Castle Megastore
Toto, I don't think we're in Blockbuster anymore.

Actually, dogs and Kansas farm girls are two of the few fetishes you won't find on the video shelves of Castle, an XXX-rated Oz catering to every carnal whim this side of the sex-crimes ward. Straight, gay, bi, pre-op, post-op, even libidinous midgets -- if it's bigger, longer, harder and uncut, you'll find it here. Shaved Clam Slurp, anyone?

In addition to the gulp-inducing VHS and DVD inventory (several jillion titles, all for sale or rent), Castle's embarrassment of raunches also includes more pre- and post-show entertainment than you can shake a strap-on at. Who needs popcorn when you've got a lapful of edible panties, flavored love gels, and some of the weirdest-shaped rubber doodads outside of a Firestone recall center?

Used to be that this place called itself Castle Boutique; now it's slickly marketing itself as Castle Megastore. If it were up to us, we'd rename the place KYmart.

The gift shop at Scottsdale Center for the Arts is so entertaining that shows and exhibits at the center sometimes seem like a distraction from shopping. High-concept designs for traditional household items (ashtrays, flower bowls, trivets) fill one side of the store, while a children's section in the back invites exploration from all ages (check out the wacky marionettes!). Novelty items (a beaded bookmark, a boxing nun hand puppet), jewelry, musical instruments and a vast collection of hard-to-find jazz and world music have kept us here 'til closing time, stocking up on holiday and birthday gifts for our they-own-everything friends. The staff is friendly, and there's something to fit every budget.

So what happened to the extra flared pants that didn't get snatched up in the rush when today's thirty- and fortysomethings were in high school? More than likely, they're on the racks at Plush Living, labeled "new old stock" because they still have the original tags on them. Plush specializes in Disco, Pimp, Hooker and all that is '70s Baaaad, though occasionally some great '50s and '60s threads turn up here, too. We find it hard to concentrate on shopping, because we really like chatting nonstop with Curtis Gannon and Amy Bowling, the shop's hip proprietors. But we tear ourselves away to check out the upstairs for fetchin' furniture, with the emphasis on Brady Bunch Mod and I Love Lucite. Austin Powers fans will be happy here, as will anyone with a hankering for his old high school wardrobe.
We were bereaved when our favorite cassette tape, an irreplaceable treasure, finally snapped. When we found no listings in the Yellow Pages for audiotape repair, we panicked. Our home repair job (which employed an old pencil and some Scotch tape) was a disaster and, just as we were about to cry, someone suggested Tom Brightwell. This one-man wonder, a retiree with a flair for fixing busted audiotapes, is a best-kept secret if we've ever overheard one. Tom's word-of-mouth, home-based business employs secret but sophisticated technology, and his fair-minded pricing includes the repair to your original plus a tidy back-up copy, just in case.

This is the spot for Spot when you can't bear to leave him alone all day or you think he just needs a friend who will sniff his butt. The fact that this daytime-only facility is sparkling clean and odorless is a bonus that greets you at the door. The friendly staff provides a cage-free social opportunity for dogs (the dogs are screened for sociability first), and is serious about the nurturing and loving they dole out. Playrooms have durable tunnels and tug toys, and an outdoor playground includes a "facility" known as Potty Park. Inside, dog-friendly movies are shown in a room with couches, armchairs and beds (not to worry -- if Fido isn't allowed on the bed at home, he's not allowed on the bed at Ruff Life, either). Your pet receives a report card at the end of the day, detailing his behavior. A day (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) costs $25, a six-hour half day is $17. Discounts are available to frequent visitors.

Best Place To Find An Apartment If You Have A Big Dog

Apartment Experts

Got a golden Lab that ought to wear a drool bucket? A German shepherd that eats couch cushions for fun? Finding an apartment when you have pets, especially dogs, can be taxing. But Tom Mastromatto's company, Apartment Experts, specializes in finding a place in the Valley (as well as in Tucson) that will welcome your precious pooch. He'll even find a home for your hard-to-place breeds such as pit bulls or rottweilers. The apartments pay Mastromatto a commission; the service is free to you and Fido.

Best Way To Feed Your Pet Without Getting Up Off The Recliner

The Pet Pantry

You've just settled onto the couch for a Charlie's Angels weekend marathon when you realize that Rover will be out of food before Farrah Fawcett's 12th swimsuit change. You could get off the couch, get dressed and fight traffic all the way to the local pet-food monolith. Or you could pick up the phone and call the Pet Pantry, wait a couple of days, and open your front door to find high-quality dog food waiting for you in a sturdy white bin. If you're in its delivery area, which includes all of central Phoenix, as well as Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Carefree and Fountain Hills, Pet Pantry will bring you canned food, kibble and treats for dogs and cats at prices generally comparable to what you'll find at brick-and-mortar stores. Now if it only delivered beer . . .

Best Place To Watch Your Dog Foam At The Mouth

The Dog Wash

Try washing a large dog in your bathroom tub, and you'll find yourself sitting up and begging for Gina Zoppa's self-service shop. The Dog Wash, which also does conventional grooming, provides all of the materials you need to make Rover clean again: brushing and drying tables, full-size raised tubs, and professional-quality spray nozzles that quickly rinse out one of the many shampoos offered. The management isn't stingy, and patrons are encouraged to rinse, lather and repeat. Following Fido's bath, a super-powered blow dryer disperses and removes all the loose hair and moisture that would otherwise end up on your sofa. The best part, aside from the unbelievably low price tag of $7, $10 or $12 depending on size, is that one of the friendly staff members will trim Spot's nails, gratis. And you get your fifth wash free.
Has your special someone been giving you that "why do you keep giving me these cheap roses that arrive wilted and die in a day" look lately? Community Florist can help you say "I love you" without also saying "I'm a cheap S.O.B." Its $10 roses are big, beautiful, and look like they cost about five times as much. The flowers are wrapped nicely in tissue, not stuffed into an ugly plastic sleeve, and come with a sincere admonition to "never cut the stems with a scissors." The owners are friendly and always seem delighted to discuss the characteristics of each blooming bud they sell. In other words, this isn't your average $9.99 florist. Check out Community Florist when you care enough to give the very best -- but don't want to pay for it.

Did you know that people breed lap goats? Goats that are small enough and so friendly that all they want to do is cuddle, follow you around like a puppy, and nibble at your feet? While we prefer to keep our livestock outdoors, we admit we're charmed by the darling critters at Darlyn Pygmies, a private ranch in Buckeye that breeds, trains, shows and sells pygmy goats. More than 70 goats live here, all pedigreed and registered with the National Pygmy Goat Association. Pygmies are naturally petite, standing between 16 and 23 inches tall. They like to talk, and sound pretty much like cats. They love to have things to stand on. Poop's not a problem -- think rabbit pellets. They don't eat much (ours won't even eat weeds, just alfalfa). And if you're zoned for dogs, a pygmy goat is fine, too. Don't plan on cheap, though. Although pet goats go for $50 to $250, a show goat can cost $500 to $1,000. Not a bargain, but for such a cute new friend, not a baaaad deal, either.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of