I love the promenade at Venice beach for the same reason as I love Camden market in London. It’s busy, touristy and loud but it’s the colour that I love; the graffiti and greasy street food, the $5 jewellery and tacky printed t-shirts and tattoo shops with sticky floors. It’s the people most of all; faces full of piercings and arms full of bangles, walking, running, skating, shuffling; singing and muttering, shouting and hawking. Tourists with cameras obscuring their faces, kids with burger juice running over their wrists, drunks sleeping in the grass, muscle bound joggers and couples strolling hand in hand. The smell of salty chips, smoke and oil carried on the sea breeze, and music spilling out of doorways and swelling from the fingers and throats of buskers.
It is alive, bustling and diverse, a circus of performers, fortune tellers and street food vendors. For a people watcher like me it’s fascinating, and we spent a very content afternoon wandering up and down the promenade and hanging out on the beach, observing and photographing, exploring the cheap little shops and market stalls and eating grilled chicken kebabs out of tin foil wrapping.
But at the very end of this day at Venice beach – my last full day in America – disaster struck. Tired and happy, we were making our way back to the van, barefoot along the beach when I felt a tickle on my face, just below the left corner of my mouth, and put my hand up to scratch the itch. Suddenly, a bright hot pain exploded across my cheek. ‘Is there something on my face?’ I whimpered, not understanding, as Sutty turned to look at me.
‘Oh fuck’ he said, sand flying as he ran back to me and began futilely blowing in the direction of my face. ‘What is it?’ I wailed, hot tears tumbling from my eyes as I began to panic. Sutty brushed at my face hurriedly and his eyes widened further in horror. ‘WHAT IS IT?’ my voice straining now as the pain grew worse and the panic became hysteria, disregarding of the scared looking man on the sand next to us who was now regarding me warily like someone on a day out from a mental facility.
‘OK’, Sutty said in his trying-to-be-calm-even-though-this-is-a-shitter-of-a-situation-voice, ‘there was a huge, black wasp on your face. It’s stung you. I’ve got rid of it, but the sting’s still in your face. I’m going to have to suck it out’. ‘Oh…OK’ I sobbed, too shocked to disagree.
So that’s what happened. Sutty literally sucked wasp poison out of my face, on the beach, in the middle of the afternoon, whilst I cried and made stifled pained moaning noises to prove how brave I was (not). It’s possibly the only time I’ve ever thought that spending hours hanging off the side of a cliff is a good use of time; without his rock climber-survival-sting-removal skills it would probably still be in there.
Needless to say, the experience was not fun. Even less fun was the 22 hour plane journey the next day, during which my face swelled up like a grapefruit until I resembled a particularly unattractive swamp frog whilst numerous flight attendants gave me alarmed looks and tried to force feed me Benadryl.
So Venice beach is great. Moral of the story though, don’t let a wasp sting you in the face – it fucking hurts. And if you do, make sure you travel with someone who knows how to suck the poison out.