Photo via Flickr user geishabot

Melting Like a Shave Ice in the Hot Summer Sun

I spotted the "HAWAIIAN SHAVE" sign from down the street and pulled into the gas station. The plastic seat cover from the spa, which had adhered to my skin with an admixture of spray/sweat, ripped as I exited the truck.

May 1 2016, 4:00pm

Photo via Flickr user geishabot

Welcome to Stranger Than Flicktion, our Flickr-inspired column. We provide writers with five random food-related Flickr images and ask them to construct a fictional short story in under five days. In this edition, we hit the audition circuit under the influence of shaved ice.

I'm about as jaded as anybody when it comes to show business, but every once in a while—just every once in a blue moon—I'll really put on the dog for one of my auditions.

Usually it's a matter of adding a small something to your outfit to dial in the character's identity perfectly. If they're looking for a nerdy office type, I'll stop by the drug store for a pair of $7.99 reading glasses. Or maybe it's an industrial for Turtle Wax, so I'll do a Pendleton with some American-made 501s, maybe a Leatherman clipped to my belt. Mr. Kool Aid? Well, I've never auditioned for Mr. Kool Aid. Though I'm sure I'd relish the chance.

My glove box is filled with lapel flowers, pendants, pocket squares, bolo ties, various socks and stockings, and a full-on suit of neon cycling spandex. You may think I'm bragging, but I'm not. It's called being professional.

But for a working actor—even one such as myself, who knows how to accessorize—the gigs will always come and go, and I hadn't booked a job in months when I got the call for Mr. Nice's Shave Ice. It was a scorching hot afternoon last July. I was was re-watching the first season of Orange Is the New Black and eating a pint of Chunky Monkey when out of nowhere my phone chirped at me from beneath a pile of the outdated yet unread New Yorker magazines that I use as coasters.

Photo via Flickr user vic15

Photo via Flickr user vic15

Job: Mr. Nice's Shave Ice Role Name: Guy Lounging In Speedo By Pool Usage: Local, internet Attire: Speedo or similar bathing suit. Spray tan if you can. Role Details: "Average Joe" type. DEFINITELY not someone who spends a ton of time at the gym (no six-packs). Would like to see some awkward-looking CHUBBY guys for this role. They will be in a speedo. Script: No lines Conflicts: Ice cream/frozen desserts

There's always a question of, how far are you willing to go for this role? "Spray tan if you can"? Like I said, I hadn't booked a job in half a year. Spray tanning was not optional for this guy—I was going to book this thing.

Photo via Flickr user Daniel Oines

Photo via Flickr user Daniel Oines

My audition was scheduled for that afternoon at 5:40. Just enough time to get a quick spray, pick up a Speedo, maybe a few simple aquatic accessories, and make it to the casting place.

Mr. Nice's Shave Ice is a local boutique shave ice thing that deploys a small fleet of trucks around LA every summer. Its Twitter account revealed that a truck would be posted up for the afternoon at a nearby gas station where the company had (ironically, I think?) posted a sign reading, "HAWAIIAN SHAVE." I scrolled through some photos on Twitter and found that they were currently running a special—three-flavored shave ice topped with a dollop of soft serve. It was called the "I'm Mr. Nice." I had to say, it looked delicious, and refreshing. The afternoon temperature was rising into the 90s. Already my brow was starting to sweat.

The tanning spa smelled like soy sauce—in a good way. Behind the front desk, I found a cheerful, slight young lady with a tight bun of dyed-blue hair. Tacked on the wall behind her, inexplicably, was an unsigned black-and-white Kevin Nealon headshot.

She escorted me to a small pod the size of a phone booth. Upon entering, she opened her arms out, as if to accept a really big hug—modeling the first of a couple postures I was to assume during the two-part spray process. She furnished me with a shower cap to wear during my treatment, and an oversized Ziplock bag, the kind you'd use to brine turkeys, "for your clothes," she said.

"What should I do with my hands?" I asked. She laughed.

The spray tan gave me the opportunity to think about my accessorizing for the Mr. Nice audition, and plan a bit for the rest of the day. There was kind of a lot I could do and I had my work cut out for me. When the spray shut off, I heard the girl's voice calling to me through the door.

"Now you just wait another 15 minutes before putting on your clothes," she said. "The spray has to set."

I hadn't accounted for this in my schedule calculations. In fact, I'd already spent too much time on the spray. Even if I left that moment, I realized, I'd probably have to skip my trip to the thrift store for my wild card accessory purchase. "I'm coming out early," I told her.

"How do I look?" I asked upon appearing in the lobby.

"Like the sun!" she cooed.

We both laughed, then hugged. I tipped 20 percent, and accepted the complimentary full-sized disposable plastic seat guard, and then we hugged again.

Photo via Flickr user Rusty Clark

Photo via Flickr user Rusty Clark

I didn't have AC in the truck and it was starting to really heat up. It was also starting to smell like soy sauce. I rolled down the windows for some circulation.

I hit some red lights on the way to the scuba shop and started to perspire a bit from my brow. I found a wad of napkins stuffed under the truck bench from an old Zankou Chicken order and dabbed at my forehead and under my eyes as the beads of sweat appeared. The spray seemed to be holding up.

Still, I knew I'd have to be quick at the scuba shop. Unfamiliar with Speedo shopping, I was surprised to be invited to just try them on. No ground rules really. I guess I assumed such an intimate garment would remain vacuum-sealed until the moment of purchase. Anyhow, they were all ridiculously small. The first pair I tried on was a large, and I attempted to halt it around mid-thigh—but it was already too late. I'd gotten some spray tan on the Speedo. Frustrated, I hurriedly shucked them to the floor. I found a larger pair and pulled them on. Fewer issues this time, but some of the orange spray from my inner thighs did wipe off onto the exterior of the blue Speedo. Hoping to avoid further spray/Speedo wardrobe malfunctions, I decided to wear these out. I paid for both spray-smudged Speedos.

Pulling out of the scuba shop, the afternoon sun was streaming straight through the truck's windshield. I started to sweat again. Checking my tan in the rearview, I saw that a single bead of perspiration had tracked a line down my forehead, terminating at my right eyebrow. I dabbed at it with the Zankou napkins, but the damage had been done, streaking a tiny rivulet of sweat across my orange face. My spray tan was starting to melt.

At this point the traffic was holding me up. There would be no time to get Teva's. Luckily, I had a pair of flip-flops in the truck as well as an old baby-blue plush bathrobe. And I had picked up a set of mirrored goggles at the scuba shop. I figured I was still looking pretty good, accessory-wise. How many other guys could have actually gotten sprayed? And I still had time to grab a final, crucial accessory—my own cup of Mr. Nice's Shave Ice.

I spotted the "HAWAIIAN SHAVE" sign from down the street and pulled into the gas station. The plastic seat cover from the spa, which had adhered to my skin with an admixture of spray/sweat, ripped as I exited the truck. Unfazed, I pulled the robe over my shoulders, grabbed my wallet, and trotted across a dead-grass lot adjacent to the Mobil station to where the shave ice truck was parked.

Photo via Flickr user Bob Keefer

Photo via Flickr user Bob Keefer

I waited in line for eight stressful minutes.

A blasé-looking man in an loose-fitting Nike shirt, bug-eyed glasses, and a ball cap took my order.

"One 'I'm Mr. Nice,' please."

"That'll be $4.75," he said, producing a baseball-sized sphere of yellow- and red-dyed shave ice nestled in a short styrofoam cup with a swirl of soft serve on top. I received the cup gingerly, like a sacrament, and passed up my credit card. The man made like he was going to take it, and then in one motion gestured in a "this guy!" kind of way toward a small sign posted behind him in the truck.

"Sorry, bro," he said. "Cash only."

It was time to cut my losses.

"Sell it to somebody who has cash then," I said, pushing the shave ice back up on the counter and turning back toward my truck. "I've got an audition to get to."

Photo via Flickr user geishabot

Photo via Flickr user geishabot

Looking in the truck's rearview, I saw that tan-wise, things had gone from bad to worse. I'd been getting pretty steamy in the robe, and my forehead was now streaked with multiple sweat lines. I run hot, and flush easily. Dark continents of red were blooming on my neck amid the streaky orange spray tan. I shimmied out of the robe and kept my back at a 45-degree-angle posture away from my truck's pleather seats as I drove, in a posture that reminded me of a man who used to take my carpool to middle school.

It was 5:38 by the time I pulled into the casting office's surface parking lot. I only had time to make a last assessment of my appearance. I balled up the robe and used it to wipe down my face, diluting the spray tan into a mellow orange gouache. Face/body skin tones were no longer consistent. Oh well.

I pulled the mirrored goggles on, taking once last look into the rearview in an attempt to steel myself. "Let's do this," I whispered, as if in prayer.

I pushed the robe into the passenger's side and stepped outside wearing nothing but a Speedo, off-brand Speedo mirrored goggles, and dollar store flip-flops. I strutted deliberately toward the casting office doors and, with a deep breath, pushed my way into the waiting room inside.

Cool air syphoned wafted over me as the doors swung closed. It felt really nice. Wearing the mirrored goggles—and still reeling as I was from the bright sun outside—my eyes were taking a while to adjust, so I wasn't able to see the looks that I must have been fetching from other actors and casting company employees in the waiting room. People were probably staring. I was hoping they were.

I felt a single bead of sweat slowly drip from my brow down my forehead, over the goggles, and then down to the tip of my nose, where it hung precariously, trembling with every inhale and exhale I counted off. I did not flinch.

"Mr. Nice's Shave Ice?" I heard a voice ask, from across the room.

"That's me," I said.