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Fancy ride

Okay, I’m going to tell the St. Patrick’s Day story which remains one of my favorite memories, not only of St. Patrick’s Day, but of middle school and my chilidhood in general.

By St. Patrick’s Day 1989, my future was ahead of me. I had only two months and a couple of weeks left attending Arabi Park Middle School. I had been accepted to Brother Martin High School to attend the eighth grade at the Gentilly campus starting that August. 

I was definitely the first from Arabi Park to attend Brother Martin–boys didn’t attend Arabi Park until August 1987–and I was probably one of the very few to migrate from the St. Bernard Parish public school system to Brother Martin. Holy Cross was the prime destination for St. Bernard boys if they didn’t end up at Chalmette or St. Bernard High Schools, or Andrew Jackson Magnet, where Stacie and many of my classmates from Arabi Park ended up. 

St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday. It was the last day before school closed for a week prior to Easter, which was March 26. Teachers were in no mood to teach; in fact, almost all of them had fun activities or just rolled out the TV and let us watch. 

A school dance was scheduled that night. From November through May, there was a monthly dance one Friday night for the seventh and eighth grade students. I always went alone, and I always was too damn scared to ask someone to dance with me. And then I started to cry. The only ones who were nice enough to dance with me were Rosemarie Renz and Stacie, although once in a while I would dance with someone else. 

For the March dance, the Arabi Park Student Council was raffling off a limosuine ride to the dance for the winner and five others.

I decided to go all out for it. I bought as many chances as I could, and by time lunch rolled around, I began to field questions about people wanting to ride if I won. 

First, I had to win. Second, who would I take? Would I just take five guys, or would I ask the ladies?

Part of me really wanted to take five girls. Stacie, however, said no way. She had a date with Glen Weaver, her on-again, off-again boyfriend at Arabi Park. Allison Richardson, Stacie’s best friend, was interested. She wanted to go in the limo if I won. But who else would I take? 

After the abbreviated class schedule ended, there was a mini-fair in the gym. Someone came up to me and told me I had won the raffle. 

By then, the choice was easy. I picked five boys to ride: Jason Malasovich, Jared Couture, Brandon Miller, Jack Bastoe and Joe Monaghan. I wanted Shawn O’Neil to come, but he didn’t go to the dances. 

We decided to meet at Jack’s house, since he lived farthest from Arabi Park. That was Jason’s idea. Good work. Jason lived closest to the school, so it would have done us no good. 

We rode in the limo for about half an hour before arriving at school. I got some cheers as I emerged. My mother was there to take a picture. She chaperoned the dance that time because she was afraid trouble would ensue. Stacie’s mother, Kathy, was also a chaperone that evening. I danced with her, as I did with Rosemarie, Allison and Stacie.

If I had to do it over again, I would have taken the girls. Stacie may not have gone, but Allison would. I probably would have included Toni LaRocca. Rosemarie probably. 

I still regret I didn’t stay close to the gang at Arabi Park after leaving for Brother Martin. It really ate at me for a long time, all the way until the day I pulled into 1224 North Brooks Street in Russell to begin my new life. 

I miss those guys. I wish I had the money to bring them all up to Kansas City for a reunion, or I had the time to go to the Big Easy. 

Gone too soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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