Everybody knows it's the yoga teacher who makes the class, and Candace Rose is a knowledgeable, well-trained and genuinely peaceful instructor. More important, she's a teacher with a sense of humor. Unlike some yoga instructors, who forget that this is Phoenix, not Katmandu, Rose doesn't take herself too seriously. She cracks jokes throughout the class and keeps the spiritual lectures to a minimum. Rose has tailored her set to a North American audience, making the poses easy for the flexibly challenged and the environment relaxed enough for the spiritually insolvent. For anyone who's ever left a yoga class feeling cheated and a little flaky, Rose's $5 yoga hour is a down-to-earth alternative.

You've arrived at that interminable stretch of the calendar where the mercury has stalled above the 100-degree mark. The only chink in your scheme for never being away from air conditioning or shade for more than 90 seconds at a time is how to do your grocery shopping. All hail Eddie Basha, whose Bashas' at 40th Street and Thunderbird now offers drive-through grocery service. Simply phone in your order (fax and Internet orders are also available) by 10 a.m. for same-day pickup, drive your icy-cool Suburban up to a reserved cabana, and open your window just long enough to utter your name into a microphone. A few moments later, a friendly attendant will load your groceries into the back of your car. All coupons and club card savings apply to this luxurious service, which carries a nominal $4.95 service charge. For those of you who refuse to leave your house at all, delivery service is also available.

Among all the predictable contemporary bargains at this former Disabled American Veterans Thrift Shop, we've discovered cool vintage dresses, nasty '70s Spanish-Med wall hangings, a silver potted plastic tree, and even a pair of blond wood '50s end tables. On our last visit, we found some swinging two-tone wingtips. (So what if they were golf shoes! We just yanked the cleats out!) Cecilia, a wonderful lady with excellent makeup, will comment cheerfully on your selections as she rings them up, and she won't make you surrender your unpriced item "to the back room," where it will never be seen again. More good news for the thrift-minded: Every other Wednesday is half-off day, and seniors older than 60 get 30 percent off every Monday.
When it comes to catching fish, you want big. But for a bait shop, forget the Wal-Marts of the world -- small is good. And small has worked for 20 years for Richard La Porte and his father, Dick, who run Liar's Korner, a bait shop that can barely hold more than a half-dozen customers at a time. Liar's Korner is stocked with all things fishy: rods, reels, stringers and fishing licenses; crank baits, spinner baits, buzz baits and live bait; minnows, waterdogs and high-quality worms shipped in from New York. Fridays and Saturdays are usually crowded (Liar's Korner is on the way to four popular fishing lakes), but early in the week, you'll have the store to yourself. This old-time bait shop is simple and unpretentious, except for the trophies and stuffed fish covering the shop's walls. Most of the awards were won by the La Portes, but the father-son team would rather sell you what you need to catch the big one that got away.

Housed in a bright yellow brick building with blue awnings lined with a long row of white stars, Larada's Army Surplus Store is hard to miss. But once inside, you'll find everything you need for disappearing into the woodwork -- or the woods. Larada's is filled with military gear and not-for-sale displays of military might such as bullets, holsters and non-firing rifles, but what it really sells is survival. Alongside the army fatigues, gas masks and caps emblazoned with every division of the armed forces are lanterns, knives, mess kits, freeze-dried food and boots for any terrain or weather. Upstairs is nothing but tents. While you pick out a parka, you can watch a videotape on the art of camouflage. Surviving a trip through the hodgepodge of gear (Larada's winds around an L-shaped shopping center) is a feat in itself. But once you do, you'll have what you need to survive anything.
Once upon a time, an excited youth with a new model airplane kit could visit any drugstore to purchase "hobby paint" right off the shelf. Today, thanks to social disintegration, such substances are kept under lock and key, lest they be stolen and used for nefarious purposes -- like paint-sniffing or marking buildings with gang insignia. But not at the Hobby Bench, where nostalgia rules. Where else might one find a model kit of the Bates Mansion from Psycho? Or that old standard "Visible Woman" model, with all her internal organs displayed? Neato miniatures and all the requisite railroad-enthusiasts stuff can be found here, along with a wealth of model cars, model-making supplies, and craft items. And yes, you can walk right on up to that big rainbow-hued rack of "hobby paints" and help yourself.

Chances are pretty good that you wouldn't know where to go to purchase a set of comedy bosoms or a papier-mâché turd. Take note: Since 1947, Bert Easley's has provided our great state with all variations of rubber vomits, fake cigarettes (great on airplanes!), and phony squished cats. October is the best time to visit, when Halloween masks, reasonably priced life-size skeletons, and wonderfully sick-making foam-rubber body parts and polyethylene organs fill the shelves. Easley's also rents and sells a vast array of costumes year-round, and stocks more than 5,000 rentable costumes on premises. The shop carries a full range of stage makeup, and the counter help will gladly explain how to apply clown white, a fake bolt-in-the-head, or that zany chest-hair wig. Speaking of wigs, this place offers every style imaginable, all of them affordable and displayed for easy viewing. Try doing all your holiday shopping here, just once!
This is absolutely the place to find that long-sought antique Tappan range the color of scrimshaw, or the O'Keefe and Merritt in its birthday suit of chrome and white enamel. The peeling paint and yellowed window of this gray storefront reveal the shop's devotion to vintage. Words like re-porcelain and re-chrome fall from the tongues of the knowledgeable workers like answers to your kitchen prayers. They'll recondition or fully restore the stove you have, or set you up with one to match the 19-something vintage of your house. You want to decontaminate a range, rejuvenate its "match-lite" ignition, or simply find or fix that lost or broken knob? They do it all. Doubters need only poke their heads in the back workroom, where the carcass of someone's old flame is almost always on the path to renewal.

Mountain and road bikers have long competed for attention, products and services at cycle shops. At Landis, salespeople won't choose sides; its philosophy is equality for all, whether you've got mud in your spokes or highway beer bottle shards in your tire.

This cover-both-sports philosophy won't confuse new bikers: Signs and a helpful staff make clear what each item is intended for. Salespeople can tell you exactly why one mountain bike breaks the bank at more than $2,000, while another sets you back only about $300. If you're female, they'll show you a line of bikes built for women. There are even baby-buggy bikes, so you can tote your tyke. Each of Landis' four stores offers bicycle repairs, and out-of-stock items are happily shipped from other locations. So get your bike, helmet, shoes, gloves or inner tube here, but take the feud outside -- on the pavement, or the dirt trail.

We've been in dressing rooms that have sent us screaming out of the store and straight to the nearest Yellow Pages in search of a plastic surgeon. It's curious that the millions of dollars spent by retailers on marketing research has not led them to this simple shopping truth: If you look ugly in the mirror, you won't buy the stuff you're trying on. (Here's our fancy marketing tip: Tone down the operating-room lighting and give people more than six inches between themselves and the mirror. That'll be a million dollars, please.) Neiman Marcus must have highly paid consultants, because its ladies' dressing rooms are like lovely studio apartments, with lighting suitable for a cocktail party. There's plenty of room to stand way, way back and squint your eyes at your reflection, if you're so inclined. If those mirrors don't make you look good, then you know you'll fare far worse under your office's fluorescent lighting. Buy accordingly.

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