in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Monday, December 17, 2007

It’s on me! (How to become Lord of the Flies)

In Tokyo’s Nishi Shinjuku, only a few hundred metres from the Grand Hyatt featured in Lost in Translation, there’s a cocktail bar called ‘It’s on me!’ When choosing the title, the owners no doubt had in mind the cucumber cool of the cashed-up drinks shouter. The scenario involves you and date heading to the bar, you pulling your purse out of your manbag and offering a plaintive ‘Do… do you want some… money?’ before (s)he waves it away, declaring (with the effortless mastery of the Milky Bar kid), ‘Don’t worry, it’s on me.’

But everything changed with the two simple paint strokes that added the exclamation mark to the sign. Far from evoking breezy scenes of Dean-Martin-cocktail-bar cool, the chosen title (which was already in italics) always read as ‘It’s on me!’ Think Gremlins fed after midnight, think neck-sucking alien succubus, think unwanted advances from a large, distant, predatory species… with tentacles. Every time I walked past ‘It’s on me!’ I thought of a room full of men in leisure suits, their screams strangely muted by the heavy carpet, as they were suddenly and violently attacked by mucoid things with suckers, a beak, and a taste for human blood. Was it a shock to them? Perhaps it’s what they’d ordered. Knowing Shinjuku, there probably are bars where one can pay (through the nose, or with a proboscis) to have sucky, beaky, blood-thirsty monsters thrown at your head; a place where the upper eschelons of society pay hundreds of squid just to get a bruised, bitten hard-on, in tentacular, private luxury.

But for most ‘normal’ people, an attack such as those ordered in my (imaginary?) Tokyo bar would be truly horrific because of its sudden and total ambush of your quiet dignity. You’re just walking along, minding your own business, when… wait for it… AAAAAARGGGH!! It’s on me!!!!’ This is, no doubt, what so alarmed me as a child about the ‘drop bears’ that my uncle convinced me lived in the copse of trees on top of the hill near his farm. Or the later (and apparently true) rumours about tree funnel webs in early Sydney: it was said that tree funnel webs, extinct since the 1830s, would drop like ripe fruit onto your neck and bite, repeatedly. Their venom was apparently several times deadlier than the banal funnel webs of many a Sydney backyard. Only Roald Dahl’s description of the black mamba in Going Solo (a deadly snake that actually chased you in order to bite you to death) had as much power to frighten and appal me as a child.

But this spring, I, and no doubt a lot of you, have had to relive similar moments of ambushed horror. Some say they came from New South Wales. Others say it was horseshit. One expert reckons it’s lawn clippings. Who knows, and frankly, who cares how it’s happened? Maybe you were strolling to get some milk; maybe you were quietly enjoying a tasty beverage at an outdoor café; maybe you were just scratching your balls and waiting for the tram, like the girl next to you and her pet mandrill. You know, nothing out of the ordinary. Then suddenly, without warning…


No, it’s not the angry insults of a Cairo cabbie. It is in fact the closest I can get to representing the unspeakable noise that came from the mouth of my lovely lady when a rogue fly flew into her throat.

There is nothing so ridiculous, so pitifully helpless as a person who has been earbombed or gulletsmacked by a rogue fly. You play sniggery tittery bugger bystander for a moment, as your friend or loved one scrambles to regain their composure, but then:


No, it’s not Ryoji Ikeda’s new minimalist ‘sound art’ masterpiece – egad, you’ve been earbombed, and now that buzzy little fucker has lodged itself in your earhole. You scream ‘Argh! It’s on me!’ You whinny, you slap your ear. You shake your head back and forth with the force of a carwash brush, knowing that if you mash your finger into your earhole, so goes the fly with it.

All over Melbourne, I’ve heard reports of people being mobbed and attacked by the little furry-footed fuckers. There have even been rumours of picnickers engaging in panicked fanny swatting... but then again, it was St Kilda, so who knows?

The flies! The cursed flies! What do they want? What do they see in us? Are they heatseeking? Do we smell of dung? Don’t answer that. But seriously, let’s imagine you’re a fly and you’ve got three days to live and breed before buzzing your last hum: what do you do? Where do you go? You go where all the cool, upper-class flies are at: that rotting seal carcass on Portsea Beach; the fresh Great Dane turd on the lawn; the skip out the back of Dave and C(l)am(m)y’s. Or to something which in no way resembles a human being. Honestly, are human beings so like a carcass, a turd or an old, half-chewed ex-dumpling? Hmm… food for flies? Food for thought. At least the food for sharks living through Jaws-plagued Byron Bay can see the bastards coming. Admittedly, being smacked, bombed, swarmed or otherwise attacked by the winged fuckers is far less deadly than being chomped by a great white, but try telling that to the poor bastard in the first terrifying throes of ‘Argh! It’s on me!’ lodgement. Just hope you don’t have a heart condition.

The thing is, you will never, ever, ever be prepared for the horror of the attack, but you can reduce the risk of it occurring. With this in mind, I humbly submit my few hard-won defences against the plague that is.

1) Airswat three, four times: a fly that has found your fragrance irresistible will always try to land more than once, always. A good pre-emptive half-dozen usually does the trick.

2) There is no such thing as ‘one fly’, however, it is always the ‘one fly’ that hassles you: watch the guy walking in front of you, and the orgy of flies piggy-backing on his t-shirt, rubbing their little mitts together with glee. Like Pauline Hanson’s ‘silent majority’, these flies seem quite content to perch in the flat, barren parts between the redneck and his arsehole. But watch – there’s always one extremist fly who’s indefatigable, giving those other ‘honest’ flies a bad rap. What’s true for flies is often true for people. Buzz buzz.

3) Cover your ears: if you are planning to read this paper on the beach (don’t even think about attempting a hamburger or fish and chips), get a towel or t-shirt and drape it over you, Bedouin-style. This can make all the difference. If you also happen to be reading a map when appearing in public in this garb, double-check for nondescript white Commodores. Yes, that’s right, ASIO.

4) Keep your trap shut, fool: a warm mouth and a long-winded explanation is an open invitation to an aerial parasite. Not only fools rush in.

5) Drape your friends in dung or meat: self-explanatory. If the flies still prefer you, well then, y’all betta aksk yo’self.

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PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.