It All Started with Sunscreen

Gaby is my crazy Brazilian friend. (If you do not have one of these in your life, it is second only to having a gay best friend.) We met in Fiji and it is somewhat of a miracle that we are such good friends as our encounter started with her lecturing me about not wearing sunscreen. Because of my extremely pale complexion I am often asked if I am from Canada, Alaska, Seattle, or any other convenient place where there is little sunshine. Anytime we go somewhere that even has a hint of sunshine, people become extremely concerned about my super-whiteness and over the years countless well-meaning people have advised me about the importance of sunscreen. I know all you melanin-enhanced folks out there are just trying to help, but please trust me that I wear copious amounts of the stuff. How do you think I stay this pale? Truthfully, I only come in two skin tones – burnt and pale. I have suffered the consequence of going out without sunscreen enough times to now be deeply committed to my sunscreen regimen. I use obscene amounts of sunscreen, and can go through an entire can in a single poolside outing. Given my own obsessiveness in this matter, it gets to be tiresome when the umpteenth person in a row says something like, “Oh my God, I hope you are wearing sunscreen.” And adding a charming Brazilian accent does not actually make it any more charming.

So, poolside in Fiji, Gaby says to me in a charming Brazilian accent, “Oh my God, I hope you are wearing sunscreen.” I sigh and reply that indeed I am wearing sunscreen. Fast forward to the next day and I remain my pasty self and Gaby has suffered such severe sunburn that they have to call the resort medicine man in to treat her. She was not actually wearing sunscreen. I did not realize it then, but this was the start of a beautiful friendship. Aside from that encounter we did not interact much in Fiji, but our two traveling groups somehow merged into one and we left the trip exchanging everyone’s email addresses.

Gaby sent out a few messages and I believe even sent me a Christmas card that first year. She sent out a broadcast invite for people to come to her home in Carmel for a gourmet dinner she was preparing. I knew she was a chef, but little did she know that I needed little to no excuse to jump on a plane and fly to CA for a weekend full of fine dining. We replied with an enthusiastic yes to the invite and we were even welcomed to stay with her and her husband, Carlos, although somehow we did not have any more contact until we showed up at their doorstep the day of the dinner. I would come to learn that this is often how things work with Gaby. The details sort themselves out and it’s often best just to plunge ahead into whatever is in front of you.

From there, we became the kind of friends who spend long hours in deep and meaningful conversation when we are together, and often otherwise go months without talking. When we see each other, the conversation picks right back up where it left off, and here we are still talking and laughing together 10 years later.

We flew down for a visit this weekend with no agenda other than to see a little sunshine and enjoy their company. Most of the weekend was very relaxing with a bike ride along Monterey Bay, watching movies, and generally catching up. We did decide to go to a local restaurant, 1833, for drinks and appetizers.

On the way home, we drove past an Asian massage parlor that was advertised as open until 11pm. This was not in a shady section of town, in fact it was just a few blocks from where we stopped to get some frozen yogurt… Gaby thought this was fascinating and decided that we needed to determine whether this was one of those establishments that offers more ‘gentleman’s services’ than it does massage. So, we drive around the block and pulled up in front of the place in their black Mercedes. (If you are going to go to a massage parlor of dubious reputation, you might as well arrive in style.) Gaby orders Brian to go inside, check it out, and report back. He hesitates and decides he is not so sure of this mission, so Carlos agrees to go with him and off they go. A few minutes later they re-appear, hop back in the car and we make a speedy exit. “So..?” Gaby asks. Brian and Carlos confirm that indeed they could have gotten far more than the standard issue massage and in fact the lady behind the door (no reception desk in the waiting area, just a door with a little window that the ‘receptionist’ looks out through) told them to come back in an hour, well after closing, and they would be ‘taken care of.’ Gaby wants to know how much it costs for these extra services, but in their haste the boys forgot to ask. Gaby is indignant that they went all they way into this place and failed to find out the most important piece of information that people were sure to ask when she shared this news – the price.

I would love to say this is an unusual event for a trip to see Gaby, but really, it is pretty much par for the course. Things go along quietly and suddenly at 11pm on a Saturday night, it is imperative that we learn whether and how much the nefarious local massage parlor charges. (Once, I made the mistake of telling Gaby that it’s bad luck to give a knife as a gift without getting a penny in exchange so we had to venture out to a friend’s house at midnight to get said penny before they were on a flight early the next day.)

Sunscreen comments aside, how can you not love a person who drags you to massage parlors in the middle of the night just to find out if they are actually the other kind of parlor?  The answer is you can’t, and really, why would you want to..?

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2 Comments on “It All Started with Sunscreen”

  1. Lorna harris says:

    I got a huge kick out of this story. What a wonderful friendship!


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