Fight Back...With Maltballs
Radical kindness has reared its benevolent yet ineffectual head once again. At dinner tonight, I sat tight-lipped while Sandra Bullock and the Jawa explained how, in the book "Hoot," which they are reading for their mother-son reading group, the protagonist should NOT have punched the bully in the nose.
So I guess we won't be screening "My Bodyguard" anytime soon.
Let me tell you something: when I was ten years old, new to Orange County and getting the crap beat out of me by Earnest, #1 bully at Riverdale Elementary, I tried to mix in a little reasoning while fending off blows. Either Earnest was hard of hearing or I wasn't using the right strategy, because whatever I said made absolutely no difference. In fact, it might have made him even more angry.
I have never struck back, not in my life, save for that time I beat up John Rock and his older brother in kindergarten and when I fought to a draw with Tommy "Fat Slob" Villano in 4th grade, and I can't help but think that maybe if I'd sat up and popped old Earnest, maybe he would have backed off a little.
As it was, it didn't matter, because within days I transferred out of that school to one full of dorks and weirdos just like me. I left without saying goodbye to anyone. Didn't even clean out my desk.
I'm sure that Earnest -- who, I've got to admit, seemed a little unbalanced and frankly, not too bright -- went on to an unexamined life. Meanwhile, I continue my search for the perfect maltball.
On that subject, amidst today's pro-immigration protests, I discovered a second source for the best maltballs in the world. Previously, I found them only at the old, trying-to-be-upscale grocery store by the Jawa's school. At $3.99 a pound, they're bigger and more chocolatey than the gourmet jobs found in bulk at organic food stores and Andronico's. Granted, those maltballs do contain a much more flavorful malt center, but at $6.99 a pound I'm priced out of the market, even though I usually only buy 8 or 9 balls at a time.
Why do I buy only 8 or 9 balls at a time? Because if I eat all of them. If I bought 80 or 90 balls, I'd eat all of them. We all have our own coping strategies.
On the corner of Valencia and 24th Street, in the hipster quadrant of the Mission, there is a non-descript market trying to look organic. It is no more organic than the liquor store across the street, but it has a green awning and bulk grains. It must be working, because every time I go there, the store is full of young white people.
At this point, I can tell which stores are likely to have maltballs. They usually have green awnings. You can buy expensive soda there, but not a regular Coke. The larger of these stores often sell very interesting soup. Valencia Street is lousy with stores packed with the food of the righteous, but they usually only sell maltballs of the $6.99 variety. In fact, I'll swear that I've bought $6.99 maltballs at this very store in the past. Not this time.
Since I was not in my car, I could not honk if I supported immigration. Instead, I entered the store and went straight for the bulk foods. There, uncomfortably wedged between the yogurt pretzels and some kind of nut were the maltballs. I'll admit that I shoved past some sandal-clad guy who was eyeing the fake Rice Krispies bin. In doing so, did I exhibit worse behavior than the all-natural fiber-clad grad student I later heard dropping f-bombs on her cell phone in the library? According to the annoyed librarian, no.
A nondescript sign described them as "chocolate malt balls." Underneath the sign were the magic numbers: $3.99 per lb. I looked into the bin and noticed that they were larger than normal. In fact, they were the exact size of the Holy Grail maltballs.
My heart began to beat faster. I shoved Sandal Boy out of the way, reached into the bin with the plastic scoop and pulled out exactly 9 maltballs. Then I paid my $1.06 and tore into the first maltball.
Instantly, I felt the satisfaction previously only felt at the Parkview Market. It put a little spring into my step, one to rival even that of the hipsters draped in the green, red and white of the Mexican flag who were flooding the sidewalk, shouting slogans and waving signs. Nowhere else in the city had I found these particular maltballs; not at Safeway, not at the gross candy place in the Stonestown Mall, not even at the bulk-heavy Mill Valley Market. Only at the Parkview and here, at the corner of 24th and Valencia, a half-block from the library, where I would now go, free to browse the new books shelf while popping wonderful maltballs in my mouth every few minutes.
I don't ask for much. I ask for the Earnests of the world to leave me alone, even though they know I won't fight back. I ask for my child to understand that radical kindness may not be the most effective approach for each and every situation. And I ask for multiple locations where I can get top-flight malted milk balls at $3.99 a pound.