Nothing quite says I thought of you while on my Florida vacation like a sea sponge from the Tarpon Springs dock area. I mean just look at it. Its the perfect gift. Its useful; even while wet, the naturally scratchiness of the sponge rakes off the first couple of dead layers of skin youre always carrying around. You can also bestow a Tarpon Springs sponge on loved ones with a hygiene problem as a gentle clue that they should shower more lest they become as smelly as the sponge youre giving them. The sponge also makes a perfect decorative item, giving off a unique scent thats somewhere between red tide and old salt.
These days, even the uber-Marts are charging boutique prices for the same Dickies work-wear thats been hipdoms Uniform of the Proletariat for decades. But fear not, dude whos new to rockabilly or dudette who knows that butch can be chic you can score the shirt, shorts or chapeau with all that built-in cred and still have money left over for beer the night of the Reverend show. Located right at the edge of downtown Tampa, longtime open retail secret The Army Navy Surplus Market has a great selection of Dickies merchandise hidden in there among the fatigues, tents and SWAT gear. And it goes without saying that those of you who know that broken-in camo cutoffs never really go out of style can always stock up there. 1312 N. Tampa St., Tampa, 813-229-2172.
Theoretically, you can get your dirty goods at any adult retail store, but why chance having to visit multiple sites when you can pretty much find anything and everything you need all in one place? Of the several XTC Supercenters located throughout the Bay area, we recommend the North Tampa location for its clean showroom and friendly staff. In addition to row upon row of shelves jam-packed with pretty much every genre of porn you could ever want, theres a huge selection of vibrators and dildos, harnesses and strap-ons, penis pumps, lubes, lotions and love kits. Looking for a transsexual blow-up doll, or perhaps a glow-in-the-dark pussy? The place has these and more. The best feature? The video arcade is separate from the retail space, so you dont have to worry about any awkward run-ins with flustered customers. 330 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, 813-930-0069, www.xtcsupercenters.com.
Various Bay Area locations, www.goodyear.com
Runners Up: Mikes Auto Repair, Bob Lees, Pinellas Auto
Best car salesperson? An oxymoron, you say? Doesnt have to be. Aretta Sevastakis sells at Crown Mercedes with style and panache, combining just the right amounts of feistiness and humor. With Aretta, the car-dealer experience is like hanging out with a friend albeit a friend who just happens to want to sell you an expensive German automobile. Please understand no one at Creative Loafing has actually bought a Mercedes from Aretta. Didnt seem to have that extra $80K laying around. We happened across her during another story and she really charmed us. Lets just say that we can hope and dream to someday shop for a Mercedes, and when that time comes, well be asking for Ms. Sevastakis. 6001 34th St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-526-3738.
Its no surprise, given its history in the cigar industry, that Tampa is blessed with an abundance of great options to buy the coveted sticks. Edwards Pipe and Tobacco in Tampa and Tampa Sweethearts in Ybor City are two longtime fixtures. But we like a relative newcomer: La Herencia de Cuba, where Cuban immigrant and master torcedo Roberto Ramirez rolls them daily while his son takes care of the business side of things. Unlabeled bundles are the authentic deal; who needs fancy boxes and cigar bands anyway? Ramirezs Giant Torpedo is a rare find and a strong blend. But it is the smaller Perfectos that score at the top of the card: Tapered at both ends, they have a throwback shape that smokes so well youll want to put a roach clip on it to get every last puff. 1817 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, 800-324-9803.
This year, three CL staffers and one life partner of a staffer had to get colonoscopies. Thats where they stick a long tube into your rectum and, once in the intestine, take pictures, remove polyps and that sort of stuff. Decorum and oppressive HIPAA laws prevent us from giving you names and details, but suffice to say that two of the procedures were routine, two were because of pain symptoms. Dr. Stauffer (affectionately known hereabouts as Dr. Stuffer) was our man in each instance. He takes time and care with each patient and is a master with the scope. Heres the best part: The two diagnostic procedures turned out fine, and the two sick people got better. Thats some fine doctorin, if you ask us. Stauffer is aided by the excellent nursing and support staff at Memorial Hospital (which full disclosure includes CL staffer Eric Sniders wife Bonnie), where he does about a gazillion colonoscopies a day and yet it never feels like a production line. Stauffers actual specialty is gastroenterology. But to us, hell always be Dr. John Stuffer: Colonoscopist. Memorial Hospital of Tampa, 2901 Swann Ave., Tampa, 813-873-6400.
Various Bay Area locations, www.menswearhouse.com
Runners Up: Dillards, Nordstroms
Various Bay Area locations
Runners Up: Chico, Nordstroms
220 N. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-253-2032, www.kennedydayspa.com
Runners Up: Safety Harbor Spa & Resort, Tranquility