The Monkey with the Serengeti Sunglasses

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles,
November 1994

Lory was waiting outside the restaurant, in the open tropical courtyard. She was smiling and her eyes were sparkling. With excitement in her voice, she said, “Norm, come over here!” I walked toward her, unaware that the source of her amusement was the antics of a caged monkey in the courtyard. As I walked obliviously past the cage, the monkey reached out and ripped my Serengeti sunglasses off my face. Man, was he fast!

This incident took place on the island of Bonaire in 1994. We had flown from our home on the Caribbean island of Curacao to the next-door island of Bonaire, to celebrate my birthday weekend. After a satisfying lunch at a cabana style restaurant, the encounter with the monkey began.

The instant the monkey grabbed my glasses he climbed up the tree branch in his cage. Holding the Serengetis proudly in his raised right hand, he stared me in the eye and stuck out his tongue. “You bastard,” I thought, “give me back my Serengetis!” Reading my mind, the little wanker started pounding my glasses on his red plastic food dish. I reeled in pain.
“So what?” you ask. “A monkey stole your sunglasses. What’s the big deal?” What you don’t understand is that these are not ordinary sunglasses. I’m talking about the Serengeti Large Aviator model with the matte black frame and the driver’s gradient lens. They are an amazing pair of glasses that I picked up in New York in 1991, the summer we moved to our first overseas post in Curacao. My Serengetis and I had already developed a meaningful relationship on countless Caribbean beaches and to this day, remain the coolest set of shades you will find anywhere.

Lory’s first reaction to my misfortune was to laugh. She had been similarly surprised by the sweeping paw of the monkey when she walked by the cage. However, Lory had escaped loss or injury. As she observed my distress, Lory feigned emotional support, no doubt feeling the guilt of responsibility for the assault. I looked up at the nasty, obnoxious little beast and our eyes locked. “You want a piece of me?” I shouted. “Yeah, you’re safe in your cage, aren’t you?” In response, just to add insult to injury he grabbed the Serengetis in both hands and twisted them mercilessly in contortions that no glasses were ever built to withstand.

Feeling helpless and angry, I retreated to the restaurant and approached the waitress who had served us. I struggled with my word choice to explain my predicament, but began with, “The monkey . . .” at which point she finished my sentence with, “ . . . stole your glasses?” Apparently, I was not this monkey’s first victim.

The waitress smiled calmly and said, “Just a moment.” True to her word, she came out of the restaurant a moment later with a glass of cherry soda and a yardstick. As soon as the monkey saw the cherry soda, apparently a favorite of his, he was hanging on the cage reaching to dip his left hand into the glass. With amazing dexterity, the little imp held my Serengetis at bay in his outstretched right hand, while he dipped his fist into the cherry soda and subsequently jammed the dripping fist into his mouth. This style of drinking was wholly unbecoming. It was, however, effective in meeting the monkey’s needs.

The waitress continued to offer the soda, and the monkey dipped his left fist several times, slurping the cherry soda with great zeal. Finally the monkey became so obsessed with the drink that he released the Serengetis and plunged both fists into the drink, and into his greedy little mouth. The Serengetis dropped through the bottom of the cage to the ground. Quick as a monkey, that waitress used the yardstick to sweep the glasses to safety.

Always the humble victor, I picked up my beloved shades and cupped them gently in my hands. I was dubious as to whether I could have my Serengetis restored and fit for wear. To my surprise, within minutes I had manipulated those twisted frames back to their original shape. They were as good as new!

Epilogue
I was still wearing the same Serengetis 20 years later. I had quit wearing contact lenses in the late 90’s , so the Serengetis were put away for about 10 years. When I had laser surgery in 2008, I came out with 20/20 vision and needed new shades. I was pretty sure the Serengetis had been left behind in one of our four international moves since I had last worn them. Somehow they had made all the trips and were in the cupboard under the bathroom sink. Who would have thought you could hang onto a pair of sunglasses for 20 years?

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