“Hey Joadja, how would you like to help me catch the Cooks River Flasher?”
“The who?” Jo asked.
I was holed up in the Brushtail Cafe sipping a cider with Old Stan, the retired colonel and scanning through the police media releases on the web, which is a fun way to keep up with the grungy street-level side of social madness.
“Hilarious. There’s this bike-riding flasher who strikes between 4 and 6 pm along the shared path on the northern side of the Cooks River between Steel Park and Mackey Park. Listen to this police media release from Friday last week:
“Police are looking for a man responsible for a number of lewd acts while riding his bike through the Marrickville area.”
“Blah, blah … ‘have received several complaints from women who have been targeted by the man as they walked along a path near the Cooks River. … Incidents have occurred between 4pm and 6pm on a 700m stretch of path between Mackey Park and Steel Park, during the past two months.
“’The man reportedly cycles towards the victim, steering with one hand while performing the act with his other hand.”
“I always wondered why they were called ‘handle bars’. And I just love that understated police prose: ‘While performing the act’. Wonderful.”
“Anyway, it goes on … ‘Caucasian appearance, aged in his 30s or 40s, with a medium build. At the time he was wearing loose-fitting shorts, glasses, a white or silver helmet, and was riding a bike.’”
“Loose-fitting shorts! The guy sounds like a fashion tragic. I mean most respectable male cyclists – like Tony Abbott – expose themselves by wearing loud lycra skin grafts.
“But the crazy thing is, it’s a really old-fashioned sort of offence. It’s decades since I’ve heard any stories about flashers.
“Might be something to do with fashions in clothing. Back in the day, flashers traditionally wore dirty button-up raincoats. They’d suddenly flash open the raincoats and show women the goods. But who wears old gabardine raincoats these days? You can’t even find them in op-shops.”
“Ah, the rise and rise of cycling, eh”, said Old Stan, whose bike was parked outside. “Did anybody get a description of the bike? Was it a town bike?”
“Listen up. Any more terrible jokes like that and it’s ‘on yer bike’ for you,” Joadja said.
“Anyway Jo, how about you take Jesse Dingo and walk up and down between Steel and Mackey, and Stan and I can lurk with cameras at either end and you can get flashed and then ring us and then we can get a picture of him. Terrific fun,” I said.
“No thank you very much,” Jo snorted, “It’s a police matter. You’re just a private dick – sorry about the unfortunate choice of slang. Why’s it anything to do with you?”
“Aw, I just haven’t got any cases going at the moment. Besides, it sometimes helps with other matters if one does a favour for the cops now and then. Keeps the line of communications open, so to speak. And think about how the forces of evil and darkness will exploit this. When the Murdoch press get hold of it they’ll say it’s Clover Moore’s fault for encouraging cycling. I could write Miranda Devine’s column for you: Clover builds cycleways. More cycleways, more cyclists, more two-wheel flashers. Public decency is under siege. The Cooks River Flasher is just the tip of the, er, iceberg. The logic is inescapable.”
“You’re right,” Jo said. “Then Duncan Gay will use him as an excuse to introduce licence fees and rego plates for bicycles and that nasty Pru Goward will suggest that the way to stop such outrages against public decency is for Urban Growth NSW to resume all the homes along the river and sell them to the developers so they can put up a wall of high-rise apartments looking down on the path. It’ll be a short step from that to turning the riverbank into a freeway. The old Department of Main Roads wanted to do that, you know, and the roads guys never throw away their old plans.
“We need to catch this guy quick. Before it gets out of control.”
(Cooks River Flasher incidents should be reported to Marrickville detectives or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000)