The other night I was feeling a little peckish after one of our less fulfilling dinnertime repasts, the dreaded Meatball Tray. They've got it half right — they are more or less spheroid, I just take issue with the claim that these balls ever contributed to any sort of mammalian constitution. For one, they are completely devoid of flavor. I realize that I do occasionally resort to hyperbole in the service of making a point, but the inability of these "meatballs" to elicit even the most perfunctory response from the taste buds is truly uncanny. Even inorganic things have a taste; toilet paper, for instance, tastes like toilet paper. You could identify it in a blind taste test. Try it with a GEO meatball, though, and you'll hear, "I don't know, sponge? Styrofoam? Wool?" Second, and most worrisome, is the texture. In cross-section you will see none of the striations, variations or irregularities one associates with animal tissue. It is as smooth and featureless as a Play-Doh meatball, and that is not right. I suspect it's something in the Soylent family. In a word, unsatisfying. One leaves the dinner table with a sense of having failed to fulfill one's mission. One seeks supplementary sustenance from that old prison standby, ramen noodles, but unfortunately the cupboard was bare.
"Bu-Dao!" I said to my neighbor, a sports fanatic and always good for a wager. "Warriors—Spurs. I got Golden State. One sopa." I didn't have the cheese to back it up, but he didn't know that and there was no way those creaky old pensioners were going to beat the Warriors again. Sure enough, Curry et al prevailed and I was up a soup. Well, if one was good, two was better, I concluded.
"Bu-Dao! Cut the deck! High card! One sopa!" I said.
"Oh, you done fucked up now, boy. I cut me some cards. Tonight you go hungry," Bu-Dao said.
I went first. Seven. Damn! Bu-Dao waggled his fingers over the deck and, grinning hugely, flipped up a… four! Victory! "You lucky, boy. That'll never happen again," he said.
Meatball crisis averted, I had a delicious noodle repast and all was well.
I'm not a "foodie" in the sense of being overly preoccupied with gustatory novelty and innovation, but I do appreciate a well-considered meal, skillfully prepared with fresh and tasty ingredients.
Like the tweaker's lunch I was enjoying one afternoon, on a bench on Redwood in Fort Bragg just east of Main Street, of little chocolate doughnuts and Gatorade. Gatorade, these days, comes in any number of flavors, colors, and styles, but I say go green or go home. OG Original Gatorade all the way. Not only is it delicious and a balm to the amphetamine-ravaged system, but the color — the unnaturally glowing hue of nuclear waste — exerts a profound psychological effect on the user. One imagines luminescent Gatorade molecules bonding with muscle tissue and blood cells, imbuing one with Hulkish properties.
The doughnuts were the cheap kind that leave a greasy film in your mouth, and the cold Gatorade caused it to congeal into a trans-fat crust coating me from gullet to gut. Mmm, mmm. Delicious.
As I snacked, one of the local DFDs (drop-fall drunks) came lurching and reeling around the corner across Redwood, clearly only moments away from presenting a parallel rather than perpendicular aspect of his person vis-a-vis the planet, i.e., falling flat on his face. Surprisingly, he seemed to recognize this imminence and carefully, if wobbily, sat down on the curb. He looked over at me and I waved with a doughnut-filled hand. His eyes lit up, as much as those clouded and bloodshot orbs could be said to generate any illumination, and he reached an arm out as if to accept a doughnut from me. Unfortunately, his aft quarter was unable to compensate for the sudden redistribution of weight and he toppled forward in the direction of his outstretched arm, face down into the gutter. Thinking it was as good a place as any to cease operations for the day, apparently, he remained where he was and commenced snoring like a blender full of machine bolts. I threw a doughnut in his direction and hollered, "Hey! You're gonna go to jay-yuul!"
No response. I fired another at him and it not only hit him in the head, but lodged in the tangled thicket crowning his addled melon. He came briefly to, rolling back to a sitting posish and patting his mop exploratorily in search of the offending missile. When he located the doughnut he extracted it, with some difficulty (one thinks of B'rer Rabbit in the briar patch), popped it whole into his mouth, and prostrated himself on the sidewalk, arms spread wide and face to the sky. No question, this unfortunate jabroni was going to be spending the night at Low Gap. I, being in the (for me) fairly rare condition of being warrantless, in good standing with my parole officer, and free of any drugs or paraphernalia littering my person, figured I'd stick around for what might prove to be an interesting show.
These fellows did not usually accept being roused with cheerful bonhomie, and the police department was not known for their gentle and solicitous manner of waking campers bivouacked on public thoroughfares. After several passers-by had minced carefully around the sidewalk hazard and one busy-seeming gent stepped blithely over him as if he were a fallen tree, a police cruiser pulled up. The cops got out and stood on either side of the recumbent figure, one speaking into his collar mic. They began prodding him tentatively with the toes of their tactical boots, provoking no response whatever.
The prodding increased in force and frequency, becoming decidedly more kick-like, until his eyes popped open and he unleashed a torrent of filth and gibberish at the officers. "Gar-fuggin-gammit-summitch-pigass-muhrfuggin leame a fuggalone, muhrfugger," he said, or something like it.
"Morning, sunshine!" one of the cops said. "Can you stand up?"
"Whadda fuck? You think I was fuckin' born down here? Course I can fuckin' stand up, ya fuggin azzles." Arms flailing, he struggled to a sitting position. Seeing me, he pointed an accusing finger in my direction and shouted, "Him! I'm pressin' charges on him. 'Sault. He knock me out with a dad-gum rock, I wunt sleepin’."
I burst out laughing and one of the officers walked over to me. "Any truth to that?" he asked.
"Look, I was just sitting here eating doughnuts when this cat came around the corner, sat down at the curb, and passed out. I threw a doughnut at him to try to wake him — which he ate— and prevent this happening. Check his head, all you'll find are doughnut crumbs."
The cop walked back across the street and asked the vagrant if he had any injuries. "Looka my damn head! I'm bleedin' all over the place!" he said, bending his head and digging his fingers into the snarled, matted (but unbloodied) skeins. If I had thrown a rock, I doubt it could have penetrated that thatch.
"You look alright to me, buddy," said an officer. "Here's the deal. If you can stand up and walk in a more or less straight line up to that alley, I'm going to let you disappear into that alley and forget I ever saw you. Otherwise, you're going to jail."
"I know my daggum rights," said the man on the ground, struggling to stand up. When he found his feet he stood there, wavering slightly, brushing himself off and lifting his chin in a reasonable approximation of dignity. "I accept your challenge, officers. And you, fuck you very much," he called to me before carefully toddling off down the sidewalk, to the officer's apparent satisfaction.
I thought about offering the two cops a doughnut, in appreciation for their humane and judicious manner of dealing with the Impediment to Progress and Blot Upon the Landscape, but realized in time that to a law-enforcement professional, these little gut-bombs were no more doughnuts than they were ais d'veau. Confectionery tori are the stock-in-trade of these gentlemen! You wouldn't offer a glass of Ripple to a wine aficionado, would you? Certainly not. Instead, I waved and bade them good day.
I finished my sack of lard pellets, upended the Gatorade, disposed of the refuse in a nearby receptacle, and, refreshed and restored, marched off into the impending twilight. I had a mission to fulfill, and whatever it might end up being, only the night would reveal.