You say your idea of home entertaining doesn't go any further than a keg, a large bag of Cheez Doodles, and a mop? Well, thanks for asking but, uh, we're busy that night. If, on the other hand, you shop at Party City, consider this an RSVP. Where else in town will you find everything (okay, so you will have to hit the liquor store, too) from invitations and tableware to canisters of helium and luau kits -- more than 30,000 party items in all, at discount prices, no less?

And even if you're one of those folks who thinks no social gathering is complete without a rubber mask of WWF honcho Vince McMahon, you're in luck here. But can we take a rain check on that invitation? On second thought, we're busy that night, too.

Let's be clear: The operative word here is hardware. Not gardening supplies, power tools, bathroom fixtures or wallpaper; there are stores that specialize in each of these. But when you really need honest-to-God hardware -- nuts, bolts, machine screws, ball bearings, nails and so on -- you could do no better than to go to Paradise True Value, with its impressive and thoughtful selection. The woman-owned (and mostly woman-staffed) establishment carries hardware in every possible size and material. (Try finding stainless hex cap screws at most places -- go ahead, try.) But the best part is that everything is in little drawers, just the way it should be, and you can buy as many or as few items as you need. The staff is extremely helpful and knowledgeable, but won't insult your intelligence if you know what you're doing and want to be left alone, either.
Nowadays, HTC owner Steve Haworth is better known as a "3-D Modification Artist," famous for epidermis-pushing experiments in extreme body modification such as subdermal implants and penis beads. But Haworth originally established his reputation as a pioneer of safe, sane and sterile piercing techniques. The instruments used at HTC were personally designed by Haworth to be less painful and more accurate, ensuring a relatively non-agonizing experience for your targeted navel, septum, nipple, or whatever. Though HTC tends to be a bit expensive compared to tattoo parlors that offer piercing as a side-order item, wise men opt for spending a little more when what they're paying for includes a guy pointing a sharp instrument in their direction. Think about it.
Plenty of print shops have color copiers out on the floor, but if you're looking for lifelike skin tones, Lena Flores will be happy to do your bidding. She's Alphagraphics' assistant manager and, when she isn't busy answering stupid questions ("Will your color copier make my black-and-white photos come out in color?"), she'll be delighted to assist you with your custom enlarging, photo Christmas card, or wedding invitation design. Lena has improved more than one commercial artist's portfolio with her skillful assistance, and proves that a fancy $40,000 color copy machine is only as good as its operator. Tired of being waited on by bored, surly college students at your neighborhood copy house? Lean on Lena.
Toys, dog accessories, books and novelty items fill this smartly appointed store, where our four-legged friends are always welcome to sniff barrels of bulk treats and sampler gift boxes. But it's Three Dog's baked goods that get your doggy drooling. They look so yummy, we want to taste them, too. The most endearing feature of Three Dog Bakery is the weekly Yappy Hour, in which man's best friends (many of whom arrive at this Biltmore shop stuffed into the Louis Vuitton handbags of society ladies) and their owners gather to swap stories, enjoy fresh-from-the-oven goodies, and listen to canine-themed comedians and speakers. Occasionally, a certified pet psychic is on hand to assist in better reading the inner workings of your dog's psyche -- although it won't take a professional to tell you what Rover's thinking: "I'll take a dozen rawhide chews to go!"
Sure, most newspaper food sections will tell you that you can make a great meal in 10 minutes or less using what "everyone" already has in the kitchen. But we can't figure out how to make five-star fettuccine with leftover ketchup packets from our McDonald's Happy Meal. So we just let the experts do their thing: We call Delicious Deliveries, which has contracted with participating restaurants to deliver a fine meal, for menu prices, plus $4.49 per order within a four-mile radius of the restaurant, and tip. Just a few of the participating restaurants include Bamboo Club, Royal Barge Thai, Avanti's, Don and Charlie's, Jewel of the Crown, Malee's on Main, Mr. C's Chinese, Miracle Mile Deli and George and Dragon English Pub. With service like this, you'd have to be a ding-dong to fire up the stove. The only ding-dong we want is the sound of the doorbell.

It's hard to get good incense now that Jerry Garcia is gone and the Grateful Dead aren't touring. We used to pick up a year's supply of our favorite cones and sticks from Deadhead parking-lot vendors, but those days are over. Well, almost. We've found a swell, smelly stash at Hippie Gypsy, an upscale head shop busting at the seams with black-light posters and clove cigarettes and water pipes. Entire walls of this fragrant shop are devoted to displaying incense and sages, along with a vast array of paraphernalia for safe burning. The store's homemade incense is of superior quality, and the commercial versions aren't bad, either. (There's even a line called Liquid Blue Grateful Dead Incense with fragrances like "Campfire Jam" and "Fractal Steal Your Face.") And unlike the Dead show vendors, the clerks at Hippie Gypsy can actually make correct change and focus on their clientele without seeing double. Whoa, dude!
More fun than a Toys "R" Us, the often-bizarre aisles of ABC Cakes are our favorite place to find party favors, stocking stuffers and just plain goofy weirdness. They've got the full range of cake pans, decorative icing tips, and those papery things called glassines (they go between your cake and the big pink bakery boxes sold on the same rack). But ABC's "Toppers" aisle is the real icing on this proverbial cake. Here's a box full of little plastic African-American infants. There's a wee '50s barbecue. Look! A tiny zoo with little cages and trees. And a handful of Barbie-size champagne bottles! How about a "Sexy Doll," a little vinyl naked lady in a teeny teddy? (Or, if budget is a concern, opt for the "Mini Sexy Doll," also available in brunette.) Or a plaque bearing a hooded death mask and the legend, "I Only Came for the Cake!" We could neither fathom nor pass up a banner reading, "Caution! Wedding Cake Being Delivered!" Let them eat cake. We'll play with the toys!

Best Place To Buy A Shirt With The Name "Chet" Embroidered On It

Johnny's Used Work Uniforms

The sign says "Johnny's Used Work Uniforms," but we'll settle for "My Blue-Collar Heaven." A working stiff's dream haberdashery, this would-be New Wave warehouse is crammed to the rafters with industrial-style shirts, smocks, pants and jumpsuits, many emblazoned with "can-I-be-of-service-ma'am?" monikers like "Chet," "Billy Bob" and "Flo." All pants are $3, shirts are $2, and if your name doesn't happen to match up with anything on the rack, the store carries dozens of name tags that can be sewn on for an additional $1.75. Whether you're suiting up for your new gig at the gas station or greasy spoon, or just wondering what to wear to the Devo reunion, Johnny's has something with your name written all over it.
The name of Michelle Zekanis' shop may suggest architecture or interior decorating, but her appointment-only business is about creating fresh and silk flower arrangements for weddings large and small. Zekanis favors arrangements designed by the customer -- and within the customer's budget. Photo albums display flower-adorned ice sculptures, floating pool bouquets and elaborate flower arrangements that brides have designed themselves, right down to the length of each flower stem. The only thing Zekanis insists on is that you not throw the crowning piece of her work, the bridal bouquet, during the flower toss. She has a separate, smaller bouquet for that.

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