Category Archives: Louisiana
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?