Best Of 2006

Army Navy Surplus Market (Photo by Wayne Garcia)

These days, even the uber-Marts are charging boutique prices for the same Dickies work-wear that’s been hipdom’s Uniform of the Proletariat for decades. But fear not, dude who’s 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, there’s 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 don’t have to worry about any awkward run-ins with flustered customers. 330 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, 813-930-0069,

Best car salesperson? An oxymoron, you say? Doesn’t 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. Didn’t seem to have that extra $80K laying around. We happened across her during another story and she really charmed us. Let’s just say that we can hope and dream to someday shop for a Mercedes, and when that time comes, we’ll be asking for Ms. Sevastakis. 6001 34th St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-526-3738.

La Herencia de Cuba (Photo by Wayne Garcia)

It’s no surprise, given its history in the cigar industry, that Tampa is blessed with an abundance of great options to buy the coveted sticks. Edward’s 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? Ramirez’s 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 you’ll want to put a roach clip on it to get every last puff. 1817 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, 800-324-9803.

Best CL Staff Colonoscopist

This year, three CL staffers and one life partner of a staffer had to get colonoscopies. That’s 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. Here’s the best part: The two diagnostic procedures turned out fine, and the two sick people got better. That’s 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 Snider’s wife Bonnie), where he does about a gazillion colonoscopies a day — and yet it never feels like a production line. Stauffer’s actual specialty is gastroenterology. But to us, he’ll always be Dr. John Stuffer: Colonoscopist. Memorial Hospital of Tampa, 2901 Swann Ave., Tampa, 813-873-6400.

Let’s face it: Nobody likes to go to the dentist. It’s uncomfortable, expensive and one office visit can leave you a drooling, mumbling fool. Fortunately for your mouth, there are dental practices like the one run by Dr. Sebastian J. Castellano. Family owned and operated (that’s Dr. Castellano’s wife behind the desk), these folks know how to keep a patient comfortable. A CL staffer went to Dr. Castellano for a series of cleanings, including one multi-visit extravaganza that involved deep ultrasonic cleaning of different quadrants of the mouth, all of which was completed with a minimum of pain and without any injections at all. (The good doctor preferred a numbing gel for the procedure.) Low pain and no needle? Chew on that for a moment. Dr. Sebastian J. Castellano, D.D.S., P.A., 302 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813-878-0300.

Owner Ed Buckinger (Photo by Alex Pickett)

Those of us with limited auto repair experience and a healthy distrust of all mechanics know it’s hard to find a good repair shop. Almost everyone has suffered a hit in the pocketbook after a mechanic has taken advantage of our ignorance or desperation. That’s why it’s so important there are people like Ed Buckinger. For the last 18 years, the owner and chief mechanic of Gulfport Transmission has offered honest service at a reasonable price. He has nary a complaint at the Better Business Bureau and relies on his good reputation for business, instead of traditional advertising. Except for tires and alignment issues, Buckinger is all the repairman you’ll ever need. 4936 15th Ave. S., Gulfport, 727-323-0854.

Brian Gadson's Aerobics (Photo by Eric Snider)

Every Monday and Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., Brian Gadson breezes into the upstairs aerobics studio at the Central City YMCA, greets folks with a high-watt smile, kibitzes, teases, picks out some music and starts leading the class with a simple march in place. It only gets better from there. Brian is part dance instructor, part playful drill sergeant, and (big) part friend. You CANNOT help but feel good after going through Brian’s hour, which includes about 45 minutes of cardio and 15 of floor exercise. He makes it fun — and a bit competitive if you want it. A lot of exercise teachers can take you through the motions; it takes a gifted one to make a simple hour of moving around a special experience. And let’s give a little shout-out to the class regulars — Kim, Ovetta, Mary, Carolyn and the rest. They definitely help keep the energy (and good times) at a high ebb. 110 E. Palm Ave. Tampa, 813-229-9622.

Sometimes it’s just too hot or you’re just too lazy to get out of the car. Those are the times when you long for the days of yore when full-service gas stations were the norm. But they haven’t all vanished: You can still stop in St. Pete tire institution Bob Lee’s for a fill-up without ever having to leave the air-conditioned comfort of your car. They’ll even check your oil and tire pressure while you’re there. 1631 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-822-3981.

New Team Salon at J.CON"s Kara Pullan (Photo by Eric Snider)

In this day of the metrosexual, male dislike/fear of the hair salon has begun to abate. Perhaps it’s the higher quality of haircut available at a salon, or maybe it’s all the delightful young ladies who staff the place. Either way guys, if you’re still lining up for $7 haircuts at your “barber shop,” it’s time to get with the now. The New Team Salon at J.CON is a great place to start. New Team’s stylists are all recent graduates of the Aveda Institute, the St. Pete trim school where cutting hair is more religion than trade. (“New Team,” get it?) Subsequently, everyone’s a little more down-to-earth than at some other salons. New Team is full service (and full price) for the ladies, but a dude can get in and out for $20 plus a little something extra for the stylist. Trust us: It’s money well spent. We don’t want to play favorites, but we’re going to anyway. The nod for Best Stylist goes to Kara Pullan. 5811 Fourth St. N., St Petersburg, 727-525-9876.