By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
BEST SECOND-HAND STORE TO GET FREE HIV-TESTING
The world’s most fa-a-a-bulous thrift store, the Out of the Closet chain has 13 Southern California locations, six of which provide free HIV-testing and counseling on a walk-in basis (Hollywood, West Hollywood, Venice, Atwater Village, Echo Park and Long Beach). The stores are owned and operated by the AIDS Research Foundation, and profits fund the foundation’s medical and advocacy work. I took the test with my partner years ago; we did stuff, and we didn’t give each other anything. (Maybe that was the problem.) Buy Out of the Closet’s furniture; customize it, upholster it, paint it. Dismantle it and build tree houses. Buy clothes there. Alter them if they don’t fit. Cut them up and make something else from the fabulous material. I just got a pair of Levis there for $4.62. How do they do it? Buy the star-spangled bandannas and put them on your dog. Donate your unwanted possessions there. Give them your departed mother’s clothes (less painful than organ donation). They salvage wardrobes, they save lives, and you won’t get no judgmental bullshit either. For locations and information on in-store HIV testing and the AIDS Research Foundation: (213) 405-5800, outofthecloset.org.
BEST FLEA MARKET
There are few Southland pleasures greater than enjoying a sunny, breezy morning strolling the vendor stalls of a well-stocked flea market, in search of artisan finds and scoring excellent bargains. You can walk plenty of popular ones, from the Rose Bowl to Fairfax High, which feature an array of nifty goods — and an admission fare. It’s getting harder to find a swap meet experience that doesn’t charge you to walk through the gates, which is what makes Pasadena City College’s shindig the first Sunday of every month all the more special. It’s still absolutely free to get in, easily accessible via public transport (the Gold Line station at Allen Street is about 10 blocks away), and features tons of superb deals on everything, from high-end antiques to rummage-sale curios, with most sellers more than willing to bargain. Stop by the fourth floor of the parking structure at Bonnie Avenue for one of the biggest and best vinyl sales in the land, featuring more than 70 vendors. 1570 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 585-7906, pasadena.edu/fleamarket. First Sunday of every month.
BEST PERSIAN/INTERNATIONAL GROCERY
If you plan to head to Reseda to check out the goods at Valley Produce, know this: There is never a good time to go. It is always crowded, and finding a parking spot is always a slightly maddening experience. But, if you can deal with the mass of people who hit up this marketplace daily, you won’t be disappointed. The produce section is renowned for its low prices and wide selection, but make sure you check out the groceries as well. Although Valley Produce hosts an array of ethnic foods, the focus is on the staples of Persian, Armenian and other Middle Eastern diets. Some of the best deals here can be found among the nuts and dried fruits. For $1.49, you can get a package of Tazah Dried Apricot Paste (the best store-bought fruit roll around), big enough to feed a whole family. A small, cake-styled package of King Brand dried figs is only $1.99. In the deli section, you can get a one-pound block of French feta cheese for $6.65. With all the money you saved, you can pop by the shoe repair/CD shop at the entrance and pick up a Googoosh disc. 18345 Vanowen Blvd., Reseda. (818) 609-1955.
BEST WAY TO BURY FIDO WITH DIGNITY
Depending on where you reside, burying your capuchin monkey in your backyard may get you a pricey citation; calling Animal Control to cart Spot away costs $60 to $250, depending on his size. Instead, put your money to better use by honoring your furry friend at the L.A. Pet Memorial Park, where the gravity of your loss will be respected at this 81-year-old nonprofit sanctuary hidden in the hills of Calabasas. This charming and dignified cemetery emphasizes the effect pets have on our lives, as evidenced by tombstones marked “Hercules, Our Eyes Weep Since Yours Are Closed,” or “Zipper, Buried Here With Our Broken Hearts.” Along with typical pets, lizards, chimpanzees, goats, ferrets, birds, potbellied pigs, a lion, snakes, mice and even famous animals, such as Hopalong Cassidy’s horse, Topper, and Petey from the Little Rascals, rest here. To get an idea of costs, a cat burial runs about $614, including the lot, perpetual care, casket, and opening and closing of the grave; a bird is as little as $275 (including casket). Cremation for pets less than 10 pounds is $90; urns start at $24; headstones at $305. 5068 Old Scandia Lane, Calabasas. (818) 591-7037, lapetcemetery.com.
BEST DOCTOR WITH SOLE
Tennis players know that no matter how gigantic the Shoe Barn or Sports Hut is, you’ll be lucky to find more than one or two choices when it comes to court shoes, especially women’s. You’ll feel like a leftie discovering left-handed scissors for the first time when you walk into the Racquet Doctor. A store just for you — with a room filled floor to ceiling with nothing but tennis shoes: all the big guys from the latest Nike, Wilson, Prince, Adidas and New Balance models. The staff — decked out in hospital scrubs (har har) — are knowledgeable and plentiful. Prices range from super-deals to the ridiculously high. It almost makes you tempted to find your dream shoe and then rush home and order at a discount from tenniswarehouse.com. But that would be wrong. Don’t misuse the Doctor. 3214 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village. (323) 663-6601.