Monthly Archives: August 2014

Letting Lisa down

Yesterday’s outburst at Buffalo Wild Wings has me feeling down on myself. I know I was wrong, and I let down someone very important to me.

Lisa Toebben was not pleased to hear about my outburst. She’s right, I know better. And now I want to cry over it. Lisa wasn’t supposed to work tonight, but she had to take over for another person who couldn’t make it.

I had no business getting involved with those two guys I had never seen before. I should not have pointed my success out, either. If I keep my mouth shut, all is fine. That’s on me.

I’ve got to stop self-destructing. It’s not good. I also have to stop being so hard on myself. I am my own worst enemy.

Hurting for Liz

Right now, one of my dearest friends is hurting. I wish it weren’t this way.

It has been a rough few days for Elizabeth Psenski. The biggest reason why I have become a fixture at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa has had enough pain, both physical and emotional, to go around for at least 10 people.

I’m sorry I began it Saturday when I took out my frustrations on her. She forgave me, but I think what I did kind of started the cycle. I wish I could take it back. I feel so awful.

After I left Saturday night, it turned out she had some rude customers. She went to the ice machine and took out some frustrations, but she ended up hurting her back. She came to work Sunday and was able to pour the ice water on me, but the pain flared up Monday and she had to switch out with Braidey Howe.

It got much worse Monday. The mother of another Buffalo Wild Wings employee and one of Liz’s closest freinds, Trey Cummings, passed away.

Oh man. I would never wish that on my worst enemy. To lose a parent at that young age. I’m very, very fortunate my parents have lived to see me come close to 40, and my dad is very lucky his father is still alive. My mother lost her father when she was 27, and I know it hurt her. And it hurt her mother, too, because she lived alone for 20 years before passing away in 1992 at 88.

Liz is very fortunate to have a strong mother in Nadine. Nadine is a wonderful lady. I’ve been very fortunate to have encountered some of the mothers of my friends.

From my Arabi Park days, I know Stacie, Shawn, Tammy and Jason Malasovich all had great moms. Tiffany Peperone’s mom is awesome, as are Jeanne Bandera, who taught math at Brother Martin and who raised Colleen by herself; and Debbie Broussard, whose daughter, Danielle, was also a Brother Martin cheerleader when I went there. Debbie now teaches science at Brother Martin, fitting since her son, Kyle, graduated from the school in 1997.

Even though I have my reservations about Rebecca Borne, I have none about her beautiful and caring mother, Lisette. And of course there’s Liz Rogers, who helped Renetta start over after that horrific accident.

Someone so young and so good to so many people as LIz is should not have to suffer I hope she gets to feeling better soon.

Toni award

My time in Kansas City is running short, as is my free time for the summer. I’ll be covering volleyball in just under 52 hours, and by this time next week, the season will be in full swing.

Save for the problem with the two guys at Buffalo Wild Wings last night and my indecision Saturday, this has been a very good trip. I really had a blast getting doused with ice water by my friends at B-Dubs, and I’ve had a ton of fun going down memory lane with some of my chums from Arabi Park Middle School.

Two more reconnections this morning, bringing the total to seven.

One was with Toni LaRocca, one of only a few from Arabi Park I saw in person since exiting the school for the final time on June 2, 1989. I ran into Toni at Hooters in Metairie a few times during my internship with the New Orleans Zephyrs in 2000. She may have been the shortest girl in our class, but she had one of the biggest hearts, not to mention a smile which could melt away the tightest frown. I absolutely loved her in that Hooters uniform. And i love her still.

The other new Facebook friend is Tammy Gilbert, whom I’m proud to say is far, far smarter than I. She was shy, but very studious and very friendly when you got to know her. She also played the flute in the band, and she joined with Toni and Nicole Meyer–the tallest of our class–three great ones. Ms. Crow never had to worry about the flutes. Never.

Tammy lived next door to Rosemarie’s grandparents, so it was natural they were best friends. Two great ladies.

Now I’m starting to remember another band member who wasn’t in the honors classes, Vicki Tabora. Vicki lived across the street from Carolyn Park on the other side of St. Robert Bellarmine church, not too far from the Datuerive residence. Vicki was a gifted drummer, and she accepted the burden of playing one of the big bass drums. Try carrying that for 8-10 miles in a parade. Most boys would cry, but Vicki handled it like a champ.

Strange but true story. I was so clumsy in the sixth grade that I couldn’t play the clarinet and march, so Ms. Crow had me carry the Louisiana state flag at the front of the parade formation. However, I was good enough playing when sitting down to make the Louisiana Music Educators Association elementary honor band for the second consecutive year. Nicole, Rosemarie and Jason Malasovich also made it in 1988. Maybe it was a good thing I wasn’t playing the clarinet in parades in 1988, because the Arabi Park band won the band competition in the Shangri-La parade, and we got to march at the very beginning of that parade in 1989.

Now that I’ve friended Stacie, Rosemarie, Shandy, Shawn, Lara, Toni and Tammy, I’m starting to see more and more and more from St. Bernard pop up when I’m searching for friends. I have to admit it’s making me smile.

As nice as it is to sit around the computer, it’s no good here in the hotel. Time to get ready and get over to Buffalo Wild Wings. Brittany Davidson is working tonight. She reminds me a lot of Toni not in terms of being short, but in being a warm and caring person. Her finacee is one lucky guy.

Bye-bye, trivia Tuesdays

It got better once the two jerks left. I had great games of Showdown and Brainbuster, with my highest scores of all-time in both.

It will have to do for a few weeks, at the very least. Starting next Tuesdays, i’ll be covering volleyball matches all across small towns in western Kansas. That will be for at least the next seven weeks, probably eight, which means no Glory Daze, no Showdown, no Brainbuster until at least late October, likely November. Not the end of the world; I knew the deal going in.

I’m about to pack it up and head back to Overland Park. It’s been one of those nights. Hopefully tomorrow will be better after I get my stuff for the Russell County News out of the way.

Back to the middle

Now I’m on a middle school memories kick here. I’ve reconnected with one of the two young ladies I called a “stunner” from Arabi Park Middle, Lara Doyle (Meyers). She was as impressed with my memory recall as Stacie, Shandy, Shawn and Rosemarie have been.

In the summer of 1988, between my sixth and seventh grade years at Arabi Park, my parents, my brother and I went to Russell to visit my father’s parents. It was one of the last times we visited where my grandmother, Sophie, who was my dad’s stepmother–he never knew his birth mother–was lucid. She still had her 1970 Buick LeSabre, and we would ride around Russell in it, even though I wasn’t too keen on the fact it wasn’t as safe, or at least I didn’t consider it as safe, as my mother’s 1986 Oldsmobile EIghty-Eight which we drove up. We went to the Dairy Queen on US 40 in Russell every day. Sadly, that Dairy Queen closed in 1992, and it’s now a bad Mexican restaurant.

When I started the seventh grade at Arabi Park, I tried convincing my classmates, especially Shawn, that I was born in Kansas. Slight problem: Mrs. Gattuso and my mom were friends long before I was born, and she knew better. She made me confess I was born at Baptist Hospital on Napoleon Avenue, the same hospital where Peyton Manning was born seven months prior. Of course, while Olivia Manning gave birth in a palatial private room and got to stay for as long as she wanted, I went home the next day. Oh well.

I tried to rub Kansas in my classmates’ faces, especially with the annoying “Tweety Bird” shirt which featured a giant Jayhawk. Kansas won the 1988 NCAA men’s basketball national championship, and I would not let Shawn, Jared or anyone else forget it. They grew tired of it, as they should have. Good thing I didn’t wear the K-State shirt with the Tom Cat in front of Mrs. Gattuso, or she would have found a derisive name for that, too.

I told everyone who would listen I was going to KU or K-State for college. I had no interest at that time in LSU or any school in Louisiana. Nebraska was also on my radar, which was even more irritating to LSU fans, since the Cornhuskers defeated the Bayou Bengals three times in bowl games in the 1980s. And even Wichita State was having athletic success, going to the 1988 College World Series and winning it all in 1989, only eight days after I left Arabi Park for good.

Once I was admitted to Brother Martin for eighth grade in February 1989, I started wearing a crimson shirt with Martin’s mascot, Crusaders, on it. Another bad idea. I wore it on my last day ever at Arabi Park, and Mrs. Rando bragged on me. Stacie saw it and was not impressed. Shawn forgave me enough to come to my house the next night.

This was what I needed after what happened earlier. Very therapeutic.

Into the toilet

Maybe I should have stayed back at the hotel today. It turned very hellish not too long ago.

Two guys I have never seen before in my life sat down at a table near where I was seated and they were playing Buzztime trivia, just like I was. I guess I got a little over-exuberant at one point when I answered five straight questions perfectly, and they took exception.

During the next game, one of the guys took the lead because he knew about Armor All and he started celebrating. And I took exception, rubbing my nose with my middle finger as if to flip him off. I kept it up, and eventually it got to shouting. He came over and threatened me, and I told him to go away. I tried my best to avoid eye contact with him and his

I discovered this pair wasn’t from anywhere near Kansas City. The guy I had the problem with is registered with Buzztime at a site in Mechanicsburg, Pa., which is near Harrisburg. What is it about Harrisburg right now?

I feel awful right now. I don’t know why I bother.

Second fiddle again

I settled for #2 nationally again in Buzztime’s The Pulse last night. I finished less than 600 points behind a guy who was playing with a large group at a bar near Harrisburg, Pa. If I would have known where the Pan-Pacific Swimming Championships were held, or where Petra Kvitova won a tennis tournament last weekend, then I win. Then again, back-to-back #2 finishes after three straight #1 finishes is nothing to sneeze at, either.

I forgot my trackball for my computer in the hotel, so either I have to use the touchpad today, or i have to run over to Staples across the street to get a mouse. If it weren’t so freaking hot, I would make the run, but I hate to have to do it today. I might go over at shift change closer to 4 to do it.

I didn’t leave the room until almost 1:30 today. Figured I needed my sleep and I didn’t want to get there too early, since Lisa and Brittany Davidson are both off today, and Liz is still hurting in more ways than one.

These two jerkoffs at the bar are bringing my blood to a slow boil. They’re playing as guests and cheating their asses off. I do not respect Buzztime players who cheat, and I do not have any regard for those who hide behind fake guest handles and don’t want to register.

I don’t think I’m staying around long today. I’ve got a noon deadline tomorrow, and if most my favorites aren’t here, might as well go back to the hotel room early and take care of business.

Missing Tiffany

I have pretty much forgotten about almost everyone who was in my graduating class at Brother Martin. That’s not to say there weren’t some wonderful people I met during my five years at the New Orleans Catholic high school.

One of those very special people, Tiffany Peperone, turns 40 today. Tiffany was a cheerleader for Brother Martin, which was very important to her, since her brother graduated from Brother Martin and her father graduated from one of Brother Martin’s predecessors, St. Aloysius.

Even though Brother Martin is an all-boys school, it still had cheerleaders, as did New Orleans Catholic League rivals De La Salle, Jesuit, Archbishop Rummel and Archbishop Shaw. When I went to Brother Martin, St. Augustine did not have cheerleaders, and Holy Cross had only male cheerleaders, much the way Texas A&M only has male “yell leaders”. Holy Cross and St. Aug now have cheerleaders, although unlike Brother Martin, Jesuit, Rummel and Shaw, there are no male cheerleaders.

The all-boys schools, which included De La Salle until it started admitting girls in 1992, selected girls from the all-girls Catholic high schools. St. Mary’s Dominican and Mount Carmel Academy mostly supplied cheerleaders for Brother Martin, Jesuit and now Holy Cross, although Jesuit also culled the ranks of Ursuline Academy. Archbishop Chapelle in west Metairie, was the source of Rummel’s cheerleaders, natural since Rummel is also in Metairie. Immaculata was largely the source for cheerleaders at Shaw since the schools were located very close to one another, although some came from Archbishop Blenk. Blenk and Immaculata merged after Hurricane Katrina to form the Academy of Our Lady.

Tiffany attended Dominican, in uptown New Orleans, which made for a very long commute for her, since her family lived in the northwest corner of Kenner near Lake Pontchartrain. If there was no traffic, it would take at least 25 minutes, probably closer to 35 during rush hour. Tiffany was very bright and very gregarious; I hardly remember her without a big smile. She also appeared in several Brother Martin drama productions which were directed by the wonderfully talented Rebecca Hale, who definitely was one of my favorite teachers at Brother Martin, ranking only behind Bob Conlin and Janine Koenig.

I first met Tiffany near the end of my eighth grade year. She was the steady girlfriend of Mike LeBlanc, the daughter of Brother Martin math teacher and later director of student services Claire LeBlanc, who taught me trigonometry as a junior. Mike’s twin brother, Mark, earned an appointment to West Point. Tiffany and I bonded that summer at Brother Martin’s American Legion baseball games, since Mike was the team’s catcher.

Tiffany was nominated for the Brother Martin homecoming court during her senior year at Dominican. I was a sophomore, and I took it upon myself to convince the other students Tiffany was the perfect homecoming queen candidate, since she was so dedicated to Brother Martin. I got caught red-handed by a male teacher, I don’t recall whom. The next day, just as the football team was leaving for a game at Central Lafourche, coach Conlin asked me about it and I admitted to it. He grinned and patted me on the back. When we got back that night from Raceland, Tiffany asked me about it. She was impressed.

Tiffany graduated from Dominican and went on to LSU, where she was a cheerleader during the 1992 and 1993 football seasons, and she was also very active in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. I wanted to ask Tiffany to the 1993 Brother Martin homecoming dance, since LSU had an open date on its football schedule that weekend. It was the game vs. Utah State when Herb Vincent gave me a credential to sit in the press box, but I never made it down to the field. I ended up finding a date the Monday before the dance with Colleen Bandera, another cheerleader and the daughter of Brother Martin math teacher Jeanne Bandera.

I ran into Tiffany during my third week at LSU after an address by former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer to the College Republicans. A few months prior, my civics class at Brother Martin were guests on Angela Hill’s talk show on WWL-TV in New Orleans, and Roemer was Angela’s guest. Angela came to me to ask a question of Gov. Roemer. Tiffany drove me back to my dorm after the presentation. I saw Tiffany a couple more times at LSU during the second semester of my freshman year, but we lost contact again once I left for UNO.

By a fortunate chance, I ran into Tiffany, in of all places, Ivar’s Sports Bar, my favorite hangout in Baton Rouge. It was late on a Friday afternoon in July 1997. I walked in and she immediately recognized me. We didn’t talk long, because she was there with someone else, but we mentioned coach Conlin’s passing the previous day. I saw Tiffany again one day at lunch in October when I went with Bill Franques and Fred Demarest from the LSU athletic department.

And I have not seen or heard from Tiffany since. I followed her on Twitter and have sent a friend request on Facebook, but nothing.

I decided to take a shot in the dark and send Tiffany flowers for her 40th birthday. I didn’t know where she lives right now, so I sent them to her parents’ house in Kenner. Doubt it will get anywhere, but I figured it was worth a try.

Tiffany, if you’re out there, I miss you greatly. I would love for us to reconnect. God bless.

More from the middle

Thanks to a Facebook conversation with four great people from my distant past, a flood of memories has been opened. Might as well get to them while they’re still fresh on the brain.

The drive from one end of Kansas City to the other gave me the chance to remember a heck of a lot from my days in New Orleans, and especially my friends from Arabi Park Middle.

Stacie Dauterive Seube and I had e-mailed each other twice before Katrina, and then we were in touch a couple of times after I moved to Kansas, but the last e-mail was in February 2006. Tonight, I recalled the last times I saw her in person.

One was November 1993 when the St. Bernard Parish chapter of the LSU Alumni Association held a meeting about its scholarships. Stacie’s dad, Rene, who owns Dauterive Heating and Plumbing, was also there, as he was active with the LSU Alumni Association. Two others from the Arabi Park days were there, Jason Malasovich and Christi Rehage. Christi’s brother, Steve, played football for LSU under Jerry Stovall and Bill Arnsparger in the 1980s, so it was not surprising at all Christi wanted to continue the family tradition.

I also saw Stacie on the LSU campus on our VERY FIRST DAY of college classes, August 29, 1994. Like me, Stacie didn’t stay at LSU; she eventually transferred to Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, 45 minutes east on Interstate 12. After the 1995 spring semester, I went home to the University of New Orleans, but I would return to LSU in January 1997.

Speaking of LSU, I saw Rosemarie Renz (Huguet) on campus one day in September 1997. It was in front of the LSU union when I had a break in Wednesday morning classes. At that time, I was back working in LSU’s sports information office, and I had just begun covering high school football for The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s daily paper.

Of course, having gone to five years of school with me before Arabi Park, Rosemarie’s memories  are far deeper than most. Last night, I recalled she came to my seventh birthday party in October 1983 at Showbiz Pizza in Chalmette. I returned the favor for Rosemarie at her grandparents’ house in May 1985. Of all the people in my classes at Arabi Park, Rosemarie was the by far the nicest. I think she got me because we had been together at St. Robert Bellarmine, and I don’t recall her teasing me like some of the others. Then again, I forgive everyone who ever teased me in middle school, because I don’t expect 12 or 13 year olds to understand Asperger’s, especially when it had not been diagnosed yet in the United States, as was the case in the late 1980s.

Actually, Rosemarie was not the only person from Arabi Park who attended school with me at St. Robert Bellarmine. I almost forgot about Aimee Roniger, who came to St. Robert’s in the fifth grade, the year Rosemarie left to to go to Arabi Park, the last year it was an all-girls school. Aimee stayed at St. Robert’s in the sixth grade before coming to Arabi Park in the seventh. She and another of the honors girls, Nicole Lowery, were best friends. Nicole, like Shandy, Vanessa Condra, Dayna Siebenkittel and Erin Billingsley, were not in honors until seventh grade, with Michelle Woodland transferring in to Arabi Park for seventh grade.

 

Showbiz was the rival to Chuck E. Cheese and was popular in the south in the 1980s. In fact, I went to another Showbiz location, this one in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, for Shawn O’Neil’s birthday party in December 1988.

I’ll never forget Shawn’s party. His dad insisted on taking the ferry across the Mississippi River from Chalmette to Algiers, even though the new Crescent City Connection had opened and there were four lanes of traffic in both directions. I remember riding over with Shawn, Jason, Jared Couture, Jack Bastoe and Brandon Miller. The girls from our class were not invited.

Shawn also happened to be a damn fine basketball player. He lived across the street from Vista playground, so he and his brothers, Danny and Chad, went there often to hone their basketball and baseball skills. Shawn had a fine left-handed mid-range jumper, and he was hell on the boards. I remember going up against him three times during the 1988-89 Biddy Basketball season. His Vista teams went 3-0 against the Carolyn Park team Jason and I played on. Jason, Shawn and I had to play with the 11-year olds because we turned 12 after October 1. Jared’s birthday was before the limit, so he was with the 12-year olds. Another fine player in the 11-year old Biddy league that year was Michael Marques, who played for Versailles. He went on to become a two-year varsity starter at Brother Martin and was in my graduating class. Michael’s dad and my dad worked together at Air Products and Chemicals.

I didn’t see Shandy de St. Germain (Arguelles) after leaving Arabi Park, but tonight I remembered one of her best friends from middle school, Kim Carmouche. Kim and I were in the gifted and talented program at Arabi Park. We didn’t have the highest grade point averages, but we both tested so well that the school saw potential in us. We got to skip P.E. on Wednesdays.

The family of one of the boys who was in gifted and talented with us in the sixth grade, Lateef Khan, owned the Shell service station at the corner of Perrin and Judge Perez Drive. There was an Exxon across the street from the Shell, and on the other side of Judge Perez from the Exxon was the Little Fisherman, where my mom often picked up crawfish, corn and potatoes during the late winter and early spring for Friday meals.

During my final quarter, the boys and girls were separated for science class for four weeks so that sex education could be presented. The boys were taught by Susan Buras, while the girls went with Shelly Shumaker, who was the honors science teacher for seventh grade.

I’ll never forget my naivete. Shoulder pads for ladies’ blouses were big in the late 1980s, and I asked Ms. Buras if that’s where women kept their pads for their periods folded up. It cracked everyone up, especially Shawn, who always got a kick out of my antics. Looking back, I know much better, but I’m glad I could make the boys and Ms. Buras laugh, even if it was at me.

I’m also starting to fondly remember two girls who were a year ahead of us, Chastity Manzella and Jennifer Newell. Jennifer was the band’s drum major her eighth grade year. They were both very beautiful and very popular. Chastity flirted with me one day at an Arabi Park softball/baseball doubleheader at Trist Middle in Meraux; of course, I was too young and too uninformed to know what to do.

As much as I’m loving this, it’s obscenely late. I’ll be back later today.

Gone too soon

The last Monday night of August has put me in a very reflective mood. One where I realize how much I miss so many people from my native state.

Buzztime’s The Pulse was awesome, save for two questions, one about swimming and one about tennis. Those were the only two on which I did not score a perfect 1,000, and I ended the game with 28,499. That’s a hare above where I was last week. I think it will be enough to be #1 this week, but we’ll see. I was #2 last week, missing out on #1 nationally by less than 700 points. I was #1 July 28, Aug. 4 and Aug. 11.

I got a sobering dose of news tonight from my dear friend Stacie Dauterive Seube. I learned one of our classmates from Arabi Park Middle, Allison Richardson, passed away from cancer in 2008. I’m having to fight the urge to break down right now.

I could tell even at that tender age Allison was going to be special. She was very intelligent, and I would say she was right up there with Tammy Gilbert for smartest in our classes. She also was very gifted at saxophone, and she and Jack Bastoe were both outstanding, as was Jenny Cancienne. Probably the best section of the Arabi Park band, although Tammy, Toni LaRocca and Nicole Meyer were all great on the flute, and Stacie and Rosemarie Renz were honor band members on clarinet. Ms. Crow didn’t have to worry about the woodwinds; she usually reserved her ire for the trumpets, at first Jason Malasovich, and then me when I switched from clarinet.

I have been fortunate in that I have not lost many people whom I was close to outside my family. The one which comes to mind was Bobby Conlin, Brother Martin’s football coach, who passed away n July 1997 at 59. I was closer to him than any other adult at Brother Martin, and the only one who comes close was Janine Koening, my eighth grade science teacher. There have been a few from my days in college baseball, notably LSU third baseman Wally Pontiff, who tragically died in his sleep in 2002, and Tom Price, the longtime South Carolina publicist, who sadly passed away before his beloved Gamecocks won back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011. Some of the members of my high school class have died, but I wasn’t close to many, if any. In fact, the only classmate who is a Facebook friend is Steve Caparotta, who is now a meteorologist at WaFB, the CBS affiliate in Baton Rouge.

Back to Allison. It pains me to see someone so young, so vibrant cut down in the prime of her life, but cancer doesn’t discriminate. Not by race, not by gender, not by economic status, political persuasion, geographic location…nothing. Cancer kills. And sadly, more of us will be stricken in our lives than not.

I’m still at Buffalo Wild Wings because my dear friend Brittany Davidson is working. I brought her a fourth six-pack of Abita beer–strawberry–and of course she was ecstatic. Liz usually works Monday nights, but tonight she had to ask off because her back is hurting. Braidey Howe took her spot.

Lisa and her boyfriend, Jeff, won $500 with a lottery scratch-off. Wish I were that lucky, but I’m glad for them.

I’ve got to pick the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 tomorrow for my Russell column. I know I’m pegging Michigan State, Florida State and Oregon as the winners, but after that, not sure.

I still have the 35-minute drive to make back to Overland Park. But I’m not feeling too guilty about not spending more time at the hotel because (a) I’ve stayed there so much this summer and (b) the nights are free.

Besides, right now, I’m going down memory lane at Arabi Park with two of my favorite people, Rosemarie and Shawn O’Neil. I’m having too much fun to stop it now. And I’m also playing several songs from 1988 and 1989 when I was at Arabi Park. Ah to be 12 again.