Just like the organism from which it takes its name, Amoeba Music’s stock of tunes has no definite form. At each location, expert music gurus amass thousands of new and used CDs and LPs from the most mainstream artists to the most obscure underground bands around. LPs, posters, and memorabilia surround the musical inventory, which, like Ringo Starr’s pants, changes every day. Amoeba buys goods from customers, meaning that on any given day the store might usher in a rare vinyl LP, DVD, VHS, or even LaserDisc. Visitors can sign up for any number of contests while admiring Amoeba’s enduring dedication to its green practices and community outreach. Amoeba couples its huge selection of entertainment with visits from the artists themselves, welcoming past guests such as Paul McCartney, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords, and Elvis Costello to play in-store.
Mr. Jingles Christmas Trees spreads holiday merriment with noble, douglas, and grand firs individually selected from forests in Oregon. On the lot, trees stand in water and receive additional watering from the staff each day to keep needles healthy and green. Trees vary in size from 2 feet up to 16 feet, ensuring customers can a perfect specimen no matter how high their ceilings or how modest their budget. Complimentary hot chocolate keeps patrons warm as they peruse the lot, and once customers have found their perfect tree, the crew will gladly grab a rope and secure it to a car or riding mower at no additional charge.
NorCal Jump keeps kids not only active, but airborne. The company rents out a regularly updated supply of rainbow-hued bounce houses, which can each hold up to 10 leaping youngsters or Venus de Milos. The play structures range from standard models adorned with decorative banners of cartoon characters to a more elaborate style with an actual inflatable Spiderman on its roof. In select houses, tots can slip down inflatable slides, dart through obstacle courses, and dunk on kid-sized basketball hoops. A team of trained staffers delivers and sets up each house and can bring along selections from the business’s supply of waterslides and cotton-candy machines.
Behind a scarlet door buzzes Dickerman Prints' cadre of technicians, busily cropping, printing, and touching up memories frozen in glossy photographic amber. A Polielettronica LaserLab printer embosses Fujicolor crystal archive paper with chromogenic prints of images fed from the lab's Mac workstations or FTP upload site. A selection of archival papers hums happily through the shop's Epson inkjet printer, yielding images that are up to 64 inches wide and capable of withstanding the passage of time and the grubby hands of time travelers. Existing photos and negatives become indelible when scanned and digitized, and the lab's crew also retouches and mounts photos. The techs process film in a darkroom to keep jealous computers from editing themselves into family photos.
Urban Dare Adventure Race is a fast-paced competition that challenges two-person teams to decipher clues, navigate the city, and perform playful stunts. A dozen trivia-based clues lead contestants to checkpoints all over Los Angeles, where they must use a camera to document their presence and, in some cases, the completion of challenges, such as scaling a wall or shooting hoops. In addition to running and walking, contestants may use public transportation to move from checkpoint to checkpoint, though taxis, cars, and bikes are off-limits. Races generally last less than four hours, and the winning team receives free entry in the Super Dare, a cruise-based take on the Urban Dare concept that features a $5,000 grand prize. Proceeds from the race are used to help battle breast cancer.