Attention, vinyl nerds and compact disc geeks. You now have another outlet for your music-collecting obsession whenever musician James Fella performs a music space or a house gig in downtown Phoenix and Tempe. Fella, a member of Soft Shoulder, Tent/City and various solo and group noise projects, sells hand-picked LPs, seven-inch records, cassette tapes, and CDs wherever he plays. The selection ranges from the mainstream, such as Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd, to the experimental, like Iowa noise rockers Raccoo-oo-oon, The Flying Luttenbachers avant-garde project, and NYC-based hardcore jazz ensemble Zs. Fella also stays busy as founder of independent label Gilgongo Records, which specializing in releasing creative, improvisational music to the masses. You can also shoot Fella a line to reserve desired albums online.
Changing Hands Bookstore
In an era when brick-and-mortar bookstores are considered quaint and sort of inconvenient, we're gratified that Changing Hands continues the tradition of wonderful old book shops of yore. Really, you know us — we don't give a hoot about what anyone else thinks. But we were happy earlier this year when Publishers Weekly named Changing Hands Bookseller of the Year.

About time, we say. Now the rest of the world knows what we've known for years.

Besides offering the best in new and used titles, our favorite bookstore has created an entire community around authors, booksellers, and readers that truly feeds the souls of those of us who care about good writing and good reading. Besides the many cozy nooks for getting to know a book before you buy it, Changing Hands offers book groups, writer's workshops, and readings from authors both local and national. Groovy gift items like candles, stationery, and book lights and the adjacent Wildflower Bread Company are two more in a long list of reasons why we're glad to keep "visit Changing Hands" on our "to do" list.

Our only complaint — again: When're you opening your downtown Phoenix location? Huh? Huh?

Toys, Books & Treasures
It says something about us all that a store that sells the contents of abandoned storage units has so many books. But they were cherished once, and the folks at Toys, Books & Treasures make sure they'll be cherished again. Pick your way past the porch full of furniture, the racks of old cassette tapes, and shelves crammed with vintage toys and sad, personalized mugs, and you'll find what we think of as VNSA training camp.

Did your neighbor move to Fresno with your favorite bathroom trivia book? There's probably a copy here. Do you have an in-law with an esoteric hobby or pursuit? Grab a year's worth of gifts for that weirdo — yes, the books are sorted by subject. Ooh, a Little Golden Book for the kids. (Yeah, right, the kids.) And while your selections are rung up at the counter, try to resist that rare collectible tree ornament. Just try.

Alcuin Books
First printings of novels penned by the late, great Kurt Vonnegut and Samuel Beckett are just some of the treasures you'll find inside the clean and inviting Alcuin Books. Friendly and knowledgeable bookworm Richard Murian and other welcoming staff members are more than willing to intellectually dish about their inventory and general history topics like the rise and fall of France's Bonaparte dynasty.

Other choice collectibles include a Frank Sinatra photo signed by Ol' Blue Eyes himself during "a bleak time in his career" and a pristine dust jacket from the Photoplay film mag spotlighting Lillian Gish. There are plenty of affordable first printings and rarities available, so plop down in a comfy chair and thumb through some rare and unusual tomes.

There are good (read: marketable) authors and bad (read: unpublishable) authors. Scottsdale-based Agreka mines the middle ground, specializing in "niche" authors — scribes with specialized tales to tell but not too many people to tell them to. Take polygamy. The Agreka bigwigs must be either jack Mormons or full-blown excommunicates because about half of the house's inventory casts a dim view on Polygs and Creekers. A few of the titles you'll find are Murder of a Prophet: The Dark Side of Utah Polygamy; A Teenager's Tears: When Parents Convert to Polygamy; Polygamy's Rape of Rachael Strong; Colorado City Polygamists: An Inside Look for the Outsider; Polygamy Under Attack: From Tom Green to Brian David Mitchell; and The Correlation of Muslim Doctrine & Latter-Day Saint Doctrine.

Whew! That ought to keep us busy for a couple of months. Agreka also offers a varied line of non-polygamy fare, and it's a good bet you won't find these titles at your neighborhood Borders, either: Sleeping With Angels: A Veterinarian's Sacred Bond of Animal Companionship; Liberalitis: A Thinking Disorder Destroying America; The Blood Axe: A Story of Viking Kings; Help! There's a Tigress in the House: When a Husband Retires & Other Diversions; and Art Puzzles by Number: From Easy to Mind Bending.

Being a dork isn't easy. The looks of pity while standing in line for nine hours to see Star Wars: Episode III. The snickers and snide comments just for dressing up as hunky Final Fantasy hero Cloud. So what if it wasn't Halloween? At Samurai Comics in Phoenix, you're not alone. Magic: the Gathering is a lifestyle, not just a card game, and movie-accurate stormtrooper costumes are chic. It's a geek's wet dream, especially considering the buxom babes populating the covers of Lady Death, Kabuki and teenybopper rags like Bomb Queen III that line the walls. But parents needn't be concerned. Owners Moryha and Mike Banks also stock tons of classic Superman, Spidey and X-Men back issues from the time before Rogue's double D's and Storm's cleavage-bearing wetsuit.
Panorama Wigs
There are wig shops and there are wig shops, and then there's Panorama Wigs, where faux follicles await those of us in need of a new mop up on top. Bad hair days vamoose for good after a quick trip to the city's oldest, wisest wig salon, where more than 3,000 hairdos, from flips to feathered falls, wait patiently atop Styrofoam heads. Budget styles (Did somebody say "Pixie"?) can be had for as little as $25, and while more hyper hairdos (ask to see the infamous "rainbow Cher wig"!) are pricier, they're still a bargain considering all the stares they'll earn you at your next soiree. Run, don't walk, to Panorama, where admission is free: You don't have toupée!
It's All Goodz
This unassuming little shop, tucked in a tiny strip mall behind an Exxon Mobil gas station, is still the best one-stop stoner shop in town. The coolest thing about It's All Goodz is the shop's custom-blown glass pipes and bongs, which are made on-site in a room with windowed walls where spectators can check out the craft. Some of the pieces themselves are like detailed works of art; the display case in the center of the store houses some of the higher-end pieces, which stand well over two feet tall each and feature the forms of everything from dolphins to mushrooms to naked women. And unlike many other head shops, where you have to hunt for a stylish, padded bag that'll fit your piece, It's All Goodz seems to have a fitting bag for every pipe they sell. The store also carries the usual assortment of rolling papers, posters, funky ash trays, and jewelry, and the prices are right (not too expensive, but not so cheap that you have to wonder if you're buying a piece of crap). The employees are always laid-back and friendly, never pushy or snobby, which makes shopping for kicks at It's All Goodz a no-pressure, no-stress experience.
After recovering from a broken neck in 2000, former aerospace worker Richard Vietor opened this little gem on Scottsdale Road just south of Thomas Road. Now, we can hardly drive Scottsdale's main drag without pulling in to slam one of his tasty, caffeinated treats.

The building is small and quaint and, we confess, we've never been inside. But we've driven through dozens of times, and thus have been able to focus on the quality of the coffee rather than the interior decorating. And that quality is superb. We never grow tired of our regular order — a medium cappuccino with about three-quarters of a packet of Sugar in the Raw. Vietor seems to really care that he or his worker gets the right amount of sugar — no more, no less — into our cup. That's good service.

BevMo!
Now, why didn't we think of opening a huge store that sells nothing but alcohol and everything you need (from caviar to snack on, to sugars to rim your glass) to go with it? Duh. How could you go wrong? The BevMo!people have gone terribly right, which must be why their stores are popping up around the country quicker than mortgage foreclosures (or maybe that's why so many people are drinking so much?). Anyhow, we fell in love as soon as we entered BevMo!— the place is super-shiny-clean and the staff is knowledgeable and friendly. And not just interested in turning a profit! We asked for a particular Russian vodka that comes in a fancy hand-painted bottle, and they had it. But the clerk tried to sell us a different vodka instead — he said it was better, and it certainly was cheaper! Apparently it's rare, and BevMo!had just received a shipment. We passed (our friend wanted the collectible bottle) but promised we'd be back for the other kind — and no, we won't give you the brand name. We want it all to ourselves. But we bet the BevMo!folks will know just what you're talking about, when you ask.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of