Playing Joe Cool

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS Last Straw Sullenger and me were walking. Just strolling around the corner, to Community Thrift, to see if they had some things. My list was long. But I was telling her, as we walked, about my football team — the "here" one — and how, after just three seasons, it was starting to come together for us. Two straight wins...

How a lot of our players who had never played football before are starting to really get it and kick ass, especially our quarterback.

"Great. That's great. Great," she was saying, and I looked up and saw Joe Montana walking toward us.

Now, I'm not one to generally even notice the presence of celebrity, let alone be moved by it; but in this case, I peed my pants.

Joe Montana, for you young, sports historyless 'uns, is not celebrity. He's Joe Montana. In the Mission, on the phone, jeans and a T-shirt, less balding and yes taller than I'd have figured, the oceanic eyes and that dimpled chin. In other words: swoon.

And .. . boom, he was past us, just like that, except Last Straw had to practically carry me the rest of the way to the thrift store.

Which isn't to say I shopped.

I mean, I did. I bought a strainer. But my needs were so much more. So much more than that.

Seeing Joe Montana in the Mission is addictive, turns out. All I could think about while we were looking at desks was getting back outside and possibly — who knows — seeing him again.

We did!! Joe Montana! Again! Ten minutes later, still talking on the phone, just standing there next to a telephone poll outside the barber shop on 18th and Valencia, where Circus McGirkus used to work. Iss.

And we walked on by, trying to act casual while fainting and peeing our pants and shit. Anyway, I was. I'm not sure Last Straw is quite the historical (to say nothing of hysterical) 49ers fan that I am. I was in high school when Joe Montana started his career, changing everything. Seriously: seeing him, seeing us going from last place to first in two seasons, it changed the way I played football. And it changed the way I lived life.

As for him, he just wanted a haircut, probably. Anyway, as we were passing, he got off the phone and walked into the barber shop.

"You should get his autograph," Last Straw said.

"On what? On my strainer?" I said.

I hate to bother people, let alone celebrities, let alone Joe Montana. But no one else was! Maybe no one else in the Mission is old enough or sporty enough to even know what Joe Montana looks like.

"Probably he'd get a kick out of it," Last Straw said. "His age."

I doubted this. But I said goodbye to her at her car, then ran to my apartment, changed my pants, swapped my strainer for a football and a Sharpie, and ran back out.

I had a better idea, I thought. I wouldn't ask for his autograph. I would ask him to throw me a pass. I would tell him I play wide receiver for a women's football team, imply that I had six months (or less) to live, and show him on my hand what I was going to do: Past the bus stop, fake left, and cut right toward the building. I'd look over my right shoulder as I made my turn, and the ball would be waiting for me.

I knew it would be there, having seen him play, many times, on TV and in person. It would be waiting for me. I would pull it in, and then, maybe, he would offer to sign it. Either way, I would live the rest of my life with a sense of having caught a pass from Joe Montana.

And, yeah, that would be enough.

Problem: He was gone. If it was a haircut he was after, his was the fastest one ever.

Ever since, I'm saying, I've been spending more time than usual on Valencia, with a football and a Sharpie in my bag. Did you notice that New Yorker Buffalo Wings is closed, and that signs on the windows point you toward Pizzeria, a few doors down? Earl Butter and I tried them. Meh.

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