Director, Sum wife and Westwood Block resident Nzinga Kadalie wrote what lazy writers call a ‘scathing diatribe’ of our neighborhood 88 Cents & More store where nothing is 88 cents. Palms Weekend (food) critic Janet Dandridge also chimed in with her 88c experience with the story, slated for print today. However, at some point this year while we were cracking blunts and overcooking pasta, the ‘88’ was apparently renamed the ’99 Cents And Up’, as a cursory glance at the store wall revealed this morning. Here’s the story, with Janet’s pre-99c rant preserved because it’s funny.

NZINGA SAYS:  Whether you like it or not, it used to be if you live on the Westwood block, the 88 Cents & More store is not only a necessity but an experience. Even down to the name -- everything in the store is definitely worth almost exactly 88 cents, but best believe you pay MORE, as the store’s title once implied. I used to think of it surcharge for the experience. But now, they've actually decided to be realistic...and change the friggin' sign to actually reflect what we've known for years, but what they apparently just found out that the shit is 99 cents and UP.
SO..in light of them getting with the program and being frank with their clientele... This is in memoriam of the store we, the Westwood Block dwellers, once knew as The 88. Let’s journey back in time to a couple of weeks ago when the 99 & Up Store was the still The 88....

We casually stroll past the candy machines that dispense aluminum Barbie handcuffs in plastic bubbles and spools of vinyl table wrap with floral indentations that I’d imagine house ancient braille prophecies, into the back of the store. To your right: dusty plastic brooms. To your left: crusty plastic sunflowers with imitation water droplets. Ah, you’ve just officially entered The 88. 
Depending on if we’re there on a Wednesday or a Sunday, you’re either gonna be greeted by the trashy yet pleasant Pakistani man who projects slight spittle while simultaneously catcalling to chicks and screaming in Urdu to his homie, who lives on the other end of a phone (understand this dude is going to have get his cordless phone surgically removed from his ear). He is truly gifted. Or, you get the LADY, who looks like the missing Indian South Park character. She really is the missing link to the show. Someone should tell her, so she doesn’t have to follow us around the store with her eyes. Please note, although they sell hundreds of different kinds of calling cards, neither of these people can tell you which one you can buy to call Trinidad.

We greet them with a smile or evil stare - whichever is appropriate - and keep moving, toward the reason I wanted to share this experience in the first place...

We bear left, and there, directly in front of you, is one of the best-kept secrets of Palms: the best fragrancing options this side of Overland. Incense. Champa of all varieties. YOGA champa. NIRVANA champa. MONEY champa. And my favorite of all...DRAGON'S BLOOD champa. Super cheap. This, for people who appreciate smells, is a dream come true. Right here on the block. For those who don't really do incense, this part of the experience doesn't really pertain to you. Vons has tropical varieties of Febreze on sale right now. That's the best I can do for you. But for those of you who do... Usually, whatever Champa you're in the mood for, the 88 Cents & More Store had it, surprisingly. I wouldn’t have recommended the 88 experience for many things, i.e. sponges or baby wipes or perfume, but admittedly The 88 Cents & More Store had been fragrancing my apartment since 2007. But now I guess the 99 Cents & Up store will have to do.

JANET SAYS: For real, the store is great, yet full of shit. I'm saying, seriously, enough people lie to me already about what they can and can not do, what is true and what is not true, and then these folks at that store just rub it in my face! So many businesses advertise falsely to get people in their store and get away with it! If you say that everything in your store is 88 freakin' cents, then why is the cheapest item 99 cents? Come on, for real??!! They know that they can get away with it because it's within walking distance to folks who really need to get stuff out of the cheap store.

Look, if I need a toothbrush, I go there. If I need panty liners, I go there. If I need fabric softener sheets, I go there. If I need some caffeine, I go there. If I need shoelaces, I go there. If I need a board to write ‘Car Wash’ on, I go there. They literally have everything you need, even though the items are off-brand and usually don't have as much longevity as stuff in other stores. It's very convenient for many things - but still, "you ain't got to lie Craig!" (I have no idea where that quote is from, but it seems appropriate) And then what makes it a lil' more bothersome is that the dude who's at the counter always says, "Hey baby," and in my head, I'm always like, "OMG, if this dude says that ish to me one more time, I am going to hurt him." But really after saying that in my head a few times, I actually translated it to him like this, "What up fool (ha ha ha - like it was a joke, but I was serious)," with a big smile on my face. Now he only uses that "hey baby" line every one in a while - I guess when he's feeling the spirit.

Moving on to that lady in the store - me and her weren't getting along too well because she just disregards you the entire time you're in the store. One day, I said hello really loud with a huge smile on my face. I think the impact of the hello and the big smile made her think I might be crazy because from that day to present, she is oh so pleasant to me. She even puts my change in my hand! All in all, the 99 cents store - oh, my bad - the 88 cents store is a necessity for the block, and I appreciate them. I just wish they wouldn't lie to me yo, fo' real.

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