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Midtown Shopping

By Yuka Hachiuma

So, those on your gift list aren't exactly hip? Then join me on the second-half of my shopping excursion, the one that starts around midtown. The first stop was Madison Square Garden, where my shopping compatriot was to purchase Rangers tickets as a gift for his brother. Yes, technically MSG is not a store, but it is a place to get holiday gifts for the sports fan in your circle of nearest and dearest, so bear with me. Unfortunately, as my friend discovered, there are only single seats left for Rangers games, so don't buy the tickets to socialize because you may end up on opposite sides of the arena. I will venture to say that you will probably have similar luck in getting Knicks tickets, but it's worth a try. Of course, this is not taking into account the swarm of scalpers who softly suggest "looking for Knicks tickets?" as they brush past you. I wonder how much business they rake in considering the prominently stationed uniformed officers, but this is the capital of capitalism, so I suppose anything is possible. One performance for which you may be able to get tickets is "The Christmas Carol." The show got fairly good reviews, so any lover of the classic Dickens tale may want to look into getting tickets.

As we walked east after leaving Madison Square Garden, the crowds of people got thicker and thicker. By the time we passed Lord and Taylor, there was a swelling line of people waiting to look at the store windows. Fortunately for us, we were headed for CompUSA, so we just breezed on by. When we got there, it appeared as if everyone else had come and picked through all the merchandise. With the prevalence of computers at home, it's no surprise that there are a lot of people who buy computer products for their friends and family during the holidays. There is a dizzying selection of computer games on the shelves, as well as on the floor, including some newcomers such as "Tomb Raider II," "Riven," and "Jedi Knight." I was also impressed with the children's software section, probably the most extensive in the city. I watched as a little boy played one of the popular "Freddie the Fish" games created by Humongous Entertainment. Aside from the games, there are innumerable items in a wide range of prices that would be appropriate as a gift. Just remember to show the security guard the contents of your bag as you leave the store because they tend to get testy when you forget.

After an entire day of shopping, I finally made it to 57th Street. Normally, I prefer to stay away from the stores that comprise theme store central, as 57th Street is now known. However, when it comes to shopping for gifts, I have to admit, the mammoth stores found here can be quite useful. The Warner Brothers Store was teeming with customers, as usual. But, where else can you pick up a pair of silk Marvin the Martian boxers and Scooby slippers complete with a head and tail for each foot? Besides, everyone knows at least one person who is into collecting paraphernalia related to a specific WB character, right? Otherwise, this store wouldn't be as popular as it appears to be. Most of the merchandise inside this store is the standard assortment of theme store items. What did catch my eye was a section dedicated to bath products, such as Marvin the Martian liquid soap that smells of green apples, and other fun liquids that come in an plethora of colors and fragrances. If you've spent a day hauling your kids around on your shopping spree, this is definitely the store to bring them to perk them up and make them smile.

Another new entrant on 57th Street is the museum-scale Tourneau store. Despite the fact that there are several Tourneau's in a 10 block radius in this area, they have decided to set up shop here to compete with the other mega theme stores. This came as a surprise to me because the mega store image didn't quite mesh with the exclusive boutique feel that I have become accustomed to at its other stores. The Tourneau on this street is definitely more democratic in its selection of watch brands, with everything from Anne Kleins and Swatches to the Breitlings and Rolexes. Not only do they have one of the most impressive collections of high-end watches, they also have a watch museum where timeless timepieces are displayed as carefully as in any world-renowned museum. The collection certainly challenges the traditional interpretation of a watch. Another noteworthy section of this store is the rock climbing wall that is part of the sports watch department. When I was there, they were allowing customers to scale the small but challenging wall as others gawked at the spectacle. Aside from such eye candy, if you're thinking of buying a watch for someone, take into consideration the fact that Tourneau can clean and fix your timepiece in house. Definitely something department stores cannot provide.

Winding down the stretch of super-sized stores is the brand new Borders Bookstore, situated where the old Mitsukoshi used to stand. For those who bemoan the invasion of bookstore chains that are squashing the independents, consider Borders as the competition that Barnes and Nobles needs in order to prevent a monopoly on book selling in this city. The space Borders occupies is not conducive to a bookstore because it is rather cramped, but Borders attempts to overcome this with a rather comprehensive collection of books, periodicals, video, CDs, etc. The magazine section is noteworthy because it offers some trade magazines and obscure art magazines not available in most places. It also has a fairly impressive non-fiction section, especially the shelves upon shelves devoted to computer books. Alas, the fiction section is not much more than a rehashing of the New York Times best seller list. Although the Barnes and Noble in the Citicorp building just blocks away has a more expansive assortment of books, Borders does give it a run for its money if only because of its strategic location.

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