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 CAMERA SHOP
What we like most about this no-frills shop is its professional staff, some of whom look like they were alive when Mel Pierce opened his eponymous shop up in 1951. Although Pierce is long dead and the store has changed hands, the stellar staff of photographers (the repair guy doubles as a landscape photographer, and one salesman is a wedding photographer) are personable and knowledgeable about cameras and lighting equipment, without the typical egocentric bull churned out by those photogs who tend to work at glitzier camera shops. Mel Pierce not only has a great selection of used lenses and cameras but more than 80 different digital cameras, ranging from the fancy-pants Canon IDS Mark III (retail $8,000) to the smallish snap-and-shoot digital models that can be color-matched with your purse. It’s a surprise to us, but staffers are still selling ancient-seeming 35mm SLRs. This is a really helpful place for pros with lighting questions and clumsy amateurs who drop their cameras and need parts. If you have a dumb question like how to transfer digital photos onto a DVD, or you want something daring like a waterproof camera bag, this quirky shop on the boulevard offers it all. 5645 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 465-2191. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
BEST WAX MUSEUM
A strong nose is required to survive the olfactory assault that is West Hollywood’s Candle Delirium, where the scent of a thousand perfumed candles commingle. While other stores may carry a closely edited selection of Illume pillars or a safe handful of the most popular Votivos, the everyday Archipelagos, Trapps and Toccas, here, you’ll find the rarest of couture candles — Santuario di Bellezza palm oil wax candles in mouth-blown leaded glass crystal; medieval apothecary formula Oculatum in purest virgin wax; and the historic French line Cire Trudon. True, you can buy everything online these days, but (minus Smell-O-Vision) how other than in person can you know which scent speaks to your heart of hearts? Will it be the decadent popcorn essence of Douglas Little’s DL&Co Coney Island in an etched frosted-glass cup? Or a tin of supertrendy A Scent of Scandal’s suntan lotion-y “The Pool Boy,” with notes of cocoa butter, jasmine and sea salt? When you’re paying $50 to $100 for a jar of wax, it’s wise to comparison-shop. Otherwise, you might as well just set fire to your cash. 7980 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd. (888) 656-3903, candledelirium.com
BEST HAND CAR WASH (UNLESS YOU HAVE AN SUV)
Just $8 for a real, hand car wash? Yes, indeed. Okay, an SUV is $15. There’s no big, high-tech, water-wasting machine. Just energetic guys at a family-run place. No fancy AC’ed waiting room, no copies of The New York Times, no Muzak. Skip the respadura (perfume spray). It’s still a deal, and you can go to La Princessita nearby, get some fresh tortillas, then come back and sit on the benches and relax. Everyone working at Soto Car Wash is related or is related to someone who knows someone. Stopping by on Sunday, after attending one of the many churches in this Eastside neighborhood, is a local ritual — and the already busy place really bustles. Sometimes you can buy CDs of the latest in norteño, which may or may not be bootlegged. There’s usually a taco truck parked nearby, which sells good horchata and outstanding al pastor tacos and a paleta vendor can be counted upon to swing by, peddling fruity ice pops on sticks. 2416 E. Fourth St., L.A.
BEST CASSETTE RELEASES
Eagle Rock’s Not Not Fun label has a history of cassette releases whose physical descriptions are enough to rival the DIY-spirited music contained therein. For instance, from an early Wigwam/Tent City split: “Housed in stenciled sandpaper covers with runic colored-sand emblazoned cases, and twine-banded with totem beads and feathers;” or from the 2005 Abe Vigoda–featuring, nautically themed comp, Sea & Sea Music Factory: “Each ocean-blue tape comes housed in a jellyfish-stamped burlap bag bedecked with a scavenged seashell.” Musically speaking, NNF — owned and operated by Pocahaunted’s Amanda and Britt Brown — specializes in skuzzy funk-soul and psych-punk, a genre-warped mishmash that only sounds better the more worn-out and faded a tape gets. Which is to say, this is music made to be played on secondhand tape decks through small, unreliable speakers. The Browns have stepped up their means of production over the years, now using colored cassettes and printed labels more than spray paint and stencils, but all that really means is that they’ve committed completely to the esoteric medium and the portable, analog aesthetic it implies. Much of the J-card art (that’s the name for those tape-tray inserts) is done by Amanda herself, and releases are typically limited to 100 copies. notnotfun.com.
BEST NEEDLE WIELDERS
My hour-and-a-half acupuncture session at Emperor’s College Clinic, began with an intern who sized me up, and collected data on my aches, pains and gripes. Then, a supervisor checked my pulse and the underside of my tongue and, declared that my Qi was off, pulse was thready, and liver was stagnating. I had no idea what any of it really meant, but my first thought was to write a will and prepare an obituary. Luckily, the supervisor told me that I was going to live. She recommended about a dozen needles in strategic spots and the intern (yes, she was learning on the job) went to work placing them between my eyes, on my head, between fingers — you name it. I’m not a huge fan of pain, so I was a tad panicked at first, but after a few minutes I began to feel relaxed. The needles stung a bit going in but it wasn’t unbearable. The intern turned out the lights and I relaxed for 30 minutes. By the time she returned, I was so mellow I was practically drooling and ready for a bib. At $38 a pop, it’s a cheap and relaxing way to decompress or fix what ails you. 1807-B Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 453-8300.