BEST PLACE TO BUY A PRESENT FOR A RECOVERING ADDICT

Gifts Anon

Located in a battered 1950s-era strip mall in central Phoenix, Gifts Anon is like a Hallmark store for the rehab set. Twelve-step-program-themed paraphernalia, some of it sad and strange, fill the aisles here: teddy bears emblazoned with the Narcotics Anonymous logo; blankets embroidered with the Serenity Prayer; and, of course, Harley-Davidson-licensed coffee mugs and tee shirts with messages of encouragement for those trying to stay clean. Racks of greeting cards offer terse congratulations for sobriety anniversaries ("You made it 30 days!"), and shelves of self-help books are arranged under section headers like "Cocaine/Crack," "Anxiety/Phobias/Stress," and "Money Issues."

Our favorite item: the comic book titled "Attack of the Relapse Man." The juxtaposition of gift shop sentimentality with topics like sex addiction and alcoholism makes for endless tragicomedy, but only those of us without compulsive tendencies are allowed to giggle.

High Society
One of the few independent businesses that has survived Sunnyslope is High Society, a "smoke 'n' stuff" shop that has sat in the same strip mall for 21 years. Sure, other smoke shops -- especially the big chains -- have more pop culture kitsch, like Korn posters and porcelain ashtrays with pot leaves on them.

But this is the place that sold posters of The Cramps and T.S.O.L. back in '85. And when it comes to, uh, tobacco paraphernalia, High Society's original collection of glass bongs, hookahs, bubblers and hand pipes remains the most colorful, smooth-hitting, and reasonably priced in the Valley. High Society even has a guy who blows custom glass pieces on Fridays, and a "black light room" for your viewing pleasure.

As far as we're concerned, High Society smokes the competition.

Panorama Wigs
Having a bad hair day? Why not do what all the celebs do when they don't feel like messing with all those follicles and all that hairspray? Slip on a falsie. The place to unearth such wonders is Panorama Wigs. With more than 3,000 wigs in stock and a personal stylist on hand, you're destined to walk in as a foxy brunette and glide out a fiery redhead, toting a blonde bombshell in a box under your arm. All these shimmering locks are affordable, too. From a quick-fix 'do priced at just $25 to an extravagant coif at $120, you can go incognito to work and spend the day counting colleagues who trip over your new beauty. When it comes to fake hair, think Panorama -- because you're worth it.
Carsten Institute
It started with "manscaping" on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin sealed the deal. Back hair has always been a problem in certain circles, but now male body hair in general is as out of style as a mullet. You can shave or pluck, gentlemen, but really, the way to take it all off is wax. It won't be cheap, and it will hurt, but you can minimize both factors at Carsten Institute, where a student will be happy to pour hot wax on you and rip it off, along with your body hair. Don't worry, this won't be some first-day kid. Carsten -- best known for its affiliation with Aveda products -- puts esthetician students through two to three months of training before setting them loose on your hairy hiney. Come to think of it, that's the only part of the body we didn't think to ask about, when we procured a price list. But here's a rundown, sans butt:

Back: $35. Chest: $35. Arms: $15. Legs: $50. Bikini: $25. Yes, you read it right -- bikini.

Take our advice: Pop a few over-the-counter painkillers first. Beauty is a pain.

BBB Fashion
Finding hair-care products for a woman of color can be frustratingly difficult in any area of Phoenix, except -- by virtue of its more diverse population -- the west side. Fortunately, there's BBB Fashion, a cavernous clothing/jewelry/hair marketplace located in an old strip mall at 52nd Avenue and Indian School Road. Here, amid long aisles packed with gels, pressing oils, wigs and hair extensions ranging from trackless braids to pricey fusion treatments, a dry-haired beauty can find all the necessities the local Walgreens, Target and even Sally's seem to believe nobody in Phoenix has ever even heard of. Are you gellin', Wal-Mart?
Orange Salon
Sure, Stiletto Formal is a killer band. It bills itself as "indie sex-core" (apparently a merger between Tilly and the Wall's serenade-style melodies and the Blood Brothers' art damage spasticity). Throw in some Mars Volta-ish vocals, and you've got Stiletto. But it takes more than talent to make it in a music biz where image sells records; while we're concerned with the music, record labels are looking for stylish clothing and cutting-edge hair. We're pleased to report that Stiletto Formal's got both. All six of these hipsters have perfect indie-rock coifs, courtesy of Orange Salon. The band knew how important good hair is in the indie-rock world, and didn't trust its locks with any other stylists. But what with buying a van and expensive touring, the rockers were low on fundage. Luckily, Orange Salon took one look at the musicians and offered to sponsor them. So the next time you see the stylish six rocking new hairdos, you can swing by Orange Salon and say, "Stiletto Formal sent me."

Don't forget your cowbell.

BEST PLACE TO GET A CREW CUT AND DISCUSS MID-EAST AFFAIRS

ASU Cut-Rite Barber Shop

ASU Cut-Rite Barber Shop
Listen up, recruit. That unkempt mop-top of yours isn't going to pass muster in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps. Get yourself square by double-timing it down to Roman Aronov's haircutting establishment, where the Uzbekian émigré and former Soviet Army barber will wage a surgical strike against your flowing tresses with military precision. Aronov's been chopping locks for more than 15 years, and can usually be found working on the many soldiers or sailors who hear about his shop via word of mouth. Prices are affordable -- even with military pay cuts -- with $9 regular cuts, $10 flattops, and $11 head shaves. If you're not looking to make your hair be all it can be, the 32-year-old tonsorial artist (or his assistants) can still make over your mane into one of a hundred styles, including bowl cuts, Princetons, or square backs. And while Roman might start chatting about the current situation in the Middle East or the latest news from the war in Iraq, don't worry -- he won't get distracted and leave your head FUBAR. Dismissed.

BEST PLACE TO GET BART SIMPSON SCULPTED INTO YOUR BUZZ CUT

Papa Joe's

Papa Joe's
At Papa Joe's (formerly Video Cuts), owner Joseph Lazzara, who moved here from Sicily in 1958, will do anything you ask to your head, as long as it's legal and within the realm of possibility. Papa Joe is famous for cutting all manner of designs into willing buzz cuts. He's barbered heads to look like basketballs and baseballs, cut the Twin Towers or 911 on scalps, added Nike symbols, Christmas trees, maple leaves and flags. You want a Bart Simpson or a Bat signal or a Superman symbol? You've got it. With the flags and whatever else is appropriate, Lazzara will also put in color. "That way, the red, white and blue really stands out," he promises. We asked if he'd cut a skull and crossbones or Best Of into the scalp of a willing New Times schlub, and Lazzara said, "Sure, I'll do whatever you want, any time you want!" Would you ask Sheriff Joe Arpaio to come over so you could cut a target on his head as a publicity stunt? Kidding!
We don't generally rejoice when a big chain comes to town, but we can't help but get bubbly about the impending arrival of Lush, our favorite bath and beauty products shop. The Vancouver-based company is reportedly picky about where it pitches its tent, which is why we're so excited to hear that it's chosen Scottsdale Fashion Square as one of its next spots. Lush is so, well, luscious because all of the company's products are homemade and totally natural. Our current favorite is the Think Pink bath bomb, and just to give you a taste (or a whiff) of what Lush is all about, here is the description of Think Pink from the Lush Web site:

"Darlings, this is the ultimate in fuchsia pink baths. Four candy flowers top this marvel of utter pinkness and, as it fizzes furiously, it unleashes a shower of pink confetti into the bathwater. We're using our brand new favourite tonka bean essential oil because it smells so wickedly fabulous, darlings! It also helps you to get in touch with your deeper emotions. Do be careful whom you meet for lunch just after you bathe! We don't want to go eleasing our deeper emotions all over the starter and upsetting the other ladies, do we? (Or do we?)."
Until Lush formally arrives here, you can order its products -- or just read about them -- on its site, at www.lush.com. That's also the place for the latest updates on the shop's Scottsdale arrival.

We could have called this award "Best Reason to Go to a Local Farmers' Market," because that's where you'll find a sweet young woman named Kari, selling her homemade soaps, bath teas and scrubs. We love the samples of soap she's pressed on us, and a friend says you can no longer drive a truck through her pores, since she's used Emelmahae's face masque. But our absolute favorite product -- the best beauty find of the year -- is the Almond Shea Sugar Scrub.

We did our homework, so we could explain to you that the scrub is made of almond meal and turbinado sugar that "delivers powerful moisture and aids with cell regeneration," according to the little company's Web site. But all you really need to know is that this sugar scrub feels great -- grainier than the stuff we bought at Origins -- and smells even better. Best of all, it cost only $14 for a 10-ounce jar of the stuff. It should have lasted us at least six months, but we keep having to go back to buy more; we can't stop slathering it on.

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