Eve grew from Adam's rib, but you, dearest Aphrodite, were born of Uranus' castrated testicles. You are the goddess of love and beauty, so it's no surprise trouble follows you like a shadow; you married the hideous Hephaestus but cheated on him with the scrumptious Adonis, you ignited the Trojan War by matchmaking Paris and Helen and through granting Pygmalion's wish, you're indirectly responsible for My Fair Lady. Goddess, we beg of you to bestow your roses and swans and Spanish flies upon these winners of our glamour and romance categories.
Best place to get a real haircut
How emasculating is it for men to head into a salon, only to be crammed between middle-aged women talking about color treatments while being bombarded by hair product recommendations from the “stylist”? How about leaving with their wallet $50 lighter and a lingering sense of mild embarrassment? Since guys are subject to a different standard than in past generations, many have been tricked into thinking that paying so much for a decent haircut is OK. It's not, and that's where Lefty's Barbershop comes in. The Downtown location (620 Eighth Ave.) has the feel of a real '50s-style shop, but with an updated cast of characters—you're more likely to spot these guys at a hardcore show than a Shriners meeting. Along with the deer heads and framed portraits lining the walls, there's a couple flat-screen TVs playing sports during business hours, and regulars occasionally stop by to say hi and steal a beer from the fridge. And don't overlook the fact that the barbers are skilled professionals, treating their trade almost as a lifestyle choice rather than just a job. Granted, it's not the kind of place to go for a “trim” on one's impeccably coiffed mane. But for a cut—the kind with a straight razor followed by a splash of rum on the neck—it doesn't get any better.
Best job capturing nature under glass
Britton Neubacher's Eco Orbs caught my eye right around this time last year, hanging in the window of North Park store Pigment (then called Kate Ross / Kalos Designs). The hollow glass orbs, filled with succulents, cacti and little bonsais supported by sand and rocks, come across as a blend of Zen garden-meets-Joshua Tree National Park. Or, as Neubacher describes on her website: “The love child of a fervent affair between gardening and modern design.” During the last year, Neubacher's business (www.tendliving.com) has grown—literally. She's added “wall bubbles” (orbs with one flat side that attaches to a wall) and tabletop orbs, for those of us afraid of the suspended-from-the-ceiling version. Neubacher, who used to work in social services, started working with plant life as a way to deal with stress. Call me sentimental, but seeing someone succeed doing something they love is a beautiful thing.
Best matchmaking-service alternative
Located next door to Soda Bar, City Heights' Botánica Santa Barbara (3617 El Cajon Blvd.) is a one-stop shop for those who like their courtship served with a side of occult, thanks to its array of teas, candles, bath salts and even aerosol sprays to meet all your Santeria needs. Your honey ain't giving you none? Light up a Do As I Say candle. Is your boss giving you the stink eye? Slip him a Tame Baby Lamb soap bar and watch him purr. Guaranteed to nab the Spencer to your Heidi is the 1-ounce Nest of the Macaw Bird perfume—the Botánica's bestseller—which resident spiritual advisor Gladys spikes with dry flowers and secret essential oils. For tougher jobs, she recommends the $100 seasonal love squash, a spell consisting of a hollowed-out gourd stuffed with a picture of your desired mate, a fishing hook and cotton balls, lit up during five days of intense prayer to Santa Oshun, the Orisha of love, and later dumped in a river. According to Gladys, it works 100 percent of the time and has already produced several marriages. Take that, Match.com!
Best item for spicing up your sex life and making you run to confession
Don't let its demure cottage façade fool you. Inside Mankind Video store (3425 Fifth Ave.) lays a bona fide three-story adult super emporium. “We're growers, not showers,” manager Jesse Greika says. From bachelorette-party items to Sex in the Shower locking suction handles, if you dream it, they probably have it. Take for instance the Blake Riley realistic vibrating ass, Thrust cream lube sold by the bucket and the latest development in science: the strapless strap-on. For the man who has everything, there are also convenient male chastity belts. “They're great, because they're made out of plastic, so your slave can wear it on a plane,” Greika says. The pièce de résistance, however, is the Jackhammer Jesus dildo. Made of sturdy silicone and giving a whole new meaning to the saying “Jesus fucking Christ,” it retails for $89.95 and is available in both black marbled and a coquettish glow-in-the-dark. For the novice deity-fucker, the shop also carries a 4-inch Baby Jesus buttplug, as well as Mother Mary and smiling-Buddha models.
Best place to get groped by the right person
Bra straps falling off your shoulders? Breasts not filling out your blouse like they should? Fortunately, there's Intimacy (www.myintimacy.com), a lingerie boutique at the Fashion Valley mall. A few months ago, I was felt up in the friendliest way by the upscale chain's “Bra Whisperer” founder, Susan Nethero. Apparently, I'd been wearing a 34D when really I needed a 32DD (that's right, I've got rack!). The $100 bra I bought was worth every penny, and I've been back for more gorgeous lacy underpinnings that make me feel mythic, not miffed. A well-constructed bra—most of Intimacy's ample selection is made by hand in Europe—will be comfy and will keep your mortal bust lifted to the heavens.
Best selection of sexy sake bottles
Most peoples' sake experience is limited to whatever's cheapest at their favorite sushi joint, but there's a whole other element to sake. In a back corner of Mitsuwa Market (4240 Kearny Mesa Road), you'll get a crash course in the art of the sake bottle where the design often tends toward that strange amalgam between sexy and cute that's so pervasive in modern Japanese culture. Take the Hakatsuru Sayuri (“Little Lily”) nigori, for instance, in a pale pink glass bottle with gold, pink and lavender flowers on the label (pink and pale blue glass seems to be a trend overall). Not everything verges on Sanrio, though. There are manly opaque black-glass bottles and lots of melding of traditional and modern design. As for what's actually in the bottle, keep this in mind: Sake's deceptively intoxicating. Unfiltered sake, for instance (the milky-white stuff known as nigori) has an alcohol content more than twice that of many beers, which could explain why so many of the bottles are so petite. No sense getting ugly drunk from such a pretty container.
Best place to kiss somebody
The nape of the neck? No. The real answer is that verdant ravine below El Prado, sort of behind the Japanese Friendship Garden. You go down some stone stairs, wend your way past root mazes and under a bridge and then, suddenly, you're alone, making some Japanese Friendship of your own. Protip: Even though you've been there before, play up the “I just moved to San Diego” angle, and let her / him think you stumbled onto the spot by sheer kismet. You're pushing through lush Mesozoic undergrowth and the sun is poking through ferns and you find a log and listen to distant Zoo bird sounds and bug clicks and water. Sometimes, overgrown teen loafs in puffy chukka sneakers bumble through and disrupt you, so don't get too friendly. Also, one time some kids threw rocks off the top of the bluff. Little rocks, but still, really? So if you plan on doing any extended making out, wear protection—such as a helmet or a rigid cowboy hat.