Dispatch from the Front

For every weird-ass subject you can think of, somebody published a magazine to serve those weird-ass fans.
  • For every weird-ass subject you can think of, somebody published a magazine to serve those weird-ass fans.

Next week, the Box will report what happened with Blair Cannon’s August 5 midnight swim from Catalina Island to the mainland and provide an update on Monarch School and what they plan to do with the money Blair hopes to raise. But, right now, the NFL requires all media to rev their motors and begin servicing the league. I don’t question why.

The NFL preseason kicks off next Thursday with five games. The showcase game is San Diego vs. Seattle at Qualcomm. Primetime ESPN.

In celebration, I thought I’d roll into the nearest chain bookstore and pick up an armload of NFL fantasy-football magazines, the big glossies that have every team’s stats, schedules, rosters, topped off with predictions on where each team will finish this season. I used to write this column on a somewhat annual basis, but it’s been six or seven years since I cranked one out, which means I’m due.

For me, fantasy-football magazines are strange and funny. Stories are submitted in March/early April, magazines are printed in the spring, traditionally go on sale at the beginning of June. Preview mags are packed with all the up-to-date news that the Pony Express can deliver.

No matter, I’m going, that’s decided. The next question is, who’s still in business? Let’s see, Crown Books and B. Dalton are history. Borders filed for bankruptcy last February and is currently being liquidated. Barnes & Noble is being tracked on the Eco-Libris B&N bankruptcy index. That’s a 0-to-100-point index scale based on ten factors (stock performance, what analysts say, competitors, financial strength, and so on). More points is better. Scoring 90 to 100 means B&N is in excellent shape. The bottom, 49 and below, means bankruptcy is just around the corner. This week, Barnes & Noble sits in the 50-to-59 zone, which means, according to Eco-Libris, bankruptcy is a clear and present danger.

But, hey, they’re open today and I’m willing to bet someone will be there when I arrive. Still, I have some concern. If B&N is in business, do they still carry magazines?

This is what I liked about going to a chain bookstore. It always made me smile to stand before magazine racks. There were mags on everything from bowling to kitchen floors to antique motor homes. Seemed like, for every weird-ass subject you can think of, somebody published a magazine to serve that topic’s weird ass-fans.

There is something about having a magazine printed, then having it transported, then having it stacked on magazine shelves, then having anonymous people come into the store, peruse magazines, stop, stand still, and think, That’s the one for me. I’ve made a special trip to get here, and I’m going to buy that magazine, take it home, put it in my hands, finger it, turn the pages, and let myself be taken away. What’s fun is all that auxiliary stuff. You don’t get that on the internet, and I’m quite sure Barnes & Noble would agree.

There’s a good crowd here today. I see Bible Study Magazine is placed next to Sacred Hoop Magazine, “A circle of Wisdom, Shamanism & Earth Spirituality since 1993.” Articles include, “Facing Fear with San Pedro Cactus.”

A sign catches my eye: “Customer Favorites.” Nintendo Power is placed on top of the rack. There’s World Soccer. There’s Health Magazine, featuring “Your Best Body Ever: Flat Belly, Firm Butt, Lean Thighs.” Camping Life Magazine, “Truck to Camper.” “Camp Guitars Make the Music Travel with You.” And, of course, Bridal Guide Magazine. Now comes, O, The Oprah Magazine, Self, and let’s give a shout-out for More, “For Women of Style and Substance.”

I see there’s been a severe thinning of the ranks in the computer-magazine section. I doubt if there are ten different titles. Photography magazines have been decimated, way down from seven years ago. Here’s a mag I haven’t seen before: 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, which is shelved close to Tattoo Society Magazine. A blurb on the cover says, “From California Good Fellas Tattoo One of the Masters of Black & Grey Steve Soto.” Finally, the sports section. Regard, Kung Fu Magazine. It’s crammed with articles; two are especially relevant: “Double Chain Whips” and “Escaping Buddha’s Palm.” I see football has taken a hit, too, or B&N has sold out some titles. I count three titles in stock.

I’m quite sure Barnes & Noble would agree when I say the following is unscientific; it’s one day, one man, one store, and, therefore, can’t be taken seriously. Saying that, the magazines and the store had a slightly shoddy look, as if all the humans and magazines were printed on cheap paper. Everything looked middle-aged.


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