Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Be careful when you let off your fireworks

The first lapdance I ever got was from my cousin Mandy's roommate.

Mandy lives in Canberra, she's four years older than me, and of course I adored her: she was mysterious and confident and beat me at poker and taught me how to wear dresses, and she is blonde and pretty as the picture on the front of a magazine. It seemed like she always had a boyfriend pining in the background, wishing she'd pay more attention to him, sending her gifts of chocolate and diamond rings and scarves crocheted with the emblem "I love Mandy" he'd spent hours knitting. "I don't feel like hanging out with him now," she'd snap as he stringed a lonely violin outside her window, and she'd go out with her friends instead. Cue a cheesy 80s movie montage here: Mandy, eyeshadow sparkling, bops on the dancefloor; the boyfriend weeps into his popcorn on his couch at home.

One particular New Year's Eve Mandy was living in a group house with four friends, and they had me over for their party (to which Mandy's boyfriend at the time, Chris, was emphatically not invited). Now, Australians know how to drink. Maybe not as much as those Dionysian devotees in Kentucky, but we are pals with the grape. But I was eighteen at the time, and though I'm hardly a champion drinker now, in those days my liver was just starting to become acquainted with its life of work and sorrow. Half a tequila shot later, I was deep in rapturous conversation with Mandy's roommate Greg.

Greg said that he made his living by travelling to Japan (an easy eight-hour flight) for three months at a time, where he worked as a stripper. The tips were plentiful, the sushi was juicy, and he had a much easier life than his female friends in the same profession. "I don't believe you!" I slurred ebulliently. "You're telling me shtories!"

"I'll prove it to you!" he said, and pointed at another roommate. "Put on some ABBA!"

He dashed off to his bedroom and came back five minutes later wearing a policeman's uniform and a wig with a long blond ponytail. Before I'd quite realized what was happening, there was six and a half feet of boozy, red-cheeked Australian beefcake, jiggling and gyrating over the chair where I sat, guffawing. (Despite Greg's strong build, I don't think he would have made it as a real policeman - the uniform was missing some crucial fabric in the butt cheek area.)

After Greg had taken off his shirt, slung me over his shoulder and spun me around in circles, it was clear that the party was off to a good start. But how could the next episode top the excitement? In our Western culture, we're not happy to sit back and bask in the glories of the past - we need progress!

In times like these, you turn to an old friend: fire. It so happens that the Australian Capital Territory, besides being the only state in Australia where marijuana is legal, is also the only place where you're allowed to buy fireworks - the theory being, perhaps, that if you distract the politicians with bright lights and the munchies, they're less likely to concentrate on raising your taxes.

So we paused to bring all the bottles out to the backyard, and Greg showed us his treasure box, which had a varied assortment, all the way from wee pops to holy sparkling motherfuckers. "Ooh, lemme have a go," I squeaked, having mostly recovered from my dizziness. "I wanna shee a bang!"

We got into a nice industrious rhythm in the backyard with our cherry bombs, taking it in turns to dash into the center of the yard, light them, and rush back to the hoots of the people drinking on the porch. Fizz...Bang! Giggle. Slosh. Fizz....Bang! Giggle. Slosh. We were in the zone, and so keen was our focus that we didn't even notice that Greg was nowhere to be seen, until....

BOOM!! A gigantic golden meteor appeared in the sky, and just as quickly exploded, showering the backyard with fizzing sparks. Imagine Gabriel blowing his horn, the continent of Africa smashing into Europe, London Bridge falling down: it was an epic, ear-shattering noise. With our ears ringing and our eyes still dazzled by the aftermath, little wonder that it took us a few minutes to notice the far more human cries that followed it.

"Ow! Argh! Bloody hell! I'm on fucking fire!" Still wearing his policeman's uniform, Greg sprinted around the corner, keeping up a stream of curses. His face was soot-blackened and there were flames leaping up from his long blond wig. "Somebody do something!"

"Hold still, mate! We'll douse you!" With typical keen Aussie wit, most of us had the same bright idea at once: to use the handy liquid inside our beer bottles. Pretty soon the air was full, not only of leftover sparks, soot, smoke, and top-speed Aussie stripper, but also alcohol flying in every direction. I'm afraid that our enthusiasm outweighed our aim, and pretty soon nobody was dry.

One of our greatest gifts as human beings is our empathy, and so I'd like you to take a moment and imagine how Mandy's long-suffering boyfriend Chris felt, when he pulled up at the house uninvited to plead for a few moments of her time, only to be confronted with this nigh-apocalyptic vision: billowing smoke, a cheery drunken crowd dripping with the booze they'd mistakenly tossed at each other, and a tall policeman with a bare butt and flaming hair, running furiously in circles in the middle of the backyard.


Blogger Sarah Smile said...

Oh, Zoe, I needed a laugh like that today. Thank you!

7:33 AM  
Blogger John Holt said...

YEEEAAAHHHH!!! for your hilarious story-- loved it.

But I have to disagree re your noting that you don't party like Kentuckians. You, my dear, are the only lassie that drinks whiskey from the bottle with me. You are the one who feeds me noxious (but tasty) pineapple laced with vodka. The only girl to recite Neruda while giggling through yoga poses in a stuffy living room.

In short, your wildness is absolutely untouched. "Dem 'Strailians sure 'nough git 'er done", in the words of my neighbor across the hill.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been finding almost all of my austin sushi here

4:13 AM  

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