an idiot in wisconsin

March 2001

Monday, 5th March 2001.
Cherokee Heights

Early in the afternoon I caught a bus out to Cherokee Heights Middle School, where Tara was doing her prac teaching. I arrived at the beginning of the final period of the day, and successfully found the science class where Tara was teaching.

I'd forgotten what it was like to be in grade 8. All the girls were taller than the boys, learning was secondary and socialising was of the Utmost Importance.

Tara introduced me at the beginning of the class, and towards the end of the lesson Tara called a halt to proceedings and we had a little question-and-answer session.

Thankfully the students had never heard of Neighbours. Instead I was grilled on Survivor II, which they told me is set in Australia. They didn't know a great deal about Australia, but hey they're 13 years old, they're probably more concerned about body hair and things like that. They were amazed that I was visiting Madison, which they considered to be the arse-end of nowhere. I told them to quit their bitchin', since I was brought up in Evandale (pop. 800). Not that there's anything wrong with Evandale, it's just that if you're looking for somewhere that's nowhere near the action, then a small town in rural Tasmania is a good start.

After my interrogation Tara and I went to a kosher bakery run by Mr Donutman. (possibly not his real name) "We're just finishing up," he said.
"Oh, are you closing?" asked Tara, a little disappointed.
"No, no," he said, "Come back in about an hour and they'll all be ready. The donuts, that is." So we left to do some grocery shopping.

An hour later we returned. "You're back!" he said. "What would you like? We've got some fresh cake donuts."
Tara wrinkled her nose. "Cake donuts? I don't really like them."
"You're probably thinking about cake donuts that you get in supermarkets and the like. Here, try this!" he said, thrusting a still-warm donut towards us. We had half each, and it was gooooood.
"You like it?" asked Mr Donutman.
"Oh yeah!" we said.
"Well how about a sour cream donut?" He grabbed a donut from the rack behind him and slapped it down in front of us. Again, it was yum. Chocolate donut? Magnificent! Tara ended up buying a boxful. All the while Mr Donutman was telling us all about his business, he could talk the hind leg off a donkey.

Loaded up with food and donuts, we decided to rent a video. Neither of us had seen The Matrix, so we rented that. The video rental joint was in a dodgy part of town. Next to the video store was a "Cheques Cashed" kinda place. As we walked out there were three huge black blokes sitting in a pick-up truck. A couple had balaclavas on. Just as we made it to Tara's car (parked next to the pick-up truck) one of the blokes got out and walked into the "Cheques Cashed" joint. We decided that it looked like a bad scene, so we made like a tree and left. Eh?

(he was probably wearing the balaclava because it was cold.)

Back at Tara's (after enduring a painful impersonation of Barney the purple dinosaur after dinner next door) we found a video Tara compiled while she was in Tasmania. And what a classic it was. There was a promo video done for Launceston College, and various snippets from Northern Tasmanian tv. There were some clips from Southern Cross News, including coverage of the Independent Schools Swimming Championships from Windmill Hill pool! It gets better - the commentary (yes, there was commentary!) was done by Ray James.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ray James' work, allow me to shed some light on the legend of Raincoat Ray.

Ray James was an excitable sports presenter. He'd been around for years when I was a kid. Ray could usually be found doing sports reporting for the nightly news, or doing something for the Sunday morning sports show. The Sunday morning sports show would be a compilation of the week's sporting action, plus magazine-style segments, I'm sure you're familiar with the format. There would be highlights from the state and regional football leagues: the TFL, NTFL (or whatever it was called at the time), and NWFU. For me, it was during these highlights packages that Raincoat Ray used to shine. What he would have to do is provide commentary for the highlights. After the match had been completed. The highlights would be edited, and Ray would then script his commentary.

Problem was, he would say the same thing Every Single Time! He would be describing play, his voice getting higher and higher with post-match excitement, and then as the player shot for goal, Ray would say something like:
"...gathered by Williams. Williams snaps, and snaps truly!"