In San Francisco, the words 'Phil Steele' conjure the image of a rugged, mustachioed bear making uncomfortably long eye contact with you in a men's room as you seek to exit without your hands contacting any surfaces, but in the rest of America he is known as the respected publisher of a preseason college football magazine.
Though, interestingly, Phil Steele actually resembles a mustachioed bear.
One would think acquiring this popular magazine would be easy, as it is in my native Austin, where it's available in grocery stores, book stores, gas stations, and municipal tap water. However, in my adopted San Francisco, the easy is often hard. And no, I'm still not on the bear thing. In a city I often defend to Texans, while defending Texas to my neighbors, I have no defense for this specific area of San Francisco's utter worthlessness.
After fruitless visits to two local book stores and a Safeway, we join our hero as he decides to let his fingers do the walking...
(That's the sound a phone makes!)
"Hello, do you have Phil Steele's college football preview magazine?" I enunciate each word for maximum comprehension, as if I were speaking to a Honduran domestic. Instead, I'm speaking to a hipster named Jonah.
"College review. Yes, we have Princeton Review. Top 100 colleges?"
"No. I am looking for a college football magazine. It is...a magazine." My attempt at further explanation ended in a surrender of descriptive vocabulary.
"I would call, like, ummmm, a Sporting Goods store? For sports things." Somehow from my reasonably clear request Jonah diagnosed me with a keen interest in a pup tent and an Alex Smith starter jersey.
"No worries, amigo. Thanks for your help."
I tried again.
"Hello, do you have Phil Steele's college football preview magazine?"
"College? Football?" Her voice reminded me of Diane Chambers from Cheers.
"Yes. College. Football."
"Hmm. Hmm. Hmmm. Oh my God! We have some of those. Come on in!"
"Wait, do you have Phil Steele specifically?"
"Oh, I don't know THAT." Her tone suggested I had asked her to spell the word 'electroencephalogram' while playing vagina kazoo.
"Can you look, please?"
"I will read the titles to you!" She was triumphantly helpful.
"Great! Let's do that."
I hear the sound of sensible shoes walking on industrial carpet.
"Ummmmkay. We have Fantasy's Football. Ath-el..on? ATH-EL-LAWN! ATH-LOAN? Pro Football...thing. Sport Illustration. The Peyton Manning. UFC: The Magazine..."
I stopped her. I had to ask.
"There is a magazine called The Peyton Manning?"
"It shows a football man and it says: Peyton Manning!!!"
"No Phil Steele?"
"Is he the...the...the...writer?"
I thought about what that meant. To be a writer.
"Yes. He actually writes like a self-promoting 5th grader and I have access to better advanced statistics, but I NEED IT. To have it. Just to...have."
I tried again.
"Hey, how it's going? Do you have Phil Steele's college football preview magazine?"
Her tone suggested that rather than inquire about a sports publication, I'd said: "Hello, I am an ardent pederast. Do you have children's beauty pageant magazines?"
I pressed on...
"Yes, college football."
She snorted loud enough to evict her nose ring.
"I wouldn't know anything about THAT."
Instead of asking her something she would know about, like drum circles or previous lives, I politely hung up.
I tried again.
This time, outside of the City, in a town called Emeryville. Going across the Bay Bridge is a concession, the bane of any true City dweller. Ideally, one should only go across the bridge to drive to Lake Tahoe or Yosemite. I was a beaten man.
"Phil Steele. College football. Have?"
"Let me check."
I waited, expecting her to return and berate me.
"We've got it."
"It was in the back. We haven't put them out because it's not the season yet."
I laughed like a maniac.
"Yes, I see. That makes sense."
"Would you like me to put one aside for you?"
Then I reconsidered. And smiled.
"Wait, don't put it aside. It'll be there when I get there."
She was puzzled.
"Are you sure?"
And it was.