As much as I hate to admit it, the tennis director at my tennis club, the Hollow Rock Racquet and Swim Club, Inc., is Australian. He's a likeable enough mate, but he is -- how shall I say this delicately? -- a little too Australian. As I have often explained, if you want to see how Americans are seen by the rest of the world, just look at how we look at Australians: they talk too much, laugh too loud, drink too much. Australians are the über-Americans. Maybe that's why we like them so much.
Our Aussie doesn't seem to be much of a drinker, but we can't hold that against him since he makes up for it in other ways.
As you might expect, his name is Jim McDonald. Oddly, he also goes by the name James. (This may be explained, perhaps, by a checkered past and a fugitive present. Australia, you should know, was founded as a penal colony. To help you understand the culture of the place, when you think "Australia," think "Georgia on a large island." It begins to make more sense now, doesn't it?)
To assist you in identifying this bloke McDonald, in case he is in fact wanted by Australian authorities, here is an inexact description. (I would have done better but the chap won't stand still long enough for me to get good look at him.)
Jim is relatively tall -- although not for an Australian. They are very tall down there. This is easily explained by the fact that people (and pretty much everything else) hangs upside down all day long in Australia. Don't believe me? Here's the data: There are currently 10 Australians playing in the National Basketball Association, all of them are tall.
Jim wears funny hats. I am sure that he would explain it as "sun protection." I'm thinking: So, they don't have the sun in Australia? Then, thinking about it some more, I realize that the sun would shine upward "down under." Maybe that is why so many Australian animals hop so much. Then, thinking about it some more, I realize actually they're probably in the shade all the time, since the sun shines from above and they are "down under." Anyway, he wears funny hats.
Jim is often surrounded by teeming hordes of small to medium-sized children. He appears to be the Pied Piper of Perth. Trailing him are clusters of nippers and ankle biters, who mostly seem to be happy little Vegemites. He calls them "his juniors," but I am pretty sure they are not all his, at least many of them don't look that much like him. It is, I will admit, perplexing how remarkably like his their tennis games are -- which has him constantly grinning like a shot fox.
Jim is relentlessly enthusiastic. Continually, eternally, consistently, exasperatingly enthusiastic. I have seen him at what seemed like 10 o'clock at night hustling kids around the courts with an enthusiasm that would have embarrassed Katie Couric -- in her cheerleading days.
Jim hustles flat out like a lizard drinking, even when he has been at it since the crack of dawn. This is easily explained, however, as Australia is on the other side of the international dateline. So, for Jim, it is always tomorrow, Australian time.
So, you might ask, why does the membership of Hollow Rock Racquet and Swim Club, Inc., put up with such an odd duck? Maybe because every now and then he has an interesting idea like curing cancer by throwing a party where you play some tennis. Friendly as he is, Jim is inviting you, my loyal readers, to join in.
Seriously, what Jim is up to this weekend is raising money for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. This Friday night there will be a tennis social, party, and an auction. On Saturday morning, there will be a mixed doubles tournament running from 9 am to 2 pmish, as Jim would say.
Play is set in two levels and all players will play at or about their own level, with a fee of $50 per person for the whole event, all to benefit the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. It's only $25 for those who want to participate but don't care to play tennis. A few spots may still be open. To find out more about what a Tennis Calucutta is, or to register, or just to talk with the bloke, call Jim at 489-1550 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gary D. Gaddy once did a semester abroad in Austria, which is not like Australia at all.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday May 15, 2008.
Copyright 2008 Gary D. Gaddy