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Father McDonald Class of 1977

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tomstlouis.jpg
Tom, Jim Burke and Chris Crotty in Athlone, Ireland

Lurking, lurking, lurking.

 

Hi folks: I remember the first dance in grade six. Everyone was standing around waiting for SOMEONE to lead the way. I looked deep inside myself and discovered a great truth. “It’s going to have to be someone else to free our people! I can’t risk the humiliation.”

 

Then Tony Intas (whose parents sent him to a private high school, so you may never have met him) got up and shook a leg with a confident smile which he effortlessly sustained through a good fifteen seconds of group paralysis. Suddenly, cracks formed in the ice and a few other relatively brave souls joined him.

 

So I commend the brave ones who were willing to hang their bare asses out into the cyber-wind on this site for months. I’ve come by a few times and, after John Schwinghamer’s post, there was nothing. Every time Steve Bourke sent a nudge I’d go and see if anyone new had posted something….but nothing, so I’ve decided to jump in – a late early adopter.

 

It would be great to hear from EVERYONE, but I’ve lurked for a while myself, so I’m in no position to nag. But I invite all you lurkers to step up to the plate and take a cut, okay? I re-connected with Mody Bossy through this site. She is a spectacularly enjoyable e-pal.

 

Frankly, I thought of high school as hell at the time, but that was long ago. In the intervening years I haven’t thought that much about it. Maybe it has gotten better while I wasn’t thinking of it.

 

My history? I always wanted to be a writer and a musician. These days I’m doing both and a few other things besides. I’m finishing a book called ‘Marketing From the Heart’. I’ve written about 200 songs and have performed and arranged and composed a lot of music in many genres with great joy. I’ve published about 50 magazine articles. I do marketing strategy and copywriting for various clients here and in the U.S.—including a lot of law firms. There’s an irony in there somewhere. I’ve become the idea guy for guys whose only idea is “Let’s sue ‘em!”

 

I had an original music group in the 90s called ‘The Angels of Montenegro’ which was a raging success—creatively. It was original pop music with orchestral arrangements. We had a strong, almost fanatic fan base around Toronto and a committed publisher who was trying to get us a major US record deal which did not happen.

 

(For curiosity seekers, little bits of music and bunff can be found at www.tomstlouis.com or www.zerald.com/songs)

 

Got married in 1993 to Catherine. Have two astonishing, gob smackers…a boy and a girl aged ten and seven; Henry and Lily.

 

But there’s no way to condense decades into a paragraph if you don’t happen to be Alice Munro. Henry Miller spent 14 years writing about 7 years of his life! Let me just tell you that my “probable destination” in the yearbook was “Nirvana, or outright disillusionment”. I think I’ve had a bit of both.

 

In my restless search for ultimate spiritual truth I’ve been down a few dark alleys. I suppose you could say that I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference.

 

Thinking back, my five-year sentence in the state-sponsored torture chamber definitely had its good parts, I made some pals for life. And, I met others who, if I saw them today, I’d probably be able to pick up right where we left off.

 

One such pal, Jim Burke, is a pretty successful guy right now, despite that he was an insolent rebel dropout by age fifteen…he and I and Chris Crotty (now Dr. Crotty, a Ph.D. in biology, from the class one year behind us) all went to Ireland for a weeklong ramble – and a wee dram -- a year or so ago. There’s the big benefit of high school. You get some pals to play with. (Photo above)

 

Jim and I had some good and strange times together. On the first day of grade nine, they announced that a sophisticated new software program would render it impossible for any two students to share more than a few classes together. Well, guess what? Jim and I were in (if I remember correctly) 7 of 8 classes together. We collaborated on some highly creative “discipline extraction strategies”, which allowed us to get kicked out of certain classes for months at a time.

 

Think of the infinite gradations of insolence, rudeness, mockery and incorrigibility, which, if calibrated perfectly, would produce the desired result – prolonged suspension – but never expulsion. These highly nuanced stratagems resulted in a lot of free time for the two of us, which is important in the guitar-learning years. (By the way, Jim has become a killer songwriter). We also had time to walk around and engage in obscure activities like “car jumping”. We’d run full speed at a car, from the side, and try to leap over it. I became quite successful at clearing the cars completely. Jim, unfortunately, always left long scratches on car hoods with the eyelets of his sneakers.

 

We also found a perfect overpass from which to dump bushel baskets of rotting crabapples onto the windshield of Chuck Pennefather’s car. After a few attempts, our timing was sublime. Chuck had no way of knowing who did it, which caused long spells of delirious gut-busting laughter for us. His only recourse was to walk around giving mean and accusatory looks to the various trouble makers-- including us, hoping one of us would crack. We never did.

 

This should give you a great indication of how “mature” the intervening years have made me. I still think that’s FUNNY! My all-time favourite scam was getting myself kidnapped from Vilma Huard’s biology class.

 

Vilma was a tough bird. You could NOT skip her class and get away with it. But I wanted to try something so over the top that it would fry her circuit board. I settled on kidnapping, and it just had to work because the sun was shining and something was going on at the nearby park involving guitars and various refreshments.

 

On that fateful day, my four confederates (who will go nameless mostly because I don’t remember who they were although I suspect Bruce Luczak and Kevin Erdei were probably involved) burst into class with paper bags on their heads and made a beeline for my desk. They grabbed me and began hustling me out of the room, despite my feeble protests. “Please, let me go!”, I called out in the lamest tone I could summon. “I must study biology!”

 

The next day when I arrived in class Vilma just smiled and shook her head and didn’t say a word.

 

As Napoleon said, “Toujours L’audace!” I even showed up 45 minutes late for a 50-minute class taught by Larry Archambault, in grade ten. You will probably remember that Larry took over as our stern disciplinarian in the later years. He routinely berated folks who were five minutes late. So I thought, “Go big or go home!” I entered class briskly and with a tone of distracted importance. The class was almost over and so Larry was rocking back on his heels, caught completely by surprise.

 

I think the sheer brass of showing up so late impressed him – or something. He just smiled and welcomed me and nary a word about my lateness.


These little incident-lets were confirmations that thinking outside the box and knowing just when and how to break the rules is a great key to success. Such outside the box thinking has been a big help in devising marketing strategies for my clients. {Hey, maybe there’s a best selling business self-help book here! ‘The Rebel Dropout’s Secrets of Massive Business Success—How to Parlay Defiance and Rebellion Into Oodles of Cash’.

 

Right now I can hear Caroline Hunger thinking, “Geez! I thought I was verbose!” Yeah well, if this was the school newspaper, Caroline could have chopped this blurb down to size, but here I am blethering away without let. (Last time I saw Caroline I was walking down a street in downtown Montreal in some kind of trance. She startled me by saying hello. What did she mean by that? I was so astonished that I accidentally punched a man in the face and broke his glasses in two. No lie. His glasses fell to the sidewalk in two pieces. I was standing there conducting two freaked out conversations at the same time. “Hey, Caroline! What are you doing here?” “Oh my god. I’m sooooo sorry, sir! Are you all right?”

 

All right, okay, anyway, so I’m visualizing attendance at this shindig in ’07. I see a bunch of old, fat, bald, lumpy, grey, washed out people (and that’s just Jim and me) sashaying around, trying desperately to suck in their gut. Guys who’ve had a few too many are hitting on the girl they always fantasized about in Mr. Booker’s science class. And the girl no longer has the effortless confidence that natural comeliness bestows, so she stands there taking it, seeing it as some kind of belated acknowledgment…

 

Ah, sweet nostalgia, right kiddies? F. Scott Fitzgerald said something like: no amount of fire or fury will challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart. (Hi down there, Jeremiah Stack). Maybe in some way it will be a ballroom full of Daisy Buchanans and Jay Gatsbys in ‘07. Is there a tendency to idealize your old mates? And to make more of things than they actually were?

 

I thought it was hell at the time, but looking back it’s clear to me that there was some good stuff going on.

 

I had a couple of angels (male and female) help me through those years. One was Sandra Carmichael, who you must admit, had an astonishing store of the “social power” in our group. One day Sandy pulled me aside and delivered a stern lecture on how I was letting myself go to seed and I was a handsome guy almost and I should snap out of it and make myself more presentable to society. She actually accused me of being a “hippie” – as if that was BAD!

 

I thought, “Where the heck does this chick get off taking an authoritarian tone with ME? Who is she to presume to lead me in any direction?”

 

Oh, and I also thought, “Handsome, me? Really? Naa, she’s just sayin’ that!”

 

Actually, I was moved.

 

So of course I participated as best I could as Sandy’s Little Project. Maybe I thought she’d talk to me some more and give me another of her wonderful twinkly-eyed smiles. I cleaned up my act -- a bit. I made sure to change my shirt at least a couple of times a week whether it needed changing or not and I demonstrated extra determination in fighting my hair to a draw. She came up to me a week later and gave me a positive report on the changes I’d made. I felt a little bit like a puppy getting a pat, but hey.

 

Little things like that made high school interesting and bearable. Bruce Luczak and I got together for a few legendary ping pong wars in his garage. (The score in game number fourteen is 23-22 and it’s slam! slam! slam! …miracle shot! miracle save! etc…) We even had a couple of poetry readings. (Sorry Brucie -- hope I’m not destroying the studly image you’ve cultivated lo these last twenty-nine years.) Yessir, we actually purchased a case of Coca Cola and sat around reveling in the majesty of Shakespeare’s sonnets. And we did it for fun, not because a teacher told us to!

 

When I picture all us zomboids trundling down that tunnel leading from one school to the other – before they were magically merged into Father Macdonald COMPREHENSIVE! High School… (What a saggy-assed brainstorming session of middle management yokels must have produced that moniker!) I think of the mysteries of life I still have not solved that I contemplated in that tunnel. Like how many times do you say “hello” to a person in one day when you pass them after virtually every class? When is it okay to pretend not to notice someone? And how could the magical coincidence ever happen in a lifetime where someone liked you at the same moment you liked them? How does that miracle ever happen?

 

One of the things I can still see is people’s walks. Many of our classmates had a distinctive gait as they bobbed and lurched along. Like Gerry Chiccarello, for instance. I have demonstrated the Gerry Chiccarello walk for my son and daughter on a few occasions. Then there’s Peter Kopastecki’s ramble shamble bobbing walk. And Earthy – my nickname for her. She was a years younger and actually seemed to float in a dream. I probably stared at her with my mouth wide open. I never said a word to her although I thought she was heavenly…

 

I guess such heightened perceptions can be explained by hyper-secretion of certain hormones. I haven’t noticed a girl floating in a long time.

 

Speaking of hormones I was the priapic boy of all history, bar none. Can we be honest, fellas? I know the girls probably don’t care to hear this – but hey, maybe they want to hear it more than anyone -- I recently read the small print of a Viagra ad and I learned that an erection lasting four hours requires immediate medical attention.

 

Holy crap! Now I know what was wrong those years. I should have been rushed to L’Esperance at least twice a day! Maybe one of those nice French Canadian nurses could have helped me to find sweet relief. All that agony, day after day, and little did I know that a valid and much required medical intervention was just a 4-minute ambulance ride away! I imagine myself there in the back of an ambulance – AGAIN -- with the little tent in my corduroys, while the French Canadian attendant says, for the third time this week, “Don’t worry, Tommy. We’re almost there!”

 

In a way I think it’s cute that so many people can’t wait to get together in a ballroom somewhere and stare at each other’s chests for an evening, looking for a name tag, or, um, maybe just a nice chest.

 

Girls, I still haven’t forgotten your wonderful chests. Yet another one of the tender mercies that helped us through those years. (Yes, yes, the disgusting letch reveals himself, but by now you birds are nostalgic for your own chests, so get over yourselves!)

 

All right. Enough. I promise if I attend to remember only the best about you and to hoist one in your honour and to look at the pictures of your kids and tell you how astonishingly beautiful they really are.

 

I’ll probably even mean it. And they probably actually are!

 

All right lurkers, don’t just sit there. Say something.

 

 

 

Tom St. Louis

P.S. My name WAS Tom Comerford, but I changed it legally in about 1984 for various reasons I won’t bore you with.

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