Is it any wonder that, while loving our new technologies (hello, Kindle), we've also developed a culturewide nostalgia for simpler times? A perfect example is the emergence of steampunk perhaps familiar to the mainstream as jewelry made of watch parts and cars crafted to look like locomotives. There also seems to be a less expensive, less industrial trend for the pastimes of yore: Croquet. Talk radio. And board games. The last of which is the basis of Just Awesome, the Diamond Heights shop opened by Portland escapee Erik Macsh as a temple to old-fashioned charms. Here you can pick up a myriad of boxes full of dice, cards, and plastic pieces. Head home with Clue, one of the Monopoly iterations (was Chocolate-opoly really necessary?), or a new game that came out while you were distracted by Nintendo Wii. You can even open the box and try a round or two in the shop. How's that for old-world service?
816 Diamond, SF. (415) 970-1484, www.justawesomegames.com
BEST BORROWED CLOTHES
The nice thing about having a sister, a roommate, or a tolerable neighbor who's exactly your size is that there's always someone else's closet to raid when your own is looking dismal. But what to do when you live alone, your neighbor's not answering your calls, and you desperately need an attention-getting outfit right now? Make a new best friend: Shaye McKenney of La Library. The friendly fashionista will let you borrow a pair of leather hot pants for a Beauty Bar boogie or a German knit couture gown for that gold-digging date to the opera, all for a small pay-by-the-day price. You can even bring your makeup and get ready for the evening in front of the antique mirrors in her socialist street shop. It's all the fun of sharing, without having to lend out any of your stuff.
380 Guerrero, SF. (415) 558-9481, www.la-library.com
BEST ROCKSTAR STYLES
Need clothes a rockstar would wear but a starving musician can afford? Look no further than Shotwell, whose blend of designer duds and vintage finds are worthy of the limelight and (relatively) easy on your budget. Think jeans with pockets the size of guitar picks, sculptural black dresses, handpicked grandpa sweaters, and reconstructed '80s rompers that can be paired with lizard skin belts or dollar sign boots, all for less than the cutting-edge designer labels would suggest they should cost. And it's not just for the ladies. Michael and Holly Weaver stock their adorable boutique with clothing and accessories for all chromosomal combinations. The concept's become such a success that Shotwell's moving from its old locale to a bigger, better space. All we can say is, rock on.
320 Grant, SF. (415) 399-9898, www.shotwellsf.com
The best stores are like mini-museums, displaying interesting wares in such a way that they're almost as fun to peruse as they are to take home. Park Life takes this concept one step further by being a store (wares in the front are for sale) and a gallery (featuring a rotating selection of local contemporary artists' work). No need to feel guilty for window-shopping: you're simply checking out the Rubik's Cube alarm clock, USB flash drive shaped like a fist, and set of "heroin" and "cocaine" salt-and-pepper shakers on your way to appreciating the paintings in the back, right? And if you happen to leave with an arty coffee-table book, an ironic silk-screen T-shirt, or a Gangsta Rap Coloring Book, that's just a bonus.
220 Clement, SF.