This shop is the epitome of what's so beautiful about the sport and its enthusiasts. It's independently owned by three skaters in their mid-20s who have put their emphasis squarely on the tools, not the fashion, of skateboarding -- more gear than clothes.

And you won't find snowboarding or, ugh, inline skating paraphernalia. The shop has one focus, skateboarding (well, perhaps two: The motto on its tee shirts reads, "Tonight we drink, Tomorrow we ride").

Freshly reworked so it's not cluttered by racks, Sub Society has found a new aesthetic sensibility inside the front door. It's organized, with one wall of skate decks, one wall of clothing, and a corner dedicated strictly to shoes, plus the requisite couch and TV where skateboarding videos play all day.

The neatness and friendliness of the staff make it parent-friendly, as well. Most representative perhaps is the fact that there's a chess board set up next to the assembly area; these kids are thinking.

Tom's Tavern & 1929 Grill
Evie Carpenter
Granted, watching local politicians scarf down a BLT or digging into a caesar salad is not everyone's idea of a great time. If you, however, find yourself in this camp, hie yourself to Tom's Tavern, the pol-spangled trough that is to the Phoenix governmental set what the Brown Derby used to be to Hollywood stars.

We recently took a Valley newcomer to Tom's Tavern for lunch, promising a good chef's salad and the chance to see more big-name ballot-box celebs than you could shake a recall petition at. We were not disappointed.

Governor Jane Dee Hull lunched with state Representative John Wettaw. Hull sent the rest of her dessert tray over to state Senator Scott Bundgaard, who stopped to chat with Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan. State liquor czar Howard Adams dined on the patio, two tables over from us.

And the chef's salad? If it ever runs for election, it'll get our vote, too.

Are you sick of watching your kids blasting away at video games for hours on that $5,000 computer that was supposed to be an educational device -- but is actually nothing more than an expensive joy stick? Then unplug the PC and take 'em on down to Game Depot, where an assortment of challenging games and precision models will jar your youngster out of cyberland and into tangible fantasyland.

Once you get over everyone's original cliché reaction ("This place has got to be for loser geeks with nothing to do!"), you'll find an array of challenging activities of the real sort. The store welcomes children and encourages play on custom game tables -- particularly for Warhammer 40,000 and Magic: The Gathering. The rulebooks for these elaborate games are an inch thick and would confuse the heck out of most adults. But kids who can't find time for homework can nurture their reasoning skills while plotting attacks with their Warhammer 40K postapocalypse armies that they have spent hours painting in minute detail.

The Depot's extensive game selection and supplies have become legendary in the ever-evolving fantasy-game market -- sans computer.

It's been months since the GOP presidential primaries, but those who know him best -- his constituents -- are still slack-jawed at the way Arizona's senior senator was able to capture the hearts, minds and money of America's moderates during the race for the Republican nod.

McCain fell short on primary wins, but his Straight Talk campaign won't soon be forgotten; history professors will teach it as the best example of modern American grassroots politicking. Consider: The man with the reputation in Arizona for terrorizing anyone in his path sweet-talked national reporters into writing glowing accounts of his every move. The guy who didn't lift a finger to get campaign finance reform passed in his own state made himself the champion of such reforms on a national level -- all the while collecting millions from special interests with business before McCain's Senate Commerce Committee. A senator who all but ignores his home state is able to win reelection time and again.

You may not like him, but you gotta hand it to him: John McCain is one masterful politician.

Readers' Choice: John McCain

After a .22-caliber revolver was confiscated from his carry-on bag at Sky Harbor in February, KTAR radio personality Bill Heywood was questioned by airport security but was allowed to make his scheduled flight to New York anyway.

Claiming he'd forgotten the weapon was in the bag, Heywood later announced he was "gratified the system works."

Goldfield Ghost Town
If you think Sheriff Joe has an itchy trigger finger take on due process, try running sideways with the law here in Goldfield.

For a mere $10, a friend or family member can have you arrested, jailed, tried and hanged within five minutes by a couple of Old West sheriffs in full regalia and full of (feigned) firewater. It's all in fun, but rest assured, even in jest, there is nothing so humiliating and unnerving as being hunted down like a rabid dog and run through a kangaroo court to the gallows. It's especially awful if said suspect has ever been arrested for real. This is a wonderful way to get a little payback on winter houseguests who have overstayed their welcome.

The Goldfield bad cop/bad cop show will resume around Thanksgiving and carry on through the winter months.

Goldfield also offers a full-day gauntlet of cheesy Western kitsch for families willing to suspend their good sense of taste and propriety. Like the old mining towns Goldfield emulates, there seems little here that people won't do for a little spare change -- the train ride is enjoyable, the jeep or helicopter rides are a hoot (if you can afford them), the mine tour is much less amusing.

Still, it's a great place to spend an afternoon with visitors and kids in the winter. And you can't beat the scenery, with both the Superstition Mountains and Four Peaks serving as backdrops to the town.

Readers' Choice for Best Tourist Trap: Rawhide

There are few guilty pleasures on the planet as consistently rewarding as those Spanish-language soap operas known as telenovelas. Unlike their maddeningly dull American counterparts, telenovelas are all-out sexual romps delivered with enough high-octane melodrama to make Charo blush.

KDRX, Phoenix's Telemundo affiliate, is the best place to score your daily telenovela fix. Without having to touch your remote control, you get the steamy Amor Sin Limite, Mueca Brava (the unlikely tale of a rich girl posing as a peasant), and the network's centerpiece: Xica de Silva, the loosely historical (and surprisingly graphic) story of a Brazilian slave who wins her freedom by exploiting her sexual prowess. History never tasted so good.

Oh, yeah, you also get the nightly news, for those of you who are into that sort of thing.

Readers' Choice for Best Spanish-Language News Station: Univision

The surest evidence that the local Hispanic market is experiencing explosive growth can be found on the radio airwaves. In 1999 alone, three new Spanish-language stations joined an already crowded field, which now includes eight stations (not to mention KKFR-FM 92.3, which goes out of its way to reach Latino hip-hop fans).

In simpler times, local Spanish-language radio was thoroughly dominated by KNAI, known as La Campesina, part of a United Farm Workers network based in urban areas. And although its numbers have inevitably dropped in the past two years, KNAI remains the conscience and the soul of Spanish radio in the Valley.

While other stations opt for a pop-friendly, synthesized brand of Tejano, KNAI cranks out accordion-driven conjunto and polka rave-ups, with a smattering of acoustic waltzes, and just enough social commentary to remind you of its roots in Cesar Chávez's labor movement. Ultimately, La Campesina is a daily aural reminder that there's no point in crossing over to the mainstream if you lose your traditions along the way.

It's part of the cutthroat competitiveness of modern sports talk that every radio jock thinks he has to prove his worth by being a bigger, more abrasive smart-ass than the next guy. It's to Jeff Kennedy's considerable credit that he doesn't bother to play this annoying game.

Kennedy, known to listeners as "The Trainer," has always been a sincere, likable radio host. But since jumping from KGME to KDUS in 1997, he's gained exponentially in command and confidence. What really separates Kennedy from the local pack are his respect and affection for the "friends of the program" who call in every day, and his willingness to admit that he's not the all-knowing king of sports trivia. Though he's enthusiastic about all sports -- and more sympathetic than most talk-show hosts to women's athletics -- he candidly admits that he's no great authority on hockey, so rather than babbling ignorantly about it, he lets his callers educate him.

With a strong supporting cast that includes the insightful Evan Andeen, Kennedy is a touch of class in what can often be an ungainly genre.

David Leibowitz is the smartest guy on local radio. Just ask him. Leibowitz's self-possession notwithstanding, this guy is head and shoulders above the rest of the radio rabble. He's informed, extremely quick and frequently ironic in an otherwise irony-free airspace. His print journalism background explains both his sinus-deep voice and his ink-stained depth. His is a talk show from which it's actually possible to learn something. Now if he'd just stop doing those dreadful eye surgery commercials.

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