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More from the middle

Thanks to a Facebook conversation with four great people from my distant past, a flood of memories has been opened. Might as well get to them while they’re still fresh on the brain.

The drive from one end of Kansas City to the other gave me the chance to remember a heck of a lot from my days in New Orleans, and especially my friends from Arabi Park Middle.

Stacie Dauterive Seube and I had e-mailed each other twice before Katrina, and then we were in touch a couple of times after I moved to Kansas, but the last e-mail was in February 2006. Tonight, I recalled the last times I saw her in person.

One was November 1993 when the St. Bernard Parish chapter of the LSU Alumni Association held a meeting about its scholarships. Stacie’s dad, Rene, who owns Dauterive Heating and Plumbing, was also there, as he was active with the LSU Alumni Association. Two others from the Arabi Park days were there, Jason Malasovich and Christi Rehage. Christi’s brother, Steve, played football for LSU under Jerry Stovall and Bill Arnsparger in the 1980s, so it was not surprising at all Christi wanted to continue the family tradition.

I also saw Stacie on the LSU campus on our VERY FIRST DAY of college classes, August 29, 1994. Like me, Stacie didn’t stay at LSU; she eventually transferred to Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, 45 minutes east on Interstate 12. After the 1995 spring semester, I went home to the University of New Orleans, but I would return to LSU in January 1997.

Speaking of LSU, I saw Rosemarie Renz (Huguet) on campus one day in September 1997. It was in front of the LSU union when I had a break in Wednesday morning classes. At that time, I was back working in LSU’s sports information office, and I had just begun covering high school football for The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s daily paper.

Of course, having gone to five years of school with me before Arabi Park, Rosemarie’s memories  are far deeper than most. Last night, I recalled she came to my seventh birthday party in October 1983 at Showbiz Pizza in Chalmette. I returned the favor for Rosemarie at her grandparents’ house in May 1985. Of all the people in my classes at Arabi Park, Rosemarie was the by far the nicest. I think she got me because we had been together at St. Robert Bellarmine, and I don’t recall her teasing me like some of the others. Then again, I forgive everyone who ever teased me in middle school, because I don’t expect 12 or 13 year olds to understand Asperger’s, especially when it had not been diagnosed yet in the United States, as was the case in the late 1980s.

Actually, Rosemarie was not the only person from Arabi Park who attended school with me at St. Robert Bellarmine. I almost forgot about Aimee Roniger, who came to St. Robert’s in the fifth grade, the year Rosemarie left to to go to Arabi Park, the last year it was an all-girls school. Aimee stayed at St. Robert’s in the sixth grade before coming to Arabi Park in the seventh. She and another of the honors girls, Nicole Lowery, were best friends. Nicole, like Shandy, Vanessa Condra, Dayna Siebenkittel and Erin Billingsley, were not in honors until seventh grade, with Michelle Woodland transferring in to Arabi Park for seventh grade.

 

Showbiz was the rival to Chuck E. Cheese and was popular in the south in the 1980s. In fact, I went to another Showbiz location, this one in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, for Shawn O’Neil’s birthday party in December 1988.

I’ll never forget Shawn’s party. His dad insisted on taking the ferry across the Mississippi River from Chalmette to Algiers, even though the new Crescent City Connection had opened and there were four lanes of traffic in both directions. I remember riding over with Shawn, Jason, Jared Couture, Jack Bastoe and Brandon Miller. The girls from our class were not invited.

Shawn also happened to be a damn fine basketball player. He lived across the street from Vista playground, so he and his brothers, Danny and Chad, went there often to hone their basketball and baseball skills. Shawn had a fine left-handed mid-range jumper, and he was hell on the boards. I remember going up against him three times during the 1988-89 Biddy Basketball season. His Vista teams went 3-0 against the Carolyn Park team Jason and I played on. Jason, Shawn and I had to play with the 11-year olds because we turned 12 after October 1. Jared’s birthday was before the limit, so he was with the 12-year olds. Another fine player in the 11-year old Biddy league that year was Michael Marques, who played for Versailles. He went on to become a two-year varsity starter at Brother Martin and was in my graduating class. Michael’s dad and my dad worked together at Air Products and Chemicals.

I didn’t see Shandy de St. Germain (Arguelles) after leaving Arabi Park, but tonight I remembered one of her best friends from middle school, Kim Carmouche. Kim and I were in the gifted and talented program at Arabi Park. We didn’t have the highest grade point averages, but we both tested so well that the school saw potential in us. We got to skip P.E. on Wednesdays.

The family of one of the boys who was in gifted and talented with us in the sixth grade, Lateef Khan, owned the Shell service station at the corner of Perrin and Judge Perez Drive. There was an Exxon across the street from the Shell, and on the other side of Judge Perez from the Exxon was the Little Fisherman, where my mom often picked up crawfish, corn and potatoes during the late winter and early spring for Friday meals.

During my final quarter, the boys and girls were separated for science class for four weeks so that sex education could be presented. The boys were taught by Susan Buras, while the girls went with Shelly Shumaker, who was the honors science teacher for seventh grade.

I’ll never forget my naivete. Shoulder pads for ladies’ blouses were big in the late 1980s, and I asked Ms. Buras if that’s where women kept their pads for their periods folded up. It cracked everyone up, especially Shawn, who always got a kick out of my antics. Looking back, I know much better, but I’m glad I could make the boys and Ms. Buras laugh, even if it was at me.

I’m also starting to fondly remember two girls who were a year ahead of us, Chastity Manzella and Jennifer Newell. Jennifer was the band’s drum major her eighth grade year. They were both very beautiful and very popular. Chastity flirted with me one day at an Arabi Park softball/baseball doubleheader at Trist Middle in Meraux; of course, I was too young and too uninformed to know what to do.

As much as I’m loving this, it’s obscenely late. I’ll be back later today.

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.