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.
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.