Aboard the motor coach, Anderson Cooper sank lower in his seat, grinning and pulling his hat over his eyes as a friendly rapper called him out by name. But this rapper wasn't on-board the coach. Instead, he was spitting his rhymes from the sidewalk outside, performing for an audience on one of The Ride's interactive New York City tours. Though unique, Mr. Cooper's experience has been shared by hundreds of other famous personalities, tourists, and locals. Floor-to-ceiling windows cover the entire right side and roof of each of The Ride's custom built-motor coaches, breaking the fourth wall as they ensure that not only can passengers view the city, but the city can look back in. Due to their popularity, The Ride's tours have been chronicled by media outlets such as New York Live, Good Morning America, and The Today Show.
As each motor coach embarks on its tour through 4.2 miles of Midtown, guides encourage group participation with song, dance, and question-and-answer sessions, much like any good meeting with a tax accountant. With the aid of 40 plasma monitors displaying images and historical information, they also divulge facts about landmarks such as Central Park, 42nd Street, and Grand Central Station. As the bus travels alongside famous buildings and city sidewalks, passengers encounter a range of characters. Some are regular New Yorkers, but others are company performers in disguise. Rappers, dancers, singers, and actors leap from the crowd to entertain their mobile audiences with impromptu live routines, and sometimes pull audience members into the show. Surround-sound stereo, wireless microphones, and external speakers allow audiences to hear the performances from their seats, unlike pedestrians outside, who have to hop on a neighbor's shoulders to get a better view.
Handbags, backgammon boards, and hippopotamuses may not sound particularly appetizing, but in the hands of Duet Bakery Boutique’s chef, Diana Rodova, they become the unlikely themes of her delectable custom cakes. She tailors her designs to fit clients’ special requests while tempting taste buds with cake flavors ranging from chocolate to lemon chiffon. Beyond cakes, she whips up cupcakes, crème brûlée, and other sweet treats that add a climactic finish to meals, much like announcing to dinner guests that they’re all receiving a new car. For sensitive systems, Rodova can alter her dessert recipes to be lactose and gluten free.
Rodova complements her sweeter offerings with an array of hearty lunch staples, such as sandwiches, soups, and salads. Her bakery also stocks imported European chocolates, breads, and cheeses, which add a more glamorous international touch to the shop than a croissan’wich dispenser.
In 1991, the surprise discovery of a Lomo Kompakt Automat—a compact Russian camera—in a Vienna shop struck inspiration into a group of local students; they reveled in the shadowy corners, lo-fi graininess, saturated colors, and light-leaks that riddled its photos. The group traveled to the camera's birthplace in St. Petersburg to meet with the original manufacturers at the Lomo PLC factory, and forge a contract for global distribution. Over the next 20 years, the students' venture expanded into Lomography, a global company that develops experimental cameras and accessories and operates stores in 17 countries.
Whether on gallery shop shelves in an online store, Lomography boasts full-size and compact analog cameras, many in hues such as bright blue, green, and goldenrod. Classic cult picture-takers such as the Diana F+, Lomo Kino, and Lomo LC-A+ join experimental eight-frame and fish-eye cameras, pocket cameras, and kinoscopes. Accessories such as flash, wide-angle lens, and fish-eye lens attachments, and a line of darkroom equipment, spur creative exploration and provide justification for annexing the shadiest corners of the basement. Lomography fuels its cameras with film types such as 35mm, 120 medium format, and instant that can be developed at professional studios or through its online development services. The store also compiles photography books and city guides, and fashion such as shirts, bags, and button sets.
A member of Landscape Ontario, Hasselman Landscaping & Garden Centre cultivates a garden of ornamentations, seeds, and plants for potting with high standards of quality. The brick-patio bound arboretum girds gardens with herbal and floral seeds such as California mission bell poppies ($1.89), or fruitful bounties with blue crop blueberries ($25.99) and other small fruit plants. Root peanut butter-based soil with a granny smith apple tree ($59.99) for delicious results, and ease feats of trowel prowess with hand-hugging Botanically Correct gloves ($8.99). Gardeners may also choose to invite avian allies or miniature granola fans with a round glass bird feeder ($19.99) plucked from the open shed's wooden rafters. Hasselman guarantees a full store credit refund for defective products, including turncoat topiaries.
In "Understanding CrossFit," founder Greg Glassman says CrossFit’s “specialty is not specializing.” Flower City CrossFit's dedicated instructors certainly follow that philosophy, providing their members with a slew of constantly changing exercises that incorporate everything from bootcamp–style cardio and body-weight routines to Olympic lifting, climbing, throwing, and basic tumbling. Classes are held multiple times per day, and might feature the Workout of the Day, focus on athletes prepping for the CrossFit Games, or help children prepare to face another week of extreme recess. But exercisers will rarely see the same workout twice. In fact, some classes introduce completely new techniques, such as self-defense seminars, dodge-ball tournaments, or the occasional Barbells for Boobs event, which supports low-income and uninsured women in need of breast-cancer prevention screenings.
Violight’s sleek sinkside sanitizers slay 99.9% of toothbrush bacteria—including salmonella and E. coli—with a barrage of germicidal UV light. Winner of a 2005 Industrial Design Excellence Award, the Philippe Starck–designed original sanitizer ensconces a family of four brushes in a glowing ovoid container ($49.95) where they can live side-by-side without sharing germs or arguing over whose turn it is to do dishes. Groupon holders can also get the cartoony ZapiPOP ($29.95), whose ninja and smiley-face incarnations toddled across the pages of the NY Daily News and Self magazine’s 2009 holiday gift guide. Or snag a portable iZap travel sanitizer ($19.95), which cleanses a single brush in a long, thin container that fits easily into a suitcase, next to your plane tickets and Pig Latin phrasebook.