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More Arabi Park memories

My post earlier this week about Arabi Park Middle School was well received by my former classmates.

However, names continue to come back to me, and I would be remiss if I did not mention them.

One I feel terrible about omitting was that of a beautiful young lady who joined our classes for the seventh grade.

Michelle Woodland came to Arabi Park from Houston. She immediately showed she was bright and kind, and she took a real liking to me. Of course, I brushed her off because I stupidly continued to crush on Stacie Dauterive (Seube).

Looking back, Michelle obviously did not mean any harm. I felt bad when I left for Brother Martin that I wouldn’t see her anymore. I should have been nicer to her. I’d give anything to find out where she is today.

One young lady who was on the receiving end of my volatile temper was Lori King. I spilled red drink on a white shirt she was wearing the afternoon of May 13, 1988, and I was suspended for one day.

I wanted to crawl into a hole. I cried all weekend and the day of my suspension. My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Robichaux, saw me with my parents and brother in the parking lot of the old K-Mart in Chalmette the day after the incident and tried to make sense of it. She thought being suspended was too harsh.

Lori never mentioned it again. We danced together at one of the school dances the next year.

Another young lady I omitted was Jennifer Cancienne, who played saxophone in the band with Jack Bastoe and Allison Richardson (White). Rest in Peace, Allison.

Jenny lived a couple of blocks south of Judge Perez Drive, the main thoroughfare of St. Bernard Parish. The busy highway separated her house from Carolyn Park and the Dauterive house, which was two houses down from St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic school and church, where I attended school from kindergarten through fifth grade.

I recall Jenny undergoing a horrific ordeal. It was either kidnapping or assault; I’m not sure. I hope she has recovered and is living a happy life.

During seventh grade, Aimee Roniger, who was in my fifth grade class at St. Robert’s, transferred to Arabi Park. She and her neighbor, Nicole Lowery, who was also in our classes at APM, once came to my house and played football with Jason Malasovich and I. It was Jason’s birthday, the day after mine.

There are a couple of things from my seventh grade year at Arabi Park which are hilarious looking back upon them 30 years ago.

The first was after our trip to the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on February 16, 1989. We got back to school in time for seventh period, but instead of forcing us to go to class, Shelly Schumacher, our science teacher who led the field trip, let us stay in the school’s planetarium, where we had science class during sixth period.

She turned the radio on, and invited anyone who wanted to sing along to do so.

George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” came on WEZB (B-97), the top-rated FM station in the New Orleans area.

Yours truly took the mike and proceeded to sing along terribly with Mr. Michael. Mrs. Schumacher and many of my classmates were amused. Some weren’t.

Two more notes on WEZB.

Mrs. Schumacher let us do karaoke one day in December. Eddie Money’s “Walk on Water” came on. I asked Nicole would you believe in me if I walked on water. She said no.

In 1989, WEZB’s Walton & Johnson, who were on the air from 0530 to 1000 each weekday, had a birthday contest. If your birthday was called and you were the first to call the station, you won cash, usually $20.

On May 18, 1989, the prize was $10,000.

The birthday Walton & Johnson announced was November 6.

The birthday of Roy Steinle, aka my father.

I called Air Products trying to get dad on the phone so he could call. Unfortunately I was too late.

Jason (my brother) or I should have called and told them I was Roy. If he would have been disqualified because one of his sons called on his behalf, so what? It wouldn’t have cost us anything, and I’m sure WEZB would not have pressed criminal charges.

Back to Arabi Park.

I was obsessed with sex during my seventh grade year. I was only 12, and I was way, way, WAY too young to even be considering it. That unnerved the girls in my classes, except for Rosemarie, who knew me too well, and Michelle, who thought I was endearing.

This leads to my next escapade from APM.

In the fourth quarter of my seventh grade year, the boys and girls were separated for sex education. Mrs. Schumacher taught the girls and Susan Buras taught the boys.

Shoulder pads were a big fad among women in the 1980s, and at the time, I had a very misguided idea as to why women were wearing shoulder pads.

To satisfy my curiosity, I asked Mrs. Buras if women carried their sanitary napkins (maxi-pads) in their bra straps around their shoulders.

That cracked everyone up. I was teased the rest of the year for it.

Turns out the pads were nothing more than a fashion statement.

I’m laughing so hard thinking about it as I type.

It’s been 30 years, but I’ll never forget all of you. Nor the good times we had.

30 years ago: out of the (Arabi) park

I didn’t realize it until this morning, but Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of my last day at Arabi Park Middle School.

There were no classes that Friday; it was just to pick up our report cards and say goodbye until late August, or in my case, say goodbye, period.

I knew since mid-February I would not be attending eighth grade at Arabi Park. I received my acceptance letter to Brother Martin High, which has an eighth grade, February 11, four days after Mardi Gras and three before Valentine’s Day. I was surprised I got in, because I thought attending a public school would work heavily against me. Apparently, someone saw something in me to let me in.

I did have some help.

The admissions director at Brother Martin at the time, Greg Rando, had a sister-in-law, Anne, who was the assistant principal at Arabi Park. Greg, who graduated from Brother Martin in 1977, later became principal and is now president at his alma mater. Anne really helped me navigate the choppy waters at Arabi Park, especially the last three months after I was accepted to Brother Martin.

The famous trip to the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast came five days after I received my acceptance letter. On that trip, I wore not a shirt for my future high school, but the college I hoped to attend…Kansas State. It had Willie Wildcat, the cartoon mascot who bore a striking resemblance to Tom from Tom and Jerry, on the front.

On my last day at Arabi Park, I wore a Brother Martin t-shirt. Mrs. Rando was proud to show me off wearing it, but a lot of my classmates were not thrilled. Stacie Dauterive (Seube) was relieved I would be attending school in Gentilly, but I can’t blame her. I gave her and the other female members of my classes a lot of grief. I feel horrible I cannot apologize to Allison Richardson (White), who passed away from cancer in 2008. If I could have taken her place, I would have.

I admit I had a crush on Stacie at Arabi Park. She is a beautiful lady, but she is intelligent, kind and funny, and I love her much more for that. Her sister, Andree, is the same way. They definitely got it from their parents. Stacie could have been great at anything she wanted to, but she chose to give back by becoming a teacher like her mom.

Stacie has an autistic son, something which is heartbreaking for me. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But he will thrive because he has great parents and a great family support system.

Rosemarie Renz (Huguet) went to school with me in kindergarten through fourth grade and could handle my antics, but the others couldn’t, but I really have no ill will towards them. I came into their universe in the second quarter of their sixth grade year, and I was, well, different. Nobody knew what Asperger’s Syndrome was in the United States, and they wouldn’t for five more years.

God, I miss Rosie. She is my oldest friend. I was sad when I didn’t get to see her in Baton Rouge last year. I hope my next visit there will reunite us. Rosie, like Stacie, is a teacher. The profession is that much better because of people like Rosie and Stacie.

I DID see Jason Malasovich, my second oldest friend, in Kansas City last year. I had the pleasure of meeting his lovely wife, Melissa, and their kids, Olivia and Carson. I’ve known Jason since we played basketball together in 1986-87.

And I’ll never forget Toni LaRocca in a Hooters uniform in 2000. She is such a wonderful soul whom I would give anything to see again, just like Rosie and Stacie.

I’ll never forget the others, either: Shawn O’Neil, Lara Doyle (Meyers), Kimberly Carmouche (Lee), Christi Rehage (Alvarez), Tammy Gilbert (the brains of the APM Class of ’90), Holly Atwood (Syrdal), Erin Billingsley (Lee), Nicole Meyer (who was taller than all the boys and damn good at the flute), Juli Wahl, Tina Calabresi, Vanessa Condra, Janis Maillet, Jack Bastoe, Jared Couture, Brandon Miller….plus a few who graduated before me, especially Jennifer Newell and Chastity Manzella.

They probably don’t remember me, but hey, memories fade.

I got teased quite a bit because I really liked Phyllis Marsolan, our sixth grade English teacher. I liked her, but most of her other students were more lukewarm. She was my first teacher crush, followed by Janine Koenig, my eighth grade science teacher, at Brother Martin. But I knew better than to act. It would have been disastrous for all involved.

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Yesterday was what I like to call Desiree Day.

That’s because in the opening line of Neil Diamond’s 1977 hit “Desiree”, it mentions the third of June as the night he supposedly became a man (read: lost his virginity) to a woman twice his age named Desiree.

Desiree is one of my favorite Diamond songs, and I have a lot of them. Here’s the Foots top 15:

15. I’m Alive

14. I’m a Believer (no, that is not a typo; Diamond came out with a version of the Monkees smash in 1967)

13. You Don’t Bring Me Flowers

12. Coming to America

11. Crunchy Granola Suite

10. Soolamion

9. Shiloh

8. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

7. Kentucky Woman

6. Cherry Cherry

5. Song Sung Blue

4. Desiree

3. Forever in Blue Jeans

2. Play Me

1. Cracklin’ Rosie

Notice what Diamond song is not up there. If I’ve offended any Red Sox fans, then too freaking bad.

Thursday is another anniversary mentioned in a song. Can you guess?

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The Blues and Bruins have alternated wins in the Stanley Cup Finals, with Boston winning the odds and St. Louis the evens. St. Louis has to break that pattern, preferably Thursday in game five at Boston. If the Blues win, they can clinch the Cup Sunday in St. Louis.

St. Louis had to watch the Canadiens skate the Cup in 1968 and ’69 after the Blues were swept in the final. In 1970, the Blues somehow had home-ice advantage, but it didn’t work a bit, with the Bruins sweeping, winning the finale in the Boston Garden on that goal by Bobby Orr.

The Stanley Cup has been skated four times in Boston since then, all by visitors: the Canadiens in ’77 and ’78, the Oilers in ’90 and the Blackhawks in 2013. Boston won the Cup in ’72 in Madison Square Garden vs. the Rangers, and in 2011 the Bruins won it in Vancouver, taking Game 7 4-0 after the home team won the first six games.

St. Louis has payback for more than 1970 on its minds. The city would like to get Boston back for the 2014 and ’13 World Series, Super Bowl XXXVI in February 2002, and the 1961 NBA Finals, the last time the Hawks franchise has made the finals.

In the NBA, the Warriors went on an 18-0 run to start the third quarter Sunday and won by five in Toronto, squaring that series 1-1. Had Golden State lost, it would have been bleak for the Warriors, even going back to Oakland. Hopefully the Warriors can hold serve at home and close it out, because the last thing I want is to see Drake leading a parade in Toronto.

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Feeding myself and my trivia addiction at Old Chicago in Salina. Got my hair cut by Amber. I have something groovy waiting for me in Russell..gl.

Luxury riders

I’m back. Time for that story.

St. Patrick’s Day 1989 was on a Friday. Everyone at Arabi Park Middle School was looking forward to the final bell that day, since it would mean the beginning of one week off, the unofficial spring break, even though it wasn’t called that.

That night would be another of Arabi Park’s dances for the 7th and 8th grade students. Want to talk about awkward? Your intrepid blogger was the poster child for awkwardness. I didn’t have the guts to ask any girl to dance, and I often started crying by the end of the first hour.

Many girls were turned off by that, but I don’t blame them. They were 12 or 13, what were they supposed to do? Fortunately, Rosemarie Renz (now Huguet), who is my longest-standing friend on earth (37 1/2 years), was always nice enough to dance with me once or twice, and eventually, Stacie Dauterive (Seube), the young lady whom I had a crush on at Arabi Park, also danced with me near the end of the night.

Stacie was beautiful then and is now. But she has a wonderful heart. That’s why I really had a crush on her. Her sister, Andree (Addison), has that heart of gold, too.

I can’t say enough great things about Rosemarie. I hurt sometimes that we lost touch after 7th grade when I went to Brother Martin. Part of me wishes I would have stayed at Arabi Park fo the eighth grade and gone to Archbishop Hannah, the Catholic high school in St. Bernard Parish (county) with her.

On St. Patrick’s Day 1989, the APM student council sponsored a raffle. The winner would win a ride to the dance in a limo and would be able to bring five other people with him or her.

Let’s just say I spent as much money on trying to win the raffle as I would buying music credits during a long day at Buffalo Wild Wings. And $20 in 1989 was a lot more than $20 in 2019.

My classmates noticed I was going after the limo ride hard. During an afternoon class, I kidded with Toni LaRocca and Allison Richardson about inviting them to ride if I had won.

My heart weighs very heavy thinking about that right now. Allison Richardson (White) passed away in 2008 from cancer. Toni was extremely close to Allison, as was Stacie and several other girls in my classes at APM, and they are still devastated over a decade later.

If I could press the rewind button, I would certainly have invited Allison and Toni to ride. Rosemarie too.

That last sentence tells you I won the raffle. Shawn O’Neil informed me in the gym during a mini-carnival going on after classes ended.

Shawn never went to dances at Arabi Park. I tried to entice him to come with a spot in the limo, but he wisely said no.

I knew I couldn’t invite Stacie. She was going with Glen Weaver, her boyfriend throughout APM. She met her husband, Jeff, at Andrew Jackson High.

Jason Malasovich was going to ride, of course. It was an all-male crew: Jason, Jared Couture, Brandon Miller, Jack Bastoe, Joe Monaghan, and myself. Jared, Brandon and Jack were in classes with Jason and I, and Joe lived near Jason in another part of Arabi.

We met at Jack’s house since it was the farthest from the school, not too far from the bowling alley in Chalmette. The ride was fun. The dance was a repeat of the past, save for two things.

First, my mother was a chaperone, and Joe danced with her.

Second, I danced with Stacie’s mother, Kathy, who was then a teacher at Carolyn Park Elementary School, about five blocks from my house. She said I should dance with my mother, but I declined.

Confession: if I ever got married, I would be quaking in my boots over dancing with my mother. She is quite aloof and afraid of physical contact. I can name at least 50 people I have hugged more than her in my lifetime. Let’s see: Peggy, Caitlyn, Brenda, Dorinda, Liz, Lisa, Dawn…I’ll stop there for now.

The Dauterive family resided on Badger Drive, only 200 feet from St. Robert Belarmine Catholic Church, whose school I attended from kindergarten through fifth grade. After Katrina, Stacie and Jeff moved in with their sons to 905 Badger Drive, while her parents, Rene and Kathy, moved to Baton Rouge.

Rene owned a very successful plumbing company in St. Bernard Parish while I lived there, and he took care of our house at 224 Jaguar Drive. I’ve joked with Stacie and Andree that I want to bring Rene to Russell so he can fix the American Legion post’s plumbing problems for my parents, as well as those at 1224 North Brooks. Fortunately, there is a fine plumber in Russell, Donnie Boxberger, so we’re covered.

Two schools of thought on my fellow limo riders 30 years later. First, the guys were the right choice, because it avoided any awkwardness I would have had with girls. The other is I should have invited at least Rosemarie, because she and I had been friends for so long and she was always so nice. But Jason and I had been friends before APM as well, so he was a great choice.

I attended one more APM dance in late April. My mother did not allow me to go to the one in May, and rightly so, because I failed to turn in an assignment on time. I was very fortunate I was not forced to go to summer school. I could have been failed for not turning it in on time, but I was allowed to turn it in the following Monday for a D. On June 2, 1989, I was jeered out of Arabi Park twice, first at school, then by a passing school bus as I walked back to 224 Jaguar.

I don’t blame any kids who were unhappy that I was going to Brother Martin. I rubbed it in their faces for the last 3 1/2 months of the 1988-89 school year. I thought I was on another plane because I was going to a school in the New Orleans Catholic League and they weren’t. I was not welcome back on campus during 1989-90.

Sadly, Arabi Park closed in the late 1990s when St. Bernard Parish’s school system consolidated some schools. The shell of the old school stood until Katrina wiped it away.

I lost touch with so many until discovering them on Facebook in 2014, 25 years after I left for the school at 4401 Elysian Fields in New Orleans. I saw Jason last August when he was in town with his lovely family. I hope I will see more Epton (before it’s too late in Foots lingo).

After the dance ended, I got home in time to watch the second half of LSU’s NCAA tournament game vs. UTEP. The Bayou Bengals enjoyed a fine season with All-America freshman Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), but the Miners had future NBA standouts Tim Hardaway and Antonio Davis, plus the coaching acumen of the legendary Don Haskins, the same Don Haskins who led an all-black Miner team to victory over Adolph Rupp’s all-white Kentucky team in the 1966 championship game.

Many in Louisiana were salivating at the possibility of LSU playing Indiana and the hated Bobby Knight in the second round, but UTEP won 85-74.

If you’re wondering why LSU was playing so close to midnight Central time, here’s the dish.

Prior to 1991, CBS did not televise every tournament game prior to the Elite Eight. In the first and second rounds, CBS would select the games it wanted to show nationally, then the NCAA would put the other games up for bids. The NCAA produced the games and provided the announcers, and games were either televised by ESPN or a local network. In the Sweet 16, CBS selected two games a night, and the other two that night would be on locally in the areas of the participating teams.

In 1991, CBS took over all games, and contests before the Elite Eight were regionally broadcast. It stayed that way through 2010.

In 2011, CBS split the broadcast rights with TBS, TNT and TruTV, meaning every game would be televised nationally.

I’ve got a sinking feeling LSU will be one-and-done 30 years later, thanks to all the scandal surrounding coach Will Wade, who is suspended and may be fired. The field will be revealed at 1700. Not that I’m going to fill out a bracket.

Enjoy what’s left of your St. Patrick’s Day and weekend.

Exploits of a 12-year old

I swear I need to discipline myself to post every day during 2019, no matter how short or how silly it might be. Actually, short posts might be better considering I have the tendency for posts which fall just short of the length of War and Peace.

I didn’t get to Kansas City until 1915 last night. I had to stay behind in Hays due to an eye exam with Dr. Stacey Jones at 1415. It was the last time I’ll visit her at the corner of Canterbury and 22nd in Hays, because in January, she and her husband will open their own ophthalmology/dentistry private practice in downtown Hays across the corner from the Hays public library, Fox Theater and James Motors. I’ve been seeing Dr. Jones since moving to Kansas in 2005, and she has picked up right where my ophthalmologist in Louisiana, Dr. Martin Schoenberger, left off. Both have been great caring for my vision.

I ended up sending out 73 Christmas cards. So, far one has been labeled returned to sender. One person was not happy that I looked up their address and sent a card. Peggy, Caitlyn, Brenda, Dorinda and a few others, some of whom were middle school classmates of mine in 1988 and ’89, were much happier. They’ll stay on the list for 2019. The complainer won’t.

Tuesday was the 30th anniversary of my only memorable athletic achievement.

I played youth basketball for the local playground, Carolyn Park, for three years in the 1980s. My last year was in the 1988-89 season, when I played on Carolyn Park’s 11-year old team (I was 12 by time the season started, but since I had an October birthday, I played with the 11-year olds, as did my Arabi Park Middle classmate, Jason Malasovich). The goals were only 8 1/2 feet high, and the free throw lanes were trapezoidal shaped like they were in international basketball at the time, albeit narrower than what was used both internationally and the NBA.

On the afternoon of Dec. 18, 1988, Carolyn Park played Versailles, which was located at the junction of Paris Road and St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette, not too far from the ferry landing where the boats which ran between Chalmette and the Algiers section of New Orleans would take on cars.

There were six playgrounds in St. Bernard Parish. Carolyn Park was the farthest west, taking in the community of Arabi, which stretched from the city limits of New Orleans about two miles to the east. Three–Vista, Versailles and Rebel–were in Chalmette, the largest community in St. Bernard. Bournemouth (spelled the same as the city on the south coast of England) was in Meraux and Violet, and then Kenilworth took in the eastern third of the parish.

Carolyn Park didn’t have its own gym, so the game was played at Bournemouth. Four nights earlier, my team played Kenilworth at Bournemouth’s gym, and I had a decent game, scoring six points and blocking a shot from behind. I blocked the shot from 12 feet at its apex and it flew out of bounds. I could hear my mother and brother cheering that one.

Jason was one of three very good players that Carolyn Park team had. The others wer the guards, Chad Nuccio, son of our coach, A.J. Nuccio, and Trey Guillot, who later enjoyed a stellar baseball career at Holy Cross before pitching for Tulane. I wasn’t athletic enough to be a starter, but I came of the bench and did what needed to be done, mostly rebounding, good defense and points here and there.

In the game vs. Versailles, I scored on a pair of jump shots from the foul line in the second period, and it helped Carolyn Park lead 30-15 at halftime.

In the second half, Versailles came back. It had a couple of future high school varsity starters, Brett Tessitore (Archbishop Hannah) and Michael Marques (Brother Martin); Michael was in my graduating class at Brother Martin, and his dad and my dad worked together at Air Products and Chemicals.

Foul trouble nearly crippled Carolyn Park. Five players fouled out, including Chad and Jason. I would have been on the bench the entire second half, but the starter who played my position, Alex Dupre, fouled out with three minutes left. I knew it was his fifth foul, and coach Nuccio sent me into the game.

As the fouls began to pile up, I got so angry I slammed the ball with 90 seconds left. It was right in front of an official. I should have been given a technical foul. He let it go. He must have known I was frustrated.

With 30 seconds left, Carolyn Park was down to four players. Basketball rules allow a team to play with fewer than five if players foul out or are ejected, but you cannot start a game with fewer than five.

I thought I would be gone with another foul, but it turned out I had three. With 12 seconds left, Versailles missed the front end of a one-and-one (the double bonus was not adopted in high school basketball until 1995-96), leaving it ahead 45-44.

Trey pulled down the rebound and sped down the left sideline with a beautiful left-handed dribble. His layup was off the mark.

The rebound came down to the right side of the lane to #14. ME.

From seven feet away, I put an awkward-looking jumper.

It skimmed the backboard and fell through with two seconds left.

Versailles called timeout. I was mobbed by my teammates and coaches. All we had to do was defend and my shot would be the winner.

Versailles threw a long pass which was tipped and bounced harmlessly away. Carolyn Park won 46-45.

Of course, I got a hugely inflated head over the shot. I bragged about it the next two days at Arabi Park. Thankfully for Jason, Shawn O’Neil (who was a damn good player for Vista) and my other classmates, school let out that Tuesday for the holidays.

The shot went to my head. I played like crap the next two games, and my dad suggested after the second, a 19-point loss to Rebel, that I quit because I wasn’t committed.

The Thursday after Christmas, I wasn’t feeling well. I was battling a cold, and I had to wear long sleeves under my jersey. Carolyn Park played Bournemouth all the way at Kenilworth at the other end of the parish.

I was on the bench in the first quarter. In the second quarter, I went off.

Ten points in six minutes. I went to the foul line for the first time that season and swished both shots. I played the entire second half and finished with 14 points in Carolyn Park’s 53-34 victory.

The night before my big game, Shawn O’Neil held his 12th birthday party at Showbiz Pizza in Algiers, across the Mississippi River from St. Bernard Parish. Showbiz was Chuck E. Cheese’s competitor in the 1980s, and both places advertised heavily on the four main New Orleans television stations. Chuck E. Cheese was on the Metairie-Kenner line on Veterans Highway in Jefferson Parish.

Shawn’s dad insisted on taking the ferry to Algiers. I begged him not to. I HATED HTE FERRY. I hated it. I knew all about the infamous incident in 1976 (exactly one week after I was born) when a drunken ferry pilot did not see a huge tanker crossing the river in St. Charles Parish. The boats collided, and all of the cars went into the river. Of the 94 people on board the ferry, 78 perished.

My mother took the ferry often to visit her mother, who lived in Algiers from 1970 until her death in 1992. It made some sense before October 1988, when the second span of the Greater New Orleans Bridge (now the Crescent City Connection) opened. When it was one bridge and there were only two lanes of traffic in each direction, an accident could cause delays of up to six hours in some cases.

I tried to get girls in our class at Arabi Park, especially Stacie Dauterive (now Seube) invitations, but the O’Neils said no way.

Jason and I had to play in a Christmas concert in New Orlean’s’ Jackson Square with the Arabi Park Middle band the day before I hit my game-winning shot. It was chilly and windy. Good preparation for my future life as it turned out.

Shawn, Jason, Stacie and a few others from Arabi Park were on my Christmas card list. I would give anything to see all of them. I’m very happy that rift has been repaired. It was pretty ugly when I left Arabi Park after seventh grade for Brother Martin. I lorded Brother Martin over them much worse than that game-winning shot, and it was little wonder why they were glad to see me continue my education at 4401 Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans.

Apparently, forgiveness is a four-letter word to some I’ve known through the years. Sad.

Extra day in KC for a good reason

I returned to Russell yesterday a little after noon, one day later than originally  planned.

Thank you, Jason Malasovich.

I’ve known Jason for over 30 years, longer than almost anyone else who does not share my last name. In fact, only two of my current friends list on Facebook has known me longer, Rosemarie Renz (Huguet) and Lisa Syrdal (Clague), both of whom I attended kindergarten through fourth grade with at St. Robert Bellarmine Elementary school.

Jason and I were teammates as 10-year olds playing basketball for Carolyn Park, the playground adjacent to what was St. Robert Bellarmine, which was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and again by Hurricane Rita and was not rebuilt. The same complex was brand new when it was destroyed by Hurricane Betsy in 1965 but rebuilt in that case.

Carolyn Park did not have a gym, so we practiced at Arabi Park Middle School on the northwestern edge of St. Bernard Parish, less than half a mile from the city limits of New Orleans. The year we played together as 10-year olds, Arabi Park was in its last year as an all-girls school. Jason went to fifth grade at Chalmette Middle, which was all-boys. In the fall of 1987, Arabi Park and Chalmette Middle both admitted the opposite gender, and since Jason lived in Arabi, close to Judge Perez Drive, the main thoroughfare of St. Bernard, he changed schools.

I attended St. Robert’s in the fifth grade, but I had a terrible time, so my parents pulled me out. They sent me to a school which I don’t want to talk about for the first quarter of my sixth grade year, one where stupid stuff (I would like to use another word, but won’t) was allowed and not discouraged. Finally, they decided to send me to Arabi Park.

Jason and Rosemarie were the only people there I knew for the first month and a half. I wasn’t in any classes with them except physical education until mid-December, when I was transferred into all the same classes as them and began to know the people I would be in class with until my departure for Brother Martin at the end of my seventh grade year.

The Arabi Park group split into three groups: one which went to Chalmette High, notably Jason and Shawn O’Neil; one which went to Archbishop Hannan, a co-educational Catholic school further east of Chalmette High, the group Rosemarie was in; and a third which went to Andrew Jackson, at the time a magnet high school which did not play football, basketball, baseball and softball. The notable ones among this group were Stacie Dauterive (now Seube) and her younger sister, Andree, who was two years younger (although their younger brother, Rene, ended up at Holy Cross, largely because he was a very good baseball player). I was the outlier going to Brother Martin, and was one of the very few who was accepted from a public middle school.

Hannan flooded during Katrina and relocated to Madisonville on the west side of St. Tammany Parish, closer to Hammond than Slidell.

Jason and I played basketball again together when we were 12 and in the seventh grade. Jason was pretty good and made the parish all-star team, as did Shawn and Michael Marques, a classmate of mine at Brother Martin who started for two years for the Crusaders’ varsity. I wasn’t too good, but there was one game where I did score 10 points in the first half and 14 total despite battling a bad cold.

When he was at Chalmette High, Jason played for the Owls baseball team and started at second base for two years. One night I went to a Chalmette game but I was cheering for the Owls’ opponent, Shaw, since I knew a few people coaching at Shaw, a couple of whom, including longtime football coach Hank Tierney, were in attendance. I also knew Shaw’s baseball coach, Pat O’Shea, who sadly passed away from prostate cancer last month at 67.

The last time I saw Jason in Louisiana was in September 1995. He was in the Golden Band from Tigerland, and my dad and I went to the LSU-Auburn football game and noticed him as the band was preparing for its pregame show.

I lost touch with everyone from Arabi Park quickly after I went to Brother Martin. I attempted to reconnect with Stacie in the summer of 2005, but Katrina interrupted those plans.

Facebook finally brought me back into their orbit. Go back to almost the beginning of this blog and you can see what happened.

I hoped and prayed that Rosemarie and I would connect when I was in Baton Rouge earlier this year, but it didn’t happen. I was sad about that, but seeing Brenda, Dorinda, Dan, Lisette and the others from LSU more than made up for it. I still miss you, Rosie, and hope we’ll meet very soon.

Jason commented on a picture I posted on Facebook last week. It was me with my very short haircut, thanks to Ashley at Sport Clips, who will be my only stylist for the near future with the lovely Amber Desario out on maternity leave to take care of her new baby boy. He asked me how far I was from Kansas City, assuming I was back in Russell and not knowing I was a lot closer than he thought.

I told him Saturday morning I was in town and would be available Sunday and Monday (I didn’t want to tell him I had blocked out trivia time Saturday at Buffalo Wild Wings AND Minsky’s LOL). So we made plans to meet last Sunday in Lee’s Summit, an area of Kansas City I don’t usually venture to.

These days, I don’t go east of Interstate 435 often, if at all, save for going to Liberty. About the only times I venture east of 435 and south of the river are when I absolutely have to do something in Independence or Blue Springs, or else I’m blowing past those communities to go to Columbia, St. Louis and outside Missouri.

Jason asked me if we wanted to meet halfway, but I told him no, I was one person vs. seven for him, since he had his wife, Melissa, daughter Olivia and son Carson with him, in addition to three members of Melissa’s family with him. I wasn’t about to make them waste that gas. Since I had nothing to do Sunday, I figured I had all the time in the world to drive from Clay County to the southeast corner of the metro.

Their choice for a late lunch Sunday was Jack Stack barbecue in Lee’s Summit. I ate at the Overland Park location last month and was througoughly impressed. This time, I did not order nearly as much food as July. Burnt ends and potato salad. Delicious.

When we were eating, Jason told me he was taking his family to the Royals game vs. the Cubs the next night. I was planning on going back to Russell Monday, but I decided to go to the game, my first in four years.

I saw tickets were very expensive, and there wasn’t a ticket to be found in section 232, where they were sitting. At that point, I thought seriously about going home Monday and telling them I couldn’t make it, making up a white lie. Later, though, I was able to find a ticket in the same section as them, only one row lower. After purchasing the ticket–$98 plus fees and tax–I felt better and committed to Monday in Kansas City.

I splurged on reserved parking. Good thing I did. It was a much shorter walk in the heat from the car to the stadium, and it really came in handy after the game as you’ll see. I waited the 45 minutes in line for the gates to open, but met a very nice family of Cubs fans to talk to, so the time passed fast.

I originally bought a general parking pass, but I forwarded it to Jason and they used it. Saved them $15 (it cost $12 online).

Jason bought two giant hot dogs and asked me to split them with him. I resisted at first but then changed my mind. After all, he bought the dogs (I bought Melissa and the kids popcorn), so I said why not. The Chicago dog with tomatoes, sport peppers and relish was delicious. I wish Sonic still had them. The Kansas City dog had barbecue brisket and coleslaw, and it was also good. I didn’t even notice the slaw, and I don’t eat slaw.

It rained twice during the game, which the Cubs won 3-1 on the strength of a home run and RBI double by Javier Baez. The contest was delayed for 22 minutes in the top of the fourth; it rained harder in the ninth. However, since there was no lightning during the latter storm, umpire crew chief Joe West, the senior umpire in MLB, decided to let the game conclude, which it did with a 1-2-3 frame by Cubs closer Pedro Strop.

We had to wait out the rain about 15 minutes before we finally left. They drove home yesterday through Arkansas and north Louisiana, while I ventured west on Interstate 70.

What I wouldn’t give to see more of my old friends from Louisiana. Rosemarie and Stacie are near the very top of the list, as are Tiffany Peperone, Janine Koenig and Wendy Wall. Brenda was above all of them, but that was fulfilled in April. So was Dan.

I’m still a bit heartbroken over not seeing Liz and Lisa anymore in Kansas City, but that heartbreak was eclipsed by losing Dawn, who is loving it back in Florida. I don’t blame her. But life is empty without her and the others.

If Peggy and Caitlyn were to exit…oh boy.

FYI, the Cubs won 5-0 last night behind one-time Royals farmhand Mike Montgomery. The series finale is tonight, then the Cardinals come to Kansas City over the weekend.

I’m less than 90 minutes away from my next session with Crista, whose importance to my life outranks everyone I’ve mentioned, short of my own family and Dr. Custer.

Countdown to September

I didn’t quite keep my promise to LIsa in the early hours of this morning, but she understood, since she told me she was going to have to probably stick around until 2:30. I got back to the Courtyard Briarcliff at 1:25 and went right to bed. I set the computer up to have it ready this morning, but didn’t fool around.

I felt a little bit isolated at times last night at Buffalo Wild Wings, but I shouldn’t have. The bar area was swamped, and the management made the foolish decision to only staff it with three people. Lisa and Rio were both working doubles, and Liz hadn’t worked since Sunday because she was hurting with her back and dealing with the passing of Trey Cummings’ mother. Not a good situation. Morgan Gilliland, who switched off with Brittany Davidson, should have been in the bar too. I was too hard on Lisa, and I felt terrible about it. I tried to make it up to her by giving her a big tip and another six-pack of Abita beer. That put a smile on her face.

Speaking of smiling, Lisa is now trying the Sydnie Adler formula, and that’s trying to get me to smile whenever I look at her. I have to laugh at that. It’s probably best for me. I can’t go through life with a perpetual scowl on my face.

LSU ended up stopping Wisconsin’s final two drives and held on to win 28-24.  A lot of people were hard on the Bayoun Bengals, but come on, Wisconsin is not chopped liver. The Badgers are probably going to win the Big Ten West, and I would not be surprised if they run the table from here. They don’t play Michigan State or Ohio State, they play Nebraska at home, and their only really challenging road game is at Iowa in November. I predicted Wisconsin and Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. If Wisconsin goes 11-2, that gets them an access bowl berth.

With Texas A&M dominating South Carolina behind Kenny Hill, that season ending game will be very difficult. LSU is going to have to navigate the brutal SEC West plus a trip to Florida, and the Bayou Bengals could finish anywhere from 11-1 to 7-5. I picked 10-2, but maybe that was a little optimistic.

No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Alabama both won neutral site games, but both had tougher than expected times against Big 12 Conference foes. The Seminoles tussled with Oklahoma State and got out of Arlington a 37-31 victor, and the Crimson Tide could not put away West Virginia until late and prevailed 33-23. Georgia was most impressive, crushing Clemson 45-21 in Athens.

 

My latest reconnection with Arabi Park Middle was with Kimberly Carmouche (Lee) last night. She was very happy to hear from me, and like Toni LaRocca, she didn’t know I had moved to Kansas following Katrina. I think Stacie was the only one who knew about my move since we were e-mailing each other just before Katrina. It feels good to know you aren’t forgotten after more than 25 years. Kim is now a successful realtor in Covington, the parish seat of St. Tammany Parish on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Covington High is noted for its traditonally strong football program, which was led for 30 years by the legendary Jack Salter, one of the nicest men I have met. Covington and Brother Martin used to scrimmage each other every August before the season started, and Salter and Brother Martin coach Bobby Conlin were very good friends.

It used to be the NFL started its season before Labor Day in order to get the season done before February 1. In 2001, the NFL permanently decided to move the season’s kickoff weekend until after Labor Day, ceding the Labor Day weekend spotlight to college. I remember only one season, 1997, starting on August 31.

Time to get ready to go. I need to see Liz.

Branded a cheater

In my last post, I described a week in my life at Arabi Park Middle which was dominated by two hurricanes, one (Florence) which affected New Orleans but only blew some leaves and limbs off trees, and another (Gilbert) which did not, but did a lot more damage and took a lot of lives.

The Friday night of hurricane week, as Gilbert was heading towards Mexico, Tom Browning pitched a perfect game for the Cincinnati Reds against the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers, for the moment pushing Orel Hershiser’s quest to break Don Drysdale’s record for consecutive scoreless innings to the back burner.

The next day, LSU went to Knoxville and blasted Tennessee 34-9, the first time the Bayou Bengals had ever won at Neyland Stadium. The Volunteers would lose their first six games of the 1988 season before winning their last five, which provided the momentum they needed to win a share of the Southeastern Conference title in 1989. LSU would go on to share the 1988 SEC title with Auburn, but the Bayou Bengals would not enjoy another winning season until 1995.

Later that Saturday, reigning national champion Miami rallied from a 16-point deficit to stun Michigan at the “Big House” in Ann Arbor, 31-30. The Hurricanes came within a failed two-point conversion at Notre Dame from repeating as champion. The Fighting Irish would go on to win it all, clubbing West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 12-0.

On Sunday, the Saints had a tougher than expected time in Detroit, but rallied for a 22-14 victory.

Unfortunately, I forgot to study for a Monday morning test during the weekend of sports.

I attempted to cram before going to school, but it was to no avail. When the tests were passed out, I totally panicked. I hated reading class, because I had no earthly idea how to comprehend short stories. I disliked literature in the seventh grade, and I continued to loathe it throughout high school and college.

The panic turned to stupidity.

I admit I cheated. I tried to slip a look at my textbook, but I got caught red-handed. I was deathly afraid of getting an F, but now I was certain I was going to fail. Ms. Jones took the test, then marched me down to the office, where I had to call my mother and deliver the bad news. My classmates regarded me as a black sheep for a few days, as well they should have.

My parents were very unhappy to say the least. They would not let me watch sports on TV during weeknights for a month, which meant I had to miss four Monday Night Football games, including one involving the Saints and Cowboys, I also did not get to watch the Major League Baseball League Championship Series, as well as much of the Summer Olympics, although in hindsight, not getting to watch the Olympics wasn’t so bad. The good news was in 1988 there were no weeknight college football games, no Sunday night NFL games until later in the season, or I really would have missed out. Also, the NBA would not begin until late October, and the NHL was no longer on TV since ESPN had lost the rights to SportsChannel America, which wasn’t available on any cable system in Louisiana.

It could have been much worse. I could have been held without sports on the weekends, too. I could have flunked the quarter, and Ms. Jones would have had every right to do so. In the end, I got a C for the quarter, my lowest grade at Arabi Park, save for a couple of Ds I received in conduct.

It was a hard lesson to learn. I would flunk more than my fair share of tests in high school and college, but I knew better than to cheat.

Hurricane-force memories

Tammy Gilbert brought back a hilarious memory from Arabi Park Middle tonight on Facebook. One which I had totally forgotten until she jogged my memory, and it came right back.

In September 1988, Hurricane Gilbert ravaged Jamaica with winds of 125 miles per hour, two and a half feet of rain, and a 19-foot storm surge. There were a lot of deaths, 45, but it could have been a heck of a lot worse.

When the storm emerged into the Caribbean Sea off the west coast of Jamaica, the storm underwent a rapid intensification, growing into a Category 5 monster with winds of 185 miles per hour. Gilbert also made history when its minimum central pressure dropped to 888 millibars, or 26.23 inches of mercury, shattering the record of 892 millibars (26.34 inches) which was set during the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. By comparison, Camille’s lowest pressure in 1969 was 900 millibars (26.58 inches), but the winds were more intense, 190 miles per hour, when it slammed into the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The Friday before Gilbert slammed into Jamaica, Hurricane Florence, a Category 1 storm with winds of 80 miles per hour, crossed the Mississippi River delta in lower Plaquemines Parish–not too far from where Camille crossed in 1969–but this time, the storm began to weaken as it neared the city of New Orleans. My house in Arabi lost power for an hour or so, but other than that, there were really no effects. There were a few leaves and twigs down from the tree in our backyard, but the sun came out that Saturday and I was watching college football as normal.

School was not called off for Florence, and I was in a panicky mode all day long at school. My classmates got a big kick out of it, and as I was leaving, I picked up my trumpet from the band room. I told Ms. Crow that I was worried about the storm, and she told me jokingly to go home and play Taps.

Gilbert was no joke. This storm was the 1988 version of Camille, and if a storm of that magnitude hit the United States, it would be beyond catastrophic. There was no doubt Gilbert

Wednesday, September 14, 1988, was all about Gilbert in the halls of Arabi Park Middle. I wasn’t interested in talking about the Saints, I wasn’t interested in the baseball pennant races, I wasn’t interested with LSU’s game that weekend at Tennessee. I was all worried about Gilbert, and I told anyone who would listen this storm was scary.

I found a way to get under the skin of our class valedictorian. I began calling Tammy “Hurricane” Gilbert, and every time, she told me to shut up. I would not let it go for quite some time; in fact, I think it wasn’t until January or February when it finally died down. Rosemarie, Tammy’s neighbor and best friend, was unhappy with me for one of the few times.

I thought with Gilbert coming into the Gulf of Mexico the St. Bernard Parish School Board would call off classes for Thursday and Friday, and we would get a four-day weekend.

Didn’t get a four-day weekend. Didn’t get a three-day weekend. Gilbert passed well south of Louisiana and Texas and came ashore in Mexico, where it killed 200.

I recall three hurricane vacations during my school years.

The first was in fourth grade at St. Robert Bellarmine, when we had the Friday before Labor Day due to the threat of Hurricane Elena, which at first was making a beeline towards New Orleans. That storm turned sharply east, and then back to the west before coming ashore in Pascagoula, Mississippi, east of where Camille and Katrina roared ashore.

The second was in August 1992. On the first day of my junior year at Brother Martin, Hurricane Andrew came ashore south of Miami with Category 5 winds of 165 miles per hour. The storm entered the Gulf of Mexico shortly after noon that day, and it appeared New Orleans was the bullseye. We had the next two days off, and it appeared we may not have a school to come back to, but that was the least of my worries. I was REALLY scared I was going to die.

Luckily, Andrew veered west and made landfall in Louisiana near Morgan City, at the mouth of the Atchafalya River.

In September 1998, i had a day off from LSU due to Hurricane Georges. The storm passed well east of Baton Rouge, but it was very windy that Monday at LSU football practice. I had to go out to practice to police the media as part of my duties with LSU’s sports information office.

In landlocked Kansas, there are snow days, but I’ve never seen school called off, at least in Russell, due to the threat of tornadoes. Now if the National Severe Storms Center issued a high risk severe outlook, I”m sure superintendents would seriously consider keeping students home in order to keep them off of buses and off the streets traveling to and from school.

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.

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.