Colfax Avenue is a five-lane study in contradiction. At points, stately Victorian mansions sit just a cobblestone sidewalk away from folks who call the bus stop home; elsewhere, business folks and city legislators mingle with the drunk, the down-on-their-luck, the intermittent desolation of this particular row. The schizo, serpentine street is a fitting location, then, for Temple of Being/ Bound by Design, a store whose combination of elements is nothing short of brilliant. Let's face it: Anyone who says that getting tattooed isn't even slightly painful is probably lying. The human body has certain built-in responses to unnatural stimuli -- like, for example, the repeated penetration of the skin by an ink-filled needle. Yet the experience is likely to be more tolerable here because the tattoo parlor is adjoined by a Zen-like space that's equal parts tattoo and piercing parlor and metaphysical bookstore, gift shop and cafe. What better time to shop for that much-needed quartz-crystal amulet or tarot-card set than while you're waiting for the ink to dry? Temple of Being is a fitting addition to the Colfax landscape, a place to read while you bleed.

Readers' choice: Kitty's

Need a new titanium racket or just some tennis lessons? How 'bout a new ball machine, to rent or own? Well, then, log off Anna Kournikova's Web site and head down to Game-Set-Match, near the Park Meadows Mall, for tennis-knowledgeable staff -- they'll even keep track of the tension at which you set your strings -- and high-end merchandise you might not find anywhere else. For instance: Want to know why you should play high-altitude balls in Denver? The answer, according to a ball salesman, is that high-altitude balls are manufactured at a lower air pressure than regular balls. This compensates for the lower air pressure around us, and slows down the balls a bit. Balls at altitude move faster and bounce higher than normal.

Looking for in-line skates at a price that's not out of line? How about a perfectly good mountain bike that won't set you back the cost of a used car? The folks at Sports Plus, on fashionable South Gaylord Street near Washington Park, can help burn calories without burning salaries. You can even pick up a lacrosse stick -- or a Big Bertha driver that hasn't been tossed into the pond even once. For Denver's physically active set (and who isn't?), here is a useful alternative to outlandish new-ski prices and $200 baseball gloves. Management will also take your name and number and call when the store gets exactly the used item you want.

Best place to buy coins and estate jewelry

Tebo Coins

Coins are Tebo's primary business -- they carry everything from ancient Greek and Roman coins to an admirable selection of U.S. coins and proof sets. The store's friendly staff will answer any question, or at least try to find the answer on the rare occasion that they don't already know it. In addition, Tebo Coins carries a small but wonderful selection of estate jewelry, as well as a large assortment of more modern gold and silver necklaces, rings and earrings. Most people probably wouldn't consider shopping at a coin store for an engagement ring or wedding set, but Tebo has some of the most beautiful Victorian and art-deco antique rings around (most are platinum and set with diamonds and/or sapphires). Best of all, the prices are unbeatable; they often have sales in which they mark down the estate pieces by 35 percent. And that will save you some coin.

Oh, sure, it's sobering to think what a massive effort was involved in turning the crumbling Forney Museum building -- officially known as the 1901 Denver Tramway Power House -- into the incredibly hip new REI store, complete with indoor climbing mountain, indoor/outdoor Starbucks and outdoor kayaking course. Focusing on the numbers alone will defog the brain: over $400,000 in gambling revenues earmarked to state historic projects, as well as a big fat Denver Urban Renewal Authority subsidy. And then, of course, there are the numbers on the price tag of those water-wicking shorts suitable only for climbing the Matterhorn. Still, just walking into the place gives us a thrill, and so does knowing that within its cavernous confines lurks the town's best method for getting stone-cold sober. Up on the third floor, the cold room that quickly drops temperatures to zero (with wind chills going even lower) is supposed to be used to test cold-weather gear -- but the frigid little chamber is also just the spot for sobering up in a hurry. Make sure you have a designated driver along in case your motor skills are slow to catch up and you can't open the door.

We could write a book on the many reasons we love the Tattered Cover's LoDo store, among them the old, creaky floors; the chipper, non-creaky staffers; the huge selection of newspapers and magazines; the overstuffed chairs that are just the place to read those newspapers and magazines (or take a nap); the auditorium that frequently offers lectures and book signings; the fact that both Tattered Cover stores still let you write checks without showing ID. But at this time of year, what we appreciate most about the Tattered Cover LoDo is how it keeps its cool. Although the bookstore is housed in the century-old Morey-Mercantile Building, it boasts a thoroughly modern air-conditioning system, one that keeps the indoor climate completely under control. That's important to books, and it's important to booklovers. Chill out.

Natavidad Avila arrived here from Guadalajara forty years ago, and he's been making custom cement floor tiles ever since. He specializes in traditional Mexican and Aztec motifs and translucent, out-of-this-world colors that he carefully pours into intricate patterns copied faithfully from any sample. What makes Avila's craft especially difficult is its form and mechanics: To re-create designs, he must apply pigment -- and that includes every line, dot and flourish -- by pouring the colors rather than painting them on with a brush. The results, displayed at Mosaico Mexican Tile, are beautiful and precise, artful in a way that's rapidly being lost in a high-tech world. Well, almost. Avila, who first apprenticed in the craft at the age of fifteen, is now passing on his secrets to his grandson, who -- in spite of having a college degree -- asked to be taught.
Herpetophobes, beware: The cast-iron lizard that snakes its way up a stairway at the Native American Trading Company, a venerable old gallery of Indian and Southwestern art and artifacts, is hard to miss. Herpetophiles, on the other hand, won't be able to handle it enough. The beautiful house-designed and hand-forged rail is a work of art for the ages, and it'll keep you from falling -- or slithering -- down the stairs.

Next time you need a rock around your clock -- or even a bunch of small, random ones to line your garden path -- head to Longmont, where Colorado Stone stocks more colors and varieties of slate, granite, sandstone and other fancy finishes than you could possibly want or need in a lifetime at, well, rock-bottom prices. In addition to having a great selection, the store is also easy about small-quantity purchases, and they'll cut stone to order, just like it was a loaf of bread. They've got the deals, any way you slice it.
How to thwart those pesky, persistent meter people: Get yourself a CashKey. The handy card key, electronically programmed and available from the City and County of Denver's Department of Public Works in replenishable amounts of $10 to $100, fits on your key chain and is debited a quarter each time you insert it in the meter. You also pay an initial key deposit of $15 that's refundable if you return the key. No more fumbling for change or constant meter-feeding. The only catch? You still have to find a space. Good luck.

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