As a past president of the San Francisco Association of Realtors, one of the things that fascinated me most during my presidency was how interested people were in my personal stories. So I wanted to start the year off by telling you a story about myself. If you’re reading this, you might be considering hiring me or someone else around here as your agent, so it’s a story aimed squarely at you.
Have you ever wondered if your Broker was truly interested in selling you an okay home right now, or the right home later on? This is a story I might once have told you about myself while I drove you around the city and we looked at homes together if you had a look on your face that suggested you might just be thinking the former about my brokerage.
I met my future husband in the summer of 1997, and by the fall of 1998 we had relocated to the suburbs of the east coast and moved in with each other, in time for our first Christmas “together.” To really appreciate this story, you need to understand that we were still very much in the getting to know you phase of our relationship. I can say that easily with 20+ years of hindsight, but at the time there was just so much he didn’t know about me.
In brainstorming his gift list, Brian made an off-hand comment about wanting some Abercrombie & Fitch calendar. It wasn’t a major desire, some gift he couldn’t live without, but he sounded intrigued. It would be an easy relationship builder to remember to grab one.
I had this mental image of some cheap-ish 12×12 calendar printed-on-paper that was designed to last just a day longer than a year and printed for pennies to be sold for $4.95. In short, I filed this away as a corporate-gimmick-shameless-advertisement to be grabbed on the way out of the suburban mall after having purchased the real gifts.
So I popped into the Abercrombie store on the way out of the Springfield mall in northern Virginia a few days before Christmas and asked for a copy of the calendar. Because there weren’t stacks of them lying around the registers. This was 1998, people.
America still shopped at the mall and Amazon just sold books, the paper kind, and getting those in the mail after you clicked a button on your desktop computer screen without having to go to a bookstore seemed like a fucking miracle.
The clerks looked at each other with that look that says “this poor stupid bas*&%$” and said they were out. But that another nearby mall in Fairfax County might have one or two. And I was a bit incredulous that they could be out already. I mean, WTF right?
At this point, the clerk’s look transforms to one of pure schadenfreude as he described to me the 1999 limited-edition Abercrombie & Fitch calendar. This was a huge-format 36″ (?) heavy paper-stock calendar shot by none other than Bruce Weber. Yes, that Bruce Weber. The incredibly famous photographer who, back in 1998, had yet to deal with 2017 problems. And it wasn’t retailing for $4.95.
Tail between my legs, I was dejected but not out by a long shot. Abercrombie boys weren’t my thing, but I wanted the relationship cred for catching an off-hand remark and doing something thoughtful with it. And I thought I was hunting down a calendar by the photographer who shot the Janet Jackson video for Love Will Never Do Without You. I love that song and video to this day. But Herb Ritts made the video for Janet Jackson, not Bruce Weber. And only in my mind does Herb Ritts sound vaguely remotely similar to Bruce Weber.
I had a relationship to build, though, so now my mind was fixed on that calendar. I headed out to the next mall they suggested, someplace else in Fairfax County that was farther away, but suburbia. Oh, how I don’t miss living in suburbia. I pointed the trusty Ford Taurus (the egg-shaped one, it was 1998!) towards the next mall.
I arrived at mall #2 with my game face on, and headed straight for that calendar.
They were out. Most everyone was out. Limited Edition…
But the clerks had heard rumors. That some of the bigger stores got the most stock. In the DC area, that meant Tysons Corner in Maryland or back towards DC proper and Pentagon City. If you’ve ever been to Tyson’s Corner in Maryland, it’s a mall’s mall. Enormous. Oversized. Two of everything. But not one Abercrombie & Fitch Bruce Weber limited edition 1999 calendar.
Which left one final opportunity – the Pentagon City mall.
Lucky? Sure. That’s one way to describe it.
Tenacious is another.
I didn’t even bother wrapping it or hiding it, I just walked in with my Abercrombie & Fitch trophy like a set of antlers ready to be mounted on the wall. But.
There was no way Brian would abide any damage to this calendar. So we found a way to appreciate that calendar all through 1999 while waiting for the Y2k bug to wipe out our digital existence because who could possibly imagine the need for a year that wasn’t hardcoded, to begin with the digits “1” and “9” as in 19xx? A broken clock is still right twice a day.
And when the year was over and the world didn’t crash, the calendar was stored safely away in its original protective box. Where it has quietly endured decades of moves from one coast to the other and from home to home to home in San Francisco. And within those homes, it has been ignored from one corner to the next, shoved under beds or stored in other undignified but remarkably protective conditions.
I tell you all of this because, over the holidays, my mother-in-law was in town organizing my house. I’d forgotten about the calendar. Out of sight, out of mind. Memories buried for 20 years came flying back as I took it out of the box, set it on the dining room table and explained to both my daughter and my mother-in-law the story of how the 1999 Abercrombie & Fitch calendar came to be stored so ingloriously in our home.