. In this world, we might also have saddle shoes, cat-eye glasses and a burning desire to run home and watch My Three Sons (that Mike is such a dreamboat). Just one bite of a Skybar or a Cherry Mash can help you revisit your youth--or your mom's or your grandmother's youth--in such a sweet way that there's no reason not to indulge over and over again at Metro Retro's "Shuga Shack," a selection of old-timey candies and glass-bottled sodas. Whether it's Satellite Wafers that blow your mind, or candy cigarettes that help you unwind, you can sugar up and wash it down with Dublin Dr Pepper (made with Imperial pure cane sugar) or Frostie Blue Cream Soda.

We have to wonder if sisters Donna and Erica Barton have spent their entire lives fighting about clothes. At just four years apart in age, there had to have been some unauthorized sharing in childhood. And, for the past three years, they've run Slinky Whistle Bait, a retro, recycled and renewed clothing store just off the courthouse square in Denton, focusing on post-World War II vintage, punk, mod and other specialty items. Now it's "I want to use the leg warmers in my window display" instead of "I want to wear the leg warmers to class picture day."

The corner of Gus Thomasson and Ferguson roads is the nexus of the world for thrifters. The shopping centers on each corner hold three cool secondhand stores: Value World Thrift, Ferguson Thrift and Casa View Thrift. These aren't nicely organized, well-ventilated Goodwills--you need some grit to dig through shelves of old Christmas decorations and worn-out shoes to find that one treasure. And with the enormous variety of items, that treasure just might be a vintage Christian Dior shower wrap, tags still attached; an authentic Army-drab knapsack; or a black leather biker's jacket. Plus, a wee drive back to Garland Road will land you on another thrift store-rich strip--check out Garland Road Thrift and 2 Friends Resale for more used goodies.

Shopping in Mexico is hot. And dusty. In a country where outdoor markets are more the norm than the exception, you must come to terms with the fact that during a Mexican shopping adventure, sweat will spill forth from pores you didn't even know you had. That's one reason we love Casa Mexicana: It's air-conditioned. The store offers some of our favorite Mexican goodies--from colorful pottery to Christmas ornaments to items emblazoned with Frida Kahlo and La Lotería images--all in an enclosed space where cold air flows down from a Freon-fueled heaven. The owners of Casa Mexicana frequently journey to various parts of Mexico and bring back the loot to share with us retail-lovers who can't stand the heat and don't mind the markup. Of course, we prefer to take our own Mexican shopping trips, but generally we're content with shelling out the extra pesos for some cool air and conversation that consists of more than a bungled "Cuanto cuesta?"

Be honest. The guest room closet has turned into a haven for all the things you "are totally gonna sell on eBay." If it's been a month and nothing's been listed, or even photographed, it's time to call on the boys at Cash It In. The auction masters take the crap you don't want but someone else will and do all the work for you. For a 25 percent commission and item fees (we'll let them explain the math, but we will say they have the lowest percentage we can find), that closet can once again store things you really want or need. And if there's something that isn't going to sell, based on the research they do when you bring in your items, they'll even take it to Goodwill for you or lump it into a creative auction combo. For example, a Jeff Gordon poster, Mark Martin hat, die-cast car, KISS figurine and other unmentionables might all go into a "Rockin' Redneck NASCAR party!" auction...not that we would have ever had those items in our possession.

Best Place to Buy Comic Books...Sorry, Graphic Novels

Titan Comics

Titan Comics

For the past five years, this Bachman Lake establishment has been our top pick as comic-book retailers, and still no one in town comes close to challenging its supremacy. Doubtful anyone will: Zeus has more toys than you can shake a cape at, but Titan is like this astonishing museum where everything's for sale. The walls are adorned with Golden Age and Silver Age titles that sell at reasonable prices, while the floor space is consumed by boxes and boxes of older books we had when we were a kid but sold along the way to buy whatever it is we lost or broke sometime in 1972. We love the new stuff here--Titan carries more avant and outré stuff than any other retailer, including the Charles Schulz pre-Peanuts collection of Li'l Folks strips and the new comics edition of McSweeney's featuring a Chris Ware wraparound cover--but are constantly amazed at the old stuff, including long-lost Superman hardback novels that date to the 1940s. We love this place so much we'd like to marry it, preferably while wearing a Green Lantern tuxedo.

If you're into the "country crafts" style of decorating, move on, there's nothing for you to see here. Looking for something more modern, more colorful, less god-awful cheesy? Well, get rid of the chintz and head to Eurway and spruce up your décor with something sleek, modern and colorful (or not). Better still, the furniture here is both fashionable and comfortable--a rare treat. Tired of your home looking like a set from Hee-Haw? From hanging paper mobiles, wall sculptures and leather recliners to lighting and beds and dining sets, Eurway can help you bring your home into the 21st century. Better still, the prices won't leave you paying the bill until the 22nd century.

Readers' Pick

Z Gallerie

Various locations

It's no wonder Recycled's stock is always a book fetishist's dream come true. Both the University of North Texas and Texas Woman's University are nearby, so students sell their texts and private collections in order to pay bills and get their drink on, and professors trade in their research materials for different materials and to get their drink on. Plus the nearest Half Price Books is 20 minutes away in Lewisville. That means weird finds such as 20-year-old first-edition British punk rock histories and three copies of every Nick Hornby novel. Top that, HP! The collection is sorted across three floors and many rooms (some almost hidden) and spans children's literature to self-help to modern literature. There's an especially well-stocked mystery section, and the store brags about its collection of 16,000 CDs. It's like catching fish in a barrel.

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