There are a million places to get something that’s mass-produced, amalgamated, made in China by child slaves or prisoners, and will either break the third time you use it, or kill your dog, or your hamster, or you, if you make the mistake of holding it too close to your nose.
There is a never ending supply of agro-industrial crap, made out of genetically modified corn syrup and filler materials. You’d be amazed what they can make out of filler materials nowadays – everything from hot dogs to pre-fab houses. And for some reason, most people always gravitate to the cheapest, most shoddily made products, the least nutritious, greasiest, saltiest, preserved to the point of mummification foods, the clunkiest cars, junkiest appliances, and most slipshod hedge trimmers. Why would you go cheap on something that can cut your hand off in three seconds if it malfunctions? Oh right, because you’re saving up for a big night out at the Smoke and Grease Pit, where you can get an all-you-can-eat dinner of ribs slathered in saucy low-level carcinogens for only $9.99. With bread sticks!
But there are other places you can go, and other products you can buy. There are still quality craftsmen, nutritious food sources, and repair people who actually know how to fix things. These places are not easy to find, and they’re almost never as cheap as Wal-deMart, or AmazonClearCut.com, but, as my Dad used to say, “You get what you pay for.” Here are some of my favorite places to go for the really good stuff:
The Little Red Hen Mill And Bakery
This is one of the sweetest Mom and Pop operations I’ve ever run across, although, to be honest, I’ve never seen Pop do much more than chase young chicks around the barnyard. He does, however, make sure everyone is up at the crack of dawn, which is essential at a shop like this because there’s so much to do. Little Red takes care of all the details, from planting and growing ancient grains, to milling and baking them into the most delectable breads and pastries I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. But if you want any of these delicacies, you’d better get there early, because Little Red always runs out of everything she bakes. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard customers ask her why she doesn’t hire more help, but the problem seems to be that she squawks at her workers so often that no employee ever stays for long.
Johnny Appleseed’s Orchard
This farm stand is the antithesis of Little Red’s bakery. Johnny believes that all you need to do to be an apple grower is plant seeds and let nature take its course. A completely u-pick operation, Johnny’s lets the customers do all the work, but, if you enjoy the scent of fresh apples, the colors of fall foliage, and the buzzing of a million yellow jackets working over the windfalls, this is a terrific place to visit at harvest time. Completely organic, these apples won’t ever win any beauty contests, but they do make a delicious cider, and hard cider (Johnny’s Winter Oak-Aged Draft), which is what Johnny spends most of his time closely involved with.
Geppetto’s Toy Store
Features Old World craftsmanship that’s almost impossible to find nowadays. Of course, you’ll need to pay through the nose for some of his creations, but having one of Geppetto’s dolls or puppets is almost like having another kid in the family. One word of warning: The last time I bought something from the old man and brought it home, I wound up with an infestation of noisy bugs. Also, these toys seem to get lost easily, and have been a target for thieves, as they have a high resale value on the black market.
Elvis’s Shoemaker Shop
The proprietor originally became renowned for stitching up Elvis’s blue suede shoes. Since then, he’s become the go-to guy for custom-made leather shoes for all the biggest stars in the fantasyland of Hollywood. It’s impossible to say how he manages to fill all the orders he gets, since most times when I’ve been in his shop he’s lazing around reading the newspaper, or arguing with Mrs. Shoemaker about what to have for dinner. But somehow, the most amazingly comfortable, made-to-order shoes are always ready for next-day delivery. I guess he must stay up all night working.
Rapunzel’s Beauty Salon
Located in an ivory tower and surrounded by a moat, this shop is a little hard to get to, but well worth the trouble. Rapunzel knows how to take even the most brittle, greasy, and mousy-looking hair and turn it into something full-bodied and luxurious enough to attract a princely crowd of admirers who practically climb over each other to book an appointment. She is rightly famous for her braids and weaves.
Emperor’s New Clothing Emporium
If you need something formal that will make you stand out at any wedding, fundraiser, or important business event, the place for regal quality fashion is this little dress shop, located near the Palace Mall. All clothing is made of the finest lightweight, au naturel fiber materials. Hypo-allergenic, easy to clean, and extremely easy to accessorize, these gowns are truly stunning, in the sense that anyone who sees you wearing one will be stunned.