My back got sunburnt on Tuesday. Not so much towards the bottom, but across both shoulder blades and atop my shoulders. The upper part, I think it’s called the thoracic region. It’s my own fault. I went to the beach without sun block.

Larry David once said that Jews bought 85% of the sun block in the world, but he failed to include the Irish in that assumption. Or those of Irish descent for that matter. We’re fair-skinned. Now no medical literature will tell you to stay inside during a sunny day if you’re of Irish descent, but they will tell you that people at most risk of harmful UV rays and sun burn are “people with fair skin, red or blonde hair, blue or green eyes and freckles.” Let’s see. Fair skin, check. Blue eyes, check. Freckles, check. I score three out of four, so most of the time, I take caution and wear sun block. In fact, it’s something I’ve been really great at since the phrase “Celtically challenged” entered the vernacular courtesy of Ted Leo circa 2004, whom was also at the beach when he initially coined the term.

To be honest, we weren’t at the beach very long, and for the most part, I was in the water and not trying to readily get a tan. But it still happened. Tuesday night, I could feel the heat of my blood rushing to my sunburnt skin to work its healing magic, and by Wednesday, my back was sore. No problem I thought; it was bearable. I figured it would be fine without any special attention, and so I went about my days.

By Thursday, the temperatures (and the humidity) were climbing. At around 6 pm, I went riding my bike. My back was sore to the touch, but wasn’t exactly keeping me from being myself. Then something bad happened. On account of the humidity, I started perspiring more than usual. And as soon as the minerals, lactate and urea from the sweat hit the affected sunburnt area, my back went up in flames. Literal fire. To make matters worse, this wasn’t a gradual building fire. It started suddenly and painfully, forcing me to dump cold water into an extra t-shirt and drape it over my back, carefully rubbing it back and forth. But as soon as I stopped this exercise, the biting, stinging fire returned.

Panic mode took over. I had two options. Get the fuck home and jump in the shower, which sounds pretty easy, but I was far from home, at the bottom of a very big hill and in no shape to perspire even more from riding up the hill. The second option, well, I didn’t even consider it an option on account of the fire emanating from my back, was to run into a nearby supermarket and hope for an entire aisle of products dedicated to sunburn relief. I didn’t really weigh my options; I just went with number two. My only problem, of course, was that I forgot to bring my lock with me. So instead, I rolled my bike right in with me, found the first aid aisle, zeroed in on the Solarcaine First Aid Medicated Spray and Cool Aloe Burn Relief, grabbed both, ran to the self check out, dropped $12 and got the hell out of there. As soon as I exited the store, I grabbed the spray and aimed it over both of my shoulders, firing it in a downwards motion. And instantly, the fire was extinguished. It was the fastest I’ve ever been in and out of a supermarket. Probably the fastest anyone in the history of the world has ever been through a self check out aisle, which by and large treats each customer as if they’re at a second grade reading level.

There’s a select group of never-agains in my life; J├Ągermeister, American Idol, church and Air France, now joined by sunburn. I never want to deal with the fire of damaged nerves that erupted on my shoulders yesterday. And because of that, I’m turning the SPF up a few notches on my next sun block purchase…

On a side note, I don’t have any photos of my sunburnt back, but I do have the following gem. It’s post-cupping massage. Massage cupping is a modified version of “cupping therapy,” which has been used extensively in Chinese medicine for several thousand years. By creating suction and negative pressure, massage cupping is used to drain excess fluids and toxins; stimulate the peripheral nervous system; bring blood flow to stagnant muscles and skin; and loosen adhesions, connective tissue and stubborn knots in soft tissue. It also bruises like nothing else…


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