Category Archives: Louisiana
The final four hours of 1972 in New Orleans featured two time-honored traditions.
One was the debauchery in the French Quarter, as thousands of drunken slobs got ready to change a calendar.
The second was the Sugar Bowl, which saw Oklahoma defeat Penn State 14-0.
Wait, a Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Eve?
Moving the Sugar Bowl from the traditional New Year’s Day slot it had occupied since 1935 to prime time on New Year’s Eve was made at the request of the American Broadcasting Company, which took over the television rights to the Sugar Bowl in 1969.
During the first three years it televised the Sugar Bowl, ABC noted its television ratings were far behind those of the Cotton Bowl, which was also played in the early afternoon of New Year’s Day.
For two of the three years in question, the Cotton Bowl matchup was Texas vs. Notre Dame. The Sugar Bowl offered Arkansas vs. Ole Miss in January 1970 and Tennessee vs. Air Force the next season.
Let’s see here…the nation’s No. 1 team two years running against the most recognizable brand in the sport playing in Dallas, against two all-white southern teams one year, then another southern team which only had a handful of blacks going up against a service academy, one which had zero following outside the Rocky Mountain region.
Who do YOU think would win the ratings battle?
It got little better in January 1972. Texas was back in the Cotton Bowl, this time facing Penn State. The Sugar Bowl had Oklahoma facing Auburn.
The Sugar Bowl started an hour before the Cotton Bowl, but when the Sooners bolted to a 31-0 halftime lead, TV sets everywhere outside of Oklahoma City and Tulsa flipped to watch the Nittany Lions and Longhorns.
In the spring of 1972, ABC demanded the Mid-Winter Sports Carnival, the New Orleans group responsible for the Sugar Bowl, move the game or else face cuts in team payouts.
ABC ponied up the cash–$575,000 per team, which in 1972 was a heck of a lot. The Sugar Bowl relented.
Sorry I got sidetracked with football. Back to the main story.
As the Sugar Bowl wound down, Mark James Robert Essex drove from his wretched boarding house on Dryades Street to the Orleans Parish Prison, known by locals as Central Lockup.
Essex’ goal in the waning minutes of 1972 was not to free prisoners, but to kill “pigs”.
His first target was a 19-year old unarmed police cadet named Bruce Weatherford.
Weatherford was assigned to work the graveyard shift–2300 to 0700–at the prison.
Just as the cadet emerged from his car after listening to the end of the Sugar Bowl on the radio, Essex fired his .44 magnum carbine.
The bullet missed Weatherford’s head, kicking up concrete chips as he ran towards the prison entrance. Weatherford waved to Alfred Harrell, a fellow cadet and good friend, to raise the gate to entrance, known as the “sally port”.
Even though Weatherford made it inside the prison safely, Essex kept firing. He struck Lt. Horace Perez in the ankle and shot Harrell, a 19-year old black, through the chest.
Lt. Kenneth Dupauquier checked Harrell for a pulse. There was none.
Alfred Harrell left behind a wife and a nine-month old son.
Essex ran from the prison and hid in a warehouse in Gert Town, one of the most crime-ridden sectors of the city. He set off an alarm inside the warehouse, and that drew the attention of patrolmen Edwin Hosli Sr. and Harold Blappert.
Hosli sent in his K-9 to sniff out the suspect, but before the dog could act, Essex shot Hosli.
The wounds turned out to be fatal.
Hosli never regained consciousness. He spent two months hooked up to life-support machines before succumbing 5 March 1973, the day before Mardi Gras. He was 27, leaving behind a wife and four children, one of whom, Edwin Hosli Jr., reached the rank of Captain with the NOPD.
Word of Harrell’s murder, Hosli’s life-threatening injuries and the bullet wound to Perez soon reached Police Chief Clarence Giarrusso, who naturally was angry and saddened by the turn of events.
Giarrusso’s second-in-command, Deputy Chief Louis Sirgo, led the investigation into Hosli’s shooting at the warehouse.
The next day, a group of officers prepared to storm the warehouse in an attempt to flush out Essex. Just before the raid was to commence, word came from headquarters to stand down. Many officers thought about defying a direct order and going after the sniper, but did as they were told.
With the city on edge as 1973 commenced, Essex went into hiding. His only known appearance in public during the first six days of the year came when he walked into a small grocery store at the corner of Gayoso and Erato Streets.
On the afternoon of 3 January, Cadet Alfred Harrell was laid to rest. Many of the NOPD’s top brass, including Giarrusso, Sirgo and Chief of Detectives Henry Morris, attended, as did Mayor Moon Landrieu.
The next day, a memorial service was held at St. Louis Cathedral for U.S. Representative Hale Boggs, who was flying in a plane over Alaska with that state’s Representative, Nick Begich, when it was lost in a snowstorm. Boggs, who was House Majority Leader for the 92nd Congress under Speaker Carl Albert, was declared dead the day the 93rd Congress convened.
A few hours after Boggs’ service ended in the French Quarter, grocery store Joe Perniciaro and his stock boy came to police headquarters with a tip about a customer who resembled the shooter at parish prison.
Apparently, the blacks who lived in the area knew Perniciaro went to the police. They tipped off Essex.
On the first Sunday morning of 1973, Mark James Robert Essex went to Perniciaro’s grocery store with his .44 carbine. As the grocer turned to run, Essex shot Perniciaro in the shoulder.
Essex left the grocery store and soon happened upon Marvin Albert, a black man sitting outside his South White Street reisdence in his 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle.
Albert soon looked up to find the double barrel of a .44 magnum in his face.
Essex demanded, “Hi brother. Get out of the car!”
Albert replied “Are you crazy?”
Essex then said “I’m only killing honkies today, but I will kill you, too.”
Not wanting to give his life for something as trivial as a car, White got out. Essex sped off in the stolen vehicle and headed straight for the Downtown Howard Johnson’s Hotel at 330 Loyola Avenue, across the street from the Louisiana Supreme Court and City Hall.
White flagged down officer Peter Dominick, who let White ride shotgun as they searched for Essex and the car.
Essex nearly t-boned another driver in the parking garage, then left the car on the fourth floor of the seven-floor garage. He attempted to gain access to floors on one end of the hallway, but each door was locked.
Then he got to the 18th floor, the top floor of the hotel.
A piece of linen placed there by a maid held the door ajar. Essex was inside the hotel, and his reign of terror was about to commence.
As he rushed by startled maids, all of whom were black, Essex said “Don’t you worry. I want the whites”.
The maids did not care Essex wasn’t going to harm them. They were far more concerned with the huge bulge in his shirt which concealed his .44 magnum.
The first person Essex encountered in the 18th floor hallway was Dr. Robert Stegall. He and his wife, Betty, resided in Martinsville, Virginia, and were on a belated honeymoon throughout the southern United States. The Stegalls were scheduled to check out of the Howard Johnson’s by noon and head east to Panama City, Florida.
Dr. Stegall saw Essex running and attempted to dislodge the rifle from the sniper. Essex recovered, hit the doctor with the butt, then shot him twice through the chest.
Mrs. Stegall pleaded frantically with Essex to spare her husband, but he shoved her aside. Once the doctor was bleeding out, Mrs. Stegall was shot through the back of the skull. He lay the bodies next to each other, then set the room on fire. He set fire to every 18th floor room he found open by squirting the phone directory with lighter fluid, lighting it, then setting it under the drapes.
In short order, Essex blew out the brains of the hotel’s assistant manager, Frank Schneider, then shot the general manager, Walter Collins, who died 19 days later.
With fires raging throughout the hotel, the NOFD quickly arrived on the scene. The first fire to climb a ladder, Lt. Tim Ursin, was shot in the shoulder by Essex from a balcony on the 18th floor. Ursin eventually lost that arm.
After shooting Ursin, Essex moved to the roof, where he began to fire at will every time a police officer came into view. A group of young blacks stood across Loyola from the hotel and loudly cheered “RIGHT ON!” every time Essex fired. The blacks also hurled epithets and threw objects at the police attempting to keep order.
When officer Phillip Coleman drove his squad car onto a grassy area across the street from the hotel, Essex shot Coleman in the head from a distance of more than 95 meters (315 feet). The 26-year old died instantly. Coleman’s partner, Ken Solis, was wounded, as was Sgt. Emanuel Palmisano. It took Times-Picayune photographer Gerry Arnold to take the radio from Coleman’s car and call for help.
Not long after Coleman was murdered, motorcycle officer Paul Persigo was also shot fatally in the head by Essex. The 33-year old Persigo was wearing a white helmet, making him a sitting duck.
By this time, Giarrusso had arrived on scene at the hotel. He had been headed to New Orleans International Airport to catch a flight to Washington for a law enforcement conference, but turned back when his radio crackled with news of the shooting. He actually was in the line of fire as he made his way down Loyola from the Bank of Louisiana building to the hotel. He set up his command post in the hotel’s lobby, a move which Giarrusso admitted in hindsight was not the best idea.
Word soon reached Giarrusso that two officers, Michael Burl and Paul Childress, were trapped in the elevator shaft. Electricity in the hotel had gone out, leaving the elevator cars stuck on the top floor. Burl and Childress were about to asphyxiate from smoke inhalation if they did not get out of the shaft soon.
Giarrusso ordered Sirgo to lead a group of officers up the stairwell where the elevators were located in order to free Burl and Childress.
As Sirgo led the group up the stairs between the 16th and 17th floors, Essex fired in the dark.
Louis Sirgo, hand-picked by Giarrusso to be deputy superintendent in 1970, six years after Sirgo retired from the forced while Clarence’s older brother, Joe, was police chief, had been fatally wounded at the age of 48.
Sirgo’s loss left Giarrusso and every other officer on the scene despondent. Essex had taken out three officers and four civilians in only a few hours, and Lord only knew how many more could die if this madman was not contained.
At the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station approximately 24 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of the Central Business District, Lt. Col. Chuck Pitman watched with horror as the sniping continued unabated throughout the afternoon. WWL, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans, cut into regular programming to provide frequent updates on the happenings at 330 Loyola. The reporting by Phil Johnson, Bill Elder and others cemented WWL’s reputation as one of the best local news affiliates in the country.
Pitman called Giarrusso and Landrieu to offer his services. After going through several ideas, Pittman suggested he would be able to take a load of officers up in a CH53 Black Hawk helicopter and allow them to shoot through the portholes which normally housed machine guns.
To Pittman, trying to take out one sniper had to be a hell of a lot easier than what he experienced in Vietnam, where his helicopter was shot down seven times. Pitman also made nearly 1,200 successful missions and had enough medals to make MacArthur and Eisenhower jealous.
Pitman landed his helicopter near the construction site of the Superdome. Three officers–Frank Buras, Thomas Casey and Antoine Saacks–volunteered to go up in the helicopter with Pittman in order to root out Essex.
Meanwhile, civilians were showing up at the hotel with rifles, elephant guns and all sorts of weapons, volunteering their services to find the elusive sniper. Giarrusso found out these false reports were being on radio stations across New Orleans, and those on WWL AM could be heard in places like Kansas City, Denver, Omaha, Louisville and Atlanta.
Giarrusso angrily told the civilians to leave or face arrest.
Rooting out Essex was easier said than done.
Pittman made two passes over the roof, attempting to flush Essex out of his concrete bunker on the east side of the hotel. The sniper returned fire, hitting the helicopter and forcing it to land.
On the third pass, the officers were able to hit the drainpipe which Essex clung to in the bunker, forcing him out into the open.
Once Essex became visible, a day’s worth of frustration was unleashed by Buras, Casey, Saacks and other officers, including Detective Gus Krinkie and NOPD Ballistics Chief Anthony Vega, who were perched atop the burned-out Rault Center, where Essex’s dastardly deeds began 39 days earlier.
Mark James Robert Essex was dead at the age of 23. An autopsy performed by New Orleans coroner Dr. Carl Rabin revealed Essex had been hit by more than 200 bullets.
Essex was dead, but Giarrusso and the others believed there were one or two more snipers somewhere in the hotel. The next morning, Pitman flew more sorties over the roof, but nobody else was there.
By early afternoon Monday, Giarrusso did what he had avoided doing for so long: he ordered an assault on the roof by numerous officers.
There was gunfire aplenty, but the only people wounded were NOPD officers, victims of friendly fire.
By sunset on 8 January, one of New Orleans’ greatest tragedies was over.
Giarrusso believed Essex was part of a larger conspiracy to kill police officers. Gov. Edwin Edwards encouraged the Louisiana Legislature to pass a new death penalty bill for such heinous crimes. Black leaders attempted to cool the temperature by pointing out Essex was not from Louisiana, but rather came uninvited from Kansas.
On the morning of 9 January, Essex was identified as the sniper. His boyhood in Emporia, his service in the Navy, his time in New Orleans all became public knowledge.
Nellie Essex, the sniper’s mother, blamed “white society” for killing “her Jimmy” and that it was time for “white America” to get off its “(butts) and do something”. This interview was broadcast on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite to millions of American homes three days after Essex’s rampage.
Persigo, Coleman and Sirgo were buried later that week, with Giarrusso and Landrieu leading the eulogies at all three funerals. Essex was buried in Emporia that Saturday, with many black militants in attendance.
The day after Essex was buried, the Dolphins defeated the Redskins in Super Bowl VII to complete their 17-0 season. It was good to be back to normal.
The Super Bowl, Nixon’s second inauguration, Roe v. Wade, Lyndon Johnson’s death, George Foreman’s stunning knockout of Joe Frazier and the Paris Peace Accords all buried Essex’s sniping to the back burner rather quickly. However, to those who were living in New Orleans at that time, and those who grew up in the city, it cannot be forgotten.
Through the years, I have regarded Mark James Robert Essex as as dastardly criminal, one who does not deserve any respect. My stomach turns when I see internet postings about how Essex is a “hero” and a “martyr” for black Americans.
People have prejudices. I have them.
However, it does not give anyone the right to use violence to correct those wrongs. Essex chose to shoot police officers and civilians in a show of raw hatred. He set that fire at the Rault Center, knowing most of the clients of the salon and Lamplighter Club were white, although a black lady was one of the ones who jumped to her death.
Giarrusso was subject to numerous death threats in the weeks following the carnage. There were threats made against his family that they would be kidnapped during Mardi Gras and held for ransom.
Mardi Gras 1973 was held under a very dark cloud. That year’s Mardi Gras already figured to be discordant, since the City Council banned parades from rolling int the French Quarter in August 1972. The racial tension exacerbated it.
Hatred reared its ugly head in New Orleans later in 1973.
On the evening of 24 June, fire raged at The Upstairs, a lounge at the edge of the French Quarter which was a known hangout for gay men.
The fire was blamed on an angry patron who had been denied entrance. He bought a bottle of lighter fluid at a nearby Walgreens, doused the stairwell upon his return, then lit a match to spark the inferno.
The fire killed 32, making it the deadliest in Louisiana’s history.
Two months before my birth, Wichita was the location of a sniper atop a hotel.
On 11 August 1976, 19-year old Michael Soles went to the top of the Holiday Inn on Douglas Street downtown and fired at will, killing three and injuring eight. Unlike Essex, who forced the police to blow him to bits, Soles surrendered and was sentenced to three life terms. He has been denied parole on numerous occasions over the last 31 years.
Essex and Soles are largely forgotten in the wake of Columbine, 9/11, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Stoneman Douglas, Uvalde and many others. Time may heal most wounds, but these still run deep.
Thank you for reading this two-part tragedy. I hope I didn’t depress you. Take care.
NOTE: I realized one post would be way too unwieldy for what I’m discussing here. This is part one of two.
On the morning of 7 January 1993, I awoke and dressed for another day of school at Brother Martin High.
Splashed across the front page of The Times-Picayune was a headline and a picture commemorating the 20th anniversary of a bloody 30-hour standoff at a high-rise hotel which saw three New Orleans Police Department officers and four civilians lose their lives, with numerous others injured, including a firefighter who lost his arm.
That was the first I heard of the Howard Johnson’s sniper.
When I attended LSU in the mid to late 1990s, the basement of the library housed microfilm copies of the newspapers in New Orleans and Baton Roue dating to the 19th century, plus film of papers from New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Louis, among other locales.
One of the first things I did was pull out The Times-Picayune film from the incident.
I discovered the sniper, Mark James Robert Essex, was born and raised in Emporia.
Yes, Emporia, KANSAS.
Essex grew up with two brothers and two sisters. His father was a foreman at the local meat packing plant. His mother was a strict housewife who regularly paddled her children when doing so was encouraged.
After graduation from Emporia High in 1967, Essex enrolled at Pittsburg State University, but he soon dropped out.
As a 19-year old without a college deferment, Essex knew he was a prime candidate to be drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam, where the war showed no signs of ending.
Not wanting to be transported home in a “cardboard box” (thank you, Country Joe and the Fish) from southeast Asia, Essex voluntarily joined the military, enlisting in the Navy, where the likelihood of combat duty was not zero, but far less the Army and Marines.
It turned worked out quite well for the young black man.
Instead of slogging through rice paddies and taking on enemy fire nearly every day, Essex was sent to the large naval base in San Diego, where he became a dental technician under the guidance of Lt. Dr. Richard Hatcher following basic training.
Southern California instead of the Mekong Delta? San Diego instead of Saigon? Jackpot.
By August 1970, Essex began to accuse fellow sailors of racism. He went AWOL two months later and was court-martialed in January 1971.
One month after his court-martial, Essex was discharged. It was not dishonorable, but it was certainly not honorable. This prevented him from re-enrolling in college under the GI bill, and would have hindered him in receiving healthcare from the Veterans Administration.
Essex’ hatred of white people dominated what was left of his life.
Following his discharge, Essex went to New York, where he spent three months receiving indoctrination from radical Black Panthers under the leadership of Eldridge Cleaver, whose more militant Panthers broke away from those led by Bobby Seale. Cleaver accused Seale of “selling out” because he was now living in a luxury penthouse in Oakland and toned down his rhetoric, much the same way Malcolm X before his 1965 assassination.
Cleaver’s group published a newspaper which included tips for black radicals on how to kill “pigs” (police officers) and “honkies” (white people). A mantra of the paper stated “revolution comes from the barrel of a gun”.
The Black Panthers were a shadow of themselves in early 1971. Essex became disillusioned after retaliatory killings by members of the Cleaver and Seale factions, and left New York in mid-May of that year.
Essex got out of New York just before two NYPD officers, Waverly Jones (a black) and Joseph Piganetini, were murdered by members of the Black Liberation Army, a socialist revolutionary group which was even more violent than the heyday of the Panthers.
Essex returned to Emporia. The hate-filled 22-year old was fired from job after job due to insubordination. He couldn’t even stick around at the meat packing plant where his father worked.
In his spare time, which was plenty because of his large swaths of unemployment, Essex was a voracious reader of anti-white literature. His anger was further stoked after the September riots at Attica State Prison in western New York, where 28 prisoners (mostly black) and nine corrections officers were killed.
Essex took the next step down his fateful road in April 1972 when he purchased a .44 magnum carbine from Montgomery Ward with the help of a friend. All Essex had to do to acquire the powerful weapon was fill out a one-page form.
That spring and summer, Essex spent his free time in vast open spaces around Lyon County shooting his weapon.
In August 1972, Essex packed up his .44 carbine and a sawed-off shotgun, along with a few meager possessions, and drove his 1963 Chevrolet to New Orleans, where a good friend, Rodney Frank, resided. Frank and Essex served together in the Navy, and like Essex, Frank harbored a strong hatred of whites.
Essex was accepted into a federal job training program. He studied vending machine repair and excelled in the course. However, he could never keep a steady address, moving from one dilapidated apartment to another.
As was the case at every job he held in Kansas, Essex found vending machine repair beneath him. He dropped out of the course and spent his days reading more radical anti-white literature.
In a two-week stretch of November, Mark Essex went from angry to deadly.
The Thursday before Thanksgiving (16 November), protests erupted at Southern University, a historically black school on the north side of Baton Rouge, 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the largely white LSU.
Those protests soon became full-fledged riots, prompting university president Dr. Leon Netterville to call from help from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s office.
Soon, Gov. Edwin Edwards learned of what was going on at Southern, and he ordered the Louisiana State Police in. Edwards soon flew to the university by helicopter and spoke to the students, who mercilessly heckled the man who would go on to serve four terms as governor and later end up in federal prison on racketeering and bribery convictions.
Two students, Leonard Brown and Denver Smith, were killed.
This enraged Essex, who thought “pigs” were again shooting and killing innocent black people.
(On the other hand, Essex probably didn’t give a damn when four white students were shot and killed at Kent State in May 1970.)
Essex’s rage boiled into an inferno–literally.
On 29 November, a massive fire broke out on the 15th floor of the Rault Center, a high rise in the Central Buisness District.
The fire raged through the Lamplighter Club and an adjacent hair salon.
Several trapped on the 15th floor made it to the 16th, where they were rescued by helicopter, but sadly, not everyone could make it out.
Faced with the terrifying prospect of burning to death or otherwise dying from smoke inhalation, five women in the salon attempted to jump to safety.
Three died instantly. One died of her injuries several days later.
The fifth, Natalie V. Smith, lived more than 40 years after.
There were no sprinklers in the Rault Center, which angered then-Deputy Fire Chief William McCrossen. When he was promoted to the top spot in the spring of 1973, McCrossen immediately demanded all buildings be fitted with sprinklers.
Arson was immediately suspected.
Two suspicious black men were spotted on the 15th floor the morning of the fire. One of them matched the description of Mark Essex.
Unfortunately for building owner Joseph Rault, the New Orleans Fire Department and the victims’ families, they would never see Mark Essex brought to justice.
That’s because Essex wouldn’t live long enough to be brought to justice for the arson, thanks to more brazen crimes.
TO BE CONTINUED
The worst month many of us have experienced is over.
What may become the worst month many of us will experience is now upon us.
Life without sports will continue throughout April, and probably May. If there are any games played before Fathers Day (June 21), it will be a Biblical miracle. If there are any before America’s Independence Day, it will be a major miracle. If the college and professional football seasons kick off on time in September, it will be a minor miracle.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit scared the living crap out of every coach, player and fan last week, stating he didn’t believe there would be any more sports, period, until a vaccine for coronavirus was available.
College football’s resident coronavirus expert, Ed Orgeron, believes there will be “no disruption” to the college football season, which is scheduled to begin August 29 with the Notre Dame-Navy game in Ireland.
I’m naturally pessimistic, and I’m tending to believe Herbstreit might be right. I’m not scared. I’m downright terrified.
My native state is in one of its biggest crises since Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803.
The banner on the top of The Advocate’s home page is grim indeed: 5,237 cases, 239 dead, 1,355 in the hospital.
For perspective, the coronavirus has killed three times as many Louisiana residents as Hurricane Betsy, which claimed 76 lives in the Bayou State (plus five in Florida) in September 1965.
The toll is only 17 short of the total number of people who perished in Hurricane Camille, the Category 5 monster which plowed much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast the same weekend as Woodstock in 1969. The total of 256 was spread over Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia; the latter two states experienced flash flooding in the Blue Ridge mountains two days after landfall.
Hurricane Katrina killed 1,836 in Louisiana in 2005. If the coronavirus comes anywhere close to reaching that figure, it will be just as catastrophic, maybe more so. I’m certain it will surpass the 550 who died when Hurricane Audrey roared into southwest Louisiana in June 1957.
Kansas has “only” 428 cases as of this minute. Barton County, due south of Russell County, reported its first case yesterday.
For the second consecutive Tuesday, I ventured to Salina to pick up food and other necessities. It was a complete success, as I picked up five dozen eggs, plus the sausages and other things I like.
Target had two surprises for me.
One, TOILET PAPER. And not just any toilet paper, the Charmin Ultra Soft I have used for most of the past 25 years. I first used it when I went to LSU, and I kept on using it living in Baton Rouge following graduation. I did not use it when I moved home from April 2004 through August 2005, but once I got to Russell, I started using it again.
I have 19 mega rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft in the utility closet next to my bathroom, but 30 mega rolls for $30 was just too good to pass up. I’m set for the rest of this year, and probably most of next year.
There were ZERO packages of toilet paper available the previous Tuesday in the same store.
I was also happy to find Bounty paper towels. Bounty and Brawny are head and shoulders above all other brands. They may be more expensive, but as they say, you get what you pay for.
The second surprise: Target’s stock of home haircutting kits was completely sold out.
I was stunned, but then I realized barber shops and salons were forced to close by the statewide stay-at-home order which took effect Monday. This is going to force parents to cut their children’s hair, although there are no grooming regulations to worry about since nobody will be attending school in a building until at least August.
Fortunately, I bought a haircut set at a Walmart in Topeka in 2007. It sat unused until November, when I elected to cut my own hair to save money.
Walmart did not have haircut sets, either. Bed, Bath and Beyond, whose stores are closed through at least Friday and longer in many states due to stay-at-home orders, is sold out online. Amazon’s supplies are low.
Speaking of Salina and haircuts, I miss Amber.
Chick-Fil-A was again my meal of choice. I hadn’t eaten since the previous night so I devoured a chicken sandwich and eight strips. I think their strips are just as good as Zaxby’s and Raising Cane’s, although they aren’t hyped as much as the sandwiches.
I have seriously lost track of time. I sat down to play Buzztime at 22:00, and now it’s 02:10. I’m surprised Buzztime hasn’t kicked me off the system, which it used to after 02:00.
Just posted my first perfect Late Shift of the night. On my 17th try. Usually I can get it quicker than that.
I’d better get to bed, or I’ll sleep through my appointment with Crista at 16:00, although I don’t have to drive to Hays. We’re doing it via Zoom, which was the case last week.
The last 12 hours of my 43rd year got off to a sour start.
Following my fourth marathon day at Buffalo Wild Wings, I stopped at the QuikTrip in Riverside to fuel the Buick so I wouldn’t have to do it tomorrow.
When I arrived, I noticed a white GMC Yukon sitting in front of pump #4 with the pump in the tank. He was blocking one of the four non-ethanol pumps, and of course, I wanted non-ethanol.
After three or four minutes in the store, I pulled out of the lot in front of the store. Yet all the non-ethanol pumps were not available: the Yukon was still there, one was blocked by a guy fixing his car, another was blocked by a car not getting non-ethanol, and another was in use by someone actually buying non-ethanol.
I waited for three minutes for the Yukon. Nothing.
I finally had to go in and ask the clerks at the cash register to see if the Yukon owner was in the store. Sure enough he was. He told me he would move it. He looked pissed off.
First, it is absolutely RUDE to block a gas pump when you’re done. Move on.
Second, it is even more RUDE to block a pump which has non-ethanol or diesel. EVERY pump–20 of them in this case–has the three standard grades of 10% ethanol gas. And while it was busy, there were eight pumps open for the regular gas.
Third, why the hell do people leave their vehicle in front of the pump when they want to go shop in the store? That’s stupid. Why not pull the car to the front of the store so you don’t have as long to walk?
I am to the point where I might just have to take a trip to Tulsa and chew out the bigwigs at QuikTrip. No, I won’t make a special trip–although I could go for Whataburger–but I will send an angry letter. No cursing, no threats, but just my absolute disappointment at the lack of courtesy.
It was a great day at Buffalo Wild Wings. Robb and Theresa stopped by for an hour. Theresa brought me some of her homemade sausage to take back to Russell.
Yet I’m ready to get back to Russell. Got a lot of work to do between now and Wednesday at noon.
I left B-Dubs upset last night. I was hoping Peggy would stop in Kansas City on her way from Des Moines to Paola. She was in Iowa yesterday to watch Caitlyn play, and she was heading to Courtney and Andy’s home to stay before going to Wichita today for the Ottawa-Friends match. I asked her to consider stopping on her way down I-35, but I never heard from her.
When I left B-Dubs, I made a beeline straight for Overland Park and Cheesecake Factory. I got two slices of cheesecake (tiramisu and Godiva–delicious) and a strip steak. The steak was overcooked and thin, so that taught me a lesson–stick to Cheesecake. I would have been better off making a second stop at Outback on the other side of I-435. Oh well.
I felt very guilty that I didn’t go to Wichita and to Ottawa, where Caitlyn was a member of the homecoming court. I was much harder on myself than they were on me. St. Louis bought a lot of goodwill.
Georgia choked today. The third-ranked Bulldogs gagged to a mediocre South Carolina team 20-17 in double overtime in Athens.
I won’t go into how much I hate overtime in college and high school football. If you’ve read the blog you know my stance.
If anyone in the SEC was going to beat Georgia, South Carolina is the LAST team I wanted doing it.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp revealed himself as a gigantic douchebag last year when he vigorously defended then-Maryland coach D.J. Durkin, who helped kill Terrapins offensive tackle Jordan McNair with his gross negligence. Muschamp fired back at anyone who dared speak ill of Durkin and called those who did “soft”.
I never liked Muschamp when he coached Florida, although he dragged the Gators into the abyss, so that was good for LSU. The defense of Durkin sealed it.
Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher, Urban Meyer and Kirk Ferentz are four coaches I would never, EVER want any male relative of mine to play for. Nick Saban is a more complicated matter, one I don’t have time to delve into right now, considering its after 2300 and I want to be back in Russell in 12 hours.
LSU didn’t choke, although the Bayou Bengals had me way too nervous. They traded blows with Florida for three quarters before pulling away in the fourth to a 42-28 victory in Baton Rouge. The Bayou Bengals will be fourth or fifth in the polls tomorrow, depending on where Oklahoma is slotted following its 34-27 victory over Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State will be the top three.
Honestly, why do we need polls before the end of October? Most of the early polls are based upon reputation and nothing more. Same with college basketball, where Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina are automatically ranked in the preseason no matter what.
Missouri beat Ole M(P)iss 38-27. Good. As much as I can’t stand Florida, I totally depise the plantation in Oxford. I wish there would have been more allegations against Hugh Freeze which would have given the SEC reason to expel the Rebels.
Washington won AGAIN in the National League Championship Series. The Nationals take a 2-0 lead back to the banks of the Potomac. The Cardinals had better find an offense NOW or else there will not be another game at Busch Stadium III until April.
The Yankees beat the Astros 7-0 in the first game of the ALCS at Houston. I can see it now….all the east coast media slobbering over the prospect of commuting up and down I-95. People in Philadelphia might not be so excited about the idea.
It wasn’t a good day for Larry. The Cardinals lost again, and the Blues got hammered 6-3 in Montreal. At least Mizzou prevented it from being a total disaster.
Louisiana’s governor’s election is going to a second round. Incumbent John Bel Edwards failed to reach the necessary 50 percent plus one vote to win in the primary. He will now face Eddie Rispone in a runoff.
Rispone is a carbon copy of former governor Mike Foster–an rich old white man financing his own campaign. Foster didn’t do squat in two terms. He was more concerned about hunting and riding his motorcycles.
Louisiana was a total mess under Edwards’ predecessor, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal. Jindal cut state services and higher education to bare bones and the state swam in red ink deeper than the Mississippi River running through Baton Rouge. Jindal neglected the Bayou State to prepare his presidential campaign, which bombed spectacularly thank God.
Edwards–no relation to former four-term governor Edwin Washington Edwards–has put Louisiana back on solid financial footing. Of course, too many sycophant voters see a “D” next to Edwards name an automatically think he’s evil.
Rispone ran disgusting attack ads against both Edwards and Republican U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham, who finished third. I am so glad I’m not in Louisiana to see this crap.
Politics disgusts me. Period. I hate it. I’m sick and freaking tired of the hatred on both sides. Just because someone has an opposite view to yours doesn’t mean he or she is your mortal enemy. The real enemies are in North Korea, Russia, Venezuela and other countries which would destroy the American way of life.
My 43rd year is down to its last 10 hours. By time I reconnect with this blog, I will be into my 44th. Good night.
Two thousand eight hundred forty nine days since I last departed Baton Rouge, I have returned.
It became official just before noon when my dad and I crossed the US 190 bridge over the Mississippi River. The bridge is now painted silver like the Interstate 10 bridge. Previously, it was orange, which matched the bauxite dust from the nearby Kaiser Aluminium plant, long since closed. When it opened in 1940, the bridge was blue, but when the dust kept coating the bridge, it turned orange, so the state decided enough was enough and stopped painting it blue.
The trip from Texarkana included a bit of hilarity in Shreveport. We stopped for gas along the last exit out of Shreveport heading south on Interstate 49. There are two stations on the road, a Chevron on the right (eastbound) and a Shell on the left (westbound). The Shell was selling gasoline for less than the Chevron. There were no cars at the Chevron, yet at the Shell, every pump was in use and there were line waiting to get their gas.
All to save six cents per gallon.
You read it right: SIX CENTS. One nickel and one penny.
In other words, many were there to save no more than $1.08, which would be 18 gallons of gas times six cents. One guy had a full-sized pickup truck and a generator to fuel. Even if he needed 50 gallons, he would still save a measly three bucks.
My dad decided to wait in line, since we had already pulled in to the Shell and didn’t want to cross the highway to go to Chevron.
We passed by the state capitol when we got to town, but traffic was nuts, so we decided to come back and try to get a picture Sunday. When we returned to Interstate 110 to get to I-10, traffic came to a crawl. Baton Rouge and traffic go together just like peanut butter and jelly.
In an hour, my dad and I will be going to eat at one of Baton Rouge’s most popular restaurants, TJ Ribs. We’ll be meeting someone from my past…
We have time. The game isn’t until 7:00. Tonight will be fine, but tomorrow is supposed to be very stormy as I mentioned earlier.
I will admit I’m nervous. I have not seen this person in a very long time. I have wanted to see them for a very long time.
I almost forgot until a few minutes ago, but maybe the strangest high school football game I’ve ever covered occurred on September 1.
It was 2000, and I was winding down a season-long internship with the New Orleans Zephyrs Triple-A baseball club. The Zephyrs were then an affiliate of the Houston Astros, but have changed affiliations three times since then, going to the Nationals, the Mets, and the Marlins, who have been the parent club since 2010.
I was ready to get away from baseball. As much as I love our national pastime, doing it for five months straight, sometimes eight to 12 nights in a row, can be downright draining. There was a Sunday night game which lasted 15 innings, a Thursday doubleheader which didn’t end until 3 a.m., and numerous storms which forced the tarp to be pulled. And in minor league baseball, all male employees are expected to pull it, except during the game, when the grounds crew takes over.
I hated tarp duty. I revolted. I was a terrible intern. Asperger’s had something to do with it. I was 23 going on 24 that season, but my emotional development was more akin to an 8-year old. I still feel terrible for being a total jerk, because everyone there, including general manager Dan Hanrahan and media relations director Les East bent over backwards to help, and I spit in their faces.
As the Zephyrs began their last home series of the 2000 season, Robin Fambrough of The Advocate called me about prep football’s season starting. My assignment for the first Friday of the regular season was East Ascension of Gonzales at Hammond. This was a logical decsion, since I was living with my parents in Arabi, and Hammond was easier for me to drive to, since all I had to do was travel 12 miles past New Orleans International Airport, and then 33 miles north on Interstate 55. The drive would total 52 miles one way.
When I was driving home from the Zephyrs’ final home game on Thursday, August 31, I heard on the radio where the game between Baton Rouge Catholic and Jesuit at New Orleans’ Tad Gormley Stadium had been suspended less than five minutes in due to lightning. Robin assigned the game to Ron Brocato, the longtime sportswriter for the Clarion Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, because I was not available.
I had not been home for 10 minutes when the phone rang at 224 Jaguar Drive. The caller ID said The Advocate. I immediately picked up and Jason Russell, one of the sports copy editors, was on the other end. He told me Robin wanted me to instead go to the resumption of the Catholic-Jesuit game the next night.
The good news: I only had a 20-minute drive. The bad news: I had never covered a football game which was being joined in progress.
The next day, with the mercury at 100 degrees and the heat index hovering at 115, I drove to Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans’ City Park, only a stone’s throw from my future employer, Delgado Community College. I made my way to the press box on the east side of the stadium and set up my computer, ready to input statistics into The Automated Scorebook.
The great news about covering a Catholic game is all of their games are on radio. Even better, the statistician for the radio broadcasts,, David Butler, keeps meticulous notes, charting every play.
What a relief. I was able to input the plays I missed and when 7:30 came and the game resumed, it was business as normal, even if nearly five minutes had elapsed and Jesuit was holding a 3-0 lead.
Catholic couldn’t move the ball very well. Jesuit’s offense was handcuffed for the most part, but when the Bluejays needed a key play, quarterback Perrin Rittiner and running back Dominic Webber came through. The Bluejays scored the game’s only touchdown in the third quarter, and in the fourth, an interception by Quinton Jason at the 1-yard line stopped Catholic’s best drive.
Final score: Jesuit 10, Catholic 0. After the game, the coaches, Dale Weiner of Catholic and Jay Pittman of Jesuit, were both glad I was covering the game. Nice to see them, too.
There wasn’t a phone line in the Tad Gormley press box, and I didn’t have a modem for my cell phone, but that was fine. My story was done before 10, and I would just drive home to file it, since deadline wasn’t until 11:15.
I almost didn’t make it. The Claiborne Avenue bridge across the Industrial Canal was in the up position. I didn’t have time to wait, so I ventured south on Poland Avenue to the St. Claude Avenue bridge. There is no left turn onto St. Claude from Poland, so I had to go down a block and U-turn, something I had done hundreds of times.
This time, however, it almost turned disastrous. The streets were slick from earlier rain, and I stopped because there was a red light. I couldn’t turn right immediately, and I heard the car behind me come to a sudden stop. Oh boy.
Fortunately, he skidded into the other lane and missed me. I turned right, crossed the canal,, and was home 12 minutes later. The story followed shortly thereafter. Another night in the world of a high school sportswriter.
June 25, 2004 should have been one of the happiest days of my life. It was the happiest day of my life at the time it happened.
Today, it brings back heartache, pain and all of the associated emotions. It reminds me of just how lonely I am and what little chance I have of finding happiness with someone else in what little time I figure to have left on this earth.
Ten years ago today, I met the lady I thought was “the one”. The lady I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. This was our first date, mind you, but the connection was so strong, the passion so burning between us, it seriously hurt to end the date and go home. And I was hurting for days, wanting to see her again so bad that the two weeks which passed between dates seemed like at least two years.
I never dreamed I would have met someone so beautiful as Renetta Rogers. And I never would have dreamed I would have met her through an online site. And I REALLY never would have dreamed she would have been the one to initiate contact, but sure enough, on June 3, 2004, she contacted through Match.com. To that point, I had a Match.com profile for two and a half years at that time, and I could count the number of replies on my hands. Of those replies, I had met only one. She was a very nice lady, a high school teacher, and we met at my apartment in Hammond (this was during my ill-fated time when I worked at Southeastern Louisiana University in that town, which is 40 miles east of Baton Rouge and 50 miles northwest of New Orleans). We went out for a drive and everything seemed great, but lo and behold, another tenant sideswiped her parked car, and she freaked out. We kept in touch for another week, but it went nowhere, and we never talked again.
When Renetta contacted me, I didn’t know how to react beyond a reply. Fortunately, I went to Baton Rouge that weekend with an NCAA baseball regional at LSU and would worry about it when I got back to my parents’ home in suburban New Orleans, where I was living once again after taking a job with Delgado Community College. When I returned to the homestead at 224 Jaguar Drive in Arabi (a community 15 minutes east of downtown New Orleans, one which would become infamous a little over a year later), I e-mailed her again, she replied, and the next week, we finally started talking on the phone. The conversations were long and involved, and I things were looking very good.
I learned Renetta was a very special lady. A true survivor–literally. She was a student at LSU when she was involved in a severe car accident in 2000, one which by all rights should have killed her. She was in a coma for almost two years, and when she finally emerged, she had to start her life over. Imagine trying to learn to walk and talk again. Worse, try learning how to use the toilet and bathe yourself again at 21 or 22, which is what Renetta had to do. Fortunately, Renetta’s mother, Liz, nurtured her every step of the way. The only drawback was her mother would accompany her in public, which did not faze me a bit. I thought it was a great idea to meet her right away and that would take the suspense away–would she like me or not?
We set June 25, a Friday as the date day. The three of us would meet at a Starbucks in Mandeville, which is across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. I left my home in Arabi early and stopped in Slidell to buy her flowers, then made the drive west on Interstate 12 to Mandeville. I was sweating the whole way. When I got to Mandeville, it started POURING, pouring so much the parking lot at Starbucks flooded. It was one of those gullywashers which are not uncommon to south Louisiana in the summer.
I waited for Renetta and Liz for 20 minutes. Then they arrived. Renetta walked with a noticeable limp from the accident, so it took her a little time to reach me. If she didn’t have that limp, I’m convinced she would have come running at me and may have knocked me down, because she hugged me so hard. The conversation went very well, and while her mother used the restroom, we snuck in a kiss. Not a big deal to most, but here it was, less than four months from my 28th birthday, and it was my first romantic kiss. There would be a lot more of that as the date progressed.
After 45 minutes at Starbucks, we made our way across the street to the Macaroni Grill. No food, but Renetta and Liz wanted wine. Being a teetotaler and knowing I would be driving across Lake Pontchartrain after dark, I passed.
The ride to dinner was something. Renetta rode in my car, and we would kiss every time we would get a chance. We wanted the traffic signals to stay red, because we could get in a longer kiss. Once we got to the restaurant, we started really going at it hot and heavy. We left our table and went to the bar area and really made out, making those around us take notice. They thought we were really in love.
I didn’t want the date to end. Neither did Renetta. She wanted me to come back to their house in Mandeville to stay the night and spend Saturday with her, but Liz said no. I told Liz I would stay at a hotel in nearby Covington and come back tomorrow, but Liz said no. I got lost leaving the restaurant and thought I may never get home, but somehow I found my way back to I-12 and back across Lake Pontchartrain to Arabi.
If I never dated Renetta again and it ended in a normal fashion, I would have been very, very sad for a time, but very, very happy that I had that one date and I got to know her and Liz. Unfortunately, the way it ended still has me thinking what a turd I am.
I’m going to skip all the in between–I will get to that later–and fast forward to April 19, 2009. That was the Sunday night when I finally listened to a voice mail on my cell phone which had been left the previous Tuesday by Liz claiming that I sabotaged her job prospects in Jefferson City, Mo., by something I had posted on Facebook. First, I never, ever remember posting something on Facebook about her like that, and second, did anyone in Jefferson City know me well enough to believe it? If they did, than that’s a crying shame. Liz has never forgiven me, and she will not contact me. I wanted to send her a message today, but I didn’t. I still may do so.
Does anyone think I should send a message? Should I try again?