“Hmm, do you have cola? No? I’ll have orange.”
I know that this is a trick question. It’s my sixth day in the USA and my first in sunny California. Usually when purchasing a snow cone/shaved ice concoction, I wouldn’t hesitate and head straight to the large.
“Medium,” I say smugly. I’m not falling for the Americanised sizing tricks. Well not again.
The pimply pizza boy puts in front of me a slice of greasy pizza, and what looks to be a large plastic dinner plate full of shaved ice (‘Platter’ might be a better word). That’s a medium?! I breathe out slowly, extremely glad I didn’t purchase the extra large. It may have come in a wheelbarrow.
I try effortlessly to pick up and carry the pizza slice and my pasta bowl full of shaved ice. I do not succeed in looking effortless, and within 5 metres I already have fluoro-orange ice and pineapple dripping down my shirt.
Plonking myself down on some grass I decide to tackle my meal, my thoughts drifting to the napkins I had ignored back at the pizza shop.
It was one of those moments when I was glad to be backpacking alone. What a sight I was, legs splayed, sticky fingered, mouth open, and my mountain of shaved ice tumbling all over me, and the grass. I was so engrossed in trying to eat everything before the ice melted and the pizza cooled, that it wasn’t until the last minute that I noticed the young Afro-American dude hurtling towards me on a bike. The wheels stopped at the edge of my feast.
“MOVE OVER BABY AND MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY!”
I look up. I blink. I am speechless, and have paused midway to mouth. What exactly does one say to that? (NB: I am not normally speechless. In fact I am never speechless. Good friends would say that I need to be speechless more often. But at that comment, I was speechless.)
“What are you eating? What’s that?” He motions at the snow cone, which is now all over the ground.
“Shaved ice?” I say in a small voice. How embarrassing. My first experience with Californian men and I look like a contestant in an all-you-can-eat competition.
“Is it nice?” Clearly my appearance isn’t bothering him. This fact bothers me.
“Not really. You can have it if you like.” I don’t expect him to have it, but I had lost my appetite. This happens a lot when I lose all sense and buy cheap takeaway meals.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Yes.” Of course, this is a lie.
“Where is he?”
“Back in Australia.” Lies, lies, lies. But as single girls know, lies can be saviours.
“Oh, shame, I was looking for a new girl,” he says disappointedly. He pauses reflectively, and I continue to blink at him. Finally he decides that this dinner date is over, and cycles off, with a few wheelies thrown in, no doubt to impress me.
I’m left in my pool of bad dining, and decide to bin the remaining kilograms of food and move on. I wander the boardwalk carefully, in case another eligible local decides to pull some moves.
The adventure had begun, welcome to Venice Beach!
(Note to self, no more American snow cones)
The tale of how a single female backpacker deals with some local American wildlife…