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Best Of 2004


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Best Of :: People & Places


They don't carry the ectoplasm-seeking nutrona wands and proton packs of Aykroyd, Murray and company, but Joe and Mikki Shelton of Arizona Trips n Tours and their ever-shifting team of investigators, aspiring parapsychologists, acceleration physicists and just plain ghost nuts are "who you gonna call" once you've heard a few too many spooky bumps in the night.

Eschewing a flashy Ectomobile in favor of a caravan of compacts and beat-up pickups, the members of Arizona Paranormal Investigations crew set out on monthly expeditions to the state's most notorious ghost towns, like Tombstone and Jerome, as well as a few not-so-obvious spots around the Valley -- one forum member is convinced the old Spaghetti Factory building on Central Avenue in Phoenix is haunted by the ghost of a little girl in the attic. The best excursions, though, are the ones the API crew must conduct undercover. Founder Gary Westerlund, who turned the organization over to the Sheltons in July, insists there's an old hotel in Glendale that's now haunted by the ghosts of dead prostitutes and johns from the days when the hotel was a wild Western brothel. Current management, however, would rather the hotel be noted in Fodor's for its air-cooled suites and kitchenettes. When the API crew shows up with its infrared cameras, low-frequency sound recording equipment and electromagnetic field detectors, the "no vacancy" sign goes up -- and true ghostbusting adventure ensues.


Husky hepcats in search of fly threads or the latest in alt-rock wear at the local big and tall store usually wind up fat outta luck. Try finding a catchy club shirt that doesn't smack of tackiness -- it's an exercise in fat-boy futility. So if you're living large and look more like Jack Black than Jack White, seek out this hip-hop haberdashery that includes sizes you won't find at Hot Topic. Piles of Dickies slacks and Levi jeans fitting up to a 66 waist size practically overflow from the close-quarter shelves, and short-sleeve Western shirts up to 10X crowd together on circular racks. The joint's also got ghetto-fabulous gear with brands like Ecko and Enyce for sale -- not to mention formal wear in shades so ostentatious they'd make Andre 3000 proud. Forget about a five-finger discount, unless you want to join the Polaroid rogues' gallery of shoplifters hanging by the front door. It's all good, especially since bargains abound and 40 percent-off sales are so common that when you depart, your wallet remains fat and your style stays phat.


Hey, couch potato, flip off MTV and make your own dream come true. If you're looking to boost your Mack Daddy attack arsenal, Big Boyz Toys is your artillery headquarters. Big Boyz Toys boosts the bad-ass factor with a full line of custom body kits and graphics, dash accessories, lights and interior add-ons. They can dress up your engine with color wire looms, hose sleeves and oil caps, install custom Euro taillights, fog lights or conversion headlights, and slap some flames on the hood. Big Boyz Toys also offers a full line of custom wheels to wrap around your hubs, including König, Motegi, Arospeed, and Primax. (Yes, you can even get those cool shiny hubcaps that keep spinning when you're parked, for perpetual pimpin' motion.) They've also got a phat selection of wings and spoilers, and a full line of speed and performance products, including race oils, battery extenders, underdrive pulleys, adjustable fuel pressure regulators, and nitrous oxide systems. Just keep an eye on that glow-in-the-dark speed gauge -- you can buy some custom shift knobs or designer seat-belt shoulder straps for the price of a speeding ticket.

Readers' Choice: Soundwerks


Driving the streets of Phoenix doesn't seem so mundane when we pass through the intersection of 12th Street and McDowell. Since 2000, a shrine made up of three white wooden crosses has been lovingly maintained on the dirt lot across the street from Banner Good Samaritan Hospital, honoring three teenagers who died there on a summer evening when a drunken driver barreled into their car.

On any given day, the shrine is decorated with flowers, stuffed animals and other mysterious trinkets, or festooned with bright Mylar balloons marking yet another birthday where, once again, the guest of honor is absent. We see shrines along busy streets all the time, all over town, of course, but none so carefully tended -- and for so long. The flowers and other decorations are always fresh.

And so is the thought, each time we drive by, that you can die in the shadow of an enormous hospital.

Casino Arizona at Talking Stick

Ever since the drive to Las Vegas got speedier when U.S. 60 went four-lane, local cardsharps have had more of a reason to skip town for Sin City. But why risk becoming another roadside cross when the Salt River Pimas have all sorts of ways to separate you from your weekly wages? With two casinos within a 30-minute drive from downtown Phoenix, you're just the kind of chap or chick who'd be an ace at improving the tribe's bottom line. True, Vegas has showstopping entertainers, but get enough $3 beers into you, and even Beatlemania Live will start resembling the real Fab Four.

You've probably been jonesing for an opportunity to practice your Texas Hold 'Em skills ever since watching all those World Series of Poker reruns on ESPN2, so stop off at Talking Stick -- where there's also Omaha and 7 Card Stud to be had. Two rules to remember, high roller: System players go broke systematically, and the house always wins. So when the flop doesn't go your way for the nth time, head down the 101. The main digs await, where 30 blackjack tables (from $5 to $250), 1,500 multidenominational slots and keno lounge will help buy you a one-way ticket to Tap City, population: you.

9700 E. Indian Bend Rd., Scottsdale, 85256

Ever wonder why that solid antiperspirant works so well? Because some kind, sweaty soul was willing to try it out for you first, to guarantee it won't cause a heinous rash in a hard-to-reach spot. He got a few bucks for his time, and so can you. Hill Top Research, a national product-testing firm, has a location in Scottsdale, and it's looking for people to test moisturizers, shampoos, cosmetics and, yes, antiperspirants and deodorants. Be warned -- or, rather, warn your friends and family: Guinea pigs have to go through a "washout" period first, during which you're not allowed to use any sweat/stench-preventing products.

You probably won't get stinking rich, and you might end up with that aforementioned rash.

Or you just might come out smelling like a rose.

3225 N. 75th St., Scottsdale, 85251-6909

BEST GHOSTBUSTERS: Arizona Paranormal Investigations


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